Note: this is in response to a You Tube video sent me by a friend. The video, featuring Carl Sagan, Bill Nye and others, purports that science and scientific knowledge is the end all be all of our existence. This is my reply.
-Charles Martin Cosgriff
Well, I agree that the beauty of the universe is not in the atoms which make things up. But I must point out that such is not a scientific judgment; it is fact a philosophic judgment.
Any time you claim something is beautiful you cannot rightly be said to be talking science because your have made a value judgment in calling it beautiful. Value judgments, opinions expressed about the innate quality of any given thing, are based on reason, or what the classical philosophers called Right Reason, things so obviously correct that they are Truth Itself and over which no rational being could disagree.
Science as science ignores this. Indeed popular science (for that is basically what is espoused by the Carl Sagans of our history) isn't actually science at all: it is an expression of their philosophical beliefs about what ultimate truth is. Therefore, scientists such as he who say they are making statements about science which are in all actuality laced with value, are not themselves being scientific at all. They have stepped into the realm of philosophy.
Nothing wrong with that, but call it what it is. Yet as such, they can make no empirical statements about beauty. The trouble there is that science is all about empiricism: hard factual evidence easily reproducible and recognizable over and over again. Carl Sagan has in fact gone beyond what he claims as his expertise, namely science.
I can use the same evidence about the complexity of the universe and make a better philosophic claim that it signifies design, that it must have come about via a conscious act: an act of will. An Act of God. Because complexity in and of itself is merely a complexity. When we begin to ask ourselves: Why is it complex? How did it become this way? we have begun to become truly human. We don't look at the merely scientific explanation of an object, which is at the end of the day simply raw data. The meaning of it is philosophical, and then eventually religious.
In short, science answers the 'how' questions. That gives us much good and necessary knowledge. But it is only rote knowledge; no matter how important, it is the least valuable type of knowledge. How we interpret and apply it means so much more, and those issues are not addressed by science at all. The 'why' questions have more meaning because they explain how we ought to be and how we have came about being here. They are addressed by our philosophic and theological outlook, and necessarily imply a God of some sort.
Science is not spiritual. It is not philosophical. It is not religious. But it isn't supposed to be. When it pretends to speak for what it is not, it is wearing the Emperor's New Clothes. It is out of its league.