Do PS Members Believe in Scientism?

Yep, exactly this. Every time.

The bait and switch is from “you can use reason in addition to observation”, to “my feelings tell me what is really true”.

“Emotional truthes” are taken to be confirmation that you can just sort of feel like you know what the facts are, and therefore you do know what the facts are just from your feeling.

No, you don’t. There are no other ways of knowing than reason and empiricism. Your feelings are worth shit, and so are your intuitions. Get over it.


Totally agree with you here.

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@Faizal_Ali and other non-Christians on this thread: I’m happy for your contributions defending the legitimacy of your epistemology, but I really want this to be a discussion on whether CAEs (Christians affirming evolution) are holding on to scientism, as Moreland asserts. We’ve already debated the merits of scientism several times before. In contrast, this is a new accusation.

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Your question presumes that “scientism” even exists as an actual position held or defended by anyone. I would say that it does not, in which case your question is pointless.

Regardless of whether scientism exists as defined by Moreland, what’s undeniable is that despite both of us affirming science to some degree, my epistemology is very different than yours. And my epistemology is also different from other Christians (perhaps @terrellclemmons). The question: is my epistemology (or that of Josh, @AndyWalsh, @AllenWitmerMiller or other CAEs) too similar to those of atheists like you such that they merit accusations of “scientism”? This is mainly an in-house debate among Christians.

IOW, you are claiming that atheism entails “scientism”. Don’t you think it is important for the debate you are trying to have to determine whether that position is actually defensible or true?

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Create a new thread for that if you like. Let’s respect @dga471’s goal. It’s his thread.

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Sorry, I’m the one who kinda derailed this.

Then you really shouldn’t have invited all us non-Christians in your original post, as you did. I’m happy not to continue, but you asked me a direct question, which is not the way to start a discussion from which you want me to be excluded.


I would agree with @dga471 several paragraphs in the OP, with his quote from @AllenWitmerMiller

However I wonder if there isn’t something else at play, which is the context of discussions. In a discussion with non-Christians about science, given my acceptance of methodological naturalism as the mechanism of doing science, the conversation may well be devoid of any discussions that affirms the truths I believe including those that speak to God as creator and his involvement in his creation. I think this could appear to some as an acceptance of at least “soft scientism”, which is not actually the case.

Likewise in a discussion with Christians, the conversation will likely include the aspect of how I see God and his character in the science, which to some non-believers will look like acceptance of ID (which I disagree with).

In mixed groups, each with their own culture and biases, it’s easy for things that aren’t said to be assumed by those without the entire context.

I’m sorry for any misunderstanding, @John_Harshman. Reflecting more carefully, I did not mean to exclude you. I’m interested in exploring the differences in epistemology between:

  1. Atheists/agnostics who are commonly considered as holding on to “scientism” by theistic/Christian observers (not all atheists fall under this category btw @Faizal_Ali)
  2. Christians affirming evolution (CAEs) who claim to be orthodox in theology (like myself)
  3. Christians who are accusing category 2 of “scientism”, often (but not always) supporting some form of ID

I just don’t want this to be a debate about the merits of scientism itself. Rather, the linchpin here is category 2: CAEs, who are caught between two worlds of hyper-empirical atheism and conservative Christianity. If people from category 1 want to contribute, the question would be, what do you make of the epistemology of CAEs, people like me who believe in mainstream scientific conclusions but ? Do you think we’re more similar to Christians in category 3? Or do you view us as closer to category 1?


In my experience, the vast majority of people, from atheists to theists, are pragmatists when it comes to the bulk of their worldview. We use science because it works, and its the best tool we currently have for understanding how the physical universe works. Theists and atheists alike assume natural causes for the vast majority of the phenomena they see. Therefore, when there is ample evidence for natural causes that’s the option most people choose. Some might call that scientism, but I see it as your normal, every day pragmatism.


It would probably help the discussion if you defined “scientism.”


That’s reasonable. There a short definition in the OP and there’s an expanded discussion of the definition in the article referred to in the OP.

