Re: Postmodernism and science

Brian Michael Howell (bmhowell@ARTSCI.WUSTL.EDU)
Wed, 4 Oct 1995 16:12:26 -0500

> "What postmodernity offers is the notion that science
> is not a "cosmological category". "Science" is every bit
> as subject its social context as art and religion."
> To which the only proper reply is, "So?"
> If that is all, the contribution is very thin. Scientists
> can point to all sorts of interesting consequences of
> what they do. Satellites fly, computer networks work,
> bosons appear as predicted, vaccines prevent disease,
> hybrid crops are bigger, and, oh yes, nuclear weapons
> and other nasties work, too. When, I wonder, does
> invoking "post-modernism" become more than
> whining by intellectual buggy whip makers in a world
> full of automobiles?
> John McCreery
I think that when it is signficant is at the point of Kuhnian "crisis" in
which scientists dig in to defend their paradigm in the face of
problems. I realize that Kuhn is no postmodernist, but I believe these
"crises" are not limited to competing scientific paradigms. Scientists have
not infrequently come to view every sort of opinion in opposition to
"scientific advancement" or "scientific truth" with derision and
contempt. My point regarding the "constructed-ness" of science is not to
suggest that it is not useful, but that it is not God. (OK, you can tell
I'm not a good postmodernist to even use that metaphor) Perhaps, as Paul
Feyerabend wrote, Galileo was "wrong" and the church was "right".

hasta luego,
Brian Howell