Saturday, October 11, 2008

Doggerel #163: "Science Has Limits!"

Welcome back to "Doggerel," where I ramble on about words and phrases that are misused, abused, or just plain meaningless.

Woos love to talk about alleged blindspots of the scientific method. Many of them are fabrications on their part: Artificially labeling something with the meaningless word "supernatural," the five senses, abstract concepts, or just because they say so.

Of course, you end up with lots of woos making appeals to other ways of knowing based on the inevitable barriers to omniscience laid out by people like Godel: Any system will be either inconsistent or incomplete. Of course, this doesn't help them in the least. Just because science won't reveal every fact in the universe and unify them with explanations and predictions doesn't mean faith is any less arrogant or more useful.

One metaphor I find appropriate is a description of the typical Creationist tactic: The homeless man throwing stones at evolution's incomplete mansion. Woos of any stripe who make these sorts of appeals are doing just that: They're trying to tear down something incomplete but full of successes that keep coming while providing nothing constructive. I have yet to see anything useful or meaningful come from woo.


Lifewish said...

There's definitely fertile metaphor-growing ground here. The house one is good, but one I particularly like is creationists winning the race by shooting all the other horses.

Anyone else got a personal favourite?

MWchase said...

I think it would be more like... a bunch of religions have boulders at varying distances from the starting line. The creationists are lobbing handfuls of popcorn at science and reassuring each other that they'll get to the finish once they steal the performance-enhancing drugs they're certain science is giving their highly bred horse, and stick them into a crack in their boulder.

Or something.