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zhao
20-04-2007, 12:59 AM
found this (http://www.stevedenning.com/postmodern.html) today. to my very much limited research and knowledge, seems a pretty good summary of some ideas i'm very much interested in at the moment. entire article below:


What is the intellectual foundation of science? What is the basis of the claim of scientists to have access to a higher form of knowledge? Often scientists simply assert the claim, without bothering to probe the philosophically murky foundation on which all knowledge ultimately rests. According to scientists, research is conducted in an objective spirit of scientific inquiry, that discoveries add to our ever-growing knowledge about the universe, and that it is self-evident that science will in due course improve the lot of humanity. Television reinforces such views with the use of laboratory technicians as a source of evidence about the germ-killing properties of a particular brand of bleach, or the clinically-proven ability of a mouth wash to fight bad breath.

In 1979, Jean-François Lyotard was asked by Quebec's Conseil des Universités to review the state of scientific knowledge and information in the late 20th century. He looked at how knowledge comes into being, who controls it, who has access to it, and how it becomes accepted as valid. He concluded that science's claim to possess a higher kind of knowledge was seriously flawed.
For Lyotard, scientists have no more direct access to the truth than philosophers or historians, or anybody else for that matter. For him, scientists are storytellers. Thus it is not possible to describe the result of an experiment except by telling a story. The narratives that scientists produce, such as research papers, hypotheses, histories, are always governed by the protocols of the field in which they work. Each discipline is like a game. It has a special terminology which only makes sense within its own boundaries. In practice, a theorist or researcher is not faced with infinite possibilities to explore, and can only play within the limits of a system of permissible moves. The scope of permissible moves is determined by the power structure of the particular branch of science in which the scientist is working, which is just as political and unscientific as any other human activity.

Thus, according to Lyotard, narrative is not a sub-branch of science. The truth is exactly the opposite: science actually comprises particular branch of narrative. In effect, science is a sub-set of storytelling. Science is made up of language games which generate particular forms of narrative. Lyotard's view goes against the common sense view of science as a superior form of knowledge. It also contradicts modern science's view of itself.

For science to maintain its privileged status, it has usually tried to deny its own involvement in storytelling, denigrating storytelling as the epitome of the unscientific, the very thing that science must fight against, and expel from civilized discourse and education systems.

Science thus pretends to be beyond narrative. How does science do this? Ironically, it appeals to a story, or what Lyotard calls grand meta-narratives. A meta-narrative is an over-arching story, which can supposedly account for, explain, or comment on, the validity of all other stories. It is implicitly a universal or absolute set of truths, which transcends social, institutional or human limitations. Thus, a small local narrative, such as the result of a scientific experiment, or an individual action, is usually granted significance only by its ability to reflect or support some broader narrative which people generally support, like the pursuit of truth, justice, or economic growth.

Lyotard argues that some time around the 18th century, science developed the view of itself as the source of enlightenment. Prior to this, appeals to religious narratives had often been used to guarantee truth. Now, building on its practical successes and on the theoretical work of Francis Bacon and others, science took over and put forward the claim that it alone was the source of truth. It suggested that being scientific or rational was the sign of credibility. Possessing scientific knowledge implied that you could get behind mystification and superstition, reveal the facts about world and lead all of humanity to a brighter day. The underlying assumptions were:

- science is progressive, moving towards a state of complete knowledge;
- science is unified, with many different areas, but all sharing the same goal;
- science is universal, working for the good of all of us, and
- science aims at total truth that will benefit all of human life.

Thereafter, science justified itself through the neat trick of claiming that science needed no further justification. Thus, it took advantage of the idea that its activities were pursued in the name of the timeless meta-narratives of progress, emancipation and knowledge. By appealing in this way to ideas whose meanings were quietly assumed to be self-evident and universally agreed, science was able to masquerade as a single project, objectively carried out for the good of the entire human race.

More recently, particularly in the last few decades, scientists have had growing difficulty in getting away with these claims, and cracks in the facade of science's grand meta-narrative have been appearing:

- science's own contribution to ecological problems and the development of nuclear and chemical weapons has made obvious that science is not always directly beneficial to the human race;
- groups who perceived themselves as disadvantaged by the existing political and institutional arrangements (women, developing countries, the poor) have argued that the science's claims to benefit the entire human race have often turned out, on closer inspection, to be linked in practice to promoting the interests of privileged minorities.
- the outcome of scence - technology - was supposed to save time and reduce stress, but few people today feel as though they are enjoying the fruits of that promise. Technology often seems to make life more complicated, more hectic, more stressful, with time feeling every day more scarce, and everyone's nerves more frazzled.
- the unscientific politics of science has come under the scrutiny of writers like Thomas Kuhn, in his depicting of the social processes of science and the phenomenon of paradigm shifts;
complexity theory and quantum mechanics have highlighted the fundamental uncertainty in understanding the world;
- private sector funding of science has given rise to suspicions that theories and discoveries are based on contributions to performance and efficiency and contributions to the bottom line as much as on truth or purpose.
- public sector institutions are sometimes perceived as pursuing their own agendas, driven by the internal interests of the institutions themselves, independently of the genuine public purpose.
- even scientists have largely abandoned the goal of penetrating truth or finding the answer, in favor of the pursuit and promotion of the perspective of their own particular sub-topic.
- scientists themselves are sometimes perceived as interested in putting out work which will generate more research funding and add to their own power and prestige within the academic "market-place".
- science has splintered off into a mass of specialized sub-topics, each with its own language, pre-occupations, priorities, agendas, and politics, and each seemingly disinterested in the work going on in other sub-topics. Some funding sources such as foundations encourage inter-disciplinary research, but the overall dynamic is that of knowledge silos.
- the overall result of this mass of fragmented, and only partially-compatible, activity on separate sub-topics is not necessarily enlightenment and the betterment of the human race, but often noise and a degraded quality of life for all.
- an underlying issue is that many of the elements excluded by definition from the purview of science, because not directly observable, turn out to be some of the things that make life most worth living. It is painful to think of the coming millennium being based on such a stunted vision of human life.




References:
See Stephen Denning, The Springboard: How Storytelling Ignites Action in Knowledge-Era Organizations. Boston, London, Butterworth Heinemann, October 2000, chapters 7, 12.

Thomas Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, (1960)

Jean-François Lyotard, The Post-Modern Condition: A Report on Knowledge, Minneapolis, University of Minnesota, 1979.

Glen Ward, Postmodernism, London, Hodder & Stoughton, (1997)

zhao
20-04-2007, 01:39 AM
also this is pretty interesting as a side note (not a part of the main critique):

13 things that do not make sense (http://space.newscientist.com/article.ns?id=mg18524911.600)

17 April 2007
NewScientist.com

Mr. Tea
20-04-2007, 12:07 PM
This looks like a promising thread - I'm busy today but might have a crack at a decent reply this evening.

Edward
20-04-2007, 05:53 PM
Where to start?
Science is a methodology, it is not a program with aims

- science is progressive, moving towards a state of complete knowledge;
- science is unified, with many different areas, but all sharing the same goal;
- science is universal, working for the good of all of us, and
- science aims at total truth that will benefit all of human life.

is all nonsense. I think the term is "strawman" - science claims none of this.

Science is a method of creating knowledge.
No knowledge is absolute, you can only prove something wrong and you can never prove something right. Science doesn't claim to arrive at absolute truth. It claims to offer better and better approximations of truth over time.
Science does not pretend to be beyond narrative, science IS a narrative... as more experiments are done, more knowledge is created, better approximations of truth are discovered. The stuff from Lyotard in your post seems like wilful misunderstanding of what science is, but perhaps is it just honest misuderstanding.

All the stuff in red at the bottom has nothing to do with science. Saying science is bad because some scientists invented bombs is nonsense. Knowledge and science are neither good nor bad. There is a moral judgement to be made about whether the bombs should have been made and used but not about whether it is right or wrong to try and understand physics. In my opinion it was worth learning how to make things out of metal even though some people made weapons. All actions and discoveries can lead to negative possibilities but that is not a reason to suppress everything.

In general I think science is being confused with something else here. It's worth remembering that just because someone works in a university and wears a white coat, it doesn't mean all his/her actions are about science.
The problems with funding of science, use of science to benefit an elite etc etc are all down to people being people, not down to science being evil.
And Thomas Kuhn's theories about paradigm change are a load of nonsense.

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The philosophical reasons for why it is worth relying on knowledge discovered in a scientific manner are pretty long but you could do worse than go and read some Popper.
Conjectures & Refutations
The Myth Of The Framework

or if that's too long for you, try skimming chapters 3 & 7 of David Deutsch's "The Fabric Of Reality" which is generally pretty freaky but there are nice explanations in these chapters.

+_+_+_+_+_+_+_+_+
as for 13 things that don't make sense.

1. the placebo effect - in what way does this prove or disprove anything about science? it shows that the human mind and body are not fully understood and that we have ways of controlling our own pain.

2 & 3 - so we don't know everything there is to know yet.... so what? in the future perhaps answers to these problems will be found.

4 - homeopathy
i quote from the article:
" it remains true that no homeopathic remedy has ever been shown to work in a large randomised placebo-controlled clinical trial. "
and
" If the results turn out to be real, she says, the implications are profound: we may have to rewrite physics and chemistry. :
note the IF.

5 - dark matter
once again, something we don't know the answer to yet. doesn't mean that science is useless. the more we know, the more questions we will have. if we didn't do science we wouldn't know the dark matter was a problem. would that make us smarter?
another quote:
"If I could have my pick, I would like to learn that Newton's laws must be modified in order to correctly describe gravitational interactions at large distances,"
I don't know who this guy is but Newton's laws describing gravitation were pretty heavily modified by a chap called Einstein about 90 years ago.

I got bored after that....... :-/


The whole anti-science thing seems to just boil down to people not understanding what science is and throwing the baby out with the bathwater because they don't like aspects of technological society, no?

vimothy
20-04-2007, 06:36 PM
The whole anti-science thing seems to just boil down to people not understanding what science is and throwing the baby out with the bathwater because they don't like aspects of technological society, no?

Yup

zhao
20-04-2007, 07:12 PM
science claims none of this.

to clarify, i do think Lyotard and this article are dealing with Science in the wider sense, as an ideology, as a "master narrative", in it's implications, effects on society, as well as methodology. the "age of reason", an increased priviledging of rationality and simultaneous repression of the irrational, can certainly be construed as a product of patriarchal subjectivity. and Science as such, as not just a "way of doing things", but an ideology which shaped human reality for the past several hundred years, directly or indirectly, certainly does make those 4 claims.


All the stuff in red at the bottom has nothing to do with science.

... (it is) down to people being people, not down to science being evil.

you seem to have an idea of science being an absolutely neutral, objective sphere entirely divorced from, outside of, and untainted by human subjectivity.

zhao
20-04-2007, 07:24 PM
The whole anti-science thing seems to just boil down to people not understanding what science is and throwing the baby out with the bathwater because they don't like aspects of technological society, no?

nope.

i personally have massive respect for science. but as a human endeavor, especially as a philosophy and story, it is not beyond criticism (outside of its own revision process).

what i am interested in is a critique which deals with the narrative which science has helped construct, which in the past few hundred years have tinted our lenses, put ideas into our heads, and influenced human behavior on the deepest levels.

zhao
20-04-2007, 07:36 PM
Vimothy and Edward, the knee-jerk reaction is to be expected in this day and age (still dominated by these ideologies), but can we not just stop for a second, try to resist the petty "us vs. them" level of argument, and see that the critique has many valid points.

and indeed, take a closer look at the ground on which we stand, which may not be as solid as we like to think.

Edward
20-04-2007, 07:38 PM
OK, if you want to set up science as being what you say it is, and not what it is, that's up to you.
It's hard to argue against you if you redefine terms to suit your own purpose.

If you want to have a discussion about the merits and demerits of the way the name of science is used as a reason/excuse for various forms of bad behaviour etc then I'm down, Im with you all the way.... but calling those bad things "science" is like looking at this week's murders in a university and saying that's an example of why education is bad.

Sorry for the tasteless example but you get my drift.
I am offended by the use of the word "science" in this case if what you are actually talking about is something else that has grown up around people involved with or claiming to be involved with science.



you seem to have an idea of science being an absolutely neutral, objective sphere entirely divorced from, outside of, and untainted by human subjectivity

It depends what you mean by subjectivity. We only have our subjective perceptions of the world around us to use to try and create knowledge / draw conclusions about what is out there. Science is done by humans. We have no access to absolute truth, only to "shadows on a cave wall" as Plato put it. But science is a method allowing us to move towards truth despite this limitation.
If by subjectivity you mean prejudice, this has no place in science. Anyone claiming to do science with a prior agenda of what they want to show to be true is not doing science, they are producing propaganda.

Better science education would make this clearer to people and we could lose the bullshit "sciencey bit" from shampoo ads, the rubbish claims made for the healthiness of food, studies showing women are this and men are that etc etc.


Please go and read Popper or Deutsch. I think the David Deutsch book would be right up your street actually, it's quite anti the establishment and very in favour of taking seriously our best scientific and philosophical theories. Also there's stuff about parallel universes which is always exciting :-)

Edward
20-04-2007, 07:49 PM
i personally have massive respect for science. but as a human endeavor, especially as a philosophy and story, it is not beyond criticism (outside of its own revision process).

Science is not a philosophy. There are philosophical arguments as to why scientific reasoning is valid and of course they are not beyond criticism, but it is the best thing we've got for creating knowledge, without doubt.


what i am interested in is a critique which deals with the narrative which science has helped construct, which in the past few hundred years have tinted our lenses, put ideas into our heads, and influenced human behavior on the deepest levels.

OK, I've got no problem with that.... please tell me more about what you mean, what narrative, what ideas and what influences?
Sincerely!


the knee-jerk reaction is to be expected in this day and age (still dominated by these ideologies), but can we not just stop for a second, try to resist the petty "us vs. them" level of argument, and see that the critique has many valid points.

I am not having a petty argument. I want you to be specific in what you are attacking, and then I will probably be on your side all the way. You are here on dissensus all the time talking about music and stuff, in my book you are "US"..... all the way!



and indeed, take a closer look at the ground on which we stand, which may not be as solid as we like to think.

Of course it is not solid.
The Popperian idea is that we take our best theories and treat them as if they were true, and that it is valid to do this until they are replaced by better theories.
This includes theories about theories, ie not just scientific theories but the theory that science is a valid method for getting better theories.
Like I said, nothing can be positively proved, only negatives can be shown. But Popper's ideas of where we can get knowledge from are more solid than any other ideas I have seen.

zhao
20-04-2007, 09:22 PM
thanks for thoughtful replies, edward. i suspect that the heart of our differences is a matter of defnition, as is sometimes the case...

a buddy at work asked me "so what is your alternative if science is so bad?"

overlooking the simplicity of such a question (as I am not "against science" per se, but only interested in a critique of it as a narrative, and the culture this narrative has helped build), i feel that it is valid.

cliches aside, i think it possible to envision a more "holistic" discipline which does away with the binary opositions between science and spirituality, between reason and intuition. perhaps a way of knowledge which swings the penduluum back toward the center, away from the masculine priviledging and over-dependence of logic...

what this specifically means I'm not entirely sure... i am not equipped to describe this more than this very vague and superficial level at the moment... sorry :(

zhao
20-04-2007, 10:00 PM
here is another good article which summarizes many, what appears to be crucial essays on the subject:

On The Idea of Continental and Postmodern Perspectives in the Philosophy of Science

Babette E. Babich, Debra B. Bergoffen, and Simon V. Glynn

Introduction

Hermeneutic, phenomenological, genealogical and postmodern critiques of science may be conceived as a radicalization of those contemporary analyses of science which take their point of departure from the fundamental principle of complementarity and recognize that science can never be a mirror of nature; that there are no neutral observers; that all experiments are theory-laden; that there are no simple facts. These perspectives sensitize us to the historical, political, social, and cultural dimensions of science. They force us to revisit the epistemological claims of science and insist that we ask whether and to what extent the idea of scientific privilege can be sustained.

As post-metaphysical, the hermeneutic core of postmodernism sets itself the task of interpreting discourses and narratives. When the discourse is modern science, postmodern and continental style philosophy poses such questions as: what is the source of the power of this discourse? what is the meaning of the world provided by this discourse? what are the moral and political implications of this discourse? Given its focus on interpretation and rhetoric and its rejection of the modern distinction between the rational and the irrational, postmodernism treats the sciences as embedded in, related to, and - running up against the modern ideal of clarity and distinctness - as ineluctably contaminated by other cultural languages and practices. While some might say that this perspective negates the possibility of science, others insist that such a postmodern view allows us to understand crucial discourse and practice relationships, that a specifically continental and postmodern perspective gives us a better understanding of the hows, whats, and whys of science.

With this understanding, the modern idea of truth as reflective of nature gives way to postmodern (Nietzschean) questions of interpretation, valuation, and perspectivalism. The modern idea that the conflict of interpretations can be mediated or resolved in such a way as to provide a single coherent theory which corresponds to the way things are, gives way to the thought of an infinitely interpretable reality where diverse, divergent, complementary, contradictory, and incommensurable interpretations contest each other without, however, canceling each other out. That the traditional idea of science cannot hold in these circumstances is clear. What we explore here is the extent to which these circumstances preclude the idea of science per se. Toward this end, the following essays review the relationship between postmodernism and traditional and continental philosophies of science by examining scientific methods and disciplines, the histories of the sciences, the place of science within the modern world, the value accorded to science and the epistemology of the scientific project.

The Risks of Postmodern, Continental Approaches to the Philosophy of Science

To juxtapose postmodern and continental philosophical thought with the routinely analytic (and roundly modern) discipline of the philosophy of science is a chancy thing. Continental style philosophy is far from recognized as a viable approach to the philosophy of science(1) and the flip contentiousness seemingly constitutive of postmodern thought is, if anything, even less appropriate for the philosophy of science.>(2)

Yet it is not true that there has never been any invocation of postmodernism and its categories within traditional (read: analytic) approaches to the philosophy of science. Stephen Toulmin, one of the foremost "forecasters" of the philosophy of science, was one of the first to write on "postmodern" science and philosophy (Toulmin, 1985) and his recent Cosmopolis (Toulmin,1990) offers a gentle version of postmodern critique as it poses (and proposes an answer to) the question of the "Hidden Agenda of Modernity."(3)

Toulmin's perspective is sagely optimistic where he offers an assessment of the current (so-called postmodern) circumstance of modernity. This optimism is for the most part mirrored in the present collection. For the present authors, the postmodern condition represents not so much an established paradigmatic reversal of the modern, its difference from the plainly modern signified for example by appropriate double-coding, playfulness, pluralism, etc., as a condition of modernity as it is still in need of clarification and above all as a condition calling for recognition. Thus the postmodern condition is understood as a project proposed for reflection (or "thought") concerning just where it is that contemporary thinkers find themselves, to use Toulmin's words, with respect to "practical philosophy, multidisciplinary sciences, and transnational or subnational institutions." As such a reflective orientation, the postmodern prospect is inherently, perhaps necessarily ambivalent. For Toulmin, this ambivalence reflects two contrasting dispositions proposed as alternate responses to the contemporary condition: imagination and nostalgia. Charged by imagination, we may welcome the postmodern prospect as one "that offers new possibilities, but demands novel ideas and more adaptive institutions; and we may see this transition as a reason for hope." Or else, as Toulmin's alternative would have it, we are remanded to the fearful nostalgia of passivity and impotence, turning "our backs on the promises of the new period, in trepidation, hoping that the modes of life and thought typical of the age of stability and nationhood may survive at least for our own lifetimes." (Toulmin, 1990, 203)

Rather than representing a premodern or romantic reactionary spirit, as Jürgen Habermas and other critics of postmodern notions argue, the essays to follow do look hopefully forward. Yet it must be with both hope and trepidation (a quintessentially postmodern combination) that what follows is an ironicised critique of the prototypically modern project of the philosophical understanding as well as of the professional practice of science. Such critiques, such skepticism and irony, are inevitable. For while a latent nostalgia is not the watchword of this collection, as Freud, Nietzsche, and recent world events remind us, hope is not without anxiety (where whatever first calls for hope is sparked and defined by the threat of dis- and misappointments). Even where hope is justified, transitions never go smoothly. In this dissonance, a continuing shock to the seamlessly modern progress-ideal, the postmodern condition ultimately calls for nothing less elusive than Nietzschean "light feet."(4)

The Essays: Structure and Overview

This collection is formally postmodern in three respects. There is no one definition of either science or the postmodern; no single answer to the question of the relationship between science, the philosophy of science, and postmodernism. The modern rationalistic axiom that postmodernism, science, and philosophy of science are fundamentally incompatible is set aside. The issue of the association of postmodern critique and the philosophy of science is framed as a possibility, not eliminated in advance.

The constellation and composition of the present collection raises the question of boundaries - once again in object fashion. In asking about the prospect of a postmodern philosophy of science, these essays seek to explore the extent to which a critical (philosophical) perspective not originating in the sciences but rather in the cultural spheres of art and the humanities can be meaningfully applied to the theoretical and practical sciences. Further, consistent with the spirit of postmodernism, the configuration of this collection evokes and underlines suspicions concerning its own project. If it is the case that the boundaries between the humanities and the natural and social sciences are quasi arbitrary marks of power, might it also be the case that the move to elude and collapse these boundaries marks another power play? Is it a power play of philosophy which without directly empowering philosophy as a bastion of truth moves to regain philosophy's erstwhile position as queen of the sciences by dismantling those domains of knowledge and power which have succeeded in overshadowing it? If this last question is not the immediate subject of this volume it remains at the margin - important for postmodern thinking where the margin counts as much as anything at the center.

Whether or not we agree to call it postmodern, we can agree that we are living in a multi-national, capitalist, nuclear world society conditioned throughout by science and technology. This imperative condition of late, post, or third-stage modernity requires our attention, however we define ourselves theoretically. For modernists cannot ignore the changed and changing circumstances of enlightenment rationality or the scientific project. And postmodernists cannot ignore the question of science and the ways it is being (and might be) practiced in a postmodern world.

zhao
20-04-2007, 10:01 PM
The first section, Postmodern Continental: Propædeutic and Parody, explores the relationship between postmodernism and the philosophy of science together with a provocative or polemical critique of analytic styles in philosophy to outline some of the disputed issues between postmodern, continental and modern, analytic philosophies of science.

A defender of the postmodernist position, Raphael Sassower argues that philosophers of science and postmodernists are often unaware of one another. Arguing that this ignorance should be remedied, Sassower offers to introduce them to each other and suggests that their awareness of each other would produce a more radical critique of science than that offered by such philosophers of science as Popper, Feyerabend, Kuhn, or Polanyi, as well as a more relevant critique of the contemporary situation than that of the postmodernists grounded in literature, architecture, or aesthetics. Distinguishing the postmodern from the pseudo-liberal critique of science, Sassower sees the work of Donna Haraway as an important link between the postmodern and feminist critiques of science and as countering the charge that postmodernism is relativist and irresponsible.

Babette E. Babich takes polemical issue with the traditional definition of the philosophy of science as such, suggesting that a genuine philosophy of science should critique rather than precommit itself to accepting and adopting science's epistemic assumptions and methods, as is the received practice and ideal of analytic style philosophy of science. Using direct (argument) as well as indirect (parodic) means, Babich challenges the unilateral conviction and coherence of the analytic style in the philosophy of science. Only by drawing from a broad range of alternative perspectives, especially those deriving from the continental tradition and, indeed, ranging beyond the assumptions of the postmodern perspective, is a critique and understanding of many of the otherwise taken for granted claims, methods, and thetic presuppositions of science possible. Only such an approach can be accounted an authentic philosophy of science.

The next section, On Nature, Science, and the Theory of the Human Sciences, specifically addresses intersections between hermeneutics and phenomenology and the philosophy of the natural and human sciences. These essays articulate the hermeneutic, historical, and social dimensions of the natural sciences, analyze the role of metaphor and analogy in the history and practice of science, and suggest that a postmodern perspective would resolve many of the so called paradoxes of contemporary science, to bridge the gap between traditionally styled or analytic essays in the philosophy of science and the broadly continental project of the present collection.

Patrick A. Heelan's challenging conception of an "anti-epistemology" argues that the quantum theory needs to be given what he names an ontological rather than an epistemological interpretation. An epistemological interpretation is one related to cognitive content while an ontological interpretation is relative to the activity of representing the cognitive content. These theories describe phenomena as revealed through socio-historical processes of empirical inquiry by local communities of expert witnesses rather than as objective realities. Such theories imply a role in the scientific account for two non-classical freedoms, i.e., for social factors and for history. The ontological viewpoint here proposed is inspired by traditions as old as Aristotle and as new as Heidegger and has the further postmodern virtue of using quantum theory to elaborate an interpretive account of objectivity applicable to the social as well as the physical sciences.

Robert P. Crease explores the analogy between the conceptual prestructuring or interpretation of experience, and the scripting or scoring of a theatrical or musical performance, to further suggest the affinity of nature and culture. Like the symbols on a musical score, which have a relationship both to the notes that are played, and to the other symbols (notes) scored, scientific theories relate both to the world and to each other. The former relationship, Crease suggests, is the focus of the experimentalist, describing the "performances" of the facts, while the latter is the focus of the theoretician, who is concerned with consistency between theories. Moreover, just as we cannot simultaneously observe every aspect or element of an historically and socio-culturally located performance, so scientific performances or experiments are similarly located and presented perspectivally.

Simon V. Glynn traces the route from the phenomenological reduction, via Heidegger's ontological hermeneutics to the deconstruction of dualistic epistemologies and the concomitant demise of correspondence theories of truth and veridicality. He finds a parallel route, from the reduction of supposedly experience-independent, intrinsic identities of objects, to empirical properties which vary with context, and which may therefore be deconstructed into systems of extrinsic or structural relations. This, Glynn points out, amounts to the demise of absolute, non-relational, identity. Showing how the application of such a postmodern epistemology to Einstein's Relativity Theory, Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle, Quantum Field Theory, and Niels Bohr's theory of Complementarity, dissolves many of the paradoxes associated therewith, Glynn suggests its further application to more recent paradoxes in physics.

Expanding on the conceptual underpinnings of observation, Daniel Rothbart examines how analogical models are pivotal to the observation of phenomena. As is clear from the practice of conceiving electricity as analogous to a fluid, or referring to the information "processing" capacities of the mind, or to light waves, analogies enable science to render comprehensible the ostensibly incoherent patterns of nature. So when an experimenter "reads" tracks in a cloud chamber as the passage of small particles, such a reading depends upon the analogical projection of patterns from familiar symmetries. Rothbart concludes that the human intervention that characterizes every level of scientific access to nature's secrets includes the creative discovery of powerful analogies in nature.

