In a Nerdist podcast, Neil deGrasse Tyson expresses the vulgar scientistic view of philosophy in something close to its paradigmatic form, so that if you looked up “scientism” in an ideal encyclopedia you’d find Tyson’s Nerdist comments featured as exemplars. Scientism, by the way, isn’t a formal argument, but a dismissive attitude shared by arrogant, Philistine scientists and engineers who judge the humanities in general to be empty or insignificant compared to the sciences. Thus, scientism is expressed by a rhetorical stance taken by one side in the culture war that’s been provoked largely by the power of science and technology.
Massimo Pigliucci, who has doctorates in both biology and philosophy and who personally debates with the Cosmos host on this issue, has responded to Tyson on his blog. Pigliucci also presents other examples of Tyson’s scientism. However, Pigliucci’s response is too conventional for me, which means that while his retort is generally accurate it doesn’t get to the root of Tyson’s dismissive attitude towards philosophy.
Here, from the transcript given in Pigliucci’s response, are most of Tyson’s anti-philosophical comments from the podcast (those comments start at 20:19 minutes into it):
That [philosophy] can really mess you up…My concern here is that the philosophers believe they are actually asking deep questions about nature. And to the scientist it’s, what are you doing? Why are you concerning yourself with the meaning of meaning?...Yeah, if you are distracted by your questions so that you can’t move forward, you are not being a productive contributor to our understanding of the natural world. And so the scientist knows when the question “what is the sound of one hand clapping?” is a pointless delay in our progress…How do you define clapping? All of a sudden it devolves into a discussion of the definition of words. And I’d rather keep the conversation about ideas. And when you do that don’t derail yourself on questions that you think are important because philosophy class tells you this. The scientist says look, I got all this world of unknown out there, I’m moving on, I’m leaving you behind. You can’t even cross the street because you are distracted by what you are sure are deep questions you’ve asked yourself. I don’t have the time for that.
Interestingly, the interviewers—who mostly agree with Tyson—then say that philosophy “is a bottomless pit. It just becomes nihilism.”
The Incoherence of Tyson’s Antiphilosophical Humanism
Now, all of this is very revealing, especially if you make a habit of looking under the surface of things. Perhaps the most obvious problem with Tyson’s view is that whatever faults he thinks there are with philosophy, he can’t escape philosophy because the secular humanism he presupposes even in that podcast is philosophical, not scientific. For example, he speaks of a “delay in our progress.” But if we take a purely scientific view of nature, there’s no such thing as real progress in the world, not even in the development of technology. At most, there’s subjective, relative progress when a creature makes advances towards satisfying its goals. For example, if a squirrel tries numerous times to climb a concrete barrier, coming closer to achieving that goal each time, we can speak of the squirrel progressing towards its chosen end. But should the squirrel want to climb the barrier? Suppose there’s a hunter on the other side, just waiting to shoot the squirrel so that as soon as the squirrel succeeds, landing on that greener pasture, the animal ironically loses out as it’s killed. Had the squirrel appreciated the danger it wouldn’t have wanted to climb the fence, but that’s neither here nor there: in the real world, this squirrel has that desire so as it climbs the barrier it seems like it’s progressing relative to its actual, misinformed state of mind. Is this squirrel’s progress real or just an illusion? How can there be progress that ends in disaster?
Then, of course, there’s the aesthetic, quasi-religious admiration of nature which Tyson flaunts in his remake of Carl Sagan’s Cosmos television show. That reverence or at least respect for nature, which Sagan and Einstein famously had in common with Tyson, is likewise not entailed by anything that science alone has to say. When Tyson feels that nature is sublime, majestic, or full of wonders, he’s engaging in normative, aesthetic, or otherwise philosophical judgments. For example, he’s an environmentalist, so he believes we ought to take care of the environment instead of polluting it and thus endangering all life, including ours. But again, from the scientific viewpoint all values are only subjective and thus illusory. So who says life ought to be preserved? Who says evolution ought to be allowed to continue? Not any scientist in his or her scientific capacity. Scientists only describe what’s happened, explain what’s happening, or predict what must or will probably happen. Science itself says nothing about what ought to happen.
