Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The Adolescent Crisis of Scientism

Stark makes the entirely valid point that once science was up and running, it no longer needed the original religious and metaphysical assumptions that had nurtured it.

Come to think of it, this was one of the themes of my doctoral dissertation way back when, which only goes to show that obsessions can be quite stable and enduring. I guess I've been tilling the same field ever since.

Full portentous title of this 1988 epic: Psychoanalysis, Postmodern Physics, and the Emerging Paradigm of Evolution: Toward a Rapprochement of Mind and Nature.

"Rapprochement" is a double entendre, in that it is a psychoanalytic term of art having to do with the "human developmental milestone usually occurring between 15 to 24 months," when "the child moves away from and then returns to the mother for reassurance." In its customary sense, it connotes a "bringing together," the "re-establishment of cordial relations," or a convergence of diverse factions and interests.

Therefore, what I implicitly meant by the title -- but which I seriously doubt that anyone appreciated -- is that it is as if mind and mother nature start out as one, just like mother and baby. Gradually the baby individuates from mother and is able to tolerate emotional distance and spatiotemporal separation. At this point it is safe to reunite with mother, without fear of maternal re-engulfment and loss of identity.

Yeah, it happens. But I don't want to get sidetracked into clinical examples. My point was that primitive man is more or less merged with nature, so there is no distinct separation between subject and object, or will and nature. Thus the ubiquitous existence of primitive magic, which is founded on the assumption that mind and nature are entangled in such a way that the former can have a direct effect on the latter, e.g., with human sacrifice, rain dances, the Keynesian multiplier, etc.

If you don't think this psychic layer of magical fusion persists, then you're not paying attention, because it pretty much explains everything about the left, if not in content per se, then in terms of the underlying cognitive process (hence the chronically intelligent stupidity or stupid intelligence of the tenured).

In other words, it is possible to think about the world in a cognitively sophisticated manner, even while being rooted in pure magic. Indeed, most revolutionary movements are created and led by magic-mongering intellectuals, from Marxism to radical Muhammadism.

Ask the average person what he knows about global warming, and you will be lucky to get one factual or logically coherent sentence. The rest is magic. The same with economics, foreign policy, homosexuality, socialized medicine, etc. If the person is not guided by fact and logic, then something else is guiding him, and that thing is magic -- which is not illogical per se, but rather, simply follows the assumptions of a different form of logic.

For example, I'll bet you five dollars... Here, look at Deepak. He is in a feud with scientists, not because he wants a mature rapprochement between science and religion, but rather, because he insists upon a reversion to pre-religious magic.

"He has written that his practices can extend the human lifespan and treat chronic disease, a position criticized by scientists, who say his treatments rely on the placebo effect, that he misuses terms and ideas from quantum physics (quantum mysticism), and that he provides people with false hope that may deny them effective medical treatment."

In other words, if I read Professor Wiki rightly, Deepak is a dangerous quack and destructive fraud.

"... [T]he popularity of Chopra's views is associated with increasing anti-scientific attitudes in society.... such popularity represents an assault on the objectivity of science.... Michael Shermer [who I am sure is no bargain either], founder of The Skeptics Society, has said that Chopra is 'the very definition of what we mean by pseudoscience.'"

A little further down we read that Chopra is symptomatic of the inability "to distinguish between real scientists and those who peddle theories in the guise of science." His "nonsensical references to quantum physics are placed in a lineage of American religious pseudoscience, extending back through Scientology to Christian Science."

I guess we're late to this party: Deepakism "exemplifies the need of human beings for 'MAGIC' in their lives," such that "the sophistries of Chopra" sit "alongside the emotivism of Oprah Winfrey, the special effects and logic of Star Trek, and the MAGIC of Harry Potter."

Suffice it to say that this is not the rapprochement I have in mind. Rather, as in developmental rapprochement, we want to maintain the individuality of the constituents, whether mother and child or religion and science. In short, we do not want regression or fusion, but rather, progression and synthesis. How is such a thing possible?

The same way science itself -- or even Mind -- is possible. Science is again only possible because of certain inbuilt assumptions. You might say that science has parents of whom it is ashamed, very much like the adolescent who starts to be ashamed of his parents, and then goes on to imagine that he creates his own identity. However, once he safely establishes his separate identity, he can gain a new appreciation of the continuity.

