The Trouble with Scientism

The Trouble with Scientism

I think it was Albert Einstein who said that scientists make very poor philosophers.

Well, he’s right.

Not only do Christians say that science can only go so far to explain the human condition, but also secular humanists. An article by Philip Kitcher in this week’s issue of the New Republic, demonstrates how scientists’ tendency to make sweeping, general statements on all of life (or a “theory of everything”) is a gross overstepping of its boundaries..

Kitcher points out that there are some questions about humanity that are “‘beyond the scope of natural scientific inquiry.” Now, he does not write much on what this implies for the spiritual side of things (he comes off as purely secular), but this implicitly agrees with the beliefs of Christians (and most “average joes” around the world) that life can’t be just about what you can concretely observe through a telescope. Many biologists would like to say that all human behavior can be explained purely through natural selection, and that culture is simply a product of blind forces, moving in no particular direction. It’s funny how often many scientists talk about “progress,” all the while assuming that there is a general consensus of what “progress” is. What is the ideal state of humanity? Most don’t have a ready answer.

This drive to generalize scientific conclusions and impose them on the rest of humanity (when in fact those conclusions come from a limited perspective within a particular field), can be incredibly dangerous. Kitcher rightly states that “the political ramifications of conclusions about human beings only reinforce the demand for modesty.” We require caution and modesty, if we really want to steward this world well.


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