21st September 2008 | Draft
End of Science
the death knell as sounded by the Royal Society
- / -
"End of Science" vs "End of History"
Challenged capacity to handle differences
Future methodological capacity to handle differences
Sub-understanding and ignorance
Beyond "science" -- the search for "new thinking"?
-- Conscientific methodology
-- Homo conjugens
-- Species maturation
-- Reframing the potential of dialogue
-- Poly-ocular engagement
-- Post-formal discourse
-- Beyond method
-- Navigating alternative realities
A somewhat abridged version of this document is published in Network
of the Scientific and Medical Network
98, Winter 2008), pp. 18-20
On 16th September 2008, the Royal
Society (of London for the Improvement of Natural Knowledge)
as the oldest and most eminent body of science, forced the resignation
of its Director of Education, Michael
Society statement regarding Professor Michael Reiss, Science
16 September 2008). The latter had proposed the inclusion of creationism
in the science curriculum in schools (Creationism
call divides Royal Society, The Guardian, 14 September 2008).
In 1210, the University of Paris, the most eminent academic body of the
time, was made subject to a declaration with papal authority by the Provincial
Synod of Sens (which included the bishop of Paris as a member) to the
Neither the books of Aristotle on natural philosophy nor their commentaries
are to be read at Paris in public or secret, and this we forbid under penalty
This was followed by a Papal
Bull of Gregory IX (Parens
Scientiarum, 13 April 1231, following the University
of Paris strike of 1229), often characterized as the Magna Carta of that university
(defining it as the "Mother of Sciences") in which, without specific mention
of Aristotle, but with the prohibition of 1210 in mind, he declared that:
...those books on nature which were
prohibited in provincial council for certain cause they shall not use at
Paris until these shall have been examined and purged from all suspicion
of errors. (Lynn Thorndike, The
Reaction of the Universities and Theological Authorities to Aristotelian
Science and Natural Philosophy. In: University Records and Life
in the Middle Ages, 1944; reproduced in Edward Grant, A
Source Book in Medieval Science, 1974; see also Peter R. McKeon, The
Status of the University of Paris as Parens Scientiarum, Speculum,
The following is an exploration of the parallels between the events of that
time and the present and the implications of the action of the Royal Society
for the future of science. Any assumption that this argument is a defence
of creationism would be toa misunderstand its intent completely. Nor,
however, is it an argument in support of the widely-discussed secularist positions
of those such as Richard
God Delusion, 2006) or Christopher
Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, 2007) -- whatever may
be the merits of their specific arguments.
This is an exploration of intellectual censorship
and the impoverished quality of thinking that results. In particular it is
an exploration of the inherent inadequacy of scientific thinking -- as taught
-- at a time when there is a call for cognitive skills capable of responding
creatively to differences of opinion within science and in society at large.
The science that has not learnt how to handle differences, except by excommunication,
is clearly of questionable relevance to the most challenging issues of society
-- especially those reinforced by an "us
and them" binary logic.
"End of Science" vs "End of History"
In 1992 Francis
a controversial study suggesting that history has reached a culminating point
with the emergence of a perfection of social organizatiion represented by liberal
End of History and the Last Man, 1992).
The advent of Western liberal democracy was seen as signalling the
end point of mankind's ideological evolution and the final form of human government.
The end of science was the theme of the 25th Nobel
Conference in 1989 (Richard
Q. Elvee, et al. End of Science?: Attack and Defense, 1992). A
different exercise was undertaken by the senior editor of Scientific
American, John Hogan (The
End of Science: facing the limits of knowledge in the twilight of the
Scientific Age, 1997; Looking
Back at the End of Science, Search, March/April 2008).
Theodore Schick Jr (The End
of Science? Skeptical Inquirer, 21, 2, 13
March 1997) reviewed the ussue in the light of the philosophical
commentary on methodology by Paul
Feyerabend (Against Method: outline of an anarchistic
theory of knowledge,
1975; Farewell to Reason, 1987).
Fukuyama's argument is of course questionable -- and has indeed been questioned
-- but it is the questions that it raises, and the capacity to do so, that
are more interesting than any particular answers. And in 2008, it is not clear
that liberal democracy is the ultimate solution to the challenges that it readily
assumes to be an aberration from that perfection. However, as perhaps demonstrated
by the non-democratic institutional response to the Irish "No" vote
(on the EU Reform Treaty) and the many instances of electoral manipulation
in democracies, one might hope that democracy itself could evolve into a more
The point is not whether science has failed to be marvellous in
many respects or to have revealed intellectual marvels which are much to
be appreciated. The problem is whether these marvellous capacities are to some
degree, deliberately or inadvertently, used as a "fig leaf" to disguise inadequacies
which are systematically denied -- notably by the most eminent academic authorities..
