RE: Down with Scientism

From: Stathis Papaioannou <>
Date: Mon, 06 Jun 2005 15:16:47 +1000

I sometimes get into arguments with anti-science associates, who are into
wholism, mysticism, spiritualism and so forth. They think that scientists
are an elite with their own brand of 'ism (scientism, perhaps), which is no
more valid than these other 'isms. I point out to these people that if they
have figured out they have to open their mouth in order to put food in it,
turn a handle to open a door, vibrate their vocal cords to make a sound,
then they have performed a scientific experiment and abstracted a theory
from it. If science is an 'ism, it's the most basic one in the world.

--Stathis Papaioannou

>Brent wrote
> > > > Of course science arose out of explaining
> > > > subjective experiences. The basic
> > > > theory of science (and common sense) is
> > > > that there is some mind-independent
> > > > reality out there. When I see green
> > > > grass and an object that [who] is similar
> > > > to me and that object says, "I see green
> > > > grass." then I take that as evidence that
> > > > the object is person with experiences like
> > > > me and that there really is green grass.
>Well, it's a very reasonable *conjecture*, I'd suggest.
>It seems like that sort of conclusion has worked very,
>very well in the past.
> > >> Brent Meeker
> > >> "Science is just common-sense writ large."
> > > How *very* true. [I want to rant] against the doctrine
> > > of the scientific method!!
> >
> > I'm not sure what you mean by "the scientific method" - the
> > hypothetico-deductive method? So far as I know all the
> > methods of science are just common sense applied carefully
> > and thoroughly.
>Yes, and that's *all* they are: just ordinary common sense applied,
>as you say, carefully and thoroughly. It's what Galileo and
>Kepler did. Sure, Kepler would come up with wild conjectures
>(or at least ones that we think of as wild today), and some
>were right and some were wrong. He usually respected valid
>criticism, (although everyone's ego gets in the way from time
>to time).
>A good detective or a good housewife does exactly the same.
>The detective formulates a theory that he hopes explains the
>crime, and goes about (usually with a bias) looking for
>evidence that supports his theory. The housewife guesses
>and guesses at the best way to remove stains from various
>articles in the house, and by "applying common sense carefully
>and rationally" gets closer and closer to the truth.
>All was well until the philosophers stepped in. They looked
>at what Galileo, Newton, Kepler, and Lavoisier did, and began
>to think about it. Unfortunately. They abstracted from what
>all these worthies were doing a so-called "scientific method".
>It had five steps. Well, it did when I was in school. To
>execute the scientific method, you follow those steps. Even as
>a child I was skeptical (rather, it just didn't do anything
>for me) because I fancied that in my understandings of astronomy
>I was already a scientist. Sort of. A junior scientist, at
>least. And what I did and what I learned didn't have anything
>to do with all this fancy stuff.
>Next the philosophers evolved this doctrine into Scientism, so
>that they could look down their noses at the thoughts of many
>other people and pronounce them "unscientific". This was
>strange, since the other people were for the most part using
>the same genetically originated homo sapiens type thinking
>that the real scientists were. But it was good propaganda,
>and it enabled them to put pressure on textbook publishers
>so as to curtail the spread of opinions that they disagreed
>with. (It was the 20th century, after all.)
>Fortunately, another philosopher (Popper) came to the rescue,
>and so far as I know, didn't talk much about the Method. He
>described what people were doing---scientists, detectives,
>housewives, animals---as making conjectures and learning from
>their mistakes.
>But in the schools it's still taught that there is a Scientific
>Method, and that's what makes scientists' opinions better than
>the non-credentialed. (The scientists usually *do* have better
>opinions, but only because they've studied something longer or
>have been more careful, as you write, not because they use a
>You wanna teach a kid how to be a scientist? Just have him
>or her look into some subject matter in detail where there is
>the possibility of obtaining a unified understanding, or there
>is the possibility of performing experiments. Save him from
>pedantic doctrines, such as "The Scientific Method".

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Received on Mon Jun 06 2005 - 01:17:39 PDT

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