Thursday, November 18, 2010

Scientism gone bad

According to one definition, "scientism claims that science alone can render truth about the world and reality." [1] In an almost arrogant tone scientism claims to be the sole possessor of truth. Scientism claims that only by way of empirical science can truth be acquired. Again, according to scientism, "Scientism's single-minded adherence to only the empirical, or testable, makes it a strictly scientific worldview."[2] Scientism claims the only way by which individuals can absolutely know truth is through scientifically testable data. Another tenet of scientism would be the rejection of any supernatural explanations, for supernaturalism is outside the realm of what is testable. But, is this the way truth is garnered and what is science really about anyway?

Science in Greek is scientia, and is properly defined as, "knowledge." Science in an unhindered definition is interested in truth without stipulations. Today, however, scientism and a naturalistic view of science go hand in hand. John Post has this to say about science, “The sciences cumulatively tell us, that everything can be accounted for in purely naturalistic terms... All truth is determined by basic scientific entities.”[3] Taking Post's definition limits what scientific knowledge can aquire. Philosopher, Alvin Plantinga rightly assesses the problem of seeing science only by way of a naturalistic explanation by saying, “If you exclude the supernatural from science, then if the world or some phenomena within it are supernaturally caused — you won’t be able to reach that truth scientifically... Observing methodological naturalism thus hamstrings science.”

What about scientism, can it pass the muster of its own definition? No, because the definition itself is not testable. The arrogant proclamation that scientism is the sole beholder of truth is nothing more than a bald-face lie, for scientism cannot be measured, tested, or quantified by any scientific principle. Philosopher of science, Del Ratzche states, “If part of reality lies beyond the natural realm, then science cannot get at the truth without abandoning the naturalism it presently follows as a methodological rule of thumb.” So, how should science be understood? To present science in an unfiltered way means that the quest for knowledge or scientific truth should be pursued without restrictions such as a preconceived notion of naturalism. When scientism rules the realm of science, then the truth of the matter may never be discovered.

[1] Scientism defined
[2] Ibid
[3] John Post as quoted in J.P. Moreland's, Kingdom Triangle, p. 40

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