3. The Interrelations of Scientism’s Varieties I have confined myself to the main varieties of scientism that can be found in the literature. Now, how do they relate to each other, apart from the relations of entailment that hold between full and partial scientism and strong and weak scientism that hold by definition? For reasons of brevity, I confine myself to weak scientism, which puts several natural sciences rather than a single natural science centre stage.
3.1. Methodological and Reductive Academic Scientism
How do methodological and reductive scientism relate to each other? Remember that, on methodological scientism, all or some academic disciplines different from the natural sciences should adopt the methods of the natural sciences in order to solve the problems of those fields, whereas on reductive scientism, all or some other academic disciplines are simply reducible to the natural sciences: the problems in those fields are illusory. These are two distinct theses that do not imply each other. Methodological scientism about history as an academic discipline, for instance, says that history should adopt the empirical model of the natural sciences. It does not follow that everything historical is a matter of biology, chemistry, or physics. Methodological scientism does not imply any kind of reduction apart from what one could call a methodological reduction. Also, reductive scientism does not imply methodological scientism. In fact, they exclude each other. If, say, the humanities should adopt the methods of the natural sciences but remain distinct academic disciplines, as methodological scientism implies, then apparently they should not be reduced to the natural sciences. Hence, methodological and reductive scientism are mutually exclusive.
3.2. Academic and Universal Scientism
Clearly, no version of academic scientism implies any kind of universal scientism, for, by definition, academic scientism is restricted to the academy, whereas universal scientism is not. What about the other way around? One might think universal scientism implies academic scientism by definition, because, as I said, universal scientism applies both within and outside of the academy. We should not forget, though, that academic scientism is a claim about the method of academic disciplines or the reducibility of one academic discipline to another, whereas universal scientism is a claim about what we can know, what exists, moral values, or meaning. It cannot be true by definition, then, that universal scientism implies academic scientism.
Yet, I do think that each variety of universal scientism implies some variety of academic scientism, at least in conjunction with one or two plausible principles. Take partial epistemological scientism. It claims that all possible knowledge about some specific topic that is not normally considered to belong to the realm of the natural sciences, is to be provided by the natural sciences. Such realms could be those of the supernatural, belief and desire attributions, and morality. But it seems right to say that theology, psychology, and ethics also strive for knowledge about respectively God, people’s beliefs and desires, and good and evil. That version of epistemological scientism that says that there is no knowledge to be had in these areas implies reductive scientism, whereas that version which says that such knowledge is possible, but that only the methods of the natural sciences can deliver such knowledge, implies methodological scientism. If partial epistemological scientism has these implications, then, clearly, so does full epistemological scientism.
Does ontological scientism also imply some kind of academic scientism? It does, at least in conjunction with some plausible background assumptions. On full ontological scientism, only the material cosmos exists which can, in principle, be investigated by science. Consciousness, objective good and evil, beliefs, and so forth, do not exist. That would mean that academic disciplines like philosophical ethics, theology, and psychology need to be given up, for the object of their research would not exist. Hence, full ontological scientism implies reductive scientism. Partial ontological scientism, such as the claim that humans are nothing but molecules, implies partial reductive scientism, e.g. reductive scientism about psychology or philosophical anthropology.
Finally, let us consider moral and existential scientism. If moral scientism says that traditional ethics and common sense morality should be replaced with a scientific ethics (its R-variety), then ethics should adopt the methods of the natural sciences. And, mutatis mutandis, the same applies to existential scientism. On the R-variety of moral and existential scientism, moral and existential questions are still thought to make sense and, therefore, we should not give up ethics and, say, theology altogether—which would amount to reductive scientism. Rather, these academic disciplines should adopt the methods of the natural sciences, which means that they imply methodological scientism. However, even the full moral and existential scientism on the R-variety imply at most partial methodological scientism, since they do not imply that all academic disciplines different from the natural sciences should adopt the methods of the natural sciences.
