Here are the first few paragraphs of an article of mine on scientism in the narrow sense, which you can read in full on R. Scott Bakker's blog (through the above link). The article gets into the aesthetic aspect of knowledge and the horrors of scientific progress.
How should someone who accepts the scientific picture think of the relation between the arts and the sciences? By “scientific picture” I mean the content of scientific theories, of course, but also the scientific methods of explanation and the questions that can be answered by those methods. One option, which I’ll call “scientism,” is to say that scientific explanations are the only stories worth telling, that if a statement can’t be tested or translated into precise, mathematical language, the statement should have no part in our view of what’s real. I’ll call a defender of scientism a scientific absolutist, since this defender says the scientific picture of reality is complete in that it exhausts everything we should say about the world; plus, “scientific imperialist,” which is sometimes used here, is pejorative and “scientist” is taken. Scientism is opposed to what I’ll call “pluralism,” to the view that scientific methods aren’t the only worthwhile ways of talking about the real world.
Is Scientism Coherent?
There’s some reason to think that scientism isn’t a stable option, after all. The question is how exactly the scientistic thesis should be formulated. Let’s assume, for example, that the scientific picture includes Scott Bakker’s Blind Brain Theory or at least some theory in cognitive science that fulfills our worst fear about the conflict between what scientists say we are and what we intuitively, traditionally assume we are. In particular, let’s assume that the folk ideas of meaning and values are incompatible with science. That is to say, symbols don’t relate to the world in the way we naively think they do and nothing is really good or bad. On the contrary, let’s assume that cognitive scientists will soon be able to explain precisely how these folk illusions arise, in terms of biochemical processes. And we can even assume, then, that that knowledge will be disseminated in the business community, enabling the elites to exploit those processes as far as the law will allow. Just as scientists have no need of the God hypothesis, there will be no scientific reason to speak of the meaning of symbols, the truth of statements, or the value of anything. These folk ways of speaking will be deflated. To be sure, they might persist, just as there are still theists long after the dawn of the Age of Reason, but the folk concepts won’t add to the scientific picture of reality, they’ll make no sense within that picture, and they’ll be undercut by the scientific explanation of their appearance.
Notice that were the scientific way of speaking of the folk concepts to presuppose those concepts, scientism would undercut itself more than anything else. By “presuppose” here I mean to assume as part of scientism’s story of what’s going on. A scientific absolutist can grant that so-called meanings and values exist (as well as consciousness, freewill, and the other elements of the folk view of us), but the absolutist can’t endorse the folk way of speaking of these things. (In philosophy of language jargon, the absolutist can grant the extension but not the intension of “meaning,” “value,” and so on, which is to say that she can grant that those words apply to something, without subscribing to the way those words picture that thing.) So instead of saying that a symbol’s meaning is its representational relationship to what the symbol’s about, the absolutist might say that that relationship is an illusion caused by the brain’s ability only to caricature its real, neurological processes when the brain resorts to intuition or to any discourse that posits something other than a field of causally interacting material bodies.