Los límites del lenguaje científico

The limits of scientific language

Author: Mariano Artigas
Published in: J. M. Ortiz (publisher), Veinte claves para la nueva era. Rialp, Madrid 1992, pp. 113-131.
Date of publication: 1992

From its systematic birth in the 17th century, modern science became a source of perplexities. Kepler and Galileo were convinced that nature is like a book written in mathematical language. But the establishment of the new physics rightly led to doubts that it could be properly understood in this way: how to explain that highly abstract and sophisticated theoretical constructs could be successfully applied in the real world? This question became a source of questions that persist to this day.

Rationalism, empiricism and conventionalism

Descartes, at the dawn of modern science, had established that only a knowledge demonstrable according to the model of mathematics could be considered true science. Convinced that such a science exists, he asserted that its instructions should be self-evident truths about which no doubts could be raised, and he built a new rationalist philosophy taking clear and distinct ideas as its basic criterion. In the field of physics, the application of his criterion led him to affirm that the subject is reduced to extension, denying the reality of any other property. Of course, one could not go very far in this way. Although Descartes contributed some useful ideas to the new science, this science needed a much more sophisticated method than that proposed by Descartes.

In the 18th century, empiricism, taken to its ultimate consequences by David Hume, asserted that the validity of universal statements cannot be proved by recourse to experience, since experience only provides concrete data, and no logical process allows one to go from particular data to general statements. The situation was paradoxical. Indeed, despite the undoubted success of science, it would not be possible to claim that its laws provide an authentic knowledge about reality. Just as experimental science was beginning to take hold, its foundations seemed to crumble.

In his Critique of Pure Reason of 1781, Kant tried to bridge the contradiction. He was convinced, like Descartes, that there must be a certain instructions for the scientific knowledge . He also believed that Newton's physics was a true science and final. However, under the impact of Hume he concluded that induction from experience is not valid. Considering that scepticism was inadmissible, he found an original solution: since the basic principles of science could not be provided by experience, it would have to be admitted that they are provided by the scientist. In other words, he claimed that the human knowledge is based on a set of a priori concepts and laws, i.e., independent of experience, and that they would provide the stage on which the data of experience would be placed.

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the formulation of non-Euclidean geometries and the theory of relativity showed that Newtonian physics did not have the universal validity that Kant attributed to it. Henri Poincaré concluded that, in reality, scientific laws are neither true nor false. They would simply be conventions or stipulations that would be supported by their consequences. agreement This solution was in line with the spirit of the positivism of the time, which renounced knowing the true causes of facts and affirmed that science should limit itself to establishing relationships between observable phenomena, disqualifying any further pretensions as impossible metaphysics.

Critical rationalism

In 1934, Karl Popper published his first book, in which he claimed that theories can never be justified or proved, but that knowledge can be augmented by critical examination of them. The procedure would be as follows: while experience cannot prove the truth of any theory, a theory that contradicts experience must be false. Therefore, we could never be certain of reaching the truth, but sometimes we could detect the error. The knowledge would progress thanks to the detection of errors and the consequent formulation of better theories. But theories would always be hypotheses or conjectures that would never reach the status of proven truths. All knowledge would be conjectural, even if it could be progressive.

The basic outline of the augmentation of knowledge would, according to Popper, follow the method of essay and elimination of error. Theories would not come from experience and would not be proved by it. Popper is thus in line with Kant. However, unlike Kant, he claims that theories are free creations that can be modified and are not based on fixed and immutable categories.

In successive works, Popper drew a parallel between the progress of knowledge and Darwinian biological evolution. Both processes would follow the same basic outline of essay and elimination of error, with the difference that, in evolution, what emerges and dies are living beings, while in science it is theories. In both cases there would be a similar process of emergence of new Structures, selection that would eliminate the least adapted, and survival provisional of the most competitive.

