The Masters of History
by Scott Savitz
Revised May 1998
All rights reserved
The Use and Abuse of Science
Perhaps the most threatening aspect of science, save for its enabling the human race to engage in self-extermination, is the fact that it can be seized and worn as a mantle by truly dangerous individuals and movements. Like religious belief, science can be utilized as an ideological weapon by those with the worst intentions. This is one of the principal reasons why the general public's very limited knowledge of science--which hinders the public from asking piercing questions of pseudo-scientific demagogues--has important consequences.
Human beings are all too easily influenced by a thin veneer of rationality, and the use of a modicum of scientific jargon. Nazism's beliefs in the superiority of a particular race, which utilized corruptions of evolutionary theory, are a prime example of this. Likewise, its twin evil of communism, with its unshakable belief in certain models of human development, was quite willing to eliminate those who opposed any aspect of that approach. Such ideologies, for all their scientific aspirations, have more in common with the most primitive of religious beliefs than with any scientific field.
Excessive certainty is contrary to the very nature of scientific endeavors. A communist roommate once tried to "educate" me as to why Marx's science of human nature explained the past, present, and future of the human race. Clearly, in the face of the collapse of most communist states (they did wither away, though not as Marx predicted) a truly scientific movement or individual would be forced to reevaluate core beliefs. The fact that so many altered their views so little in the face of overwhelming experimental evidence is but one more nail in the coffin of communism. Radicals of all stripes-- religious fanatics, conspiracy theorists, fascists, xenophobes, and even obsessed Freudians, among...