Hello. My name is Ric Peels. I'm an assistant professor at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam where I work in the Philosophy Department. And over the last few years, I've been doing some research on scientism as well as a couple of issues in Philosophy of Religion and the ethics of belief as well as ignorance. But today I'm going to talk about scientism, and I'm going to address the question whether scientism is what one could call the new scientific fundamentalism. So whether it's a kind of fundamentalism or maybe something else. So that's going to be the topic today. Let me start with an appetizer if you like. So there's an American philosopher of science named Alex Rosenberg who has written on scientism and who has defended scientism himself in detail. Here's how he defines the term. He says: “Scientism is the conviction that the methods of science are the only reliable ways to secure knowledge of anything; that science's description of the world is correct in its fundamentals. Science provides all the significant truths about reality and knowing such truths is what real understanding is about. Being scientistic just means treating science as our exclusive guide to reality, to nature-both our own and everything else’s”. So this is an incredible statement, right? If this is correct, it has tremendous implications. And this is what scientism on a strong version says. So let me start with a brief overview of, after this short appetizer of what I'm going to do today. First, I'm going to say a few words about what scientism is. So what sort of a thing is it? Is it a thesis? Is it a stance and attitude? Or what does it say roughly? Then second, I'm going to look into varieties of scientism. So what kinds of scientism are there? What varieties? Third, what arguments have been provided in favor of scientism. So what do adherents of scientism propose in defense of scientism? Fourth, what has been said against it or what could be said against it. And finally, I'm going to say something about how scientism relates to religious belief and to fundamentalism. So that's the plan for today. So let's start with the question, what scientism is. I think this is a rather important question. And here's why, let's start with this quote by Susan Haack, the American epistemologist from the University of Miami. Here's how she defines the term scientism. She says: Scientism is an “exaggerated kind of deference to science an excessive readiness to accept as authoritative any claim made by the sciences, and to dismiss every kind of criticism of science or its practitioners as anti-scientific prejudice”. This is how she defines the word, several times actually, in a couple of her books. And many people have embraced similar definitions of scientism. Now, my response to this is: No. We shouldn't define scientism this way. And here's why, if we define it as an exaggerated kind of deference and excessive readiness to accept as authoritative and so on, if that's how we are going to define scientism, then any substantial debate about scientism is going to be impossible, right? Because it's been described as exaggerated and excessive from the very start. So I don't think this is very helpful. And with certain other philosophers, I'm going to treat scientism as something different. Let me explain how I'm going to treat it. Here's my alternative proposal. First, I'm going to treat it as a thesis, so scientism is not an attitude of deference, an excessive readiness. No. It's a thesis. It's a claim. It's a statement. And we're going to see in a second what it amounts to. Second, I'm going to treat it as a neutral thesis in a way. And by that, I mean that the way it is described should not imply that it's unlikely or problematic or excessive, right? It should be neutral. It should be up to scrutiny. And then finally, I'm going to treat it as an epistemological claim. So it's going to be a claim about rational belief or about knowledge. More specifically, here's the claim: Only natural science gives us rational belief and knowledge. Or, and this is an alternative version of scientism: There are no principled limits to science in the sense that it can give us knowledge about everything. Right? So it gives us knowledge and rational belief about everything, and an alternative version says: only natural science gives us knowledge about anything. And of course, these two can be combined. So that's how I'm going to treat the word scientism, and that's what's the topic today. Well, if scientism says that only science provides rational belief or knowledge, then what doesn't provide rational belief or knowledge? What's the contrast? Well, I think much of the contrast is common sense beliefs. And here are a few examples. These are not all common sense beliefs, but many of them are. And by common sense, I mean the kinds of belief many people have in many places at many times in the course of history. Widely shared beliefs. For instance, beliefs based on memory, right? They're not based on science. I remember that I had yogurt for breakfast this morning. That's based on memory. Seemingly it's a rational belief, and it's knowledge, but it's not a belief based on science. There are religious beliefs. So I believe for instance that God exists or that angels exist. Basic mathematical and logical beliefs, such as two plus two is four or modus ponens is valid. So if P then Q, P hence Q. That's not a belief based on science. Beliefs about free actions. So I'm here today in Edinburgh, and I believe I freely came to Edinburgh because I had the option of staying home in Amsterdam, but I was fascinated by the topic and liked the invitations, so I came to Edinburgh. And I believe that it's a freely. Beliefs about one's reasons. So these are beliefs about why one did something, or why one did not do something. So I believe I came to Edinburgh to give this talk because I'm interested in scientism, and I think it's an important topic. And I like the University of Edinburgh, the City of Edinburgh. So I believe I know my reasons for being here today. Metaphysical beliefs are another example. So, for instance, the belief that if something is entirely transparent, it has no shadow. That's a metaphysical belief. It's not based on science, but many people hold that belief, and they think it's rational. There's nothing wrong with it. And another example is moral beliefs. Of course, we believe that the things ISIS does, so the way they treat women and children, for instance, is often deeply immoral. That's not based on science. And finally, there are introspective beliefs. So these are beliefs about ourselves, but they are not based on science in any way. So I can believe that I'm hungry or that I would like to have a beer, or I can hold beliefs about my intentions. So, for instance, the intention to go to Oxford on Thursday. So these are examples of beliefs not based on science, but scientism on its stronger version would discount these beliefs. And what is the purpose of my talk today? It is twofold. On the one hand, I would like to evaluate scientism in the sense that I want to sketch the arguments for scientism and also sketch the arguments against scientism. And I'm not going to assess each of these arguments in detail because that would take me an entire day, but I want to present them to you, and then leave it to you to, well, to decide whether or not they're convincing arguments. And I'm also going to talk about whether scientism is an instance of fundamentalism. So how does it relate to religion, for instance, and to world views? The final thing before we get to these arguments that I would like to say is why does the debate on scientism that we find nowadays in philosophy, in academics, generally, but also in, for instance, the Atlantic, so nonacademic venues. Why does that debate matter? Here are three reasons that why it matters: First, it makes a difference to the scope of our knowledge and the way we want to acquire further knowledge about the world. So if scientism is correct in its strong version, then the only way to get more knowledge about the world is by way of science. If it's incorrect, then there are other ways to acquire knowledge about the world. So it makes a big difference to how we think about it, about knowledge and about getting knowledge. Second, it has quite drastic implications for religious beliefs and moral practices. So if scientism is correct, then maybe we should give up certain religious practices or maybe religion altogether. Same thing for morality. Maybe we should leave morality to scientists. And a final important implication is that it might make a difference to certain judicial systems and certain practices such as psychiatry. So, for instance, if only science can give us knowledge and if science doesn't give us any reason to think that there is free will or even reason to think that there is no free will, then maybe we should assume that people do not have free will in our judicial systems and in psychiatry. So it should be based on different ideas. So it potentially has drastic implications. And as one of the, so these are three reasons actually. I think the debate about scientism matters very much indeed.