Is science the myth of western capitalism?
Is science the mythical narrative of western capitalism? Well yes and no. It is not, at least in the sense that science discovers facts about nature and they are true whether the reigning economic system is capitalism or primitive barter or Marxism. But yes in the sense that science was born in Catholic southern Europe but, owing to the calamitous condemnation of Galileo by the Catholic Church and even more the atrocious burning of Giordano Bruno which showed how far the Church was prepared to go to defend its own mythical narrative, science was driven north into Protestant Europe where its history became inextricably entwined with that of capitalism. Western secularists make it say more than it says. Does science and only science tell us truth? Science doesn’t say this. Is there an intuitive insight into nature that is as valid as that of observation, induction and then logical deduction that has served science so well? Science doesn’t say that there isn’t. Is religion nonsense? Science itself has no view. By accident the underpinning philosophy of science became that of John Locke, who was as much the Confucius of capitalism as he was that of science. Then Locke’s influence over the interpretation of science was greatly compounded by the calamity of The Origin of Species, in which Darwin quite arbitrarily wished the conditions of Victorian capitalism onto nature. There is no philosophy of competition amongst animals. Animals do not struggle for existence, as The Origin would have it, they struggle to exist. Each simply looks for the next mate or the next nut, and the sum of all those strugglings does not add up to a nature ruled by Ricardian economics. The first bearers of the genetic mutations that will enable them to survive and breed in changed environmental conditions when others will not, only themselves survive, generally speaking, because of the solicitude of their parents. Even the ichneumon fly, in an act of unthinking cruelty that worried Darwin so much, lays its eggs in the living body of the caterpillar so that its precious grub when it hatches will be able to feed on the caterpillar’s inside, before abandoning it. Love, if you can call it that, is as important in evolutionary change as competition. Darwin overlooked it, as an approver of workhouses and one who, despite his overwhelming distress when his own daughter died quietened his anxieties that the profligate poor might outbreed the prudent rich with the thought that thankfully the death rate amongst children of the poor was satisfactorily high, was always going to. This in a man with the tenderest of hearts. The personal tragedy of Darwin stifling his own humanity at the behest of Victorian capitalism has blighted both science and the world. Suppose Darwin had been a Hindu. How differently he would have interpreted his great discovery. How nature would have displayed the divine play of Brahman in creation rather than evolutionary change caused by ‘war, famine, disease and death’. Famine, disease and death cause nothing. Natural selection is not a cause but a consequence. The important point is that Darwin was always going to interpret his discovery in terms of myth, and if not one myth then another, because humans are metaphor making creatures and that is what they do. The most distorting mythical narrative of science is that it is immune to mythical narrative. It is not. Facts, which are certain, are inevitably interpreted in terms of meanings, which are always uncertain. Those interpretative meanings, as it happens, have been inextricably linked with the rise of capitalism. But that was an accident. An instance of natural selection perhaps.