This means that values are neutralized in the scientific picture of nature. Suppose centuries from now, we develop into a godlike but evil species, corrupted by our all-powerful technology so that we travel the galaxy, enslaving or destroying life wherever else we find it. Just as the squirrel might have been better off not progressing by pursuing its desire to climb the barrier, it’s possible that our natural environment should be rendered incapable of supporting human life, to prevent us from developing into that evil species. The point is just that environmentalism isn’t a self-evident truth; instead, it’s based on a philosophical and indeed a religious conviction that all life—but especially our life now—is precious. Cognitive scientists recognize that creatures tend to cling to life, but scientists as such have nothing to say about whether that genetic mechanism ought to meet with our approval or whether an animal’s self-esteem is warranted in the big picture of nature. Values and ideals aren’t taken seriously in science, because they’re subjective and idiosyncratic rather than objective and universal. Scientists ask mechanistic questions about how things work, not normative questions about what sort of life we should lead or even whether life in general is for the good. But these normative questions are among those that Tyson implicitly dismisses as “distracting,” “derailing,” and tending to “mess you up.” They’re philosophical or religious, not scientific, and even as he dismisses such questions he presupposes liberal, secular humanistic answers to them. That’s a no-no. (In the Cosmos episode, “The Immortals,” Tyson stresses that our “intelligence” will have to save our species from premature extinction. This is itself a scientistic thing to say, since intelligence would be necessary but insufficient. We also need a reason to want to live and such a motivation would be cultural, so that in addition to intelligence we need an artist’s nonrational creative impulses.)
Now, Tyson may only be pretending to revere nature in his public efforts to popularize science, to lure young, religious Americans into studying the sciences. But that Machiavellian act would likewise rest on philosophical principles, such as that science is good for society and that antiscientific religion is bad. Again, no purely scientific set of statements ever uttered is sufficient to justify such assumptions of modern, humanistic culture. So Tyson has a philosophy of life—even if he only presupposes his philosophical beliefs instead of becoming self-conscious about them and defending them in openly philosophical terms. Thus, his pretense at dismissing all philosophy indicates a kind of stinginess on his part: he protects his philosophical humanism by disguising it as scientific (because his philosophy is pro-science), while he denies the validity of any other philosophy and won’t deign to engage those rival stances directly or he’ll do so but he’ll call his defense protoscientific rather than philosophical or religious.
The Philistine’s Presumption about Philosophy and Religion
So much for the low-hanging fruit. Tyson is correct on one point, though: there is a lot of nonsense in academic philosophy, both in the continental and analytic traditions. Philosophers do indeed often ask foolish, counterproductive, or idle questions. Tyson says he hasn’t the time to waste on such nonsense. Again, that pragmatism or capitalistic preference for something’s efficacy or cash value will rest on philosophical rather than scientific assumptions, so that Tyson’s wholesale dismissal of philosophy is ultimately incoherent and manipulative. But there’s another aspect of Tyson’s scientism which reveals itself here. He assumes that philosophy is like science in that it’s all about cognition, that philosophers are trying to know the facts. That’s why he thinks it’s obvious that philosophers should be ridiculed for wasting time on fruitless or crazy questions that have no definitive answers. This is formally the same as the new atheist’s go-to response to theistic religion, in that the science-centered atheist likewise dismisses the religious worldview as a failed quasi-scientific theory. In other words, science-centered culture critics are liable to judge all ideas according to the criteria that apply to scientific work. This is the essence of scientism. These critics will assume that scientists want to know the facts; that religious and philosophical folks must likewise be trying merely to know the facts, but alas these disciplines lack the benefit of the scientific methods; and that therefore religion and philosophy are pitifully inferior to science and should be dismissed on putatively scientific grounds. Just as Americans don’t need the Democrats if that party is going to offer merely watered-down Republican policies, we don’t need defective versions of science when we have the genuine article.
As everyone should know, such an argument commits the strawman fallacy, due either to the critic’s ignorance of the nonscientific disciplines or to her ploy to misrepresent matters to benefit a particular group of insiders. To condemn philosophy or religion for failing to tell us the facts is to presume that the humanities are defined by their failure to be scientific. But philosophy, religion, literature, and the other humanities (including economics and political “science,” in spite of their physics envy) are primarily instrumental to practices, which is to say to ways of living. Instead of telling us the bare, objective facts that make up the real world, the humanities interpret the meaning of those facts to make for a viable way of life for sentient creatures like us.
