Scientism: Another false religious belief
August 11, 2021
On the whole, I’m a science guy. I’m not afraid of science, nor do I perceive any threat from it. As a Christian man, I have no worries that science will damage my faith. In fact, if my faith could be scientifically disproved, then it would deserve to be.
I wrote in this space a couple years ago that science needs the Christian worldview to ground its basic assumptions (specifically, things that make experimentation possible, like logic, sense reliability, and the uniformity of nature) which cannot be philosophically established through materialism.
I’m thankful for advancements in science that have made our lives more comfortable and productive, like the magical contraption, flowing with electrical thingies, on which I am writing this.
So, yeah, this is me raising my hand: Big science fan here.
However, there’s another idea floating around these days, which seeks to be granted the gravitas of the academy. This other thing is more akin to religion than to the scientific method. I’m hardly the first guy to notice this: Scientists have called it out. It’s even been given its own name. It’s called “Scientism,” and it has its own Wikipedia page, so you know for sure it’s a real thing.
Scientism takes the inch it got from actual science and runs a mile with it, into territory in which it simply doesn’t belong. It becomes, at this point, just another cult.
Specifically, what we are seeing from Scientism is a desire to have science recognized as a source of authoritative, moral truth. But, pronouncing on morality is not what real science does. Science, done well, can only ever tell us what is. It has no standing when the question is, “What ought to be?”
If someone asks, “How shall we then live?” then, sure, it’s nice to have all the available data at our disposal. That data, nevertheless, has zero moral authority. It can’t say what should be done, but only what has been done.
Science can’t prove that love, for instance, is anything other than a feeling produced by certain bits of brain-stuff bouncing off each other. So we should stare sideways at people boldly announcing that the science can tell us what loving our neighbors should look like; what policies government should enact; or whether or when churches should meet. These and other moral/religious concerns are not subject to laboratory experimentation. Scientists have always understood that, and they’re perfectly happy with it. It’s the priesthood and paid choir of Scientism that want territory that isn’t theirs.
It isn’t tough to spot these folks. They often show up in their holy robes (lab coats), being interviewed by the “amen corner” on television, who fawn over their every word as if it tumbled down from Mount Sinai. And, their dogmas must not be allowed to suffer the questioning of the benighted dolts in the cheap seats.
“You cannot comprehend peer-reviewed studies! You can’t do math! You are not the voice of Science: only we are. Now, your stubborn refusal to simply receive our word as gospel is bringing about Armageddon.”
As Alexander Solzhenitsyn wrote from within the old Soviet Union, we need to determine that we will “live not by lies.”
Gordan Runyan is the pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Tucumcari. Contact him at: