[extropy-chat] a vastly longer partial response to Max's question

Damien Broderick thespike at satx.rr.com
Tue Jan 9 05:47:28 UTC 2007

This is the quick&dirty method. Apologies for the length (but feel 
the quality!). A section from my 1994 book THE ARCHITECTURE OF BABEL:


The Art of Science

             ten: models

           "[S]cientific sociologists, theorists of history, 
rationalist philosophers, computer scientists, hackers, and the rest 
see a truck being driven through a featureless desert. They see the 
tracks on the desert floor and notice that they provide a complete 
description of where the truck has been. Some notice regular 
characteristics in the tracks such as the regular indentations caused 
by the treads and proclaim that this explains the progress of the 
truck. They are like logicians, or cognitive scientists concerned 
with the fine structure of human reason. Others notice more general 
patterns in the overall shape of the track and by careful analysis 
fit the shape to something like a mathematical series and try to 
predict its next few terms. They are like people with a theory of 
history, or a scientific model of social progress, or a philosophical 
model of the development of science. Others appreciate the complexity 
of the track and endlessly refine the model with new terms. They are 
the econometricians and computer hackers. Look inside the truck, 
however, and you will see that its progress is governed by a gang of 
cutthroats, each fighting for control of the steering wheel. The 
truck is history, society, reason, science, culture.... In science 
studies it is the sociologists of scientific knowledge ... who have 
been stressing the gang-of-cutthroats model in the face of the 
rationalist philosophers' appeal to the orderliness or logic of 
scientific history and progress."

           H. M. Collins, 1990[i]

Once science was routinely hailed as the finest pinnacle of human 
reason. Today, sociologists like the whimsical but absolutely serious 
Harry Collins tell us it is better understood as a gang of 
cut-throats warring among themselves. More politely, we may prefer to 
see science as a field of political contest, with its typical 
strategies, discourses and institutional practices, contained and 
forwarded by skilful negotiators.
           Provisionally, I shall take it that science is a human 
activity resulting in an instrumentally powerful and coherent model 
of some aspect of the world, by preference based in interpretations 
of formal mathematical structures (themselves axiomatizable and 
content-free),[vi] open to empirical investigation (preferably 
experimental) on the one hand and theoretical elaboration (preferably 
computational) on the other. This is clearly a paradigm based in the 
instrumentally successful practices of physics. It tends to unravel 
when we ask whether biology, psychology or even geology are sciences 
under this rubric, for these disciplines tend to find robust 
mathematical treatments evasive at best and misguided at worst. 
Nevertheless, the historical primacy of this paradigm in `the West' 
is indubitable.
           Underlying this definition is the extraordinary phenomenon 
that Nobel laureate Eugene Wigner, not a philosophical realist, 
characterized as `The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics in 
the Natural Sciences'.[vii] In a nutshell, this is Wigner's case: 
`the concepts of mathematics are not chosen for their conceptual 
simplicity ... but for their amenability to clever manipulations and 
to striking, brilliant arguments. Let us not forget that the Hilbert 
space of quantum mechanics is the complex Hilbert space, with a 
Hermitean scalar product. Surely to the unpreoccupied mind, complex 
numbers are far from natural or simple and they cannot be suggested 
by physical observations. Furthermore, the use of complex numbers is 
in this case not a calculational trick of applied mathematics but 
comes close to being a necessity of the laws of quantum mechanics' (p. 533).
           More generally, `the mathematical formulation of the 
physicist's often crude experience leads in an uncanny number of 
cases to an amazingly accurate description of a large class of 
phenomena. This shows that the mathematical language has more to 
commend it than being the only language which we can speak; it shows 
that it is, in a very real sense, the correct language' (p. 534).
           The central importance of mathematics in the contemporary 
demarcation of science from other forms of discourse and practice is 
emphatic. If a body of observations cannot be ordered by a 
mathematical model, it is highly unlikely to be accepted within the 
workshop of science.[viii]
           Of course, empirical study of the world (including that 
empirical practice which is the work of the mathematical researcher) 
is equally paramount, though quite what its status is has been the 
subject of endless confusion and debate. If the goal of the Vienna 
Circle of logical positivists was a totalized science unified about a 
demarcation principle of meaning - the verification principle - its 
ironical outcome was the establishment instead of Sir Karl Popper's 
falsificationist doctrine. Briefly, Popper's account of science claims that

           what we attempt in science is to describe and (so far as 
possible) explain reality. ... The method of science is the method of 
bold conjectures and ingenious and severe attempts to refute them.[ix]

