Vogue

There’s science, and that’s great. Then there’s Science Bores (SBs), and they’re not. You know, people like Dawkins, Tyson, Pinker.

One of the irritating things about SBs is their pose of epistemological modesty. Science doesn’t dogmatically claim to be True, they’ll say. It just claims to be — and here there are many formulations, but one that I read recently is: “True on the basis of the available evidence.” (Presumably, there really ought to be an “apparently” at the beginning of that phrase, but let that pass.) This is the kind of thing that makes SBs pat their tummies with satisfaction.

Let’s abbreviate “True on the basis of the available evidence” as “TrueEv.”

What is the meaning of “true” in TrueEv?

It can’t be TrueEv, or we have an infinite regress.

But non-TrueEv True is what SBs deny  (via TrueEv).

So this kind of tummy-patting, which is supposed to signify an epistemological modesty, is in fact quite empty.

It’s just a pose.

 

 

 

Author: JD Fleming

I am Professor of English Literature at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, BC. My work is in intellectual history of the early-modern period (1500-1700), with a special interest in epistemic issues around the emergence of modern natural science (the "Scientific Revolution"). In 2012, I initiated the international conference series "Scientiae: Disciplines of Knowing in the Early Modern World."

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