Science, the science fetishists often argue, is self-correcting, so the truth always prevails, and in contrast with religion and it’s dogmas, it becomes clear, so they also often argue, why science and not religion is the avenue through which knowledge — the kind that matters, at least — should be had. But that science is always self-correcting and is therefore always reliable is itself a dogma that needs to be corrected:
Throughout its 169-year history, Scientific American has been an august and sober chronicler of the advance of human knowledge, from chemistry to physics to anthropology.
Lately, however, things have become kind of a mess.
A series of blog posts on the magazine’s Web site over the past few months has unleashed waves of criticism and claims that the publication was promoting racism, sexism and “genetic determinism.”
The trouble started in April when a guest blogger, a doctoral student named Chris Martin, wrote about Lawrence H. Summers’ assertions when he was president of Harvard University about the paucity of women in some scientific fields. While acknowledging that discrimination played a role in holding back women, Martin also concluded, “the latest research suggests that discrimination has a weaker impact than people might think, and that innate sex differences explain quite a lot.”
The second land mine was a post in May by Ashutosh Jogalekar, which favorably reviewed a controversial book by Nicholas Wade, “A Troublesome Inheritance: Genes, Race and Human History.” Jogalekar praised the book, saying it confirms the need to “recognize a strong genetic component to [social and cognitive] differences” among racial groups.
What the post makes abundantly clear is that when the results of science seem to marshal ideas deemed too politically incorrect (particularly racial and anti-feminist ideas), science loses and butt-hurt people win, and, for good or for ill — although obviously mostly for ill — science often gets corrected not by other, more accurate science, but by people with hurt feelings.
Of course science is generally reliable. But the people who don’t feel the least bit embarrassed about bandying-about the word science to give their pet ideologies a whiff of credibility can also be relied upon, perhaps even moreso, to do the idiotic.
..at the depths to which some will go to defend a ‘woman’s right to abortion’.
Been discussing abortion with pro-choicers from the internetz a while back, and it pretty much went like this:
Me: At what point does someone acquire the right to live?
Him: At the third Trimester.
Me: And why not at any time before that?
Him: Because at that point it’s conscious, can feel pain, and can possibly survive outside the womb.
Me: Newborn babies are hardly conscious and can hardly feel pain, much less one that’s at the third trimester. But even if you were right (which you aren’t), why does it suddenly get the right to live, unlike, say, some animals who are undoubtedly self-aware, conscious, and feel just as much pain as we do? — I mean, if that’s your criteria. Also, even if it can survive outside the womb, it won’t be able to for very long without the help of the mother or someone else. Which raises the question: if the mother who, barring instances of rape, chose to risk its being born in the first place isn’t morally obligated to care for it, why is anyone else, or, for that matter, why is everyone else (the state)?
Him: Well, because animals don’t have the rights we humans do. Besides, the mother has a right because it’s her body; “[o]nce a fetus is separate from the mother it becomes a separate human being with all the rights of a child…”.
Me: How would you avoid the charge of specie-ism, then? Surely you’re aware yours was an argument as fallacious as one that stems from racial or sexist prejudices. And, the mother and the fetus that is — for fun, let’s say — a day before being born, is, to you, a *single human-being*? Right. Is a pair of siamese twins a ‘single human-being’? Better: suppose someone is hooked up to a machine to survive — is he and the machine a ‘single human-being’?
Him: [He has nothing at this point, and so goes on and blathers:] “No woman under any circumstances should be forced to take any pregnancy to term against here [sic] will. No non person [sic] has any rights that usurp another human being. You join the human race upon birth and not one split second before.”
Me: In other words: for you it’s O.K. to kill the baby — oh, sorry, I mean the ‘fetus’! — even a day before it gets born, because, unluckily for it at that point, he hasn’t, in your words, “join[ed] the human race”.
Him: [Crickets chirping..]
