Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Separating scientism and state

Scientism transforms science into an intolerant and all-encompassing ideology.  Bad as it is when it issues in crackpot philosophy, it can be even worse when used to rationalize destructive public policy – as with the increasingly idiotic and oppressive lockdowns that have been imposed across much of the world.  Now perhaps more than ever we need the corrective provided by the late, great philosopher of science Paul Feyerabend (1924-1994), who argued trenchantly for a separation of scientism and state.  I offer a primer in a new article at The American Mind.

89 comments:

  1. On the contrary, we should have have had the lockdown in February,

    Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, told a small, private group of constituents on Feb. 27 that the coronavirus outbreak was "akin to the 1918 pandemic," audio obtained by NPR shows.

    Why it matters: "The 1918 pandemic," or the Spanish flu, killed millions worldwide — and Burr's comments directly contradicted those from President Trump on that same day, when the U.S. had 15 confirmed coronavirus cases.

    What Burr said: "There's one thing that I can tell you about this — it is much more aggressive in its transmission than anything we have seen in recent history. It's probably more akin to the 1918 pandemic."

    "Every company should be cognizant of the fact that you may have to alter your travel. You may have to look at your employees and judge whether the trip they're making to Europe is essential or whether it can be done on video conference."
    "There will be, I'm sure, times that communities, probably some in North Carolina, have a transmission rate where they say, let's close schools for two weeks, everybody stay home."
    What Trump said that same day at a White House meeting: "It's going to disappear. One day — it’s like a miracle — it will disappear. And from our shores, we — you know, it could get worse before it gets better."

    "It could maybe go away. We’ll see what happens. Nobody really knows."
    The big picture: Burr did not sound a similarly strong alarm to a wider, more public audience.

    The gathering was organized by Tar Heel Circle, a business-oriented North Carolina group with a membership fee between $500 and $10,000.

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    1. But... it was not like the 1918 Spanish Flu. Not comparable in any way.
      The quarantine thing resembles a cult, a secular religion to join Wokism and others. Involving a symbology of superstition known only to their minds.

      Furthermore, Trump tried to ban travel but was called a racist for it.

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    2. No, not exactly as bad as the Spanish Flu of 1917 but far, far worse than Trump pretended it to be and knew himself. Even Fox News knew in March it was worse than what they were telling viewers

      "Meanwhile, throughout all of Fox News' coverage, Fox Corporation, the parent company of the network, has taken the matter seriously. The company has restricted all non-essential travel. And, in a Thursday email obtained by CNN Business, Fox News Media CEO Suzanne Scott and President and Executive Editor Jay Wallace announced several sweeping measures to protect employees, including asking staff able to work from home to do so starting Monday."

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    3. Elizabeth Neumann voted for Donald Trump in 2016, and she recently served as Assistant Secretary for Threat Prevention and Security Policy at the Department of Homeland Security. Neumann is now speaking out against Trump as a “racist” and a danger to America. In a new video, she implicates Trump’s rhetoric in the rise of white nationalist terrorism. Separately, Neumann blasts Trump for blocking implementation of plans that could have blunted the impact of the coronavirus pandemic in America in January, “because he didn’t want the economy to tank and he didn’t want a distraction from his campaign.”

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    4. Remember when all the left-wing media were also claiming back in January and February that COVID-19 was no worse than the flu, or even less dangerous than the flu? This wasn't a one-party only thing.

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    5. No, not exactly as bad as the Spanish Flu of 1917

      Pffffffft, bwahahahaha, calling it "not exactly as bad" is sort of like claiming a hand grenade was "not exactly as bad" as a nuclear bomb.

      That comment is practically as laughably, insanely wrong as a comment can be.

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    6. Well, Bellamy, you don't understand too well. Republican Senator Burr, chair of the Senate Intel Comm, had been receiving intelligence briefings about a virus that was coming our way. When he compared the virus to the Spanish Flu, it warn those present at the meeting how bad it would turn out, compared to how Trump was saying 10 or 15 people would die and it would go away "like a miracle." You do remember that, don't you? How many are dead now--about 180,000?
      Trump just didn't want the country to know. The poor fool is still in denial. And so are you.

      Tryte, you are full of shit. It was Trump's former Assistant Sect at DHS who said he was racist. She turned against him, like so many others who have worked for him and then felt tainted being around him.

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    7. Not only lowdown in February: also banning all travelers from China or who recently visited China.

      Loads of Chinese went to the PRC during Chinese new year and then came back and a good chunk of them probably had COVID which then spread around the world.

      Countries with least infections (like Vietnam) are indeed those who immediately distrusted China's reports and stopped all travelers from coming in.

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  2. What about applying Feyerabend's methodological "principles" to Thomist philosophy?

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    1. Maybe you can show us somewhere in, say, the Summa Theologica or a principal Thomistic text of your choosing, a place where alternative views are not debated?

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    2. But St. Thomas always knew his answers in advance. And many Thomists follow him in this regard.

      For a "hardcore" Thomist, there is no room for philosophical or theological pluralism in Feyerabend's sense

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    3. I think Thomists would operate by the principle that they want their system of thought to most perfectly reflect reality. If that is the case, then why be a fan of pluralism? If some other system has truth that the thomist is missing, a Thomist would integrate that into his system. St. Thomas himself, as you should well know, was known especially as a synthesizer of truth. I see no indication that the best Thomists are anything different. Perhaps you don't understand their claims.

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    4. For Feyerabend there can be no single system that perfectly reflects reality.

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  3. I think the worst part about the whole lockdown was when the BLM protests started, and rather than condemn them as a public health risk, the experts said "oh, those protests are safe because we agree with them!". At that point, the "experts" proved themselves to be dishonest, biased, hypocrites – why should anybody listen to them any more?

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    1. Technically, they did not say the protests were safe. They said that they "did not condemn them". However, as they offered no medical rationale for their refusal to condemn said rallies, this can only be taken as a political statement, a claim that they believe that protesting police violence is more important than the public safety rules they enforce on the rest of us. And yes, this absolutely is an outrageous thing for a medical expert to do, making them out exactly as biased hypocrites who have burned their own credibility.

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  4. "why should anybody listen to them any more?"

    I can think of about 175,000 reasons.

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    1. Europe has more deaths than we do. Did they not listen? Who listened?

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    2. Europe as a whole does not have more deaths per capita, though some European countries do. We are the world champions at screwing up this virus.

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  5. Would he have been impressed by the “objectivity” of expert advice that was stridently insisted upon one minute, then suddenly abandoned when doing so became politically expedient?

    So, science is to blame when people in government ignore the advice of scientists?

    In fact, Feyerabend argues, if adherence to stereotypical canons of method is taken to be a hallmark of respectable science, the churchmen who resisted Galileo’s conclusions compare favorably to him.

    The churchmen largely supported Galileo's work, and he only got into trouble when he started making it personal.

