The purpose of this bibliography is to provide the background of the critique of scientism and naturalism in philosophical literature. Its not 100% extensive, but does still cover a significant amount of the territory in terms of the arguments made and the authors that make them.
The core understandings:
- Soft scientism
- Hard scientism
I would suggest the following are the core voices:
- William Lane Craig (two videos and quotes from Wintery Knight)
- JP Moreland (video)
John Eccles on reductionism (or as he calls it promisory reductionism, dualism, and some of the philosophical issues behind the brain-based considerations–aka neuroscience). Eccles I believe was a neuro-physiologist & philosopher.
- CS Lewis, Abolition of Man (link)***
- CS Lewis, On Miracles (link)
- CS Lewis, a number of other essays
- Alvin Platinga (he has written pretty extensively)
- Ed Feser (at least 3 essays) [he’s written at least two books on related topics, but I’m not sure how much of either are on this topic] Here is Feser’s blog
- Mary Midgely (a number of books and essays) Here is here Amazon author page (link)
- Peter S. Williams, CS Lewis vs. the New Atheists (link)
- Michael D. Aeschliman, The Restitution of Man: CS Lewis and the Case Against Scientism (link)
Its also worth noting that a number of atheists are critical of scientism as well (i.e. atheism in drag)
Here is the neuro-philosophy side of the question to some extent (link).
- The Michael Aeschliman links to a Google book that’s partial. I liked that book book a lot.
- Its also important to note that the critique of naturalism seems to be at the heart of this question. That’s why Alvin Platinga and CS Lewis’ On Miracles is included.
I think the Peter Williams is particularly good to the extent that it quotes so extensively from Atheists themselves pointing to gaping holes, particular in terms of the hard problem of conscience, but also the utter lack of meaning question.
It all gets back to a couple arguments:
- Scientism in ethics/philosophy destroys ethics
- Scientism destroys the academy
- Scientism destroys all knowledge
- Scientism undermines the emotional
- Scientism undermines the subjective
- Scientism is self-defeating (this is the bottom line argument)
- Overall critique of naturalism
- Critique of Hume (Miracles or Humean fork)
- Critique of Veritifcationism
- Scientism imprints the Enlightenment human on humans, excluding all other historical eras (Romanticism, Renaissance, etc..). I think there may even be science which calls that decision into question (emotions are key to humans and decision-making)
By destroying the following you destroy science, the human, and civilization:
- The academy
- The identity/the human
- Choice, purpose, ethics, responsibility
CS Lewis quotes from Abolition of Man (TBA)
CS Lewis-esque quotes from Restitution of Man (link)
CS Lewis quotes from Miracles (link)
CS Lewis quotes from God is in the Dock (link)
- I would still read these books. I’m sure I left out some quotes and you certainly get more context for the argument he was making. In addition there are lots of references he makes which may spark ideas.
- I will try to provide links to the videos and articles in the near future
- I hope this helps your anti-scientism research and bibliography needs
If you know of other research resources that critique scientism or naturalism, feel free to leave a comment.
I just picked up Peter S. Williams book today, “CS Lewis versus the New Atheists.” Its pretty decent. I would give it a 9.2 out of 10.0 It focuses on 1) scientism, positivism, and verificationism and 2) naturalism’s (and thus atheism’s) failure to deal with critical aspects of our world like intentionality, reason, ethical absolutes, and truth. It also contains an extensive list of weblinks to quality arguments on the topics Williams talks about (I wouldn’t be surprised if it included 150 to 200 links). You can buy it here on Amazon.
Williams is quite good on discussing these issues–naturalism and scientism as they related to CS Lewis’ work as well as how these issues relate to the real world.
I think it makes a nice addition to other works by CS Lewis and/or Mere Apologetics by Alister McGrath. McGrath’s book is a bit easier to wrap your head around, but both are generally pretty good in delivering quality argument on key topics.
Coyne’s basic strategy is to contrast two monolithic entities that he calls “religion” and “science.” But he constructs his two monoliths in diametrically opposite ways. The “religion” monolith consists of everything that has ever been said by any person belonging to any religion whatever, lumping together official dogma, theological speculation, and popular belief. Putting all of this under one umbrella makes it possible for him to discredit “religion” in general by citing some of the more outlandish beliefs and practices. Joseph Smith and Thomas Aquinas, Mary Baker Eddy and Mother Teresa were all “religious” figures; so in Coyne’s eyes they are all tarred with the same brush.
