- / -
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 Reiss (Royal Society statement regarding Professor Michael Reiss, Science News, 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 effect that:
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 of excommunication.
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, 1964)
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 Dawkins (The God Delusion, 2006) or Christopher Hitchens (God 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.
In 1992 Francis Fukuyama produced a controversial study suggesting that history has reached a culminating point with the emergence of a perfection of social organizatiion represented by liberal democracy (The 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 appropriate process.
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 the "scientific 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?
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?
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, 2001).
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 the feng shui of 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 and proactively?
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).
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 (Magoroh 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 of dark 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.
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:
The psychology of sustainable development therefore points to the need for some form of "applied conscience" based on suitable "conscientific research and development". 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
-- Inter-personal relationships | Group activity | Commitment | Paradigm shift
-- 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 (Self-reflective 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 of multidimensional 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 legacy (The 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 thinking, 2007).
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, 2006; Strategic Challenge of Polysensorial Knowledge, 2008).
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 offered.
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.
Post-formal discourse: 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 Gidley (The 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 world, 1997).
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 of them.
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:
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 Louisiana 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, 2007).
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 Greenway, Chalcedonian 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 V Nalimov, Realms of the Unconscious: the enchanted frontier, 1982) as discussed elsewhere (Complementary Patterns of Meaningful Truth and the Interface between Alternative Variants, 2003).
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 --DISCERN, 2008).
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 old one.
David Abram. The Spell of the Sensuous: perception and language in a more-than-human world. Vintage, 1997/2007.
Gregory Bateson. Mind and Nature: a necessary unity. Bantam Books, 1979 [introduction]
Glenn Branch and Eugenie C. Scott. The Latest Face of Creationism in the Classroom. Scientific American, January 2009, pp. 78-85 [text]
Richard Dawkins. The God Delusion. Houghton Mifflin, 2006 [summary]
Jennifer Gidley. The Evolution of Consciousness as a Planetary Imperative: an integration of integral views. Integral Review, 5, 2007 [text]
Susantha Goonatilake. Toward a Global Science: mining civilizational knowledge. 1999
Edward Grant (Ed.). A Source Book in Medieval Science. Harvard University Press, 1974;
William Greenway. Chalcedonian reason and the demon of closure. Scottish Journal of Theology, 2004 [text]
Christopher Hitchens. God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything. Twelve/Hachette Book Group, 2007) [summary]
Etienne Klein. Conversations with the Sphinx: paradoxes in physics. Souvenir Press, 1996
John Maddox. A Book for Burning? Nature, 293, 5830: 24 September 1981, pp. 245-246 [text]
Magoroh Maruyama. Polyocular Vision or Subunderstanding. Organization Studies, 2004
Sallie McFague. Life Abundant: rethinking theology and economy for a planet in peril. Augsburg Fortress, 2000
Peter R. McKeon. The Status of the University of Paris as Parens Scientiarum. Speculum, 1964 [text]
Steve McIntosh. Integral Consciousness and the Future of Evolution: how the integral worldview is transforming politics, culture and spirituality. Continuum, 2007
V V Nalimov. Realms of the Unconscious: the enchanted frontier. ISI Press, 1982
Steven M. Rosen:
Michael Sells. Mystical Languages of Unsaying. University of Chicago Press, 1994
Pitirim A. Sorokin. Social and Cultural Dynamics: a study of change in major systems of art, truth, ethics, law and social relationships. 1957 [extracts]
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
Peter Woit. Not Even Wrong: the failure of string theory and the continuing challenge to unify the laws of physics. Jonathan Cape, 2006
John Woods. Paradox and Paraconsistency: conflict resolution in the abstract sciences. Cambridge University Press, 2003
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License..