Awhile back Philip Kitcher, philosopher at Columbia, published a piece on scientism in The New Republic, leading to a lengthy exchange with Jerry Coyne. I want to reply to this exchange at some point as it’s a question I’ve been thinking about for quite awhile. Though there were good things said in the original article I would have preferred an even more robust defense of the humanities. So when I get the chance I will make an attempt at one.
Along with this, I’m troubled by the basic response Kitcher received. Coyne says: “I’d prefer to see the word ‘scientism’ quietly shelved, replaced by more specific charges like ‘scientists sometimes overreach themselves’ or ‘scientists denigrate the value of literature.’ Those, at least, are charges that can be documented and discussed using evidence. The general charge of ‘scientism,’ slippery of definition, can’t be.”
No no no! I hasten to disagree, strongly. The concept is so very necessary, crucial even. But more on this another time.