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Scientism and its Challenge to Humanism



Viewed from the perspective of the 19th century there is little in the details of contemporary political life that would seem special. Social life in the West is a continuation of trends well-established in previous times principally through industrialisation and urbanisation. The issues of pure and applied science are somewhat different and the range extent and forms of scientific and technological development were unimaginable in the 19th century. Because of this science has come to enjoy enormous prestige encouraging among some the idea that every aspect of human nature might be explicable by it and the further idea that it might be applied to change that very nature. This essay explores these issues, considering claims of reductionism by philosophers and evolutionary biologists and proposals to improve the human condition through ‘transhumanist’ genetic engineering. Figures discussed include Charles Darwin, Theodosius Dhobzansky, Stephen Jay Gould, and JBS Haldane.

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