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This book is an excellent work of philosophical and theological argument. In my humble opinion it deserves to be read by philosophers, scientists, and theologians - especially those interested in (the philosophy of) science. In a certain sense it is an elaboration of an article that Stenmark published in the major journal Religious Studies (33: 15-32, 1997). Some of the points of the book I found particularly fascinating: (1) It argues closely that there are different 'flavors' of scientism. (2) Stenmark points out adequately that scientism is like an attitude towards science, a point of view, or worldview, and not so much a conscious position one takes in a discussion; scientism often is tacitly present. (3) Furthermore Stenmark gives some good arguments against die-hard scientism. Overall, this book is a counter-weight to books by Edward Wilson, Stephen Hawking, and Richard Dawkins. Scientism is a perspective that is not necessarily entailed by science itself - a fact that some scientists seem to forget. As such, if scientists take this book seriously, it might give theologians the opportunity to be equal dialogue partners again in a broader dialogue that aims towards a broader, richer, and deeper understanding of that mysterious world we are a part of. The one thing that is a pity is that the publisher forgot to mention that the book is part of a larger series with 'big names' like Wentzel van Huyssteen and Roger Trigg on the editorial board. I'm already looking forward to further volumes in the series.
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Very important book10 Sept. 2003
T. A. Smedes
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Stenmark is well-known in the field of religion and science. Having established his reputation with his widely acclaimed study on "Rationality in Science, Religion, and Everyday Life"(Univ. of Notre Dame Press 1995), Stenmark in this book sets out to investigate scientism. Though Stenmark is famous for his work in religion and science, this book is not interesting merely for those working in that field. Because of the nature of the subject, it may also be of interest for those working in the natural sciences. This book is interesting for a number of reasons: (1) It is a book that one actually can read completely: with effectively 142 pages, one should find the time to read it from cover to cover. (2) It covers a subject that seems largely to be forgotten. When Logical Positivism was still around, scientism was of interest mainly for its attack on metaphysics and religion. Now, many scholars seem to think it's not worth the effort to study it. Logical Positivism died a long time ago, and so did scientism. Wrong! And Stenmark tells you exactly why. (3) The book is very systematically structured, and Stenmark clearly writes with an audience in mind. As such, the book should be accessible to a wide range of readers. It is hard to summarize this book. The first chapter is the most important one in that here, Stenmark defines and describes the different aspects or forms of scientism. In later chapters he deals with the limits of knowledge and reality, and the scientific explanations of morality, ethics, and religion. Stenmark counters claims of the most important contemporary scientistic scholars, such as Dennett, Dawkins, Wilson (sociobiology) and Hawking. Stenmark not only shows where their arguments fail, but makes it clear that much of scientism's success thrives on the rhetorical force of scientistic writers. Scientism is still very much alive, and though Stenmark has written a beautiful book which debunks many scientistic arguments, he will probably not succeed in eradicating it completely. What struck me the most during my study of this book is that the various forms of scientism often come so close to our everyday understanding of our world and of the sciences that study it. For many people (me included, I guess) science is as Dennett, Dawkins, etc. say it is. It may be that such people (me included) may have a misguided idea about science, but that's just the way it is. The only thing to do is read Stenmark's book and think about it. Moreover, Stenmark in this book studies the most explicit forms of scientism, but might it not be that scientism is a major factor that shaped our Western culture? Again, read this book, and think about it... This book is the first in the Ashgate Science and Religion Series, edited by Roger Trigg and J. Wentzel van Huyssteen.