Are scientists, engineers and technologists (over-represented on this site) relatively easy prey for terrorist exploitation? Has the ‘engineering mindset’ dehumanised vast swathes of people with an obedient, unquestioning, uncritical ‘scientistic’ worldview? If so, how can we make a change and “‘humanise’ the teaching of scientific and technical subjects”?
“to question authority, whether scientific, political, religious or scientific.”
Oh, yeah, that’s known as the ‘scientific’ self-importance stutter, audible and visible across a range of professions in today’s society! 😉
“[I]n Isis-controlled territory, university courses in archaeology, fine art, law, philosophy, political science and sports have been eliminated, along with drama and the reading of novels.”
This post examines the positions and contributions of 3 Canadian IDists. Two of them easily, if shallowly embrace their IDism in public (as journalist & professor) and one still hasn’t openly reached that point of audacious self-promotion or reflexivity.
Some background: I have watched this evolutionism-creationism-IDT ‘controversy’ (which operates mainly in USAmerica) for more than 10 years. The winners so far are agnostics, atheists and also anti-IDist pro-evolutionary theory Abrahamic theists. The latter are not bothered by the repetitive doubts of agnostics or the anti-theism of atheists because they responsibly accept the horizontality of cutting-edge science while staying faithful to their vertical religious traditions. But the ‘points’ scored by agnostics and atheists against IDists have indeed been considerable, which is evident from the growing numbers of non-theists or non-religious in the USA, a country some call a pre-atheist nation.
As someone living ‘outside’ of the North American ‘culture war,’ let the following put into context the ‘work’ of three Canadian ‘Cdesign proponentsists,’ or what I call in short ‘IDists.’
When I was poking my nose around philosophy of science in the 1990s, I was told that Larry Laudan’s critique of “the demarcation criterion” had pretty much scuppered the very idea of “pseudo-science.” Since I don’t work in philosophy of science, but take a keen (and amateurish) interest in the debates about creationism and intelligent design, I found this unfortunate.
Imagine my surprise, then, when I found that some philosophers of science still take the idea of “pseudo-science” seriously and are intent on rescuing it from Laudan’s criticism. First, I bring to your attention a recent NY Times article, “The Dangers of Pseudo-Science” (part of the usually excellent NY Time series The Stone, which brings philosophy out of the rarefied atmosphere of academia into the very slightly less rarefied atmosphere of the NY Times readership). The authors, Massimo Pigliucci and Maarten Boudry, are also the editors of Philosophy of Pseudoscience: Reconsidering the Demarcation Problem — which, guessing from the table of contents and reviews, will be an excellent collection.
Defenders of evolutionary theory are sometimes accused of “scientism”, and this much-used (and much-abused) term has also arisen in the republic of letters due to Steven Pinker’s recent “Science is Not the Enemy of the Humanities” in The New Republic, which drew interesting responses from Leon Wieseltier, Ross Douthat, and Dan Dennett. Here I want to examine a bit more carefully the idea of “scientism” by way of a criticism of Wieseltier’s “Perhaps Culture is Now the Counterculture”: A Defense of the Humanities”. There he complains that
Our glittering age of technologism is also a glittering age of scientism. Scientism is not the same thing as science. Science is a blessing, but scientism is a curse. Science, I mean what practicing scientists actually do, is acutely and admirably aware of its limits, and humbly admits to the provisional character of its conclusions; but scientism is dogmatic, and peddles certainties. It is always at the ready with the solution to every problem, because it believes that the solution to every problem is a scientific one, and so it gives scientific answers to non-scientific questions. But even the question of the place of science in human existence is not a scientific question. It is a philosophical, which is to say, a humanistic question.
Wieseltier isn’t a philosopher but a professional pundit who sprinkles his prose with philosophemes to appeal to the class-prejudices of his intended audience. So it would take some work just to locate his rant on a more well-traveled map.
Here is what started this conversation:
“At risk of being a bit off-topic, let me add that there is a far larger “intelligent design” community. I am talking about philosophy, particularly academic philosophy. Philosophers, as a group, tend to look at things from what I consider a[n] intelligent design perspective. That perhaps comes from Plato. Perhaps it is a natural way of thinking. To be clear, that particular intelligent design community is honest and largely non-political, unlike the religious version. And yes, there are “fine tuning” ideas coming from that community.” – Neil Rickert (http://theskepticalzone.com/wp/?p=2926&cpage=2#comment-27860)
I asked him:
“could you elaborate on this: “Philosophers, as a group, tend to look at things from what I consider a[n] intelligent design perspective”? … which philosophers, specifically who … which you suggest display a “natural way of thinking” about ‘intelligent design’?”
Over the past year or so, two very interesting books in the philosophy of nature have attracted attention outside of the ultra-rarefied world of academic discourse: Alex Rosenberg’s The Atheist’s Guide to Reality: Enjoying Life without Illusions and Thomas Nagel’s Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature Is Almost Certainly False. Both of these works have been extensively discussed in popular magazines, radio shows, blogs, and esp. at Uncommon Descent. Here, I want to briefly describe what I see going on here and open up the topic for critical discussion.
Elizabeth started another thread (http://theskepticalzone.com/wp/?p=256) stating that methodological naturalism (MN) “underlies the methodology that we call science.” Later she spoke of “methodological naturalism, as in the working assumption that scientists make about the world in order to predict things.” Then she quoted Wikipedia, which states: “all scientific endeavors—all hypotheses and events—are to be explained and tested by reference to natural causes and events,” adding that this is “more or less the definition I have been assuming.” In other words, science studies ‘nature-only’ because it is naturalistic – it sees nothing other than nature that *could* be studied. Elizabeth sticks with this definition when she says “Science occupies the domain of natural explanations.”
Still later, Elizabeth admitted she is ‘not wild about’ MN (or what I suggested as more accurate of her statements: science applies ‘methodological probabilism’) and also that “‘methodological naturalism’ is a poor term.” Thus, her concession: “now that I realise that the term [MN] appears to denote different things to different people, I will avoid it.” So, the main argument in the OP was deserted.