- Paperback: 224 pages
- Publisher: Crossway (September 30, 2018)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 9781433556906
- ISBN-13: 978-1433556906
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Scientism and Secularism: Learning to Respond to a Dangerous Ideology Paperback – September 30, 2018
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“Science is a wonderfully useful discipline, but in recent times it has been distorted into scientism, the view that science is the ultimate path to truth in any area of reality. Based on that false adulation of science, many have denied the value of religion and philosophy, and many have rejected the claims of divine revelation in the Bible. J. P. Moreland is a respected Christian thinker who has studied both science and the Scriptures in considerable depth. He clearly demonstrates the fallacies of the arguments for scientism. He shows how Christians can defend their faith against scientistic objections, while affirming genuine science as a gift from God.”
―John M. Frame, Professor of Systematic Theology and Philosophy Emeritus, Reformed Theological Seminary, Orlando
“Scientism is a silent killer. Despite its name, it is neither scientific nor rational. Yet it attempts to kill our knowledge of God and the good life by claiming that the methods of science are sufficient for any knowledge we may need to know. J. P. Moreland, one of our greatest living philosophers, exposes scientism for what it is―a self-refuting and knowledge-stopping claim. This judgment in no way undermines real science, but rather encourages it. Once more, we are in Moreland’s debt.”
―Douglas Groothuis, Professor of Philosophy, Denver Seminary; author, The Soul in Cyberspace
“Moreland offers a brilliant critique of scientism and a comprehensive defense of theistic science. As valuable as this critique and defense is, I believe his book’s greatest contribution is his wake-up call to Christian leaders of how ‘scientism has forced the church to offer the gospel simply because it works rather than because it is true and can be known as such.’ Kudos to Moreland for equipping us to know through scientific evidence and philosophical reasoning that the Bible and the gospel indeed are true.”
―Hugh Ross, President, Reasons to Believe; author, The Creator and the Cosmos; Improbable Planet; and Why the Universe Is the Way It Is
“J. P. Moreland is one of the great Christian philosophers of our time. He has shown persuasively that we can know God just as well as we can know anything else. If, as philosophers tell as, knowledge constitutes ‘justified true belief,’ Moreland has shown that we can have such beliefs about God―and, thus, objective, as well as subjective, knowledge of him. In this trenchant critique, he shows not only how the ideology of scientism undermines the justifiable confidence that people should have in their knowledge of God, but that scientism ultimately defeats itself. Scientism claims that hard sciences such as physics, chemistry, and biology provide the only genuine knowledge of reality. Yet, as Moreland shows, scientism does not satisfy its own requirement, because it is not itself based upon scientific evidence or scientific method. Instead, Moreland shows with many concrete examples that many people in our culture simply assume that the hard sciences provide the only foundation for knowledge, leaving them with an impoverished and materialistic view of reality that denies them the joy, hope, and meaning that comes from the knowledge of God. For this reason, Scientism and Secularism is a philosophical treatise with a practical message for anyone wanting to live life more abundantly in accord with genuine knowledge of God. Highly recommended.”
―Stephen C. Meyer, Director, Center for Science and Culture, Discovery Institute; New York Times best-selling author, Darwin’s Doubt
“Science is a gift from God, but scientism is an idolatrous perversion of that gift that is hostile to the Christian faith and to the proper practice of science. J. P. Moreland rightly contends that Christians need to understand what scientism claims, to recognize its pervasive effects in our society, and to expose its self-defeating pretensions. Moreland has been reflecting on these issues for decades, and I can think of no one better qualified to write on this topic. This incisive takedown of scientism is long overdue and most welcome.”
―James N. Anderson, Professor of Theology and Philosophy, Reformed Theological Seminary, Charlotte
“If you’ve ever been tempted to dismiss a moral, philosophical, or theological belief because you were convinced only science gives real knowledge―or if it’s been done to you―then you’ve been taken in by scientism. This popular notion has crippled the confidence of multitudes of Christians, yet in Scientism and Secularism, philosopher J. P. Moreland handily exposes it for the fraud it is. Moreland cuts through the confusion with his characteristic clarity, insight, and surgical precision, deftly refuting the notion that only science can give knowledge while all else is mere opinion, feeling, or faith. Here is Moreland doing what he does best―dispatching foolishness with careful thought and rigorous assessment. For those taken in by the silliness of scientism, this book will be an eye-opener. Moreland’s effort also serves as a tutorial in the disappearing art of clear thinking for those floundering in the murky waters of secularism.”
