Ralph D, particle physics, and BS

richard walsh 9156035 at iona.sms.ed.ac.uk
Sun Jun 18 12:17:46 MDT 1995

Rahul, I think you missed entirely the whole general point of Guy
Yasko's discussion. You say:

Mathematics contains no ambiguity. That's right, none. Don't bring up
Godel's theorem, or anything -- I'm not saying that the truth or falsity of
propositions can always be determined, but that the meaning of propositions
is unambiguous, as is the question of whether a given argument actually
proves a proposition.

Yes, Mathematics is RIGHT in terms of its own internal logic, in
terms of the parameters of enquiry it posits for itself. Guy said

.   If we consider that the knowledge generated within
>science remains tied to the practices and representations of science -- for
>example, you yourself claim that particle physics cannot be expressed in a
>language other than its specialized mathematical vocabulary --  science at
>loses its claim to universality.

Your response, by missing the implications of what he said, in fact
served to further to legitimate his claims:

. He
certainly never _demonstrated_ anything. Can't people in the social
sciences tell the difference between a sequence of sentences on related
topics that seem like they might well have some connection to each other
and a demonstration?

This reply simply showed you doing the very thing he was criticising
you for -demanding that WE speak on your terms to be accepted or be
somehow made more VALID -you ask for a 'demonstration', as if this is
the PROPER way to proceed. Can't you transcend your own reinforced
dogmatism for one moment?

The point that Guy makes about the 'political and social' dimensions
of the study of science, and the critique offered by the so-called
post-modern crap, seems pretty relevant to me. Your whole discussion
is stinking of assertions of superiority and thus intimately bound up
in considerations of power. Critics of  'scientism' didn't "waltz into
a field that has been developed to an extraordinary degree over 400
years"; they didn't give a shit about science IN ITSELF, the issue
for them was to expose the power-effects such a scientific discourse
generated. Surely I don't need to patronise you with a re-statement
of the concept of power/knowledge?

Time and time again this whole distended discussion of 'Ralph D,
particle physics and BS' has seen participants jostling for whatever
model 'best describes social reality', 'establishing the connection
between their systems of representation' and the objective reality
'out there'. Such a distinction seems ridiculous to me, how can there
be some external REAL which we set as our task (ie. struggle) to
'apprehend' when EVERYTHING (and I mean everything) is
mediated through the SELF? This is the first and fatal contradiction
in the fallacious notion of 'objectivity'. Rahul will of course say,
'what does this mean', 'explain yourself', 'demonstrate to me', like
some petulant and irritatingly demanding child. There was simply no
need to split hairs in the way you did with Guy's thoughtful
response; "raising banality to an art-form" my arse.

Therefore the mini-debate last week between Mike, Lisa and Chris about
Marxism's claims to be a science deeply intrigued me. Why would
you want to argue a case for something to be scientific? Doesn't it
show you that you too BELIEVE ( it is a faith after all -Popper was
wise to this and called himself a CRITICAL rationalist) that science
alone provides priveleges access to the TRUTH, or the closest
approximations of reality? That the epistemoloigical premises of
scientific enquiry -the 'hypothetico-deductive model' best come to
grips with 'Reality'? Thus science has more 'power' -you know what I
mean by this Rahul, surely- because it has more objectivity, derives
more truths, 'unearths' more fact etc. I feel that your feisty
exchange with Guy 'demonstrated' this whole process in microcosm very
ably. I also feel that in the end I did patronise you over
power/knowledge, but hell, I enjoyed doing it. It's all words in the
end, no? I also anticipate a response along the lines of 'but science
DOES explain things -we now KNOW why and how it rains, what the
structure of the human geonome is, what the particles that make up
atoms are etc.., ad infinitum. And look at all the great benefits
that have accrued from the technological advances facilitated by
science, like aeroplanes, and personal computers, and nuclear
weapons, etc... Well, what can I say, you're 'RIGHT'?

Let's move away from this whole discussion and on to things more
'befitting' of a Marxist mailing list, before it gives EVERYONE a
sore head......

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