I've been fighting throughout my philosophical reading with the question of the necessity of science as the only permitted view we (since the late 19th century) have on the world.

My question might appear to be overreaching, but I don't know how to say it more precisely, because the whole question is what I'm interested in - can we have a non-science (or, as Popper would call it - pseudo-science) view of the world as we analyze reality? Must all writing today be done only by qualified scientists; in order to post academic articles? Do we have to apply for every conceivable topic, an empiric, mostly materialist, view in order to act in the 21th century academic world?

Edit (tell me if this should be different question):

Another aspect of this question is - SHOULD science be the only worldview we have in analyzing our world?

Edit (2):

For all the conversations I had regarding scientism in the comments this is an example dialogue between a scientist and a philosopher on the subject that presents (though with great lack of philosophical aspects) the scientism argument.

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    "Do we must be scientists (today), in order to, let's say, post academic articles?" It depends; if you want to post an article on physics or biology, then YES, you must be a scientist. If you want to post an article about astrology, you have to post it to an astrology "network". Jan 14, 2018 at 8:50
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    It is more a "social" issue: the scientific worldview is not "compulsory", but if you want to "play the game of science" (i.e. to be a scientist) you have to follow the rules of the game: submit papers to peer reviews, and so on. Jan 14, 2018 at 8:52
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    Read "Quantum Physics and Ultimate Reality: Mystical Writings of Great Physicists" edited by Michael Green. Science has its limits as it can not go beyond the sensual universe. Jan 14, 2018 at 10:48
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    And as a short provisional answer, I would say that science is not really a worldview if not interpreted. Jan 14, 2018 at 14:06
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    I personally beleive a "science" view of the world is nothing more than 21st century religion these days. As most science you hear about has little to do or more complex level of thought than taking averages of some data. Sadly I fear this veiws maybe what lead to nazis in ww2. It becomes about pushing pre-existing agendas with "science". But even then we have seen how someone can read the bible and interpret some pretty wild things from it. Perhaps it's just nature doing it's thing. Who knows. Jan 14, 2018 at 19:15

6 Answers 6


The word "best" implies value judgments, and can't be evaluated independent of your goals for your worldview. But there are clear practical and pragmatic reasons why science is currently a dominant worldview. These include:

  • Science is testable.
  • Science is replicable.
  • Science is attached to a large and growing body of useful, interconnected, internally consistent knowledge.
  • Science is a foundation for a set of workable technologies that have become increasingly ubiquitous and unavoidable.

On the other hand science does have some crucial weaknesses:

  • Science is amoral (note: NOT immoral).
  • Science is blind to the large portion of human experience that is not susceptible to its analyses.
  • Science is giving us power beyond our ability to use it wisely, thus resulting in an increasingly destructive impact on our world and each other.

I personally think it's crucial to find a worldview that addresses science's weaknesses. But it won't go far unless it can also build on, harmonize with, compete with, or otherwise account for science's strengths.

  • Another weakness - Hume's induction problem. Pragmatism might have solved it, but then the new induction problem arises. Jan 17, 2018 at 18:12
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    @YechiamWeiss That's a problem you and I, as philosophers, might care about, but it's not directly hurting science among the general public. The strengths and weaknesses I listed above are all ones with immediate practical implications. Jan 17, 2018 at 19:14
  • Can we say 'harmonize' rather than 'compete'? Even the Pope (finally, just this last couple centuries) agrees that there is no reason for useful mythologies to compete with science. We just need to keep it in its proper place.
    – user9166
    Jan 17, 2018 at 21:16
  • @jobermark - edited. It's a little clunky, but your point is well taken. Jan 17, 2018 at 22:13

There are entire tracts of questions to which science cannot provide answers, by its own terms. By a modern standard the assertions of any science must be testable (more specifically "falsifiable") or must abstract the content of a body of other testable assertions to provide a stable paradigm that guides further research.

Clearly questions about the mind per se, as opposed to behavior or the brain are not testable assertions, and no paradigm about them will meaningfully lead to testable theories. Clearly all questions of meaning and purpose cannot be testable assertions, except to the extent they are simplified down to questions of behavior. Clearly no moral theory is testable in terms of physical reality.

There is a domain completely outside scientific inquiry that is ultimately more important for any given individual to address.

This does not mean that the insights from the sciences can be completely ignored by anyone. Our everyday lives are run by technology built on the basis of past science, and it would be hypocritical to disclaim the facts that cause that in favor of some purposely obstructionist philosophy, unless we really wish to be rid of those mechanisms and no longer benefit from the results of the process of science feeding technology.

