How does one register the possibility that the sciences may exceed their epistemic competencies without coming across as altogether anti-science? Theologians (and philosophers and humanities scholars) can be received with suspicion when they try to suggest that our proper esteem for the sciences has its limits. When concerns to this effect are voiced by theologians in particular, though, they’re all too quickly mistaken for back-door campaigns for some form of religiously motivated scientific revisionism (e.g., creationism), even when such machinations are in no way part of their intentions. The sad result is that legitimate concerns about the place of the sciences in contemporary culture, and the reach of their explanatory power, go unheard. (And to be sure, thereby hurting the practice of the sciences as much as other disciplines). In contrast to this trend, what I think would make for a positive change of pace would be a more frank discussion of the potential the sciences harbor for crowding out non-scientific forms of cognitive discourse — that is, that it would become ingredient to accounts of the status and achievements of the sciences that they also make it a point to alert us to the live threat of scientism. If you’d care to, you can follow up on this topic in works like these:
- Robert Bolger, Kneeling at the Altar of Science: The Mistaken Path of Contemporary Religious Scientism, (Wipf&Stock, 2012).
- Paul Feyerabend, The Tyranny of Science, (Polity, 2011)
- Peter Hacker, “Wittgenstein and the Autonomy of Humanistic Understanding,” in Wittgenstein: Connections and Controversies, (Oxford, 2001), 34-73.
- Paul Holmer, Theology and the Scientific Study of Religion, (1961).
- Ian Hutchinson, Monopolizing Knowledge, (Fias, 2011).
- Daniel Robinson and Richard Williams, eds. Scientism: The New Orthodoxy, (Bloomsbury, 2015).
- Tom Sorell, Scientism: Philosophy and the Infatuation with Science, (Routledge, 1994).
- Mikael Stenmark, “What is Scientism?” Religious Studies 33/1 (1997): 15-32.