According to British physicist David Tyler, here “Michael Reiss revisits his worldview theme.”
In his discussion of the nature of science, Reiss draws attention to the work of Robert Merton and Karl Popper. Whilst there is much of value here, he writes, “most historians and philosophers of science would argue that there is more to the nature of science”. He considers the “seminal contributions” of Thomas Kuhn and the concept of scientific paradigms, plus the related analysis of research programs by Lakatos. More recently, science has become “more influenced by politics; it is more industrialized; and it is more bureaucratic.” Then comes the conclusion: “The effect of these changes is to make the boundaries around the city of science a bit fuzzier. [. . .] Of course, if one accepts the contributions of the social study of science one finds these boundaries fuzzier still.”
Whilst all this is helpful, it is not clear to me how this affects the subsequent argument of the paper. The paradigms affecting evolutionary biology are not analysed; nor the research programs of scientists involved with origins research. The fuzzy boundaries are not mentioned again. Reiss could have taken the opportunity to show the defenders of “scientific materialism” where they fit into the analysis – thereby constricting their comfort zone – but he does not. Later, he says that creationism “is not really a science in that its ultimate authority is scriptural and theological rather than the evidence obtained from the natural world”. Creationists, of course, do not see any incompatibility between their ultimate authority and working with evidences from the natural world – but that is another discussion. If ultimate authority is an issue, what can be said of the many advocates of “scientific materialism”? What shall we make of Richard Lewontin’s oft-quoted maxim: “Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.”? Does this statement imply that Lewontinism ‘is not really a science in that its ultimate authority is philosophical materialism rather than the evidence obtained from the natural world’?
My sense is, Reiss was just trying to be nice and helpful and serve Darwin faithfully – and he just didn’t get the fact that the Darwin fans are past that now. They aim at power, and destroying him Reiss a minor way of demonstrating that.
See also: Michael Reiss: Sinner in the hands of an angry god.