What Do You Call Believer in Scientism? Contest

Toby Young at the Spectator ran this tweet yesterday:

The text (if you can’t see) reads: “Is there a name for people who think reason and research evidence alone can dictate policy choices? Rationalists? Empiricists? Naifs?”

Iain Murray, author of the essential (but depressing) Stealing You Blind:How Government Fat Cats Are Getting Rich Off of You, answered Young with this:

Text: “The belief is scientism, but I’m not sure what the noun for a believer is.”

I replied:


Text: “This is an excellent question. Scientismist? Scienceologist?”

Other entries Scientisticist (Murray), Technocrat (Ben Pile ‏@clim8resistance), Technocrocist (Pile), Logical Positivists (sadmaninagame ‏@sadmaninagame), neo-pseudo-Benthamist (Robert Hogan ‏@RobertH1946). I also offered Scisalvationist and Sciencredoer.

Logical Positivists‘ is, of course, philosophically correct, but it suffers from being unmemorable, being two words instead of one, and not being dismissive enough.


For the next week, from 19 November through 26 November, readers are invited to supply entries in the Name For Those Who Strictly Hold to Scientism Contest. The winner, if there is one, will receive a Kindle copy of Murray’s book.

They’re stealing from you for your own good.
The winner, if one exists, will be announced in this space on 27 November, the day before Thanksgiving. Whoever wins will then have one week to email me with his preferred Amazon email address, else the prize will go unclaimed.

I say if there is a winner. I tell you plainly that I am already leaning on my own entry Scientismist. I need this word for my book, but think my word is only so-so, which is why I want to hear what I’m hoping are better suggestions.

Prime considerations are euphony, brevity, cleverness. And, as Bertie Wooster would say, it has to sting. I am no fan of scientism and I want a meaty word which is immediately understood as defining and dismissing it. For example, another correct term, eliminative materialist, doesn’t cut it. Can you imagine yourself ranting, “Why you eliminative materialist you!”?

This is a lot to ask of one mere word, which is another reason I wonder if there will be a winner.

Small print: I am the sole judge and arbiter. You don’t need a Kindle to read the book: Amazon has Kindle apps for most phones and computers.

Pass this post around and let fly with the neologisms!

Update Wow! What a great response, and on the first day, too! Tomorrow (I hope), I’ll start listing the serious contenders in this space, else we’re going to get lost. Thanks all!

Update The contest is over. Click here to see the winner.


  1. Pedro,

    No and no on your entries. Rationer? Reasoner? Gads no. It sounds as if a scientism believer is a good thing, which it decidedly is not.

  2. Bob,

    Okay, but doesn’t point to science.


    Say, these are pretty good. I particularly like Scifollogist.

    Let’s try it. “Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris are ardent scifollogists.” Yes, that works.


    One words trumps two. Scizombie, maybe?

  3. “The horrible thing about the Two Minutes Hate was not that one was obliged to act a part, but that it was impossible to avoid joining in. Within thirty seconds any pretence was always unnecessary. A hideous ecstasy of fear and vindictiveness, a desire to kill, to torture, to smash faces in with a sledge hammer, seemed to flow through the whole group of people like an electric current, turning one even against one’s will into a grimacing, screaming lunatic. And yet the rage that one felt was an abstract, undirected emotion which could be switched from one object to another like the flame of a blowlamp.”

  4. Scotian,

    Perhaps you meant to leave this comment at the Think Progress blogs? Or did you want us to infer your entry is Sciwellian?


    Already using thinkologist for self-appointed expert, but you get bonus points for remembering.