Coyne’s procedure for describing “science” is very different; his “science” monolith represents only the very best of science, only those theories that are strongly supported by evidence and have withstood the rigors of numerous attempts at empirical falsification. Although he speaks eloquently of the constant criticism and examination of hypotheses that is a prerequisite to progress in science, he neglects to mention that in practice this process can be quite messy. Even apart from cases of outright fabrication, the mainstream scientific literature is full of false inferences and of theories so untestable that they fully merit designation as “pseudoscience.”
I know by painful experience that a continual admixture of junk with solid science is characteristic of my own field (which, like Coyne’s, is evolutionary biology). I mention this not to give aid and comfort to the creationists, but to highlight a reality with which every practicing scientist is familiar; and I have no reason to believe that my field of scientific endeavor is different from any other in this regard. Separating the wheat from the chaff is a day-to-day struggle in all of science. It is never easy, and its outcome is by no means guaranteed. We all know of ridiculous theories (Social Darwinism, eugenics, Marxism, Freudianism, Lysenkoism, and so forth) that in the not-too-distant past claimed for themselves the mantle of science, and it would be naïve to assume that the same thing can never happen again. Much of so-called “evolutionary psychology” (hailed by Coyne as a promising new development) is every bit as pseudoscientific as its Social Darwinist precursors; indeed one would be hard pressed to find a reason for saying that much of it is any more “fact-based” than the ideas of Mary Baker Eddy.
Hugh’s critique is fairly extensive. This is a laundry list of fallacies that seem to occur throughout new atheist writing, philosophy, and arguments.
Source: Faith, Fact, and False Dichotomies in the New Atlantis by Austin L. Hughes
This book is quite good if you are looking to:
- the critique of naturalism/materialism
- the critique of scientism
Or just enjoy philosophy, worldview, apologetics, or CS Lewis.
On the necessity of a transcendent and absolute:
“With its lack of a transcendent vantage point from which humanly to estimate, evaluate, and regulate nature, scientism flounders between the paradoxical extremes of glorification and debasement in its approach to nature.”
(The Restitution of Man: CS Lewis and the Case against Scientism, by Michael D. Aeschliman, p. 23)
Science without metaphysics is doomed/dead:
“With his own unique wry elegance, Pope gives voice to an attitude reasonably widespread among his intellectual compatriots concerning the dire portents of the growth of scientism. From the outset it was clear to thoughtful analysts that natural philosophy ungrounded from metaphysical realities had the strength to crush philosophy, impugn religion, and subvert ethics among its unthinking disciples.”
(The Restitution of Man: CS Lewis and the Case against Scientism, by Michael D. Aeschliman, p.23)
Scientism and dehumanization (Martin Bubers “I-Thou”)
“The case against considering man a thing, a “common object of the seashore,” lies at the heart of the critique of scientism as Lewis makes it and as Martin Buber proposed it in his distinction between “I-it” and “I-Thou” relationships. The distinction between means and ends, between things and objects on the one hand and persons and essences on the other is at the root of moral culture and civilization; it is a distinction that the characteristic procedures and terms of the natural sciences can neither discern nor make without violence, contradiction, and confusion, and for which they must therefore depend on philosophy and religion.”
(The Restitution of Man: CS Lewis and the Case against Scientism, by Michael D. Aeschliman, p. 31)
Science needs ethics–direction and purpose:
“Science is a good servant but a bad master, a good method for investigating and manipulating the material world, but no method at all for deciding what to do with the knowledge and power acquired thereby.”
(The Restitution of Man: CS Lewis and the Case against Scientism, by Michael D. Aeschliman, p. 33)
Materialistic science misunderstands the human experience:
Monsignore points out:
“Instead of Adam, our ancestry is traced to the most grotesque of creatures; thought is phosphorous, the soul complex nerves, and our moral sense a secretion of sugar.”
