I’ve long noted that Gnu atheists toy around with the definition of science in order to advance their cultural agenda. Recently, Jerry Coyne has acknowledged that he uses a watered-down definition of “science”:
In fact, I construe “science” broadly: as the use of reason, empirical observation, doubt, and testing as a way of acquiring knowledge. Those methods can indeed apply to history and some of the humanities. But Kitcher’s own conception of science seems to be “the brand of inquiry practiced by natural scientists”: physicists, biologists, chemists, and so on. And so he construes “scientism” as scientists’ attacks on fields like anthropology and history. I think Kitcher’s criticism is misguided because his conception of what is “scientific” is too narrow.
Kitcher uses a rigorous definition of science because when most people hear the word “science,” they think of “the brand of inquiry practiced by natural scientists”: physicists, biologists, chemists, and so on.” They don’t just think of using reason and observation.
For if science is nothing more than “the use of reason, empirical observation, doubt, and testing as a way of acquiring knowledge,” then dating, planning family vacations, and grocery shopping are all science. We’re all scientists! In fact Coyne is even willing to drag the definition of science down to this level:
In the end, then, many of Kitcher’s arguments against “scientism” seem misguided—unless you conceive “science” narrowly as “what self-described scientists do.” But science is more than a profession; it’s a method—a method of inquiry that arose from the Enlightenment. In that sense, plumbers and car mechanics practice science when they diagnose problems.
Okay, Coyne thinks plumbing is science. We’re all scientists!
Yet when Gnus use the word “science” to advance their anti-religious crusade, I don’t think they want people to think of dating, planning family vacations, grocery shopping, and plumbing. After all, where are the “Grocery Shopping is Incompatible with Religion” postings? Oddly missing. On the contrary, in this context, the Gnus want us to think of “science” narrowly as “what self-described scientists do.” They want us to think of “the brand of inquiry practiced by natural scientists”: physicists, biologists, chemists, and so on.” Jerry Coyne certainly did this when he wanted to paint a contrast of science and religion just a few days before complaining about Kitcher’s definition of science.
Since one’s faith is almost completely an accident of birth, then, one should be highly skeptical about whether one’s faith is correct.
And promotes a global map of differing religious views compared to the global uniformity of scientific belief about the big bang, germ theory, and genetics:
Well, the last time I checked, such uniformity derives from “the brand of inquiry practiced by natural scientists”: physicists, biologists, chemists, and so on.” Does Coyne believe he would find such a uniform map if we surveyed dating behavior or shopping behavior around the globe? Even plumbing (which is science according to Coyne) seems to be “an accident of birth.”
For that matter, the Gnus are often proud of the fact that as a group, they represent so many different opinions on things. But this just means the Gnu community itself shows us the mere use of reason, empirical observation, doubt, and testing as a way of acquiring knowledge is not sufficient for generating consensus about truth. Yet they brag that science is sufficient for generating consensus about truth. What gives?
Clearly, the Gnus are engaged in a form of propaganda that uses two different definitions of science. They water down the definition of science when they want to disguise their scientism and pat themselves on the back. But when they want to make their scientism into a truth detector, they tighten up the definition of science and adopt Kitcher’s definition.