Discovery Institute: Science Must Be Controlled

Remember the Good Old Days when religious institutions like the Inquisition were in control of everything? Sure you do. That’s why there were events like the Galileo affair in 1633 and the trial of Giordano Bruno in 1600 — after which he was burned at the stake for his heresy. According to Wikipedia, in addition to his other heresies:

[Bruno] proposed that the stars were just distant suns surrounded by their own exoplanets and raised the possibility that these planets could even foster life of their own (a philosophical position known as cosmic pluralism). He also insisted that the universe is in fact infinite and could have no celestial body at its “center”.

We no longer live under that kind of tyranny — at least in the Western world — but there are those among us who long for a return to those times, when science will once again be carefully controlled — presumably by those who now despise it. We can see that clearly at the Discovery Institute’s creationist blog in their latest post: Has Science’s Freedom Become Its Downfall? It was written by Sarah Chaffee (whom we call “Savvy Sarah”). Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us:

Writing in The New Atlantis, Daniel Sarewitz has a lengthy essay on why science, “pride of modernity, our one source of objective knowledge, is in deep trouble.” He argues that science, rather than being disconnected from practical purposes, is most effective when it has a goal. Sarewitz cites Department of Defense projects as examples, and notes the recent reproducibility crisis as a sign of failure.

She’s talking about this: Saving Science. Sarewitz is described as:

a professor of science and society at Arizona State University’s School for the Future of Innovation and Society, and the co-director of the university’s Consortium for Science, Policy, and Outcomes. He is also the co-editor of Issues in Science and Technology and a regular columnist for the journal Nature.

Sarewitz’s essay is a bit strange and we disagree with his conclusions, but Savvy Sarah is enchanted. She says:

It is time to realize that science doesn’t belong on a pedestal — it is a human endeavor. Respecting science is one thing, and all to the good. Kowtowing to it is a different matter, as we see clearly in the area of origins science, where the neo-Darwinist view is typically treated as the only option.

Sarewitz didn’t mention origins science or alternatives to the theory of evolution. Whatever motivates him, it isn’t creationism. That doesn’t matter to Savvy Sarah because she’s on a mission. She talks about what she imagines is a big problem with the evolution of the eye and tells us:

We’ve discussed before the idea that sight is irreducibly complex [Hee hee!] — it could not have been built up by a step-by-step process. Neo-Darwinism is treated as if it were exempt from critical consideration. Under scientism [Hee hee!], methodological naturalism excludes the consideration of rational alternatives.

Yes — methodological naturalism excludes consideration of supernatural causes — like the Discoveroids’ transcendental designer — blessed be he! — who allegedly created the universe. How could it be otherwise? The methods of science cannot explore that which is, by definition, unobservable and outside of the laws of nature. No matter. Savvy Sarah then cites an authority for her position — something written by Discoveroid Douglas Axe. We’ll ignore that.

Near the end, she returns to the Sarewitz essay:

“Science is trapped in a self-destructive vortex,” Sarewitz observes. “[T]o escape, it will have to abdicate its protected political status and embrace both its limits and its accountability to the rest of society.”

That’s what he said, but we doubt that he was thinking of elevating creationists to a position of control. Savvy Sarah finishes with this:

He’s right. Ironically, perhaps, it is by defining the limitations of science that we spur its advancement.

Sarewitz might respond to what we see as a misuse of his essay, but we won’t be watching for that because it doesn’t matter. He brought this on himself, and now he’ll have to live with it.

Copyright © 2016. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

add to del.icio.usAdd to Blinkslistadd to furlDigg itadd to ma.gnoliaStumble It!add to simpyseed the vineTailRankpost to facebook

. AddThis Social Bookmark Button . Permalink for this article

15 responses to “Discovery Institute: Science Must Be Controlled

  1. “Religion is trapped in a self-destructive vortex,” Sarewitz observes.
    “[T]o escape, it will have to abdicate its protected political status and embrace both its limits and its accountability to the rest of society.”

    There, I fixed that one.

  2. That essay is a bit too long for me to read right now, but Jerry Coyne has taken on Sarewitz before for conflating religious faith with faith in the outcome of scientifically established phenomena.

    And more recently, it was revealed that Sarewitz is leading a Templeton project trying to show how compatible science and religion are. There’s also a link with an interview there.

    All in all it seems Sarewitz’ stand on science may be closer to Discovery’s than you think at first sight.

  3. No matter how hard the DI tries, they can’t explain how supernaturalism fits into science. Assuming gods are agents acting within the universe is totally useless for predicting what will happen next.

  4. Oh and Sarewitz, meh.

  5. “It is time to realize that science doesn’t belong on a pedestal — it is a human endeavor.”

    Who ever has said anything different? The only “pedestal” it has ever been given by rational people is that it is most reliable and best means of understanding the world.

