The Scientific Method and Western Culture:
PHS 100A Environmental Studies
Warner Pacific College
December 10, 2013
The Scientific Method and Western Culture
The scientific method is that which can be observed, tested, and measured; and to express the results of these measurements in quantitative terms. The utmost effort must be given to objectivity and the avoidance of any bias, as the results obtained will be tantamount to useless if one does not. Before talking about how the scientific method has influenced western culture, let us first understand what our western culture has become.
Rapacious and superficial, with all its ugly and selfish characteristics – that is what our western culture is. We celebrate the rich and the beautiful, and even the stupid, so long as it’s famous. Usually these trivialities are but distractions by the few, in order placate the masses. However, it is perpetrated with our willing acquiescence. Society and our culture as a whole have become shallow and trite; partly because we are conditioned to be so, and partly because we consent. We refuse to be set free from our collective adolescence; the “id” of our nature has a stranglehold on us and we cannot escape our desire for immediate gratification. While one could agree that a certain amount of hedonism is appropriate and necessary, we take it to the extreme.
There is a saying from the bible that is appropriate here. “When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me” (1 Corinthians 13:11). This is profound in its wisdom and simplicity, and also its necessary truth. Sadly, our culture has yet to embrace the spirit of these words, and shows no signs of doing so.
There is a duality to the influence of the scientific method on our culture. On the one hand we accept its merits and utilize all the fantastic gadgets and medicines that result; for science as brought “wondrous treasures to satiate desires both subtle and gross” (Star Trek: TNG, 1989). Yet, on the other hand, we steadfastly ignore its numerous warnings of impending disaster, blithely content in the misguided belief that no matter what we do to ourselves or the planet, science will save us and nature will heal itself in the end. There is a chance (albeit small) that this will occur, and by all means let us pray for its success, however, this cannot be depended upon to transpire. We must save ourselves from ourselves.
In their textbook, Environment: The Science Behind the Stories, Jay Withgott and Matthew Laposata describes science as “a systematic process of learning about the world and testing our understanding of it”, and as an “accumulated body of knowledge” and its method as a “dynamic process of questioning, observation, testing, and discovery” (Withgott, Laposata, 2013). This description is surely correct, however, it leaves one with a sense of ambiguity in that it seems rather imprecise and too narrowly confined. Do they mean only our world – as in the planet? Can it be expanded into knowledge of the cosmos, or transversely, the subatomic? You see, science is a tool – a method that can be applied to anything under the heavens. Hopefully when they use the term “our world” Withgott and Laposata mean everything. Withgott and Laposata (2013) go on to describe the scientific method as “hypothesis-driven science, research proceeding in a more targeted and structured manner, using experiments to test hypotheses.”
At Western Culture Global (WCG) they say that “western culture can be also referred to as advanced culture; this is because its ideal and values promote the development and sustainment of advanced civilizations” (westerncultureglobal.org, 2009). This statement flies in the face of many facts, not the least of which is that the society it created cannot be sustained. How can anything that claims to be advanced (translation: enlightened) be the cause of its own undoing? WCG goes on to say that “western culture has at least some presence in nearly all nations of the world” (westerncultureglobal.org, 2009). I would compare this to the spread of a disease. For it is widely understood that if all the nations of the world, particularly those such as India with its massive population, where to suddenly live as we do, the world would quickly become unlivable.
The scientific method has allowed us to gather and keep vast amounts of knowledge and information. Yet there is no discipline in its use. We simply take step after step building on the works of others without consideration for consequence. This dangerous application of knowledge may very well lead to our own demise. Western culture is thought by many to be the age (or application) of logic and reason. Yet there is little logic, and vary little reason in how we use it. At its core the scientific method of a beautiful thing, however the truths and wonders it reveals should be followed (through the use of logic and reason) to their logical conclusions before being brought into the world and placed into application. Some things simply should not be done. Because we can do them is not reason enough to proceed (the invention of the atomic bomb springs to mind). Our culture of gluttony and waste simply cannot be sustained. We are sacrificing future generations at the altar of our self-centrism. As we know, children playing with dangerous toys seldom go unscathed.
Withgott, J., & Laposata, M. (2013). Environment: the science behind the stories (5th Ed.). New
York, NY. Pearson Benjamin Cummings. ISBN-13: 978-0-321-89742-8
Western Culture Global. (2009). What is Western Culture?. Retrieved 9 December, 2013 from
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The NIV Study Bible. (1995). 1 Galatians 13:11 (10th Anniversary Edition).Grand Rapids, MI.