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.
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, most recently, How to Be a Stoic: Using Ancient Philosophy to Live a Modern Life.