Posted: Jun 16, 2010 3:48 pm
by Sophie T
Will S wrote:
But, of course, as good scientific text books are careful to point out, these things are not fundamental to science. The scientist may use elaborate equipment or elaborate mathematics, but, at bottom, scientific method is no more or less than 'applied common sense'. (Of course, some of the results of using 'applied common sense' may seem to violate other conclusions which we've reached using common sense – but that is a different issue.)

There is no hard-and-fast distinction between scientific method and applied common sense. In his thinking, the scientist doesn't say, 'Now I am abandoning common sense, and switching over to scientific method' – unless he means that he is now going to become more careful and more rigorous in drawing his conclusions. For, there's nothing else that's special about scientific method; it's simply part and parcel of the ways in which we investigate anything at all.

Very nicely done, Will! Not being much a science buff myself, I have little to contribute in the way of objective criticism. However, I have recently been reading a book called The Making of an Atheist: How Immorality Leads to Unbelief, by James Spiegel.

The author of this book wrote some things that seem to be related to what you are writing about in your essay. Here's an excerpt to show you what I mean:

The Making of an Atheist: How Immorality Leads to Unbelief
by James Spiegel
Chapter 4 (The Obstinacy of Atheism)

Although Muller was using a figure of speech, there is a sense in which people with such contrasting worldviews do dwell in different worlds. Their radically different perspectives make it seem so anyway. Perfect objectivity is impossible, at least for mere mortals. Yet some persist in claiming that science gives us an objective, unfiltered view of the world. Apparently these benighted folks have never read Thomas Kuhn, whose now classic book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions should have put to rest once and for all the naive notion that scientists are somehow immune to the influence of their own beliefs and values as they do their research and their theory formulation. But then again, most of us are fed an idealistic image of science and scientists, from the earliest years of grade school, which can be very difficult to shake. We are conditioned to think of scientists (the best of them anyway) as unbiased, dispassionate, purely logical, Spocklike automatons who simply report the facts and devise general theories, without any ulterior motives or besetting influences to interfere with their work. None of us explicitly affirm such a starry-eyed view, but the impression that scientists are somehow more objective, more dispassionate, and more rational than the general population or even other scholars is still very strong in the West.

Spiegel then rattles on talking about scientific paradigms and how these are created or "dreamed up" by human beings and how different paradigms have their own "unique standards" for what counts as scientific proof. He uses the "duck-rabbit" illustration where someone looks at a black and white drawing and one person sees a rabbit while the other person sees a duck. He points out that it's possible to see both but not to see both at the same time. Spiegel then goes on to talk at length about the ideas of Thomas Kuhn who basically says that different scientific paradigms influence our perception. Thus, it is impossible to objectively observe and/or interpret our environments. He writes that scientists bring "biases, desires, and passionate committments" to their work and he claims that these things influence the scientist to such a degree that purely rational, logical, and objective scientific work is not possible and all that remains are our subjective desires. Anyway, this is probably a poorly worded summary of what Spiegel writes about in his book, but his claims in this chapter seem to be very much connected to what you are writing about, and I thought that telling you about them may be helpful! I, personally, find his claims to be laughable in that they basically undermine all of science, but I think it's interesting to see that a theist is actually proposing such things in a book published by Moody Publishers.

Anyway--I like your essay! I would like to see more of such essays from you. :thumbup: