Comments on Ian Hutchinson's book "Monopolizing Knowledge"
This Christian physicist wrote this book to criticize "Scienticism"
(the idea of superiority of the scientific methods above other kinds of
knowledge), making a case for the presence of other valid cases of
knowledge, up to the case of religion.
else already wrote a good criticism. So to simplify things, I
invite you to visit that link, whose ideas I won't repeat below.
I started trying to read and comment this book, as from far away it
could have been expected to be one of the best possible defense of the
view I'm opposing.
Because, do you know, I'm so bored of always reading and hearing just
stupid attacks on science and reason from the part of people who, well,
are just proud of their unability (or unwillingness) to make a proper
use of their brain but have no decent argument on their side. Let's see
if this one will be any different.
"...then scientism is
a ghastly intellectual mistake.
how could it have come about that this mistake is so widespread..."
Funny, I definitely don't have the impression that scientism is
widespread. Moreover, I'm saying this while I live in France, and
sometimes travel to other countries, but never went to the US where,
you know, religion dominates over science. Where I live, religious
beliefs are a minority, and scientific studies are valued as the top
possible orientation for students. Despite this, I feel persecuted by a
widespread anti-scienticism. I feel injustly excluded and everybod
hates me because I'm too intelligent, I think too much and too
logically, and most people hate that. I can't find anybody really
interested with science and logical inquiries of broad subjects
(understanding the world's problem and possible solutions) like I am.
Instead, most of the people I see expressing strong views, for example
in political issues, seem to be paranoid against what they see as the
domination of scientism. Well ok, most of them don't follow much
precisely any precise sects and antirationalist doctrines either. Since
Marxism spectacularly failed, most people are skeptical about any bold
set of ideas whatsoever. They are just in the middle, in no
well-defined set of ideas...
Still I do understand a possible cause of this feeling : non-scientific
projects regularly fail and are thus forgotten. Only scientific
endeavors succeed and bring progress to mankind.
Thus people only remember the latter, many vote for it with their feet
(choice of carreer because it gives jobs...).
And also, scientism roughly describes the official position of most
institutions. It does not mean they behave in a truly rational way;
indeed, the have a number of unproven assumptions, such as the belief
in the necessity to attend courses and follow all academic requirements
to become a genuine scientist; so most people just follow the
institutions just because of their monopoly on the path to a future
job. This is how it seems natural to believe that science dominates the
world. This does not mean that scientism is widespread in the mind of
On the other hand, I think genuinely developed pro-science ideas are
not widespread. So that it is necessary to give the not so well know
did, so did I.
offers a comprehensive principle or belief, which itself cannot be
proved (certainly not scientifically proved)"
As for me, I see my convictions of the power of reason to understand
many issues, and the failure of religion to understand what they claim
to be their own field, as based on proof. As I was Christian, I was
absolutely horrified at the idea to dare rejecting faith by my own
will, by any unproven hypothesis. So I could not have gone out of that
without due evidence. Reason can prove its power by succeeding to
understand moral problems and to provide solutions much better than what
others found by other means; and also prove the failure of religious
ways by proving how false and harmful many religion-inspired
convictions and attitudes can sometimes be. Such evidences are what my
rationalist convictions are based on.
Also, there is something incoherent in the idea that such big claims as
those of Christianity on how life works and how God intervenes in
people's life, would fail to have any significant consequence that
careful rational examination would find out - while science has been so
successful to discover and understand so many aspects of the world.
But even a lack of evidence for it, would not make scientism a belief.
At least as long as its practice is not distorted.
Rather than a belief, scientism is an attitude, a practice. It is the
practice to inquire things rationally, with the scientific method.
Whenever it is practiced, of 2 things one:
In either case, no erroneous conclusion is obtained.
- Either it brings a success to the understanding of the subject.
Then this success proves that the rational approach was relevant,
precisely because its success shows it - otherwise, its failure would
- Or it fails (up to some given time) to bring any worthy
understanding of its subject. In this case, no conclusion is drawn.
Something that cannot lead to a false conclusion, is not an hypothesis,
not a belief.
"The belief in
human `progress', based on technique, failed in the face of the stark
realities of world wars and gulags."
Were holy wars and wich hunts better ?
Anyway, the actions of world wars and gulags were not the fruits of
reason but of unreason. Science is the job of scientists. It is not
scientists who decided the world wars and gulags, nor who designed the
political structures that produced these decisions. Progress takes
lot of time, especially when it depends on the mindset of a public that
cannot reason properly. Wars regularly happened around the world since
millenia. Technological progress did not worsen wars, but only made
some single wars larger. Now it is rather the relative peace we enjoy
since the end of the second world war, which is something new, and a
result of modernity.
(Maybe I'll continue another time; however with this and the other
article above, it is already clear that Ian Hutchinson's views are
flawed, and no reliable truth; ifever Christians still have something
to defend not based on fallacies and ignorance, they are yet to prove
their ability to discern the truth and the validity of arguments, by
succeeding to write a defense without such flaws).
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