Scientism is an approach to science that elevates it above all other fields of knowledge and makes claims in the name of science, which science itself cannot support. We hear this in statements like “Science has shown there is no evidence for God.” We see in an attitude that views science as objective, but views other fields of knowledge with suspicion or denigration. We find it in the language and arguments of individuals like Richard Dawkins and Niel Tyson DeGrasse.
How should we respond to this approach?
Responding to SCIENTISM:
The sentiment of scientism is this: “Science is the only OBJECTIVE arbiter of truth. All other fields cannot be verified like science and thus cannot be relied upon to lead one to the truth.”
How might one respond to such an argument?
First, I might ask, ‘Why hold such a view to obtaining truth?’ Scientific investigation certainly has its merits and place, but it cannot speak into or address many areas of life and reality. There are LOTS of truth statements which cannot be verified or ascertained through scientific investigation, yet, we believe it rational to understand them to be true about reality: Metaphysical truth: “It is true that I was not born five minutes ago and all my memories were implanted in my brain.” Relational Truth: “I love my wife.” Historical Truth: “I was born in 1983.” Mathematical truth: “2 +2=4.” Epistemological truth: “My memory, when working under the right circumstances, provides me with the information about the truth of the past I have experienced.” Testimony: “I saw Jim eat 3 bagels in one sitting two months ago.” Aesthetics: “This a beautiful symphony.” None of these truths can be scientifically verified, but we live as though it is right and proper to makes such truth assertions and believe them to be true about reality. Thus, we do not live as though science is the only arbiter of truth, which shows a lack of coherence in this approach to truth—which I would argue shows that the approach is actually false to the way of reality; a person can say only science can tell us the truth about reality, but we don’t actually believe or live that out.
Second, what about all the foundational concepts that science relies upon, which are not scientifically verifiable? Every single scientific experiment has to assume that the world around us is real and can be investigated, and that it is not an illusion (metaphysical truth). Every experiment has to assume the uniformity of nature (that generally speaking and under normal circumstances, things that happen today will also happen tomorrow [example: water boiling at a particular temperature]). Every experiment has to assume the moral truth—absolutely outside of the domain of science—that we should tell the truth about our results, and not lie about them. Thus, we see another example of a lack of coherence in this approach, which I would say again demonstrates that it is false.
Third, others have rightly noted that the statement “Only science can tell us truth about reality,” cannot be demonstrated by science. It is an unscientific statement and thus is self-refuting.
Fourthly, history has demonstrated that many people have made audacious claims in the name of science—which turned out to be false—in order to advance their agenda. Thus, it is naïve to assume that science is purely objective.