archive: Re: SETI Re: Sagan: FW: [ASTRO] The sentencing of Galileo and the Big Bang

Re: SETI Re: Sagan: FW: [ASTRO] The sentencing of Galileo and the Big Bang

MarcusJohn@aol.com
Tue, 15 Sep 1998 12:13:19 EDT

In a message dated 9/15/98 10:48:56 AM Eastern Daylight Time,
Don.Flood@mci.com writes:

> I suppose that Bill's conclusion is dependent on the meaning of "Truth".
> For instance, if the current methods of radioactive dating are accurate,
> the Earth is 4.6 billion years old. In my opinion, this is an absolute
> fact, a conviction that I hold about a number of other scientific theories.
> Just because Science (nor any other system of thought, especially organized
> religion) can provide "absolute" proof about something does not at require
> that we become "relativists" about everything. Some theories (such as
> Evolution, the fundamental structure of DNA, most of quantum mechanics, the
> Big Bang, etc.) have so much compelling theoretical and experimental
> evidence to support them, that we must conclude that they are "true" in a
> fundamental sense. It is much easier to believe that we live in a unique
> period in history where Science has uncovered fundamental truths and facts
> about our Universe that it is to believe that Science is nothing more than
> an endless quest at toppling and replacing one scientific theory with
> another, in some endless cycle of infinite approximation to scientific
> "truth". In short, the modern quantum theory of the atom, the theory of
> Evolution, the Big Bang theory, etc., will be as true a million or billion
> years from now as they are today. The current theoretical and experimental
> evidence for these theories is so overwhelming and conclusive that we can
> be assured that the core theoretical concepts will *never* be overturned.

Absolutely true. The core concepts will never be overturned, just some of the
details.

But Bill Arnett is more talking about the expansion of scientific knowledge,
then about the actual scientific truths that we hold. Bill is not speaking as
a relativist, a nonscientific person.

Don is speaking as a person educated since the Enlightenment, when most people
became convinced that logic and reason should prevail over mysticism and
relativism.

Unofortunately, there has been a huge shift in popular thought and the
academic humanities over the last several decades that trashes the
Enlightenment. The "post-modern" academic humanist now believes that all human
knowledge is relative to the knowledge holder (Relativism). They believe,
unfortunately, that scientific knowledge is not absolute. One relevant
Journal for such nonsense is Social Text. Also, for some reason, such
relativists have become socialists, giving the regular socialists a bad name.

Alan Sokal, a New York University physicist,
http://www.physics.nyu.edu/faculty/sokal/, wrote an article for Social Text,
supposedly "deconstructing" quantum gravity. Only after they published it did
he announce for all the world that the article was complete parody.

Here is his article explaining why he did it:
http://www.physics.nyu.edu/faculty/sokal/afterword_v1a/afterword_v1a_singlefil
e.html

Here is his plea for Reason, Evidence, and Logic:
http://www.physics.nyu.edu/faculty/sokal/nyu_forum.html

And some quotes:

David Whiteis, in a recent article, said it well:

Too many academics, secure in their ivory towers and insulated from the real-
world consequences of the ideas they espouse, seem blind to the fact that non-
rationality has historically been among the most powerful weapons in the
ideological arsenals of oppressors. The hypersubjectivity that characterizes
postmodernism is a perfect case in point: far from being a legacy of leftist
iconoclasm, as some of its advocates so disingenuously claim, it in fact ...
plays perfectly into the anti-rationalist -- really, anti-thinking -- bias
that currently infects "mainstream" U.S. culture.

Along similar lines, the philosopher of science Larry Laudan observed
caustically that

the displacement of the idea that facts and evidence matter by the idea that
everything boils down to subjective interests and perspectives is -- second
only to American political campaigns -- the most prominent and pernicious
manifestation of anti-intellectualism in our time.

As an aside, I think that Seti might be mistaken for postmodern and
nonscientific, when nothing could be further from the truth.

Just my 2 cents.

John Marcus,
KE3SW.