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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Authoritative Bent of Science and Scientism



Continuing in our series of what people are using to replace God in their lives, I stumbled upon this article from the Journal of the American Enterprise Institute...

"To see if our suspicions were correct, we decided to do a bit of informal research, checking Lexis Nexis for growth in the use of what we would categorize as “authoritarian” phrasing when it comes to scientific findings. We searched Nexis for the following phrases to see how their use has changed over the last 30 years: "science says we must," "science says we should," "science tells us we must," "science tells us we should," "science commands," "science requires," "science dictates," and "science compels."

What we found surprised us. One phrase, in particular, has become dramatically more frequent in recent years: “Science tells us we should.” Increased usage of this phrase leads to a chart resembling a steep mountain climb (or, for those with a mischievous bent, a “hockey stick”). The use of the phrase “science requires” also increases sharply over time. The chart (below) vividly shows the increasing use of those particular phrases. Some of this may simply reflect the general growth of media output and the growth of new media, but if that were the case, we would expect all of the terms to have shown similar growth, which they do not."

Vox Day has an interesting term he uses from time to time known as the "science fetishists". A science fetish is defined as "1) the belief that any statement by a scientist is a) inherently credible, and b) science; 2) the belief that science is the only reliable method of determining facts; 3) the belief that the truth of a statement is dependent upon how many scientists agree it is true."


Such thinking leads to "scientism" and as Fr. Longenecker (who I link to on the right) puts it...

"When scientism holds hands with utilitarianism the human person is reduced to a biological machine. The human mind is reduced to a complex series of chemical reactions, and human society is reduced to complicated, but explainable interactions. All meaning is reduced to scientific facts and humanity has no other destiny than its evolutionary destiny.


When taken to the logical extreme scientism, hand in hand with utilitarianism and progressivism contributes to the atheistic assumptions on which totalitarian states takes control....and you know the rest."

One almost shudders when considering what the future will bring.





40 comments:

Froggie said...

FYI
I will not respond to any post that references Vox Day.

JD Curtis said...

Good. Just cite one instance in which the guy was ever wrong and I'll consider not citing him.

And besides, I think the above article raises some valid points re: how certain skeptics embrace scientism without ever thinking that science is limited to what science does and little else.

Christ Follower (no longer) said...

Just cite one instance in which the guy was ever wrong...

How about writing this song.

Jquip said...

"Science says" is it? How absolutely unlike anything teleological or anthropomorphic.

I suppose it's unsurprising that the fetishists are busy trying to distract from the graph by pointing loudly at a musician.

Christ Follower (no longer) said...

Humans are good at anthropomorphizing abstracts.

An interesting thing about the graph is that every phrase jumps when Nexis acquires new databases with a even larger jump when the Nexis started indexing online sources.

The graph is flat-ish until the mid 1990's when Nexis starts acquiring one database company after another. The increase may be just due to the overall increase in words.

Froggie said...

You don't want to believe solid science yet you believe everything Worlnutdaily publishes........
Oh the irony......

JD Curtis said...

How about writing this song

I meant something more along the lines of factually incorrect.


The graph is flat-ish until the mid 1990's when Nexis starts acquiring one database company after another. The increase may be just due to the overall increase in words

That might be correct, but there is a upward trend even in the most recent years.

The church I attend is unique in that the atheist/skeptic community is invited once a month to discuss topics of the day.

The above article reminds me of one dingbat in particular that was nearly shouting at the pastor, quote, "We must use SCIENCE!" as if Christians in general are against scientific principles and the entire time not realizing that science has little to offer when it comes to anything like a moral code or statements of value.

ATVLC said...

Every time Nexus gets a new database everything jumps. Nexus bought at least seven databases between 1994 and 2010 and although I don't know the exact dates of these purchases it looks like it may be the pattern of the graph.

There is no "control phrases" on this graph so we can't tell whether the phrases are getting more frequent due to an overall increase in words. If these people had taken a science class they might have thought of that!

Science is the best method of discovering scientific fact. What's the alternative?

ATVLC said...

And also we don't know HOW each phrase was used.

"Science requires unquestioning obedience" is authoritarian.

"Science requires more money" is neutral

"Science requires more tests to take place before a statement can be made" is unauthoritarian.

Jquip said...

CFnl: A fair point on the database purchases. But that certainly doesn't explain the prevalence of the "tell us we should" and "requires" commandments by itself.

ATVLC: "Science requires more money" is still an authoritarian riff; we don't feed the Ba'al Science with paper money.

"Science requires more tests to take place ..." is simply daft however. Ba'al Science always needs more tests and there is never an end to that hamster wheel. For an individual field or topic we can, at best, state the results received within the limits of what we are able to repeatedly reverify them for.

ATVLC said...

"Science requires more money" is still an authoritarian riff.

I don't see how see more money is needed is an authoritarian riff.
If I said "I require more money if I wish to purchase a good car" would you call that authoritarian? Because I don't see how.

-The point is each phrase is context-less and could be used in contexts that have the opposite meaning to the one the makers of the graph wish to portray.-

Froggie said...