In two papers published in 1941 and 1943, Konrad Lorenz took up the Kantian theory of a priori forms and categories as a condition of possibility of experience, and tried to explain how these Structures arise in the evolutionary process of mutation, selection and adaptation. He claimed that all living things possess innate Structures from knowledge, which are a result of the evolutionary process and act as inherited dispositions that make information utilisation and adaptation possible. Like the Kantian Structures , they would be a priori conditions of knowledge; however, being products of evolution, they would not be immutable but changeable. Moreover, the evolutionary process would be equated with the process of augmentation of knowledge, in that both would involve the emergence of new entities subject to selection, elimination and adaptation: the two processes would follow the common path of tentative formulation and adaptive selection.

Such a conception is very similar to the basic outline of essay and error elimination used by Karl Popper. In 1974, Donald Campbell developed this outline from a biological perspective, using for the first time the title evolutionary deepistemology. The ideas of Lorenz, Popper and Campbell were systematised by Gerhard Vollmer from 1975. The result is a perspective that shifts epistemology from an almost exclusively physics-centred approach to one in which biology occupies a central place.

Evolutionary epistemology

Evolutionary epistemology is presented as a perspective that claims to be the most important advance in the philosophy of science since the 18th century. Its central idea is to address the problems of the theory of knowledge from the perspective of biological evolution. Specifically, the original question about the validity of knowledge is answered by resorting to biology: our knowledge is said to correspond to reality because we are descended from other beings who, throughout the process of evolution, have developed capacities of perception and learning adapted to the environment. In this way, ancient philosophical questions receive an answer that is presented as scientific. In this sense, Vollmer states that "after all, science is philosophy with new means".

Of course, there is no difficulty in admitting that some problems, once regarded as philosophical in a confused way, have later been successfully tackled by experimental science. Just think of the ancient theories about the nature of the stars or the composition of the subject. Nor is it difficult to recognise that experimental science and philosophy are closer than might at first sight appear, since both seek and obtain a knowledge of reality by resorting to experience and logical reasoning. It even seems desirable that the union between the two perspectives should be re-established, since the fragmentation of knowledge into incommunicable worlds is one of the main causes of the crises in today's culture. However, greater problems arise if we ask ourselves about the validity of the basic outline of evolutionary epistemology.

result Indeed, in order to explain the value of knowledge, is it sufficient to suppose that our capacities are the result of a process of selection and adaptation, and would this process allow us to explain intelligence, which is associated with the capacity to formulate theories and submit them to rational criticism?

Attempts to explain our intellectual capacities through biological evolution lead time and again to dead ends. Karl Popper claims that there is an argumentative or rational capacity in man that surpasses the animal level, but at the same time he tries to explain how the human mind would emerge in the evolutionary process through a process of emergence. He recognises that there are few elements available and that he must content himself with formulating very hypothetical conjectures. This can only be so, because human capacities go far beyond the level of the material. Popper notices this, but he does not take the logical step of admitting the existence of the spirit as something that refers to something beyond nature and that cannot be other than a personal creator God.

Such a step may seem unscientific. However, if man is to be studied rigorously, it is unavoidable. Of course, it is a step that transcends the limits of experimental science. But this does not authorise us to try to explain the human person without considering spiritual realities, as if this were a consequence of scientific rigour. Rather, rigour requires that, when one reaches the boundaries of the method one uses, one does not overstep those boundaries.


The basic ideas of critical rationalism and evolutionary epistemology are widespread in today's mindset. However, they have to face other important difficulties: is it possible to affirm that all knowledge is conjectural while admitting that truth exists and that our knowledge progresses, what is the sense of affirming that all knowledge is hypothetical if this affirmation is taken as true, how is it possible to critically detect errors if the truth of concrete statements can never be affirmed?

Around 1960, W. W. Bartley III proposed a solution which he called comprehensive critical rationalism and, later, pan-criticism. According to this proposal, there is no contradiction in affirming the hypothetical character of all knowledge if it is also admitted that this same thesis is hypothetical. In final he underlines that, as long as one does not pretend to justify the definitive value of any knowledge, there is nothing to prevent reasoning always in a hypothetical way.

