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Science and the Myth of Progress
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Science and the Myth of Progress
Science and the Myth of Progress
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Price:  $19.95

ISBN:  0-941532-47-X
Book Size:  6" x 9"
# of Pages:  352
Language:  English

Today's belief in an endless progress tends toward an almost total rejection of spiritual wisdom’s world views as being naïve, out-moded, and contrary to empirical evidence. The premises of modernism permeate our culture and our thinking so thoroughly that it is often very difficult for an individual to step back and see them clearly.

Is it possible that the glistening images of technological and scientific progress have caused us to lose sight of something which is in fact even more essential to the lives of real human beings? The purpose of this anthology is to provide access to information, through a diverse selection of eminent authors, that can assist open-minded people in evaluating this question of the nature of modern "progress."

Contributors include: René Guénon, Frithjof Schuon, Wendell Berry, Titus Burckhardt , Giuseppe Sermonti, Seyyed Hossein Nasr, Huston Smith, Philip Sherrard, and others.
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Detailed Description of Science and the Myth of Progress

Today's belief in an endless progress tends toward an almost total rejection of spiritual wisdom’s world views as being naïve, out-moded, and contrary to empirical evidence. The premises of modernism permeate our culture and our thinking so thoroughly that it is often very difficult for an individual to step back and see them clearly.

Is it possible that the glistening images of technological and scientific progress have caused us to lose sight of something which is in fact even more essential to the lives of real human beings? The purpose of this anthology is to provide access to information, through a diverse selection of eminent authors, that can assist open-minded people in evaluating this question of the nature of modern "progress."

Contributors include: René Guénon, Frithjof Schuon, Wendell Berry, Titus Burckhardt , Giuseppe Sermonti, Seyyed Hossein Nasr, Huston Smith, Philip Sherrard, and others.

About the Author(s)

Mehrdad M. Zarandi

Dr. Mehrdad M. Zarandi has long had a keen interest in science and mathematics. This eventually resulted in his receiving a Doctoral degree in chemical engineering from the California Institute of Technology, where he has continued to work as a research scientist in aeronautics and biomedical engineering.

Through his studies, Dr. Zarandi encountered the writings of Perennialist authors, which led to an interest in the correspondences between metaphysical principles and their expression within cosmology and science. It is his extensive background in science and the consideration of its place in modern life and thought that has culminated in Dr. Zarandi's editing the World Wisdom anthology Science and the Myth of Progress .

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Reviews of Science and the Myth of Progress

"There must be few books better able than this one to demolish the pseudo intellectual impostures which have been fabricated from scientific thought to fill the intellectual vacuum of modern times. Most of the urgent issues in today's world result from the impact of applied science on human life, and underlying them is the question as to the meaning and value of scientific knowledge as such. Endless confusions flow from the distinction between science as the profession of discovering facts about natural phenomena, and science as an ideology with a program for remaking the world in its own image. This problem is powerfully addressed by the seventeen essays in this book, which all illustrate different ways of distinguishing science from the pseudo-philosophy with which it is usually identified."

- from Temenos Academy Review

"In these days of incredible technological advances, when almost nothing seems impossible, the question of spiritual knowledge is often overlooked. In this volume, Zarandi, a research scientist at the California Institute of Technology, gathers essays by over a dozen scholars in science, theology and metaphysics that tackle issues raised by modern scientific inquiry-i.e., how much of what we think we know do we really know, and how much progress have we actually made? The contributors' assessments differ from the common understanding of the correlation between science and spirit: while acknowledging the value and contribution science has rendered, Zarandi posits that "the contemporary belief in an endless progress tends toward an almost total rejection of spiritual wisdom's worldviews as being naïve, outmoded and contrary to empirical evidence." This compilation attempts to "provide access to information" that may enlighten readers who believe there is another realm to reality beyond the physical world, a realm not knowable by reason and scientific inquiry."

- Publishers Weekly

"Included here are articles by scientists and academicians that explore the limitations of modern science and the experimental method. Is the assumption correct that the technological advances of modern science are incontestable proof of humanity's progress toward the realization of its ultimate well-being? Readers will see not only the practical but also the fundamental limitations of technocracy and the insufficiencies of its image of humanity."

- Prof. A. K. Ziarani, Clarkson University

"Modern science believes—and fears—that by a kind of endless curiosity about the mechanism of material reality, we will eventually encompass—and thus exhaust—the enigma of existence in thought. The articles in this collection make it clear that the corollary is a vain effort to achieve a material utopia whose fulfillment always eludes us. In doing so, they bring a fresh enjoyment to the journey of discovery that science really is."

- Prof. M. S. Alouini, University of Minnesota

"Here are essays from respected scholars—both inside and outside the scientific community—who share a clear consensus that physical existence can be understood adequately only as a manifestation of a higher, supra-formal reality which is spiritual. Those searching for an alternative to conventional wisdom that can stand up to scrutiny will be well pleased with these essays. Highly recommended."

- Prof. Fariba Bahrami, University of Waterloo

"Dr. Zarandi's science training and teaching experience at Caltech has served him—and his readers—well. He has the gift of being able to describe the operating premises of modern scientific thought and their limitations. Whether you are a scientist, scholar or simply someone who takes life seriously, this book will encourage you to reexamine your most basic assumptions about life. Each reader's understanding of the human condition is improved by this insightful collection."

- Professor A. Shakouri, University of California

"The great advantage of this book is to put together texts of authors (scientists, philosophers and theologians) whose lucidity about modern science goes far beyond emotional reaction and moralist subjectivity; and this 'tour de force' is accomplished from within the point of view of the main traditional religions. Here, Science and Faith are reconciled in an unexpected way: scientific objectivity is not an issue; but the real issue, where one sees no proof of progress, is whether man is capable of using modern science properly. A must for the reader who wants to sharpen his or her discernment about modern science."

- Jean-Pierre Lafouge, Marquette University.

Writing as a active research scientist, living in the present Culture of Disbelief created (partly unwittingly) by the science establishment, I can think of no R/D project more significant to the future of humanity than putting "science" back into its proper place as a part of culture, but not its religion. This book is an excellent contribution to that paramount goal.

- Rustum Roy, Evan Pugh Professor of the Solid State Emeritus - The Pennsylvania State University.

The essays collected in this volume provide a profound critique of modern scientism but also resist the temptations of postmodernist antirealism and sentimental pietism. While the postmodern critiques of modern science are based on the denial of truth and thus unable to present an intelligible alternative, sentimental pietism and ethicalism criticize the consequences of modern science and technology without grasping their philosophical foundations. The essays go beyond the ‘little bit science, little bit ethics’ approach, and reassert the urgency of developing a different philosophical framework within with we can make sense of reality, both physical and metaphysical. Highly recommended for those interested in philosophy, science, religion and the environment.

- Prof. Ibrahim Kalin - College of the Holy Cross

"A wonderful collection of essays dealing with the supposed conflict between religion and science from both a scientific and a metaphysical point of view. Anyone concerned with understanding the intrinsic nature of this conflict which lies at the heart of the problems of the present world crisis, would do well to study these essays."

- Rama Coomaraswamy, author of The Invocation of the Name of Jesus: As Practiced in the Western Church and The Destruction of the Christian Tradition

"Many a mind convinced by the Perennialist perspective's truth still hesitates to shatter the modern temple of Scientism. Yet, cosmology is a traditionnal science born directly from metaphysics. It operates as the point of intersection, or barzakh, between what is eternal and what is [in a state of] becoming. This anthology offers us a series of critical meditations on some modern theories, particularly on evolutionist theory. Of special relevance is Titus Burchardt's overview of Traditional Arab Cosmology as well as the powerful effort by James Cutsinger to reconcile emanation, creation and evolution within a rigourously defined traditional perspective. His text reveals that traditional critique is neither dogmatic nor reactive in essence."

- Patricia Reynaud, Miami University, Ohio, and co-founder of

Table of Contents for Science and the Myth of Progress



  • In the Wake of the Fall
    Frithjof Schuon
  • Sacred and Profane Science
    Rene Guenon
  • Traditional Cosmology and the Modern World
    Titus Burckhardt
  • Religion and Science
    Lord Northbourne
  • Contemporary Man, between the Rims and the Aixs
    Seyyed Hossien Nasr
  • Christianity and the Religious Thought of C.G Jung
    Philip Sherrard
  • On Earth as It Is in Heaven
    James S. Cutsinger
  • The Nature and Extent of Criticism of Evolutionary Theory
    Osman Bakar
  • Knowledge and Knowledge
    D.M. Matheson
  • Knowledge and its Counterfeits
    Gai Eaton
  • Igorance
    Wendell Berry
  • The Plague of Scientistic Belief
    Wolfgang Smith
  • Scientism: The Bedrock of the Modern Worldview
    Huston Smith
  • Life as Non-Historical Reality
    Giuseppe Sermonti
  • Man, Creation and the Fossil Record
    Michael Robert Negus
  • The Act of Creation: Bridging Transcendence and Immanence
    William A. Dembski
  • Epilogue
    E.F. Schumacher

Biographies of Contributors

Excerpts from Science and the Myth of Progress

The following selection is taken from an essay by Wendell Berry:


       The expressed dissatisfaction of some scientists with the dangerous oversimplifications of commercialized science has encouraged me to hope that this dissatisfaction will run its full course. These scientists, I hope, will not stop with some attempt at a merely theoretical or technical “correction,” but will press on toward a new, or a renewed, propriety in the study and the use of the living world.

