Re: Debunk All Religiosity Equally (D.A.R.E.)

From: Russell Blackford (
Date: Fri Jul 13 2001 - 17:24:32 MDT

Party of Citizens keeps referring to "the religion of Scientism".

Isn't this a bit of a cliche? It's one regularly trotted out by religious
apologists and by humanist sentimentalists about religion.

And, in case you're tempted to retort that cliches usually contain a grain
of truth (which I accept), most of us who admire the advancement of science
do *not* treat it as a religion. We favour rational inquiry into nature
through methods such as observation, experiment, mathematical modelling,
formal logic, hypothetico-deductive reasoning. The conclusions we come to
are provisional. Where the more precise methods of science break down, we
still favour rational techniques such as logic and consilience, the methods
of philosophy.

(There is no sharp line between philosophical inquiry and scientific
inquiry: to my way of thinking, evolutionary psychology, for example, is
still more a field of philosophy rather than of science because it cannot
easily use precise experiments and has to rely heavily on consilience
arguments. But there's nothing wrong with that.)

This was not the approach adopted by religious thinkers in founding their
encyclopedic explanatory systems. Nor is it generally the approach of modern
religious believers in coming to believe - usually through some kind of
mystical experience or else by childhood indoctrination.

The difficulty for religions is that the methods of rational investigation
have gradually explained aspects of nature in ways that are still
provisional but have pretty much eliminated many of the answers previously
given by religions. Many religious explanations of phenomena are now otiose.
Sophisticated religions have had to adapt to all this by developing
theological methods which re-interpret holy books, etc, in the light of
well-established scientific theory (something that St Augustine first hinted
at and which Galileo developed - it was this now-orthodox theological
suggestion as much as anything else which got him into trouble with the Pope
and the Inquisition).

If there is something that can legitimately be called "scientism", I don't
think you'll find many believers in it on this list. Attacking such a
supposed "religion" is a pretty obvious straw man argument.

Of course, you can use the word "religion" to refer to any world view at
all, if you like. But that just renders the word useless. It does not
detract from the fact that there is a quite familiar sense in which we can
distinguish between religious world views and world views based on
scientific and/or philosophical inquiry.


Russell Blackford
writer philosopher lawyer transhumanist
Active Member: Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA)
Member: Science Fiction Research Association (SFRA)

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