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    1. I think Feser was talking about the fact that most experts refused to condemn or even warn people about the dangers of mass gatherings and protests in response to the killing of George Floyd, essentially making a political statement that protesting for this cause in particular was more important than the risk of spreading disease. This is a political, not a scientific or medical decision, and compromised the integrity of said experts in the eyes of many. The point isn't that it's "science's fault" for people ignoring it, but rather that a fair number of the experts demonstrated that they are willing both to lie to the public (see Fauci's early remarks about masks being ineffective, which he rationalised away as being a lie for the greater good) and to treat people partially, by refusing to condemn behaviour they knew was medically risky as long as it's the "right kind" of risky behavior. Thus, the core issue is that, whatever the soundness of the science, the experts have shown themselves to not be honest and impartial, and therefore it's perfectly rational for people to mistrust them.

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    2. Cantus,

      I agree that Dr. Fauci erred at the beginning by saying that the general public did not need to use masks. He should have recommended homemade masks instead.

      I agree that there were no experts condemning the existence of the protests. You can make a solid epidemiological argument that differential policing is a greater public health threat for black people than covid19, so discouraging the protests would not be good medical advice, by some calculations (it depends on what the likelihood of success is at the protests and similar factors).

      However, you are simply wrong to say there were no warnings about the dangers of these gathers. I saw, and still see, such warnings on a regular basis. The importance of masks and social distancing get emphasized by people supporting the protests.

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    3. And yet—If people gather in the numbers and proximity seen in the protests for any other reason than specifically to protest in support of BLM and its allied organizations, they are ordered to disperse by the police and charges are laid.

      By the way, you cannot make ‘a solid epidemiological argument’ in favour of the protests, because ‘the likelihood of success’, as you put it, is zero. The stated object of the protesters is to do away with ‘differential policing’ by abolishing all policing, which will cost many more lives – and many more black lives – than the status quo. They are protesting in favour of making things even worse.

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    4. Tom Simon,

      While I appreciate your ignorance is due to a lack of reliable sources of information, the notion that more than a tiny minority of protesters want to do away with all policing is ludicrous. Defunding the police is about shifting resources from para-military gear into other departments, like social services. Why should a police officer be the person called in for a homeless-on-the-street person in the wrong area, when a social worker would have better training?

      Also, the notion that less policing would cost more lives in not borne out by the results in areas where some level of defunding has happened. There has been very little effect on crime rates.

      So, just out of curiosity, what are the other events that you would consider to be as important as BLM, and worth the risk of virus spread?

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    5. Mass is far more important than rioting because police respond fairly against a more violent demographic in this country.

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    6. Marissa,

      Since, after adjusting for poverty level and differential policing of the same behaviors, the white demographic is the more violent demographic, the police actually respond unfairly by targeting the less violent demographic.

      Further, since you felt the need to change from protesting to rioting, it's pretty clear why you don't see that bias.

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  6. Op
    “ “scientific method” is a philosopher’s invention, and a notoriously problematic one.”
    Really? The scientific method is “problematic”? Uhm, I suggest you may wish to consider going off grid, perhaps as a hunter gatherer who lives in a cabin in some remote location, since the myriad fruits of the scientific method you employ and enjoy hour by hour every day were arrived at by a “problematic” method.

    “Observation is in fact always theory-laden rather than neutral between theories.”
    Of course, every scientist knows that, what is the problem?

    “The supposition that induction suffices uniquely to verify one theory to the exclusion of others is therefore illusory.”
    Of course, scientists know that, pretty basic, that’s why all scientific theories are provisional and subject further revision or replacement.

    This article started as a series of vague strawman accusations. Now it has moved into pointing obvious features of the scientific method as though they are somehow problems to be exposed.

    The author seems to not realize some things most basic about science, that the scientific method itself is flexible, science is provisional, science does not do absolute proof, science rest on certain axioms which are themselves not proved.

    Yes, of course, what exactly is the supposed problem?

    “Certain principles (such as conservation laws and the preference for simple and unifying theories) are so central to the modern conception of science that to falsify them would be to give up science itself.”
    False, no, of course not. If a principle of science is falsified then that simply improves science generally, as all scientific theories must be revised accordingly, which is a very good thing. What exactly is supposed to be the problem here?

    “So too, he argues, is the claim that science produces results that are superior to those of any other practice or system of belief.”
    Really? Can you find the plans for your cell phone, or designs for a genetically engineered vaccine, or an electric car in the bible, or in the summa?

    What other method would you propose to obtain the closest approximation available of truth of, say, the structure of our galaxy, or the atom?

    ““Scientists are salesmen of ideas and gadgets,” he wrote, not “High Priests of Right Living.””
    Sure, you can either live by the science of healthy diet, high tech health care, and avoidance of scientifically identified pathogens, or you can die young, your choice.

    ““The hardest task needs the lightest hand or else its completion will not lead to freedom but to a tyranny much worse than the one it replaces.””
    Vague unsupported hyperventilating.

    This has to be one of the worst articles Dr. Feser has ever written. The lack of specific content and reasoning is appalling.

    This blog is brought to you by science, not the bible or the summa or Feyerabend. You reap the harvest of the scientific method with every keystroke you use to input data in your computer, and with every character you read from a display made of scientifically designed liquid crystals and diodes that emit light in just the right way to stimulate the color receptors in your retina. Please cite the bible passage that is the “other method” to obtain such knowledge.

    There is no “other method”.

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    1. I agree in that I don't see the scientific method as 'problematic'. Observation may be 'Theory Laden' and theories 'Underdetermined', but aren't they in non-scientific fields too?

      The principles of the scientific method are empiricism, careful observation accompanied by skepticism about what's observed, formulating hypotheses based on such observations followed by experiments and measurement-based testing of deductions drawn from the hypotheses. Finally, refinement or elimination of the hypotheses based on the experimental findings.

      It's not a rigid algorithm, but it is a method and I don't see anything problematic about it. It works.

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    2. "Now it has moved into pointing obvious features of the scientific method"

      "The author seems to not realize some things most basic about science"

      Which is it?

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    3. Maybe when your foundational presuppositions include the existence of immortal souls, a particular god called Yahweh, his son who was also in some sense a part of him dying and being resurrected or resurrecting himself, places called Heaven or Hell where these souls go upon death, and then you discover that the very tools that have the most success in understanding the world find no evidence for any of these things, you're bound to be hostile and start regarding the expression of this method as a cult, even while taking for granted all its accomplishments, it having banished the worry of polio and smallpox from the human mind in the West in 2020.

      Notice too Fauci's picture at the top, yet an acknowledgement at the end that the lockdown was justified and nothing else related to the subject. What's this about -- is it supposed to be red meat for Trumpists, who can look at the Fauci image, read the headline, and go away confirmed that their hostility to science, for some of the reasons above, is well supported? All pretty odd stuff, maybe we can throw about some animal bones to predict the weather, do some phrenology to gauge your temperament, some dowsing for gold, or my favourite, using psychic mediums to try work out the period tables a la Leadbeter and Besant's 'Occult Chemistry'.

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    4. GabaBee, you're saying some silly stuff, and that's fine. But why say it here? All the commenters here - and the author - are as comfortable with science as you are - some are scientists themselves. None of us feel the way you imagine, I promise.

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    5. Callum,
      You quoted me as:
      *"Now it has moved into pointing obvious features of the scientific method"
      "The author seems to not realize some things most basic about science" *

      You then asked:
      ”Which is it?”

      My actual words were:
      *Now it has moved into pointing obvious features of the scientific method as though they are somehow problems to be exposed.