           No mention is made here of absolute truth.[x] Implicit is 
a pragmatic model (and nothing can be more founded in pragmatism than 
a neo-Darwinian evolutionary epistemology) where the claims of a 
science are tested not against some postulated noumenon or class of 
Universals but against rival competitors, the more the merrier. Far 
more metaphysical than Popper's model is the realism, ironically, of 
Jacob Bronowski:

           Science is the creation of concepts and their exploration 
in the facts. It has no other test of the concept than its empirical 
truth to fact. Truth is the drive at the centre of science; it must 
have the habit of truth, not as a dogma but as a process. ...
           Science is not a mechanism but a human progress, and not a 
set of finding but the search for them. Those who think that science 
is ethically neutral confuse the findings of science, which are, with 
the activity of science, which is not.[xi]

           So if it was comfortably conceded that error in science 
was inevitable, it was exactly in trial and error, and rethinking and 
retrial, that knowledge crept ever closer to adequacy: if not truth, 
at least some working approximation. Sir Karl Popper was the Old 
Testament deity of the laboratory bench and Jacob Bronowski the New, 
Bronowski teaching that the softer human values like tolerance were 
not in conflict with science but actually were crucial to its 
practice. Above all, democratic liberal values were the hallmark of 
science, and fearless honesty its very bedrock.
           Both these models meet severe difficulties when full 
attention is paid to the truism that scientific observations are 
theory-dependent and hence fallible. `Observation of x,' Norwood 
Russell Hanson noted, `is shaped by prior knowledge of x', and 
influenced by the language or notation used to express and record the 
observations, `without which there would be little we could recognize 
as knowledge.'[xii] How is a bold conjecture to be tested except by 
observations which are themselves implicated in a web of theories and 
hypotheses? Adapting Lacan's famous conjecture, perhaps science is 
structured as a language, with all the access to aporia and ambiguity 
which that postulate insists upon. Interestingly enough, Bronowski 
himself made just this suggestion a quarter century ago, noting that

           Such a system describes the activity of nature, and 
ourselves in it; it is not a blueprint of the machinery of nature.... 
Science then is not so much a model of nature as a living language 
for describing her.[xiii]

           Leaving aside the personification of nature (which is 
either amusingly old-fashioned or astonishingly prescient of a later 
generation's Gaia-worship), one might imagine that this figure 
implies the sort of radically open hermeneutics which 
poststructuralism has erected on Lacan's conjecture. Curiously, and 
by striking contrast, Bronowski actually offered a model of science 
as a determinate Turing machine:

           The exposition of science is always an instruction for 
testing the totality of laws as they stand at that moment. It could 
therefore be put on a tape that would direct a testing machine. ...
           For the endeavor of science is to resolve ambiguities by 
making ... critical and decisive tests between alternatives. 
[...U]nlike poetry, it does not seek to exploit its ambiguities, but 
to minimize them. This is the paradox of imagination in science, that 
it has for its aim the impoverishment of imagination. (pp. 49-50)

           No view could be farther from the constructivist doctrines 
of science which gain increasing currency today, finding their 
support in the thesis that all observation and experiment are 
dependent on prior theorising. Granted, that thesis in turn is a 
patent opportunity for infinite regress of the most noxious kind, or 
at least of a Hofstadterian Tangled Loop. (In brief: What theory does 
the theory-dependency thesis depend on, and why - that is, on what 
theorised grounds - should that theory be trusted?) Yet it was Popper 
himself, rather than some wild-eyed anarchist, who heavily stressed 
this dependency of observation on theory, often on theories which are 
built-in by evolution:

           Classical epistemology which takes our sense perceptions 
as `given', as the `data' from which our theories have to be 
constructed by some process of induction, can only be described as 
pre-Darwinian. It fails to take account of the fact that the alleged 
data are in fact adaptive reactions, and therefore interpretations 
which incorporate theories and prejudices and which, like theories, 
are impregnated with conjectural expectations; that there can be no 
pure perceptions, no pure datum; exactly as there can be no pure 
observational language, since all languages are impregnated with 
theories and myths.[xiv]

