Narrow Escapism

Whew! I barely escaped from Mr. Tingey’s scathing critique over at Vox’s Luddite Lawn Party. No, not really. He was only shooting paintballs, because he had no real ammunition.

It is still not clear exactly what science is: a method, an institution, a body of knowledge, or simply an attitude of skepticism. Tingey provided his own simplification, which you can find in the comments by searching:

And it is possible to define it – Prof Myers did, and so did I. A very ordered collection of facts, giving explanations for underlying causes to events and observed phenomena.

Of course, science is not very ordered, does not routinely provide explanations for underlying causes, and does routinely deal with “events” that have not occurred and with phenomena that have not been observed.

I am amenable to qualifications concerning the claim of order, but the history of science shows that every attempt to impose order on scientific knowledge results in either (a) massive, untestable generalizations or (b) subsequent disproval and obsolescence.

What is Truth?

Because of the provisional nature of scientific knowledge, impelled by the skepticism that PZ’s lackeys consider essential to the scientific worldview, no scientific explanation is ever absolutely true. Without a claim of absolute truth, no scientific explanation can provide an absolute falsification of any other claim.

First of all, the factuality of any particular datum is the topic of tedious argument in every field of empirical inquiry. Anyone who has ever tried to maintain proper calibration of an instrument, or who has ever been tasked with critiquing the work of another researcher, knows this to be true. Every datapoint must be qualified with respect to precision and accuracy of measurement.

After measurement, the reporting of data, or more likely the discounting of anomalous data, must be accounted for. Then there is the interpretation of accepted data and the attempt to fit it into the context of all other related research, while discarding some research as unrelated or flawed. A theory must be chosen to account for all observed behavior, and competing theories must be dismissed as irrelevant. The final conclusion is hung out to dry, ready for other researchers to use for target practice.

What is “truth”? We will not learn this from the scientist, who persistently ignores every factor he cannot account for or measure with sufficient precision and accuracy. Moreover, any factor which remains unchanged throughout the experiment has no bearing on observed changes in data; therefore, the scientist has nothing interesting to say about anything in the background or anything serving as a control. Finally, every study ends with a presumption that the conclusion will eventually be challenged; that is, the researcher assumes that his conclusion is not necessarily true in every case outside of his experiment.

Non-Empirical Science

Thus far I have examined only experimental scientific inquiry. Any scientific inquiry regarding theoretical constructs, past unobserved events, “black box” variables, or untestable phenomena is even further from any possible claim of empirical “truth.” For example, multidimensional strings are theoretical constructs; the beginning of life is a past unobserved event; the human mind is a “black box”; and the evolution of humans from nonhuman primates is untestable.

Furthermore, any inquiry that does not follow the proper methodology would be rejected out of hand by a modern scientist. Thus it is disingenuous, or simply dishonest, to equate modern scientific results with any inquiry in the past suffering from defects in precision, accuracy, documentation, control of variables, or any other factor of methodology.

True Until Proven False?

Most scientific conclusions in the past, and many nonscientific statements about the universe, have been subsequently disproven. Even if the pertinent observations were actualities, the derived explanations were found later to be wrong, at least in part. So, at the point in time the explanation was first offered, it may well have been as true as it could possibly be. However, the explanation probably did not account for all observed phenomena, and certainly not for all unobserved phenomena; such that new observations necessitated a new explanation.

Here’s the crucial point: Was the old explanation true or not? In retrospect, one can say it was not true. In fact, it was never true, because the later explanation is more valid retroactively, to when the old explanation was accepted.

But the majority of those who cared about the old explanation thought it was true, and their logic was impeccable, so they felt justified in making grandiose statements about knowing “the secrets of the universe” and “the secret of life,” and calling every freethinker an irrational, uneducated, misanthropic dolt. Such miscreants were deemed unworthy of any ethical or political consideration, being too stupid to accept the obvious truth of the matter . . . the truth that was later found to be false.

This is the folly of generalizing from limited empirical data, and bewitching the superstitious parasites of public opinion (journalists, commentators, and bloggers) into clamoring for the denigration of everyone who opposes a particular scientific conclusion, even though the chatterati understand almost nothing about science. All that the semiliterate science leeches understand is how to proof-text science, how to find in it what they need to justify their precognitive political prejudices.

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7 thoughts on “Narrow Escapism

  1. For “The Scientific Worldview,” check this out:

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    New Book Challenges the Religious Foundation of the Big Bang Theory

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    (Berkeley, CA, March 14, 2007) — Local scientist, Glenn Borchardt, today announced the publication of his book “The Scientific Worldview: Beyond Newton and Einstein.” According to Dr. Borchardt, the book challenges the religiously flavored speculation underlying the Big Bang Theory. He argues that the biased outlook of the current paradigm overemphasizes systems, neglects environments, and taints our fundamental theories about the universe. It is the strongest logical argument to date for an infinite universe that had no beginning and will have no end.

    Dr. Borchardt maintains that “When it is finally laid to rest, the theory of the “Big Bang” origin of the universe will be recognized as the most acute embarrassment of 20th-century science.” He said “The key is the choice between the assumptions of infinity and finity, neither of which can be proven without a doubt.” “Scientists, no matter how brilliant, ultimately cannot be successful when they begin with incorrect assumptions.” “To begin with finity is to end with finity—and all the absurdities that the Big Bang entails.”