(The Restitution of Man: CS Lewis and the Case against Scientism, by Michael D. Aeschliman, p. 33)
Calculative thought bad–results in relativism:
“The tendency to “demonize reason” had begun in the eighteenth century and proceeds apace in our own. It derives from the fallacy of believing that the tradition of reason can be torn from its metaphysical roots and used instead in a merely functional, utilitarian, descriptive way. The sociologists have called this newly truncated use of reason, which grew up especially in the nineteenth century along with industrialism, ‘functional rationality,’ and they, among others, have often shown its malignant consequences. The effects of amoral, functional rationality can be seen everywhere in the contemporary world–in the individual, in society, and in the environment; it is the essence of nihilism.”
(The Restitution of Man: CS Lewis and the Case against Scientism, by Michael D. Aeschliman, p. 43)
Scientism/Deterministic thinking results in skin and bones reality that melts away or imagines away what really matters–it lacks real coherance to reality:
“Deterministic thinking eats away at the common reason: scientific thinking starts by scouring away superstitions and falsehoods, but then scientific thinking, its appetite having grown after continual eating unrestrained by philosophical common sense, ends by devouring truths as well, leaving only the bones and orts of physical reality, with subject and object staring each other across a yawning faithless chasm.
The obsession with means, with utility, with technique, to the exclusion of a consideration to ends and purposes that alone can properly regulate and direct them, is the very essence of scientific relativism.”
(The Restitution of Man: CS Lewis and the Case against Scientism, by Michael D. Aeschliman, p. 44)
Science without a metaphysic (and ethics) is blind:
In Ends and Means by Huxley:
“It is impossible to live without a metaphysic. The choice that is given is not between some kind of metaphysic and no metaphysic: it is always between a good metaphysic and a bad metaphysic.”
(The Restitution of Man: CS Lewis and the Case against Scientism, by Michael D. Aeschliman, p. 44-45)
Science without ethics is dead:
Gabriel Marcel in Decline of Wisdom:
“…the huge multiplication of means put at man’s disposal…takes place at the cost of the ends they are supposed to serve, or, if you like, at the cost of the values which man is called upon both to serve and to safeguard. It is as if man, overburdened by the weight of technics, knows less and less where he stands in regard to what matters to him and what doesn’t, to what is precious and what is worthless.”
(The Restitution of Man: CS Lewis and the Case against Scientism, by Michael D. Aeschliman, p. 45)
The need for a balance of science & ways of knowing beyond science:
“Man the knower pursues two related but distinct kinds of knowledge. As homo sciens, man the knower of scientia, he tends to matters of fact, quantity, matter, and the physical realm; as homo sapiens, man the knower of sapientia, he shows his interest in the qualities of meaning, purpose, value, idea, and the metaphysical realm. If we are to have truth, neight kind of knowledge can be denied or ignored. The denial of the reality and importance of scientia is characteristic of radical transcendentalism of Eastern religions, but today the even greater and more damaging imbalance is found in the pervasive radical immanentism of much Western culture and thought that attributes validity only to scientia. Enthusiasts of scientism fail to see that scientia is utterly dependent on sapientia for direction and meaning; their fervant attempts to pursue scientia in isolation from sapientia amount to a tragic rush into meaninglessness–the very antithesis of a genuine search for knowledge.”
(The Restitution of Man: CS Lewis and the Case against Scientism, by Michael D. Aeschliman, p. 48)
Scientism equals dehumanization
“And it is in an important sense the ultimate effect of scientism to dissolve the absolute qualitative distinction between persons and things–the very heart of the metaphysical tradition, of sapientia–reducing persons to things, denying mans’s rational soul and his transcendence of the physical, giving him a value no higher than that of a camel or a stone or any other part of nature. This reduction of the human category to the natural runs parallel with a whole series of reductions from quality to quantity, from value to fact, from rational to empirical. If the doctrine of man as rational moral being, qualitatively distinct from and incommensurate with nature is weakened or destroyed, the grounds for expecting or encouraging moral conduct are similarly weakened.”
(The Restitution of Man: CS Lewis and the Case against Scientism, by Michael D. Aeschliman, p. 52)
Science requires ethics, normative values, and value-judgements:
“and this conscious selection involves judgments of value. These values may be aethetic, or moral, or utilitarian, namely, judgements of exploring the truth, or as to utility in the satisfaction of physical wants. But whatever the motive, without judgements of value there would have been no science.”
(The Restitution of Man: CS Lewis and the Case against Scientism, by Michael D. Aeschliman, p. 53).
