A Non-Political Thought for the Day
Posted in Progressivism by Richard Adams
I thought it might be useful to post something on a non-election topic.
Should all science textbooks come with a disclaimer that says: "Some or all of the material in this book may and probably will be found to be mistaken, in whole or in part sometime in the near or distant future"?
9:00 PM / November 1, 2010
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Can we slap those slogans on Bibles and Constitutions too? Or, for that matter, anything which might threaten our respective political/religious ideologies? That could be a fun game.
I see no problem with that, actually. It is the nature of science to be contingent and temporary -- that's what makes it special and useful. Scientific "truth" is the rarest of all "truths," primarily because it's the most honest of "truths."
When done properly, science is both democratic and humble.
In the forward of the Origin of Species, Darwin states a disclaimer that some of the information in his book is not based on facts. In other words, he guessed. Although Darwin, like Kark Marx and Ted Kennedy, was a drunk, at least he was an honest drunk. Marx and Kennedy lied like rugs. Funny, in the first chapter of the Origin of Species there is a picture of two fetuses side by side - one is the fetus of a dog, the other a human fetus. Darwin claimed (with the help of Hackeal), using this picture as proof, that there was no difference between a dog fetus and a human fetus. Unfortunately for Darwin and Hackeal, it was later proven beyond a reasonable doubt that Hackael had "fixed" the picture of the dog fetus to make it look like the human fetus. Again, at least Darwin was honest - most of the information in his book was not based on facts.
Thanks for the thought, but I don't think that it is a fair categorization of science. One of the best things about science is that the laws are testable and provable, and it is the job of scientists to continue to test those laws. But for example, Newton's law of gravity was not proved wrong when Einstein factored in what might happen in a black hole. The original law still stands but is refined given a circumstance that we can now foresee that Newton could not have even conceived of.
I am an amateur political theorist (a former Ashbrook scholar that just graduated from CGU) in the midst of science academics (my husband studies at Caltech). My concern is that we completely lose our credibility when we make statements such as these. Of course, among conservative friends, these statements are often lauded, but I am afraid it is more from an unintellectual cynicism toward science rather than an actual understanding of what scientists do. Rather than, insulting the entire field of science, perhaps it would be more interesting (and it is perhaps where you are going with this) that we discuss the misapplication of the scientific method to the human (that is, political) realm.
There are laws (physical and moral) that govern this universe, and it is the joy of man to seek them out. They don't discredit the ideas of Conservatives but actually support them. When Woodrow Wilson compared the rule of law in the Constitution to Newton's laws of physics, he was on to something. The Constitution reflects the rule of law in the universe, and the people flourish best within its framework. When Wilson applies Darwinism to American politics, he is being unscientific. When people assert an absolute truth in Darwin's theories, which are untestable, they are unscientific. And when a scientist asserts that there is no God, that also is unscientific (again not scientifically provable).
Scientists will always understand the material world better than we do, because that is all they have. They might hold wholeheartedly to the belief that there is no God because once they admit it, their materialistic, deterministic philosophy shatters. However, that is not science. Let the scientists do what they do best. Perhaps our work is to continue to point out its limits rather than insult the work they actually do well. We have higher things to think about like what are "the laws of nature," who is "Nature's God" and what does it mean to be a human being? Scientists can't answer that, and those are the questions really worth answering.
Fair points, Carolyn.
My initial post said, roughtly, "found false, corrected, modified, or qualified . . ." but that was less punchy for a quick blog-post.
When we have a President who think that people disagree with his policy analysis are anti-science, it's important to note the limits of science.
If memory serves, Newton's accont of planetary orbits has been corrected.
As for rule of law, I don't think Newton is a good model. Newton, after all, worked with Bacon's method. I think that the rule of law is best understood according to Aristotle's definition of science.
P.S. In my whimsical moments, I sometimes wonder whether today's higher physics is as baroque as the old, chrystaline spheres that Copernicus took out.
This is so good.
I had been thinking along these lines: science is to nature what theology is to God. Things are what they are; science tries to figure those things out and like any other problem solving process, gets them wrong before getting them right. The laws of gravity change because the laws are not the gravity itself, which does not change. Science is a process for discovery, but not the discovery.
Some people do worship the process, which is silly.
Matt, in the same way, some people worship the Bible or the Constitution; they are also silly.
Since the Bible and Constitution are susceptible of falsifiability? None of the revealed religions are, and law isn't 'mistaken' per se, it just is. But yeah, you could have alluded to Texas textbooks or something instead don't you think?