So scientism = non-theism?

By Ken Perrott 30/07/2012 16


I have concluded that anyone making accusations of “scientism” is just being dishonest. The term is usually used inappropriately, as a straw man, and in an attempt to claim “other ways of knowing” which are preferable to science. (But in a cowardly way, by attempting to discredit the science and not providing support for this “other way”).

But this is really stretching the strawmannery of “scientism.” It’s part of a BioLogos infographic portraying “America’s View on Evolution and Creationism.” It blatantly presents ”scientism” as the only alternative to creationist ideas (theistic evolution, intelligent design and creationism)  (See the original inforgraphic at Infographic: America’s View on Evolution and Creationism in Christianity Today or click here for full graphic).) You get the message – if your beliefs don’t rely on the magical thinking of “other ways of knowing” you are guilty of “scientism” – which is a bad thing.

Modern science relies on evidence and reason. It tests and validates its ideas and theories against reality. There is plenty of room for speculation but it’s very much reality driven. So far no scientific theories incorporate gods, angels, leprechauns or fairies. But that is not to say they are excluded – just that so far there is no evidence or need for such entities. If, and when, the evidence arrives we will happily include such ideas. (Just don’t go holding your breath).

But according to this infographic modern science is guilty of “scientism.”

Well, if that’s how you want to define “scientism” I am happy to be declared guilty. But you can’t use that as a term of derision.

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16 Responses to “So scientism = non-theism?”

  • Maybe none of them have the right answers but their theories maybe an attempt try and answer the big questions.

    MAN FROM MUD
    “It is often amusing to catch “science” out in its pompous parade of authority and gadgetry, and often amazing that some fields are not arrested for “false pretenses.
    Amongst those present in this parade is the modern “biologist” with his modern “Man from Mud” theory. According to the professors in this “field,” man is an animal who arose as a result of a spontaneous accident from a “sea of ammonia” and by the stages of development called “evolution,” arrived at the proud estate of a two-legged wog. This is the theory taught as the theory in most universities today”
    http://www.rehabilitatenz.co.nz/pages/man-from-mud.html

  • Thanks Derek, good clip, at least he’s honest and admits his assumptions are based on not knowing. Like he said, science is limited to the make up of physical matter and hasn’t got the tools to look beyond that. Without that skill and knowledge they are just playing a guessing game. Could I suggest that it has been workout outside of the field of current science.

    A Paper on the Difficulties of Researching in the Humanities:
    http://freedom.lronhubbard.org/page112a.htm
    “For about thirty-eight years at this writing (1969) I have been engaged upon basic research into life and the humanities. This is basic or pure research and has the same genus as the effort of the early philosophers—to attempt to establish the identity of life as independent from matter and as associated with the material world and forms, which subjects are embraced by basic and developed sciences.”

    “All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.”
    Arthur Schopenhauer – German philosopher (1788 – 1860)

  • Derek,
    Science is not limiting itself to explaining 4% of the known universe – science attempts to explain as much of the universe as it can, but it refuses to “make stuff up” to fill in the gaps in knowledge.

    Kevin, are you seriously using a scientology website as evidence, a religion created by a science fiction author?

  • “the fact that some geniuses were laughed at does not imply that all who are laughed at are geniuses. They laughed at Columbus, they laughed at Fulton, they laughed at the Wright Brothers. But they also laughed at Bozo the Clown.”

    Carl Sagan

  • Thanks Ken, no I am not a Scientologist. I don’t think those scientists are sitting around.
    I am trying to draw a parallel between the known and the unknown. I realise there are scientists working hard and doing good work in their fields, making inroads.
    To admit that sometimes we don’t have it 100% right,, but we know a lot more now about the scope of things, than before we had mastered the art of fire.
    There is always more to be discovered.

    • Derek, well why jump into bed with Owen then?

      And what the hell is this “parallel between the known and unknown?” they are obviously connected but hardly in parallel.

      As for admitting “that sometimes we don’t have it 100% right” who are you getting at? Science never gets things 100% right – just usually pretty close. Our knowledge is always provisional, open to improvement.

      No, it’s religion that claims 100% – hence their claims to Truth – with a capital T.

      How arrogant.

  • Kevin -what’s with this sneering comment “at least he’s honest and admits his assumptions are based on not knowing?”

    Aleksey Filippenko is well known for his popular presentation of science – he is essentially presenting a scientific ethos which most of us accept (but yes not all scientists verbalise). He is essentially talking about scientific method. Which is usually seen as the most effective and successful “way of knowing.”

    And what have you got – scientology. Religion!

    Are you seriously suggesting that these can compete?

