The original article for this thread
(http://www.atimes.com/indias-war-science/) had a simple point -- science is a
threat to the inherent wisdom of the ages.
Given that the discussion has broadened I'm including something I wrote a while
back in response to a different Facebook thread about philosophical schools
that have glommed onto the Trump agenda in the US.
https://www.facebook.com/vpostrel/posts/10154842507366348 (no need to look at
When I read about a rebellion against science it typically turns out to be a
strawman view of science as certainty rather than simply a technique that works
in concert with our co-evolving values. When I read complaints about government
bureaucrats who are supposed to act in the public interest I ask what is the
alternative – business bureaucrats who are supposed to act only in their
shareholders’ interests? Shouldn’t we be thinking about how to make these
approaches work in concert rather than simply rejecting all we’ve learned?
In mathematics axioms are not faith. They are simply arbitrary starting points
and there are different systems based on different axioms. Non-Euclidean
geometry takes axioms that might have seemed self-evident and chooses different
ones. This is a very powerful idea.
It’s useful to read The Metaphysical Club which gives a sense of the late 18th
century when the idea of a clockwork universe into which every part fits
unambiguously was accepted by many. It was before Darwin’s godless evolution
showed a universe that didn’t need a watchmaker.
A statement like "all men are created equal" is meaningless outside context and
interpretation. Words do not have intrinsic meaning. What does equal mean? Do
they all get the same opportunity?
The concept of science as an operational and ambiguous process without
arbitrary “truth” has been very powerful and very successful. Why would one
want to go back to a time before we had the tools to test various approaches
How does one address issues like public health, climate change and other
challenges if we don’t accept the need to evolve our understanding and
challenge our givens? Science is not about certainty but rather an acceptance
of the limits of our understanding and our inability to know the future.
This is why it is so important to invest in research and infrastructure to
create opportunity. It is to complain in hindsight that the “wrong” decisions
were made. But what is the alternative?
It is also important to recognize there isn’t “the market” but rather complex
interactive systems that don’t necessarily produce the results we want. Science
and values are deeply coupled as we try to achieve results we want while
accepting that our needs and understanding are constantly changing. It’s a
co-evolutionary process. For that matter public/private is a spurious
distinction – it’s really about the structure of particular markets. For some
parts are important and for others value is in the whole.
I learned a lot when I provided tools to the finance industry. I’ve come to
understand how few understand those tools. Many assume that numbers have
intrinsic meaning and have a naïve faith in their ability to predict the