To give a coherent critique of science, or the scientific method we must be
clear about what we mean by the scientific method. It is this given
interpretation of the scientific method that will then be critiqued.
What I propose is that we take the "scientific method" to be the process that is
undertaken in the pursuit of scientific information. Principally the process
should take into account how we construct our pictures of the world, and how
those pictures change. My first critique of the above writeup is that it claims
to critique the scientific method. It actually critiques a scientific viewpoint,
a world picture if you will. It does not directly address the processes that lead
to the view point.
It should be noted here that there are competing and strongly different theories of
what the scientific method is. For some examples consider the following;
The Popperian view is that scientific knowledge
advances only through refutation. The consequence of this view is that the most
valid scientific theories ought to be the most outrageous, for by setting up
theories that can be cleanly refuted we expand our information about the world.
The Kuhnian view is that scientific knowledge advances through revolutions,
paradigm shifts. It is a sort of a condensed matter kind of a view. Experiment
and theory begin to diverge leading to a critical point at which the incumbent
theory is radically and rapidly overturned. Tipping points and the like abound in
this theory. The logical positivists view point is that we make atomistic and
verifiable statements and these statements combine to tell what is and is not
the case about the world. The post-modernists would have us believe that any
text has any interpretation and science tells us nothing about the external
world, only about the social structure of scientific communities. The matter is
complicated. I think the reason for that is science is pursued by people and
people tend to be complicated. My own proposal for a scientific method is pinned
on two statements. The practical applications we create from our science seem to
become more, and not less effective, in manipulating the world. Our theories
seem to become more coherently connected. I'll not say more about this as I am
engaged in a critique of the above writeup and not a description of the
So much for some background. I will try to paraphrase the above writeups
Heidegger says that the ability to abstract, to create thought experiments, was
the great advance provided by Galileo. In particular the creation of abstract
space and entities inside that space.
Modern science has done away with monkeys but retains space and matter as
Matter cannot effect space
At this point Glowing Fish uses the example of the gravitational constant and
pi, so we must assume that for GF space is not simply a neutral place, but that
is has physical properties.
these properties are intrinsic, i.e. they have to be the way they are, they do
not change, they are called laws.
these laws act on objects inside space and independent of the nature of the
So this is the scientific picture/method that will be critiqued.
the critique follows.
Space and the entities inside it are not, after all, independent. The idea that
they are independent comes from the fallacy that the contents of the universe
can be rearranged. In a closed universe no instantaneous re-arrangement can take
place. Therefore all actions that happen in the universe are contingent on some
prior action. If everything that happens is dependent upon a previous event
occurring, then it no longer makes any sense to distinguish between cause and
effect, as the chain of causation is uninterruptible. Things happen, and continue
to happen, because they have happened in the past.
Here is my reply to these points on a point by point basis. Out of historical
interest Galileo probably did not conduct the experiment at the tower of Pisa.
This is a legend. What is know is that his theory of mechanics was derived from
experiments in which balls of different density were rolled down inclined
planes. Air friction was not a problem. In addition Copernicus had ventured into
the realm of imaginary space before Galileo, as had Ptolemy and all of the
geometry, back to Euclid. Heidegger was looking for absolutes in his
philosophy, hence the emphasis on absolute space.
The critique is about a world view. It is not about a methodology of pursuing
science. The node would better be titled a critique of an inaccurate physical
picture of the world.
The picture of the world as presented does not correspond with current ideas
about space and matter. Since Einstein's theories of relativity space and matter
are intimately linked. Space tells matter how to move, matter tells space how to
bend, as Einstein once put it. They are by no means independent. In any case,
the philosophical question of super determinism is independent of which theory
you take for space and matter. The question of super-determinism is one of
The intrinsic properties of space which GF calls laws are not considered to be
unchanging and constant. The value of pi is known to be a function of the
curvature of the space that one finds oneself embedded in. Adding mass changes
the curvature. If I sit next to a circle the local curvature of space will have
changed and the value of pi around the circle will be different. No one knows
what sets the value of the gravitational constant. There are theories in which it
The idea that GF critiques is an outmoded picture of the world. The idea that GF
uses to critique it is a powerful one and is independent of the picture of the
world. It is depended on our picture of causation. What he calls
super-determinism has a very old pedigree. Instead of looking at the writings of
Heidegger the ideas traced in the public writings of Leibniz with his monads.
Spinoza too follows a similar line. The great ancestor of super determinism is
Aristotle. Super determinism is another name for the unmoved mover argument.
Aristotle uses this argument to call for the existence of God. In Aristotle’s
philosophy God is not a personable entity, but rather the ideal toward which
all animate matter moves and all inanimate matter moves away from, causing at
once motion in the universe along with intellectual and ethical principles. One
could ask of GF's thesis "stuff just happens", what happened first? what is the
prime mover, etc..
However this is an old argument. Whether science assumes this or not, people
certainly assume that intervention in their lives is possible. People behave
under the understanding that they have will. That they can bring into existence
actions. Science serves us as, in one role, a methodology for accounting for
causation. If I pull lever x then y will be the effect. That we continue to
pursue science is a good argument that it has done this aspect of its job well.
Science provides a litany of causes, but very few reasons. It will happily tell
the how, the why is more subtle. We behave as if super-determinism is not the
case, and our best pictures of the world, i.e. our best scientific theories,
either, in the case of quantum mechanics, say that super determinism does not
hold in every size scale in nature, or else they say, as in the case of chaos
theory, that the determinism that happens in a system is not visible due to the
complexity in the system. There is enough room to believe that this type of
determinism is not the case. If it were the case it would be of little practical
consequence as we would behave as if it were not the case anyway.
The above writeup critiques a false picture of the world, and does so badly. The
critique depends on one of the oldest philosophical threads which is untenable
behaviourally and for which there is sufficient evidence in the current physical
sciences to safely ignore.