In short, with just natural selection to guide you and science to inform you, you’ll be a Philistine, a churlish predator empowered and corrupted by technoscience but lacking noble ideals deriving from philosophical meta-reflection and from religious feelings, to direct your knowledge and power to some worthy end. What makes people special isn’t just that they understand the facts better than the other animals; it’s that we have the ability to act on that knowledge according to our cultural longings. We make existential choices based on leaps of faith and on whether a myth aesthetically succeeds by stirring our emotions. We choose to be separate from the other animals, to live as godlike lords of our world, to apply technoscience to replace the natural wilderness with artificial microcosms, and to distract ourselves with cultures so that our knowledge of the bare facts of nature doesn’t lead us to despair or madness.
Cold War between the Cultures of Science and the Humanities
How, then, are the frequent follies of philosophy and religion related to their cultural practices? Well, Western philosophy is the love of knowledge over opinion, and so philosophy threatens to subvert mass culture since the latter is propped up by opinions that are typically delusory. Boosters of science like Tyson like to point to the Presocratics as protoscientists, since they thought rationally about how the world works and posited material substances instead of gods to explain phenomena. Indeed, those aspects of ancient Greek culture were historically protoscientific, and the retrieved knowledge of them even sparked the early modern revolutions. But the point is that the Presocratics’ skepticism, rationalism and materialism were countercultural. This development came to a head with the execution of Socrates, which led Plato to argue that philosophy should be kept secret so as not to disturb the “noble lies” that ensure the stability of the vulgar, unenlightened society. Religion is also subversive—of our inclination to revert to an animalistic life. Religion is about ecstasy in contemplating transcendence, and faith that that which is in all ways greater than us somehow redeems us or makes up for apparent deficiencies in the world. Religion unites a community around an idea of something’s sacredness, so that religious people prioritize the sacred over the profane and the mundane, the esoteric over the exoteric.
Philosophers thus often ask foolish questions just because they habitually ask questions, piling up one upon another, most of which are thus likely to lead nowhere. They do this because they love knowledge more than opinion, because they’re boundlessly skeptical, taking nothing for granted even if that ensures they’ll be alienated outcasts. Philosophers follow the logic even of speculations, because philosophical skepticism is an art, not a science. Philosophical speculators devise artificial languages to express conceptual schemes, testing them as alternative ways of viewing the world. Philosophers are obsessed with their speculations, because those ideas are fictions that have the same attraction on philosophers as stories do on storytellers who follow a muse. Socrates himself said that he was merely a conduit for his daemon, and Wittgenstein calls this philosophical obsession a bewitchment that can be cured. Wittgenstein erred in blaming language; the culprit, rather, is the culture of skepticism itself whose ideal is that we should be unsatisfied with any trace of gullibility or delusion. The ultimate goal of philosophy, though, isn’t to end up with a list of all the facts that can be humanly known. Again, philosophy isn’t primarily about having knowledge; it’s about the virtues of skepticism that guide the philosopher throughout her life, the esoteric preferences she’s left with once mass culture is duly subverted by non-stop rationality, and the endless act of philosophizing in a person’s daily interactions with the world.
For their part, religious people spout supernatural hogwash to have on hand a host of symbols expressing their intuition that our cognitive powers are limited compared to what there is in the world. Religions use metaphors to comfort us in the face of the horror that the source of everything must be more monstrous than anything we can imagine. These metaphors personalize whatever’s assumed to transcend us, and like philosophical speculations, these metaphors can bewitch religious folks, instigating or exacerbating social conflicts as well as spurring numerous grotesque practices. (And yet who says the art of culture is for pantywaists? When you take it upon yourself to go to war against natural forces, to live as gods in worlds of our creation, you take the good with the bad and maybe you work over the generations to improve your microcosm.) Again, religious beliefs are usually of secondary importance to the practice. The beliefs are typically irrational and superstitious, but they’re supposed to humiliate us, to call attention to the likelihood that reality transcends what we can know, and to reconcile us to our comparative insignificance. Religious practice is about sympathizing with fellow creatures that are likewise less than God and are thus as equally doomed as the others, and it’s about distracting believers with hopeful stories that ward off despair.
