Talk:Scientism/Archive 1

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Archive 1 Archive 2



RK, could you add a comment that some viewpoints of scienitism are false or self-contradictory. That is, if you take that any non-scientific idea as valid, then you automatically deny that science can be applied to all methods of inquiry. In this entire page of analyzing scientism, I do not see the mention of there being any scientific tests of the various ideas, or even any mention of them. If so, then this is clearly not a scientific idea without testability. The whole point is that theses applying meaning to only scientific statements can easily be self-contradictory.

Sorry RK, but the article is much more POV now, not that it was NPOV before. Can you try to moderate it a bit? BTW, the definition you attribute to a wikipedia contributor, is one that matches the definitions in most well regarded dictionaries. (and, no I didn't add it there myself :) -- Cimon Avaro on a pogo stick 01:42 15 Jun 2003 (UTC) And the word itself in that meaning is well over a hundred years old usage. -- Cimon Avaro on a pogo stick 01:46 15 Jun 2003 (UTC)

I have started to rewrite this entry based on your observation. Thanks. RK 02:00 15 Jun 2003 (UTC)

Well you did take out the most egregious and blunt rhetoric, but the POV is actually even stronger than before. I mean, if you try to read it from outside, does it not fairly jump into your face that the terms "most scientists" and "many scientists" are the view of the writer. I am not saying that the opinions should not be the predominating ones, but a little more subtleness would not go amiss. With all respect... -- Cimon Avaro on a pogo stick 17:24 15 Jun 2003 (UTC)

Wikipedia NPOV requires that we distinguish between mainstream beliefs and fringe beliefs. In this article, on this subject it is true that I am in agreement with the view of most scientists. (For other subjects I may not be in agreement with most. That's not really relevant, however.) What concerns me is the way that the term "scientism" is often used as strawman attack. The term "scientism" is used by many writers to describe the beliefs of scientists...except that the vast majority of scientists never had such beliefs (as described by their critics) to begin with. However, please note that I am not opposed to changing the article; any specific suggestions you have are fine, and you are more than welcome to make alterations/additions yourself. RK 23:29 15 Jun 2003 (UTC)

The CORRECT definition!

The one way, or the highway, definition of 'scientism' is in the dictionary! There is actually one real dictionary that uses the correct definition. I use this dictionary definition on my web site because it particularly applies to the anti-science phenomena of medical scientism. The actual definition is as follows.

scientism: "the belief that there is one and only one method of science and that it alone confers legitimacy upon the conduct of research."

I shall repeat. My definition of scientism is actually in the dictionary. While I am sure that it is valid in other areas of science, it is particularly valid in the area of medicine. Hence, my usage of the perfectly valid phrase: medical scientism.

I know where you got the text of scientism from, but it completely misses the mark, in my opinion. -- Mr-Natural-Health

In a second dictionary definition:

"1. The collection of attitudes and practices considered typical of scientists."

This definition supports the above precise definition of scientism. -- Mr-Natural-Health 03:06, 17 Jan 2004 (UTC)

Although science is not an enemy of chiropractic, scientism most certainly is. Scientism limits all fields of human inquiry to contemporary technology. Smith states that scientism "...refers to an uncritical idolization of science -- the belief that only science can solve human problems, that only science has value." Holton observed that "Scientism divides all thought into two categories: scientific thought and nonsense." (4,5)

4. Smith RF: "Prelude to Science." Charles Scribner's Sons. New York, NY, 1975. P. 12.
5. Holton G: "The false images of science." In Young LB (ed): "The Mystery of Matter." Oxford University Press. London, UK, 1965.
Ergo, there is only the 'one way of science,' or the highway! -- Mr-Natural-Health 03:21, 17 Jan 2004 (UTC)

"The ascendancy of the natural scientific community in controlling much opinion , such as through the media, publishing, employment and lobbying - has a narrowing and deleterious effect on culture. Adherents of the pseudo-philosophies of objectivism or positivism try to dictate what is 'sensible', what can be believed or not and even what are acceptable terms or languages to describe the world. Their success in steam-rolling intellectual debate with their short-term pragmatism and naive belief in the neutrality of 'objective theory' and scientific expertise is a major danger to society. They would exclude other world-views quite rigorously and even ridicule as virtually pathological all radical dissent to the hegemony of scientific thinking, ..."

"Steam-rolling intellectual debate ... the hegemony of scientific thinking" is another way of saying: 'the one way' of scientism or the highway! -- Mr-Natural-Health 03:28, 17 Jan 2004 (UTC)

"economics scientism monopolised by a single approach to the explanation and analysis of economic phenomena."

Here we see 'the one way' of scientism, or the highway, in the field of economics. -- Mr-Natural-Health

the POV is actually even stronger than before

If User talk:Cimon from the mediation committee says that the POV in Scientism is actually even stronger than before, then I that as a pretty good indication that the POV in this article is abundant. Help me remove it. -- Mr-Natural-Health 04:18, 27 Jan 2004 (UTC)

Critique Section was moved.

Further discussion of Critique Section has been moved. Criticisms of Anti-Scientific Viewpoints was moved from Scientism per the example set in Allopathy that was used to delete [criticisms of modern medicine]. Criticisms of Anti-Scientific Viewpoints has been listed on Wikipedia:Votes for deletion. Please see that page for justifications and discussion. -- Mr-Natural-Health 18:56, 8 Feb 2004 (UTC)

the neutrality of this article?

Is the neutrality of this article still in dispute? If so, please state why? How may this article be improved? -- Mr-Natural-Health 20:45, 8 Feb 2004 (UTC)

The Correct Definition

Read Scientism and Values by de:Helmut Schoeck, for the most diverse selection of articles against scientism, based on the Symposium on Scientism and the Study of Man.

Scientism is not a newly-coined word.

Obviously true. It has at least a century of existence. See positivism for the same word with a more neutral, non pejorative sense. Lapaz 04:48, 3 February 2006 (UTC)

The term "scientism" refers only to the fallacious use of the methods of certain natural sciences when we ought to study man as a unique being with emotional, mental, and social potentialities above those of known animals. de:Helmut Schoeck

A critical attitude toward scientism is not to be confused with an antievolutionary position. de:Helmut Schoeck

Scientism means that only value-free concepts are to be employed in the interpretation of the human situation, and that man himself is to be reduced -- via a behavioristic psychology -- to a purely physiochemical complexus of interrelated processes amenable to a complete explanation in terms of the value-free concepts and categories of the natural sciences. W.H. Werkmeister

The undue application of the terminology and of the methods of science to the study of man. Pieter Geyl

Scientism is the profoundly unscientific attempt to transfer uncritically the methodology of the physical sciences to the study of human action. Murray Rothbard

When scientific status is uncritically claimed for the studies of man, the result is what, following Hayek, is known as "scientism." Eliseo Vivas

Scientism, according to Hayek, is the misapplication of the method of natural science in realms where it does not belong... It is the mistaken belief that science, scientific method, and technology with its achievements for human comfort cover the whole of human experience and fulfillment. Ludwig von Bertalanffy

The vulgarization of science -- scientism -- has led many people, including not a few scientists who have lost sight of the philosophical foundations of their craft, to assert that science holds the key to all problems of human experience and that those problems that cannot be dealt with by simplification or abstraction are either trivial problems or no problems at all. Robert Strausz-Hupé

See also Tom Sorell, Scientism: Philosophy and the Infatuation With Science.

Scientism is the belief that science, especially natural science, is much the most valuable part of human learning -- much the most valuable part because it is much the most authoritative, or serious, or beneficial.

Scientism is a matter of putting too high a value on science in comparison with other branches of learning or culture.

New scientism is a reaction against those who write philosophy in ignorance of science, and who defer too much to prescientific intuition or common sense. It is also a reaction against the supposed metaphysical excesses of traditional philosophy, with its irreducible mental substances and events, its Platonic forms, and its transcendental egos.

Old scientism insists on the need not only for philosophy, but for the whole of culture, to be lead by science. This form of scientism has a history stretching back at least to the 1600s; in this century its spokesmen have included Carnap, Reichenbach, Neurath, and other 'scientific emipiricists'.

POV that needs reference if to stand

I removed this. This is a controversial claim and does no justice to Marxist thought. It needs reference if it is meant to be attack on Lenin-Marxist Communist states.

  • Scientism may also refer to the way in which Marxists appropriated science (especially Darwin) as a justification for Karl Marx's theories, and how science replaced religion in Marxist communism.

Scientism is always pejorative

This article needs work. Scientism is always a pejorative word, to the contrary of more neutral positivism, which was once claimed by philosophers such as Auguste Comte and was very common in the 19th century. Scientism basically refers to the ideology of science which tends to consider the world only according to its scientifical point of view, being blind to the fact that science itself has an ideology, as did epistemologists such as Gaston Bachelard or Louis Althusser show. Lapaz 04:46, 3 February 2006 (UTC)

By the way, scientism is not necessarily exclusively an ideology of scientifics. I rm seconds ago a passage in the consciousness entry which said:

"Modern day scientists in the fields of Ethology, Neuroscience and Evolutionary psychology seek to explain it as a function of the human brain that evolved to facilitate reciprocal altruism within societies. As such it could be instinctive (genetically determined) or learnt."
"Conscience can prompt different people in quite different directions, depending on their beliefs, suggesting that while the capacity for conscience is probably genetically determined, its subject matter is probably learnt, or imprinted, like language, as part of a culture. One person can feel a moral duty to go to war, another can feel a moral duty to avoid war under any circumstances."

This is a perfect example of scientism, most probably written by someone who's never opened a biology book in his life (explaining such a phenomenon as "consciousness" by genetics is something that would never occur to 99.99% of any genetician scientifics); it is this statement which directed me here. Lapaz 04:54, 3 February 2006 (UTC)

I'm confused by this. Most educated people believe that consciousness is a genetically-encoded potentiality in human beings and whatever other organisms typically develop it. That is not "scientism"; it is just the scientific worldview: the genes of such organisms encode for the development of complex neurophysiology, which is the physical basis of consciousness. However, your actual quote is about conscience, not consciousness. To claim that conscience is genetically determined in some way would be very bold indeed. However, the passage you quote does not say this. It says that the capacity for it is genetic (at the most general level this must be so, since our capacity for human beings and other animals with minds to have minds at all depends on our genetic code and the complex organic structures it produces). However, it says the actual contents or subject matter of the conscience are part of culture, rather than being genetically determined. That isn't a very controversial claim. I really don't see the problem. Metamagician3000 14:16, 14 October 2006 (UTC)

Yes, this article is horribly far from the mark. Scientism is what happens when people take the visible trappings of science for the essence, essentially making a religion out of it. It is the treating of 'scientists' as a priesthood - something no one who actually understands science would agree with. It is characterised by the treatment of scientific theory as dogma, the substitution of 'scientific consensus' (meaningless to science, but sacrosant to scientism) for evidence, and so on. The article, as it stands at present, is not just worthless but actively misinformative. 07:29, 1 March 2006 (UTC)

Is there any evidence that anyone has ever claimed to subscribe to a theory or an ideology called "scientism"? As far as I can see, the word is a pejorative one used to attack people who take certain philosophical positions such as naturalism, scientific realism, etc. Beyond stating that that is how I have always heard the word used, I can't support this claim with references, so I have not edited the article itself. However, nothing there convinces me that any such ideology or theory exists. Does anyone have any example of someone claiming to be committed to something they call "scientism"? If there is a notabe body of theory within which the term is applied to opponents, we should report that theory and its claims without endorsing them. E.g. we could say: "Foo applies to the term to the following views ... and argues that they are mistaken for the following reasons ... ", or whatever. Metamagician3000 13:59, 14 October 2006 (UTC)

Scientism =?= Positivism

  • JA: I have placed a {citation needed} tag on the assertion of identity or synonymy between scientism and positivism. I think that the reader is owed the favor of citing an external source for such a statement. Jon Awbrey 07:12, 16 March 2006 (UTC)
Scientism != Positivism. For a modern example of scientism, see Richard Dawkins' books, such as The God Delusion. He's not merely atheistic, but naïvely scientistic, and this was noted in this month's Harper's. [1] 21:40, 27 November 2006 (UTC)
Well, that's one point of view I suppose. Metamagician3000 12:40, 9 January 2007 (UTC)

Definition of scientism

Scientism is the philosophy that science is the primary source of knowledge about the world irrespective of its ontological nature.