           `But it is precisely the fact that observation statements 
are fallible,' argues A. F. Chalmers, `and their acceptance only 
tentative and open to revision, that undermines the falsificationist 
position.'[xv] The Copernican theory was already falsified at the 
time of its announcement by the apparent constancy in the sizes of 
the disks of Mars and Venus whatever their distance from the Earth. 
`One hundred years later, the falsification could be revoked because 
of new developments in optics' (Ibid).[xvi]
           Imre Lakatos offered to solve this difficulty with the 
claim that `the typical descriptive unit of great scientific 
achievements is not an isolated hypothesis but rather a research 
programme', containing a `hard core' (such as Newton's three laws of 
mechanics and law of gravitation) which is `tenaciously protected 
from refutation by a vast "protective belt" of auxiliary hypotheses' 
that can be abandoned, modified, or added to under the direction of 
the research program's positive heuristic, `a powerful 
problem-solving machinery, which, with the help of sophisticated 
mathematical techniques, digests anomalies and even turns them into 
positive evidence.'[xvii] Lakatos positions his own views within an 
internal shift in the ways science is nowadays conceptualised:

           There are several methodologies afloat in contemporary 
philosophy of science; but they are all very different from what used 
to be understood by `methodology' in the seventeenth or even 
eighteenth century. Then it was hoped that methodology would provide 
scientists with a mechanical book of rules for solving problems. This 
hope has now been given up: modern methodologies or `logics of 
discovery' consist merely of a set of ... rules for the appraisal of 
ready, articulated theories. (p. 103)

           He discusses four models. Inductivism allows into the body 
of science only propositions which describe `hard facts' or are 
`infallible inductive generalisations' from such facts; despite the 
logical objections to any program grounded in induction, and the 
patent fallibility of observation, this has been the predominant 
methodological model for the sciences.
           Conventionalism, the principal rival to induction, is 
exemplified very broadly by a number of recent doctrines, especially 
those founded in Duhem: Popper's conjectural model, Kuhn's 
communities bonded by common paradigms, Feyerabend's radical 
epistemological anarchy. For conventionalists, any convenient 
framework of fact-holding `pigeonholes' may be constructed, and 
retained in use until a simpler or less clumsy one is devised. Each 
school differs, of course, in its account of the forces which 
precipitate theory change.
           Methodological falsificationism, Popper's original 
codification of conventionalism, is granted a special 
category.[xviii] Its historians seek `great, "bold", falsifiable 
theories and ... great negative crucial experiments' (pp. 108-9).
           Finally, there is Lakatos's own methodology of scientific 
research programs, described earlier (p. 112): `A research program is 
said to be progressing as long as its theoretical growth anticipates 
its empirical growth...; it is stagnating ... as long as it gives 
only post hoc explanations either of chance discoveries or of facts 
anticipated by, and discovered in, a rival programme...' So a program 
can be shelved if a rival `supersedes' it in this fashion, but it may 
always recover (as one sees in the history of the wave/corpuscular 
debate on light).
           In turn, ideological effects from beyond the boundaries of 
scientific research proper may (perhaps must) render such large-scale 
conceptual orientations highly fallible, as Lakatos is the first to 
admit. Inductivism, for example, is an `internalist' doctrine which 
gains its warrant from its successes as estimated within the practice 
of science. Nevertheless, it cannot explain `why certain facts rather 
than others were selected' for study, and is `compatible with many 
different supplementary empirical or external theories of 
problem-choice ... for instance ... with the vulgar-Marxist view that 
problem-choice is determined by social needs...' (pp. 104-5).
           Barry Barnes summarizes this cultural and economic framing 
of scientific attitudes and practice rather well:

           The rise of science in the seventeenth century seems to 
have been part of a major shift of thought and sensibility involving 
a marked decline of anthropocentrism, anthropomorphism and teleology. ...
           There is, however, more to science than thought and ideas. 
Primarily, it is an activity. And today it is a 
routinely-established, securely financed activity ... carried out by 
trained and qualified professionals. Here is the base for an 
alternative, equally valid, way of thinking of the rise of science - 
in terms of its emergence and growth as a professional occupation. ...
           Science has established itself and stabilized its position 
through its involvement in a vast network of relationships of 
interdependence much more than through any general diffusion of 
scientific ideas and attitudes.[xix]

