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Unscientific America and the end of science?

July 13th, 2009 · 7 Comments

Unscientific America by Chris Mooney and Sheril Kirshenbaum
Uncertain Principles blog has a quote from the new Mooney-Kirshenbaum book, Unscientific America, which I haven’t read.
I am getting a bad feeling that the mood here all around is ‘nobody loves me (anymore)’, as the Dr. Kildare era passes and we confront Oswald Spengler’s (yes, you read that right) ‘end of science’.
I say that to be a bit boorish, and possibly set scientists worrying about their fan club status to chattering teeth mode. Just at the moment of Big Science’s spectacular success something odd begins to happen.

I am emphatically not a proponent of Spengler, but he had a funny way armed with one of the worst theories of history ever written to hit a funny bone, with notions that are sometimes ‘right’ for the wrong reason.

I say all this as a prelude to forgetting Spengler, but pointing to the issue he raised and the suspicion he was onto something, with his ‘end of science’. As John Horgan, another misfire along these lines, also sensed, the ‘end of science’ is actually happening, and what does it mean? I don’t know, but all this hand-wringing over the science public is beside the point.

Actually the ‘end of science’ happened at long time ago, beginning with Rousseau, perhaps, and the onset of the Romantic revolt against scientism. So after some late night movie suspense, you can, if you’re a scientist, relax, the end of science has already happened, even as science is expanding in all directions.
The issue is clearly outlined for all time in the critiques of Kant, and ‘at the end of science (scientism)’ the limits of science are faced and a new hybrid discourse of the ‘science of freedom’ (if it exists) joins the Newtonian fixation of science frankensteins. If we are lucky.
But, as Darwinism shows, we aren’t very lucky, as science turns into biological pseudo-science attended by a science priesthood of complete idiots.
I should conclude by noting that religion is not the issue here, and isn’t going to help.

Our culture has changed vastly since the mid-twentieth century. Science has become much less cool, scientists have ceased to be role models, and kids aren’t rushing home any more to fire rockets from their backyards. It would be unproductive and also unfair to blame scientists alone for this sad state of affairs. For every scientist who shuns or misunderstands the broad public, there’s another who deeply wants to find better ways to connect and who may exert considerable energy and ingenuity to that end. And we’ve already seen how other crucial sectors of society fail to give science its due.

Still, it is undeniable that the troubling disconnect between the scientific community and society stems partly from the nature of scientific training today, and from scientific culture generally. In some ways science has become self-isolating. The habits of specialization that have ensured so many research successes have also made it harder to connect outside the laboratory and the ivory tower. As a result, the scientific community simultaneously generates ever more valuable knowledge and yet also suffers declining influence and growing alienation. too many smart, talented, influential people throughout our society don’t see the centraility of science in their lives; and too many scientists don’t know how to explain it to them.

Tags: Science

7 responses so far ↓

  • 1 James // Jul 13, 2009 at 3:27 pm

    It’s not like the two idiots who wrote this book have any insight on the pulse of the public. Let’s face it, scientists are like anyone else with an occupation: they may be highly skilled within their field of specialization but, outside of it, all bets are off. The public spokesmen for “science”(that abstraction like “religion”) have all been complete failures and have done tremendous damage to their own cause (i.e. we don’t really need more f*ckups like Dawkins, Dennett, etc.). The efforts to market “science” to the general public have all been brainwashing efforts that use oversimplified narratives (i.e. Darwinism) to sell a little “reductionism for the masses.” Buying into these dumbed down vehicles for “science” may make some feel like they are “freethinkers,” but somebody who is an outsider to all of these parties can see the game for what it is. It should really be embarrassing to these people that the Bible Belt can go toe-to-toe with them.

  • 2 Stephen P. Smith // Jul 13, 2009 at 4:05 pm

    Tell me about it! I make the same call for standards, and what we find instead is a perpetual equivocation that is found unable to deal with its own deceit. There must be some standard for truth, otherwise, unregulated freedom will only give us more of the same where everything is dumbed down to the smallest denominator. It can`t be everything goes in the name of an unregulated scientism.

  • 3 Darwiniana » Comment on Unscientific America // Jul 13, 2009 at 4:20 pm

    […] Comment on Unscientific America and The End of Science James said, July 13, 2009 at 3:27 pm · It’s not like the two idiots who wrote this book have any insight on the pulse of the public. Let’s face it, scientists are like anyone else with an occupation: they may be highly skilled within their field of specialization but, outside of it, all bets are off. The public spokesmen for “science”(that abstraction like “religion”) have all been complete failures and have done tremendous damage to their own cause (i.e. we don’t really need more f*ckups like Dawkins, Dennett, etc.). The efforts to market “science” to the general public have all been brainwashing efforts that use oversimplified narratives (i.e. Darwinism) to sell a little “reductionism for the masses.” Buying into these dumbed down vehicles for “science” may make some feel like they are “freethinkers,” but somebody who is an outsider to all of these parties can see the game for what it is. It should really be embarrassing to these people that the Bible Belt can go toe-to-toe with them. […]

  • 4 nemo // Jul 13, 2009 at 4:21 pm

    It would be hard to find such a standard.

  • 5 Mireille Celibataires // Jul 14, 2009 at 8:00 am

    I don’t believe in the end of science! I want to say something else: Science is a product of society and, despite of what some fanatic scientist like Dawkins say, it should serve society and not replace religion as food for the masses.

  • 6 Darwiniana » End of science? // Jul 14, 2009 at 1:30 pm

    […] Unscientific American and the End of Science Mireille Celibataires said, July 14, 2009 at 8:00 am · I don’t believe in the end of science! I want to say something else: Science is a product of society and, despite of what some fanatic scientist like Dawkins say, it should serve society and not replace religion as food for the masses. […]

  • 7 Darwiniana » Log of recent posts/last week // Jul 15, 2009 at 3:18 pm

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