The scientific idolatry of the modern age
Replacing the Uncreated with the created
Anthony Karvelas, theologian for Dogmatic Theology
Characteristic of the modern age is its fixation on the positive or natural sciences and their elevation of humans as proven deities.
Many are the contemporary atheist scientists who are extremely vociferous about the nonexistence of God, which they even strive to prove by resorting to ideological (and not purely scientific) constructs. In other words, they warp scientific methodology and focus on personal, arbitrary conclusions. Others, seeing the immense achievements of science, have the impression that in the near or distant future, Science will provide explanations for everything, thus demolishing once and for all the notion of God. There are also those who oppose the aforementioned, by maintaining that science will actually prove the existence of God.
In every case, Science is seen as the key to interpreting everything; by observing its progress, contemporary man has embraced the illusion of self-completeness and either unconsciously or consciously worships himself as a god.
It is admittedly impressive to observe the accomplishments of human intellect, which – albeit post-Fall and obscured – does not cease to be intellect. The problem however lies in the fact that the view of reality becomes one-dimensional, given that man’s pre-Fall completeness was lost. Thus, post-Fall man focuses only on the one aspect: the one of his vast potential to intervene in the natural environment, decode DNA, create hybrids, prevent and cure sicknesses etc.. By focusing on his own self, the potentials of his own intellect and his own word, he essentially worships and deifies himself...
This form of worship - of created reality and of one’s self - is idolatry, when the created is regarded the same as the uncreated, albeit radically dissimilar to it, given that it is totally dependent on it and as such there can be nothing in common between these two, differing ontological categories.1 In essence, only one category exists, and that is the uncreated divine reality, which of its own volition created the entirety of Creation.
Man and his works (as created items) have their limits. Science therefore has its limits; a fact that cannot be perceived by contemporary worshipers of humanity, who are under the illusion of omnipotence and omniscience. Discoveries by Science are constantly revised, and they also militate against each other, given that they research created data which deviates and changes with every revision of knowledge – either as a continuous researching power in one area of absolute knowledge, or as a specialized philosophy of each branch that systematizes and macroscopically catalogs the knowledge acquired microscopically through scientific methods.
As such, it continuously changes and is always segmental and relative.
The notion of omniscience through this prism is deceptive, inasmuch as it is a dynamic course, which, however, never breaks through its boundaries.
It is a characteristic of the measured and conscientious scientist to have Newton’s humility, as self-knowledge, who said that even the greatest sage resembles a child who, while playing on the beach puts a few drops of water in a seashell. His overall wisdom is equated to those droplets, in comparison to the unexplored and vast ocean of truth (data) that stretches before him2.
This simple truth is ignored by today's “idolaters” who are agonizingly pursuing omniscience. After all, St. Gregory Palamas had mentioned that those who fight all their lives to acquire worldly knowledge secure for themselves more ignorance instead of knowledge3, because precisely that knowledge is variable and entraps man within the world, giving him the illusion of self-deification on the one hand (because of the rapid and impressive achievements of science) and on the other hand, entraps him in the materialist way of life as an obsession with the incessant hunt for knowledge and its outcomes.
The role of science is to research the data provided by created reality and the utilization of the findings of this research in people's lives. Science provides comforts and improves the living conditions of humanity. Its role is educational and introductory to theology4. Every other preoccupation means the transcending of science’s physical limits and eventually slipping into tragic conclusions. In other words, when scientists embark on tackling God in their attempt to either prove Him or reject Him on the basis of scientific methodology, they commit a logical error, by transcending the boundaries of the tool called Science. Quite simply, God is not a physical magnitude; He is radically dissimilar to any created area and characteristic, therefore that which is being described by science is not the essence of God, but what God is NOT. 5
Naturally - according to St. Gregory Palamas - externally acquired knowledge is not condemned, because it is not by nature good or bad, but is dependent on the cognitive will of the rational being that uses it and adjusts to it, either benevolently or malevolently, depending on how he uses that knowledge6.
On the one hand, knowledge exercises the mind, which can thus perceive its created status and, by observing the beginning and the unfolding of the world, seeks its qualitative cause. It is the inextricable link between the so-called natural and supernatural revelation, where the natural pertains to the innate (God-given, as His creation according to the image) logical perception of man, who was created in a relationship of reference and communion with God, and by researching God’s created reality be led to the Uncreated, while the supernatural reality refers to the Uncreated energy of God, which holds together and exists within the world7.
Knowledge therefore is not bad per se, if man uses it to exercise his mind, which is why it was given to him: to research the “how” of Creation8 and thence be led to the “Who” of Creation.
The problem arises when man immures himself in worldly knowledge, displacing God as his point of reference and living the illusion of fulfilment by idolizing himself and matter. This is a horrific delusion, indicative of the tragedy of post-Fall mankind, which has turned towards its self in order to have a point of reference that might put a rein on his existential impasses.
1. Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos and Saint Vlassios “Empirical Dogmatics of the Orthodox Catholic Church according to the oral lessons of Fr. John Romanides”, Volume Α - Dogma-Morality-Revelation, p.284. 3rd Edition, published by Sacred Monastery of the Birth of the Theotokos, Levadia 2018.
2. Εvangelos D. Theodorou, “The boundaries of scientific knowledge” (Homily by the Dean), publications by the University of Athens, published in Athens, 1981.
3. Gregory Palamas, “All Works” 2, Homilies for those living in sacred quietude,1.1,2 Introduction, Text-translation-commentary by Panayiotis K. Christou, University Professor, p.62, publications by Patristic Publications “Gregory Palamas”, published in Thessaloniki 1992.
4. Basil the Great, To the Young 2.
5. John of Damascus, “Precise Edition of the Orthodox Faith”, Text-translation-commentary by Nicholas Matsoukas, pp.36,38, Pournaras Publications, published in Thessaloniki 2009.
6. Gregory Palamas,1,1.6,σελ. 72.
7. John of Damascus, “Precise Edition of the Orthodox Faith”, Text-translation-commentary by Nicholas Matsoukas, p.457.
8. Basil the Great “On the Hexaemeron”, PG 29,33B. «...Many things He had suppressed – water, air, fire, and the passions born of them; Everything was supplementary in the world, for everyone; That is, their description was omitted, for exercising our mind towards inner searching, so that out of a few causes, we might calculate the remainder.»
Originaly published in greek: https://www.pemptousia.gr/
Translated to English by A.N.