Can you cite a source for this definition? --Loremaster 14:54, 11 May 2006 (UTC)


This article looks very much like a dictionary entry, so, unless there is something more to be said about scientism as a whole (rather than concepts which already have their own entries), I suggest moving it to Wiktionary and leaving the contents of the ‘See also’ section as a disambiguation page. —xyzzyn 06:32, 2 June 2006 (UTC)

I agree; this article still looks like it belongs on wiktionary. The problem is that this article does nothing but define "scientism" and cite various critics as references, while any actual real-world events or information regarding scientism or scientists are left out. This article should still include some definitions and comparisons, but should, like other good wikipedia articles on philosophy, focus on encyclopedic information regarding scientism. Eebster the Great (talk) 02:34, 6 October 2008 (UTC)

Scientism: the "correct" definition

The correct definition of a word is that which is used in writing and speech. If there is more than one meaning, then there is more than one correct definition. To try to say there is only one 'correct' definition is idiotic. Last I checked, it was a tradition of the English language to have multiple definitions for one spelling of a word. Check out "lay" and tell me how many definitions there are. → R Young {yakłtalk} 00:44, 27 November 2006 (UTC)

Scientism: The word whose definition cannot, by its own definition, be found by applying itself to itself. 21:28, 27 November 2006 (UTC)

Can someone fix the FORMATTING issues

The formatting of this article needs to be fixed.→ R Young {yakłtalk} 00:44, 27 November 2006 (UTC)


This page really belongs on the Wiki Dictionary, if anywhere. Tuviya 06:35, 28 December 2006 (UTC)

Proposal for rewriting the article

The most common usage of "scientism" in my experience has been as a pejorative. Googling the word seems to support this. I therefore propose that the article be rewritten accordingly. As far as I can tell, no one calls him or herself "scientistic" (or relevant cognates), so presenting the concept as a ideology to which people adhere seems misleading. Simões (talk/contribs) 22:28, 3 January 2007 (UTC)

I totally agree, though finding verifiable sources might prove difficult. Metamagician3000 04:41, 9 January 2007 (UTC)

This article really needs to be rewritten, the citations are one sided at best. -lostinthought


This article is disputed. From the above conversation about the article being "one-sided", I was led to believe that the correction would be to make the article "two-sided". I don't feel it is any less one sided than before, just in the opposite direction. This is hardly neutral, NPOV. Why not give everyone's view, instead of pretending the other side doesn't count or doesn't have a voice. ፈቃደ (ውይይት) 22:27, 14 January 2007 (UTC)

Sorry, but I don't follow. Your critique is vague and non-specific. The article doesn't even address whether the accusations of scientism (qua pejorative) are true: we as Wikipedia editors are in no place to say. The rest is just on the non-pejorative usages. What, exactly, do you find problematic with the article? Simões (talk/contribs) 22:33, 14 January 2007 (UTC)
Looking at the parts that were deleted, and the citations that were deleted should answer that. I thought that if the article was one sided, then you would add in the other side for balance. You added in the other side, but did away with the first side, totally tipping the scale the other way. Now the two versions need to be merged together somehow to give all the information and dictionary definitions. I will leave it to those who actually wrote the article to make the final decision on if they want to discontinue the dispute, since up til now I was only watching the article as a lurker. ፈቃደ (ውይይት) 22:55, 14 January 2007 (UTC)
Sorry, but you'll have to be more specific. The parts that were deleted were done so because they were either incorrect outright, misleading, or a simple list of dicdefs. This last item in particular does not belong in any article: definitions should be integrated into the main text. I've included definitions with references. Finally, the version I've written does not present anyone's "side." Again, the article does not address whether or not the accusers or targets of the accusations are correct. There is nothing more here than a neutral description of the usages along with some history thereof. Simões (talk/contribs) 23:05, 14 January 2007 (UTC)
Well, it's like this. Of all the ten definitions from all the big league dictionaries, not one of them stated that it is pejorative. Now you found a source that disagrees and presents a different POV. No problem adding it, but we don't assume one POV is the underlying truth and write from that tone. So it would be perfectly neutral to state:
According to the "Encyclopedia of Science Technology and Ethics", scientism is pejorative.
But it's not neutral to write as if only your source is correct and the big league dictionaries are deficient and to be omitted, by skipping the part that says According to the "Encyclopedia of Science Technology and Ethics"... See what I mean? ፈቃደ (ውይይት) 23:22, 14 January 2007 (UTC)
It's not just according to a single encyclopedia entry. The people to whom the term is being applied also generally reject it as a pejorative. I'll point to the Dennett interview as a source as well. Simões (talk/contribs) 23:32, 14 January 2007 (UTC)
There's no problem with saying "the people to whom the term is being applied also generally reject it as a pejorative". The problem is endorsing their opinion ourselves, especially when most dictionaries don't. So we still have to attribute the opinion rather than state it as fact, when other sources state differently. ፈቃደ (ውይይት) 23:36, 14 January 2007 (UTC)
That the people to whom the term is being applied reject it as a pejorative is not a mere opinion. It's precisely what renders the term a pejorative. Also, at least one dictionary suggests the term is a pejorative: Webster's.

an exaggerated trust in the efficacy of the methods of natural science applied to all areas of investigation (as in philosophy, the social sciences , and the humanities)

Furthermore, the Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy, which is far more a reliable source for the term than a general purpose dictionary, gives the following as its sole definition (I'll go ahead and add this as a reference, too).

Pejorative term for the belief that the methods of natural science, or the categories and things recognized in natural science, form the only proper elements in any philosophical or other enquiry. The classic statement of scientism is the physicist E. Rutherford's saying 'there is physics and there is stamp-collecting.'

This should more than establish the verified, NPOV status of "scientism" qua pejorative. General purpose dictionaries take a back seat to specialized reference works. Simões (talk/contribs) 23:54, 14 January 2007 (UTC)
The old dicdefs did not actually say how the term was used; there is no issue of undue weight, because they provide no weight in this specific issue. By the way, the folks at Stanford seem to agree with what the article says—‘accuse their opponents of crude scientism’. —xyzzyn 00:04, 15 January 2007 (UTC)
Actually, what makes a term pejorative is if the people using it mean it that way, not if the people called that take it that way. For example I just had a conversation earlier today with an editor who eliminated the word "Shiite" from every single page on wikipedia and replaced it with "Shia", because he says "Shiite" is pejorative in English, and apparently this is because Al Jazeera says so. But since mainstream English dictionaries don't mention this, and it is widely used without any pejorative intent, I disagreed. I feel that its being pejorative should be stated as opinion rather than fact, especially if there are significant contrary opinions, but again, I would really like to hear what the authors of the previous article think and will bow to their judgement on this since I am not an expert on this. ፈቃደ (ውይይት) 00:31, 15 January 2007 (UTC)
Are there significant contrary opinions, though? The term has had different meanings over time, but I haven’t seen anything disputing the description with respect to the manner in which it is used today. —xyzzyn 00:35, 15 January 2007 (UTC)

Intolerable tampering with the truth

Since the last time I visited this page, a significant portion of this entry was deleted. The resultant truncated entry is biased and dishonest. It is impermissible to give one definition of scientism as pejorative and delete conflilcting uses of the term. Much of philosophical terminology is contested and this has to be honestly documented. Where can I protest this malfeasance? —The preceding unsigned comment was added by Nancy Nickies (talkcontribs).

The chief criterion governing the inclusion of content in an article is verifiability (but neither truth nor honesty). If you wish to add something to the article, feel free to do so, as long as you provide reliable sources for your addition. —xyzzyn 18:10, 17 January 2007 (UTC)
The article wasn't simply truncated; it was rewritten. Also, non-pejorative usages are given. I'm not following your complaint here. Simões (talk/contribs) 20:06, 17 January 2007 (UTC)

It is clear that this must a topic of some dispute. However it is extremely funny to follow the link in The Renaissance and the Industrial Revolution, on the other hand, saw the rise of scientism, in such forms as the substitution of chemistry for alchemy, the dethronement of the Ptolemaic theory of the universe assumed by astrology, the development of the germ theory of disease, that restricted the scope of applied magic and threatened the belief systems it relied on. to find that is primarily (3 references no less!) a perjorative. I ask the editors here to either consider making this a truly encyclopedic article and to not just focus on the current culture war or else change these links coming here to a more appropriate dissucion of the changes in people's belief system that arose during the Renaissance. I am sure there are plenty of refs listing "Humanism" being used as a perjorative, but there is also room for an large neutral article on the subject. The discussion of the use of scientism as a perjorative in the current culture wars should be a good-sized subsection of a neutral article about the actual nature and history of the belief system. To have this be the focus of the article is just biased. If there is another name for this belief system, that is not considered a perjorative, then this should redirect there with a sentance added to the intro saying that "Scientism is another name for Foo mainly used a perjorative [1][2][3]."--BirgitteSB 19:12, 19 January 2007 (UTC)

let's revert this article to Jan 3 version

If I knew how to do this, I would revert the article back to the January 3 version before Simoes screwed it up on Jan. 14, and then work to improve it from there. To preserve NPOV other comments must be added. Beware of the word "ideology", which has multiple meanings, though scientism is often accused of being ideological, specifically of aping scientific methods without being convincingly scientific in substance.

Incidentally, someone destroyed this talk page a few days ago and I complained about it to the wikipedia editorial board. I don'tknow who or what was responsible, but I hope we don't see a repeat of this. —The preceding unsigned comment was added by Nancy Nickies (talkcontribs) 02:07, 20 January 2007 (UTC).

The chief problem with the January 3 version was that it consisted of quotations from dictionaries. It was not an encyclopaedia entry. The current version is at least prose, and if something is missing, it can just be added (with references). —xyzzyn 02:13, 20 January 2007 (UTC)
I'm sorry you think I "screwed it up," but you've offered no material with which to supplement the article. I also note that your usage of "scientism" here is as a pejorative, backing the current article text. And, once again, non-pejorative uses are also given. As it stands, I think the article can be said to be a bit anemic, but I'm still failing to comprehend your problem with its pov. Simões (talk/contribs) 08:23, 20 January 2007 (UTC)
I agree with xyzzy that the rewritten version is a significant improvement. I'm inclined to remove the dispute tag since there hasn't been much discussion for the last couple of weeks. Jim Butler(talk) 06:33, 5 February 2007 (UTC)

Word Origin and original usage

The multiple usages of the word, even with in dictionaries are not consistent with each other. That is not terribly unusual, but in such cases, it would be helpful to show early usage and change in usage. One dictionary puts the origin at 1875. The earliest usage I've seen is the use of critical rationalists like Karl Popper and Fredrick Hayek. This probably dates to ~1930 So can anyone find earlier usage? Carltonh 19:04, 21 February 2007 (UTC)

There's already a 1909 instance given. Simões (talk/contribs) 19:06, 21 February 2007 (UTC)

Has anyone else heard of Karl Popper?

At the beginning of the 20th Century, the positivist program in science and mathematics was seen to have overstepped its epistemological limits.

Attentive scientists who were philosophically inclined realized that the scientific method,although rigorous, rested on unprovable (although confident) assumptions, which in any case could never be consistently formalized, due to Godel undecidability. This was a fundamental problem, even disregarding quantum uncertainty.

This crisis was resolved by Karl Popper. In a nutshell, the problem of proof is resolved by the principle of falsifiability. Although a theory can never be proven by any conceivable method, it easily can be disproved. Without objective proof, truth is experiential and an ideal to strive for, as Popper summed up: "We search for truth, but what we find instead is fact, without certainty."

Karl Popper rescued modern science from philosophical self-destruction. He condemned what he called "scientism" as an unfounded belief that science could offer metaphysical certainty, meaning 100% certainty (this is also John McLaughlin's tongue-in-cheek) about anything at all, even that the sun will rise tomorrow, even though we are so confident of this that we are virtually certain of it.

The meaning of "scientism" accordingly is: claiming the authority of science (rational empiricism) over areas of knowledge or belief which are not open to scientific inquiry. Unfortunately, even the most half-baked creationist is correct to label religious belief under the guise of science as "scientism."

Thus "skepticism" (show me; let me test your assertion) is the correct scientific attitude to metaphysics. "Scientism" has no place whatsoever in science, and is, and should be, a pejorative. This is not less true when it is used, whether accurately or not, by pseudoscience. It is saddening to hear of a skeptic refer to himself as scientistic rather than scientific.