      The author seems to not realize some things most basic about science, that the scientific method itself is flexible, science is provisional, science does not do absolute proof, science rest on certain axioms which are themselves not proved.*

      Callum, the point I made is that pointing out obvious features of science as though they are a problem, and not realizing some basic things about science are mutually compatible in the same individual.

      My point is that the linked article in the OP is, I think, emblematic of a much broader view that scientists generally somehow are not aware that science is intrinsically provisional, does not do proof, and is always subject to revision.

      One of my favorite explanations of some of the aspects of scientific self-awareness is a now classic piece by Stephen J. Gould
      http://wise.fau.edu/~tunick/courses/knowing/gould_fact-and-theory.html

      OP
      “Observation is in fact always theory-laden rather than neutral between theories.”
      Yes, which is why a big part of science is questioning one’s own assumptions, methodologies, biases, tools, analytical methods, and measurement techniques. And just for good measure, by the way, you will have to defend your thesis if you wish to get your PhD, and you will have to answer the questions of your peers if you wish to present at a colloquium, and your work will be criticized by referees and likely rejected repeatedly if you wish to be published in a reputable (peer reviewed) journal.

      Another favorite of mine is by John S. Bell, Against Measurement, wherein one of the most consequential scientists of the 20th century calls into question the very notion of measurement.
      https://informationphilosopher.com/solutions/scientists/bell/Against_Measurement.pdf

      Of course science is susceptible to biases, false assumptions, invalid conclusions, logical fallacies, and all the rest. Every human endeavor is, and it would be foolish to suppose one particular human endeavor is not.

      Rather than some dirty little secret to be exposed, these potential pitfalls are obvious, well known, and a very great deal of effort is made to mitigate such effects, all of which is integral to the scientific method. Hardly some “problematic” revelation to be exposed.

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    6. GabaBee....

      "Maybe when your foundational presuppositions include the existence of immortal souls, a particular god called Yahweh, his son who was also in some sense a part of him dying and being resurrected or resurrecting himself, places called Heaven or Hell where these souls go upon death"

      It's true that Feser is a Catholic and many of the others here are probably Christians of some stripe. Still, ultimately this is a philosophy blog, not a religion blog. Issues like the Incarnation, Trinity, etc., aren't really relevant.

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  7. And as if you set your watch to it, celebrities being flown into NYC for the MTV awards are, you guessed it, exempt from the quarantine rules.

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    1. Airheaded jocks in professional sports, too.

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  8. There is a certain irony in Prof. Feser's quoting Feyerabend's comparisons with the scientists and the Medieval Church.

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  9. Guys,

    I deleted the posts remarking on comments policy, trolling, etc. because they amount to a threadjack. I'll try to address the issue in a separate post.

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  10. The arguments against scientism are not relevant to covid 19. The paradigm used to control and treat covid 19 is the same as decades old public health measures and run of the mill industrial biotechnology. Medical journals are full of articles were alternative opinion are shared and discussed. That is true for Covid 19. The protests did not lead to surge in numbers. Those 'woke' experts got lucky as it is harder to spread corona virus outdoors.

    The article is not nuanced enough and may make people feel that masking, distancing and not having large indoor gatherings is scientism and as debatable as a prolonged lock down.


    In the end your article mounts to someone saying that what the doctors have said is untrue because of their moral failures just as one would say that religion is not true because some religious scholars do not act on what they preach. Or lets abolish the police because there are bad cops.


    The attempt to force leftist, trans gender agenda on doctors in name of science is regrettable fact but no very related to covid 19 treatment and research for the most part.

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    1. I have mixed feelings on all this, honestly. On the one hand: scientists deciding that mass protests are ok because "racism is a public health issue"... clearly bad. On the other hand: people performatively shaking hands and refusing to wear "totalitarian" masks.... also bad. In academia, my feelings are less mixed, since the doctrines of creationists, anti-vaxxers and the like hold no sway, and elitist appeals to "science!" deserve heaps of Feyerabend's scorn. But in the wider public, I think that claims of reflexive anti-intellectualism, particularly with regard to science (again, think creationism) are somewhat more valid. In the academy and annals of the New York Times, the application of Feyerabend to COVID-19 is surely valid. But in the culture at large? I'm skeptical.

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  11. I'm familiar with arguments against scientism, like Feser has in his book on metaphysics. What though, is a good introductory book on the critics of the scientific method and science more broadly as modernly understood? Asking for a friend :)

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    1. criticisms* from an aristotelian or thomistic point of view, or a philosophy close to that.

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    2. James Franklin's "What Science Knows: And How It Knows It" is (I think) a more readable book for non-philosophers, and he definitely indicates what he thinks are the limits of the various sciences.

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    3. The Great Paradox of Science by Mano Singham seems promising.

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  12. Scientism is the religion of the left brain.

    It is a universal cultural program or ideology which now patterns and controls every minute fraction of today's culture including all of which is usually promoted as religion.

    And in the context of Edward's essay everything written by the various pundits that write for the American Mind.

    In this age of Scientific materialism, doubt is the only certainty and substance of mind. Therefore, people in this age are profoundly crippled in their ability to grasp matters of higher certainty or to relate to the fact that the world is psycho-physical phenomenon.

    The modern academic interpreters of the worlds religious and Spiritual traditions generally do not approach their subjects as practitioners and wise advocates. Rather, they approach their subject with the left brained scientific anti-psychic mind, empty of everything but doubt and doubt's opinion. The usual interpreters of religion and Spirituality are not themselves really religious in any profound sense, nor are they Spiritually motivated.
    There is a great range of presumptions common to the traditional structures of religious and Spiritual consciousness that such individuals simply cannot uphold. Such presumptions include the certainty pf the continuation of existence after death, experiental presumptions about the invisible, or at least higher elemental dimensions of the Cosmos and Nature, presumptions about the reality of spirits, ghosts, subtle entities and powers, magic, miracles, mystical assent and experience, the laws of karma (or the cause and effect laws that necessarily produce the future from the actions or motions of all present processes0< and the supremely valuable resource of Help represented by living individuals who are highly evolved - saints, mystics and yogis.

    The common tendency is to reduce the expressions and offerings of profound religious and Spiritual consciousness to structures of mind that are basically non-religious and even anti-Spiritual, characterized by doubt and minimal levels of presumption relative to what is beyond or prior to elemental or materialist conceptions

    The common religious and Spiritual presumptions were based upon an acknowledgement that energy, invisible life, or spirit-force is behind all and every part of nature. It is this invisible element that is embraced via every form of magical, religious, worshipful, mystical, yogic, or spiritual belief and practice. And it is the failure to really and profoundly presume the existence and the availability of such energy or Spirit-Power that characterizes the non-religious, anti-spiritual, or merely materialistic consciousness.

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  13. People who think they know better than the "scientism-based COVID19 doctors" are welcome to walk around without a mask, sing in church closely together, go to the beach, etc.... I am an advocate of your God-given freedom to be wise and accept the consequences of your wisdom.

