Archive for August, 2018

The Folly of Scientism

Thursday, August 16th, 2018

Was checking some old references and I came across an excellent critique of Scientism. I’m particularly fond of this passage…

ScientismLadyman, Ross, and Spurrett assert that “although scientific progress is far from smooth and linear, it never simply oscillates or goes backwards. Every scientific development influences future science, and it never repeats itself.” Alas, in the thirty or so years I have been watching, I have observed quite a few scientific sub-fields oscillating happily and showing every sign of continuing to do so for the foreseeable future. The history of science provides examples of the eventual discarding of erroneous theories. But we should not be overly confident that such self-correction will inevitably occur, nor that the institutional mechanisms of science will be so robust as to preclude the occurrence of long dark ages in which false theories hold sway.

The fundamental problem raised by the identification of “good science” with “institutional science” is that it assumes the practitioners of science to be inherently exempt, at least in the long term, from the corrupting influences that affect all other human practices and institutions. Ladyman, Ross, and Spurrett explicitly state that most human institutions, including “governments, political parties, churches, firms, NGOs, ethnic associations, families…are hardly epistemically reliable at all.” However, “our grounding assumption is that the specific institutional processes of science have inductively established peculiar epistemic reliability.” This assumption is at best naïve and at worst dangerous. If any human institution is held to be exempt from the petty, self-serving, and corrupting motivations that plague us all, the result will almost inevitably be the creation of a priestly caste demanding adulation and required to answer to no one but itself. [emphasis mine]

Ya wanna really hit ’em where they live here, point out that on this concern Christianity is way ahead of what is commonly called “science.” It’s true. It has, if nothing else, the requisite humility, the acknowledgment that everyone descended from Adam is flawed.

One can bear that in mind, or not, but the beneficial understanding here is the necessity involved in doing so.

Stop Calling Me an Enemy When I’m Calling You a Liar

Sunday, August 5th, 2018

Jim Acosta of CNN thought it would be a good thing if the White House Press Secretary would reverberate his entirely unfounded opinion, and got quite peeved when it didn’t happen. He was given some solid reasons why it wasn’t going to happen, in my own opinion, and it seems like those reasons went sailing over his head.

This looks to me like a typical exchange between liberals and their counterparts, normal clear-thinking people. Lib says: Have this opinion! Follow this script! Lib gets told: Not likely, today anyway…here are the reasons why…reason 1, reason 2, reason 3…Lib protests: You’re not following the script!

And then climbs on a soapbox.

Which Acosta did.

In so doing, he demonstrated, or at least gave the appearance of, a total lack of ability, or willingness, to differentiate between opinions and facts. Now I don’t want to make any grandiose proclamations here about whether or not he should hang onto his job. But this is a little bit like a hog farmer not knowing what a fence looks like.

Between 1:28 and 1:58, or so, in Acosta’s rebuttal up there he goes off on a wild tear about falsehoods, lies, etc. told by Ms. Sanders and President Trump; offers no examples; says it’s “unfortunate, the position we’re in right now.” Plainly, this is a reference to the fact that Donald Trump is currently President, and “right now” means the window of time between the unpleasant surprise that was Trump’s Election Day victory, and the glorious moment in the near future when the special-investigation, or some other Next Big Scandal, results in his removal from office. And maybe after that, the removal of Vice President Pence from office. In the post-watergate era, that’s what “hold them accountable” (0:25) means, at least, when we’re talking about Republicans. Am I right?

I really don’t think I’m going out on a limb inferring that. There is a goal here, aptly represented by the desires of Mr. Acosta, that — quite inappropriately — has to do with policy. And it’s not a goal that involves compromise with the current administration, it’s a goal that is at odds with the current administration staying where it is.

The dead-tree reference materials don’t even go that far when they tell me what an “enemy” is…

a person who feels hatred for, fosters harmful designs against, or engages in antagonistic activities against another; an adversary or opponent.

At least, some of them don’t. Others say something like,

one that is antagonistic to another; especially : one seeking to injure, overthrow, or confound an opponent

I think even on the Acosta Planet, the Press, or at least that part of the Press that the President was referring to in his remarks, qualifies under these definitions. Maybe Jim needs to crack open a dictionary. It’s not the first time in human history a little bit of education would have prevented these raw feelings of resentment and victimhood. How about it, Jim? Maybe the people who disagree with you are the ones who know something, and you’re the one who doesn’t. It’s possible.

But in fairness, I can’t say I place unlimited confidence in these dead-tree definitions. They’re circular, for one thing; you can’t completely understand what they’re saying unless you first establish what “adversary,” “opponent,” and “antagonistic” mean. Also, lots of things that are not persons, can be enemies. You can be an enemy without displaying any hostility, and you can be hostile without being an enemy. A father trying to teach his son something, and the son who needs to learn it, can be exceedingly hostile to each other. But they’re not enemies. You don’t need to cause injury of any kind, or attempt to do so, to be an enemy. An enemy has to do with action, specifically, action that closes off options for someone. “Enemy” is about power.

If the word has any meaning at all, it must be this: A person, group of persons or class of persons, that seeks to diminish your influence over something, as you seek to diminish theirs. I submit that whatever fulfills that definition is an enemy, and whatever does not, isn’t one. The exception would be someone who has your interests in mind as they thwart your immediate actions because they’ve figured out you don’t know what you’re doing. But even there, I would expect over the long term, the goals should be the same. There just may be some conflicting ideas about tactics over the shorter term.

The Press’ relationship with President Trump, and his constituency, clearly is not part of that exception.

“The People” elected Trump, who has several definable mandates. The Press wants to keep those from being achieved. Over and over again we’ve seen, when they find evidence that Donald Trump is a liar, the evidence they’re showing really just proves his critics have a lot of difficulty with metaphors but it doesn’t matter. Even a purported lie, if it shows some currency, some ability to travel and self-maintain, becomes a tool in the arsenal. To curtail the reforms that might be put into effect until the glorious day when Trump can be dislodged.

Am I misstating the motivation here? Or missing something? In what way?

If not, that looks like an enemy to me. We The People want some things done, and the Press is working its little fingers to the bone to keep those things from being done.

This Is Good CXX

Sunday, August 5th, 2018

Received via IM. Originally posted at An0malyMusic.