What about the I-variety of moral and existential scientism? On this variety, morality is an illusion, and meaning and purpose or God is an illusion. The I-variety of moral scientism clearly implies partial reductive academic scientism, for if morality is an illusion, then, it seems, we should give up ethics. On the I-variety of existential scientism, ultimate meaning and purpose or God or all of these are an illusion. The more of these are an illusion, the more academic disciplines (philosophical ethics, theology) should be given up.
3.3. The Varieties of Universal Scientism
Finally, let us turn towards the relations that hold between the varieties of universal scientism.
Let us start with epistemological scientism. Clearly, from the thesis that we can know only things by way of the natural sciences nothing follows about what does or does not exist. It may be that, even if all we can know is the product of the natural sciences, there exist things that we cannot know anything about. Nor does it entail moral or existential scientism, not even on full epistemological scientism. From the fact that all knowledge is to be delivered through the natural sciences, it does not follow that morality or God is an illusion, nor that science should provide us with a morality or that it should replace traditional religions. One might think, for instance, that science is unable to provide answers to the big questions of life and that we need religions for that, even though they do not provide us with knowledge, but only with helpful answers to live with. Hence, epistemological scientism, whether on its full or partial variety, entails neither ontological, nor moral, nor existential scientism.
What does ontological scientism entail? According to Stenmark, ontological scientism entails epistemological scientism. For, if the only things that exist are the ones science can in principle discover or the ones that play a role in our scientific theories, then the only kind of knowledge we can have is scientific knowledge. Here is how he motivates this claim:
if something cannot be discovered by science, then we cannot know anything about it either. If, for instance, God cannot be discovered by scientific means, it follows that we cannot know anything about God. We can only know something about people’s thoughts about God, because these thoughts are, presumably, real, even though the intended object of these beliefs would not exist.38 This line of reasoning seems somewhat misleading to me. For, the claim that (in some realm) only those things exist that can in principle be investigated by natural science, is perfectly compatible with the claim that we can acquire knowledge about those entities by non-scientific means. Ontological scientism implies at most partial epistemological scientism, the idea that in some realms of life only the natural sciences can provide us with knowledge. That will depend, however, on how much one takes the natural sciences to acknowledge to exist. There is good reason to think that the natural sciences do not assume or imply certain things to exist that in daily life many of us do believe to exist, such as consciousness, objective good and evil, and God. Given this plausible assumption, we can say that ontological scientism, even full ontological scientism, implies at most partial epistemological scientism. If partial ontological scientism about certain areas is correct, then we can have no knowledge about God or consciousness, apart, of course, from knowledge that they do not exist.
Full ontological scientism also implies the I-varieties of moral and existential scientism. If only those things exist that can in principle be investigated by natural science, then, given that natural science does not seem to admit the existence of God, objective meaning, or good and evil, it would follow that morality, God, and objective meaning are illusions. As to partial ontological scientism, it seems that as such it does not imply moral or existential scientism. Only those particular versions of it which say that there are no objective moral values or that God and objective meaning do not exist, i.e. those specific versions which are more or less identical to moral and existential scientism.
Let us turn to moral scientism. Both its R- and I-varieties imply partial epistemological scientism. If natural science should replace common sense ethics, then that is presumably because common sense ethics does not lead to knowledge. And if morality is an illusion, then nothing can be known about it (again, except for such trivial facts as that it is an illusion). As we saw, moral scientism on its I-variety implies partial ontological scientism. This does not seem to be the case on its R-variety: if science or the methods of the natural sciences should replace traditional ethics, then it is not clear that anything follows about what exists. One might think, for instance, that, for all we know, there are objective moral values, but that we need a scientifically construed ethics to know anything about them.
