Scientism is the religion of our times

Discussion in 'Science & Society' started by m0rl0ck, Sep 29, 2002.

  1. m0rl0ck Consume! Conform! Obey! Registered Senior Member

    " If the purpose of scientific method is to select from among a multitude of hypotheses, and if the number of hypotheses grows faster than experimental method can handle, then it is clear that all hypotheses can never be tested. If all hypotheses cannot be tested, then the results of any experiment are inconclusive and the entire scientific method falls short of its goal of establishing proven knowledge."


    As to whether progress consists in science discovering ultimate truths, Kuhn observed that "we may have to relinquish the notion, explicit or implicit, that changes of paradigm carry scientists and those who learn from them closer and closer to the truth." Instead, the developmental process of science is one of evolution from primitive beginnings through successive stages that are characterized by an increasingly detailed and refined understanding of nature. Kuhn argued that this is not a process of evolution toward anything, and he questioned whether it really helps to imagine that there is one, full, objective, true account of nature. He likened his conception of the evolution of scientific ideas to Darwin's conception of the evolution of organisms. "

    So it seems to me that the empiricists and the materialists are operating as much in the dark as anyone else. The determinant of which hypotheses even occur to the would be scientist would (given the above) be his/her cultural and individual backround, including of course their scientific culture. The only real advantage that the materialist/empiricist has is that their particular bias is currently the majority opinion. How many possible conceptual scientist worlds could have been created from the available bits of observational data? The Kuhn qoute even suggests that we may be making up the conceptual scientist universe as we go

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  3. Futurist Banned Banned

    not true.
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  5. Mr. G reality.sys Valued Senior Member

    An even more insidious, if not more evil, religion is idiocy.
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  7. m0rl0ck Consume! Conform! Obey! Registered Senior Member


    Maybe. The point I was trying to make is that if you look at this diagram:

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    You can generalize truths into four quadrants. An individuals prejidice could give one quadrant more meaning than another or interior or exterior more value than another, but no "truth" in human experience doesnt have something taken from each perspective. Religion cant stand alone, neither can science. Show me a scientist who cant think in symbols (cultural - interior) and Ill show you a scientist who cant formulate an hypothesis. No great act of synthesis is required to bring the four quadrants together every human action has a leg in each (sorry about the clumsy metaphor). The problem is the idea of heirarchy that says that one approach must be better than another, so that when an idea is formed one immediatly begins denying important parts of its origin (the other three quadrants). This leads to fanaticism and further splits the camps. Reject heirarchy and you have automatic synthesis.
  8. Futurist Banned Banned

    bible will survive forever.
  9. Mr. G reality.sys Valued Senior Member

    Only about as long as did Zeus.

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  10. Pollux V Ra Bless America Registered Senior Member

    As much as my title would suggest that I'd hate to admit, I feel that unlike Zeus, the bible will survive forever, for a long time, at least, because its gospel can be spread much easier than that of the greek gods. I don't know if anything can destroy it, at this point.
  11. goofyfish Analog By Birth, Digital By Design Valued Senior Member

    When you get people gathering around a statue of the Great Darwin and chanting "Oh great Darwin" all in unison, you can start talking about a true religion of Scientism. People who believe in the Big Bang don't congregate to share a common experience. Until, then all you have is the fact that we go around assuming what hasn't been directly proven to us. That doesn't make us religious.

    In fact ARGUMENTUM AD VERECUNDIAM isn't necessarily a fallacy. If we couldn't presume something was true because someone with expertise in that field said it was, our collective pursuit for knowledge would be quite fruitless. Does China really have more than 1 billion inhabitants? Are you sure? Did you count them yourself?


    Youth is the first victim of war - the first fruit of peace.
    It takes 20 years or more of peace to make a man;
    it takes only 20 seconds of war to destroy him.
    • -- King Boudewijn I, King of Belgium (1934-1993)
  12. Clockwood You Forgot Poland Registered Senior Member

    But scientists dont go around burning people at the stake or declaring jihad.
  13. Clockwood You Forgot Poland Registered Senior Member

    Some more acceptable religion will eventually rise and blot out the others.

    Personally I think all holy books have equal merit.
  14. m0rl0ck Consume! Conform! Obey! Registered Senior Member

    Yes they do, theyre called astronomy classes

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    Different belief systems have different forms of belief affirmation. Scientisms
    mode of belief affirmation seems to be scorn for anything that remotely smacks of subjectivity, and reductionism.

