Saturday, October 25, 2008

Mt 24 Watch, 72: Addressing the Corruption of Scientific and educational Institutions through materialistic ideologisation

Last time (pardon the delay -- it's been a busy period elsewhere . . . ), we noted on a 2005 joint intervention by the US National Academy of Sciences [NAS] and the National Science Teachers Association [NSTA], in Kansas.

Similarly, we looked at a 1997 statement by geneticist Richard Lewontin, in which he revealingly observed:

. . . to put a correct view of the universe into people's heads we must first get an incorrect view out . . . the problem is to get them to reject irrational and supernatural explanations of the world, the demons that exist only in their imaginations, and to accept a social and intellectual apparatus, Science, as the only begetter of truth . . . .

Our willingness to accept scientific claims that are against common sense is the key to an understanding of the real struggle between science and the supernatural. We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door. [Emphases added.]
Unfortunately, such a declaration of outright materialistic indoctrination in the name of science and science education is not an anomaly. Nor, is it any longer true that the institutions of science are not seeking to enforce a materialistic orthodoxy.

For, in a recent update to their booklet on Science, Evolution and Creationism, the NAS has issued a stated definition of science as follows:
The use of evidence to construct testable explanations and predictions of natural phenomena, as well as the knowledge generated through this process. [US NAS, 2008, p. 10.]
The definition, by itself would have been acceptable in light of history and current praxis.

But, it does NOT stand on its own.

Instead, we may read the controlling ideas in the paragraph leading up to the statement itself:
In science, explanations must be based on naturally occurring phenomena. Natural causes are, in principle, reproducible and therefore can be checked independently by others. If explanations are based on purported forces that are outside of nature, scientists have no way of either confirming or disproving those explanations. Any scientific explanation has to be testable — there must be possible observational consequences that could support the idea but also ones that could refute it. Unless a proposed explanation is framed in a way that some observational evidence could potentially count against it, that explanation cannot be subjected to scientific testing. [Emphases added.]
In short, the subtly imposed dichotomy is between material/ "natural" causes tracing to chance and necessity, and "supernatural" ones. but, isn't it a matter of common-sense day to day experience and work in science, the seminar room, the directors' board room or the courtroom, that we often distinguish natural and art-ificial -- i.e., intelligent -- causes?

And, that we may reliably enough do so based on observing empirtical signs of intelligence such as specified, evidently purposeful complexity?

Indeed, the very NAS scientists themselves provide instances of an alternative to forces tracing to chance and/or mechanical necessity: they are intelligent, creative agents who act into the empirical world in ways that leave empirically detectable and testable traces.

For instance, suppose one of them sets up an experiment, then tests for the results of his/her interventions. When a scientist does such, s/he is not only studying natural causes and phenomena, but also what intelligent investigators have artificially induced; confident that there are underlying natural regularities that will come out, even in artificially selected and set up circumstances.

Moreover, the open assertion or implicit assumption that all such intelligences "must" trace ultimately to chance and/or necessity acting within a materialistic cosmos, is a highly debatable philosophical position on the remote and unobserved past history of our cosmos; not at all an established scientific "fact" on the level of direct and repeatable observations that have led to the generally accepted conclusion that the planets orbit the sun. (No, I am not exaggerating: cf a current instance of this gross error here.)

That brings us to the key distinction between operational and origins science, a distinction that is crucial to making a proper response:
operational science: investigations that explore are the evident patterns and underlying ordering principles of the currently operating, observable natural world?

origins science: a fundamentally historical investigation of the origins of ourselves and the world in which we live based on principles of inference to best explanation.
The findings and explanations on the reconstructed, extrapolated and projected natural history of life, planets, planetary sytems, stars, and the cosmos as a whole are thus inherently, inescapably less well tested than those of theories that deal with present accessible and directly observable reality.

Indeed, we may make the further observation that there is no set of distinctive approaches to acquiring knowledge and understanding or inferring to best explanation that are universal across the conventionally accepted list of sciences, and/or that are so necessary to, sufficient for and unique to scientific investigation and argument that we may use them to mark a defining line between science and non-science. (For that matter, the real epistemological challenge is not over attaching the prestigious label "science," but over [1] whether we are using sound, effective, reliable and fair methods of inquiry, and [2] the actual degree of warrant that attaches to what we accept as knowledge, however labelled.)