           This (at least partial) dependence on agendas set beyond 
the boundaries of science is of increasingly central significance to 
philosophers and sociologists of science, as Richard Levins and 
Richard Lewontin stress in a recent attempt to recast science in a 
(non-vulgar) Marxian dialectical mode:

           Many people will now admit that the problematic of science 
- what questions are thought to be worth asking and what priority 
will be awarded them - is also strongly influenced by social and 
economic factors....
            But nothing evokes as much hostility among intellectuals 
as the suggestion that social forces influence or even dictate either 
the scientific method or the facts and theories of science.[xx]

           More than one of Bronowski's decent middle-class chaps has 
proved to have his nose well into the trough, attending less to the 
music of the spheres than to the paymaster's organ-grinding. Rather a 
lot of those Popperian Conjectures and Refutations buzz away inside 
an agenda set by corporations interested almost wholly in maximizing 
profit, at whatever cost to everyone beyond their boardrooms, or by 
military agencies whose conjectures tend to be refuted in experiments 
involving large amounts of dead human flesh.[xxi]
           Science, in short, like any other major human undertaking, 
is to a considerable degree a matter of interests - conscious or 
covert, set by policy and ideology alike. So pervasive are some of 
these ideological factors that they become all but invisible - so 
that, for example, the phallocentric, reductive cast of traditional 
scientific practice has tended to make the paradigm of male 
domination seem utterly ordinary and unexceptionable.
           Still, even if we acknowledge that scientific practice is 
often, if not centrally, partisan in motivation, may we not yet 
decide that it is preferable to support the paradigm of Mendelian 
genetics over the bullying Lamarckism of Lysenko?[xxii] That it helps 
to know if some piece of research on histocompatibility is based on 
entirely fraudulent data, or on genuine information grossly massaged 
and manipulated by some ruined post-doctoral candidate under pressure 
to succeed and heading for a nervous breakdown?  It is not all that 
rare, and it is not only apprentice scientists who yield to temptation.[xxiii]
           Still, despite such scandals, is it not generally accepted 
that the scientist is our epoch's pre-eminent creative seeker after 
truth? The Australian novelist David Foster caustically asserts that 
the scientist is, rather, the operational definition of a hack 
(perhaps the human instance of Bronowski's Turing machine).[xxiv] 
Despite a widespread romantic image, the highest ambition of the 
scientist qua scientist is a set of procedures, of algorithms, so 
banal and repeatable that anyone possessing the appropriate trained 
skills can obtain reliable results by following the ordained steps.
           There is another way of regarding the scientist seethed in 
his or her own juices, one concerned less with telos and more with 
the experience of pursuing scientific research. In a counter to 
Foster's view, one might pose a surprising image from Lewis Thomas, 
former director of the Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and 
extraordinary rhapsodic essayist of science:

           Scientists at work are rather like young animals engaged 
in savage play. When they are near an answer their hair stands on 
end, they sweat, they are awash in their own adrenalin.[xxv]

           Thomas has been an experimentalist as well as an 
administrator, not a theorist, but his description finds a striking 
echo from Richard Feynman, whose Nobel Prize was for seminal work in 
quantum electrodynamics, that ultimate abstraction:

           Sometimes I feel like an ape, trying to figure out how 
nature's going to behave, fooling around with all those symbols.... 
My father got me interested in all these things by telling me how 
wonderful nature was. But he couldn't know the terrible excitement of 
making a new discovery. You get so excited you can't calculate, you 
can't think any more. It isn't just that nature's wonderful, because 
if someone tells me the answer to a problem I'm working on, it's 
nowhere near as exciting as if I work it out myself.[xxvi]

           On Thomas Kuhn's account, science is by turns classical 
and romantic, austere and explosive, conservative and 
revolutionary.[xxvii] Beyond those binary oppositions (nowhere in 
reality found so disjunctively) there exist shades of tone and mood. 
Science is also, in a psychologically significant sense, magical. 
Among philosophers of science, perhaps only Michel Serres, with his 
alchemic patron Hermes Trismegistus standing at the boundaries of 
myth and science, has offered this recognition. While much of it may 
be usually hackwork, it can clearly stir the hairs on the neck, in 
the way Housman tells us strong, powerful poetry can - galvanizing 
body as well as spirit. In another passage, describing a Wood's Hole 
beach where marine biologists eat their lunch, Lewis Thomas captures 
something lyrical which transcends the myth of the cold laboratory elitist:

