Saturday, June 8, 2013

A Passing Comment

TOF ran across this comment in a comm box during his morning Internet run-through:
From what I hear in the mainstream media, and what I hear from scientists themselves, they and their adherents are pretty certain that science is the only sensible way of looking at the world.  Scientists may believe that there is an infinite amount to discover, but they are absolutely certain that it can be discovered through science...and nothing else.
The which neatly summarizes the coherence problem. 
If the world can only be discovered through science, "and [through] nothing else," then by what scientific means did they establish that "science is the only sensible way of looking at the world."  Insufficient attention paid to unexamined assumptions often results in such elementary logical knots.  If this were an episode of Star Trek, the computer would begin smoking and sparking at this point. 

TOF assumes "science" is the only sensible way of looking at justice, love, the Mona Lisa, et al.?  Which raises the horrific vision of an adherent of scientism kanoodling with his honey by explaining how his hormones are flowing and his neural impulses are snapping for her. 

If "science" means simply "knowledge" (of a certain sort), then it includes political science, military science, theological science, and all the rest.  But if it means only natural science, as it does to most Anglophones today, then it is but a certain suite of methodologies for obtaining knowledge specifically about the metrical properties of physical bodies.  These methods are very good at this sort of task and have produced such wonderful things as miracle drugs and nerve gasses.  But it is not the only sensible way of looking at the world, for it does not even include things like the qualia (color, sound, etc.), let alone consciousness, or the love you felt for that special someone back in high school.

This is often masked by a peculiar congruence: viz., that very nearly every situation encountered will involve physical bodies of one sort or another, and these physical bodies will have properties and powers.  Love is a heavy subject.  It has gravity.  Otherwise we would not fall in love.  LOL.  No, seriously: your love will undoubtedly set certain synapses snapping and various hormones flowing.  And these physical aspects are entirely within the competency of natural science to describe.  But what reason is there for supposing that these aspects "exhaust the phenomenon"?  Chemistry is not exhausted by physics, the late Stanley Jaki once pointed out, and biology is not exhausted by chemistry.  Many physical phenomena can be described or approximated with mathematics; but what fool would suppose that this mathematical dimension of reality is all there is to reality -- and therefore anything not describable in mathematics is therefore unreal. 

The World is bigger than that. 


  1. It isn't science that makes the world discoverable, it's being able to admit and correct your mistakes.

  2. "Chemistry is not exhausted by physics, the late Stanley Jaki once pointed out..."

    Got a citation for this? I work in theoretical chemistry and this would relate to my job, if true.

    1. I don't rightly recall. Might be Mind, Brains, and Computers. Might be Origins of Science. Sorry.


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