The Folly of Scientism

One of the great insights of Teilhard de Chardin was that he recognized that science was an outstanding way of trying to get closer to the great mystery that is God.  After all, God created the universe, and the more we understand about the universe, the more we can understand about God’s thoughts.

However, Teilhard also recognized that science was only one aspect of reality, and a limited one at that.  Unfortunately, in much of the culture of the United States and Western Europe, there is a tendency to place an undue emphasis on science, resulting in scientism.  As an article in the Vancouver Sun from three years ago discussing the 150th anniversary of Darwin’s publication of On the Origin of Species described:

“[One] major barrier to a rewarding public conversation about the impact of evolution on the way we understand the world is not named nearly as much.  It is “scientism.” Scientism is the belief that the sciences have no boundaries and will, in the end, be able to explain everything in the universe. Scientism can, like religious literalism, become its own ideology.

The Encyclopedia of Science, Technology and Ethics defines scientism as “an exaggerated trust in the efficacy of natural science to be applied to all areas of investigation (as in philosophy, the social sciences and the humanities).” 

Those who unknowingly fall into the trap of scientism act as if hard science is the only way of knowing reality. If something can’t be “proved” through the scientific method, through observable and measurable evidence, they say it’s irrelevant.

Scientism is terribly limiting of human understanding. It leaves little or no place for the insights of the arts, philosophy, psychology, literature, mythology, dreams, music, the emotions or spirituality.”

Teilhard’s great legacy was recognizing that both fundamentalist Christianity and fundamentalist scientism were dead ends and that by synthesizing both the scientific insights of evolution and the theological and historical revelations of Christianity (and other world religions) can ultimate Truth be realized.

About William Ockham

I am a father of two with eclectic interests in theology, philosophy and sports. I chose the pseudonym William Ockham in honor of his contributions to philosophy, specifically Occam's Razor, and its contributions to modern scientific theory. My blog (www.teilhard.com) explores Ignatian Spirituality and the intersection of faith, science and reason through the life and writings of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (pictured above).
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