Tough Questions Answered

A Christian Apologetics Blog

Why Is “Scientism” False? Part 2

Post Author: Bill Pratt

In part 1, we saw Edward Feser’s analogy of the metal detector, which helped us see why scientism is false. In part 2, we examine atheist Alex Rosenberg’s complaint against theists who deny scientism. Rosenberg believes that unless you believe that science (physics, in particular) is the only source of knowledge, then you cannot believe science gives us any kind of knowledge. Here is Rosenberg:
“Scientism” is the pejorative label given to our positive view by those who really want to have their theistic cake and dine at the table of science’s bounties, too.  Opponents of scientism would never charge their cardiologists or auto mechanics or software engineers with “scientism” when their health, travel plans, or Web surfing are in danger.  But just try subjecting their nonscientific mores and norms, their music or metaphysics, their literary theories or politics to scientific scrutiny.  The immediate response of outraged humane letters is “scientism.”
As Feser explains,

According to Rosenberg, then, unless you agree that science is the only genuine source of knowledge, you cannot consistently believe that it gives us any genuine knowledge.  This is about as plausible as saying that unless you think metal detectors alone can detect physical objects, then you cannot consistently believe that they detect any physical objects at all.

Feser, in keeping with his metal detector analogy, offers the Metallicist’s Guide to Reality:

“Metallicism” is the pejorative label given to our positive view by those who really want to have their stone, water, wood, and plastic cakes and dine at the table of metallic bounties, too.  Opponents of metallicism would never charge their metal detector-owning friends with “metallicism” when they need help finding lost car keys or loose change in the sofa.  But just try subjecting their nonmetallic mores and norms, their music or metaphysics, their literary theories or politics to metallurgical scrutiny.  The immediate response of outraged humane letters is “metallicism.”

Of course, “metallicism” is ridiculous, but so is Rosenberg’s scientism.

Those beholden to scientism are bound to protest that the analogy is no good, on the grounds that metal detectors detect only part of reality while physics detects the whole of it.  But such a reply would simply beg the question once again, for whether physics really does describe the whole of reality is precisely what is at issue.

Feser also notes that Rosenberg is not alone in making these kinds of arguments for scientism.

One hears this stupid non sequitur over and over and over again when arguing with New Atheist types.  It is implicit every time some Internet Infidel asks triumphantly: “Where are the predictive successes and technological applications of philosophy or theology?”  This is about as impressive as our fictional “metallicist” smugly demanding: “Where are the metal-detecting successes of gardening, cooking, and painting?” — and then high-fiving his fellow metallicists when we are unable to offer any examples, thinking that he has established that plants, food, works of art, and indeed anything non-metallic are all non-existent.

For why on earth should we believe that only methods capable of detecting metals give us genuine access to reality?  And why on earth should we believe that if something is real, then it must be susceptible of the mathematically precise prediction and technological application characteristic of physics?  I submit that there is no answer to this question that doesn’t beg the question.


About The Author

Comments

SEO Powered by Platinum SEO from Techblissonline