Monday, October 8, 2007

"Scribblers" and Scientific Chastity

Oswald Sobrino posts on a book by Sir Karl Popper, The Logic of Scientific Discovery. The book was first published in 1934 and most recently reissued in 2002. Mr. Sobrino provides some excerpts from this edition to "help us keep scientific claims in perspective, especially when those claims are pushed forward by non-scientists." His insightful conclusion:

Popper offers a chastened view of scientific claims that most scientists, I think, share; but that few non-scientists are aware of due to the fact that we are so dazzled, as outsiders, by so much scientific achievement in the modern era. In contrast, we have unrestrained scribblers, usually non-scientists, who do not show the restraint of scientists. Well, we live in a society that is, in many ways, out of control -- temperance or chastity are just not the marks of American culture today. To be chaste is not just a sexual virtue. To be chaste is a virtue of humble restraint needed throughout the culture. The lack of temperance courses through our culture from the highly personal aspects of life to the highly public claims of pseudo-scientists. Maybe, there is a testable link.

What would be an example of this kind of link? Could one be a link between people who are into "free love" and, like, totally freaked out by man-made global warming? Maybe... I don't know if it's testable; I'm a non-scientist. But I'm not sure if it really needs to be tested either.


  1. Personally, I think science is useful, but it's built on assumptions that cannot possibly be proven true.

    For instance, there is the assumption that the laws that govern the here and now apply to all places at all times: it is only because of this assumption that scientists can draw generalizable conclusions from observations of specific events and specific experiments. But this assumption can't be proven: any supposed proof would be an instance of the fallacy of affirming the consequent.

    Those who treat science as a religion, as the only source of trustworthy truth claims -- I'm thinking here of John Derbyshire, who shows this tendency if not an outright adherence -- often make the more strict assumption of materialistic naturalism, that the universe is a closed system.

    This assumption of materialistic naturalism has a fatal flaw: if the universe is a closed system, all phenomena within the universe can explained causally, including our own thoughts; if our own thoughts are nothing more than a chemical byproduct of the universe, then they can't be trusted, and that includes the thought that the universe is a closed system.

    For science to be trustworthy, human thought must be rational. For human thought to be rational, the universe cannot be a closed system: the human mind must be a real, objective thing that exists at least partially independently of the universe.

    This recognition that the universe isn't a closed system opens the door for theism and even for the miraculous intervention that deism denies. Humility is called for: humility in the face of a universe that must be open for science to be trustworthy, and humility in the face of a universe in which miracles can conceivably occur in defiance of science's beloved assumption of universal and inviolable laws.

    "There are more things in heaven and earth..."

  2. Good observations. Both humility and chastity are sub-categories of the Cardinal Virtue Temperance. Also, humility has been seen as a pre-requisite for Faith (in God, the first theological virtue) and is therefore sometimes called "the first virtue". The opposite vice, pride, is kind of a proto-vice since it epitomizes Lucifer's sin causing his demise.

    So you and Sobrino are each looking at different facets of dysfunctional views of science.

  3. I have just come across your interesting blog. When I saw the connection made between fornication and being alarmed about global warming--and with a picture of a counterculture clown smoking a joint nearby--I knew I had stumbled upon yet another Religious Republican masquerading as a Catholic (a la George W. et. al.).

    Well, we would all like our own precious ideas to be validated by Jesus (the Ku Klux Klan claims to be a Christian organization, and there are also pro-abortion Catholics), but it doesn't necessarily work as well as we would like on closer inspection. For instance, when Jesus said you cannot serve God and Mammon, it is difficult to see how he was endorsing wholehearted participaion in capitalist consumerism.

    Be that as it may, what you bring up about inflated claims for science is interesting. It may be true that many people try to use science to validate their own precious ideas (look at nineteeth century racial theories). But it appears that global warming doesn't fall into this category. I think even George B. realizes this by now, though he may have never smoked pot or fornicated in his life.

  4. David, you have exposed my flimsy masquerade & I hang my head in shame. As you insinuate by your comparing modern market activity to that of the Ku Klux Klan, I now realize that buying bed-sheets at Wal-mart is morally equivalent to lynching people of color.

    Not that I can remember my post about "wholehearted participaion (sic) in capitalist consumerism", but I'm sure it's here somewhere. After all, I've been "making unto myself friends of the mammon of iniquity (Lk 16:9)" for quite some time now.

    Thanks for visiting -- we have a lot of fun over here, so try not to get addicted.

  5. Bush pretends to be Catholic? And, speaking of capitalist consumerism, isn't "Raber Raber" the famous cry of the Hamburgler?

    So many questions, so little time...

  6. Let's make a deal. I won't lump you or your fellow travelers together with the KKK (which I wasn't doing really, anyhow), if you don't lump me and others convcerned about global warming together with pot heads!

    I guess I see a problem when Catholics of any stripe jump into bed with any ready-made political philosophy--none of them made based on a Catholic or Christian sensibility.

    If I lumped you together too hastily with the Republicans, feel free to chastise me for it!

    On another topic, we could be related--if Pauli is your last name, because George Pauli was my grandfather's name. Ever heard of him? He was a tailor in Grand Rapids, MI, died about 1933.

    Maybe we could both be fairly lumped together as Paulis.

  7. Actually global warming could be an enormous boon to pot smokers as well as helping break up South American drug cartels. If Columbus becomes as tropical as Columbia then you might see the return of the, uh, "family farm" in central Ohio. Who knows....

  8. I see a problem when Catholics of any stripe jump into bed with any ready-made political philosophy

    The "jump into bed" is your assumption that the political allegiance of a fellow Catholic which is troubling you has not been pondered long and hard by said Catholic.

    I've applauded Catholics with high hopes for the Democrats for years. Now is their big chance to put forth a pro-life Democratic Presidential candidate and cream Rudy G. in the general election with cross-over votes.