Christopher Potter

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Horace and Me, Harry Eyres

By Christopher Potter, Jun 8 2014 10:00AM

'Militant or fervent atheists are concerned not just about the recrudesence of destructive forms of religion, but more generally about what they see as a new age of credulity, a tidal wave of new age beliefs... threatening to wash away the rational values of the Enlightenment.

But what is the greatest credulity of all is in the power of science? This is not to be antiscience, but to make the distinction pioneered by the great teacher and cultural critic Jacques Barzun between science and scientism. Barzun defines science as 'the body of rules instruments, theorems, observations with the aid of which man manipulates physical nature in order to grasp its workings'. As such it has very little to do with the often contradictory set of popular myths and beliefs about the power of science to extend life indefinitely, bring about a utopia of peace and plenty, or lead mankind to destruction, which Barzun calls scientism.

To be sceptical not just about the claims of faiths but also about those of scientism is to court unpopularity from every side.'

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