Scientism is a belief in the universal applicability of the scientific method and approach, and the view that empirical science constitutes the most authoritative worldview or most valuable part of human learning to the exclusion of other viewpoints. The term frequently implies a critique of the more extreme expressions of logical positivism and has been used by social scientists such as Friedrich Hayek, philosophers of science such as Karl Popper, and philosophers such as Hilary Putnam to describe the dogmatic endorsement of scientific methodology and the reduction of all knowledge to only that which is measurable.
Scientism may refer to science applied “in excess.” The term scientism can apply in either of two equally pejorative senses:
To indicate the improper usage of science or scientific claims. This usage applies equally in contexts where science might not apply, such as when the topic is perceived to be beyond the scope of scientific inquiry, and in contexts where there is insufficient empirical evidence to justify a scientific conclusion. It includes an excessive deference to claims made by scientists or an uncritical eagerness to accept any result described as scientific. In this case, the term is a counterargument to appeals to scientific authority.
To refer to “the belief that the methods of natural science, or the categories and things recognized in natural science, form the only proper elements in any philosophical or other inquiry,” or that “science, and only science, describes the world as it is in itself, independent of perspective” with a concomitant “elimination of the psychological dimensions of experience.”
The term is also used to highlight the possible dangers of lapses towards excessive reductionism in all fields of human knowledge.
For sociologists in the tradition of Max Weber, such as Jürgen Habermas, the concept of scientism relates significantly to the philosophy of positivism, but also to the cultural rationalization of the modern West.