Why Strong Scientism is Self-Refuting

by J.P. Moreland

You can help break the grip of strong scientism on people’s thinking by showing how it is self-refuting.

What is a self-refuting statement? Such a statement has three features: (1) The claim establishes some requirement of acceptability for an assertion (such as having to be empirically verifiable). (2) The claim places itself in subjection to the requirement. (3) Then the claim falls short of satisfying the requirement of acceptability that the assertion itself stipulates. In other words, when a statement is included in its own subject matter (i.e., when it refers to itself) but fails to satisfy its own standards of acceptability, it is self-refuting.

Self-refuting statements can come in many forms. Take a look at these examples:

• “All sentences are exactly three words long.”
• “I cannot utter a word of English” (spoken in English).
• “I do not exist.”
• “This sentence is false.”
• “Truths can only be verified by the five senses or by science.”

If we look closely at these sentences, we will see how each satisfies the criteria for being self-refuting. We must first be careful to make sure the statement refers to itself. The statement must be a part of its own subject matter.

Here’s the key point to remember: self-refuting statements do not just happen to be false; instead, they are necessarily false. No amount of future research will show that these statements are true after all…

Why Strong Scientism is Self-Refuting