  • Kevin,

    You can’t say something is “true” or “right” until you’ve tested it – and then it’d be a case of the ‘current best model’, as it were, rather than absolute truth as in capital-T “Truth”.

    A simple example: Homeopathy lacks substantive evidence, so no-one can say it “works”. (However, you could point to the major conflicts with tested science and recognise that it’d be exceptionally unlikely to ever be shown to be right.) Ditto for many other things founded on belief and wishful thinking.

  • I agree grant.
    I practice Psychosomatic Healing [Advanced Psychotherapy] and handle nearly everything the Psychiatrist, Psychologist, Psychotherapist, Counselor, Homeopath acupuncturist, 70% of what the MD treats, etc, etc, without any labels or medication [The future practioner]. Without workable psychotherapy [Not Psych Psychotherapy], the above practices are destined to managing the symptoms of Psychosomatic Illness, through the acute and chronic stage without any cures in sight. Instead of treating the symptoms of illness, I handle what’s preventing them [the individual] from healing themselves with workable psychotherapy with nearly a 100% success rate. A practioner who “Helps a Person Heal Themselves” instead of just managing illnesses like the current system does. The current medical model will never advance beyond it’s current abilities as it is trying to treat Psychosomatic Illness with medication, when it has to be handled with psychotherapy [not psych psychotherapy] hence the endless labelling and treating of symptoms with no cures in site.

    “The human body was found to be extremely capable of repairing itself when the stored memories of pain were cancelled. Further it was discovered that so long as the stored pain remained, the doctoring of what are called psychosomatic ills, could not result in anything permanent.”
    http://www.psychosomatic-healing.co.nz/dianetics.html

    Kevin Owen
    Psychosomatic Healing
    http://www.psychosomatic-healing.co.nz/
    Handling Trauma With Advanced Psychotherapy
    Handling the stress related to all illness.
    With a reduction in Mental and Physical Stress comes an improvement in health.

    “Experts estimate that psychosomatic illnesses account for up to 70 percent of mans ills, including being too fat or too thin, migraines, allergies and other afflictions not strictly caused by physical reasons.”

    Cases Handled With Psychosomatic Healing Kevin Owen
    http://www.psychosomatic-healing.co.nz/cases.handled.html

    “The History of Modern Psychology – Psychiatry officially began with its encroachment into the area of medicine, but it’s ideological beginnings are found with 19th century German experimental psychology and Wilhelm Wundt. The word “psycholo…gy” originally dealt with the “spirit”, “soul” or “mind”. German psychological theories gradually erased the “mind” until nothing was left except the biological animal part of man. The “being” (mental, spiritual) part of a human being was discarded leaving only the “human” or animal part. This distorted, one-sided and incorrect view of Man has had disastrous consequences for us all. ”

    “Experts estimate that psychosomatic illnesses account for up to 70 percent of mans ills, including being too fat or too thin, migraines, allergies and other afflictions not strictly caused by physical reasons.”

    Cases Handled With Psychosomatic Healing
    http://www.psychosomatic-healing.co.nz/cases.handled.html

    “The History of Modern Psychology – Psychiatry officially began with its encroachment into the area of medicine, but it’s ideological beginnings are found with 19th century German experimental psychology and Wilhelm Wundt. The word “psycholo…gy” originally dealt with the “spirit”, “soul” or “mind”. German psychological theories gradually erased the “mind” until nothing was left except the biological animal part of man. The “being” (mental, spiritual) part of a human being was discarded leaving only the “human” or animal part. This distorted, one-sided and incorrect view of Man has had disastrous consequences for us all. ”

    ..

    ..

    .

  • Ken, how would you define “scientism” (if at all)?

    I’ve simply thought of it as a philosophical position that places science at the centre/peak of “knowing” (or in the extreme as the only way).

    • My point is that every time I see the word it is being used derisively to criticize science or a scientist, to ring-fence an area against scientific investigation (eg origins of life or morality), or to justify another “way of knowing” such as revelation (by criticizing science rather than arguing for the other way). So I think it’s a word that should not be used in polite company. In almost all cases the word is unjustified, and should really be raplced by the words “science” or “scientific.”

      The dictionary definitions are:
      1: the application of the scientific method;
      2: the uncritical application of scientific methods to inappropriate fields of study.

      I dont know a single example where the word has been used accurately in the derisive sense (2).

  • Kevin,

    Anecdotes aren’t evidence and besides you seem to be spamming! (For the record I originally was going to use dianetics as my example rather than homeopathy.)

    Ken,

    You typed that last one on a phone with autocorrect on? :-) Hehe. dcirntifuc methods sound interesting 😉

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