Professor John Silber has an insightful article about “scientism” and the troubles that it causes. He rightly criticizes scientists for making assertions that cannot be bolstered by science. I don’t think I can completely agree with his remarks about diminishing of humanity, but I think he is dead on with his comparison of adherents to scientism and fundamentalist religious believers.

I have no problems with people claiming that the scientific method is the most reliable tool we have for learning about the world around us. That assertion can be supported by appealing to the success of various physical sciences. However, claims that science is the only way to learn about the world seem to me to be self-referentially incoherent. You can’t, after all, show scientifically that science is the only way to gain knowledge.

What I find particularly annoying, however, is the notion that science will eventually provide an explanation for everything. That is just hubris, especially since we can’t be certain that we are even capable of asking all the necessary questions required for an understanding of the universe. We are finite creatures with finite capacities, just like other animals. Chimps don’t understand algebra. They aren’t even aware that they don’t understand algebra. What reason do we have to assume that our brains are not limited in a similar fashion?

I can’t think of any, but I suppose that could just be due to the inherent limitations of my finite brain.

(Article via AnalPhilosopher)