Scientism - con’t: Between Distrust of Science and Scientism

Aktualisiert: Nov 10

re:look Aufriss – An editorial by Ted Guidotti

Ade Adedokun,

Dr. Philipp Lengsfeld

November 2020

Primary source: Guidotti, T.L. (2017). Between distrust of science and scientism. Archives of Environmental and Occupational Health, 72 (5), pp. 247-248.

re:look climate aims to point out interesting arguments by a fairly recent work that highlights the important issues eliciting dissatisfaction and distrust in science.

The above referenced paper is a publication from Dr Tee Guidotti in 2017. Dr Guidotti is an international consultant in occupational and environmental health. He served as a former chair of the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health at George Washington University and director of the Division of Occupational Medicine and Toxicology in the medical school. Dr Guidotti has contributed significantly to science – having authored / co-authored numerous peer-reviewed scientific papers, discussion pieces and books.

According to Dr Guidotti, there is a growing trend in the distrust of science, and much of this dissatisfaction is as a result of certain problems in science.

In his words, he stated that: “We have a problem in science with overreach (think neurobehavioral profiles of political inclination), oversell (think dietary recommendations), irreproducibility (a particular problem in behavioral sciences), and intemperate speculation (grand theories of everything in physics that capture the public imagination but not the reality).” This leads to distrust when expectations are not met.

The author in his point of view, points out further problems with the attitude of scientists in that: “Scientists today see themselves as defenders of the search for what is demonstrably true in the material world.” “This is admirable and would be entirely benign if it did not lead too easily to overreach: to the attitude sometimes called scientism.” He described scientism as the “assumption that science and literal objectivity holds all the essential truths needed for managing human behavior and societies, the doctrine behind what is sometimes called “technocracy”.”

The author went on to address the issues with scientism as well as falsehood in science by stating that: “The defense of assumed truth becomes oppressive when the truth that is assumed is incorrect or incomplete.” “False beliefs often come wrapped in scientific language and “sciency” (the word comes from comedian Stephen Colbert) explication.” “The evaluation of science is difficult and allows ample room for mistakes, distortion, and misrepresentation.” “Therefore, scientism, behind its veneer of objectivity, paradoxically lends itself uncritical acceptance of “sciency” explanations and theories too easily swallowing the latest junk science if it sounds good.”

In his conclusion, the author emphasizes that: “Science is not value-free, in that it places the highest value on demonstrable truth, in which “demonstrable” means reproducible, literal, accurate, and not falsified.”

re:look considerations:

The author succeeded in pointing out the problems in science that fuels the growing (mistrust of science) trend in what appears to be a “war on science”. The concept of scientism was also criticized and challenged. This paper serves as a wake-up call concerning the issues that needs to be addressed in the scientific community.

References and Sources:

Guidotti, T.L. (2017). Between distrust of science and scientism. Archives of Environmental and Occupational Health, 72 (5), pp. 247-248.

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