There’s nothing new under the sun, is one of my repeated adages. Plus ca change – with technology of communications and media, for example – plus c’est la meme chose. I often also quote Horace quoting another from 4000BCE similarly pointing out the the perceived problems “of our time” are nothing of the sort, but are rather recurring cycles of ubiquitous aspects of humanity.
How I come to be posting this today is a case of tennis, elbow, foot. PsyJr posted a link on FB to the Guardian piece on Sam Harris and scientism ! – and Sam Harris being someone I’ve referred to often (mostly positively) on Psybertron, I skimmed previous posts including this one – We Didn’t Start The Fire. It’s a review of Harris piece on the scientific evidence against open fires as a source of heating – though the subject matter of his piece is incidental, illustrative of his main point about faith-based belief responses to scientific evidence against their faith.
I included a YouTube link to Billy Joel’s song of the same name which, apart from being a stonking pop song, is the same message. It was written as a response to someone with an 80′s/90′s perspective of world problems looking back on the 50′s/60′s/70′s as a time when nothing of note happened. And we could say the same looking back on the late 20th century from the early 21st when it comes to (say) mid-east conflict and terrorism from a Syrian perspective (this month) or Egyptian (last month). Ironic, having just also read and thoroughly enjoyed Scot Anderson’s Lawrence In Arabia in the last week.
So what about Harris and scientism – I see the BHA has also posted a link – need to respond. Science gone too far – can’t hear that expression in anything other than the dulcet tones of Handsome Dick Manitoba of the Dictators …. it’s nothing new.
Anyway, the particular Oliver Burkeman Guardian piece says itself that a previous piece by Steven Poole better addresses the scientism debate kicked off by Steven Pinker – responded to previously here.
Apart from more links to things I’ve not yet read, neither piece actually adds much more than a summary of the debate remaining contentious – but a real debate – scientists responding to “accusations” of scientism. Actually that’s not my problem. I have NO problem with scientists doing science being scientistic – it’s everybody else.
When Richard Dawkins was named the world’s “Top Thinker” in a poll recently published by Prospect magazine, it was hard to avoid the suspicion that the world—or at least that part of it that votes in such polls—must have an impoverished sense of what constitutes a vital or transformative intellectual figure. Mark O’Connell – The Slate.
Scientism -> impoverished sense, sounds about right. Having been blogging on about this for 12 years so far, it’s good to see the debate getting out there. Dawkins being held up as some kind of paragon of virtue (I use the term advisedly) is a prime reason he’s one if my recurring targets – nothing personal.
[Although it appears White is someone who shares my view that scientism is THE major problem "of our time" (irony alert) his book doesn't sound like one I'd like to read. (By "of our time" I of course mean, since the 18th Century "enlightenment". The part of the problem that is "not of our time" but ubiquitous, is the memetic problem - the problem that humans mostly share as knowledge what is most easy to share, not what is best. It is that fact that this problem is reinforced by mass communications media that makes it THE problem of our times.)]