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The toffs debate what should be in our textbooks …


Here’s an interesting exchange of opinion between Michael P. Lynch and Alan Sokal, “Defending Science: An Exchange” (New York Times, March 11, 2012 ) ,


Debates over epistemic principles sound abstract, but they have enormous practical repercussions. For instance, in order to decide policy matters (like what to put in our textbooks and what to teach in science classrooms) we need to decide on the facts. But in order to decide on the facts, we need to decide on the best ways for knowing about those facts. And to do that, we need to agree on our epistemic principles. If we can’t, stalemate ensues. Each side looks at the other as if they inhabit a completely different world — and in a sense, they do.

Sokal: The trouble is not that fundamentalist Christians reject our core epistemic principles; on the contrary, they accept them. The trouble is that they supplement the ordinary epistemic principles that we all adopt in everyday life — the ones that we would use, for instance, when serving on jury duty — with additional principles like “This particular book always tells the infallible truth.”

Well, maybe it does. It sure wouldn’t be the only example of a correct source being ignored.

Sokal is the one who launched the famous Sokal hoax on stupid lit profs. Too bad it didn’t happen more often.

Hat tip: Pos-Darwinista


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