The question then is whether the assumption that "science", or
method", has reached its culminating form is inherently problematic --
as with the assumption of the University of Paris in 1210
with respect to religion. Are there no inadequacies to science that call for
innovations in its methodology or approach -- or imply their possibility?
Is the future precluded from such innovation by a cognitive approach that
is to be considered as having reached perfection? Is there a questionable
pattern that underlies both the scientific method of today and that of the
religious authorities of the period of the Declaration of Paris in 1210?
By what method would this be determined?
Challenged capacity to handle differences
Although not a question of science, the history of science is replete with
examples of shameful treatment of innovators in science -- whose merits are
subsequently extolled as an exemplification of the scientific
method. Institutionalized science does not address these issues scientifically
-- leaving their resolution to problematic dynamics which are equally evident
in the wider issues of science that science fails to address. In this context
this might indeed be termed scientific darwinism, as though there was no better
mode. Institutionally such transformations are framed post facto as "scientific
revolutions" without being able to address those currently emerging.
Whilst this is the case with respect to many
innovators individually, somewhat similar processes occur on a larger scale
with respect to the relationships between disciplines -- notably as determined
by a form of long-recognized "pecking order". Science has been unable
to apply its methodology to the relationships between disciplines. The arrogance
of some, and the marginalization of others, has long been remarked -- although
neither arrogance nor marginalization are concepts recognized by many of the
sciences in question.
There is little insight into how revolutions in thinking might be handled
with greater elegance. In this sense science has little to offer those faced
with bloody revolutions in wider society -- a matter of irrelevance to science.
What is it that inhibits the capacity of a discipline to handle differences?
Is it that the integrity of the discipline is such that differences are necessarily
intolerable -- especially when they are of a more radical nature? What then
of the capacity for radical theoretical innovation? How does this compare
with the coherence and integrity that religious authorities feel obliged to
defend by every means possible?
Future methodological capacity to handle differences
As emphasized above, this argument is not a defence of creationism. It is
in defence of a methodology that might have been assumed to be scientific
but most clearly is not. That methodology is perhaps best framed as critical
thinking, namely the capacity to listen to arguments from any perspective,
without prejudgement, to weigh their significance and to determine a creative
mode of response (Web
resources: Critical thinking vs. Specious arguments,
Conventional science, because of its very conventions, holds the view that
the argument against creationism has already been completely made to the point
of justifying its exclusion from any curriculum -- to guarantee the healthy
education of young scientists. However, curiously, the argument for creationism
is so problematic that consideration of the evidence for it is seen as a contamination
of appropriate education in what is known to be true. It is difficult to fail
to see the parallels with the attitude of religion in its reaction against
the emergence of science. If you already know and possess the truth any alternative
claim to truth must necessarily be false and justify whatever sanctions are
appropriate. In that sense, has science reached its equivalent to the famous
Galilean moment -- claiming already to know what it would understand through
any cognitive discipline as yet untried?
Curiously also, education in the scientific method is seemingly held to imply
exposure only to pre-masticated arguments that have been certified as healthy
for young minds. This is reminiscent of what is deplored as dogmatic education
on the part of religious authorities. There is no question of educating people
in the capacity to deal with unfamiliar materials to enable them to develop
the cognitive skills to work out under what conditions they may serve some
purpose in the eyes of those who defend that perspective.
This is itself curious in that
many scientific subjects are presented in terms of the history of theories
that have been successively abandoned and are typically framed as obviously
ridiculous -- whatever the eminence of those who propounded them at the time.
Interesting examples are the concept of "ether" (which ironically
has to some extent re-emerged in the context of astrophysics) and the case
of Isaac Newton. To
the eternal shame of science, it has been unable to comprehend why a person
of such genius attached credence to views -- on alchemy and the like --
that are now disparaged by many who would not presume to equal his capacities.
It has even sought to conceal his interest in such matters.
The argument here is therefore that is not so much creationism that needs
to be on the curriculum but rather a full spectrum of extraordinary views currently
upheld in society by some constituencies -- in preference to those upheld by
science. Is it sufficient to assert that the actions or beliefs of some are
"incomprehensible" or completely "unfounded"? Is it from such a mindset that
the Declaration of Paris emerged?
Only by exposure to extraordinary views, and how arguments are made
in support of them, can students acquire an understanding of the relative merit
of science as it is conventionally conceived. If science is to be relevant
to society, and to avoid alienating many who are more convinced by alternative
views, it needs to engage with the processes whereby such convictions are formed
and sustain their integrity. It is not sufficient for society to act like religion
and to simply propound the Truth by fiat -- and to condemn those who fail to
subscribe to it to some form of excommunication, or intellectual damnation
in a nether cognitive hell.
Implicit in the position of the Royal Society appears to be a requirement
that the Authority of science be accepted by its students unquestioningly --
or that only the right kind of questions should be asked.
Indeed, in addition to creationism, some creative thinking could be devoted
to the requisite
variety (as understood by cybernetics) of cognitive modes
from which students might fruitfully learn, whether or not conventional science
immediately emerges as the most credible. As a mirror of society, the spectrum
of such modes might even be understood as a form of ecology of the collective
mind that merits honourable consideration -- however diseased portion of it
are subsequently judged to be (Memetic
and Information Diseases in a Knowledge Society: speculations towards the development
of cures and preventive measures, 2008). Other modes of explanation
might indeed include traditional modes of knowledge (including shamanism),
astrology, alchemy, modes favoured traditionally by other cultures (notably
China), and modes favoured by disciplines held to be highly questionable by
the natural sciences (such as psychology and mythology). These might include
the unusual submissions that are the delight of every patent clerk -- and
possibly the original inspiration for Einstein (Einstein's
Implicit Theory of Relativity -- of Cognitive Property? Unexamined influence
of patenting procedures, 2007).
It is surely appropriate, as the part of any education, to enable students
to understand why approaches understood as "alternative
sciences" by their
proponents, and those intrigued by them, are so assiduously framed as pseudosciences.
Irrespective of the challenge of intelligent design, students of scientific
methodology need to understand how one scientist can publicly declare
the research of another "the best candidate for burning there has been
for many years" (John Maddox, A
book for burning?. Nature, 293,
5830: 24 September 1981, pp. 245-246). Reference to "burning" readily
recalls the attitude of religions provoked by that which disrupts their worldview,
indeed it figured in the declaration of 1210 -- together with the exhumation
to "unconsecrated ground" of a former teacher of logic and theology for pantheistic
views. Should science provide for excision of published papers from collections
-- perhaps if based on scientific
fraud, or subsequently proven to be incorrect? What is the appropriate
response of scientists to the unfamiliar?
The general point has perhaps been best made by Susantha Goonatilake (Toward
a Global Science: mining civilizational knowledge,
1999) as discussed elsewhere (Enhancing
the Quality of Knowing through Integration of East-West metaphors,
2000). Extraordinary perspectives surely merit careful preservation as an educational
test bed. How else would thinking be developed to enable dialogue with politicians
-- especially those holding dangerous radical and extremist views, so readily
labelled as "incomprehensible"?
Indeed a creative educational approach would
be to invite students to present alternative modes of knowing for consideration
and discussion. As it is, the Royal Society is reinforcing a precise imitation
of the behaviour of fundamentalist religious groups who exclude as totally
inappropriate any mode of knowing that does not reinforce their predetermined
worldview. Within any one religion, the consideration of the perspective of
any other is considered totally inappropriate. Alternative perspectives are
necessarily to be condemned as misguided and worthy of sanction. In repeating
this pattern, is it any wonder that a scientific education is inadequate
to the challenges of society and to handling emergent differences intelligently
As commentators have noted with regard to the forced resignation of Michael
Reiss, it would appear that establishment science is in now in a
state of paranoia and defensiveness
-- which may indeed be terminal. It would appear that scientists are now seriously
lacking in self-confidence if they are incapable of engaging with those holding
other worldviews and have clearly failed to engender the requisite thinking
skills so desperately needed in wider society, as argued elsewhere (Guidelines
for Critical Dialogue between Worldviews, 2006).
