As discussed earlier, the original discussion that led to the naming of “The Church of Pfizer” was one on that started with my perceived similarities between Science and Religion in the late 20th/early 21st century. The discussion was held in the summer of 2007 and so maybe a little outdated with regards my writing style.
The overall discussion burst, alien style, out of the chest of a discussion on the supernatural and people’s beliefs in the paranormal. The latter subject being one that I was loathe to comment on at the time; discussions on paranormal topics often start out friendly enough but usually devolve into either side shouting “Prove It”, “Don’t want to prove it” at each other whilst throwing rocks around and grunting.
I inadvertently began the flame war I was hoping to avoid by responding to a poster’s tongue-in-cheek comment on religion and backing up a comment someone else had already proposed:
‘Science’ is the new church and even less open or accountable than the old one. Scientists are the new priesthood. Neither should be accorded implicit respect or faith.
I see little difference between religion and the basic understanding of paranormal lore – however I do ascribe to the propositions put forward by former Eton math tutor (by nom de plume) Ramsey Dukes, that society’s guiding forces can be divided into four cyclical aspects – Science, Religion, Art and Magic(k).
I also genuinely believe that we are moving out of a Religious/Science paradigm (Therefore scientists WERE the new priesthood – look at the way the New Inquisition (American Medical Association) disposed of Wilhelm Reich and his Orgone projects) into a Science/Magickal paradigm. (Some would argue thate we are moving out of an Art/Acience paradigm, I’d disagree) – viva Generation Hex!
Following this, a fellow poster responded on the side of the rational minded scientist:
Calling scientists “the new priesthood” is nonsense. Science actively pursues knowledge of reality and when new theories or facts emerge, the old theories are dropped or modified. In religion and superstition the seeking out of facts is actively discouraged. You are supposed to have faith i.e. you are to believe things whether there is proof of them or not and indeed even if there is a mountain of evidence against them.
Unlike the priesthood, scientists aren’t handed money by the public nor would people accept scientists dictating how they should behave in their private lives e.g. whether they should use contraception. The great majority of people disregard science and understand nothing about major issues like evolution, quantum theory and relativity, even though they are happy to enjoy the fruits of science. Most scientists are not well paid.
When a scientist makes a statement about some topic, if you disagree then you are perfectly at liberty to check his research or undertake your own and prove them wrong. In religion, if you do this you are a heretic or blasphemer. If society would allow them to do it I have no doubt that the religious establishment would love to persecute anyone who disagrees with them as they do still in many Muslim nations.
My response to this is both lengthy and studded with my feeble attempts to avoid slipping into a fundamentalism of my own; whilst other responses were shorter:
No but they do a very good job at been “holier then thou”.
Also the subject of funding and money. Most scientists will tend to come to the conclusions that match the views of their pay masters.
My own response follows, edited to remove names and to better fit into a wordpress format. I’ve tried to keep editing to a minimum, to keep the feel of the original rant.
I couldn’t disagree more. With the greatest respect to all of your opinions and in the name of healthy, vibrant debate I would like to explain why by means of addressing some of the points raised. (I only said I didn’t want to argue my point FOR the supernatural – this is a whole different can of worms that someone else has opened 😉 )
Despite scientific method and its adherence to “cold hard facts” it is by and large based on assumption. Science is certainly inquiring and self checking… a theory that is proven one decade may well be disproved in a later decade when new “evidence” comes to life. As the above poster says “Science actively pursues knowledge of reality and when new theories or facts emerge, the old theories are dropped or modified.” but in the 20th century science began to question even the nature of reality and fact. Science is based entirely on the findings and dogma of those scientists who came before. Anybody who uses the argument that science is based on hard provable fact, will only have that argument respected by me if they actually go out and prove that fact for themselves… otherwise all they are doing is taking what the scientists say on faith.
Unlike the priesthood, scientists aren’t handed money by the public.
The public pay tithe to Scientists by paying for its product. The ibrahimic religions and their offshoots sell a happy afterlife and the peace of mind that some people find when worshiping a deity. The scientific institutions sell us peace of mind with regards health and well being, the comfort and benefit of labour saving technological devices and the reassurance that comes from “knowing” that we understand our nature. The public pay a tithe in pharmaceutical costs, consumer purchases of detergents and hardware acquisitions. Scientific research charities are now the prevalent charities of choice for most people… cancer research, arthritis research, diabetes research (in my case this is quite close to home) – This is no different to christian aid, CAFOD and the more humanitarian charities like Help The Aged or Oxfam; people pay for different reasons but they pay. Furthermore, I would suggest that we in west have a society that pays more towards the new religion of science than the religions we purport to worship. A handful of pennies in the collection box at mass – followed by £10 on prescription charges (for those of you unlucky enough to have to pay them), Actimel and Nicorette patches.
nor would people accept scientists dictating how they should behave in their private lives e.g. whether they should use contraception.
