We recently praised Steven Pinker’s Book on the Enlightenment, and now we have some reaction to his book from the Discovery Institute, titled Is Science Objective? Steven Pinker’s Counterattack Against the “War on Science”.
Their post was written by Discovery Institute “fellow” Richard Weikart, author of From Darwin to Hitler, so you know he’s a solid thinker. We consider him to be the intellectual godfather of the Discoveroids’ frequently-repeated malicious mantra: “No Darwin, no Hitler.” Here are some excerpts from his post, with bold font added by us for emphasis:
Surely he [Pinker] is right that self-interested business and political interests sometimes motivate people to reject scientific findings that are not convenient for them. He is also correct to note that some people’s religious views influence their interpretations of nature. [Some people? Hee hee!]
I especially applaud his rejection of postmodernist views of nature, which construe truth and knowledge as nothing but subjective human constructs without any objective basis. Pinker is right that data should have more weight than our feelings in formulating our ideas about nature and society.
No objection so far, but you know he’s going to go off the rails. That begins now:
Unfortunately, however, Pinker’s overweening faith in science as a reliable path to the truth has its own problems. First, he seems to assume that “science” is a single, unified front, always striving for objective truth in the face of religious or philosophical obscurantism. … Pinker wants to parade all the achievements of science before us — and they are certainly impressive — and then use that to validate everything that “science” says, as though everything that “science” says has equal validity. But this is a naïve vision of science.
Ooooooooooooh! Pinker is naïve. Then Weikart gives some examples of false, invalid science:
For instance, in the 19th century it was considered indubitable that empty space was not really empty, but was composed of a substance called ether, through which light and other electromagnetic waves travelled. Today physicists consider ether a fictitious construct. At the time, however, it was considered solid science.
Weikart has no doubt that Darwinism will suffer the same fate as the Luminiferous aether. But before that happens, the Discoveroids need the equivalent of the Michelson–Morley experiment. After some talk about human biases — which of course don’t affect the Discoveroids — Weikart tells us:
Another problem plaguing some kinds of science is that they involve significant extrapolations that may or may not prove to be valid. In the 19th century, Lord Kelvin, a brilliant scientist who contributed a great deal toward our understanding of thermodynamics, used extrapolation to determine that the maximum age of the earth is 100 million years. Scientists today consider his extrapolations a huge blunder. Why? Because he did not understand radioactivity and nuclear energy (nor did anyone else in his day). Scientists do not always take into account — or even know — all the factors in complex systems, so extrapolations can be misleading.
We know all about that. As we previously wrote:
Darwin’s biggest problem, largely unnoticed by today’s creationists, didn’t come from experts in his own field, but from non-biological sciences. Darwin understood that the grand course of evolution requires hundreds of millions of years, but Lord Kelvin’s calculations of the age of the earth and the sun — before anyone knew about nuclear physics — indicated that the earth and the sun were far younger than the eons Darwin required. Later discoveries showed that Kelvin, through no fault of his own, was exceedingly wrong, and that removed the greatest obstacle to acceptance of evolution.
The Lord Kelvin story doesn’t help the Discoveroids very much. Weikart continues:
Finally, Pinker doesn’t seem to recognize that science is one path to knowledge among others. He appears to imply that science is the only reliable way to gain knowledge. But what can we make of the position — advanced by the famous British empiricist David Hume in the 18th century — that any knowledge that is not based on empiricism is invalid? This position is, in fact, self-refuting, because it is not based on anything empirical. It is a philosophical, not a scientific, statement.
The Discoveroids would never commit such an error — or would they? See The Magic of Design Intuition. Ah well, here’s Weikart’s final paragraph:
In sum, Pinker’s ideal for science — the objective search for the truth that sets aside all assumptions, presuppositions, and biases in favor of observation and experimentation — is certainly laudable, and I agree with him that we should pursue this ideal. However [Hee hee!], let’s not delude ourselves into thinking that scientists — himself included — can entirely lay aside all their biases and assumptions that color their ideas and theories. Science is a good thing, to be sure, but let’s not turn it into another religion by insisting that whatever is considered “consensus science” is always the gospel truth and anyone questioning the scientific consensus is a heretic worthy of scorn (or worse).
So where are we? The message seems to be that Pinker is wrong. Just as the once-accepted theory of the luminiferous aether was finally overthrown, so will it be with evolution. The day is coming. You heard it from Weikart, so you know it’s true.
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