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At Wall Street Journal: Science needs critics, not cheerleaders

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From an interview with John Staddon we can learn that constructive criticism is more useful than cheerleading when one’s game needs work:

In an interview at his Durham home, Mr. Staddon recalls an episode that reflected this problem. An anonymous reviewer of his 2017 book, “Scientific Method”—a broad defense of the process of verification—scolded him for airing the problems of contemporary science. “My critic felt that science is under attack now, so anyone who writes about it for a general audience should do his best to defend it,” Mr. Staddon recalls. “Science, of course, should need no defense in a society whose existence depends on it. But when science is not in a healthy state, it needs not cheerleading but understanding and improvement. Science is strengthened not by praise but by criticism.”

While Mr. Staddon has addressed issues in the hard sciences, he’s more concerned with “festering” problems in the social sciences, “where weak science competes with activist political tendencies around the fraught issues of race, class and gender.” In a forthcoming book, “Fact vs. Passion: Science in the Age of Unreason,” he writes that “many social scientists have difficulty separating facts from faith, reality from the way they would like things to be. Many research topics have become taboo which, in turn, means that policy makers are making decisions based more on ideologically-driven political pressure than scientific fact.” …

“I would publish an article critical of, say, the postmodern idea that there is no such thing as objective reality. There was only one faculty member willing to write a response to such critiques. Usually no one was willing to respond,” he says. “That seems to be a key characteristic of my more avant colleagues. They are not willing to defend their ideas. Fields in the social sciences, especially, have made avoidance easier by subdividing. The American Psychological Association and American Sociological Association each have more than 50 divisions. What you have are little enclaves, filled with people who uncritically approve of each other’s work and jack up their citation counts—a collection of circular massage squads.”

J. Peder Zane, “Science Needs Criticism, Not Cheerleading” at Wall Street Journal

Note: Most of the story is paywalled but you might know someone who subscribes.

One outcome of the problems Staddon describes is that “trust the science” is becoming something of a joke in a broad variety of areas and that is not good news.

See also: A Twitter mob made a mistake when it went after an AI industry giant. Pedro Domingos: In my confrontation with the AI cancel crowd, I was particularly helped by the fact that several of the ringleaders are (or call themselves) professional AI ethicists. Some of them are even well-known within their field. When they serially engaged in childish and unethical behavior in full view of their colleagues, they did my job for me.

3 Replies to “At Wall Street Journal: Science needs critics, not cheerleaders

  1. 1
    polistra says:

    Those subdivisions aren’t really about “avoiding the problem”, they’re just the natural result of the feudal system of tenure. The personal power of each senior prof tends to breed a “Centre For Our SubSubSubTopic”, with its own set of rooms and equipment and grants. The best Centres have complete buildings.

    One of Parkinson’s Laws: When an organization gets its own brand-new building, you can be sure it has lost its purpose and turned into a pure power machine.

  2. 2
    bornagain77 says:

    as to, “I would publish an article critical of, say, the postmodern idea that there is no such thing as objective reality.”

    Actually, rather than saying that postmodernists deny the existence of objective reality, it would be more precise to say that postmodernists deny the existence of objective truth,

    “postmodernism is highly skeptical of explanations which claim to be valid for all groups, cultures, traditions, or races, and instead focuses on the relative truths of each person.”
    https://www.pbs.org/faithandreason/gengloss/postm-body.html

    Moreover, in Critical Theory we find that “Postmodern critical research,,, rejects the idea that a researcher’s work is an “objective depiction of a stable other.”,,,

    Critical theory
    Excerpt: postmodern critical theory politicizes social problems “by situating them in historical and cultural contexts, to implicate themselves in the process of collecting and analyzing data, and to relativize their findings.”[5] Meaning itself is seen as unstable due to social structures’ rapid transformation. As a result, research focuses on local manifestations rather than broad generalizations.
    Postmodern critical research is also characterized by the crisis of representation, which rejects the idea that a researcher’s work is an “objective depiction of a stable other.”
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Critical_theory#Postmodern_critical_social_theory

    Which begs the question of, if your (ironically named) critical research,,, “rejects the idea that a researcher’s work is an “objective depiction of a stable other.”,,, then why is blue blazes should other researchers ever bother paying attention to your research in the first place since it is not objectively true for all people?

    As should be needless to say, the rejection of objective truth by postmodernism, (and critical theory), is simply suicidal as far as science itself is concerned.

    As someone on Facebook commented, what we desperately need in our universities and schools is not ‘critical theory’ but is more ‘critical thinking’!

    Moreover, postmodernism, (and its equally unscientific cousin ‘critical theory’), find their roots in Darwinian ideology.

    In the following article, Nancy Pearcey, in her usual excellent manner of teaching, traces out the progression from Darwinism to ‘postmodern pragmatism’,,

    How Darwinism Dumbs Us Down – Nancy Pearcey
    Excerpt: The gist of my talk was that Darwinism undercuts the very possibility of rational truth–an argument that seemed unsettling to atheist students who had organized a group specifically to promote rational thought!
    To understand how Darwinism undercuts the very concept of rationality, we can think back to the late nineteenth century when the theory first arrived on American shores. Almost immediately, it was welcomed by a group of thinkers who began to work out its implications far beyond science. They realized that Darwinism implies a broader philosophy of naturalism (i.e., that nature is all that exists, and that natural causes are adequate to explain all phenomena). Thus they began applying a naturalistic worldview across the board–in philosophy, psychology, the law, education, and the arts.
    At the foundation of these efforts, however, was a naturalistic approach to knowledge itself (epistemology). The logic went like this: If humans are products of Darwinian natural selection, that obviously includes the human brain–which in turn means all our beliefs and values are products of evolutionary forces: Ideas arise in the human brain by chance, just like Darwin’s chance variations in nature; and the ones that stick around to become firm beliefs and convictions are those that give an advantage in the struggle for survival. This view of knowledge came to be called pragmatism (truth is what works) or instrumentalism (ideas are merely tools for survival).
    Darwinian Logic
    One of the leading pragmatists was John Dewey, who had a greater influence on educational theory in America than anyone else in the 20th century. Dewey rejected the idea that there is a transcendent element in human nature, typically defined in terms of mind or soul or spirit, capable of knowing a transcendent truth or moral order. Instead he treated humans as mere organisms adapting to challenges in the environment. In his educational theory, learning is just another form of adaptation–a kind of mental natural selection. Ideas evolve as tools for survival, no different from the evolution of the lion’s teeth or the eagle’s claws.
    In a famous essay called “The Influence of Darwin on Philosophy,” Dewey said Darwinism leads to a “new logic to apply to mind and morals and life.” In this new evolutionary logic, ideas are not judged by a transcendent standard of Truth, but by how they work in getting us what we want. Ideas do not “reflect reality” but only serve human interests.
    To emphasize how revolutionary this was, up until this time the dominant theory of knowledge or epistemology was based on the biblical doctrine of the image of God. Confidence in the reliability of human knowledge derived from the conviction that finite human reason reflects (to some degree at least) an infinite divine Reason. Since the same God who created the universe also created our minds, we can be confident that our mental capacities reflect the structure of the universe. In The Mind of God and the Works of Man, Edward Craig shows that even as Western thinkers began to move away from orthodox Christian theology, in their philosophy most of them still retained the conception that our minds reflect an Absolute Mind as the basis for trust in human cognition.
    The pragmatists were among the first, however, to face squarely the implications of naturalistic evolution. If evolutionary forces produced the mind, they said, then all are beliefs and convictions are nothing but mental survival strategies, to be judged in terms of their practical success in human conduct. William James liked to say that truth is the “cash value” of an idea: If it pays off, then we call it true.
    Pragmatism Today
    This Darwinian logic continues to shape American thought more than we might imagine. ,,,,
    If James’s religious pragmatism has become virtually the American approach to spirituality today, then Dewey’s pragmatism has become the preferred approach to education. Virtually across the curriculum–from math class to moral education–teachers are trained to be nondirective “facilitators,” presenting students with problems and allowing them to work out their own pragmatic strategies for solving them. Of course, good teachers have always taught students to think for themselves. But today’s nondirective methodologies go far beyond that. They springboard from a Darwinian epistemology that denies the very existence of any objective or transcendent truth.
    Take, for example, “constructivism,” a popular trend in education today. Few realize that it is based on the idea that truth is nothing more than a social construction for solving problems. A leading theorist of constructivism, Ernst von Glasersfeld at the University of Georgia, is forthright about its Darwinian roots. “The function of cognition is adaptive in the biological sense,” he writes. “This means that ‘to know’ is not to possess ‘true representations’ of reality, but rather to possess ways and means of acting and thinking that allow one to attain the goals one happens to have chosen.” In short, a Darwinian epistemology implies that ideas are merely tools for meeting human goals.
    Postmodern Campuses
    These results of pragmatism are quite postmodern, so it comes as no surprise to learn that the prominent postmodernist Richard Rorty calls himself a neo-pragmatism….
    I once presented this progression from Darwinism to postmodern pragmatism at a Christian college, when a man in the audience raised his hand: “I have only one question. These guys who think all our ideas and beliefs evolved . . . do they think their own ideas evolved?” The audience broke into delighted applause, because of course he had captured the key fallacy of the Darwinian approach to knowledge. If all ideas are products of evolution, and thus not really true but only useful for survival, then evolution itself is not true either–and why should the rest of us pay any attention to it?
    Indeed, the theory undercuts itself. For if evolution is true, then it is not true, but only useful. This kind of internal contradiction is fatal, for a theory that asserts something and denies it at the same time is simply nonsense. In short, naturalistic evolution is self-refuting.
    https://www.namb.net/apologetics/resource/how-darwinism-dumbs-us-down/

    Thus the primary source of the denial of objective truth in postmodernism and critical theory is none other than Darwin’s theory itself. And thus the primary source of the educational, scientific, and even cultural rot that we see in society today is none other than Darwin’s theory itself.

    This should not be surprising. Objective truth is an abstract property of an immaterial mind and simply can never be based on the naturalism and/or reductive materialism that undergirds Darwinian thought.

    As John_a_designer recently explained,

    “Truth claims are propositional. That is, truth claims are stated in the form of a proposition. But what is a proposition? Where do propositions exist? What do they look like? Where are they located? How much space do they take up? How much do they weigh? How long have they existed? How and where did they originate? Obviously, these questions are absurd because propositions are not physical. But if the physical or material is all that exists as the materialist claims, which is by the way a propositional truth claim, how can such a proposition be true? How can something that doesn’t really exist, as the materialist claims, be true? Obviously that is self-refuting.”
    – John_a_designer
    – per uncommon descent

    As should be needless to say, if your Atheistic Naturalism and/or Atheistic Materialism cannot possibly ground the existence of objective truth, then that forever precludes your worldview of Atheistic Naturalism/Materialism from ever being objectively true.

    Only Theism can ground the existence of objective truth. (and can thus provide a firm foundation for our practice of science).

    As Peter Kreeft explains,

    Twenty Arguments For The Existence Of God – Peter Kreeft
    11. The Argument from Truth
    This argument is closely related to the argument from consciousness. It comes mainly from Augustine.
    1. Our limited minds can discover eternal truths about being.
    2. Truth properly resides in a mind.
    3. But the human mind is not eternal.
    4. Therefore there must exist an eternal mind in which these truths reside.
    https://www.peterkreeft.com/topics-more/20_arguments-gods-existence.htm#11

    Thus in conclusion, and to repeat, the primary source of the denial of objective truth in postmodernism and critical theory is none other than Darwin’s theory itself. And thus the primary source of the educational, scientific, and even cultural rot that we see in society today is none other than Darwin’s theory itself.

    As the following article bluntly states, “It is precisely because modern science has abandoned its foundations in the Biblical worldview,, that science is collapsing.”

    The Threat to the Scientific Method that Explains the Spate of Fraudulent Science Publications – Calvin Beisner | Jul 23, 2014
    Excerpt: It is precisely because modern science has abandoned its foundations in the Biblical worldview (which holds, among other things, that a personal, rational God designed a rational universe to be understood and controlled by rational persons made in His image) and the Biblical ethic (which holds, among other things, that we are obligated to tell the truth even when it inconveniences us) that science is collapsing.
    As such diverse historians and philosophers of science as Alfred North Whitehead, Pierre Duhem, Loren Eiseley, Rodney Stark, and many others have observed,, science—not an occasional flash of insight here and there, but a systematic, programmatic, ongoing way of studying and controlling the world—arose only once in history, and only in one place: medieval Europe, once known as “Christendom,” where that Biblical worldview reigned supreme. That is no accident. Science could not have arisen without that worldview.
    http://townhall.com/columnists...../page/full
    Several other resources backing up this claim are available, such as Thomas Woods, Stanley Jaki, David Linberg, Edward Grant, J.L. Heilbron, and Christopher Dawson.

    Of supplemental note to objective truth,,, other religions claim to point you to the truth, but only Christianity claims to be source of objective truth!

    “If you were to take Mohammed out of Islam, and Buddha out of Buddhism, and Confucius out of Confucianism you would still have a faith system that was relatively in tact. However, taking Christ out of Christianity sinks the whole faith completely. This is because Jesus centred the faith on himself. He said, “This is what it means to have eternal life: to know God the Father and Jesus Christ whom the Father sent” (John 17:3). “I am the light of the world” (John 8:12). Buddha, before dying, said in effect, “I am still seeking for the truth.” Mohammed said in effect, “I point you to the truth.” Jesus said, “I am the truth.” Jesus claimed to not only give the truth, but to be the very personal embodiment of it.”
    http://commonground.co.za/?res.....way-to-god

    Verse and video

    John 14:6
    Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

    Jesus Christ as the correct “Theory of Everything” – video
    https://youtu.be/Vpn2Vu8–eE

  3. 3
    ET says:

    All evos know is how to be cheerleaders. They are too stupid and boring to offer anything constructive

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