Scientific Mysticism

“Science, on all sides, is challenged by mysticisms, some of which march under the banner of science itself”

p.28  Tragedy and Hope, Carroll Quigley.

In context, Carroll Quigley was describing the transition of the opinion of human nature from the 19th to the 20th century.  The idea of human nature has changed from a description of man as naturally good with society as a corrupting force to a description of man as evil where a coercive society is necessary.  To this point, he was describing one of the factors contributing to the phase of individualism to techno-authoritarianism in the west. Of course these days, authoritarianism is covered with the window dressing of fluffy, therapeutic, rainbow rhetoric.   

Mr. Quigley wrote this passage a half century ago and the condition has become  gradually worse. Presently, it would be more accurate to proclaim that most of the content under the banner of science is pure mysticism. This is not surprising since many social academics try to build philosophical characteristics around what is just a basic methodology.

In reality, the scientific method is rather simple and mundane.

In a nutshell, the scientific method is about repeatable results of controlled experiments and falsifiability.

That’s it.

It’s not deliberated by a committee of angelic beings.  It’s not the consultation of a magic computer model as if we were interrogating the Oracle of Delphi ( the centre of Gaia). Nor is it brought down from the heavens by an ubermensch or philosopher king.

Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry summarizes a definition of the method in his 2014  article in The Week called

How our botched understanding of science ruins everything.

He starts off with one of the main causes of misinformation that allows fanboys, who’ve never solved an engineering problem involving tangible objects (academic or in practice),  to download false memes from glorified bureaucrats. They either can’t define the scientific method or the definition presented is a nebulous, convoluted mess that sounds to them like “science!”:

“Everybody uses a word, but no one knows what the word actually means”.  

Mr. Gobry does continues on to make quite a few good points in describing the definition. (italic emphasis mine)

  • “Science is the process through which we derive reliable predictive rules through controlled experimentation.”
  • He accurately  describes the scientific method as an incremental process and has nothing to do with finding truth.
  • Can only solve certain empirical propositions.
  • Describes the errors of Aristotle.  Aristotle’s methodology started empirically followed by theoretical speculation, by which you can find the cause of everything.
  • The scientific revolution was a repudiation of Aristotle. In reality, the Catholic scholastics already started the repudiation in the 11th century. See James Hannam, The Genesis of Science.
  • Economics is not based on the scientific method. That is, there can’t be controlled experiments, no matter how many magic models you throw at it. In other words, you can’t go back to change and execute an experiment to see if certain correlations were just spurious.
  • Very hard to replicate psychology. ( I would like to think this isn’t a surprise to anyone in the Hard engineering disciplines. WIth the newer generations, who knows.)
  • Statistical wizardry that show correlations is not the Scientific Method. These are tools  that represent the “rhetoric”. They describe the result of the experiment.

The article hints that we have fallen backward to the aristotelian version of knowledge. In addition, it can be argued that  “science” has been sprinkled with Platonic characteristics as well; for example, a “scientific” guardian class oversees what is science and the reliance of superior knowledge of the “philosopher king”, whether it’s a human or a future AI of some sort.  

Of course, being mainstream, the author fails to delve further by leaving the medical establishment untouched. As we have already seen from the nutrition guidelines, this is a big error. Nor does the author understand that a proposed centralized  “scientific” approach to education is already in place and is one of the causes of our modern confusions.   As John Taylor Gatto describes, the prussian  “scientific management” approach to education is designed as an attempt to make people predictable like atoms, to pigeon man into abstract classes. It would be the the only way that the social “sciences” can possibly utilize the scientific method with the same degree of success as the hard sciences.   A method of control from the obscurantists posing as “engineers”.

Nevertheless, Gobry has explained the main point.  But his point has probably been repeated many times in the past. Perhaps delving further into an illustration can help drive home this concept to the techno-zombies.

 

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The Tech Paradox

The Past:

Chevy-impala

The Future:google-self-driving-car-complete-prototype

 

An apparent paradox  is emerging about workers in “Tech”.   It is a paradox in which IT practitioners, in general, are more prone to technocratic authoritarianism in relation to those in the engineering fields that are based on the physical sciences.  The builders of Ethereum and Bitcoin are, of course, a big exception. There is a chance that they may even offset them completely.

A glimpse of this can be gleaned in Joel Kotkin’s latest book, The New Class Conflict, in which  he describes a conflict occurring between those who produce tangible goods and the ones that produce intangible goods.

The class that provides intangible goods has often been called the “creative class”.   Despite many in tech self identifying as engineers, most of the work in tech can accurately be described as creative.  In fact in most cases, it really doesn’t involve any real engineering fundamentals.  Even the physical trades, like electricians, probably have a better handle on the fundamentals.   Tech workers, or so called knowledge workers, fit well into the “creative class”.

Physical engineering can be described as mechanical, dirty, tedious, restrictive, and rigid. The practitioners wear overalls and a hardhat in order to work in bland industrial areas located in the middle of nowhere.  Most tech work can be described as creative, clean, open, and dynamic with workers who  wear jeans and reside in downtown posh offices.

In its heyday, engineers were fans of cars that promoted freedom and dreamed of building flying cars in the future.  “Tech” workers, on the other hand, would rather build self driving cars or stuff us into trains.  The former group fosters increasing independence, while the latter would make us more of a cog  in the machine, in the name of efficiency.

In an automated car culture, individualism expressed via car would no longer be relevant. As John C. Dvorak has noted, there is no point to aesthetic design. All cars would eventually become identical, tracked, and measured with no privacy whatsoever.

The exact opposite from what you would expect from a creative class.  A class that produces authoritarians, such as Reid Hoffman.

I hope to delve into why this is the case in upcoming posts.