For the bulk of the history of Western Civilization, Religion held the top position in the pantheon of thought, and rightly so -- for it is about ultimate questions. Questions that can't be answered by man as only man because they are "leaps of faith", "revelation", "hypothesis", "guesses and wishes", etc. Why are we here? Is there a God? What is the good? What does it all mean? Wisdom -- what is it and how is it obtained? Religion was and still is for many that which is beyond the "stuff", but which gives our short corporeal lives meaning and connection to the infinite.
In legitimate and constant competition was Philosophy -- The secular version of asking the ultimate questions -- although often reaching the same God answer. Philosophy includes thought about thought - epistemology, thought about nature - science, thought about right at wrong -- ethics (morals), and thought about "what is" (being or ontology) -- metaphysics. Philosophy is the secular attempt to give meaning, morals and order to human thought and activity directed by it.
But something went wrong in the once thriving paradise of ordered western thought. Dr's Frankenstein, Pandora and Evil (Austin Powers) declared themselves masters of the universe and rose up and smote both Religion and Philosophy. The branch of Science became the tree and first questions like; "What does it mean?", "Is it good?", "Where does this lead us to"? etc became replaced by; "We have the technology!", "We can make it bigger/faster/cheaper/less filling"! "Oh, What a brave new world!".
So today, a branch of Philosophy concerned with mechanism and entirely with "stuff" vs thought, meaning, morality, ultimate causes and ultimate effects has usurped the thrones of Religion and Philosophy and the engineers run the ship of society with the assistance of a set of "sciences"-- Political Science, Social Science, Psychology, Economics, Anthropology, etc. All with doses of at least statistical sleight of hand, and allusions to be be "hard science". In the usurpation, being about "stuff" rather than thought became something seen as desirable.
In order to usurp the throne of the kingdom of thought, Science had to kill the "ghost in the machine", the dualism that made man more than the beasts. The witches of "science and pragmatism" have already given us the guillotine of the French Revolution, the gulag of the USSR, the gas chambers of National Socialism in Germany, and the millions lost in Mao's revolution and the Killing Fields of Pol Pot. "Parts are parts" -- mechanical parts, human parts, baby parts -- no ghost, just matter. When all knowledge is "bottom up", the bottom becomes "god", and the former rulers -- reason, wisdom, spirit, intellect, beauty, love and reverence become shit.
Naturally, Science will object -- their claim will be that "those were bad men!". Ah, but now that Science holds dominance over Religion and Philosophy, how is one to know the "bad"? Did not Science provide the tools for these "bad men" to carry out their progroms? Did not Scientists and Engineers willingly take part in the creation and the operation of the means of control, death and destruction of millions? How can one grasp the levers of great power, glory in the grasping, yet claim no responsibility when that power is used for evil? The rulership of Science cares not for values and meaning -- indeed, it washes it's hands of them like Pontius Pilate. "We only followed orders"!
Human appetites are insatiable. The higher appetite for true higher knowledge and wisdom is replaced with an all too natural appetite to worship the physical, but the physical speaks only to the physical and the physical part of man clearly dies. Idolatry is still idolatry even if the physical worship consists of theories, data, experiments, models and such. The worship of the physical is still the same -- still Pagan, and no different at all from a little stone statue. Converting the tool of Science into a god is simple idolatry.
As Earnest Becker puts it in "Denial Of Death".
Nature's values are bodily values, human values are mental values, and though they take the loftiest flights they are built upon excrement, impossible without it, always brought back to it. As Montaigne put it, on the highest throne in the world man sits on his arse. If we push the observation even further and say men sit... over a warm and fuming pile of their own excrement - the joke is no longer funny. The tragedy of man's dualism... becomes too real. The anus and its incomprehensible, repulsive product represents... the fate... of all that is physical: decay and death.The solution for the scientific idolater becomes ignoring the spiritual deadness and impending doom of their existence with an overly cheery distracted whistle by the graveyard, or SOME sort of tranquilization. From actual drugs to yoga to medication to any possible form of screen to keep that supposedly murdered spiritual part from clawing it's way back to consciousness! Often, just calling those who still worship more than shit a name or two will suffice!
I am reminded again of one of my favorite books ... "Ideas Have Consequences", from which comes this quote on how man became convinced to worship matter vs transcendence:
The witches spoke with the habitual equivocation of oracles when they told man that by this easy choice he might realize himself more fully, for they were actually initiating a course which cuts one off from reality. Thus began the "abomination of desolation" appearing today as a feeling of alienation from all fixed truth".None of this should be taken as me being an enemy of science! Far from it! I'm certainly not an enemy of good Scotch either, but it has it's proper time and place -- when Scotch becomes the center of your dietary intake, it is in the WRONG PLACE, and any that would tell you to put it there deserve to be the target of a blog at least as down on Scotch as this seems down on Science!
In their proper place, both Scotch and Science are worthy of praise -- for our society though, putting Science back in the proper place is going to be harder than a raging alcoholic giving up booze -- for much like the dieter, modern life requires, and is certainly enhanced by Science. Our task is more like dieting at Christmas ... and even worse, much of our society believes themselves to be happier (or at least suitably distracted / tranquilized) under improper influence of Science.
We have lost our way so badly one almost prays for a calamity like an EMP event, meteor collision, supervolcano eruption, etc, to potentially wake us from our stupor. Only a miracle of God can turn us from this course without major calamity.