Where Science Went Wrong

David Spero RN
6 min readMay 23


And how it can serve life again.

Photo by James Wainscoat on Unsplash

Science started with a great idea. Observe Nature with an open mind and see how things really work. Before science, truth was found by following authorities like Aristotle or the Pope. People assumed that ancient texts such as the Bible were infallible.

People relied on authority figures or on common sense. They thought they knew, without testing, that heavy objects fall faster than lighter ones, and that the Earth stayed still while the sun, moon, and stars circled around it. After all, weren’t those things obvious?

In the 17th Century, science said No to that limited and misleading concept of truth. New kinds of mathematics and new inventions like the telescope and microscope allowed people much truer views of the world. They developed the scientific method, still in use today. Observe, record what you see, come up with a theory (called a hypothesis) to explain what you saw, and develop an experiment to test your theory.

Write it all down so others can repeat your experiment and check your results. Modify the hypothesis to conform to what the results actually show, so getting closer to the truth.

Science was wildly successful and did much to create the wealth and wonders we see in civilization today. It also has brought civilization and Nature to the brink of collapse by polluting and degrading environments. What went wrong? How can science become the force for good it started out to be?

Four problems with science

Here I’m following philosophers of science such as Rupert Sheldrake, author of Science Set Free and Charles Eisenstein, author of Climate: A New Story. I’m borrowing some indigenous wisdom from writers like Robin Wall Kimmerer and analysis by political historians like Friedrich Engels. These thinkers have highlighted problems with science that few people recognize but which seem painfully obvious in 2023.

1. Looking at parts, not wholes — Science tries to explain the world by breaking things down into their component parts and studying the parts one at a time. Modern experiments strive to hold everything in a system constant while one single variable changes. That way, if the results differ, you know the variable did it.

The problem is that individuals don’t act alone in the natural world. There are always multiple factors working on each other. So it is impossible to hold everything in nature constant and evaluate a single variable. You miss most of what’s happening by ignoring things’ interactions and denying their whole selves.

That’s how you get oversimplified beliefs like ‘global warming is caused by carbon.’ There can be some truth to it, but it misses the deeper reasons, i.e. the total bulldozing of nature that wrecks the climate control systems Earth built up over a billion years.

2. Short-term focus — In medicine or ecology, long term studies are rare. To test the value of chemical fertilizers and pesticides on crop yields, for example, science might measure a chemically-treated field against an organically-grown one. Maybe for one year, or five, yields in the chemically treated field will be higher than in the organic one. So science concludes that chemical agriculture works.

But look at the same land twenty years later, and the soil has blown away, because the fungi, bacteria and weeds (cover crops) that held it together have been killed off. Yields are now lower and chemical use keeps increasing to compensate, poisoning surrounding land and waterways.

Compare science’s data-driven, short-term analysis with the indigenous way of evaluating a practice by what it will mean for the 7th generation of people to follow. Wouldn’t looking 150 years ahead instead of to the next quarter or the next harvest give more useful results? Maybe not economically, but for long-term health and well-being, it certainly would.

3. Alliance with capitalism and militarism — Science’s short-term focus and its pattern of ignoring the relationships between things come from the same place. Science was born and grew up together with capitalism and has long served the capitalist class. Corporations and governments fund science; their advertising supports scientific journals and university departments; they strongly influence what gets studied and what doesn’t.

That’s why science focuses so intensely on quantifiable results. The merchants and princes who funded early scientists wanted to know how much wealth they could gain from some product or process, and how much it would cost, not its long-term effect on living things.

The modern scientific mind finds quantifiable factors such as atmospheric CO2 levels decisive, while ignoring things that are harder to measure, like the effects of light pollution on insect life. But both are important for understanding and healing Nature.

Today, science will gladly help with and receive funding for new weapons technology or consumer electronics, science that leads to products that can be sold for profit or used in war. It receives very little to analyze, say, how to prevent topsoil loss causes by industrial farming, or how to detoxify chemical contamination of water. Now they are inventing machines to suck carbon out of the air, which could make some manufacturers billions of dollars while changing next-to-nothing about the climate.

4. Discrediting the sacred. Scientists like to think science reaches conclusions based on facts and not on faith. Other beliefs systems are wrong, because there is nothing beyond the material, measurable world. For them, anything that cannot be measured does not exist.

Science believes empirical knowledge is always good, refusing to recognize that not everything can be known, and that screwing around with the unknown can sometimes be more dangerous than any conceivable benefit of knowledge. They have forgotten what physicist Nils Bohr and other great scientists tried to explain: that the core of existence cannot be known, because the world acts unpredictably at the atomic level. The heart of life must always remain a mystery.

For capitalist science, nothing is off limits; nothing is sacred, nothing is better left unstudied. This is how we get gain of function research creating more-deadly germs. It’s how we got nuclear weapons and now depleted uranium (DU) shells poisoning war zones around the world.

It’s why we’re creating wastelands in Canada and Venezuela to get at tar sands oil, while at the same time digging up the ocean bottoms for minerals to make batteries to reduce the need for fossil fuels. Tearing up nature to make products is what capitalism does, and science enables it.

Modern corporate science believes that everything can be changed and controlled. Humans don’t have to stay human; we can transform into cybernetic machines with implanted technology (a program called transhumanism.) Men don’t have to stay men or women to stay women; because sex can be scientifically altered. Sacred mountains can be blown up for coal and rivers dammed up for electricity. Nothing is beyond human control.

Does that sound sane to you? To me, it sounds a recipe for the disasters we see in every day’s news. When nothing is sacred — except economic profit and growth — everything can be destroyed.

What science should be

I’m not saying science should go away. We’re going to need the scientific method and its accumulated knowledge to help undo the damage science has caused. But all they can do is advise, not decide. Scientific exploration must respect the sacredness of Mother Earth, must seek to understand Nature to heal it, not to profit from it, must listen to indigenous wisdom.

In his book Science Set Free, British scientist Rupert Sheldrake explains in depth how science can break loose from its centuries-long marriage to materialism. Scientists need to free themselves from authoritarian control — stop being ‘The Science’ — open their minds to outlooks and ideas that may not be funded by billionaire donors or governments.

In Braiding Sweetgrass ,Robin Kimmerer shows through her own experience and work that indigenous wisdom and science can work together. We desperately need scientists like Kimmerer and Sheldrake who can escape the corporate science machine and reconnect with humanity and nature. The rest of us need to appreciate and learn from them, while remaining open to but skeptical of “The Science” we’re subjected to by government and media.


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David Spero RN

Alive in this place and time to help Make Earth Sacred Again. Write about Nature, economics, health, politics, and spirit from Earths point of view.