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"These are the days when the Christian is expected to praise every creed except his own." G.K.Chesterton

"You cannot grow a beard in a moment of passion." G.K.Chesterton

"As you perhaps know, I haven't always been a Christian. I didn't go to religion to make me happy. I always knew a bottle of Port would do that."C. S. Lewis

"I blog, therefore I am." Anon

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

When science becomes ideology

One of the serious problems one has in engaging on the Internet with many dogmatic skeptics, rationalists, and atheists is their unswerving commitment to the ideology of scientism and their inabilty to separate this philosophical bias from the actual practice of science. There is a kind of macho swagger in their espousal of such a physicalistic ideology which manifests itself in a boorish even brutal dismissal of anything other than the material. It is a testosterone enhanced worldview in which exploitation, domination, control and destruction are the key ingredients.

Science is a wonderful tool but a bad master so when one turns "science" into a secular deity, enslavement to "technique" and a loss of humanity soon follow. If one asserts that science alone equals truth and that if something is not scientifically valid it is therefore not only false but also not "real" then one has begun the inevitable slide down the slope away from a holistic appreciation of human value into a reductionist pit in which humans are mere things to be manipulated or discarded on a whim.

The distinguished Australian philosopher Max Charlesworth notes that such ideologists tend
to confuse science with a particular philosophical view or ideology of science which has become attached to it and which we might call "scientism". Scientism sees science as the one and only true form of knowledge, as the very model of rational enquiry, and as the index of civilisation. In this view, to say that an item of knowledge is `unscientific' is in effect to say that it is not knowledge at all; to say that an enquiry is'unscientific' is to say that it is irrational and worthless; to say that a culture is `pre-scientific' is to say that it is `primitive' and backward.

Again, scientism gives a central place to scientific values such as objectivity, neutrality, rationality, so that other values - the subjective, the personal, the emotional, the intuitive, the imaginative - are correspondingly downgraded.

However, there is no necessary connection between science and this ideological view of science and we can acknowledge the place and value of science without subscribing to scientism. One does not have to throw out the baby of science with the bath water of scientism. In other words, it is possible to recognise that science is one of the most astonishing inventions of the human mind without claiming that it is the only, or even the most important, invention of homo sapiens. From this point of view we can agree with Feyerabend's criticisms of the scientistic ideology which has attached itself parasitically to science over the last two hundred and fifty years, while disagreeing completely with his anarchistic rejection of science and the scientific method as such

M. Charleswort Science, Non-science and & Pseudo-science Deakin University Press 1982 pp45-46.

9:20:00 am