Evidently, then, the root of the conflict here is that philosophy and religion are poised to subvert mass culture, whereas Tyson wants to protect that culture. Tyson’s dismissiveness likely masks nervousness on the part of the powers that be, about the fragility of the science-centered institutions in this postmodern climate of cynicism and apathy. Scientism is the secular humanist’s kneejerk technique of boosterism now only because the modern myths that energized the public appetite for unchecked liberty have long been unmasked as utopian. After all, Tyson’s talk of progress is merely quaint. There was once a modern religion that was meant to replace Christianity in Europe and the US after what Nietzsche called the death of God. Thus, early modernists would have regarded the scientistic contempt for philosophy and religion as bizarrely counterproductive. Now that the myths of the free market’s fairness, of democracy’s functionality, and of the link between technoscientific and social progress have been widely exposed as noble lies, a neoliberal humanist can apologize for mainstream Western culture only by discrediting the messengers, however self-destructive the scientistic attitude may be in the long run. This is a desperate defense of the legitimacy of the science-centered modern world order even as science itself undermines all talk of legitimacy as subjective and relative. This scientific reductionism feeds postmodern cynicism and incredulity towards all myths, including the secular humanism of Cosmos, not to mention Bush’s War on Terror or the abortive myth of Obama’s transformative presidency. To be sure, there are still efficacious postmodern metanarratives, such as those seen daily in advertisements, but they operate now only as fads and are thus unsuitable to any long-term project such as that of saving the ecosystems.
Philosophers and authentic religious individuals are in the unpopular business of bursting all of these bubbles, of unmasking the noble lies and rallying the troops to revolt. But Neil deGrasse Tyson’s having none of that. He belittles philosophy as merely useless and thus as no threat to society; as he says, philosophers seem to suffer from paranoia so that they can’t even cross the street. This calls to mind Aristophanes’s play that caricatures the pretentious Socrates as having his head in the clouds so that he misses the facts on the ground. What Tyson misses is that the absentminded, angst-ridden philosophers are only harbingers of science. In so far as philosophers are hyper-skeptical and nihilistic, they’re only drawing out the implications of the scientific picture of natural reality. If academic philosophy is presently irrelevant to public debates, that institution is only the canary in the coalmine. Watch as the mass media, democratic government, fine arts, and other modern institutions are further eroded by science’s continuing disenchantment of nature! All that will remain of postmodern Western society is a dominance hierarchy of barren social mechanisms, assuming scientists continue to discover that our naïve image of ourselves as free, conscious, rational, and dignified persons is a self-serving delusion.
Romantics and Philistines
In Unweaving the Rainbow, Richard Dawkins responds to that latter, romantic accusation against science. He says that because our lives are exceedingly improbable, we ought to use our limited time to understand the universe. But this is transparently a non sequitur. In so far as everything in the universe results from billions of chance interactions between particles, everything is equally improbable. That doesn’t make everything equally precious—or if it does, it means we’re no more precious than a speck of dust, in which case “precious” becomes a weasel word. Moreover, even if we are precious, dedicating ourselves to the scientific enterprise would be detrimental since science threatens that sense of our preciousness in countless ways. Biology shows the extent to which we’re continuous with all the other species, and eventually biology will demonstrate continuity between non-life and life, in which case again that which seems to make us special will be comparable to even more common natural processes.
Dawkins encourages scientists to use poetic metaphors in their depictions of commonplace natural phenomena, to revivify their sense of wonder. This shows that Dawkins doesn’t perceive the radical implications of naturalism. What’s the use of metaphors when all semantic meaning is an occult illusion? Dawkins points out that scientists are like poets in that both appreciate the wonder of nature. For example, the physicist Richard Feynman said he sees a deeper beauty of a flower than the average person who isn’t aware of the flower’s complicated interactions. Indeed, science may cause people to feel wonder or pleasure when they encounter what they think is beautiful. But nothing is credited as sublime or as beautiful in the scientific picture of nature itself. As sentimental humans, scientists can feel whatever they like, but in their actual scientific work they won’t speak of the world’s awesomeness or of its aesthetic merit. No, when they speak that way they’re indulging in philosophical reflection or they’re exhibiting some cryptoreligious faith. Science itself has no room for such qualities, because scientific methods objectify and quantify everything. So Dawkins confuses a causal relation between science and an aesthetic judgment, with a logical or a justificatory one.
