Rhetoric of Science

I guess science does sometimes suggest moral imperatives. Eugenics was touted as the logical, ethical conclusion to draw from an evolutionist philosophy:

In 1907, Indiana adopted the first eugenical sterilization law in the world, paving the way for similar laws in more than thirty other states and nearly a dozen countries around the world. The pioneering statute was overturned by the Indiana Supreme Court in 1921 . . . , but a new law was enacted in 1927 following U.S. Supreme Court endorsement of eugenic sterilization in Buck v. Bell in which Justice Holmes declared, “three generations of imbeciles are enough.”

From 1907 to 1974 Indiana sterilized 2,500 institutionalized patients. Attention was focused on sterilization again in 1978 when, in Stump v. Sparkman, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld judicial immunity for an Indiana judge whose ex parte order led to the sterilization of a 15-year-old girl. (Indiana Eugenics: History and Legacy)

“A century ago supporters viewed surgical sterilization as part of a broader eugenics program, including immigration and marriage restriction, whose goal was to better the human race by preventing reproduction of those with ‘inferior’ hereditary traits, such as criminality and the other conditions described in the legislation. They claimed their policy was based on the best science of the day, and through the 1930s there was only ineffective opposition from the scientific and medical community. . .” (Symposium, Exhibit Recognize 100 Year Anniversary of Indiana Eugenics Legislation)

Similarly, lobotomy was considered a great scientific advance for behavior control:

Lobotomy took America and some other countries by storm. They were performed in a wide scale in the 40s, because the mental asylums were brimming over with cases after the Second World War. Between 1939 and 1951, more than 18,000 lobotomies were performed in the United States, and tens of thousands more in other countries. It was widely abused as a method to control undesirable behavior, instead of being a last-resort therapeutic procedure for desperate cases. In Japan, the majority of the operated cases were children, many of whom had only problematic behavior or a bad performance at the school. Inmates in prisons for the insane were widely operated. Families trying to get rid of difficult relatives would submit them to lobotomy. Rebels and political opponents were treated as mentally deranged by authorities and operated. Amateur surgeons would often perform hundreds of lobotomies without even doing a systematic psychiatric evaluation.

In 1949, Dr. Antônio Egas Moniz was awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine and Physiology, in recognition of his creation of the prefrontal leucotomy, This had the effect of making lobotomy a respectable procedure, and as a result, in the ensuing three years, more lobotomies were performed than in all previous years. (The History of Lobotomy)

Contemporary proponents of reliance on scientific truth would say that the scientific community eventually rejected these ideas. The problem is that while they were popular, they were seen as eminently rational and morally necessary. Moreover, the method used to sell them to the public was the rhetoric of science and modernism. The history of ideas should teach us to distrust anyone who claims that their opinion is superior because it is rational and necessary. Rationalism is the last refuge of a scoundrel, and necessity is the father of tyranny.

Here, again, I distinguish the ideology of rationalism from the capacity for rational thought. Furthermore, in order to be considered rational, a train of thought need only be internally consistent, and its logic may yet be judged inadequate when compared to an external model. Also, the rationality of any particular train of thought is distinct from the validity of its premises or the practical value of its conclusions.

Domination and Technology

It is the nature of humanity, indeed of life itself, to subdue something or die. We constantly strive to subdue nature, animals, other people, ourselves, our thoughts, our systems of ideas, and even our own means of domination. Technology, or more properly technique, is the method of this subjugation.

Science is a recent refinement of the method, applied in a reductionistic manner to more precisely control and predict natural processes, while also gathering and analyzing greater amounts of data, so as to create more extensive generalizations. Regardless of the attempts to provide ancient pedigrees for science, history demonstrates the insignificance of ancient scientific observations that lacked reliable written records or cultural acceptance and continuity.

Moreover, the claims for broad moral, ethical, social, and spiritual implications of scientific conclusions date back only a few hundred years; without these conclusions, we would not have any modern ideology of science at all. The retrenchment of scientific rationalists to a position that science has no moral implications is recent, and reflects self-consciousness at the profound philosophical weakness of their opinions.

