Science philosophy

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Category archives for Science philosophy

Balance

Science is always working a tough room. It’s inherently progressive — we’re constantly achieving incremental improvements in our understanding, with occasional lurches forward…and sometimes sudden lurches backward, when we realize that we got something wrong. We’re performing for a crowd, the general citizenry and most importantly, the funding agencies, that expect us to fix problems…

When I heard that Steven Pinker had written a new piece decrying the accusations of scientism, I was anxious to read it. “Scientism” is a blunt instrument that gets swung in my direction often enough; I consider it entirely inappropriate in almost every case I hear it used. Here’s the thing: when I say that…

Andrew Brown does it again, and writes another clueless screed against one of those damned atheist scientists, in this case Harry Kroto. It’s a common sort of objection, that these scientists are all mere logical positivists (or as Brown prefers to label them, “illogical positivists”), and as we all know, the philosophers have rejected logical…

Weird ideas can flourish if enough people share a false preconception, and here’s a marvelous article on the history and philosophy of widely held certainty that other planets were inhabited by people. Not just any people, either: good Christian people. By the 1700s, there could no longer be any doubt. Earth was just one of…

I owe Nicholas Humphrey an apology

When I critized Mary Midgley the other day for her sloppy critique of Nicholas Humphrey, I also pointed out that Humphrey had apparently indulged in some unfortunate hyperbole himself, saying “So successful has it been that many scientists would now say, and even fear, that there will soon be little left for them to do.”…

An interesting thread tangent

The indefatigable Kurzweil threads do occasionally spawn some interesting discussion, and the latest has gone down a few odd byways thanks to this comment by Cerberus: Creating a robotic brain to “download your consciousness” into or the “I’ll make a clone version of myself with all my memories” sci-fi fiction immortality ideas are kinda false…

In my week long visit to Ireland, I only had one encounter that left a bad taste in my mouth. Everyone I talked to was forthright and willing to state their views clearly, even if I thought they were dead wrong and rather stupid (my radio interview with Tom McGurk comes to mind — he…

Oh, no. Jerry Fodor and Massimo Piattelli-Palmarini have written a book and opinion piece in which they try to claim that natural selection is a dying concept, and what do they use to justify that outrageous claim? Evo devo! That’s just nuts, and Mary Midgely compounds the crazy with terrible abuse of developmental biology —…

The power of nonsense

Forgive me, readers, but Madeline Bunting has raised up her tiny, fragile pin-head again, and I must address her non-arguments once more. Well, not her non-arguments, actually, but the same tedious non-arguments the fans of superstition constantly trundle out. She was at some strange conference where only people who love religion spoke and came away…

Science and human rights

Guestblogger Sastra checking in: A few years back the little Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in my area asked me to give a brief talk (!) on the topic of my choice. Seems they were looking for speakers, any speaker, and had noticed that I tend to talk a lot. So I considered the sorts of things…