Scientism is a view, which claims that the scientific method is the only way to explain the world and the realities. The idea of scientism appeared in the time of Enlightenment (18th and 19th centuries) in Europe as a reaction to religious pressures similar to positivism and empiricism. In all of these methods, we see very severe reactions against religion and religious pressures. This is caused by the negative effects of the “old regime” in Europe that forced people to believe only in church and religious men and also to think about the other world while they were suffering in this world because of poverty and religious pressures. We all know that the rulers and the church with the idea of preserving their dominancy put very tyrannical laws and prevented people to think and to investigate during the Middle Age in most parts of the Europe. Scientists who opposed with the views of church were killed, tortured or imprisoned. However, after the collapse of feudal system and with the positive effects of liberal thinking that developed in Enlightenment starting from the 18th century, people initiated to use their minds (rationalism) and to make experiments in order to understand the nature of events. Conventional thinking is replaced by rationalism and empiricism. People began to look over their values, beliefs by using “reason” and “experiment”. Like Alexandre Koyré said people passed “from a closed world to infinite universe”. Scientism also appeared in that time considering scientific knowledge as the best and the only way to reality.
Scientism supporters show their reaction against religion by believing that scientific knowledge is the only valid kind of knowledge. They strongly reject religious knowledge and metaphysical events. Most of the supporters of scientism were atheists or agnostics. We can even dare to say that scientism supporters saw science and scientific knowledge like their religion. Scientism also asserts that scientific knowledge that is obtained after experiments is much more valuable than human reasoning. At this point, rationalism and scientism differ from each other. Rationalists believe in the dominancy of human reasoning. They think that human mind is active from the birth and using our minds can solve everything. We can consider scientism as a subdivision of positivism.
Positivism is a philosophical doctrine based on experience and the idea of the “progress”. Positivism claims that society can make progress and develop positively. Positivism is a much more general approach than empiricism and scientism because it also deals with social sciences. Positivism is more comprehensive than other doctrines because it has consistent answers to all questions related to this world. French philosopher Auguste Comte introduced it in 19th century and positivism soon became the dominant view of this century. Comte is also the first Enlightenment thinker to accept that the past is also very important in the shaping of society. There are three important concepts in positivism: observation, experiment and comparison. Comte also borrowed some terms, ideas from biology and used these terms, ideas in sociology. British philosopher David Hume, the French philosopher Saint-Simon and the German philosopher Immanuel Kant were the most famous and important followers of Comte and positivism. Comte wanted to reorganise the society by changing some values caused by conventional, conservative and religious thinking of the old regime. What he wanted to do was to replace these values with the new values of scientific knowledge. Positivists were basically thinking that people’s minds were brainwashed by religious men and the only way to make progress as a society was to attach importance to scientific knowledge. That is why, scientism is the foundation idea of positivism because it also claims the supremacy of scientific knowledge and sees religion as a threat, enemy. The idea of progress of positivism is also related with modernisation and liberalism. Positivists used the word “progress” in order to explain the transition from agrarian society to a productive, modern, industrialised society. Also, for positivists there is no distinction between sociology and physics because they think that these are both positive sciences. They try to explain sociological events also by science, experiments. Positivism is a matter of belief because positivism and also scientism believes in the dominancy of observation and experiment. Positivists can explain everything related to this world by their thinking method. For example, when the creation of the world is questioned, they can explain the creation of the world with the theory of “Big-Bang” or for instance when the creation of human is questioned they can explain this by the “Evolution Theory” of Charles Darwin. So, it is obvious that positivism strongly rejects religion and trusts in explications of science. Positivists have strong belief, faith in science…