Scientism - Nothing But a Childish Insult?

by cofty 147 Replies latest watchtower beliefs

  • slimboyfat

    Saethydd thanks for an actual response. You've largely opted for the "they are not real knowledge" option. Apart from sociology, which describe as a science. I think you could only really maintain that sociology is a science by stripping out many qualitative approaches that are commonly viewed as being key parts of sociology: discourse analysis, semiotics, ethnography, action research and so on. Sociology isn't a branch of psychology. "Margin of error" in sociology is a term that's only applicable to some quantitative approaches of the discipline.

    The problem with the proposition that science offers "knowledge" whereas other disciplines only deliver "beliefs" is twofold. On the one hand it ignores the fact that science is empirical and is therefore based on inductive reasoning. And inductive reasoning cannot deliver definitive "knowledge" since its propositions are always provisional and by definition vulnerable to future disconfirmation. The other problem is the idea that different subjective approaches to knowledge don't count as knowledge presents an impoverished and unworkable view of the world.

    Newtonian physics may be wrong in some particulars for example, but in many practical situations we'd be glad to use it rather than guessing.

    Similarly history may not always deliver reliable results, but in the face of Holocaust deniers we'd be glad to rely on its approach to knowledge than abandon any sort of knowledge about the past.

    Science and non-science approaches to knowledge turn out not to be all that different after all. They all rely on unprovable assumptions (in the case of science, induction), they are all subject to theoretical developments, and they are all only as good as the practical uses to which they can be put.

  • never a jw
    never a jw

    John Mann and other "spiritual" nuts

    "Scientism", as you call it has provided you with the ability to type messages and have anyone with internet access anywhere in the world to read it. Books can be written about all the things "scientism" makes possible for everyone to benefit from, including religious nuts. Give me something from religion that can be used as the basis to improve the material world.

    Religion can only improve the life of those who prefer fantasy over reality. I am quite Ok with that. I just wouldn't rely on those people to bring innovation to improve our lives, even keep us alive. They provide HOPE, a meaningless word in a world that requires real solutions.

  • Saethydd


    You make some valid points, I will do my best to take them into consideration.

  • Finkelstein

    Richard Carrier has some interesting thoughts about theist ideologies and that of scientific ideologies and concepts.

    I think science is more unifying of a human pursuit and endeavor in comparison to the many contravening spiritualistic beliefs.

    If we were to make a comparison of the philosophy of science and that of theism or spiritualism, which one has proven to be closer to are perceived reality and therefore more beneficial to humanity, as science tries to work within the physical reality of which we are a part of.

    If that is apparent why should science not be placed on a higher appreciative value ?

  • Rainbow_Troll
    Rainbow Troll - Please give me a specific example of something that can be known without science.

    There are many examples I could offer, but the arguments are complex and I fear they might lead to off topic detours, so instead of discussing Leibniz, I will use a simple example that anyone can understand and agree with: mathematics.

    It would be a mistake to say that mathematics is exclusively a priori, since some very simple mathematical operations can be demonstrated empirically (add one apple to a basket of seven and you have eight apples); but excluding the simplest arithmetical operations, most mathematical truths are forever beyond empirical demonstration and must be arrived at deductively through reason alone. A common example that everyone deals with everyday are negative numbers: no one can demonstrate their ontological reality - you cannot remove apples from an empty basket - and yet negative numbers are invaluable in physics, which is a branch of science that is devoted to studying what most people would consider the real world. The roots of negative numbers, known as 'imaginary' to mathematicians and the fact that by performing operations on them with 'real' numbers gives us 'complex numbers' which scientists use every day to solve problem in the real world is yet another example of demonstrably real entities that can never be detected with any physical instrument for the simple reason that they are not physical entities. How could any scientist - no matter how brilliant - prove through experiment that some infinities are 'bigger' than others? Yet the German mathematician Georg Cantor proved it without any laboratory equipment, through simple deduction.

    Now, some physicists (and even mathematicians) have argued that mathematics is only a human invention and that there are no 'laws' of physics, only generalizations drawn from many observations over time and translated into mathematical terms. In other words: the 'laws' of physics do not dictate the behavior of the real world, they only describe that behavior in terms that the human mind can comprehend. I admit that I see no way of really refuting this line of thought, but I nontheless see it as absurd. It is simply an unacceptable coincidence that an invention of the human mind should be able to not only describe physical phenomena so precisely, but also predict it with little to no error. Pythagoras was right: the world is composed of numbers and equations. What we know as physical reality is only our experience of a mathematical, metaphysical reality filtered and organized through our imperfect sense organs. The 'real world' is scentless, colorless and insubstantial; all those latter qualities being (to use Aristotle's terms) accidental, not essential. Though I think it is unlikely that our world is a computer simulation, I believe that The Matrix is a pretty good analogy for reality.

