Scientism is Wrong (Part 1/4)

Cover of Rosenberg’s *The Atheist’s Guide to Reality*In The Atheist’s Guide to Reality: Enjoying Life without Illusions (pp. 6–7), Alex Rosenberg writes,[1]

… [W]e’ll call the worldview that all us atheists (and even some agnostics) share “scientism.” This is the conviction that the methods of science are the only reliable ways to secure knowledge of anything; that science’s description of the world is correct in its fundamentals; and that when “complete,” what science tells us will not be surprisingly different from what it tells us today. We’ll often use the adjective “scientistic” in referring to the approaches, theories, methods, and descriptions of the nature of reality that all the sciences share. Science provides all the significant truths about reality, and knowing such truths is what real understanding is all about.

The claim that this worldview is shared by “all” atheists is sheer nonsense. (Evidently Rosenberg forgot to apply the “methods of science” when he pulled it out of thin air.) But this view – or something close to it – is common among university students and academics today, even though few people express their commitment to it as enthusiastically and explicitly as Rosenberg does. The idea that only the physical sciences – physics, chemistry, biology, &c. – can serve as a source of knowledge, or at least knowledge that matters, is widespread enough that it demands a response.

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  1. Alex Rosenberg, The Atheist’s Guide to Reality: Enjoying Life Without Illusions, W. W. Norton & Company, 2011. []