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Unvarnished: Why scientism helps sell books

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Image result From Robert P. Crease at Nature, a review of Carlo Rovelli’s upcoming Reality Is Not What It Seems,

A sceptic might react to this irksome scientism by objecting that, unlike in Plato’s image, the vistas seen through the window keep changing. One can imagine, too, a book by a string theorist offering another view out of the window — just how many exits does Plato’s cave have? Yet another problem is that Rovelli has a cavalier attitude towards philosophy. Plato’s cave is more nuanced than he makes out, and Rovelli misinterprets a passage to claim that Socrates was disappointed by scientists. He plucks a statement out of context from a lengthy autobiographical story in which Socrates is describing youthful views from which he has since moved on (Rovelli also misquotes the translation).

Philosophers tend to have a more existential take on ‘reality’, not restricting it to what scientists represent but seeing it as also encompassing something of what the moles and horsemen encounter. The regrettable thing is that the scientism in this otherwise fine work is unnecessary, although I know it helps to sell books and cement the prestige of science. That’s just today’s reality. More.

But the typical science writer is not marketing to clear thinkers; he is marketing to people who dismiss free will, think that consciousness can be a material entity, and wonder why the space aliens have not landed yet. Sure, they’re out there. So are the people who think Charles murdered Diana.

See also: Darwin’s “horrid doubt”: The mind

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