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Government to impose Scientism on our Young People 

Scientism[1] is not the same as Science. It has arisen because science has been manipulated to carry a worldview which insists that anything beyond ‘natural processes’ cannot be considered. It is essentially the philosophy of naturalism into which the scientific data is made to fit.

Science should be the uninhibited exploration of the natural world and the search for explanations which are consistent with all the evidence. Scientism, on the other hand, is not open to all of reality, but is constrained in its interpretation of scientific data by its underlying philosophy of naturalism. It is, in effect, a religion.[2]

In addition, scientism flies in the face of reality. Mind, consciousness[3] and the information carried in the DNA[4] of all living things point to immaterial realities which are not explicable by purely natural processes. Scientism will not allow you to infer from phenomena such as these that the universe has an intelligent cause, but, creed-like, insists on the highly improbable and counter-intuitive conclusions that universes come into existence out of nothing and that life emerges by blind, purposeless forces.

Alarmingly, scientism is what the UK Department of Education is now instructing schools to impose on science lessons.[5] A petition to the Scottish Parliament in 2014 demanded the same medicine for Scottish students.[6] Although the petition did not succeed, the Scottish Government felt the guidance to schools was sufficiently robust to avoid any departure from accepted norms.

All this is done in the name of preventing religious extremism invading science lessons, which is not a problem, at least in Scotland, as far as I am aware. It requires that any suggestion of ‘creation’ or ‘intelligent design’ be outlawed. These two propositions are not the same of course – for example, intelligent design does not depend on religious texts but argues from scientific data – but that’s an inconvenient truth which is simply ignored by the secular zealots. Curiously, in attempting to combat perceived religious extremism, the Government is adopting an equally extreme and quasi-religious position with regard to science education which flies in the face of the understanding of science we have inherited over five centuries of scientific endeavour.

The Government’s position on scientism is probably in violation of the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR) which gives parents the right have their children educated ‘in line with their philosophical and religious beliefs’.[7] In this connection, it’s worth remembering that all Christians, Jews and Muslims are ‘creationist’, in a broad sense, by definition. Scientism challenges the historic Judeo-Christian worldview which has built our society and in which we have, until now, enjoyed freedom of enquiry and expression.

More seriously, what the Government is proposing is an affront to the scientific method. Scientists have always understood their task to be the unfettered investigation of nature without imposed dogmas, and to be able to challenge any scientific hypothesis if the evidence merits it. In the area of origins, the scientific evidence certainly merits a re-think of naturalistic Darwinian evolution, as a recent paper in Nature highlighted.[8]

What the Government is in danger of doing is encouraging science students to think that scientific theories, particularly about origins, cannot be challenged and must be accepted without criticism. I hope the secularists blush when they realise what they are doing. The examples in recent history of countries where the Government told its citizens what to think are not reassuring.

The situation we’ve arrived at was summed up by Judge Jones in the 2004 Dover Trial in the USA. His conclusion was that ‘Intelligent Design may well be true, but it is not science’.[9] Maybe we shouldn’t have expected too much scientific insight from a judge, but the unambiguous conclusion to draw from his judgement is that science is no longer a search for truth about origins.

If scientism is imposed on education as proposed, science becomes merely the search for strands of evidence which are consistent with the already agreed worldview that there is nothing beyond the material. And that inevitably leads to atheism, which is, of course a faith position – the very thing you’re not supposed to mix with science.

Cover of Book Explore EvolutionThe submission sent by C4ID to the Scottish Parliament which explores these matters in some detail can be found in the Public Policy and Press section of our website. To get some appreciation of the confused thinking on this subject and the failure of the press to appreciate the threat to academic freedom, see the articles in the Sunday Herald of November 2nd[10] and The Herald of November 3rd,[11] both of which featured our work.

If you sense the importance of all this, you may wish to raise it with your local MP or MSP and, if you are a parent, you should take an close interest in what your children are being taught in school about science, origins and ultimate questions. In this connection, I urge you to purchase a copy for your teenagers and students of the excellent book Explore Evolution which deals with the tension between scientism and real science. To obtain a copy, go to the Sales section of our website .

Alastair Noble
First published in 2014

[1] The Collins English Dictionary gives one meaning of scientism as ‘the uncritical application of scientific or quasi-scientific methods to inappropriate fields of study or investigation’
[3] See, for example, ‘Mind & Cosmos, Why the materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature is almost Certainly False’, Thomas Nagel, Oxford University Press, 2012.
[4] See for example, Stephen C Meyer, Signature in the cell, HarperOne, 2009
[5] See the School and Early Years Finance (England) Regulations 2014, Department for Education
[6] Public petition PE01530, The Scottish Parliament
[7] ECHR, Article 2 of the First Protocol.
[8] Nature, Comment, 8th October 2013, K Laland et al.
[9] Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District et al. (2005)
[10] 25756300
[11] 25739522

Image credit:
Thumbnail - from Department for Education under terms of open givernment licence.
Explore Evolution - Hill House Publishers, 2007