Austin L. Hughes, Carolina Distinguished Professor of Biological Sciences at the University of South Carolina, writing in The New Atlantis, asks:

Is scientism defensible? Is it really true that natural science provides a satisfying and reasonably complete account of everything we see, experience, and seek to understand — of every phenomenon in the universe? And is it true that science is more capable, even singularly capable, of answering the questions that once were addressed by philosophy? This subject is too large to tackle all at once. But by looking briefly at the modern understandings of science and philosophy on which scientism rests, and examining a few case studies of the attempt to supplant philosophy entirely with science, we might get a sense of how the reach of scientism exceeds its grasp.

You can read the whole thing here.

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5 thoughts on “Is Scientism Defensible?”

  1. Scott C says:

    I appreciate the fact that here is an Evolutionary biologist who actually believes that Evolutionary theory is quite limited and can nowhere approach the all-encompassing explanatory power so many wish it to have. Nonetheless, I am disappointed that he doesn’t see other fundamental problems with the theory.

  2. Phil Long says:

    Scientism is a superstition that undermines and discredits science. It will fail and in the aftermath of its failure philosophy will emerge intact. That’s my take-away from this. Well done.

  3. Bruce Russell says:

    Scientism is a great way for people to convince themselves that there is no Final Judgment. I hope I live to see the Gospel bring down this totem in the popular mind.

  4. My studies in intellectual history in the late 60s and early 70s and, especially, the writing of a Master’s thesis introduced me to the problem that the scientific method has problems. In particular, it is too analytical; it has problems in dealing with a situation in which the null hypothesis also turns out to be true like the original thesis which it is supposed to deny or falsify. That was an eye opening experience. Later I came to understand that Scientism can never be regarded as legitimate Science, regardless of how much its advocates desire such a thing in their rejection of supernaturalism and philosophy. The scientific method is a laboratory method, a strictly analytical approach in which all the variables must be controlled. What Evolutionists do is extrapolate from the lab experiment to a generalizing of the theory in times past, when the latter are not amenable to any kind of lab experiment. At best the form of science for things past can take the form of ex post facto experiments, comparative studies where the variables cannot be controlled, but the effect on various groups can be assessed and compared. In addition, the scientific method as Alfred North whitehead stated long ago grew out of Christian theology’s view of the orderliness of God and the world He created. The intellectualism of much of evolutionism, including that of Dawkins, is not very appealing to those who investigate in depth and detail, with particular regard for the intellectual framework of Science itself.

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Justin Taylor


Justin Taylor is senior vice president and publisher for books at Crossway and blogs at Between Two Worlds. You can follow him on Twitter.

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