    But it is not just that logic can prove things to which science has no access to, it can also disprove erroneous ideas which science could never refute; ideas than have plagued humankind for centuries, resulted in untold death and misery, and held us back for long enough. I think the worst of these errors is the monotheistic God concept. Even Richard Dawkins has admitted that he cannot prove that God does not exist. On a scale of belief with 10 representing implacable atheism and 1 perfect faith, he places himself at 9 or perhaps 9.9999... His theist opponents have wrongly and unfairly interpreted Dawkins humility on this point as a weakness and have used it to argue that theism offers certainties that atheism could never provide.

    Well, I am not as humble as Dawkins. On Dawkin's scale of belief/unbelief, I place myself squarely at 10. I am absolutely certain that God, as he is understood by Christians and Muslims, does not exist; that he cannot exist. And I know this NOT through omniscience, but through simple logic. In a former post I gave a summary of my position which anyone is free to try and refute if they wish. But they will not because they cannot. There is no such thing as an omnipotent, omniscient creator of the universe. There can't be because the very qualities of this alleged being are incompatible with each other. He is a logical impossibility with no more probability of existing than a five sided triangle. Behold the power of logic!

    Again, I don't want to dis science. I think that science, properly understood, is applied mathematics which is the mother of science, logic, and philosophy. But as the daughter of math, science should no her place and not defy her mother or ignore her sisters. But some recent scientific theories have proceeded to just that; a perfect example being Quantum Mechanics. Heisenberg's uncertainty principle rightly states that when a scientist uses an electron microscope to discover the position or velocity of a particle this very act of observation (the electron beam) causes the particle to deviate from the trajectory it would have taken had he not attempted to observe it. Therefore we cannot know, in principle, the simultaneous position and velocity of any given particle. Okay, I agree; but then scientists apply logical positivism to Heisenberg's principle and say that, since we cannot measure one without changing the other, the particle has no position/velocity until we measure it and it is in fact our act of measurement which "collapses the particle's eigenstate". Once I accept this non-sequitur, I open myself to all sorts of madness: parallel universes, cats that are simultaneously dead and alive, observer created reality.

    It's ironic that scientists who use the scientific method, with its double blind experiments that are specifically designed to protect the subject(s) of the experiment from being affected by the observer, have now rejected the reality principle in favor of solipsism! Niels Bohr, one of founders of quantum physics, famously argued that there is no way to prove that the moon exists when we are not looking at it and, if one takes logical positivism seriously, he's right! But all this madness could easily be avoided if scientists embraced the logical (but empirically unprovable) assumption that particles DO have both a specific velocity and position even if we are incapable of measuring both simultaneously. This would not be a wild leap of faith, it would only be an acknowledgement of the reality principle upon which the very philosophy of science depends. Otherwise, if reality is not objective but generated by the observor, then the scientific method becomes useless.

    I could give you other examples but I trust I have made my point. Strict empiricism is a dead end road, a cul de sac, that ends in madness. The only way that science can save itself is by retracing its path back to the point just before it accepted Wittgenstein's error, and then go from there.

  • unsure


    (and others)

    Not sure if this is a thread derailment; I can create another thread if need be.

    I am by no means posting the below as an argument. I would just like to know the opinion of those exponentially more well versed then me, of the following post by another forum poster in response to a previous response. I'm a big fence sitter, I don't know what I believe, but I realize that on days that I feel "there must be something more", it is not provable and based only on faith and hope alone.

    That was a new thought to me: atheism requires omniscience.

    In other words, a person would have to be God to say there is no God—interesting thought!

  • cofty

    Rainbow Troll - Thank you for your answer.

    I get the impression that the only example of things that cannot be known through empirical scientific evidence is pure mathematics.

    Is that correct?

  • cofty
    a person would have to be God to say there is no God

    That ceases to be true as soon as we define "god".

  • John_Mann

    Slimboyfat mentioned another danger about scientism.

    Scientism is all about reductionism.

    Human mind (psychology) is reduced to the brain (biology).

    The brain is reduced to chemistry.

    And chemistry is reduced to physics.

    At the end they only recognize physics as valid knowledge.

    That's why they use the word "only" (and variations) a lot.

    Actually scientism is very similar to the single-party communist state.

    If you follow the thought you will see very clear how insane it is. Because we can't use physics to understand mental states.

  • cofty

    Ok - but you have still to establish that anybody here actually is guilty of this thought crime you call "scientism". It just sounds like a catch-all insult to help you avoid dealing with challenges.

    You said - "If you ask for scientific evidence to God then you are a follower of scientism."

    I replied that christians constantly make claims about the real world. Therefore it is reasonable to ask for scientific evidence to support those claims.

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