―Gregory Koukl, President, Stand to Reason; author, The Story of Reality and Tactics
“J. P. Moreland’s Scientism and Secularism should be mandatory reading for serious Christians who want to intelligently engage in the interface of philosophy and science. Moreland elegantly guides the reader through concepts typically reserved for serious analytic philosophers and academics. In doing so, he provides a desperately needed and highly accessible treatment of elite-level arguments that both seasoned philosophy veterans and enthusiastic amateurs will enjoy. Moreland thus demonstrates a rare ability to distill complicated and abstract philosophical concepts into a framework for everybody to understand. While scientists who are not philosophically inclined always tend to deride approaches that are not strictly empirical as superfluous, in recent years this tendency has accelerated. Major figures in both academic and popular science characterize philosophy as an anachronism to be abandoned, with only experimental or observable data worthy of discussion. Moreland argues expertly that not only are such claims internally inconsistent, this central dogma of scientism erodes the serious pursuit of knowledge. Scientism isn’t just poor science, it’s poor thinking. Moreland has crafted an eminently readable text that clearly demonstrates that this kind of crude scientistic thinking should be eschewed by all thinkers not dogmatically committed to worshiping at the altar of reductive physicalism. Scientism and Secularism is a book that should be read by any serious Christian who is motivated to integrate science, philosophy, and faith cogently and cohesively.”
―Jeffrey M. Schwartz, MD, coauthor, The Mind and the Brain and You Are Not Your Brain
“The greatest barrier to communicating a Christian message in our day is the fact/value split. It decrees that truth is to be found only in the fact realm, while relegating morality and theology to the realm of values, which it defines as subjective, private, personal preferences. The result is that when Christian speak, people do not even ‘hear’ them making objective truth claims. That’s why this book by J. P. Moreland is so important. Moreland challenges the fact/value split, showing that it rests on the untenable assumption of scientism. Then he makes a persuasive case that fields like philosophy, morality, and theology yield genuine knowledge.”
―Nancy Pearcey, author, Total Truth; Finding Truth; and Love Thy Body
“With cross-disciplinary depth and precise argument, J. P. Moreland not only puts science back in its lane, he defines the lane―and in doing so rescues true science from self-destructive overreach. Anyone responsible for educating the next generation of scientists, theologians, or anyone in between needs this surprisingly readable book.”
―David Schmus, Executive Director, Christian Educators Association International
“For decades, people have been weighing in on why children are leaving the faith in droves. J. P. Moreland gets to the core and offers information needed to stop the exodus. Every Christian parent and educator must read this book.”
―Catherine Waller, Executive Editor, Defendable Faith Institute, DeepRoots Bible Curriculum for Defendable Faith; homeschool parent
About the Author
J. P. Moreland (PhD, University of Southern California) is distinguished professor of philosophy at Biola University. He is an author of, contributor to, or editor of over ninety books, including The Soul: How We Know It's Real and Why It Matters.
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The latest worldview-that-would-be-king is scientism, the idea that all of reality and what we experience as human beings can be explained by science alone. Religion, philosophy, ethics, aesthetics, whatever, need not be applied. They are all old and busted. Scientism rules.
One of the greatest truths about worldviews is that all frameworks for creating order and sense of reality are ultimately religious (as Bob Dylan sang, "You gotta serve SOMEBODY"), even atheism, and all religions are worldviews. So, in this way, scientism is a religion, too, just with science at its core rather than incense, angels, altars, and gods.
Noted Christian philosopher/scientist J.P. Moreland, distinguished professor of philosophy at Biola University examines the truth claims of scientism in his latest book _Scientism and Secularism: Learning to Respond to a Dangerous Ideology_ (hereafter _S&S_).