        No such change is foreseeable in the terms of the presently dominant mechanical explanations of things. Such a change is imaginable only if we are willing to risk an unfashionable recourse to our cultural tradition. Human hope may always have resided in our ability, in time of need, to return to our cultural landmarks and reorient ourselves.

        One of the principal landmarks of the course of my own life is Shakespeare’s tragedy of King Lear. Over the last forty-five years I have returned to King Lear many times. Among the effects of that play—on me, and I think on anybody who reads it closely—is the recognition that in all our attempts to renew or correct ourselves, to shake off despair and have hope, our starting place is always and only our experience. We can begin (and we must always be beginning) only where our history has so far brought us, with what we have done.

       Lately my thoughts about the inevitably commercial genetic manipulations already in effect or contemplated have sent me back to King Lear again. The whole play is about kindness, both in the usual sense, and in the sense of truth-to-kind, naturalness, or knowing the limits of our specifically human nature. But this issue is dealt with most explicitly in an episode of the subplot, in which the Earl of Gloucester is recalled from despair so that he may die in his full humanity.

       The old earl has been blinded in retribution for his loyalty to the king, and in this fate he sees a kind of justice for, as he says, “I stumbled when I saw” (King Lear, The Pelican Shakespeare, IV, i, 19). He, like Lear, is guilty of hubris or presumption, of treating life as knowable, predictable, and within his control. He has falsely accused and driven away his loyal son, Edgar. Exiled and under sentence of death, Edgar has disguised himself as a madman and beggar. He becomes, in that role, the guide of his blinded father, who asks to be led to Dover where he intends to kill himself by leaping off a cliff. Edgar’s task is to save his father from despair, and he succeeds, for Gloucester dies at last “ ’Twixt two extremes of passion, joy and grief.” (V, iii, 199). He dies, that is, within the proper bounds of the human estate. Edgar does not want his father to give up on life. To give up on life is to pass beyond the possibility of change or redemption. And so he does not lead his father to the cliff’s verge, but only tells him he has done so. Gloucester renounces the world, blesses Edgar, his supposedly absent son, and, according to the stage direction, “Falls forward and swoons” (IV, vi, 41).

       When he returns to consciousness, Edgar now speaks to him in the guise of a passer-by at the bottom of the cliff, from which he pretends to have seen Gloucester fall. Here he assumes explicitly the role of spiritual guide to his father.

       Gloucester, dismayed to find himself still alive, attempts to refuse help: “Away, and let me die” (IV, vi, 48).

       And then Edgar, after an interval of several lines in which he represents himself as a stranger, speaks the filial (and fatherly) line about which my thoughts have gathered:

Thy life’s a miracle. Speak yet again.
                                     (IV, vi, 55)
This is the line that calls Gloucester back—out of hubris, and the damage and despair that invariably follow—into the properly subordinated human life of grief and joy, where change and redemption are possible.

       The power of that line read in the welter of innovation and speculation of the bioengineers will no doubt be obvious. One immediately recognizes that suicide is not the only way to give up on life. We know that creatures and kinds of creatures can be killed, deliberately or inadvertently. And most farmers know that any creature that is sold has in a sense been given up on; there is a big difference between selling this year’s lamb crop, which is, as such, all that it can be, and selling the breeding flock or the farm, which hold the immanence of a limitless promise.

*     *

       A little harder to compass is the danger that we can give up on life also by presuming to “understand” it—that is by reducing it to the terms of our understanding and by treating it as predictable or mechanical. The most radical influence of reductive science has been the virtually universal adoption of the idea that the world, its creatures, and all the parts of its creatures are machines—that is, that there is no difference between creature and artifice, birth and manufacture, thought and computation. Our language, wherever it is used, is now almost invariably conditioned by the assumption that fleshly bodies are machines full of mechanisms, fully compatible with the mechanisms of medicine, industry, and commerce; and that minds are computers fully compatible with electronic technology.

        This may have begun as a metaphor, but in the language as it is used (and as it affects industrial practice) it has evolved from metaphor through equation to identification. And this usage institutionalizes the human wish, or the sin of wishing, that life might be, or might be made to be, predictable.