    Consider how a truth would look in each of the four quadrants of the diagram, the individual interior quadrant is subjective truth, the exterior individual is the quantifiable empirical truth of the single observer, the interior collective quadrant is truths of culture and mutual understanding, the exterior collective is about truth of consensus social systems.

    There is no empirical truth that can seperate itself from roots in all four quadrants. Just as there is no subjective truth that doesnt have some empiricial component.

    Yet materialism seeks to reduce truth from all four quadrants to quantifiable empirical truth.
    This is called reductionism and this materialist imperialism and the contempt in which anythingthat smacks of subjectivism or direct experience of consciousness are held are the cheif ways the objectivists worship.
    I believe this tendancy (like any other form of proselytization) is motivated by fear. (Its a big scary world in there and if we keep our attention tightly focused outward, we'll never have to find out how really big and really scary it might be.)
    This to me also explains the fanaticism of some of the religionists. When you try to cover up a part of any truth or try to deny any part of human experience there is conflict and pressure toward equalibrium, the attempt to keep the lid on expresses itself in fanaticism.

    "Until, then all you have is the fact that we go around assuming what hasn't been directly proven to us. That doesn't make us religious."

    That has nothing to do with what I was saying. I have no idea how you got that from what I posted.
    Last edited: Oct 3, 2002
  15. Nasor Valued Senior Member

    Religion is not the same thing as epistemology. While the two can certainly be related, they aren’t the same.
  16. m0rl0ck Consume! Conform! Obey! Registered Senior Member

    (2) : commitment or devotion to RELIGIOUS faith or observance
    2 : a personal set or institutionalized system of RELIGIOUS attitudes, beliefs, and practices

    Main Entry: 1re·li·gious
    Pronunciation: ri-'li-j&s
    Function: adjective
    Etymology: Middle English, from Old French religieus, from Latin religiosus, from religio
    Date: 13th century
    1 : relating to or manifesting faithful devotion to an acknowledged ultimate reality or deity

    Scientism is the religion of our times. As opposed to an epistemology, which implies limits:

    Main Entry: epis·te·mol·o·gy
    Pronunciation: i-"pis-t&-'mä-l&-jE
    Function: noun
    Etymology: Greek epistEmE knowledge, from epistanai to understand, know, from epi- + histanai to cause to stand -- more at STAND
    Date: circa 1856
    : the study or a theory of the nature and grounds of knowledge especially with reference to its limits and validity

    Scientism is about reductionism, that is reducing EVERYTHING to the empirical, the objectivist, the physically quantifiable. Where are its limits?
  17. Nasor Valued Senior Member

    On the other hand, the Oxford English Dictionary defines religion as

    “Action or conduct indicating a belief in, reverence for, and desire to please a divine ruling power; the exercise or practice of rites or observances implying this.”

    I think this is more in line with the generally accepted definition of religion - the worship of supernatural power(s). Simply having a world view (materialistic or otherwise) does not qualify one as religious.
  18. le coq Registered Senior Member

    Yes you can. You can also generalize truth into a jazz quintet. There is the piano player, who is rhythm but can also solo, who works with the bass player... okay, I'll postpone my flip comments for now. This "remotely smacks of" sociology ("Reject heirarchy and you have automatic synthesis."), but you can make any aspect of human behavior seem to fit a pattern or paradigm. E.g., For Camille Paglia it's all Dionysus and Apollo.

    The plumage of sociological tracts are filled with isms, separating and classifying all modes of thought and behaviour into isms, as if everyone went around joining clubs and carrying cards. Let's drop the ism from science and call it what everyone else does (see step#7 of the neoclassic How to Be A Crackpot: at Also see J. MacNeil's Creative Derisive Terminology Argumentation Syndrome in the Intelligent Design Thread. ) Reductionism is what scientists have been accused of promoting by the methods of dissection, reduction, etc, but any good scientist will tell you that nothing works because of its constituent parts alone, but by their assembly and interaction, their complexity, their 'emergent' properties. Science does not work by finding things to scorn. If science is wary of subjectivity, it is because one account or anecdote does not a hypothesis prove, and it is a enduring irritable human trait to believe that what works for the goose works for all type of fowl. If scientists scorn anything, it is irrationality, illogical and uncritical thought. They scorn fallacy and the appeal to base human emotion to conduct our construction of knowledge.

