Scientism on stilts

Carlin Romano goes after the annoying scientistic arrogant smug Galileo-wannabe whatsits that get on everyone’s nerves so much.

A brave champion of beleaguered science in the modern age of pseudoscience, this Ayn Rand protagonist sarcastically derides the benighted irrationalists and glows with a self-anointed superiority. Who wouldn’t want to feel that sense of power and rightness?

You hear the voice regularly—along with far more sensible stuff—in the latest of a now common genre of science patriotism, Nonsense on Stilts: How to Tell Science From Bunk (University of Chicago Press), by

By…one of the new atheists it must be? This should be good. By?

by Massimo Pigliucci, a philosophy professor at the City University of New York.

Yes! Massimo, the scourge of the scientistic scientists! Being scourged for being so god damn scientistic. It’s the funniest thing I’ve read in weeks.

…it mixes eminent common sense and frequent good reporting with a cocksure hubris utterly inappropriate to the practice it apotheosizes…Pigliucci offers more hero sandwiches spiced with derision and certainty…Tone matters. And sarcasm is not science.

Does that remind you of anyone? No, I won’t rub it in – it’s too cruel.

The problem with polemicists like Pigliucci is that a chasm has opened up between two groups that might loosely be distinguished as “philosophers of science” and “science warriors.” Philosophers of science, often operating under the aegis of Thomas Kuhn, recognize that science is a diverse, social enterprise that has changed over time, developed different methodologies in different subsciences, and often advanced by taking putative pseudoscience seriously, as in debunking cold fusion. The science warriors, by contrast, often write as if our science of the moment is isomorphic with knowledge of an objective world-in-itself

They don’t, do they?! That’s so unsophisticated! If only they were philosophers, they wouldn’t do such silly things. But isn’t M – now now, none of that.

Pigliucci similarly derides religious explanations on logical grounds when he should be content with rejecting such explanations as unproven.

Okay – that’s all. It’s too funny; I don’t want to do myself an injury.

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