Re: Culture of Science?

Joel and Lynn Gazis-Sax (
Wed, 14 Aug 1996 19:28:28 -0800

alt.pagan dropped.

Bunny and/or Roy wrote:
> Joel and Lynn Gazis-Sax ( wrote:
> : I'm a little leary of Weber, myself, Bunny. It was, in fact, Weber's
> : theorum which I had in mind. You should note that the way his idea
> : works is that at some distant point, Protestantism emerged among
> : /some/ of the inhabitants of Europe. At first, you could detect the
> : ideological boundaries quite clearly. But over time many of the
> : ideas such as the value of hard work "seeped out" into the greater
> : society. Today, therefore, you cannot tell Protestants from Catholics
> : on the basis of the ethic.
> I share your skepticism regarding Weber's hypotheses, but I believe
> his ideas, however suspect they may be, played a major role in shaping
> modern notions about the sciences and their methodologies.

Like you, I don't think Weber should be completely tossed out. Obviously,
Roy, there is /something/ compelling about Weber's thesis. But how the hell
(pardon my language) does it work? Religious differences are real --
not so much mystification as some would had it -- but they are, well, fuzzy.
Given the unquantifiable nature of many religious ideas, how do we measure
their effect on the world? By counting vegetarians in Hindu society? How
do we measure the effect of something like Protestantism?

What we do know is that something happened and part of what happened included
the following:

* The appearance of Protestantism.
* The appearance of a work ethic.
* The appearance of Scientific Method.

These may be correlated in time, but is there any causal effect? Do elements
of one get mixed in with the others? (My basic thesis -- Protestantism did
not so much cause the Culture of Science, but it has contributed some ideas
like that of predestination to it. Think about the parallel between Terman's
theories about the relationship of the gene to intelligence and Calvin's
doctrine of predenstination. There are twists and turns in the history,
some Catholics begin to believe it, etc., but in the end we get the same
idea of a select group, that slender little arm at the end of the Bell
Curve, marked for superior destiny....)

The Culture of Science, as certain of my sci.anthropology fellows and I keep
pointing out, has not rid itself of superstition.

> Roy
> --
> "Papa Hegel he say that all we learn from history is that we learn nothing
> from history. *I* know people who can't even learn from what happened this
> morning. Hegel must have been taking the long view."
> (John Brunner, "Stand on Zanzibar")



___ ___
/\ _|_ /\ Joel and Lynn GAzis-SAx
/ /\_|_/\ \
/ / /\|/\ \ \
\ \ \/|\/ / / "If we try to flee from our human condition into
\ \/_|_\/ / the computer, we only meet ourselves there."
\/__|__\/ William Barrett