Finally, let us consider existential scientism. If there are is no God or if there is no objective meaning, as the I-variety says, then we cannot know anything non-trivial about them, so that both partial ontological scientism and partial epistemological scientism are true. If the R-variety is true, the natural sciences should replace traditional religions and secular ideologies. It would be implausible to claim such a thing while maintaining that knowledge about God through common sense or other mechanisms that are built in human beings is possible.39 Thus, existential scientism on its R-variety implies partial epistemological scientism. It does not imply partial ontological scientism, though, for one might think that, for all we know, God exists, but that religions are useless and should be replaced with science.
Does existential scientism imply moral scientism? Stenmark thinks it does, for, “[r]eligions and world views are in general taken to include some ideas about how we should live and what a good human life is.”40 I think Stenmark is right that most religions also encompass certain ideas about what the good life is. Yet, it does not follow that existential scientism implies moral scientism. For, one might think that scientism should replace traditional religions, with their doctrines about God and life after death, but that we still need common sense morality. And one might think that God does not exist and that there is no ultimate purpose in life, but that there are still objective facts about what is morally right and wrong. Hence, existential scientism, neither on its R-variety nor on its I-variety, implies moral scientism.
4. A Unifying Definition of Scientism An important question that arises from this overview is whether all these varieties of scientism have something in common such that in virtue of meeting that condition they count as varieties of scientism. Slightly more precisely, is there a non-trivial condition – not a disjunctive condition like being one of these varieties of scientism – that they all satisfy such that they are varieties of scientism because of that? This is an important question, for an answer to it might give us insight into how a conceptual map of scientism is to be drawn. If scientism should be understood as a family resemblance concept, on which something counts as an instance of scientism if it is sufficiently similar to other instances of scientism, the resulting conceptual map will be rather different from the one we get when there is a set of necessary and sufficient conditions for being an instance of scientism.
4.1. Peacocke’s Definition
Many definitions of scientism suffer from the fact that they exclude one or several of the varieties of scientism that we distinguished above, theses that are widely thought to be instances of scientism. Take the following definition, provided by Arthur Peacocke:
Scientism1: The view that the only kind of reliable knowledge is that provided by science, coupled with a conviction that all our personal and social problems are “soluble” by enough science.41 With some flexibility, one could interpret the phrase that “our personal and social problems are “soluble” by enough science” as a statement of moral and existential scientism. Even then, though, methodological and reductive academic scientism are only implicitly present in the definition and ontological scientism is completely absent from the picture. We need a broader definition than Peacocke’s, in order to do justice to the wide variety of scientistic theses that can be found in the writings of philosophers and scientists.
4.2. Radnitzky’s Definition
More encompassing is Gerard Radnitzsky’s definition:
Scientism2: The view that science has no boundaries, i.e. that eventually it will answer all theoretical questions and provide solutions for all our practical problems.42 This definition is broad enough to encompass at least reductive scientism and each of the four varieties of universal scientism. For instance, ontological and epistemological scientism are each plausibly interpreted as varieties of the view that science can answers all our theoretical questions. Radnitzky’s definition faces another problem, though. For it seems that we have now ruled out some versions of partial scientism. One might think, for instance, that only science provides us knowledge about the natural world, including human beings, but that that we need our moral faculties rather than science to acquire knowledge about non-natural properties, such as goodness and badness. Radnitzky’s definition would have the implausible implication that such a view would not count as an instance of scientism because it does not say that all our questions can be answered by science. Peacocke’s definition turned out to be too weak, whereas Radnitzky’s analysis of scientism turns out to be too strong.
4.3. Stenmark’s Definition
Stenmark’s definition is broader than Peacocke’s but weaker than Radnitzky’s:
Scientism3: The view that the boundaries of science should be expanded to include disciplines (or answers to questions) that have not previously been considered a part of the domain of science.43 The idea that the conceptual core of scientism is the expansion of the natural sciences seems promising to me. After all, both academic and universal scientism claim that the boundaries of the natural sciences should be expanded, either to academic disciplines different from the natural sciences or to other realms of reality. How such an expansion is to be cashed out differs from one variety of scientism to the other. On reductive academic scientism, for instance, the methods of one or several academic disciplines are to be transposed to that of another or several other academic disciplines. And on epistemological scientism, the natural sciences are to be expanded in the sense that they should also tell us what to believe about realms of life that seem to be radically different from nature, such as human culture.
