Accusations of scientism are all but guaranteed any time you are having a religion vs science debate. In general, scientism is the religious go-to term to describe what is perceived as an excessive dependence on strict scientific reasoning, to the exclusion of all other types of thinking. Accusations of scientism are almost always made by people who do not fully understand how science works in the first place, and assume that since THEY can’t understand it, it must therefore be wrong. These accusation comes in various forms, and are common attempt to disguise what is otherwise quite a silly defensive tactic. The accusation usually takes the shape of a statement about there being more to life/the universe than can only be understood through science, and that the scientific perspective is merely one narrow view out of many. Examples of this are usually given in the form of art, poetry, love, compassion, etc, which are essential to human life, and yet, cannot be fully understood and appreciated by the strict and narrow scientific reasoning process.

As you might already be able to see, there is a major flaw in this claim. This claim is simply another way – one out of many – to confuse and blur the lines between objective and subjective reality; lumping people’s subjective feelings about art, love, god etc, with the objective reality of the nature of the universe.

I always find it important to remind my counterparts that nonbelievers are not immune to feelings of awe and wonder. We feel love and compassion like anyone else, and appreciate art and literature and poetry and music and nature and all other things that captivate and enthrall. But we also realize that these feelings of awe and wonder are entirely personal and subjective. In other words, we do not allow these important feelings (and they are important) to govern the way we think about objective reality. The world might very well seem beautiful and happy when you’re in love – the sun is shining and the birds are singing – and that is a very real feeling I hope everyone gets to experience. But part of being a rational adult is to realize that the universe is exactly the way it is, whether you are in love or not. For this reason, we should not allow ourselves to be lead to false conclusions about the nature of reality simply because we subjectively feel a certain way.

As soon as you grasp the simple, yet elusive, difference between objective reality and subjective feelings, you will realize that accusations of scientism are actually self defeating. To say that a thing/idea/feeling is beyond the scope of science is to simply say that it is SUBJECTIVE. There is, of course, nothing wrong with subjective things – quite the contrary in fact – some of the most important things in life are subjective. But as soon as you understand the subjectivity of these things, you will be in the position to realize that concepts like god and religion are no less personal and subjective than art, love, beauty and poetry. Therefore, if you wish to dispose of accusations of scientism, you should stop treating religion as if it were a special and mysterious field of knowledge that is uniquely impervious to scientific reasoning. All you need to do is place religion in its rightful place alongside art, literature, folklore, beauty and all other subjective concepts.

Science, as an objective means of inquiry, cannot objectively inform us about god for the same exact reasons it cannot objectively inform us about art, beauty and friendship. But this also means that god, art, beauty and friendship, as subjective ideas, cannot inform us about the objective origin, nature and purpose of the universe.

There really is no mystery to it.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s