Sub-understanding and ignorance
There is a curious sense in which scientific methodology is now fruitfully
to be understood as operating at a lower level of cognitive dimensionality
than is required by the cognitive challenges of an emergent knowledge society
Maruyama, Polyocular Vision or Subunderstanding, Organization Studies,
2004). This is most ironic in that it is fundamental physics that
is now making a
"credible" case for between 10 and 26 dimensions totally beyond the
comprehension of most scientists. Mathematical proofs, requiring
thousands of pages, strain the credibility of other mathematicians, to the
point of being recognized as "moonshine" (Potential
Psychosocial Significance of Monstrous Moonshine: an exceptional form of symmetry
as a Rosetta stone for cognitive frameworks, 2007).
The fact that
some spiritual disciplines make a case for equivalent intangible subtle complexity
-- incomprehensible to all but the very few -- is considered by science to
be completely irrelevant and unworthy of consideration. Astrophysics also hypothesizes,
seemingly with considerable credibility amongst those who channel taxpayer
funds in support of it, that a high percentage of the universe is composed
matter and dark
energy. Again matters quite
incredible to all but the very few.
On the other hand, just as society is characterized by zones of relative knowledge,
it is in fact also characterized by zones of relative ignorance. Indeed, with
the exponential increase in a population whose education is necessarily limited,
it might be said that the amount of ignorance is also increasing exponentially.
Just as the role of "dark matter" is of fundamental interest to astrophysics
and cosmology, it might be said that the role of such ignorance in society
is of fundamental interest to the evolution of knowledge. For such ignorance
is of course fundamental to the relation between disciplines variously claiming
to be scientific, just as it is to the relationship between science and religion,
and between the religions themselves. The latter relationship is so challenged
by its incapacity to process ignorance that it continues to engender the bloodiest
of conflicts -- which science actively helps to make bloodier.
Unfortunately science has demonstrated that it currently has no capacity to
address such matters -- considered irrelevant -- whilst indeed assiduously
providing the disciplined thinking fundamental to increasing the destructive
capacity of those who engage in such violence and the "clash of civilizations".
This is not an issue for institutional science whose methodology necessarily
lacks any operational definition of the kinds of responsibility that might
constitute a check on such processes and a proactive response to them.
Beyond "science" -- the search for "new thinking"?
Is it then to be expected that there will be an evolution in cognitive capacity
"beyond science" in quest of the "new thinking" for which
many plead? Clearly scientific methodology, and the educational processes favoured
by the Royal Society, are not equipped to engender such new thinking. Indeed,
just as science is locked into a particular theory of "evolution" it
might be argued that it is locked into a particular understanding of its own
evolution -- again a form of methodological darwinism, but with no sense of
what the future may bring. Such thinking even precludes the kinds of surprising
advances in understanding for which science purports to seek
Is it possible to envisage a cognitive modality "beyond science"?
Or is the current scientific method to be understood as holding until the
end of time? How might such a new modality be framed, if only speculatively?
Where might one look for reflection on such matters -- given that science alone
cannot be expected to engender it?
One approach is to consider the process that the Royal Society has made evident
through so clearly sounding the death knell of science. Science emerged in
response to restrictive cognitive patterns exhibited by religion -- exemplified
by the Declaration of Paris of 1210. Science has gone through a complete cycle
to the point of implementing the excommunication specifically identified in
that Declaration -- a cycle of 798 years. In so doing it has effectively
gone through a process of enantiodromia, taking on the characteristics of that
which it originally opposed and from which it broke away. However religion
has itself evolved in curious ways to the point that creationism, for example,
is now a more credible mode of belief for many than science. Science, like
any particular religion, has as yet been unsuccessful in persuading the ignorant
multitudes of its relative merit -- although deeply committed to doing so as
vital for the survival of humanity. There is an elusive truth to the dynamics
of this common pattern that may offer a key to whatever is "beyond science".
Is it possible that the fundamental cognitive difference between science
and religion could engender a new mode of thinking that partakes appropriately
of both but transcends their respective constraints? Again this is not an argument
for creationism or intelligent design. This is an argument
for a more creative way of responding to difference, to relative ignorance
and to the dynamics of disagreement. Arguably this is more relevant
to the challenges of the future than science and religion separately, especially
given their incapacity to resolve these very issues within their own disciplines.