Plainly, what is going on is a far cry from being an unfettered, open-minded, correctable search for the truth about the world, based on empirical observation and/or experiment, resulting collected evidence and inferred provisional best explanations of those credible empirical facts.

But to a major extent, that just reviews what we have already seen. The issue is, what can and should we do about it?

Several things:
1 --> We must insist that since science is a vital part of our common heritage as a civilisation, and what it is, and how it works are matters of historically grounded fact and philosophical discussion on comparative difficulties relative to those facts, not rulings by any officially established or de facto "Magisterium."

2 --> So, we should stoutly reject and resist arbitrary re-definition of what science is/should be, that are ideologically loaded, such as we see above.

3 --> Instead, we insist that science and its methods should be understood objectively, e.g.:
science: a branch of knowledge conducted on objective principles involving the systematized observation of and experiment with phenomena, esp. concerned with the material and functions of the physical universe. [Concise Oxford, 1990]

scientific method: principles and procedures for the systematic pursuit of knowledge [”the body of truth, information and principles acquired by mankind”] involving the recognition and formulation of a problem, the collection of data through observation and experiment, and the formulation and testing of hypotheses. [Webster's 7th Collegiate, 1965]
4 --> Recent history has abundantly shown, however, that not only science education, mass media reporting, and individual scientists but also science institutions themselves have been taken over by materialists, who have abused their power to distort the historic understanding of what science is, and what it tries to achieve.

5 --> Worse, as the Kansas case exemplifies, corrective efforts have consistently met with not only specious objections trumpeted far and wide, but with willful and deceptive distortions, slanders, outright lies and unjustified career-busting, multiplied by fear-mongering to the public intended to lock in the monopolisation of science, science education and related institutions by evolutionary materialism.

6 --> So much so, that in many cases, reform is probably not feasible in the current generation.

7 --> That leaves only one feasible alternative: breaking the monopoly.

8 --> That means the time has now come for independent origins science education, independent institutions and a patient, persistent corrective witness to the truth in the face of a media onslaught, backed up by a repeated exposure of major cases of abuse. (In cases of outright injustice or actionable tort, making an example or two of those who have stepped over the lines from mere disagreement to outright incivility and then onward to unlawful abuse would not be amiss. For, such injustices are disruptive to civilisation itself.)
A first step towards that, would be to draw up and consistently communicate a short, corrective message, such as:
The scientific study of origins helps us probe the roots of our existence. Unfortunately, some have recently undercut this search by trying to re-define science as a search for “natural causes,” which imposes materialistic conclusions before the facts can speak. However, through objectively studying signs of intelligence, we can allow the evidence to speak for itself. For, reliably, functionally specified complex information comes from intelligence. Thus, we may restore balance to science and to many other aspects of our culture that are shaped by our views on our origins. [HT: StephenB, a long-standing commenter at UD.]
Building on that, we may then create balancing, independent origins science education initiatives, e.g. web based courses that explore the full context for origins science, with a survey of related philosophical issues, key concepts, evidence, facts, models and alternative perspectives. Such courses would equip high school students, college students, practising educators, science journalists, concerned citizens, and the interested public at large to put origins science in a more balanced context, and would help undo the damage that has already been done by those who have turned science into a front operation for pushing radical materialism in our culture.

Beyond that, if the key institutions remain excessicvely ideologised, we may have little alternative but to replace them with independent ones, starting with education and support centres for research in a fresh paradigm that is open to follow where the evidence leads, instead of imposing materialism or another ideological agenda.

Thus, across time, our civilisation and its institutions would be reformed, or if necessary replaced.

Nor is this a matter we can shrug off and say, "later."

For, as we have seen in recent weeks in this blog, over a hundred million ghosts from the failed but massively murderous impositions of evolutionary materialistic and associated agendas over the past century, cry out their grim warning.

A warning we must never ever forget.

So: Why not now, why not here, why not us? END

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