Scientism

Scientism is the term used to express the view that natural science has power or authority over all other interpretation of life. In other words, philosophical, religious, mythical, spiritual or humanistic explanations are ranked below the explanations of the natural sciences.

Scientism also expresses the view that other fields of inquiry, like the social sciences are inferior to natural science. Karl popper as well as some social scientists used the term to describe what they see as the fundamental attitudes and beliefs common to many scientists.

The social scientists tend to use the term pejoratively to show the inappropriate usage of science or scientific claims as a counter argument to appeal to scientific authority when the context is perceived to be beyond the scope of scientific inquiry.

Again the social scientists used the term to refer to “the belief that the methods of natural science form the only proper elements in any philosophical or other inquiry”. Apart from remarketing that “for many theologians and philosophers, scientism is among the greatest of intellectual sins”, Gregory R. Peterson outlined two main broad themes in reference to  scientism: the first is that it is used to criticize a totalizing view of science as if it were capable of describing all reality and knowledge, or as if it were the only true way to acquire knowledge about reality and the nature of things; while the second is that it is used to denote a border-crossing violation in which the theories and methods of one (scientific) discipline are inappropriately applied to another (scientific or non-scientific) discipline and its domain.

The different meaning of Scientism

There are several applications of the term scientism. Scientism may be understood as:

  • Methods and attitudes typical of or attributed to the natural scientist.
  • An exaggerated trust in the efficacy of the methods of natural science applied to all area of investigation, as in philosophy, the social sciences and the humanities.
  • The use of the style, assumptions, techniques and other attributes typically displayed by scientists.
  • The use of scientific or pseudoscientific language.
  • The contention that the social sciences, such as economics and sociology are only properly sciences when they abide by the somewhat stricter interpretation of scientific method used by the natural science, and that otherwise they are not truly sciences.
  • A term usually and frequently applied derogatively to a belief in the omnipotence of scientific knowledge and techniques.
  • The view that the methods of study appropriate to physical science can replace those used in other fields such as philosophy and the social sciences.
  • The belief that scientific knowledge is the foundation of all knowledge and that consequently, scientific arguments should always be weighted more heavily than other forms of knowledge, particularly those which are not yet well described or justified from within the rational framework, or whose description fails to present itself in the course of a debate against a scientific argument. It can be contrasted by doctrines like historicism, which hold that there are certain “unknowable truth”
  • Scientism sees science as the absolute and only justifiable access to the truth”

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