Possibilities such as the following might be considered:
Conscientific methodology: In this spirit, an argument was made earlier for
reflection on a "conscientific" approach (Towards
Conscientific Research and Development, 2002). This made the point
that "science" should in some way be embedded in "conscience". The argument
made was that:
- science, through its "objectivity" and its historical struggle against
religion, has successfully marginalized conscience as "subjective" --
effectively as contra-science, or even anti-science
- any consideration of conscience is a form of scientific quackery --
science by "con artists" (or even science à la con)
- science is a specialized branch of conscience, even though the latter
cannot be recognized by the former
The psychology of sustainable development therefore points to the need for
some form of "applied conscience" based on suitable "conscientific research
This might encompass the following 9 complementary dimensions or "flavours".
Each was presented with an indication of the strategic failure to which
its neglect has given rise.
Homo conjugens: A quite distinct approach is to
consider the cognitive capacities of the successor to homo
sapiens -- the wise or knowing human -- especially
if science is consistent in its belief in the eventual evolution of present
day humanity. Given the displacement
of Neanderthal humanity by Cro-Magnon humanity, by what would the latter
now be replaced and how would it be recognized? Hypothetically the emergence
of a homo conjugens might be recognized, as explored earlier (Authentic
Grokking: emergence of homo conjugens, 2003).
In contrast with the current scientific method, this exercise endeavoured
to speculate on a new way of encountering the world, sensing it as a whole,
and seeing it reflected in oneself. The jargon term "grok" is used to point
to intuitive understandings of ways in which this goes beyond a purely conceptual
understanding and is rather a mode of being in relationship with the world.
The threads and clues through which such a possibility might begin to be understood
were articulated under the following headings:
and ambiguity | Dualism
and polarity | Intercourse | Consummation | Enactivism
-- Reflection-within | Reflection-without | Environment | Instrumentalism | Possession
relationships | Group
activity | Commitment | Paradigm
-- Time-binding | Language | Self-constraint | Dynamic | Playfulness | Humour
Species maturation: Another potentially fruitful approach
to speculation on the nature of appropriate "new thinking" is within
the framework of any possible future encounter with an extra-terrestrial civilization
from whom a more advanced cognitive mode might be expected. This was specifically
framed in terms of the reason for which such a species has as yet failed, despite
the SETI initiative, to enter
into communication with a humanity that has exhibited such scientific genius
Embodiment of Transdisciplinary Integration (SETI): the universal criterion
of species maturity? 2008).
The focus in this approach was the failure of humanity, exemplified by the
scientific method, to recognize the more generic implications of mirror
self-recognition and environmental mirroring as currently applied
as a measure of the intelligence of species. This was further explored, in
the light of the calculus of indications, into the possible implications
indication through transcendence of "pointing".
From this perspective it is extremely ironic that in the pre-scientific era,
the world -- as a Book
of Nature -- was indeed understood to be a mirror in
which humanity could most fruitfully see itself. This was notably articulated
in a much-cited poem by the 12th century neo-Platonist, Alain de Lile: All
the world's creatures, as a book and a picture, are to us as a mirror; in it
our life, our death, our present condition and our passing are faithfully signified.
As noted by Andrew Taylor (The
Medieval Book of Nature), the idea has a long
Book of Nature in the Enlightenment and The
Book of Nature Today). The SETI proposal provides an argument for
revisiting it -- especially in the light of the case made by Gregory
Bateson (Mind and
Nature: a necessary unity, 1979) and by others variously concerned with
reconnecting with the environment (Psychology
of Sustainability: embodying cyclic environmental processes, 2002).
Reframing the potential of dialogue: Current
cognitive engagement with the world, and with others in dialogue, may also
turn out to be based on assumptions that could be fruitfully questioned. Clearly
both the deplorable quality of dialogue between academic disciplines, as with
the deplorable quality of dialogue between religions, is an indication that
new modalities could be fruitfully envisaged. Should the quality of dialogue
with other perspectives not be considered a strong indication of
the quality of the discipline with which it is undertaken?
Both academic and spiritual disciplines, despite their
denial of each others significance, have much to contribute to a new approach
to differences and to communication (Communication
with Whom, about What, Where and Why? Reframing the potential of dialogue 2008).
Their failure to take this challenge seriously exposes those disciplines
to a charge of being light weight at a time when humanity is much challenged
by differences -- despite promotion of "globalization" as a fig
leaf to disguise their significance.
Correspondences: One of the ironies of the interplay between
science and religion, in the effort of the first to discredit and displace
the second, is associated with the notion of "correspondences". These figured
prominently in Renaissance thinking and earlier but were seen as exemplifying
the unproven correlations that science could appropriately question. They were
the basis for an integrative pattern of understanding that provided coherence
to an early form of systemic thinking with its origins in even earlier
times. Such correspondences figured, and continue to figure, in non-scientific
modes of thought (as in China, for example).
Of great interest is the manner in which science has elaborated its own approach
to "correspondences", even borrowing the earlier terminology that continued
to be developed by the symbolist school of thought. This resembles the behaviour
whereby religions tend to use, build upon, or replace, the edifices of those
modes of belief they displace, even those of pagan origin. Most curious are
the situations faced by science where the connectivity of correspondences
is so elusive and questionable as to be termed "moonshine", as noted above.
There is therefore a case for systematic comparison of theories of correspondences
as a basis for more coherent approaches to correlative thinking,
as suggested elsewhere (Theories
of Correspondences -- and potential equivalences between them in correlative
Poly-ocular engagement: As suggested
by Magoroh Maruyama (above), the use of a set of complementary cognitive "eyes"
points to the possibility of a form of stereoscopic cognitive engagement which
would be what decades of "interdisciplinarity" has not emerged to
be. In this sense the future "science" lies in an emergent coherence
between the disciplines that until now has been stillborn -- even when these
disciplines claim to deal together with "natural knowledge" (as implied
by the full title of the Royal Society). From this perspective, it is the challenge
of "managing" cognitively
the co-existence of essentially incommensurable perspectives that merits consideration
at the core of any educational curriculum, as implied by notions of "cognitive
fusion" or "polysensorial knowledge" as explored elsewhere (Enactivating
a Cognitive Fusion Reactor,
Challenge of Polysensorial Knowledge,
Expressed differently, it is how a scientist
like Isaac Newton integrates alchemical perspectives, as with the modern physicist F.
David Peat, that offers pointers to the future. In this
sense, the potential role of Michael Reiss as an ordained member of the clergy,
was also of interest. Similar points might be made with respect to those encompassing
physics and astrology, or medicine and shamanism, or being able to engage with
a set of such "languages" felt to be complementary in the significance they
The value of such skill is recognized in a "well-rounded education"
and has, for example, been explored with respect to statesmen who valued their
own skill as poets (Poetry-making
and Policy-making: arranging a Marriage between Beauty and the Beast,
1993). This example provides a clue to further exploration, namely the
role of metaphor as appreciated in the creative and explanatory processes of
many disciplines (Metaphors
as Transdisciplinary Vehicles of the Future, 1991). The practical
question is how cognitive dancing between "languages" is to be taught
if science is not to acquire the scholastic status of Latin.
Recent critical, ecological and philosophical
literature has identified an emerging planetary consciousness characterized
by a mode of post-formal thinking and discourse, as highlighted by Jennifer
Evolution of Consciousness as a Planetary Imperative: an integration of integral
views. Integral Review, 5, 2007). She points to, and compares,
a range of authors that highlight the need for "new thinking" and the inadequacy
of old methodologies.
Beyond method: There is an emerging sense
that "method" itself could appropriately be called into question as notably
suggested by Paul Feyerabend (Against
Method, 1975) and discussed elsewhere (Beyond
Method: engaging opposition in psycho-social organization, 1981).
He and others have associated this with engagement with the "abundance" that
is effectively "denatured" by method as conventionally understood.
Authors such as Steven M. Rosen (Topologies
of the Flesh: a multidimensional exploration of the lifeworld, 2006; Dimensions
of Apeiron: a topological phenomenology of space, time, and individuation,
2004) highlight the manner in which the richness of psychosocial engagement
with the world has been completely undermined by formal discourse, as mentioned
above -- an "eclipse
of the lifeworld" in his terms. Ironically, in a period of sensitivity
to the challenges of "resources" and "energy", this view
is echoed by other authors with respect to such a lost sense of "abundance" (Paul
Feyerabend, Conquest of Abundance: a tale of abstraction versus the
richness of being. 1999; Sallie McFague (Life Abundant: rethinking
theology and economy for a planet in peril, 2000; David
Abram (The Spell of the Sensuous: perception and language in a more-than-human
In this spirit, there is a case for repackaging those writings of Feyerabend
as posthumous ripostes to Richard Dawkins and to Chrisopher Hitchens -- perhaps
into works to be respectively entitled The
Science Delusion, and Scientific Truth Is Not Great: How
Science Poisons Everything !