Bartley's arguments are not accepted by all Popperians. This is logical, because they raise problems that can only be solved with a deeper philosophical perspective. In order to sustain a realist theory of truth, the metaphysical dimensions need to be seriously addressed, and this subject of issues is often treated in a fragmentary and insufficient way in the Popperian perspective. Popperian epistemology has interesting methodological insights and provides valuable tools for the analysis of some questions in the philosophy of science, but it poses serious difficulties if one wants to build an entire philosophy on this basis. Moreover, it is based on an image of science that does not correspond adequately to what science really is.

The path of science

How does science actually work? In 1687, Newton published his Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy. This work laid out the path that physics has followed to this day. As I. Bernard Cohen of Harvard University points out, the fundamental idea of this method is to establish a hierarchy between the various aspects of the problems, which makes it possible to study them separately: on the one hand, the mathematical aspects; on the other, the application of mathematics to real phenomena; and finally, the study of the causes of phenomena.

These three phases concern problems that are related to each other, but which can be studied with a certain degree of independence. On the one hand, an idealised system is constructed that can be subjected to mathematical treatment, and the corresponding demonstrations are carried out. On the other hand, we study how the theoretical constructs correspond to the experimental results. And an attempt is made to determine the causes of the phenomena under consideration. Of course, the three phases do not always have to follow the above-mentioned order; this depends on the development of each scientific discipline at a given time.

The idealised system that is constructed is a model that refers to reality, but it is not a simple photograph of it. Some aspects are isolated, leaving others out of consideration, and theoretical concepts are used which are our own constructions. In Newtonian mechanics, the ideal system is made up of points endowed with mass and subjected to forces. The Sun, the Earth, the Moon and the stones are stripped of their usual qualities and become points with a certain mass that exert mutual forces of attraction. This does not allow us to deal with every problem, but it works very well, for example, in astronomy, where the prevailing force is gravity due to mass, and other aspects can be ignored. Of course, it would be a serious mistake to think that, in view of the success of Mechanics, the Sun and the stones are nothing but points endowed with mass, or that the qualities of subject are only subjective phenomena.

Theories have to be agreement with real phenomena. This requires a process of trial and error and corrections until agreement is achieved. Nothing guarantees in advance that the hypotheses will agree with the facts, which is why resource is indispensable for experimentation.

Newton showed that a great variety of phenomena, which concern both the motion of terrestrial bodies and that of the planets, are explained by his theory of gravity. For the first time in history, a basic law governing many different phenomena was established. This finding was made possible by the first two phases of the method: without a mathematical theory applied to the phenomena, the law of gravity could not have been formulated.

When he reached this point, Newton stated his famous saying: hypotheses non fingo (I do not formulate hypotheses), which has sometimes been interpreted to mean that science should dispense with any subject of hypotheses, limiting itself to ascertaining facts. However, science advances by formulating new hypotheses, and Newton not only knew this, but did it better than anyone else. What Newton meant to say was that he did not know the deeper cause of gravity, and that he had no grounds on which to propose an explanation or hypothesis for it topic. In this respect, the situation remains basically the same 300 years later; although the force of gravity was the first force to be studied scientifically, it is still the most difficult to fit into modern theories of physics today.

Experimental science still uses the method described. Of course, there are now mathematical theories and experimental facilities far more complex than those of Newton's time. Today, physics explores the constitution of the subject down to dimensions of the order of 10 to the minus 16 centimetres, i.e. one centimetre divided into ten thousand trillion parts. Theories are formulated about the universe as a whole and what happened in the first fractions of the first second of its existence, some 15 billion years ago.

