Mixing Memory

What Is Scientism?

Comments on the last post make it clear that my use of the label “scientism” is far from clear. It does not mean a rejection of science, or its methods (though I do have to roll my eyes when someone talks of the scientific method), within their sphere. It’s not, for example, a rejection of methodological naturalism, which has been the topic of much discussion in the debate between ID creationists and scientists with which I’m sure many of you are intimately familiar. Instead, it is a rejection of an idea that is both old and new (by new, I mean about a century old), which states, in essence, that knowledge claims are either scientific or, ultimately, meaningless (or at best, incomplete and unjustified). Scientism of this form states that everything is understandable through science, and can only be understood in its entirety through science. In other words, in addition to being a methodological and epistemological position, it is also a metaphysical one, that includes not only philosophical naturalism, but an associated strong realism in which the world is exactly as it appears scientifically.

Furthermore, when I use the term in reference to people like Dawkins, scientism takes on a moral dimension. Anything that is not science is morally bad, according to this form of scientism. Dawkins demonstrates this aspect of his scientism when he says that religious education is child abuse, for example. My point, in the last post, is that his op-ed column seemed to be coming from the position that, if not-science is bad, then science is good, and what science wants or needs is justified without question.