Ayres, C. E. Science: The False Messiah. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1927.

 

Ayres, C. E. Science: The False Messiah. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1927.

This is a remarkably cogent book which argues that science is not what it seems: it is not well
described by its apologists, DeKruif, for example. Science is, in fact, nothing more nor less than
the ideological side of applied mechanics disguised as the Lofty Abstraction. It does not require
Great Minds to do science but science does require an elitist institution for itself. Applied
mechanics, then, is the primary mechanism of scientific evolution and those mechanics are,
themselves, at the core and root of contemporary economic systems. (One might say that this
book is essentially Marxist, although this would be quite an oversimplification.)

There are several presumptions of science detailed by the author in his closing chapter, "In
Conclusion, Theses To Be Nailed to the Laboratory Wall," (pp. 294-296), which summarize the
whole rather well. These are his 25 theses: 1) That the truth of science is established only by
belief, after the manner of all folklore. 2) That scientific formulas, however charmingly
mysterious they may be, do not touch the central problems of living. 3) That the credit of science
rests wholly upon its connection with machine technology, of which it is a part. 4) That machine
technology was not derived from science but crept upon us after a fashion of its own. 5) That
there can be such a thing as too much machinery. 6) That our industrial revolution is located not
in the past, but mostly in the future. 7) That the vaunted freedom of modern civilization is in fact
the loosening of the bonds of order and belief by the industrial revolution. 8) That the dissolution
of our institutions has gone further than most of us suspect. 9) That the wane of our ancient
culture is due not to the influence of scientific ideas upon our minds, but to the effect of
machinery upon our lives. 10) That scientists have always deprecated the supposed bad effects of
their discoveries - fruitlessly, since other and still more disturbing discoveries have always
followed. 11) That by trying to make our beliefs scientific we have succeeded only in making
them absurd. 12) That we can keep science and belief separate by relegating our religion to the
Sabbath Day. 13) That although the highest truths of religion can be proved, they lose in the
process all meaning and value to humanity. 14) That creeds and churches are reformed only at
the expense of losing all their power. 15) That the scientists who proclaim that science bolsters
up religion are deceiving us and possibly themselves. 16) That the laws of science are not
statutes, they are definitions. 17) That the divine order, which we must ‘let alone,' was
discovered not only by science but by special interests... 20) That inventions are provided not to
suit the needs of civilization but according to the development of science and invention... 21)
That the minds of a few men can be sublimely elevated by the study of science only if the minds
of most men are regulated by tradition to humbler but more necessary ends. 23) That when
science has become supreme, any attempt to rectify its formula will be persecuted as heresy.