    The similiarities you've tried to point out here to correlate the scientific process to the process of revelation to religous people is superficial and specious. Using dictionary definitions to support an argument is the height of laziness in intelligent discourse. Though Nasor proved his point elegantly by using an entry of his own, dictionaries are not arbiters of truth nor ultimately representative of reality (i.e., map =/= territory). The differences between the belief systems of religious institutions and the process by which experiments and data are posited to defend or dismantle theories in the scientific community are vast. The point, finally, is Nasor's use of the word "supernatural." Nothing is supernatural that is observable and verifiable by experiment. Scientists may believe in God or Bob but that's got nuts to do with the paper they're writing. That is what Science is about. There is plenty of theory and speculation, yes, but no scientist is proposing a means to rule society based on something that hasn't been proven yet.

    This is not to say that people do not canonize or beatify (or martyr) scientists, or feel reverently intimidated by science. It's easy to think of science as an Institution, with its myriad societies and publications and communities, and yes, its people with their flaws and power plays and proclamations of truth. In the end, scientists don't feel that you will burn in hell for not believing what they're trying to prove.

    I thought materialism was, like, going to malls and shopping a lot and stuff. Instead of getting us to buy into this four quadrant symbology, why don't you try saying something simpler (and more intelligent) like: "Overly 'rational' and empirical thought dismisses intuition and emotional intelligence, and tries to reduce human interaction to mere biological processes."

    This sounds like the "Cold Hard Hand of Science" fallacy (I just made that term up), which says science, with its reliance on math and unemotional criticism, is incapable of describing all of human phenomena, or is somehow deficient morally or ethically because it isn't warm and fuzzy, and doesn't use the "symbology" of eagles and water spirits and life forces and other aesthetic metaphors. There are things about humanity that only poetry can describe, in other words. We read poetry to read poetry; we use science to prove hypotheses. Why does the heart grow fonder? Maybe it has something to do with Phenylethylamine levels in the brain. We're skeptical about a process that can coolly describe why people kill each other but can't definitively prove that we shouldn't by any absolute standard.

    What's the difference between mutual understanding and a consensus social system?

    Le Coq
    Last edited: Oct 5, 2002
  19. m0rl0ck Consume! Conform! Obey! Registered Senior Member

    Sure you could, but does how does it fit? Does it take into account what you know about the world?

    Im sure that their is, at least, some token recognition of subjectivity in science (heisenberg), reductionism has certainly met alot of critiscism in philosophical circles, but to deny that reductionism is the zeitgeist of our culture is ridiculous. Look at these boards as an example.

    Base human emotion? Do I detect a note of scorn or reductionist bias there? Subjective truths and cultural truths have to survive the same tests as theories that empirical truths do. Does it fit with everything else? Does it improve the subjective quality of the whole?

    Scientism is a belief system that necessarily entails belief in an Ultimate Reality of the purely physical. Like any other faith its willing to sacrifice truth or (in this case the subjective) components of truth toward that end. It holds this ultimate reality up as the One Truth. In this way its no different from any other belief system.

    Well they are at least different, the ultimate test is how does that peice of knowledge fit with the rest of the system. Even hard scientific truths necessarily have subjective components and couldnt exist without them.

    Theres no way to dicuss anything unless you can agree on the meaning of the terms you are using. For example, when you read the word materialism you are apparently getting its cultural sense:
    and I am using it in this sense:
    <metaphysics, philosophy of mind> the view according to which the only thing that really exists in the world is matter in its various states and movements (commonly atoms or other physical particles). Thus materialism is the opposite of idealism. Note that many philosophers and scientists now use the terms "material" and "physical" interchangeably (for a version of physicalism distinct from materialism, see physicalism. Materialism considers any talk of, say, the soul to be complete nonsense and a throwback to the bad old days of spiritualism and vitalism in philosophy. Note that because matter can be completely known by means of physical laws and mathematical description (see reductionism), materialism tends to be used to lend heavy support to determinism. (References from behaviorism, determinism, idealism, monism, reductionism, and vitalism.)

    While were doing definitions lets do some more for the sake of avoiding future misunderstandings:

    reductionism -
    <philosophical terminology> belief that statements or expressions of one sort can be replaced systematically by statements or expressions of a simpler or more certain kind. Thus, for example, some philosophers have held that arithmetic can be reduced to logic, that the mental can be reduced to the physical, or that the life sciences can be reduced to the physical sciences.

    scientism -
    <epistemology, philosophy of science> the view according to which the methods of the natural or phsyical sciences are universally valid, and therefore should apply to the "social sciences" and the humanities as well. Scientism is often roughly equivalent to reductionism, since the outcome for the study of human and social affairs of applying each of these approaches is much the same.

    Because its really hard to impress a reductionist with a single bald statement on the importance of subjectivity

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    That sounds like a subjective opinion to me

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    Do I detect a note of scorn? Maybe just a little reductionist bias?
    Science has no moral or ethical valence. Reductionism is the attempt to reduce the moral, ethical and subjective to the purely physical.

    Could you elaborate? What do you mean by that?

    Sorry if I wasnt clear. What I meant was that culture is a constellation of shared ideas and social systems are the codifed external representations (law, political structures) that come from them.
  20. le coq Registered Senior Member

    I guess I need to read up on this, as far what you're basing this on. Be careful of the "but it's obvious" argument. I would appreciate any other references you may have that argues that reductionism is the bugbear you claim it is. Across these boards mostly what I (choose to?) see is crackpots and people with only a desultory skimming of scientific text dismissing whole aspects of science (misconstruing their inability to understand some sticking point as a fundamental logical error in the foundation of that science) arguing with more level posters trying to explain to them that it's not so easy as all that. Personally, I think we have more to fear (the spirit of our times) from the irrational idealogues of the world, with Bush and Bin Laden and all the evildoers on both sides (either with us or against us).
    I did not mean to imply that science thinks that all emotion is base and meaningless, but rather that the most important decisions that we make about reality should not be emotional. (Ok, there it is- a line in the sand.) As far as scorn goes, though, the fear that hampers science from conducting research on stem cells, for example, or the belief that, say, a mentally ill person has been cursed by devils, is the type of emotion that is the object of highest scorn from the scientific community.

    Well, going by the definition of scientism you provided, I would have to agree with you. I would argue though, that the definition of scientism is not the definition of science. Do you hold that scientism is the core belief system of all scientists? I say it is not, since science as I've witnessed it, does not hold forth on the quality of the humanities, or try to derive equations for moral or ethical thought. Actually, that's somewhat untrue, as there are biologists who are cataloguing altruistic behavior in animals in hopes of supporting a scientific theory of ethics. (And there's Sheldrake, who is having a hard time with that annoying aspect of science, peer review). I'm sure there's no short supply of philosophical thought enjoining scientific principles with ethics and aesthetics (I like the mathematical derivations of facial beauty I've seen floating around on the net), but that's just what it is right there- philosophy. Science does not preclude a philosophical explanation to model some aspect of our reality, especially when it comes to subjective experience. In the physicist's David Deutsch's "Fabric of Reality" he admits as much, that philosophy is a fine and useful process to guide and describe our behavior or reality at large that cannot be dismissed (if it is scorned, that is another matter; scorn itself is not a scientific process). On the other hand, ignoring the objective chemical evidence that our brains are flooded with natural amphetamine-like substances when we are falling in love would be a most unscientific and unsound step in the decision process when one is thinking of getting married at age sixteen to their boy/girlfriend of mere months.
    I'm getting all its senses. I was making a joke. Your case is not so egregious, but when I see a poster pulling out definitions as if the other poster was an idiot, I start getting scornful. It looked to me as if you were trying to say that epistomology was religion.

    Okay, so I checked out the link above... you are reading Z&TAoMM.

    Wrong answer. Proven knowledge is established once it is proven, according to current experiment. Until it is proven wrong by some other form of verification, a conclusion is used as a theory for further experiment. You do not test all hypotheses because a lot of hypotheses do not hold up to the rigorous thought precluding a physical experiment or observation. In most fields the number of logically rigorous hypotheses are generally not that numerous. This is like saying "since we haven't tried whirling chicken entrails in a centrifuge for signs of increased local gamma radiation, we cannot conclusively say that chickens are not made of the aether." Science operates off of what it has proven. "Scientism" and whoever its practitioners are may be trying for some "ultimate truth", but science only looks to point forward. Science does not fall short as a process tyring to explain "everything." It verifies or falsifies a hypotheses. Pirsig makes a categorical assumption of science as an explanation of all understanding. The scientific method is interested in this experiment right here right now (your subjectivity, I suppose.)
    Operating what? Who are these guys? Well, until I get your reply on to who "scientism" followers really are, then I don't know how to take the argument from here.

