A Counselor Reflects on Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
“You cannot find out which view [materialist or religious] is the right one by science in the ordinary sense. Science works by experiments. It watches how things behave. Every scientific statement in the long run, however complicated it looks, really means something like, ‘I pointed a telescope to such and such a part of the sky at 2:20 am on January 15th and saw so-and-so,’ or, ‘I put some of this stuff in a pot and heated it to such-and-such temperature and it did so-and-so.’ Do not think I am saying anything against science: I am only saying what its job is (p.22).” Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
It is good to review the purpose of various fields. Counseling, for instance, is an art not a science. Counseling is the ability (skill term) to exercise influence in the life of another person for the better (vague term) through the medium of relationship. History, for another example, reports and should not interpret. Interpretation has to do with commentary not events.
With this said, science is a field of observation. Hence it gives us phrases like “what goes up must come down” and “an object in motion remains in motion until acted upon by an outside force.” Because of this science can only tell us what things (inanimate objects or instinctual creatures) will do, not what peo
ple (creatures with will and personality) should (term of morality or wisdom) do.
The primary point I would raise here is that we should be very cautious whenever a given field of study begins to claim ground outside of its jurisdiction. For example:
- If counseling claims to be a science, presenting its claims as irrefutable facts.
- If history claims to ascribe meaning, insinuating that events prove systems of thought.
- If science claims to tell people how to live, reducing will, personality, or emotion to biology.
This is not to say that counseling cannot utilize facts from science or history, that history does not reveal important information about systems of thought, or that science cannot observe things about people. It is simply meant to remind us that when these fields of study do these things they are stepping out of the domain in which they are “experts.”
As C.S. Lewis is pointing out in the quote above, our culture has accepted a move on the part of science to possess more intellectual “turf” than it truly owns. Questions that pertain to the meaning of life and morality are not the domain of science. Yet when a scientist speaks to these subjects it feels wrong (to many) to question their “findings.”
Many have this apprehension because it feels disrespectful to question an authority. But that is the whole point of this discussion. The term “expert” implies a limited field of study which an individual has mastered. We are not questioning the person (any individual scientist, historian, or counselor). We are questioning the limits that a particular field of study equips an individual to speak to.