Sullivan links to a few pieces commenting on conservatism’s anti-science swing in recent years. Earlier today, I read this excerpt from a letter by C.S. Lewis that speaks to this same point. I’ve included the explanatory note from Dickerson and O’Hara below to help clarify Lewis’ point.
The Renaissance is the golden age of magic and occultism. Modern writers who talk of “medieval superstitions” “surviving” amidst the growth of the “scientific spirit” are wide of the mark. Magic and “science” are twins et pour cause, for the magician and the scientist both stand together, and in contrast to the Christian, the Stoic, or the Humanist, in so far as both make Power their aim, believe Power to be attainable by technique, and in the practice of that technique are ready to defy ordinary morality. Of course, one succeeded and the other failed: but that shd. not blind us to the strong family likeness.
Now an explanatory note from Dickerson and O’Hara:
This was a personal letter, and Lewis was perhaps not as careful with his words as in his essays. As we hope to make clear later, and as Lewis himself seeks to make clear elsewhere, his real complaint is not with pure science, but with the application of science as a means to power: science not for the sake of knowledge, but as a technological tool for exploitation.
Part of American conservatism’s anti-science backlash is, no doubt, due to the entrenched nature of young earth creationism and fundamentalism. But the non-theistic crowd would do well to note that a good many of us don’t object to science per se, but to science as an absolutizing tool that is used to answer every question about life and the universe. Science in its proper context is a wonderful tool and, indeed, a great blessing. But when science attempts to overstep its bounds, it deserves the stinging rebuke that follows.