But the article is really about the nature of science itself. I would (and have) generalize further and say the argument about the word "science" itself and the ways that its positive connotations in the minds of the population are appropriated and used (dare we say: "abused") by various interest groups who want to declare themselves the pure priesthood of a scientific discipline and ordain themselves to be the true scientific curia, the enlightened defenders of truth against all the ignorant hordes of those barbarians who dare disagree with them.
In 2007, I wrote several posts along these lines. Although these posts started specifically from the perspective of the topic of origins, the argument I made and based those posts on is very similar to Mr. Devine's article.
Essentially, we find it to be repeated human behavior that a theory is formulated, a group forms around the theory, and some proponents of the theory proceed to cloak the theory in the language of orthodoxy and proceed to use the forces of money, politics, and power to persecute opposing view points including threatening the livelihood of those who will not bow down in acquiescence.
Soon the theory becomes the basis for a new creed required to be cited in order to gain admittance to the holy priesthood of defenders of the latest truth, that is, the current pet theory of the power mongers. Ultimately this basic human behavior is about power, money, control, and prestige. Indeed, admitted or not, the mongers essentially want to become the gods of their own domain.
And it is an enormous irony that this very same base human behavior which motivated the power structure of the pope to fear and attempt to repress the emerging ideas of men like Galileo, is now used in precisely the same way in the name of protecting the latest intellectual school of thought which deludes itself into thinking it is as essential as science itself, for example: Darwinism, Climate Change, and the current school of economic thought, frequently labeled Keynesian, which now appears to be transporting us surely towards a third major market / economic crisis in only the last 15 years. It is also seen the establishment reaction to and denial of the idea of Cold Fusion or LENR, the persecution of the original scientists who announced the results of an experiment in 1989, and the use of professional ridicule and threats of career destruction to any who would entertain such a "stupid" idea.
If we step back and observe the commonalities of these very disparate areas of intellectual activity we see in each a very dominate school of thought which propagates itself professionally by excluding different viewpoints from its profession. And the professionals busy themselves with the details of investigating and applying the details of their philosophy all the while assuming its correctness, permitting no room for dissent on any point of any substance.
This is especially demonstrated in several of these disciplines in a disturbing display of circular self-reference in the development and use of computer models to guide the application of the discipline. These computer models are built with the all the assumptions of the orthodoxy of interest, and then lots of data is thrown into the machine and processed, and the results are touted as "truth", since after all, a computer produced the results. And these results end up then "proving" the truth of the original assumptions themselves. This is basic error is especially evident in the current intellectual regimes of economics and climate change.
Mr. Devine's argument makes mention of these things but primarily works with the idea of complexity and complex systems and the basic mistaken arrogant assumptions made by those who long for power and control that they alone actually especially understand such systems. And on account of this special knowledge, they alone can wield mighty decisions that will lead to a promised land of desired results.
Behind these common errors of different fields, Devine finds the common assumption of the natural philosophy of Materialism, which is in large part supported and defended from an assumption of the correctness of Darwin's description of origins of life. Devine argues that the now revealed complexity of life and especially of the human mind defies the now ubiquitous Darwinian creed required by the establishment for issuance of a "Legitimate Scientist" badge. And this main thrust of his article is sympathetic to and supportive of my earlier articles mentioned above.
In the end, all these instances of pseudo-orthodoxies within science have empowered a few individuals at the expense of lost or at least delayed benefit that these scientific would or could have brought to society if they had not lost themselves in a wild lust for the power and money that uniformity and political activeness brings. Science, or the public's understanding of science, needs to remember (rediscover?) the fundamental importance of duplication by experiment and that a fundamental beauty of science is that it does not matter what your color or creed or gender or belief system is when you execute well designed experiments. The result is the result nature itself gives in response to the experiment. And nature, unlike many of us, is not a bigot. All her laws and rules pertain to everyone equally.
He makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.
1.Devine, Donald. "Can We Finally Retire Scientific Superstition?" Online Library of Law and Liberty RSS. November 4, 2013. Accessed November 14, 2013. http://www.libertylawsite.org/2013/11/04/can-we-finally-retire-scientific-superstition/.
2. The series starts here: http://pane-of-science.blogspot.com/2012/11/origins-1-natural-philosophy-and-modern.html
3. The rhetoric of "stupid" is an indispensable tool for the those desiring to wield power and control. The actual practice of such rhetoric is an interesting topic and one I will have to return to at some other time.
4. And of course this knowledge and power makes them especially worthy of ongoing impressive and ever increasing allotments of money, primarily public government money taken from tax payers, to achieve those results.