           You can hear the sound from the beach at a distance ... 
that most extraordinary noise, half-shout, half-song, made by 
confluent, simultaneously raised human voices, explaining things to 
each other. (p. 62)

           For a non-scientist, the sole access to that joyous babble 
is a voyeuristic eavesdropping. It is a relationship beyond 
scopophilia, reminiscent of the ancient tension between artist and 
audience. What we as witnesses create (re-create) in the canvas has, 
no doubt, only a tendentious intersection with the sweating impulse 
which laid down its fields of colour. Art-as-consumable-object is a 
piece of social technology, akin to the physical technology which is 
at once the motivating spur and the merest by-product of Feynman's 
terrible excitement.
           During recent decades, even as the art market boomed and 
interviews with artists and writers were everywhere published, we 
have seen a strenuous principled repudiation of the consumer 
aesthetic. The artist might not be dead in fact but there are sound 
reasons for acting as if death separates us from his or her 
authoritative hand. Barriers between artist and audience, text and 
receiver/(re)creator are to be broken down, or seen always-already to 
have vanished. Works (or texts) are neither exquisite refinements nor 
brutal assaults - though of course on some level they continue to be 
both - perpetrated by an active artist on the passive sensibilities 
of a supine audience.
           The fact remains that technological cultures are simply 
too diverse to sustain any wistful return to the often-mooted 
Australian Aboriginal or Balinese equation of Society-as-Art. What is 
more, and placing insuperable obstacles before the attainment of this 
non-alienated dream, much of the creative thrust of a high-energy, 
high-information culture finds its expression in scientific research, 
usually mathematically founded, of a thousand different varieties. We 
lack a conveyable poetics of science (accepting the pun, along with 
the core idea of a theoretics of scientific practice) by which the 
non-specialist, the non-scientist, might grasp that fierce excitement 
of which Thomas and Feynman sing. Adapting Sontag: perhaps we need an 
erotics of science.
           I am not disguising the somewhat romantic cast of this 
view of science (this valorization, perhaps). A sceptical spectator's 
appreciation of current scientific knowledge, conjectures and 
practice might be less fruitfully grounded in Foster's venom than in 
a recognition of the primitive intoxication which makes hairs lift 
off one's neck. Yet such is the antinomy generated in any 
investigation of the role of commoditized industrial science that an 
analysis which finds this romanticism nothing better than blatant 
individualist ideology cannot be discounted. Levins and Lewontin 
provide a characteristic account, drawing (as Marxists, curiously, 
seem fond of doing) on the pietistic anarchist Tolstoy:

           Scientists see themselves as free agents independently 
pursuing their own inclinations. `Just as in astronomy the difficulty 
of admitting the motion of the earth lay in the immediate sensation 
of the earth's stationariness and of the planets' motion, so in 
history the difficulty of recognizing the subjection of the 
personality to the laws of space and time and causation lies in the 
difficulty of surmounting the direct sensation of the independence of 
one's personality' (Tolstoy, War and Peace). Nowhere is the sensation 
of independence stronger and the deception more pitiful than among 
intellectuals. (p. 205 6)

