Scientism is science as an ideology. Where science is a practice and body of knowledge, its principles and methods can also be adopted as an expansive belief or doctrine. The term scientism has distinctly negative connotations as being an expansion of science into unwarranted situations or excessive claims that aren't supported by current scientific knowledge. The following are illustrative examples of behaviors that might be accused of being scientism.
A cognitive bias that involves over-reliance on a familiar tool. Often explained with the analogy "if the only tool you have is a hammer, everything is a nail." Scientism is associated with wild claims that science can solve problems that are currently considered well beyond its reach. For example, claiming that science is the only source of knowledge and that all other descriptions of reality in areas such as social science and the humanities have little value.
Naive MaterialismViewing all things in terms of physical processes and what can be measured. For example, viewing humans in terms of biochemistry with little regard to the bigger picture such as the human experience and culture.
Pure TechnocracyThe belief that a scientific and technical elite should run the world based on their analysis of empirical evidence. This may be based on exaggerated claims that science can be used to optimize all decisions to produce social harmony, quality of life and economic growth. Such claims neglect the current limitations of social sciences such as economics. This also assumes that people would be willing to submit to the wisdom of a scientific elite at the expense of more inclusive and participative processes.
DogmaA tendency to pathologize anyone who is perceived to be critical of science or technology. For example, a quickness to label anyone who points out risks related to technology as a luddite.
Lack of RigorA quickness to advocate anything perceived as scientific over anything perceived as non-scientific without actually reviewing any evidence on either side. For example, insisting that a particular chemical is safe to use on food without actually reviewing any studies on the matter out of a sense that organic food people are always neglecting science.
NotesScientism should not be confused with science or scientists. Science is rigorous and applied to areas where it has demonstrated value as a body of knowledge and practice.Scientism can damage public support for science by making it seem dogmatic and arrogant.
This is the complete list of articles we have written about cognitive biases.
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