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    1. yes, because being opposed to strong lockdowns now means being perfectly okay with having close agglomerations without masks

      0/10

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    2. Atno,

      The point is that it's a main party point of conservatives that asking to wear masks in public is foolish, oppressive and cowardly because COVID19 is a nothingburger. Okay, it's a nothingburger that for some reason we have to punish China for (even though COVID19 is inconsequential), but it's still a nothingburger... for which China must pay because they inflicted this nonissue upon us.

      But here's the punchline: I support your freedom. I love freedom because adults are owed respect for their choices. I want to give you the freedom to be wise and free.

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    3. They're only "asking", huh?

      It's not a point of conservatives, its just the fringe stuff getting the most attention. Most conservatives are okay with wearing masks, however they are less okay with being *forced* to wear it. They are openly against being forced to wear one when you are outside at the beach surrounded by nobody at all, and there is no science to back this up. However, merely questioning this is treated like you are questioning the high priesthood or defying gospel.

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    4. BalancedTryteOperators,

      Of course it's not a nothingburger, it's a very serious issue and people should be wearing masks. It should in fact become a habit until at least the pandemic gets truly under control. We should all wear masks, practice social distancing, and wash our hands often. And avoid agglomerations as much as we can.

      And one can still believe all that while being against imposed strong lockdowns. Feser has criticized lockdowns, not anything else. It's fallacious on your part to try to equate the two things, as if if someone is against the lockdown, they are therefore in favor of maskless agglomerations and whatnot. That kind of strawman-building belongs to ideological obsession and political bullshitting, not reason.

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  14. The problem is of course that the consequences of such 'wisdom' is wreaked upon victims, not just the imbeciles who practice it themselves.

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    1. That'a not an excuse. It's the responsibility of the weak, immunocompromised and elderly to identify who's likely to hold these political views and stay away. The only people that should reap the benefits of their wisdom is themselves.

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  15. In May, Unicef said lockdowns and fear could kill 1.2 million children under 5 years of age in just six months. That’s just people under 5 and already more than Covid will kill.

    They must be right because A) They said they’re going by the science, and B) Unicef has long been approved by the left.

    So . . . there’s that.

    https://www.unicef.org/press-releases/covid-19-devastates-already-fragile-health-systems-over-6000-additional-children

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  16. David Berlinski’s book The Devil’s Delusion is a very witty and cleaver exposé of the errors of scientism in much the same way as Feyerabend—by comparison to a religious faith that tolerates no dissent.

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  17. I have read Paul Feyerabend off and on for decades and am pleased to see Edward Feser engage his arguments at the link. Is there perhaps a chapter relating Feser's scholasticism to Feyerabend's openness to metaphysics in science (eg How to be a Good Empiricist)?

    A public response to the pandemic guided by past experience would have integrated quarantine, testing, and contact tracing. Only the first of the three has been feasible at scale in most of the United States. Epidemiologists who favor lockdowns have themselves acknowledged the inadequacy. If we are not following epidemiology because experts cannot get us to do the rest, we are not seeing a triumph of Scientism.

    Anyway, is the practice of Public Health an application of biological science (eg tonsilectomy) or an exercise of informed prudence akin to military strategy? The Surgeon General of the United States leads a uniformed United States Public Health Service because in the decades before antibiotics, the populace accepted that epidemics are invaders, invaders kill civilians, and only professional commanders are effective against them. Were they wrong to do so?

    At today's polarized extremes, argument about government response to this pandemic supposes that either (a) Public Health is merely settled Science so that lay heads of governments need only defer to an expert consensus to secure civilian safety, or (c) the science is uncertain and other costs must be balanced against loss of life. But we were once ruled by a centrist policy that integrated these into a (b) closely analogous to military command: because the risk to life is high, the science is not Science, sacrifices cannot be avoided, and civilian liberties are curtailed, Public Health is not deferential advice but expert command.

    In that view, the state commissions Public Health officers to meet an extraordinary emergency with extraordinary powers of prohibition and coercion to save lives. A president, governor, or mayor should no more direct pandemic responses than lead troops in battle. Governance is not management or command.

    This assumes however that the polity in an infected land is a constitutional republic able to delegate, govern, and reclaim, strong authority. That may no longer be the case in the United States, or in other countries where participatory democracy has undermined the independence and trust that republican institutions require.

    Which conversely leads to this closing thought: if we would prefer to respond to a pandemic with no commander charged with containing and killing the virus, would we also prefer that an invading army not be countered by a commander charged with forcibly repelling it? Some actually might, whilst others would not. Either way, it would be interesting to hear their reasoning.

    BW

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    1. There are some good points here. However, allow me to differ on these two theses:

      In that view, the state commissions Public Health officers to meet an extraordinary emergency with extraordinary powers of prohibition and coercion to save lives. A president, governor, or mayor should no more direct pandemic responses than lead troops in battle. Governance is not management or command.

      The difficulty is that even if there was, some time past, a uniformed service under the Surgeon General (at the level of federal service), the states don't have that. And an invader that is NOT an intelligent agent attacking the forces of the United States as a polity, and has different effect in different states, must needs be "defended" against by state officials in their state capacities, not merely by the federal authorities: the President and his federal power does not overturn state officials' powers to deal, in each state, with their own problems. When the enemy is not a unified force intelligently planning and coordinating against the whole country, there is no need for the federal authority to override state government responses to the attacks.

      And, at least in the US, civilians have been in charge of directing the armed forces, both at the federal level (president is the commander-in-chief of the armed forces of the US) and at the state level (the governor can direct the activities of the state militia). The military commanders have never been in overall charge of "everything", and have always had to take orders from civilian authorities. True, smart civilian governors and presidents leave field command to their generals, but in the final analysis, there is no definitive, absolute rule that tells the civilian leader where to draw the line about directing the activity of the generals. It's a matter of judgment and practical wisdom, and there is no clear boundary between the practical wisdom of the executive and the practical wisdom of the top generals, they bleed into each other very naturally.

      There may be elements of public health which are settled science, but the subject as a whole certainly is not a settled science. There can be no doubt that the judgment necessary to address the needs of public health WITH the rest of the common good must weigh many things not controlled only by public health experts. For instance, in a country as large as ours, there are always a number of hospitals on a financial brink of ruin. The particular pathways chosen "for public health" on one level may have financial effects that put many of those that were only CLOSE to the brink, OVER the brink into failure. But it is not the expertise of PUBLIC HEALTH officials that can recognize and properly weigh these sorts of downstream effects in order to successfully maneuver around them for the common good.

      Delete
  18. OP,
    "Taxpayers are forced to fund the enormous costs of scientific research and the propagation of scientific ideas, whether they agree with them or not."
    Yes, of course, what is the problem with that?

    The Pasadena City College is almost entirely taxpayer funded, whether they agree or not. A very great many people who strongly disagree with your views are forced by law to contribute to your salary. That is fair.

    People who have no children still have to fund schools. People who never visit parks still have fund them. That is how our country works. Government has the constitutional duty to levy taxes to fund government programs. That is fair.

    Some people might not agree that scientific research is generally a worthwhile investment, but history has proven them wrong. Funding for basic research, technological development, and medical advancements has paid off for us all time after time.

    Government funding has led to great improvements in ships, aircraft, space, electronics, communications, cars, medicine, and on and on.

