Posted on Feb 21, 2014 by Tom Gilson
My February “Worldview and You” column at BreakPoint is about “Science and Its Limits.” An excerpt:
But I am speaking too carelessly: I need to identify more clearly what I mean by science. There is science as a practice by which we acquire knowledge, chiefly about nature; and there is science as a multifaceted institution of research, education, publishing, and technology. It is humans, not their methodologies, who are prone to the effects of power, and it is the human institution of science in practice that is prone to overstep its proper bounds.
This overstepping is commonly known as scientism: roughly, the belief that science is the one useful source of knowledge in all areas of human interest.
Science is not scientism; scientism is not science. Scientism has more to do with a philosophy of knowledge than with the pursuit of knowledge. You could say that scientism is science gone imperialistic with respect to knowledge. It’s built on the belief that science is not only a very good and powerful way to acquire knowledge, it is the only reliable way; thus what is not known scientifically is not knowable at all (and probably isn’t even real).