But we do need, in this modern era to realize that we always draw implications about morality, deeper reality, the mind, and any number of other subjects from science by employing some other theory outside science itself and not accountable to the same rules. Many of us too readily worship science and look to it to make commentary on more basic aspects of life about which it has no business speaking.

By applying philosophical investigation to science itself, we have evolved past the idea that our religion, our philosophy and our sciences can really make up a single thing that absolves us of the obligation to develop philosophically because we have adopted a 'scientific worldview'. No such thing exists.

Contrary to the notions of people like Richard Dawkins, religion is not just immature science. Instead, science makes for a destructive religion, hostile to both human psychology (as long noted by C.G.Jung and our place in the world, as 'apologized' by C.S. Lewis).

  • I honestly agree with almost every statement in this answer, but I will note that: all those "clear" conclusions you come to about what cannot be answered by science - it isn't that clear. Epistemology isn't quantifiable (which means it can't be tested)? Ask Mitchiu Kaku and he'll say otherwise. And while you can disagree with him, it doesn't mean science isn't trying to "conquer" those "clearly untestable" fields - with the very clear, very demanding (and dominating), pragmatic statement -- science will eventually get there, like it conquered the fields that were previously left for religion. Jan 17, 2018 at 21:46
  • (epistemology being a mere example of course). Jan 17, 2018 at 21:46
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    This is something of a conspiracy theory: Any philosophy that makes physical facts impossible is wrong if the physics works. That does not mean Michio Kaku is doing epistemology, much less that he has 'conquered' it, But he does have something to say that epistemologists have to take seriously. Roger Penrose has a similar delusion that he can actually do philosophy. So does Dawkins, as noted. No one can keep egos from making people pronounce stupid things.
    – user9166
    Jan 17, 2018 at 22:45
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    @YechiamWeiss And I would say that this is an aspiration for everyone -- to explain as much as possible within your chosen worldview. But as I pointed out, if they speak on these issues, they are really always using theories outside science, whether they admit it or not. 'Scientism' -- naive realism projected from a technological basis, is not science. It is a wrapper around science that pretends science can do things that it has been proven incapable of doing. (You can't really agree if you missed the point.)
    – user9166
    Jan 18, 2018 at 16:46
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    For instance, if science demands testability, it cannot contain moral content. It can presume some kind of vague utilitarianism and look at behavior to see what makes people feel good. Because we have fmri and that is now testable. But then the utilitarianism is the morality, not the science... The demand that our epistemology be the simplest one consistent with QFD is a choice to simplify the potentially meaningful philosophy away, and that is not a scientific decision.... primarily because 'simple' is not well-defined enough.
    – user9166
    Jan 18, 2018 at 16:55

I'll start by answering the concrete question that I'll paraphrase as

do you need a scientific approach to do academic research?

The answer for a large number of fields, including philosophy, is no. There is a lot of academic work published that has no touching points to anything remotely scientific. There is also a fair amount of research that probably should be more scientific than it is but that's a separate matter.

Next I'll answer the question, again paraphrased

is a scientific approach the only valid approach to understanding?

Again the answer is no. I can say this categorically because science is inherently limited. Specifically, the scientific method cannot be applied to any phenomenon that is not repeatable and measurable or has effects that are repeatable and measurable. As such, any attempt to understand something that cannot be repeatably tested cannot, by definition, be scientifically understood.

Thirdly, I'll try to answer the question in the title

Is science really the best solution we have for our world view and analysis?

The answer depends on what you're trying to achieve. If you are interested in building understanding of the world such that you can better predict the future then, yes, science is currently the best approach we have. I mean this is the sense that it is the approach that has had the most success in this endeavour. It doesn't necessarily follow that it's the best in an optimal sense just that we have not discovered a more effective approach.

There are, however, other definitions of best. For example, many people have a need to feel that there is purpose to their life. Science has been singularly useless at providing comfort to these people. If this is your aim then science is not the best worldview.

  • Thank you for the detailed answer. My concern about this "had the most success" is stated in Husserl's "Crisis of European Sciences and Transcendental Phenomenology" (well, more precisely, the "Crisis of European Sciences" article). Jan 15, 2018 at 13:36
  • @YechiamWeiss Husserl's crisis is that science hasn't helped find the meaning in human existence. That's just another way of stating my final paragraph. And he's quite correct, it hasn't. Whether it could is somewhat debatable. My view is that it could be used to answer the more basic question of is their a purpose beyond self perpetuation, but it's hard to see science getting to what the purpose may be, assuming it finds there may be one.
    – Alex
    Jan 15, 2018 at 14:06
  • that's part of the issue, but most of the first part of the "Crisis" is about science being praised because it has merely been the most successful, empirically-wise, predictions. Husserl basically says that we don't have anything to do now that we're "stuck" with science, and we have to find another way to think of the world, hence creating the "Transcendental Phenomenology". And on a different note, science (or, populized science) does claim to find a "meaning" (or more precisely, not find) - the theories of ET, BBT, and QM brings science to the conclusion that nihilism is the... Jan 16, 2018 at 11:55
  • ... actual "hard" truth. Which since got us to optimistic nihilism - that we actually don't have a purpose, but we should do good. Jan 16, 2018 at 11:56
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    @PeterJ If you mean an entirely self consistent world view with no gaps in our knowledge then the correct answer is no, there's no such scientific world view. The correct scientific world view is a few physical theories interspersed with opinion, guesswork and, crucially, gaps.
    – Alex
    Apr 2, 2019 at 18:13

Science is just a type of knowledge (obtained via the scientific method). In contrast, there are other types of knowledge: religious knowledge (obtained from ancient books, which were written by mostly ignorant people), empirical knowledge (obtained by the senses), etc.

You can assess the validity of an assertion under the light of any type of knowledge. E.g. "is drinking beer good?" Religions might absolutely forbid it. Empirical knowledge would say it is very good above 2 liters, and science would state that a glass per week increases your chances of a long life. So far, as we know, science is the best type of knowledge (even if it is a subjective approach of our occidental, modern society).

Scientific knowledge is a very big and complex construct. Therefore Stephen Hawking would be ignorant about other areas of scientific knowledge, other than physics. You cannot expect absorbing all scientific knowledge. But scientific philosophy ensures anyone to access science, and the scientific method allows anyone to challenge and change any part of science. This current trend of mandatory-academicism required to be taken into account to make science is the response to our human tendency to profit from science and degrade it (Popper's pseudoscience) . Though, it is just a type of social corruption. Science should be open and we should be all valid subjects to challenge and change science.

The reason for science to be the preferred type of knowledge (as I called it, socially subjective) is that we consider it the best tool to increase our chances for a good life. But such is a trap: what is a good life? For us, occidental people, it means a long life. For other oriental cultures, it means a happy life.

Therefore, yes, other views of knowledge can also be valid: some ancient types of knowledge (as Buddhism) are by far excellent frames of reference to live happy lives. Occidental science is useful for tibetan monks, but their spiritual knowledge is the primary tool.

Naturally, some parts of spiritual knowledge will contradict science. Otherwise Buddhism would be a part of science. When both types of knowledge contradict, spiritual knowledge would rule.

  • This is basically @Allex' answer, but with more emphasis on the "other definitions of best". I like it, but a question - who says that "for us, occidental people, it means a long life"? (edit:) I'll rephrase - the reason occidental people are seeking longer life, is the thought that longer life means happier life (you get more time to spend on this world, you have more things to do, you get to be more with your grand/grand grand/children, you can take life more slowly, etc). That's ultimately one of the most debated question on prolonging life - would that really make us happier. Jan 17, 2018 at 6:15
  • This is not related to the debate about why prolonging life, but all our social mechanisms point to that. Eutanasia and suicide are forbidden, our health system's goal is to keep us alive, living faster means living longer, etc. But for personal experience with oriental philosophy teachers (got that when I was 12), the goal is to be vulnerable, as any natural system, so the individual integrate into the environment, lives a slow life, which allows contemplation, a sense of eternity (which is impossible when living fast, or sick), and accepts any fate. Death is just natural, part of a cycle.
    – RodolfoAP
    Jan 18, 2018 at 1:08
  • again, while all your points stand, the meta-point here is that ultimately the reason to seeking longer life is the thought that it'd make us happier. Jan 18, 2018 at 6:24

Wilhem Dilthey was a German philosopher and historian and he carefully distinguished between the natural and human sciences.

He said the task of the natural sciences was to uncover the law-based causal explanations of natural phenomena, and the task of the human sciences is to understand the organisational structures of human and historical life. It is not a sharp distinction, there are overlaps.

On this reading, emphasising the natural sciences misses out half of what is important for a comprehensive world view.

But more is true. One might argue, that the universe is much larger than the world of only human concerns, so the natural sciences must have a larger weighting, that they account for much more than half. Yet this misses out a truth. That we are human and what concerns is mostly are ourselves, our relationships with others, our individual and common history and also how we get on in life. On this reading, the human sciences must have a much larger weighting.

We solve this puzzle by relying on context. For all of us live not in an ideal world of knowledge but in an actual world of things, events and people with varying capacities and potentials; and what matters is how we guide ourselves through life and this depends on how they knock up against ourselves:

You might have trained as a scientist, and so science and it's progress concerns you more; you might have become a writer of historical novels and so what concerns you is how to make sense of history and of people in a historical situation. And so on.

Yet more is true. For there is more to knowledge and to the understanding than the sciences, both human and natural. Dilthey, alongside the Romantics, points out the value of feelings. Feelings as attitudes allow is to evaluate the world. Our values express adjudicative attitudes based on feeling. Lived experience is important to understand what it means to live. Ortega y Gasset, the Spanish philosopher puts it more pithily:

To live is to deal with the world, to aim at it, to act in it, to be occupied with it.

Man lives in a world, and he is, mostly, and at most times, worldly and this is the kind of knowledge he is mostly occupied with; and even when he knocks up against the sciences, it is mostly within this attitude - for example, for him to hold a phone is not to wonder at how it works but to gain an understanding of how it can be put to use for him and in this world.

Contemplation, that attitude that informs the sciences, both natural and human, happens rarely and fitfully, and then only for the few.

  • This is a rather refreshing take on the subject. And while I don't fully agree with the assumptions made here (and are discussed in other answers), I will say this - but even after all you've said, natural science DOES take the larger, if not the absolute, weighting, and allows itself to not only affect, but to practically dominate the other sciences. Jan 17, 2018 at 17:55
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    @Yechiam Weiss: I can see why you say that, but I'm not so sure about that. Natural science has been around for a very long time, it generally thought to have begun in Ancient Greek, in the Ionian peninsula at Milesia. But to my mind, there were earlier intimations. And for most of that era it has been the activity of the few. What passes for natural science today, is mixed up with the effective power it has helped produce in the world, and I would call that technology. Most people that are interested in science are in fact interested in the power technology has shown it has. Jan 17, 2018 at 18:07
  • They are interested in the fruit of the tree and not the tree itself. Man is a tool-using animal. And he is in danger of being over-powered by his tools. Jan 17, 2018 at 18:07
  • I like how your comments fit very well into Chris Sunami's answer. Jan 17, 2018 at 18:16
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    @Yechiam Weiss: Chris Sunami's answer is excellent. Jan 17, 2018 at 18:27

Does science provide the most accurate depiction of reality for analyzing and describing an accurate worldview?

When we step on each rung we feel we have got the most accurate depiction. But we forget the fact that after a few years our views that science has granted would also become old. That means our views of reality is not accurate. I would say science does not provide the most accurate depiction of reality. Since reality is not a subject like other subjects I would say science certainly provides the things for realizing the reality. That is why some people can surpass scientists. Realizing reality is possible but analyzing reality is never.

If one's world-view and analysis are always right, it means that peroson knows the ultimate truth. Or you can say, truth is coming out through him without any interruption. Otherwise you can confirm that his is a wrong world-view and analysis.

All those who realized the ultimate truth, (in your words, "those who knew solution for our world view and analysis") are developed not by a particular science. Instead, they tried to look into themselves (self realization).

If our science is for nurturing the ego in us, that science would never be be a good solution. But some wise men who have found out the word in themselves, have used their own method for eliminating their ego. Sometimes we wouldn't find any science in them. If you wouldn't call it a pseudo-science, the answer to your question is, "it is a good solution". I mean science, if it is capable in eliminating the ego in us, is really a good solution. I wouldn't say it is the best, because people in this world follow different paths for this. Actually their body becomes a medium for that. Many people could do that without our science (what we call science). Such people had said that everything was done by the Lord (or something else).

can we have a non-science (or, as Popper would call it - pseudo-science) view of the world as we analyze reality?

If you are ready to include the great consciousness in our science, I wish to say 'No'. Otherwise I would say 'Yes'.

Must all writing today be done only by qualified scientists; in order to post academic articles?

How is it possible to confirm whether someone is qualified or not without any doubt? Who made the qualified scientist qualified? Can we accept it without any doubt?

Do we have to apply for every conceivable topic, an empiric, mostly materialist, view in order to act in the 21th century academic world?

Do you feel that this world is purely materialistic? If so, IMHO, that assumption is wrong.

If I say science is the only world-view we have in analyzing our world, that means truth seldom comes out from those who are ignorant about science. And it also means that the world-view of the people who know science is often right. From our daily experience we can understand this is nonsense.


SHOULD science be the only worldview we have in analyzing our world?


Modern science is developing day by day. Yet people's world view and analysis haven't developed more than our ancestors had.

Truth is passing through everybody (or, truth is there in everybody even in a sinner). Our ego is the main obstacle in creating a good world-view and analysis.

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