    We live in a constitutional democratic republic. What exactly is supposed to be the problem with scientific research being handled the same way as every other government expenditure?

    “White Western liberal intellectuals initially claimed to affirm the equality of all people, whatever their tradition. But this equality “did not mean equality of traditions; it meant equality of access to one particular tradition,” namely the liberal and scientific tradition favored by white Western intellectuals.”
    How did this morph into a racial issue? Is science somehow a “white” thing that “white” people are forcing on other races? So, does that make the director of the American Museum of Natural History an Uncle Tom?

    “A mystic might judge his methods to be as legitimate as those of science and to yield far more important results. He might be right about this, and he might be wrong, but science cannot tell us either way,”
    This section of the article is fully deserving of its self-anticipated mockery.

    Perhaps the mystic will imagine he can cure his own cancer, or internal organ damage, or other serious illness. Science certainly can tell us whether surgery and antibiotics are superior to mystical ruminations, the evidence being ruminating mystics who die and those who seek “white” scientific medical treatment who recover and live.

    The mystic has no methods to achieve the results of science, and to assert the mystic does is preposterous. No, the mystic cannot actually fly, people require an aircraft for that, which is indeed obvious and easily proved every time some fool thinks he can fly and ends up smashed on the ground below his takeoff point.

    “In Feyerabend’s view, when science arrogates to itself privileges like those described above, it violates these Millian principles.”
    Except it doesn’t, which is why no specific examples are provided, and certainly no generalized such process can be pointed out.

    The charge of scientism is simply made up out of thin air. Scientism does not exist as a real feature of government or society in general, except in the minds of the religious and a few authors of little note.

    “He showed that the signatories simply did not understand, or care to understand, the actual views of the people they were condemning, but merely parroted clichés and rested their case on their authority as scientists rather than on arguments reflecting knowledge of the subject matter.”
    Knowledge on the subject matter of astrology? Seriously? Just pick up the paper and read your horoscope. How absurd. No, it is not a cliché that astrology makes ridiculous predictions about real life events based on the positions of celestial objects.

    One has no obligation to study the details of every crackpot idea to come down the pike, to try to squeeze out some grain of truth from the huge pile of rubbish. Those grains of truth are easily available elsewhere without the stench of sifting through all that garbage.

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  19. (cont.)
    “Again, what Feyerabend favored was debate between opinions”
    That is a common tactic of crackpots, to get themselves elevated to some sort of parity. No, one has no obligation to afford patently bad ideas such respect and status.

    “patients have the right to accept or reject the advice of doctors. Consumers and patients are the ones paying the bills, and the ones whose lives are affected. Even when they are wrong and the experts are correct, the experts simply don’t have the right to make the final call on such matters.”
    Another charge made up out of thin air. If you need surgery but you don’t want it that is up to you. Some people refuse treatment for religious or other personal reasons. Such people typically die due to lack of scientific medical assistance for serious illnesses, and that is their choice, a choice Americans are in fact free to make.

    I have had relatives who got old, got sick, and refused treatment. Yes, they understood the science of medicine could have kept them alive longer, but they made a choice, because even the best science available could not bring them back to a life they considered worth living, rather, only just barely alive while being restricted and in pain and not able to do anything they considered worthwhile.

    So they made a choice, the science was correct, they died. I miss them but I respect their decisions, it was their lives, not my life, so their choices.

    No scientist could or even wanted to block those choices. This section of the article is entire specious, unfounded, and nothing but empty fear mongering.

    “Feyerabend thus called for a “separation of science and state,” though it is not really science, but scientism, that he wanted entirely to disentangle from government.”
    There is no “scientism” entanglement to be disentangled. This is just more fear mongering.

    “One needn’t agree with everything he said (and I certainly don’t) to think it a salutary counterbalance to the sometimes excessive deference to expert opinion that has characterized the COVID-19 crisis.”
    There are countries that have eliminated new cases and new deaths, which are the countries that acted upon the science.

    Here in the US we are suffering from an acutely ignorant and narcissistic leader who pressures the CDC to issue deadly advice, while encouraging his followers to act dangerously toward each other and all the rest of us. So the US is suffering for the lack of attention to the science, just the opposite of the claims made in this very poorly written article.

    “Though the virus poses grave danger mainly to the elderly and those already suffering from other serious ailments, even the healthy have been put under quarantine.”
    Of course, obviously, because asymptomatic transmitters infect those who then die of the disease. That is the science. I know personally, because a good friend of mine died of Covid-19.

    Listen to the advice of scientists, not the president or his lackeys at the CDC:
    Wear the best quality mask you have available, for your own protection and for the protection of others in the event you are an asymptomatic carrier.

    Stay away from other people as much as practical, especially in confined spaces. Six feet is not a magic number, it is just a basic rule of thumb, an approximate guideline.

    Use increased sanitation, especially prior to eating with your hands (such as a sandwich or apple).

    Get tested if you have exposure or think you might have been exposed. If you test positive stay away from family, friends, and work, and be sure to wear a mask to protect others from you even if you do not have symptoms.

    Science, learn from it and live by it. If you ignore it the virus might kill you or you might spread it to somebody else who then dies from it. Don’t be a killer, heed the science.

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    1. It should be clear by now that StardustyPsyche is not a troll. A non-Thomist, yes. A disputant, yes. A man with a mastery of science: I have no clue. A troll, no. Trolls don't present content and argument (even if you think it false) or try to read the OP carefully. Any Anonymi out there who delight in branding people as trolls should back off in SDP's case.

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    2. Thoughtful of you to say so, ficino, although sometimes the moniker mangling is good for a pleasant chuckle:)

      You apparently got through my little tome, any thoughts on the merits of the arguments one way or the other?

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    3. It is always a laugh riot to watch Stardustypsyche carry on a conversation with himself.

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    4. "A troll, no. Trolls don't present content and argument (even if you think it false) or try to read the OP carefully."

      I think its actually the opposite.

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    5. The 'Unknown' above is not the individual that recently defended StarDusty and bereted the army of the Anonymous for not using a unique personalised moniker. Should I post again I will use a unique tag.

      Delete
    6. @SDP: yes, I agree in endorsing the salutary achievements of those who have employed the scientific method. And on "Taxpayers are forced to fund..." yes, agreed, in a state, there will be taxes. If people think the structure of taxes and govt expenditures should be different, it's on them to work to change it. Even in the most cutthroat capitalism, govt has to perform certain functions, or capitalism won't prosper - and those functions have to be paid for.

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    7. This guy is a joke. He clearly adheres to the idea that science is always true, and, therefore, its legitimate to make it an obligation for the tax payer to sustain it, and for the society to obey it. He cannot even understand that this very idea is the source of the problems addressed by the author.

      "So they made a choice, the science was correct" LoL. I have seen many examples of doctors applying the best scientific available treatment and KILLING their patients. So who are you to say that whoever refuses the "scientific approach" is making a bad choice? Sometimes its the best choice, who knows?

      This is exactly what is being discussed here, in case you hadnt realized. Science has no final truth, it is akin to error, to fraud, to limitations. Therefore, its completely UNFAIR and ARBITRARY to give it the amount of money and social credit it is receiving nowadays.

