Re: "scientism"

t (MemeLab@aol.com)
Wed, 7 Apr 1999 20:27:32 EDT

From: <MemeLab@aol.com>
Date: Wed, 7 Apr 1999 20:27:32 EDT
Subject: Re: "scientism"
To: memetics@mmu.ac.uk

In a message dated 4/7/99 4:37:09 PM Central Daylight Time,
chrislees@easynet.co.uk writes:

>> I thought I made it clear, I see a clear distinction between science, as
exemplified by it's best practitioners, (e.g. Darwin, Faraday, Einstein,
etc,)
and scientism, which is something else. The latter tends to be a mind set
of mediocre technicians, with a worldview deriving from Comte, Logical
Positivism, a mechanistic universe, bla,bla, which is arrogant, dogmatic,
and narrow-minded. It dismisses anything which does not fit neatly into
its outdated paradigm, as being 'impossible', and considers all other world
views as obsolete and inferior. <<

If I was you, I would really drop this term of derision. There is no
rational way to distinguish between the science that you don't like, and the
science that somebody else doesn't like (like a creationist). It sounds like
"scientism" includes any scientist that you think is "arrogant, dogmatic, and
narrow-minded." The rest that trailed off into "bla bla" had no coherence
that I could find despite your claim that you had made a clear distinction.

That may be an obvious category to you, but it has no stable definition in
the word market. Numerous creationists would call evolutionists
practitioners of "scientism". To them, evolutionists are arrogant, dogmatic,
and narrow-minded, mediocre technicians, dismissing anything that does not
fit into their paradigm (some would even have the audacity to call it
"outdated") as being impossible, and considering all other world views as
obsolete and outdated. There is no way to distinguish between their use of
the word and yours, other than personal tastes (apparently ending in "bla
bla"). The only function for the word beyond your own personal tastes is to
cast derision on science.

So if you are irritated at me, don't accuse of "preposterous narrow-minded
scientism." Instead just say, "Jake, you are being arrogant, dogmatic, and
narrow-minded." You can even call me a mediocre technician. But please have
the decency to leave science and "scientism" out of the picture. I am
certainly not in favor of granting currency to anything that can only
function in the larger market of words and ideas, to cast dispersion on
science. I would hope that you wouldn't be either.

>>I made somewhat unfair ad hominem remarks directed at Jake, re scientism,
because I get annoyed when people attack other people's work when they
haven't even bothered to read it.<<

Actually I was attacking an idea - that "self is an illusion". I only
mentioned S. Blackmore as a point of reference, because it has been in
discussions about her book that I have most recently encountered this idea.
Whether she actually proposes this in her work or not is really irrellevant.
In fact I find it humorous that people get mad at me for "attacking her work"
without reading it and then turn around and confirm that, yes this is exactly
what she says.

The only variation that I have noticed so far is Reed, who said that she
didn't simply say that "self is an illusion", but said (rather or in
addition, I do not know which) that self was an "irrellevant or disposable"
idea in memetics. I don't think this is tenable either, even as an
alternative and I laid out the reasons why in my response to him.

Of course you could all be lying to me, though I can't imagine the reasons
why so many people would bother to. I have never met Blackmore, nor
corresponded with her, so I have no reason to have personal feelings about
her one way or the other. So if this isn't what she is saying, then please
tell me what she actually is saying, or quit griping. And once you have
gotten that out of your system, I would be happy to return to the actual
topic of this, which has all along been this "self is an illusion" meme
regardless of the various orgin and vectors of that idea.

>>Another good example is telepathy. There are plenty of so called scientists
who are incapable of conducting any kind of conversation on that topic, they
get so enraged by the word. But the fact is, clear and unambiguous, that
telepathic communication has been proven, by highly qualified responsible
hard-headed physicists.<<

Well, first of all this clear and unambiguous proof is news to me. There
must be quite a conspiracy out there to suppress it that is working well. Is
this one of those military plots?

Second of all what does being a "highly qualified responsible hard-headed
physicist" have to do with any of this? It would seem more important to
describe the process and controls than to waste breath on something that
sounds suspiciously like an appeal to authority, especially one that has
questionable connection to the subject matter. It shouldn't make any
difference if the experiment was done by Bugs Bunny as long as he followed
consistent procedures and controls.

Thirdly, I am certainly not enraged, though if it makes it interesting you,
you can imagine that I am. Despite my rage, I don't mind conversing about
things. Talk is cheap, certainly no more expensive than obvious appeals to
authority, and if done honestly potentially more credible and productive up
to a point.

And finally, what does being a "so-called scientist" (I assume that must be a
practitioner of your brand of "scientism") have to do with anything as long
as a person is conducting experiments according to credible, repeatable,
procedures. Or are you suggesting that different people will get different
results using the same procedures? Perhaps some practitioners of "scientism"
act as "blockers" due to telepathic emanations of their skeptical attitudes?
I dunno, I am just trying to figure this out.

You know there are some people out there who still haven't given up on cold
fusion. They might be onto something. But I am not going to waste my time
following them too closely. We all have to budget our time, attention, and
effort, and some things will just inevitably lose out. I am glad that there
enough people to go around paying attention to things that I never would. If
they find something, I hope that they let us all know about it, and I hope
those pesky military and government conspirators don't shut them down before
they get a chance to let us know. But until they do find something, I hope
they leave the rest of us alone. That's why we have division of labor like
that.

-Jake

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