Is Steven Pinker wrong on scientism? Is scientism credible, truthful, or scientific?
Though scientism is quite common, it is also problematic for several reasons. First, it is arbitrary. Horwich’s claim that the sciences exhaust what can be known is not the result of a widespread scientific observation; it is an arbitrary philosophical pronouncement, making the reality-claim that the physical world is the only reality there is, no questions asked. God, objective moral values, the soul, and free will — these are outside the realm of “science”; so they are not real. But why should we agree to this? After all, science does not have the capability of telling us whether free will, right and wrong, or the soul exists, yet these thinkers tell us that they just do not exist because science cannot “prove” them. It’s another one of those “because I said so” reasons.
There is another problem: Scientism is self-refuting. That is, the demand that “all truth claims must be scientifically verifiable to count as knowledge” cannot itself be empirically verified. It is a self-refuting view since it does not measure up to its own standards. The very articulation of the statement actually undermines the statement — like saying, “I cannot speak a word of English” or “I do not exist.”
Those who say “if you cannot scientifically prove something, then it is not true” are saying something that cannot be scientifically proven. In other words, how can you scientifically prove that all claims must be scientifically provable?
So we cannot validate science by appealing to science. Philosophers have severely discredited the notion that all genuine knowledge is scientifically verifiable, since this view is nothing more than an incoherent philosophical assumption.
You can read more about scientism and the critique of scientism here on Compassion in Politics