I don't see any sign of a philosopher's presence in this article. Until it gets one, I ask those who disdain science (and scientists who disdain philosophy) to recuse themselves.Vendrov 10:58, 27 May 2007 (UTC)

You missed the mention of Dennett, then? Simões (talk/contribs) 13:42, 28 May 2007 (UTC)
No; but not sure to what intyerview you referred. My take is that although Dennett might not agree that Popper's scientism is a valid concept, he knows what it means. His complaint in any case is that he is being tarred with the wrong brush: as biased by unfounded belief in contrast to his ID opponents, who present themselves as properly skeptical scientists.Vendrov 06:05, 22 June 2007 (UTC)
The portion of the text mentioning Dennett in this article is ambiguous, at best. Judging by the interview provided as the source [2] he seem to be be simply complaining that some of his theories are being treated as scientism (while he claims they are 100% science). However this article reports his statement completely out of context, making it sounds as if he (as "a prominent philosopher of science") is claiming that scientism is "just" a term used for "bashing true science"... ... BTW, Dennet's quick reference to the term while actually commenting other topics is of questionable relevance, especially when it is placed right in the space that should be dealing with actual definitions of the term. --LeinadBRAlogo1.png -diz aí, chapa. 18:03, 27 June 2007 (UTC)

Major rewrite

OK, I just did a major rewrite of the article. The changes are mainly reflecting the considerations of two peer-reviewed articles dedicated to understanding and explaining "scientism":

  • The article by Gregory R. Peterson, (2003) Demarcation and the Scientistic Fallacy. in Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science 38 (4), 751-761.
  • The article about the topic of Scientism in: J. Wentzel Vrede van Huyssteen (editor). Encyclopedia of science and religion, 2nd ed. Thomson Gale. 2003.

Even though I am making many changes in only one edit, I've spent considerable amount of time (3 days) considering the sources and refining this text. So, please don't go making hurried reverts or modifications assuming that I made the changes I made mindlessly. Of course, even though I was careful, it is quite probable that what I wrote needs refinement. Grammar improvements are especially welcome, since English in not my native language. --LeinadBRAlogo1.png -diz aí, chapa. 17:43, 28 June 2007 (UTC)

Great work on the expansion. This article really has some meat to it now. Simões (talk/contribs) 18:27, 28 June 2007 (UTC)
Agreed. As you suspected, there are a few grammatical errors in it, so I'll try to find some time to go through and clean it up a bit later today. --Infophile (Talk) (Contribs) 18:30, 28 June 2007 (UTC)

First, I'm going to say that I disagree with the entire premise here. Is this a WIKTIONARY defitnion or an article about an idea? Second, if you don't speak great English, wouldn't it be better to write an article in your native language? Third, it is better to make one or a few changes at a time, to give other viewpoints a chance to respond. What if some of your changes are acceptable and others not? Fourth, like any word with more than one meaning, I think there is a problem is the article 'presumes' one meaning over all the others. The article must explain that the use of the word, its very definition, is often contested and contradictory.

Finally, I disagree with the word 'pejorative'. Like calling a killer a killer, some words (like charlatan) may have negative connotation, but they are only pejorative if unfairly so.Ryoung122 23:11, 28 June 2007 (UTC)

You reverted to a version that was little more than a list of dicdefs. Confused? Simões (talk/contribs) 23:26, 28 June 2007 (UTC)

I'm inclined to re-include the alternate definitions, after the presently existing text, i.e., in addition to the "meat" that Simoes and others have added to the article. The following are some that were previously used in this article up until about eight months ago. I think they may add some additional perspective for the reader about just how broad and varied the usages of the word have been. ... Kenosis 23:05, 9 July 2007 (UTC)

==Alternate meanings of scientism==
Standard dictionary definitions include the following meanings:
  • The use of the style, assumptions, techniques, and other attributes typically displayed by scientists.[1]
  • Methods and attitudes typical of or attributed to the natural scientist.[2]
  • An exaggerated trust in the efficacy of the methods of natural science applied to all areas of investigation, as in philosophy, the social sciences, and the humanities.[3]
  • The use of scientific or pseudoscientific language."[4]
  • The contention that the social sciences should be held to the somewhat stricter interpretation of scientific method used by the natural sciences. [5]
  • The belief that the social sciences are not science because they commonly do not hold to the somewhat stricter interpretation of scientific method used by the natural sciences.[6]
  • The belief that scientific knowledge is the foundation of all knowledge and that, consequently, scientific argument should always be weighted more heavily than other forms of knowledge, particularly those which are not yet well described or justified from within the rational framework, or whose description fails to present itself in the course of a debate against a scientific argument. It can be contrasted by doctrines like historicism, which hold that there are certain "unknowable" truths. [7] This viewpoint is typified by comments such as "Scientific research has demonstrated that substance x causes cancer in humans."
  • As a form of dogma: "In essence, scientism sees science as the absolute and only justifiable access to the truth."[8]

References: [footnote numbers differ from what they would be in the article]

  1. ^ Random House Dictionary of the English Language. 1987.
  2. ^ Webster's Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary. 1983.
  3. ^ Webster. 1983.
  4. ^ Webster. 1983. Definition #3 for Scientism.
  5. ^ Webster. 1983. Definition #2 for Scientism.
  6. ^ Webster. 1983. Definition #2 for Scientism.
  7. ^ The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language: Fourth Edition. 2000.
  8. ^ "Scientism"] Faith and Reason.

Scientific fundamentalism

Per this AfD Scientific fundamentalism now redirects here. There wasn't much usable text to merge, but the AfD does contain a number of references which may be of use to anyone looking to improve this article. Iain99 07:20, 16 July 2007 (UTC)

Scientific imperialism

Much of the content in the link to scientific imperialism, (that was introduced earlier today in the article), seems very similar to what is commonly discussed as scientism. Maybe we should consider a merge... I am not sure, though. To write this article considering the complex variety of definitions of scientism alone seems hard enough already - an obligation to also describe all possible usages of scientific imperialism may not be a good idea. Any comments? --LeinadBRAlogo1.png -diz aí. 20:15, 16 July 2007 (UTC)

Thanks yes there are many parallels but am not sure merger is the answer. With scientific imperialism I think they say different things in my opinion. Imperialism is very largely about power, scientism is a much broader term. I added a link earlier to an excellent article about the arrogance of scientists. Please read it and maybe we can amend the article further. thanks Peter morrell 20:58, 16 July 2007 (UTC)
There are many ways in which the scientism and the scientific imperialism can be improved. I wish I had more time for doing so, but I am busy in real life. I had previously decided not to edit WP at all during this year of 2007. After relapsing during this last month, I am trying, with limited success, to leave WP again ;) --LeinadBRAlogo1.png -diz aí. 14:23, 17 July 2007 (UTC)

Leinad (=daniel spelt backwards), what do you mean by relapsing? do you think editing articles on wikiedia is a type of sickness?? ;-) probably true! I like your webpage esp. chocolate milk, your interest in religion and science, your love of nice respectful people and above all Brazil! I love Sao Paulo even though I have never been I want to visit it more than any place on earth for the graffiti...sorry i digress...I agree both articles must be improved. I will try to do some and maybe you can help. thank you Peter morrell 16:47, 17 July 2007 (UTC)

Simple quote

Don't you think this essentially Kantian (or maybe Hegelian) view expresses a sentiment that lies at the heart of the misgivings that many have about adopting an excessively pro-scientific stance?

Almost every scientist I have ever spoken to about the nature of science believes that scientists study the world 'out there' ; in other words, they study an objective world devoid of human emotions and meaning. They find it quite difficult at first to understand that what they are really studying is the phenomena - the mental representations of the world 'out there'. Once thus enlightened they can then perceive that their knowledge of the world 'out there', far from being objective, is intimately bound up with, and inseparable from, their hopes, fears, and other emotions. The world is one thing, and our knowledge of it is another ; we ought not to imagine that our understanding of the world is the world itself. James, Norwich[3]

However, the The Times article which this comment comes from is a good example of extremely pro-science views, a view that sees nothing wrong with the impact science has had on our world. Peter morrell 05:59, 18 July 2007 (UTC)


The introduction reads as if written by committed positivists who want to hush up the usage of the term, prevalent at least to 1968 (cf. Maslow), to criticize the claims of natural science that a narrowly empiricist methodology exclusively accessing external/quantifiable observations was the only viable way to knowledge. I have tried to remedy this using the dictionary of philosophy definition in the text itself, but it really needs a fuller rewrite to provide a balanced picture. Hgilbert 12:44, 8 August 2007 (UTC)

I agree; go ahead and see if it can be balanced up a bit; it's long overdue. Peter morrell 12:49, 8 August 2007 (UTC)

O x y m o r o n

Can someone add in big yellow bold letters that 'scientism' is an oxymoron? Only bad science can be scientism, science when it works as it should, it wants to question its past findings, only a bad scientist does not take into account new evidence. --Leladax (talk) 15:42, 30 December 2007 (UTC)

I don't think that you understand the full scope of scientism. The idea that "beauty is unimportant" is a scientistic bias in the "only science matters" way -- and has nothing to do with bad science. Claiming that an hour of individual psychotherapy is "scientific work" is an example of the "anything that I value must be scientific" usage of the word scientism -- and it also has nothing to do with bad science. Think about Russian formalism: these people called their literary criticism "scientific," even though it's facially impossible to conduct an controlled experiment on the phrasing of a poem. For that matter, the Soviets under Lenin and Stalin, declared everything the party did to be "scientific," from writing songs to the colors of the clothes they didn't manufacture. The concept of scientism exists to define these not-science extremes, not to identify sloppy logic, inadequate controls, or personal bias in an experiment (="bad science"). WhatamIdoing (talk) 21:41, 30 December 2007 (UTC)
I don't think you understand what an oxymoron is, either. You need a pair of terms, for starters. Simões (talk/contribs) 09:53, 3 February 2008 (UTC)
For example, "Communist party" and "scientific". Hgilbert (talk) 08:24, 15 August 2008 (UTC)
The above communist examples could, theoretically, be called a component of the social sciences. Beyond that, psychotherapy is certainly scientific work. It is derived of the field of psychology, which is most definitely a science (or social science if you believe the former labeling is too broad). Finally, there is significant Cold-War psychology in some of the above posts, attempting to depict communists inherently irrational or evil. But what OP is trying to say is that the term "scientism" is misleading and that the concept is self-defeating because it is contradictory to the reals values of science, that is, objective truth. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 19:42, 17 April 2009 (UTC)

science->scientist; scientism->?

I see the initial definition. Well I don't know the english for it, but in italian we have "scienziato" as someone committed to science, and "scientista" as one committed to scientism. Does these 2 different terms collapses in one, in english? If so, it should be made clear in the first lines. (talk) 13:12, 13 August 2008 (UTC)

Am I the only one ...=

...who finds it a tinge odd that the opening sentence describes the word as "neutral", followed by two descriptions of its use as "pejorative"?? LonelyBeacon (talk) 16:58, 14 August 2008 (UTC)

The second sentence provides the transition: "It also can be..." applied in a critical way. I think it's clear. Hgilbert (talk) 08:23, 15 August 2008 (UTC)
No it is not. But I don't know if it's for the fact that there is a single word describing both the professional scientist in science fields, and the materialistic scientist. (talk) 12:37, 18 August 2008 (UTC)

Is this page, or the Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy wrong?? (misquotation)

According to this page, the OPD quotes Rutherford as saying "there is physics and there is stamp-collecting". But several webpages give the quotation as "All science is either physics or stamp collecting", e.g. They use J. B. Birks "Rutherford at Manchester" (1962) as a reference. Can someone compare the OPD with Birks? They two quotations have quite different meanings: one criticizes only non-physics disciplines of science (Birks' quotation), while the other extends criticism to all non-scientific methods of inquiry (ODP). Only the latter is an example of scientism, but I don't think it is the correct quotation. Rotiro (talk) 11:21, 30 October 2008 (UTC)

What alternatives do critics of scientism propose?

The article explains various criticisms, but does not explain what alternatives would be favoured by the hypothetical criticizers. To play Devil's advocate to some extent, I'll pose some questions that the article leaves largely unanswered in a reader's mind. If the article were to include answers to these questions it would be much more clear and complete, I think.

"... to criticize a totalizing view of science as if it were capable of describing all reality and knowledge, or as if it were the only true way to acquire knowledge about reality and the nature of things."

Well, science is by definition the methodical and rigorous endeavour to understand the natural world and all its physical contents, including (via the social sciences) some of its more nebulous elements related to human beings. So what else exists in reality that can not be understood or described in this way?

"... The belief that scientific knowledge is the foundation of all knowledge."

Well, what other sources of knowledge should be used? What other sources of knowledge exist?

Rotiro (talk) 11:21, 30 October 2008 (UTC)

For your first example, anything about values. Is it "good" or "evil" to euthanize disabled people against their will? Information about how the physical universe operates does not answer this question.
For your second example, personal experience. Should you be frightened when a large, sweaty man walks towards you with a bloody knife in his hand? I'd say yes in some circumstances, but not if it's my great-uncle, who is a butcher by profession. WhatamIdoing (talk) 00:39, 31 October 2008 (UTC)
In short, any question that does not depend on knowledge of the physical world is a question that is not best answered through scientific knowledge. WhatamIdoing (talk) 00:39, 31 October 2008 (UTC)
For your first answer, I agree that judging whether something is right or wrong is an issue for ethics, philosophy, religion, etc. However, those things do not produce "knowledge about reality and the nature of things"; they produce beliefs, morals, ideas, values and opinions, which are obviously subjective since not all people share the same beliefs and opinions. Knowledge is objective.
As for the second answer: Personal experience is nothing more than a set of observations of the world (the man is my uncle, and he hasn't harmed me in the past), with some hypotheses and inferences formed from them (I think he is carrying a bloody knife because he was butchering meat, not murdering people) based on knowledge (I know he is a butcher, butchers cut meat, cutting meat leads to bloody knives) to make predictions (my uncle won't harm me). But that is exactly how science works: observation, inference/hypothesis based on existing knowledge, then prediction, and testing the prediction. Personal experience is a form of scientific inquiry, although it is a form that sometimes lacks the rigour that protects from fallacies like hasty generalization. Since the butcher example does very much depend on experience and observation, or in other words, knowledge of the physical world, it is a scientific question, by your own statement.
I agree that any question that can not be addressed by observations of the physical world can not be answered by science. But I remain unaware of any other way of producing knowledge that addresses such a question. So my question stands: what other sources of knowledge exist, besides science? I am really perplexed by the implication that there is another way to obtain "knowledge about reality and the nature of things". Shall I add a section that criticizes Gregory Peterson's statements for failing to suggest a viable alternative to science which can obtain knowledge about reality and nature? Rotiro (talk) 11:09, 17 November 2008 (UTC)
No, unless you can find an objective source for this.
Incidentally, though this discussion doesn't really belong here: Are your judgments of Peterson's statements scientific? Do you give any credence to them? If you have answered no and yes: how do you explain the discrepancy? Not that I want to shake your belief in scientism.hgilbert (talk) 13:37, 17 November 2008 (UTC)
As an aside, the statement "I agree that judging whether something is right or wrong is an issue for ethics, philosophy, religion, etc. However, those things do not produce 'knowledge about reality and the nature of things'; they produce beliefs, morals, ideas, values and opinions, which are obviously subjective since not all people share the same beliefs and opinions. Knowledge is objective." serves as a good illustration of the key issue. It excludes statements about morality from being statements about "reality." Critics of scientism would argue that, examining the holocaust or the genocide in Rwanda, moral evil is every bit as real as gravity. The way we learn about it and make judgments about it is different from the way we learn about and make judgments about physical forces - and it is clearly outside the scope of science. But critics of scientism would argue that killing millions of people, or systematically raping civilians to destroy a national identity, is not a matter of "you say tomato, I say tomahto." Arguing that moral evil is not real because it cannot be studied using scientific methods elevates science to a position of arbiter of ideas outside its natural scope of investigating the physical universe - which is the essence of what critics mean by the term "scientism." EastTN (talk) 15:33, 25 November 2008 (UTC)

request for deletion

"scientism" is a non-concept, a shibboleth thrown around by religious and mystical cranks. Wikipedia is not the place for an article on this topic, because it is not notable. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 21:38, 9 February 2009 (UTC)

Look out! Here come the crusaders of scientism, ready to burn the heretics at the stake! The heathen non-belivers must be silenced I say! I vote for deletion! (talk) 05:32, 23 February 2009 (UTC)
You're wrong. I am an atheist, but not a proponent of scientism. How about them apples? The reason for my position in this matter is that the scientific methods themselves presuppose a lot of philosophical assumptions that can not be verified empirically. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 19:52, 1 March 2009 (UTC)
If it's a non-notable non-concept, its 28,300 matches on Google Scholar are completely excessive too. What's the world coming to? K2709 (talk) 10:48, 25 March 2009 (UTC)
Archive 1 Archive 2

What do you call

one who ascribes to the ideology of scientism? a scientismist? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 20:00, 31 March 2009 (UTC)

"science is imagination"

I first learned the term in this article:

I wonder if there's anything we can use from that URL for this wikipedia article...--Sonjaaa (talk) 14:34, 7 April 2009 (UTC)


Why don't we make this article a component of the positivism article and get rid of this one altogether. You would put it under "criticisms" or "variants" or something else appropriate. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 19:31, 17 April 2009 (UTC)

I disagree, I think this is an important topic in its own right, and in fact, I think the article could be further improved. --Brian Fenton (talk) 22:46, 8 June 2009 (UTC)

Scientific imperialism merger

I propose that the article Scientific imperialism be redirected here, and anything useful be rewritten and merged into this article. Comments and suggestions welcome (here please). Thanks, Verbal chat 08:03, 25 April 2009 (UTC)

  • Support There is absolutely nothing in either article to establish the phrase "scientific imperialism" as a notable term distinct from scientism. The article seems to be formed from unconnected and unrelated references which happen to use the words "scientific" and "imperialism" in that order. — Hyperdeath(Talk) 09:49, 25 April 2009 (UTC)
  • Support Had I been able to say that better I would... I agree. We have an article here about something notable, we have what seems to be an essay with the 'scientific imperialism' article. All of what is in the SI article is covered here, and it is done much better here. Dbrodbeck (talk) 11:46, 25 April 2009 (UTC)
  • Oppose. The synthesis in the current article and on the talk page does not mean that there are not reliable sources that refer to "scientific imperialism". I am checking on Google Scholar and elsewhere to find reliable sources using the term. It seems that there is more than one use of the term, and it does not always equate to a pejorative view of science. Some scientists use it as a term for something that scientists ought to avoid, e.g. ignoring local sensitivities when conducting research, or taking advantage of vulnerable communities in developing countries. I agree that the scientific imperialism article needs improving, especially to avoid POV and synthesis, but it does seem to be a notable topic by itself. Fences and windows (talk) 19:23, 25 April 2009 (UTC)
The fact that reliable sources happen to use a phrase doesn't mean that the phrase itself it notable. The WP:NOTABILITY guidelines state that secondary sources are required to establish notability. In other words, we need sources that document the use of the term, rather than those which just use it. At present there is nothing. — Hyperdeath(Talk) 20:55, 25 April 2009 (UTC)
OK, I missed that subtlety.
  • Zenit discusses the issue:[4]. I don't know if that counts as a reliable source, it is a new agency but an explicitly Catholic one. Is it reliable for reporting the viewpoints of Catholics?
  • Here's an opinion piece in MSU News by a retired neuroscience Professor:[5]
  • A book review on American Scientist uses the term:[6], with the definition ""the tendency to push a good scientific idea far beyond the domain in which it was originally introduced, and often far beyond the domain in which it can provide much illumination".
  • A weak one: Chemistry & Industry reports Mary Midgley leading a discussion on scientific imperialism, but without any elaboration:[7]. Ah, here it is:"Tuesday 19 January 1999 Mary Midgley: Scientific Imperialism. Mary Midgley, author and philosopher, has written extensively on science and animal rights. The present popularity of science in publishing has led to the idea that science is omni-competent, that it alone has the answer to fundamental questions about life, the universe and everything. But is the extension of scientific ideas and explanations into psychology, social sciences, religious experience and other areas of our culture helpful and legitimate, or is it merely a fashionable trend that will cause more problems than it solves? Mary Midgley will robustly attack a view of the world that is too narrowly scientistic."[8]
  • This book review discusses scientific imperialism by the author:[9]
  • Does John Dupré's book count as a reliable source? [10]. Fences and windows (talk) 01:16, 26 April 2009 (UTC)
Those may be secondary references in the general sense, but they are not secondary references with respect to the phrase itself. The references might establish the notability of the the general concept of scientism, but they certainly don't establish the notability of "scientific imperialism" as a specific term. — Hyperdeath(Talk) 18:05, 26 April 2009 (UTC)
  • Support on the basis of what I've seen so far. The question is not whether both terms are used: sure they are. The question is whether they are used to mean clearly different things. As far as I can see, they are not. If that's right, then it's best to have a single article dealing with both terms, converting the less-used one to a redirect. Looie496 (talk) 16:04, 26 April 2009 (UTC)
  • Oppose - They seem like two distinct (albeit related) terms, each notable in their own right. That said, each of these articles would benefit from more sources which - per Fencesandwindows - are readily located via Google Scholar searches. (Hyperdeath, very cool signature!) -- Levine2112 discuss 18:48, 26 April 2009 (UTC)
    Could you give some sources that establish notability as distinct to Scientism? (Please don't point to those above, as they don't - or explain how they do) Thanks, Verbal chat 19:19, 26 April 2009 (UTC)
    Sure, here a but a few top results from a Google Scholar search:"Scientific imperialism" by Gerardo Budowski Director-General of the international Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (Scientific imperialism is a widespread phenomenon today and takes many different forms. Because it is "carried out in the name of science" it may seem to be justified automatically, and any protest may be stifled by strong criticism.), "Against Scientific Imperialism" by John Dupré, SCIENTIFIC IMPERIALISM AND BEHAVIORIST EPISTEMOLOGY by J. E. R. Staddon (Scientific imperialism — the idea that all decisions, in principle, can be made scientifically — has become, in effect, the religion of the intellectuals.). Some of these are already used in the article to some extent, but these are all notable people describing the philosphical term in reliable sources - hence the notability of the term is all but established and thus I oppose said merger. -- Levine2112 discuss 21:04, 26 April 2009 (UTC)
I'm going through reliable sources that use the term "scientific imperialism" to record the meaning. Not all of them use it to mean "scientism": it can also be in the context of actual (or perceived) imperialism, e.g. research in developing countries. See Talk:Scientific_imperialism#Reliable_sources. They are scholarly articles rather than news articles, but not everything needs to be in the popular press to be notable. Fences and windows (talk) 21:18, 26 April 2009 (UTC)
If the articles are merged, any references and content relating to scientific imperialism in the colonial or cultural sense rather than the philosophical sense could go into Cultural imperialism. There should then be a disambiguation page listing Scientism and Cultural imperialism as the two relevant articles. Fences and windows (talk) 21:32, 26 April 2009 (UTC)
To summarise my notes on the other talk page, these are the following meanings of "scientific imperialism" that I've found:
  1. As a monopoly on knowledge: (i.e. scientism?)
  2. With regard to research in developing countries
  3. As part of the attitudes of colonialism (part of cultural imperialism)
  4. Ignoring global views in science
  5. In the context of a reluctance to share data, as an example of secrecy and superiority of scientists.
Fences and windows (talk) 02:15, 28 April 2009 (UTC)
  • Oppose. There is enough notability from the RS presented above. MaxPont (talk) 07:11, 28 April 2009 (UTC)
  • Support -- We have too many articles covering basically the same ground under different names, and this is yet another example. DreamGuy (talk) 13:07, 28 April 2009 (UTC)
Firstly I'd say that Scientism is a well-known concept in social science and the philosophy of science. Scientific Imperialism seems to have its roots with a spiritualist called Dr. Ellis Thomas Powell, it would be a good idea to keep these sphere's separate. Secondly, is it true that 'The term is almost exclusively used in a pejorative context, most commonly in Christian apologetics'? a) Hayek and Popper who coined the term were certainly not Christian apologists b) the one source to back up this dubious statement is a Christian blogger called Saint Anthony! Not a good source. I think it would do well to remember that the concept originates in the humanist philosophy of science and social science, rather than religious apology.--Evenmadderjon (talk) 11:49, 29 April 2009 (UTC)
But does "scientific imperialism" have its roots with Ellis Thomas Powell? Do any of the other sources mention him or his speech? The word "imperialism" is a common invective, and it is very likely that the other sources coined the term independently, without being influenced by Powell in the slightest. I find the claim that Powell started the ball rolling highly dubious, and request further evidence. — Hyperdeath(Talk) 19:24, 29 April 2009 (UTC)
  • Alternative proposal. I think we can all agree that one meaning of "scientific imperialism" is identical to "scientism", and many sources explicitly make that equation. But there is a distinct view of the meaning of "scientific imperialism", which relates to actual colonialism and cultural imperialism (regarding the attitudes of colonialists, research in developing countries, ignoring global views in science, ignoring non-English sources). I propose that we keep the page Scientific imperialism and make clear the different definitions, and reduce the "scientism" part to a summary, directing readers to Scientism as the main page. As Hyperdeath asks, what is the source for Powell being the origin of the term? This seems to be an unwarranted assumption, I didn't see his name mentioned in any of the sources I found. Fences and windows (talk) 13:03, 30 April 2009 (UTC)
This is a possible solution but it would mean a heavy rewrite of the scientific imperialism article, which is currently a confused OR mess of an essay. I'd suggest a small section on scientific imperialism as scientism, which redirects here, and then a well sourced discussion of the other meanings. Verbal chat 07:30, 4 May 2009 (UTC)
  • Oppose for reasons and cites given above; I do have yet more useful cites, but is it worth posting them? given what 'Fences' says above? thanks Peter morrell 12:46, 2 May 2009 (UTC)
  • Tentatively oppose. There are, in general, subtle but important distinctions between "scientism" and "scientific imperialism", the latter involving stronger implications of cultural imperialism as was already pointed out. "Scientism" is already complicated enough due to its various usages. ... Kenosis (talk) 15:33, 4 May 2009 (UTC)
  • Moderate oppose. I agree that there are important distinctions between these two concepts. EastTN (talk) 15:47, 1 June 2009 (UTC)

Further citation material

Here is the further citation material anyway and folks can then check it thru.

Possible sources collapsed for ease of navigation
The following discussion has been closed. Please do not modify it.

"the imperialistic attitude of cognitive science risks transforming that science into a naïve metaphysics'....'when a theory wants to become imperialistic and pretends to subjugate its own condition of possibility." from The deluded emperor: literature, cognitive science, and simon's absolute knowledge, Stefano Velotti

"At the same time Thoreau often lamented science’s tendency to kill poetry. The scientific writings of others and his own careful observations often revealed life to him, but at other times rendered nature lifeless. Modern-day Thoreauvians are also aware of science’s role in the imperialistic conquest of nature. We love the wild, yet science has largely become a tool for control, commodification and increased consumption, rather than for the appreciation and protection of nature.The proper role of science in human society and in our own lives is thus an important issue." Philip Cafaro, Thoreau on Science and System

"writing a year after the publication of Walden: "The inhumanity of science concerns me, as when I am tempted to kill a rare snake that I may ascertain its species. I feel that this is not the means of acquiring true knowledge." (Journal VI, 311; May 28, 1854). Of course, post-modern critics of science with no interest in knowing nature can easily write off scientific killing, analysis and science itself as simply forms of imperialism; see for example Val Plumwood, "Nature, Self, and Gender: Feminism, Environmental Philosophy, and the Critique of Rationalism," Hypatia 6 (1991): 3-27.' Philip Cafaro, Thoreau on Science and System

'A dead specimen of an animal, if it is only well preserved in alcohol, is just as good for science as a living one preserved in its native element.' (Thoreau, Journal XI, (November 30, 1858, 359-60.) quoted in Philip Cafaro, Thoreau on Science and System

see also Imperialism Blaut, J. M.1997."Evaluating Imperialism."Science and Society.61(3):382-393

"This critique of technocracy gradually aligned itself with other ideological programs seeking to reform or revolutionize social relations, such as feminism, ecological activism, and postcolonial struggles, adopting a counter-cultural militancy that rejected pulp SF's quasi-imperialist vision of white men conquering the stars in the name of Western progress." [11]

"what has subsequently come to be called by environmental historians and activists 'ecological imperialism." [ibid]

"Science Fiction, in short, had for too long been an uncritical cheerleader for the social engineering of nature emanating from a narrow technocratic mindset, and was only now beginning to shake free of this imperialistic delusion." [ibid]

"the histories of ecological imperialism," [ibid] Alfred Crosby, Ecological Imperialism (1986),

"an imperialistic science with its narrow scientific empiricism which insisted that all truth should be grounded in the material, the objective, and the readily reproducible." The Way of Enlightened Science by Richard S. Kirby, PhD., May 29, 2003

"In modernity the west victoriously achieved a differentiation of the cultural value spheres of arts, morals, and science which has unfortunately dissociated (via scientific imperialism which denied subjective truth by insisting that all truth be anchored in the objective and quantifiable realm) into a material waste land cultural consciousness placing objective truth (science) to be of greater importance than subjective truth (arts and morals)." [ibid]

The "nightmares of imperialistic science in genetic engineering." Brian Milani, Designing the green economy, Rowman and Littlefield, 2000, p.149

"there is an inclination in all fields of study including the sciences, to be imperialistic. Whatever academic enterprise we may represent, we tend to view all issues from that point of view, as if it were the true center of the universe and the one assured vantage point from which to survey all else." M. Conrad Hayes, The meaning of creation: genesis and modern science, westminster knox press, 1986, p.13

"one of the consequences of intellectual imperialism is that instead of bringing all knowledge under its dominion, it reduces knowledge to its own dimnsions. It is imperialistic in aspiration but reductionistic in results." [ibid, p.13]

"to what extent is modern science by its fundamental nature inextricably bound to an imperialistic imperative, to a will to power and violence, to an ammoral disregard for the sanctity of life? These are highly relevant issues given the role of modern science and technology in the colonial enterprises of European countries in Asia during the last few centuries. The embeddedness of modern science in European imperialism provoked complex responses among the colonized." [12]

"the reception and impact of modern science (and technology) introduced into these cultures from the European West, often as an instrument of imperialistic and missionary enterprise." [ibid]

"Semali and Kincheloe (1999) # argued that the ability of western modern science to present its findings as universal gives it an imperialistic power dismissive of indiginous knowledge as inadequate and inferior..' Sandra K Abell, Norman G Lederman, Handbook of research on science education, 2007, p.207

  1. Semali L. M and Kincheloe, J.L (Eds) (1999) What is Indigenous Knowledge? Voices from the Academy, Palmer Press: London.

The term therefore seems quite notable. Peter morrell 13:08, 2 May 2009 (UTC)

MORE Imperialism and Science books and articles

  • Anis Alam, Science and imperialism, Race and Class 1978, 19: 239-251.
  • David Arnold, The Problem of Nature: Environment, Culture, and European Expansion (Cambridge, Mass.: Blackwell, 1996).
  • David Arnold [ed] Imperial Medicine and Indigenous Societies (Manchester : Manchester Univ. Press; New York: St. Martin'sPress, 1988).
  • Howard Bailes, Technology and imperialism: A case study of the Victorian army in Africa, Victorian Studies, 24, 1980: 82-104.
  • Poonam Bala. Imperialism and medicine in Bengal: A socio-historical perspective (Newbury Park, Calif.: Sage, 1991)
  • Beck Boyde, Imperialism and professionalization: Dominion registration and Canadian physicians during the Boer War, Scientia Canadensis: Journal of the History of Canadian Science, Technology, and Medicine 1984, 8: 3-19.
  • Morag Bell, Robin A. Butlin and Michael Heffernan (eds.) Geography and imperialism, 1820-1940. (Manchester : Manchester Univ. Press; New York : St. Martin's Press, 1995.)
  • Shlomo Biderman and Ben-Ami Scharfstein (eds.) Rationality in question: On Eastern and Western views of rationality (Leiden: Brill): p.165-189.
  • Harun, H. Bin. Medicine and imperialism: A study of the British colonial medical establishment, health policy, and medical research in the Malay Peninsula, 1786-1918 (Published: 1988).
  • Patrick Brantlinger. "Pensée sauvage" at the MLA: Victorian cultural imperialism then and now, Victorian Newsletter 1990, 77: 1-5.
  • R.A Buchanan, The diaspora of British engineering, Technology and Culture 1986, 27: 501-524.
  • David Cahan, Pride and prejudice in the history of physics: The German speaking world, 1740-1945, Historical Studies in the Physical and Biological Sciences 1988, 19: 173-191.
  • Paul Crook, Social Darwinism and British 'new imperialism': Second thoughts, Eur. Legacy 1998, 3: 1-16.
  • Alfred W. Crosby. Ecological imperialism: The biological expansion of Europe, 900-1900 (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1986).
  • Alfred W. Crosby, Ecological imperialism: The overseas migration of western Europeans as a biological phenomenon, Texas Quarterly 1978, 21(1): 10-22.
  • Alfred W. Crosby. Germs, Seeds, and Animals: Studies in Ecological History. (Armonk, N.Y., M. E. Sharpe, 1994).
  • Clarence B Davis.Railway Imperialism. (Westport, Conn., Greenwood, 1991).
  • Robin Dennell, Progressive gradualism, imperialism, and academic fashion: Lower Paleolithic archaeology in the 20th century, Antiquity 1990, 64: 549-558.
  • F.V. Emery, Geography and imperialism: The role of Sir Bartlé Frere (1815-84), Geographical Journal 1984, 150: 342-350
  • Laura Fishman, French views of native American women in the early modern period: The Tupinamba of Brazil, Terrae Incognitae 1994, 26:9-25.
  • Roderick Floud. The Economic History of Britain since 1700. Vol. 2: 1860-1939.(Cambridge and New York, Cambridge Univ. Press, 1994).
  • Diane Frost ed.Ethnic Labour and British Imperial Trade: A History of Ethnic Seafarers in the UK.(London and Portland, Ore.: F. Cass, 1995).
  • Paul Greenhalgh. Ephemeral vistas: The expositions universelles, great exhibitions, and world's fairs, 1851-1939 (Manchester: Manchester Univ. Press; New York: St. Martin's Press, 1988).
  • Richard H. Grove. Ecology, Climate and Empire: Colonialism and Global Environmental History, 1400-1940.(Concord, Mass.: Paul and Company ; Cambridge, Eng.: White Horse, 1997).
  • Richard H. Grove. Green Imperialism: Colonial Expansion, Tropical Island Edens and the Origins of Environmentalism, 1600-1860. (Cambridge and New York, Cambridge Univ. Press, 1995).
  • Donna J Guy. Medical imperialism gone awry: The campaign against legalized prostitution in Latin America, Science, medicine and cultural imperialism Teresa Meade and Mark Walker (eds.) p.75-94. (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1991).
  • Daniel R. Headrick. The Invisible Weapon: Telecommunications and International Politics, 1851-1945.(Oxford and New York, Oxford Univ. Press, 1991).
  • Daniel R. Headrick. The Tentacles of Progress: Technology Transfer in the Age of Imperialism, 1850-1940. (New York, Oxford University Press, 1988).
  • Daniel R Headrick. The tools of empire: Technology and European imperialism in the 19th century (New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1981).
  • Daniel R Headrick. “The tools of imperialism: Technology and the expansion of European colonial empires in the 19th century” in Journal of Modern History 1979, 51: 231-263.
  • Dennis Hodgson, Ideological currents and the interpretation of demographic trends: The case of Francis Amasa Walker, Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences 1992, 28: 28-44.
  • Sally Ledger. In darkest England: The terror of degeneration in "fin-de-siècle", Britain in Literature and History 1995, 4(2): 71-86
  • Marilyn Little. Imperialism, colonialism and the new science of nutrition: The Tanganyika experience, 1925-1945, Social Science and Medicine 1991, 32: 11-14.
  • Steven. Lubar. In the Footsteps of Perry: The Smithsonian Goes to Japan, Public Historian v. 17, Summer 1995, p. 25-60.
  • John M. MacKenzie. The empire of nature: Hunting, conservation, and British imperialism (Manchester: Manchester Univ. Press; New York: St. Martin's Press, 1988).
  • John M MacKenzie, (ed.). Imperialism and the natural world (Published: Manchester : Manchester Univ. Press, 1990).
  • Roy MacLeod, Science, progressivism, and 'practical idealism': Reflections on efficient imperialism and federal science in Australia, 1895-1915, Scientia Canadensis: Journal of the History of Canadien Science, Technology, and Medicine 1994, 17: 7-25.
  • Shula Marks, What is colonial about colonial medicine? And what has happened to imperialism and health? Social History of Medicine 1997, 10: 205-219.
  • James E. McClellan III, Colonialism and science: Saint Dominique in the Old Regime (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 1992).
  • Teresa Meade. Cultural Imperialism in Old Republic Rio de Janeiro: The Urban Renewal and Public Health Project, Science, Medicine and Cultural Imperialism (New York, St. Martin's , 1991) p. 95-119.
  • Teresa Meade and Mark Walker. Science, medicine and cultural imperialism (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1991).
  • Timo Myllyntaus, Electrical imperialism or multinational cooperation? The role of big business in supplying light and power to St. Petersburg before 1917, Business and Economic History 1997, 26(2): 540-549.
  • Lynn Nyhart. Biology and imperialism, Journal of the History of Biology 1995, 28:533-543.
  • Robert. Olby. Social imperialism and state support for agricultural research in Edwardian Britain, Annals of Science 1991, 48: 509-526.
  • David E Omissi. Air Power and Colonial Control: The Royal Air Force, 1919-1939. (New York, Manchester Univ. Press St. Martin's, 1990).
  • Paolo Palladino, Science and imperialism, Isis, 1993, 84: 91-102.
  • Om Prakash, The Transfer of Science and Technology between Asia and Europe, Itinerario v. 14, no. 2, 1990, p. 15-21.
  • Lewis Pyenson, Astronomy and imperialism: J. A. C. Oudemans, the topography of the East Indies, and the rise of the Utrecht Observatory,1850-1900, Historia Scientiarum: International Journal of the History of Science Society of Japan 1984, 26: 39-81.
  • Lewis Pyenson. Cultual imperialism and exact sciences: German expansion overseas, 1900-1930 (New York: Lang, 1985).
  • Lewis Pyenson, Cultural imperialism and exact sciences: German expansion overseas, 1900-1930, History of Science 1982, 20: 1-43.
  • Lewis Pyenson. Pure learning and political economy: Science and European expansion in the age of imperialism (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1989.)
  • Lewis Pyenson,. Why science may serve political ends: Cultural imperialism and the mission to civilize New trends in the history of science, in R.P.W. Visser (et al., eds.) p.209-278.
  • Paul B. Rich. Racial ideas and the impact of imperialism in Europe, Eur. Legacy 1998, 3: 31-44.
  • Peter Riviere. From science to imperialism: Robert Schomburgk's Humanitarianism, Archives of Natural History 1998, 25: 1-8.
  • Woodruff D. Smith. Complications of the Commonplace; Tea, Sugar, and Imperialism, Journal of Interdisciplinary History v. 23, Autumn, 1992, pp.259-78.
  • Robert A. Stafford, Scientist of Empire: Sir Roderick Murchison, scientific exploration and Victorian imperialism, (Cambridge, New York,Cambridge University Press, 1989)
  • Jeffrey C. Stone, Imperialism, colonialism, and cartography, Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 1988, 13: 57-64.
  • Elias H. Tuma, Suez Canal: Another Dimension in the European Network, Journal of European Economic History v. 24, Winter 1995, p.619-34.
  • Walter J Vanast, 'Ignorant of any rational method': European assessments of indigenous healing practices in the North American Arctic, Canadian Bulletin of Medical History 1992, 9: 57-69.
  • Sheldon Watts. Epidemics and history: Disease, power, and imperialism (New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 1997)
  • Richard A. Webster. Industrial imperialism in Italy, 1908-1915 ( Berkeley: Univ. California Press, 1975)

