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Introduction | Criticisms of Scientism
Introduction Back to Top

Scientism is the broad-based belief that the assumptions and methods of research of the physical and natural sciences are equally appropriate (or even essential) to all other disciplines, including philosophy, the humanities and the social sciences. It is based on the belief that natural science has authority over all other interpretations of life, and that the methods of natural science form the only proper elements in any philosophical (or other) inquiry.

It developed from Empiricism and is closely related to Positivism, the philosophy that the only authentic knowledge is scientific knowledge, and that such knowledge can only come from positive affirmation of theories through strict scientific method.

Alternatively, the term is sometimes used pejoratively to indicate the improper usage of science or scientific claims (as a justification or authority) to a topic which is perceived to be beyond the scope of scientific inquiry. In this context, the term scientific imperialism is also sometimes used. It suggests an exaggerated trust in the efficacy of the methods of natural science applied to all areas of investigation.

Proponents of Scientism often assert that the boundaries of science could and should be expanded so that something that has not been previously considered as a subject pertinent to science can now be understood as part of science. In its most extreme form, Scientism can be seen as a faith that science has no boundaries, and that in due time all human problems and all aspects of human endeavor will be dealt and solved by science alone.

Scientism can be thought of as a scientific worldview that encompasses natural explanations for all phenomena, eschews supernatural and paranormal speculations, and embraces Empiricism and reason as the twin pillars of a philosophy of life appropriate for an Age of Science.

Criticisms of Scientism Back to Top

It has been argued that Scientism, in the strong sense, is self-annihilating in that it takes the view that only scientific claims are meaningful, which is not itself a scientific claim. Thus, Scientism is either false or meaningless.

Certainly, it requires the almost complete abandonment of any metaphysical or religious discussion, (and arguably also any ethical discussion), on the grounds that these cannot be apprehended by the scientific method, which is very limiting for a supposedly all-encompassing doctrine. Some would say that proponents of Scientism merely avoid actually engaging with many important arguments.

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