Society as a whole dictates such things, religion or no. BUT people do blindly follow the dictates of Scientists. I have NEVER once had relief from a headache by taking aspirin or paracetamol but people still take it. People quit smoking because their doctors tell them to. This is one of my biggest bug bears, I genuinely believe many more people die of survivable cancers because they are convinced by the medical community – part of the new priesthood – that they only have a 1% chance of survival… this based on cold hard scientific FACT. A fact derived from tests carried out on lets say, 1000 subjects. Irrespective of the world’s population being what it is… the 1000 already ill subjects that have been assessed are enough for the scientific community to declare a fact – excuse me, I am digressing from the point in hand. I am a type 1 diabetic. I self-administer 2 subcutaneous injections of a mixed human analog insullin a day to “live”. I lived for years beforehand without my twice daily prayer rituals to the Church of Pfizer and have only the word of a venerable “specialist” to state that I need it. I test my blood sugar levels 4 times a day and now take a pill to lower my cholesterol as I have been advised that if I don’t then, horror of horrors, my cholesterol level may rise. Doctors often dictate to people that they SHOULD use contraception, maybe the contraceptive pill is prescribed to handle “women’s problems”. I could go on but I think you can see my point. Look at your own routines and think about just how much you do let science dictate your lifestyle. I’ll leave this point with a nod to the old AIDS awareness campaign – led by scientists.
Don’t be daft, don’t be silly, put a rubber on your willy.
The great majority of people disregard science and understand nothing about major issues like evolution, quantum theory and relativity, even though they are happy to enjoy the fruits of science.
– And yet they do still accept a lot of what scientists say… on FAITH! I’d like to deal with the major issues raised here also as they are apt for my discussion.
a) Evolution: I believe in evolution. I think creationism is crazy and the purported Intelligent Design swings too far away from science for me to be content with it. ID would work for me but I’d have to change some of its arguments. The point is that I believe in it, in the same way that I believe in an energy based “spiritual” existence after death… I can prove neither.
b) Quantum Theory: My great uncle is an extremely well accomplished scientist who works in the field of energy and electronics. A former member of the SPR he now experiements with quantum theory and energy vortices. He once wrote to his brother, my Grandfather, in a christmas card.
Clifford, with quantum physics my science has got closer to your God than your Church ever will.
The two idealogically opposed individuals now have deep and fascinating spiritual discussions centered on the field of Quantum Physics. This is the one field that has brought magical thinking to the old religion of science. Quantum physics has the potential to verify many spiritual-esque areas: Jung‘s Collective Unconscious, Lucas‘s Force as worshipped by Jedi. I’ve already seen very good “scientific” explanations for those 2 points and the field of precognition that are entirely based on Quantum Physics.
c) Relativity: Schmelativity, I think point b) is very close to rewriting Einstein‘s assumptions on relativity. Much of relativity can’t be accurately tested on a large scale and does not seem to apply on a quantum level.
When a scientist makes a statement about some topic, if you disagree then you are perfectly at liberty to check his research
Not so. I can’t just pop into my garage and whip up an experiment to test whether or not my lifestyle will improve if I continue to take my Statins. In fact when I asked my doctor what difference they would make to my life he said “None whatsoever, they will just slightly reduce your cholesterol”! Last century, when the American Medical Association disagreed with Wilhelm Reich‘s research into Orgone energy they didn’t check his research or enter into their own research to disprove his theories… they had him arrested, put in prison and then burnt his laboratory and notes. A book burning on that scale had not been seen in the world since the days of Hitler! Reich himself was never released from prison, dying a few months later of a “heart attack”, I think. Scientists who disagree with the central dogma of science are hounded out, ridiculed and mocked. This is no different to declarations of heresy and excommunication. I can check scientists research insofar as reading their findings yes… for instance I disagree with almost every piece of paranormal research carried out by respected parapsychologist Richard Wiseman. I once looked into his studies on Infrasound and how hauntings were actually caused by infra-sound. I personally found the research lacking and insufficient to prove that ghosts did not exist… which I believe was his point. It appeared (to me) as if half the experiments a scientist would carry out to ensure a full picture had been ignored or omitted. (However, I urge everyone to seek out Wiseman’s work regarding Luck. This is an almost magical book. On a par with many of the occult references I have read).
If society would allow them to do it I have no doubt that the religious establishment would love to persecute anyone who disagrees with them as they do still in many Muslim nations.
– Not all religions are like that. Some of the ibrahimic cults are as are some of the sects that spring from them. I’d include scientology into that mix also. However there are many faiths that are accepting of other faiths. Remember a religion does not necessarily worship a deity. A religion is a way of life, a set of beliefs, ideals, ethics and morals. Science has just such a set of ideals. A code of practice, rites and rotes – science has all of this. People try to argue to me that communism is not a religion – but it is… it is a way of life and to my mind that makes it a religion. Science is no different. As examples of other religions without gods: Any shamanic faith, voodoo, buddhism, jedi.
Most scientists are not well paid.
