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Monday, January 03, 2011

Ego tripology: "Science patriots" a step ahead of the bailiff this time

In "Science Warriors' Ego Trips" (Chronicle of Higher Ed, April 25, 2010) Carlin Romano, who teaches philosophy and media theory at the University of Pennsylvania, comments on ID opponent Massimo Pigliucci’s Nonsense on Stilts: How to Tell Science From Bunk:
In an even greater disservice, Pigliucci repeatedly suggests that intelligent-design thinkers must want "supernatural explanations reintroduced into science," when that's not logically required. He writes, "ID is not a scientific theory at all because there is no empirical observation that can possibly contradict it. Anything we observe in nature could, in principle, be attributed to an unspecified intelligent designer who works in mysterious ways." But earlier in the book, he correctly argues against Karl Popper that susceptibility to falsification cannot be the sole criterion of science, because science also confirms. It is, in principle, possible that an empirical observation could confirm intelligent design—i.e., that magic moment when the ultimate UFO lands with representatives of the intergalactic society that planted early life here, and we accept their evidence that they did it. The point is not that this is remotely likely. It's that the possibility is not irrational, just as provocative science fiction is not irrational.


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A sensible person can side with scientists on what's true, but not with Pigliucci on what's rational and possible. Pigliucci occasionally recognizes that. Late in his book, he concedes that "nonscientific claims may be true and still not qualify as science." But if that's so, and we care about truth, why exalt science to the degree he does? If there's really a heaven, and science can't (yet?) detect it, so much the worse for science.


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Long live Skeptical Inquirer! But can we deep-six the egomania and unearned arrogance of the science patriots? As Descartes, that immortal hero of scientists and skeptics everywhere, pointed out, true skepticism, like true charity, begins at home.
Well said, Romano.

First. In my experience, the "science patriots" are not really patriots or skeptics either (types one can always use). They are minor politicians barking the party line, in season or out.

It's out of season now. More and more people see full bore Darwinism for what it is, and either the Darwinists address the problem or someone else will. May as well be us.

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