“His own working assumptions involve free will, deliberation, and evaluation as aspects of himself, but those qualities and capacities are stripped away from and denied to the human ‘object’ or ‘thing’ he is inspecting. Ofren unwittingly engaged in, this is the classic reductive prodcuess, what Koestlet calls the ‘ratamorphic fallacy…”
(The Restitution of Man: CS Lewis and the Case against Scientism, by Michael D. Aeschliman, p. 55)
“But Lewis’s complaint extends beyond the monstrous practical implications of this line of reasoning to its essential inconsistency and self-contradiction. It suggests that no validity can be claimed for anything–yet the scientistic modern naturalist inevitably attributes validity overtly or covertly to some beliefs, statements, acts, and procedures. Morality and validity cannot be derived from scientific analysis and empirical knowledge, but systemic and coherent analysis is equally impossible without implicit or explicit reference to a rational doctrine of metaphysical validity.”
(The Restitution of Man: CS Lewis and the Case against Scientism, by Michael D. Aeschliman, p. 77)
“We reduce things to mere Nature in order that we may conquer them, and the price of conquest is to treat a thing as mere Nature. The logical outcome of this tendancy is to make the final step of reducing our own species to the level of mere Nature.
The intellectual reduction of man to a natural mechanism has of course been realized by the likes of B.F. Skinner, the behaviorists, and all the other eager conditioners. They have demonstrated tragically that it is, indeed, as Lewis says, ‘in Man’s power to treat himself as a mere ‘natural object’ and his own judgements of value as raw material for scientific manipulation to alter at will.”
(The Restitution of Man: CS Lewis and the Case against Scientism, by Michael D. Aeschliman, p. 77)
This insatiable lust grows out of the anxiety of the isolated self in an absurd world that is the consensus of reality bequeathed to modern man by scientific materialism.
Lewis attacked the consensus of absurdity on the grounds that it omits the ‘one thing needful,’ the intelligible Good which alone makes purposeful sense of intellect and morality. He saw that one of the essential forms of idolatry was the quest for power without goodness-the modern totem of technical power which he called “hideous strength.” It is the idol created by the will to power ‘liberated’ from the intelligible Good which is its only true curb, guide, and governor. He argued that the refusal to know this Good is caused by cankered wills rather than by weak minds and that it is the duty of the wise man to work to restore its lustre. He held self-knowledge and sapientia primary, and the knowledge of objects secondary, and warned that if the latter took precedence over the former, error and disaster would not lag far behind.”
(The Restitution of Man: CS Lewis and the Case against Scientism, by Michael D. Aeschliman, p. 79)
“Lewis insisted that man was not a thing, but an essence, a soul, and that it will profits a man to gain the whole material world at the expense of the elementary self-knowledge that tells him that he is a soul qualitatively distinct from and superior to those things. Persons are ultimate ends and ought never to be treated only as means; they always have the character of ‘thou’ and ought never to be treated merely as ‘it.’ This is the root of common sense dualism which Lewis, like Chesterton, considered the birthright of homo sapiens, without which men would inevitably turn first into homo sciens and then into mere nature. He placed these truths at the core of civil humanity; the res publica on which laws, manners, and civilization itself are built; they are the roots from which stem human virtue, decency, accomplishment, and sanity itself. He did not argue they constituted a panacea; they are merely the truth, the only path an honest person ought to tread.”
(The Restitution of Man: CS Lewis and the Case against Scientism, by Michael D. Aeschliman, p. p.80)
Additional Authors References:
• GK Chesterton
• Swift, Pope, Johnson
• There are a number mentioned in the Afterward
There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations -these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendors. This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously – no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption. And our charity must be a real and costly love, with deep feeling for the sins in spite of which we love the sinner – no mere tolerance, or indulgence which parodies love as flippancy parodies merriment.
[quote from The Weight of Glory, by C.S. Lewis. Lewis delivered this sermon at Oxford University Church of St. Mary the Virgin, on June 8, 1941. It was originally published in January, 1942.]
In this way and through the Imagio Dei we find that human is “infinitely more than merely a ‘part of nature, in the sense that a stone is, or a cactus, or a camel.”
[This later quote is borrowed from The Restitution of Man: CS Lewis and the Case against Scientism, by Michael D. Aeschliman]