Sunday, July 24, 2011

Scientismist (is that a word?) Dr. Harry Kroto: "Science is the only philosophical construct we have to determine TRUTH..."

Scientismist Dr. Harry Kroto

From the moonbat files. The Guardian's Andrew Brown:

Science is the only road to truth? Don't be absurd
Overvaluing science leads to illogicality, as a Nobel prize winner has proved
By the standards of very clever men who believe some very silly things, Harry Kroto is a quite unremarkable scientist.
[Kroto said]:
"Science is the only philosophical construct we have to determine TRUTH with any degree of reliability."

Scientism (the belief that natural science is the source of all truth) is a bizarre intellectual affliction. Brown points out Kroto's idiotic error:

Think about this for a moment. Is it a scientific statement? No. Can it therefore be relied on as true? No.

Scientisimists (scientists afflicted with scientism) make what is perhaps the most obviously self-refuting assertion imaginable: the assertion that science is the basis for ascertaining all truth. Obviously, that statement itself is not a scientific claim. It's not amenable to experimental testing and to falsification, except in the most fundamental logical falsification-- it's self-refuting.

So what would lead an otherwise intelligent fellow to say something so stupid:

[Kroto] did play a prominent, and I think disgracefulpart in the agitation to have Michael Reiss sacked from a job at the Royal Society for being a priest.

Oh. Kroto's an atheist. Apparently the Royal Society has no problem with philosophically ignorant bigots. Just with priests.

Krotos' self-refutation is an example of the Liar paradox. If a cretin says that all cretians are always liars, his assertion is paradoxical. If his assertion is true, than his assertion is false.

The paradox persists today in the form of scientism. Atheists (all scientismists are atheists) assume to modern role of cretins, which seems appropriate.

Brown on Kroto:

Remember, [Kroto] has just defined truth (or TRUTH) as something that can only be established scientifically. So nothing he says about ethics or intellectual integrity after that need be taken in the least bit seriously. It may be true, but there is no scientific way of knowing this and he doesn't believe there is any other way of knowing anything reliably...
Scientism is essentially the announcement 'Nothing I say can be taken seriously'.


Note how [Kroto's] position completely undermines what he then goes on to say – that "the Ethical Purpose of Education must involve teaching our young people how they can decide what they are being told is true" (his caps). Again, this is not a scientific statement, and therefore cannot, on Kroto's terms, be a true one.

Those of us with a modicum of common sense who are not scientismists are free to have rational opinions.


The rest of us, of course, are perfectly free to believe that education should involve the promotion of critical thought, or at least to consider the question seriously. We are under no obligation to believe anything half so silly as that science is the only road to truth. We can reasonably argue that there are lots of ways to establish truth that are not scientific. Obviously they rely to some extent on the sifting and weighing of evidence, but that doesn't make them part of science, or else every member of a jury would be a scientist.
In a similar way, we can believe that ethical truths exist, even though these clearly aren't scientific, or the products of science; but Kroto can't. Not that this stops him. Like anyone else who is sane he talks as if ethical truths do matter, and exist.
Kroto gets even more amusing. Brown:

What makes this even funnier is that he then starts talking about the Galileo affair. He asks his audience how many of them could recapitulate Galileo's arguments for the Earth's going round the sun. Hardly any can. "See!" he said. "You've accepted it. You've accepted it without evidence. And 70-80% of people do that."
I'm prepared to accept on trust his figure of 70-80% even though it is of course very low. If by "evidence" he means "people familiar with Galileo's arguments" it's unlikely to be more than about 1% of the scientifically literate; and if he means "people who have actually read the source material", the proportion is just about infinitesmal. The idea that we should test everything against the evidence crumbles to dust the moment it is itself tested that way.
Still, let's assume that Kroto has himself studied Galileo's arguments for heliocentrism. He should therefore be familiar with the contemporaryscientific arguments against them. Because if there is one thing that has been established in the history of science in the last 50 years, it is that in strictly scientific terms, and going by the evidence available to him and to his contemporaries, Galileo was wrong and Cardinal Bellarmine was right. Heliocentrism was a beautiful theory, and Galileo would have been free to teach it as such – but the observation of stellar parallax, or rather the discovery that none could be observed, should have knocked it on the head (for a fuller explanation, see here and here).
Obviously it was wrong to suppress Galileo's views entirely; but if only what is scientifically justified may be taught, then Bellarmine would have been right to do so.