Religion and magic are older technologies, based on an older paradigm of correlation between the world of the seen and the unseen. Whereas atheists love to mindlessly repeat Clarke’s Third Law, I prefer Niven’s Law: “any sufficiently advanced magic is indistinguishable from technology.” People in the past were not inherently stupid, as the modernist ideology claims. I do not mean to suggest that religion and magic were ever highly effective at manipulation of natural or spiritual processes, but rather that they were always merely technologies.

The track record of magic in antiquity is no worse than that of many now-discredited 20th-century drugs and surgical techniques; whereas the overprescription of Valium, Prozac, and Ritalin for nonpsychiatric disorders and nonexistent disorders indicates that medical doctors fervently wish for the status previously held by shamans.

The other aspect of religion is its systematization of society, behavior, and thought. These would more accurately be described as applications of technique. The record is variable as to its success; however, it is not relevant to the question of having a nonpolitical personal relationship with God.

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9 thoughts on “Rhetoric of Science

  1. I was going to ask you about your last post where you say, “frog points out that an argument can be rational without being correct;”

    Did you explain all of that in this post? I only have a minute here, so I don’t have time to figure it all out.

    You have a book on this whole topic of science, logic, etc that you can write.

    The problem with philosophy books is that they’re too heavy and technical for the average person. Most people who write philosophy aren’t going to cater to the average person and make a book self contained.

    So that’s what you need to do, write a book laying down some heavy philosophy on this science, what it is, how it’s been corrupted, why it’s not the fallible thing people make it out to be, etc., but, make it self contained and lay the foundation people need in the book.

    The benefit is that it gives you a legitimate need to make it a thousand pager or more.

  2. I think Steve B. was right when he wrote something about how Zapata King sounded like a Mexican shoe salesman.

    I don’t have the patience to read a thousand-page book, so I wouldn’t inflict one on anyone else.

    Anyway, hasn’t the book you’re referring to already been written by Vox? Are you trying to set me up for a cage match with him or something?

    As for an uncomplicated book deconstructing modern science ideology in terms of its logical fallacies, I’ve seen those before. They’re popular as high school textbooks for homeschoolers. Many are oriented toward “worldview studies,” a popular field of Christian apologetics nowadays.

    I wouldn’t expect the atheist science fanboys to know anything about those, but I even have a secular one on my bookshelf written in 1986, so they have no excuse for their ignorance. Look up “inductive reasoning” or “critical thinking” at your local library.

  3. Who said it was supposed to be uncomplicated? It’s just not supposed to start off so complicated that the only people who can read it are people with degrees in philosophy.

    Vox is writing about atheism. Atheists are guilty of exploiting the corruption of the word science to make it appear their reasoning is better. This book would be broader than an attack on atheism.

    I had a thesis for myself for that degree I wanted in philosophy: “The Rule of Science: A Broken Faith.” You can have it.

    I don’t read much, so I don’t know what’s out there, but everyone has their own style, and I’m sure most writers don’t make tangents off into philosophy like you do.

    Dembskie probably writes about these kind of things, but:

    He’s a science whore
    Disgusting slut
    He’s working both sides
    Up against the middle.

    As I see it, the area of science is the biggest battlefield of ideas in modern times. When people make themselves out to “only base their beliefs on science,” they get the advantage. These kind of people need to be smacked down as much as possible to show that they’ve corrupted the science of Galileo.

    Plus, you need to publish a book of an in-tu-lek-shoo-ul (spelling?), philosophic nature. It’ll help me become famous. I don’t have the time or education to do something of significance like that.

    It’s about self-publishing for those who come after you. It’s about leaving a legacy. It’s about competing in the marketplace of ideas. If you don’t publish, you aren’t competing.

    So start now, and publish chapters as you go. That’s what you can do when you self-publish. It’s not about making money; it’s about leaving something after you’re dead and gone. If you don’t publish, you just die and people forget you. If you publish, there’s always the chance that your ideas get to live on. Look at Marx, that commie.