      And the fact that you are picking up corona stats without even consider the criteria through which these stats are collected,and the difference among countries is just another sign thst you are completely missing the point. The "scientific view" is not absolute, and you cant use the same issue being debated here as a proof of its relevancy and importance.

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    8. Anon whichever,
      “He clearly adheres to the idea that science is always true”
      Please cite the passage where I said that, else it is a strawman (assuming I am the “joke” you are referring to).

      Science always true? I have never heard of a person who thinks the present state of science has universal 100% accurate descriptions of anything, just the opposite.

      Science is always provisional and subject to revision, every scientist knows that. You are just making up a scientismistic charge out of whole cloth.

      “So who are you to say that whoever refuses the "scientific approach" is making a bad choice?”
      Fine, then if the doctors say you need an MRI, or ultrasound, or open heart surgery, a scientifically designed medicine, or any other treatment made possible by science then go right ahead and refuse, if you want, that is your right. The odds will be heavily against you if you refuse treatment, your little anecdotes notwithstanding, but it is your life so up to you.

      “Science has no final truth, it is akin to error, to fraud, to limitations.”
      Obviously, every scientist knows that, that is why the scientific method was developed, to mitigate human folly and limitations, of course. What, did you think you were exposing some dirty little secret about science?

      “Therefore, its completely UNFAIR and ARBITRARY to give it the amount of money and social credit it is receiving nowadays.”
      Hilarious. First, the vast majority of the budgets at all levels go to Social Security, medical, military, education, public safety and public service agencies. The amount that goes to science research is tiny by comparison, and what little is spent has been shown through history to pay huge dividends in all the modern technology you use and enjoy every day.

      There is no such thing as scientism except in the minds of the religious and a few folks so publicly insignificant nobody here on this thread can name even 1 actual person who is a scientismist.

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  20. I don't think Stardusty understood Feyerabend's point. He does exactly the kind of thing the article claimed defenders of scientism usually do, namely claiming that the achievements of science are just obviously superior to the "method" of the mystic, because he strawmans the mystic's viewpoint, putting words in his mouth. He imagines that the mystic thinks he can do the things science enables us to do (curing disease, flying, etc) by some occult mechanism. No doubt there are mystics who think like that, but that wasn't what the hypothetical mystic in the article claimed to be able to do. He claimed to be able to "leave his body and commune directly with God". Stardusty merely presumes that material advancement to improve the human condition is obviously more important than gaining knowledge or experience of God, but this is because he is a materialist and so doesn't believe in the spiritual. The basic point is this - if the mystic's view of the cosmos is right, then even the greatest scientific achievements amount at best to decorating the waiting-room and making it a nicer place. While there's nothing wrong with doing that, it'd be foolish to think that such decoration was the primary thing we should worry about. Basically, the issue is that science itself can't tell you whether material achievements are more important than spiritual ones. Stardusty is merely taking his atheistic worldview for granted and assuming that they are.

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  21. Note that none of this implies that I distrust or dislike science at all. Not so, I regard it highly, and I do regard the improvement of the material condition of man as being generally a good thing (though not the most important). I merely object to the absurd notion that this therefore means that it is the only thing that matters.

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  22. Cantus,
    “Stardusty is merely taking his atheistic worldview for granted and assuming that they are.”
    I make no such assumption.

    You, a mystic, a yogi, or anybody else can meditate all you wish, and if any such person decides for themselves that the visions and conclusions arrived at thereby are the most important things in their lives then that is perfectly OK with me. Think whatever you wish to think, up to you.

    None of that is the role of government. There is no “scientism” “entanglement” in government such that government is somehow neglecting alternatives to funding scientific research. There are no alternatives to funding scientific research to accomplish the things that government is established to accomplish on behalf of the people.

    The mystic has no capacity to provide some “other method” that is relevant to government funding. The taxpayers, in general, are not even remotely interested in funding a guy to close his eyes and daydream about meeting god.

    The taxpayers are interested in funding research universities, the Human Genome Project, and advancements in science and technology across a broad spectrum of scientific research. The charge that there is somehow a “scientism” “entanglement” driving science research is preposterous. There is no “other method” to achieve the results that science research can and has achieved again and again.

    “I merely object to the absurd notion that this therefore means that it is the only thing that matters.”
    Science research is the only thing that matters to government to achieve such advancements government is tasked to achieve at taxpayer expense.

    It is not the job of government to find god. If you think finding god is important go ahead and spend as much of your own money on that search as you wish, up to you.

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  23. Since when was this only about government funding? I was speaking about the issue in isolation, rather than specifically about whether the government should fund anything, as was the article when it introduced that example. Your initial response simply ridiculed the mystic outright without mentioning anything about public health policy or government funding. You clearly mocked and attacked the idea itself, not merely the notion that it should be government funded. And if you took the time to read Feser's article properly, you'd see that the "scientism and state" thing he was talking about was the excessive deference to "SCIENCE!!" in relation to the implementation of the COVID lockdown. "Science" has been used as a weapon to shut down any dissent against any lockdown policy, even though science has nothing to say about the question of whether such-and-such a measure is worth the costs it imposes, or whether it is too much to bear. Scientists who have any difference of opinion whatsoever on the pandemic have been shut down and silenced instead of being reasoned with - behaviour indicative of a dogmatic religion, not the scientific method. You seem to think this is some fight between "funding science" and "funding alternative medicine", when in fact it is a criticism of our culture's tendency to treat science like a religion and scientists like high priests.

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    1. Cantus,
      “Since when was this only about government funding?”
      Uhm, the title of this OP is "Separating scientism and state". The state generally means the government.

      Besides, I already covered many other topics raised throughout the OP.

      “And if you took the time to read Feser's article properly, you'd see that the "scientism and state" thing he was talking about was the excessive deference to "SCIENCE!!" in relation to the implementation of the COVID lockdown”
      Lockdowns were ordered by government, so again, the state means the government.
      Irrespective, I already covered that as well, very specifically and at some length.

      “"Science" has been used as a weapon to shut down any dissent against any lockdown policy,”
      Nonsense, that is just another assertion made up out of thin air, as is the charge of “scientism” generally.

      There was massive debate about the lockdowns. Debate was not shut down at all. You are just making that up.

      Everybody from the tweeter in chief to the owner of this blog was debating the shutdowns from beginning to end. The governors and local health departments were the targets of continual calls to end the shutdowns and had to publicly justify them on a daily basis, as well they should have to because government officials are answerable for such drastic measures.

      “a criticism of our culture's tendency to treat science like a religion and scientists like high priests.”
      More nonsense pulled out of thin air, but then that is all the charge of “scientism” is, just baseless fear mongering by the religious.

      People tend to like scientifically produced things like cell phones, GPS, google, genetically engineered medicines, high tech neonatal care, and on and on. Who treats what scientists like high priests? Which people? Who are these high priests people just believe on faith and authority?

      There are no scientific authorities, and scientists all know that, even a creep like Lawrence Krauss will tell you that, pretty obvious.

      The fruits of science are real and many and lots of people respect those who create them, and reasonably so, that’s all, there is no religion of science and no high priests of science and no general attitude or “entanglement” of “scientism, all of which is just a non-issue made up out of whole cloth by the religious.

