scientism: 1) preliminary

As promised in an earlier post, some thoughts on scientism and how it functions.

There’s a somewhat understandable reason why this term is unfamiliar to most people, which is to say why our media doesn’t cover it seriously, or practically speaking at all. Though there are certainly many thinkers who don’t fall into this category (see for example the folks involved with SAND, the Science and Non-Duality Conference), our culture seems now to be rather stuck within a state of Manichean opposition between two big terms – “religion” (and more generally the humanities) and “science” (this latter usually simply and unfortunately equated with the notion of “reason,” about which more later). In truth each of these terms covers a multitude of paradigms and practices.

For believers in scientism, “religion” has simply become a code word for the root of all evil – the source of ignorance itself, regression, hatred, violence. “Science” on the other hand has become positively the guarantor of all that is good. If only we would grant it supreme ultimate power in all decision-making we would eventually find ourselves in paradise on earth – or as close to that as is possible to achieve. We would be well on our way to understanding literally everything about everything, and having no causes remaining for hatred or violence at all.

For a number of reasons which I plan to explore in future posts, this view is enabled by a few largely unquestioned assumptions, and by certain filters within the media which are mostly unconsciously placed upon the flow of information and expression. But one reason will be mentioned right away, since it is a very understandable and sensible one: namely, there is indeed an awful lot of fundamentalist insanity about, and while very far from expressing the whole truth about “religion,” let alone humanistic understanding more generally, its prominence today cannot be denied.

All the same it is important to see how something we are calling “Science” has now become short hand for “Ultimate Truth.” For true believers in Science it operates, in fact, almost precisely like a religion, though this can be hard to see. Thus, the notion of “scientism” is crucially necessary in order to point out how this can be so. Necessary as much as anything in order to keep open our capacity to detect blind spots of vision.

As I will argue, blind spots there are, and some dangerous ones too.