More on science and religion, or Stephen Jay Gould’s error

“Our failure to discern a universal good does not record any lack of insight or ingenuity, but merely demonstrates that nature contains no moral messages framed in human terms. Morality is a subject for philosophers, theologians, students of the humanities, indeed for all thinking people. The answers will not be read passively from nature; they do not, and cannot, arise from the data of science. The factual state of the world does not teach us how we, with our powers for good and evil, should alter or preserve it in the most ethical manner.” (Stephen Jay Gould, 1994)

Lumping and Splitting

People working in various scholarly disciplines have been divided into two camps: the lumpers and the splitters. Lumpers create relatively broad categories and splitters create more narrow categories. Both create categories, classifications, or taxonomies, however, because that is what scholars or scientists do.

Science and religion don’t need each other

There are two common mistakes. One mistake is to claim that science and religion are in eternal conflict. The other mistake is to claim that science and religion are different but complementary, as if both are needed to achieve a complete sense of truth—as a sort of yin and yang. The second view is particular popular among modern Christians who don’t want to oppose science. But there is a third view: science and religion can ignore each other.

The fiction of knowledge

To be lifted to the summit of the World Trade Center is to be lifted out of the city’s grasp. One’s body is no longer clasped by the streets that turn and return it according to an anonymous law; nor is it possessed, whether as player or played, by the rumble of so many differences and by the nervousness of New York City traffic. When one goes up there, he leaves behind the mass that carries off and mixes up in itself any identity of authors or spectators. As Icarus flying above these waters, he can ignore the devices of Daedalus in mobile and endless labyrinths far below.

Technology and social change–the “discovery” of child abuse

The central figures in the discovery of “child abuse” were pediatric radiologists, whose research reports, published in a variety of professional journals for over a decade and a half, demonstrates an increasing willingness to “see” and define child abuse as a distinct medical entity. Why pediatric radiologists? Why not emergency room physicians, who frequently saw injured children, or surgeons or internists who treated their injuries?

No science of science

Spencer was wrong. There can never be a science of science because there be can be no single, unifying observation–or an observation without a blind spot. All observations are partial, and they all reduce the complexity of whatever they are supposed to be observing. All we can ever have is a plurality of partial knowledges, and these ways of seeing can not be harmonized.

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