Big Science loves scientism, but the view that science is the most reliable path to knowledge suffers a fatal flaw: it is self-refuting.
Advocates of scientism today claim the sole mantle of rationality, frequently equating science with reason itself. Yet it seems the very antithesis of reason to insist that science can do what it cannot, or even that it has done what it demonstrably has not. As a scientist, I would never deny that scientific discoveries can have important implications for metaphysics, epistemology, and ethics, and that everyone interested in these topics needs to be scientifically literate. But the claim that science and science alone can answer longstanding questions in these fields gives rise to countless problems.….
Of all the fads and foibles in the long history of human credulity, scientism in all its varied guises — from fanciful cosmology to evolutionary epistemology and ethics — seems among the more dangerous, both because it pretends to be something very different from what it really is and because it has been accorded widespread and uncritical adherence. Continued insistence on the universal competence of science will serve only to undermine the credibility of science as a whole. The ultimate outcome will be an increase of radical skepticism that questions the ability of science to address even the questions legitimately within its sphere of competence. One longs for a new Enlightenment to puncture the pretensions of this latest superstition. – Austin L. Hughes, “The Folly of Scientism,” The New Atlantis, Fall 2012
When we say that scientism is self-refuting, we mean that scientism itself cannot be validated by the scientific method (9/08/16). If one thinks that science is the sole path to reliable knowledge, therefore, one would have to abandon scientism. Let’s doubt that claim for a moment. Could scientism be confirmed by the scientific method? A researcher lays out all pathways to knowledge and tests them according to the hypothesis that science produces the most reliable knowledge. Why wouldn’t science come up the winner? Wouldn’t a positive result confirm scientism’s superiority?
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