Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Physicists have no better claim to knowledge than voodoo priests

Starting from the argument that a historical universal scientific method does not exist, Feyerabend argues that science does not deserve its privileged status in western society. Since scientific points of view do not arise from using a universal method which guarantees high quality conclusions, he thought that there is no justification for valuing scientific claims over claims by other ideologies like religions. Feyerabend also argued that scientific accomplishments such as the moon landings are no compelling reason to give science a special status. In his opinion, it is not fair to use scientific assumptions about which problems are worth solving in order to judge the merit of other ideologies. Additionally, success by scientists has traditionally involved non-scientific elements, such as inspiration from mythical or religious sources.

Some of the comments from a forum thread:

Yeah. I hear ya.
In my philosophy of science course, on the other hand, I was taught by a world-renowned professor (Paul Feyerabend) that there is no such thing as scientific method and that physicists have no better claim to knowledge than voodoo priests
I'd say he's a bit of a silly goose who needs to study the things he is dismantling before making claims against them. While inductive reasoning leaves itself open to be false, and there are times where inductive reasoning has proven to be false, it does not discredit the scientific method anywhere near enough to put it in the same ballpark as religious beliefs.
Like this review and this book no doubt mentions, science is an open process where anybody and everybody can study and contribute. To find a major flaw in the currently accepted and believed theories is considered a scientific breakthrough, not blasphemy or heathen. Given that those who embrace the scientific method are willing to accept criticism and increase their knowledge of the entire system instead of deny or rebel against it, I believe those people have far more claim to knowledge. If you don't believe what a physicist has come up with, just recreate the scenario yourself and see the results. I challenge any priest, voodoo or otherwise, to do the same without the aid of science or mathematics.


Except everything you have just said is false.
First of all, despite the popular view of religion you espouse, most religions and religious individuals are open to challenges to their faith. Admittedly this is a matter of degree, but to suggest that religions react to every challenge with "blasphemy!" and "you heathen!" is a gross mischaracterization.
Second, finding a major flaw in science is not accepted as a "breakthrough" often; new ideas that challenge old orders are met with considerable skepticism to say the least. If the new idea is actually more accurate, it may eventually win out, but scientists do not quickly accepts new ideas and theories (see Kuhn's Structures of Scientific Revolutions). Often, despite the data, scientists "deny" and "rebel against" ideas that challenge their world views.
Finally, science is not an "open" process where "anybody and everybody" is allowed to contribute. Most science as practiced today requires expensive equipment unavailable to those outside of the specific field being studied, and a considerable post-secondary science education is needed just to be able to understand the articles published in the majority of scientific journals today. On top of that, as "free" as I might be to recreate somebody's professional experiment, my results will never be taken seriously or published in a scientific journal unless I have particular credentials which are both difficult and often expensive to earn.
None of this is meant as a dig on science; there are some important things that separate science and religion. But these reasons you are citing are completely false.

I agree with the idea that science (well, what people call 'science') is smth ugly and offensive.

No comments:

Post a Comment