Kitcher on Scientism …

Via Edward Feser’s site, I came across this review of Alex Rosenberg’s “The Atheist’s Guide to Reality” by Philip Kitcher. He spends a lot of it talking about scientism, and says this right at the end:

Scientism rejects dialogue: the sciences provide the answers; the lesser provinces of the intellectual and cultural world should take instruction. To be sure, well-supported messages from the sciences are sometimes foolishly ignored — think of the warnings from climate scientists about our planet’s future. Yet scientism can easily prove counterproductive. However worthy the impulse to trumpet urgent news, smugness, arrogance and delight in shattering entrenched beliefs are as apt to alienate as to convert. The challenge is not to decide who has the Most Important Insights, but to comprehend the knowledge we have, finite, fallible and fragmentary as it is. We should make the most of it.

I think that all of the forms of scientism I talked about in the series all follow from that first sentence, meaning that if you accept that attitude you either have to argue that only things that are scientific are useful or are answers or alternatively you have to broaden science so that it does, in fact, provide all the answers. And I think the last sentence is important as well; we need to decide what is the best approach to use for a particular question, not try to decide what — if any — method is the best for all questions.


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