Unfortunately, the definition is too strong. Take religious belief. About two centuries ago, the explanation of why people believe in God was not considered to be a proper part of the natural sciences, but rather a proper part of theology. During the last few decades, scientists have offered several empirical explanations of belief in God. Justin Barrett, for instance, has argued that belief in God is the result of a Hyperactive Agency Detection Device and Deborah Kelemen has argued that people are intuitive theists in that they are born with a strong, although resistible, tendency to give teleological explanations of natural events.44 It seems false, though, to dub these scientific explanations as scientistic. Many theists, for instance, have gladly embraced such empirical explanations as giving insight into the mechanisms that God has apparently used to produce belief in him. It seems that such explanations become versions of scientism only if they are debunking in the sense that they are taken to imply that belief in God is an illusion.
4.4. A Unifying Definition
Stenmark’s definition should be revised in two regards if it is to be tenable. First, it should not be spelled out in terms of which realms of reality were previously considered the domain of science. The history of science displays increasing insight into the proper domain of the sciences. It turned out that that domain was larger than initially thought. What matters, therefore, is not whether something was considered to be an autonomous domain, but whether something is widely regarded as an autonomous domain. This means that ‘scientism’ is an indexical term; what was once an instance of scientism may no longer be so. Second, it is better to talk about entire ‘realms of life’ and academic disciplines rather than merely ‘answers to questions’. For, as we saw, scientism makes claims not merely about specific questions and answers, but about entire domains. This leads to the following definition:
Scientism4: The view that the boundaries of the natural sciences should be expanded to include academic disciplines or realms of life that are widely considered not to be the domain of science.
Belief in God, for instance, does not fall under “disciplines or realms of life that are widely considered not to be the domain of science”, for many believers acknowledge that there may well be a good natural explanation of religious belief. Belief in God, after all, should be distinguished from God’s existence or the question whether or not God exists.
How precisely we should understand something’s ‘not being the domain of science’ differs from the one variety of scientism to the other. When it comes to epistemological scientism, for instance, X’s being not being the domain of science means that there are non-scientific or maybe even only non-scientific ways to acquire knowledge or rational belief about X. And in the case of moral scientism, X’s not being the domain of science means that the natural sciences cannot replace common sense morality as a way of dealing with X or that natural scientific research does not justify the thesis that our moral intuitions and beliefs with regard to X are an illusion.
5. A Conceptual Map of Scientism I will now provide twofigures that jointly constitute the conceptual map that is the aim of this paper. Figure 1 displays scientism’s varieties. It should be read from left to right. In order to end up with a thesis that is sufficiently precise to be assessed, one should make four or, in the case of moral and existential scientism, even five choices:
(a) Is it academic or universal scientism?
(b) In the case of academic scientism: is it methodological or reductive scientism? In the case of universal scientism: is it epistemological, ontological, moral, or existential scientism?
(c) Is it full or partial scientism?
(d) Is it weak or strong scientism?
(e) In the case of moral and existential scientism: is it Replacement-scientism or Illusion-scientism?
Given that, as I argued, moral I-scientism will always be full rather than partial, there are thirty varieties of scientism. The difference between ellipses and squares indicates that one should choose between certain descriptive adjectives (say, academic or universal, partial or full) to end up with a specific thesis (say, reductive partial weak scientism). The arrow between methodological and reductive scientism with a cross over it indicates mutual exclusivity. The other arrows denote implication. The implicatory relations among the thirty varieties of scientism described on the right-hand side of figure 1 are depicted in figure 2.
