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Scientism cannot hide behind the Flag of Science forever

November 5, 2009

Scientism cannot hide behind the Flag of Science forever


Here is a reality check for all those that believe they have found the scapegoat in history: Who owns science?

Surprisingly the answer is no one owns it. Yet we have a myriad of people who would like to claim exclusivity of ownership just because they have chosen a particular ideological position. The problem is not that science is objective and devoid of mystical authority; the problem is that anyone can be scientific. You do not have to search very far to find scientists from all kinds of backgrounds, ideologies and theological beliefs with each contributing to their profession in equally scientific terms.


You may often hear the statement that is laced with prejudice that only atheists can be scientific because they are free of the constraints of a mystical overlord. Though such claims may seem attractive to those that make them the fail any rational reasoning and as a result cannot be scientific. Taken to its logic conclusion the statement claims that non-atheist scientists findings are less scientific than atheist findings. Again this is also an unprovable statement. Instead of promoting actual the claimants of sole Atheist ownership of science is in fact little more than a form of ideological rationalism often referred to as Scientism.


Scientism, for want of a better description, is not science but the blind belief that everything can be proven in scientific terms. Whilst some people might nod in agreement with happy sense that it must be true they are forgetting one of the most basic rules of science. How was this belief tested? Scientism is a belief system not a measurement or ration conclusion based upon volumes of data but rather just an opinion. Scientism is essentially an unscientific and irrational circular argument that tries justify itself with itself. To accept this circular reasoning requires some belief (or faith) like all ideologies and philosophical schools of thought it is competing with. Rationalists may want a rational explanation for things; existentialist may argue it is all perceptual; emotionalists may want to know about feelings and materialists may want actual material proof. All of which can seem like valid arguments in certain contexts but none by themselves can explain everything.


Whilst Jean Paul Sartre argues the Existence is above Essence, Fyodor Dostoyevsky counters that argument by asking if a man ‘believes’ he is in love or ‘knows it’. Neither can be tested scientifically because they are perceptual and require an amount of belief to accept. In fact we can often find truisms that are little more than prejudices. For example: ‘Modern Civilization is more civilized than it was 100 years ago.’ More civilized? It begs the question about how civilization is defined long before we can apply any measurements. A statement like: ‘This art is powerful and valuable to all of humanity’ should always be prefaced with ‘In my opinion.’ Scientism should also be prefaced with ‘In my opinion.’


It may seem alien to some secularist chauvinists that science does not exclusively belong to them. Yet despite their smug superiority complex we have scientific papers being presented every day without the slightest question of whether they were atheists or not. Rather such a question is irrelevant to the scientific process and instead belongs to less scientific endeavours like scandal mongering and back stabbing. The essential test of any scientific paper is the accuracy of its data gathering and the validity of its interpretation. Throwing up the question of a person’s religions is only a prejudice that neither proves nor disproves the argument scientifically. Yet in the world of secular political power struggles it is an important wedge issue designed to blacken a reputation with the ‘enemy of science’ tar brush.


Perhaps if there was more science dialogue that was based upon actually science rather than Rationalist and Naturalist ideological precepts the Secular chauvinists would know where they are wrong. Yet I suspect that like many ideologues they will continue to fight tooth and nail for their own absolute dominance in society. It may seem attractive for now to throw up the word science whenever you have a controversial policy to promote but the moment someone claims that it is scientific just because they are Atheists or Secularists it ceases to be science and is instead Scientism.



From Faith and Reason


Unlike the use of the scientific method as only one mode of reaching knowledge, scientism claims that science alone can render truth about the world and reality. Scientism’s single-minded adherence to only the empirical, or testable, makes it a strictly scientifc worldview, in much the same way that a Protestant fundamentalism that rejects science can be seen as a strictly religious worldview. Scientism sees it necessary to do away with most, if not all, metaphysical, philosophical, and religious claims, as the truths they proclaim cannot be apprehended by the scientific method. In essence, scientism sees science as the absolute and only justifiable access to the truth.



Scientism, in the strong sense, is the self-annihilating view that only scientific claims are meaningful, which is not a scientific claim and hence, if true, not meaningful.

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