Science is an institutionalized set of knowledge practices, not a philosophical system

Andrew Jewett in the Chronicle of Higher Education:

Back in 2013, another in a long line of tussles over scientism broke out. Leon Wieseltier, literary editor of The New Republic, told humanities majors at a Brandeis University graduation ceremony that they represented “the resistance” in a society dominated by “the twin imperialisms of science and technology.” Wieseltier sounded all the familiar themes — the enslavement of human beings to machines, the tyranny of numbers, the depredations of “technologism,” the unchallenged dominance of “utility, speed, efficiency, and convenience” in modern culture. The antidote, he claimed, was the humanities.

The evolutionary psychologist Steven Pinker fired back. Petulant humanists, he charged, welcomed science when it cured disease but not when it impinged on their professional fiefdom. The march of science and the Enlightenment had vastly improved the human condition. Only science, Pinker insisted, could address “the deepest questions about who we are, where we came from, and how we define the meaning and purpose of our lives.” Humanities scholars would remain irrelevant until they embraced the scientifically informed humanitarianism that constituted the “de facto morality” of the modern world. The ensuing controversy stretched through that summer and fall.

More here.