Figure 1: The varieties of scientism As I said, this figure displays which choices an adherent of scientism will have to make, as well as which choices those who critique scientism will have to make in specifying the object of their criticism. I suspect that many philosophers and scientists will adhere to at least some variety of scientism and quite a few to several of them. The figure makes clear that there are six main varieties of scientism: methodological, reductive, epistemological, ontological, moral, and existential. Given that there is only one instance of mutual exclusion, namely that between methodological and reductive scientism, the adherent of scientism could in principle combine five varieties of scientism: epistemological, ontological, moral, existential, and either reductive or methodological scientism.
The second figure hierarchically displays the relations of implication that hold between different versions of scientism:
Figure 2: The implicatory relations between the varieties of scientism
For reasons of simplicity, I have not distinguished between strong and weak varieties of scientism and I have not drawn arrows where a full version of scientism implies a partial version of scientism (that saves us fifteen arrows). The dotted lines indicate a disjunctive implication. For example, full epistemological scientism entails either full reductive or full methodological scientism. Let me also point out that partial R-moral scientism and partial R-existential scientism could also have been placed one level higher.
A careful look at figure 2 reveals some important facts about the relations between the varieties of scientism, as I defined them. There are four kinds of scientism that are at the top of the hierarchy in the sense that they imply other varieties of scientism without being implied by some other kind of scientism. At five different levels, there are nine kinds of scientism that are in the middle in that they are implied by certain kinds of scientism but also imply other kinds of scientism. And there are two varieties of scientism that are at the bottom in that they are implied by other kinds of scientism without implying some kind of scientism. Also, reductive scientism and methodological scientism are clearly comparitively weak theses in that all of their varieties are found at the bottom of the hiearchy. Epistemological and ontological scientism, as well as the Replacement-varieties of moral and existential scientism are, depending on its specific version, to be found at the top or in the middle and are, therefore comparitively strong or average.
Also, the R-versions of moral and existential scientism are not entailed by any other kind of scientism. They do entail certain varieties of epistemological, ontological, reductive, and methodological scientism, but adopting one of the latter varieties of scientism does not commit one to being an adherent of scientism about morality or existential issues. Next, full ontological scientism and full epistemological scientism are not entailed by any other variety of scientism, but they do entail other kinds of scientism, especially certain varieties of academic scientism. Generally, then, these are fairly strong versions of scientism. The variety of scientism which is implied by the largest number of other varieties of scientism is partial reductive scientism, the thesis that at least some academic disciplines can be reduced to the natural sciences. It is implied by five other varieties of scientism. Finally, given that reductive scientism seems stronger than methodological scientism in that it leaves no place at all for academic disciplines other than the natural sciences, the strongest position one could adopt is a combination of full epistemological, full ontological, full moral, full existential, and full reductive scientism.
6. Conclusions This paper admits of many different conclusions. Let me select what I consider to be the six most important ones:
(C1) Scientism is the thesis that the boundaries of the natural sciences should be expanded in order to include academic disciplines or realms of life that are widely considered not to belong to the realm of science.
(C2) Every adherent and critic of scientism should make clear which variety of scientism she adheres to or criticizes.
(C3) In doing so, she should specify whether she is talking about (a) academic or universal scientism, (b) reductive, methodological, epistemological, ontological, moral, or existential, scientism, (c) full or partial scientism, (d) strong or weak scientism, and (e) in the case of moral and existential scientism: replacement or illusion scientism.
(C4) The strongest version of scientism one could defend is a conjunction of the following theses: strong full epistemological scientism, strong full ontological scientism, strong full Illusion-moral scientism, strong Illusion-existential scientism, and strong full reductive scientism.
I have intended throughout this paper not to say anything for or against scientism or some specific version of scientism. What I have said should be compatible with both a defense and a critique of scientism. It seems to me that the conceptual map of scientism that I have provided in this paper provides a good starting point providing such a defense or critique. First, it induces every critic and adherent of scientism to make clear which specific variety of scientism she has in mind. Second, it provides insight into which other varieties of scientism one is committed to defend or criticize in virtue of understanding ‘scientism’ in that particular way.45
References Atkins, Peter W. (1995). “Science as Truth”, History of the Human Sciences 8.2, 97-102.
