Adam Blatner

Words and Images from the Mind of Adam Blatner

On “Scient-ism”

Originally posted on January 18, 2008

In chatting with friends, the theme of “scientism” came up—an interesting term, referring to the tendency to attribute to science virtuous qualities that it has neither claimed or properly earned. While science uses methods that ultimately require the employment of the senses and be replicable, this approach cannot address a wide variety of very relative themes in our lives: Love and hate, beauty and ugliness, relevance and irrelevance, meaningful and meaningless, funny or tragic, and, in short, that which gives life its richest flavors. Of course science illuminates many aspects of life, but it also is not properly relevant—or only relevant in a superficial or adjunctive way—to many issues.

I cannot fault science for not venturing into domains for which it has few if any proper tools for measuring, assessing, or conceptualizing. Yet it does speculate—and at the extremes of our knowledge, its speculations seem a bit peculiar. This is because what it speculates— regarding what might have come before the “Big Bang,” or what is gravity or the latest discovery of dark energy, and other conundrums, all begin to seem constrained by a weird assumption: We cannot consider that mind is a dimension of the universe equal in prevalence and influence to matter, time, space, or any known form of energy.

I cannot fault science for being unable to include mind in its method, but I do fault those who may claim to be scientists or those who support science who go further than is philosophically reasonable in presuming that what science can address is the only reality. (That’s what makes it “scientism” and not just science.) This is especially silly in light of the fact that in the last two hundred years vast domains of phenomena have come into our view that we hadn’t known about previously. It may be mistaken but would not be implausible to specualte that an equal number of vast domains might not yet come into the scope of human awareness in the next two hundred years! More, we might consider that there are ways of assessing reality besides the measuring instruments and methods of contemporary science. (Of course, such a consideration requires a shift of paradigm in epistemology—that is, a different way to evaluate what counts as a valid form of knowing.)  In summary, let us honor science for what it does, and realize more vividly its limitations and what it should not be thought of as being able to do.

One Response to “On “Scient-ism””

  • Valeria Brito says:

    As any other human endeavour, Sience is limited. Fortunately, as pschodramatists we rely also on Art. As Picasso once said:”Art is the lie that allows us to know the truth”…
    Congratulations on your Blog!
    Brazilian hug,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *