Responding to Scientism and Secularism: Interview with J.P. Moreland
J.P. Moreland is one of the 50 most influential living philosophers. He’s also a colleague and friend of mine at Talbot School of Theology, Biola University. He has spent his career writing largely in the philosophy of mind and the intersection of science and faith.
He considers his most recent book, Scientism and Secularism, to be one of his most important contributions yet. It is a book with philosophical depth but is written for non-specialists. I would highly recommend it for thoughtful Christians today. Check out this quick interview and think about pre-ordering a copy of his excellent book.
SEAN MCDOWELL: You've written a new book called Scientism and Secularism and have said its one of the most important books you have ever written. What makes this book so unique and timely?
J.P. MORELAND: Our culture is rapidly going the way of Europe, namely, it is becoming more secular. At the root of this change is a false view of knowledge called scientism: The only knowledge we can have of reality comes from the hard sciences, especially, chemistry and physics. This leaves theological, ethical, political, and other claims most important to us as assertions no one can know are true. Scientism opens the door for Postmodern relativism to enter these areas of life and turn them into private feelings, blind faith, and so on.
MCDOWELL: At its heart, why do you think secularism fails?
MORELAND: Because it (a) cannot withstand a critical evaluation as I show in Scientism and Secularism; (b) holds to a self-refuting, faulty one-size-fits-all theory of the nature and limits of knowledge. I make all this clear and assessable in the book to an ordinary reader…
MCDOWELL: Younger generations increasingly think that science and faith are at odds. Are they? How do you reconcile the two?
MORELAND: This is a really good question. The answer takes some time and, fortunately, I have a whole chapter in Scientism and Secularism on how to reconcile the two, including a section on when one is rationally justified in going against the overwhelming majority of experts in a field like many of us do in rejecting the general theory of evolution. Science and biblical/theological claims are in 95% of the cases not at odds at all. It is scientism, not science, that is the true enemy of moral knowledge and Christianity.
MCDOWELL: You make the bold claim that there are some truths in theology and philosophy that we know better than scientific claims. Can you give me an example, and how would you defend such a claim?
MORELAND: The truths of logic, mathematics, introspective knowledge of one’s own conscious states, moral truths (e.g., It’s wrong to torture little babies for the fun of it!), the nature of truth, the nature of knowledge itself, and so on. Regarding logic and math, science presupposes these; technically speaking, they themselves are not discoverable by science.
MCDOWELL: How do we convince younger generations, who seem to increasingly base their worldviews on feelings and experience, that truth is both important and knowable? We have to work with youth leaders, para-church leaders, pastors, Christian school administrators and teachers and show them how to teach against scientism and other ideas hostile to Christian knowledge. We must motivate and equip them to be able to teach why we believe what we believe, instead of focusing only on what we believe.