From: David Clounch <>
Date: Sun Jun 03 2007 - 13:56:03 EDT


I would like to thank you for feedback that is actually dignified. I
expected a dignified discussion here. That is what ASA members will

Sadly, yesterday, another thread degenerated into something else.

I've seen various definitions of the term scientism.

[0] One of them is "the injection of religion into science". I'm pretty
sure I got that from Walter Hearn's book. But try as I might, I cannot find
it today. Maybe in a few days. At one time I had collected 6 separate
definition sources, and posted them on my blog. Alas, I cannot find that
material today. Perhaps at a later time? When I use the term I really do
mean just the injection of religion into science. It doesn't matter whether
the religion is theistic or non-theistic. The effect is still injection of

Let me just say that what I am actually looking at is the underlying
philosophical mistake that brings forth scientism. Perhaps scientism is not
the right term for that mistake. But then what is? (See definition 5
below.) I'm sorry, but you have not convinced me that Zimmerman did not
make this mistake. But don't despair. I am willing to be open minded.

Meanwhile, to better define scientism:

[1] Here is one reference from wikipedia:

"Michael Shermer <>, for
example, self-identifies as scientistic and defines scientism as "a
scientific worldview that encompasses natural explanations for all
phenomena, eschews supernatural and paranormal speculations, and embraces
empiricism and reason as the twin pillars of a philosophy of life
appropriate for an Age of

[2] Here is a dictionary definition:

*2* *:* an exaggerated trust in the efficacy of the methods of natural
science <> applied to all areas of
investigation (as in philosophy, the social
sciences<>, and the humanities)

[3] MSN encarta says:

2. *reliance on science for answers: *the belief that science alone can
explain phenomena, or the application of scientific methods to fields
unsuitable for it

[4] Here is a definition from public broadcasting:

"Unlike the use of the scientific method as only one mode of reaching
knowledge, scientism claims that science alone can render truth about the
world and reality. Scientism's single-minded adherence to only the
empirical, or testable, makes it a strictly scientifc worldview, in much the
same way that a Protestant fundamentalism that rejects science can be seen
as a strictly religious worldview. Scientism sees it necessary to do away
with most, if not all,
philosophical, and religious claims, as the truths they proclaim cannot be
apprehended by the scientific method. In essence, scientism sees science as
the absolute and only justifiable access to the truth."

[5] From the Skeptics Dictionary:

*Scientism, *in the strong sense,* *is the self-annihilating view that only
scientific claims are meaningful, which is not a scientific claim and hence,
if true, not meaningful. Thus, scientism is either false or meaningless.
This view seems to have been held by Ludwig Wittgenstein in his *Tractatus
Logico-philosophicus* (1922) when he said such things as "The totality of
true propositions is the whole of natural science..." He later repudiated
this view.
This 5th definition is perhaps the origin of the idea that when you inject
religion (metaphysics) into science (even non-theistic metaphysics) then you
get a claim that itself isn't science, or at least isn't meaningful. It
sort of dovetails with Hearn's meaning (if I understand Hearn correctly).

We could go on and evaluate various definitions.

So, if you are correct, the Clergy letter is actually rejecting scientism.
And rejecting the idea that science is the absolute and and only justifiable
access to the truth". Is my understanding here correct? Complementary
ways to truth means both science and religion can be (and are)
simultaneously true? Is that correct? If so, I stand corrected about the
Clergy letter.

Does this mean PvM is actually arguing against the basic position of
Michael Zimmerman? Is that true?

Now, I hope you can see why the fourth definition (above), if embraced by
a group of ministers, is problematical. It is not possible to believe in
an ultimate cause that is supernatural (which is the essence of Christian
thought) and simultaneously adhere to the idea that science, in its limited
scope, is "the absolute and only justifiable access to the truth". The
latter is anti-Christian in effect. It is, as far as I can tell, basic
atheism. I would be very happy to learn that the Clergy letter is a mere
rebuke of this. Sorry, I did originally not read the letter that way.
I haven't seen the PvM's of the world attacking Zimmerman, or laughing
behind his back. Maybe its been going on the whole time. Can you perhaps
point me to it, that would be helpful.

Thank you,
David Clounch

PS, There is still the question of whether the ID movement is injecting
religion into science.
Making a non-scientific claim about science is the same sort of
philosophical mistake made by definition 5 above. The claim is that
science supports the preferred intelligence. Science must always be
mangled so as to support the preferred intelligence. In PvM's worldview
science must always be mangled to deny the preferred intelligence. Is this
not the same mistake?