– A point we can agree on. This is one of the reasons I did not continue life as a Molecular Biologist after my time at University. Some scientists are paid well, if you check out the senior positions that arise in the back of the New Scientist – but by and large scientists are not well paid. Then again, neither are priests 😉 (cheap shot there, sorry)
I hinted at this in an earlier point. The way science is taken as blind faith by the masses and the assumption that scientific statistics are meaningful. Have any of you ever EVER questioned your doctor? Or do you take what s/he says on faith. My doctor of choice is Fantastic. A genuine treat to see – and believe me I treat my visits with him with the reverence as a catholic might when going to confession. To give you a mental picture, my doctor is the spitting image of author Kim Newman, even down to the style of clothing and facial hair. Shortly after my hospital specialist (another great guy but for different reasons) had made me reluctantly accept Statins into my daily routine (for my cholesterol levels) I made an appointment with my GP to try and rearrange the items on my repeat prescription list (the trappings of my faith). My GP initially forgot the statins, we both assumed that they had not been passed through the system to my GP records yet – the NHS has hellish problems with information flow. I had already been told that I was to take “Atorvostatin” – I had a choice of another kind of more brutal fast acting pills but these had a high chance of leaving me impotent apparently – and as I was under 30 at the time I was to be discouraged (by my hospital specialist) from such. I mentioned the need for statins to my GP and he agreed, my cholesterol was a good few points higher than it should – 50% above the norm at least. So my GP decided to prescribe me his flavour of statins. As he tapped away on his PC he let out a light gasp and in his “I am Kim Newman honest, this is my day job” voice expressed that the statins from the hospital were actually on my list. His gasp was down to the fact that he could see no real benefit to taking the statins that I had been prescribed. I asked him why; his explanation:
The statins he had prescribed had been tested in towns in the north of the UK. A set of 30000 male subjects from the north of england, leading the same kind of lifestyle as people in Huddersfield still do were tested over a period of 25 years on his statins of choice. It was “proven” to the standards of the time (1980s) that the statins led to a 97% or more reduction heart disease and that live were most definitely saved – the undertone being that people on placebos died (a sacrifice to the old gods of science) ! What he was saying is “These drugs work and work well, you will live a healthy life on these drugs and we are aware of all the side effects and can deal with them”
The drugs the hospital had prescribed had been tested over the period of a year on a set of 1000 men and women living on a Greek island in the mid to late 90s. They were proven to lower cholesterol. When questioned as to why, the GP suggested that it was likely these had been prescribed because the results of these drugs could be measured quickly in the lab. Within 4 weeks I could expect my cholesterol to drop. The other drugs may take 3 to 4 months. No research had been carried out on long term effects, no research had been carried out on side effects or overall health benefits BUT I could be processed quicker. It is these that I am on today as the GP did not want a confrontation with the Specialist at the hospital.
I asked why there was such a difference in the two test patterns. Aside from the financial reasons the main reason was ethics. The older drugs had been tested in an environment where lives could have been saved. These days the emphasis is on making sure everyone is given the same chance and then dealing with problems as and when they arise. A sign that the religion of science had turned from its fire and brimstone past and was embracing a more ethical, new testament approach to medicine.
I would have never known this had a I not questioned my GP. Then again I believe we should all question our faiths constantly.
I now believe that the reason I take these drugs is purely for the benefit of the big pharmaceutical companies… they are paid a fortune by our government who subsidise these drugs. Furthermore the side effects in the long term are liver failure and suicidal depression – a chance for me to require even more drugs in future – drugs that can only be provided by the pharmaceutical companies.
Whilst the methods and trappings of science may not appear to be religious in nature, science itself is revered by society with religious fervour. It may not want to be a religion but the people make it so. We follow science blindly, those of us brave enough to question science become ridiculed. From birth we are initiated into it in the same way as seekers are accepted into any church. We are all taught its methods and follow those teachings blindly. The rare few that break through and seek out new truths are still standing on the shoulders of the ghosts of those who went before – science is a progressive religion after all – but this babel’s tower of progress has its foundations constantly reworked. I believe that today’s science is breaking out of its religious shackles and embracing a new more magical paradigm. This new age of science will be based on self assessment, self change and Reality itself; encouraging questioning over blind faith. We can see this taking place already with the roads that are being forged into fields such as Quantum Physics and Neuro-linguistics.
If my rant has made any sense whatsoever (regardless of whether or not you agree or disagree) then I would encourage you to look at the following books:
The New Inquisition, Robert Anton Wilson (New Falcon Press)
Wilhelm Reich in Hell, Robert Anton Wilson (New Falcon Press)
What I Did On My Holidays, Ramsey Dukes (The Mouse That Spins)
S.S.O.T.B.M.E., Ramsey Dukes (The Mouse That Spins)
Tricks of the Mind, Derren Brown (Channel 4 books)
And if they pique your interest then I’d encourage further reading:
Quantum Psychology, Robert Anton Wilson (New Falcon Press)
Words Made Flesh, Ramsey Dukes
Uncle Ramsey’s Little Book of Demons, Ramsey Dukes
The Luck Factor, Richard Wiseman
Every one of those authors comes from a scientific background.
To put this post in context. I was raised a baptist christian, I studied Molecular & Cellular Biology at university and am now an IT Manager with over a decade’s experience in programming. I now classify myself as an open minded gnostic (not agnostic). I see much of my daily life as obeisence to higher powers – be they the government, my employers, the secret chiefs, or pharmaceutical companies.