      Delete
    2. I now well remember why people here ignore you. You ignore any and all of your opponent's points whenever it suits you (note how you completely skipped over the second, third, and fourth lines of my previous response in order to make your response "zingier"). Then, you write such enormous walls of waffle, mostly filled with mockery and scorn, that any discussion inevitably gets lost in the weeds. If you really want to continue this conversation, drop the "you're all so ridiculous" mockery and address only the point I made about your response to the mystic, in 200 words or less. Fail to do that and I will refuse to continue any further, as that will be considered proof of your acting in bad faith.

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    3. Cantus,
      "You ignore any and all of your opponent's points whenever it suits you"
      Some folks complain my posts are much too long. Now you are complaining they are too short.

      I can't please all of the people all of the time.

      ""you're all so ridiculous" "
      Your words, not mine.

      "address only the point I made about your response to the mystic"
      I have already addressed points about the mystic. Which one do you mean exactly?

      But what does a mystic have to do with much of anything? I mean, some guy closes his eyes, meditates himself into some mental state, and then says he communicated with god. Why should or does anybody care?

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    4. The problem I had with your previous post was not that it was "too short", it was the fact that you overlooked the specific parts of my point that contained the actual thrust of the argument. My argument was that regardless of what one thought of any one particular mystic, science itself cannot tell you whether advancing the material wellbeing of man is more important than growing in knowledge of God, because science cannot issue value judgements. Your judgement that one is superior in importance to another is a philosophical decision, and is not to be arrogated the prestige of "science", as if it were the fruit of that august methodology. That sort of behaviour is precisely what we mean my "scientism".

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    5. Seperating this into its own point to prevent it from tangling up the comments section:

      Secondly, don't try to claim you weren't mocking us - you've spent the best part of this thread pontificating at great length about how scientism isn't real and is just a ridiculous conspiracy theory, and repeatedly accused us of "fear mongering". Don't pretend you didn't say those things, and don't pretend those things don't entail having contempt for us.

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    6. Cantus,
      "My argument was that regardless of what one thought of any one particular mystic, science itself cannot tell you whether advancing the material wellbeing of man is more important than growing in knowledge of God, because science cannot issue value judgements."
      Like religion, there are those who claim to be able to issue value judgements, but they are not valid.

      Value judgements are personal, and relative. The claim by religion to be able to issue value judgments is as false as any other.

      "That sort of behaviour is precisely what we mean my "scientism"."
      The charge of "scientism" is just a baseless smear made by people who don't understand how self consciously provisional science is understood to be by scientifically minded people.

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    7. "Don't pretend you didn't say those things, and don't pretend those things don't entail having contempt for us."
      Hate the sin, love the sinner.

      Who exactly are these supposed scientismists? What specific positions do these individuals hold that are scientismistic?

      People who are, say, Marxist or Aristotelian, or Platonists typically just say so, or at least they freely state what elements of those philosophies they adopt.

      Yes, the charge of "scientism" does present as a ridiculous conspiracy theory because I have never heard anybody say they are a scientismist, or that they adopt scientism in whole or in part. This cadre of scientismists that apparently have insidiously "entangled" themselves into government seem to be some sort of subversive secret society who refuse to acknowledge their subversive activities in government and our society at large.

      Delete
  24. Oh and Stardusty,
    Please keep any reply focussed and to the point. I will not respond to a muddleheaded 5000-word soup.

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  25. Gotta hand it to Feser, this comment is a fantastic zinger:

    Even the pretense of scientific objectivity that liberalism gives with its left hand is now being taken away by its far-left hand.

    I love the "left hand" contrasted with the "far-left hand". Liberalism doesn't have a right hand.

    However, I would pick a bone with either Feser or (more probably) with Feyerabend, on the his Millsian defense of pluralism:

    What he really favored was a pluralism that refused to allow any one tradition, including science, to dominate all others politically in a democratic society. His positive defense of this view was essentially an adaptation of Mill’s On Liberty.

    Take, for example, the objection made here:

    Furthermore, Mill stressed, it is not enough for the expression of unpopular opinions not to be legally prohibited. There must be no social sanction against their expression. Indeed, he regarded social pressure as more insidious than governmental control.

    I would say, in opposition: to have a society is to have a culture, and to have a culture is, per se to have presumptions and favored points of view. And to have such means that the culture will have means of UNfavoring contrary presumptions and points of view. The notion that it is possible for EVERYONE in a society to act as if EVERY theory, expression, idea, or preference may be true or may be false for practical purposes is not only to eviscerate society but also to preclude all positive action. It is death. You cannot actually LIVE and also give full and equal hearing to EVERY crackpot theory until you can defeat it from agreed upon first principles. You must, to live, act as if some things are more reasonable and their opposites are not. This isn't "scientism", it is what every human being does. And to refuse to allow the "accepted" truths, or even "truths" to be generally accorded a socially favored preference is to eliminate society itself.

    With his theory, Mills, at least, would generate an utterly atomistic millieu of individuals who are unable to even speak to each other without first specifying one of 10 billion dictionaries as a favored one "for this conversation." I am reminded of an early scene in John Wright's The Golden Transcendence, in which an effectively digitized person living in the digital cloud, in order even say "hello", must request permission to suggest a download of megabytes of data to suggest what he might mean by "hello" so as not to be taken as attacking the other person inadvertently. Wokeness taken to its natural end, I suppose. Ultimately, because language is a cultural convention that (necessarily) involves presumptions and pre-set points of view, to use language on someone is to "impose" upon them what may be foreign to them and may "attack" their own preferred presumptions.

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    1. Tony,
      I think you're misrepresenting Mill and Feyerabend. They're not on any such slippery slope. What you're saying about radical atomism would be true, but doesn't follow from the idea of avoiding social sanction/pressure. Obviously social pressure is unavoidable, but the point is to make sure that social pressure is conditioned by love, "do as you would be done by," not just by, well, dumb shit like GoneFishing wrote just below here, wherein he completely and brazenly fails to enter into intelligent engagement with his fellow-man -- why? -- because he has written off the view of his fellow-man as being crackpot, and so feels no need to actually listen and hear what his fellow-man is saying. Much more fun to pretentiously fulminate against a straw man!

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  26. Yep, philosophers ever since Galileo's time have chafed at the epistemological primacy (or "hegemony", if you prefer) given to science when it comes to contingent truths about the natural world. Thomists have been right up there with the worst of them, and here Ed comes to continue the (not so) hallowed tradition. He'd be on much firmer ground if he'd simply say science can tell us (to a certain degree of accuracy) the epidemiological consequences of locking down or not, or social distancing or not, but there are other important considerations which need to be in view before making the final decision, which science is not able to help us with. Instead he brings up the crackpot philosopher Feyerabend and bangs the drum against "SCIENTISM!!!" with hackneyed right-wing covidiot talking points and philosophic PRATTs (Points Refuted A Thousand Times).

    Look, if you're really going to say that government should look equally upon treatments proven to work via randomized, controlled trials (or using such a standard to investigate the efficacy of some proposed treatment) and things like faith healing or voodoo or homeopathy, you are bonkers. (And a good thing you are regarded as such, with minimal impact on public policy.) Ed bemoans that in fact, proven treatments are preferred to woo (if a minority of the population would prefer such woo), which means he is bonkers and the rest of his screed is not to be taken seriously.

