The New Scientist on Scientism

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I have to say that I was surprised to see this article appear on the web site of the New Scientist which has always struck me as a rather conservative, mainstream publication. The NS, unfortunately, only gives limited access to its pages - a couple of free views before the paywall comes down, so I hope you catch it before that happens.

The title of the article is: A rational nation ruled by science would be a terrible idea ...

https://www.newscientist.com/article/209...ible-idea/

However, the article is reprinted from the original which appeared over at Slate so you have the option of reading it there if the NS paywall is operating.

http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and...lains.html

Here's a flavour of the argument.

Quote:First, experts usually don’t know nearly as much as they think they do. They often get it wrong, thanks to their inherently irrational brains that – through overconfidence, bubbles of like-minded thinkers, or just wanting to believe their vision of the world can be true – mislead us and misinterpret information.

Rationality is subjective. All humans experience such biases; the real problem is when we forget that scientists and experts are human too, and approach evidence and reasoned deliberation with the same prior commitments and unspoken assumptions as anyone else. Scientists: they’re just like us.

And second, science has no business telling people how to live. It’s striking how easily we forget the evil that following “science” can do. So many times throughout history, humans have thought they were behaving in logical and rational ways, only to realise that such acts have yielded morally heinous policies that were only enacted because reasonable people were swayed by “evidence”.

And ...

Quote:The myopia of scientism, its naïve utopianism and simplistic faith, bears an uncanny resemblance to the religious dogmatisms folks like Tyson and Dawkins denounce.
I do not make any clear distinction between mind and God. God is what mind becomes when it has passed beyond the scale of our comprehension.
Freeman Dyson
(This post was last modified: 2018-03-13, 06:43 PM by Kamarling.)
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Really great read Kam.  Thanks for posting.

I see some connection between this and a couple of blog posts by John Horgan over at Scientific American.  I enjoy reading much of Horgan's stuff as he seems to be somewhat balanced.

He email corresponded in a Q&A format with a couple of physicists/cosmologists recently and I thought both of them were also a bit more fair on this Tyson/Dawkins/Krauss drum beating for science as our new, ruling, prevailing religion:

https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/cro...-there-is/

Quote:Horgan: Do any pop-science claims or tropes really bug you?

Gleiser: Yes, actually, quite a few. For example, claims that we understand the big bang, the event that marked the origin of the universe. We most certainly do not, and I go further to claim that we cannot, given the way science depends on a conceptual framework to operate. Science can give at most an incomplete answer to the question of the origin of everything, one that depends on notions such as space, time, energy, laws of nature… Another one is the claim that we “live in a multiverse.” We have no clue if a multiverse exists or not, and, worse, we wouldn’t be able to know either way. Science popularizers often get carried away and present ideas that are grounded on speculation as a done deal. We must be very careful with that, especially in a time when science’s credibility is constantly under attack. Scientists don’t want to be the ones who undermine science’s credibility, presenting speculative ideas as confirmed scientific facts!

https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/cro...-humanity/

Quote:Horgan: You won the Templeton Award in 2011. Does that mean you believe in God? If so, do you think He'll bail us out?

Rees: I don’t believe in any religious dogmas, but I share a sense of mystery and wonder with many who do.  If we learn anything from the pursuit of science, it is that even something as basic as an atom is quite hard to understand. This should induce skepticism about any dogma, or any claim to have achieved more than a very incomplete and metaphorical insight into any profound aspect of our existence. As Darwin said, in a letter to the American biologist Asa Gray: "I feel most deeply that the whole subject is too profound for the human intellect. A dog might as well speculate on the mind of Newton. Let each man hope and believe as he can.”

Hard-line atheists must surely be aware of “religious” people who are manifestly neither unintelligent nor naïve, though they make minimal attempts to understand them. By attacking mainstream religion, rather than striving for peaceful coexistence with it, they weaken the alliance against fundamentalism and fanaticism. They also weaken science. If a young Muslim or evangelical Christian is told at school that they can’t have their God and accept evolution, they will opt for their God and be lost to science. Adherents of most religions would accord high importance to their communal and ritual aspects. When so much divides us, and change is disturbingly fast, religion offers bonding within a community. And its heritage, linking its adherents with past generations, should strengthen our motivation not to leave a degraded world for generations yet to come.
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(2018-03-13, 08:18 PM)Silence Wrote: Really great read Kam.  Thanks for posting.

I see some connection between this and a couple of blog posts by John Horgan over at Scientific American.  I enjoy reading much of Horgan's stuff as he seems to be somewhat balanced.

He email corresponded in a Q&A format with a couple of physicists/cosmologists recently and I thought both of them were also a bit more fair on this Tyson/Dawkins/Krauss drum beating for science as our new, ruling, prevailing religion:

https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/cro...-there-is/


https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/cro...-humanity/

I've often read Horgan's blog and, while he is usually across the fence from me and my worldview, I have a lot of time for his efforts to neutralise the dogmatic rhetoric of some of those on his side.
I do not make any clear distinction between mind and God. God is what mind becomes when it has passed beyond the scale of our comprehension.
Freeman Dyson
(2018-03-13, 08:30 PM)Kamarling Wrote: I've often read Horgan's blog and, while he is usually across the fence from me and my worldview, I have a lot of time for his efforts to neutralise the dogmatic rhetoric of some of those on his side.

That's really all I ask for.  In my reading of him he seems to understand the intellectual dishonesty of dismissing anything out of hand and the even more troubling dogmatic, faithful belief that a materialistic explanation is there for everything.  He's also had some weird experiences in his own life that are likely the reason he rides the fence at all (so to speak).
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(2018-03-13, 08:36 PM)Silence Wrote: That's really all I ask for.  In my reading of him he seems to understand the intellectual dishonesty of dismissing anything out of hand and the even more troubling dogmatic, faithful belief that a materialistic explanation is there for everything.  He's also had some weird experiences in his own life that are likely the reason he rides the fence at all (so to speak).

Yep. I think this article puts his position into perspective and he starts by cautioning people - we might call them "proponents" or even "us" - not to assume that the enemy of my enemies is my friend.

https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/cro...sm-debate/
I do not make any clear distinction between mind and God. God is what mind becomes when it has passed beyond the scale of our comprehension.
Freeman Dyson
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