Mon, 10 Jan 1994 12:16:56 CST

I don't mean to be obstreperous, but I think the discussion about revelation
may be a bit narrow. There are two ways of knowing anything: by experiencing
it for oneself and by having someone tell you about it. The latter is
revelation, because the information constituting the known whatever is
revealed. Much of what we know comes from a combination of these two ways
of knowing. A lot of it, maybe even most of it in a literate, now
electronic society, comes from revelation--reading about what someone else
has experienced or what someone else has had revealed to her/him. Indeed,
as Kuhn has made clear, once a paradigm becomes accepted and has become
normal science, scientific practice is usually based on thinking that is
cited, referred to, and discussed in the same way as religious sorts of
revelations. What is anthropologically interesting about the role of
revelation in science--and it appears most clearly when evolution vs.
creationism is debated--is the issue of how authority is distributed between
these two ways of knowing. Rarely is the matter as clear (at one level) as
it is in the creation-evolution debate where "pure" revelation is contrasted
with "pure" experience. At another level, of course, the relative
distribution of these two epistemologies gets very muddy, since the scientists
have to keep citing experiences that have been revealed to them by proper
authorities. I wouldn't be too damned sanguine about the non-revelatory nature
of scientific inquiry. Hope this helps.

Mike Lieber
U. of Illinois at Chicago