Thursday, December 10, 2009

Science Does Not Demand Belief

... but Scientism does.

Scientism is what Chris Mooney (author of Unscientific America) advocates. He thinks that scientists and their supporters "must work to influence public opinion, and anticipate and thwart the skeptics." Ironically, this isn't what science demands--it is what True Believers demand. Under this system, scientists assume the roles vacated by discredited religionists under a new modern secular mass movement, replacing old ideas with a new metaphysics of value which is always completely unscientific (by definition) in order to craft a worldview that is a viable context for meaningful and moral human action. This is ostensibly done with "science" as its foundation and framework, which is of course nonsense.

Science doesn't say anything about value. It can quantify physical and empirical properties of things, but it can't give direction on what those properties should mean to humanity, philosophy, politics, religion, or economy. We have to infer those connections from another value context which is intuitive to humans but never scientific. There are no scientific tests for human rights, for acquaintance, for aesthetics, for morality, for being, or for value. It is impossible to prove that these things exist in an empirical domain; they rely ultimately upon subjective conviction.

People don't operate under the rules of science which level all measurable things in a sort of objective equality. Humans naturally stratify things into value groups, and that is what has ultimately brought about "ClimateGate." It isn't good enough merely to do science for the sake of finding things out; it has to mean something. It has to be important. When it comes to praxis, there is also a moral dimension because application always involves human action. None of those are scientific phenomena, but they begin to lead scientists in different circles more familiar to those who seek religion. We soon find that there are scientists who see data where there are none to be seen; scientists who desperately need to advocate a cause. In the end, Scientism gets in the way of science. It's just another religion.

None of us possess all of the objective facts. We don't do primary research of a generalized nature (few of us do any at all); we increasingly specialize. This requires a great deal of faith in other specialists who claim to have the first-hand knowledge that we lack. In this regard, we are something like those who once waited for Moses to come down from the mountain. While the true prophet of religion is measured on a scale that weighs the purity of his causes, the true scientist is identified by his lack of any cause at all. True scientists are the ones who don't evangelize--they don't have a reason to influence public opinion or to thwart skeptics. When scientists forsake science to become activists, like Chris Mooney thinks they should, that is when things like "ClimateGate" happen.

No comments: