The Will to BelieveMerrilee Salmon’s review of Richard Williams and Daniel Robinson 2015 volume, Scientism: The New Orthodoxy, starts out well enough, explaining that scientism is “a philosophical view about the power and scope of the techniques of the natural sciences. It is generally understood to hold that all genuine knowledge about the world around us, including about human behavior, is obtainable only through the particular scientific methods that have proved so successful in physics, chemistry, and the other natural sciences. In other words, knowledge gained through use of the scientific method has a unique claim to truth, and, some would say, constitutes the only path to real knowledge.” But the professor emerita from one of the leading HPS programs in the country (University of Pittsburgh) unfortunately ends up devolving into the same old Warfare Thesis myth which contributed and underwrote today’s scientism in the first place. To wit, Salmon erroneously identifies, yes Galileo and Darwin, (oh no, not this again), as examples where science triumphed over religion:
Simply recognizing that both science and theology are cultural institutions, however, does not solve the problem of what to believe when the two collide. The historic cases of Galileo Galilei and Charles Darwin remind us that science has the superior record when it comes to producing evidence for claims that have been challenged by theologians.
Arg. Has history taught us nothing?
Do we need to recount yet again how theology underwrote evolution, and that rebuttals were about the science? Do we need to, one more time, retell the facts of the Galileo Affair? That questions about Joshua 10 and Ecclesiastes 1 paled in comparison to the political, social, Aristotelian, and most importantly, scientific problems with heliocentrism?
Unfortunately, over and over, we see that the mythological Warfare Thesis is not the product of the ignorant but the elite. From the playwrights to the professors, the Warfare Thesis is a powerful and enduring myth for the same reasons any myth is powerful and enduring—we want to believe it.
Religion drives science, and it matter.