Yet more evidence for its notability in books and learned articles. Peter morrell 07:38, 3 May 2009 (UTC)

Medical imperialism

This might warrant a little article or a subsection of the scientific imperialism one depending on if you believe modern medicine is a true science, but here are some cites on this topic:

  • Borko Amulic, Medical Imperialism: A review of "The Body Hunters: Testing New Drugs on the World’s Poorest Patients" by Sonia Shah, The New Press 2006 New York City Independent Media Center
  • Breilh J. Community medicine under imperialism: a new medical police? Int J Health Serv. 1979;9(1):5-24.
  • Brown ER. Exporting medical education: professionalism, modernization and imperialism, Soc Sci Med, 1979, Nov;13A(6):585-95.
  • Conrad P, Schneider JW, Looking at levels of medicalization: a comment on Strong's critique of the thesis of medical imperialism, Soc Sci Med. 1980 Jan;14A(1):75-9
  • Daly RW. Medical imperialism in the Congo? Nutrition. 1999, Nov-Dec;15(11-12):936-7.
  • de Swaan A. The reluctant imperialism of the medical profession, Soc Sci Med. 1989;28(11):1165-70.
  • Forde OH. Is imposing risk awareness cultural imperialism? Soc Sci Med. 1998 Nov;47(9):1155-9.
  • R L Kane, Medical imperialism, Journal Journal of Community Health, 5.2, December, 1979
  • Little M. Imperialism, colonialism and the new science of nutrition: the Tanganyika experience, 1925-1945, Soc Sci Med. 1991;32(1):11-4.
  • Lorcin PM. Imperialism, colonial identity, and race in Algeria, 1830-1870. The role of the French Medical Corps, Isis. 1999 Dec;90(4):652-79.
  • Mandal BK. Letter: Chloromycetin: medical imperialism. Lancet. 1974 Aug 17;2(7877):414-5.
  • Metcalfe D. Cultural imperialism: a danger? Med Educ. 1996 Jan;30(1):3.
  • Anne Murcott (Ed) Sociology and Medicine Selected Essays by P M Strong, Chapter 5: Sociological Imperialism and the Profession of Medicine - a Critical Examination of the Thesis of Medical Imperialism, Ashgate, UK
  • Oliver H Osborne, Cross-cultural social science research and questions of scientific medical imperialism, Journal of Medical Humanities, 2.3, September, 1980, Pages 159-163
  • Pretorius E. The medicalization of society; an excursion in medical imperialism, Curationis. 1983 Dec;6(4):40-4.
  • Strong PM. Sociological imperialism and the profession of medicine. A critical examination of the thesis of medical imperialism, Soc Sci Med. 1979 Mar;13A(2):199-215.
  • Schreier HA, Berger L. Letter: On medical imperialism. Lancet. 1974 Jun 8;1(7867):1161.
  • Werner DL. Imperialism, research ethics and global health, J Med Ethics. 1999 Feb;25(1):62.
  • Wilmshurst P. Scientific imperialism, Brit Medical Jnl. 1997 Mar 22;314(7084):840-1.

Many of these are a few years old, there may well be more recent examples. Peter morrell 07:07, 4 May 2009 (UTC)

I'm not familiar with these sources, but the context in which I usually hear medical imperialism is much more like "You decided to run your clinical trial in Africa because nobody cares if poor black people die from the side effects of this untested drug", not "evidence-based medicine is an objective improvement over your intuition of what might be causing your disease." WhatamIdoing (talk) 01:36, 9 May 2009 (UTC)


I just sent a few dozen kb to Talk:Scientism/Archive 1, as this talkpage was getting rather long. I also set up Miszabot to archive at five weeks to keep it from getting clogged again. This can, of course, be tweaked or eliminated at whim. - 2/0 (formerly Eldereft) (cont.) 15:01, 4 May 2009 (UTC)

psychological dimensions of experience

The article tends to focus upon the misapplication of the scientific method to areas where such a method is not well equipped to make judgements. Apart from the introduction, there is no real mention of how the application of the scientific method itself is coloured by psychological and political/sociological biases and the group ideology factors which obscure and perpetuate this process, i.e. peer review. There appears to be an assumption that the scientific method is objective and scientism is merely the over-application of that objective process to other areas.

The inherent psychological biases within the process of being "objective" and the process of interpretation of "objective" data which highlight the fallacy of objectivity in the first place could be fleshed out more. Comments anyone? (talk) 14:48, 9 May 2009 (UTC)

The assumption that the scientific method is not objective seems POV to me.

Extreme Scientism as Belief

Extreme anything ends up being a form of belief. This has a very credible (and reliable) source. I can't see any reason to delete it. hgilbert (talk) 20:39, 17 July 2009 (UTC)

I totally agree. I would also add that the views of Dennett and others of his disposition are also 'opinions'. One doesn't have to agree with the opinions, but the different points of view should at least be represented. This article is about the notion of 'scientism', so I find it ironic that a certain editor who thinks that all religions are 'God asking for money' should accuse another editor who sourced the Charles Tart video of POV pushing in this article. Now that surely IS an example of 'scientism'!Godfinger (talk) 21:08, 17 July 2009 (UTC)
You're missing the point. There is a big difference between quoting someone's opinion (as is done for Dennett) and simply stating that opinion as if it was an uncontested fact (as was done for the Google video). See the WP:SUBSTANTIATE policy for more details.
Incidentally, the logical fallacy in the second half of your post is known as bulverism.
Hyperdeath(Talk) 21:42, 17 July 2009 (UTC)
As you can see , I have reworded the statement so it is no longer stated as 'fact' but as 'described' by Charles Tart (i.e an 'opinion' attributed to him). The source seems to me to be perfectly reasonable. You can see the man speaking, you can see that it's Charles Tart. It's certainly not a 'lousy' reference.Godfinger (talk) 22:11, 17 July 2009 (UTC)
Let's keep this about the subject and not about each other. Can we agree that it is properly worded now, and move one? hgilbert (talk) 23:15, 17 July 2009 (UTC)
The sentence is fine. I have no problem with Hyperdeath, I simply disagreed with a comment in the edit summary Godfinger (talk) 23:35, 17 July 2009 (UTC)


Is one who ascribes to the doctrine of Scientism as Scientismist?Lily20 (talk) 17:35, 20 August 2009 (UTC)

Hehe! I think not. Maybe scientism-adherent. Language isn't always on our side. Rursus dixit. (mbork3!) 11:10, 17 May 2010 (UTC)

Scientism and modern science

Scientism isn't necessarily about science versus other ways of thinking, its a certain attitude about what correct scientific reasoning is. All of the fields in science, physics, natural science, etc. were once considered fields of philosophy and by the 19th century, science just became a term for philosophy with a descriptive focus. Hence, Hegel termed his philosophical writing as a 'science of consciousness'; and natural science was still being done by philosophers in what was termed 'natural philosophy'. All of this today would be considered improper scientific reasoning, but it wasn't at the time.

So it depends a lot on your belief about what science is or should be. Many philosophers (not scientists) have also been referred to as scientistic, because they had certain attitudes that were considered reductionistic. For example, a scientistic point of view always tries to view human reasoning through the perspective of material causes, so paints human beliefs as if they were just subjective phantoms that were created by some outside agency. Someone who disagrees with a scientistic point of view would say that this ignores that person understands himself as having objective causes and reasons for his belief, and that this has to be taken seriously when understanding people's beliefs. So, even David Hume--a philosopher--would be considered 'scientistic' when he tries to undermine the idea of causality by a discussion of where the subjective idea of causality comes from.

Psychology has been viewed as an inherently scientistic field; for arguments that go against the grain of ethical reasoning; but also in its interpretation of human reasoning in general. As an example Carl Jung tried to reduce an explanation of alchemy to a psychological process, while in fact alchemists were concerned with ontological reasoning, and discussing the nature of things through using Platonic Ideas--something that was considered scientific then--but wouldn't be considered scientific now. Jung's transformation of alchemy into something purely psychological--subjective instead of objective--is scientistic.


