Here's the cartoon he published on his blog to illustrate the problem [see Rationally Speaking cartoon: Sam Harris].
Pigliucci is right. Many of us use a broad definition of science that cuts across all disciplines. Anyone who uses rationality and evidence to arrive at knowledge is using the scientific way of knowing. That includes philosophers as long as they are following that method.
Pigliucci thinks that the New Atheists are guilty of "scientism." Here's how he puts in in a recently published article in a philosophy jounral: New Atheism and the Scientistic Turn in the Atheism Movement.
... the New Atheism approach to criticizing religion relies much more forcefully on science than on philosophy. Indeed, a good number of New Atheists (the notable exception being, of course, Daniel Dennett) is on record explicitly belittling philosophy as a source of knowledge or insight. Dawkins says that the “God hypothesis” should be treated as a falsifiable scientific hypothesis; Stenger explicitly—in the very subtitle of his book—states that “Science shows that God does not exist” (my emphasis); and Harris later on writes a whole book in which he pointedly ignores two and a half millennia of moral philosophy in an attempt to convince his readers that moral questions are best answered by science (more on this below). All of these are, to my way of seeing things, standard examples of scientism. Scientism here is defined as a totalizing attitude that regards science as the ultimate standard and arbiter of all interesting questions; or alternatively that seeks to expand the very definition and scope of science to encompass all aspects of human knowledge and understanding.That's pretty accurate as far as it goes. Many of us do, in fact, believe that the scientific way of knowing is pervasive and all disciplines that seek knowledge use it. We believe that there's no other way of knowing that has been successful.
Apparently, Pigliucci thinks that philosophers are in possession of another way of knowing that's different from the rational, evidence-based, way of science. He thinks that the New Atheists haven't bothered to read any books or papers by philosophers because, if we had, we would see right away that philosophers are generating true knowledge using this different way of knowing. Presumably, it doesn't rely on evidence and it isn't rational.
Moreover, it seems clear to me that most of the New Atheists (except for the professional philosophers among them) pontificate about philosophy very likely without having read a single professional paper in that field. If they had, they would have no trouble recognizing philosophy as a distinct (and, I maintain, useful) academic discipline from science: read side by side, science and philosophy papers have precious little to do with each other, in terms not just of style, but of structure, scope, and range of concerns. I would actually go so far as to charge many of the leaders of the New Atheism movement (and, by implication, a good number of their followers) with anti-intellectualism, one mark of which is a lack of respect for the proper significance, value, and methods of another field of intellectual endeavor.Jerry Coyne has dissected and diced this argument. Please read what he says on his
I'd like to add something about defining science. Massimo Pigliucci and Maarten Boudry have edited an excellent book entitled Philosophy of Pseudoscience: Reconsidering the Demarcation Problem. The book is highly relevant to this discussion since the demarcation problem is all about defining science. Most of the book concerns how to distinguish science from things that pretend to be science (pseudoscience) but it also covers the demarcation between science and other ways of knowing.
The genuine demarcation problem as I see it—the one with real teeth—deals with distinguishing bona fide science from pseduoscience. The second brand of demarcation concerns the territorial boundaries separating science from such epistemic endeavors as philosophy, history, metaphysics, and even everyday reasoning.Boudry isn't very interested in the territorial demarcation problem because he doesn't see much difference in the way scientists and philosophers go about doing their business. He's much more worried about postmodernist philosophy, theology, and other forms of pseudophilosophy.
These discussions illustrate that philosophers are facing a normative demarcation task in their own discipline. Indeed, the fuzzy boundaries bewteen philosophy and science, and the commonalities of their respective pseudo-counterparts, further downplay the territorial demarcation problem. Philosophers and scientists alike should join efforts to separate the wheat from the chaff in both domains rather than staking their own territorial boundaries.So, Maarten Boudry has a rather broad view of science that isn't clearly separated from what philosophers do. I wonder if he talks to Massimo Pigliucci?
Boudry suggest that we use the word "scientia" to describe "empirically informed knowledge" of the sort that encompasses both science and philosophy. It's probably a good idea. It would mean we're all supposed to be supporters of scientiaism and that's not a bad thing.
Ironically, Massimo Pigliucci makes a similar suggestion ....
Assuming my critique of what is actually new about the New Atheism hits the mark, one can still pose the reasonable question of what might be the most constructive way for atheists of the new generations to look upon their metaphysical position, and in particular upon how it relates to both sound philosophical and scientific notions. I think that atheists need to seriously reconsider how they think of human knowledge in general, perhaps arching back to the classic concept of “scientia,” the Latin word from which “science” derives, but that has a broader connotation of (rationally arrived at) knowledge. Scientia includes science sensu stricto, philosophy, mathematics, and logic—that is, all the reliable sources of thirdperson knowledge that humanity has successfully experimented with so far.So far so good.
But then Pigliucci blows it with his next sentence as Jerry Coyne already noted. Here's the conclusion that makes the whole Pigliucci comment look ridiculous.
In turn, when scientia is combined with input from other humanistic disciplines, the arts, and first-person experience it yields understanding.What the heck does that mean? What aspect of "first-person experience" can be coupled with "rationally arrived at knowledge" or "empirically informed knowledge" that scientia itself couldn't have achieved? What non-scientia way of knowing can contribute to understanding (=knowledge)? This sounds like gobbledygook and it's part of what leads many of us to be suspicious about philosophers.
What the atheist movement needs, therefore, is not a brute force turn toward science at the expense of everything else, but rather a more nuanced, comprehensive embracing of all the varied ways—intellectual as well as experiential—in which human beings acquire knowledge and develop understanding of their world. A healthy respect for, and cooperation with, other disciplines should be the hallmark of the twenty-first century atheist, and this is precisely the direction toward which some post–New Atheism writers, such as De Botton and Grayling (not at all coincidentally, both philosophers) have been pushing most recently. That path, rather than the one attempted by the New Atheists, is the one that I think has the most potential to lead to a long-standing rational and persuasive case for atheism.There is no "case for atheism" other than refuting claims of the existence of supernatural beings. All those claims can be challenged on the basis that they lack evidence for the god(s) they are proposing. If you don't have evidence, then your gods are imaginary.
The examination of evidence falls entirely within the realm of science or "scientia." What "intellectual" or "experiential" way of acquiring knowledge does Pigliucci think will add to the lack of evidence for gods and support of atheism?