        I have read of Werner Heisenberg’s principle that “Whenever one treats living organisms as physiochemical systems they must necessarily behave as such.” I am not competent to have an opinion about the truth of that. I do feel able to say that whenever one treats living organisms as machines they must necessarily be perceived to behave as such. And I can see that the proposition is reversible: Whenever one perceives living organisms as machines they must necessarily be treated as such. William Blake made the same point earlier in this age of reduction and affliction:

                             What seems to Be, Is, To those to whom
            It seems to Be, & is productive of the most dreadful
            Consequences to those to whom it seems to Be. . . .(1)
       For quite a while it has been possible for a free and thoughtful person to see that to treat life as mechanical or predictable or understandable is to reduce it. Now, almost suddenly, it is becoming clear that to reduce life to the scope of our understanding (whatever “model” we use) is inevitably to enslave it, make property of it, and put it up for sale.

        This is to give up on life, to carry it beyond change and redemption, and to increase the proximity of despair.

        Cloning—to use the most obvious example—is not a way to improve sheep. On the contrary, it is a way to stall the sheep’s lineage and make it unimprovable. No true breeder could consent to it, for true breeders have their farm and their market in mind, and always are trying to breed a better sheep. Cloning, besides being a new method of sheep-stealing, is only a pathetic attempt to make sheep predictable. But this is an affront to reality. As any shepherd would know, the scientist who thinks he has made sheep predictable has only made himself eligible to be outsmarted.

        The same sort of limitation and depreciation is involved in the proposed cloning of fetuses for body parts, and in other extreme measures for prolonging individual lives. No individual life is an end in itself. One can live fully only by participating fully in the succession of the generations, in death as well as in life. Some would say (and I am one of them) that we can live fully only by making ourselves as answerable to the claims of eternity as to those of time.

        The problem, as it appears to me, is that we are using the wrong language. The language we use to speak of the world and its creatures, including ourselves, has gained a certain analytical power (along with a lot of expertish pomp) but has lost much of its power to designate what is being analyzed or to convey any respect or care or affection or devotion toward it. As a result we have a lot of genuinely concerned people calling upon us to “save” a world which their language simultaneously reduces to an assemblage of perfectly featureless and dispirited “ecosystems,” “organisms,” “environments,” “mechanisms,” and the like. It is impossible to prefigure the salvation of the world in the same language by which the world has been dismembered and defaced.

        By almost any standard, it seems to me, the reclassification of the world from creature to machine must involve at least a perilous reduction of moral complexity. So must the shift in our attitude toward the creation from reverence to understanding. So must the shift in our perceived relationship to nature from that of steward to that of absolute owner, manager, and engineer. So even must our permutation of “holy” to “holistic.” At this point I can only declare myself. I think that the poet and scholar Kathleen Raine was correct in reminding us that life, like holiness, can be known only by being experienced.2 To experience it is not to “figure it out” or even to understand it, but to suffer it and rejoice in it as it is. In suffering it and rejoicing in it as it is, we know that we do not and cannot understand it completely. We know, moreover, that we do not wish to have it appropriated by somebody’s claim to have understood it. Though we have life, it is beyond us. We do not know how we have it, or why. We do not know what is going to happen to it, or to us. It is not predictable; though we can destroy it, we cannot make it. It cannot, except by reduction and the grave risk of damage, be controlled. It is, as Blake said, holy. To think otherwise is to enslave life, and to make, not humanity, but a few humans its predictably inept masters.

1.   William Blake, Complete Writings (Oxford, 1966), p. 663.

Selection from our Library about Science and the Myth of Progress
 TitleSourceAuthor 1Author 2Subject WW HTMLWW PDFExternal Link
Preface to "Science and the Myth of Progress"Science and the Myth of ProgressZarandi, Mehrdad M. Modernism, Science
EpilogueScience and the Myth of ProgressSchumacher, E. F. Science
Scientism: The Bedrock of the Modern WorldviewScience and the Myth of ProgressSmith, Huston Science
The Nature and Extent of Criticism of Evolutionary TheoryScience and the Myth of ProgressBakar, Osman Science
Religion and ScienceScience and the Myth of ProgressNorthbourne, Lord Science
"Sacred and Profane Science" by René Guénon appears as chapter 2 of Science and the Myth of Progress edited by Mehrdad M. Zarandi, published by World Wisdom. In the essay, Guénon distinguishes between the "two radically different and even incompatible conceptions [of science]" held by traditional and modern civilizations. The author uses a number of examples—such as physics, chemistry, psychology, etc.—to demonstrate how different the points of departure, the methods, and the ends are between traditional and modern science when looking at the same object. Guénon shows the clear evidence that modern world seeks to "sever the connection between the sciences and any higher principle," thus robbing these sciences of any deeper meaning beyond accumulations of data and 'facts.'
Sacred and Profane ScienceScience and the Myth of ProgressGuénon, René Metaphysics, Science
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