Scientism, or simple scientism, is the belief that knowledge can only come from science or the scientific method. What follows is a knock-down argument against that position. Why is it important? Because many skeptics will take this as an epistemological starting point, and will proceed from there to denying Christianity’s truth. Here is the argument:
1. I know that 2+2=4.
2. We can only know truths via the scientific method.
3. 2+2=4 is not known via the scientific method.
4. Therefore, I do not know 2+2=4 (via 2-3).
5. Therefore, we can know truths apart from the scientific method (via 1, 3 analytically).
Readers may recognize this argument type as a reductio ad absurdum, where one assumes a particular position in order to derive a contradiction from its entailments, which effectively reduces the contention to absurdity. The assumed premise is (2). Either one will claim not to know 2+2=4, claim it is a truth known through the scientific method, or claim that we can know things apart from the scientific method. Those are literally our only options. Now obviously, we want to avoid (4). Who wants to say they don’t know that 2+2=4? The only way to do that is to reject (2) or (3). (2) is equivalent to the statement, “All truths are known through the scientific method,” and (3) is the claim that 2+2=4 is not so known. So, why can’t we say that 2+2=4 is known through the scientific method? Simply because of two things: first, one cannot test it to find out if it is true. What if we wanted to line up two things, and then two other things, and we see we have four things? See! Not quite. For this relies on the mathematical truth it is trying to prove; that two sets of two things are equivalent to four things. This leads to the second reason: the scientific method presupposes the truths of mathematics, but it doesn’t prove them. So it’s not open to us to say that (3) is false. But if we don’t want to reject that we know 2+2=4, and if we don’t want to reject that 2+2=4 is not known through the scientific method, then the only other thing left to reject is (2), or the simple scientism. It’s just that simple!