This work explores the complex relationship between science and politics. More specifically, it focuses on the problem of scientism. Scientism is a deformation of science, which unnecessarily restricts the scope of scientific inquiry by placing a dogmatic faith in the method of the natural sciences. Its adherents call for nothing less than a complete transformation of society. Science becomes the idol that can magically cure the perpetual maladies of modern society and of human nature itself. Whitney demonstrates that scientism is intellectually impoverishing and politically dangerous. Whitney surveys the development of scientism from early modernity to the present day, beginning with Francis Bacon, arguing that Bacon stands as the founder, not only of the experimental method, but also of scientism. This is most evident in his presentation of a scientific utopia in New Atlantis. After briefly noting the impact of Isaac Newton and the French Encylopedists, Whitney then moves on to the other great representative figure of scientism: Auguste Comte, who demonstrates the religious fervor that accompanies the scientistic attitude. Continuing on the path set forth by Bacon, Comte argues for a reorganization of society based on the precepts of positive science. The eugenics movements in 20th-century America and Germany is next, and the author argues that they reflect the new worldview that had emerged from Darwin’s evolutionary theory; a theory partially based on scientistic principles. The solution to scientism, Whitney advances, lies in a new (or revised) science of politics; the foundation of which is based on the Classical sources that were either discredited or banned outright by the proposals of Bacon and Comte. He concludes the work with contemporary examples of scientism, including the climate change debates, genetic engineering, and the New Atheism movement.
“Chief among the spiritually blighting tendencies of the age is materialist reductionism parading as scientific orthodoxy. David Whitney powerfully explores this movement and habit of mind as it takes its rise in the form of scientism, especially from Sir Francis Bacon’s NEW ATLANTIS in the 17th century and finds full fruition in the positivist teachings of August Comte in the 19th century—a preamble to the behavioralist dogmas of our own time. The openness to the facts of experience characteristic of all science as a search for the truth of reality in all its dimensions and diversity is thereby effectively abandoned in favor of an unrelenting insistence on a restrictive methodology ostensibly grounded in phenomenal reality that is perversely made the touchstone of all valid inquiry. The consequences are philosophically as well as politically disastrous, as Whitney brilliantly demonstrates in this path-breaking study.”
– Ellis Sandoz, Founder of the Eric Voegelin Institute for American Renaissance Studies
"David Whitney’s excellent critique of what he calls scientism, a dogmatic application of the methods of natural science to social science, provides a high-brow diagnosis of the modern maladies that result from the “rhetorical power of science.”
All too often in contemporary discourse, we hear about science overstepping its proper limits—about its brazenness, arrogance, and intellectual imperialism. The problem, critics say, is scientism: the privileging of science over all other ways of knowing. Science, they warn, cannot do or explain everything, no matter what some enthusiasts believe. In Science Unlimited?, noted philosophers of science Maarten Boudry and Massimo Pigliucci gather a diverse group of scientists, science communicators, and philosophers of science to explore the limits of science and this alleged threat of scientism.
In this wide-ranging collection, contributors ask whether the term scientism in fact (or in belief) captures an interesting and important intellectual stance, and whether it is something that should alarm us. Is scientism a well-developed position about the superiority of science over all other modes of human inquiry? Or is it more a form of excessive confidence, an uncritical attitude of glowing admiration? What, if any, are its dangers? Are fears that science will marginalize the humanities and eradicate the human subject—that it will explain away emotion, free will, consciousness, and the mystery of existence—justified? Does science need to be reined in before it drives out all other disciplines and ways of knowing? Both rigorous and balanced, Science Unlimited? interrogates our use of a term that is now all but ubiquitous in a wide variety of contexts and debates. Bringing together scientists and philosophers, both friends and foes of scientism, it is a conversation long overdue.
This volume presents the first systematic evaluation of a feminist epistemology of sciences’ power to transform both the practice of science and our society. Unlike existing critiques, this book questions the fundamental feminist suggestion that purging science of alleged male biases will advance the cause of both science and by extension, social justice.
The book is divided into four sections: the strange status of feminist epistemology, testing feminist claims about scientific practice, philosophical and political critiques of feminist epistemology, and future prospects of feminist epistemology. Each of the essays¾most of which are original to this text¾ directly confronts the very idea that there could be a feminist epistemology or philosophy of science. Rather than attempting to deal in detail with all of the philosophical views that fall under the general rubric of feminist epistemology, the contributors focus on positions that provide the most influential perspectives on science. Not all of the authors agree amongst themselves, of course, but each submits feminist theories to careful scrutiny. Scrutinizing Feminist Epistemology provides a timely, well-rounded, and much needed examination of the role of gender in scientific research.
Uncertainties Of Knowledge
Immanuel Wallerstein Temple University Press, 2004 Library of Congress H61.15.W35 2004 | Dewey Decimal 300.1
The Uncertainties of Knowledge extends Immanuel Wallerstein's decade-long work of elucidating the crisis of knowledge in current intellectual thought. He argues that the disciplinary divisions of academia have trapped us in a paradigm that assumes knowledge is a certainty and that it can help us explain the social world. This is wrong, he suggests. Instead, Wallerstein offers a new conception of the social sciences, one whose methodology allows for uncertainties.