Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Genuine Knowledge Outside of Science - Get Outta' Here!

A friend sent me this intriguing article in Science Magazine on a Templeton Prize winner. D’Espagnat is a French physicist who has argued that science cannot produce for us a full-orbed view of reality.

What is reality? French physicist Bernard d'Espagnat, 87, has spent a lifetime grappling with this question. Over the years, he has developed the idea that the reality revealed by science offers only a "veiled" view of an underlying reality that science cannot access, and that the scientific view must take its place alongside the reality revealed by art, spirituality, and other forms of human inquiry.

For a scientist who is probably steeped in the current academic monopoly of Scientism, this is radical stuff. To those who believe there is genuine knowledge outside of methodological naturalism, this is commonplace. If you make the mistake (explainable but inexcusable) of reading some of the comments, the traditional village materialists have their sophomoric say. Metaphysical naturalism, and the commenter’s reactions, rely on some heavy duty presuppositions, and even in some cases, circular reasoning.

Sometimes you will read a materialist who believes the material world is all that exists because science can only measure the material world. Not only does that rely on the highly dubious epistemological presupposition that science is the only genuine arbiter of knowledge, but it is also obviously circular.

Defenders of ideas like the argument from reason and its cousins, have good reason to believe that metaphysical (and possibly even methodological) naturalism is a self-defeating claim. Since the activity of science relies on rational processes like deduction and induction, and because rational processes are not provable through methodological naturalism, it is an idea that commits suicide. It needs non-natural processes to prove that no non-natural realities exist.

On the other hand, there is genuine knowledge about the universe available through non-scientific means. Theology, and I would say, ethics, are two of these means. And, against current scientific dogma, the knowledge gained through these enterprises are just as reliable as the knowledge gained in a test-tube.

On a broader, cultural scale, we will do ourselves a favor if we listen to people like d’Espagnat, and loosen ourselves from the myopia of Scientism.

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