Re: Patriarchy: Re: What Matriarchy?

Stephen Barnard (
Sun, 11 Aug 1996 04:42:02 -0800

William Edward Woody wrote:
> It's not quite my point. My point is that science presupposes that there
> isn't someone loading the dice or fiddling with the experimental results
> when the experiments get done. Science also assumes someone doesn't come
> in and kill the rats with an undetectable drug on a regular basis, and
> it assumes God didn't fiddle with the universe to plant all of this
> evidence, or that we're not a brain in a nutrient bath being tickled
> by electrodes.
> And more importantly (and here's where the cultural bias gets in)
> science presupposes that the experimental design is capable of detecting
> and testing the hypothesis that is being worked on.
> And it is in the experimental design and in the development of the
> working hypthosis where cultural bias creeps in.
> Newton was a real bigwig during his time, and is still a rather
> famous man, and for good reason: his Principa Mathematica was one
> of the first intellectual works of the time that didn't answer the
> question "Why?", only the question "How?"
> Up until then, you see, everyone who was anyone tried to answer
> their scientific questions with the "Why does this happen?" (which,
> if you wanted to stay in the good graces of society and the Church,
> was "Because God wanted it so.") But Newton was one of the first
> who simply answered the question "How?" while avoiding the "Why?"--
> many people accused him of propagating a theory of "Black Magic"
> with his theory of gravity, because he never explained the "Why?" part.


What seems to be lost on many people with "postmodern" proclivities (and even
on some who claim to be without them) is that there IS an objective reality,
and that much of it can be discovered and understood with the scientific
method. If someone claims that there is NO objective reality and that it's
all up for grabs then there is no point in even having a discussion with

Scientists are human beings, and like all human beings they sometimes make
mistakes and say silly things. (Newton was reportedly a rather despicable
person and was inclined toward absurd investigations into alchemy.)
Sometimes scientists and other technologists believe that the current state
of knowledge, as they understand it, is complete. The head of the US Patent
Office once said (I believe around 1900) that, since nearly all useful
inventions had already been made, the Patent Office would soon be out of
business. The current quest for a Theory of Everthing that unifies all
physical laws is another example of some people getting carried away. This
is a legitimate scientific enterprise, but the claims that are sometimes made
of its significance are naive.

An argument that cultural bias is embedded in scientific "laws" (I hate that
word) because they are incomplete or because they are misused and
misunderstood by some people misses the point, IMHO.

As to the question of why there is no "WHY" in science, that's an interesting
point. My particular point of view is that there really isn't any "WHY".
When you look at the world closely enough it appears utterly pointless.
Nietsche was the first person I know of to grapple seriously with this, and
he started the existentialist philosophy that we bring our own meaning to our
existence, and that we can't expect to inherit it from God. Many people
can't accept this, but that's not my problem, except when they get in my face
about creationism, school prayer, abortion, or whatever.

Steve Barnard