All too often in contemporary discourse, we hear about science overstepping its proper limits – about its brazenness, arrogance, and intellectual imperialism. The problem, critics say, is scientism: the privileging of science over all other ways of knowing. Science, they warn, cannot do or explain everything, no matter what some enthusiasts believe. In Science Unlimited?, noted philosophers of science Maarten Boudry and Massimo Pigliucci gather a diverse group of scientists, science communicators, and philosophers of science to explore the limits of science and this alleged threat of scientism.
In this wide-ranging collection, contributors ask whether the term scientism in fact (or in belief) captures an interesting and important intellectual stance, and whether it is something that should alarm us. Is scientism a well-developed position about the superiority of science over all other modes of human inquiry? Or is it more a form of excessive confidence, an uncritical attitude of glowing admiration? What, if any, are its dangers? Are fears that science will marginalize the humanities and eradicate the human subject – that it will explain away emotion, free will, consciousness, and the mystery of existence – justified? Does science need to be reined in before it drives out all other disciplines and ways of knowing? Both rigorous and balanced, Science Unlimited? interrogates our use of a term that is now all but ubiquitous in a wide variety of contexts and debates. Bringing together scientists and philosophers, both friends and foes of scientism, it is a conversation long overdue.
1 The Sciences and Humanities in a Unity of Knowledge / Russell Blackford
2 Plus ultra: Why Science Does Not Have Limits / Maarten Boudry
3 Scientism and the Argument from Supervenience of the Mental on the Physical / Filip Buekens
4 Two Cheers for Scientism / Taner Edis
5 Scientism and the Is/Ought Gap / Justin Kalef
6 The Trouble with Scientism: Why History and the Humanities Are Also a Form of Knowledge / Philip Kitcher
7 “Scientism!” / Stephen Law
8 Strong Realism as Scientism: Are We at the End of History? / Thomas Nickles
9 The Fundamental Argument against Scientism / Rik Peels
10 Scientism and Pseudoscience: In Defense of Demarcation Projects / Massimo Pigliucci
11 Strong Scientism and Its Research Agenda / Alex Rosenberg
12 Economics and Allegations of Scientism / Don Ross
13 Why Really Good Science Doesn’t Have All the Answers / Michael Ruse
14 Scientism (and Other Problems) in Experimental Philosophy / Tom Sorell
15 Against Border Patrols / Mariam Thalos
List of Contributors
Maarten Boudry is a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Philosophy and Moral Sciences at Ghent University, Belgium.
Massimo Pigliucci is the K. D. Irani Professor of Philosophy at the City College of New York. He is the author of many books, including Nonsense on Stilts: How to Tell Science from Bunk and, most recently, Answers for Aristotle: How Science and Philosophy Can Lead Us to a More Meaningful Life.
Together they are the coeditors of Philosophy of Pseudoscience: Reconsidering the Demarcation Problem.
"Science Unlimited? tries to establish a clarity to the debate over the scope and limits of scientific knowledge, and whether there are forms of knowledge other than the scientific. With breadth and topicality, the contributors' arguments critical of and defending scientism ring true. This book will appeal to a wide range of scholars, including those working in the fields of (obviously) philosophy, but also the sciences themselves, religion-based specialties, and the humanities in general."
– John S. Wilkins, author of Species: A History of the Idea