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From The Best Schools: “Scientism as an opportunistic infection”





Marilynne Robinson is one of our favorite living thinkers here at TBS, and she has just published a new collection of essays. That alone is cause for a celebratory column.

for now, I’ll limit myself to drawing attention to the last essay in the new collection, called “Cosmology,” which is, among other things, a skillful skewering of the New Atheists, and also to a recent interview in which Robinson makes some related remarks about scientism in her characteristically quiet but lethal manner.

The conclusion I have been moving toward can also be stated briefly. The flourishing of these ideas, of neo-Darwinism in general, would not be possible except in the absence of vigorous and critical study of the humanities. Its “proofs” are proof of nothing except the failure of education, in the schools and also in the churches. If I were inclined to use the metaphors of contagion they so often employ, I would say our immunity to nonsense has been killed out, the flora of historical and cultural knowledge that education should sustain in us, and this has opened opportunity for notions that could not otherwise take hold.


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