An interesting article. I gather he’s attacking the age-old appeal to some meaningful boundary between science and unscience. There’s this notion that science should be Science; a religious ideal; a Shining Beacon on a Hill; a perfect abstraction ever-sought and never attained.
There is actually good in that conceptualization of science, but it must be tempered with a world-weary realization that we’ll always fail. If we get caught up in the principle and philosophy of science and lose sight of the fact that we imperfect humans are the ones doing the thinking then we’ll fall into the same arrogant pedestalizing traps which swallowed up traditional religions.
Truth-claims need justification in the physical world because we ourselves are physical, yes? Our thoughts and minds are distinct configurations of particles, as are the photons which constitute the words you’re currently reading. What else could they be whilst being identifiable by and communicable between localized individuals?
In that sense, science and religion are playing the same game (trying to explain the whys and hows of our existence) and science is doing much better. I think this has led some irreligious people to want to cling to old emotion-centered ways of investigating the world, and they do so by attempting to neatly cleave morality and science into separate spheres (morality then becomes the “new” religion).
That way they can comfortably assume their morality as they previously assumed their religion (it seems people need a bit of easy “I just believe it” stuff in their lives) and they can then use those assumed biases to attack whatever they don’t happen to like. The problem is that both endeavors clearly use the same physical criteria to derive confidence; they’re the same thing. It’s a blatant double standard arrived at by inventing a nonsensical competing standard out of whole cloth.
“But there’s non-science stuff, see? All this meta-this and super-that. I seen it; it’s out there, in the ether. But it’s meaningful to physical creatures because, uh… well, because it just is, you see? Something something Platonic Forms something something Souls something something Be Nice to Each Other.”
There’s the physical world and there are varying degrees of confidence in how to describe it. There are modern-day Pythagoreans who think physical reality is neatly reducible to kiddy-maths – that the world around us is just so many twos plus twos equaling fours. However, even if reality is thus reducible, it’s only reducible that way conceptually because we’re not omniscient. We’d need the full account of particle positions in the universe to perfectly predict the future, and I really doubt that’ll ever happen (although pondering the ramifications of QM is mind-blowing). So we’re left to hedge and refine and asymptotically approach “truth” as opposed to having a neat little equation for “life” or “love” or whatever.
I think a good way though all that is simply accepting the inherent absurdities which are beyond one’s interests and/or power to change whilst drilling down into the absurdities one finds neat and/or malleable all while retaining a strong aversion to overconfidence (especially one’s own). If we must, then, we could say skepticism > science, or perhaps rather that proper science emerges from skepticism (skepticism being a general rejection of appeals to authority, hasty generalizations, calls to tradition, and so on).
If you’re out to neatly categorize and define all things you’ll fail. Every answer you arrive at will come with questions and assumptions of its own, and you’ll eat yourself up tumbling down the rabbit hole. I think it’s better to conceive of science as making innately-incomplete answers continually less-incomplete, because that way we see both sides of the coin at once: we see that the physical world really does point to truth, but we also see that the “truths” we arrive at are never perfect, absolute, universal truths. Both the idealism and the skepticism of science all in one short phrase.
Anyway, thanks for the link. It was a provocative article.