Saturday, February 10, 2007

I Fought the Laws of Nature (and the Laws of Nature Won)

Quite a few articles lately about "wars on science". I'm not entirely sure why one would want to go to war against science. Didn't these people watch Godzilla? What I think they're referring to is certain groups' wars against empirically measured reality, which could also be called cognitive dissonance. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Anyway, first we have Josef Stalin Vs. Science.
The Fight: Stalin during his lifetime was able to ban in Russia certain scientific ideas that contradicted Marxist ideology and promote officially accepted scientific ideas that were actually psuedo-science. In fact, Soviet citizens were required to believe that the laws of nature corresponded to Marxist orthodoxy.
The Winner: Stalin won the battle, but lost the war. Nobody accepts Lysenko these days.

Next we have Various Humanities Professors Vs. Science.
The Fight: Inspired by certain Gallic philosophers, particuarly Foucault, various academics of the 80s and 90s argued that "science" (always with the scare quotes) doesn't reflect reality as much as serve as a pretense for power. Mengele became the typical "scientist" according to this view.
The Winner: Alan Sokol. By getting a satire of theory published in Social Text, a journal of literary theory, Sokol pulled off a classic prank and forced many academics to reconsider their attitude towards science. And science has survived- in fact, they tend to have better campus facilities than the humanities. Bastards.

Lastly, we have Republicans Vs. Science.
The Fight: Oddly enough, Republicans have taken Foucault at his word and decided that to the victor goes reality. Arguing that empirical reality is a matter of opinion, Republicans have waged a valient struggle against the theory of evolution, the geological record, and global temperature change- or at least against acknowledgement of such.
The Winner: Too soon to tell. The reality-based community seems to be on the ropes, frankly. But they've also turned many scientists to the left who had previously been rather conservative. And, ultimately, it's the scientists who have the lasers.

5 comments:

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Anonymous said...

Spambot poetry?

gregvw said...

I went ahead and tried to read the Social Text thing before reading what you (or Dawkins) said about it.

That is some funny stuff.

Rufus said...

Yeah, I usually delete spam. But that one is just too bizarre and entertaining to delete.

Rufus said...

Greg,
If you liked that, you might like the Postmodern Generator which randomly generates meaningless, but frighteningly believable, essays:

http://www.elsewhere.org/pomo