Navigating alternative realities: Given
the decidedly "unnatural", hyperdimensional realities now proposed as credible
by physics, the question is whether there are indeed clues to their comprehension,
and to engagement with them, that do not emerge from science as conventionally
understood. Given the static articulation of categories that is characteristic
of science, which typically fails to draw upon intuitive understandings of
dynamics, there is the possibility that the latter may offer unforeseen possibilities
for more fruitful modes of understanding (Navigating
Alternative Conceptual Realities: clues to the dynamics of enacting new
paradigms through movement, 2002).
Although this argument is entitled the End of Science, it is -- as pointed
out with respect to any End of History -- a simplistic framing of the challenge.
However science is itself guilty of just such simplicity in so readily promoting
the belief in the End of
Religion. -- when so many continue to find religion to be fundamentally of
greater benefit when the fundamental value of science is considered questionable.
Both science and religion are challenged by the encounter with such mindsets.
Both have adopted simplistic modes of response that are an honour to neither
More interesting understandings of "end" in that connection
are those associated with the horizon
effects of such topological paradoxes as the Moebius
strip or the Klein
bottle. A related understanding might derive from theories of socio-cultural
cycles, such as that of
Pitirim Sorokin (Social
and Cultural Dynamics, 1957) -- given the approximately 800-year
cycle seemingly indicated between 1210 and 2008. Otherwise perhaps to be recognized
as a process of collective enantiodromia.
History might indeed note the paradoxical irony of an "end of science" heralding
the "end times" scenarios of religion -- whose methodology it had
so strenuously disparaged.
The confrontation between science and religion over evolution offers curious
contradictions in their respective attitudes to their own methodologies:
- Science sees its methodology as essentially defined by the survival of
the fittest hypotheses. However it is confronted by religion which it has
defined as being effectively "brain dead" -- and yet seemingly
survives in its own way on its own terms, and successfully so, to a degree
constituting a challenge to science in practice. Could this not be understood
as exemplifying memetic evolution, if not that of Darwin's theory? Whether
or not religion is to be framed by science as a form of coelacanth,
improbably the latter still survives.
- Religion on the other hand holds to a fundamerntal belief in intelligent
design. Is science not to be seen as exemplifying a manifestation of such
design, however much it denies such a hypothesis -- as might be said to be
the case with the many species that prey on each other?
The challenge for religion,
as for science, is how any such methodology is to deal with what appears
to oppose it. Is it possible that there may emerge a larger, healthier, dynamic
truth in the complementarity of methodological truth and that which opposes
its simplistic, dogmatic formulation in any historical period?
A conclusion might be that both sides do themselves a disservice
in the manner in which the debate over intelligent design is undertaken --
but it is the scientists who should "know" better.
The confusion relates to the tendency to treat theory as fact under many circumstances
-- and therefore teaching becomes the teaching of what amounts to dogma. Under
other circumstances, when pushed, all theories are admitted by scientists to
be tentative and subject to further testing in the light of any new information.
The entry in Wikipedia on Evolution
as theory and fact is very helpful in clarifying the distinctions
between: Evolution as fact and theory and Evolution as fact
not theory. The arguments of Glenn Branch and Eugenie C. Scott (The
Latest Face of Creationism in the Classroom, Scientific
American, January 2009, pp. 78-85) are necessarily more defensive
-- perhaps as might have been those of religion in 1210 -- despite
acknowledging the apparent merits of the wording of the controversial
Science Education Act (26 June 2008). This is concerned with
creating and fostering an educational environment that "promotes
critical thinking skills, logical analysis, and open and objective
discussion of scientific theories being studied". There is a certain
irony to science being off-footed by religion on its own ground and
with respect to its own "beliefs".
The current debate is not designed
to enable critical thinkers of the future to distinguish between the
enthusiastic assertions of science that evolution should be understood
as a fact and its theoretical framework. This is exemplfied by the
current celebration, in that special issue of Scientific
American, of the Evolution
of Evolution -- of "How
Darwin's Theory Survivies, Thrives and Reshapes the World".
It could well be argued that science has become as tricky as religion
in dogmatically presenting its beliefs as fact -- and seeking to promote
them by political means. It would seem, from an evolutionary perspective
-- in memetic terms --
that religion also "survives, thrives and reshapes the world". Seemingly
science has as yet to understand this form of evolution.