Charles Harvey argues that the reductionistic meta-narrative ideals of totalization inveterate to both the natural and the human sciences are conceptually feasible and performatively demonstrative. Nevertheless, due to the sense-parameters distinguishing "the natural" from "the human," the two types of sciences can never be semantically conjoined. Yet, Harvey also argues, in a postmodern world, we are best off letting the sciences methodologically totalize, while teaching ourselves a phenomenological calm about life-wordly sense-gambits, a learning project which might be balanced with an existential agility about what we count as real, and when we do so.

The ultimate section, On Application: Praxis and Critique, presses this last postmodern challenge to the modern demarcations used to distinguish the natural and social sciences from each other as well as from other interpretive strategies. The authors question the role of metaphor in science and ask about the relationship between science and its environs. Specifically attending to controversial issues, such as sexism, racism, AIDS, and, most radically, the connection between science and Eros/Thanatos, these essays shift the focus from the natural or physical sciences to the social and human sciences.

Debra B. Bergoffen draws our attention to the ambiguity of the body of knowledge metaphor. Though usually understood with reference to the object of scientific discourse (the mysterious feminine body that must be tortured to reveal her secrets) it can also refer to the knowledge produced by science. Influenced by Nietzsche and Lacan, Bergoffen asks: How shall we understand science's promise to provide us with a reliable body of knowledge? Pursuing this question allows her to decipher our understandings of the object and project of science and to challenge the demand for a unified body of knowledge. Attending to what Lacan has taught us about the powers of the imaginary, Bergoffen alerts us to the Nietzschean possibilities of a "Gay Science," - a science that recognizes the needs for coherence, consistency, and unity as it celebrates the heterogeneity of the given and pursues the fluidity of the lived body.

Taking up the question of the relation between scientific knowledge and power, Chip Colwell focuses on Foucault's analysis of the relation between the medical narrative and economic, social, and political institutions. Public support for the sick lead to their removal from home into hospitals or clinics where the patient could more readily be objectified as the site of symptoms and where previously localized medical discourses became the grand narrative of medicine. The clinician's control over the body of the diseased meant that Death, traditionally the point at which the secrets of the disease were irrevocably lost, became, via autopsy, the point of revelation. Like other forms of knowledge, medical knowledge is mediated by economic, political, and social institutions, and thus by the relations of power, which it therefore reflects, and to which in turn it contributes. Colwell suggests that the postmodern doctor would recognize the grand medical narrative in all its importance and in its objectifying tendencies as only one among a number of possible discourses on disease.

zhao
20-04-2007, 10:02 PM
Ladelle McWhorter explicates Foucault's notion of power as a non-reified process or event, emanating from many points, and at least as capable of generating institutions and the relations between them - and thus institutionally constituted notions of truth and knowledge for instance - as of being a reflection of them. Attempting to demonstrate that Foucault's analysis may be extended beyond the social sciences to the natural sciences, she turns to biology as a case in point. Arguing that the account given by biologists of the relations between species and races provided justification for slavery, taboos against interracial marriages, etc., McWhorter claims that such classifications consolidate, extend, and reflect the interests of those at the center of power.


Following a Heideggerian reading, Felix O'Murchadha points out that our knowledge of the world implies a view of and therefore a relation to the world and that we are constituted by those very perspectives and acts of interpretation by which we come to what we name the truth. The cultural and the natural world are mediated by the same conceptual or symbolic systems and hermeneutic interpretations that constitute the human as such. In consequence, the concerns of epistemology (theoretical knowledge) and practical existence (ethics) are pragmatically united; our knowledge of the world is inherently ethical.

Radicalizing this last point of inquiry, Neil Gascoigne asks whether we can make sense of the self-conscious, ethically responsible, subject if the subject/ object dichotomy has been deconstructed. When postmodernists, as well as some modernists, reject the noumenal or transcendental self that Kant identifies as the free center of a universal ethics, they leave us with the empirical self, as a reified ego unable to escape causal determinism, and thereby incapable of assuming ethical responsibility for its actions. Arguing that we can distinguish what is represented from how it is represented, and that such a distinction may leave room for an ethically responsible subject in spite of its misrepresentation as a reified ego, Gascoigne notes that such a solution is not without difficulties. It is for instance, sometimes claimed (Freud, Marx) that the outside observer is in a better position than the actors themselves to comprehend the true meaning and significance of their actions, a claim which in effect reinstates the absolutist perspective of a transcendental signifier or noumenal I.

Alphonso Lingis notes that Martin Heidegger set out to bring to light the history of the specific form of the technological imperative at work in our theoretical and practical reason. But Lingis argues that Heidegger's account does not sufficiently distinguish what is specific to the diverse ordinances that command our perception, our technology, and our social fields as the lived world and body. The representations science constructs of the perceptual field, the technological field, and the social field are not continuous with one another. As an illustration of Lingis's emphasis on the ordinance of the lived body and its environmental referentiality, the dialectic tension between disembodied and embodied reification is offered in a precisely physicalistic context by Brian Pronger. In the final essay of this volume. Pronger examines the tendency to reify reflective or analytic distinctions and finds this correlative with the tendency to objectify or hypostatize the self. Pronger identifies this tendency with Thanatos which he contrasts with Eros: the erotic urge to the synthetic unity of being in the process of lived becoming. While modern science is, from Pronger's point of view, clearly in the service of Thanatos, a postmodern science would acknowledge, along with Eros, the unity and thus the essential relatedness of all elements of existence.

zhao
20-04-2007, 10:03 PM
References

Babich, B.E. (1994), "Philosophy of Science and the Politics of Style: Beyond Making Sense," New Political Science: A Journal of Politics and Culture, Summer/Fall 1994: 30/31, pp. 99-114.

Babich, B. E. (1993), "Continental Philosophy of Science: Mach, Duhem, and Bachelard," in Kearney, R. (ed.), Routledge History of Philosophy: Volume VIII, Routledge, London, pp. 175-221.

Bergoffen, D. (1990), "Nietzsche's Madman: Perspectivism without Nihilism," in in Koelb, C. (ed.), Nietzsche as Postmodernist. Essays Pro and Contra, State University of New York Press, Albany, pp. 57-71.

Baudrillard, J. (1992), "The Ecstasy of Communication," in Jencks, C. (ed.), The Postmodern Reader, Academy Editions, London, pp. 151-157.

Bohm, D. (1992), "Postmodern Science and a Postmodern World," in Jencks, C. (ed.), The Postmodern Reader, Academy Editions, London, pp. 383-391. Also in Griffin, D.R. (ed.), The Reenchantment of Science: Postmodern Proposals, State University of New York Press, pp. 57-68.

Bohm, D. (1981), Wholeness and the Implicate Order, Routledge, London.

Borgmann, A. (1992), Crossing the Postmodern Divide, University of Chicago Press, Chicago.

Eco, U. (1984), Postscript to The Name of the Rose, Weaver, W. (trans.), Harcourt, Brace Jovanovich, New York.

Griffin, D.R. (1988), "The Reenchantment of Science," in Griffin, (ed.), The Reenchantment of Science, State University of New York Press, New York, p. 1-56. Abridged in Jencks, The Postmodern Reader, pp. 354-72.

Lyotard, J.-F. (1979), La Condition Postmoderne: Rapport sur le savoir, Les Editions de Minuit, Paris. (1984) Bennington, G. and Massumi, B. (trans.), University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis.

Toulmin, S. (1990), Cosmopolis: The Hidden Agenda of Modernity, University of Chicago Press, Chicago.

Toulmin, S. (1985), "Pluralism and Responsibility in Post-Modern Science," Science, Technology & Human Values, 10:28-37.

Rosenau, P. M. (1992), Postmodernism and the Social Sciences, Princeton University Press, Princeton.

Simpson, L. C. (1995), Technology, Time, and the Conversations of Modernity, Routledge, New York.

Notes

1. This is not because there are no proponents of such approaches to the philosophy of science but because these approaches go unrecognized: presumably unread and quite crucially uncited. See however the first named editor's essays, Babich (1994), (1993), and below.

2. Postmodernism hardly enters mainline or traditional analytic style philosophy although it figures in the socio-political axis in positive reference made by such continental authors as Jean Baudrillard, Umberto Eco, and Jean-François Lyotard. Popular science authors like the more religiously minded physicists such as, for example, the late David Bohm, tend to use the term postmodern fairly freely. For further discussion of the alliance between religion and science, especially ecology, see Griffin. In philosophy of technology there is some evidence of a serious reception of the concept of the postmodern condition, particularly with regard to its multiculturalist and feminist dimensionality (see, among others, Borgmann and Simpson). In the social sciences invocations of the postmodern are common enough to be featured in titles (e.g., Rosenau: Postmodernism and the Social Sciences). It is of course telling, as a failure to which the present volume is addressed, that discussions of the postmodern, be it condition or quandary, are not featured in contemporary philosophy of science with its dominant focus on natural science.

3. Toulmin himself, although a master of the analytic art of non-citation, names Frederick Ferré the "pioneer" of postmodernity in the natural sciences but adds "see also the final essays in Stephen Toulmin, The Return to Cosmology." Toulmin, 1990, p. 213.

4. See on this, the first two named editors' contributions to Clayton Koelb, ed., Nietzsche as Postmodernist (Albany, SUNY 1995) in particular, Debra Bergoffen's "Nietzsche's Madman: Perspectivism Without Nihilism."

NB: This background was borrowed from a clever page site designed by Enrico Graf (www.wolfsburg.de/~graf)

Babette E. Babich Curriculm Vitae

Mr. Tea
20-04-2007, 10:11 PM
Much of what I could have said here has already been explained very niced indeed by Edward, but I'll have a crack at a few answers myself - sorry if I repeat what anyone has said already, this is mainly a reply to zhao's first post, not to the subsequent replies:



What is the intellectual foundation of science? What is the basis of the claim of scientists to have access to a higher form of knowledge? Often scientists simply assert the claim, without bothering to probe the philosophically murky foundation on which all knowledge ultimately rests.

It is nonetheless the case that there IS an intellectual foundation to science. If most scientists don't bother to enquire too closely into this foundation in the course of their everyday work, it's because they're scientists, not philosophers. To put it another way, if mathematicians tried to construct the entire edifice of the basis of mathematics every time they wanted to prove a theorem, they'd never actually any useful maths done.


In 1979, Jean-François Lyotard... concluded that science's claim to possess a higher kind of knowledge was seriously flawed.

Define "higher". Science is not about God, or love, or the soul, or the meaning of Life. These are the realms of philosophers, theologians, mystics and poets. Science is about trying to rationally understand and explain the phenomena of the physical universe, nothing more, nothing less. This could mean trying to reconstruct the conditions that existed a fraction of a second after the Big Bang or it could mean sequencing the DNA of bread mould.


For Lyotard, scientists have no more direct access to the truth than philosophers or historians, or anybody else for that matter.
I would disagree with this completely. Science works within the doctrine of the scientific method, which is unique in its objectivity and reproducability. If two groups of scientists perform the same experiment and conclude different results, then either one group has done something wrong, or they both have.


Each discipline is like a game. It has a special terminology which only makes sense within its own boundaries. In practice, a theorist or researcher is not faced with infinite possibilities to explore, and can only play within the limits of a system of permissible moves.

I would agree with this as far as it goes, although the word 'game' is unfortunately anthropocentric...


The scope of permissible moves is determined by the power structure of the particular branch of science in which the scientist is working, which is just as political and unscientific as any other human activity.

I'm not sure what is meant by 'power structure' here. Sure, there are entrenched norms and establishments in science, and research that goes against that can face stiff opposition, but this is a *good* thing: the established ideas are usually there because they've been succesfull in describing reality. If a new theory wants to strut its stuff, it had better be pretty good.


Lyotard argues that some time around the 18th century, science developed the view of itself as the source of enlightenment.

Erm, I would say 'tool' rather than 'source', but anyway:


It suggested that being scientific or rational was the sign of credibility. Possessing scientific knowledge implied that you could get behind mystification and superstition, reveal the facts about world and lead all of humanity to a brighter day.

Yup, this sounds about right. There's a big difference between the kinds of 'truth' offered by science and religion, though - the former depends on explaining empirical facts using a rational basis, the latter depends on blind faith, dogma and the threat of damnation for the unbeliever. For the ten thousandth time, science is not a kind of religion or superstition.


- science is progressive, moving towards a state of complete knowledge;

No, there is no such thing as 'complete' knowledge, only improved knowledge.

- science is unified, with many different areas, but all sharing the same goal;

Not really: some sciences are largely practical, bent on technological innovation for the benefit of mankind - others are much more geared towards searching for truth for its own sake (even if they implicitly admit that The Truth will never be attained).


- science is universal, working for the good of all of us, Scientists work for all sorts of people - some of those funding science don't have the 'good of all of us' at heart. C'est la vie.


- science aims at total truth that will benefit all of human life.
[/QUOTE] See above on who benfits from science, and the fallacy of 'total truth'.


- groups who perceived themselves as disadvantaged by the existing political and institutional arrangements (women, developing countries, the poor) have argued that the science's claims to benefit the entire human race have often turned out, on closer inspection, to be linked in practice to promoting the interests of privileged minorities.
I really don't see this one. What about the contraceptive pill, and the billions of women's lives this has improved? Arguably, it was responsible for the great political and social revolution(s) of the 60s more than any other single factor. What about drugs than are helping save lives in the developing world? What about improved nutrition, medicine, renewable energy sources?


- the outcome of scence - technology - was supposed to save time and reduce stress, but few people today feel as though they are enjoying the fruits of that promise. Technology often seems to make life more complicated, more hectic, more stressful, with time feeling every day more scarce, and everyone's nerves more frazzled.

Again, this has much more to do with technology than science itself. OK, so I was arguing in favour of technology in the last paragraph - so sue me. :)


- the unscientific politics of science has come under the scrutiny of writers like Thomas Kuhn, in his depicting of the social processes of science and the phenomenon of paradigm shifts;
complexity theory and quantum mechanics have highlighted the fundamental uncertainty in understanding the world;

This can in no way be construed as a criticism of science. These kinds of uncertainties are scientifically described and fully quantifiable: they're completly different from the uncertainty that plagued the world when people thought disease was caused by demons and wrote 'Here be Dragons' on the blank bits of a world atlas.


- private sector funding of science has given rise to suspicions that theories and discoveries are based on contributions to performance and efficiency and contributions to the bottom line as much as on truth or purpose.

All the more reason for governments to fund science reseach with public money!


- public sector institutions are sometimes perceived as pursuing their own agendas, driven by the internal interests of the institutions themselves, independently of the genuine public purpose.

Again, this is to do with the economics and politics of science, not science per se.


- even scientists have largely abandoned the goal of penetrating truth or finding the answer, in favor of the pursuit and promotion of the perspective of their own particular sub-topic.
- scientists themselves are sometimes perceived as interested in putting out work which will generate more research funding and add to their own power and prestige within the academic "market-place".

Again, this is down to the funding of science, its public perception and so on.


- science has splintered off into a mass of specialized sub-topics, each with its own language, pre-occupations, priorities, agendas, and politics, and each seemingly disinterested in the work going on in other sub-topics. Some funding sources such as foundations encourage inter-disciplinary research, but the overall dynamic is that of knowledge silos.
The hyper-specialisation of science is a necessary result of the advancement of scientific knowledge. Many of the best scientists are interested in and knowledgeable a huge range of subjects, both scientific and otherwise.


- the overall result of this mass of fragmented, and only partially-compatible, activity on separate sub-topics is not necessarily enlightenment and the betterment of the human race, but often noise and a degraded quality of life for all.

Again, this depends entirely on how the fruits of research are handled.


- an underlying issue is that many of the elements excluded by definition from the purview of science, because not directly observable, turn out to be some of the things that make life most worth living. It is painful to think of the coming millennium being based on such a stunted vision of human life.

What can I say? Science is never going to tell you how to be happy, how to love people or how to make sense of your life. Complaining that science doesn't do those things is a bit like complaining that your stereo doesn't wash your dishes for you. It's a straw man 50 foot tall.

Edward
20-04-2007, 10:15 PM
I am not "against science" per se, but only interested in a critique of it as a narrative, and the culture this narrative has helped build

What do you mean by "as a narrative"?


i think it possible to envision a more "holistic" discipline which does away with the binary opositions between science and spirituality, between reason and intuition.

Galileo pointed out that the sun, stars and planets seen from Earth move in such a way as to suggest that the Earth is revolving around the sun and the stars are fixed or a long way away.
The Inquisition said, no, the Earth is fixed in the centre and everything else revolves around it. God has decided to make it appear exactly as if what you say were true but actually it isn't.

So Galileo had a good explanation of why the stars and sun appear to move as they do, whilst the Inquisition only had a strangely complicated explanation that actually relied on including Galileo's and adding unnecessary complications. Worse, it doesn't give any reason why God would want to deceive us in this way.

There is nothing to stop you believing Galileo and yet still being filled with spiritual wonder at the universe. Spirituality and reason are compatible.

But it is foolish to discard a good explanation for a bad one (because it is more "spiritual") and believe the Inquisistion (unless you are trying to avoid being put to death by them).

Of course now I am painting "religion" with the same brush you were using for "science"... but the point I want to make isnt that religion is bad because of what the Inquisition did, it is that science gives us good explanations of the world whereas religion/spirituality/intuition gives poorer explanations.


perhaps a way of knowledge which swings the penduluum back toward the center, away from the masculine priviledging and over-dependence of logic...

there is no known other means than science for creating knowledge. can you define "intuition" as anything more than handed-down scientific knowledge mixed with guesswork?

what is masculine about logic? i can't understand. do you think women can't reason consistently?

I think what we need is more consideration and love for one another, based on rational, honest truth about the results of our actions. I don't think science is to blame for warmongering or greed or self-centredness but it can be perverted by these drives, as can religion/spirituality etc etc.

OK now I am going to listen to some loud techno with some other humans. Laters...:cool:

Slothrop
20-04-2007, 11:06 PM
Galileo pointed out that the sun, stars and planets seen from Earth move in such a way as to suggest that the Earth is revolving around the sun and the stars are fixed or a long way away.
The Inquisition said, no, the Earth is fixed in the centre and everything else revolves around it. God has decided to make it appear exactly as if what you say were true but actually it isn't.

So Galileo had a good explanation of why the stars and sun appear to move as they do, whilst the Inquisition only had a strangely complicated explanation that actually relied on including Galileo's and adding unnecessary complications. Worse, it doesn't give any reason why God would want to deceive us in this way.

There is nothing to stop you believing Galileo and yet still being filled with spiritual wonder at the universe. Spirituality and reason are compatible.

But it is foolish to discard a good explanation for a bad one (because it is more "spiritual") and believe the Inquisistion (unless you are trying to avoid being put to death by them).

Naive question: is the point here that we're working with different sorts of knowledge, not with different ways of getting at the same knowledge? If I want to know how much electricity I can put through a piece of copper wire before it melts, I'd ask a scientist for instance, whereas if I needed to deal with the inevitability of death (to use a cheesy example) I'd ask a priest or a poet or a musician. So would the 'holistic' discipline not be something that views these two things as completely different sorts of question requiring entiely different approaches - or indeed views one of them as truth / knowledge and the other as hot air - but something that views them both being aspects of some sort of unified drive towards understanding stuff?

HMGovt
21-04-2007, 12:33 AM
The thing with science is knowledge like this http://www.seedmagazine.com/news/2007/04/science_in_silico.php is so much more compelling and revealing than a critique of scientific knowledge.

Mr. Tea
21-04-2007, 12:53 AM
...to clarify, i do think Lyotard and this article are dealing with Science in the wider sense, as an ideology...

I think we've hit the nail on the head here. Science is not, never has been and never will be an ideology. It's no more an ideology than Buddhism is a theory of atomic interactions. Anyone who claims it is - whether they are a critic of science or (claim to be) a scientist - is simply mistaken.
Edit:


an underlying issue is that many of the elements excluded by definition from the purview of science, because not directly observable, turn out to be some of the things that make life most worth living. It is painful to think of the coming millennium being based on such a stunted vision of human life.
Two things:
1) science - particularly physics - deals all the time with things that are not directly observable. Who has ever *directly* observed a human cell, let alone an electron, let alone a virtual particle that only 'semi-exists'? Yet in the case of the latter, mathematics based on such a concept allows scientists to make concrete predictions that can be compared to real-life data to a marvelous degree of accuracy, and
2) I personally find it painful to think of life in the next millennium without adequate food, medicines, building materials, energy sources...see what I'm getting at here? Either try to derive those things from astrology or religion or culturally-correct post-modern anti-rationality or simply run off and live in the woods if you like, but don't come crying to me when it all goes severely Pete Tong.

zhao
21-04-2007, 01:36 AM
i kinda wish Nomad and K-punk and some of the others more versed in post-structuralism were here...

I'll see about getting nomad.

proper responses later...

mms
21-04-2007, 10:25 AM
post modernisim or even continental philosophy and science just seem diamerically opposed, historically they have been since luce irigay's idea that e equals mc squared was a sexed equation and lacan's flawed attempts at maths. Philosophy, logic and mathematics aren't though of course. There is a philosophy of science but it's mainly about logic.
A bit off thread it always struck me how badly science and christianity get on nowdays, it's clear that intelligent design is flawed, so why not thank god for science instead? It just betrays the fact that really intelligent design is about narratives, which adam and eve and the bible are the end of the day. It's also no suprise that new age guru guys are encouraging readers to get into i.d.

Mr. Tea
21-04-2007, 12:52 PM
...historically they have been since luce irigay's idea that e equals mc squared was a sexed equation and lacan's flawed attempts at maths.

Oh God, don't start that again!


It's also no suprise that new age guru guys are encouraging readers to get into i.d.
No use...top about to blow...
*KABOOM*

Mr. Tea
21-04-2007, 07:28 PM
Naive question: is the point here that we're working with different sorts of knowledge, not with different ways of getting at the same knowledge? If I want to know how much electricity I can put through a piece of copper wire before it melts, I'd ask a scientist for instance, whereas if I needed to deal with the inevitability of death (to use a cheesy example) I'd ask a priest or a poet or a musician. So would the 'holistic' discipline not be something that views these two things as completely different sorts of question requiring entiely different approaches - or indeed views one of them as truth / knowledge and the other as hot air - but something that views them both being aspects of some sort of unified drive towards understanding stuff?

I think a very important distinction here is that if you were to ask any two (competent) scientists the copper-wire question, you'd get the same answer, whereas you could get completely different answers about death from, say, a Christian, a Buddhist, a nihilist and an existentialist and no one of them would be any more correct or valid than the others.

mms
22-04-2007, 01:41 AM
Oh God, don't start that again!

No use...top about to blow...
*KABOOM*

raa raa raa :)

tryptych
22-04-2007, 05:00 PM
i kinda wish Nomad and K-punk and some of the others more versed in post-structuralism were here...

I'll see about getting nomad.

proper responses later...

Zhao, I know fuck all about post-structuralism but I've studied as both a scientist and a historian/philosopher of science, and I'm mainly with you. So I'll have a crack at some of this stuff!



Science is not a philosophy. There are philosophical arguments as to why scientific reasoning is valid and of course they are not beyond criticism, but it is the best thing we've got for creating knowledge, without doubt.


Science is two things - a methodology and a philosophy. The philosophical portion is of course what the epistemological function of science is; if you are a Popperian, which you clearly are, then the method of science is clawing you ever onwards towards an un-obtainable "truth", better and better approximations produced over time as science refines itself.

But you can't just say "go read some Popper". Popper thought he'd solved the problem of induction, by introducing falsificationism, which if you read the "Logic of Scientific Discovery" he clearly falls down on - lots of hand waving to try and convince us that induction an a negative direction (i.e. falsification) isn't really induction at all. See Lakatos' critiques for starters...


And Thomas Kuhn's theories about paradigm change are a load of nonsense.

And I can say the same about Popper's theories... which gets us nowhere


Science is not a philosophy. There are philosophical arguments as to why scientific reasoning is valid and of course they are not beyond criticism, but it is the best thing we've got for creating knowledge, without doubt.


This is self contradictory - if you want to take a position on whether science is valid or not, you must agree or disagree with its fundamental philosophical claims. Being a scientist, or a supporter of science, means you tacitly agree to certain commitments - i.e. materialism, induction (or falsifcationalism), reductionism etc. Science is only the best thing for creating certain kinds of knowledge - it's pretty useless for giving you any knowledge about literature, music and so on...



Define "higher". Science is not about God, or love, or the soul, or the meaning of Life. These are the realms of philosophers, theologians, mystics and poets. Science is about trying to rationally understand and explain the phenomena of the physical universe, nothing more, nothing less. This could mean trying to reconstruct the conditions that existed a fraction of a second after the Big Bang or it could mean sequencing the DNA of bread mould.


But materialist science is about god, the soul and the meaning of life - the material universe being all there is, then unless these things have a physical basis they do not exist at all (I admit I'm using physicalism and materialism as synonyms here - but that's what I assume you're doing to unless you substribe to some sort of non-reductive physicalism).

Possibly a better way of getting at what Zhao is talking about, instead of describing science as "narrative" or "ideology" , is science as discipline. Science is not just the methodology, but the system of academia, peer review, and all the human aspects that go along with it. Science as practice doesn't always (and radically, never) follow its idealised objectivity, and how can it, when it takes place in the minds of subjective agents? Which is were you get back into this age old argument about whether an objective "view-from-nowhere" is possible or if if you can never escape the confines of your own subjectivity (Wittgenstein, Heidegger and all that follows...)

Collins & Pinch's The Golem: what everyone should know about science is a very readable introduction instances of science's failure to live up to its standards "in the field", a lot less philosophically technical than the book Zhao quoted from the introduction (although that does look an interesting read now I've gone back and read the full posts...)

Slothrop
22-04-2007, 06:52 PM
But materialist science is about god, the soul and the meaning of life - the material universe being all there is, then unless these things have a physical basis they do not exist at all (I admit I'm using physicalism and materialism as synonyms here - but that's what I assume you're doing to unless you substribe to some sort of non-reductive physicalism).
Does science have to be materialist, though? What I thought scientists said, strictly speaking, is that unless things have a physical basis they don't have a place in a scientific model for the physical world, not that this model is then the same thing as Reality and that therefore things without a physical basis aren't Real....

Mr. Tea
22-04-2007, 07:10 PM
Does science have to be materialist, though? What I thought scientists said, strictly speaking, is that unless things have a physical basis they don't have a place in a scientific model for the physical world, not that this model is then the same thing as Reality and that therefore things without a physical basis aren't Real....

