Sunday, October 12, 2014

Said in 1929--But Still Applicable to Some "Official Scientists" Today

This very unphilosophical irruption [of a scientist] into philosophy was, however, in one way enlightening. It threw a light backwards on the speaker's previous proclamation on things on which he has more right to speak. Even in those things he betrayed a curious simplicity common among such official scientists. The truth is that they become steadily less scientific and more official. They develop that thin disguise that is the daily wear of politicians. They perform before us the most artful tricks with the most artless transparency. It is like watching a child trying to hide something. They are perpetually trying to bluff us with big words and learned allusions; on the assumption that we have never learnt anything--even of their own funny little ways. Every leader-writer who thunders "Galileo" at us assumes that we know even less about Galileo than he does. Every preacher of popular science who throws a long word at us thinks we shall have to look it up in the dictionary and hopes we shall not study it seriously even in the encyclopaedia. Their use of science is rather like the use made of it by the heroes of certain adventure stories, in which the white men terrify the savages by predicting an eclipse or producing an electric shock. These are in a sense true demonstrations of science. They are in a sense right in saying that they are scientists. Where they are perhaps wrong is in supposing that we are savages.

–G. K. Chesterton, “The Mask of the Agnostic.”

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