Scientism [When You Shouldn’t Trust a Scientist]

Guest post byRob Powell. Part of a series on truth.

Science is awesome.

It provides us with , , and is the most predictable way to study and .

But other than a seven letter word, what exactly is science?

And more importantly, why for the last 300 years have some people thought it to be the ?

Defining Science

Stealing a page from Theodore Beale and PZ Myers let’s define science as such:

Scientage: the body of transparently obtained testable knowledge

Scientistry: what scientists learn to do at universities

Scientody: the method of exploring the world, observing, inferring, and testing with experimentation

Conversely here’s what science isn’t: an all encompassing worldview that can explain everything and should as such rule with an iron caliper over all other information.

That is scientism.

And oddly enough it fails just like it’s pals relativism and pluralism.

See, the proposition that one shouldn’t believe something unless it can be proven scientifically can’t itself be proven scientifically.

So where might dogmatic faith in these three forms of science lead us astray? It’s easiest to show the inherent bias of scientistry because all of us have had a professor with a chip on his or her shoulder.

Let’s take a look.

When Scientistry Fails

The Achiles heel of scientistry is that it’s carried out by fallen and flawed people. People who want fame. People who want to make  and  happy so they can keep their grant money. People who are ideologues. People who will  or select for the data that proves their point…

And professors who will  because they’re blonde and cute and have incriminating evidence against them.

Unfortunately confidence in the scientific method can’t lead to confidence in the scientist who claims to have used it.

The failure of scientistry leads to the fallibility of scientage.

The Collapse of Scientage

The scientific body of knowledge is supposed to be verifiable and transparent, but…is it always?

What if a paper submitted for publication refutes the chief editor’s research?

Science often turns a corner based on rogue ideas but what if it goes against the popular consensus? Will something novel get a hearing on it’s merits or be dismissed as pseudo science?

What if the data gets lost? What if there are a few idiot scientists all patting each other on the back approving each other’s work but nobody is guarding the hen house?

The failure of scientistry and scientage leave us only with scientody, which fortunately is very predictable. But the fact that scientody works at all is good evidence for a designer to the universe.

The Limits of Scientody

Christianity’s framework of an orderly and testable world led to .

Furthermore, scientody is good at answering the why and how questions of life. Unfortunately it’s completely silent as to the “so what?”

It will answer what happens if saline is injected into amniotic fluid but says nothing about whether that action is moral.

It lets you know what to expect if you create a supercritical mass of enriched uranium but could care less if you do that on Bikini Island or NYC.

It tells us predictable ways to build bridges–but not where those bridges should go.

What is the purpose of life? Is it better to give or receive?

Why are waffles so delicious?

The important questions of life that you ask your mom and best friend advice for cannot be put in a test tube.

Which brings us to another point. Science by definition has nothing to say about the supernatural.

Science Silent on the Supernatural

It would be scientismific! to demand scientific proof for God.  However, the truth is that if Jesus was raised on the third day there is no way to go back and repeat the experiment to verify.

We are going to have to use other means of investigation to find that truth.

But aren’t scientists really smart with their thick glasses, pocket protectors, and such?


But just because you invented the internet doesn’t mean you’re right about climate change, ultimate reality or same sex marriage.

Here’s a hint of when science is heading toward questionable grounds: Emotion.

There’s no emotion available in scientody.

Why All the Hatred, Guys?

The vitriol displayed toward religion by the likes of Dawkins, Harris, and other militant atheists is just misguided scientistry. It betrays their biases.

Science doesn’t go from a useful tool to a world view without introducing bias, presuppositions, and error.

The farther you get from scientody into scientistry the more emotion rules. For example, physicists are using the  on the border of France and Switzerland to among other things find the .

If they can’t find one it will undermine 100 years of particle physics thinking.

But why haven’t we seen any physicists writing lay books or giving snarky interviews on the Today show? Because the LHC might create a  that destroys the earth.

But if it fails to find a Higgs Boson it won’t point to God.

Joseph Stalin’s Spin on Religion

Now consider the theories of anthropogenic global warming and evolution by natural selection. In some circles just calling those things “theories” and not “facts” is fighting words!

But why all the acrimony?

If evolution via natural selection [not as a process where giraffes get longer necks but whereby every living thing came to be] is NOT true then the world must have a designer.

But where are the scientists painting cheetah’s day glow orange and seeing if they can still bring the thunder down on a gazelle and make baby cheetahs?

It may be a grand theory produced by scientistry but it’s not really subject to scientody.

So why is science so mad at and scared of Christianity? Consider what  had to say: “The Party cannot be neutral toward Religion because Religion is something opposite to Science.”

Unfortunately, I just don’t see the grand battle that Joe did.

Heck, if anybody ought to be mad around here it should be Pluto (Chin up little buddy, you’re still a planet to me).

Final Thoughts

Adam’s first job was to classify all the living creatures. And the author of Ecclesiastes had a handle on the water cycle  but still .

An orderly and predictable world is a necessity for science. As long as science does what it does well (and the same must be said for religion, too) I see no conflict at all.

It’s when these boundaries are crossed and science is seen as the only arbiter of truth that conflict arises.

Science can be a useful tool in subduing the earth. When it goes from being a tool to a worldview it steps in to territory it’s not designed or equipped to handle.

In the end, when people turn to scientism it’s usually an attempt to justify one’s own belief, which is pride and needs to be repented of.

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