December 15, 2021 | Jerry Bergman

Science and Scientism Are Two Different Things

A Scientist Condemns Scientism, or
Why many Scientists Wrongly Confuse Science with Scientism.

 

by Jerry Bergman, PhD

Having worked in a science area with scientists for much of my academic career, I can relate my experience which helps to separate scientism from science. First, we need to distinguish science from scientism. Science is a method of inquiry about nature that uses the scientific method we were taught in school. In contrast, scientism is a worldview philosophy and belief which may or may not be based on science.

In his Dec. 9th article, “What is scientism, and why is it a mistake?” in Big Think, scientist Adam Frank relates how the Baconian method was successful to the point where “a philosophical perspective about the nature of the world also emerged. This philosophy attached itself to science and got to bask in the reflected glory.”[1]

Another term for scientism is scientific consensus. This term, which is a bandwagon phrase relying on an argument from authority, is used to claim that an idea or belief, such as evolution, is science, simply because most scientists believe it.[2]

Abusing Science

A propensity exists to claim our opinions are based on science or actually are science. This tends to give an air of authority about a belief. For instance, use of the phrase “science proves evolution” is often put forth as a conversation stopper. Science reporters pick up expressions of scientific consensus and then allege that the evolutionary worldview is science. As a result, the media causes great harm both to science and society by pretending, through repetition, that a worldview is a factual explanation of objective reality.

A powerful selling point for everything from commercial products, to ideas, and even ideology, is to label an idea, or conclusion, “science” and therefore a fact. An example is the claim that “evolution is a fact” because it is based on science. Darwinism is commonly sold to the public with the claim that a science ‘fact’ such as the fossils, has ‘proven’ evolution, ending the debate.

Darwinism Debunked by Darwinists’ Own Literature

In the 1,700 articles I have published debunking evolution, 98 percent of my information, facts, ideas, and even quotes come from the peer-reviewed scientific literature. In other words, evolution (considered as a belief that humans evolved from molecules, or “from molecules to man”—the title of a leading evolutionary textbook,[3]) has been falsified in the very literature that claims to support it!

Consider, for example, this set of quotes on the evolution of sex in the peer reviewed scientific literature. This literature is replete with quotes such as the following: sexual reproduction is the “queen of evolutionary problems.”[4] And “no other problem has sowed as much confusion” as have attempts to explain the origin of sexual reproduction.[5] Professor van Rossum admitted, “a salient characteristic of living beings, sexual reproduction, defies Darwinism, and [is] not based on an improbability, but on an impossibility of explanation.”[6]

I have found the same situation in every area I have researched.

Humpty Darwin sits on a wall of foam bricks held together by decayed mortar. Cartoon by Brett Miller commissioned for CEH. All rights reserved.

Since their own literature documents my claim that evolution (as I defined above) never happened, and could never have happened, why do almost all evolutionists continue to accept the evolutionary view of all life?

Reasons for Cognitive Dissonance

The reason why is that they view the world through evolutionary glasses. For example, in the quotes about the problem of the evolution of sex, they see it only as a problem to be solved because they know sex evolved. Or they see it as an unsolvable problem which does not shake their belief in evolution because they know we have overwhelming evidence of evolution in other areas, so they do not expect every evolutionary problem to be solved. The problem is, with every claim that I have examined, I find the same thing.

I could show numerous examples of this phenomenon where the belief in evolution (scientism) is refuted by the very data (the science) reported in the literature, including:

  • the fossil record
  • natural selection
  • sexual selection
  • the origin of genetic variety
  • the evolution of the cell
  • the origin of the bacterial flagellum
  • the evolution of mitosis
  • the evolution of meiosis from mitosis
  • –plus over 1,000 other examples I have written about.

