Furthest Right

Scientism and the Downfall of Logical Positivism

Following on the heels of the replication crisis in science comes an understanding that the basis of science itself may be flawed, since we rely on scientism and logical positivism:

However, a healthy pro-science attitude is not the same thing as “scientism,” which is the view that the scientific method is the only way to establish truth.

Perhaps the most worked out form of scientism was the early 20th-century movement known as logical positivism. The logical positivists signed up to the “verification principle,” according to which a sentence whose truth can’t be tested through observation and experiments was either logically trivial or meaningless gibberish. With this weapon, they hoped to dismiss all metaphysical questions as not merely false but nonsense.

These days, logical positivism is almost universally rejected by philosophers. For one thing, logical positivism is self-defeating, as the verification principle itself cannot be scientifically tested, and so can be true only if it’s meaningless. Indeed, something like this problem haunts all unqualified forms of scientism. There is no scientific experiment we could do to prove that scientism is true; and hence if scientism is true, then its truth cannot be established.

The scientific method works great for physical sciences. Beyond that, it cannot tell us much, even if we are simply talking about layers of causality. We can assess whether adding two chemicals together makes a boom, but not easily understand how adding one chemical to an ecosystem can have effects fifty years later.

This means that we are operating beyond our understanding with technology and science.

Even more, it means that we have no “objective” method for answering the biggest questions in existence.

Because of that, people tend to punt on those questions and instead focus all of their effort on the direct material questions we can answer. Once upon a time, we simply had culture, and our religion and philosophy were part of that, giving us a starting point for analysis on those big questions.

Instead however we focused on the material, namely the physical fact that we are different people and therefore can be considered individuals, even if most humans are automatic meat-suits who require stimulus in order to have a response and otherwise, like a virus, have no direction of their own.

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