27.10.16

A COMPLEX PROPOSITION.

An American Council on Science and Health editorial advocates that Scientists Should Fight Postmodern Public Values.  Inasmuch as what passes as postmodern philosophy is a radical skepticism that questions coherent beliefs of any kind (reality might be more subtle) one might ask, rudely or not, how can the absence of any value be a value?  Or something.

Let's look at this passage.
[P]ostmodernism isn't the only problem. Americans, in particular, increasingly believe that scientists should not be allowed to do whatever they desire and instead should be held accountable to the public. Because many scientists receive funding from taxpayers, many Americans feel that politicians have a right to dictate what scientists can and cannot study. Even though the vast majority of politicians (and voters) are not in a position to decide which research is worthwhile, the point is still legitimate and, in our current cultural and political climate, nearly impossible to dispute.
I think we saw that conflict between Lernfreiheit and science bought and paid for last week. "Yet, the inefficiency of poetry or pure physics (that is, physics not tied to corporate and government grants and agendas) is an incommensurate gift and of great value."

There are two bad ideas at work.  One is the idea that only the government ought be funding research.  Perhaps university endowments exist for a reason.  But that's defensible only to the extent that researchers conduct their work with a sober sense of purpose and in a way that respects the moral status of other people.  The other, which may have its roots in postmodern thinking, is that science per se disrespects the moral status of other people: pick any pejorative ending in -centric and reflect.

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