The Icon of Materialism by Jonathan Witt

Feature

The Icon of Materialism

Why Scientism's Cherished Progress Narrative Fails

Contemporary academic culture is sick with a dogma masquerading as dispassionate scientific inquiry, a dogma called scientism. If a man murders another man, or pens a beautiful poem, or steps into the path of a bullet to save a stranger, scientism insists the action can be explained by reference to some purely physical cause such as genetic predisposition. Scientism has no place for explanations that rest on the divine, or for the idea of human decisions as the free choices of free moral agents.

The dogma is so pervasive that it can seem unassailable. But it's actually quite vulnerable, since it rests on a story of progress that collapses under scrutiny. Rather than summarizing this story, I want to relate an incident in which a proponent of scientism, Steve Matheson, employs the story in the heat of battle, in a clash with intelligent design proponent Stephen Meyer.

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Jonathan Witt is a senior fellow and writer in residence at the Discovery Institute in Seattle. He and his wife Amanda have three children, whom they home school.

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