Regular readers will recall there are two Types of Scientism. Type I is belief that Science is needed to verify commonplace truths. Type II is the belief that only Science can provide truth.
Both are false. Type II Scientism leads to empiricism, atheism, and similar mental maladies. These are all bad, but it’s still not clear if Type II is the worst form of Scientism. For you usually arrive at Type II through the gateway of Type I.
A Type I headline might be “Men Stronger Than Woman On Average, Study Finds.” The study was not necessary, or at least it wasn’t throughout all of human history. Studies like this (and there are some) highlight another science error, which is Fantasist or Willed Science. Fantasists will say “Women are as strong as men”, and so will need scientific evidence (of Type I) to prove to them it is not so. That some will not believe this evidence is an error opposite of scientism. Even scientists themselves commit this fantastical error, usually because they are in love with a Theory (as the Fantasists are). I do not pursue this here.
You and I, dear readers, have dissected many Type I papers over the years. From this “research”—I mean ours, not the papers—we have discovered that a leading cause of Type I Scientism is the need to publish. Forcing scientists to speak when they have nothing interesting to say causes lousy work to be artificially elevated. It clogs journals.
Scientists have some pride, even then they know what they are made to push is weak and is better left unsaid. To cover their shame, they write badly, hoping a blizzard of jargon and bloated sentences will make their piles of words look shiny (this may not be consciously planned). And so journals, like port-a-potties after Grateful Dead concert, fester.
Even this would be okay, except for the Expansion Effect. The Expansion Effect is the flooding of the system of sub-par talent (“Every child should go to college”). This further bloats content, causing a drag on the system as separating the metal from ore takes more and more time.
The worst part of Type I Scientism is false advertising and the subsequent encouragement of non-scientists to view scientists with more esteem than they deserve. That leads to Type II Scientism, which itself leads to utilitarianism and a host of other sins.
Enough of that. Here’s the headline: Growing up in a house full of books is major boost to literacy and numeracy, study finds.
While the average number of books in a home library differed from country to country — from 27 in Turkey to 143 in the UK and 218 in Estonia — “the total effects of home library size on literacy are large everywhere”, write Sikora and her colleagues in the paper, titled Scholarly Culture: How Books in Adolescence Enhance Adult Literacy, Numeracy and Technology Skills in 31 Societies. The paper has just been published in the journal Social Science Research.
“Adolescent exposure to books is an integral part of social practices that foster long-term cognitive competencies spanning literacy, numeracy and ICT skills,” they write. “Growing up with home libraries boosts adult skills in these areas beyond the benefits accrued from parental education or own educational or occupational attainment.”
This is Type I all the way. Kids given books are more likely to read than kids not given books is not a subject of worthy research. Especially when it must be obvious that the parents who own the books are smarter, on average, than those that don’t. And that means the kids are smarter, on somewhat less of an average, given the partial heritability of intelligence.
What do the authors say? In their conclusion they ask:
Now that we have established that scholarly culture as indicated by the size of home libraries, confers enduring cognitive skills in literacy, numeracy, and technology, the next burning question becomes: “How does this come about?”
“Role modelling”, they say, “Children emulate parents who read.”
Then comes the jargon and Expansion Effect:
Acquisition of specific strategies proposed by significant others or discovered in books themselves: children build “toolkits” of strategies that they apply in multiple situations (Swidler, 1986). Stimulation of cognitive skills through family social practices: books are interwoven with positive affect, specific mental activities, know-how, and motivational states (Reckwitz, 2002). Storytelling, imaginative play, charades, and vocabulary development come to mind (Evans, et al., 2010). We suggest that scholarly culture is a way of life rather than concerted cultivation (Lareau, 2011).