I would broadly agree with this. I happen not to believe in ghosts or God or things of that nature, but there's no way science can ever be used to disprove their existence, because they are inherently supernatural, and science is, at its most fundamental, the study of the natural universe. On less mystical, but somewhat more metaphysical, grounds, you can talk about things like patterns, cultures, emotions, opinions, ideas, numbers, languages - all things which unarguably 'exist', but have no physical reality. Perhaps you can call them gestalt entities or emergent phenomena or something - I don't know, I'm not an ontologist. What's interesting is that in some branches of physics we deal with entities such as 'space-time' or the quantum 'state vector' which aren't necessarily physically real either (especially in the latter case) but can nonetheless be used to formulate calculations that predict observables, i.e. tangible phenomena.

So yes, it's not necessarily the case that something without physical reality has no Reality at all.

Edward
22-04-2007, 07:46 PM
Interesting posts,especially Tryptych... I'm a bit too raved out to reply to that one right now but will post some thoughts tomorrow hopefully.

But Mr Tea, I am shocked that you are talking about the supernatural. Surely "nature" is just everything that exists. So IF there are ghosts, god etc, they are part of it too.
Do you think there are things that do not obey the same laws of nature as everything else? If there are, doesn't that just mean we've got the laws of nature wrong? Or do we need two sets of rules? And then we may discover super-supernatural things that require a third.... that way lies trouble!

Slothrop, I think one of the fundamentals of most scientific viewpoints is that everything that exists has a physical basis. Otherwise in what sense can it be said to exist?
Even your dreams exist as physical patterns of neuron firings inside your brain.


But materialist science is about god, the soul and the meaning of life - the material universe being all there is, then unless these things have a physical basis they do not exist at all (I admit I'm using physicalism and materialism as synonyms here - but that's what I assume you're doing to unless you substribe to some sort of non-reductive physicalism).

I'm in agreement with that, although I think there is in all probablility more than one "universe" as we usually define the term. Will get back to you....

Lory D was awesome on Saturday night.....:cool:

Mr. Tea
22-04-2007, 08:13 PM
But Mr Tea, I am shocked that you are talking about the supernatural. Surely "nature" is just everything that exists. So IF there are ghosts, god etc, they are part of it too.
Do you think there are things that do not obey the same laws of nature as everything else? If there are, doesn't that just mean we've got the laws of nature wrong? Or do we need two sets of rules? And then we may discover super-supernatural things that require a third.... that way lies trouble!

Just as well I don't belive in it, then!

I think every physical process happens according to laws that are, in principle, amenable to rational understanding. However, there are quite clearly cases of very complex systems which interact and evolve in ways that are not actually physical as such, in that the laws (or 'guidelines') governing such systems cannot be derived from physical first principles. I'm talking about things like culture, languages, ecosystems, economies. I'm not a reductionist.

Going back to the supernatural, I suppose it's conceivable that you could have a kind of Aristotlean 'one set of laws for the physical world, and one for the spiritual', or something like that. Obviously as someone who has no truck with mumb-jumbo I don't find this necessary myself.

Edward
23-04-2007, 03:10 PM
if you are a Popperian, which you clearly are, then the method of science is clawing you ever onwards towards an un-obtainable "truth", better and better approximations produced over time as science refines itself.

I think I am in a lot of ways but not 100%... I'll have to do more reading but I agree with the rest of the quote.


"lots of hand waving to try and convince us that induction an a negative direction (i.e. falsification) isn't really induction at all. See Lakatos' critiques for starters..."

I don't think Popper quite understood what he had come up with or didn't express it that well. There is a lot of hand-waving as you say, but I think he was basically right.
I think the "negative direction" as you put it is what we can use to test our theories, and that we rely on the best theories we have, that have passed the most tests so far (in fact have not failed any experimental tests so far). In my reading of Popper, it is wrong to say "the theories have passed many tests so they are probably true" (ie induction)... it is right to say "the fact that they have not failed tests that means they are our best guess so far." I think this is a fundamental difference that goes beyond accusations of hand-waving.


And Thomas Kuhn's theories about paradigm change are a load of nonsense.
And I can say the same about Popper's theories... which gets us nowhere


Fair dos but I don't want to go into a lengthy critique of Kuhn unless you really want me to! It's a bit of a sidetrack....
Popper is not beyond criticism but I think he on the right track.


me: Science is not a philosophy.

you: This is self contradictory

yes I suppose you're right. if I think the scientific method is valid then it follows I have an underlying philosophical reason or reasons for doing so.


- if you want to take a position on whether science is valid or not, you must agree or disagree with its fundamental philosophical claims.

yes, kind of.... but it's not universally agreed on what those claims are.


Being a scientist, or a supporter of science, means you tacitly agree to certain commitments - i.e. materialism, induction (or falsifcationalism), reductionism etc.

Materialism, yes.
I absolutely do not believe in induction, i don't think anyone has for a very long time! I'm not exactly sure how to define falsificationism so I won't comment.

Reductionism is a moot point as well. Personally I think that there are useful theories that emerge at higher levels that cannot be deduced from first principles, or if they can then it's not simple... and it's certainly worth using these theories even though they were not arrived at "from the bottom up".
eg. Darwin's evolution as propounded by Dawkins. I think that evolution does follow from the laws of physics (certain substances are good at getting themselves copied in certain environments) but I don't think anyone would've come up with such a successful theory without studying animals and plants and so on.



Science is only the best thing for creating certain kinds of knowledge - it's pretty useless for giving you any knowledge about literature, music and so on...

There's a key difference between "creating knowledge" and "giving you any knowledge" - science aims to find out things nobody already knew. Knowledge about literature for example is created when the literature is written, not when you learn about it. Learning about it at college or whatever is just moving knowledge from one person's brain to another's.



Science is not just the methodology, but the system of academia, peer review, and all the human aspects that go along with it. Science as practice doesn't always (and radically, never) follow its idealised objectivity, and how can it, when it takes place in the minds of subjective agents?

Well, we can agree to disagree on our definitions of "science". The thing I am defending is science done right. All along I have said to Zhao that I fully support justified criticism of individual scientists, the industrial/pharmacological complex etc etc.

I think science is the method and not the surrounding crap.
Just like the truly religious don't confuse God with priests and churches (could be a dodgy example :slanted: )



Which is were you get back into this age old argument about whether an objective "view-from-nowhere" is possible or if if you can never escape the confines of your own subjectivity

yes of course but the science I have been defending is demonstrably a useful way to get beyond subjectivity and generate usable knowledge about the universe that actually works.
you can't stop being an individual but by inventing a theory and then using the real world to test it in various ways you can find things out that are more reliable than any other method of finding things out that we know of.


Collins & Pinch's The Golem: what everyone should know about science is a very readable introduction instances of science's failure to live up to its standards "in the field"

I haven't read it but I am quite sure there are myriad examples of people calling themsleves scientists who are unworthy of the name.
I don't want to defend them.
I just want to make a distinction between them and science.

Actually I think the religious analogy I used above is OK.
Clergy often do bad things, child abuse etc. but it doesn't follow that God is bad or corrupt.

The same goes for those who claim to represent science but use its name for dishonest ends and misrepresent what they are really doing. They are bad, not science.

IdleRich
24-04-2007, 10:39 AM
"I absolutely do not believe in induction, i don't think anyone has for a very long time!"
I'm not sure about that. I remember a few years ago that my girlfriend was studying this and told me about David Papineau (and others I guess) who constructed an inductive argument for induction that he argued is not circular.
I couldn't remember it myself but from a quick google, the gist of it seems to be that, for an argument that you can use induction in the future the steps are as follows

1. Induction has worked in the past
2. So induction will work in the future

Apparently it's not circular because it does not have its conclusion as a premise.

I got that from here, there is a fair bit about it

http://www.ling.rochester.edu/~feldman/philosophy152/12-induction.htm

Edward
24-04-2007, 01:48 PM
My first thought:
Underlying assumption = the future will be the same as the past.
On what basis can you make this assumption?

Now I will go and look at the article. :)

Edward
24-04-2007, 01:55 PM
Didn't get much from that article I'm afraid, no mention of this Rosineau chap....

By the way, if you're not sure about why it's not cool to say the future will be the same as the past, go and read about Russells Chicken!

a quick google found me this:
http://www.noogenesis.com/pineapple/Russell/chicken.html

not the best rendition but you'll get the gist.

IdleRich
24-04-2007, 02:58 PM
"Didn't get much from that article I'm afraid, no mention of this Rosineau chap...."
No, I'm not sure that I did really either to be honest (though it's Papineau I was talking about http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Papineau)


"By the way, if you're not sure about why it's not cool to say the future will be the same as the past, go and read about Russells Chicken!"
Yes, seen that before.

I'm not totally sure exactly what he (Papineau) is arguing, presumably not that induction is always valid because anyone can produce countless counter-examples. I mean, we can probably guess that the sun will rise tomorrow but we can also guess that one day the sun won't rise. Maybe his formulation is supposed to provide some justification for the first bit, I'll ask my girlfriend to explain it to me again.

Edward
24-04-2007, 03:54 PM
Oops don't know where I got Rosineau from instead of Papineau.

Eau dear.

Townley
24-04-2007, 05:03 PM
I absolutely do not believe in induction, i don't think anyone has for a very long time!

So are you (inductively?) arguing that:

1) People have not believed in using induction for a very long time.
2) There is something wrong with using induction.

Seriously though, don't we all think inductively all the time, including scientists?

Edward
24-04-2007, 05:35 PM
Lol ^


Seriously though, don't we all think inductively all the time, including scientists?

I suppose so but it's just a lazy short cut and if you find yourself needing a better explanation for your beliefs, the explanation is (hopefully) there.

For example, yes I think the sun will rise tomorrow because it rose yesterday and the day before.
But in my heart of hearts I know that is not an explanation, and the real explanation is that we have theories about the motion of the sun and the earth and so on which have not yet failed any experimental tests so we choose to act as if they are true until they are falsified.

Mr. Tea
24-04-2007, 05:40 PM
For example, yes I think the sun will rise tomorrow because it rose yesterday and the day before.
But in my heart of hearts I know that is not an explanation, and the real explanation is that we have theories about the motion of the sun and the earth and so on which have not yet failed any experimental tests so we choose to act as if they are true until they are falsified.

So perhaps induction - as someone once said about quantum mechanics - is 'FFAPP': Fine For All Practical Purposes, even if it isn't logically watertight? Or perhaps it's best viewed as a useful pointer to theories or models which can later be proven by more rigorous means, such as deduction?

tryptych
24-04-2007, 05:55 PM
I don't think Popper quite understood what he had come up with or didn't express it that well. There is a lot of hand-waving as you say, but I think he was basically right.
I think the "negative direction" as you put it is what we can use to test our theories, and that we rely on the best theories we have, that have passed the most tests so far (in fact have not failed any experimental tests so far). In my reading of Popper, it is wrong to say "the theories have passed many tests so they are probably true" (ie induction)... it is right to say "the fact that they have not failed tests that means they are our best guess so far." I think this is a fundamental difference that goes beyond accusations of hand-waving.


This is really dredging my memory, but.. as I remember, Popper tries to argue that falsification is like deduction. But I don't see why saying "a theory has failed x tests, so it should not be our best guess" is any different from saying a theory has passed x tests, so it should be our best guess" - i.e. they're both forms of induction.

Lakatos' critique/re-construction of Popper is to say that "falsifiying" a theory is not always a reason to get rid of it. Sometimes the theory is too poweful, too useful etc and other factors come into play - basically social ones, where he leans towards Kuhn.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lakatos gives an OK overview... how much of a critic of Popper he was later on in his career is i think debatable though.



Fair dos but I don't want to go into a lengthy critique of Kuhn unless you really want me to! It's a bit of a sidetrack....
Popper is not beyond criticism but I think he on the right track.


I don't think it's much of a sidetrack - after all, at the time Popper and Kuhn were directly pitched against each other as offering alternative views of what science is. Kuhn is not beyond criticisim but I think he was on the right track. ;) ;)



yes, kind of.... but it's not universally agreed on what those claims are.




Materialism, yes.
I absolutely do not believe in induction, i don't think anyone has for a very long time! I'm not exactly sure how to define falsificationism so I won't comment.


I think you'll find you do believe in induction - otherwise what rational reason do you have for not stepping out of a 10th floor window? (the classic example).



Reductionism is a moot point as well. Personally I think that there are useful theories that emerge at higher levels that cannot be deduced from first principles, or if they can then it's not simple... and it's certainly worth using these theories even though they were not arrived at "from the bottom up".
eg. Darwin's evolution as propounded by Dawkins. I think that evolution does follow from the laws of physics (certain substances are good at getting themselves copied in certain environments) but I don't think anyone would've come up with such a successful theory without studying animals and plants and so on.


Non-reductive materialism (Davidson?) and other non reductive philosophies, like emergent/enactive theories that Mr. Tea makes reference too, are very much on the fringes of mainstream science (and interestingly, in the latter case draw quite heavily on continental philosophy).

Refering back to what Slothrop and Mr Tea said, of course one can be a non-materialist scientist. There are lots of scientists who are religious, and hold some form of dualism, whereby their science investigates one realm, but has no meaing or use in the other, the "spiritual". Again, this is fringe stuff, and generally frowned upon by the mainstream.. more on this later as I must leave work now!



There's a key difference between "creating knowledge" and "giving you any knowledge" - science aims to find out things nobody already knew. Knowledge about literature for example is created when the literature is written, not when you learn about it. Learning about it at college or whatever is just moving knowledge from one person's brain to another's.


Huh? I don't understand - knowledge about science is created only on the very cutting edge of experimental science, not when you learn about it either. What's the difference? No one gets to practice "science" in college either, it's just learning about experiments and theories already created. You admit that literature can create knowledge also...



Well, we can agree to disagree on our definitions of "science". The thing I am defending is science done right. All along I have said to Zhao that I fully support justified criticism of individual scientists, the industrial/pharmacological complex etc etc.

I think science is the method and not the surrounding crap.
Just like the truly religious don't confuse God with priests and churches (could be a dodgy example :slanted: )


Now we get down to it... there is no such thing as "science done right", and science is precisely the "surrounding crap" - without that surrounding crap there would be no science.




yes of course but the science I have been defending is demonstrably a useful way to get beyond subjectivity and generate usable knowledge about the universe that actually works.
you can't stop being an individual but by inventing a theory and then using the real world to test it in various ways you can find things out that are more reliable than any other method of finding things out that we know of.



I haven't read it but I am quite sure there are myriad examples of people calling themsleves scientists who are unworthy of the name.
I don't want to defend them.
I just want to make a distinction between them and science.

Actually I think the religious analogy I used above is OK.
Clergy often do bad things, child abuse etc. but it doesn't follow that God is bad or corrupt.

The same goes for those who claim to represent science but use its name for dishonest ends and misrepresent what they are really doing. They are bad, not science.


The whole point of The Golem is that it is about fundamental lynchpin experiments and theories, exemplars of "proper science" and how, in fact, they are not, including Pasteur, the Michelson-Morley experiment etc. This is of course Kuhn's point too. Science at the cutting edge is determined not by appeals to "proper" objective science, but subjective factors.

more later...

IdleRich
24-04-2007, 05:58 PM
But in my heart of hearts I know that is not an explanation, and the real explanation is that we have theories about the motion of the sun and the earth and so on which have not yet failed any experimental tests so we choose to act as if they are true until they are falsified.
No. That's just shifting the problem back one, it's still inductive reasoning to say that the theories of motion which worked yesterday will work the same way tomorrow - what reason do you have to believe that except induction?
You're in the same situation as the chickens, you have only observed the laws of physics up until now, if they are going to change tomorrow then how can you predict it?
That's why the validity of inductive reasoning is so important.

Edward
27-04-2007, 02:42 PM
Been away for a few days... reading all this makes me feel a bit snowed under, the target of aggression.
I'm not trying to set myself up as the arbiter of all knowledge on these things, just trying to have a discussion. I'm just a bloke who likes reading books, yunno.....

But I'll try and reply on some of these points....


For now here are some more thoughts on induction and epistemology for now, which hopefully are of interest to Mr Tea and IdleRich, and address part of what Tryptych has to say as well:

Nobody's come up with irrefutable answers to the basic problems of how we can know things. In my opinion, the way to choose between two theories which both pass experimental tests is to go for the one that offers the best explanation of what is going on. If one of the rival theories can be experimentally falsified then we can safely choose the other one as closer to representing reality.


In choosing between two rival theories neither of which have been experimentally falsified, it makes more sense to me to have a concise theory that explains the things we observe than a different theory that is the same in all respects as the prevailing one, except it adds another unexplained complication or complications.

In the "will the sun rise?" example, the prevailing theory is "the sun will rise tomorrow because the planets will continue to orbit the sun in the way Einstein's laws predict" and the rival theory would be "everything Einsteins says is true but after time x all this will change" - without any reason given for the sudden change. This is throwing away a simple explanation and replacing it with a more complicated one with no reason given for the extra complication. The new theory is the same in all respects as the original apart from an added unexplained exceptional case.
If someone had a good explanation such as "after x billion years the sun will be a red giant and the earth will be destroyed so there will be no sunrise" then that is not an unexplained extra complication, it is possibly a good explanation and as such the theory about the sun rising ought to be modified if we find there is good evidence for the sun expanding and swallowing up the earth.
there is no induction here, nobody is saying "the sun will rise tomorrow because it rose yesterday".


In Tryptych's "jumping off a building" example, the prevailing theory is "gravity will make you fall to towards the centre of the earth" and the competing theory would be "gravity will make anyone except me fall" or "gravity will make anyone fall except for this moment" without any reason given for why I or this moment are exceptional. So again the new theory is identical to the old but with an added complication or exception to the prevailing theory without any explanation.
It is not that I believe I won't fall because I believe in induction, it is that nobody has given me a better explanation than the simple one that explains very well why I will fall.


Galileo said "the stars move around the sky in that way because the earth is going around the sun" whilst the Inquisition said "the stars move around the sun exactly as if Galileo was right but actually it's angels or god causing them to move in that way and the earth is fixed" without any reason given for this deception on the part of god or huge extra complication (the existence of an all powerful god who does this strange thing with the stars every night when he could have just set it up in the way Galileo describes and chilled out with the angels).
(this example doesn't involve induction but it's a good illustration of how simple and full explanations are more powerful than complicated holey ones).



Russell's Chicken's theory is "the farmer feeds me every day because he loves me and therefore he will continue to feed me". The rival theory is "the farmer is feeding you to fatten you up and then he will kill you and sell you for profit". This theory is also more complicated than the Chicken's own theory but the crucial difference between this example and the ones above is that it contains a good explanation for why it is more complicated, so it should at least be entertained, just as the "expanding sun" theory contains good explanation of why the sun won't rise over earth in the distant future.



So in part I suppose I am appealing to "Occam's Razor" - the idea that unnecessarily complicated explanations are less likely to be true than simple ones. Emphasis on the word "unnecessarily".


"Russell's Chicken" and many other examples show that you can't rely on "the past being like the future" but when it is different in some respect, there will be an underlying explanation for why it is different and that explanation must be part of any theory that predicts changes over time.


I'm sure there are still problems with this model of theory-selection but I think it's a small step on from Popper and I find it more convincing and satisfying than anything else I have read.



We have strayed a long way from Zhao's initial thread but it's quite interesting to think about isn't it?

IdleRich
27-04-2007, 03:17 PM
"Been away for a few days... reading all this makes me feel a bit snowed under, the target of aggression."
Oh, I'm very sorry if you felt like that, not intentional at all.
I'm glad you replied anyway because I felt that it was left hanging somewhat.


In the "will the sun rise?" example, the prevailing theory is "the sun will rise tomorrow because the planets will continue to orbit the sun in the way Einstein's laws predict" and the rival theory would be "everything Einsteins says is true but after time x all this will change"
I take your point but isn't that exactly what the chicken would say?
What I mean is, what reason is there to think that the prevailing theory will prevail tomorrow? I think the answer is induction isn't it?

Edward
27-04-2007, 03:34 PM
Some more thoughts on Tryptych's post:


I don't see why saying "a theory has failed x tests, so it should not be our best guess" is any different from saying a theory has passed x tests, so it should be our best guess" - i.e. they're both forms of induction.

As soon the theory fails ONE test, then it is falsified.
It may still be used for practical calculations in the absence of a better (in purely instrumentalist terms) theory but nobody believes the theory is true any longer. How can a theory about the real world be true if it is shown to be not true even once?

A falsified theory may be "our best guess" from an instrumentalist point of view but as soon as a prevailing theory is falsified, you would hope scientists would be falling over themselves to propose replacement theories and test them out.

In fact it is almost unheard of nowadays for a theory about physics to be falsified in the absence of a "challenging" rival theory. What happens is: someone comes up with a new theory which passes all the experimental tests performed on the old theory (otherwise you can discard it straight away) and then invents a new experimental test to choose between the two rivals. At this point one of the theories will be falsified and the other will become or remain the prevailing theory.


+_+_+_

What Wikipedia has to say about Lakatos is interesting and makes me think I may have misuderstood Popper a bit! I'll have to do some more reading. I wish my local library had any books about philosophy..... you can't buy them in the airport either :slanted:

It doesn't seem like he is supporting Kuhn but rather trying to represent Popper in a different way to how the majority had perceived/portrayed his writings in order to refute Kuhn. But let's not argue about that because I haven't read any Lakatos! I'm interested to read it but not so we can argue about who knows the most about this guy or that guy, just if it makes me understand more stuff.

As to whether Kuhn was on the right track or not, I think in some respects he was and in others we was unfair. I have never been to university or spent time among academics so I don't know the truth of what goes on, only how it is represented in the writings of scientists. So I could've been hoodwinked....
It seems to me that scientists are ready to embrace paradigm change if they are given a good reason for it - look how quantum mechanics swept through the scientific establishment and before that, special and general relativity. They were successful because they gave better explanations of observed phenomena and more accurate predictions, they were big changes to the established view but they were accepted because they came with good explanations.

I'm sure there were those who didn't go along with paradigm change (Einstein famously wasn't an easy convert to quantum mechanics, mainly due to the extremely shaky interpretations given it by its originators) but QM & relativity are both striking counterexamples to Kuhn's portrayal of the scientific establishment as set hard against change, and of new ideas basically having to wait for older established scientists to die before they could be seriously entertained.

Or am I misrepresenting/misunderstanding Kuhn here? Happy to be put straight if so...

++_+_+_+_+_+_+_+_+_+_


Non-reductive materialism (Davidson?) and other non reductive philosophies, like emergent/enactive theories that Mr. Tea makes reference too, are very much on the fringes of mainstream science

yes you're right but I feel like we've moved on to me defending what I think rather than trying to stick up for the whole scientific establishment, which I've already conceded has numerous failings when compared to the ideal.
I'm quite enjoying the debate as it goes, do stop me if I'm too self-centred. :)

+_+_+_+_+_+_+_+_+_+_+_++


me - There's a key difference between "creating knowledge" and "giving you any knowledge" - science aims to find out things nobody already knew. Knowledge about literature for example is created when the literature is written, not when you learn about it. Learning about it at college or whatever is just moving knowledge from one person's brain to another's.


you - Huh? I don't understand - knowledge about science is created only on the very cutting edge of experimental science, not when you learn about it either. What's the difference? No one gets to practice "science" in college either, it's just learning about experiments and theories already created. You admit that literature can create knowledge also...


Yes you are correct in your first sentence. The difference between cutting edge science and writing literature is that science creates knowledge about the real world and that knowledge previously did not exist in any human mind. Writing literature is an act of creating something, which I will label "information" in the sense of a work of literature being a set of symbols wherein the order of the symbols matters. Something is created but it is not knowledge about the world, it is a new pattern made from the information (some of which is in the form of knowledge) already present in the brain of the author. No new truth about the world is discovered, although truth may be made more obvious or clear through literary interpretation.

This is not to belittle the creative process in anyway, it's deeply important in my opinion. But creating information/art/literature/music is clearly different to creating knowledge about the world.

Also I think you are being a little disingenuous here as you initally were saying science is not useful for "giving you any knowledge about art/literature" which really implied something along the lines of "you can't learn about Shakespeare from doing experiments" - which is what I was replying to in the post I quoted above.

(by "the world" I mean "what there is" or "reality")

_+_+_+_+_+_+_+_+_+_+_+_+_+



Now we get down to it... there is no such thing as "science done right", and science is precisely the "surrounding crap" - without that surrounding crap there would be no science.

I'm not sure what axe you have to grind here. Why do you claim there is no distinction between, say, somebody trying to find out truth about some physical phenomenon, and somebody trying to find a way to show their brand of deodorant is better than brand x or trying to get a Nobel prize at the expense of their research partners? There is clearly a difference.

Like I said before, we can agree to differ in how we define our terms. If you want you can say "science" includes all the the crap, I can say it doesn't.

But I can't understand how you can say there is nothing there APART from marketing, political infighting etc. If you really think that, why are you bothering to discuss Popper with me?

I seriously want to ask, are you just arguing this for the sake of a lively discussion or do you really not see the distinction?

+_+_+_+_+_+_+_+_+_+_+_+_+_+



The whole point of The Golem is that it is about fundamental lynchpin experiments and theories, exemplars of "proper science" and how, in fact, they are not, including Pasteur, the Michelson-Morley experiment etc. This is of course Kuhn's point too. Science at the cutting edge is determined not by appeals to "proper" objective science, but subjective factors.

Once again, I haven't read it, but once again, I have conceded many times that there are many examples of failure on the part of scientists to live up to the standards we expect of them, and I agree that they ought to be exposed.
You have to pay attention because dodgy individuals are out there, they are likely the ones in charge in a lot of cases too.
But this doesn't detract in any way from the value of pursuing knowledge in a scientific manner.

+_+_+_+_+_+_+_+_+_+



more later...


NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! :eek: :D

Mr. Tea
27-04-2007, 03:38 PM
O
I take your point but isn't that exactly what the chicken would say?
What I mean is, what reason is there to think that the prevailing theory will prevail tomorrow? I think the answer is induction isn't it?

I'm not sure how this applies to the chicken Gedankenexperiment (yes, I did just use that word for the sheer hell of it), but with regards to things like the Sun failing to rise, you can actually make statements a bit stronger than induction about it. For example, lots of ways in which the Sun could fail to rise - by simply ceasing to exist, for example - would violate physical law, in this case conservation of mass-energy. If the Earth fell into the Sun for no reason this would violate conservation of momentum. These laws follow from a very general mathematical result (Noether's Theorem) which can be proven analytically. So in no Universe with physics we can understand - to the extent that we do understand at least some of the physics in our Universe - would the Sun simply fail to rise without good reason, e.g. its having undergone a nova and ceased to be a sun.

