Beware the Folly of Scientism

The word “scientism” is one that seems to have no useful meaning. In our humble opinion, the word science serves the purpose. Adding “ism” accomplishes nothing — except to make it sound like a cult belief, such as spiritualism or creationism. We’ve noticed that creationists like to use “ism” to imply the same thing about various scientific theories, so their writings are filled with references to “Darwinism” and “evolutionism.”

A good example of how creationists use “scientism” is in a Discoveroid article about which we wrote Discovery Institute: Darwin and Euthanasia. Klinghoffer had written:

Scientism is the notion that science can tell us everything we need to know about ethics and about how to order a flourishing society.

About which we said:

Yes! When your Curmudgeon is faced with an ethical problem, all we need to do is look at our wall chart of the periodic table of the elements, and then we know what to do.

Creationists’ obsession with “scientism” is evident today in something we found in the Christian Post, which describes itself as “the nation’s most comprehensive Christian news website.” They don’t have a comments feature. Their headline is Scientism Stems From a One-Dimensional Worldview. It was written by Dan Delzell, pastor of the Wellspring Lutheran Church in Papillion, Nebraska. This is their statement of beliefs –it’s bible, bible, bible all the way.

We’ve written about the rev before — see Science and Religion: The Battle of Two Kings and also Creationist Wisdom #649: Evolution Is Faith. Here are some excerpts from his new article, with bold font added by us:

The term “scientism” refers to the belief that science tells us everything there is to know concerning truth and reality. Only scientific claims are thought to be meaningful. And it’s quite easy to see how this belief system can lead its adherents to be dismissive of any other truth claims.

Sadly, some scientists elevate their scientific knowledge to the point of spiritual adoration and praise. For these folks, science becomes the “anti-God.” They attempt to use it as a viable defense against the Christian God. All of that supernatural stuff is thought to be nothing but mystical mumbo jumbo.

You may be one of those foolish wretches the rev is talking about, dear reader, so pay close attention. He says:

Dinesh D’Souza points to this list of leading scientists whose work over the centuries was motivated by their faith: Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo, Brahe, Descartes, Boyle, Newton, Leibniz, Gassendi, Pascal, Mersenne, Cuvier, Harvey, Dalton, Faraday, Herschel, Joule, Lyell, Lavoisier, Priestley, Kelvin, Ohm, Ampere, Steno, Pasteur, Maxwell, Planck, Mendel. Rather than placing faith in the one-dimensional worldview of scientism, these wise scientists understood the limits of scientific knowledge, as well as the reality of supernatural revelation.

We’ve seen such lists before, and we always point out that none of their valid scientific work is based on scripture. Let’s read on:

Scientism, like atheism, is absolute in its one-dimensional worldview. Actual science, on the other hand, is similar to agnosticism. It is open to following the evidence. And ultimate science, like Christianity, flows from an awareness that the Creator operates in multiple dimensions, and has given us the mental capabilities to appreciate and pursue scientific discoveries.

Interesting concepts — one-dimensional scientism, actual science, and ultimate science. That’s very useful! The rev continues:

Since there are no video cameras in heaven or hell to give us visual scientific evidence proving these places exist, the only people who know what these places are like are those who reside there today. Scripture is the only “camera” we have been given to “see” into heaven and hell. Spiritual sight is the result of belief in the Savior and confidence in the Word of God. No one in heaven is worshiping science, and no one in hell is proud of his scientific knowledge. By the time a man reaches heaven or hell, scientific research is the last thing on his mind. It’s only in this life that scientism engenders man’s worship and praise.

You’ll have to take the rev’s word for what dead people are thinking. Here’s more:

That’s not to say we shouldn’t respect and appreciate the countless benefits of science. It is truly one of God’s marvelous gifts to us here on earth. But as such, one must be careful to worship the Giver rather than the gift. False worship deceives man into assuming his idol is capable of delivering him from accountability to his Creator. And of course many people simply reject the notion of a Creator altogether.

The rev’s article goes on and on like that. Here’s one more excerpt:

And so you would be wise to keep your heart and mind open to the reality of dimensions you have yet to personally experience. Just because you cannot prove something scientifically doesn’t mean it isn’t true. And a long list of leading scientists throughout history have realized that fundamental fact of life.

Listen to the rev, dear reader. Don’t let scientism blind you to the reality of other dimensions.

Copyright © 2016. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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10 responses to “Beware the Folly of Scientism

  1. I think the thought process of articles written in this vein, like the Rev has above, go something like this:

    Science doesn’t back up my nonsensical beliefs. Hey, science doesn’t back up my beliefs! Alarm! Alarm! Alarm!

    Search for a way to rationalize that away….