This is the definition given in the article: “J. P. Moreland defines scientism as ‘the view that the hard sciences—like chemistry, biology, physics, astronomy—provide the only genuine knowledge of reality.’”

In which case the answer to @dga471’s question is simple: Few, if anyone, in any of the three categories believe that.

However, many people in category 3 will accuse members of the other two categories of believing it. Their objectives in doing so are twofold: Then want to make groups 1 and 2 look like rigid ideologues. And they also want to excuse themselves from having to provide scientific evidence for their claims that are, in fact, scientific.


I believe much of the confusion on this issue stems from conflating two different meanings of the word “science.” Larry Moran wrote a post several years ago in which he quotes George Orwell on the subject:

(T)he word Science is at present used in at least two meanings, and the whole question of scientific education is obscured by the current tendency to dodge from one meaning to the other.

Science is generally taken as meaning either (a) the exact sciences, such as chemistry, physics, etc., or (b) a method of thought which obtains verifiable results by reasoning logically from observed fact.

If you ask any scientist, or indeed almost any educated person, “What is Science?” you are likely to get an answer approximating to (b). In everyday life, however, both in speaking and in writing, when people say “Science” they mean (a). Science means something that happens in a laboratory: the very word calls up a picture of graphs, test-tubes, balances, Bunsen burners, microscopes. A biologist, and astronomer, perhaps a psychologist or a mathematician is described as a “man of Science”: no one would think of applying this term to a statesman, a poet, a journalist or even a philosopher.

I think many of those who throw the word “scientism” around as a pejorative are ascribing meaning (a) to people who are actually using meaning (b).

While I don’t think Moreland’s definition of scientism fully captures the picture, neither does Moran’s account of what science is. There’s a long history behind these accusations of scientism. Part of it is tied into logical positivism, which dominated philosophy in the early to mid-20th century. But another part of it is tied to the writings of New Atheists (early 21st century). Dawkins, Harris, and others basically defined that knowledge is only valid if obtained using definition b), but they also tend to believe that only the hard natural sciences - biology, chemistry, physics and others - use the scientific method properly, as defined by b).

Unsurprisingly, the New Atheists had a low opinion of theology. But in the early days, some New Atheists were also notoriously suspicious of the utility of philosophy as a discipline (not Christian philosophy, but philosophy in general), believing that natural science is all you need. Here is Sam Harris in 2010:

First, a disclaimer and non-apology: Many of my critics fault me for not engaging more directly with the academic literature on moral philosophy. There are two reasons why I haven’t done this: First, while I have read a fair amount of this literature, I did not arrive at my position on the relationship between human values and the rest of human knowledge by reading the work of moral philosophers; I came to it by considering the logical implications of our making continued progress in the sciences of mind. Second, I am convinced that every appearance of terms like “metaethics,” “deontology,” “noncognitivism,” “anti-realism,” “emotivism,” and the like, directly increases the amount of boredom in the universe.

Or for an even more facepalm worthy opinion, here is Bill Nye on philosophy:

Stephen Hawking also infamously said in his book The Grand Design that “philosophy is dead.” Now, I don’t know what Harris and Nye’s opinions are on the subjects of English literature, history, cultural studies, religious studies, or musicology, but I would suspect that it is also not nearly as high as their opinion on utility of the hard sciences. The point is that scientism is an epistemology which asserts that all knowledge must be based on strict, repeatable, systematic empirical observation - whether it be in the sciences or humanities. A belief can only be rational if it is based on such an epistemology. (This is why people like @John_Harshman are adamant that even history is based on the scientific method.)

This is what many theists object to - an arrogant epistemology that exalts the natural sciences as the paradigmatic way of knowing, and subsumes all other subjects under the umbrella of the scientific method. Of course, one reason theists object to this is that most would agree that their belief in God is not based on scientific evidence, but other kinds of evidence.

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9 posts were split to a new topic: Is History Based Upon the Scientific Method?

That’s not what Harris is saying here however.

Unless you’re saying he’s asserting this is a scientific process?

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