           As it happens, a grimmer, more pragmatic response than 
Lewis Thomas's has become fashionable among non-scientific 
intellectuals, grounded in a combination of clear-eyed cynicism 
toward the actual practice of science in centralized technocracies, 
and (all too often) considerable ignorance of the results and 
procedures of science. It is instructive to observe a process enacted 
by many feminist women (who on their own analysis have been excluded 
traditionally on grossly sexist grounds from access to the laboratory 
bench) in responding to new reproductive technologies, and enacted as 
well by many `liberal arts' conservationists and `ecologists' of 
either sex (also usually individuals excluded by educational 
streaming from any significant schooling in the scientific research 
community; I am one of these people). Overcoming their aversion to 
the cold Frankenstein patriarchal horror of it all, they swot up 
their recombinant genetics and molecular biology and neurophysiology, 
the better to arm themselves for combat. The scientists are trying to 
kill us, or control us utterly, runs the subtext of this approach; or 
if they are not deliberately trying to, at least they are letting 
themselves be used to that end. Faustian tunnel vision has brought 
scientists to a 20th century version of the Treason of the Clerks. 
Study their works, the better to defend against them, but do not be 
trapped into sympathy for their reductive, exploitative paradigms.
           The sentiment usually has force, and is often backed by 
gruesome example. Yet populist and legislative intervention surely 
cannot be put to best use if it proceeds from a fundamental mistrust 
and (as it seems to me) misunderstanding of what scientists have 
learned about the world, and what has impelled them in their efforts. 
Anxious and revolted spectators will never apprehend the joyful 
delirium Feynman expresses, because most of the time non-scientists 
simply have no idea what a given research issue actually is. Informed 
of the question in simplified, often analogical terms, we must then 
wrestle second-hand with a variety of tentative answers offered by 
working scientists. Here in awful earnest is Snow's `two cultures'. 
Still, it is possible to begin by seeking out that peculiar kind of 
elevated pleasure gained in simply listening to those confluent human 
voices explaining things. Is this a regressive and dangerous 
pleasure? Perhaps; but it is also an aspect of maturity to rejoice in 
the activity of complex discourse.
           Of course this is to suppose that scientists are to be 
trusted in their testimony, which admittedly is one of the issues 
under debate. What is more, the nuclear bomb designers at Lawrence 
Livermore declare themselves motivated by just such intoxication with 
difficult problems and powerful techniques of solution...[xxviii] One 
extreme feminist response to this suspicion or perception is an 
absolute repudiation of `male' or `masculine' modes of rationality. 
It has been characterized thus (though not endorsed) by feminist 
philosopher Moira Gatens:

           [T]here is no relation between feminism and philosophy or 
more generally between feminism and theory. Feminism, on this view, 
is pure praxis, the very act of theorizing being somehow identified 
with masculinity or maleness. ... This reification of 
philosophy[xxix] misses the point that philosophy is, among other 
things, a human activity that is on-going.[xxx]

           At a clear alternative remove from the official-science 
thanatocracy is a charming bridge linking the sciences and the 
humanities discerned by an unconventional philosopher of science, 
Nicholas Maxwell, who is no whit ashamed of adopting a personal 
approach to these grave matters:

           For as long as I can remember, I have had the passionate 
desire to get to the bottom of things, to understand.... To begin 
with this took the form of the desire to understand the ultimate 
structure of the physical universe. As a twelve-year-old, I read with 
fascinated incomprehension accounts of nuclear physics..., relativity 
and quantum theory. It was above all the mystery, the 
incomprehensibility, of this strange world that appealed to my 
imagination.... With the customary unselfconscious audacity of the 
young, I decided that I would discover the secret of all this 
mystery, and thus reveal to the world the true meaning of existence.[xxxi]

           Maxwell usefully reminds us that the first lure of science 
is not its instrumental power, its brutal force, but its magic, its 
capacity to kindle awe, wonder, and the desire for knowledge, for 
explanation. (Of course, an epistemologist alert to the role of 
evolution would find behind these drives and pleasures the 
instrumental values of adaptive cognitive characteristics in a world 
susceptible of forecasts based on approximately-accurate models, and 
rightly so.) With adolescence, richer varieties of knowledge came 
within his ken. Maxwell awoke to the other culture, to literature, to 
the inner world of human life:

           Here, I began to feel was reality. ... I would discover 
the innermost secret of this mysterious and passionate world of human 
experience by writing novels. I would create a living and breathing 
universe, so real in its dramatic intensity that it would all but 
engulf the real world. (p. 278)

           Alas, he proved no more successful in this ambition than 
he had as a theoretical physicist or a mathematician. Returning to 
university, he studied philosophy. After a year he stumbled on the satori that

           The proper aim of philosophy is to help us resolve the 
riddle of our desires. ...
           I had sought the answer to the riddle of life in the 
ultimate nature of the physical universe, and in the ultimate nature 
of our inner world. Actually the answer to the riddle of my life lay 
around me all the time, in the experience of living my life. (Ibid)