  5. 42 sourced suggestions:
    scientismeler (gospeler or gospeller)
    scientiscubus (incubus/succubus)
    scientismoblolly (loblolly)
    scientismor (mentor)
    scientismophant (hierophant)
    scientisment (exponent)
    scientisponent (proponent)
    scientismald (herald)
    scientismocate (advocate)
    scientismion (champion)
    scientismare (from Late Latin sponsare–to betroth–wedded to the idea)
    scientiskite (blatherskite)
    scientismoltroon (poltroon)
    scientismotron (Megatron)
    scientismaton (automaton)
    scientismafuego (Cacafuego)
    scientismahanger (crepehanger)
    scientiganger (doppelganger)
    scientismarridan (Harridan)
    scientarridan (Harridan)
    scientismidelle (haridelle)
    scientismidel (infidel from fidelity–faithful)
    scientismubber (Slubberdegullion)
    sciention (scion)
    scientidant (descendant, pedant)
    scientild (child)
    scientith (Old English cith–sprout, shoot)
    scientiphile (audiophile)
    scientiplast (chloroplast)
    scientivan (sylvan)
    scientigeon (burgeon, surgeon)
    scientator (commentator)
    scientistician (statistician)
    scientistutator (amputator)
    scientator (commentator)
    scientor (doctor)
    scientistico (medico)
    scientismigullion (Slubberdegullion)
    scientilic (pilgarlic)
    scientismacca (Chewbacca)
    scientismaker (Shumaker)
    scientismake (rake)

  6. Although I don’t like Spock-ist, his most famous ‘quote’, “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few,” goes right to the heart of the problem.

    Applied scienctism all to often uses this rationale to ban large soft drinks, close coal mines, etc.

    When the state follows this premise, self sacrifice morphs into state sanctioned murder.

  7. Edward Fesar, philosopher, has addressed scientism at some length. His analysis, Recovering Sight after Scientism, March 12th, 2010, is very insightful. There he observes:

    “What happens when we do reject this bias [the bias being a preference for science, “scientism”]?

    “The right answer, in my [Feser’s] view, is a return to the philosophical wisdom of the ancients and medievals. Their physics…was indeed sorely lacking. But their metaphysics has never been surpassed.”

    According to Feser, scientism isn’t just an over-valuation of modern research , it requires the overt rejection of knowledge for a medieval antecedent expressly accepted as flawed.

    Feser’s “ancients and medievals” referent, including the rejection of new knowledge and the appear for metaphysics, leads to many places, here’s one popular conclave: http://www.consciouslifeexpo.com/-home-page.html.

    Feser’s is a nearly foolproof strategy to lead one right where one wanted to go in the first place. Don’t believe that?, then observe anyone who hasn’t glommed on to the philosophy and watch how their predispositions take them right where you’d expect them to go anyway. Which is really right where they’ve been all along. Never fails. Ever.

    Thomas B. Lounsbury observed: “We must view with profound respect the infinite capacity of the human mind to resist the inroads of useful knowledge.”

    * E. Feser’s essay is available at: http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2010/03/1184/

  8. Ken,

    Scientism is the belief that all questions can be answered by science, which itself isn’t a scientific belief.

  9. Toby,

    Spock-ists? But what about pan-far (however it’s spelled)?


    Not too bad; a little obscure.


    Maybe. A little rough.


    I like thinkling better.


    Scientician is now in the running.

    Aloysius Hogan,

    Where’d you get all these?

  10. Recently I saw a video on C.S.Lewis and intelligent design.C.S, based on the book Magician´s Twin (See the book http://astore.amazon.com/discoveryinsti12-20/detail/1936599058).

    Lewis argued that those who defend naturalism (atheism) based on reason forget that reason can not be based on nothing. Reason cannot be based on irrationality. Lewis is arguing for intelligent desing.

    Scientism is not scientific. Thinking about this, it is really tough to reach a name. It is like to be half pregnant.

    But what about “sciencerapist”? Like someone raping the science. Maybe too long, but this is what I can thinking about.

  11. Surely just ‘positivist’, as in August Comte? ‘Logical positivist’ is a purely philosophical position referring to people such as Carnap and Wittgenstein.

  12. hi:

    The rightest answers are “Spocks” or “Sheldonists”

    The realist answer is “Optimist”

    Since we can’t assume a sperical chicken in a vaccuum… my personal vote is for “triverist” – (cf Trivers’ theory of self-deception ) because policy should indeed be set by research based reasoning but, in reality, we never have enough information to do this well.

  13. If it’s dismissive you want, look to the triumvirate of Communist thought: Engles, Lenin, and Trotsky — we’ll give Marx a bye this time.

    Paraphrazing Engles: What about “unscientific hucksterists”?