IdleRich
27-04-2007, 03:54 PM
"For example, lots of ways in which the Sun could fail to rise - by simply ceasing to exist, for example - would violate physical law, in this case conservation of mass-energy. If the Earth fell into the Sun for no reason this would violate conservation of momentum. These laws follow from a very general mathematical result (Noether's Theorem) which can be proven analytically. So in no Universe with physics we can understand - to the extent that we do understand at least some of the physics in our Universe - would the Sun simply fail to rise without good reason, e.g. its having undergone a nova and ceased to be a sun"
No, you're not getting to the actual point. Suppose that yesterday, today and now the law of conservation of energy (or momentum for that matter) applies - how do you know it will apply tomorrow?

Edward
27-04-2007, 03:59 PM
Idlerich - i was busy typing away.... started my previous long post before your one about induction. I wasn't trying to avoid your point, i hadn't read it yet.....

Induction is slippery and before I started trying to explain this on here I wasn't convinced myself that it wasn't "hand waving". But now I am convinced -

i think the thing is that we are saying "here is a theory that predicts X behaviour under circumstances Y" and that it makes no difference whether it is today or tomorrow or next year. the theory is true for all time unless something else happens before, during or after a certain time period that changes the circumstances.

The theory became the prevailing theory because it passed all experimental tests, gave good predictions and most importantly it came with a good explanation.

So we're not saying "it's like this today because it was like this yesterday" we are saying "it's like this today because nothing relevant to my very good explanation of why my theory is true has changed since yesterday".

The sun rises not because it rose before but because, yes, the earth is still rotating relative to the sun, which is still emitting light in this direction etc.


BUT: how do we know it won't just stop rising tomorow because for some reason the sun's gravity suddenly gets turned off and we ping off into deep space?

Answer: we don't, but the theories we have contain good explanations for what is going on, and a new set of theories that say "the old theories with all their explanations of gravity, light, relativity etc are completely correct but there is also an extra phenomenon which will cause the sun's gravity to get turned off tomorrow" is just a more complex version of the prevailing theories with no explanation given for the extra complexity.

We still don't know it won't happen and there might be a good explanation why gravity gets turned off tomorrow that we haven't thought of. We don't have any way to know that we are right about anything.
But I am arguing for adopting as our best theories those which contain the best explanations devoid of complicated unexplained phenomena.

The chicken may obect that our theory about the farmer is over-complicated but he cannot dismiss it out of hand because we have a good explanation for the new details.

All this largely comes from David Deutsch and it's got a lot to do with Occam's Razor I suppose.



EDIT: a lot of this post is cobblers, as idlerich has kindly ponted out!

Mr. Tea
27-04-2007, 04:04 PM
No, you're not getting to the actual point. Suppose that yesterday, today and now the law of conservation of energy (or momentum for that matter) applies - how do you know it will apply tomorrow?

Yeah, point taken - I guess the only comeback I can make to that is "well that would mean mathematics and science would no longer be reliable as ways of understanding the Universe, and they always have been up until now", which again is a sort of meta-induction, "we use induction because it works".

Immryr
27-04-2007, 04:11 PM
maybe we'll wake up tomorrow to discover we're all comprised of a kind of purple, oderless gas.

IdleRich
27-04-2007, 04:14 PM
"Induction is slippery"
Oh yes.


i think the thing is that we are saying "here is a theory that predicts X behaviour under circumstances Y" and that it makes no difference whether it is today or tomorrow or next year. the theory is true for all time unless something else happens before, during or after a certain time period that changes the circumstances.
How do you know that?
Isn't the problem of induction another way of saying "is it ok to say that a theory will hold for all time (unless something happens to change that)?"?


The theory became the prevailing theory because it passed all experimental tests, gave good predictions and most importantly it came with a good explanation.
So we're not saying "it's like this today because it was like this yesterday" we are saying "it's like this today because nothing relevant to my very good explanation of why my theory is true has changed since yesterday".
Sure but that's not getting to the nitty gritty.


BUT: how do we know it won't just stop rising tomorow because for some reason the sun's gravity suddenly gets turned off and we ping off into deep space?

Answer: we don't, but the theories we have contain good explanations for what is going on, and a new set of theories that say "the old theories with all their explanations of gravity, light, relativity etc are completely correct but there is also an extra phenomenon which will cause the sun's gravity to get turned off tomorrow" is just a more complex version of the prevailing theories with no explanation given for the extra complexity.

We still don't know it won't happen and there might be a good explanation why gravity gets turned off tomorrow that we haven't thought of. We don't have anyway to know that we are right about anything.
Exactly. Because we are using induction we don't know - but obviously our best guess is the one we have to act on. I think that you are effectively invoking Occam's Razor as a way to say that "we recognise that the theories we have depend on induction but they are the best that we have".

If the two chickens were arguing about why the farmer was feeding them and one (without any more knowledge than the other) said "Maybe in two days he is going to kill us" the other might reply (not unreasonably as you have done) "Well, Occam's Razor means that we should go with the idea that he will just keep on feeding us" - in their position that would be reasonable but as it turns out incorrect.

Mr. Tea
27-04-2007, 04:15 PM
I'm starting to feel really sorry for these chickens. :(

IdleRich
27-04-2007, 04:18 PM
"well that would mean mathematics and science would no longer be reliable as ways of understanding the Universe, and they always have been up until now",
Well, yes that would be a circular argument (I think although according to Louise, Papineau argues that it isn't).
But I think that's why people ask the question in the first place - what basis do we have to think that any of our theories of knowledge are in any way a reliable way of understanding anything?

Immryr
27-04-2007, 04:37 PM
If the two chickens were arguing about why the farmer was feeding them and one (without any more knowledge than the other) said "Maybe in two days he is going to kill us" the other might reply (not unreasonably as you have done) "Well, Occam's Razor means that we should go with the idea that he will just keep on feeding us" - in their position that would be reasonable but as it turns out incorrect.


if we were all to live by the 1st chickens theory we would live in constant fear of, well, everything.

IdleRich
27-04-2007, 04:51 PM
"if we were all to live by the 1st chickens theory we would live in constant fear of, well, everything."
I was just saying that Edward's saying "gravity won't go backwards tomorrow" is analagous to the chickens from his example saying "the farmer will feed us tomorrow" which he used as an example of inductive reasoning.
Of course, I'm not saying that we shouldn't ever use inductive reasoning, I'm not just pointing out that we do use it and we should be aware of that.

Edward
27-04-2007, 05:03 PM
I think my explanation shows that (or is intended to show that!) scientific knowledge should be based on falsification and the best explanations available, not on induction.

The difference between the chicken's friend and Immyr's purple gas theory is that the theory about the farmer fattening up chickens for the slaughter comes with a good explanation.
Occam's Razor in this case doesn't allow us to cut away all rival theories and adopt the simplest. But it allows us to discard those theories which are almost identical to the prevailing theory but with added unexplained exceptions.

=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

The problem of induction:
just because an experiment gave a result 100 times in a row, we have no right to assume it will be the same on the 101st attempt. so we should not use this method to create theories.




the theory is true for all time

How do you know that?

OK I don't, I was being too casual in my argument. I am still thinking this through for myself.

We don't know anything is true, you can't prove a positive. The thing is, you have a theory of how things are, it's your best theory, you might as well assume it's true and use it for predictions. It is true: There is no logical justification for doing this available to us.


Here is how theories get to be popular:
Someone invents a theory.
People argue about whether the theory's explanations seem likely.
If the explanations seem good then experiments are done to try and falsify them. (nobody bothers trying to experimentally falsify theories like "if you eat 100 doughnuts you will be able to turn invisible" because there isn't a good explanation of why this might be so to go along with the theory)
If they have a good explanation and they do not fail experimental tests then they become the prevailing theory.
In any given area of science there is a prevailing theory and then a new one comes along and one of them can be either falsified by experiment or else shown to be merely a restatement of the original theory with extra unexplained bits and therefore (I propose) less worthy of consideration as likely truth.

We have no other way to get a better theory than this - keep coming up with new theories and test them against the evidence and the explanation of the prevailing theory.

So we arrive at our best theory to date by this means, we might as well use it.

We don't KNOW if it'll be true tomorrow but it's the best thing we've got.
If we thought we knew that we would be using induction.
But we do know it's the best theory anyone's come up with so far so why not use it? It's demonstrably better than any other theory that is known to us so far.

The point is that we didn't ARRIVE at the best (to date) theory by a process of induction, we got there through falsifying rival theories or discarding them becauase of their untenable explanations.

So there is no "induction problem" in the creation of knowledge in this way.

dHarry
27-04-2007, 05:04 PM
Russell's chickens are a red herring in the context of science and physics, because their situation is socio-political and psychological ("we are in the farmer's care and we trust him"). The farmer deciding to slaughter them tomorrow is a different concept to the sun/earth obeying the laws of physics (or not).

Here's a full set of lectures on the overall subject (philosophy of science, not chickens):
http://www.soc.iastate.edu/Sapp/phil_sci_lecture00.html

Edward
27-04-2007, 05:07 PM
Yeah, my post at 3:59 was basically just going a step deeper into things but not actually answering your point, you are right!
Hopefully the one above is a bit better....:)

Mr. Tea
27-04-2007, 05:08 PM
Russell's chickens are a red herring in the context of science and physics, because their situation is socio-political and psychological ("we are in the farmer's care and we trust him"). The farmer deciding to slaughter them tomorrow is a different concept to the sun/earth obeying the laws of physics (or not).


Sure, that's what I was saying, but Rich reckons the two situations are analogous (I think), in that there's no way the chickens can know that the farmer won't "arbitrarily" (from their point of view) slaughter them one day and we can't be sure - in a really logically watertight way - that the laws of physics won't arbitrarily change one day.

Have I got that more or less right, Rich?

Edward
27-04-2007, 05:08 PM
Russell's chickens are a red herring

I am a vegetarian but I eat fish.
Can I eat Russell's chickens?

Mr. Tea
27-04-2007, 05:10 PM
I am a vegetarian but I eat fish.
Can I eat Russell's chickens?

The you are not a vegetarian!
*gives you a slap* ;)

Edward
27-04-2007, 05:12 PM
It's just a philosophological question.

Mr. Tea
27-04-2007, 05:17 PM
Oh. Sorry.
Carry on.

IdleRich
27-04-2007, 05:20 PM
"The difference between the chicken's friend and Immyr's purple gas theory is that the theory about the farmer fattening up chickens for the slaughter comes with a good explanation"
It does for us but the point of the example (or at least other versions I've seen without the cynical chicken) is that what actually does happen is completely outside of their conception. Just like the purple gas is for us I guess.


"I think my explanation shows that (or is intended to show that!) scientific knowledge should be based on falsification and the best explanations available, not on induction.

Here is how theories get to be popular:
Someone invents a theory.
People argue about whether the theory's explanations seem likely.

........

......

So we arrive at our best theory to date by this means, we might as well use it"
All agreed, you are arriving at your theory without induction.


So there is no "induction problem" in the creation of knowledge in this way.
All true but (I think) you are still missing the deeper point. Given that we have (deductively, analytically, whatever) arrived at this theory, how do we generalise it to all time (and one second in the future and tomorrow)? Only by induction.

Ah, just read what Tea said - think it agrees with what I've said above right?

That's my point, we can't deduce that the laws won't magically change, only induct (or induce?).

I think that you (Edward) are tacitly acknowledging that with your Razor and by saying that "yes that theoretically may happen but there isn't any point in worrying about it because it probably won't and we can't predict it if it will anyway" - something with which I of course agree.

IdleRich
27-04-2007, 05:32 PM
"We don't KNOW if it'll be true tomorrow but it's the best thing we've got.
If we thought we knew that we would be using induction."
Sorry Edward, I missed this bit from your reply, but I would say that you are not avoiding using induction, you are actually using induction (because you generalise the theory to the future) but being aware that that may be logically flawed - I think that is subtly different in theory if not in practice.
Anyway, time to go home, have a good weekend all.

Edward
27-04-2007, 05:47 PM
If you really want to push it, I am using "induction" in that I am using my theory with no way of knowing that everything could change at any moment.

But I am doing it with my eyes open. I am not saying "my theory will remain true in the future because it was true in the past".

So I am not saying induction is true and valid.

I am using my theory as if induction were valid even though I know it isn't because it seems the best course of action open to me.

I'm happy with that because I know my theory wasn't arrived at by induction. This would not be a cool way to get to a good theory, as pointed out by Kuhn who thinks that scientific theories are reached by inductive means and that forms a large part of his critique of the basis of scientific knowledge.

IdleRich
28-04-2007, 05:03 PM
If you really want to push it, I am using "induction" in that I am using my theory with no way of knowing that everything could change at any moment.
But I am doing it with my eyes open. I am not saying "my theory will remain true in the future because it was true in the past".
So I am not saying induction is true and valid.
I am using my theory as if induction were valid even though I know it isn't because it seems the best course of action open to me.
All agreed - that's exactly what I'm saying really.

hundredmillionlifetimes
29-04-2007, 05:29 AM
Oh dear, oh dear! Popper, Kuhn - and no Foucault, no Badiou? [though I must confess that, as a teenager, I did read the former two, and much, much later, the latter two].

So, for example, what about the episteme, the condition of knowledge's possibility within a particular epoch, the historical a priori that grounds knowledge and its discourses?

"I would define the episteme retrospectively as the strategic apparatus which permits of separating out from among all the statements which are possible those that will be acceptable within, I won’t say a scientific theory, but a field of scientificity, and which it is possible to say are true or false. The episteme is the ‘apparatus’ which makes possible the separation, not of the true from the false, but of what may from what may not be characterised as scientific."===Foucault, Power/Knowledge, 1980.


Interesting how many here talk of "the one best current explanation" of phenomenon X, forgetting that in most cases contradictory theories of phenomenon X can very comfortably now co-exist: "While Kuhn's paradigm shifts are a consequence of a series of conscious decisions made by scientists to pursue a neglected set of questions, Foucault's epistemes are something like the 'epistemological unconscious' of an era; the configuration of knowledge in a particular episteme is based on a set of fundamental assumptions that are so basic to that episteme so as to be invisible to people operating within it. Moreover, Kuhn's concept seems to correspond to what Foucault calls theme or theory of a science, but Foucault analysed how opposing theories and themes could co-exist within a science. Kuhn doesn't search for the conditions of possibility of opposing discourses within a science, but simply for the (relatively) invariant dominant paradigm governing scientific research (supposing that one paradigm always is pervading, except under paradigmatic transition)."

Is it any wonder that the real of science, for so many, is increasingly the scientific method, the form, and not the seemingly meaningless equations it produces?

borderpolice
30-04-2007, 01:44 PM
Oh dear, oh dear! Popper, Kuhn - and no Foucault, no Badiou? [though I must confess that, as a teenager, I did read the former two, and much, much later, the latter two].

Neither Foucault nor Badiou have produced a serious investigation of science, when one understands the term science as referring to the physical sciences.


So, for example, what about the episteme, the condition of knowledge's possibility within a particular epoch, the historical a priori that grounds knowledge and its discourses?

well, what about the episteme then?

noting "retrospectively" that not every conveivable scientific theory that could have been put forward, had been put forward, is banal.
Going beyond the obvious and putting forward a convincint theory that connects social structure and scientific results -- while surely interesting --
is not something that Foucault got anywhere near (his contributions to a historical analysis of sexuality nonwithstanding).


Is it any wonder that the real of science, for so many, is increasingly the scientific method, the form, and not the seemingly meaningless equations it produces?

What is this supposed to say?

Tactics
30-04-2007, 02:05 PM
so I'll keep it simple

science (or should I say modern science) for me causes more trouble than whatever its original aims intend....and for another point I'll quote proverbs in the bible

"the first to speak is always correct till another come forward and question him" (I think that's it anyway lol)

sorry for interrupting another dissensian 'debate' lol

Mr. Tea
30-04-2007, 03:46 PM
science (or should I say modern science) for me causes more trouble than whatever its original aims intend...

Umm...whut? Care to be a little more specific?


and for another point I'll quote proverbs in the bible
Nice to see a good level of rationality being displayed in this thread!

Mr. Tea
30-04-2007, 03:48 PM
Is it any wonder that the real of science, for so many, is increasingly the scientific method, the form, and not the seemingly meaningless equations it produces?
SEEMINGLY meaningless? To whom? Well, the answer to that is "anyone not trained in that branch of science/mathematics", I suppose.

Russian and Arabic are "seemingly meaningless" to me because I don't speak them, but I wouldn't be so stupid as to claim that they actually are!

Also, I'm not too sure where you get this:


in most cases contradictory theories of phenomenon X can very comfortably now co-exist
Firstly, why "now"? Surely this situation was far more likely in the past, when empirical data was far scarcer and generally less precise? To ancient man, there was no test that could distinguish between heliocentric and geocentric astronomies, because they explained the observable facts equally well: from the late middle ages onwards, geocentric models had to be made more and more complicated to explain facts (eccentricities of orbits) that sat very comfortably with heliocentric models. Ever since then, people championing geocentric models have justifiably been derided as loonies.
Contradictory theories can only co-exist when there is insufficient data to decide between them. At the moment there is a debate as to whether neutrinos are Dirac or Majorana particles (obscure example, I know, but it's something I know a bit about), and experiments are underway that should answer the question in the next few years. Then one theory will become accepted (or, at any rate, more accepted, for the time being) and the other will be discarded, pending any future discoveries.

Edward
30-04-2007, 09:32 PM
Been reading more about Kuhn and Popper over the weekend....
I have yet to read Kuhn's "Structure" but I mean to.

For now, all I was attacking was his description of how new paradigms are arrived at - ie. he claims hypotheses are arrived at by induction. I wanted to show how scientific knowledge can move forward without resorting to induction as a means of selecting between hypotheses or generating them. I think some of what Popper wrote on this subject helped to find a way out of the induction problem.

I was interested in discussing epistemology more than "Kuhn vs Popper" -the famous debate in regard to how scienctists behave within academia, the more "sociological" or human aspects of scientific practise. It seems to have been blown out of all proportion in retrospect but I need to read more....

But I do want to read "Structure" because it seems to me that Kuhn is not what he is made out to be by his admirers... need to read the source and make up my own mind.

Reading about the Kuhn/Popper debate has made me think more about the way science is done in the real world, who decided what gets done, who are the important voices in the "peer group" that reveiews each others' work etc.
So I have more sympathy now to Zhao's initial point.

I still the the problem is not with Science (capital S) but with science (ie Tryptych's definition of science) ad I am coming to appreciate his point of view that you can't have one without the other (if that's what he was saying).

hundredmillionlifetimes
30-04-2007, 10:31 PM
Is it any wonder that the real of science, for so many, is increasingly the scientific method, the form, and not the seemingly meaningless equations it produces?

What is this supposed to say?


That it is not (scientific) knowledge itself - which is always fragile and contingent (and forever disputed) ie. is always "untrue" - but the method of science [and in spite of Feyerabend] that is regarded as The Truth (but which is actually the realm of - the metaphysics of - Desire).

To [very quickly] give two pertinent instances of this problematic under postmodernity:

From a review of Isabelle Stengers’ Cosmopolitiques: (http://www.shaviro.com/Blog/?p=401)


Stengers, like Bruno Latour, wants us to give up the claim to absolute supremacy that is the greatest legacy of post-Enlightenment modernity. The point is not to abandon science, nor to see it (in cultural-relativist terms) as lacking objective validity. The problem is not with science’s actual, particular positive claims; but rather with its pretensions to universality, its need to deny the validity of all claims and practices other than its own. What Stengers, rightly, wants to take down is the “mobilization” of science as a war machine, which can only make its positive claims by destroying all other discourses and points of view: science presenting itself as rational and as objectively “true,” whereas all other discourses are denounced as superstitious, irrational, grounded in mere “belief,” etc. Stengers isn’t opposing genetics research, for instance, but she is opposing the claim that somehow the “truth” of “human nature” can be found in the genome and nowhere else.

[Stengers is trying to characterize certain aspects of “scientific method” (i.e. repeatability of the results, confirmation that the results are not just an “artifact” of the scientific apparatus) in terms of what distinguishes science as a “practice,” or as a form of creativity and invention. She is trying to get at what, for scientists themselves, distinguishes science from other sorts of practices, without thereby endorsing the claim (made by scientists mostly when they are addressing public discourse, but not when they are actually involved in their own research) that science is thereby “true” in a way that no other discourses are or can be.]


More .. (http://www.shaviro.com/Blog/?p=401).

Pete Rollins: Creationism Is Scientific (http://www.ignite.cd/blogs/Pete/index.cfm?m=1&y=2007)


It is very popular, especially within the scientific community, to contrast the theory of evolution with the fundamentalist’s interpretation of Genesis as a six-day (or six-epoch) creation, via the claim that the former is properly scientific while the later is pre and/or anti-scientific. In response to this Creationists will generally counter with the claim that they follow the scientific approach rigorously. Indeed there are numerous fundamentalist institutions which spend vast sums of money attempting to debate evolutionary biologists purely on the basis of scientific research while there is a whole industry churning out books attempting to reach people on the basis of scientific principles. In fact, ID theory has attempted to move away completely from any explicit claims related to biblical hermeneutics in its attempt to focus purely upon what they see as the scientific method.

In this science verses fundamentalism debate I have to say that I side more with the Fundamentalists in their claim that they follow scientific procedures (and for this very reason seek to distance myself from them). At a very basic level the fundamentalist affirms (1) the same ontological outlook as that expressed in classical scientific method (2) that their views can, in principle, be proved via the same empirical processes as those affirmed by classical scientific theory and (3) that their views can be accepted on the same epistemological level as those affirmed by classical scientific method.

This means that beliefs such as a six-day creation, a fruit tree with the power to bestow knowledge of Good and Evil upon eating from it, a snake with the ability to talk, the transfiguration and the new Jerusalem descending from heaven all exist on the same mundane natural level as a phenomena such as snow falling on a winters evening and are, in principle, able to be proved true (or false) on scientific grounds (truth here being defined as ‘actual material occurrence’, i.e. if a video camera existed at the beginning we could have recorded the snake talking to Eve). Indeed the fundamentalist will hold to the principle of falsification (as well as accepting the usefulness of the ideal of striving for verification). If evidence were needed that this is the case we can turn to the fact that Creationists have long claimed that micro-evolution does indeed occur within species.

More than this, the fundamentalist accepts and applies the scientific principles of detachment, disinterestedness and objectivity when looking at scripture (for a paradigmatic example see Charles Hodges three volume work Systematic Theology). At its core Christian fundamentalism is profoundly scientific in its outlook and embraces the tools developed and employed by the empirical realist philosophers of the Enlightenment.

Of course, the Creationist can be seen to engage in bad science, and this is perhaps what evolutionary biologists are reacting against (even though they generally articulate their frustrations incorrectly). My point in this post is not to show why Christian fundamentalists engage in bad science but rather to draw out their reliance upon underlying, classical scientific principles.

Instead then of saying that evolutionism (by employing the ‘ism’ here I am referring to those who embrace a metaphysical naturalism which claims evolution as a fact) and creationism are opposed to one another, one can say that evolutionism and creationism are intimately joined together by their belief that reality is empirical and thus in the view that the only good beliefs are those which are factual. In a sense people like Dawkins and Harris are thus profoundly religious in the fundamentalist sense and thus closer to their supposed enemies than they think. As such the two sides of the debate can be productively described as analogous to that of the ‘two’ sides of a mobius strip, which are in fact one and the same side (as one discovers as they follow its contours).

Mr. Tea
30-04-2007, 11:39 PM
Hang on - you're not actually defending creationism/ID here, are you? I mean, seriously?

So-called 'Intelligent Design' is not science, or anything like science, for the following reason: it requires the existence of an Intelligent Designer, which must be God or some kind of being functionally equivalent to a god, and God is by definition supernatural. Science is an attempt to understand and explain natural phenomena in terms of natural laws, so any theory relying on the supernatural disqualifies itself from being science at the very first hurdle.

Edit: Stenger seems to have met physicists very different from the ones I know. The topic of the 'Arrow of Time' is one actively persued by many researchers, the second law of thermodynamics has nothing to do with anything as anthropocentric as epistemology (entropy is a physically-defined quantity), and as for quantum mechanics - well, I certainly don't have a problem with the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle and neither does any physicist I've met, and hidden-variable theory has never been anything more than a fringe theory at best. Perhaps she's constructed a time machine and sat in on the procedings of the Royal Society ca. 1870? Major straw-man-construction here, I think.

Edward
01-05-2007, 12:40 AM
another one bites the dust :rolleyes:

hundredmillionlifetimes
01-05-2007, 02:52 AM
another one bites the dust :rolleyes:

We'll assume you're referring to Mr Tea here, having once again radically misunderstood the texts quoted, though where this positions you is equally questionable. The text above was questioning empiricist fundamentalism, of whatever kind, not subscribing to any fundamentalism, which appears to be your affliction.

Scientific empiricism is YOUR God. Simply asserting that there is no supernatural God [which as rationalists we can all take for granted, since Spinoza and Nietzsche especially] is not the same as claiming that there is no God, the latter claim requiring the total, earth-shattering rejection of all Truth, all Ultimate Realities, including scientific ones. For science (or "creationism") - whether in the realm of the natural sciences or the human sciences - to claim privileged access to any such a reality, any such underlying order or structure to the world, any such absolute "truths", is for it to claim to be God, something even more destructive than supernatural fictions, because so much more plausable.

matt b
01-05-2007, 09:58 AM
http://www.marxists.org/reference/subject/philosophy/works/ge/feyerabe.htm

Mr. Tea
01-05-2007, 12:50 PM
Would you care to explain to me exactly how I've "radically misunderstood" the texts? Stenger in particular seems to think physicists lie awake at night tortured by apparent paradoxes or contradictions that were put to bed long ago. Anyone who considers 'creationism' to be science is fundamentally wrong, for the reasons I have stated; if postmodernists want to support it just to piss off scientists, well, that's up to them I guess.

On the other point, I believe that there is Truth 'out there', inasmuch as I believe the processes by which the universe works are, in principle, amenable to understanding by rational beings. Science (as it exists today, on Earth) is by no means a perfect tool for doing this, because scientists are humans and humans are fallible and limited, and it may be that no ultimate scientific truth can ever be reached, only better and better approximations to truth. I do, however, believe that science is the best thing we have for this job. (But not any other job: the most persistent straw man in this thread is the idea that science - in particular natural science - claims to be able to explain *everything*. I'm saying natural science can explain natural phenomena, *not* the behaviour of complex emergent systems where non-physical processes take place in physical systems. Note that this is not the same thing, by any means, as an actual physical dualism.)

