I hope to clarify the the religionists' gross misunderstanding about the epistemology of many atheists. It is an ideology, they say, called scientism. This was the subject of my previous post, What is the Real Scientism?, where I attempted to explain the difference between scientism from a religionist's perspective, and from the perspective of those atheists who are accused of adhering to it. Basically, the religionist insists that scientism implies an attitude that science is the only valid form of knowledge. But that attitude is denied by non-religionists because it doesn't reflect what real people believe. I hope I am not belaboring this issue too much, but the religionist skull can be very thick, and difficult to penetrate by any thoughts or ideas that are not consistent with their own beliefs.
Now, after seeing what I had to say about this, Joe Hinman still disagrees with me. He thinks that his idea of scientism is quite correct, because he did the "analysis" that proves his point. He mined some quotes to back up his contention. Let's take a look at some of these statements from atheists (from Joe's article Scientism is as Scietism Does):
“according to physicalism the language of physics is the universal language of science, and any knowledge can be brought back to the statements on physical objects.” - Otto NeurathBased on statements like this, Joe thinks he is justified in concluding that these atheists adhere to his understanding of scientism, which is extremely narrow because it excludes any kind of knowledge that doesn't come from a science laboratory. In addition to the denial of knowledge of God or divine revelation, Joe's narrow scientism doesn't allow the testimony of other people or social interaction as a form of knowledge, or learning by means of personal experience, and it rejects the value of aesthetic experience in our lives. In short, it is devoid of any humanity. Joe cites articles by fellow religionists to amplify his point.
“the thesis that art is important because, like science, it gives us knowledge of reality, has not fared well in modern philosophy [among logical positivists and the analytic school] …all cognitive experience belongs to science and they hold that the business of the philosopher is to analyze the methods, terms, and laws of science in order to clarify their logical structure and empirical content.” - Richmond Walker
“Our understanding of the world around us, and our abilities to predict what will happen are based on naturalism — the basis of science. Naturalism is also the basis for how all people live their lives most of the time. To be explicit, modern science relies on methodological naturalism. This means that science doesn’t incorporate any supernatural or religious assumptions and doesn’t seek any religious or supernatural explanations. Science is the use of evidence to construct testable explanations and predictions of natural phenomena, as well as the knowledge generated through this process. Science also depends on mathematics, which likewise has no religious or supernatural component.” - Mark Thomas
“Science is the only form of knowledge. There is no way to know something without it being scientific in some way.” - commenter 3u8rbba98edy2 in Answers.com
He pointed out the threat to the arts and thus to freedom from scientism and technologism. He points to Neuroscientists who seek to displace theology, philosophy, poetry. This is the idea that there is a ready genetic explanation for all we do and that understanding brain function is to understand all that there is to know. - HinmanAnd I previously cited religionist Richard Shumack who reinforces Joes' religionist view of scientism by echoing the same absurdly narrow idea of what atheists think:
Now I agree that reasoning from objective evidence is a very good way of knowing lots of things. Especially scientific things like door sizes. But just a little reflection reveals that it is not the only way we know things. In everyday life we know things through a whole range of different methods. We know some things, like the fact that child abuse is wrong, intuitively. We know some things, like I have a headache, from personal experience. We can know some things, like riding a bike, through just doing it. And we know some things – and probably most things – through other people telling us. So, aside from a few monuments, everything we know about the past is based on eyewitness testimony. Similarly, most of what we know of our friends is from their personal testimonies. In fact, a few experts aside, pretty much all we know about science comes from what our teachers tell us. - ShumackAs I pointed out before, the religionist view of scientism is ridiculously narrow, and nobody actually thinks that way. What is the difference between the quotes from atheists and from religionists? Basically, it is their idea of what constitutes science as a path to knowledge. The religionist takes a very restrictive view of what science is in this context, limiting it to the academic or laboratory practice of formal scientific investigation, while the atheists have something quite different in mind. What they mean is more akin to empiricism - that is to say, justified knowledge can be anything that is known, either directly or indirectly through the evidence of the senses.
There's a vast difference between these two views. The religionist deliberately distorts the meaning of "science" as expressed by empiricists in this context to diminish and marginalize their views. Joe should look more carefully at what they're really saying:
- Otto Neurath isn't even talking about what constitutes valid forms of knowledge. He's talking about a philosophical view of nature that is not an epistemology. This is irrelevant to Joe's point.So Joe and other religionists are playing a very dishonest game here. When atheists speak of science as the only valid form of knowledge, they take a broad view of what science means. They are simply expressing an empiricist epistemology. It is often referred to as "science broadly construed". And when they talk about the practice of science proper, they are not saying that there is no other form of knowledge. Joe simply blends these statements together in an effort to convince his readers that they're all saying the same thing.
- Richard Walker is talking about empiricism. He construes science broadly to equate to empiricism, which is specifically not limited to laboratory analysis. Also he denies that aesthetic experience constitutes empirical knowledge, but he does not imply any kind of hegemony of science into aesthetic experience.
- Mark Thomas is talking about the formal practice of science - not about what constitutes human knowledge. He makes no claim that this is the totality of human knowledge. He isn't saying that we can't learn something by means of testimony, for example.
- Commenter 3u8rbba98edy2 qualifies the term "science" by stating that knowledge is scientific "in some way". What he means is that empiricism is the basis of justified knowledge. He is definitely not talking about laboratory science as the only valid knowledge.
The religionists aren't satisfied to listen to what atheists say about their own beliefs and take them at their word. They prefer to redefine empiricism into something ridiculously narrow, which they call "scientism". Joe's so-called "analysis" to prove his point consists of misrepresenting what they say, and interpreting it according to his own religionist views. And that's dishonest.