Since I’ve written about the relationship between the physical sciences and the social sciences (Science and Technology Studies in particular) in the past, and have engaged in a number of discussions on the topic (annoying some people in the process I think), I thought I would reblog this recent post by Alan Sokal called “What is science and why should we care? – Part I”. There are 2 others parts to this, which you can find on the original site. It essentially addresses the issue that some in the social sciences seem to think that physical science doesn’t actually allow us to determine objective truths. I find this a remarkably odd view, but it does seem consistent with some of what I’ve encountered and – in my opinion at least – those who hold these views, do us no great service. I may write something more about this in due course, but it does seem that this kind of view allows some to regard all supposedly scientific views as having the same validity in the public sphere, even if some of these views violate the fundamental laws of physics. I fail to see how this makes any sense, but maybe others who know more than me can convince me that it does.
I propose to share with you a few reflections about the nature of scientific inquiry and its importance for public life. At a superficial level one could say that I will be addressing some aspects of the relation between science and society; but as I hope will become clear, my aim is to discuss the importance, not so much of science, but of what one might call the scientific worldview — a concept that goes far beyond the specific disciplines that we usually think of as “science” — in humanity’s collective decision-making. I want to argue that clear thinking, combined with a respect for evidence — especially inconvenient and unwanted evidence, evidence that challenges our preconceptions — are of the utmost importance to the survival of the human race in the twenty-first century, and especially so in any polity that professes to be a democracy.
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