The Second Scientific Revolution
“Jacques Maritain once said that the philosophic notion of progress is accretion whereas the scientific is replacement. That is, when a new philosophic insight emerges it has a framework within which it fits, it has principles that it draws from and, in most cases, it builds upon other philosophical insights; it stands upon the shoulders of giants, so to speak. And when new scientific data is produced, it rarely does not replace what came before it. A perfect example is the rather romantic history of man’s understanding of the universe. First, we seemed to think that all of the spots of light in the sky were gods, and that they were static. This was proven wrong when observation began to suggest that they were neither, and that they were perfect celestial objects, some of which moved, set in crystal spheres which moved by clockwork about the earth. Then yet another idea emerged which told us that all others before it were wrong and that the earth orbited about the sun, along with other similar rocky and gassy planets, in elliptical tracks guided by gravity. The point is that, in a general sense, it is in the nature of science, the study of becoming, to replace old theories with new ones, and it is the nature of philosophy, the study of being, to accrete. Of course there are probably exceptions to this rule, but in general, this would seem to be the case.
“This is all well and good; we have two realms of study, each of which has its own principles. But recently there has emerged a sentiment that there is something about the scientific mode of approaching truth which makes it more viable and certain than the philosophic; that, because of this perceived superiority of science, the means used by science to arrive at its conclusions should extend beyond the realm of becoming and into being if we are to truly know anything with certainty. This attitude has effectively unleashed the scientific mentality of replacement onto the whole of human knowing and has resulted in the effacement of tradition and the millennia of human knowledge which lead up to the mid 20th century.
“The ability of the ‘replacement’ mentality of the scientific mindset to wreak havoc on the deposit of human understanding was exacerbated by the fact that, by scientific standards, many things once held true no longer made the cut; this includes all aspects of metaphysics, theology, the idea of natures, and innumerable other concepts which are in fact crucial to a genuine understanding of reality. Of course this was due simply to an artificial shift in standards; the application of norms used for the study of becoming to the realm of being certainly seems like it would make the study of being seem nonsensical. It’s like looking for trees with a motion sensor. So, not only did science’s invasion of the whole of human understanding threaten to eliminate all non-contemporary thought as it did when it still held its proper place as a particular mode of understanding, but after this invasion it rendered literally half of the available content of human understanding ‘not real’ and relegated it to the same shameful place as all of the other foolish ideas of antiquity.
“Because of this successful Second Scientific Revolution, as one might call it, anyone who wants to enter the public forum with a demonstration of the reasonableness of any method of approaching truth other than the scientific, might just as well have stood up and pronounced his belief in a geo-centric universe. Such an attitude is now laughed at, and is consequently a very difficult one to convince others to take seriously, for two reasons. First, in accordance with the scientific mindset, if it’s not current, or especially currently popular, then it’s foolishness; again, a mentality that seems to make sense in the realm of the hard sciences, but not when it has been applied to the whole human experience. And secondly, because such a misappropriation of standards is actually a pretty difficult one to uphold, it becomes necessary to resort to a rhetorical rather than reasonable means of conquering one’s intellectual enemies. Because the scientific method actually can not produce a cogent understanding of the whole of reality, then those who would hold that it does, must back up their theories in the same way that the scientific community has been doing it for centuries: by ridiculing the opposition.
“This might sound like a baseless claim, but it is truly a natural occurrence in the world of science. If spontaneous generation, for example, has been generally accepted to be disproved then anyone who still holds it to be true would be acting irrationally in the eyes of the scientific community. Such perceived irrationality and incongruity cannot help but lead to a kind of humor aimed at the old fogies who have not yet gotten with the times. But this attitude, born out of the scientific community’s pride in their ability to produce facts (which have, ironically enough, rarely remained constant for more than a few decades) does not so much keep bad ideas out, as much as it does keep unpopular ones from being heard. The scientific community decides what will be acceptable topics and outcomes for scientific research and then ridicules accordingly.
“It is really no different from a high-school cafeteria. Any given social group clusters around like-minded people and defends itself from outsiders by agreeing with one another that the outsider is foolish. It doesn’t matter what the content of the outsider’s character really is, as long as certain aspects of their personality of beliefs don’t match up with the leading social group, then they will be banished to the lunch table at the far end of the cafeteria, by the trashcans, with the sickly pallid kids whom no one really takes seriously.
“The fact that this is a problem is obvious enough. But the fact that even the Catholic Church, and specifically the liturgy, is not beyond the reach of the tentacles of the second scientific revolution is not so clear. One will find that most people’s attitude towards the liturgy is very ‘scientific,’ with a very strong willingness to leave behind those confusing and irrelevant practices of the Church before 1970. Many want to erase from their memories, as well as from the churches, any semblance of the Traditional Rite, something which changes within the Church have rendered obsolete, something which has been made to sit at the un-popular table in the lunchroom of ideas. The fact is that the hostile attitude that many people have towards the Traditional Rite is not only modernistic and scientific, but it is un-Catholic insofar as it is un-philosophic. The liturgy, just like philosophy, is supposed to be an accretion, the product of organic growth. But one can’t help but notice the many and various ways in which the changes implemented by Vatican II have met with the scientific attitude which was so rampant at the time and consequently isolated modern liturgical thought from the whole of the history which preceded it. To many, any semblance of the Traditional Rite in a modern church is like a semblance of Ptolemy in an astronomy class; it should be something that we have left behind. But the truth of the matter is that in philosophy, Catholicism, and specifically in the liturgy, nothing can be left behind, and we are only tempted to believe so because the attitude of the second scientific revolution has pervaded modern thought to such a point that most people don’t even realize that they are affected by it.”