Barbour, Ian G. (1990). Religion in an Age of Science: The Gifford Lectures 1989-1991, Volume 1 (New York: SCM Press).
Barrett, Justin M. (2012). Born Believers: The Science of Children’s Religious Belief (New York: Free Press).
Carnap, Rudolf. (1967). The Logical Structure of the World: And Pseudoproblems in Philosophy, trans. Rolf A George (Chicago, Ill.: Open Court), original ed.: Der logische Aufbau der Welt: Scheinprobleme in der Philosophie (Hamburg: Felix Meiner Verlag, 1961).
Churchland, Patricia S. (1987). “Epistemology in the Age of Neuroscience”, Journal of Philosophy 84.10, 544-553.
———. (2011). Braintrust: What Neuroscience Tells Us about Morality (Princeton: Princeton University Press).
Crick, Francis. (1966). Of Molecules and Men (Seattle/London: University of Washington Press).
———. (1994). The Astonishing Hypothesis: The Scientific Search for the Soul (London: Simon & Schuster).
Dawkins, Richard. (1989). The Selfish Gene, 2nd ed., original ed. 1976 (Oxford: Oxford University Press).
Haack, Susan. (1995). Evidence and Inquiry: Towards Reconstruction in Epistemology (Oxford: Blackwell).
———. (2007). Defending Science within Reason: Between Scientism and Cynicism (Amherst, N.Y.: Prometheus Books).
Harris, Sam. (2010). The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values (New York: Free Press).
Hawking, Stephen, and Leonard Mlodinow. (2010). The Grand Design (New York: Bantam Books).
Hayek, Friedrich A. (1979). The Counter-Revolution of Science: Studies on the Abuse of Reason (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund).
Hughes, Austin L. (2012). “The Folly of Scientism”, The New Atlantis 37 (Fall), http://www.thenewatlantis.com/publications/the-folly-of-scientism, last visited February 5th 2013, 32-50.
Kelemen, Deborah. (2004). “Are Children ‘Intuitive Theists’? Reasoning about Purpose and Design in Nature”, Psychological Science 15.5 (2004), 295-301.
Ladyman, James, Don Ross, David Spurrett, and John Collier. (2007). Every Thing Must Go: Metaphysics Naturalized (Oxford: Oxford University Press).
Midgley, Mary. (1992). Science as Salvation: A Modern Myth and Its Meaning (London: Routledge).
Neurath, Otto. (1987). ‘Unified Science and Psychology’ (1932), in Brian McGuinness (ed.), Unified Science (Dordrecht: Kluwer), 1-23.
Nielsen, Kai. (1997). “Naturalistic Explanations of Religion”, Studies in Religion 26.4, 441-466.
Peacocke, Arthur. (1993). Theology for a Scientific Age: Being and Becoming – Natural and Divine (Oxford: Blackwell).
Peterson, Michael, William Hasker, Bruce Reichenbach, and David Basinger. (1991). Reason and Religious Belief: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion (New York: Oxford University Press).
Plantinga, Alvin. (2000). Warranted Christian Belief (New York: Oxford University Press).
Provine, William. (1988). “Evolution and the Foundations of Ethics”, Marine Biology Laboratory Science 3 (Woods Hole), 25-29.
Quine, Willard V.O. (1992). “Structure and Nature”, Journal of Philosophy 89.1, 5-9.
Radnitzky, Gerard. (1978). “The Boundaries of Science and Technology”, in The Search for Absolute Values in a Changing World, Vol. II, Proceedings of the Sixth International Conference on the Unity of the Sciences, (New York: The International Cultural Foundation Press), 1007-1036.
Rescher, Nicholas. (1999). The Limits of Science, original ed. 1984 (Pittsburgh, Pa: University of Pittsburgh Press).