Science and creativity

To achieve these results, a strong dose of creativity is necessary. The method used by experimental science is a clear manifestation of man's ability to transcend the immediately given. Experimental science is an attempt to know nature. But nature does not speak: it does. In order to question it in a way that makes it respond, man has had to create a very sophisticated method. The construction of ideal models and the invention of mathematical languages require a great deal of creativity, all the more so because they must be related to experience and must be subject to verifiable checks.

Experimentation requires similar creativity, since the instruments provide indications that only make sense if they are interpreted with the financial aid of theories. On top of this, the scientist must continually evaluate the theoretical and experimental conclusions reached, and does not have criteria that can be applied automatically.

The success of science sample that man, although he is part of nature, transcends it. He possesses a capacity to know and master it that places him totally above the rest of nature's beings. Man's superiority, which manifests itself in many other ways, reaches a singular Degree in experimental science: in effect, it is a knowledge that allows man to dominate nature, channelling its laws of agreement with a rational project .

Science and rationality

In experimental science, man achieves his achievements by using his argumentative capacity. Creativity is accompanied by rigorous control. New hypotheses are subjected to criticism and even, once accepted, are subject to revisions and modifications to better adjust them to reality. Although creativity is the work of geniuses, the statements are expressed in a way goal, so that anyone who takes the necessary trouble can check their validity.

Argumentation is only possible in a being endowed with reason. If we stick to its etymological meaning, rationality is equivalent to the capacity to give each thing its authentic weight or value. It requires valuing agreement with reality. To be able to do so, man must know, but he must also know that he knows, so that he can evaluate the real scope of his affirmations. No doubt, all this has been going on as long as man has been man. But the development of experimental science is a convincing test of the singularity of human intelligence. In contrast to the ideologies that use science to affirm that man is a purely material being, the analysis of the scientific method sample shows that man possesses an intellectual capacity that cannot be reduced to pure subject.

In classical terminology, man is said to be capable of total self-reflection. He not only knows, but knows that he knows, and not only wills, but wills that he wills. A capacity of this kind subject is irreducible to subject, even if it is exercised together with processes Materials. Through the eye we see other things, but we cannot see the eye itself, because sight uses a material organ that cannot be both object and subject.

Clearly, the brain is enormously complex and makes our entire knowledge possible. The complexity of the brain may be a physical condition for the person to exist in his unity of spirit and subject. But rationality transcends physical conditions.

Is there an end to science?

Not everyone sees things this way. For example, P. W. Atkins, Professor of Physical Chemistry at Oxford, has written that "man, and his analogues elsewhere, are but elephants with a certain tendency to presumption". He argues that we are but mere products of the physical world, and marvels that, today, there is still talk of the soul. All this, according to Atkins, is supported by current science. Newton certainly did not think so; but he lived three centuries ago. Physics is now on the verge of explaining everything (according to Atkins): it is even known how the creation of the universe from nothing can be explained scientifically, without recourse to a creator God, he adds.

However, it is not true that experimental science explains all of physical reality. In the wake of every achievement, profound questions open up. In the basic research on the constitution of subject, the questions are enormous. On the other hand, experimental science does not and cannot tell us anything (either for or against) about subjects such as the human spirit or divine creation, which are beyond the possibilities of its method. No mathematical models or repeatable experiments can be constructed about the soul and God.

This does not mean that spiritual realities cannot be known. They can be known even better than Materials. We know much more about what man, pride, love, intelligence and laziness are than we do about atoms or galaxies. The literary works of antiquity about man are still valid, and we tend to understand a comedy much better than a physics text. What happens is that the rationality of Metaphysics does not fully coincide with that of experimental science, since the spirit has a different way of being from that of subject. Of course, in both cases there are common elements: we rely on the data of experience and on logical reasoning. But electrons do not think, and the attraction between electrons and protons is not effected by friendship.