I find the whole argument that "if you believe in rationality and empiricism it's actually the same as believing in God" to be smug, intentionally controversial and ultimately sophomoric.

borderpolice
01-05-2007, 02:44 PM
That it is not (scientific) knowledge itself - which is always fragile and contingent (and forever disputed) ie. is always "untrue" - but the method of science [and in spite of Feyerabend] that is regarded as The Truth (but which is actually the realm of - the metaphysics of - Desire).

This is confused and not well expressed. To summarise (and simplifying this complicated matter greatly):


The purpose of scientific theory is to improve the human ability to predict and hence to manipulate (parts of) the world.

Truth is gradual: scientific statement/theory A is more true than statement/theory B, the more working scientists argee easily that A is is more useful in their research (ultimatly: aids prediction more) than B. Not surprisingly, especially with fresh scientific statements, there's a lot of disagreement as to truth. This often changes over time as the community gets more familiar with the pros and cons of using a specific theory. It should be noted that there's never absolute agreement, and hence no absolute thruth, but often the circle of dissenters is small enough to be ignored or easily marginalised.

The choice between competing scientific theories does not need to be made, as long as all aid predictability. In practise, one of the existing theories tends to be simpler and or is better developed than its competitors and tends to gain dominance (partly because of external reasons, like competitors not getting enough funding), at least until something even better comes along.

A scientific statement is one that not only claims truth, <B>but also</B> comes with an associated set of conditions under which the truth claim can be evaluated <B>and retracted</B>. In mathematics the retraction conditions would be the inability to formalise a proof in ZF, or a counterexample, in physics the inability to reproduce experiments. It must be noted at this point that the conditions of retraction are usually not stated explictly. This is because they happen to change very slowly only, and are implicity accepted, hence there is no particular need to specify them every time.

Science is self-referential, circular: science investigates itself (and its methods) using the scientific methodology. The scientific methodology is consequently subject tochange, albeit usually only evolving slowly (because only rarely do people come up with improved methodologies.).



The superiority of science over other forms of discourse, like religion, then simply boils down to the empirical fact that science tends to be vastly better at prediction and facilitating manipulation. But that's an empirical and scientific statement, hence science, by definition, is willing to retract it. ;) For example the set of retraction conditions mentioned in (4) is one key differences between scientific statements and others: creationists are -- at least as far as i'm aware -- not prepared to state under which conditions they would discard their belief in the unquestionable authority of the old testament. scientists are perfectly happy to retract evolution theory, for example if the creationists come up with better predictions than the adherents of evolution.

Coming back to your claim: scientific results are often not at all fragile and unstable, just look at hellenistic science (and its rediscovery starting in the renaissance, to be concluded only in the 19th century), much of it is valid still today, over 2000 years later. Of course fresh scientific claims are much less stable. And some domains of the world, like the social or the time before the big bang, don't seem to admit stable scientific statements at all.

The importance of the scientific methodology is then simply the emprical fact that it has been very successful. Should that success come to an end, the scientific method as we know it now, will whither.

Mr. Tea
01-05-2007, 02:51 PM
The importance is then simply the emprical fact that it has been very successful.Should that success come to an end, the scientific method as we know it now, will whither.
That's a very good way of putting it: treat the scientific method itself a bit like a scientific theory, in that we shall continue to use it for as long as it is useful.

borderpolice
01-05-2007, 03:01 PM
I find the whole argument that "if you believe in rationality and empiricism it's actually the same as believing in God" to be smug, intentionally controversial and ultimately sophomoric.

It's an important part of religious rhetoric: it works like this: there are basically two forms of religion, call them religion for the smart (RSm) and religion for the stupid (RSt) for the sake of generating controversy.

RSm is very abstract and boils down to some variant of pantheism spiced up with a moral feel-good factor: "the universe exists, and we should all be nice to each other and if believing in god helps with this, then who could be against it?"

RSt is what priests teach in church: the content of the bible, the koran, what have you: "Homosexuality is bad, women should only have few sexual partners ...!". It is very concrete. It is very objectionable.

It is important to see that there is no connection between RSt and RSm, but most people confuse them. This is why adherents of religion often come out victorious from discussions with atheists. In discussion, defenders of religion essentially always argue for RSm, and then everyone cannot but agree with them, for who would say the universe doesn't exist. However when they go back to their churches, temples, mosques, they then argue for RSt, althought they themselves often don't really believe in the concrete teachings (the father of a friend of mine was a catholic archbishop -- and no I wont tell you which). But the prestige of having (semi-)successfully defened religion in discussion with atheists, with famous scientists carries over, because most people don't realise that the high-minded discussion was only about RSm, not about RSt.

In other words, this rhetorical technique is clever and parasitic: it uses the esteem of science in the defense of RSt. It's a clever technique: time and again atheists fall for it.

Mr. Tea
01-05-2007, 03:15 PM
Hmm. I've not seen it put like that before, although that makes a certain amount of sense. I would certainly defend a person's right to believe in and worship whatever god(s) s/he chooses to, as long as it doesn't infringe anyone else's basic rights - but I get along just fine without any god at all, as do most of the people I know.

What upsets me is when people explicitly or implicitly describe science as a 'religion' (as HMLT seems to be doing), as an 'ideology' (as one of the writers zhao alluded to called it), as a 'superstition' or some related terms. It is none of these things. Sure, sometimes it's not as objective as it likes to think it is, but it at least tries to be objective, which is more than can be said of any religion or ideology.

hundredmillionlifetimes
01-05-2007, 08:13 PM
Yes Matt b, quite right. Interesting how the empiricists here never mention Feyerabend.


This is confused and not well expressed

It is NOT. Rather, it is your failure to properly distinguish between knowledge [the scientific drive towards what is useful] and truth [the ultimate, the thing-in-itself, and so on, which is always the re-introduction of God] that is the source of your confusion.

The rest of your post is simple (Big Other) dogma, an empty appeal to Authority - viz science is aleays right because Science says so.

BTW, an interesting piece that examines the difference between knowledge and truth is Zizek's DESIRE: DRIVE = TRUTH: KNOWLEDGE (http://www.egs.edu/faculty/zizek/zizek-desire-drive-truth-knowledge.html), but not sufficiently empirical for your demands, predictably.



Would you care to explain to me exactly how I've "radically misunderstood" the texts? Stenger in particular seems to think physicists lie awake at night tortured by apparent paradoxes or contradictions that were put to bed long ago. Anyone who considers 'creationism' to be science is fundamentally wrong, for the reasons I have stated; if postmodernists want to support it just to piss off scientists, well, that's up to them I guess.

You attribute positions to Stenger and Rollins, quoted above, which are completely contrary to what they have very explicitly stated. They nowhere claim that creationism is science (but bad science); it is creationists/IDers who claim this - that is the problem, that is what pisses off scientists, they've "stolen" their precious Method!!

Regarding your other claims about Truth etc, can we take it that you completely reject Nietzsche's Parable of the Madman (http://www.historyguide.org/intellect/madman_i.html)? God may not exist, but he has not yet died for you ...


treat the scientific method itself a bit like a scientific theory, in that we shall continue to use it for as long as it is useful.

Except that it isn't just "theory"; its an ontological dogma.

matt b
01-05-2007, 09:26 PM
here's an interesting article about one of feyerabend's key arguments:
http://www.galilean-library.org/feyerabend.html

Mr. Tea
01-05-2007, 11:22 PM
You attribute positions to Stenger and Rollins, quoted above, which are completely contrary to what they have very explicitly stated. They nowhere claim that creationism is science (but bad science); it is creationists/IDers who claim this - that is the problem, that is what pisses off scientists, they've "stolen" their precious Method!!
Dude, for fuck's sake, Rollins' piece is titled "CREATIONISM IS SCIENTIFIC!" How could that be any more explicit? It's in block caps, bold face AND it's red! He goes on to say "...I have to say that I side more with the Fundamentalists in their claim that they follow scientific procedures..." and then gives reasons why he thinks this.
Stengers, on the other hand, claims physicists "can’t accept that total, deterministic knowledge is an impossibility" and that they "dismiss the apparent irreversibility of time". I can tell you, in a professional capacity, these claims are categorically false.

However, I should know better by now that to expect you to demonstrate an iota of consistency or intellectual honesty whenever you paste vast swathes of other people's writing in the belief it proves a point and then tell people they're wrong when they make comments on it.



Except that it isn't just "theory"; its an ontological dogma.
From Wiktionary:

Dogma (the plural is either dogmata or dogmas, Greek δόγμα, plural δόγματα) is the established belief or doctrine held by a religion, ideology or any kind of organization, thought to be authoritative and not to be disputed or doubted.
Science is NOT dogma. Dogma sets itself up as beyond question: the reason the scientific method has not been seriously challenged as the best method for gathering and organising information about the world is that no better method has ever been discovered.

Mr. Tea
01-05-2007, 11:28 PM
Oh, and will you please stop wibbling on about God? This is meant to be a thread about science and the scientific method, and it's getting tiresome.

hundredmillionlifetimes
02-05-2007, 01:53 AM
In a post some months ago, I stated that I would not be responding to any more of Mr Tea's abusive, paranoid ravings directed at myself, partly in the vain hope that he would come to his senses. But his deranged response here, no different in form to that of a crazed Christian fundamentalist, to my mistake of breaking my rule and engaging with him in a post above now further, and sadly, confirms the impossibility of such an outcome.

Is this the future of these science "professionals"?

Evidently.

[Claiming that Rollins and Spenger literally view creationism as "scientific" is like claiming that Jonathan Swift was (literally) advocating cannibalism in A Modest Proposal. But that's what empirical fascism leads to ...]

hundredmillionlifetimes
02-05-2007, 02:25 AM
Oh, and though needless to add for some here, it is the empiricists who keep (re)introducing God into this discussion, by rigidly insisting that the Scientific Method is The Truth, is The Ultimate Reality, cluelessly substituting a science god for a supernatural one, which was the reason for citing Nietzsche's Parable of the Madman, completly lost on these ostensibly scientific "atheists".

But I think the problem has been well articulated and sumarised on Dissensus in the past, as this K-punk post demonstrates:


Few human beings have managed to be atheists. (http://www.dissensus.com/showpost.php?p=1391&postcount=1)

Nietzsche's parable of the 'Death of God', it should be remembered, was aimed not at the theists, but at 'those who did not believe in God.' It is they who mock the madman for proclaiming God's death... why is this important? Why is the madman concerned with something that is of no consequence, that every educated person takes for granted?

But Nietzsche very well knew that these 'educated people', these advocates of 'modern ideas' were very far from having processed the implications of the most important event in human history. The erasure of God meant the evacuation of every existing human value, it meant thinking of human beings, as Nietzsche tried to, as dying animals on a doomed planet, as a cosmic accident of no more significance or meaning than bacteria growing on a toilet bowl.

Who could live (with) that thought? Not Nietzsche himself, whose breakdown was surely precipitated by his failure to rise to the challenge of being a 'positive nihilist', to create a new human entity capable of living in and with this terrible vacancy. Living in it --- and still affirming life.

One of Nietzsche's keenest readers was H. P. Lovecraft. The genius of Lovecraft was to have constructed a fictional system which, however fantastic, was utterly devoid of supernaturalism and which was unstinting in its rejection of the Aristolean-theistic-vitalistic conception that life, and particularly human life, is of special value. Like the Freud of Beyond the Pleasure Principle, Lovecraft retreats from Nietzsche's priapic vitalism (what, as John Gray says, is Nietzsche's hymning to the efflorescent creativty of life if not Christianity in another form?) to Schopenhauer's withering pessimism.

I would urge everyone to read the translation of Houllbecq's Contre le Monde, Contre le Vie, at Undercurrent (http://blog.urbanomic.com/undercurrent/archives/houellebecq-lovecraft.rtf). The following section is particularly noteworthy for our purposes:

'Lovecraft knows there’s nothing to this world. And he plays the role of the loser every time. In theory as in practice. He has lost his childhood, he has equally lost his faith. The world disgusts him, and he sees no reason to suppose that things could be presented otherwise, by looking on the bright side. He considers all religions equally compromised by their ‘saccharine illusions’, rendered obsolete by the progress of scientific knowledge. In his periods of exceptional good humour, he will speak of an ‘enchanted circle’ of religious belief; but this is a circle from which he feels, in every way, banished.
Very few will have been at this point of saturation, penetrated right to the marrow by the absolute void of every human aspiration. The universe is merely a chance arrangement of elementary particles. A transitory image in the midst of chaos. Which will end with the inevitable: The human race will disappear. Other races will appear, and disappear in turn. The heavens are cold and empty, traversed by the faint light of half-dead stars. Which, also, will disappear. Everything disappears. And human actions are just as random and senseless as the movements of elementary particles. Good, evil, morality, fine sentiments? Pure “victorian fictions”. There is only egotism. Cold, undiluted and dazzling.
Lovecraft is well aware of the depressing nature of these conclusions. As he wrote in 1918, “all rationalism tends to minimize the value and importance of life, and to diminish the total quantity of human happiness. In some cases the truth could cause suicide, or at least precipitate a near-suicidal depression.”

His atheistic and materialist convictions would not change at all. They were reprised in letter after letter, with an almost masochistic delectation.

Of course, life has no meaning. But neither does death. And this is one of the things that chills the blood when one discovers Lovecraft’s universe. The death of his heroes has no meaning. It brings no relief. It doesn’t bring the story to a conclusion, not at all. Implacably, HPL destroys his characters without suggesting more than the dismemberment of a puppet. Indifferent to their wretched comings and goings, the cosmic fear continues to grow. It expands and articulates itself. The Great Cthulhu arises from his slumber.

What is the Great Cthulhu? An arrangement of electrons, like ourselves. The terror of Lovecraft is rigorously materialist. But it is strongly possible, from the free play of cosmic forces, that the Great Cthulhu has at his disposal a force and a power of action considerably superior to ours. Which is not, a priori, anything especially reassuring.'

Yes, yes.. this is atheism.

tryptych
02-05-2007, 04:27 AM
Been reading more about Kuhn and Popper over the weekend....
I have yet to read Kuhn's "Structure" but I mean to.

For now, all I was attacking was his description of how new paradigms are arrived at - ie. he claims hypotheses are arrived at by induction. I wanted to show how scientific knowledge can move forward without resorting to induction as a means of selecting between hypotheses or generating them. I think some of what Popper wrote on this subject helped to find a way out of the induction problem.

I was interested in discussing epistemology more than "Kuhn vs Popper" -the famous debate in regard to how scienctists behave within academia, the more "sociological" or human aspects of scientific practise. It seems to have been blown out of all proportion in retrospect but I need to read more....

But I do want to read "Structure" because it seems to me that Kuhn is not what he is made out to be by his admirers... need to read the source and make up my own mind.

Reading about the Kuhn/Popper debate has made me think more about the way science is done in the real world, who decided what gets done, who are the important voices in the "peer group" that reveiews each others' work etc.
So I have more sympathy now to Zhao's initial point.


Edward - very sorry if you felt my tone was aggressive, it wasn't meant to be at all!

Ok.. where to begin. The problem with Popper and falsification is that it doesn't get round induction at all. To re-present my claim that falsification is "reverse" induction, let me use your phrasing:


The problem of induction:
just because an experiment gave a result 100 times in a row, we have no right to assume it will be the same on the 101st attempt. so we should not use this method to create theories.


Notice how we can swap "induction" with "falsification" and "create" with "falsify" - if an experimental result goes against a theory (thereby falsifying it), 100 times in a row, we have no right to assume it will be the same on the 101st attempt.

I think this quote from the wikipedia Popper entry which ties in with what IdleRich and Edward have worked towards in their debate:


Among his contributions to philosophy is his attempt to answer the philosophical problem of induction. The problem, in basic terms, can be understood by example: just because the sun has risen every day for as long as anyone can remember, doesn't mean that there is any rational reason to believe it will rise tomorrow. There is no rational way to prove that a pattern will continue in the future just because it has in the past. Popper's reply is characteristic, and ties in with his criterion of falsifiability. He states that while there is no way to prove that the sun will come up, we can theorise that it will. If it does not come up, then it will be disproven, but since right now it seems to be consistent with our theory, the theory is not disproven.

While this may be a true description of the pragmatic approach to theorizing adopted by the scientific method, it does not actually address the philosophical problem. As Stephen Hawking explains, "No matter how many times the results of experiments agree with some theory, you can never be sure that the next time the result will not contradict the theory."[6] While it may be pragmatically useful to accept a theory until it is falsified, this does not solve the philosophical problem of induction. As Bertrand Russell put it, "the general principles of science . . . are believed because mankind have found innumerable instances of their truth and no instances of their falsehood. But this affords no evidence for their truth in the future, unless the inductive principle is assumed."[7] In essence, Popper addressed justification for belief that the sun will rise tomorrow, not justification for the fact that it will, which is the crux of the philosophical problem. Said another way, Popper addressed the psychological causes of our belief in the validity of induction, not the logical reasons for it.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karl_Popper#Problem_of_Induction

Given the above, the problem of induction still exists. Which takes us back to Kuhn - I didn't originally invoke Kuhn because of his position on induction, but because of his alternative view of science as being close to Zhao's original point.

I don't think it's your reading of Popper that's wrong - it's your reading of Kuhn. Looking back now you seem to have been arguing that Kuhn was arguing for induction as if it was "good" way to do science, and Popper was trying to find an alternative method instead (now I can see why you thought Lakatos was supporting Popper against Kuhn... which confused me when you wrote it!)

The point about different paradigms is that science doesn't move forward in any meaningful sense - there is no absolute truth vs Popper's claim of "there is a truth, and although we can never reach it we are getting closer and closer". If you feel some sympathy to what Zhao and Lyotard say, then you will have sympathy with Kuhn too (for the record I do think Kuhn was a relativist, certainly in Structure.. despite his later denial of it).

Along with The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, if you want to get a bit deeper into the debate it's worth reading Kuhn's The Essential Tension which is various essays that flesh things out, and if i recall the Lakatos & Musgrave edited Criticism and the Growth of Knowledge is worth a look too - various people writing on Kuhn.

Given that Popper's work has somewhat fallen out of favour among philosophers of science, and they've not all switched to the Kuhnian/social epistemology/relativist side of the debate, 3rd way... which is scientific realism and it's appeal to "inference to the best explanation" or abduction rather than induction as the way in which science progresses, which you might be interested in, Edward.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific_realism

Happy hunting! ;)



I still the the problem is not with Science (capital S) but with science (ie Tryptych's definition of science) ad I am coming to appreciate his point of view that you can't have one without the other (if that's what he was saying).

What I was saying is that there is no such think as Science - there is only science, in those terms. Science (with a capital S) is an abstract ideal, that scientists like to think they are doing, when they are doing science. There's still good and bad science - bad science is just even further away from Science than good science is. Does that make sense...?

In terms of Zhao's original post, Science is the "beyond narrative" ideal that actual (narrative) science pretends to be.

tryptych
02-05-2007, 05:06 AM
Interesting how many here talk of "the one best current explanation" of phenomenon X, forgetting that in most cases contradictory theories of phenomenon X can very comfortably now co-exist: "While Kuhn's paradigm shifts are a consequence of a series of conscious decisions made by scientists to pursue a neglected set of questions, Foucault's epistemes are something like the 'epistemological unconscious' of an era; the configuration of knowledge in a particular episteme is based on a set of fundamental assumptions that are so basic to that episteme so as to be invisible to people operating within it. Moreover, Kuhn's concept seems to correspond to what Foucault calls theme or theory of a science, but Foucault analysed how opposing theories and themes could co-exist within a science. Kuhn doesn't search for the conditions of possibility of opposing discourses within a science, but simply for the (relatively) invariant dominant paradigm governing scientific research (supposing that one paradigm always is pervading, except under paradigmatic transition)."



Where's this quote from...?

My reading of Kuhn would not be that paradigm shifts are a consequence series of conscious decisions made by scientists. The critical thing for Kuhn is that what paradigm is accepted and appropriate at a certain time in history is due to how well it answers the (often unspoken) questions posed at that time by society - which I would call the "epistemological unconscious" (IIRC Kuhn talks about earlier scientific paradigms having to include assumptions about the existence of God as an example of this - paradigms without such not being acceptable). Basically, I think it's a rather unkind reading - it's fair to say that he isn't searching out those conditions of possibility of discourse, but he is definately aware of them, althought doesn't frame it in those terms.

Minor point, I know...

IdleRich
02-05-2007, 10:38 AM
I think this quote from the wikipedia Popper entry which ties in with what IdleRich and Edward have worked towards in their debate:
You put it much better, thanks.

borderpolice
02-05-2007, 12:08 PM
It is NOT. Rather, it is your failure to properly distinguish between knowledge [the scientific drive towards what is useful] and truth [the ultimate, the thing-in-itself, and so on, which is always the re-introduction of God] that is the source of your confusion.

The rest of your post is simple (Big Other) dogma, an empty appeal to Authority - viz science is aleays right because Science says so.


Simple dogma? Appeal to authority? An empty one even? Hahaha! Quite some dismissal! All the more impressive and forceful as it comes from a man who goes "Zizek this", "Badiou that" in just about every sentence. Anyway, enough of these trivial matters.

Where do you get the idea from that "science is aleays right because Science says so"? Surely not from what I wrote, because I hold the opposite prosition, namely that science so far has always been partially wrong. Why? Because if science had already been right, there would be no need for scientific progress, but science evolves over time, as we can easily observe, hence science has always found problems with itself. it's quite simple really. The interesting bit is the self-referentiality of this: science finds itself wanting, according to its own criteria. So science works like the ship in the famous metaphor: it rebuilds itself while sailing on the ocean, using its own parts, and bits it finds floating in the water.

Moreover, why do you assume that there is a thing in itself? This is far from clear. I accept that the assumption of things in themselve is a ubiquitous simplification, that helps structuring one's though, but that's not a warrant for identification of truth with thing in itself. Finally, "useful" is itself socially constructed, and in more complicated cases usefulness can often only be conceived with reference to scientfic results (e.g. belief in the usefulness of reducing carbon emissions is itself based upon the correctness of causal claims about the connection between climate change, its dangers and carbon emissions, which are highly dependent upon the scientific method, in particular empirical studies). Concepts like thruth, knowledge, observation, scientific methods and so on are based upon each other in a circular way.

Finally, exactly what value does it have to identify the thing in itself with god? For a start the latter seems to have a beard!


DESIRE: DRIVE = TRUTH: KNOWLEDGE (http://www.egs.edu/faculty/zizek/zizek-desire-drive-truth-knowledge.html)

I don't see where this piece makes a any sustained and serious investigation into the matter of truth versus knowledge. Could you be so kind as to flesh out for me how, for example, Zizek's discussion specialises, to the well-known and often discussed problems of truth/knowledge in the narrow (hence more easily circumscribed) areas of (1) axiomatic foundations of mathematics or (2) quantum mechanics, or, if you are more ambitious (3) sociology? I would find that very helpful for my understanding of your position since I'm much more familiar with these fields than with Lacanian psychoanalysis.

Mr. Tea
02-05-2007, 01:20 PM
But his deranged response here, no different in form to that of a crazed Christian fundamentalist...


OK, OK, I get it: my belief/faith in science/'Absolute Truth' (allegedly) is so spookily akin to the belief of a religious person in God (to the extent that I am a 'fundamentalist'!) that, to me, scientific Truth somehow *is* God. Right? Is that your position? Well I shan't wait for a response because you're obviously going to tell me I've got it wrong, but it seems to me to be a fairly reasonable summary of your position.

Now, who else would agree with your above definition of 'God'? Almost certainly not anyone whose job it is to know about God (a vicar, priest, mullah, guru, rabbi, the Pope, you name it) and certainly no-one whose job it is to know about science (e.g. me). So just you, then.

I should make it clear that most scientists do not really regard their profession as being principally about seeking 'Absolute Truth' - that's more the realm of mathematicians. My position is that the Universe operates according laws which are, in principle, discoverable to intelligent beings regardless of what sort of culture they may come from, and that although they may express those laws in very different ways, their interpretations of them would nonetheless be equivalent. That is to say, on some other planet where a species has reached the same level of development as ours, there will have been an alien Galileo, an alien Newton, an Einstein, a Heisenberg and so on. So you could call that the discovery of Truths. Whether it is possible ever to atain 'absolute' truth (in science), I don't know: in fact, I would be rather doubtful of that.



[Claiming that Rollins and Spenger literally view creationism as "scientific" is like claiming that Jonathan Swift was (literally) advocating cannibalism in A Modest Proposal. But that's what empirical fascism leads to ...]
Ahh, here we go again..."They're not actualy saying that, you imbecile! They're just saying it!"
Silly old fascist me. *slaps forehead*

Edit: is it just me or does HMLT like to use the word 'fascist' as a sort of meaningless catch-all insult? A bit like the way a five-year-old might call someone a 'poo-poo-head'. Just a thought...

Edit edit: just seen this on another messageboard - slight simplification, but I quite like it: http://www.wellingtongrey.net/miscellanea/archive/2007-01-15&#37;20--%20science%20vs%20faith.png :)

hundredmillionlifetimes
03-05-2007, 06:03 PM
Simple dogma? Appeal to authority? An empty one even? Hahaha! Quite some dismissal! All the more impressive and forceful as it comes from a man who goes "Zizek this", "Badiou that" in just about every sentence.

But it is an appeal to empty authority, and a transcendent one to boot: Science as Ultimate Truth. Again, science as God.

But science, the scientific drive, is indifferent to such notions: it does not concern itself with truth, but with necessary fictions (knowledge).

Quoting such philosophers here is far from making such an appeal to empty authority, or to a Subject Supposed To Know, but a serious engagement with their reasoning.


Where do you get the idea from that "science is always right because Science says so"? Surely not from what I wrote, because I hold the opposite prosition, namely that science so far has always been partially wrong. Why? Because if science had already been right, there would be no need for scientific progress, but science evolves over time, as we can easily observe, hence science has always found problems with itself. it's quite simple really.

It isn't at all simple, and that "science is always right because Science says so " is precisely what you believe; you even repeat it again in the above paragraph: even when science is "wrong", its ... right!!

Evolution as progress? Very ninteenth century, borderpolice, that fanciful notion that evolution is a progress towards something, progress according to some inexorable "law of nature" (there are no laws of nature, borderpolice), some unstopable historical development guaranteeing a Final, ultimate reality. That's not science, that's belief in a transcendent God (scientific humanism).


