Saturday, February 26, 2011

Blinded with science!

One thing I'm always amused of in the usual religious debates: How "science" is constantly anthropomorphized, and is said to give us different - even conflicting - orders as human beings.

Science shows us how reality truly is!
Science has nothing to say about reality as reality, it's just useful for predictive models!
Science says we should always be skeptical and accept nothing without qualification!
Science says X is true and we are duty-bound to accept it without question!
Science never allows unobservables in, for that would taint its holy power!
Science tells us multiverses very likely exist, because they would explain so much!

Etc, etc.

And of course there's also that move to make "science" mean "scientists", engaging in full-blown personification of a method. Which leads to gems like: "Scientists are totally skeptical and spend all their waking hours trying to disprove their most cherished and beloved theories." Which usually means I'm either in the presence of a bullshitter, or someone whose entire knowledge of scientists and the history of science comes from that idiotic Golgi Apparatus bit from Dawkin's book.


Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...


""Scientists are totally skeptical and spend all their waking hours trying to disprove their most cherished and beloved theories." Which usually means I'm either in the presence of a bullshitter...."

High five for making me laugh.

Don't know if you saw this in a recent post :

"...I want to make it a habit to use the following expression, 'Ours is a world which is currently described by most scientists as x, y, and z.' A mouthful I know, but the more compact, more 'obvious' locution is just a bumper sticker for scientism: 'Science proves the world is x, y, and z.'"

I recently took up a (lucrative!) phil tutoring job in Taipei and am beset with the mission to convince a man (how) he (could have or) has free will, since "science proves we are fully determined by our environment and genes." Pray for me heheh.

Crude said...

I think that distinction between "Science shows/proves that x, y, z" and "Scientists currently model our world as x, y, z" is very important - and that modification to language is something I already at least try to stick to.

I've also noticed that many of the most fervent boosters of 'science' can't even tell the difference between scientific speculation and metaphysical opinion (and usually these are the ones who at least claim to have no use for philosophy - no surprise.) It really goes as far for them as "Evolution and nature are all totally unguided! This is a scientific fact! Because I read this NA say it once and he's a biologist."

I did notice the philosophy tutoring job. Good luck! Also, I am shocked that there is still such a thing. That seems very 1800s to me.

Neil Bates said...

Crude, thanks for dropping back to my blog after a spell. I should have been back to yours too, so here I am. Your latest is typically clever and with pithy intellectual skill yet guy-in-the-street informality and chattiness. Good, scientism needs spitballs thrown its way.

As for my own pet peeve: once an honest thinker appreciates it's a scam that decoherence in any way resolves the quantum measurement paradox, he or she will be shocked that such a bogus notion and semantic slight-of-hand could have taken such a hold and become so popular. Despite the romanticization rightly skewered here, most physicists just can't stand real mystery and will "do anything" to stop it. It's like a cult, truly depressing.

Codgitator: try saying that quantum mechanics shows there's genuine indeterminacy in the world. Reductionists counter with, "but it's just random!" Well, at a superficial level but there's room for correlative states and activity, and hope for a broader way to be "nondetermined."