And that, ladies and gents, is the level of inanity to which some people would go to protect “women’s reproductive rights”. Not all, of course (perhaps most there aren’t merely good at arguing, for all we know) but a lot. Certainly a scary lot. It’s not just one person there that I’ve encountered saying they’re all for baby-killing as long as it’s done in utero.
In fact some people do follow such views to their logical end, and what’s done is: since, prior to birth, the mother is *technically* not a parent and the baby is *technically* not a child, the doctor waits for the baby to be half-way out, so to speak, and then proceeds to stab it.
Thusly, it’s not murder since it’s not human. And, technically, the mother can’t be guilty of child-abuse since she’s not a parent at that point.
[cue in: Louis Armstrong’s ‘It’s A Wonderful World’..]
After years and years and years (and more years) of studying physics, the dreadful reality, according to Sean Carroll, is that:
“There is no life after death; there’s no spiritual essence that can preserve a human consciousness outside its physical body. Life is a chemical reaction; there is no moment at conception or otherwise when a soul is implanted in a body. We evolved as a result of natural processes over the history of the Earth; there is no supernatural intelligence that created us and maintains an interest in our behavior. There is no Natural Law that specifies how human beings should live, including who they should marry. There is no strong conception of free will, in the sense that we are laws unto ourselves over and above the laws of nature. The world follows rules, and we are part of the world.”
Sean here is basically saying that everything for which we don’t have evidence likely doesn’t exist. (There is evidence for the lot of these things, actually, but let’s overlook this for now) Of course, to him, only that which can be detected by science counts as evidence.
And therein lies the rub. Science, for it to be science (for it to work) needs to
presuppose materialism — that’s just how it must be. Therefore to imply science proves materialism is to say that that which you need to presuppose for science to work proves science works!
In other words, Carroll presupposes materialism (to do science) and then concludes that because of science, materialism is true.
What an idiot.
In a piece for Newsweek entitled ‘The Godless Particle‘, Lawrence Krauss, of the newly discovered ‘Higgs Boson’, tells us:
[I]t validates an unprecedented revolution in our understanding of fundamental physics and brings science closer to dispensing with the need for any supernatural shenanigans all the way back to the beginning of the universe—and perhaps even before the beginning, if there was a before.
This type of propaganda should be familiar to anyone who’s been able to read Lawrence’s latest book ‘A Universe From Nothing‘ (for which David Albert has some choice words) where he uses a textbook bait- and-switch to mislead everyone into believing that the question of why there’s something rather than nothing had been, through science, now dispensed with. Of course, as expected, once the smug and philosophically ill-informed Krauss got cornered by the people who, very much unlike him, actually know something about the issue, he retreats into the switch, saying something boringly similar to what’s written near the end of his book:
“what is really useful is not pondering [the] question” but rather “participating in the exciting voyage of discovery.”
In other words:
” Uh, I know I said I’ll be answering the question of why there’s something rather than nothing, but, actually, I wont, because, well, I cant, and, uh, well, I only said that so you’ll buy my book.“
Unfortunately for Krauss, however, the discovery of the Higgs confirms the model –the standard model– upon which the more contemporary cosmological and teleological arguments for God’s existence have been formulated. Also –again, unfortunately for Krauss– the classical formulations of these arguments, like the ones from Aquinas and Leibniz, won’t budge either, Higgs or no Higgs, because the metaphysics that undergirds them, of which Krauss will seemingly be forever ignorant, is not of the sort that can be disproven by science, for they flow from premises needed by science itself to make sense of its own evidential presuppositions.
Although nothing about the Higgs Boson suggests anything close to what Krauss would have us believe, he nevertheless asserts it so emotively as though his conclusions were so obviously entailed by the Higgs’s discovery that it needn’t any further explication, thusly giving us more examples of his incompetence on the issue.
The upside to all this farcical boot-strapping, it seems to me, is the frisson of self-adequacy it gives us average kooks, as it is a clear example of how even remarkably smart people can at times say things that are so blitheringly stupid.