If you can source your statements, the sentiment is worth adding to the article. As it is now, it is very focused on the modern usage. But the article is about the word "scientism" — if that word occured in say the 18th century in another meaning, it is well worth adding. Rursus dixit. (mbork3!) 11:13, 17 May 2010 (UTC)


I have only ever heard the term 'scientism' used in a pejorative context: by people trying to assert that science is just as unproven and requires just as much faith as any religion does, and that "scientism" deserves, at most, equal standing with Creationism. But this article seems to be saying that, while the term is sometimes pejorative, it's actually a legitimate term to refer to too strong a belief in science. Is this accurate, and is the article NPOV? Is there anyone out there who calls himself a follower of scientism? Or are my suspicions accurate that the term is entirely negative? - Brian Kendig (talk) 20:41, 29 April 2010 (UTC)

Actually, after thinking about this, I think there are two definitions of "scientism" at work here. The original definition, from the Friedrich Hayek article, is "a false understanding of the methods of science ... that is contrary to the practices of genuine science". But the modern-day definition seems to be simply about recasting science as an "-ism". I believe that the article is confused, mingling these two different definitions somewhat. - Brian Kendig (talk) 20:49, 29 April 2010 (UTC)
That would then approx be what's currently called pseudo-science!(??) Rursus dixit. (mbork3!) 11:16, 17 May 2010 (UTC)
I heard about it in school in the context of positivism, ironic pseudo–scientific beliefs about science. (I guess that was before the creationism thing).—Machine Elf 1735 (talk) 21:13, 30 April 2010 (UTC)
I don't know that anyone self-identifies with this term, but there are certainly people who hold "scientific" values, and consider these values to be superior to, e.g., "mystical" values.
As an example: One person might say "Abortion is wrong, because the embryo/fetus can be scientifically proven to be human" [i.e., not a cat or a dog]. Another person might say "Abortion is wrong, because it kills a morally significant being." A third person might say "Abortion is good, because it reduces human stress on the environment due to overpopulation." A fourth person might say "[Legal access to] abortion is good, because it gives adults control over their bodies, at the expense of a morally unimportant blob of tissue."
These are all value-based beliefs (which, in my example, you might loosely describe as scientism, morality, environmentalism and adultism, respectively), and people who have radically different values will hold different opinions. WhatamIdoing (talk) 21:35, 30 April 2010 (UTC)
That would be more like a political, religious or politico-religious misuse of science, profiting from sneaking in is-ought-errors to "prove" a moral standpoint. OK, OK, you're partially right, the motivation behind scientism is similar to the "politico-religious misuse", i.e. moralizing that science shall embrace it all, moral values too, but the sentiment behind politico-religious misuse is more like using science as a tool for a moral purpose, while scientism, as proponed by f.ex. positivists and humanism (life stance) is the belief that everything, including moral, feelings, stamp collection, food preferences should and will be describable scientifically. Rursus dixit. (mbork3!) 11:28, 17 May 2010 (UTC)
And I forgot, all religion is of course very very evil, and the cause of all calamities that have befallen humankind, all wars, all famine, all plagues, earthquakes, tsunamies. The dinosaurs even went extinct because of their evil religiosity. The only cure against everything is of course science and only science. Rursus dixit. (mbork3!) 11:33, 17 May 2010 (UTC)

NPOV, careless/false sourcing?

Scientism is a popular term in the community of religious apologists in counter-reaction to science when it makes claims about that interfere with religious or metaphysical claims. However, this article presents scientism from the religious apologist's perspective. While the critique of Dennett of the term is mentioned, it is relegated at the end of a paragraph and other criticisms of the term are missing.

That is combined with broad claims and loose or even false supporting evidence. For example the article gives the impression that Karl Popper felt that most scientists were guilty of "scientism", when that is unsupported. The source provided discusses Habermas, and Popper is only mentioned once in that book and in fact discusses how Popper was on the opposite side of Habermas in the positivism dispute, and defended scientific method against the Frankfurt School. Popper did speak to scientism, but the article currrently woefully fails at discussing his actual views. Even Hayek's definition of scientism is never given.

Rutherford is claimed to be a canonical case of scientism. Yet even the book cited does not make that claim. It calls Rutherford a reductionist, which is an epistemic not a metaphysical attitude.

Basically the article is guilty of loose if not outright false sourcing and is biased towards religious apologist's views of what "scientism" is. This may also explain why this is currently linked in with the atheism portal. (talk) 18:34, 26 August 2010 (UTC)

I find it easy to believe that there are others who use the term scientism proudly. I would even call myself a bit of a scientismist, if the word weren't too long to ever use in conversation ever.
Still, if they misquoted a source, be bold and try giving it a rewrite as is necessary (conflicts ideally lead to a third party reading the source and lending an opinion). You might even add some new sources that we can easily click on and read. Of course, unless you're logged into an account and therefore can be held accountable, you'll always risk looking sketchy...-Tesseract2 (talk) 20:37, 26 August 2010 (UTC)
One sense of the word is distinctly pejorative such that no scientist, atheist or religious person would normally want to be labeled with it, i.e. that of misunderstanding what science is capable of, or what scientific knowledge is. I believe you are specifically interested in cutting edge science that arguably pushes beyond the pale of what was heretofore thought possible. I can see the value of proudly reclaiming the word, in the sense that what would have been called scientism until recently, is no longer properly labeled scientism, despite any persisting use by the uninformed (or by detractors). Please forgive me if I've bungled that explanation, what I mean to say that your particular self–proclaimed usage seems to be in a qualified sense that shouldn't be applied indelicately. I'm uncertain in what sense religious apologists use the term as per the OP, but my impression is that it might be distinct. In any case, the references mentioned should be verified for careless and inaccurate sourcing.—Machine Elf 1735 (talk) 17:47, 27 August 2010 (UTC)

first line

Just out of curiosity, is that first line a direct quote? because the last phrase - "and that it is superior to all other interpretations of life" - doesn't quite make sense to me. I have a vague feeling that it's been misquoted or taken out of context, and I'm hoping someone has the book and can verify. --Ludwigs2 01:21, 25 October 2010 (UTC)

Here is in fact the first line of this book by Tom Sorell: "Scientism is the belief that science, especially natural science, is much the most valuable part of human learning--much the the most valuable part because it is much the most authoritative, or serious, or beneficial." BTW, you can view it on google books. Peter morrell 06:04, 25 October 2010 (UTC)

Daniel Dennett

Dennett is not "The" Philosopher of Science... He's just "a" philosopher of many things, one of which is Philosophy of Science... Framing the sentence in that manner has the effect of trumping up his qualifications which gives unnecessary weight and credence to his philosophical opinion. Since he is NOT addressing the fact that there are other esteemed philosophers, some not even religious themselves, that take Scientism to task, it is disingenuous and misleading in the extreme to give Dennett the strongest word on the subject and to leave out his critics and opponents on this subject. Michael Ruse, Mary Midgely come to mind, and they have much wider renown than the Susan Haack who was mentioned (but wasn't wikified!!) Emyth (talk) 00:13, 24 March 2011 (UTC)

Susan Haack

The citation of Susan Haack is dead wrong: it has her saying the opposite of what she said and what she thinks. I emailed her about it yesterday and she was horrified, and confirmed that she said no such thing. She asked me to fix it, because she knows nothing about Wikipedia. I don't know much about it myself, so apologies if I do things the wrong way.

She does say in Defending Science - Within Reason that there is no one simple cut-and-dried "scientific method" but she emphatically does not say that the scientific method is a myth of "scientistic culture" - that's simply a travesty, and a very tendentious one.

Ophelia Benson —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 17:31, 31 March 2011 (UTC)

Thanks, that's fine by way of explanation, but seeing as I have her book I will check it again for a better quote because her book is a good source on this topic and though it doesn't say 'a myth etc' it does say various things about what science is not. Hope this helps. Peter morrell 17:37, 31 March 2011 (UTC)

Thanks; yes, that helps. Sorry about blundering around. OB —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 17:48, 31 March 2011 (UTC)

I did a new summary of Haack's view.

Ophelia Benson —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 22:20, 31 March 2011 (UTC)

Attribute the first sentence to Sorell

I edited it to "According to book author Tom Sorell, Scientism..." .—Deathmare —Preceding undated comment added 16:50, 21 June 2011 (UTC).

Reverted, however, if the first sentence needs an WP:ATTRIBUTE then we seriously need to rethink the WP:LEAD, the concept is in no way limited to that particular author.—Machine Elf 1735 18:14, 22 June 2011 (UTC)

tagged Rationalization and modernity and Range of meanings

The section Rationalization and modernity appears not to deal with the issue of scientism. Likewise, neither Rationalization_(sociology) nor Max Weber mention scientism. I suspect that the entire section is included based on synthesis. I've tagged it accordingly.

I've also tagged the Range of meanings section as there are a good half dozen definitions given in the rest of the article, so collecting the less notable ones here seems redundant. aprock (talk) 23:02, 25 August 2011 (UTC)

Philosophy of science

Is there any particular reason why we need the statements of cleric Keith Ward in a section about philosophy of science? His view might be appropriate in some other section though. aprock (talk) 02:26, 26 August 2011 (UTC)

Moved it to a new Religion section.—Machine Elf 1735 02:50, 26 August 2011 (UTC)
I've restored the section. aprock (talk) 15:00, 26 August 2011 (UTC)

Excessive bias in the summary

The whole first section of the text describe the pejorative meanings, although further down in the article we find that:

  • This view is common among scientists, and
  • "The Skeptics Society founder Michael Shermer defines scientism as a worldview that encompasses natural explanations, eschews supernatural and paranormal speculations, and embraces empiricism and reason."

The short definition: "In essence, scientism sees science as the absolute and only justifiable access to the truth." should also be given in the summary, in my opinion. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Keskival (talkcontribs) 09:17, 8 September 2011 (UTC)

Keskival (talk) 09:17, 8 September 2011 (UTC)

I'm not against making the change. This is just an fyi that the term really does have a history of negative use, and commonly it still has that meaning. Shermer's redefinition can't change history, and most people would find there's little to recommend abandoning a useful word, (I'm sorry, regardless of whether scientists can't handle it), because several unambiguous terms already exist for scientific antisupernaturalism, (and new terms aren't hard to invent). So, honestly, it really would be irresponsible, especially to younger people, not to make it perfectly clear that it's ambiguous at best. That way, someone choosing to use with the new definition would be on the lookout for awkward reactions, and they could explain themselves immediately. Otherwise, the joke's on them.—Machine Elf 1735 21:16, 8 September 2011 (UTC)

Examples of non-scientific knowledge

Hi, I was reading this article because someone used the word in a debate and I hadn't been familiar with the term, and I found this article difficult to understand because of selections like "It is used to criticize a totalizing view of science as if it were capable of describing all reality and knowledge, or as if it were the only true way to acquire knowledge about reality and the nature of things;...". Could someone please provide for instance, some examples used by people who make that claim? I found it personally difficult to imagine any. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 15:22, 2 October 2011 (UTC)

I'm not sure ththese are good examples but first peson experiences cannot be subject to third person neutrality therefore they lie outside the epistemiological domain of science. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 16:36, 7 February 2012 (UTC)

First person experiences are brain activity, which can be studied in a third-person manner. People don't run on magic, you know. We're made of matter and energy like everything else. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 05:16, 10 July 2012 (UTC)

The above comment--"1st person experiences are brain activity"--is a great example of scientism. The comment is either an over-extension of the paradigmatic assumptions of a particular scientific field, in this case neuroscience, to all other domains of experiential reality, or it is religious statement about what we ought to believe about the ultimate nature of reality, namely that it is really just matter in motion easily measured and explained by the latest tools and theories of Science. (talk) 08:32, 30 August 2012 (UTC)

Are you claiming that people do run on magic? If not, then what is the problem with "1st person experiences are brain activity" ? Robot in space (talk) 06:20, 17 September 2012 (UTC)
I'm not claiming that the human organism, or any sentient being, runs on magic. I am claiming only that the statement "1st person experiences are brain activity" is a wonderful illustration of Scientism. The statement leaves out many other relevant, though non-neuroscientifically accessible processes that go into generating what we know and experience as 1st person consciousness, like historical conditioning, social interaction, language acquisition, psychological self-esteem, etc. The so-called "hard problem of consciousness" in cognitive science and the philosophy of mind also makes the statement rather premature theoretically. (talk) 09:57, 19 September 2012 (UTC)
With all due respect, none of these psycho-social views conflict with the basic physicalist model of consciousness, which equates experience with the activity of the body (primarily in the brain). As for the hard problem, it's not an argument against scientism, but against physicalism, and is itself highly controversial. I'm StillStanding (24/7) (talk) 04:31, 20 September 2012 (UTC)
The question under discussion is whether the above quoted statement, "1st person experiences are brain activity" (as well as its implied repercussion that 1st person experiences can be exhaustively explained via 3rd person descriptions of brain activity), amounts to scientism or not. The definition of physicalism is not at issue, though I'd love to be directed to the relevant physicalist theory of consciousness that supposedly accounts for psychological and social phenomena. Though scientism may lead some to believe there must be such a theory, to my knowledge, there is no such theory. (talk) 07:34, 22 September 2012 (UTC)
And what have you offered to suggest that this is scientism? I'm StillStanding (24/7) (talk) 20:58, 22 September 2012 (UTC)
Ok, but if we assume no magic then all of these things must have a physical representation, if they are to influence a human being's behavior. Do you have a problem with that? Or do you think that they have a physical representation but are located somewhere outside of the human body? Robot in space (talk) 07:07, 20 September 2012 (UTC)
I am suggesting that it is only scientism which leads some to believe that anything that is not "physical" (in the sense recognized by the scientific paradigm in question) is necessarily "magical." Just because social and psychological phenomena cannot be measured within the paradigms of a particular scientific paradigm (e.g., neuroscience) does not mean these phenomena are not perfectly real from the perspective of some other mode of inquiry. (unsigned by Footnotes2plato)
Ok, and I'm rejecting this. Do you have a reliable source that supports your contention? I'm StillStanding (24/7) (talk) 20:59, 22 September 2012 (UTC)
I'm definitely excluding magic, including the supernatural. Many of the things that influence us are outside of our bodies but they influence us by affecting our bodies.
So, to be clear, I am specifically disagreeing with Footnote2plato's suggestion that physicalism about consciousness is somehow scientism. Now, if he has a reliable source that makes this (likely false) claim, it might still belong in the article. So far, though, he's offered nothing convincing. I'm StillStanding (24/7) (talk) 07:16, 20 September 2012 (UTC)
There are plenty of philosophers and cognitive scientists who would agree with the claim I actually made (see, for example, "Matter and Memory" by Henri Bergson, or the bulk of William James' work on the subject of consciousness, or more recently, "Out of Our Heads" by Alva Noë and "Supersizing the Mind" by Andy Clark), which is that the statement "1st person consciousness is brain activity" is an example of scientism, since it is not based on a matter of fact, but on the belief that the particular paradigm currently dominant in neuroscience is the only valid perspective to take when inquiring into the nature of consciousness. In other words, the statement firmly erects the lens of a particular theory in front of the experiential facts, seeing only what it had already assumed from the beginning. (talk) 07:34, 22 September 2012 (UTC)
I would suggest that you paste a relevant quote from one of those sources so that we can evaluate it. I'm StillStanding (24/7) (talk) 21:00, 22 September 2012 (UTC)
Unfortunately the subtly of James' or Bergson's philosophy would not survive translation into short quotations. The relationship between neurophysiological activity and 1st person consciousness is complex, and so far as I know, no single aphorism, or even whole paragraph, could adequately express their positions. That said, there are two claims being thrown around in this thread, and we should be clear about what they are: 1) the claim that "1st person experiences are brain activity" entails scientism (my claim), 2) the claim that physicalism about consciousness entails scientism. These are not the same claim. To illustrate why, consider this example: the cognitive scientist Andy Clark argues that consciousness is not in the brain (following his "extended mind" theory), even while he remains a physicalist about consciousness. For him, the physical basis of consciousness extends beyond the brain and the body to include various mind-augmenting social techniques and technological extentions, and indeed, the environment in toto. So it is not the brain that is or makes consciousness, but the brain-body-world system. My argument concerns the limits of particular scientific paradigms, and the way overstepping the limits of any given paradigm to make claims about the nature of reality in general amounts to "scientism." When neuroscience, with its generally neuro-computationalist paradigm (mind = software of brain) claims to have explained 1st person consciousness by way of its 3rd person methodology, it has overstepped the epistemic limits of its approach and become scientism. (talk) 23:38, 25 September 2012 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────It would be easy to rebut the relevance of Clark by showing that he's merely redefining consciousness to include what others would see as metaphorical, but it would be a violation of WP:NOTAFORUM. The only issue we can discuss is whether a reliable source claims that reducing the mind to the action of the brain (as in software in hardware) is "overreaching" to the point of scientism. I asked you to quote enough of James or Berson to support this because it's a requirement for inclusion. I'm StillStanding (24/7) (talk) 02:31, 26 September 2012 (UTC)

Actually, I was replying to Footnote2plato. I do agree with you. The threading system here leaves a lot to be desired. Robot in space (talk) 07:45, 20 September 2012 (UTC)
What threading system? :-) I'm StillStanding (24/7) (talk) 08:02, 20 September 2012 (UTC)

First sentence

"Scientism is a critical term expressing a rejection of extreme expressions of logical positivism and the view that empirical science constitutes the most authoritative worldview or most valuable part of human learning."

The first sentence is somewhat ambiguous. It could be taken to mean "Scientism refers to a rejection of logical positivism, etc.". Surely that's wrong: when people attack "scientism", they are not attacking the rejection of logical positivism, etc. I propose that we reverse the order of the first two sentences (along with some appropriate rewording) so that the first sentence says something like "Scientism refers to the dogmatic embrace of scientific methodology and the reduction of all knowledge to only that which is measurable" and the second sentence says something like "The term is used to express a rejection of extreme logical positivism and the view that empirical science constitutes the most authoritative worldview or most valuable part of human learning". Unfortunately, I don't have access to the print sources that are cited for the first two sentences, so I'm afraid to make the change myself, lest I misrepresent the sources. --Phatius McBluff (talk) 14:35, 19 October 2011 (UTC)

Some edits to preserve NPOV

Hi. I'd like to do some edits to preserve NPOV - to make it clear that the article isn't agreeing (or disagreeing) with those calling something scientism - and to remove some of the extensive quoting. However, Hgilbert seems to think that these goals are less important than avoiding "complex wording". Could the sense of what I wrote be written in a less-complex way? Allens (talk) 07:38, 12 November 2011 (UTC)

I agree with your goal, but i don't think what you did improved the clarity or neutrality of the article a great deal. Maybe you should try again? Or state more clearly here what changes you propose. Nobody 'owns' the article, so you can do what you like, but obviously edits may get reverted so it is best to try and get some form of consensus somehow. just my ten cents! Peter morrell 08:29, 12 November 2011 (UTC)

The preservation of a neutral point of view is all of our goal. No disagreement there. Citations and quotations drawn from a variety of sources are one of the best ways to achieve this, incidentally.
Presently, the article repeatedly uses the terms belief, view, etc. It's very clear that this describes a viewpoint, and makes no call on whether this is justified or unjustified. If there is an exception to this, do show it here and we can definitely improve this. Otherwise, it's not clear to me what the issue is. hgilbert (talk) 13:07, 12 November 2011 (UTC)

The "beef" clearly is that you reverted his good faith edit and you both therefore seem to be using quite different definitions of what NPOV is. Peter morrell 14:52, 12 November 2011 (UTC)

Not clear, Peter. Compare the following and explain why one is more neutral than the other:
I only see more verbiage. hgilbert (talk) 15:25, 12 November 2011 (UTC)
OK point taken; I agree with you in fact and don't have a big problem with the current wording, but maybe s/he will weigh in with their own views? Just putting in more words does not, as you say, make anything more NPOV. Let's wait and see what the guy has to say. thanks Peter morrell 15:38, 12 November 2011 (UTC)


Is one who embraces the charge of scientism as outlined in the current lede a "Scientist"? Is "measurable" in the given source? I'm looking to corner the epithet slingers by finding that what is in fact meant is "rationally understood". Period, not just "culturally" as stated in the last sentence. (talk) 03:07, 30 December 2011 (UTC)

It's hardly demonizing, you might find this helpful: Olson, R. (2008). Science and scientism in nineteenth-century Europe. University of Illinois Press. ISBN 9780252074332. LCCN 2007005146.  He argues, not unconvincingly, that it's not really all that bad.—Machine Elf 1735 22:24, 30 December 2011 (UTC)
A demonym has nothing to do with demons, Machine Elf. Actually I don't think there is one and "logical positivist" is probably the closest. (talk) 22:06, 31 December 2011 (UTC)
Well, you learn something new everyday. I thought you were asking if a respectable "Scientist" would embrace the term. Of course, anything's possible, but it doesn't mean someone is therefore called a "scientist", maybe they're just a fan, or in fact, a mad scientist, (which needn't reflect poorly on their job performance). In so far as epithets are slung unfairly, it's meaningless in any case. Patricia Churchland had some rye comments about how a scientist might be expected to take such a “criticism”…
It's easy to miss, but a logical positivist would be a 20th century philosopher who inadvertently undermined hope that a logical foundation for science will be forthcoming.—Machine Elf 1735 03:38, 8 February 2012 (UTC)


I've checked the Nietzsche reference; it discusses science's grounding in a moral act of faith, but does not say what the text here says it does. The text should be removed again. hgilbert (talk) 17:37, 8 February 2012 (UTC)

OK thanks I will check that quote again not sure where it came from. in good faith Peter morrell 18:20, 8 February 2012 (UTC)

bahh humbug

philosophical debate on 'validity of Scientism' as a term

First quote is bad, science OBVIOUSLY uses both deduction, induction, and (to generate hypotheses) abduction; among other modes of thinking. Also, science doesn't rely only on measurable things (implies quantitative variables only) but all things observables (qualitative data as well).

There is no knowledge that can be demonstrated or used that is not somehow based on quantitative or qualitative observable information, even if it is observation on people or your own thought process. This is not scientism, but reality. If you have knowledge based upon something that is unobservable in principle, then you may think you have knowledge, but you do not in anyway that can be defined reliably. Sorry yogis. Funny there is a way for those that find the consequences of a very rational view to be disheartening to now strike at those that employ scientism! It's reality, baby. Why? You can't demonstrate anything else that makes predictions and furthers knowledge in a way where gains can actually be shown. If you can't demonstrate it, then there is no reason for anyone to believe it.

— Preceding unsigned comment added by (talkcontribs) 04:08-04:14, 6 March 2013

'Re-signed' the above as subsequent edits foiled SineBot. Also collapsing this section as it seems to be debating validity of the term rather than trying to define and explain it. The opening line of:
"First quote is bad"
COULD be helpful ... if it was clear to me which "quote" is the intended recipient of the label "bad". Without any suggestions for how to improve it though, this seems 'collapse-worthy'
With that, i claim the right of a short response ;)
That's your point of view based on what might be considered your 'Scientistic Worldview'. Belief does not require reason, and knowledge need not correspond with reality as defined by any particular worldview, philosophy, or 'system'. FoxMeow (talk) 08:11, 27 September 2013 (UTC)

sorry for the multi-edits as I try to 'master the collapser' FoxMeow (talk) 08:39, 27 September 2013 (UTC)

Rationalization and Modernity

There is a quotation from Aldous Huxley which is not a sentence; indeed it consists only of a subject ("the world") and has no further comment or justification of it being included. Did an edit remove the commentary? It sets the stage portending some grand sweeping statement about the world being complex, fraught with a multitude of avenues of meaning for its inhabitants, and then ends in an elipsis without stating a point Is it supposed to be a meta-comment that the world has no meaning, or that we live our lives expecting to find out its meaning and then are cut off before that can occur?

Please clarify this quotation's relevance in this context, or delete it. Thank you. Pinkpedaller (talk) 04:14, 14 December 2011 (UTC)

It requires no further "comment or justification", it's a suitably "literary" expression of what Habermas meant by a “Social Life–World”: the one he, himself, uses and aptly so according to the secondary source that likewise includes it. I found it more illuminating than the more formally conventional explanations that immediately precede it, but perhaps it's not surprising an "intersubjectivity of mutual understanding", so "fraught with a multitude of avenues of meaning", as you say, doesn't necessarily lead to some particular, mutually inescapable conclusion? Indeed, having been given pause to wonder about the intentionality of a subtext composed solely of the ellipsis, it seems rather cynical, at best, to characterize the takeaway as a meaningless, pointless, non-sentence in need of deletion.—Machine Elf 1735 12:17, 13 April 2012 (UTC)

I would agree that the Huxley quote is off topic and unnecessary and should be deleted, but meanwhile I corrected the lead-in so that at least now the quote is more accurate and makes some sense before it trails off. Doyle doyle (talk) 06:54, 29 April 2014 (UTC)

It's not off topic, the secondary sources give Huxley as a well known example and I've reverted your edit because you can't change the wording of a direct quote.—Machine Elf 1735 09:18, 29 April 2014 (UTC)

Rx: find Huxley text and read. Doyle doyle (talk) 00:46, 30 April 2014 (UTC)

The quote is given as taken from the WP:SECONDARY sources cited but Habermas gives the slightly longer version which is very close to what you're saying is in Huxley, so please have a look yourself and see if that's now OK. Also, feel free to add a cite to the WP:PRIMARY source too, (we just give the wikilink). Thanks.—Machine Elf 1735 03:33, 30 April 2014 (UTC)