In an article published in the Times Online yesterday, Prince Charles, the person next in line for the throne in England, said that science is to blame for the various issues, from environmental to economic, facing the world today. In specific, it is the mechanistic view of the world at the core of scientific explanation that the Prince believes has led to the West being “de-souled,” and that is the root of all our problems. He said,
This imbalance, where mechanistic thinking is so predominant, goes back at least to Galileo’s assertion that there is nothing in nature but quantity and motion. This is the view that continues to frame the general perception of the way the world works, and how we fit within the scheme of things. As a result, Nature has been completely objectified — “She” has become an “it” — and we are persuaded to concentrate on the material aspect of reality that fits within Galileo’s scheme.
Yes, the very same science that is responsible for the incredible increase in quality of living, human lifespan, knowledge of how the world works, and countless other things is what is at the heart of every problem we have. Or not.
This kind of absurdity always annoys the piss out of me. I don’t know that it’s possible to overstate the benefits that science has afforded our species. Certainly, if you take things like eating, drinking, giving birth to fertile offspring, protection from the elements, community and interaction with loved ones, or any of the other aspects of human life that we generally think to be desirable and valuable, science is the single greatest boon we could ever imagine. All of that stuff has increased thanks to science. Yet, here we have someone who is learned and supposedly knowledgeable making the ridiculous assertion that it is, in fact, this very same science that is the cause of human misery.
And what’s the cure? Apparently something mystical and mysterious. It’s hard to say. From the article:
Speaking at the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies to mark its 25th anniversary, the Prince — who is patron of the centre — said that the West had been been “de-souled” by consumerism.
He said that the present approach to the environment was contrary to the teachings of all of the world’s sacred traditions. The desire for financial profit ignored the spiritual teachings.
“Over the years, I have pointed out again and again that our environmental problems cannot be solved simply by applying yet more and more of our brilliant green technology — important though it is.
“It is no good just fixing the pump and not the well,” he said. Talk of an “environmental crisis” or of a “financial crisis” was actually describing “the outward consequences of a deep, inner crisis of the soul”.
Honestly. I’m not sure what the Prince is actually proposing here. Putting aside the question of whether our “present approach to the environment” really is “contrary to the teaching of all the world’s sacred traditions,” though I am wildly skeptical about such a claim, what is it that spiritual teachings are supposed to do for us? How are spiritual teachings going to give homes to the homeless, feed the hungry, provide for the poor, or heal the sick? What exactly are these teachings supposed to do at all? Further, once we have figured out what these great cures are supposed to be, how are these spiritual teachings going to achieve those goals? I can only assume that the Prince is aware that spiritual teachings were the dominant means of solving problems for most of human history. It is only recently, by the Prince’s own counting since Galileo, that science has been the means by which we come to solutions for the bulk of our problems. And yet, it does not appear as though the times when spiritual teachings dominated that environmental and economic problems all magically went away (see what I did there?). Given that, what reason is there to think that abandoning the amazingly successful solution machine of science in favor of the old failed method of spiritual teachings is going to help us out with anything at all? I see none.
While I’m taking apart the nonsense the Prince said, Nature is not a “She.” Nature does not have a sex. It does not even have a gender. Nature cannot be harmed, it cannot be destroyed, and it cannot be betrayed. Nature does not care. When we all die, Nature will continue to be the same, and it will not even notice our passing. Seriously, what kind of hubris must one have to think that Nature is human-like? Hey, guy, you’re just not that cool. Get over yourself.
It is hard to believe that someone of the level of sophistication of a future King could be so woefully ignorant and clueless. But here we are. At least we can be thankful that he is mostly just a figurehead with little genuine power or influence.