Science is the only philosophical construct we have to determine TRUTH with any degree of reliability. [emphasis original]
Suppose you heard Kroto make that statement in a bar. Would you think he was showing his alcohol?
I would. I would not mark him as drunk yet. Far from it. But I would think him at the point where he is no longer speaking precisely. Especially that phrase, “with any degree of reliability”.
Perhaps you would not think such a sloppy statement worth fighting over, but Kroto’s statement — which was made at a meeting of Nobel laureates, rather than in a bar — has stirred up a minor kerfuffle. On Monday, Andrew Brown attacked the statement in a
blog post that was published in The Guardian newspaper. Ironically, Brown’s attack was, on the face of it, even sloppier than Kroto’s statement. Indeed, all but comical.
Brown’s attack riled up the wrong people, for it elicited responses from the 800 pound gorilla of science blogging, PZ Meyers (116 million blog hits and counting), and from the sharply analytic Jerry Coyne. As of this morning, there are over 1000 combined comments on Brown’s, Meyers’, and Coyne’s blogs. Not bad, considering the issues here are largely matters in epistemology and the philosophy of science.
Certainly, Kroto’s statement upset Brown. He begins his post by slyly suggesting Kroto deserves to be lumped together with “an enthusiastic Nazi, a Stalinist, a eugenicist, or even a believer in ESP”.
Kroto deserves all that for stating that science is our only reliable means of establishing truths, eh? I got the impression from reading his post that Brown is a bit of a buffoon.
At any rate, I’m of the opinion that Kroto was getting at something, albeit in a clumsy way. One of the problems with his statement is that all of us establish truths, and most of us do so every day. Not too long ago, I established the truth my mail had arrived today. I did that by first looking in my mailbox and discovering some mail. I then reasoned the mail came today, instead of yesterday, because I could recall emptying my mailbox yesterday.
Now, some people would call what I did, “science”. But calling that “science” is to so broadly redefine science that we would need to start calling several species of animals “scientists” — because they can observe and reason at least as well as I did to establish the truth that my mail had come today.
Of course, Kroto might mean something when he calls science a “philosophical construct”. And perhaps he would say my reasoning about my mail did not involve any philosophical constructs. But we would need to know what Kroto means by “philosophical construct” to discuss that here.
I think the sciences have provided us with several methods of establishing reliable facts and hypotheses. But it does not appear to be the only method of establishing reliable facts, unless every human, polar bear, wolf, lion, wombat, etc on the planet is properly called a “scientist”.
At any rate, that’s my off the cuff take on it. There’s a lot more that could be said about the debate. But I”d rather turn the conversation over to you now by asking what you make of Kroto’s statement?