Hammering away at an ideology, substituting stridency for contemplation, pummeling its enemies in absentia: ScienceBlogs has become Fox News for the religion-baiting, peak-oil crowd. Though Myers and other science bloggers boast that they can be jerky in the service of anti-charlatanism, that’s not what’s bothersome about them. What’s bothersome is that the site is misleading. It’s not science by scientists, not even remotely; it’s science blogging by science bloggers. And science blogging, apparently, is a form of redundant and effortfully incendiary rhetoric that draws bad-faith moral authority from the word “science” and from occasional invocations of “peer-reviewed” thises and thats.
The complement of trying to correct misperception of science by the faithful is to make sure that scientists, likewise, do not gratuitously malign religion and other fields that fall outside their domain (beyond calling these out when they try to cloak themselves in pseudo-scientific garb).
For that reason, your editor has never been a fan of PZ Myers; having to read the occasional religious-bashing in Bad Astronomy is self-flagellating enough.
In the weak sense, scientism is the view that the methods of the natural sciences should be applied to any subject matter. This view is summed up nicely by Michael Shermer:
Scientism is a scientific worldview that encompasses natural explanations for all phenomena, eschews supernatural and paranormal speculations, and embraces empiricism and reason as the twin pillars of a philosophy of life appropriate for an Age of Science (Shermer 2002).
And I’m perfectly fine with people embracing a different philosophy of life than myself — I am, after all, a scientist myself, and an empiricist in most aspects. Being a follower of scientism as thus defined, however, surely does not necessitate having a strong allergic reaction to any expression of religiosity, just as being religious does not require rejecting empiricism out of hand?