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“The Invisible Gene” and Other Essays on Scientism.

by Ted Christopher

Pub Date: March 25th, 2020
ISBN: 978-1-62967-170-3
Publisher: Wise Media Group

A theoretical critique of scientism, the hyperbolically confident view that scientific materialism is capable of explaining the universe in its totality.

Christopher announces an ambitious agenda: to challenge the “scientific vision of life,” the reductive attempt to capture all existing phenomena—human and otherwise—in the categories of scientific materialism. The author principally devotes his attention to the relentless attempt to explain human behavior from the perspective of DNA, the alleged “language of life.” However, Christopher contends, with impressive clarity and rigor, that such an attempt has long been exposed as a failure—explanatory recourse to DNA simply doesn’t account for the whole spectrum of behavioral differences or variations in innate intelligence. Despite the mounting difficulties with the explanatory power of DNA, however, the scientific community has doubled down on its commitment to it—a type of “faith-based” rather than evidentiary allegiance. The author interprets this commitment as an expression of irrational scientism, which combines a “total confidence in the materialistic model of human life” with a self-congratulatory “hype and arrogance.” Christopher devotes so much attention to the field of genetics precisely because he sees it as the crucible of this scientism: “I suggest that biologists/geneticists are effectively in the front lines of the defense of materialism. That foundational scientific belief that life is completely describable in terms of physics dictates that DNA fulfill the heredity role. Never mind some of the extraordinary behavioral challenges, DNA has to cover all of materialism’s bets.”

Christopher also assesses the ways scientific dogma clouds discussions of environmental sustainability, race, intelligence, and even meditation—in the latter case he furnishes a fascinating discussion of the limitations of the analysis of Sam Harris, a philosopher and neuroscientist who is a well-known critic of religion. Further, he does a credible job of not only exposing the vulnerabilities and limitations of DNA as a theoretical panacea, but also the ways the scientific community routinely dismisses them, betraying their avowed commitment to intellectual openness. “Contradicting the certitude of science there are bunch [sic] of behavioral phenomena which are very difficult to explain from a materialist perspective. The inability of science to acknowledge this situation contradicts the regularly proclaimed openness and curiosity of scientists. In fact science has its own rigid materialist purview and strongly defends it.” The author, whose perspective is unmistakably locatable on the right of the political aisle, claims he does not supply a “nuanced effort,” and this is sometimes true. In his discussion of black communities, he offers common racist tropes: “A relatively weak commitment towards education and a tendency towards violence are still substantial problems in parts of the African American community.” Overall, the author’s argument is clear and free of technical convolution, a remarkable feat given the forbidding nature of much of the subject matter. His chief goal is to demonstrate the “sacred” nature of the scientific community’s fidelity to DNA as a settled theory and, as a consequence, encourage it to “start looking elsewhere for explanations.” At the very least, he accomplishes this goal.

A thorough, right-wing perspective on the philosophical vices of modern science.