Jim Kalb writes that:
“Scientific knowledge is knowledge of mechanism that enables prediction and control. If you treat that kind of knowledge as adequate to all reality, which scientism has to do to be workable, then human agency disappears.”
I think it is more accurate to remove “of mechanism.” Science is about prediction and control. If one can predict that one cannot predict (for example, if something is random), though, then that is also a part of science.
Currently, human agency hasn’t disappeared in the scientific worldview – rather, when trying to understand or explain human agency, scientists tend to work within the current repertoire of scientific concepts. Right now, those aren’t classical mechanisms, but various electro-magnetic phenomena or cause-effect processes from quantum physics, say. Are all these things mechanisms? Yes, in that there is some sort of cause-effect relationship which can be described, and technologies created based on that description.
Consider creating robots: the robots can move about a room, decide whether to go left or right, and so on. There is agency there in some sense, and it all appears to be explicable in terms of contemporary science. So, when scientists are trying to understand human agency, they might look at how computer agents work. This might not be plausible (humans probably work in very different ways from any robots nowadays), but that’s not the point: the agency does not ‘disappear’ – it is just explained in terms that might work. If we find out that those terms don’t work, then scientists will postulate other ways in which human agency works.
I think Kalb underestimates how flexible ‘science’ has been – it changes once we figure out that certain representations don’t work. If there is something like an unpredictable human agency, then it will be included like other unpredictable phenomena in science. So, there might be new concepts developed to describe this. Nothing rests on this.