    Oh, it’s just scientism that affects my beliefs. I can still think my beliefs are tenable. It’s just those nasty atheist scientismists that think if a belief touches on the empirical realm then scientific explanations are necessarily the best.

    Whew. I can go back to my comforting puffy, supernatural beliefs now.

  2. “Since there are no video cameras in heaven or hell to give us visual scientific evidence proving these places exist, the only people who know what these places are like are those who reside there today.”

    But that’s the point, there is no evidence such places exist save for in the imagination of believers and the assertion that there are “people” who reside there today is an empty assertion. “People?” Wasn’t it souls or spirits or ghosts?

  3. Derek Freyberg

    “Since there are no video cameras in heaven or hell to give us visual scientific evidence proving these places exist, the only people who know what these places are like are those who reside there today.”
    Good point, Rev. Delzell. And they talk to you how? Oh, through your holy book. But there are lots of holy books, and they all seem to talk to us in different ways – and none of them actually talk about science. Is it turtles all the way down, wining and wenching in Valhalla, or dying on an ancient torture device? What’s a poor mortal to think? I know – I’ll trust what I can see, and what those I trust have seen, and ignore appeals to divine authority.

  4. Since there are no video cameras in heaven or hell to give us visual scientific evidence proving these places exist, the only people who know what these places are like are those who reside there today. Scripture is the only “camera” we have been given to “see” into heaven and hell.

    I just don’t know where to start with such a statement. The whole sentiment is beyond ignorant, it certainly doesn’t qualify as any form of rational logic.

    Let’s see what’s happening on the heaven cam today folks. Well not much so let’s turn to the Hell cam and checkout that whole fire and brimstone routine. Yes sirree, it’s a hot time with Lucifer.

  5. Actual science, on the other hand, is similar to agnosticism. It is open to following the evidence.

    That’s actually true.

    The rev’s problem is that he doesn’t like the results.

  6. Scientism is the notion that science can tell us everything we need to know about ethics and about how to order a flourishing society.

    If that’s so, it’s a notion with very few believers among evolutionary scientists, most of whom feel science can tell us why we have the sort of society we have but not what sort of society we ought to have.

    Rev. Delzell is making a classic straw-man argument. He offers a bugaboo, “scientism,” which he suggests is antithetical to decent society. Then he starts babbling about heaven and hell and how scientific knowledge doesn’t count in either place.

    And, oh yes, let’s not forget this gem:

    Just because you cannot prove something scientifically doesn’t mean it isn’t true.

    I suppose that’s correct, but not being able to prove something scientifically isn’t evidence that it is true, either. And that’s especially the case when it’s the natural world about which you want to prove something.

  7. Well, there may not be videos but there’ve been a bunch of books by people claiming to have visited heaven, and even one by someone who believed he’d briefly visited hell. I see no scientific reason why we should ignore the evidence of these testimonials unless it’s the possibility that the writers concerned are con artists or bat[REDACTED] crazy.

  8. I have generally had this feeling that, whenever an ID/creationist is criticizing and demonizing scientists with words like “scientism,” that the ID/creationist is really telling us all about himself.

    Why construct and elaborate Potemkin village of cargo cult science to bolster one’s sectarian beliefs if not to imply that one’s religion is superior because it is supported by “science?”

    One might think of this as science envy; however, sectarian beliefs, especially those of the YEC ID/creationists (e.g., the Fall, the Flood, and the young Earth), are “proven” to be true using YEC “science.” The ID/creationists have been touting their moral and religious superiority using their “science” since the 1970s.

    Using pseudoscience to justify sectarian beliefs strikes me as a classic example of scientism. If one is stretching, bending, and breaking scientific concepts – to the point that the concepts are no longer applicable to the real world – in order to support and gussy-up sectarian beliefs, one is essentially implying that science is “powerful” enough to justify a specific sectarian dogma over all others. Why “Complex Specified Information” for example? Why a creationist second law of thermodynamics? What is the point of “genetic entropy,” and “cybernetic gaps?”

    These are all attempts to prove that scientists are blind and wrong while ID/creationists are insightful and right; and doing it using “science.”

    Scientists don’t claim that specific forms of, say, art, music, or literature are justifiably better by using science; however, ID/creationists apparently think that science does a better job of justifying their beliefs rather than those of anyone else.

  9. Well, there may not be videos but there’ve been a bunch of books by people claiming to have visited heaven, and even one by someone who believed he’d briefly visited hell. I see no scientific reason why we should ignore the evidence of these testimonials unless it’s the possibility that the writers concerned are con artists or bat[REDACTED] crazy.

    I’m going with the bat stuff!

  10. Or just experiencing the sort of dislocation of mind and body that we know is associated with near-death and highly traumatic experiences. I mean, yes, there have been cases of crazies and con artists, but there’s no real need to leap there.