Saturday, May 15, 2010

My attitude to science

(repost - thought it was relevant)
This has come up in the comments again. I thought I'd put together a list of some of the things I've written about the scientific approach, rather than retyping the wheel.

Probably the best place to start is this post: The Holiness of Stuart Staniford, as I do see something holy in scientific endeavour (not really surprising as it has such deep theological roots) and I believe it would be a tragedy if scientific research were to be repudiated in our society.

My main problem with science as it is received and worshipped in our culture is that it is apathistic, in other words it is systematically blind to what we most value. If we are to defend what we most value, we must be prepared to topple science from its perch.

That perch is embedded in a particular story. My paraphrase of that story is written up as: the mythology of science.

My longest discussion of science can be found in my Let us be human sequence, and the transcript of the relevant lecture is here.

I think what I would most want to stress is that the great majority of my criticisms of the way science is revered and estimated in our culture are valid independently of any claim for the truth of Christian faith. Which is why sophisticated atheists agree with most of them ;-)

“We feel that even when all possible scientific questions have been answered the problems of life remain completely untouched.” (Wittgenstein again)


  1. Thanks, this is helpful. I entirely agree with the necessity of a critique of scientism, as well as of anti- and pseudo-science. The sciences are a collection of very important procedures, traditions and discourses that help us pay close attention to the world, and within their proper scope, they are rightly held in high regard. When they attempt to totalise all discourse or claim an exhaustive description of the world (or, particularly, of human experience), then they can become an idol, and our knowledge is distorted since we have taken the part for the whole.

  2. I recently discovered Thomas Nagels work on this topic. From the Wiki :

    Contrary to this seeming skepticism about the objective claims of science Nagel thinks that it is importantly true that science describes the world that exists independently of us. But this central case should not lead people to believe that understanding a subject matter is better simply if it is more objective. Importantly, the objective viewpoint is fundamentally unable to help people fully understand ourselves. Taking the proper methods of an objective scientific understanding and applying it to the mind leaves out something essential. It cannot describe what it is to be a thinker who conceives of the world from a particular perspective.


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