Moreover, why do you assume that there is a thing in itself?

I don't, you do: you believe that there is not only an ultimate truth, an ultimate reality, but that it can be, eventually will be (thanks to "progress"), directly accessed, thanks to "scientific progress" and its imagined engine, scientific empiricism.


Finally, exactly what value does it have to identify the thing in itself with god? For a start the latter seems to have a beard!

???????????? Because the "thing-in-itself", truth, objectivity, final reality, structure and order, IS God, is ALWAYS God. And this, despite the fact that many (ostensible) atheists believe in truth, objectivity, etc.

Your difficulty is that your idea of God is narrowly restricted to the supernatural, to the personal or transcendent, anthropomorphic God in the cool hippy beard [and the related belief, that those who reject such a God are ipso facto scientific empiricists]. What you are rejecting here is theism: a theistic God is such a transcendent God; and you are then, as with others here, both defining as an atheist anyone who does not believe in a theistic God and (implicitly) anything not empirical as supernatural. What then, of all those religious (eg those for whom God = Immanence) who reject such a notion of God, are they "atheists" too? They are indeed!!



I don't see where this piece makes any sustained and serious investigation into the matter of truth versus knowledge.

You don't?


Of course, the concrete organization of the scientific apparatus, up to its most abstract conceptual schemas, is socially "mediated," but the whole game of discerning a patriarchal, Eurocentric, mechanistic, nature-exploiting bias to modern science does not really concern science, the drive which effectuates itself in the operation of the scientific machine. Heidegger's position seems here utterly ambiguous; perhaps, it is all too easy to dismiss him as the most sophisticated proponent of the thesis that science a priori misses the dimension of truth. Didn't he claim that "science doesn't think," i.e. that it is by definition unable to reflect its own philosophical foundation, the hermeneutic horizon of its functioning, and, furthermore, that this incapacity, far from playing the role of an impediment, is a positive condition of possibility of its smooth functioning? His crucial point is rather that modern science, as such, cannot be reduced to some limited, ontical, "socially conditioned" option (expressing the interests of a certain social group, etc.), but is rather the real of our historical moment, that which "remains the same" in all possible ("progressive" and "reactionary," "technocratic" and "ecological," "patriarchal" and "feminist") symbolic universes. Heidegger is thus well aware that all fashionable "critiques of science" according to which science is a tool of Western capitalist domination, of patriarchal oppression, etc., fall short and thus leave unquestioned the "hard kernel" of the scientific drive. Lacan obliges us to add that science is perhaps "real" in an even more radical sense: it is the first (and probably unique) case of a discourse that is strictly nonhistorical even in the Heideggerian sense of the historicity of the epochs of Being, i.e. epochs whose functioning is inherently indifferent to the historically determined horizons of the disclosure of Being. Precisely insofar as science "doesn't think," it knows, ignoring the dimension of truth, and is as such drive at its purest. Lacan's supplement to Heidegger would thus be: why should this utter "forgetting of Being" at work in modern science be perceived only as the greatest "danger? Does it not contain also a "liberating" dimension? Is not the suspension of ontological Truth in the unfettered functioning of science already a kind of "passing through" and "getting over" the metaphysical closure?

Mr. Tea
03-05-2007, 06:34 PM
But it is an appeal to empty authority, and a transcendent one to boot: Science as Ultimate Truth. Again, science as God.
Where the hell do you get this idea? Science is not 'Ultimate Truth'. It is an attempt to elucidate the ways in which the natural world operates. Call these 'Truths' if you like. The phrase 'Ultimate Truth' implies a discovery which, once made, would make all subsequent discoveries redundant. I seriously doubt any real scientist expects this will ever happen. You're building up science to be much more than it really is simply in order to attack it - you're "al-Qa'ida-ising" it.


It isn't at all simple, and that "science is always right because Science says so " is precisely what you believe; you even repeat it again in the above paragraph: even when science is "wrong", its ... right!!

So by that criterion, any piece of science that doesn't uncover "Ultimate Truth" is "bad" or "wrong" science? Phew, that's quite a tall order! Let me put it this way: Newton's laws of motion are "wrong" in the sense that they take into account neither quantum mechanics nor relativity. But they're still science par excellence because under a specific set of circumstances - objects composed of many particles moving at much less than the speed of light - they are absolutely correct. At some fundamental level, they embody a Truth (all the moreso since they were derived from mathematical reasoning more than empiral/inductive observation).


Evolution as progress?
Ahh, that fashionable po-mo disdain for 'progress'!


(there are no laws of nature, borderpolice)

Would you therefore care to explain to me why the universe is amenable to rational understanding at all?
Why a ball thrown up in the air will follow a trajectory that can be precisely predicted using Newton's Laws, and doesn't simply move around however it pleases, disappear or turn into a butterfly?
If you want to say "all laws of nature are human constructs", I'd be happy with that, as long as we admit that there is some concrete link between them and the real, physical, tangible universe. After all, religion, philosophy and society are all human constructs, and they most definitely exist.

Tactics
04-05-2007, 01:47 PM
Umm...whut? Care to be a little more specific?

Nice to see a good level of rationality being displayed in this thread!

trust me you can laugh but...I'll rather laugh at modern science! all the arguing in this thread won't achieve anything

but still...it sorta reminds me of the point of modern science...lol!

look...the suns out...I'm off to activate some vitamin D and stimulate my pineal...an actual activity with a point

enjoy yourself

p.s you did actually smack it on that pie though...I can't lie

borderpolice
04-05-2007, 04:54 PM
But it is an appeal to empty authority, and a transcendent one to boot: Science as Ultimate Truth. Again, science as God.

But science, the scientific drive, is indifferent to such notions: it does not concern itself with truth, but with necessary fictions (knowledge).

I can't work out if this is supposed to represent my position, caricature it, or a statement of your's.


Quoting such philosophers here is far from making such an appeal to empty authority, or to a Subject Supposed To Know, but a serious engagement with their reasoning.

How about conducting this exchange under the friendly assumption that I am also seriously engaged with science and its status?


It isn't at all simple, and that "science is always right because Science says so " is precisely what you believe; you even repeat it again in the above paragraph: even when science is "wrong", its ... right!!

I am unable to recognize my position here. Maybe you confuse my position with somebody else's?


Evolution as progress? Very ninteenth century, borderpolice, that fanciful notion that evolution is a progress towards something, progress according to some inexorable "law of nature" (there are no laws of nature, borderpolice), some unstopable historical development guaranteeing a Final, ultimate reality. That's not science, that's belief in a transcendent God (scientific humanism).

I am unable to recognize my position here. Maybe you confuse my position with somebody else's?



I don't, you do: you believe that there is not only an ultimate truth, an ultimate reality, but that it can be, eventually will be (thanks to "progress"), directly accessed, thanks to "scientific progress" and its imagined engine, scientific empiricism.

I am unable to recognize my position here. Maybe you confuse my position with somebody else's?



???????????? Because the "thing-in-itself", truth, objectivity, final reality, structure and order, IS God, is ALWAYS God. And this, despite the fact that many (ostensible) atheists believe in truth, objectivity, etc.

No it is not, unless you equate god and the thing in itself. But then your claims are semantic trivialities. I am well aware of the pantheistic position but reject it, because i don't see the cognitive benefit of this semantic equivocation. Hence my question, which, incidentally, you have not answered. So let me ask again: Exactly what value does it have to identify the thing in itself with god?



Your difficulty is that your idea of God is narrowly restricted to the supernatural, to the personal or transcendent, anthropomorphic God in the cool hippy beard [and the related belief, that those who reject such a God are ipso facto scientific empiricists].

What you are rejecting here is theism: a theistic God is such a transcendent God; and you are then, as with others here, both defining as an atheist anyone who does not believe in a theistic God and (implicitly) anything not empirical as supernatural. What then, of all those religious (eg those for whom God = Immanence) who reject such a notion of God, are they "atheists" too? They are indeed!!


This is not at all my position. Let me sketch it.


I believe that there is no coherent concept of god. Believers use that term in many different ways, that cannot be abstracted into a simple concept encompassing all of this.

This lack of consensus about what gods are is not accidental, but a direct consequence of the evolution of religion over the millenia, and directly related to its social function.

Nevertheless one can discern some degree of similarity in a significant part of religious discourse. Current theorising of religion summerises this bit as "the re-entry of the distinction between immanence and transcendence into immanence". This is fairly abstract and presumably a little hard to comprehend for the uninitiated, so let me simplify it for a lay audience: gods are paradoxica/incomprehensible things about which we cannot in principle say anything, but we talk about them anyway. Defusiing this foundational paradox is an important task in the reproduction of religion and achieved in various ways, like for example rituals.

It is empirically undeniable that pantheists are considered atheists by most religions. Hence those that have the best authority to decide on what gods may be (the believers) reject your equivocation. This puts your equivocation in a pretty weak position, hence my question: exactly what are the cognitive benefits of equating god and thing in itself/immanence/the universe. Why not equate god and love (as is quite fashionable now), of god and potatoes?

Let me elaborate on the previous point: you claim that my position (which you don't understand) is unable to account for non-theistic religions; counterquestion: how does your pantheisitic position account for the majority of world religions that stipulate personal, supernatural gods?


You don't?

No, not at all. You might see why if you try and explain to me "how, for example, Zizek's discussion specialises, to the well-known and often discussed problems of truth/knowledge in the narrow (hence more easily circumscribed) areas of (1) axiomatic foundations of mathematics or (2) quantum mechanics, or, if you are more ambitious (3) sociology? I would find that very helpful for my understanding of your position since I'm much more familiar with these fields than with Lacanian psychoanalysis."

Let me close this post by requestion to talk less about gods and more about science.

tryptych
04-05-2007, 05:23 PM
This puts your equivocation in a pretty weak position, hence my question: exactly what are the cognitive benefits of equating god and thing in itself/immanence/the universe. Why not equate god and love (as is quite fashionable now), of god and potatoes?


thing-in-itself is transcendent, not immanent...?




No, not at all. You might see why if you try and explain to me "how, for example, Zizek's discussion specialises, to the well-known and often discussed problems of truth/knowledge in the narrow (hence more easily circumscribed) areas of (1) axiomatic foundations of mathematics or (2) quantum mechanics, or, if you are more ambitious (3) sociology? I would find that very helpful for my understanding of your position since I'm much more familiar with these fields than with Lacanian psychoanalysis."


I imagine HMLT's relutance to engage with that has something to do with the fact that any definitions or concepts of truth/knowledge produced within such admittedly narrow areas are not necessarily (and possibly never) applicable outside those areas.

I'm guessing that Lacanian's are interested in some more universal, and ontological (as opposed to ontic). Although I could be wrong, as it's not my field either...

Back to the science - I'm sort of interested, and it might help clafiry the debate if I knew what position borderpolice and Mr Tea take on science - HMLT assumes your empiricists, but I'm guessing some form of scientific realism is closer...

Mr. Tea
04-05-2007, 05:24 PM
Let me close this post by requestion to talk less about gods and more about science.
Blimey, there's a hell of an echo in here... :)

Mr. Tea
04-05-2007, 05:52 PM
Back to the science - I'm sort of interested, and it might help clafiry the debate if I knew what position borderpolice and Mr Tea take on science - HMLT assumes your empiricists, but I'm guessing some form of scientific realism is closer...

That's a perfectly reasonable question and one I hope to answer, although it might be tricky for me to do so in the terms being discussed here because I am a scientist and not a philosopher of science, so there are terms that I'm bound to misunderstand, or use in a different jargon to you and others.
Aaaanyway, I would say my position is that empiricism is very useful in science, since induction, which is based on empirical observations, is the basis of a scientific outlook - the most basic kind of science consists of noticing patterns in nature, and then formulating 'laws' which can then be used to make predictions. A more mature kind of science relies on deduction as well, in the form of logical (and especially mathematical) reasoning used (usually in conjuction with empirical data as well) to formulate laws. Both kinds of law - those based more on induction, and those based more on a priori logical/mathematical reasoning - are then subjected to empirical verification. So without empiricism, science is nothing, I think - although there's far more to science than *just* empiricism.

As regards the idea of 'ultimate reality' or 'ultimate Truth', I'd have to say I think the universe works perfectly well in the absence of any human attempts to observe or understand it, and that to assert otherwise is anthropocentric in the extreme (as embodied in the way the 'Copenahagen interpretation' of quantum mechanics has basically been discared by all serious thinkers in the field, and cosmological models are routinely attacked for being 'anthropic'). As I said before, I have no problem with the idea of laws of nature being human constructs per se on the basis that a) there is some concrete connection between these 'laws' and the thing-in-itself, the real live functioning Universe of objects and energy and phenomena; and b) that plenty of things that are undoubtably human constructs nonetheless exist. I feel perfectly happy saying this because although I'm obviously a scientist through-and-through, I'm not a reductionist, e.g. I think you'd have a hard time deriving Darwinian evolution from the laws of physics. Furthermore, for HMLT to constantly assert that I believe in 'God' simply because I believe there is an objective universe and that science can have at least some (probably never total or ultimate, as I keep re-iterating) success accessing this through empirical observation and rational analysis is laughable and, as borderpolice says, in contradiction to the idea the vast majority of people in the world have of 'God'. God, by definition, is supernatural - or at the very least 'trans-natural', i.e. occurring in a conceptual realm outside or beyond that of natural phenomena - while science is attempt to understand the natural world by natural means.

Does this make any sense? I'm sort of pouring my brain out on the keyboard here, sorry if it's not too coherent.

hundredmillionlifetimes
06-05-2007, 05:05 AM
Scientific Ecstasy?

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/graphics/2007/04/27/uhawking2.jpg


Let me close this post by requesting to talk less about gods and more about science.

In contrast, let me open with Borderpolice's sign-off by trivially drawing attention to the title of this thread, "critiques of science" (as opposed to "worshippers of science" etc) related to which a discussion of religious discourse is especially relevant, particularly when there are those who seek to elevate science to the status of an exclusivist religion (Dawkins etc, and some posters here, apparently).

{ But perhaps, for levity's sake, I should have started with this piece of Jack Torrence-style - realist poetics interluding - amusement:


I am unable to recognize my position here. Maybe you confuse my position with somebody else's?
I am unable to recognize my position here. Maybe you confuse my position with somebody else's?
I am unable to recognize my position here. Maybe you confuse my position with somebody else's?

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no ploy makes Jack a dull boy.
All work and no play makes Jack a dull toy. [An otherwise Realist poet, Jack was noted for his arbitrary grammatical innovations ...]. }






???????????? Because the "thing-in-itself", truth, objectivity, final reality, structure and order, IS God, is ALWAYS God. And this, despite the fact that many (ostensible) atheists believe in truth, objectivity, etc.

No it is not, unless you equate god and the thing in itself. But then your claims are semantic trivialities. I am well aware of the pantheistic position but reject it, because i don't see the cognitive benefit of this semantic equivocation. Hence my question, which, incidentally, you have not answered. So let me ask again: Exactly what value does it have to identify the thing in itself with god?

First, it is belief in such things as a "thing-in-itself" that is identical with belief in (a transcendent) God. I assumed - clearly mistakenly - that making such an elementary metaphysical point would have been trivial here.

Second, I made no direct mention of pantheism; I said that for many religious, God=Immanence. Spinoza is an obvious candidate, for whom God=Nature, Substance, but he was no pantheist: he believed, not that God is all around, is everywhere [very popular among many hippy scientists, incidentally ("It's cosmic, man!")], but that God is Everything , that there is nothing that is not God. Kant, of course, believed Spinoza to be an atheist because of such a conception of God, a conception of God not as a personal or transcendent being, but as radically other (and therefore, forever inaccessible, much like the Ocean in Stanislaw Lem/Andrei Tarkovsky's Solaris, one of the best filmic portrayals) substance (nature). So you and some other posters here believe this Kantian position, that the only notions of God that are permitted are the transcendent, supernatural, supernatural ones. You're defining what God must be despite not believing in such a God in order to effortlessly reject such a notion: a strawgod :cool:

http://i125.photobucket.com/albums/p60/tectron/caps/solaris61.jpg

I drew attention earlier to a nineteenth-century view of evolution/progress, a prescriptive naturalism quite prevalent among scientists (and many others besides), including posters here, and one that is based on a classical, dogmatic empiricism which summarily rejects all that cannot be directly "perceived" by the senses. Ironic in this context, as it was Kant who first argued the limitations of such empirical fundamentalism: by demonstrating that all human experience is constitutively mediated - what we take for experience is ineluctibly pre-screened through a cognitive apparatus which pre-determines and structures all perception. Naive empiricism necessarily limits/reduces our perception of the world, and science itself has also discovered this, destroying naive empiricism in the process [Just because something is imagined doesn't mean it isn't true ...]


I believe that there is no coherent concept of god. Believers use that term in many different ways, that cannot be abstracted into a simple concept encompassing all of this.

You mean there is disagreement about the concept, just as there is disagreement about science? So, because discourse about religion (just as with science) is a chaotic, unruly, disorderly, incoherent riot of competing interpretations, we really must not take it seriously? (A "meta-concept" would be more coherent, more superior? And not just yet another addition to the chaos? ) What's the alternative, then, apart from a narcissistic, solipsistic retreat into that other, supremely late capitalist God, his holiness the Ego, the self?


This lack of consensus about what gods are is not accidental, but a direct consequence of the evolution of religion over the millenia, and directly related to its social function.

There is no consensus about religion, yes, just as there is no consensus about science. And there never will be. Because there is no such thing as a "community of religious" or a "community of scientists". Why should there be, why the need for such "consensus", apart from a (political, metaphysical) need for order in a chaotic world?


Nevertheless one can discern some degree of similarity in a significant part of religious discourse. Current theorising of religion summerises this bit as "the re-entry of the distinction between immanence and transcendence into immanence". This is fairly abstract and presumably a little hard to comprehend for the uninitiated, so let me simplify it for a lay audience: gods are paradoxica/incomprehensible things about which we cannot in principle say anything, but we talk about them anyway. Defusiing this foundational paradox is an important task in the reproduction of religion and achieved in various ways, like for example rituals.

["fairly abstract and presumably a little hard to comprehend for the uninitiated, so let me simplify it for a lay audience": Is it really necessary for you to so openly parade your condescending, patronising, and pompous disposition on a forum where you don't actually know anything about the backgrounds or knowledge of posters/lurkers? And this from someone who can't distinguish between immanence and pantheism? This from a lapdog of the Big Other God of self-appointed and imagined AUTHORITY?]


It is empirically undeniable that pantheists are considered atheists by most religions. Hence those that have the best authority to decide on what gods may be (the believers) reject your equivocation. This puts your equivocation in a pretty weak position, hence my question: exactly what are the cognitive benefits of equating god and thing in itself/immanence/the universe. Why not equate god and love (as is quite fashionable now), of god and potatoes?

Appealing again to your GOD of AUTHORITY. Pantheists are atheists because "most religious" say so (presumably by a show of hands, or maybe they appointed a Supreme Court Ecclesiastical Judge to decide the issue forever more!) Gee, whatever will poor 'auld Buddhists ever do if they are brought before your Supreme Judge!

[And as Tryptych points out, you're conflating immanence with "thing-in-itself" transcendence]. Really what you are doing here is rejecting all of metaphysics, an absurdly fundamentalist and destructive position which even most scientists could never do, including the chap in a state of metaphysical ecstasy at the top of this post ...]


Let me elaborate on the previous point: you claim that my position (which you don't understand) is unable to account for non-theistic religions; counterquestion: how does your pantheisitic position account for the majority of world religions that stipulate personal, supernatural gods?

I'm not a pantheist, and you're position is very clear. Rather you should be asking yourself how your authoritarian God of scientific empiricism compares with supernatural fantasy. All those Gods are dead ...

hundredmillionlifetimes
06-05-2007, 11:17 AM
Ahh, that fashionable po-mo disdain for 'progress'!

You mean modernist distain for inexorable laws of progress, which has nothing to do with fashion.




(there are no laws of nature, borderpolice)

Would you therefore care to explain to me why the universe is amenable to rational understanding at all? Why a ball thrown up in the air will follow a trajectory that can be precisely predicted using Newton's Laws, and doesn't simply move around however it pleases, disappear or turn into a butterfly? If you want to say "all laws of nature are human constructs", I'd be happy with that, as long as we admit that there is some concrete link between them and the real, physical, tangible universe. After all, religion, philosophy and society are all human constructs, and they most definitely exist.

"laws of nature are human constructs" ie are untrue (necessary fictions).

A concrete link between the equations of science (the symbolic real) and the Real is not possible, because the Real is inaccessible, it is void.

It was my understanding that modern science had completely undermined the belief in unchanging, deterministic natural laws, especially quantum physics. So I must be mistaken about modern science.

Guybrush
06-05-2007, 03:58 PM
http://web.mac.com/arnold_zwicky/LancerEvolution.jpg

Note to business people: choose your product names wisely! (Sorry for the derailment. :D)

Mr. Tea
06-05-2007, 04:13 PM
You mean modernist distain for inexorable laws of progress, which has nothing to do with fashion.

Funny, I was under the impression 'progess' as a concept in itself was an inherently modernist one...


"laws of nature are human constructs" ie are untrue (necessary fictions).

Since when does something being a human construct make it 'untrue'? Are you saying the laws of physics are untrue, but still (demonstably!) correct? How can something be both untrue and correct?


A concrete link between the equations of science (the symbolic real) and the Real is not possible, because the Real is inaccessible, it is void.

Says you. I say it *is* accessible. Otherwise, answer me this: how is it possible that science even works at all if the Real - the actual, material world - is inaccessible? Is it merely coincidence that science can make astonishingly accurate predictions, that the world just decides to play ball with us because it feels like it? You STILL haven't answered this fundamental question. And in what way is it 'void' - are you a Taoist? No offence if you are, just curious...


It was my understanding that modern science had completely undermined the belief in unchanging, deterministic natural laws, especially quantum physics. So I must be mistaken about modern science.
Ahh, quantum mechanics, the most efficient device ever conceived of for confusing people...
Well, for a start, it is generally accepted that the laws of physics *at their most fundamental level* are unchanging - of course, at the level of observable phenomena, they've changed a great deal from the Big Bang through to the evolution of life on earth. What I mean is, the laws governing (or, if you prefer, decribing) the evolution of the Universe when it was very young and consisted of a hot gas of particles chaotically whizzing around are different from those describing a universe of galaxies and stars, but the *underlying* physics, the basic equations of quantum fields, gravity and so on - appear to be immutable.* So far as we know. (note scientific humility!)
Obviously, the strictly deterministic world view was irreversibly shattered in the last century, first by quantum mechanics and then by investigations into so-called Chaos Theory. But so what? We now live in a non-deterministic universe, but we still use science to understand it. You may not be able to predict the outcome of a single quantum-level event, but you can calculate with pretty much absolute precision the probabilities of the various outcomes. In this sense, quantum mechanics is just as deterministic as Newtonian mechanics - you just have to quote probabilities over an arbitrarily large number of measurements, rather than the value of a single measurement.
And on a further point:

[Just because something is imagined doesn't mean it isn't true ...]
Firstly, modern scientists, especially physicists, use 'imagined' conceps all the time: wave-functions, virtual particles, 'ghost' fields, imaginary numbers, even. Things which are quite clearly constructs but which, crucially, give the right results. So, as I keep repeating, there must be *some* kind of concptual link between them and the real world - otherwise it wouldn't work!
Secondly, your statement seems to be at odds with your claim that "laws of nature are untrue". Do you say this because they're concepts, constructs, 'imagined things'? But you've just said that doesn't make them 'untrue'. So why *are* they 'untrue', then?
I don't know why you started talking about determinism, it's got nothing to do with the current discussion as far as I can see.


You're defining what God must be despite not believing in such a God in order to effortlessly reject such a notion: a strawgod

Just because I don't believe in God it doesn't mean I'm not entitled to a belief about what most people mean when they talk about God. Your non-supernatural, impersonal, immanent God is a lot different from what I mean when I say 'God'. If you really wanted to, you could say "God is orange juice", which would (if I were to accept your authority on such matters) force me to say "Oh, well I certainly believe in orange juice, so I must be a theist after all. HALLELUJA!".

*of course, if a 'law' changes over time and you can formulate an exact descrition of how it changes - and that description is itself unchanging - then you really have a new, more general law which is unchanging and immutable.

Mr. Tea
06-05-2007, 08:43 PM
Just spotted this in an old post by Tryptych:


Notice how we can swap "induction" with "falsification" and "create" with "falsify" - if an experimental result goes against a theory (thereby falsifying it), 100 times in a row, we have no right to assume it will be the same on the 101st attempt.


Re. induction vs. falsification: the above argument falls down for the simple reason that a theory doesn't have to fail every conceivable experimental test in order to be falsified: it has only to fail one. A theory that is proven wrong a hundred times in a row and is then apparently vindicated on one occasion is a pretty shoddy theory!

borderpolice
08-05-2007, 11:23 AM
This from a lapdog of the Big Other God of self-appointed and imagined AUTHORITY?

Woof! Woof!

borderpolice
08-05-2007, 11:24 AM
Back to the science - I'm sort of interested, and it might help clafiry the debate if I knew what position borderpolice and Mr Tea take on science .

I am a social constructivist. My view of empirical data is naturalist,
in quine's sense, hence, my position is essentially that of a modern
day hegelian (sorry for namedropping). In other words, i agree with
the mainstream view in SSK (sociology of scientific knowledge). I make
no claim to originality.

tryptych
10-05-2007, 12:40 AM
Just spotted this in an old post by Tryptych:


Re. induction vs. falsification: the above argument falls down for the simple reason that a theory doesn't have to fail every conceivable experimental test in order to be falsified: it has only to fail one. A theory that is proven wrong a hundred times in a row and is then apparently vindicated on one occasion is a pretty shoddy theory!

But that's an even stronger claim! Popper was widely criticised for demanding that one failure was enough to consign a theory to the dustbin, and Lakatos etc defended that as a gross misreading of Popper's ideas.

If one positive result is no good reason to accept a theory, why is one negative result a good reason to abandon it? This only makes sense if you conflate the philosophical problem of induction with a psychological argument about accepting theories...

tryptych
10-05-2007, 12:48 AM
I am a social constructivist. My view of empirical data is naturalist,
in quine's sense, hence, my position is essentially that of a modern
day hegelian (sorry for namedropping). In other words, i agree with
the mainstream view in SSK (sociology of scientific knowledge). I make
no claim to originality.


Mainstream SSK.. that takes me back!

