Walsh, Lynda, Scientists as prophets: a rhetorical genealogy, Oxford, 2013.
It is well known that since the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, science has been gradually usurping the role of religion in the role of explaining the natural world. Little by little, armed as it is with ever increasing and more reliable knowledge about the physical world, it has acquired a pedestal from which its practitioners speak with confidence about what is good and bad for humanity, how the world will be if science’s findings are ignored, etc. This idea is explored in a variety of situations and expounded in detail in this book. The central thesis is that scientists have replaced the prophets of the Abrahamic religions. I say Abrahamic because in the Hindu world, one speaks of seers (rshis) rather than of prophets in the sense of spokespersons for God. What make Walsh’s book fascinating are the historical references, and the weaving of different case-histories into the framework of her thesis. In this well researched work the author uses many theologically relevant terms like halo, credo, authority, exegetical, prophetic ethos, Delphic Oracle, etc. in scientific contexts to make the arguments more plausible. The book is not only informative but also insightful in its description of scientists as wielders of enormous power to influence policies and perspectives, and as movers of the modern world.
October 12, 2013