I believe the right way and the meaningful way to understand what science is or is not is through its methods, rather than in terms of its topics. The important point is: if science has well-defined methods, it may not be the case – and in fact I am going to argue that it is not the case – that those methods apply to all forms of knowledge.
So, what are science’s methods? I think science has some very distinctive characteristics. Most of which, we are all kind of familiar with, though we perhaps have not made a list of them. Things that are listed up here, things like: observation, experimentation, measurement, systematization, mathematization, and so forth. These characteristics of science – I believe – can be brought together in two primary abstract categories, so we can really, in a certain sense, boil down what we mean by natural science into the insistence upon reproducibility (science depends on repeatable experiments or observations) and clarity (the unambiguous descriptions of things like measurements or sometimes mathematics that science insists upon). These characteristics, I would say, imply that science’s scope of application is limited.
What is scientism? Scientism is the belief that science is all the real knowledge there is. I think scientism is at the heart of the question of the relationship between science and Christianity or science and religious faith.
Scientism is not a finding of science. It is a worldview. It is a worldview that has an integrating cosmology, that is, it has an integrated understanding of how the world is and what fundamentally makes it up. It has an interpretative lens or filter, in other words, it is something that you look through that colors your interpretation of the world. It has, among other things, a justifying narrative history. It has … a community of believers and those in that community look to scientism as a source of ethics. Why have I pointed these things out? I have pointed them out because – I submit – these are the kind of characteristics of a religion.
- How do you define science – as a methodology or a topic?
- Do you agree that science can be boiled down to reproducibility and clarity or does it have other more essential features?
- Ian Hutchinson distinguishes between science and scientism, which holds that science is all the real knowledge there is. How might scientism act as an interpretive lens coloring one’s view of the world?