Socialism - Science - Religion

Chris M. Sciabarra sciabrrc at is2.NYU.EDU
Sat Jun 10 07:19:06 MDT 1995

On Sat, 10 Jun 1995, Mike Lepore (m.lepore at wrote:

>  . . . science is the process of looking for the unifying principles
>  which can account for repeated patterns found in the world, to
>  explain for observations in terms of causes and effects, and in terms
>  of development and change.  That's WHAT it is; every other
>  consideration is HOW.
>  When I describe Marxism as a scientific activity, my critics often
>  emphasize particular means of science rather than this fundamental
>  end.  I hear two common objections:  (1) that Marxism cannot predict
>  historical outcomes, and (2) Marxism cannot test hypotheses in an
>  unambiguous way.

	Yes, this is typical of those who are wedded to positivistic
notions of science, and you are correct that nobody can predict
historical outcomes.  But scientific methods nonetheless, have to suit
the CONDITIONS of the science, and of the data that is being examined.
You are correct to say that:

>  Marxism . . .  is an ambitious project to identify the
>  laws of history, the most general relationships among technological
>  tools, class structures, the family, politics and law, religion and
>  philosophy.  It is intended to be a Big Picture science.

	But when you say that:

>  Some of my critics argue that my description of science is
>  indistinguishable from religion.  Religion, they point out, is also a
>  Big Picture system of 'knowledge'.  Nevertheless, religion has no
>  _data_; in place of data it has questionable hearsay testimony about
>  ancient miracles.  Religious thought employs logical fallacies,
>  asserting that a hypothesis is true because our parents and teachers
>  said so, or because a particular book said so.
>  In light of this, opponents who throw out the bumpersticker-quality
>  objection, "Marxism is just another religion," "Marxism is based on
>  faith," are displaying a considerable amount of ignorance.

	-- understand that BECAUSE modern social science is fragmented
and fractured, any approach that emphasizes SYSTEM and HISTORY, in short,
a dialectical understanding of the whole, will necessarily be criticized
by those who liken it to "metaphysical" or religious/cosmological
approaches.  That modern positivists cannot even CONCEIVE of the totality
and its internal relations is indicative of how deeply distorted their
own approach to social science is.  This is not to say that statistical
and quantitative approaches have NO value in certain circumstances.  But
such approaches often miss the forest for the trees.  Bertell Ollman
however, warns that dialectical thinking often misses the trees for the
forest.  There has to be a good balance between micro- and
macro-analysis, and different approaches can sometimes shed some needed
light on specific areas of investigation.

					- Chris
Dr. Chris M. Sciabarra
Visiting Scholar, NYU Department of Politics
INTERNET:  sciabrrc at (NEW ADDRESS)

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