October 9, 2017

Scientism vs. History and Analysis

Filed under: Scientism/Technocracy — Russell Bangs @ 9:43 am


This article presents several examples of how science is submissive to the corporate imperative. It has a naive analysis, though, still seeing this in terms of the “corruption” of some allegedly timeless, invariant “science” which isn’t part of history. But on the contrary, the science of a time and place always incarnates a particular paradigm which is crafted by the political and economic forces of the environment. Today’s establishment science exists in the form of the corporate science paradigm. The author’s notion of a pristine, ineffable “science” which can exist above the motions of history is evidence that he really adheres, not to the Popperian notion of scientific method, but to the scientism religion. It’s also evidence of the standard anti-historical stance of the cultists of scientism and “progress”. And of course, part of the pathology is to believe mystically there’s such a thing as “science”, when in reality there’s nothing but people doing things which may or may not have anything to do with the ideal of the scientific method. Usually the practitioners of “science” are doing no such thing.
But the best evidence for these is the religious dogma of the opening sentence of the piece:
“The fact that science is the foundation for civilization and democracy should be self-evident.”
This is not self-evident, especially because it’s not a fact. On the contrary, most civilizations did not possess science as we know it to any significant extent. To anyone knowledgeable about history, this would be self-evident. As for democracy, science has little to do with it even in principle. In practice, scientists have always had a strong authoritarian tendency. This is hard-wired into their careerism, especially with the modern professionalization of science and engineering. And it’s hard-wired into their ideology, based as it is in their fetishization of allegedly “hard facts” and the metaphysical hierarchy these facts then allegedly impose on reality. And then of course there’s mundane corruption, the place where liberal (and most leftist) consumerist critics of the corporate control of science, like this author, begin and end.
They end where the analysis should just be getting started, because beyond mundane corruption the analysis would require criticism of the modern paradigm of “science” itself. But for the cultists of scientism, including liberal and leftist critics, such criticism is anathema. (They also don’t really want to criticize corporate rule, just complain about a few stray “abuses”.)

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