    “Under scientism [Hee hee!], methodological naturalism excludes the consideration of rational alternatives.”

    I’d have to disagree with this characterization. Science doesn’t necessarily reject supernatural explanations out of hand–look at parapsychology for example. These phenomena are considered and rejected as not the best explanation. The same goes for other natural phenomena. Each and every one of these “rational alternatives” do not provide an explanation that is commensurate with the data.

  6. All creationists are bald faced LIARS! I know this because they claim evilution is wrong, but their magic man is true. Science is wrong! And with the next breath they will start using their science derived iPhone!!!! If science is wrong then why are they still using the phone which can’t possibly work!! Oh!!! I see now!!!! The stuff they like works because their gawd has cast a magic spell to make them work!! Since they don’t really understand science, that is as good a reason as any!

  7. Sarwitz is one of these navel-gazing god-bots who picked up a Templeton Foundation award to study how religion science are so lovey dovey, to the tune of a couple hundred grand. Hey, I’ll write some dreck for that kind of dough! He probably suffers from research envy, not having done much on his own. So, he’ll spend his days tearing down the work of others.

    Sarwitz is the author of this little gem:

    “But I’m not really talking much about sciences like cosmology, say, or subatomic particle physics, which no one expects to have a practical application — and where it really doesn’t matter if the results are true or not.”

    Doesn’t matter if the results are true or not? Smug little [edited out] isn’t he! He’s all big on goal-oriented research that I would call “technology.” No practical applications from subatomic particle physics, I guess, if you don’t include lasers, GPS, scanning-tunneling microscopes, quantum computing and so on.

    A process for making polyethylene was discovered because scientists investigated this “gunk” that kept forming in ethylene reactors.

    I worked at a research center for a major oil company. We churned out about 400 patent filings per year. In the mid 90’s management changed the sign to “Research, Development and Technology Center” and began to either lay off or not replace scientists, but hired engineers. About 10 years later they gave up on all pretense and changed the sign to “Technology Center.” I imagine soon it will be “Center” or “For Lease.”

  8. Believing in God is not a “radical alternative” to methodological or even philosophical naturalism. Neither is intuition or common sense. All are pre-scientific or a-scientific.

  9. Also from Sarewitz’ rant:

    Indeed, [Vannevar] Bush’s efforts to establish the conditions for generous and long-term investments in science were extraordinarily successful, with U.S. federal funding for “basic research” rising from $265 million in 1953 to $38 billion in 2012, a twentyfold increase when adjusted for inflation. More impressive still was the increase for basic research at universities and colleges, which rose from $82 million to $24 billion, a more than fortyfold increase when adjusted for inflation. By contrast, government spending on more “applied research” at universities was much less generous, rising to just under $10 billion. The power of the lie was palpable: “the free play of free intellects” would provide the knowledge that the nation needed to confront the challenges of the future.

    What on earth is he yapping about? 24 billion is a crumb of a peanut for a country like the US which just used at least 7 trillion for bailing out a bunch of corrupt banks. And applied research is in much larger part than basic research financed by companies.

  10. Another whine from the DI’s.

  11. David Williams

    “Under scientism [Hee hee!], methodological naturalism excludes the consideration of rational alternatives.”

    When you have to pass waste products, you can practice methodological materialism and use a toilet. What do think will happen if all you do is pray to be cleaned out?

  12. I obviously misread “rational” for “radical” – what was I thinking?
    Is Sarah implying that methodological naturalism is irrational?

  13. Under scientism [Hee hee!], methodological naturalism excludes the consideration of rational alternatives.”

    I’d have to disagree with this characterization. Science doesn’t necessarily reject supernatural explanations out of hand–look at parapsychology for example. These phenomena are considered and rejected as not the best explanation. The same goes for other natural phenomena. Each and every one of these “rational alternatives” do not provide an explanation that is commensurate with the data.

    Serious parapsychologists don’t consider psychic phenomena “supernatural”; they see them as manifestations of as yet unknown natural laws.

    Creationists, by contrast, explicitly consider creation supernatural, though some may be uncomfortable using that word in public.

  14. Creationists have a severe case of science envy–they envy its standing in our society and its ability to produce real-world results.

    In spite of this envy, they are out to destroy large parts of science, including the scientific method, because it fails to confirm their dogma and scripture. I have had several of them tell me they value scripture and the bible over real-world evidence, and if the two conflict, then science–being man-made, is wrong somehow. They don’t know how, but they just know it is science that is wrong!

    In spite of any claims to the contrary, creationists are not doing science, they are doing the exact opposite.

  15. … value scripture and the bible over real-world evidence, and if the two conflict, then science–being man-made, is wrong …
    Yet, very few accept geocentrism.