Monday, March 16, 2020

Professor famous for denying objective truth

SciAm blogger John Horgan writes :
I'll start with Kuhn. He is the philosopher of science who argued, in his 1962 book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, that science can never achieve absolute, objective truth. Reality is unknowable, forever hidden behind the veil of our assumptions, preconceptions and definitions, or “paradigms.” At least that’s what I thought Kuhn argued, but his writings were so murky that I couldn’t be sure. ...

This was typical of how Kuhn spoke. As if to demonstrate his own views on how language obfuscates, he endlessly qualified his own statements. He seemed incapable of saying something in an unambiguous way. But what he was saying was that, even when it came to a question as seemingly straightforward — and vitally important! -- as whether HIV causes AIDS, we cannot say what the “truth” is. We can’t escape interpretation, subjectivity, cultural context, and hence we can never say whether a given claim is objectively right or wrong.

I call this perspective extreme postmodernism. ...

If anything, right-wing postmodernism became even more virulent after Obama’s election in 2008, ... 60 million Americans were infected by swine flu, 274,000 were hospitalized and 12,469 died, according to the CDC.

What can be done about the problem of right-wing postmodernism? I honestly don’t know.
The 2009 flu pandemic was declared an emergency by President Obama and the UN WHO. It will be interesting to compare it to the current Wuhan virus disease, aka COVID-19. This one is causing considerably more panic, and will probably kill a lot more people.

I am pretty sure that the large majority of the Kuhnian paradigm shifters are leftists, not right-wingers. Horgan wants to blame Pres. Trump, but I very much doubt that Trump would even recognize paradigm shifter thinking.

Good luck with the health precautions. I have no special wisdom on the subject.

For a current example of leftist denial of objective truth, see this Angela Saini essay in Nature magazine.
One of the world’s leading universities — University College London (UCL) — has completed an inquiry into its support for the discredited pseudoscience of eugenics. Funds linked to Francis Galton, a racist who believed it was possible to improve the British population through selective breeding, and who founded the Eugenics Records Office at UCL in 1904, continue to line the university’s coffers to the value of more than £800,000 (US$1 million).

The inquiry’s report, released on 28 February, recommended renaming lecture theatres and buildings bearing Galton’s name and that of another prominent geneticist. Although this is welcome, it does not acknowledge just how much yesterday’s mistakes survive in modern science.
She denies that there is any objective way to determine whether Galton's ideas are true or not, but wants to ostracize him for political reasons.
At a philosophy festival last September, I spoke about non-European cultures and their contributions to science and mathematics. One scientist remarked that he had no need to know about what had been done in ‘bongo bongo’ land.
So why would he need to know that?

She is obviously an anti-White-male leftist who denies objectivity so she can promote her own political agenda, such as making everyone learn about science done by Indian women, or some such foolishness.

She is also criticized here.


  1. Much like the quacks who consider themselves economists, A scientist is just a highly educated whore with a sheepskin on the wall. They are commonly paid to AGREE with something to lend a veneer of credibility to their patron. If money is on the table they will do and say just about anything to obtain it all the while singing their own paeans of virtuous integrity.

    My advice: Where large amounts of money, power, and politics are involved, Treat any scientist with healthy skepticism. They should be used to it professionally if they are any good, and be very prepared to answer direct questions. If they feel indignantly otherwise, ignore their alphabet credentials and walk away while keeping your hand on your wallet.

    In this day and age, there is nothing inherently pure or ethical about people who call themselves scientists any more than those who call themselves plumbers...much less so those who style themselves activist or 'communicator' scientists... they go where the money is, and the truth goes by the wayside quickly whenever funding or grant money is at odds with it.

  2. Yeah, I double-taked on that one.

    Broad brush I've always associated liberals with Kuhn, conservatives with Popper.