RE: [asa] Trust

From: Alexanian, Moorad <alexanian@uncw.edu>
Date: Wed Dec 16 2009 - 08:41:56 EST

Hope you people now realize why we must emphasize the difference between the experimental sciences from the historical sciences. The negativity of your comments must be directed at the historical, which includes the observational, sciences not the experimental sciences. Nature is the arbiter for experimental scientists. At time, there is no arbiter for the historical sciences and so those who practice that kind of science have much more of a free rein, which they may abuse. Of course, dishonesty can show up also at the experimental sciences, which it has, but at least we can always count on further experiments to confirm or expose shoddy or dishonest work.

Moorad
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From: asa-owner@lists.calvin.edu [asa-owner@lists.calvin.edu] On Behalf Of Nucacids [nucacids@wowway.com]
Sent: Tuesday, December 15, 2009 10:26 PM
To: Gregory Arago; Schwarzwald; asa@calvin.edu
Subject: Re: [asa] Trust

Hi Gregory,

Very interesting reply. Thanks. Let me hit on three points. I’ll start with a point of disagreement and end with two points of agreement.

You write: “Mike’s observations about Bloom and Weinberg find their mark because they acknowledge the ‘reductionism’ of the weak philosophical argument, based on the notion that ‘science is the highest type of knowledge.’ I wish more TEs/ECs and MN-followers would come forward to, as David Livingstone does in one of his books, help ‘put science in its place’ and not let it be elevated into something higher than it is. IDists otoh are already quite good at this.”

I don’t think the IDists are that good at it. The problem is that they completely buy into the ‘science is the highest type of knowledge’ perception. That is why the non-negotiable point in the ID movement is the proposition that “ID is science.” TE’s are slightly better, but they seem to buy into the same line of thinking in a more subtle fashion, by taking a “show me that ID is science and then I’ll take it seriously.”

“The recent East Anglia leaked e-mails cast a doubt on the integrity of scientists and raise warnings that scientists are not ‘the new priests’ of ‘the secular age’ (Charles Taylor 2007).”

Yes. I wonder how many people have paused to consider that one day, tens of millions of people might very well look upon scientists the way they currently look upon lawyers or politicians.

I recall back in the early 2000s arguing with a bunch of ID critic scientists on the net. My point was simple – the ID movement, itself, posed no real “threat to science.” This created quite a stir, so I asked them to provide the evidence that science was under some real world threat. The responses were rhetorical, emotional, and the “evidence” was either anecdotal or someone’s imagination about future worlds. In other words, the scientists defending science had abandoned critical and scientific thinking and replaced it with something could have come out of a political or ad campaign.

No, the ID movement was never big and powerful enough to pose any threat to something as big and intimately interwoven into our society as science. The only thing that can threaten and undermine science are scientists themselves. If more and more scientists come across publicly as being no different than a political pundit or radio talk show host with an axe to grind or product to sell, the average person will hear this much louder than any “data” that is being discussed.

“After all, who in ‘the west’ talks about WISDOM anymore? Do we really need wisdom if we can have lots of information, data and scientific ‘knowledge’ instead?”

Ding, ding, ding, ding. You’ve just won my Best Point of the Month award!

Yes, wisdom is key. If I am going to put my trust in someone, I need a sign of wisdom. And the beginning of wisdom is humility.

-Mike
----- Original Message -----
From: Gregory Arago<mailto:gregoryarago@yahoo.ca>
To: Schwarzwald<mailto:schwarzwald@gmail.com> ; asa@calvin.edu<mailto:asa@calvin.edu>
Sent: Tuesday, December 15, 2009 4:22 AM
Subject: Re: [asa] Trust

Hello Mike and Schwarzwald and others interested in 'trust' in/or science,

Yes, I've followed Mike Gene's interest over the years in issues such as 'trust' in/of science. I find his insights often well-made and well-aimed at those who would appear 'scientistic' in their 'elevation' of science into Science, a position that simply can no longer be maintained given the knowledge produced/discovered in such fields as history of science, philosophy of science and sociology of science. His open acknowledgement of the importance of trust 'for' scientists is refreshing indeed and is appreciated even in a secular context (e.g. a non-Christian forum).

How many people in North America (and Australia, nod to Murray) know about the so-called ‘science wars’ of the 90’s? The tension was between relativists and social constructivists, post-modernists and realists over ‘what science is and isn’t’ (a beleaguered ‘demarcation’ game of sorts) and over what science ‘means’ to people. The infamous Sokal hoax article fuelled the activities, but there were many other actors and incidents as well. The usual wiki reference: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Science_wars

One way to offer a spin on this topic is to compare ‘trust’ in/of science with ‘trust’ in/of art or music. Let’s be serious, ‘science’ can be called a single ‘industry’ and does not account for all ‘knowledge’ that can be produced or consumed by the public or in private. On your average internet search engine, science is one of 10 or 12 other ‘categories’ and probably (just a guess, no time to search the statistics) is in the lower 4 or 5 ‘most searched’ categories. Is ‘science’ really all that important to most Americans, in comparison with how seriously it is treated here at the ASA? Don’t most Americans place more ‘trust’ in music or art than in science?

The recent East Anglia leaked e-mails cast a doubt on the integrity of scientists and raise warnings that scientists are not ‘the new priests’ of ‘the secular age’ (Charles Taylor 2007). Surely most people on this list would be happy about that!? At the same time, however, ‘trust’ in your fields also has to take a hit in the process – you can’t have it both ways. The message is to ‘do good science’ and let the interpretations by colleagues, media and public ‘emerge’ as they may and inevitably will, in response to scientific ‘advances’ or ‘progress.’

Mike’s observations about Bloom and Weinberg find their mark because they acknowledge the ‘reductionism’ of the weak philosophical argument, based on the notion that ‘science is the highest type of knowledge.’ I wish more TEs/ECs and MN-followers would come forward to, as David Livingstone does in one of his books, help ‘put science in its place’ and not let it be elevated into something higher than it is. IDists otoh are already quite good at this.

What Bloom and most of the HIGHLY ACTIVE and CULTURALLY RELEVANT people over at the Edge are doing is ‘reducing upwards’ to the conclusion that Science either has or will have the/an Answer to all natural-physical questions. Whereas instead, someone like Arthur Peacocke or John Polkinghorne, accomplished scientists in their own realms, would openly admit that the higher one goes in/with knowledge, the *more* philosophy and theology are required/needed; not the less just so that Science can try to account for more as a scientistic or rationalistic or objectivistic worldview.

After all, who in ‘the west’ talks about WISDOM anymore? Do we really need wisdom if we can have lots of information, data and scientific ‘knowledge’ instead?

From an eastern tradition that still (or once again) loves wisdom,
Gregory

~

“Get behind me wisdom that does not weep, philosophy that does not laugh, greatness that does not bow before children.” – Kahlil Gibran

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From: Schwarzwald <schwarzwald@gmail.com>
To: asa@calvin.edu
Sent: Tue, December 15, 2009 3:16:36 AM
Subject: Re: [asa] Trust

Mike,

And this buttresses a point I've alluded to in the past on this list. While I think much popular (religious and non) hostility towards some scientific views is unwarranted - naturally, since I'm a variant of TE, I suppose - there's been plenty of nonsense in the past billed as "science" or "the scientific view/way", and endorsed by the mainstream rather than some lone radical.

Which leads to an unfortunate but necessary conclusion: That some skepticism of scientists, even mainstream scientific views, is justifiable. Maybe more than many are willing to admit.

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Received on Wed, 16 Dec 2009 08:41:56 -0500

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