So yes, I do believe it was necessary for science to leave home, to say goodbye to mother and father, and to make it on its own. But like the prodigal son, we are happy to welcome it home to the wide embrace of Reality.


mushroom said...

"Look, Science, son, we love you, but you really need to get out of the basement. Stop playing Call of Duty. Find yourself an apartment, a girlfriend. You know, be fruitful, multiply, replenish, and all."

the very definition of what we mean by pseudoscience -- Not only is Deepak guilty but so is Al Gore and the rest of the AGW alarmists. Both use terms they don't understand. Both are making money off their Hoo-Doo hoaxes.

And since you brought it up, Krugman fits right in as well. What's the difference between Harry Potter and Hari Seldon -- Krugman's imaginary hero.

Van Harvey said...

"Stark makes the entirely valid point that once science was up and running, it no longer needed the original religious and metaphysical assumptions that had nurtured it."

Perhaps not the original, but it does need Some, and if the new selections are not as valid as the originals... Progress transforms into Regress.

And as Deepack shows, there is no shortage of nitwits applying to fill the openings.

julie said...

So yes, I do believe it was necessary for science to leave home, to say goodbye to mother and father, and to make it on its own. But like the prodigal son, we are happy to welcome it home to the wide embrace of Reality.

The problem is, the number of people who have reached that stage themselves appears to be woefully inadequate. And diminishing with each coming generation of indoctrinated snowflakes, those who are so woefully unprepared for life in the real world that they can't even go to a job interview without Mommy doing all the hard parts for them. Like filling out the application and combing their hair.

The point being, when the culture at large has regressed to this stage of magical thinking, what hope is there for science to break free?

mushroom said...

We won't have Maya Angelou to kick around anymore.

We'll probably have a state funeral, flags flying at half, uh, staff, retrospectives ...

I'm not even watching the local news until the All-Star Break.

Gagdad Bob said...

Did you ever hear the hilarious takeoff of Maya Angelou and her ilk on Howard Stern? Basically various shades and inflections of Kill the White Man.

Gagdad Bob said...

I'm partial to the Calypso phase of her work.

ted said...

I tried to find the clip, but the best I could rummage is a goof on an Oprah commencement speech at Harvard.

Paul Griffin said...

One thing I really have to thank Bob for is the idea of pondering culteral trends and phenomena as a transposition of personal phenomena (including mind parasites) into a higher plane. I can't shake the feeling that we as a culture are replaying the arc of Nietzsche's personal life on the cultural level.

What is more interesting to me is that my mild obsession with Doestoevsky over the past year has lent me some insight into Russian cultural history. What is eerie is to see how, in the 1860's, (at least through Doestoevsky's eyes) Russia was following the same arc, the same disintegration, the same almost violent rejection of the Church, the hatred of one's home country as a dogmatic principle, along with the rise of pluralism and (moreso) nihilism. It is hard not to think we are on a path that has been traveled before.

I hope our cultural adolescent rebellion is just a tantrum, does not end in the self-annihilation that some choose in the midst of their adolescence.

Gagdad Bob said...

Many Coons will relate to this guy's take on postmodern conservatism, which I guess is his convoluted term for the more simple neotraditional retrofuturism

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Speaking of magic, I have noticed some conservatives falling for the magical snake oil thinkin'.
Oh sure it's limited to inoculations, "BIG PHARMACY" fears, and a hodgepodge of conspiracy theories but it is a problem.

It's good to be skeptical but not at the expense of reason.
I understand, especially with what the Obama administration has done why this is happening, but it's still disconcerting.

Mostly because folks who fall for that magical, stinkin' thinkin' cannot be reasoned with. Even conservatives or libertarians.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Good point, Paul.
History tends to repeat itself when the majority of people refuse to learn from it.

Knowitalls don't need the wisdom of the ages because, well, they know it all and have better solutions (that won't work, and have been tried before).

Jack said...

An interesting development at NRO re: postmodern conservatism. Though from the basic tenor of the comments it seems the idea itself isn't likely to gain immediate support among various strains of conservatism.

I have to wonder whether it is possible to put together an effective coalition of anti-leftistists--based on shared conservative principles. Or, whether we will continue to be divided and conquered due to relatively minor policy differences.