Dream Harder

Posted: May 3, 2007 in Intelligent Design

frkekule.jpg

 

“When any human thought can be discredited by branding it unscientific, inordinate power has passed over to science; hence science itself has become in its turn the greatest source of error”

M.Polanyi

The notion that at some point in history we stepped over in science from being an external observer of phenomena, to being part of the machine and so to being observed; leads to the question of how can we, who are surrounded and subject to forces and matter observe phenomena with objectivity? How can we who are now objects floating on the Brownian motion of subjectivity be as if we are external to the machine we study, objective and detached such that we can do science that’s truly objective?

Without an external standard who can tell what objectivity is? Who can tell when we are being objective and when are we being subjective? Without a straight line who can tell if another line is curved or not?

Are they mutually exclusive or can we be in both states at the same time? Of course we cannot be both subjective and objective in the same moment about the same thing–so how do we know when the subjective self is switched off and the led light dims, while the objective led glows bright? How can Science which is beginning to become disillusioned with its headlong rush to increasing reductionism, know when objectivity is being maintained? What warrant is there for sciences claim of exclusive objectivity in data collection and handling? If there is a weak warrant then human thought that is unscientific is as much an arbiter of truth.

I mention reductionism the notion that nothing is what it seems; everything can be reduced to its parts –because this is the force behind much of science, especially molecular biology. If we accept reductionism, then we must reject any phenomena that cannot be explained accept through reductionism. Subjectivity becomes one of several illusions which include the idea of self, personality and the appearance of design.

So much for subjectivity, we can be objective 24/7 according to reductionism, except for genetic and social determinism we are fully objective… full steam ahead science!

Not only is there the problem of determinism but reductionism takes no account of imagination. Much of current science would not exist if imagination and supposals (C.S.Lewis’s word) had not been brought to bear on problems. My favourite and the best known example of the part imagination has played in Science, is the discovery of the shape of the benzene ring by August Kekule ( the gent pictured above):

“I was sitting writing on my textbook, but the work did not progress; my thoughts were elsewhere. I turned my chair to the fire and dozed. Again the atoms were gamboling before my eyes…My mental eye, rendered more acute by the repeated visions of the kind, could now distinguish larger structures of manifold conformation; long rows sometimes more closely fitted together all twining and twisting in snake-like motion. But look! What was that? One of the snakes had seized hold of its own tail, and the form whirled mockingly before my eyes. As if by a flash of lightning I awoke…”

Michael Ruse understands the problem with being wedded exclusively to reductionism:

‘Why should a bunch of atoms have thinking ability? Why should I, even as I write now, be able to reflect on what I am doing and why should you, even as you read now, be able to ponder my points, agreeing or disagreeing, with pleasure or pain, deciding to refute me or deciding that I am not worth the effort? No one, certainly not the Darwinian as such, seems to have any answer to this …The point is that there is no scientific answer.’

Reductionism does not give the whole answer we are more than the sum of our parts.

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Comments
  1. Culprititus says:

    Science is more than the sum of your opinions

  2. Wow Culprititus! How profound. You could have substituted philosophy, religion, politics, art, morality, literature and a plethora of other matters for science and still have the same truism.

  3. Mike Godfrey says:

    Hi Culprititus and William,
    thanks for posting.
    Culprititus I always thought scinece was about the search for truth and as such it should not be prejudged as to what form that truth should be -yet a wholesale adoption of reductionism seems to be prejudging the issue-that truth can be found through a exclusive reductionist paradigm.
    Nice sound bite though .
    William thanks for posting.I been having trouble posting on intelligently sequenced recently are comments locked out ?
    cheers,
    Mike

  4. Hi Mike. I decided to block the comment section a while ago. There were too many overtly hostile comments which I thought detract us from blogging. I’d like to reinstate the feature in the future but probably not until after some more contributors are added. A new member- Tim Lambert- came aboard this week. Incidentally, I like the work you do here. If you ever get the urge to join us you would be a welcome addition.

  5. Mike Godfrey says:

    Hi William,
    thanks for your encourgement and offer I appreciate it.
    I always check your site out as it has that occassional leaning toward molecular biology, something which I miss being involved in.
    Thanks again,
    cheers, Mike

  6. You all might enjoy my talk on “Science Beyond Reductionism” at http://videos.syntience.com .

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