A good example can be seen in the biology textbook Molecules to Man from the Biological Science Curriculum Study (BSCS), a standard biology textbook in the 1960s. It claims that mutations are the source of new genetic variety that natural selection selects from, stating bluntly that “new kinds of genes arise by mutations.”[7] Then, in the experiments section of the text the students are to expose yeast to mutation causing radiation from an ultraviolet lamp.[8]

The results do not show useful variations. They only illustrate the harmful effects of radiation: the longer the exposure, the more harmful the effects. Students will likely notice that no apparent positive mutations are produced in either the somatic or the germ cell line. Perceptive students may notice that mutations are very unlikely to produce the beneficial results required by evolution. Some observation on the part of students will reveal that 99.9 percent of mutations are either lethal of near neutral, which add up to produce genetic catastrophe, resulting in disease or death. Brighter students may wonder, “how can mutations, which damage the genome, result in evolution from molecules to humans?”

Darwin’s Dissonance

Even Darwin saw some of the same problems in his own theory that we see today. His belief in the evolutionary worldview, however, was so strong that he kept his faith in evolution in spite of the many problems he correctly identified. For instance, he wondered why,

if species have descended from other species by fine gradations, do we not everywhere see innumerable transitional forms? Why is not all nature in confusion, instead of the species being, as we see them, well defined? … as by this theory innumerable transitional forms must have existed, why do we not find them embedded in countless numbers in the crust of the Earth?[9]

He even admitted the following:

Long before having arrived at this part of my work, a crowd of difficulties will have occurred to the reader. Some of them are so grave that to this day I can never reflect on them without being staggered.[10]

He then rationalized “but, to the best of my judgment, the greater number are only apparent, and those that are real are not, I think, fatal to my theory.” Many more difficulties have been identified since Darwin wrote this which are fatal to his theory. He even contemplated being mistaken and presumptuous, writing “I have asked myself whether I may not have devoted my life to a fantasy”[11] and concedes:

If it could be demonstrated that any complex organism existed which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down.[12]

Although he claimed that he knew of no such case, we know thousands of such cases today. This latter doubt explains why he remained troubled for the remainder of his life by the eye’s apparent ‘precision-engineering’:

To suppose that the eye with all its inimitable contrivances for adjusting the focus to different distances, for admitting different amounts of light, and for the correction of spherical and chromatic aberration, could have been formed by natural selection, seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest degree.[13]

His concern persisted as shown by the fact that he repeated the same doubt in a letter to the American biologist Asa Gray in 1861. As a true believer, he felt confident that this concern would some day be answered. In fact, in the 150 years since he published the 6th edition of The Origin, the problem has become far worse than ever before.

Such unguarded comments appear to produce legitimate doubt as to whether Darwin himself believed all that he had written. For instance, the Darwin who openly set his face against  metaphysical speculation nevertheless wrote to a correspondent in 1876 of

the extreme difficulty or rather impossibility of conceiving this immense and wonderful universe, including man with his capacity of looking far backwards and far into futurity, as the result of blind chance or necessity. When thus reflecting, I feel compelled to look to a First Cause having an intelligent mind in some degree analogous to that of man; and I deserve to be called a Theist.[14]

The Origin of Species is full of phrases like this. “Authors of the highest eminence seem to be fully satisfied with the view that each species has been independently created,” he said. “To my mind it accords better with what we know of the laws impressed on matter by the Creator.”[15] Darwin could not merely have been including such phrases as a gesture towards public opinion because these doubts also appeared in his private pencil sketch of his theory written in 1842. So Darwin, even though he correctly noted major problems with his theory (which are orders of magnitude greater today) allowed his scientism (worldview, belief) to dominate, ignoring the science.

