Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Thursday, January 05, 2012

The Facile Certainty of Scientism

There's nothing like a good bloodletting review, in my opinion, and if you share my taste in this regard you may enjoy Leon Weiseltier's review of The Atheist’s Guide to Reality: Enjoying Life Without Illusions in the latest The New Republic. How can one not enjoy a review with lines such as:
THIS SHABBY BOOK is riddled with ... notions that typify our time.


Crude said...

I maintain that it shouldn't be called scientism. What Rosenberg engages in is an abuse of science, pure and simple. Most people accused of 'scientism' manifestly have little concern for science as science. If claiming to have science on one's side is sufficient for "scientism", then most of the hardest creationists engage in it. But they're rarely called out for scientism.

Darwin said...

I'm not hugely fond of the term "scientism" for the reasons you describe, though it sounds like Rosenberg actually embraces the term himself. Weiseltier quotes him saying, “Scientism starts with the idea that the physical facts fix all the facts, including the biological ones. These in turn have to fix the human facts—the facts about us, our psychology, and our morality.”

As you say, the odd thing is that radical materialists such as Rosenberg actually make a similar mistake to that engaged in by creationists and intelligent design folks. Rosenberg claims that science tells us everything we need to know about morality (that there isn't any, but that's okay because most people are genetically programmed to be "nice" anyway) while those who might otherwise seem to be his polar opposite similarly take science out of its proper sphere by insisting that science can detect and prove God's existence.

Crude said...

Well, in their defense, the ID people don't say that. Dembski, Behe and the rest, explicitly say that ID absolutely cannot identify the designer. I have problems with ID for a number of reasons, but this is one point I think they get misunderstood (and in other quarters, misrepresented) on. But Dawkins, if I recall, does explicitly say that God's existence can be judged by science.

In Rosenberg's case I think it's more bizarre because part of his intellectual platform isn't only that 'science will show us the truth', but that our future scientific understanding will never change to any great degree. That seems like a downright science-hostile attitude - yet somehow, even Rosenberg's critics paint him as just loving science to pieces and attributing too much importance to it.