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L&FP, 52: Fallaciously “settled” (=begged) questions and the marginalisation of legitimate alternatives

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Nowadays, we are often told “The Science is SETTLED,” as though Science is ever finalised or certain. To go with it, those who have concerns or alternative views and arguments are marginalised and too often smeared, scapegoated or even outright slandered. Sometimes — as Dallas Willard warned regarding moral knowledge — in this rush to judgement, legitimate knowledge is derided, denigrated and dismissed, leading to manipulation and indoctrination. Then, of course, wide swathes of the media and many educators will often jump on the bandwagon. As a result, policy and government become increasingly divorced from due prudence, leading to ruinous marches of folly.

How can we rebalance the situation?

First, as the media are the main conduit of indoctrination and manipulation, we can learn to discern manipulation, marginalisation, scapegoating and polarisation, and rebalance our thinking. For example:

However, there is usually a deeper problem, scientism. Even Wikipedia half-concedes:

Scientism is the view that science and scientific method are the best or only objective means by which people should determine normative and epistemological values, or that the natural sciences constitute the most authoritative worldview.

While the term was originally defined to mean “methods and attitudes typical of or attributed to the natural scientist”, some religious scholars (and subsequently many others) also adopted it as a pejorative with the meaning “an exaggerated trust in the efficacy of the methods of natural science applied to all areas of investigation (as in philosophy, the social sciences, and the humanities)”. The term scientism is often used critically, implying an unwarranted application of science in situations considered not amenable to application of the scientific method or similar scientific standards.

The problem they are dodging? The claim that the [core] Sciences monopolise knowledge or so dominate it that they have a veto over other alleged sources of knowledge (especially “religion” . . . actually, philosophy) is an epistemological claim not a scientific claim. That is, it is a philosophical assertion and one that is self referential and self defeating. Instead, we must acknowledge that there are many, diverse ways to achieve well warranted, credibly true (so, reliable) belief, aka, “knowledge.” Once that is done, scientism collapses.

Going further, even on matters of Science proper, there are many different degrees of warrant. Capably made, accurately reported and recorded observations and summaries of their reliable patterns are highly certain, e.g. pure water at sea level on Earth where the pressure is 760 mmHg, boils at 100 degrees Celsius. Similarly, many scientific or engineering models within regions of validity give reliable, accurate results good enough to trust with life and limb, e.g. bridge designs, airliners, well established, low risk medical treatments.

However, science is always open ended, never settled with finality. That is, Science faces the pessimistic induction. For, as we examine the real — not introductory textbook — history of Scientific Theories, there is a consistent . . . reliable! . . . pattern of discovering unexpected limitations, having to correct or even outright abandon. Even, when terms are carried over, their meaning shifts significantly. For instance, Aristotelian and Ptolemaic concepts held sway for many hundreds of years in Physics and Astronomy, but were overturned by the Newtonian Synthesis. Then, between 1880 and 1930, Newtonian Dynamics ran into Quantum and Relativity issues. These have been developed for a century but embrace fundamental mutual contradictions. And that is the hardest science of all, Physics. We need only mention Phlogiston and Plate Tectonics to indicate how widespread the pattern is. And BTW, no computer simulation is an observation.

Science is never finally settled and when anyone says that it is settled on a matter, grab your wallet before it gets picked. Indeed, that is a good test to detect question-begging and undue marginalisation. For, one who appeals to Scientific consensus as settling a matter clearly fails to understand strengths and limitations of scientific methods and techniques of inquiry. Red flag issue.

Similarly, there is no one size fits all and only science method. The well known schoolbook “method” is in fact generic and is little more than common sense. People who do not claim to be doing science (and aren’t) will often use similar approaches, e.g. in history or Management etc. They observe, look for patterns, make educated guesses, elaborate predictions, test and evaluate for reliability.

Then, there is the rather fuzzy border between “Science” and “Pseudo-Science.” Given the issues on methods and limitations of warrant, it should be no surprise to see that there is no reliable demarcation line between science and pseudo-science. There is sloppy science, yes. There is “cooking” of results in professional work just as in school science labs, yes. There are mistakes or even blunders, yes. There is outright fraud, yes. But, again, absent careful evaluation on merits, beware of branding sober minded movements and critics of “consensus” claims with the scarlet label, pseudo-science.

That points to the problem of improper marginalisation.

When serious people present serious evidence and analysis, do not be quick to dismiss because they don’t line up with what officialdom and its media promoters present as the settled consensus. Especially, if there is any name-calling involved. Speak to the merits not the personalities, acknowledging limitations up to and including the pessimistic induction. Be willing to acknowledge when there is some plausibility or warrant for what you may not agree with and balance conclusions on the merits.

Never lock policy into such a claimed consensus of settled science. Instead, bring the various parties to the table, document their views and see if a negotiated statement of balance can be composed. If not, try with two more panels with different people and base conclusions on the span of views.

