Science v. Scientism
In preparation for Ian Hutchinson’s (MIT) and Laura Manuelidis’ (Yale) presentations at next week’s Yale Faculty Roundtable I’ve been reading portions of their works. Hutchison’s Monopolizing Knowledge and Manuelidis’ work on prion disease.
Hutchinson’s thesis is that science and scientism have been intentionally confused by many proponents of scientific naturalism and that this confusion has successfully become a part of the weave of our society, even among the academic, non-natural sciences disciplines and faculty.
Science, because of its reproducibility and technological achievements and advancements, has had a powerful effect on our society. We have come to highly value the knowledge and benefits that scientific inquiry provides. But as a result of these wonderful achievements, pursuit of more technological advancements, and neglect of the study of philosophy and the humanities, we have been conditioned to think that only that which science can explain and demonstrate and manipulate is real knowledge.
But if we stop and think about this – and it may require us to stop and think for a good-chunk of time and maybe even in conversation with others – we will soon realize that there are many things we know with relative certainty that cannot bescientifically examined or proven.
It’s true that many non-naturalistic science disciplines have reproducible components or evaluate recurrence of similar events or address multiple similar findings that can give a scientific reproducibility flavor and “scientific” support for studies in these disciplines. But that is not to say that those findings so grounded are the only reliable conclusions that can be drawn in these disciplines.
Politics, history, urban development, sociology, literature, these disciplines give us great insight into our own humanity and social communities. They tell us many things that are true of humanity. And they do it without reference to nature’s scientific regularities and reproducibility. Most things in these disciplines are too complex and often unique and irreproducible. Hutchinson says they are no less based in knowledge and tell us things that are more important about our humanity than do the natural sciences.
Unpacking Hutchinson’s comments should make for very lively conversations if someone comments that science gives us the only grounds for true knowledge. Many so conditioned within our society are likely to comment this way. I’m certain Dr. Manuelidis will be a strong proponent linking the scientific naturalistic explanation to knowledge.