The book's chapter outline:
* The (Scientistic) Air We Breath
* Why Scientism Matters
* How Scientism Changed the Universities
* Scientism Is Self-Refuting
* Scientism Is the Enemy of Science
* Why Weak Scientism Is No Better Than Strong Scientism
* The Availability of Nonscientific Knowledge
* When Science Exceeds Its Reach: A Case Study
* Scientism and First Philosophy
* Examples of the Authority and Autonomy Theses
* How Do We Explain Things
* Five Things Science Cannot in Principle Explain (But Theism Can)
* Methodological Naturalism, Theistic Evolution, and Intelligent Design
* The Importance of Integrating Christianity and Science
* A Plan for the Integration of Christianity and Science
* One Final Plea
* Selected Bibliography
All those chapter titles seem to add up to what would be a profoundly helpful book to explain the failure of scientism as a worldview. But as clear as that outline seems, _S&S_ is a muddle, a book broken by scattershot editing, layout unhelpfulness, and audience targeting failure. The actual argument made against scientism may be helpful, but another, better writer needed to lay it out for readers in a way that makes it possible for the target audience to respond to scientism's acolytes with confidence.
The problems start with the foreword. And that's a terrible place to start stumbling.
The foreword author, Dan Egeler, is the former president of American Christian Schools International, and his points are targeted to concerned parents (possibly even homeschooling parents and their students). He worries for parents who worry that scientism is being crammed down the throats of everyone, especially within academia, without criticism. Egeler sets the stage for an argumentation against scientism that laymen can grasp—no philosophical language necessary—and he even summarizes the "Five Things" chapter, which is really the meat chapter of the entire book. His style is popular and approachable, which sets the stage for what should be expected from the book, along with the target audience to whom the book is pitched.
But Moreland does not follow suit. He writes in a style that tries unsuccessfully to be popular and academic, whiplashing between styles. Malcolm Gladwell he is not.
At the website Reddit, one subreddit is ELI5 ("Explain Like I'm 5"), and whenever we're talking a heady topic like philosophy, ELI5 would be helpful, especially if the target audience is parents of soon-to-be-indoctrinated-in-scientism incoming college students. What we get from Moreland, though, is complex philosophical truth statements paired with a simplistic real-world illustration tacked on. That works against overall comprehension and retention though. It would have been better if Moreland had penned an ELI5 statement and followed with a more complex real-world illustration. With the method he uses, it's hard to work back from the simplicity of the example to the depth of the initial statement.
This problem plagues _S&S_, and it makes it darned near impossible to walk away with anything memorable that can be used as an apologetic for theism over scientism.
Moreland does not help here either, because rather than offer a quick overview of theism, he refers _S&S_ readers to his past writings on the subject (such as _The God Question_ or _Philosophical Foundations to a Christian Worldview_). Boo. You can't set up an argument if the setup is found solely in other books not currently available to the reader of the present book. Give the readers SOME overview. (In this case, that missing theistic overview would have been far more helpful than the 100 pages of historical, philosophical, and tangential noodling Moreland DID include.)
In part, Christian publisher Crossway Books is to blame for these lacks. My library contains many Crossway books, and this one reads like none of them. It's like the publisher felt the need to publish something on this issue, but then it's not sure to whom or how best to do it.
A better editor would have been helpful, because the first 100 pages of this short, 205-page book meander before getting to the arguments that matter to the supposed audience, an audience Moreland himself doesn't clarify.
You can sum up the entirety of _S&S_ in these statements:
* Scientism ultimately fails because science can't prove science. What makes science valid are the philosophical foundations upon which the scientific method and all of science rest. Throw out philosophy, and science rests on nothing. So why does scientism ignore the very foundational ideologies upon which science rests? Why indeed.
* Science alone cannot explain the origins of the universe.
* Science alone cannot explain the fundamental laws of nature.
* Science alone cannot explain the fine-tuning of the universe.
* Science alone cannot explain consciousness.
* Science alone cannot explain the existence of moral, rational, and aesthetic objective laws and intrinsically valuable properties.
* What science alone cannot explain, theism (as an overall construct of religion, philosophy, morality, and ethics) can.
In truth, about 30 pages cover the above. Everything else feels like foundational filler or tortuous, tangential, college lecture. Do we really need to know about Cartesian Foundationalism, the works of Papineau and Churchland, Correspondence Theory, and so on?
Even the title misleads. This book is not really about secularism in the political way that the assumed target audience would most likely think. I'm not even sure Moreland shows adequately that secularism extends from scientism or vice versa. The better title would be _Scientism vs. Theism_ or _How to Answer Scientism_.
And even that latter title is problematic, because while the subtitle of _S&S_ is "Learning to Respond to a Dangerous Ideology," when the readers turn that last page, will they be able to respond with any sort of cogent argument if their reference was so meandering?