    The book presents an eye-opening approach to viewing the world. The math is minimal and the prose is elegant.

    • Logically consistent theory from beginning to end
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    About the Author

    Glenn Borchardt, born 300 years after Newton, has forty years of practical and theoretical experience in earth science. He has produced over 270 scientific reports, including journal articles, consulting reports, chapters, books, and computer programs. Borchardt is the Director of the Progressive Science Institute in Berkeley, California.

    About Publisher’s Choice
    The iUniverse Publisher’s Choice designation identifies, supports, and celebrates those new titles that display potential for greater commercial success. Publisher’s Choice rewards iUniverse titles that exhibit both editorial integrity and outstanding design quality. During the publishing process, these titles undergo a stringent editorial review and a design evaluation. Deserving titles are awarded Publisher’s Choice and, as a result, become eligible to be displayed on the New Paperback Releases table in the author’s local Barnes & Noble store for a minimum of eight weeks.
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    This magnificent work is nothing less than the first outline of the scientific philosophy destined to replace classical mechanism and systems philosophy. Borchardt demonstrates the utility of a new, universal, mechanism of evolution for understanding the world and our place in it. It is the strongest logical argument to date for an infinite universe that had no beginning and will have no end. Find out why the universe didn’t explode out of nothing.

    “This is an exhilarating and often revelatory tour of modern physical sciences by a brilliant rebel. Be skeptical, but you won’t read a more daring or intelligent attack on Big Bang physics, or encounter a more breathtaking synthesis of all understanding.”
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    For further information go to http://www.thescientificworldview.com or your local bookstore.

  2. Everywhere I look. On the other hand, infinity, like finity, is an assumption. There is no way to prove or disprove it one way or another. That is why it is a “fundamental” assumption.

  3. Vine Deloria discusses this as well in Evolution, Creationism, and Other Modern Myths. He starts out by noting that the fundamental assumptions of Eurocentric science are monotheistic in origin and concludes that they are no longer supportable; so he advocates a perspective closer to Asian and Native American religions, in which the universe is infinite, without beginning or end.

    Deloria is a religious historian, not a scientist. Are you providing a scientific basis for Deloria’s ideas? I think it would be fascinating to write an alternative history of science and technology in which a non-European culture had thousands of years to implement their fundamental assumptions of infinite cycles of the earth and deep respect for the spiritual value of the earth. Of course, it might look a lot like the Neolithic, preliterate culture of Native Americans prior to the illegal immigration of Europeans, but maybe it could be written more like a fantasy story.

    I note in passing that Deloria contradicts the popular notion among science propagandists, that the fundamental assumptions of science have nothing to do with religion, and were developed despite European religious viewpoints.

  4. “The Scientific Worldview” is what you get when you use infinity as one of your consuponible fundamental assumptions. It implies that the universe is infinite in extent and eternal, without a beginning and without an end–the opposite of today’s absurd assumption that the universe exploded out of nothing. Vine Deloria, as a religious historian, must play around with this because he is dealing with fundamental assumptions, as he should be. The Big Bang Theory is a creationist theory despite what the conventional wisdom claims. Thus I am with Deloria in observing that many of the assumptions used by today’s scientists have much in common with religion. The BBT is part and parcel of the religious milieu within which it evolved. As I showed in “The Ten Assumptions of Science” (2004) (also as chapter 3 in TSW), many of the the religious assumptions that Deloria and Fritjof Capra favor are the opposites of deterministic scientific assumptions that make more logical sense. We really don’t need “spiritual values” to have respect for the earth–we just need to take good care of it. It is, after all, our home.

    Ref: Capra, Fritjof, 1975, The tao of physics: An exploration of the parallels between modern physics and Eastern mysticism: New York, Bantam Books, 332 p.

  5. It is fascinating that you should cite Capra; I really enjoyed that book when I was sixteen. I followed it up with the Schrödinger’s Cat series from Robert Anton Wilson. Wilson proposes that absurdity, paradox, and infinite variegation are essential aspects of our universe, although they are necessarily ignored by the positivistic, linear determinism of doctrinaire materialists and religionists.

    Your view, like Deloria’s, is quite compatible with the scientific pantheism of Spinoza. It would be more fashionable of me to compare it with the “Gaia hypothesis,” but I can’t really stomach Gaian pantheism at all, so I was kind of hoping you weren’t slouching in that direction.

  6. Thanks for the lead on Wilson. I will have to check it out. While I agree with the observation that there is infinite variation, I don’t agree with the proposition that absurdity and paradox are essential aspects of the universe. These appear to me as mere excuses for the failures of modern physics, which are based on the old-fashioned philosophies that assume finity instead. Paradox always involves our lack of understanding. It points toward missing elements or misinterpretation.

    My view detests pantheism, which is just another theism, albeit one likely to cause less harm than those proposing another chance at life. Likewise, I am opposed to Gaia as a useful explanation of anything. Univironmental Determinism states that what happens to a portion of the universe is dependent on the interaction of the infinite matter in motion within (the microcosm) and the infinite matter in motion without (the macrocosm). The Gaia hypothesis is a gross microcosmic error. Like other theories based on dated systems philosophy, it proposes that the microcosm can act in isolation from its macrocosm. It is an example of teleology on the grand scale and thus is not scientific.

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