Believers in traditional religions like to argue that Science is also a religion. And while most scientists reject that idea, Scientists embrace it! The religion of Scientism upends the criticism by pointing out that there is no firm definition of the word religion. And so, in taking the definition of religion as an “overarching worldview” rather than “a story about a being who controls everything,” Scientists proudly wear the ecclesiastical label, even if they know it can be a bit misleading to the unscientifically-minded.
Some scientists use the term “god” to refer to “the universe” or “reality,” such as when Albert Einstein famously said “God does not play dice.” While they don’t literally mean a traditional deity, it seems they find the term “god” to be a useful shorthand for “life, the universe and everything.” And yet this goes both ways: if the words are interchangeable then why do we even need the G-word? Scientists see the enormity of objective reality and the laws of the universe with the same reverence and humility that traditional religions see the “almighty.”
Science has always been around in one form or another in human societies. Even our most ancient ancestors found that they could experiment with something, see what happened and hazard a guess about what it meant. The difference between modern science and primitive science is what’s known as “the scientific method,” a practice which functions staggeringly well to remove human bias and expectation from the process. This method opened up an entire world of consciousness to humanity, one in which we discovered (as many historical sages like Socrates, the Buddha and Lao Tzu suggested) that all we know is that we know nothing. Given that it is the removal of the ego and its attendant biases that is at the heart of most spiritual traditions, Scientists see the scientific method as a type of spiritual practice as well.
While initial reactions to the scientific revolution were fearful, and many thought it would usher in moral decay, today Scientists contend that the opposite is actually true, and that the more Scientism-minded people are, the more moral they are prone to act. Furthermore, all data suggests that if there is a God, they don’t really have a problem with it or they would have done something about science and its millions of acolytes by now.
Practicing Scientists don’t have to be actual scientists. They can also be fans of scientific thinking, or active participants in fighting against bias, illogical assertions and beliefs, and general misinformation. The increasingly popular work of Scientist heroes like Daniel Kahneman have given layman Scientists exceptional spiritual tools to practice their religion by recognizing common cognitive biases.
In today’s culture, when a worrying number of people are promoting anti-scientific messages, it is the mission of the Scientist to try and spread the gospel and bring us back into the light.
Science is a way of thinking much more than it is a body of knowledge.
— Carl Sagan
We especially need imagination in science. It is not all mathematics, nor all logic, but it is somewhat beauty and poetry.
— Maria Mitchell
The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not ‘Eureka!’ but ‘That’s funny…’
— Isaac Asimov