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January 31, 2016 / compassioninpolitics

Defining Scientism. What is the difference between science and scientism

Science is a method.  Science is a way of interpreting and understanding the world.  Science also includes a community.

Scientism is a worldview.  Scientism is the attempt to use science to eliminate (the relevance and usefulness of) philosophy, history, psychology, and the rest of the academic disciplines housed on university campuses for the study of humans and the universe.  In short, scientism is a power-grab.  Its also a relatively close-minded power grab in the sense that it attempts to eliminate or undermine what are helpful disciplines in terms of human culture and understanding.  But for an understanding of key concepts–we would be lesser humans.

Also, this move for scientism or scientistic thinking ignores and down plays the day to day experiences of humans don’t occur through science.  My personal knowledge of myself as well as my understanding of ethics, my passions, my goals, and my identity is all subjective knowledge–which isn’t per se scientific.  Its still real–still very real–but the attempt to say that science can tell me who I am is problematic.  Moreover, the idea that scientific facts lead directly to questions of oughtness is also highly problematic.  For instance, that animals have a behavior based on instincts tells humans nothing about how to think ethically about instincts or what they tell us.  Questions of “is” and “ought” aren’t totally separate, however, just because something is doesn’t mean it ought to be.

Its also an attempt to bifurcate knowledge into the personal and impersonal.  The personal versus the universal.  The non-universal, particularly in the context of “objective science” and “repeatable science” becomes irrelevant, meaningless, or useless.  And in doing so an attempt to diminish the role of the personal.  In fact it totally depersonalizes who human beings are.  From certain perspectives it turns us into objects.  It says humans are “just chemistry, biology, and physics.”  It posits that we are just robots responding to naturalistic occurances in cause and effect fashion.  In this way it denies human rationality, human choice, and human dignity.  That move is incredibly problematic for reasons of both truth and ethics.  At the point at which we’ve dehumanized humans–its misunderstood who the human is and particularly who the human is in his/her day to day and at his/her core.


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