SCIENCE AND THE FAITHFUL
joseph at indigo.ie
Mon Sep 2 10:59:59 MDT 1996
A KARL CLRLIlE MESSAGE
LOUIS G: But such and such is not true. Nothing Karl has said here
is the least bit relevant to my point that science and religious
faith in the supernatural are fundamentally incompatible. It is
true, as Karl suggests, that single contradictory facts do not
overthrow theories in the sense that T.H. Huxley could write of a
"beautiful hypoothesis killed by an ugly fact."
Bogus theories continue to exist, despite contradictory experiments and
observation, until a better theory comes along to replace them.
KARL: But the point Kuhn is making is that the better theory is often in
existence while the orthodox scientific community coninue to adhere
to a less adequate theory. It can even actively resist this better
theory despite evidence that this theory or hypothesis better suits
the facts. This also means that experimentation and observation is
not necessarily the criterion as to whether certain scientific
theories are accepted or not. If a theory continues to be
the accepted dogma despite evidence to the contrary then clearly the
latter is not essential criterion for establishing scientific
Furthermore you undermine your own argument and in effect support my
thesis by claiming that scientific theory preserve its scientific
authority despite there experimentation and observation that
contradicts the theory. If this is not faith in a theory, an idea, and
thereby god then nothing is. Even belief in a god is not as
impoverished as that since one's belief in god is not essentially
contradicted by any of the facts that we have presently experienced.
One can believe in god and yet still be opoosed to capitalism and
even actively struggle for social revolution. If a revolutionary
party were to wait for all the workers that supported it to
become marxists it would be be a waiting for the worker called
Godot. The majority of workers that supported Bolshevism
in 1917 were not bona fide atheists.
LOUIS G: It is this series of "anomalies" that produce a "crisis"
that leads, eventually to the "shift" of "paradigms" (or
"revolution" in T.S. Kuhn's words) within science itself. No such
phenomenon occurs in the religious sphere, and it is specious to
compare the two.
KARL: I never suggested that any two religions are identical. The Roman
Catholic religion is not identical witth such religions as
Dialectical Materialism or Zen Buddhism.
LOUIS G: The work of Paul Feyerabend, N.R. Hanson, Hilary Putnam, etc., are
primarily departures from Kuhn on the question of the centrality of
revolutions in considerations of the development of science. They do not
abjure peer review and the rigorous testing of theory, which is the issue
here. Feyerabend himself is an atheist; Karl, apparently, is using the
Devil to quote Scripture.
KARL: You cannot have it both ways Louis. You cannot claim that there
is rigourous testing of theory and simulantaneously suggest
the persistence of scientific theory as dogma in the face of
conflicting experiment and observation.
LOUIS G: There is however the accepted norm in the testing of evidence,
which, as the man or woman on the street will tell you, is the basis
for our perception of reality.
KARL: This is just it. You use the phrase "accepted norm". If
scientific validity is to be reduced to the level of "accepted norm"
this introduces, in a central way, subjectivity into the heart of
scientific knowledge. Faith in god entails the use of "accepted norm"
too. People can be said to believe in god as a result of norms that they
The point about science is that its accesibility is confined to a
tiny privileged scientific community, the high priests of science
while the vast majority of the population of the world are virtually
ignorant of it in any significant way. Science is imprisoned in a
language that only these priveleged high priestesses and priests of
science have access to. Yet the faithful fold pay homage to it and
to the scientific priests that control it. Few people are in a
position to be able to say with any certainty what scientific
critieria are in fact. To really know this one would have had to be
inducted into the scientific commmunity. Many lay people assume
things about science (testibility etc) without really knowing how
truelly reliable these assumptions concerning the nature of science
Marxists and others talk about democracy and the need for openeness
and accountability yet science is anything but democratically
accountable and open. Scientific development has led to massive
destruction at all levels. Without modern science it would not have
been possible for humanity to kill over sixty million people since
1914. Modern science has blood on its hands.
You seem to suggest that science under capitalism is neutral
and emancipated from any class character. In my view this has yet to
be established by the promoters of this perspective.
LOUIS G: A purposive belief in superstition is a negation of our
human capacities as it specifically denies that avenue of
KARL: Because I draw a parallel between conventional science under
capitalism and belief in a god you mistakenly assume that I have set
them up as identical. You also mistakenly assume that I am
advocating belief in a god and that I believe in god. You read
things into my messages that are just not there.
It is my view that science under capitalism is not class neutral and
that it is a reified form of human knowledge that, mediated through
a privileged scientific community, is the private property of
capitalism. Blind faith in science by the faithful is what
capitalism requires in order to sustain its being.
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