Posted: 27 August 2007 08:30 AM   [ Ignore ]
Total Posts:  1427
Joined  2007-04-28

I came across this word in an article by the Observer newspaper’s astrologist Neil Spencer in an attack on Richard Dawkins who had interviewed him and found his area of expertise wanting for his new TV show The Enemies of Reason on British Cannel 4 which I haven’t seen.

Spencer used the term scientism dismissively implying that people who live by reason and the scientific method are somehow lacking in aesthetic or spiritual vision and too literal in their interpretation of the world, and online dictionaries do give this as one definition. Unabridged (v 1.1) - Cite This Source
sci·en·tism /ˈsaɪənˌtɪzəm/ Pronunciation Key - Show Spelled Pronunciation[sahy-uhn-tiz-uhm] Pronunciation Key - Show IPA Pronunciation
1.  the style, assumptions, techniques, practices, etc., typifying or regarded as typifying scientists.
2.  the belief that the assumptions, methods of research, etc., of the physical and biological sciences are equally appropriate and essential to all other disciplines, including the humanities and the social sciences.
3.  scientific or pseudoscientific language.
[Origin: 1875–80; scient(ist) + -ism] Unabridged (v 1.1)
Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2006.

Does OED have better than 1875-80 or if it was Brit or American? Was it a reaction to Darwin specifically?

The Spencer article is here,,2146775,00.html

[ Edited: 27 August 2007 08:34 AM by venomousbede ]
Posted: 27 August 2007 09:50 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
Total Posts:  3522
Joined  2007-01-31

The first cite in the OED2 is from 1877 in Fraser’s Magazine, a British periodical.  This is in the sense of “the habit and mode of expression of a man of science” ("man of science” being an old, and yes, sexist, term for what we now call a scientist).

As “a term applied (freq. in a derogatory manner) to a belief in the omnipotence of scientific knowledge and techniques; also to the view that the methods of study appropriate to physical science can replace those used in other fields such as philosophy and, esp., human behaviour and the social sciences,” the first citation is from 1921 (Shaw’s Back to Methuselah.  It doesn’t seem to have been directed at Darwin particularly, though the Neo-Darwinians were probably among those Shaw considered guilty of scientism.

The revision process has not reached this section of the dictionary yet, so there may be antedates for either sense waiting offstage.

[ Edited: 27 August 2007 09:56 AM by Dr. Techie ]