Here is the Z Man passing some thoughts about John Derbyshire’s speech at the Mencken Club, in which he makes some comments about science. This riled up Vox Day and his people (here is a 200+ comment post that boils down to, “they’re Smarter Than You, because they (claim to) have read Karl Popper”). And here’s the original speech that set the whole thing off.
Turns out I’m English, I guess, since this is the way I feel about pretty much all philosophy, not just ideology and “science:”
The rest is Englishness. We English don’t do ideology. We leave that stuff to our more erudite continental neighbors. In matters social and political, we default to compromise and muddle. The nearest thing I have to an ideological hero is George Orwell, whose ideological position could fairly be described as reactionary-Tory-patriotic-socialist.
There’s some overlap between the last two paragraphs. I have utmost difficulty following any kind of ideological script. Sooner or later I always bang my shins against the boundary fences of ideological orthodoxy.
Science, like any other abstract system of thought, quickly runs aground on the rocks of Reality. You can play endless language games with it, enough to where most people will simply throw their hands up and say “whatever.” I get to that point sooner than most people, because I’ve read my Marxists.
The whole point of Dialectical Materialism is to find “contradictions” in nature, so as to destabilize all the old certainties. Guys like Plekhanov were great at it. For instance, they liked to point out that, at some point and by some mysterious process, “quantity” becomes “quality.” Like so:
Does Sonny Crockett here have a beard? It’s very hard to say that yes, he definitely does, because it’s mostly stubble. But you can’t definitely say that he doesn’t, because look, there’s all that stubble. At what point does stubble become a beard? Follicle length? A certain number of hairs? Visibility?
Moreover, IMDB.com says Don Johnson is 5’11”. Is he tall, would you say? Says here the average height for a white American male is 5’10”. Don Johnson is an inch taller than that, but I doubt most people would consider that “tall,” hands down. Yet most everyone would say Shaquille O’Neal — 7’1″ — is tall. How many inches would Don Johnson have to grow before we say yep, he’s tall all right? And what about Yao Ming (7’6″), or Gheorghe Muresan (7’7″)? Put Don Johnson, Shaq, Yao, and Gheorghe in a room, and Shaq isn’t tall at all, right? Or is he? How do you know? It’s all, like, relative, man.
You can even do this for things like math, for pete’s sake. 1+1=2 isn’t a scientific propositon, in Popper’s sense, because it’s not “falsifiable” — it’s an axiom, true by definition. Put two identical things together and you have two of that thing. Or maybe not… first, there are no two identical pencils in the world, and if there were, wouldn’t that be two parts of the same pencil? One meta-pencil, as it were? Plus, when you break it down, a pencil is a collection of atoms, an atom is a collection of quarks, quarks are…. something, who knows, they seem to blink in and out of existence, and….
You see where this is going? (By the way, for those keeping score at home, the Indian Buddhist philosopher Nagarjuna wrestled with all this 2,000 years ago. He said that because there’s no such thing as pencil-ness — a “pencil” is just a collection of stuff that individually has no inherent existence — therefore there is nothing real at all). There’s a reason you don’t find too many working scientists doing Philosophy of Science. (It’s the same reason that the folks who do do Philosophy of Science generally have humanities degrees and failed Calc I). You can Plekhanov that shit until everyone throws up their hands, says “whatever,” and kicks you out of the lab… or you can just keep the lab door locked in the first place.
I know, I know, I’m ignorant of some basic stuff, and Stupid, and have no business even linking to astonishing superintelligences and their astonishingly superintelligent jock sniffers. But whaddaya gonna do? Me, I’m off for some fish’n’chips down at the pub, mate, wot wat? Cheerio, and Bob’s yer uncle.