Pinker debones the “scientism” canard

Why Evolution Is True

I’ve written about scientism for several years, and have highlighted the many people, including Philip Kitcher, Massimo Pigliucci, Uncle Eric MacDonald, Steve Gould (in Rocks of Ages), and the flock of theologians who use the term “scientism” as a cudgel: an example of science overstepping its boundaries.  The faithful also use it to say, ironically, “See? Science is just as harmful as faith.”

One of the problems has been the definition of “scientism,” which varies from commenter to commenter but is always pejorative.  I take it to mean “science overstepping its boundaries” in the sense of Gould’s Non-Overlapping Magisteria: scientists misusing science or technology to bad ends (racism or eugenics), claiming they will take over the humanities (as in E. O. Wilson’s notion of “consilience”), or making moral and political pronouncements that exceed scientific expertise or ambit.

The problem is that these accusations always exceed the crimes, and that’s…

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Tim Harding
    Feb 21, 2020 @ 11:49:49

    But sometimes we can go too far in our enthusiasm for science. We can mistakenly attempt to extend the scope of science beyond its empirical capabilities, into other fields of inquiry such as philosophy and politics – even ethics. If only a small number of celebrity scientists lessen their credibility by making pronouncements beyond their individual fields of expertise, they render themselves vulnerable to attack by our opponents who are looking for any weaknesses in their arguments. In doing so, they can unintentionally undermine public confidence in science.

    Liked by 1 person

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