Rosenberg, Alex. (2011). The Atheist’s Guide to Reality: Enjoying Life without Illusions (New York: W.W. Norton).
Ruse, Michael. (1979). Sociobiology: Sense or Nonsense? (Dordrecht: Reidel).
Russell, Bertrand. (1946). History of Western Philosophy, and its Connection with Political and Social Circumstances from the Earliest Times to the Present Day (London: Allen and Unwin).
———. (1967). Why I am not a Christianand Other Essays on Religion and Related Subjects (London: Unwin Books).
Sagan, Carl. (2002). Cosmos, original ed. 1980 (New York: Random House).
Sellars, Wilfrid. (1963). “Empiricism and the Philosophy of Mind”, in Science, Perception and Reality (London: Routledge), 127-196.
Snow, Charles P. (1972). The Two Cultures: And a Second Look, original ed. 1959(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press).
Sorell, Tom. (1991). Scientism: Philosophy and the Infatuation with Science (London: Routledge).
Stenmark, Mikael. (2001). Scientism: Science, Ethics and Religion (Aldershot: Ashgate).
Stevenson, Leslie, and Henry Byerly. (1995). The Many Faces of Science: An Introduction to Scientists, Values, and Society (Boulder, Col.: Westview Press).
Stich, Stephen P. (1983). From Folk Psychology to Cognitive Science: The Case against Belief (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press).
Trigg, Roger. (1993). Rationality and Science: Can Science Explain Everything? (Oxford: Blackwell).
Wilson, Edward O. (1975). Sociobiology: The New Synthesis (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press).
———. (1978). On Human Nature (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press).
1 Provine 1988, 27-29.
2 Thus, I use the word ‘science’ in a rather narrow sense: it encompasses only such disciplines as biology, physics, chemistry, and cosmology, not any of the humanities or any of the gamma sciences.
3 See, for instance, Haack 2007, 17-18; Ladyman and Ross, 57-59; Rescher 1999, 1.
4 For this claim, see Snow 1972, 11, 48.
5 Ladyman, Ross, Spurrett, and Collier 2007, 1-65. Alex Rosenberg also states that he adheres to scientism (Rosenberg 2011, 6).
6 Pace Stevenson and Byerly 1995, 212.
7 Hayek 1979, for instance, treats scientism as a claim about the natural sciences and other academic disciplines.
8 Thus also Stenmark 2001, 3.
9 Neurath 1987, 9. Italics are Neurath’s.
10 See, for instance, Churchland 1987 and Stich 1983. Haack 1995, 158-181, characterizes these two views as revolutionary scientism.
11 In the same spirit, Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow open their book The Grand Design by asking: “What is the nature of reality? Where did all this come from? Did the universe need a creator? (…) Traditionally these are questions for philosophy, but philosophy is dead. Philosophy has not kept up with modern developments in science, particularly physics. Scientists have become the bearers of the torch of discovery in our quest for knowledge.” (Hawking and Mlodinow 2010, 5) Hughes 2012, 33 takes methodological scientism to be crucial to scientism generally.
12 Wilson 1975, 4.
13 Some scholars claim that certain academic disciplines are reducible to some science, such as psychology, economics, or sociology, that is not clearly a natural science. I will not discuss such claims here.
14 Rosenberg 2011, 25. An exhaustive map of scientism would encompass different degrees of scientism rather than merely strong and weak scientism. For instance, Francis Crick’s claim (Crick 1966, 14, 98) that everything can be explained by physics and chemistry seems weaker than Rosenberg’s claim that physics is the whole truth, but stronger than those versions of reductive scientism that claim that all academic disciplines are reducible to some natural science.
15 The reader who is familiar with Stenmark’s work will notice that I follow him in distinguishing epistemological, ontological, moral, and existential scientism. As we shall see, though, the conceptual map I provide also differs on crucial points from Stenmark’s account of scientism.