Atkins is not the only physicist to affirm the imminence of the end of fundamental physics. For example, Harald Fritzsch has written: "only ten years ago it was difficult to imagine the possibility of constructing a theory final for the whole of subject and all of physics. Developments in elementary particle physics since about 1970 have changed the picture. For some theoretical physicists, the end of the road is in sight, and the main question is how long it will take to reach this end. But let's not fool ourselves. What is considered a theory final, in this context, is a unified theory of leptons and quarks, encompassing the four known basic forces: electromagnetic, strong nuclear, weak nuclear and gravitational. In other words, a theory that explains the number and properties of these forces and particles. Such a theory would consist, like any theory of physics, of an ideal model together with mathematical theories, from which the phenomena can be deduced. Interesting proposals already exist, although their verification requires particle super-accelerators where hitherto unknown phenomena can be observed. This means that new data will be obtained, which in turn will require deeper theories. The process is never-ending.

It is logical. Our knowledge is powerful, but limited. We would only reach perfect and total explanations if we knew perfectly and totally the essence of the physical world. That is, if our knowledge were unlimited. If we were like God, creator of nature. But we are not gods. God has made us in his image and likeness, endowed with intelligence and will. This places us above the rest of nature, and allows us to know and master it in an astonishing way. But we acquire our knowledge by building models, devising theories and planning experiments: in other words, by going round in circles. The complete knowledge is beyond our reach.

Atkins writes: "I maintain that there is nothing that cannot be understood". True. But that does not mean that we can understand everything by our own means. We are limited. When this is forgotten, we fall into pretensions bordering on the ridiculous, as when physical explanations of creation are proposed. Scientific concepts are misrepresented and dead ends are reached (Atkins goes so far as to speak of events that preceded creation, as if this were not a glaring contradiction). And, because of the enormous prestige enjoyed by science, ideas are spread as scientific which can only serve to confuse non-specialists.

Moreover, there is a danger of harming science itself. In general, this does not happen, because scientists are used to continuing to work seriously with their own methods, smiling at the extravagances of some colleagues. Experimental science continues to walk along the highway built by geniuses who, like Newton, were no strangers to extravagance, but have always been aware of the greatness and limitations of their business.

Science and pseudoscience

Science has undoubtedly earned its prestige. Since the birth of modern science in the 17th century, scientists have worked and continue to work with great seriousness. Theories are subjected to the scrutiny of other scientists, and are not accepted without serious arguments in their favour.

But the almost mythical prestige of science often leads to confusing situations. This happens when ideas and theories that, in reality, have little to do with science, are presented as if they were.

"The proliferation of pseudoscience is one of today's most striking and worrying phenomena. These words are found in a book by Martin Gardner, which contains 38 articles on pseudoscience. He adds: "Thanks to freedom of expression and the technical revolution in the media, the cries of crackpots and charlatans are sometimes heard louder and clearer than the voices of scientists".

Gardner states: "I do not believe that the presence of books about useless science, promoted to bestsellers by cynical publishers, does much harm to society except in areas such as medicine, health and anthropology. Those areas, indeed, have particularly palpable repercussions. Our image of man determines, in large part, our attitudes about society, religion and ethics. One wonders what, in the long run, will be the fate of a society whose members are convinced that they are only slightly smarter animals than their anthropoid relatives, or see robots as a future reservation of conscious beings who will outstrip humans in intelligence and moral innocence.

In a first approximation, a theory can be considered pseudoscientific if, on the one hand, it presents itself as being endorsed by the method characteristic of science, while, in reality, it does not satisfy the demands that this method implies.

Attempts to further refine the notion of pseudoscience have given rise to the problem of the demarcation criterion. This is a question that is considered central in the philosophy of science.

The demarcation criterion

In the late 1920s, the neopositivists of the Vienna Circle claimed that experimental science is the only valid knowledge , and that the empirical verifiability of theories is what determines the superiority of science. According to agreement their view, only scientific theories are verifiable. The other claims of knowledge, especially Metaphysics and Theology, would escape any possibility of verification and, for that reason, should be discarded as meaningless. Empirical verifiability would be the demarcation criterion separating rigorous and meaningful scientific knowledge from arbitrary and meaningless metaphysical speculation.

