We are happy to announce the release of the first collection of essays published in the online magazine Scientia Salon to see the light, and there will hopefully be many more to follow. Scientia Salon is devoted to bringing both science and philosophy — as they are pursued by professionals — to a general public for broader understanding and appreciation.
What better way, then, to start our series of collected essays than with a volume on “scientism.” Depending on who you ask, the term refers either to a tendency of making science into an all-encompassing ideology (or at the very least to claim far more on its behalf than it can deliver), or to a most reasonable assessment of science as the only reliable source of knowledge. The sixteen contributions to this volume span a wide range of opinions about scientism, some directly addressing the use (or abuse) and understanding (or misunderstanding) of the term, some tackling instead a number of specific issues that often come up in discussions surrounding scientism.
Philosopher John Shook even spells out 26 different meanings of the term, ordered alphabetically. In a direct commentary on that essay, I discuss what I think are reasonable takes on each of the 26. Physicist Coel Hellier mounts a spirited defense of scientism, claiming that mathematics is actually a branch of science (as opposed to, say, being more akin to logic), while journalist Jim Baggott and physicist Peter Woit think that even some fields within fundamental physics barely qualify as science. On his part, philosopher Robert Nola distinguishes between scientism as claim, as a methodology, and as a type of epistemology (theory of knowledge).
Among the specific issues discussed, philosopher Jonathan Kaplan takes up the many misunderstandings (and abuses) of the concept of heritability, while I discuss in similar vein the concept of race and the infamous example of eugenics.
All of this, naturally, has a lot to do with the always tense relationship between science and philosophy (see my essay on science popularizer Neil deGrasse Tyson’s attitude about the latter), and with the very nature of science.
Regardless of your notions of science, philosophy, and scientism, our hope is that you will find the essays collected here to be informative, insightful, and stimulating. That, after all, is the way to better understanding.
“Scientistic Chronicles” has been made possible by the help of Peter D.O. Smith, who curated the formatting and graphical aspects of the volume. It is available for free download as e-pub, Kindle, or PDF version.