           Maxwell, in short, had experienced an epiphanic insight 
unavailable from the standpoint of classic accounts of science, 
though it smacks rather strongly of Leavisite enthusiasm for `felt 
life'. Subsequently he elaborated that insight into a paradigm for 
evaluating and guiding the choice of `metaphysical blueprints' which 
he sees underlying the process of science, in his model of `humane 
aim-oriented empiricism'. Science is valuable insofar as it aids the 
achievement of human goals `via technological applications of 
knowledge'[xxxii] and, independently, has cultural value. In a 
startlingly polite bourgeois estimate, Maxwell remarks, `The whole 
point of cultural science, we may say, is to encourage us to have a 
more trusting and loving relationship with the world - a relationship 
that is not based on fear, on frustration, on bitterness, on 
desperate terror, but ... on calm, realistic, unblinking confidence 
and trust' (p. 140).
           In a move familiar from Capra, Roszak, et al, Maxwell 
thunders against `desecrated' science, reductionist and ready to kill 
us, launching into a Blakean outburst affirming the presence `out 
there' of `meaning, significance', and so on. Might one therefore 
employ science no less than art `to extend and enrich his personal 
experience'? Not easily, but yes.

           Ruthlessly, greedily, mercilessly, I personally exploit 
all the labour of scientists to explore and enrich my world.... I 
have discovered how to take just what I need, what I want and value, 
separating out the precious essence from the irrelevancy. From the 
intricate mathematical formulae of modern physics I have learned how, 
to some extent, to pluck out the ideas. From the jargon of biology, 
and amongst the unvoiced, foolish assumptions (as they seem to me) I 
plunder what is for me precious and valuable.... I rarely find other 
academics engaged in the same game: they stick to their specialized 
subjects; they would regard what I do as a combination of 
insufferable arrogance and academic suicide....
           And gradually it has begun to dawn on me; what I do is the 
real thing. This is what science is for, from a cultural standpoint. (p. 146 7)

Such drastic analyses of science (the anti-scientific and the `humane 
empiricist') by no means exhaust the critique which sets out to 
undermine positivistic programs and their fruitless search for a 
demarcation principle to divide authentic natural-scientific 
knowledge from the traditional `metaphysical' human-science 
pretender. Some decades ago, for example, the sociologist Diana Crane 
drew together a very large mass of research and theoretical 
speculation of the characteristics of knowledge diffusion in the 
sciences. Surprisingly, she proposed certain fundamental homologies 
between the sciences and the humanities, regularities underlying 
their notable differences. It is to that claim we now turn.

