Science: Experiment, Revelation

Thu, 6 Jan 1994 12:12:26 CST

J. McCreery surely makes a good connection in linking the split within
anthropology between postmodern and positivist types to C.P. Snow's "Two
Cultures" essay. I think, however, that McCreery gives too great a role
to experimentation in his conception of science. In my view, commitment
to evidence and reason is all that is crucial; science consists more in
a general epistemology (and its products) than in a specific
methodology--even when that "specific" methodology is as diverse and
far-reaching as experimentation. From this perspective, experimentation
is simply the ideal method for gathering evidence, because it ensures
that the evidence obtained will bear directly on one's reasoning. On a
related point: K. Poewe asserts that "revelation and insight play into
the scientific process, minimally, at the point of scientific
discovery." I would agree heartily that flashes of insight are hugely
important, and I mean to include them under the heading of "reason" when
I characterize science laconically as the process and products of
ongoing interaction between evidence and reason. I would not use the
term "revelation" in this context, however, because what is
characteristic of what are usually called "revelations" is that their
origin and content are explicitly exempted from scrutiny based on
further interaction between reason and evidence alone. --Bob Graber