Can you be a strident defender of science and still be suspicious of the way it is appropriated within culture? Can you be passionate about the practice and promise of science, yet still remain troubled by the way other beliefs and assumptions are heralded in its name? If such a thing is possible, you may be pro-science but anti-scientism. And, if that is the case, then Steven Pinker may have just pissed you off. But, as we'll see, it might be hard to tell.
Scientism is getting a lot of play these days. It's a difficult word to pin down because it takes on a wide range of meanings depending on who is throwing it around. According to Merriam-Webster online, scientism is:
an exaggerated trust in the efficacy of the methods of natural science applied to all areas of investigation (as in philosophy, the social sciences, and the humanities).
Thus, scientism is the "science can explain everything," (or, at least, "science explains everything important"), kind of position some folks take in arguments about religion, philosophy, the value of the humanities, etc.
Steven Pinker has now waded into the scientism debate with a New Republic essay entitled "Science Is Not Your Enemy: An impassioned plea to neglected novelists, embattled professors, and tenure-less historians." For Pinker there really is no such thing as scientism, which, he claims, is "more of a boo-word than a label for any coherent doctrine."
Written By: Adam Frankcontinue to source article at npr.org