Science Vs. Scientism

I put up a post not too long ago where I defended the merits of science in understanding the physical world. In it I alluded to things that science still cannot do for all its utility in making sense of the material world and optimizing our interaction with it. Here’s an example of what I mean: an exchange between a neuroscientist and a philosopher. Neuroscience is one of those fields where some scientists (not all, I know at least one pretty cool neuroscientist) want to arrogantly wave away all kinds of knowledge like religion, aesthetics, ethics and so on and insist that neuroscience alone is enough to explain everything. This is an overstepping of science and the creation of an ideology, hence calling it scientism.

Another classic example of this is Sam Harris’ attempt at moral philosophy. What he’s ignoring is that his “scientific” approach is one that assumes a sort of utilitarian premise, completely ignoring any other school of ethics. An error of this sort is so glaring that most first year philosophy undergrads should be able to spot it. J.M. Keynes said that “even the most practical man of affairs is usually in the thrall of the ideas of some long-dead economist.” So it goes with neuroscientists and long-dead philosophers.