Friday, May 4, 2012

John Gray on scientism and evolutionary explanations of morality

John Gray at The New Republic has a devastating book review in which he disassembles scientism and risible efforts to explain morality scientifically.

The belief that the political conflicts of the day can be resolved by applying evolutionary psychology is no more wellfounded than the claims of earlier versions of scientism that invoked phrenology or dialectical materialism. No doubt human knowledge has increased since the days when those pseudo-sciences were in the ascendant. Certainly we know a good deal more about human origins, and about the workings of the human brain, than we did then. But we are no better equipped to deal with moral and political conflict. Intellectually, we may be less well prepared than previous generations, if only because we know less of our own history.

Scientism has been shown to be an illusion time and time again. But it is another illusion to imagine that scientism will go away. Looking to science for deliverance from the tragicomedy of history is part of what it means to be modern. The tracts that come and go in airport bookstores, promising solutions to problems that have baffled the greatest minds, are symptoms of a confusion that is incurable. We may expect many more books that offer to extricate us from conflict by sprinkling the magic dust of science on our disorders.
Scientism is coming under withering attack from many quarters, finally. It will shrivel, as have other idiot ideologies like positivism, but the intellectual rot will linger for generations. Stupidity of this magnitude causes serious and lasting damage to intellectual discourse.

Scientism as "tragicomedy". Gets to the heart of it.

1 comment:

  1. It will shrivel, as have other idiot ideologies like positivism

    Scientism *is* positivism, only repackaged and sold to people who are too philosophically ignorant to notice that they're the same (assuming that they've even heard of positivism, which is unlikely).