Today’s letter-to-the-editor appears in the Daily Mining Gazette of Houghton, Michigan (population 7,708) in the northwestern portion of that state’s Upper Peninsula. The letter is titled Science also is based on faith, and the newspaper has a comments feature.
Because the writer isn’t a politician, preacher, or other public figure, we won’t embarrass or promote him by using his full name. His first name is Daniel. Excerpts from his letter will be enhanced with our Curmudgeonly commentary, some bold font for emphasis, and occasional Curmudgeonly interjections that look [like this]. Here we go!
Those dissatisfied with the job God has done, imagine that they can assert that while religion is based on faith”, science is backed up by “proof”. (One’s disapproval of God, obviously, proves nothing about Him.) But “science” is as deeply rooted in faith. It is a faith, though, hard to justify.
Right from the start, you know we’re dealing with a powerful intellect. And he likes to use italics and quote mark together. Then he says:
Those who believe that science has “proven” anything about the world or about reality have muddled thinking [Hee hee!]; they confuse inductive reasoning with deductive reasoning. The danger is that they are slipping from the essence of the “scientific method” as permanently provisional. [What?] And Hume, though there is much else objectionable in his philosophy, has suggested how inductive reasoning is false [And therefore …?] (An earl has written, and it is devastating, how the turkey dies.)
We don’t know who that earl was or what he said about turkeys. But Daniel is just warming up. Now he tells us:
Ultimately natural philosophy, now excused from having to address any of the questionable philosophical assumptions it skips over by being called “science”, only concerns, only addresses, and only proves, itself, just like any other science.
What’s he saying? It doesn’t matter. He continues:
There is nothing heraldry’s rule of tincture (it forbids placing color on color or metal on metal) can teach you, and there is nothing it proves, other than about the rule of tincture. There is nothing the canton not being fanciable can teach other than that the canton is not fanciable.
Aaaargh!! Let’s read on:
Science prides itself on its past, and (in a neat trick) even future accomplishments, but it has not established that the objects of perception exist independently of that perception. This question is one of the most contentious in philosophy. Further, its empiricist principles are no more than house rules.
This is great stuff! Another excerpt:
It gets worse in practice, if not in theory. [Oh no!] Events blow up everything we thought we knew [Gasp!]; they are ignored, ignored because they undermine the carefully and even meticulously built structure, the tower of the scientists.
Your tower is crumbling, dear reader. Here’s more:
It is not just Alain Aspect’s work in physics that has destroyed everything. [What?] A Los Angeles goalie made a save without ever touching the puck and we are no longer true believers.
Wikipedia has a write-up on Alain Aspect, but it doesn’t shed any light on Daniel’s thinking. Anyway, now we come to Daniel’s final paragraph. It’s even better than what went before:
The observations contradicting scientific conclusions are dismissed as “anecdotal” if, indeed, even such a fig-leaf is deemed necessary. On the one side lay those to be condemned as misusing the scientific method and on another are hypocrites. While glossing over the tricky and even agonizing question of what constitutes “proof”, they ask us to take a lot on faith. But it is a faith from which we have every reason to have fallen.
Well, dear reader, how did you like that one?
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