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Also from PLOS Biology, a DEFENSE of “Tyranny of Science” philosopher Paul Feyerabend …

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The Tyranny of Science… by philosopher Ian James Kidd, who was also asked to reread Feyrabend’s book. In “Rethinking Feyerabend: The “Worst Enemy of Science” (October 4, 2011), Kidd writes:

Although he is reputed as a critic of science, he is not. Feyerabend is critical not of science itself, but of false and misleading images of the sciences. The “tyranny” of the title refers not to an encroaching and disenchanting “scientific worldview,” of the sort popular with some cultural critics, but with the dangers which arose when people fail to understand and appreciate science. Back in the 1960s and early 1970s, Feyerabend urged philosophers of science to take seriously both the history of science and scientific practice—he was a trained physicist himself—and warned his peers that mere abstract reflection on the sciences would produce only idealised fantasies of science, rather than workable models of it. Although subsequent generations of philosophers of science took him seriously, many at the time took his claim as a personal attack—hence the “bad reputation.”

Today’s pop science press is presumptive evidence for what Feyerabend is talking about: Certainty that competing and contradictory crackpot cosmologies will prevail, backed up by the claim that humans are by nature irrational and thinking is an illusion … Many readers don’t so much doubt science as would counsel some of its ardent fans, “What you smoke, dude, change your brand … this is getting serious. ”

Into the 1980s, Feyerabend began to expand the scope of his ideas. By the beginning of the 1980s, the philosophy of science was a richer discipline, so Feyerabend moved onto new issues. It struck him that public confidence in the sciences was beginning to change into the 1980s. The nuclear accidents at Chernobyl and Three Mile Island, waning interest in the space program, and ambitious new claims on behalf of genetics were beginning to affect public faith in the sciences. Feyerabend was not opposed to such public doubts, but he did worry that the public concerns, although sincere, were too often ill-informed. Worse still, those worries were often amplified by overzealous philosophers who, to his mind, were failing in their job of clarifying concepts, scrutinising arguments, and helping people to articulate and develop their ideas. By the late 1980s, Feyerabend began to take special issue with philosophers who actively encouraged such confusions, for instance by announcing that electrons and genes were mere “social constructions,” or by rebranding forms of relativism, or by implicating “Western Science” in a powerful conspiracy to disempower indigenous cultures—indeed, Feyerabend himself succumbed to such alluring polemics for a time, which partly explains his hostile reaction to them later in his career.

And probably contributed to confusion about his key message.

See also: Remembering Paul Feyerabend – “third greatest 20th century philosopher of science

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