    "For one thing, science is claimed to have a method superior to all the alternatives; for another, it is claimed to have delivered superior results. But Feyerabend holds that such claims are false, or at best question-begging."

    Yeah, I know. Because he's a crackpot. But please tell us, after you recite the well-known PRATTs against science, what ACTUALLY has done better in yielding knowledge about the physical world? (The reference to mysticism is absurd. Which mystic ever put anyone on the moon? Or gave us the knowledge of physics and engineering required to do that?)

    I could go on and on. But, as you can guess, I have no sympathy whatsoever for your being a "hostage" to science. Get used to it. It's not going to change.












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    1. Dude, there's a very simple reason you could go on and on. Remember Ed mentioned the term "begging the question"? It's also called circular reasoning. And when you're going in a circle, that's right, you could go on and on, like a fly buzzing against the window. And if that's what you're into, enjoy!

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    2. Scientists are often ridiculous and risibly ignorant when they talk about philosophy, but philosophers often fare no better when they talk about science, especially when it's a rant against "scientism".

      Philosophers, of course, know next to nothing about information theory and similar disciplines. So they think their objections about theories being underdetermined, observations being theory-laden, etc., really have any merit, or that because Popper was wrong about falsification, science has no truth value, or that because scientific theories may be (literally) something dreamt up by scientists, that means there's really no method.

      But science is nothing more or less than data modeling, of which there has been a lot of development in since the death of Feyerabend.
      If you can successfully model (e.g. within bounds of error) a phenomenon of which you have 1000 exemplars with two parameters, it is way more probable to be a successful model than one with 500 parameters which fits equally well. And you will see that when you attempt to make predictions based on your model. Of course your two-parameter model might not work always; maybe there are slight deviations between data points, and maybe it doesn't quite work when you attempt to extrapolate. Then, you can add more parameters as necessary. But no more than necessary.

      Now philosophy may insist that the preference for the 2 parameter model over the 500 parameter model is arbitrary, and it's just luck the 2 parameter model works so much better in prediction in practice. Sorry, this is not the case because the 2 parameter model much better models our IGNORANCE than the 500 parameter model, and this is why it works better, even if philosophy can't wrap its mind around modeling of ignorance.

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  27. If moving COVID goalposts is wrong, then this is just because there has to be a clear rationale for the kinds of extreme economic destruction policies enforced to supposedly combat the pandemic. Given that, the lockdown was never justified, because there was never a reasonable case made establishing any concrete goalposts attached to concrete criteria, nor any reasonable case for thinking that there was any imminent danger of approaching those goalposts, whatever exactly they were. So, no, Ed, I think your initial lockdown support is still not justified -- unless you're willing to grant the legitimacy of moving goalposts willy-nilly, i.e., not really having any goalposts.

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    1. But wait! How do you know 95% of the population wouldn't have died but for the lockdowns? Surely you'd think preventing a mass extinction event might be worth some amount of economic destruction?

      You see, you yourself must use science even while ranting about "scientism", which is why I have nothing but contempt for the anti-science crowd.

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  28. Theresa,
    Given that, the lockdown was never justified, because there was never a reasonable case made establishing any concrete goalposts attached to concrete criteria, nor any reasonable case for thinking that there was any imminent danger of approaching those goalposts, whatever exactly they were.

    Perhaps that's true where you are, but Illinois has very clearly defined stages and levels of restrictions, and have moved into stages with lesser restrictions (and sometimes regressed) over time.

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    1. You can't justify merely by defining stages and levels of restrictions ad hoc. Those stages and levels have to be actually justified. You can't just say, "If we get up to 10 cases in town then everybody has to wear masks," and think you've created a justified policy just because you've arbitrarily stipulated a concrete criterion. That just begs the question.

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    2. Theresa,

      I agree that you can't justify a lock down merely by defining stages. My point was that (in Illinois) a reasonable case was made which included the criteria you specified. There was more to the case than the concrete goalposts.

      If you have other criteria that you think are necessary, we can discuss those s well and see if they were met.

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    3. Theresa,

      Your whole argument is a blurred boundary fallacy. It's like saying because setting a speed limit at 70 MPH instead of 69 MPH is arbitrary, we should therefore let people drive at 120 MPH.

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  29. OP,
    “like egging on creationists, playing devil’s advocate for astrology, and calling for the “separation of science and state.””
    Yes, claiming that “scientism” is a real feature of how science is practiced generally is in the category of advocating creationism and astrology.

    Yes, the charge that “scientism” is somehow “entangled” in government, or elsewhere for that matter, presents as an imaginary conspiracy theory. All that is missing is the foil hat.

    Who, specifically, are these scientismists? Names and citations please. What specific government polices have been influenced by this imagined “entanglement”?

    I have heard people say they are a Marxist, Platonist, Communist, Capitalist, Racist, Nationalist and on and on, but never once have I ever heard anybody say they are a scientismist.

    Apparently, if the OP is to be believed, these scientismists are a secret society who hide their insidious subversive activities by never acknowledging their true beliefs.

    “Like scripture, science is taken to stand outside all other human belief systems”
    By who? I have never heard this view expressed by anybody at all, much less as a belief system that is somehow “entangled” in government.

    “For example, when the state involves itself in health care, it will fund only remedies approved by scientists, never Chinese herbal medicine and acupuncture, faith healing, the advice of Hopi medicine men, or voodoo”
    Indeed, the charge of “scientism” is about as sensible as government-funded voodoo. Voodoo? Seriously? How is the charge of “scientism” not crackpot imaginary nonsense?

    So, government is guilty of enforcing a “hegemony” of scientismistic policies because of government’s abject failure to include voodoo research in its budgets. Like I said, all that is missing is the foil hat.

    “Nor are citizens under any obligation to let scientific considerations trump other aspects of an issue, any more than a consumer ought to let an auto mechanic’s advice trump budget considerations”
    So, if the mechanic tells you that used car has a bad transmission that will cost a few grand to fix, and then the engine is about shot too, plus the brakes are leaking, go ahead and buy the car because it is cheaper. If you heed the advice of the mechanic who actually studies cars in detail then you are succumbing to the hegemony of mechanicism.

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  30. I was given 'Against Method' as a late teen, enthralled by pure maths. An area as disciplined, and yet creative, as theology. So thank you for the invocation of Feyerabend. And I appreciate the importance of not outsourcing values to 'Science'.

    But I am a little unnerved - even allowing for the liberalist lean in your philosophy - to read that now, of all times, is a time to insist on some impossible strict separation of 'science and state'.

    Besides an empirical overstatement in the idea that science is somehow a state religion in the US of all places, there is the present importance of social solidarity and neighbourliness. A virus isn't going to go away nor its trail of death and long-covid illnesses isn't going to be minimised by invoking rights to disparate value based opinions. We are thus left with some very practical questions for which scientific QnAs will be crucial - as to vaccine efficacy, how widespread and repeated such vaccines need to be to achieve 'herd immunity' and, assuming scarcity, what groups are most at risk or transmissible to 'deserve' them first. Such utility based calculations, of the present era/conditions, fall squarely within classical, Villeyan natural law.

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