A true act of science

"Nevertheless, as early as the consciousness of autonomy becomes tangible at all there is also to be found the awareness of a crucial split in the psyche between spirit and power. As witnesses to this awareness I mention... finally the Christian climax in the Augustinian concepts of amor Dei and amor sui. However multifarious the desires may be, and however many of them may be distinguished by psychological description, they are overshadowed by the sense of a basic dualism in the psyche: autonomous man can order himself in society either by orienting himself toward transcendence or by emancipating himself as a world-immanent existence." -- Eric Voegelin, "What Is History?" The Collected Works, Vol. 28, p. 32.

Some people dropped basketballs off of a dam (weren't they littering?) and got to witness the "magnus effect" in a dramatic fashion. What caught my eye was the web site describing this as "a true act of science," as if somehow science had created the magnus effect!

We see the same sentiment present in the social media stories that circulate under the banner "I F*cking Love Science": often, what is presented is some natural phenomenon, but it is portrayed as if it is "science" doing the acting. What this does is turn awareness from the transcendent source of these phenomena to the human attempt to take control of them.

Science is a wonderful thing, and it discovers many fascinating natural phenomena. But really, the basketball video should be described as revealing "a true act of nature," and the social media series should be re-named "I Love Nature" (what the hell if the f-word doing in their at all?).

The problem is that someone might then be tempted to think that we really ought to be praising the author of nature, instead of our own accomplishments... and we can't have that!

In an upcoming post, we will relate Augustine's distinction to some other current debates.


  1. This is insightful. I have always felt that current #science crap is almost religious in how zealous it is. And I have always felt awkward being around people who put the f-word into any sort of series at all. I think that this might have to do with how histrionic American culture is becoming, and how little folks actually think about things.


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