Will evolution be taught as now in 500 years? Or will it have been reframed
as an instance within a wider framework -- as in the relation between Newtonian
physics and relativity theory, etc? For all we know both evolution and intelligent
design could be compatible within some such more complex framework -- after
all physicists are very free with additional dimensions (beyond the comprehension
of most) when it is convenient for an explanation. It is entirely unclear what
will be the psychosocial implications of such complexity for the future. A
recent indication of such possibilities is the study of
Steve McIntosh (Integral
Consciousness and the Future of Evolution: how the integral worldview is
transforming politics, culture and spirituality,
The challenge of scientists to the intelligent design faction should be: welcome,
disprove our theory and what evidence are you offering for yours? What explanatory
power does yours offer? etc etc. Are you simply relying on appeals to authority
-- and how do they compare with appeals to authority by science (teachers)?
Scientists have wrong-footed themselves completely by avoiding recognition
and teaching of science as a methodology -- just as religion is so framed
to the satisfaction of others. Science has thereby been converted into
a belief system which is being (badly) defended like a faith -- and taught
like one. Consequently students are not allowed to give intelligent consideration
to any other explanation/belief system -- and can only reject such when they
encounter it, avoiding any understanding of the perspective from which it is
held to have coherence.
Curiously it is religion, or less well recognized branches of theology,
that points to subtler cognitive modes that might be said to be more open to
the tremendous possibilities of an unknown future -- in total cognitive contrast
to the closure exhibited by the Royal Society in 2008, or the Declaration
of Paris in 1210.
This more fruitful cognitive posture is to be found in apophasis (as
originally recognized by Aristotle) and apophatic theology -- in contrast with
the kataphasis characteristic
of both religion and science. Apophasis is the recognition that conceptual
closure is appropriately to be avoided under certain circumstances -- notably
with regard to the possible nature of divinity and even to any understanding
of personal identity (Being
What You Want: problematic kataphatic identity vs. potential of apophatic
identity?, 2008). The
modality favoured is what has been termed "unsaying", namely indicating
what a phenomenon is not (Michael Sells, Mystical
Languages of Unsaying, 1994) and avoiding premature closure (William
reason and the demon of closure, Scottish Journal
of Theology, 2004).
It is possible that the "new thinking" that will emerge "beyond
science" could benefit from such recognition of its own methodological
limitations -- rather than becoming locked, once again, into the forms of arrogance
commonly characteristic of both religion and science. It is curious that science
has trapped itself into premature closure despite the elegance of studies on
the probabilistic theory of truth sensitive to both perspectives (V
of the Unconscious: the enchanted frontier, 1982) as discussed elsewhere
Patterns of Meaningful Truth and the Interface between Alternative Variants,
The conceptual riches of science, and especially of mathematics, should enable
simplistic notions such as the End of Science, the End of Religion or the End
of History to be framed in new ways within a multidimensional space appropriate
to the cognitive complexity with which humanity is faced. For it is in this
space and its complex dynamic that "science" is seemingly moving "out of phase"
-- as simplistic as this may be by comparison with a "setting sun".
It is ironic
that it is at this very time that fundamental science is exploring the origins
of the universe and its "dark matter" through activation of the CERN Large
Hadron Collider -- characterized by the collision of particle beams travelling
at light speeds in opposite directions. There is a case
for the "conscience" of the future to recognize the degree of indulgence and
denial in such initiatives -- when it is incapable of dealing with the collision
of the opposing "cognitive beams" of science and religion other than through
simplistic mutual demonization, as argued elsewhere (Dynamic
Interrelationship of Symbols of Coherent Experiential Representation of Nonduality
Institutional science has much to answer for in its total denial of responsibility
for its total complicity in the development of ever more destructive
weapons, the currently recognized unchecked exploitation of the complexity
of the disastrous financial derivatives market, and "scientific whaling" --
especially given its inability to engender remedial alternatives for those
who suffer in consequence (And
When the Bombing Stops? Territorial conflict as a challenge to mathematicians,
2000). Part of the learning to be derived from the juxtaposition of seemingly
incompatible modes of thought lies in deriving insight into the manner in which
each defines its focus such as to exclude inconvenient issues for which it
needs to be able to deny responsibility.
However, just as the Declaration of 1210 through the "Mother of Sciences"
effectively sounded the birth of the scientific method, perhaps the initiative
of the Royal Society in 2008 may be better celebrated as the birth of a new
cognitive modality -- rather than as the regrettable passing of an
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