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February 26, 2014 / compassioninpolitics

My quick criticism of scientism in philosophy and the university

To me the question makes a lot of sense. Lets look at some other fields of study which bring a lot to the human experience in terms of insights, innovation, and progress–but also in terms of wisdom, meaning, and purpose:

Human Stories
Human Conversations
The Human Spirit
The cornucopia of human emotion

Let all that sink in……

How many books would you have to get rid of it only science was important?
How about how many parts of science books would you have cut out (ie the philosophy or history) if only science counted as truth or knowledge?
How many discoveries in science are based on cross-disciplinary discoveries or in some way informed by knowledge by other fields?

And what would science be without the emotion, passion, and experiences of Discovery, Invention, and Wonder. Its not all about objective experience?

Value. Real value–what real meaning and purpose and worth is. How to understand human worth beyond its economic market value. Thats where other branches of thought excel.

It seem science…..not religion (or rather Christianity) is the real source of a threat to the university, academic exploration and progress. Thats stunning!!!!

And remember, they give MacArthur grants, NEA Grants, and Nobel Prizes to non-scientists because there is real value…..real possibility for transformation.

Because otherwise, what we learned in high school and college in our other subjects didn’t help us be successful in life….and didn’t help us to become better human beings. That flys so anti-thetical to what experience and deep wisdom says about our what we learn and how we need to learn and what we need to learn about that it defies the best insights and perspectives I know of.

Science isn’t science without the twin of philosophy (ie philosophy of science). And science writers move from good science writers to great science writers by learning to communicate, write, and do art–not simply by learning more about science.

No philosopher…..and no assumptive and overgeneralized bumper sticker cant about some supposed hierarchy–beyond ones that contextualized to what its good at is.

This isn’t the best analogy….but lets think about a lawyer in the trial with 3 witnesses all on one side and try to rank them. But….if all 3 are necessary to make the case….to understand the case….they are in one sense all valuable and in one sense all indespensable.

Overall, the assertion that other disciplines aren’t useful or aren’t valuable flies in the face of our experience….the experience of cross-disciplinary scientists and inventors…..and suggest something on par with the anti-intellecutualism of book burning. (aka they are of no worth, ergo we shouldn’t pay attention or we should burn them all. if they are of truly of no academic or human worth–they should probably be burned because they are taking up space and resources).

I think those authors who make this assertion **may** have lost the importance of the following distinctions–particularly when making academic “truth” claims:

Principle versus Power
Science versus Controversy
Truth versus Popularity


But that suggests that arts and the social sciences don’t understand their own domains….when the social sciences call the objectivity of science as well as the agendas of science into question. That seems mighty convienient.

Remember, scientists who understand science as a part of a larger system of thinking and doing–are much better equipped to do the work of science. Scientists who have reductionistic tunnel vision….end up being lab assistants in machine factories. Ideas and feelings–both key components of non physicalist or non-rationalist thinking……as well as a multi-disciplinary point is to be had here.

I think quantum physics, systems theory, and critiques of the culture of science and academia are radically important. To ignore them or dismiss them is to fall victim to those very problems. The only way to change our thinking…to change our paradigms is to get lateral thinking…..and perspectivalist thinking. (pretty much any expert in psychology, creativity, or innovation will tell you that). Although I guess there is some overlap in our thinking here.

You are awfully quick to dismiss what was a pretty pointed critique. Neuro-science and physics misses a ton of nuanced underlying causality. Its not meant as a critique of science….but stands in for one in the way it approaches problems (aka metaphor or allegory). Moreover, its atheists/agnostics/etc.. who think about physics as the underlying science. So he was really responding in context….to their analysis….not really making one of his own.

Thinking and knowing are a dynamic interplay. Your distinctions may be helpful….but I think you have to give some love to other disciplines. Think of the picture of a mother holding a child–the quintessential experience of holding owns own child in ones arms for carrying it and caring for it for over 9 months. Those pictures are precious–and to borrow a phrase their worth a 1000 words x 1000 words.

Scientist Observation vs. Artist/Poets/Creative will likely be RADICALLY, RADICALLY different. Even a woman is likely to have a different experience and perspective (particularly if she has kids of her own).

You know, believe, and have faith in things beyond the laboratory of science. Relationships, love, and ethics don’t fit on spreadsheets (2008 told us that).

Not important? Science both acknowledges and has proven itself incapable of creating ethical systems from the scientific method. Pure utilitarian calculation (ala Jeremy Bentham) without moral rules has been all but abandoned as a viable philosophy or ethical system.

Not to mention Heidegger’s critique of western instrumentality which both scientific thinking and overly rationalistic thinking falls pray to by enframing human essense or dasein. We aren’t widgets or objects….we are humans. Contemplation and self-reflection aren’t values which come out of the rationalistic thinkers toolbox….but they need to be in every human’s toolbox.

I can go on about the importance of emotional intelligence as well….for human problem solving works with science but a rationalistic approach. If you don’t understand motivation–on a personal level–not just a science one–your organization, projects, and goals aren’t going anywhere.

Context, context, context. The world is rich with context…..and its an important part of meaning and story and purpose……and science misses it. Science wants to ignore context. The lab is detached from the messiness and systems and context of real world….which has certain advantages….but also has certain disadvantages.

Values aren’t important?
Ask Hitler.
Ask Simon Sinek (the Why)
Ask Lincoln
Ask Thomas Jefferson & the signers of the Declaration of Independence
Ask anyone who has had legal problems
Ask anyone who studies human psychology
Ask Aristotle
But more importantly….ask any historian….
History is shaped by men and women of ideas. Characters in the human drama.
Our entire history. Values and ideas as they meld together and mix and effect human behavior are incredibly important. If ideas weren’t important you wouldn’t be typing and the new atheists wouldn’t exist. Period.

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