The article says it all:
"we decided to do a bit of informal research..."

That's not scientific. The results have no validity.

Christ Follower (no longer) said...

Science is the best method of discovering scientific fact. What's the alternative?

There are people who actually think revelation is a valid method of discovering truth.

JD Curtis said...

I don't see how see more money is needed is an authoritarian riff

I just find the phrase "Science requires more money" a bit spookey because it is too general and doesnt actually refer to a specific project.

is each phrase is context-less and could be used in contexts that have the opposite meaning to the one the makers of the graph wish to portray

Sure, there might be some instances where such wording is used in an innoculous sense. But the upward trend would have me believing that mindset of the aformentioned idiot spouting off in my church is more and more common. I encounter it in different forums from time to time.

The results have no validity

The results appear to indicate an upward trend in such phrases. You can say that the researcj might not have been "scientific", but the results have some value at some level.

There are people who actually think revelation is a valid method of discovering truth

I think I know what you are getting at. One could test the validity of information/instructions received via revelation rather than simply accepting them on face value..

Jquip said...

"If I said "I require more money if I wish to purchase a good car" would you call that authoritarian? Because I don't see how."

There's a distinction here in that you can walk down to any shop if you wish and pick up any ol' Chevy on the lot guaranteed. "Science" as used satisfies none of those conditions in bold.

"-The point is each phrase is context-less and could be used in contexts that have the opposite meaning to the one the makers of the graph wish to portray.-"

The context is irrelevant. "Science requires we [blank]" is as nonsense as "Science requires we don't [blank]." Unless Science is an anthropomorphic deity possessed of flawless teleological outcomes it matters little which assertion you make.

Following Popper, science is simply a handle used for a collective set of judgements about the universe based on falsifiability of statements and consensus agreements put together through social status issues. It says nothing about the correctness of those judgements. The rest is all statistics and repetition.

Jquip said...

"I think I know what you are getting at. One could test the validity of information/instructions received via revelation rather than simply accepting them on face value.."

I think CFnl is actually after repetition to others as establishing the proof. eg. God reveals to CFnl His existence. How then does CFnl prove it to ATVLC?

This is a common and fundamental misunderstanding about science nowadays. Unless ATVLC repeats the recipe based on the instructions that CFnl gives him then ATVLC has no personal knowledge on the freezing point of ice. If ATVLC merely trusts CFnl's revelation about 32 degrees Farenheit then ATVLC has simply taken CFnl on faith as a trustworthy individual. Of course nothing changes if ATVLC is incapable of following the instructions due technological limitations either; dragging him around again, this goes back to Popper as well.

JD Curtis said...

this goes back to Popper as well

Youre talking about falsifiability as a criteria for legitimate science I guess?

The Catholic Apologist said...

You know JC,

Many Scientists forget how much Science advanced when it was taken for granted that God existed. Many Scientists forget that intelligent life existed prior to the 19th century. Scientists conviently forget that the first person to formally propose that the Earth is not the center of the Solar System was a Catholic priest! Copernicus was a priest.

Maybe just maybe if Scientists would look at the world as created by God, and seek to understand how Science and Theology are not mutually opposed, but rather are two sides of the same coin- we might see real Scientific progress.

Jquip said...

JD: Popper is best known currently for his revival of falsificationism. However, he also stated that a topic was correctly a scientific theory if it was agreed to be so by a consensus of those in the field. Likewise he stated that no new theory can, or should, replace an older theory unless it both explained more than the old theory and had corroboration of its correctness that could not be explained by the old theory.

So, in the wee ages of it, relativity was considered a scientific theory because it was believed to be so by a consensus of people that lacked the technology to test it directly. After tests were performed it then gained the ability to unseat Newtonian Physics.

Christ Follower (no longer) said...

By revelation I mean the supposed gaining of information through active or passive communication with supernatural entities.

ATVLC said...

I just find the phrase "Science requires more money" a bit spookey because it is too general and doesnt actually refer to a specific project.

That was just an example of a phrase that starts with "science requires".

But the upward trend would have me believing that mindset of the aformentioned idiot spouting off in my church is more and more common. I encounter it in different forums from time to time.

(Man, I hate to be the kind of person who types in all-caps but)
THERE IS NO CONTROL PHRASES IN THE GRAPH. THE UPWARD TREND IS MEANINGLESS and almost certainly caused by the companies acquisition of various databases. (Every year they buy a new database all the phrases jump.)

You said this fellow uses the phrase "We must use science" and he's right if he means "We must use the scientific method to answer scientific questions."
I'd like to see the graph against phrases like "God said" or "Jesus told me...", etc.

The results appear to indicate an upward trend in such phrases. You can say that the researcj might not have been "scientific", but the results have some value at some level.

The results have meaning as propaganda tools, yes.

----------

I asked what was the alternatives to using the scientific method to discovering scientific facts.
One answer so far: revelation. I know which method is more useful.

--------------------------------
This is off topic and I know everyone will want to see this.

