Sometimes, when you’re reading, you come across a paragraph so well-crafted and eloquent that you just have to pause in admiration. Here’s an example, taken from the book Higher Superstition by Paul Gross and Norman Levitt. Published in 1994, it deals with some of the astonishingly foolish things certain humanities professors had been writing about science. The reference in the present paragraph is to sociologist Stanley Aranowitz.
Now, the uncertainty principle is undoubtedly one of the cornerstones of quantum mechanics and one of the most philosophically provocative developments in the history of science. Under Aranowitz’s description, however, it seems rather to refer to a kind of epistemological and spiritual malaise, plaguing the minds and souls of contemporary physicists. The argument, roughly but accurately paraphrased (and all too familiar from New Age tracts, among other things), is that since physics has discovered the uncertainty principle, it can no longer provide reliable information about the physical world, has lost its claim to objectivity, and is now embedded in the unstable hermenuetics of subject-object relations. This, alas, demonstrates depressingly well the connotative power of words when they are allowed to drift apart from their contextual meaning. If Heisenberg and company had chosen a less evocative term, an awful lot of nonsense of this sort might never have seen the light of day. Philosophical and pseudophilosophical posturing has dreadfully befuddled discussion of the issue addressed to nonspecialists. (p. 51)
Somehow this reminds me of the old creationist claim that the Biblical writers knew about the second law of thermodynamics thousands of years before scientists discovered it independently. The second law was not part of the initial creation, you see, but came into being as the result of the curse of Adam. That was when sin entered the world, and caused everything to start winding down.
Thanks a lot Adam!