[iDC] reading list // religious mediated spaces

John Saccà aqueduc at gmail.com
Sat Sep 9 19:20:21 EDT 2006

2006/9/9, Simon Biggs <simon at littlepig.org.uk>:
> To me it seems
> a given that science depends on an eternally sceptical view of data of any
> kind. In such a context belief must be absent.

This view of science was refuted long ago by Thomas Kuhn and Paul
Feyerabend, among others.  As Feyerabend pointed out (in his
_Philosophical Papers_), the terms in which any scientific observation
is expressed inevitably depend on a metaphysical ontology.  For
example, in order to count things, you have to believe that the
universe is constituted in such a way that there are discrete entites
that can be counted.

Science cannot be exempt from Wittgenstein's observation that the use
of language depends, at some point, on an unjustifiable belief that
the words we use have coherent meanings.

In very practical terms, as Kuhn showed in _The Structure of
Scientific Revolutions_, the pursuit of what he called "normal
science" depends on belief in a paradigm that justifies the costs and
risks involved in undertaking certain kinds of research rather than
others.  Far from being an unfettered pursuit of scepticism, "normal
science" (i.e. almost all science) seeks mainly to extend the
application of an existing paradigm, whose validity is taken for
granted.  "Revolutionary science" occurs when one paradigm is
abandoned in favour of another.  But the strength of belief in the old
paradigm, so necessary for the social cohesion of scientific
disciplines, often makes scientists resist revolutions with all their


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