    I’ve published my Dronings of Zapata King, all 90 or so pages, and I have a book on some new set theory I want to eventually write; I just need to learn some more math first. I need this book by you to supplement these. It’ll make me look smart by linking it to as you come out with new chapters.

    Do you guys use LaTeX any for your documents?

    I would never sell shoes. That’s below me.

  4. As I see it, the area of science is the biggest battlefield of ideas in modern times. When people make themselves out to “only base their beliefs on science,” they get the advantage.

    I agree that this is an area where people are very confused.

    We use QuarkXPress and InDesign. I understand that LaTex and Framemaker are more popular with technical publishers.

    I never thought I would sell cookware or vacuum cleaners, but I have. I don’t recommend it.

    100-200 pages…that’s more reasonable.

  5. Selling cookware and vacuum cleaners, that’s really below me. Plus, knocking on people’s doors trying to sell anything stresses me out.

    Riding on the back of a garbage truck wasn’t below me, I just got sick the one day I did it, so I didn’t do it any more. I took it as a sign to move out of the $200 a month dump of an apartment, that wasn’t below me either, and get out of Dodge.

  6. Where you would get a lot of verbage and pages is in having to lay some philosophic foundations.

    In thinking about my book on set theory, one consideration of mine is that my only audience may be my family and future relatives. Since no one will read a book that makes absolutely no sense to them, and because very few people know any set theory, yet because beginning set theory is understandable by most people, I’m thinking I should lay down the basics of normal set theory as I go. This would be annoying to mathematicians, but there’s no guarantee that any mathematicians will want to read it anyway.

    If you’ve expanded your time period of trying to get read beyond your life, and you’re trying to leave something as some kind of heritage, then you want to make it self-contained as possible, unless you’re going to be prolific.

  7. It may depend on how well you write and what other people think you are writing about. I can think of a lot of cases where a writer is incomprehensible, yet many people who haven’t read their books know about them. I’m thinking of Kant, Hegel, Nietzsche, and Joyce.

    Of course, most people who have heard of these authors probably will never read their books. But the books will stay in demand anyway because of all the people who think they should read those books.

  8. But don’t all of them have a Ph.D? If I wasn’t too lazy I could search and find out. There had to be others who decided their writings were worthy of being endorsed, and these endorsers were probably academic types.

    Different things make a person more competitive. I would say that getting blessed by the establishment and being prolific are two of the things that make a person more likely to get established over time.

    Part of getting accepted in the Great List of People Not Forgotten can be perception. A big book, that’s reasonably well written, will also probably make a person seem more like a bigger player.

    Philosophy and literature in one sense are just an academic game. Someone is going to get endorsed and studied, but there’s only so much room at the top, and the academics are going to give preference to other academics, although there’s also a quota for a certain number of “rebel types.”

    I’m looking at it from a non-establishment perspective. But more than that I think. For example, even with the math book, because it’s so easy to forget simple ideas, if I cover some basics, a mathematician who is rusty on some ideas, or who hasn’t covered certain basics, might be willing to read my book, where, otherwise, he or she won’t because they’re not interested in looking up what they aren’t familiar with.

    I guess it’s what market you think will be most willing to read what you have to say. Dense, terse, highly technical, unfriendly books are dependent on the highly educated for getting established and accepted.

  9. Someone is going to get endorsed and studied, but there’s only so much room at the top

    There is a certain economy of scarcity because of the continuous need to find new topics to justify funding for academic research. Old ones eventually get recycled. Also, the academics go through folksy periods when only unknowns are considered authentic.

    Math and hard science is probably different because they tend to consider knowledge as absolutely cumulative. Humanities and social sciences consider only some knowledge to be cumulative.

    “Dense, terse, highly technical, unfriendly books are dependent on the highly educated for getting established and accepted” because such books need to be interpreted. Then the author’s name and their ideas become well-known, but the text they wrote is ignored, since it is worthless to most people. A gloomy fate, I think.

Instigate some pointless rambling

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