WalkerW Posted April 28, 2011 Share Posted April 28, 2011 I told Kevin a little while ago that I had a forthcoming NT Daily article on science, subjectivity, and paradigms. Here it is: “I believe the intellectual life of the whole of western society is increasingly being split into two polar groups.”So lamented the British physicist and novelist C.P. Snow in his 1959 Rede Lecture titled “The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution.” The separate camps he spoke of were the humanities and the physical sciences.It is often toted today that we live in the Age of Science, resting on the erroneous assumption that science was not practiced before the Renaissance or perhaps even the Enlightenment.The narrow confinement of the word “science” to the biological or physical realms is a relatively recent English development that began in the late-1800s.Yet, in Dutch today we can still speak of kunstwetenschap (“art science”): an unthinkable English combination. Or in German die Geisteswissenschaften (literally “spirit sciences”).Before the mid-19th century, science could be equated with or encompassed by natural philosophy. Science was, in the words of Nobel laureate Percy W. Bridgman, “nothing more than doing your damnedest with your mind, no holds barred.”The physical sciences are often seen as the standard by which all ideas and philosophies are to be measured — the ultimate epistemic and moral authority. This brand of thinking infected the elite and intelligentsia of the early-20th century, blossoming into a popular acceptance of (among other things) eugenics.This love affair with scientific efficiency manifested itself in my own field of study in the form of Taylor’s scientific management: a heavily centralized, mechanistic and dehumanizing approach to labor.Over the course of the past century, however, the tide has slowly turned. Intelligence is no longer defined merely by problem-solving or task-oriented faculties, but also by one’s emotional capabilities.Human motivation does not rest solely on external, carrot-and-stick incentives, but intrinsic rewards as well.The most important philosophical event of the 20th century was the collapse of logical positivism and its verification principle, which ushered in an academic revival of metaphysics. Quantum mechanics has forever changed the face of materialism and the meaning of space, time and matter.Reductionist theories eventually give way to what philosopher Tyler Burge calls “neurobabble,” which “produces the illusion of understanding,” yet does little to “aid, much less provide, psychological explanation.”In attempts to be objective, many forget that scientific theories are laced with concepts, vocabularies and interpretations saturated with subjective meaning.As psychiatrist and medical researcher Norman Doidge recognizes, “In fact, it’s probably the case that what is most certain in our lives is our subjective experience. So, the notion of modern science as having to always be on the side of the objective may be a serious miscalculation and the attempts to better understand the subjective may actually be the way science ultimately redeems itself.”This shift in paradigm recognizes religion and science are not necessarily exclusive, reason and emotion actually complete each other, and the objective and subjective always overlap.In other words, it recognizes that humans are the ones doing the experiments. Link to comment
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