I post these quotas in opposite direction, starting with J.M. Greer’s conclusion. Read the post and the comments section here.
Tom, exactly — what has to be done, to save the scientific method, is to extract it from its institutional setting and the culture associated with that, and find a new frame for it. Yes, I’m working on that. 😉
Is this new frame the p2p-frame?
Here are Tom Bannister’s musings:
I can especially resonate with those last few paragraphs about Science and its perceived hostility as a religion. The trouble today of course in in saying the word ‘science’ people hardly understand what you mean anymore. or to put it another way, ‘science’ men/women in white lab coats, holding test tubes, rationality, progress reason, overthrow of religion!!!, instead of repeating experiments and testing hypothesis. You have already discussed all this widely on your blog of course. Personally I have enjoyed science at many points in my life and still now. If only the anti religion and progress stuff could be discarded! It would make life so much easier who just want to enjoy the wonders of science without subscribing to the religion of scientism. fortunately your blog and books such as the science delusion by Rupert Sheldrake help a lot.
Its possible too I reckon science might survive the coming purge because yes although there is much public hostility to science, anti science fundamentalist religion has just as bad a reputation. I remember for example reading a autobiography of a British comedian called David Mitchell. Mitchell is self identified as quite a firm rationalist yet in his book he states quite firmly he’d have quite happily gone along with the local religion “if I’d grown up in an unquestioning religious community as people have for most history. A bit of ritual and ceremony would have been nice, and to not have to face all the difficult questions of the world on my own…” he then goes on to attack angry atheism, although stating he gets just as cross with ‘god bothers’ but no crosser.
Anyway just some of my musings. cheers for the post!
I’ll end with the last paragraphs of Greer’s essay, which gave way for these interesting thoughts.
Mind you, there’s a certain wry amusement in the way that the resulting disputes are playing out in contemporary culture. Even diehard atheists have begun to notice that whenever Richard Dawkins opens his mouth, a dozen people decide to give religion a second chance. Still, the dubious behavior of the “angry atheist” crowd affects the subject of this post at least as powerfully as it does the field of popular religion. A great many of today’s atheists claim the support of scientific materialism for their beliefs, and no small number of the most prominent figures in the atheist movement hold down day jobs as scientists or science educators. In the popular mind, as a result, these people, their beliefs, and their behavior are quite generally conflated with science as a whole.
The implications of all these factors are best explored by way of a simple thought experiment. Let’s say, dear reader, that you’re an ordinary American citizen. Over the last month, you’ve heard one scientific expert insist that the latest fashionable heart drug is safe and effective, while three of your drinking buddies have told you in detail about the ghastly side effects it gave them. You’ve heard another scientific expert denounce acupuncture as crackpot pseudoscience, while your Uncle Henry, who messed up his back in Iraq, got more relief from three visits to an acupuncturist than he got from six years of conventional treatment. You’ve heard still another scientific expert claim yet again that no qualified scientist ever said back in the 1970s that the world was headed for a new ice age, and you read the same books I did when you were in high school and know that the expert is either misinformed or lying. Finally, you’ve been on the receiving end of yet another diatribe by yet another atheist of the sneering-bully type mentioned earlier, who vilified your personal religious beliefs in terms that would probably count as hate speech in most other contexts, and used an assortment of claims about science to justify his views and excuse his behavior.
Given all this, will you vote for a candidate who says that you have to accept a cut in your standard of living in order to keep research laboratories and university science departments fully funded?
No, I didn’t think so.
In miniature, that’s the crisis faced by science as we move into the endgame of industrial civilization, just as comparable crises challenged Greek philosophy, Roman jurisprudence, and medieval theology in the endgames of their own societies. When a society assigns one of its core intellectual or cultural projects to a community of specialists, those specialists need to think, hard, about the way that their words and actions will come across to those outside that community. That’s important enough when the society is still in a phase of expansion; when it tips over its historic peak and begins the long road down, it becomes an absolute necessity—but it’s a necessity that, very often, the specialists in question never get around to recognizing until it’s far too late.
Thus it’s unlikely that science as a living tradition will be able to survive in its current institutional framework as the Long Descent picks up speed around us. It’s by no means certain that it will survive at all. The abstract conviction that science is humanity’s best hope for the future, even if it were more broadly held than it is, offers little protection against the consequences of popular revulsion driven by the corruptions, falsifications, and abusive behaviors sketched out above. What Oswald Spengler called the Second Religiosity, the resurgence of religion in the declining years of a culture, could have taken many forms in the historical trajectory of industrial society; at this point I think it’s all too likely to contain a very large dollop of hostility toward science and complex technology. How the scientific method and the core scientific discoveries of the last few centuries might be preserved in the face of that hostility will be discussed in a future post.