The author of The Pink Swastika on the Daily Show.

http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/wed-july-28-2010/gay-reichs

If you're Canadian.
http://watch.thecomedynetwork.ca/#clip328964

PZ discusses.
http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2010/07/more_savage_than_natural_men.php

ATVLC said...
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ATVLC said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Froggie said...

It is interesting to note that a lot of the ant-science rhetoric comes from people who have no knowledge or education in science and who base their opinions on religious beliefs.

The Catholic Apologist said...

Froggie,

I for one love Science. My favorite channels are the History Channel, the Science Channel, and Discovery. I am most interested in explorations of Quantuum Mechanics. The more I learn, the more I am amazed at God's creation. Sir, the things that are discovered in Science far from leading me to the conclusion that God does not exist, lead me to the ocnclusion that God does exist.

True Christians have nothing to fear from Science, and everything to gain.

Froggie said...

TCA,
I totally respect that.

Froggie said...

TCA,
I also maintain that The real problem is that the understanding of science in our society is so shallow. In the future, if we want to have enough water, enough food and enough energy without totally destroying our planet, then we will have to be dependent on good science.

JD Curtis said...

By revelation I mean the supposed gaining of information through active or passive communication with supernatural entities

There are 2 things here. The topic of whether information was communicated through a supernatural entity and whether or not said information/instructions are useful.

The former we could go around and around on for days and accomplish little.

The latter is more substantive in that there are (in the case of Christianity), solid examPles of that which was claimed to be divinely inspired and we can examine it. Actually this will segui into my next entry which I was going to get into anyway.

Froggie said...

Please hurry, lest I perish of curiosity....

Jquip said...

ATVLC: "THERE IS NO CONTROL PHRASES IN THE GRAPH. THE UPWARD TREND IS MEANINGLESS and almost certainly caused by the companies acquisition of various databases. (Every year they buy a new database all the phrases jump.)"

And what years were those? And what years did those purchased databases cover? Your argument is only facially correct if the databases they purchased were all initially empty.

And let us not forget that this is Lexis -- a legal database -- in a discussion about science fetishism and authoritarianism.

Froggie: "I also maintain that The real problem is that the understanding of science in our society is so shallow."

I share your sentiment if not your conclusion. Nonetheless neither of our hopes on this count can be achieved until education starts turning out graduates that are both literate and capable of doing basic addition on paper. Neither of which is being accomplished anymore.

ATVLC said...

And let us not forget that this is Lexis -- a legal database -- in a discussion about science fetishism and authoritarianism.

Lexis Nexis is a company which sell access to two main databases. Lexis is the legal one. Nexis is the media one.

We searched Nexis for the following phrases...

They searched the media database.

ATVLC said...

And what years were those? And what years did those purchased databases cover?

Mid 1990's bought by Reed Elsevier from Mead Data Central.

From 1994 they bought the searching or databases of: Michie Company, Martindale-Hubbell, Matthew Bender (data from 1993 on), Mealey's Litigation Reports, The RiskWise Database (in 2000), Anderson, Seisint Inc (in 2004), Gould Publications, Weil Publishing, Shepard's Citations.
(data from wiki and company websites.)
You could probably do a better job at finding the details. It doesn't matter the graph can't show whether the rate of these phrases is increasing.

Your argument is only facially correct if the databases they purchased were all initially empty.

Some acquisitions just added the ability of search more media, some acquisitions seem to have small databases of a few years. LexisNexis looks like one of those companies that's after a monopoly!

Jquip said...

"They searched the media database."

Ah, good catch. Same point.

"some acquisitions seem to have small databases of a few years."

So there we have it. They have both history from those databases as well as continuing product. Studies done in this manner, over multiple overlapping series, are quite normal and there's not evidence of dilution in the tails that would lead one to believe that it is not credible as stands.

If you wish to disagree with such things you can be my guest. But it does mean that we have to throw out the bulk of all science that compels us that has been generated since the 70s for the same reasoning. I'm good either way.

Christ Follower (no longer) said...

the overlaps go back to the mid-nineties when the increases occur.

the graph tells us nothing about the rate of use of any of the phrases, nothing about the contexts, nothing. the graph is meaningless.

Christ Follower (no longer) said...

The chart (below) vividly shows the increasing use of those particular phrases.

No, it doesn't. It shows nothing about the rate of use so how can it show use is increasing.

Jquip said...

"the graph is meaningless."

Hardly, it just depends what conclusions you are drawing from it; as is true of all such things. But this is hardly the fora to get into such a topic in depth.

zilch said...

ATVLC (hey ATVLC! Long time no see!) and Christ Follower (no longer) said it: in the absence of controls, for the size of the database and the context of the phrases searched out, this graph is meaningless. As they say, garbage in, garbage out.

ATVLC said...

It's a small internet.

JD Curtis said...

Look,

It wouldn't suprise me at all if, within specific (individual) databases acquired by Nexis, there was an upward trend of such phrases. More research would be appreciated to see if this is true.

There, is that a fair statement?

zilch said...

JD: that's fair. Thanks.