I studied much of this type of apologetic in college, was an honor student to boot, and I'm not sure if I can form a devastating rejoinder to scientism using_S&S_ is my sole source.
I really wanted to love _S&S_, but it's just not a good book. That doesn't mean the core content is wrong, only that it needs a better, more manageable presentation. Yes, I read an advance reader copy, and the book may change slightly by the time it releases in late September 2018, but from the unhelpful, boring charts to the 100 tedious opening pages, some editor at Crossway needs to put on the brakes and perform an intervention.
Given Moreland's wisdom and notoriety, that's a darned shame. We need a readily wielded killer apologetic to take down the truly dangerous worldview of scientism. Sad to say, but _Scientism and Secularism_ isn't going to cut it for that purpose, at least for the average reader.
1. Reasons why scientism is important to study.
2. How scientism affects universities.
3. 5 things that theology can explain that scientism cannot.
4. Intelligent design vs. theistic evolution.
5. Proposed ways Christianity and science can be integrated.
The book is a mix of technical and easily understood information. This is an area I have not studied much and will refer to this title again when I delve more deeply into this subject. Admittingly written from a Christian point of view, some readers will take issue with the author's viewpoint. Will be a helpful future reference.
With the rise of evolution in the 20th and 21st century, this issue has become even more convoluted. It wasn’t that science changed, but rather the philosophical undergirding of science changed. Instead of being purely objective in scope, there was an agenda: to prove that God did not exist; that people no longer needed a deity because they had science, which ultimately could answer all the questions you could have. Indeed, in some instances, science became the primary modus operandi to which truth was determined. There are some who believe that science holds the keys to how to obtain that whimsical and fleeting concept of “truth,” particularly in our post-modern time.
That’s why it is not only refreshing to have a resource to combat this system of thinking, but we must be even more grateful that J.P. Moreland, philosopher and scientist at Talbot Seminary, wrote this volume, “Scientism and Secularism.” I have come into contact in the circles I have been in with this shattered thinking. In reading this book, I had a conversation with a co-worker of mine who proclaimed that you can only know something is true when you are able to test it. He used this as a means to say that in this way, it is difficult to assume God is true. I was able to venture the waters as well as I could given the circumstances, but it made me relish the opportunity I have been given in drinking deeply of the concepts of this book that I might be able to respond in kind to those who have similar objections to Christianity.
To begin, Dr. Moreland defines “scientism” as: “the view that the hard sciences provide the only or at least a vastly superior knowledge of reality compared to other disciplines.” In other words, because science is testable, quantifiable, and measurable, it is tangible; because it is tangible and academic in scope, it provides a more logical and reasonable way to truth than the contrary. In this book, Dr. Moreland begins to dismantle this thought process. In chapters 1, 2, and 3, Dr. Moreland lays out the landscape: what Scientism is, why it matters, and how it changed the universe. In chapter 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8, Dr. Moreland approaches the subject by bringing down arguments from both a logical perspective and by the reason that scientism is actually the enemy of science (chapter5). For example, in chapter 4, Dr. Moreland demonstrates how scientism is self-refuting (the only truth is in what is testable, a contingent truth that can’t be tested). Chapter 8 provides the reader with a case study of how science reaches beyond its stated goals. Chapters 9, 10, 11, 12, and 13 examine scientism from a philosophical perspective. Why do the arguments of scientism fail when put under the microscope of philosophy? Lastly, chapters 13, 14, 15, and a final plea in chapter 16 all fall under the auspice of how the Church can respond correctly to the blight of scientism.
Overall, I learned most from the beginning chapters 4-7. These were my favorite of the book because they gave me tools that I could use (and have already started using) to combat this errant thinking. For those who, like me, interact with a populace that condemns religion as superstition and yet worships at the altar of science, even reading these first few chapters will make this entire book well worth the money, energy, and time. The arguments that Dr. Moreland present are so convincing that they gave me much comfort even though I do not agree with scientism in the first place.
But a word of caution: the last few chapters, particularly 9-13, are very technical. I believe I will have to re-read these sections to grasp the nuance of the argument (particularly of “first philosophy” and its implications about scientism, chapter 9).
To Christians, skeptics, or scientists, this should be a book that you purchase, read, and think deeply upon. It will challenge you in ways that you cannot imagine; further, it will equip you with the necessary tools to combat harmful, and wrong, ideologies in your schools and work places.
I was given this book for free by Crossway Books in order to provide an honest review.