Scientific Tyranny

Sorry for the late post today! I’m currently at a conference for work in Atlanta and didn’t have enough time to write a post this morning. The conference finishes Wednesday so I might be a little inconsistent with my posting till then. That being said, I would like to share a quote with you all today. To be honest, I have no idea where I read this or came across this post but I saved it in Evernote and thought I would share it with you all today! The quote is from Leon Wieseltier (don’t know anything about him) and it has to do with the way we treat science in our day and age. Here goes:

It is entirely typical of the scientific tyranny in American intellectual life that scientists have been invited to do the work of philosophers. The problem of the limits of science is not a scientific problem.

That last sentence is so insightful. Something we don’t really think about in our day is that Science, as a discipline, has limits. Science cannot answer all of our questions. One of the most important questions that Science is unable to answer is “What are the limits of Science”. A scientists cannot answer this question. Moreover, this question cannot be addressed by the scientific method.

This is something that Walker Percy dealt a lot with in all of his writings (most scathingly in Lost in the Cosmos). Percy was concerned with what he called “Scientism”. He believed that America was beginning to turn to Science to answer all of her questions and in doing so was limiting the answers she could receive.

Food for thought.


Post Script – If you know anything about Leon Wieseltier or the quote I have above I would greatly appreciate your input!



  1. What exactly can’t science answer? I’ve heard this theme over and over again, and I’ve given it a lot of thought. It sounds profound, but really this sentiment would seem to indicate that the objective can never inform the subjective. But is that really true? Do not objective facts change the way you subjectively feel and think about things?

    1. Provoking point Ryan! However, it seems that you are assuming that objectivity only exists in the quantifiable world of science and there can be no objectivity in the realm of ideas.

      1. To clarify, I believe that they both inform each other; it’s a two way street. I just think that way the argument is worded sometimes makes it sound like the objective and subjective never intersect or influence each other.

      2. I think we have a fundamental disagreement here. For something to be “objective” means, by definition, that it is true and unchanging regardless of “external” influences on it. If something subjective could effect something objective the objective thing would become subjective. I DO believe that the subjective can and should be affected by the objective; but not the other way around.

        Thanks for the comments and discussion!

      3. No problem. I guess I’m thinking of subjective and objective in the way we relate to them, not their natures. What I was thinking of is more along the lines of, for example, that scientists are often driven to make objective findings about something based on their subjective passions and curiosities. Subjectivity doesn’t change the nature of something objective, you’re correct. But I believe it does change the way in which we interact with and digest objective facts.

      4. I wouldn’t disagree with you (that scientists are often driven to make objective findings based on their subjective passions and curiosities).

        What I might add is that, in many situations, those subjective passions and curiosities might lead a scientist to try and answer questions that only theology & or philosophy can answer.

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