Difference between revisions of "Postmodern science"

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Revision as of 13:40, 3 March 2013

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. 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. Moreover, the scientific establishment is regarded as very much politicized. Thus, scientists regularly work with unproven assumptions and filter data through their preconceived ideas. In Humanist Manifesto 2000, secular Humanist Paul Kurtz insists that rejecting objectivity is a mistake and that Postmodernism is counterproductive, even nihilistic.[2]

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 2] 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.[2]

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. 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' [4]:
"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 3] 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 4]. 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.

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."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[3]
  3. cf."Physical scientists like Newton are not content to say that it may be so, and then build up theories based on bare possibilites."[5]
  4. 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[6]

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. 2.0 2.1 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.”
  3. Max Planck (1936). The philosophy of physics. W.W. Norton & Company, inc.. 
  4. Faculty Directory: Alan Guth, Victor F. Weisskopf Professor of Physics. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Department of Physics. Retrieved on 03.03.2013.
  5. David L. Hull (1973). Darwin and his critics: the reception of Darwin's theory of evolution by the scientific community. Harvard University Press. 
  6. Alfred Korzybski (1995). Science and Sanity: An Introduction to Non-Aristotelian Systems and General Semantics. Institute of General Semantics. ISBN 978-0937298015. 

See also