Harvard’s Steve Pinker (the defender of scientism) is getting it on all sides
|August 28, 2013||Posted by News under News, Philosophy, Science|
Recently, the cognitive psychologist offered “an impassioned plea to neglected novelists, embattled professors, and tenure-less historians” that scientism is not the enemy, and they should just accept their meat puppethood (=be ruled by types like him?) Ro something.
Whatever he meant, it didn;t go down well. A cell biologist told him to get lost, so to speak, as did an economist. After PZ Myers complained (and apparently did not get a cease-and-desist letter this time, so far as we know), it hardly matters that a pro-life Christian did so.
At Chronicle of Higher Education, a humanities prof has asked Pinker to kindly stop caricaturing all humanities types as clueless losers. Jules Evans, who already slammed him at his philosophy blog now goes after him at the leftish Huffington Post:
Pinker switches Scientism with secular humanism, and hopes we won’t notice. He says that Scientism is ‘inextricable’ from humanism, and adds: ‘the scientific facts militate toward…principles that maximize the flourishing of humans and other sentient beings.’ Militate how? Are the scientific facts taking to the streets with placards?
I completely agree that scientific progress has undermined our old animist beliefs and led to the disenchantment of the world. But where is the evidence it has led to the ubiquitous desire to maximize the flourishing of humans and other sentient beings?
The fact that humans are doing nothing to prevent climate change suggests that we are not humanists, that we don’t really care about the flourishing of other beings. We are not living in a society that shows a deep concern for other beings’ flourishing.
Rather, the rise of scientific materialism has helped to create a materialist society, whose guiding moral principle is personal consumption and the desire to maximize our own individual happiness and comfort. The flourishing of other beings comes a long way down our list of moral priorities. Hence, for example, industrial farming: our desire to eat a lot of meat is far more important to us than our concern for animals’ welfare.
One suspects that Evans would not consider that persons who want to reduce the government’s enormously wasteful imprint in everyone’s life are promoting human freedom or flourishing, but we will leave that conversation to others.
The main thing to see here is that scientism is the sort of belief that the materialist is supposed to have, enforce, and then disclaim, NOT defend.
So, Pinker, next time have, enforce, disclaim, disown, and DON’T defend. Unless all this turns out to be good publicity for you, guaranteeing a bigger advance for your next book.
No, but seriously, did you plan it this way? Heck, in today’s rotting tenure-ocracy, what would surprise? No big deal.
Hat tip: Stephanie West Allen at Brains on Purpose