Sunday, May 28, 2006


Sometimes the journal Nature seems like a sort of New York Times for scientists, with everything that entails. So when they say a book is dangerous, I seek it out. This one seems like it may be good:
In case anyone missed it, there was a little row in the realm of science last year. In the spring of 1992, Bryan Appleyard, the science and philosophy columnist for the Sunday Times in London, published a work that set off a flurry of debates over the place of science in today’s world. Even before its publication, Nature, the bellwether of opinion in the British scientific community, denounced Understanding the Present:
Science and the Soul of Modern Man
as an extremely dangerous book. The problem was not just that Appleyard had renewed ‘the old assertion that science affronts human dignity,” it was that he did it in a way that was ‘likely to be persuasive,” especially among those who control the flow of resources to scientists.
(Understanding the Present: Science and the Soul of Modern Man
by Bryan Appleyard
Review author: Daniel C. Johnson
Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, Vol. 32, No. 4. (Dec., 1993) :406) (Emphasis added)

It's that last bit about funding that will set the Herd to running because these days a successful "scientist" is not necessarily the one who is the most successful in science but the one who is most successful at getting funding. The two can coincide but they usually do not because the meek/geek that inherit the earth usually do so because they turn inward to the conceptual world of words in their own heads and then apply what they learn from language and Logos to the earth. I.e., the meek tend not to have so-called "social skills" at first and if they did then they would tend not to inherit the earth later. I've never much cared for so-called "social skills" myself and would rather talk to a person I know has to be communicating in authentic ways rather than one who is skilled at mixing the authentic and the inauthentic. There again, games can be fun.

It is humorous that when the meek are attacking the meek things like this: "Well, there's a possibility about a missing variable over here." are basically the emotional equivalent of a vicious personal attack. So this fellow who is one of them who seems to be telling the truth about science will be attacked, apparently they've even gone so far as to call his book "dangerous." Dangerous to their funding perhaps. Note that there is one thing that Left and Right, Democrat and Republican will just keep throwing vast amounts of money at: "Science." It seems that Republicans are marginally on the right side of a reformation among the geeks given that some feel the need to write books such as this: The Republican War on Science. The Left has always abused science while claiming that everything they do or say is "scientific," so it is not surprising that the Right would answer some. It is not suprising that the Left would continue to do what it always has done. What is telling is that the Right is also taken in by some of the myths of modern science these days.

An interesting view, note the supposed fact/value split:
The equation of liberalism and science is neatly set up in Appleyards glossary:
“Liberalism is the precise correlative of the scientific view that we must remove ourselves from the world in order to understand it — in liberalism the equivalent concept is that we must remove ourselves from values in order to understand them.’ Thus, all that is characteristic of the soul of modern man — the absence of conviction, the hypertrophied notion of tolerance, the narcissistic devotion to self-cultivation — can be traced back to the influence of science. For there is no question that Appleyard regards the spirit of science as the primary mover in the development of “liberal scientific culture.” As much as he fancies himself a disciple of Max Weber, his understanding of the present is more reminiscent of Jaques Ellul’s The Technological Society than of anything Weber put out. Far from pursuing Weber’s more nuanced analyses of the dialectical development of culture, Appleyard relentlessly identifies science as the ultimate causal factor in the rise of modernity.
This is evident in his sweeping appraisal of the history of science and philosophy from Galileo to the present. Once the principle of efficient causality was enshrined, once it was agreed that we must place ourselves outside the cosmos in order to gain a proper perspective on the nature of the cosmos, science was free to overwhelm and transform the inherited culture. Why? “Because it worked,” Appleyard replies. A few heroic thinkers — notably Pascal, Kant, Kierkegaard, and Ludwig Wittgenstein — did dare to expose the perils inherent in the advancing system of thought. The vast majority, however, capitulated, providing a rationale for the dominance of science and championing its cause. Inexorably, science pushed on to its unsettling conclusion: With the work of Darwin and Freud, the formerly inviolable human self finally became just another component in the mechanistic world of the scientific imagination.

That science met little resistance from the congregation it had systematically stripped of meaning is to Appleyard a tribute to its devastating effectiveness. Even when the horrors of modern warfare and environmental devastation demonstrated the capacity of science to do evil, the progress of scientific understanding was not checked. If anything, such specters as the A-bomb...gave science yet one more area in which to assert its expertise: in the oversight of science itself.* Scientists could shield themselves from blame by invoking the conventional distinction between value-free research and the ethical issues surrounding the use of that research. In the meantime, who better to assess the implications of global warming or nuclear winter than scientists themselves? After all, science works.

Given the absolute authority accorded science, the only ones who can truly question it anymore are the scientists themselves. What makes this point especially interesting is the fact that developments within science over the course of this century have in fact given rise to a number of questions.
(Ib. :407) (Emphasis added)

That last is part of where something like ID enters in on the basis of a wedge that is very thin along the edge, so thin that many Darwinists will impale themselves on it.

Note that there is no such thing as a fact/value distinction. All that could possibly be argued about such a distinction is that it might be a useful heuristic to pretend or "imagine" that there is one.

An interesting phrase: "...just another component in the mechanistic world of the scientific imagination." It's not just Darwinists who include their own imaginations as evidence, yet their radical and extreme example is helpful in recognizing such "reasoning"/imagining throughout science. It would seem that Darwinists (i.e. many biologists) are not scientists in any conceptual sense no matter how low the epistemic bar is set.

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