The Scientistas and Dead Philosophies

Wow, another voice of reason within the ranks.  I can’t wait to see how he is miss-read and misunderstood here.  From a cursory glance through the comment section of the link, it is clear that reading comprehension and actually being able to follow someone’s arguments and deal with what they actually wrote (instead of what we think they wrote based upon our prejudices) is in short supply in the “scientific” community and lay scientific community.
A word of advice to science departments in our universities: Teach some reading comprehension, logic, and some basic philosophy.  Please.  This is embarrassing.
That people could react so ridiculously to what is so obvious a truth (“sometimes science must give way to religion”), tells us that fear and fundamentalism are alive and well within the scientific community.
From the link:
“But what was truly staggering was the support for the notion that science was, as one critic put it, “the best and only method we have for understanding reality”. It was here, in their rush to defend the walls of reason from the barbarians at the gate, the scientistas unwittingly took their cue from the logical positivists and came rather embarrassingly unstuck. It is as if, given an excellent Philips screwdriver, someone had concluded that only cross-head screws are of any use. Or worse, that they are the only type of screw to exist.
Imagine if, the next time you go to see The Long Day’s Journey Into Night or The Dark Knight Rises, the activity of your brain is recorded by an MRI machine. Would a full scientific explanation of those recordings really constitute the “best or only” way to understand the experience?  For anyone?
Yet in their eagerness to bash those that dare to suggest that one might experience wonder and awe, or be moved, outside a scientific context, the scientistas happily dismiss culture without a second thought.
When the philosopher A. J. Ayer was asked in the 1970s to identify the key weakness of logical positivism, Ayer, once one of its leading proponents, replied that “nearly all of it was false.” By recycling the discredited notions of a dead philosophy, those that rashly criticized Sarewitz have demonstrated that they would benefit from a good, hard reading of poetry.”
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2 Responses to The Scientistas and Dead Philosophies

  1. Burk Braun says:

    “By contrast, the Angkor temples demonstrate how religion can offer an authentic personal encounter with the unknown.”

    Well, yes, in an artistic way, and if one pays any attention to the theology/myths involved, in a philosophically invalid way. It is important to differentiate between art and philosophy. Art expresses our attitudes to other things, whether outside ourselves or inside. Philosophy should aspire higher.. to actually delineate our relationship to these things in a rational, defensible, analytic, coherent way.

    It seems unfortunately quite easy to confuse the two approaches and make of opinions and myths a whole series of unfortunate philosophies-of-everything (i.e. theologies) which are also wrong.

    We need art. I love art of many kinds. We need its intersubjectivity, its community, its humanity, emotional power and hope. All that is understood. What we don't need is to confuse it with reasoned thought.


    Secondly, there is the issue of the whisky priest. The problem is not drunkenness, but the quality, track record, and purposes of the respective doctrines and propositions. Insofar as they are doing performance art and community bonding, priests are valid and have no problem with falsity. They are true. But when it comes to scientific propositions about the nature of reality, the origins of humanity, etc.. then they do not have a leg to stand on, and whether drunk or not, do not deserve belief, faith, or any other sort of credence.

    So the question becomes.. what kind of reality do we mean when we speak of the virtues of science and religion? Well, science is the only way to learn about that resolutely “other” reality external to us. Religion is perfectly fine as one of the arts of living, learning about each other as well as our many rather whacky forebears.. it is highly illuminating on that score, and many others. It is about us- a humanistic pursuit, ironically enough!


  2. Burk Braun says:

    I should add by way of explanation that creation stories and other supernatural paraphernalia are not central to religion anyhow. They are means to an end, not ends in themselves. The point of religion is to bond people together and make them feel good. Back when we didn't know anything, it was easy to spin a lot of stories (narratives!) to answer all those questions that people naturally (logically) have about their position in the cosmos, answers which make them feel secure and perhaps cared for, and incidentally increase their respect for those who spin those answers out.

    But to think that Eskimos told that the raven brought light into the world took it seriously as a scientific explanation seriously underestimates them as people. Unfortunately, other cultures with less charming tales and theories got all wrapped up in “believeing” them to be correct, leading to the absurdity of these religion vs science debates. Priests should know their place.


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