Commentary

'In Fauci We Trust'? CS Lewis Foresaw Scientific Authoritarianism

By David Klinghoffer | August 20, 2020 | 3:01pm EDT
Dr. Anthony Fauci has come under scrutiny for his assessment of the coronavirus. (Photo credit: MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images)
Dr. Anthony Fauci has come under scrutiny for his assessment of the coronavirus. (Photo credit: MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images)

Welcome to Day 150 of the 14-day COVID shutdown, as we’ve been counting it in Washington State.

Who would have predicted all that Americans have experienced in the past five months?

Economic catastrophe, shrugged off by the permanently employed class in our government and media. Endless isolation with all its social ills. Cities committing suicide, plunged into chaos and squalor by fake news, as the government winks at violence and undercuts the police. An upcoming election whose results seem guaranteed to be disputed, leading to more riots, more chaos.

Something is very wrong in our country, as you don’t need me to tell you. But what is going on? I suggest that you watch this important video by political scientist John West, my Discovery Institute colleague. He sheds a fascinating light on the outcomes when what C. S. Lewis called “scientocracy” is put in charge:

No God but Science 

Among the most startling upshots of recent months is the way people and things that you once might have regarded as uninteresting have become like matches to dry tinder. That a cloth mask would be embraced as a tribal totem? That children going off to school would spark terror? That Dr. Anthony Fauci would become a figure of enthusiastic, near-religious devolution to millions? That a virus, from the same family that gives us the common cold, would set off a series of events including talk of a second Civil War?

At the heart of it all are science and culture. Their intersection, long divisive as we know from the evolution debate, became radioactive this year. In 2020, science emerged not only as source of insight and service to humanity, but also as a false religion.

There is no God but Science and Fauci is His messenger. I started really worrying in May when I watched a humiliating video in which a couple of prominent rabbis, representing my own religious community, conducted a supremely fawning interview with Fauci, pledging to keep their own synagogues shut even after the government gave permission to open. At one point they sang a psalm for him. I know that Christian friends can supply instances of similar passivity and obsequiousness from spokesmen for their own faith.

Uncounted Fails, Unrecognized Biases

As Dr. West explains, for all the blessings of science, there are problems with saying, as some literally have done, “In Fauci we trust.” C. S. Lewis foresaw that this was the direction in which our culture was headed, as we place faith in scientific bureaucrats, handing over our freedom to them overnight. West argues for a reasonable skepticism about what scientists say, for balancing scientific with other valid considerations in setting public policy. He offers tips for viewing science-worship with sober detachment, recognizing that fails, and worse, are common in the history of science and that scientists themselves are a group with biases that go too often unrecognized.

When science becomes idolatry, we call it scientism. It needs to be resisted. I hope you’ll share this video with friends and family members.

David Klinghoffer is a Senior Fellow at Discovery Institute and the editor of Evolution News & Science Today, the daily voice of Discovery Institute’s Center for Science & Culture, reporting the intersection of science and culture.

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