Thursday, July 19, 2012

The WICKED Rev Whewell and how the denier Skygods might just be doing us Earthlings a big favour

Breaking Up : for the Sake of the (human) Family...

"Boring" alert : I have been doing some heavy thinking. 

(The result of reading (via the ever-alert Mike at Watching the Deniers) of Graham Readfearn's account of how the deniers will soon be taking over Australia's government and education, from top to bottom.)

Yep,the deniers are breaking up Science: dividing it up into their science and our science.

And yet, in a strange sort of way, that is exactly as it should be - and as it as it should always have been.

The fact that it not, can be laid at the feet of that versatile, if wicked, polymath the Reverend William Whewell.

One of the many privileges of being a minister in the Established Church of England was to the ability to yoke two together, forever.

Between 1833 and 1840, the beastly Whewell did just that : forcing the unholy marriage between Natural Philosophy and Natural History and calling the spawn of this un-natural union by one word : Scientist.

Natural Philosophy goes under many names today, because all these names ( and sciences) contain bits of the core values of natural philosophy.

Theory-oriented science, lab/experimental science, production science, K-selected science , two-bodied science, Newtonian classical science, science of the First Law ( of Thermodynamics), linear (machine) science.

Natural History actually lives on, weakly, but many sciences also contains bits of its original values in their core.

Observation-oriented science, real world science, impact science, r-selected science, three (or multi) bodied science, Quantum science, science of the Second Law (of Thermodynamics), chaotic (garden) science.

Using Leo Marx's extremely useful metaphor of "The Machine in the Garden", we can see how these two original sciences should have worked against each other, for our and Nature's greater good.

Theory science is very good at creating new "machines"  in the laboratory for the betterment of humanity.

They do so at great ultimate cost, though.

By strictly, narrowly, focusing on only the new machine's invention and excluding all thought of the unexpected consequences when it is introduced into a chaotic, dynamic, resource-restrained real world, they merely postpone the inevitable.

Call them eternally cock-eyed optimists..... or deniers*.

(Albeit, only as deniers of material limits to human invention.)

Other kinds of personalities - call them worriers, doubters and yes, even, sceptics and cynics - are needed to discover and warn us about what happens when the shiny new machine leaves the Lily-white walled laboratory and heads out into the great big dirty, noisy, untidy, unpredictable, real world, aka the garden.

Skygod science and Earthling science are meant to clash - we only get their full benefit when they do clash.

Now, I will argue and you are free to disagree, that we earthlings do accept the right of production science to exist (pardon me while I check to see if my latest i-pod touch 4 is fully charged !)

But as well , we fully support the right of impact scientists to fully interrogate production science's impact upon the real world, for good or bad.

Reality ate my homework....

(Think of it this way : we earthlings think every teenage student should have the right to spout off whatever they want on the exam paper. But we also fully support the right of their teachers and parents to fact-check their work afterwards.)

Skygods do not : intellectually they are still the same 16 year old boys at the very back of the classroom who already know everything, and are bored beyond reason with futher schooling --- they see themselves as doers, not thinkers.

Despite this, they paradoxically take their old (pre-1970s) high school science teachers at their word (!).

  That word being there is only one kind of science and it's job is to produce and produce and produce an ever growing cornucopia of stuff : from biological food stuff to nuclear radioactivity stuff.

Deniers tell us that production scientists and their kindly employers can be fully trusted, by us the voter and consumer, to make sure nothing bad ever happens ; we promise -- this is why we are firing all those unnecessary interfering (impact) scientists that work for the government.

Deniers, very much against their own ultimate wishes (be very careful of what you ask for !), are busy taking us back to a pre-Whewell era when two sciences duked it out, with two opposing, alternative, visions of this single planet : skygod vs earthling.

Consider it my life's work to help the deniers tear Science apart : for the betterment of the world......

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