[i].H. M. Collins, Artificial Experts. Social Knowledge and 
Intelligent Machines, MIT Press, 1990, pp. 44, 230.
[vi].Especially, in today's physics, the principle of symmetry. See 
Heinz R. Pagels, Perfect Symmetry. The Search for the Beginning of 
Time, [1985] Penguin 1992.
[vii].Eugene Wigner, `The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics 
in the Natural Sciences', Communications in Pure and Applied 
Mathematics, 13, 1960, pp. 1 14; here cited from Timothy Ferris, ed., 
The World Treasury of Physics, Astronomy, and Mathematics, Little, 
Brown 1991, pp. 526-40.
[viii].A `workshop' (or perhaps `fortress') whose boundaries are 
patrolled by, of course, a self-ordaining interpretative community of 
practitioners. So although deviant `sciences' such as astrology and 
parapsychology do not lack for elaborate if partial mathematical 
models, the apparent implications of their knowledge-claims are too 
disruptive of accepted grand paradigms to be allowed entry (see James 
McClenon, Deviant Science: The Case of Parapsychology, University of 
Pennsylvania Press: Philadelphia, 1984). Conversely, those `soft' 
disciplines which lack such foundational formalisms as time-evolving 
equations like the Hamiltonian tend to be permitted entry only to the 
lobby of the workshop (as defined by its high-prestige members: 
notably mathematicians, physicists and chemists...).
[ix].Karl Popper, Objective Knowledge: An Evolutionary Approach, 
Oxford, 1972, pp. 40, 81. His italics.
[x].In the 1934 edition of his Logik der Forshung, Popper `proudly 
noted that "in [his] logic of science it is possible to avoid using 
the concepts "true" and "false"' (Imre Lakatos, The methodology of 
scientific research programmes. Philosophical Papers, Volume I, ed. 
John Worrall and Gregory Currie, Cambridge University Press, 1978, p. 
155). Later, Popper introduced the problematic notion of 
verisimilitude, which extracted the excess of a theory's 
`truth-content' over `falsity-content' (Popper, Chapter 10, 
Conjectures and Refutations, Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1963).
[xi].Jacob Bronowski, Science and Human Values, Penguin, 1964, pp. 
66, 70. Of course, the surprise for the reader was in learning that 
Bronowski deemed the activity of science, and its social 
concomitants, morally positive rather than neutral.
[xii].Norwood Russell Hanson, Patterns of Discovery: An Inquiry into 
the Conceptual Foundations of Science, Cambridge University Press, 1958, p. 19.
[xiii].Jacob Bronowski, The Identity of Man, Pelican, 1967, p. 38.
[xiv].Karl Popper, `Epistemology Without a Knowing Subject', in 
Objective Knowledge: An Evolutionary Approach, Oxford, 1972, pp. 145 6.
[xv].Alan F. Chalmers, What is this thing called Science? An 
assessment of the nature and status of science and its methods, 
University of Queensland Press, 1979, p. 60.
[xvi].In this context of revocation, it is interesting to note that 
the second edition, 1982, carefully dissociates itself from Chalmers' 
earlier enthusiasm for Althusser's model of scientific truth. `I have 
learned my lesson and in future will be very wary of being unduly 
influenced by the latest Paris fashions.' (2nd edition, p. xiii).
[xvii].All the citations are to Imre Lakatos, The methodology of 
scientific research programmes, p. 4. See especially Chap. 2, 
`History of science and its rational reconstructions', pp. 102-38.
[xviii].In the 1990s, this valuation of Popper might seem 
disproportionate. For Lakatos, however, `Popper's ideas represent the 
most important development in the philosophy of the twentieth 
century[...] Personally, my debt to him is immeasurable; more than 
anyone else, he changed my life' (Ibid., p. 139).
[xix].Barry Barnes, About Science, Blackwell, 1985, pp. 8, 26.
[xx].Richard Levins and Richard Lewontin, The Dialectical Biologist, 
Harvard University Press, 1985, p. 4.
[xxi].Barry Barnes estimates `the proportion of R & D work which is 
directed toward the requirements of security and prestige' at 
one-third (p. 29). This is truer of Britain than of Japan, say; in 
Britain, `more public money is currently spent on military R & D than 
on all other R & D objectives combined.' (Idem.)
[xxii].This standard characterization of that incident is called 
sharply into question by Levins and Lewontin (pp. 163 96); they 
dispute both the Western and Soviet dissident view of Lysenkoism as 
`the machinations of an opportunist-careerist operating in an 
authoritarian and capricious political system', and Maoist 
valorization `as a triumph of the application of dialectical method 
to a scientific problem [...] suppressed by the bourgeois West and by 
Soviet revisionism' (p. 163).
[xxiii].See the remarkable cases discussed in Alexander Kohn, False 
Prophets. Fraud and Error in Science and Medicine, Blackwell, 1986.
[xxiv].Personal communication. Foster has a PhD in chemistry, and has 
done oncology research in the USA, a premier example of Big Science.
[xxv].Lewis Thomas, The Lives of a Cell. Notes of a Biology Watcher, 
[1974] Allen Lane, 1980.
[xxvi].Cited from an interview with Nigel Calder in his The Mind of 
Man. An investigation into current research on the brain and human 
nature, BBC, 1970, p. 215. This statement is echoed everywhere in 
Richard P. Feynman's feisty memoir `Surely You're Joking, Mr. 
Feynman!' Adventures of a Curious Character, [1985] Bantam, 1986, 
where he describes his ceaselessly curious bent, displaying it in 
scenes ranging from childhood experiments with radio to work at Los 
Alamos on the bomb, amateur safecracking, mastering the Brazilian 
frigidiera, deciphering the Mayan Dresden Codex, and exploring 
altered consciousness states in an isolation tank.
[xxvii].Thomas S. Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, 
Second Edition, Enlarged, University of Chicago Press, 1970.
[xxviii].See, for example, the interview with William Shuler in 
Discover, September, 1982.
[xxix].And, one might add, of scientific theory and practice as well.
[xxx].Moira Gatens, `Feminism, philosophy, and riddles without 
answers', a paper given to the `Women and Philosophy Conference', 
Adelaide, 1983 (here cited from her revised version).
[xxxi].Nicholas Maxwell, From Knowledge to Wisdom: A Revolution in 
the Aims and Methods of Science, Blackwell, 1984, pp. 277.
[xxxii].Nicholas Maxwell, What's Wrong with Science: Towards a 
People's Rational Science of Delight and Compassion, Bran's Head 
Books, 1976, p. 139.

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