    Paraphrasing Lenin: you got “philistine scientists” or simply “philistines,” which seemed to work for almost anything. Or there is “scientific excrescence”? Talk about dismissive. Or ever, “those whose science sounds like they are chewing rags in their sleep.”

    Paraphrasing Trotsky: simply put, “scientists.”

  14. Mike,

    I like your Sciencista? However, it rolls off the tongue better if spelled ‘Scienista’. Like fashionista, which I hope was your meaning.

  15. Scienticist perhaps ?
    It’s simple and clear enough, though i can’t tell whether or not it breaks any rule of etymology.

  16. Sciphiliac.

    I like “logical positivist” though since A J Ayer said of Logical Positivism, “Almost all of it was false”.

  17. Scientipher, sort of half scientist and half philosopher. Or Scientifie, a post-modern contraction of “scientist” and “selfie”.

  18. BRIGGS RE: “Scientism is the belief that all questions can be answered by science, which itself isn’t a scientific belief.”

    THAT’s NOT WHAT Fesar says; he says “all real knowledge” is scientific, which is a very very different perspective than asserting ‘all questions can be answered by science.’ Here’s Feser’s definitions:

    “Scientism is the view that all real knowledge is scientific knowledge—that there is no rational, objective form of inquiry that is not a branch of science.” FROM: http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2010/03/1174/

    “As I argued in part I, scientism—the view that all real knowledge is scientific knowledge—is either self-refuting or trivial.” FROM: http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2010/03/1184/

    That’s another tactic from the New Age movement’s playbook — redefine terms to mean whatever’s desired (better, skip any formal definition & leave it implicitly understood so that all audience members can project their particular wants to allow them to see whatever they want…).

  19. Ken, glad to see that I am not the only one fighting this battle. Also I see that my Orwell quote is being amplified by all and sundry.

  20. RE: BRIGGS: “Feser nails it. … Scientism is either self-refuting or trivial.”

    Feser & other create the term & concept of “scientism” to then refute it. It’s a form of the “self-licking ice cream cone.” Mental masturbation (term & concept courtesy of the lyrics to Sammy Hagar’s “There’s Only One Way to Rock”).

    Feser asserts the following, for example (http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2010/03/1174/ ):

    “Indeed, the culture at large seems beholden to an inchoate scientism—“faith” is often pitted against “science” (even by those friendly to the former) as if “science” were synonymous with “reason.””

    I’ll leave it as an exercise to others to find the interview in some documentary or other that was aired in the past year or two with the Vatican’s astronomer. In that interview he addressed head-on the science vs. faith theme — noting (among other things) that when the religion was founded and its core writings written there was no science, no scientific method or anything conceptually approaching that. Thus, matters of faith and matters of science cannot practically be mingled. The interview was much longer than a “soundbite” remark such as this, which doesn’t really begin to do it justice.

    Which logically leads to the next question, “Why make the effort?” (such as Feser’s discourses on the contrived concept of “scientism” and so forth.

    First, there’s good reasons NOT to do so–any objective analysis of the “logic” applied by the likes espousing New Age themes is basically indistinguishable from that applied by Feser & his ilk (and we know with certainty much of the New Age themes are utter nonsense). That indicates a fundamental problem with the method as the method itself is so malleable to lead one to any conclusion. And that conclusion is invariable one the philosopher was predisposed for at the outset; no surprises there.

    Second, and most importantly, matters of faith are matters in the realm of faith — a place inaccessible to science & related tools. Making attempts to objectively bridge that gap is no different than what that famous guy had to do to have (tangible proof) to accept what was standing right before & talking to him (“Doubting Thomas” was his name).

    Anyone inclined to force “logic” & science into a realm it cannot go is deluding themselves about the exercise, much less the content of the exercise — what they’re really doing is trying to force proof of something in which they lack faith…they need proof to have faith…but…refuse to acknowledge that fundamental [& painful] issue–they lack faith.

    It’s a behavior psychologists call a “reaction formation” — you can look that up easily enough.

    EPILOGUE: One comment, less than 500 words, entwining masturbation, religious faith, Vatican science, Feser’s philosophy of “scientism,” the psychological term “reaction formation,” and more…my work here is done!

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