The concept of scientism, the quasi-religious belief in science and scientists, has risen in prominence over the past year. It has been a theme in many UnHerd interviews, ranging from Matthew Crawford, who detailed the ways in which science has evolved from a mode of inquiry into a source of authority, to Richard Dawkins, who dismissed scientism as a “dirty word”. 

To author and biologist Rupert Sheldrake, it means something different: “It is the idea that science can solve all the problems of the world,” he tells Freddie Sayers in today’s LockdownTV. “Where science becomes a religion and that it’s humanity’s salvation. The scientists are the saviours of the world.”

The religious fervour with which phrases like ‘following the science’ and ‘trust the experts’ have been uttered and adhered to over the course of the pandemic would seem to underscore Sheldrake’s point. But according to Sheldrake, who has spent his entire career researching controversial or ‘fringe’ areas of science, the phenomenon is “nothing new”. As he himself has experienced, the scientific community does not like entertaining radical or dissent opinion, and goes out of its way to snuff it out...


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