The Voice of Scientism

Richard Dawkins is agitated.

Richard Dawkins tells us what’s true and what’s not true – or what’s true and what doesn’t matter – in his article, “The Insidious Attacks on Scientific Truth” (The Spectator, 19 December 2020). There may be other truths than the truths established by science, but they don’t really matter, as Dawkins makes clear in his opening words. Only science gives the kind of reliable truth that a jury would acknowledge, and so only the truth of science matters.

Naturally, Donald Trump is the most evil assailant of scientific truth. He and his “base” are to be deplored for holding science in such a low opinion. Equally culpable, though, are those philosophical schools that insist there is no such thing as objective truth, and which attack reason and logic as unreliable guides.

Dawkins regards evolution as a fact, based on DNA similarities. He writes, “There’s no law that says truths about nature have to be comprehensible by the human brain. We have to live with the limitations of a brain that was built by Darwinian natural selection…” And that’s a scientific fact?

He rakes theologians over the coals for their love of mystery, and denies that science has mysteries of its own. Physics is the most reliable science of all, he insists. He concedes, “Some of what I have claimed here about scientific truth may come across as arrogant.” So you rhink? “So might my disparagement of certain schools of philosophy.” As for his disparagement of religion, he offers no concession. Science, he concludes, “can properly claim to be the gold standard of truth.”

To an extent, yes. But to dismiss moral truth or aesthetic truth or even spiritual and religious truth as of no standing with real truth is to let show the slip of scientism, and to raise science to an epistemological chair it cannot safely occupy.