Dr. Sanity posted a particularly impassioned piece today, Glory to Postmodernism Science!, a piece inspired by an article published in The New Scientist by one Michael Brooks. That article was a review of Randy Olson's book, Don't Be Such a Scientist: Talking Substance in an Age of Style. The part that drew Dr. Sanity's ire?
If you want to get a message across to the public, don't obsess about facts. Just look at Al Gore's climate change documentary An Inconvenient Truth, Olson says. The film contained more than a few factual errors, but it also had a profound influence on the world's attitude to climate change. Perhaps compromising on accuracy is a necessary evil...is this really the right way for scientists to go? With climate change, perhaps the end justifies the means... given Gore's success and the prevalence of scientific illiteracy, it remains an interesting path to consider.She expands:
In other words: truth is irrelevant, lying is perfectly ok, and "compromising on accuracy is a necessary evil" --particularly when it is some important issue like climate change...or any other issue deemed important for social policy by the political left. It is, after all, for our own good! A "greater good" !Which reminded me of something I posted some time back about how engineers (and, I'd hope, scientists) see the world. It was a quote from The Purple Avenger's blog and his post Engineers versus everyone else:
Stephen Hicks in his book quotes Frank Lentricchia, a noted Duke University literary critic. Postmodernism, says Lentricchia, "seeks not to find the foundation or conditions of truth but to exercise power for the purpose of social change."
Apparently, it's not what is true, it's what you can convince others to believe that matters.
My best friend is a lawyer, bright, gifted, ... PhD in law; bored with his job, he decided to study engineering. After his first quarter, he came to me and said that the two "C"s he'd achieved in Engineering Calculus 101 and Engineering Physics 101 were the first two non-A grades he'd ever gotten in college, and that he had had to study harder for them than for any other dozen classes he'd had. "I now understand", he said, "why engineers and their like are so hard to examine, whether on the stand or in a deposition. When they say a thing is possible, they KNOW it is possible, and when they say a thing is not possible, they KNOW it is not. Most people don't understand 'know' in that way; what they know is what we can persuade them to believe. You engineers live in the same world as the rest of us, but you understand that world in a way we never will."(Emphasis in bold is original. Emphasis in red is mine.)
Dr. Sanity continues:
Postmodernism deliberately eschews truth and reason and reality. It insists that our minds are not capable of even knowing reality. Under such conditions, what good is science, you may ask?As I've noted, despite the source of the title of this blog, I am not an Objectivist, nor am I particularly enamored of Ayn Rand, though I will call her one of the clearest thinkers I've ever read. I've excerpted from her essays and speeches on several occasions because I believe she was right a whole lot more often than she was wrong, and on this topic she was dead-nuts on. In her 1974 speech to the graduating class of West Point on the topic of philosophy, she said this:
You might claim - as most people do - that you have never been influenced by philosophy. I will ask you to check that claim. Have you ever thought or said the following? "Don't be so sure - nobody can be certain of anything." You got that notion from David Hume (and many, many others), even though you might never have heard of him. Or: "This may be good in theory, but it doesn't work in practice." You got that from Plato. Or: "That was a rotten thing to do, but it's only human, nobody is perfect in this world." You got that from Augustine. Or: "It may be true for you, but it's not true for me." You got it from William James. Or: "I couldn't help it! Nobody can help anything he does." You got it from Hegel. Or: "I can't prove it, but I feel it's true." You got it from Kant. Or: "It's logical, but logic has nothing to do with reality." You got it from Kant. Or: "It's evil because it's selfish." You got it from Kant.Rand hated Kant, calling him "the most evil man in history." Re-read two concepts she attributes to him: "I can't prove it, but I feel it's true," and "It's logical, but logic has nothing to do with reality." She blames Kantian philosophy for, well read it yourself:
Suppose you met a twisted, tormented young man and, trying to understand his behavior, discovered that he was brought up by a man-hating monster who worked systematically to paralyze his mind, destroy his self-confidence, obliterate his capacity for enjoyment and undercut his every attempt to escape. You would realize that nothing could be done with or for that young man and nothing could be expected of him until he was removed from the monster's influence.What Dr. Sanity is appalled by is the application of Kantian philosophy to what is supposed to be SCIENCE. She writes:
Western civilization is in that young man's position. The monster is Immanuel Kant.
I have mentioned in many articles that Kant is the chief destroyer of the modern world. My primary concern, however, was not to engage in polemics, but to present a rational approach to philosophy, untainted by any Kantian influence, and to indicate the connection of philosophy to man's life here, on earth--a connection which Kant had severed. It is useless to be against anything, unless one knows what one is for. A merely negative stand is always futile- as, for instance, the stand of the conservatives, who are against communism, but not for capitalism. One cannot start with or build on a negative; it is only by establishing what is the good that one can know what is evil and why.
Kant was opposed in his time and thereafter, but his opponents adopted a kind of Republican Party method: they conceded all his basic premises and fought him on inconsequential details. He won--by default and with their help. The result was the progressive shrinking of philosophy's stature in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. All the irrational twistings of contemporary philosophy are Kantian in origin. The ultimate result is the present state of the world.
If, on the positive basis of my philosophy, I may be permitted to express a negative consideration, as a consequence and a side issue, I would like to say, paraphrasing Ragnar Danneskjold in Atlas Shrugged: "I've chosen a special mission of my own. I'm after a man whom I want to destroy. He died 167 years ago, but until the last trace of him is wiped out of men's minds, we will not have a decent world to live in. (What man?) Immanuel Kant."
Well, those who adhere to postmodern ideas prefer to exercise power to force social change. They live in a world of contradiction and emotion. Their strategy is not to persuade people to accept their ideas, but to confuse them; to distort the truth, propagate lies and smears; and to use whatever rhetoric is necessary to accomplish their purposes. Science is particularly useful if it can be manipulated to make those who oppose your ideas to STFU.By all means, read her whole piece.
The politically useful concept of "social justice" is far more important than reality or truth; and the way that you can expedite the acceptance of unpalatable social policies is to use science to demonize your enemies or to pronounce that there is a "scientific consensus" on a contentious issue.
This is what your typical leftist postmodern progressives has in mind for the future of science. Instead of a dedication to reality and truth, science will be used to foist leftist ideology down the throats of the populace.
Kant is still alive and well, even flourishing, and his ideas are being used by the Left every day. In fact, they've become so pervasive that the Left no longer seems to be concerned about concealing their sleight-of-hand: Emotion over fact? Check. "Fake but accurate"? Check. The ends justify the means? Check. I know what I know, don't confuse me with the facts? Checkeroo.
She's right to be appalled. But the public education system has done its job well. The majority doesn't notice it's being manipulated, or even if it does, it doesn't care. Masks? Who needs masks anymore? The rubes don't care that they're being played!
Well, some still do.
No wonder they're worried.