I'm a bit bemused then if you peg yourself as a social constructivist... Why don't you and HMLT agree more? ;)

hundredmillionlifetimes
10-05-2007, 01:23 PM
Woof! Woof!

Are those empirical woofs or social constructivist ones?

vimothy
16-03-2010, 12:46 AM
Bump!

nomadthethird
16-03-2010, 01:50 AM
But that's an even stronger claim! Popper was widely criticised for demanding that one failure was enough to consign a theory to the dustbin, and Lakatos etc defended that as a gross misreading of Popper's ideas.

If one positive result is no good reason to accept a theory, why is one negative result a good reason to abandon it? This only makes sense if you conflate the philosophical problem of induction with a psychological argument about accepting theories...

Right...in general, being able to reproduce results in an experimental setting means that any theory based on replicable experiments is more reliable, or is considered more reliable and less full of holes by professional scientists. So when you're looking at a scientific theory, the important thing to look at is not if one person came out with results that contradict a vast body of replicated results. Usually, when this happens, people should be very skeptical and only accept the groundbreaking results when they can be replicated and duplicated and backed up by others working in the field. The consensus slowly shifts; science is interesting in that it seems to balance well conservative and progressive tendencies and make them work together productively. (Unlike politics.)

This is often a problem with science journalism, I've found-- they will seize on *one* shocking discovery that goes against the grain of most established research, often toting an experiment with serious limitations (small sample size, not well-controlled, not double blind, no clear null hypothesis, etc), quite often one that nobody within the field takes very seriously because of its obvious mathematical/statistical limitations, and will hail it as this AMAZING EUREKA moment that is about to revolutionize the way everyone thinks about x.

Only it isn't going to revolutionize anything, and will probably juts feed into public misconceptions and misperceptions in unhealthy ways.

Example: that one guy who did a meta-analysis on anti-depressants that wasn't even published yet or reviewed by anybody and was quoted in the Newsweek article as "proof" that anti-depressants were really no good after all. They even had the nerve to outright state that "everybody", the consensus, was moving away from the use of anti-depressants. This had a small kernel of truth to it, but it was egregiously misleading and fantastic.

In reality, scientific consensus on them hasn't changed a bit, and neither has psychiatric consensus. All the meta-analysis proved was what a lot of psychiatrist had already been saying all along, which was that GPs have been overprescribing anti-depressants (esp to women) and misdiagnosing clinical depression in the first place for the past 20 years. The meta-analysis helped make the case (that was already well underway) for the fact that overprescription of anti-depressants is a procedural and a medical ethics problem, not a problem with the psychopharmacology of anti-depressants.

But what most people read when they look at that article is Kpunk level bullshit about how anti-depressants are TEH BAD.

You could say that complaining about science journalism is off-topic, but the popular perceptions about what's "scientific" certainly affects the ability of scientists to get funding to do important research, and certainly has an effect on the scientific process in the long run in many respects.

nomadthethird
16-03-2010, 02:10 AM
Aaaanyway, I would say my position is that empiricism is very useful in science, since induction, which is based on empirical observations, is the basis of a scientific outlook - the most basic kind of science consists of noticing patterns in nature, and then formulating 'laws' which can then be used to make predictions. A more mature kind of science relies on deduction as well, in the form of logical (and especially mathematical) reasoning used (usually in conjuction with empirical data as well) to formulate laws. Both kinds of law - those based more on induction, and those based more on a priori logical/mathematical reasoning - are then subjected to empirical verification. So without empiricism, science is nothing, I think - although there's far more to science than *just* empiricism.

As regards the idea of 'ultimate reality' or 'ultimate Truth', I'd have to say I think the universe works perfectly well in the absence of any human attempts to observe or understand it, and that to assert otherwise is anthropocentric in the extreme (as embodied in the way the 'Copenahagen interpretation' of quantum mechanics has basically been discared by all serious thinkers in the field, and cosmological models are routinely attacked for being 'anthropic'). As I said before, I have no problem with the idea of laws of nature being human constructs per se on the basis that a) there is some concrete connection between these 'laws' and the thing-in-itself, the real live functioning Universe of objects and energy and phenomena; and b) that plenty of things that are undoubtably human constructs nonetheless exist. I feel perfectly happy saying this because although I'm obviously a scientist through-and-through, I'm not a reductionist, e.g. I think you'd have a hard time deriving Darwinian evolution from the laws of physics. Furthermore, for HMLT to constantly assert that I believe in 'God' simply because I believe there is an objective universe and that science can have at least some (probably never total or ultimate, as I keep re-iterating) success accessing this through empirical observation and rational analysis is laughable and, as borderpolice says, in contradiction to the idea the vast majority of people in the world have of 'God'. God, by definition, is supernatural - or at the very least 'trans-natural', i.e. occurring in a conceptual realm outside or beyond that of natural phenomena - while science is attempt to understand the natural world by natural means.

Does this make any sense? I'm sort of pouring my brain out on the keyboard here, sorry if it's not too coherent.

Good post.

I see that the worse than cliched, worse than trite, worse than shallow SCIENCE=RELIGION rhetoric is all over this thread.

God bless HMLT but that's the worst, most illogical load of tripe you're ever going to hear. And sadly, I remember when I used to think maybe there was something to the idea that "atheism" was a religion. Or something to the idea that atheism and science can't co-exist without individual scientists becoming "religious"....

I used to think that way because I didn't know anything about science, and I'd always just assumed people were just pretending to believe in gods because society rewarded them for doing that.

The scientific method is the opposite of religious fundamentalism. Its absolute polar opposite.

Some people might have an overly naive view of the powers of science, akin to the way godbots have an overly naive worldview in general and a ridiculous worship for an abusive piece of shit they've created in their minds--but is the kind of "hope" that things in the world can get better proffered by some naive scientists somehow more naive and stupid than the irrational belief in Sky Daddies and holy Ghosts? I think not. It's of a piece, the impulse to want things to get better in empiricists and religious folks, but the two things simply *aren't* equivalent epistemologically.

zhao
27-05-2012, 06:39 AM
The Trouble with Scientism (http://www.tnr.com/article/books-and-arts/magazine/103086/scientism-humanities-knowledge-theory-everything-arts-science)

Patrick Swayze
28-05-2012, 09:24 AM
Good post.

I see that the worse than cliched, worse than trite, worse than shallow SCIENCE=RELIGION rhetoric is all over this thread.

God bless HMLT but that's the worst, most illogical load of tripe you're ever going to hear. And sadly, I remember when I used to think maybe there was something to the idea that "atheism" was a religion. Or something to the idea that atheism and science can't co-exist without individual scientists becoming "religious"....

I used to think that way because I didn't know anything about science, and I'd always just assumed people were just pretending to believe in gods because society rewarded them for doing that.

The scientific method is the opposite of religious fundamentalism. Its absolute polar opposite.

Some people might have an overly naive view of the powers of science, akin to the way godbots have an overly naive worldview in general and a ridiculous worship for an abusive piece of shit they've created in their minds--but is the kind of "hope" that things in the world can get better proffered by some naive scientists somehow more naive and stupid than the irrational belief in Sky Daddies and holy Ghosts? I think not. It's of a piece, the impulse to want things to get better in empiricists and religious folks, but the two things simply *aren't* equivalent epistemologically.

you haven't really shown they're not alike, just said it repeatedly in different ways.

IdleRich
28-05-2012, 12:52 PM
I think that the onus is on those who say that they're alike to demonstrate it.

Patrick Swayze
28-05-2012, 02:48 PM
not if you're challenging a perceived consensus as that post aims to do

IdleRich
28-05-2012, 05:09 PM
I'm not sure it's a perceived consensus but maybe not worth arguing about as neither Nomad or HMLT post any more... more interesting would be for you to say why you think science is like a religion, assuming that you do. I'm never quite sure of what religion is personally but it seems pretty different from my understanding of what science is as far as that goes.

Patrick Swayze
28-05-2012, 06:32 PM
I don't think science is like religion but I think that it fulfils some of the social functions science used to e.g. identifies the fact that there are (relatively) mysterious forces at work which govern our life and instils the belief that we must try to understand them for our own improvement (physical and material improvement replacing 'spiritual' improvement); creates an elite group who mediate observations about these complex phenomena to the laypeople (who, through rigorous study, can become one of the elite)

in a more general sense I think the respected/feared/awed members of the clergy have been replaced in our culture by 'the expert'.

Mr. Tea
28-05-2012, 06:49 PM
I don't think science is like religion but I think that it fulfils some of the social functions science used to e.g. identifies the fact that there are (relatively) mysterious forces at work which govern our life and instils the belief that we must try to understand them for our own improvement (physical and material improvement replacing 'spiritual' improvement); creates an elite group who mediate observations about these complex phenomena to the laypeople (who, through rigorous study, can become one of the elite)

in a more general sense I think the respected/feared/awed members of the clergy have been replaced in our culture by 'the expert'.

Some fair points there but I think a lot of religions, perhaps most of them, are not about trying to understand "mysterious forces" at all - at least, from the POV of the laity. You know, all that stuff about God being "ineffable" and moving in "mysterious ways", which in my experience is usually a complete cop-out answer to a question about why shitty things happen to good people or why the Lord in all his wisdom made dinosaur fossils just to confuse us.

Some scientists might occasionally cultivate a deliberate air of mystique around their subject but in my experience most are only too happy to try and explain what they do to non-specialists.

Interesting that you use the word 'elite' - sure, there's an academic elite, but the amount of power they actually exert is pretty tiny compared to the sway church leaders used to have hundreds of years ago (in the UK, I mean), or the sway religious authorities still exert in many parts of the world. Even in Britain today, how many scientists are given the sort of public platform that the media affords the Archbishop of Canterbury? Probably quite telling that Dicky Dawkins in the only one I can think of...

IdleRich
28-05-2012, 09:48 PM
"I don't think science is like religion but I think that it fulfils some of the social functions science used to e.g. identifies the fact that there are (relatively) mysterious forces at work which govern our life and instils the belief that we must try to understand them for our own improvement (physical and material improvement replacing 'spiritual' improvement); creates an elite group who mediate observations about these complex phenomena to the laypeople (who, through rigorous study, can become one of the elite)."
But that is a far weaker and less eyecatching claim. Not one that I really have a problem with - there is a huge difference between saying some aspects of something are like some aspects of something else and saying the former is basically a version of the latter. The sleight of hand which moves without rigour from one claim to the other is what annoys.
On top of that I think that there is a difference in that scientific knowledge or whatever you want to call it can be challenged and changed and replaced by a new orthodoxy. In fact, this is a fundamental idea of science and it's diametrically opposed to the way that relgious teachings are supposed to be unchanging (although in fact they tend not to be). I don't think that's a cosmetic difference, it's absolutely a difference in kind, not a difference of degree.

Patrick Swayze
29-05-2012, 10:08 AM
Some fair points there but I think a lot of religions, perhaps most of them, are not about trying to understand "mysterious forces" at all - at least, from the POV of the laity. You know, all that stuff about God being "ineffable" and moving in "mysterious ways", which in my experience is usually a complete cop-out answer to a question about why shitty things happen to good people or why the Lord in all his wisdom made dinosaur fossils just to confuse us.

Some scientists might occasionally cultivate a deliberate air of mystique around their subject but in my experience most are only too happy to try and explain what they do to non-specialists.

Interesting that you use the word 'elite' - sure, there's an academic elite, but the amount of power they actually exert is pretty tiny compared to the sway church leaders used to have hundreds of years ago (in the UK, I mean), or the sway religious authorities still exert in many parts of the world. Even in Britain today, how many scientists are given the sort of public platform that the media affords the Archbishop of Canterbury? Probably quite telling that Dicky Dawkins in the only one I can think of...

when I say mysterious forces I don't necessarily mean they are mysterious, I mean they are perceived as mysterious by the lay people, who need further context/explanation to get some sense of the phenomena (be it 'scientific'/natural or religious). so yh I wasn't really suggesting they cultivate an air of mystique, it's seemingly a by product of their position.

individually I agree, they have little political power. just as individual members of the clergy rarely had much power purely at their disposal, even in the medieval period. as a group/or elite, however, they serve a very useful function for politicians. stuff no longer needs to be discussed, decisions can be moved into the realm of 'expert opinion', there is one path that is 'right' and must be taken - technocracy. (might even work if 'experts' weren't easily controlled through funding, publication and public image). moreover I was using the term elite in that post to primarily indicate their intellectual superiority, which can be attained by a member of the lay people if he or she has the opportunity to pursue education; just as previously the means to become educated was usually to join the clergy, they ran the universities.


But that is a far weaker and less eyecatching claim. Not one that I really have a problem with - there is a huge difference between saying some aspects of something are like some aspects of something else and saying the former is basically a version of the latter. The sleight of hand which moves without rigour from one claim to the other is what annoys.
On top of that I think that there is a difference in that scientific knowledge or whatever you want to call it can be challenged and changed and replaced by a new orthodoxy. In fact, this is a fundamental idea of science and it's diametrically opposed to the way that relgious teachings are supposed to be unchanging (although in fact they tend not to be). I don't think that's a cosmetic difference, it's absolutely a difference in kind, not a difference of degree.

I disagree, I think it's only one element of any religious movement that demands dogma. the majority usually favour some level of debate (through interpretation), at the very least over the church's stance on social issues. this mirrors the way data is often reinterpreted (or new data sets created) when a particular scientific finding has huge social ramifications (MMR/Autism 'link', bird flu, MRSA...). Both institutions are/were subject to a dialectic of competing narratives based on interpretation of available data. and both have strict rules concerning the methodology of interpreting that data.


n.b. I only took sciences to gcse so this is all based on my limited understanding of them.

zhao
29-05-2012, 12:04 PM
The Trouble with Scientism (http://www.tnr.com/article/books-and-arts/magazine/103086/scientism-humanities-knowledge-theory-everything-arts-science)

did y'all read this? pretty good.

Slothrop
29-05-2012, 12:51 PM
It'd look a lot less like a massive strawman if he actually gave examples of the people espousing 'scientism' and denigrating the arts and humanities as ways of understanding and improving the world, rather than just explaining why he disagrees with this position...

baboon2004
29-05-2012, 12:54 PM
re Zhao's article - this is a huge problem in political science, it seems to me - the absurdity of trying to place reduce complex social happenings into a set of equations has sometimes to be seen to be believed.

Mr. Tea
29-05-2012, 12:58 PM
individually I agree, they have little political power. just as individual members of the clergy rarely had much power purely at their disposal, even in the medieval period. as a group/or elite, however, they serve a very useful function for politicians. stuff no longer needs to be discussed, decisions can be moved into the realm of 'expert opinion', there is one path that is 'right' and must be taken - technocracy.

Thing is though, scientists' work is either distorted or outright ignored as often as it is used as a basis for policy. Take Prof. Nutt, for example - he was head of the ACMD, it was his job to provide the government with objective, scientific information about drugs, ostensibly in order for rational drug policy to be based on that information. And when he correctly pointed out that some popular recreational drugs are much less dangerous than governments would often like the public to believe, he was promptly sacked for 'sending out the wrong message'! Sacked precisely for doing his job, in other words.

And as far as I can tell, it's far worse in America. Look at the unbelievable levels of climate-change skepticism there. A lot of people there - politicians, powerful media figures and the public alike - think the whole concept of anthropogenic climate change is a conspiracy by mad Marxist scientists who want to destroy America's economy (because Marxists love nothing better than seeing millions of people lose their jobs for no good reason, obviously). Then there's the Christian right's well-documented objection to evolution - it's just a theory, folks! - GM foods, stem-cell research...

Populist politicians in various places, but especially America, are extremely hostile to science.

Patrick Swayze
29-05-2012, 01:50 PM
I agree with everything you say but I think their use by politicians (when it suits them) reflects the way state and church often interacted, especially after the reformation. if you look at the way hagiographies have been rewritten at different points (ok I don't expect you to do that lol...) to present a particular saint as either a miracle worker or an agent of the anti-christ, depending on the religion of the monarch, you can see this. in fact even the way the miracles are presented changes depending on the contemporaneous theological position on miracles i.e. can people channel God's power or does God simply work to help those who are in his grace.

it has parallels imo with the way scientific theory is used/misused at points in history by the state to serve a political purpose (i.e. social darwinism)

grizzleb
29-05-2012, 01:54 PM
I think there might be legitimate ethical/moral questions that arise out of novel scientific discoveries and practices, to say that if you oppose (say) the uptake of GM crops in certain circumstances that you 'oppose science' is a bit of a sleight of hand itself. Science of course as a set of procedures for making predictions about how things will behave in the world and about devising ways to interfere and apply that knowledge to achieve certain ends is all very well and good - but it can't really tell us how to use those procedures, or what we should be doing with a given piece of technology. GM crops sound pretty good if they're being used to feed people, but if they're being used to contribute to patterns of exploitation then they aren't so good. Science isn't in that sense a force for anything, it's pretty neutral in a lot of ways.

zhao
29-05-2012, 02:01 PM
it has parallels imo with the way scientific theory is used/misused at points in history by the state to serve a political purpose (i.e. social darwinism)

this is my main point: the purported and widely believed "neutrality" and "objectivity" of the sciences. sure the process, peer review, etc. gurantee a certain amount of practical objectivity. but from a larger perspective, the sciences are, we should not forget, disciplines carried out by institutions with inseparable economic, political, ideological ties.

as i said before, funding determines which field of enquiry to focus on, which projects get the go ahead. and the results are of course colored by ideological factors.

earlier this thread did i mention the changing displays of the T-Rex in natural history museums in the US as reflective of the political feeling of times? in the 80s they were presented as lone fierce hunters, and in the 90s, mild mannered and always with a family --- all of which has nothing to do with the reality that T-Rex's were nearly blind scavengers who mostly fed on carrion.

Slothrop
29-05-2012, 02:16 PM
There's quite an interesting contrast actually - when an artist produces a piece of work in support of an ideology that we now find repulsive - Wagner's Parsifal, for instance - we end up with a tension between what makes it great as a work of art and what makes it repulsive as a piece of propoganda. But when a 'scientist' produces a piece of work in support of an ideology, it becomes apparent with any sort of distance that what makes it repulsive as a piece of propoganda is tied up with what makes it useless as a piece of science.

grizzleb
29-05-2012, 02:19 PM
There's quite an interesting contrast actually - when an artist produces a piece of work in support of an ideology that we now find repulsive - Wagner's Parsifal, for instance - we end up with a tension between what makes it great as a work of art and what makes it repulsive as a piece of propoganda. But when a 'scientist' produces a piece of work in support of an ideology, it becomes apparent with any sort of distance that what makes it repulsive as a piece of propoganda is tied up with what makes it useless as a piece of science.Could you expand on this? Not sure I catch your drift.

Mr. Tea
29-05-2012, 02:21 PM
It'd look a lot less like a massive strawman if he actually gave examples of the people espousing 'scientism' and denigrating the arts and humanities as ways of understanding and improving the world, rather than just explaining why he disagrees with this position...

Even if it were true, it's surely more a consequence of the way research bodies and arts councils are funded - with organizations responsible for totally different sorts of public programmes competing for a fixed amount of money - rather than any inherent bias towards science/tech as opposed to arts/humanities?

Mr. Tea
29-05-2012, 02:35 PM
Could you expand on this? Not sure I catch your drift.

Art can be created at least partly as ideological propaganda, perhaps even repugnant propaganda from a modern liberal POV, but still be great art; whereas 'scientific' research to serve some ideological purpose is likely to be of questionable quality or even outright pseudoscience. [Have I got that right, Slothrop?]

So Leni Riefenstahl's Nazi-era films are still highly regarded on their purely artistic merits by people who naturally deplore the political purpose they were created to serve - whereas the same regime's racial 'science' isn't really science at all. The anti-genetic pseudoscience of Lysenko, which became 'official science' in the USSR, is another example.

Edit: OTOH, science (and, more importantly, technology) that is developed for practical purposes that we find abhorrent can still be great science. The Nazis were well ahead of the game in all sorts of areas - famously, it was their rocket technology that they used to terrorize London that formed the cornerstone of the US space programme after the war. Nuclear weapons are probably an even better example, I mean some of the 20th century's greatest scientists worked on the Manhattan Project and subsequent weapons programmes. From a purely scientific viewpoint it was an incredible achievement.

And what about the space race? Would the Apollo missions ever have happened had it not been for the Cold War and the amazing propaganda coup the moon landings represented for the USA against the USSR?

grizzleb
29-05-2012, 02:38 PM
Ah yes, that's quite an interesting point actually.

Patrick Swayze
29-05-2012, 02:39 PM
you may have all seen it but Adam Curtis' documentary All Watched Over By Machines of Loving Grace is very relevant to political use/misuse of science.

Patrick Swayze
29-05-2012, 02:44 PM
Art can be created at least partly as ideological propaganda, perhaps even repugnant propaganda from a modern liberal POV, but still be great art; whereas 'scientific' research to serve some ideological purpose is likely to be of questionable quality or even outright pseudoscience.

So Leni Riefenstahl's Nazi-era films are still highly regarded on their purely artistic merits by people who naturally deplore the political purpose they were created to serve - whereas the same regime's racial 'science' isn't really science at all. The anti-genetic pseudoscience of Lysenko, which became 'official science' in the USSR, is another example.

there seems to be an implicit suggestion in this that artistic beauty is somehow transcendent or permanent.

just as something embraced as great art at a particular time might not be seen as great art years later, a theory's questionable scientific quality may only emerge years after its publication. it could be a theory embraced by the scientific and political communities of the time,

Slothrop
29-05-2012, 03:02 PM
there seems to be an implicit suggestion in this that artistic beauty is somehow transcendent or permanent.
Maybe...

But the main point, as Tea picked up, was that to bend science to support ideology makes it, more or less by definition, less scientific. But to create art to support ideology doesn't immediately make it less 'artistic'.

Mr. Tea
29-05-2012, 03:07 PM
you may have all seen it but Adam Curtis' documentary All Watched Over By Machines of Loving Grace is very relevant to political use/misuse of science.

Yeah, that was good. Reminds me of something else Curtis talks about in several of his programs, but especially The Trap as I recall, is the application of game theory developed by von Neumann and Nash in the context of Cold War nuclear strategy and MAD to organizations like the NHS - with less than optimum client outcomes, you might say.

Mr. Tea
29-05-2012, 03:31 PM
a theory's questionable scientific quality may only emerge years after its publication. it could be a theory embraced by the scientific and political communities of the time,

I'd say this isn't terribly likely, because science is constantly peer-reviewed. There are "scientists" who have, for example, "questioned" the consensus view that climate change is happening or accelerating because of human activity, but it's well known they're basically fronting for Big Oil and they're not taken seriously by the scientific community. (I'm thinking specifically of some 'expert' Chanel 4 had on a programme called 'The Great Climate Swindle' or something equally idiotic a few years ago, and for which they were roundly criticized.)

Then there was that douchebag who decided the MMR jab caused autism - thoroughly debunked by the medical community, but the damage was done and thousands of kids have been needlessly put at risk because one prick wanted his 15 minutes of fame.

So yeah, these things do happen, but 'real' scientists can generally see through it pretty quickly and blow the whistle.

Slothrop
29-05-2012, 03:39 PM
Although that applies less in situations where bad science is being supported by the status quo, and the people pointing out the holes in it have their funding withdrawn and/or get shot.

Mr. Tea
29-05-2012, 04:09 PM
Well with regard to climate science in particular, you've got a somewhat funny situation. Sure, there are piecemeal regulations here and there to promote this emission-reduction target or that tree-planting initiative, but 90% of the time it's business-as-usual, with most of our electrical energy and transport fuel being derived from fossil fuels, and largely unabated tropical deforestation. The industrial establishment is perfectly happy with this, of course, even if it grumbles about "unreasonable" environmental regulations. It's the scientific establishment that's pointing out the effects of industry and land use on the climate.

Something that's very dangerous here is the "voice from the wilderness" fallacy, whereby the dissenting minority voice is given more credence than the far larger establishment voice. You know, the whole "They said Galileo/Einstein/[whoever] was wrong but he turned out to be right, therefore [this guy] who everyone says is wrong must actually be right". See also: AIDS denialism.

Patrick Swayze
29-05-2012, 04:15 PM
But to create art to support ideology doesn't immediately make it less 'artistic'.

only because it's extremely hard to define 'artistic' or say whether one thing is more 'artistic' than another. defining something as 'scientific' is much easier.

personally I think propaganda is a corruption of art in that it brings scientific standards to bear on it. in the same way data must be 'produced' (in various senses) to support a scientific theory, propaganda subordinates art to ideology. art is produced to support it. it becomes the product of necessity rather than inspiration.


I'd say this isn't terribly likely, because science is constantly peer-reviewed.

but that Curtis doc is all about how a scientific theory that was insufficiently challenged at the time (and accepted as a basis for early environmental science) became integral to a particular ideological understanding of society and power.

Mr. Tea
29-05-2012, 04:15 PM
See also: AIDS denialism.

This is intimately linked to the psychology of conspiracy theories and is very popular amongst various segments of the tinfoil-hatted community.

IdleRich
29-05-2012, 04:50 PM
"I disagree, I think it's only one element of any religious movement that demands dogma. the majority usually favour some level of debate (through interpretation), at the very least over the church's stance on social issues. this mirrors the way data is often reinterpreted (or new data sets created) when a particular scientific finding has huge social ramifications (MMR/Autism 'link', bird flu, MRSA...). Both institutions are/were subject to a dialectic of competing narratives based on interpretation of available data. and both have strict rules concerning the methodology of interpreting that data."
I see the discussion has moved on a bit but I just wanted to say that debate by interpretation of a holy text is still a different kind of debate from what most scientists (in fact people) would call debate. You might tenuously argue that it mirrors the way that data is sometimes reinterpreted but it clearly is totally different from new data being created, that's exactly what it's not.

Patrick Swayze
29-05-2012, 04:54 PM
I see the discussion has moved on a bit but I just wanted to say that debate by interpretation of a holy text is still a different kind of debate from what most scientists (in fact people) would call debate. You might tenuously argue that it mirrors the way that data is sometimes reinterpreted but it clearly is totally different from new data being created, that's exactly what it's not.

old 'data' is reinterpreted to produce new conclusions/paradigms

that's the link.

IdleRich
29-05-2012, 06:30 PM
"old 'data' is reinterpreted to produce new conclusions/paradigms
that's the link."
Yeah, I understand what you're saying, I just don't agree with it. There is no equivalence in most religions (the main ones) for the new data which in science is at least as important in producing new paradigms as reinterpreting old data.

baboon2004
29-05-2012, 07:08 PM
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/gallery/2011/jul/21/jesus-food-sightings

Patrick Swayze
29-05-2012, 07:58 PM
Yeah, I understand what you're saying, I just don't agree with it. There is no equivalence in most religions (the main ones) for the new data which in science is at least as important in producing new paradigms as reinterpreting old data.

if we take the data as the words in a given holy book, I'm pretty sure they change with each new publication.

Mr. Tea
29-05-2012, 11:36 PM
if we take the data as the words in a given holy book, I'm pretty sure they change with each new publication.

In presentation, yes. But not substantially. Christianity's central tenet - that God's Son died and lived again to save humans from sin - is the same today as it was nearly 2,000 years ago, whereas physical cosmology has radically transformed our idea of what the universe is made of and its likely ultimate fate within the last decade and a half. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Accelerating_universe)

Patrick Swayze
30-05-2012, 12:33 AM
In presentation, yes. But not substantially. Christianity's central tenet - that God's Son died and lived again to save humans from sin - is the same today as it was nearly 2,000 years ago, whereas physical cosmology has radically transformed our idea of what the universe is made of and its likely ultimate fate within the last decade and a half. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Accelerating_universe)

theologians have been debating the possible meanings of those terms for 2000 years.

zhao
30-05-2012, 06:47 AM
i think looking for similarities in particulars is ok, but mainly it is the similar ways religious doctrine and the sciences are revered as master narratives and omnipotent explanatory models of the entire universe that is the real issue.

Mr. Tea
30-05-2012, 08:17 AM
theologians have been debating the possible meanings of those terms for 2000 years.

...in terms that come and go according to intellectual and cultural fashions of the day, not because new empirical evidence favours one interpretation and deprecates another.

People believed in god(s) thousands of years ago and they still believe in god(s) today. Even if your average modern Christian has a different idea of what God is from a mediaeval Christian, we're still talking about a supernatural being that created the universe and takes a personal interest in what one particular species on one particular planet gets up to.

Phlogiston, the luminiferous aether, Lamarckian evolution, steady-state cosmology and the caloric theory of heat have been discarded not because they fell out of fashion but because they were empirically disproven.

IdleRich
30-05-2012, 09:57 AM
"if we take the data as the words in a given holy book, I'm pretty sure they change with each new publication."
I'd still call that a different interpretation of the source data - that's literally what it is isn't it? Surely you wouldn't say that that is analagous to a discovery that creates a new paradigm in science. As, eg, the recent discovery of particles travelling faster than light would have done.... if it hadn't turned out to be due to a measuring cock-up.


"theologians have been debating the possible meanings of those terms for 2000 years."
But that's what you said before, it's still messing round with an old data set. An introduction of new data to a religion will either be rejected or create a heresy/schism, it's anathema to the religion itself. Unless you want to argue that the arrival of Jesus is an injection of new data into Judaism and the beginning of a new paradigm.

Mr. Tea
30-05-2012, 12:03 PM
i think looking for similarities in particulars is ok, but mainly it is the similar ways religious doctrine and the sciences are revered as master narratives and omnipotent explanatory models of the entire universe that is the real issue.

40% of Americans believe in literal Biblical creation and a further 38% believe God "played a role" in evolution [2010]. (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/12/20/40-of-americans-still-bel_n_799078.html)

So much for "master narrative". Science has a long way to go before it replaces or even seriously challenges religion as far as a lot of people are concerned - and this is in the USA, which has completely owned science for decades but is rapidly losing ground, in part precisely because of a widespread hostility to science by the establishment and consequently the general public.

http://courses.washington.edu/z490/gmo/gmo_protest.jpg

http://pig.sty.nu/Pictures/south_inch/half_creationist_billboard.jpg

http://thinkprogress.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/heartland.jpg

zhao
31-05-2012, 06:17 AM
So much for "master narrative". Science has a long way to go before it replaces or even seriously challenges religion as far as a lot of people are concerned



that's a superficial reading of the world today, and not how it works.

all or even most members of a society does not have to actually subscribe to an ideology for it to be the basic shaping principle of that society.

and you are forgetting that today's religious fundamentalism is entirely reactionary in nature, meaning it is a reaction and (skewed) rebellion against modernization, post-industrial global capitalism, etc. (funnily, as is industrial music)

Patrick Swayze
31-05-2012, 08:21 AM
40% of Americans believe in literal Biblical creation and a further 38% believe God "played a role" in evolution [2010]. (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/12/20/40-of-americans-still-bel_n_799078.html)

So much for "master narrative". Science has a long way to go before it replaces or even seriously challenges religion as far as a lot of people are concerned - and this is in the USA, which has completely owned science for decades but is rapidly losing ground, in part precisely because of a widespread hostility to science by the establishment and consequently the general public.

http://courses.washington.edu/z490/gmo/gmo_protest.jpg

http://pig.sty.nu/Pictures/south_inch/half_creationist_billboard.jpg

http://thinkprogress.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/heartland.jpg

LOL those 'posters' remind me of this

http://www.amfirstbooks.com/IntroPages/ToolBarTopics/Articles/Featured_Authors/Holappa,_Henrik/Art/You_can_rape_in_Finland.jpg

Mr. Tea
31-05-2012, 09:40 AM
LOL those 'posters' remind me of this


I'm not sure what you're getting at here. I assume that poster is fake? So you're implying the Unabomber poster is fake too (http://thenewcivilrightsmovement.com/unabomber-climate-change-billboards-killed-sponsors-refuse-to-apologize/politics/2012/05/05/39071), or what? You're naive if you think the Christian Right in America doesn't produce some pretty unpleasant propaganda, and much of it is aimed at science/scientists.

Or is the rape tourism poster real and you're just pointing out that people in lots of countries make dickish posters?

Mr. Tea
31-05-2012, 09:55 AM
that's a superficial reading of the world today, and not how it works.

all or even most members of a society does not have to actually subscribe to an ideology for it to be the basic shaping principle of that society.

and you are forgetting that today's religious fundamentalism is entirely reactionary in nature, meaning it is a reaction and (skewed) rebellion against modernization, post-industrial global capitalism, etc. (funnily, as is industrial music)

I think you're missing the point. Not only are a great majority of the American public at best ambivalent about science - if not actively suspicious of and hostile to it - but the American establishment itself, to a large degree, is the same. Americans are hostile to the idea that humans evolved from apes, that stem cells could be used to treat diseases and that industry and land use are changing the climate because many of their political representatives have the same views.

And there has always been a fundamentalist religious strain in America, right from the very beginning. In more modern times it's a reaction against all sorts of things - feminism and gay rights, for instance. I hope I don't have to point out that being a religious zealot is hardly incompatible with capitalism. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/jan/17/mitt-romney-speaking-fees-tax) In fact the economic hard right in America goes pretty much hand-in-hand with the (overwhelmingly Christian) social hard-right, doesn't it?

But really, I'm not sure there's much point getting bogged down in this argument for the hundredth time, I mean each of us could pretty much write the other's line for him by now. I just think the picture you're painting - of a world where the scientific-rationalist worldview has basically won the day, with theists fighting a desperate rearguard action - is patently untrue, even in the country that has led the world in science and technology at least since WWII.

Patrick Swayze
01-06-2012, 11:21 AM
I'm not sure what you're getting at here. I assume that poster is fake? So you're implying the Unabomber poster is fake too (http://thenewcivilrightsmovement.com/unabomber-climate-change-billboards-killed-sponsors-refuse-to-apologize/politics/2012/05/05/39071), or what? You're naive if you think the Christian Right in America doesn't produce some pretty unpleasant propaganda, and much of it is aimed at science/scientists.

Or is the rape tourism poster real and you're just pointing out that people in lots of countries make dickish posters?

the one I posted is fake as far as I know. or it's at least shopped onto that background.

well the bottom one you posted looks like it's been edited onto that billboard and the middle one isn't a poster, that's why I used the ' '

I just found them funny I wasn't trying to challenge your knowledge of poster campaigns.

Mr. Tea
01-06-2012, 11:58 AM
I just found them funny I wasn't trying to challenge your knowledge of poster campaigns.

Right, I getcha. But they are all real, I'm pretty sure.

Mr. Tea
01-06-2012, 12:25 PM
all or even most members of a society does not have to actually subscribe to an ideology for it to be the basic shaping principle of that society.


Rick Santorum, who came close to being the Republican candidate for the next US general election, is promoting the ludicrous fiction that there is "scientific evidence" against Darwinian evolution (http://thenewcivilrightsmovement.com/santorum-americans-must-challenge-science-with-biblical-dogma/politics/2012/03/22/36925). Oh, and he thinks man-made global warming is nonsense too, of course.

God created the world and then gave it to us to use as one big farm-cum-mine-cum-oilfield. End of story, God bless America.

Mr. Tea
10-12-2012, 09:13 AM
OK this is just getting annoying now.

Mr. Tea
21-11-2016, 05:20 PM
where did she say that or are you making stuff up again?


OK, I've just listened again to what she says and have typed my transcript below. She has quite a strong accent and I can't guarantee every word is right, but I think it's substantially correct. Please tell me what you think I've got wrong.


So I'm going to respond to your submissions, because I wanted to directly respond, because I 've actually been thinking about this coming here because I thought it was gonna be one of the coming [?] questions: how do we even start to decolonise science? "Science is true because it is science" - you know, what can you do - and my response to that was, if I were personally committed to enforcing decolonisation of science - science as a whole is a product of Western modernity...

[OK, that last bit is just flat-out, demonstrably untrue. Ironically, it's exactly what a racist white historian would say. But even if were true, it would still have no bearing whatsoever on the universality of Newton's laws, for example.]


...and the whole thing should be scratched off.

should be scratched off".]


So if you want a practical solution to how to decolonise science, we have to restart science from, I dunno, an African perspective, from out perspective, of how we've experienced science. For instance, I have a question for all the science people here, there is a place in [----] and they believe that, through the magic, through the black magic - we call it black magic - they call it witchcraft, others.. that you are able to send a lightning, to strike someone.

[This part is, I admit, a bit ambiguous, because at this stage she isn't saying that [I]she believes this is possible. But why bring it up if she doesn't believe it herself? Then finally:]


So, can you explain that scientifically? Because it is something that happens.

[So she *is* saying she believes that it's a real thing.]

Now which bit of that, exactly, have I misrepresented?


Africans have been systematically excluded from the science establishment for ever.

And you think a good way to go about including Africans in the science establishment is to indulge those who say science should be "scratched off" and that magicians can kill people with lightning? Is that going to help African people get educated in science and have careers in research and industry?


So yes i'm saying Science is inherently racist, no i'm not saying apples are racist.

Well, you're wrong. Certainly, scientists can be racist, and scientific institutions can be racist, but neither of those is synonymous with 'science'. An actually progressive, anti-racist approach here would be to encourage black Africans, and black people generally, to get a scientific education if they're so inclined, and pursue a career in science. Which would surely be to the general economic benefit of the continent, wouldn't it?

It's true that science as it currently stands is not primarily a product of African culture. But then neither is postmodern philosophy, which is where this whole anti-science movement comes from. I just don't understand how anyone who claims to be anti-racist can fail to be dismayed by such patently regressive attitudes that can only hold back the cultural and economic advancement of black people. How do you think black faculty staff in the UCT STEM departments feel about this?

sufi
21-11-2016, 06:18 PM
https://www.storm front.org/forum/t1181803/

sufi
21-11-2016, 06:19 PM
http://www.crassh.cam.ac.uk/programmes/decolonising-the-curriculum-in-theory-and-practice

Mr. Tea
21-11-2016, 07:14 PM
I can't be bothered clicking a Storm Front link, and I double can't be bothered clicking a broken Storm Front link.

I think what's wound me up here, apart from your patronising and condescending tone, my dear, is your unquestioning assumption that you're arguing from an anti-racist position. Whereas actually what you're demonstrating is the insidious crypto-racism of Leftist cultural relativism. I don't know whether you actually agree with every word the women in that clip is saying, but you're defending what she says, and what she's saying is "Science is a solely white Western achievement, and not suitable for Africans, who are more of a witch-doctor sort of crowd." That's like something a cartoon of a white racist would come out with.

If "science is racist", what does that make Neil DeGrasse Tyson? A race traitor? A sort of astrophysical Uncle Tom?

sufi
21-11-2016, 07:16 PM
the amount of energy you put into rubbishing this young woman's words demonstrates exactly how science is racist

Mr. Tea
21-11-2016, 07:45 PM
So again, the only non-racist response is to meekly agree with what she says, because she is black.

Have you ever heard of 'the racism of low expectations'?

sufi
21-11-2016, 08:03 PM
no tea, just because i criticised you for drawing a false equivalence between anti-black and anti-white racisms, doesn't mean that i agree with either of them.

Your "colour blind" approach in this is inherently racist, because it wilfully (by now i s'pose) ignores the context where power and history are factors. We explained this to you kindly and gently, but you writhe and wriggle and seek to avoid the issue.

Stormxfront are with you on that, Cambridge uni seem to be with me!

Check this - it's relevant, and nicely balanced and nuanced: http://www.dailymaverick.co.za/opinionista/2016-10-16-in-the-fall-decolonisation-and-the-rejuvenation-of-the-academic-project-in-south-africa/

Mr. Tea
21-11-2016, 08:10 PM
no tea, just because i criticised you for drawing a false equivalence between anti-black and anti-white racisms, doesn't mean that i agree with either of them.


For the umpteenth time, that is exactly not what I was doing. Even droid accepts that this isn't the point I was making, and he's always the first person to jump down my throat at the slightest whiff of a fallacy or inconsistency.

Alright, I'll have a look at that link. I just hope you're not doing that thing of thinking "This person is disagreeing with me because they don't know something I know, so I will tell them the thing I know, and then they will agree with me."

Edit: you still haven't said which part of what she said I've misrepresented, or addressed the point I made about scientists, technologists etc. who are themselves black.

sufi
21-11-2016, 08:12 PM
so what were you doing? keep it short please

sufi
21-11-2016, 08:14 PM
this is what i think you were doing

Oh I see now,
So you decided to post up the 2 videos about racism and science, but you decided to just skip the race bit.

Cool:cool:this is how baboon read it
I can't help feeling sad that Zhao isn't around for this thread.

@Tea, you can't separate someone's attitude towards a system of knowledge from racial and other politics though, when that system of knowledge has been (and continues to be) used for oppressive purposes, alongside all the good uses to which it is put. They're inseparable, and the lack of acknowledgement of this point is, as I take it, precisely what the woman in the video is trying to bring some attention to in terms of decolonising science - much as I don't think she chooses the most helpful example.

I don't think we have to be literal in thinking that she really means to scrap all science. Rather, it's a rhetorical way of drawing attention to several things, among those the often-contemptuous attitude of the West towards other forms of knowledge - you show contempt for our ancestral knowledge, and we'll show contempt for yours. I don't think she makes the point particularly well, but that doesn't mean it's ridiculous.
i miss zhao too :x::x::x:

sufi
21-11-2016, 08:16 PM
& btw tea, i don't think you are "a racist", you are obtuse though :D

sufi
21-11-2016, 08:23 PM
Edit: you still haven't said which part of what she said I've misrepresented, or addressed the point I made about scientists, technologists etc. who are themselves black.

This addresses that:
no tea, just because i criticised you for drawing a false equivalence between anti-black and anti-white racisms, doesn't mean that i agree with either of them.

when you are in a hole ...

luka
21-11-2016, 08:28 PM
& btw tea, i don't think you are "a racist", you are obtuse though :D

i dont think he is a white supremacist but he clearly has a lot of, uh, unexamined assumptions.

Mr. Tea
21-11-2016, 10:39 PM
OK, so I've read this:



Check this - it's relevant, and nicely balanced and nuanced: http://www.dailymaverick.co.za/opinionista/2016-10-16-in-the-fall-decolonisation-and-the-rejuvenation-of-the-academic-project-in-south-africa/


A recent video of a UCT student arguing quite confidently that the way to decolonise the sciences is to abolish them altogether since, as a product of “Western modernity”, they are wholly colonial and hence irredeemable, will come in handy in the next coming weeks to the conservative detractors of Fallism as evidence and vindication of their misgiving about decolonisation as hollow, extremist, lacking in nuance, unscholarly, essentialist and academically unsound.

Needless to say, the student is probably aware by now that her statement was in error; that a larger – and precisely decolonised – history of the sciences would highlight the prominent contribution of non-Western traditions of science to what is today called “modern science” as well as the complicity of the sciences in some of the most devastating acts of terror known to (wo)man.

Alright, agreed with this as far as it goes - although in the last sentence, it's important to note that "the sciences" aren't a person or even a group of people. Sure, scientists have done terrible things, but that's a very different proposition. No-one blames 'music' when a musician does something terrible.


But, quite ironically, her error proves her point: the presentation of knowledge by South African universities as predominantly the product of the West, and the failure to recognise that some of the major scientific disciplines (medicine, physics, astronomy, mathematics, among others) have deep heritages in Africa, China and India, for example, is precisely what generates such serious gaps in students’ knowledge base.

So even when she's wrong, she's right! How about that? But come on, this is just zhao all over again - a man educated in the USA who for some reason thought he had better knowledge of the GCSE History syllabus than I did. I'm aware of the scientific and proto-scientific discoveries made by the Egyptians, Babylonians, Persians, Arabs (etc. etc. etc.) and I've hardly made it my life's mission to learn about contributions to science by non-Europeans. It's an argument that's 50 or 100 years out of date.

But really, this leads us to an impasse. Is science Bad, because it's European, or Good, because much of it is not European? Or are only the European bits bad? Is it acceptable to teach algebra, because it's Arabic, but not logarithms, because they were invented by a Scotsman? (Leaving aside the question of whether Arabs have always behaved in a purely benign way towards Africans.)


It is jarring to hear scholars in the sciences claim that unlike the humanities, their disciplines are ideologically neutral and hence not susceptible to decolonisation – despite the wealth of literature to the absolute contrary.

When someone can convincingly describe to me what an "African law of gravity", or "law of African gravity", might look like, I'm just going to have to reject this outright. If you don't know enough science to understand this then I'm afraid I can't really help you on this one. Of course, this applies far more to the physical sciences (to say nothing of mathematics) than it does to the life sciences, which are far more contingent on subjective interpretation and actually have been used - abused or misused, rather - to justify colonialism and other horrors such as the Nazi eugenics programme. But to blame 'science' as a whole for these crimes is ludicrous, not least because all the 'science' (actually pseudoscience, for the most part) used to justify these crimes has since been completely overturned, and not by critical theory, but by science. In fact the racial pseudoscience of Nazi Germany had already begun to be discarded by serious biologists twenty years or more previously.

And to compare science to something as obviously culture-contingent as law is just bizarre.


...one might take issue with features of the Fallist movement that do appear to glorify unschooled opinions and banal speech. I have been dismayed at what I also sense as an undercurrent of anti-intellectualism in the student movement, a laziness to read, and a penchant to displace rigorous intellectual debate with moralistic and self-righteous reproaches.
...
Indeed, many of the blind spots in the Fallist movement could symptomatise a failure in political education. And I do worry that the intoxicating gaze of the camera and increasing media attention may shift student protests more in the direction of public spectacles and choreographed theatrics rather than slow contemplation and reflection.

Sure, co-sign that.

Most of the rest of it seems quite reasonable. But seriously, are students actually burning libraries now? Fucking hell.

Mr. Tea
21-11-2016, 10:57 PM
Stormxfront are with you on that...


Also, Storm Front? Come on man, that's lame. Let's at least talk to each other like adults.

I mean, if I felt being a total dick I'm sure I could find a clip of a Saudi imam with views on the perfidious West not at all far removed from yours, but with opinions on Jews, gays and feminists completely interchangeable with those of your typical Storm Front cretin. But I choose not to, you know, sink.


...Cambridge uni seem to be with me!


I believe this is what our much-missed late colleague hundredmillionlifetimes would have called "an appeal to the imagined authority of a Big Other." :D

sufi
22-11-2016, 03:51 PM
I mean, if I felt being a total dick I'm sure I could find a clip of a Saudi imam with views on the perfidious West not at all far removed from yours, but with opinions on Jews, gays and feminists completely interchangeable with those of your typical Storm Front cretin. But I choose not to, you know, sink.
I have absolutely no idea what you are trying to do here, but please go ahead.

Mr. Tea
22-11-2016, 04:38 PM
I have absolutely no idea what you are trying to do here, but please go ahead.

The point being, trying to slander me by saying "here is someone at Storm Front saying something similar to what you're saying, ergo your whole argument is basically Nazi-ish"* is ridiculous, and exactly the same game could no doubt be played with some of the positions you hold.

[*and if that's not what you're saying, what are you saying?]

sufi
22-11-2016, 05:01 PM
yes that is what i was saying. you still don't really get this i don't think, so let me lay it out for you. with some simple yes/no answers.

You posted 2 viral videos, both aimed at making fun out of their subjects.


1 was about a white student claiming anti-white racism meant that he was entitled to flounce off
1 was about a black student claiming anti-black racism meant that she was entitled to call for science to be drastically reviewed


you said that you see these as "entirely parallel", do you still think that?
here's a clue: the 2 are not parallel unless you consider anti-white and anti-black racism are equivalent.

or alternatively, do you still feel entitled to ignore the race element in the videos?

Mr. Tea
22-11-2016, 05:13 PM
yes that is what i was saying.

Sufi, I assume you support the existence of laws limiting the length of the working week, votes for women and the minimum wage? Well as chance would have it, those are all parts of the Fascist Manifesto! Ergo you are a Fascist, so anything you say can be completely disregarded.

See? It's intellectually dishonest and gets us nowhere.

And speaking of intellectual dishonesty:


1 was about a black student claiming anti-black racism meant that she was entitled to call for science to be drastically reviewed

Except she wasn't calling for it to be "reviewed", she called for it to be "scratched off", i.e. erased completely. And her argument was based on two assertions: that science as a whole is purely a product of Western modernity, and that the laws of nature are culturally contingent. Both of which are demonstrably untrue.

She has the right to say those things, clearly. I'm not contesting that at all. Where we differ is that I don't think the right to say something implies the right to be agreed with. You seem to be taking the stance that she should have that right precisely because she is black, which I think is massively patronizing and, in itself, more racist than you realize.

Further, disagreeing with her on those two specific points doesn't mean she's wrong about anything else, or about racism in general. She's fighting a good fight - perhaps the best fight there is - I just think she's picked the wrong target.

You think we disagree because I'm being racist - or at least, being 'obtuse' and saying racist things, as you generously put it - while you're being anti-racist. Whereas in fact we're disagreeing because we disagree about what constitutes 'racist' and 'anti-racist' in a discussion about science.

We're never going to get anywhere while we continue like this, so it's probably best for this thread to be left to lie.

sufi
22-11-2016, 05:20 PM
yes that is what i was saying. you still don't really get this i don't think, so let me lay it out for you. with some simple yes/no answers.

You posted 2 viral videos, both aimed at making fun out of their subjects.


1 was about a white student claiming anti-white racism meant that he was entitled to flounce off
1 was about a black student claiming anti-black racism meant that she was entitled to call for science to be drastically reviewed


you said that you see these as "entirely parallel", do you still think that?
here's a clue: the 2 are not parallel unless you consider anti-white and anti-black racism are equivalent.

or alternatively, do you still feel entitled to ignore the race element in the videos?

i feel like i have fallen into adam curtis land where the words that we speak actually have no meaning.
or are you just talking utter bollocks?
i pulled you up for sharing a viral hate video
i asked you to explain yourself briefly and you wrote like 1000 words, ... and still didn't explain.
i asked for simple yes/no answers and you call me a fascist because you assume i support working hours :crylarf:.

why not just answer a straight question with a straight answer?

sufi
22-11-2016, 05:37 PM
so you edit your post to add extra scorn, nice.

and still can't answer a straight question. i don't think you should get off so easy or agree to disagree, there are topics where relativism and subjectivity are not the bottom line, there are objective truths about oppression that are worth defending.

so, in good faith, please re-examine what i wrote and try again. without trying to tell me what i'm saying, or use actual quotes instead of made up ones. & please don't attribute opinions to me, this isn't about me anyway, ad hominems are generally considered unsporting etc...

maybe this is an easier question for you:

do you think it's more legitimate to challenge mainstream knowledge on the basis of anti-white racism or anti-black racism?

Mr. Tea
22-11-2016, 06:55 PM
1 was about a white student claiming anti-white racism meant that he was entitled to flounce off
1 was about a black student claiming anti-black racism meant that she was entitled to call for science to be drastically reviewed




I see exactly what you're trying to do here. You want to goad me into saying "Anti-white racism is just as bad as anti-black racism, waah, poor oppressed whites". Which I'm not going to say, because it was never the point I was making in the first place, and also because it would be an obviously ridiculous thing to say.

My point was that the two scenarios are intellectually equivalent. Which they are.

As for it being a 'hate video', I understand the term to mean a video created specifically to propagate bigotry. Unless you have good reason to think otherwise, we have to accept that it's simply some footage of a real exchange that happened at a South African university. If people are sharing the video purely to make fun of it, then unfortunately I have to say I don't find it difficult to see why.

droid
22-11-2016, 07:49 PM
Lads, if i was still moderating here this thread would be locked.

luka
22-11-2016, 08:30 PM
Really? Seems mild by our standards.

droid
22-11-2016, 08:36 PM
Tea has made a valid point about science being attacked by both left and right.

Sufi has made a valid point that the context of the two clips are entirely different and that comparing them is problematic from a cultural/race perspective.

Neither have managed to convince the other of their points and now stormfront links and accusations of racism and fascism are being thrown around over at least two threads.

No good can come of this.

sufi
22-11-2016, 08:47 PM
I see exactly what you're trying to do here. You want to goad me into saying "Anti-white racism is just as bad as anti-black racism, waah, poor oppressed whites". Which I'm not going to say, because it was never the point I was making in the first place, and also because it would be an obviously ridiculous thing to say..
Well that was actually what you said, intentionally or unintentionally, by presenting your 2 videos as "entirely parallel", you can't just decide to dismiss the racial aspects and implications of the examples you chose.

I'm disappointed not to have been able to examine that with you constructively, but you made it impossible by nitpicking linguistics, refusing to understand what was stated clearly or engage with straight questions, coming up with misquoted and misleading "paraphrasing", with ludicrous ad extremis positons and examples which you attribute to anybody and everybody, not to mention personal abuse scattered far and wide.
:(

sufi
22-11-2016, 08:49 PM
Sorry droid, didn't see your summing up post.
Which is pretty accurate.

You know I only rarely bother to get into "debate" here, but those videos were thought provoking in a way I couldn't ignore.