The Progress of Science and the Science of Progress
Yes, the part about Valentine's day was a gag -- unless you're an ideological Darwinian, in which case that exalted feeling described by Einstein really must be just a roundabout way of getting chicks.
In a lecture, -- and this goes to the question of why so many scientists are leftists in spite of themselves -- Einstein advised that if one wanted to truly understand the methods of theoretical physicists, "I advise you to stick closely to one principle: don't listen to their words, fix your attention to their deeds."
The reason for this is that scientists are rarely philosophers, not even of science, let alone realms outside their narrow area of expertise. Ironically, this did not prevent Einstein -- who was obviously a decent man -- from nevertheless repeatedly beclowning himself and becoming the type of dreaded "public intellectual" that Thomas Sowell eviscerates in his new book on the subject. Many scientists almost suffer from a kind of philosophical autism that prevents them from transcending their little specialized rut -- or, from overgeneralizing their rut into a cosmic superhighway. In Einstein's case, many of his political sentiments are those of a child.
A rare exception -- as we have discussed in the past -- was Michael Polanyi, who was a first rate scientist during the first half of his professional life, but then spent the second half reflecting on the scientific enterprise. In The Logic of Liberty, he discusses the fundamental danger that leftist statism poses to science, with its attempt to control us from the top down: "the social orders most important to human well-being are spontaneous orders that result from the interplay of individuals mutually adjusting their actions to the actions of others. Spontaneous orders are the result of human action but not human design."
Again, the irony is that so many academic leftists oppose the spontaneous order of the free market, when they are primary beneficiaries of this same order as applied to science, which is (or should be) an intellectual spontaneous order. Whenever it becomes a top-down "command ideology," as in global warmism or ideological Darwinism, it undercuts the very conditions of a robust scientific enterprise. (And this applies no less to religious fundamentalists who superimpose their own top-down constraints on science; extremes meet, which is why the ID debate is mostly between extremist fundamentalists in each camp.)
Because the truth of the matter is quite straightforward: Polanyi believed that "for there to be a scientific order something more is needed -- a channeling 'device' through which the diverse actions of scientists are coordinated."
Now for the left, this command and control comes from the top, which again fundamentally undercuts the conditions of science. But for Polanyi, this "mechanism," as it were, is "the pursuit of truth. For Polanyi, it is in the belief in the transcendent reality of truth that science has its extraordinary character as an intellectual system" (Warner, from the forward).
So, just as our political liberty devolves into mere license if it is not guided by the telos of virtue, our epistemological liberty descends into a riot of philodoxy if not guided by the telos of transcendent truth.
And who would it be that attacks the very idea of transcendent truth? Yes, that is correct. Which is why attacks on religion are always covert attacks on the transcendent reality of the intellect and the possibility of truth. "Academic freedom" is not a value unless it converges upon truth. If it only converges on Marx, or Alinsky, or Gore, well....
As I have mentioned before, Polanyi draws a sharp distinction between what he calls the free society vs. a merely "open" one. The free society "is dedicated to a distinctive set of beliefs" toward which freedom is aimed. But the open society is just another name for chaos and dis-order with no spontaneous center oriented around truth. Its methods would include things like deconstruction, multiculturalism, moral relativism, etc.
Now, any materialist view of nature, be it Marxism, Darwinism, or scientism, can have no basis in the transcendent realities that make genuine science possible. A subtle transmogrification follows, one that ushers in a kind of monstrous science unhinged from humane civilization: "The rejection of those [transcendent] realities leads to a conception of science as instrumental, and this conception requires that science be used in the service of material ends" (Warner; emphasis mine).
And "In the hands of those who subscribe to the 'virtues' of planned science, the activities of scientists should be directly prescribed by the State. Science as public liberty is thus subverted...." Instead of a spontaneous order, we again have the top-down order of the state -- for example, as reflected in Obama's effort to personally settle the unsettled science of global warming through executive fiat. He wants to put an end to this science, just when it's getting interesting. Which, of course, is the whole point.
For as Warner says, "All movements of thought and practice that attempt to render spontaneous order nugatory -- that are captured by the idea that all social order either is or should be planned -- also threaten public liberty and thus the fabric of a free society."
But what makes the left in general and Obama in particular triply dangerous is the return of the repressed -- the transcendent order which cannot be denied -- in the form of moral passion without moral judgment. This leads to a kind of frenzied earthbound moralism that serves as the justification for, say, a government takeover of healthcare, or of likening those of us who are not worried about global warming to "Holocaust deniers." Again, note the insane moral passion completely severed from the theological virtues that must guide this passion, e.g., prudence and temperance.