16 For a similar characterization of this version of scientism, see Stenmark 2001, vii-viii. Nielsen 1997, 441, even defines ‘scientism’ entirely along these lines.
17 Barbour 1990, 3-5, uses (b) as equivalent with the thesis that the scientific method is the only reliable form of understanding. However, Barbour continues to argue that this view is mistaken. For adherence to (b), see Rosenberg 2011, 6.
18 This view is sometimes ascribed to Rudolf Carnap on the basis of Carnap 1967, 290 (Carnap 1961, 254). Carnap, however, makes clear that his claim is limited to questions that are formed from scientific concepts (Carnap 1967, 292). A better example is to be found in Atkins 1995.
19 See Russell 1946, 863: “Whatever can be known, can be known by means of science”. Russell admits that certain issues are beyond the scope of science, but those issues concern such things as feelings, and in the realm of feelings and values, Russell seems to think, and there is no knowledge to be had.
20 The claim that only the natural sciences provide true explanations seems to me a weaker version of (a). For, this claim about explanations can plausibly be interpreted as saying that only the natural sciences provide us with knowledge about why some state of affairs obtains.
21 Russell 1967, 44. Italics are mine.
22 See Trigg 1993, 70.
23 Sellars 1963, 173.
24 For such a conflation, see, for instance, Peterson, Hasker, Reichenbach, and Basinger 1991, 36; Stevenson and Byerly 1995, 212; Quine 1992, 9.
25 Sagan 2002, 4.
26 Sagan 2002, 127; 4.
27 See Crick 1994, 3, 258-259.
28 See Harris 2010.
29 See Harris 2010.
30 This is how Peacocke partly characterizes scientism (see Peacocke 1993, 7-8).
31 Thus Wilson 1975, 562.
32 Stenmark 2001, 34, falsely claims that such moral scientism is implied by the project of sociobiology. True, many sociobiologists adhere to moral scientism. However, other sociobiologists endorse the project of sociobiology without claiming or even while denying that ethics should or even can be biologized (see, for instance, Ruse 1979, 199-204).
33 This is how Stenmark 2001, viii, characterizes existential scientism. This kind of scientism is defended by Wilson 1978, 201-207, who argues that traditional religion and secular ideologies should be replaced with what he calls ‘scientific materialism’.
34 Some define ‘scientism’ as the view that salvation can be achieved by science alone (e.g. Midgley 1992, 37).
35 Dawkins 1989, 1.
36 Radnitzky 1978, 1011, also considers the claim that science is more valuable than other realms of life as a variety of scientism.
37 Sorell 1991, 9: “What is crucial to scientism is not the identification of something as scientific or unscientific but the thought that the scientific is much more valuable than the non-scientific, or the thought that the non-scientific is of negligible value.” (see also Sorrell 1991, x, 1)
38 Stenmark 1991, 18. See also Stenmark 1991, 24.
39 Here, we should think especially of the sensus divinitatis, a mechanism, that, according to Alvin Plantinga, God, if he exists, is likely to have implanted in us, in order for us to know him. See especially Plantinga 2000.
40 Stenmark 1991, 19.
41 Peacocke 1993, 8. Italics are Peacocke’s.
42 Radnitzky 1978, 1008. Italics are Radnitzky’s. This is also how Patricia Churchland understands ‘scientism’ (see Churchland 2011, 3).
43 Stenmark 2001, 20. Cf. Stenmark 2001, 133.
44 See, for instance, Barrett 2012 and Kelemen 2004.
45 For their helpful comments on earlier versions of this paper, I would like to thank Jan Boersema, Leon de Bruin, Henk de Regt, Jeroen de Ridder, Jeroen Hopster, Judith Jansen, Peter Kirschenman, Arthur Rob, Stefan Roski, Emanuel Rutten, Jeroen Smid, Hein van den Berg, Gijsbert van den Brink, and René van Woudenberg.