Karl Popper, although a friend of some members of the Vienna Circle and sympathetic to their activity, showed that verifiability does not work as a criterion of demarcation. One of the reasons he gave was that such a criterion could not even be applied to science itself, whose theories do not admit of conclusive demonstration. Hence his famous assertion that positivists, in their eagerness to annihilate metaphysics, annihilate, along with it, natural science.

Instead of verifiability, Popper proposed falsifiability as a demarcation criterion. According to this criterion, a theory is scientific if consequences can be deduced from it that conflict with experience. It is no longer a question of abandoning metaphysics, which, according to Popper, makes sense and can be the subject of rational discussion. From agreement with this perspective, a theory will be pseudoscientific if it is claimed to be scientific but, at the same time, it is placed above any possible empirical criticism.

A consequence of Popper's point of view is that it would never be possible to demonstrate the truth of scientific theories; they would always be hypotheses or conjectures that are accepted provisional insofar as, for the time being, they pass the experimental tests to which they are subjected. This idea is widespread in the contemporary cultural world. For example, Martin Gardner states: "all scientific hypotheses are conjectures, to which both scientists and laymen at subject assign Degrees of belief between one and zero". The difference with Popper is that, according to strict Popperianism, one cannot even speak of "Degrees of belief".

However, this perspective does not account for the real successes of science. To be sure, science uses stipulations and theoretical constructs that are not a simple snapshot of reality, and are open to further refinement. But genuine knowledge is achieved. No one doubts the existence of electrons, atoms, electromagnetic waves and many other entities whose knowledge is due to natural science. Scientific truth exists, even if it is a truth that is contextual, partial and perfectible.

Scientific truth

Scientific truth is contextual, because scientific statements only make sense in well-defined theoretical contexts, which are always open to reinterpretation. It is therefore partial, and does not exhaust all that can be known. It is, however, an authentic truth, provided, of course, that it is well founded.

The way to put science in its place is not to deny its value. The limits of science do exist, but they are well-defined limits: specifically, questions that cannot be dealt with by the experimental method fall outside the possibilities of science. This method requires that scientific statements can be subjected to experimental control, which implies experiments that are, at least in principle, repeatable. Therefore, what by its very nature cannot be subjected to experimental control falls outside the realm of science. This is the case with the spiritual dimensions of man, and with metaphysical and religious questions.

Scientism today

Gerard Radnitzky has written that scientism is "the dogmatic belief that the way of knowing called science is the only one that deserves the title of knowledge, and its vulgarised form: the belief that science will eventually solve all our problems, or at least all our significant problems. This belief is based on a false image of science. Many important philosophers, from Nietzsche to Husserl, Apel, Gadamer, Habermas, Heelan, Kisiel, Kockelmans and others, have regarded scientism as the fundamental false consciousness of our age". These words are a good characterisation of scientism and its importance today.

Today, scientism does not usually present itself with the aggressive tone of the past. Scientists are often aware of the limitations of their science. Positivism claimed that all our knowledge is reduced to the sciences and that there is no place for questions and answers beyond the scientific method, but today it is easy to see that positivism is an ideology that does not even adequately reflect what science is. There is now a widespread awareness of the complementary nature of science and philosophy. The relationship between science and religious faith is nowadays also often characterised by mutual respect. It is easy to see, and it is often acknowledged, that scientific, philosophical and religious perspectives are not opposed, but complementary.

However, scientism is not dead. Its basic idea constitutes one of the main conditionings of life today, in theory and in praxis. This idea consists in considering experimental science as a paradigm of objectivity, rationality and efficiency.