    Le Coq
  21. Clockwood You Forgot Poland Registered Senior Member

    If you believe science is the new religion read the Foundation series by Issac Asimov and then talk.
  22. spookz Banned Banned

    perhaps if god was taken out of the equation, a different argument could be
    made. we can then look at scientism as an institution comparable with a
    religious one such as the catholic church.

    an elitist attitude dominates the culture of scientists

    "A word about scientists. I want to emphasize at the outset that, contrary to popular belief, scientists are not detached observers of nature and the facts they discover are not simply inherent in the natural phenomena they observe. Scientists construct facts by constantly making decisions about what they will consider significant, what experiments they should pursue, and how they will describe their observations. These choices are not merely individual or idiosyncratic but reflect the society in which the scientists live and work."

    Scientists tend to be isolated from the general public.

    "On the problem of fraud and scientific misconduct, Dr. Robert M. Rosenzweig, then President of the Association of American Universities warned : "...we may have developed a sense that we occupy a special...status in which even wholly legitimate concerns about...our conduct are viewed as a violation of immunity." Although a leader in the scientific community, he was ignored."

    peer review (secret or otherwise)

    " Sixteen years after the initiative started, we find ourselves in the peculiar position of believing still more in the virtues of peer review, a system we know to be "time-consuming, complex, expensive and . . . prone to
    abuse,"while we acknowledge that the scientific evidence for its value is meager. Indeed, if the entire peer-review system did not exist but were now to be proposed as a new invention, it would be hard to convince editors looking at the evidence to go through the trouble and expense. This dissonance suggests that we are using the wrong tools to study the wrong factors.

    In the editorial accompanying the last theme issue on peer review, I noted that the vast majority of studies presented at the Congresses had examined the mechanism or the effects of peer review, rather than the cognitive processes involved. This remains true today. For example, several quantitative studies have shown the existence of various biases, and many important articles published in the previous peer review issues have measured the extent of such biases. Such findings hint at where the process may have gone wrong, but they do not necessarily explain why. Quantitative research is only the first step to understanding the deeper reasons for these biases on the part of authors, editors, and reviewers."

    "These reviews are carried out in secret. Usually the scientist does not know who read the manuscript. This is the PEER REVIEW process of which scientists are so proud because they believe it guarantees the accuracy and validity of their work. The peer review process is the key to the scientist's career, to science itself.

    But the published paper is not only a public record of the research, it is also a permanent record of the peer reviewing process. If the peer reviewers were too lazy to do their job, or if they wanted to gain the favor of the author by informing him of their favorable review, then fraudulent research will become a permanent flaw in the credentials of the scientist. It follows the scientist to the grave, potentially reappearing each time he is promoted, uses his list of publications in applying for a new job, or is elected to office in a scientific society."

    fraudulent publication and coverup

    "Under aggressive international capitalism, publicity is everything. Claims made in newspapers of new and exciting scientific discoveries frequently disappear from view never to be heard of again."


    "Most scientists acknowledge, respect and support regulations promul-
    gated with the goal of protecting human subjects, animals, and the en-
    vironment. Regardless of the inconvenience, cost, and burden, they abide
    by those regulations widely recognized as protecting the interests of
    society. Nonetheless, it must be recognized that scientists temperamen-
    tally and culturally are skeptical about the legitimacy of rules; instinc-
    tively they tend to oppose regulations as an unnecessary burden impeding
    Last edited: Oct 21, 2002
  23. Active8 Spokesman for the obvious Registered Senior Member

    "But scientists dont go around burning people at the stake or declaring jihad."

    Nope...They just wipe out entire populations of people for "the good of knowledge".

    Religious nuts go around acting crazy to appease their diety.
    Scientists go around claiming that they found the truth.
    When in actuality...the truth always looks wrong through at least one other persons eyes. Kind of like religion. So I guess that's some evidence to claim science as another religion. Or am I just pushing thoughts on you?!

    I know I know. What goes up must come down or I must be crazy. Well, If I die tommorrow, at least I know that I listened and felt all I could rather than pretend I knew the truth about everything physical. The Science of everything is just a stage. For I always pay attention to the actors and actresses and try to learn a lesson. Yeah it was a pretty stage. But I missed the point of the play when I tried to explain the stages set up. That's sad! For the actors/actresses usually go on to do other plays. The sets..
    well they get broken down and put away.

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