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Science and Scientism in Huston Smith's Why Religion Matters

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Huston Smith is justifiably critical of scientism, the belief that science is the only reliable path to truth. He holds that scientism and the materialism that accompanies it have led to a widespread denial of the transcendence expressed in traditional religious world-views. He argues that evolutionary theory should be seen as a product of scientism rather than of scientific evidence, citing authors who claim that the fossil record does not support the idea of continuous descent with modification from earlier life forms. I suggest that he has underestimated the cumulative weight of evidence from many independent fields of science supporting neo-Darwinism. I argue that methodological (but not philosophical) naturalism is a basic assumption of scientific inquiry. Proponents of intelligent design assume a fixed plan or blueprint, which is compatible with Smith's understanding of God's timeless vision. By contrast, almost all biologists and many theologians today envisage a dynamic and open-ended process rather than the realization of the unchanging forms in a preexisting plan.
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Keywords: Darwinism; Huston Smith; design; evolution; intelligent; mysticism; scientism

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Carleton College, Northfield, MN

Publication date: 01 June 2001

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