Ever since the New Atheists arrived on the scene, there’s be a loud, wailing siren from religious and humanities pundits decrying the idea that we could use science to explain the universe that we occupy. Generally their argument for why we can’t use reason and experiments to clear up a lot of mysteries and what makes us tick boils down to "how dare you say you can explain all this complexity and wonder in math and mechanistic descriptions?" And that’s really as far as it goes because their objection to using science to explain their pet topics in the language of formulas, statistics, and data sets is that it takes away a mystery they so desperately wanted to preserve for another sermon or tome of nebulous ponderings on the human condition. While researchers and engineers see the beauty in knowing how things work, science-phobic pontificators rush to the fainting couches, distraught that someone dare to explain their minds as sprawling networks neurons and accumulated experience alongside evolutionary mechanisms.
If you’re one of those people who needs to be a mysterious, delicate snowflake who is just way too complicated and nuanced to study, I’m sorry, but we can’t help you. Knowing how the world around us works in scientific, mechanistic language is how we build modern societies, land on a different world, send robots into deep space, and find cures for what ails us. If you refuse to see how knowing what makes the universe tick gives your existence even more meaning and a very enviable ability to modify the world to accomplish something, even to a small extent, that is your personal problem. Now, far be it from me to say that literature or religions never made profound contributions to humanity because they have. But what they couldn’t do was to find and confirm solid, experimentally proven, reliable answers to big questions about who we are and where we might be going. Science has given us a vast, complex, mysterious universe, and they’re upset that we can derive some algebra to try and explain how a few bits of it fit together?
Consider this. If you’re loudly and publicly rebelling against the scourge of "arrogant scientism" but you’ve ever tried something to find out what will happen and then repeated your experiment to confirm it, you’re a hypocrite. You relied on the scientific method to answer your question, not those nebulous "other ways of knowing." Come to think of it, what are all of these "other ways of knowing" we hear invoked so often by both a fundamentalist zealot with a mind wide shut, and a crunchy New Ager with equal zeal? Voices of an omnipotent deity? The universe telling you that we’re all connected in a creationist fantasy for left wing anti-intellectuals? That’s just your brain making shit up to put it bluntly. You can attend philosophical seminars and conventions of tweed suit-clad graybeards, huffing and puffing, and looking serious, saying "isn’t life so mysterious?" as Tim Minchin once put it, and rage against the fact that science can explain things that were once said to be off limits to mere mortals. It won’t change the fact that it’s our ability to explore, dissect, catalog, explain, and predict though science that makes us who we are.