Writers sometimes feel that the terms of a debate are unhelpful, though not many then cheerily announce they are just going to redefine a burdensome wordSometimes writers feel that the terms of a debate are unhelpful, though not many then take the step of cheerily announcing that they are just going to unilaterally redefine a burdensome word. But that is what the cognitive scientist and linguist Steven Pinker has tried to do. In an essay for the New Republic entitled “Science Is Not the Enemy of the Humanities”, Pinker’s target for forcible linguistic re‑education is the term “scientism”.”Scientism” describes the practice of making wildly inflated claims for what modern science is able to explain, while denigrating other modes of understanding. For instance, popularisers of neuroscience who claim that it can solve the mystery of who we really are have no scientific basis for such claims. They are overreaching and indulging in false advertising. That is what I and others have called “neuroscientism”, a discipline-specific subset of scientism in general.Pinker affects to not quite understand this usage. “The term ‘scientism’ is anything but clear,” he complains, “more of a boo-word than a label for any coherent doctrine … The definitional vacuum …read more

Via: The Guardian | Books