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  Science & the Myth of Progress—the quantification of nature Back to the List of Slideshows
    
slide 12 of 16

Huston Smith defines Scientism for us and delineates the difference between it and Science:
Only four letters, “tism,” separate scientism from science, but that small slip twixt the cup and the lip is the cause of all our current problems relating to worldview and the human spirit. Science is on balance good, whereas nothing good can be said for scientism.

Everything depends on definitions here, for this chapter will fall apart if the distinction between science and scientism is allowed to slip from view. To get those definitions right requires cutting through the swarm of thoughts, images, sentiments, and vested interests that circle the word science today to arrive at the only definition of the word that I take to be incontrovertible—namely, that science is what has changed our world. Accompanied by technology (its spin off), modern science is what divides modern from traditional societies and civilizations. Its content is the body of facts about the natural world that the scientific method has brought to light, the crux of that method being the controlled experiment with its capacity to winnow true from false hypotheses about the empirical world.

Scientism adds to science two corollaries: first, that the scientific method is, if not the only reliable method of getting at truth, then at least the most reliable method; and second, that the things science deals with—material entities—are the most fundamental things that exist. These two corollaries are seldom voiced, for once they are brought to attention it is not difficult to see that they are arbitrary. Unsupported by facts, they are at best philosophical assumptions and at worst merely opinions.
Huston Smith alerts us to the fact that scientism, far from encouraging healthy debate, uses its influence in the scientific institutions to ensure that dissenting voices are not heard. This leaves many people wondering what then has become of the objectivity that is supposed to be the cornerstone of all true science.
Huston Smith
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