Now, I don't personally find it all that offensive--ideological biases need names, after all, so that we can call attention to them. But perhaps this is one of those words, like Yuppie, or Mugwump, that carries too much emotional baggage to be merely descriptive, so I'm happy to replace it in polite company. "Positivist" is a pretty close fit, but it's so moldy that it carries the connotation of old-fashionedness, which may also be unfair. Perhaps Russell will help me find other alternatives. (I also hope he'll consider that accomodationists don't like being called "faitheists" any more than he likes being called scientistic.)
Aside from being impolite, Russell argues that "scientism" depicts a straw man. Most people so tagged do not actually believe in the omnicompetence of science to answer questions of ontology, ethics, aesthetics, and other branches of traditional philosophy*. In comments, Russell goes on to elaborate that "it's difficult to find working scientists who actually do hold those positions."
Well, not that difficult. Here's Jerry Coyne, agreeing with Russell that the term "scientism" is perjorative, and then planting his feet squarely on turf Russell claims to be unpopulated:
[Russell] uses the example of “how sympathetic one should be to Macbeth?”, but can literature really answer that question for us? Or is it an empirical question based on psychology and sociology, sussing out what effects one’s actions have on others? ... I still maintain that every question about how things really are in the universe is a question that demands a science-based answer.This is precisely the attitude I intend to depict when I, until now, employed the S-word. I want to observe that (a) Coyne rejects the primacy of metaphysics over empiricism and (b) that he is wrong. With what term shall I so do this?
* Russell seems inclined to define "scientism" more broadly as the belief that the humanities have nothing to offer, rather than the specific belief that science can settle metaphysical questions. I don't see it presented that way by philosophers of science (I posted number of examples pulled form the OED) and Russell doesn't cite anything to support this broader definition, so this would seem like a case of double straw man, but I want to extend my request to him to substantiate this definition, and reiterate that I'm open to finding more emotionally neutral language to try to typify his position.