Well this was too hard to pass up. Wow. This is fascinating if only for the reason that it tells us so much about Mr. Pinker and his prejudices. News flash: There is not now, nor has there ever been, a time when science was thought an enemy by those in the humanities. Yes, there has been animosity toward scientism from those quarters, but scientism is a philosophy, whereas “science” is a method and practice. What Pinker has done is conflate the two. This is poor philosophy and poor science. A good scientist and a good philosopher should, at the very least, know when one is talking science and when one is talking philosophy.
The fact the criticism is coming from all sides is significant. When you have someone from the National Review and the likes of PZ Myers somewhat agreeing, and all points in between, wow, you really have something.
I see this as a very good sign. Perhaps there is a wide consensus now developing (or has been there all along) that scientism needs to go the way of the logical positivists. If this happens, we might see a, “move forward, enlightening as we go along, in all areas, physical, philosophical, psychological.”
Enlightenment, progress, and any sort of new renaissance of spirit is hampered by scientism. Scientism, or the philosophy of secular fundamentalists, is a barrier to learning and communication. Science is wonderful. Science is a gift and a treasure. Scientism is neither. It is simplistic, immature, anti-humanistic, and completely blind to its own limitations.
These writers critiquing Pinker are all coming from different points of the compass and agree with some points and disagree with others. However, they are unanimous in noting the “big picture” problems with Pinker’s defense of scientism.
Many of those points have to do with the very things I was trying to get across in my posts on “Truth.” Here are a few examples:
“Part of this misappropriation comes from thinking that, since science is so good at providing explanations, explanations are all that matter.” –Adam Frank
“If this is scientism then obviously no sensible person should have a problem with it. But the “boo-word” version of the phenomenon — the scientism that makes entirely unwarranted claims about what the scientific method can tell us, wraps “is” in the mantle of “ought” and vice versa, and reduces culture to biology at every opportunity — is much easier to pin down than Pinker suggests.” –Ross Douthat
I would recommend one read all the linked critiques from the main essay. I wonder if the readers of this blog (the tiny few) agree or disagree with Pinker, just in the over-all sense. Pinker says some things even I agree with. I mean in his over-all comprehensive defense—do you agree or disagree? I have to be honest- many of the responses I see to my posts seem to be coming from the same place Pinker is defending.
If so, what do you do with all these same critiques from such varied and different sources?