According to Dawkins, scientists unravel one mystery only to open up dozens more. Scientific findings may indeed be fruitful in that way, but this is beside the point. Science is methodologically naturalistic, which means that scientists assume that nothing is beyond our comprehension, that every event has a natural explanation. This is obviously the opposite of religious cosmicism. Scientists work to eliminate mysteries whereas religious people mean to preserve them. Scientists do this for at least two reasons: first, their humanistic philosophy of life implies that social progress depends on advances in technoscience, since those advances enable us to control natural processes; second, their neoliberalism impresses upon them the need to earn a living, and there’s a lot of money in dispelling mysteries. Meanwhile, religious people maintain that some mysteries are permanent, for two different reasons: first, they think pride goes before the fall, so it’s imperative to be humble and not to lust after omniscience; second, they trust their intuition that all of natural reality is an absurd illusion compared to some alien reality they call God.
Romantic artists such as poets side with religion against science in this culture clash. but I think the romantic contention that science is nihilistic is an oversimplification. Indeed, I’d go further than Dawkins in stressing a connection between science and aesthetics: not only does the culture of science presuppose a particular aesthetic sensibility (namely a Philistine one, fit for those who tend to have contempt for the humanities, which include the arts), but scientific objectivity itself is structurally the same as the aesthetic attitude, which is the attitude of emotionally detaching yourself from something you observe so that you can ignore the background noise of your personal preoccupations when you experience it. Scientists objectify to understand the world, while art appreciators do so for a strange sort of pleasure. To be sure, it’s ironic that the Nerdist interviewers call philosophy the source of nihilism, whereas modern philosophy is entirely reactive to science. But the threat isn’t that science drains the world of all qualities whatsoever, since scientific objectivity entails the potential, at least, for aesthetic value. No, the problem isn’t nihilism, but horror: disgust with nature’s fundamental impersonality, dread of the finality of death, resentment for being born against our will into an unfair world. Note that this aesthetic remainder is consistent with what I said above about science itself objectifying everything. In so far as someone discharges her duty as a scientist, she won’t be horrified by nature, which is to say she won’t be taking up the aesthetic attitude; as Tyson implies, she’ll be much too busy for that. The sense that the world isn’t at all what we’d prefer it to be, that it’s a grotesque monstrosity that’s perfectly indifferent to us is left for someone in the throes of the existential crisis that’s a sign of philosophical maturity or of religious fear of transcendent powers.
Scientific objectivity is only very similar to the aesthetic sense, not identical with it, so wherever there’s science there’s the potential for aesthetic appreciation. And it just so happens that the self-created cosmos that scientists explain is an aesthetically appalling place, not at all a beautiful one. Those who call nature beautiful are Philistines with an atrophied taste in art. When we call nature beautiful, in our absentmindedness, we use that word as a euphemism. Were nature beautiful because of its mathematical properties of proportion and balance, everything would be equally “beautiful” because everything can be mathematically described and mathematical rules can be arbitrarily adjusted. In so far as we’re candid, we confess that beauty is primarily a sexual matter so it’s quite preposterous to call the universe at large beautiful. But just because the universe is alien and monstrous in its undead impersonality, the negative aesthetic reaction to nature is valid. Just to the extent that they’re scientifically explained as natural, as mechanical but uncontrolled by any intelligence, natural processes are as hideous as any Hollywood monster. We fear what we don’t understand, such as how a supernatural beast in a horror movie manages to gobble people up. And the more we understand the world in mechanistic terms, the more pressing the fundamental mysteries indeed of why Being is undead, why it merely simulates order and purpose like a zombie, and how sentient creatures can learn to stomach the oppressive knowledge of that abomination.
Noble Lies and the Scapegoating of Philosophy
It’s worth pointing out that Tyson can’t afford to sneer merely at philosophy. It goes without saying that the scientismist dismisses religion too for the same (incoherent) reasons. But more than that, this homage to science entails a rejection of arts in general as equally frivolous. True, Tyson will say that painting, poetry, music, and so forth aren’t cognitive matters so they needn’t enter his sights. But I’ve shown that philosophy and religion, too, aren’t primarily about acquiring knowledge. They’re instrumental to ways of life and so are the arts. The arts have purposes following from cultural convictions. For example, medieval European visual arts were propaganda for the Catholic Church, whereas modern painting is more and more critical even of humanistic myths, not to mention traditional religious ones, until it terminates in postmodern chaos and farce. A scientismist like Tyson confesses he has no time for needless speculations that don’t help us understand the bare objective facts. Thus, we can expect he’d be able to admire art only in the materialistic Chinese oligarch’s manner: that thoroughgoing materialist in China purchases art as an investment and to show off in a biologically-determined act of conspicuous consumption; moreover, she disregards ethical restrictions, luxuriating in the decadence of elephant ivory and shark fin soup. And why not, given science-centered cultural materialism? Why take ethical norms seriously—as long as you can get away with acting on your selfish desires, because you’re too powerful for the servile public to allow to fail. Why not admit to yourself that you’re beyond good and evil, in Nietzsche’s sense, instead of retreating to politically correct myths that are fit only for the unknowing masses?
