The Real Axis of Evil:
Scientism, Historicism & Constructivism
If you think that no scientist can rule out whether or not we have a foreordained destination, you may be so open-minded as to have abandoned a reasonably scientific position. If you say that evolution is creative and is expressing life in a certain manner, then by which criteria can you test this hypothesis? If some thinker produces a doctrine with implications that life is goal-driven, and therefore is somehow determined magically, then how is this different than the world view of a 17th century monk? Teleologic progress from lower categories to higher ones in history always carry supposition that there is a meddling god, a unifying motive force in human nature, a material or spiritual dialectic or some other unprovable axiomatic destination for humankind. The problem with magic (outside of the fact of its shyness in daylight hours), is that it refuses to be witnessed or measured by science. It relies totally on testimony. Many of these thinkers who would smuggle this sort of magic into science, when it comes to the social sciences, practice scientism. It’s the misapplication of the methods of the physical sciences to the social ones, especially used to manufacture support for the all-embracing medical-therapeutic world-view. It’s the belief that the methods of natural science form the only proper elements in any philosophical inquiry and the thinkers who practice it, are in general, disposed to an equalitarian view of life and a paternal one of government. In Enlightenment Now, Steven Pinker's definition of it is too exclusive; thus for example, the incorrect application of deterministic scientific view to economics which involves the study of choices, even moral choices, is an incorrect tool (which we call scientism). To study it as an art with some mathematical models, a healthy dose of reason and lots of skepticism for any predictions is the proper demeanour in approaching this slippery topic and others like it.
Even some philosophers are open purveyors of scientism. For instance, if sociology would discover laws of human society like other natural laws by applying the methods of the physical sciences, then they practice scientism; if they find that civil-social order is bound by if-therefores, then they ignore humankind’s actual real freedom to create ideas and change the course of history. If they want to amass usable knowledge to help humankind manage a free society better, then they must be, in part, also, anthropologists, historians, moralists, philosophers and especially, economists.* Sociologists do not necessarily have to be discoverers of new underlining laws which restrict our freedom. If they managed this task, unlike Comte or Marx did, surely their science would at last be proved valuable to humankind.
Most thinkers who practice scientism
Also practice historicism and constructivism
Historicism is the false inveighing of teleological ends into history, or the historical belief that “our story” is predetermined by some factor (usually economics, context or Zeitgeist) and humankind has no real freedom. For instance, historical technical determinism suffers from such a begging of the question. If the invention of the stirrup led to the far superior armed cavalry, what created the saddle, the metal armor of the knights, the weapons, training, breeding and domesticating the horses and the fortress from whence they came? Freak electrical storm systems perhaps? Maybe magic intervention of local deities? No, the stirrup did not lead to the fall of the Roman Empire. However it was an idea that indeed led to the world’s decline into the Dark Ages – that idea was Christianity – and at around 300AD this particularly intolerant religion officially took over the government of Rome.
Historicism is an approach to the social sciences which assumes that historical prediction is the primary aim. It poses that this object is attainable by discovering the rhythms, patterns, laws or the trends that underlie the evolution of organic history, that is, that we are not really free–that we are trapped by history itself. These “types” of historians always make predictions, they are always “gloom and doom” and their prognostications are always wrong.
Rousseau’s Social Contract is a classic example of an abuse of reason, where animal instinct, will of the people and collectivism are preferred over individual reason. The philosopher’s main tools to fact find and check are criticized with an appeal for group think. Anyone who believes there was freedom in a hunter-gatherer or native farming tribes compared to democratic freedoms and human rights in the market economy protected by Rule of law are in a fantasy. Traditional people have many good qualities but also some bad ones. For instance we see in Jared Diamond’s The World until Yesterday that tribal warfare among Hunter-Gatherers in some cases can be the number one cause of death among males.
© 2022 - E. A. St. Amant