Science gets canceled by post-truth culture

Robin Schumacher
Courtesy of Robin Schumacher

Reading Joy Pullmann’s July 2020 article in The Federalist made me both wince and smile. Although not aimed at spiritual matters, her editorial documents something that Christians, and Christian apologists in particular, have experienced for quite a while in their evangelistic endeavors. While painful to read, I couldn’t help but feel a bit vindicated over similar observations Christianity has been making for a long time now.   

Pullmann rightfully bemoans the fact that scientific findings are being either suppressed or deceitfully criticized in public if the conclusions don’t conform with the goals of the current cancel culture. She documents multiple examples as she calls out the fact that, “These researchers are attempting to hide information that doesn’t support policies roving violent mobs are attempting to impose at the blunt ends of bricks, sticks, and guns. This bias and cowardice is only the tip of the iceberg of the scientific corruption we’ve been seeing increase since, perhaps, the scientific method became accepted as a valid way to perceive reality.”  

In like fashion, Christianity has forever been highlighting strong philosophical and empirical evidence that supports belief in God only to have it swatted away by unbelievers who don’t want God to exist. Moreover, data that shows the sometimes devastating mental and physical effects of acts like abortion and sex reassignment surgery on individuals is routinely either buried or lackadaisically dismissed by secular adversaries.   

Given recent trends, should we be at all surprised that the universal solvent of post-truth thinking is now eating away at the last secular foundation that supports the concept of objective truth?

Repeat after me, this is not a joke

It’s easy to dismiss some of the thinking being put out in the public square for consumption as silly, but it’s really no joke. One recent example was math teacher Brittany Marshall posting the following tweet, which she has since removed: “The idea of 2 + 2 equaling 4 is cultural and because of western imperialism/colonization, we think of it as the only way of knowing.”

While mathematics and other hard sciences were somewhat safe in the postmodernist world, the new post-truth culture has laid waste to them along with everything else. Instead of, as philosopher Søren Kierkegaard said, understanding truth to be subjective (i.e. we subject ourselves to it), leftists and post-truth adherents take any situation that contains truth they don’t care for and shake it like a reality-altering Etch-A-Sketch hoping to start over with something that adheres to their personal preferences.

Frank Camp reflects on this in a recent post: “The difference is that the weapons we previously used to wage verbal war against absurd ideologies have been effectively neutralized. Data and reason have been replaced by 'lived experience' and 'personal truth.' Exchange of information has been supplanted by the brute force of emotions.”  

This is nothing new. Rejecting truth because of personal desires has been occurring in all disciplines, including science, for a long time. But in matters relating to God, it’s been happening almost since Day 1.  

Disapproving of truth

In her book, Science vs. Religion: What Scientists Really Think, Rice University sociologist Dr. Elaine Ecklund looked into why some scientists believe in God while others do not. While Ecklund noted that some scientists do not believe because of their scientific studies, she summed up her overall findings this way:

In fact, for the majority of scientists I interviewed, it is not the engagement with science itself that leads them away from religion. Rather their reasons for unbelief mirror the circumstances in which other Americans find themselves: they were not raised in a religious home; they have had bad experience with religion; theydisapprove of God or see God as too changeable.[1]

The idea that some scientists reject a Creator because they “disapprove of God” sounds eerily similar to what’s happening today with the shredding of scientific findings the Left doesn’t like and reminded me of a conversation years ago that one of my seminary professors had over lunch with a biologist who was an atheist.

As the lunch progressed, my professor respectfully confronted his lunch mate with the fallacies of atheism where God is concerned. Surprisingly, the atheistic professor said at the end of their lunch, “I think you’re right. I do think the evidence you’ve presented is correct with respect to God. That said, I’m still going to remain an atheist.”

Baffled, my professor asked why. “Because I want to keep living how I’m living,” came the reply.

While it may be surprising to hear such honesty, other atheists have admitted the same thing in the past. For example, in addressing Christianity’s influence in society, Aldous Huxley wrote, “We objected to the morality because it interfered with our sexual freedom”.[2]

I bring this up not to say that atheists are immoral while Christians are more ethical, but instead to underline the fact that there are motivations beyond pure rational and evidential arguments as to why people reject God and why, today, the same internal preferences are causing people to reject science.

Afraid of truth

Adherence to post-truth philosophy and its canceling effects began with things like ‘safe spaces’ on college campuses where students hide from speech that upsets them. What’s sad is that stiff-arming disliked opinions can lead to disastrous consequences when those opinions prove to be true and the cost of ignoring them comes home to roost.

An excellent example of this in Scripture is when the Apostle Paul is imprisoned under Felix, who was the governor of Judea and Samaria at the time. Felix sent for Paul to talk to him, but the Bible says when, “Paul talked about righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come, Felix was afraid and said, 'That’s enough for now! You may leave. When I find it convenient, I will send for you.'” (Acts 24:25).

While canceling science in this life can lead to some awful end results, it pales in comparison to annulling truth when it comes to eternity. The Bible has strong warnings for those who “suppress the truth” (Rom. 1:18) as our post-truth devotees do today. Jesus described them and their fate this way: “They are blind guides of the blind. And if a blind man guides a blind man, both will fall into a pit” (Matt. 15:14).

Watching the once-safe truths of science now fall to personal preference is a reminder of the cognitive dissonance and strong rebellious spirit inside all of us. Never before has what Pascal said so long ago been true: “People almost invariably arrive at their beliefs not on the basis of proof but on the basis of what they find attractive.”

[1], my emphasis.

[2], pg. 273. 

Robin Schumacher is a former software executive and Christian apologist who has written many apologetic articles, appeared on nationally syndicated radio programs, and presented at various apologetic events. He holds a Master's in Christian apologetics and a Ph.D. in New Testament.

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