August 14th, 2013
The article is The Power of Science and the Danger of Scientism by Adam Frank, posted yesterday.
To the extent I can follow this wordy but shallow critique of Pinker, it has something to do with how the power of science has made us “overvalue explanations.” And the power of science means we do need to treat what he correctly acknowledges as a “method” as something to be discussed first and foremost in terms of its “fruits” and “poisons.” I shit you not.
This article doesn’t ever quite make a clear thesis or support it. I mean, explanations are quite valuable. How does one determine if society is overvaluing them? Frank asserts it without support, but it made me wonder if perhaps he could, you know, apply some science to test his idea? No?
And Pinker’s story about the Harvard curriculum and the discussion of science, which Frank claims Pinker missed the point about? Pinker’s point seemed to be that no other field was discussed in terms of not what it was (a method of generating reliable knowledge) but in terms of the good and bad that comes from it. Frank’s point? Oh, it is about the good and bad (“fruits and poisons”). Eh? That’s telling Pinker!
In a country where anti-intellectualism is already way too popular, in my opinion, we could be promoting science! Instead we have academics frankly being anti-science in the guise of being anti-scientism. If they actually knew some science, they could probably make a stronger case, but it’s this weird world of assertions and feelings that are somehow supposed to be valid alternatives without any serious effort to support that notion. To the extent that these criticisms of scientism are valid, they’re about a strawman of scientism that no one actually believes (e.g., that science has all the answers).
No other method generates new knowledge better than science. Science is being applied to more and more areas, and this is not diminishing anything except for some blowhard’s capability to B.S. without being called on it and to pretend they know something they don’t.
The NPR article? Full of sound and fury, a little bit anyway, and signifying nothing worthwhile I can discern. Personally I’d rather be building someone or something up in my blog rather than tearing down a poorly constructed and executed essay, but I listened to my feelings today to write about something I’m passionate about. That should make Frank happy.
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