It is easy to find explicit criticisms of scientism in current epistemology. However, these criticisms are often accompanied by ideas that often do not provide adequate solutions. For example, it is often claimed that the scientific knowledge is conjectural, and from this it is concluded that optimistic scientism, according to which science is the only way to obtain proven truths, makes no sense, but it is also concluded that the same is true, a fortiori, outside of science. The reasoning goes as follows: if even in experimental science, which is the ultimate exponent of rationality, truth cannot be achieved with certainty, much less can it be achieved in other fields that lack the rigour characteristic of the sciences. In short: we have moved from an optimistic scientism to a pessimistic one.

Pessimistic scientism is at the root of the ideologies of subject conventionalism and pragmatism, so characteristic of our time. Even when an objective truth is claimed to exist, the conclusion is that we can never be sure that we have attained it.

It is obvious that Popper's perspective is not scientistic in the classical sense. However, since science is regarded as a particularly rigorous subject of knowledge in comparison with metaphysics, the conclusion seems to be that metaphysics, although legitimate, has a conjectural character. In this context, the claim to assert a truth final is qualified as illegitimate dogmatism.

In other cases, experimental science is claimed to have a purely instrumental value, and even the concept of truth is systematically disregarded. Science and, in general, all of knowledge, would only provide useful tools to relate to the world, but it could never be claimed that we have obtained true knowledge. In some extreme cases, openly irrationalist positions are reached. These positions can be understood as a reaction to scientistic approaches, but they do not overcome the confusions that are at the basis of the scientism they criticise.

The reliability of science

Scientism relies on the peculiar reliability of experimental science. The scientific knowledge seems to have an intersubjective validity, allows for testable predictions, has a progressive character, and serves as a basis for useful applications. These characteristics seem to be absent in other areas of knowledge. Therefore, if scientism is to be overcome, a rigorous analysis of these aspects of the reliability of science is necessary.

The reliability of experimental science is real. But, to achieve it, we must limit ourselves to particular points of view, leaving out of consideration the more general philosophical problems. Every science delimits its object by defining basic concepts that relate to repeatable experiments. It is not surprising that philosophical problems, which refer to reality without restrictions, exceed the possibilities of the experimental method. Consequently, the peculiar reliability of the experimental sciences is achieved at a price that philosophy and theology cannot pay.

Broadly speaking, the history of scientism has developed as follows. First it was claimed that modern science would replace the old natural philosophy. Then it was thought that the new science was capable of solving all problems on its own, and finally it was claimed that all other cognitive claims were meaningless. Finally, the realisation that science encounters many limits and progresses through the use of conventional constructs has led to a general relativism that applies to science in the first place, but then spreads to the whole of the human knowledge .

Although it may seem paradoxical, a critique of scientism nowadays generally involves a revaluation of the scientific knowledge . Scientific activity is based on philosophical assumptions which, although they are not studied thematically in the sciences, are essential for scientific work and results to make sense. The analysis of these assumptions sample shows that experimental science is based on a philosophical realism which, rigorously developed, contains a gnoseology and a metaphysics that make it possible to show the coherence between experimental science and realist philosophy.

Scientism and public opinion

The role of science in society is greater than ever, and its influence is particularly felt in the field of public opinion.

Scientism does not usually find a favourable echo in the specialised field of science, since one of the main aspects of the scientific mentality consists of intellectual rigour, alien to unjustified extrapolations. It is not surprising, therefore, that the main area in which scientism manifests itself today is that of popularisation. In today's society, there is a clear awareness of the importance of science and, on the other hand, it is difficult to gain an in-depth knowledge of authentic scientific reasoning, as this task requires specialised dedication. It is not uncommon for topics that are treated in the scientific field in a rigorous way and goal, to be accompanied by fanciful speculations when they reach the level of popularisation.

These facts, on the one hand, reveal a situation that can only be counterbalanced by a dissemination that is faithful to scientific rigour. On the other hand, they highlight the central role that science plays in our civilisation and the importance of providing a true picture of the actual methods and results of science.