Postmodern science

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Postmodern science is the one governed by the principle: "anything goes" [note 1] (native also to moral relativism) as aftereffect of the postmodern concept that it is not possible to learn the objective true knowledge about reality and world. In consequence of landing at conclusion that science is not really knowledge at all, postmodern scientists speak in terms of chaos theory, the unpredictability of science, indeterminacy, or uncertainty. Similarly to Gnostic manuscripts, postmodern science texts are often marked with vagueness, word-spinning and tedium. Paul Feyerabend, former philosophy professor at the University of California (Berkeley) explains how in the history of science many theories have arisen, been accepted as established, promoted as the truth, and then eventually discarded. Feyerabend further maintains that scientific data promoted by scientist in support of a theory are anything but neutral because every scientist has an agenda. In all fields of science questions remain open as scientific theories are regularly tweaked. Thus, scientists regularly work with unproven assumptions[note 2] and use science only as a buzzword and an intellectual fig leaf hiding their preconceived ideas through which they filter data. Moreover, the scientific establishment is regarded as very much politicized. In Humanist Manifesto 2000, secular Humanist Paul Kurtz insists that rejecting objectivity is a mistake and that Postmodernism is counterproductive, even nihilistic.[3]

Contents

History

Postmodern doubts about the objectivity and neutrality of science arose in the mid-1900s from Michael Polanyi’s Personal Knowledge and Thomas Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolution. Kuhn points out that science is not merely a progressive and incremental discipline that studies and records facts. So-called facts can be understood and interpreted in a variety of ways depending on the worldview assumptions of the scientist. Kuhn further asserts that scientific theories are often not discarded due to being proven wrong, but rather older theories tend to die out along with their proponents.[note 3] Then the new and creative theories attract the attention of younger scientists who, in turn, promote their theories over the older ones. From this perspective, a current scientific theory is just a momentary current theory that will be replaced by another current theory in the future. For that reason, postmodernists held that science cannot tell us what is real, only what scientists believe to be the case at that particular period in history of humankind.[3] In 1996 the physicist Alan Sokal published a paper entitled "Transgressing the Boundaries: Toward a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity" in the journal Social Text. This essay was a hoax designed to ridicule post-modern thought and consequently a call was made to make a radical change in what scientific community accepts as a legitimate foundation for a physical theory. The department of physics at Hardvard is now often referred to as the department of post-modern physics by its critics.[6] C.S. Lewis stated that the era when people managed to distinguish the difference between what was proved and what was not, a then they truly believed the first, has finished several centuries ago.[7]

Notable examples

  • In the postmodern science, the traditional scientific method demanding from scientists to provide the scientific evidence for their hypothesis and conduct experiments was replaced by logic of possibility leading to extensive usage of doubletalk mixing the true or logically coherent information with unsubstantiated hypothetical speculations and logical fallacies such as Non sequitur thus making the resulting assertions exceedingly obscure and tedious. This paradigm shift in science can be demonstrated at a representative example, the description of research by Alan Guth, where a claim is made about tests being performed in a 'hypothetical laboratory' [8]:
    "Working with Prof. Edward Farhi and others, Guth has explored the question of whether it is in principle possible to ignite inflation in a hypothetical laboratory, thereby creating a new universe. The answer is a definite maybe. They showed that it cannot be done classically, but with quantum tunneling it might be theoretically possible.[note 4] The new universe, if it can be created, would not endanger our own universe. Instead it would slip through a wormhole and rapidly disconnect completely."
    Postmodern science does not lead to resolution of scientific questions but leaves them undecided by applying terms like 'a definite maybe' [note 5]. Consequently, the scientific discoveries are being replaced by the beliefs affected by worldview of scientist which are then effectively promulgated as statements of faith or scientific myth calling for public acceptance. The journal Science published in 2002 an article in which Charles Darwin is criticised for gamely nailing together a just-so story of how creation of complex organs might have happened.[11]
  • Another example demonstrating the traits of Postmodern science can be given from interview with Joseph Silk, Savilian Professor of Astronomy at University of Oxford[12]:
  • ESA: We seem to agree that the Big Bang started with an 'inflation', a short period of high-speed expansion. But what happened before that?
  • Joseph Silk: Maybe long before inflation there was a Universe that was collapsing near a singularity, which then inflated again, so there was already a history before the Big Bang. Some people think there was a 'pre-Big Bang'. One possibility is that this pre-Big Bang, if there was such a place, would have made lots of entropy (the amount of disorder in the Universe). And the Universe we live in does have huge amounts of entropy. That's one theory. But we have no understanding of how to change from collapsing to expanding. There's no physical way to explain that transition. Some people believe that they have explanations the pre-Big Bang, so it's a respectable theory.
In Postmodern science theories are considered 'respectable' not due to their merits in terms of observational discoveries or scientific evidence but merely because 'Some people believe [them]'.

Notes

  1. cf."When an explanation is so supple that it can explain any behavior, it is difficult to test it experimentally, much less use it as a catalyst for scientific discovery."[1]
  2. cf.The assumption is now known to be only a very rough approximation to the truth. ...The assumption will serve as a reasonable working hypothesis until it leads to contradictions. ... The second principle is a sheer assumption. It seems plausible and it appeals strongly to our sense of proportion. ... [2]
  3. cf.
    • "An important scientific innovation rarely makes its way by gradually winning over and converting its opponents: it rarely happens that Saul becomes Paul. What does happen is that its opponents gradually die out and that the growing generation is familiarized with the idea from the beginning." Max Planck, The Philosophy of Physics[4]
    • "Academic appointments were also manipulated to favor younger scientists with Darwinian sympathies who would ensure that the next generation was educated to take the theory for granted."[5]
  4. cf."Physical scientists like Newton are not content to say that it may be so, and then build up theories based on bare possibilites."[9]
  5. cf."If one wishes to obtain a definite answer from Nature one must attack the question from a more general and less selfish point of view." Max Planck[10]

References

  1. Philip Skell (29 August 2005). Why Do We Invoke Darwin? Evolutionary theory contributes little to experimental biology. The Scientist (quoted by the Center for Science and Culture). Retrieved on 03.03.2013.
  2. Edwin Hubble (1937). The Observational Approach to Cosmology. Oxford University Press.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Postmodern Science. AllAboutWorldview.org#sthash.XYgaloi0.dpuf. “For that reason, science cannot tell us what is real, only what scientists believe to be the case at that particular time in history. This falls in line with the Postmodern concept that everyone, including the scientist, is locked into his or her particular culture and language, and thus cannot claim to have an objective picture of the world.”
  4. Max Planck (1936). The philosophy of physics. W.W. Norton & Company, inc., 97. 
  5. Janet Browne (Feb 23, 2010). Charles Darwin Volume 2: The Power at Place. Random House, 608. ISBN 9781407053233. 
  6. David Berlinski (2009). "The State of the Matter", The Deniable Darwin. Seattle, USA: Discovery Institute Press (reprinted from Commentary February 1998 by permission), 511. ISBN 978-0-9790141-2-3. 
  7. C.S. Lewis (1942, 2013). The Screwtape Letters. HarperCollins (2013). ISBN 9780062299086. 
  8. Faculty Directory: Alan Guth, Victor F. Weisskopf Professor of Physics. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Department of Physics. Retrieved on 03.03.2013.
  9. David L. Hull (1973). Darwin and his critics: the reception of Darwin's theory of evolution by the scientific community. Harvard University Press, 275. 
  10. Alfred Korzybski (1995). Science and Sanity: An Introduction to Non-Aristotelian Systems and General Semantics. Institute of General Semantics, 415. ISBN 978-0937298015. 
  11. Virginia Morell (01-Nov-2002). Placentas May Nourish Complexity Studies. Science Magazine. Retrieved on 17-Mar-2013. “It's one of the oldest riddles in evolutionary biology: How does natural selection gradually create an eye, or any complex organ for that matter? The puzzle troubled Charles Darwin, who nevertheless gamely nailed together just-so story of how it might have happened...”
  12. Is the Universe finite or infinite? An interview with Joseph Silk. ESA, European Space Agency (02-May-2001).

See also

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