Not perfect but likely to be better balanced. END

4 Replies to “L&FP, 52: Fallaciously “settled” (=begged) questions and the marginalisation of legitimate alternatives

  1. 1
    kairosfocus says:

    L&FP, 52: Fallaciously “settled” (=begged) questions and the marginalisation of legitimate alternatives

  2. 2
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N: Is the US National Science Teachers Association Board here begging the question and marginalising legitimate concerns over imposition of philosophical/ideological frameworks and agendas? (Remember, parents and children were threatened with refusal to accredit their education if they failed to toe the partyline)

    All those involved with science teaching and learning should have a common, accurate view of the nature of science. [–> yes but a question-begging ideological imposition is not an accurate view] Science is characterized by the systematic gathering of information through various forms of direct and indirect observations and the testing of this information by methods including, but not limited to, experimentation [–> correct so far]. The principal product of science is knowledge in the form of naturalistic concepts [–> evolutionary materialistic scientism is imposed] and the laws and theories related to those [–> i.e. ideologically loaded, evolutionary materialistic] concepts . . . . science, along with its methods, explanations and generalizations, must be the sole focus of instruction in science classes to the exclusion of all non-scientific or pseudoscientific methods, explanations, generalizations and products [–> censorship of anything that challenges the imposition; fails to appreciate that scientific methods are studied through logic, epistemology and philosophy of science, which are philosophy not science] . . . .

    Although no single universal step-by-step scientific method captures the complexity of doing science [–> a good point, but fails to see that this brings to bear many philosophical issues], a number of shared values and perspectives characterize a scientific approach to understanding nature. Among these are a demand for naturalistic explanations [–> outright ideological imposition and censorship that fetters freedom of responsible thought] supported by empirical evidence [–> the imposition controls how evidence is interpreted and that’s why blind watchmaker mechanisms never seen to actually cause FSCO/I have default claim to explain it in the world of life] that are, at least in principle, testable against the natural world. Other shared elements include observations, rational argument [–> ideological imposition may hide under a cloak of rationality but is in fact anti-rational], inference, skepticism [–> critical awareness is responsible, selective hyperskepticism backed by ideological censorship is not], peer review [–> a circle of ideologues in agreement has no probative value] and replicability of work . . . .

    Science, by definition, is limited to naturalistic [= evolutionary materialistic scientism is imposed by definition, locking out an unfettered search for the credibly warranted truth about our world i/l/o observational evidence and linked inductive reasoning] methods and explanations and, as such [–> notice, ideological imposition by question-begging definition], is precluded from using supernatural elements [–> sets up a supernatural vs natural strawman alternative when the proper contrast since Plato in The Laws, Bk X, is natural vs artificial] in the production of scientific knowledge. [US NSTA Board, July 2000, definition of the nature of science for education purposes]

    See the problem?


  3. 3
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N: Let’s ask a few questions, courtesy Wikipedia’s “definition” of pseudoscience:

    Pseudoscience consists of statements, beliefs, or practices that claim to be both scientific and factual but are incompatible with the scientific method.[1][Note 1] Pseudoscience is often characterized by contradictory, exaggerated or unfalsifiable claims; reliance on confirmation bias rather than rigorous attempts at refutation; lack of openness to evaluation by other experts; absence of systematic practices when developing hypotheses; and continued adherence long after the pseudoscientific hypotheses have been experimentally discredited.[2]

    Q1: Is a priori, imposed evolutionary materialistic scientism a pseudoscientific ideology?

    Q2: Is there a good single definition of THE Scientific Method [singular] that guides and defines all cases of good science and excludes all and only cases of non science, especially what is mistakenly or fraudulently claimed to be science [i.e. pseudoscience]?

    Q3: Is there a good demarcation criterion of the border between valid and invalid cases of science? [See video: on Popperian style falsificationism ]

    Q4: Given the above, could we have commonly encountered crooked yardstick thinking holding Science captive to a pseudoscientific ideology that can aptly be described as a priori evolutionary materialist scientism?

    Q5: Where should we go from here?

    Q6: Is it reasonable to infer or hold that science monopolises knowledge or at least so dominates that when it steps in, it silences all other claimed bases for knowledge?

    Q7: Is Mathematics a Science?

    Q8: Is Computer Science a Science?

    Q9: Is History a Science?

    Q10: Is Economics a Science?


  4. 4
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N: Geisler et al in their intro to I don’t have enough faith to be an Atheist:

    Our postmodern culture has done a number on the idea of truth. It teaches that truth and morality are relative, that there is no such thing as absolute [–> or, sometimes, even objective] truth. To the intellectual elite dominating our universities and the mainstream media, these ideas are considered enlightened and progressive, even though we all intuitively understand that absolute truth exists, and more importantly, we all conduct our lives with that recognition.

    If you encounter one of these geniuses who is so certain that truth is a social construct defined by the powerful to remain in power, ask him if he would be willing to test his theory by leaping from the tallest building around. You might also want to quiz him on the Law of Noncontradiction. Ask him whether he believes that two contradictory things can be true at the same time. If he has the intellectual dishonesty to say “yes,” ask him how certain he is that absolute truth does not exist. Is he absolutely certain?

    Yes, truth is a casualty of our popular culture.

    Here, we see truth itself being marginalised through an outrageously question-begging assertion turned into a yardstick of being up to date in one’s thinking. The key hole in this is of course, that the ones asserting such imply that it is objectively the case that there are no objective truths, much less absolute — truth, whole relevant truth, nothing but truth — truths.

    Sadly, many such are not fazed by being self contradictory, reductios make no impression on them.

    Instead, truth says of what is that it is, and of what is not that it is not. Ari nailed it 2300+ years ago in Metaphysics 1011b.


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