Moore on Science

In his landmark book Religious Outsiders and the Making of Americans, Laurence Moore reflected on the tendency of the American media to periodically declare that occultism is on the rise. The charge of press sensationalism is not new–and not his point. Instead, looking back to the “occult” religious sects of the 19th century, he makes an intriguing point about the myth of secularization through science:

The American press likes to announce occult revivals in which Americans react against the world view of “modern science.” Yet the journalistic emphasis on ebb and flow seems much overdone. The truth is that we do not live in an uncomplicatedly secular age. The scientific revolution, wherever in time one wants to cut into it, has promoted in almost equal parts a respect for empiricism among experimental scientists and a more popular belief that experiment can push beyond the limits of ordinary sensory awareness…

[This way of thinking], rather than being rendered archaic by scientific and technical progress, has, like science fiction, often gained credibility among those who have welcomed that progress. The people who believe in ESP, after all, do not think of themselves as Criticizing science per se. In their minds, they are merely urging science to stretch beyond the materialistic assumptions that proscribe certain types of research.

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