I consider the acceptance of evolution in spite of all of its problems an instance of Adam Frank’s statement, “philosophy attached itself to science and got to bask in the reflected glory.” The molecules-to-man evolutionary philosophy, i.e., the belief that natural selection acting on mutations, producing all the grandeur of life, is a worldview—a belief. It is an idea that has distorted science. Because of their scientism, Darwin and many evolutionists cannot let the evidence speak for itself. Their prior commitment to a belief forces them to distort science through the same naturalistic lens as Darwin himself did. I concur with Frank’s attitude about the difference between true science and scientism:

I am a passionate scientist who is passionate about science, but I also think scientism is a huge mistake. The most important reason it is a mistake is because it is confused about what it’s defending. Without doubt, science is unique, powerful, and wonderful. It should be celebrated, and it needs to be protected. Scientism, on the other hand, is just metaphysics, and there are lots and lots of metaphysical beliefs.[16]

Summary

Evolution is a worldview. It is a form of scientism: a metaphysical belief that masquerades as science. In doing so, it has hurt both science and society. In my experience, the scientists I worked with focused on their field, such as the function of folate receptors, and accepted evolution only because they saw it as a scientific consensus. So does much of the public. Very few of my associate scientists ever read much in detail about the problems of evolution. They merely assumed it was correct and, with their evolutionary glasses on, saw their own scientific work through this lens. As a result, they lived with a distorted view of reality.

by Brett Miller. Used by permission.

 

References

[1] Frank, A., What is scientism, and why is it a mistake?,  https://bigthink.com/13-8/science-vs-scientism/, 9 December 2021.

[2] Bergman, J. Why consensus science is anti-science, Journal of Creation 27(2):78–84, August 2013.

[3] BSCS. Biological Science: Molecules to Man, Houghton Mifflin, New York, NY, 1963. Dozens of other textbooks contain the expression “from molecules to man” including From Molecule to Man: the Explosion of Science, Tom Young et al., Crown Publishers, Arlington, TX, 1969.

[4] Ridley, M. The Red Queen: Sex and the Evolution of Human Nature, Macmillan Publishers, New York, NY, 1993; Smith, F.L., Darwin’s Secret Sex Problem: Exposing Evolution’s Fatal Flaw—the Origin of Sex, WestBow Press, Bloomington, IN, p. xxix, 2018.

[5] Bell, G., The Masterpiece of Nature: The Evolution and Genetics of Sexuality, University of California Press, Berkeley, CA, p. 19, 1982.

[6] van Rossum, J.P., On Sexual Reproduction as a New Critique of the Theory of Natural Selection: Sex as Creative Teleonomy and the Implications for Darwinism, The Free University Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, back cover, 2014.

[7] BSCS. Biological Science: Molecules to Man, 1963. p. 383.

[8] BSCS. Biological Science: Molecules to Man, 1963. p. L. 121

[9] Darwin, C., On The Origin of Species, John Murray, London, p. 171, 1859.

[10] Darwin, C., 1859, p. 171.

[11] Letter to Charles Lyell, dated 23 November 1859.

[12] Darwin, C., On The Origin of Species, 1860, p. 189.

[13] Darwin, 1859, p 186.

[14] Darwin, C., The Autobiography of Charles Darwin, 1887, p.70.

[15] Darwin, C. 1859, p. 488.

[16] Frank, A., 2021.


Dr. Jerry Bergman has taught biology, genetics, chemistry, biochemistry, anthropology, geology, and microbiology for over 40 years at several colleges and universities including Bowling Green State University, Medical College of Ohio where he was a research associate in experimental pathology, and The University of Toledo. He is a graduate of the Medical College of Ohio, Wayne State University in Detroit, the University of Toledo, and Bowling Green State University. He has over 1,300 publications in 12 languages and 40 books and monographs. His books and textbooks that include chapters that he authored are in over 1,500 college libraries in 27 countries. So far over 80,000 copies of the 40 books and monographs that he has authored or co-authored are in print. For more articles by Dr Bergman, see his Author Profile.

 

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Categories: Philosophy of Science

Comments

  • mlmticket says:

    People should learn about philosophy of science, because They will definitely understand that science is not like Correspondence theory of truth. Science is more like pragmatic theory of truth, or coherence theory of truth.

    But we know that evolution is not science even! So evolution science is like imagination theory of truth!

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