Scientism is the belief that the scientific method is the only valid way to understand the world, disregarding other forms of understanding. An adherent of scientism will attempt to apply the scientific method in inappropriate areas, such as the arts. This term was coined by philosophers as a pejorative against the extreme faction of logical positivists.
This term has been borrowed by the religious right to describe the worldview of the new atheists. I don’t know how open Dawkins et al are to non-scientific forms of inquiry, such as philosophy, so I can’t comment on the accuracy of this label. Dennett himself is a philosopher.
I can say the following though:
- Science itself is not a religion.
- An individual can become obsessed with science to the exclusion to the point where it is the only acceptable worldview. This is scientism.
- Scientism is not a religion, because it has no aspects which are supernatural.
- Since Scientism denies other forms of knowledge and applies science in contexts where a scientific approach is unjustified, it is a dogma.
- When used to dehumanize others, a dogma is dangerous. Scientism can be used this way.
However, “Michael Shermer, founder of The Skeptics Society, draws a parallel between scientism and traditional religious movements”.
What I think gets mistaken for close-mindedness is actually stridency on the part of some atheists.
Here is a link to the Wikipedia entry on scientism:
©2016 Stephen L. Martin
Painting: Justus Sustermans Portrait of Galileo Galilei, 1636