Brown again:

This isn't just a matter of historical curiosity. The illogical positivism of Kroto's talk is symptomatic of a widespread problem. Although Kroto is exceptional in his self-confidence and lack of intellectual self-awareness – few other people would state as baldly as he does that science is the only way to establish the truth – no one in the audience seems to have reacted with a healthy giggle. They may have felt there was something a bit off about the idea, but the full absurdity was veiled by layers of deference and convention. The great attraction of telling everyone else to think, to question, and to take nothing for granted is that it makes a very pleasant substitute for doing these things yourself.
The padded room of logical positivism (of which scientism is a modern spawn) is occupied by surprisingly many scientists, all atheists: P.Z. Myers, Richard Dawkins, Jerry Coyne, Steven Novella, Larry Moran.  

This may seem harsh, but scientism deserves nothing but ridicule and contempt. It is a trivially self-refuting tenet of the larger atheist delusion, and the idiots who endorse it-- no matter how prominent their status in science-- need to be called out for what they are.


  1. I think scientism is due to a disruption of the ego, which results in hubris and undeserved self-esteem. Therefore, it is inevitable to conclude that everything we think or say must necessarily be the TRUTH!

  2. Dr. Egnor, you are relying on logic in this post, which is not science, and therefore not reliable. QED.

  3. @Sleeping Beastly

    You are so right. Logic has long been abandoned nowadays and replaced by just-so stories. It is so much fun, If God does not exist, everything is permitted, even stupidity.

    I wish you a Prince, Sleeping Beastly.

  4. I've attended a lecture of Mr. Kroto, where he also came to that quote.
    If my brain understood what has been said in that houd (and I have to say that my head functions quite OK), H. Kroto emphasised that it is not necessary that it'll lead us to the final truth. He explained this statement in a rather different way, however: that, compared to other methods, science just offers better reliability, because:
    Scientific statement must be foolproof and consistent with observations in nature and other fields of science, otherwise it is not a scientific statement. There is no dogma, which says that this is like that just because it is.
    Religious statement, such as God exists ... well ...

    On the same day, he also talked for a few minutes about some problems of mankind that await us in the future. He showed us then the footage of people going into creationist museums and asked us: which ones do you want your future to rely on? the ones who believe dogmas which can never be confirmed or the ones, who at least try really really hard to give you the best possible explanation of the way things are so that they make your life better?

  5. "
    Think about this for a moment. Is it a scientific statement? No. Can it therefore be relied on as true? No."

    Mr. Brown doesn't know how to use his brain.

    Kroto's statement is talking about science.
    now think about science. does it want proofs for anything it claims? Yes. Is something reliable if it's proved and elements of its proof are again proved and so on ... until the axioms which are definately true based on observations of our world? (i'm not talking about God; I'm talking more about whether 1+1=2 and whether travelling time is really distance divided by speed etc.). That's reliable to me, because I know I'm able to observe basic things and then learn how greater science came out of that.
    now find me one TRY of proving someone's claim that Noah had an ark; i don't demand building a whole concept of a world where you can change basic elements just by tearing a few pages of the Bible out or paste some in.

    So, let's just return to statement of Mr. Brown, an ambassador of wisdom, for one more thing:

    Is Mr. Kroto's statement a scientific argument? Of course not. It's his opinion.
    I as a (future) scientist, am fully aware, that opinions are a great thing for they let you know how other people think about things. And they kinda force you that you think about things too. So, think of science, then of dogmas and then compare.
    Can you prove that science is more reliable concept than religion? Yes. The science is same on all parts of the globe. Same nuclear power plant can work in China or in Germany. Try giving the priests in both country the task to determine which way of the God is the best.

    1. You are confusing operational/experimental science with historical/forensic "science", the latter of which is what Dr. Kroto promotes. No one sane will argue over the results of operational/experimental science.

  6. Sleeping Beastly said...

    " Dr. Egnor, you are relying on logic in this post, which is not science, and therefore not reliable."

    Science is based on logic. Not the other way around, not logic on science.
    Logic comes 1st or reason is invalid. Makes no sense, see?

    Ergo: no logic = no science.

    If logic is not valid, nothing can be proved, disproved or intelligently believed.

    Lets not throw out the baby and the bath water, or as Lewis puts it:

    "If naturalism were true then all thoughts whatever would be wholly the result of irrational cuts its own throat."

    "Unless thought is valid we have no reason to believe in the real universe."

    "A universe whose only claim to be believed in rests on the validity of inference must not start telling us the inference is invalid..."