And there’s no need to stop at art; for example, romantic love should likewise be discarded as a silly nonscientific practice, if we begin reasoning from Tyson’s scientistic premises. Once we see that the humanities aren’t protosciences and that they shouldn’t be judged mainly by scientific, cognitive criteria, since they’re practices rather than inquiries into the facts, the scientist’s persistent condescension to philosophy applies across the board to all noncognitive practices. And so Tyson’s scientism ends not just in self-refutation, since the scientist is bound to have her philosophical assumptions, but in the absurdity of counting against virtually all cultural endeavours. There’s more to human life than science. Of course, elites like Dawkins and Tyson know this perfectly well since they’re highly cultured individuals. Why, then, the contempt heaped upon poor, already-unpopular academic philosophy? Is this a case of schadenfreude?
No, the best explanation is that the scientismist uses philosophy as a scapegoat to distract attention from the fact that science, not philosophy or religion, threatens indeed all culture. Naturalists like Tyson or Dawkins really ought to rail against the arts, romantic love, and all other cultural illusions, just as they castigate philosophers and theists for not keeping up with the torrent of scientific discoveries. Just as philosophical speculations can appear juvenile next to an ironclad scientific theory, so too a painting, a song, or an intimate relationship seems preposterous in light of the mechanistic facts of nature. But postmodern scientists are typically neoliberals and so they play the game of the double standard. Secretly, they may worry about the apocalyptic implications of naturalism; perhaps they even soothe themselves by blaming hapless philosophy for cultural nihilism and hyper-irony, as if philosophers weren’t just channeling the upshot of scientific naturalism. But scientists aren’t saints, so they tend not to embrace the posthuman, which is to say antihuman, perspective from which phenomena are stripped of all meaning and purpose except for the horror made plain to anyone with aesthetic detachment. Scientists cling to their neoliberal humanistic values and sacred ideas in spite of the antihuman implications of naturalism. Moreover, they need to preserve the infantilizing culture of the uninformed masses, so the peons can continue to support the scientific enterprise, the latter being self-destructively all-important to the scientists’ higher culture.
One of the functions of science popularization, therefore, is to spin the dark implications of naturalism, to tell the noble lies for exoteric consumption and to scapegoat those who won’t settle for any such spin-doctoring, namely the knowledge-loving philosophers who are perhaps foolish enough to oppose bad arguments, delusions, and myths even to the point of helping to bring civilization to ruin. Tyson implies that there’s no need to worry about nihilism and meta-questions about politics and morality, because these belong to philosophy and philosophers are merely playing empty word games. He scapegoats the one messenger (philosophy) to protect the dearer one (science itself) and to keep the masses from fearing the abhorrent facts of natural life. Privately, the scientismist may be concerned that in the case of philosophy, the medium is the message; after all, ancient Greek philosophers were just as endlessly skeptical as postmodern ones, because in either case philosophy arises as a naturalistic counterculture that condemns mass ignorance in the name of a higher ideal.
The deep reason why philosophers are never satisfied with any answer is that they’re informed and rational enough to have faced the existential crisis, due to their recognition that nature is, in short, the undead god, and after that trauma they run around daydreaming like headless chickens. Revelations of the undead god continue to pour in from science and scientismists reassure us that all is well, that regardless of what cognitive science or physics says, we can lose ourselves in our myriad cultural fairytales, including the liberal humanist’s favourites—only, avoid the subversive cultures of philosophy and religion like the plague! Let’s maintain the noble lie to preserve the institutions of science that will inevitably wash away all humanistic culture in a flood of evidence that our secular hopes are as childishly wrongheaded as the clueless ancient theist’s. Long live the tragicomedy of scientism!