Scientism: Swear Words in the Philosophical Struggle
Scientism, defined as the belief that science is the only way to true knowledge, is in the Internet news again ( http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2011/12/26/a-new-definition-of-scientism/ and http://machineslikeus.com/news/scientism-scientistic-belief and http://scienceblogs.com/evolutionblog/2011/12/a_follow-up_post_about_scienti.php?utm_source=sbhomepage&utm_medium=link&utm_content=channellink for the standard deterministic opposition). From time to time indeterminists have used this epithet as a borderline ad hominem in the philosophical struggle between determinism and indeterminism. Determinists assume that all effects have material causes; indeterminists assume that some effects may not have material causes.
The anti-science argument encapsulated by the derisive appellation had some validity in the days of classical mechanics and classical determinism. Their underlying assumption of finite universal causality engendered hubris that failed whenever the promised complete answers were not furnished. Laplace’s Demon was not able to predict a single effect with the absolute precision demanded.
I predict that the 21st Century form of determinism will be harder to slander in this way. This is because it is based on infinite universal causality (All effects have an infinite number of material causes), which is consupponible with the assumption of infinity (The universe is infinite, both in the microcosmic and macrocosmic directions). The hubris is removed with the equally consupponible assumption of uncertainty (It is impossible to know everything about anything, but it is possible to know more about anything). Univironmental determinism (What happens to a portion of the universe is determined by the infinite matter within and without) is at once the universal mechanism of evolution as well as the new scientific worldview.