On 6/3/07, Robert Schneider <> wrote:
> David,
> Having read the Clergy Letter (and those signatures are not "supposed" but
> actual) I am hard put to see the statement as "scientistic." In fact, the
> primary focus of the Letter has to do with a stance on biblical
> interpretation and a particular relationship between religion and science. I
> read the letter as affirming the integrity of science and the integrity of
> religion. "Scientism" is the position that only science offers the way to
> truth. The Letter states that both religion and science are complementary
> ways to truth.
> I know personally some of the persons who signed that Letter. They are
> practicing scientists or persons trained in the sciences who are ordained
> priests and ministers of several denominations. They would hardly be taken
> in if the letter intended to endorse scientism.
> BTW, Michael Zimmerman is now Dean of Arts and Sciences at Butler
> University in Indianapolis, a Christian Church, Disciples of Christ
> foundation.
> Bob Schneider
> On 6/2/07, David Clounch <> wrote:
> >
> > Phil said:
> > "In effect, they were insisting that theists must hold to the purity of
> > science while they were overlooking their own injection of non-theistic
> > metaphysics into science. "
> >
> > I have to ask. Isn't the "injection of non-theistic metaphysics into
> > science" really scientism in action?
> >
> > This Iowa group of signers may have that problem. If they do, it is
> > easy to see an immediate establishment clause problem emerging.
> >
> > Another group that has the problem would be the petition circulated by
> > the (former) Dean at UW Osh Kosh, who supposedly gathered the signatures of
> > 10,000 Christian ministers. Just asking ministers to make a statement on
> > science seems (to me) to constitute a religious act. Doesn't it? But
> > there is also no disclosure of the underlying injection of naturalistic
> > metaphysics into that petition's statement. One is left wondering if many of
> > the ministers would have signed had they realized what lies beneath?
> >
> > So, two cases of scientism? Hmmm. If so, it would seem to be raining
> > scientism these days. I would think everyone would be worried about it. My
> > personal view is some are afraid to allow the position that the ID movement
> > is committing scientism (and that this is the real achilles heel of ID).
> > They simply don't want to ask the question. Why? Because to do so would
> > expose their own (anti-ID) position to the exact same set of questions. And
> > everyone would then realize that there is indeed non-theistic metaphysics at
> > play. Better to just pretend scientism doesn't exist.
> >
> > I object. I think the world needs clear demarcation criteria for what
> > is science versus what is scientism. You see, its got to be more than just
> > Phil, or anyone really, merely claiming that non-theistic metaphysics was
> > injected. We all have to *know* if this is what is going on in these
> > political statements according to objective standards. If we don't know,
> > then the nation's public policy is guaranteed to be wrong.
> >
> > Thank you,
> > David Clounch
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> > On 5/31/07, <> wrote:
> > >
> > >
> > > > However, it seems to me that one could easily take the view that
> > > > "natural phenomena" covers all events in space-time that are not
> > > caused
> > > > by something outside the continuum eg super natural. In such a view
> > > the
> > > > resurrection while occurring in space-time is not a "natural
> > > phenomena".
> > >
> > > But clearly they didn't mean to allow this kind of interpretation,
> > > because if they did then it exposes the scientific process to the counter
> > > claim that certain events in history were not "natural phenomena," including
> > > the appearance of bacterial flagella or priveleged planets, because an
> > > intelligent designer may have caused these things from outside the
> > > continuum. That is exactly the sort of claim that they were intending to
> > > deny by their statement.
> > >
> > > Also, this interpretation reduces their statement to the tautological
> > > claim that "all things that are not supernatural are natural." That kind of
> > > tautology is not at all helpful in defining the "method" of methodological
> > > naturalism. So clearly they didn't mean this.
> > >
> > > > You could well be right in your conclusion of duplicity, but I'd
> > > like to see
> > > > some other evidence that philosophical naturalism was what was meant
> > >
> > > > before coming to that conclusion.
> > >
> > > Like Rich, I think they were just sloppy and not purposely deceptive.
> > > But I think that kind of sloppiness is inexcusable in a statement that was
> > > intended to protect the purity of science against metaphysical intrusions.
> > > In effect, they were insisting that theists must hold to the purity of
> > > science while they were overlooking their own injection of non-theistic
> > > metaphysics into science. I think this statement is very telling in the
> > > same sense that a Freudian slip is very telling.
> > >
> > > Phil
> > >
> > >
> > >
> > > ------------------------------
> > > AOL now offers free email to everyone. Find out more about what's free
> > > from AOL at * * <>
> > > .
> > >
> > >
> >
> >

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Received on Sun Jun 3 13:56:44 2007

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