Now, I have forgotten who said it, but the gist of it is: If I agreed with everything you say, I’d be you, and we certainly wouldn’t want that. I’m all for difference and diversity and varying points of view. There’s a lot to be gained from the mix, to be sure. I should hope, and this forum is a good example of the fact that we can have very different perspectives on the same issues, but when presented in a reasonable way they become horizon expanding instead of merely cause for rejection. And, so, the sentiments:
First of all, before too many misunderstandings arise, let me make perfectly clear that I am anything but anti-science, nor do I doubt the efficacy of the scientific method. By the same token, and just like everyone else here, I have very clear reservations of how both of these are practiced. As @Geoffreyjen_Edwards has aptly pointed out, things are changing in science because a growing number of scientists are expanding their horizons beyond the strict materialism which is still the current orthodoxy and this change will occur painfully slowly, or as Kuhn made clear (and I think he was correct in his analysis), simply painfully, for it will only change when it absolutely has to. That’s just how things are, and we have to operate within those constraints.
What is more, it has been long known those practicing science are not beyond falsifying data if it suits their purposes, whereby external pressures, such as the granting or denying of a degree or obtaining funding, may be driving their actions. One study I read about 20 years ago (unfortunately I can’t remember the bibliographic details) showed that this figure could be as high as 25%. I know enough about human nature to know that we will do really weird stuff if we think (better: believe) we have no way out of a dilemma. Still, it never crossed my mind to reject science, but instead only to reject those who weren’t playing the game according to the accepted rules. What it all meant for me – and I haven’t changed my mind on this one – is that we, the recipients of what they are producing have to be ever more critical and questioning in our reception of what’s being said. Deal with what you have before you and stay alert and mindful, period. As my friend Julius used to say, “abusus, non tollit usus”. We always need to keep our wits about us.
For me, though, the real point we need to keep in mind and consider is that we all make assumptions going in that we hardly ever question. Even Quigley (whose The Evolution of Civilization, by the way, I just opened and), who is very clear about method, makes odd statements about what we would call paranormal phenomena and why we needed study them. There are such phenomena and there are report of such phenomena, and if we are going to be truly scientific about our dealings with them, we cannot just dismiss them out of hand because they don’t match our own unquestioned assumptions. And for me, this is essential, for not being clear on this leads to endless meaningless quibbles that prevent us from developing our knowledge and understanding of the world in which we find ourselves.
Quigley, for example, is obviously – like most mainstream scientists at the time of his writing and now – a materialist and so whatever falls outside the scope of my materialist assumptions may be ignored. I can see how you get to that point, but it is just wrong and inconsistent with the image of scientist you are trying to develop. But – and this is most important – just because I see he is blinded by his assumptions, it certainly doesn’t mean that he has nothing meaningful, if not important, to say and something that can help me along in my own researches and investigations, regardless of how formal or informal these may be. Hence, a big thumbs-up to Quigley for letting everyone know where he’s coming from. I now know that my assumptions (beliefs) are different and I need to keep this in mind going in, and it helps me determine which of his statements are mere consequences of his beliefs and which rejections of mine might be a mere consequence of my own.
Why do I bring this up? Well, because my own academic training and experience turned me into a radical hermeneuticist (whereby here, “radical” has to do only with the original meaning of “going to the root” (from the Lat. radix = “root”), just like Dwight Macdonald’s meaning in his epochal The Root is Man in his rejection of Marxist doctrine). For me, meaning is primary, and in the Gutenberg galaxy in which we find ourselves, texts (of all types, in various media) are the primary source of input for statements about the world. The post-structuralists and post-modernists, and, of course, post-humanists (or “posties”, as I like to think of them) want to believe they have debunked that hermeneutic “crap”(as I’m fairly sure they would put it) since they all like to think they somehow got over that. (It was where the older ones at any rate got started.) But just like poor folk shouldn’t forget where they came from once they get rich, but as I read most of them – from Barthes to Focault to Derrida – they simply threw the baby out with the bathwater and made life miserable for the rest of us who had found a reasonable, insightful, and powerful method of finding meaning. Some of them, like Latour, finally realized that, but probably to late to have any real impact on the rest of them and their disciples.
Once you drink the kool-aid, though, any wannabe “postie” can simply dismiss you as being out-of-touch, out-of-date, out-of-fasion, and other wannabes think that is sound argumentation (this is the identify-and-dismiss that @johnnydavis54 so often refers to), but it doesn’t. And just like the dyed-in-the-wool materialist can simply ignore what doesn’t fit into their world (e.g., Quigley), they can simply dismiss or ignore whatever doesn’t fit into theirs. Knowledge, wisdom, and especially something as elusive as “truth”, have never been democratically determined goods (in the sense of, say, the early Greek philosophers notion of the Good (capital G).) My experience, however, has shown me that Shakespeare got it write when he had Hamlet inform (all of us) Horatio(s) that there is more in Heaven and Earth than we can even dream of, so I’m still open … for the different, the unusual, the perhaps cantankerously odd (which is why I gave Sloterdijk a chance), and especially the creative … as long as it makes sense and appears (to my mind, first; hopefully to others’ later) meaningful.
Which brings me to the real point: not every argument is a good one, and not everything that is asserted to be an argument is really even an argument at all. (And this is, as I have stated elsewhere one of my problems with Sloterdijk: he makes too many assertions with too little support; he doesn’t adequately cite his sources so that, should I so desire, go off and double-check what he is saying for accuracy and validity. And this is why, for me, he fits so well into the postie camp.) After all, if there really is no meaning in anything anyway, why should I be making such a big deal about it? I suppose I should just take what he (or any of those others) has to say and deal with it. But if nothing means anything anymore then nothing really matters and I wonder why I should give two hoots about any of it at all. Well, the reason I do is because I don’t agree with their underlying assumptions and beliefs and the reason I don’t is they are too restrictive and unyielding, so I need to go off and find others who are making some kind of positive contribution to whatever discussion I think has at least potential meaning.
But, I think I have a pretty good handle on what I believe (and why) and I can (and I try to) make this clear when I’m engaging in any discussion or argument (in the scientific/philosophical meaning of the term). Because it is part of my belief system, I have an interest in others knowing that in order that they don’t reject my arguments or statements for the wrong reasons. There are plenty of good and right reasons for rejecting them, and I’m always grateful when these are pointed out to me.
What we have seen, and what we should not close our eyes to is the fact that “science” often appears in a light these days that make it appear less than noble, less than the idealized notion of which @patanswer and @Geoffreyjen_Edwards, and I am speaking. In many regards, in many quarters, it has become a religion and that is no less dangerous than any other religion has the potential to be. The Western (perhaps better, Abrahamic) religions are best known, unfortunately, for their intolerance, but intolerance, it seems to me, grows out of too-quick rejection based on the violation of some unspoken (or at least rarely so articulated) assumption that is being made (this is what all fundamentalisms, as far as I can determine, fall prey to).
Please excuse the long-windedness (again), but I thought this needed saying (again). Science: yes; scientism: no; and I would like to think that we are always distinguishing between the two.