Scientism means science is awesome and everything else sucks. Religion sucks. Art and philosophy suck. History sucks, or at least it did until we started applying scientific methods to historical research. When I began searching for a definition of scientism, that’s the overall impression I got… at first.
As I continued to read more about scientism, I found I agreed with some points. Scientific knowledge is often more reliable than other kinds of knowledge, and applying scientific methodology to other fields (like history) can improve those fields.
As a writer, I’ve improved my writing by studying the science of linguistics. In a way, I’ve also used the scientific method to hone my writing technique, testing the hypotheses I encounter as “writing advice” and evaluating the results by surveying beta readers. Does that mean I’m a scientismist?
SCIENTISM: MORE NUANCED THAN IT SEEMS?
Scientismists (the awkward but apparently correct term for adherents of scientism) are quite a diverse bunch. Maybe we should think of scientism the way we think of the political terms conservatism and liberalism. There’s a wide spectrum of beliefs contained within one -ism, ranging from moderate to radical.
I’d call myself a moderate scientismist (emphasis on moderate). I don’t think science is the answer to everything. Some things are forever beyond science’s grasp. But I do think science is special and that scientific knowledge—when collected by diligent and skeptical scientists—trumps other belief systems.
WHAT IS SCIENTISM FOR YOU?
Thanks to linguistic science, I know defining a new word is a tricky prospect. Two of my favorite blogs recently did posts on scientism, so please check out the links below to get a broader perspective on this idea. Also, click here for last week’s edition of Sciency Words, which focused on scientism.
And remember, keep it sciency, my friends!