Tuesday, September 25, 2012

I've Never Met a Postmodern Scientist

Fermi, Monroe County

What is "postmodernism"? Theistic philosopher J.P. Moreland writes:

"As a philosophical standpoint, postmodernism is primarily a reinterpretation of what knowledge is and what counts as knowledge. More broadly, it represents a form of cultural relativism about such things as reality, truth, reason, value, linguistic meaning, the self, and other notions. On a postmodernist view, there is no such thing as objective reality, truth, value, reason, and so forth. All these are social constructions, creations of linguistic practices, and as such are relative not to individuals, but to social groups that share a narrative." (Moreland, "Truth, Contemporary Philosophy, and the Postmodern Turn," 79)
I just finished reading Karl Giberson's wonderful The Wonder of the Universe. Near the book's end he claims that no scientist he knows of would affirm such postmodernist ideas. He writes:

"The obvious truth of so many scientific claims explains why strong versions of postmodernity are so irrelevant to science. I have never, in fact, met a postmodern scientist. Not one. Most scientists don't know what postmodernity is, and when it is explained to them, they are skeptical that anyone could hold such beliefs. Scientists who think about the nature of knowledge claims-and this includes me-almost all sign on to an idea known as critical realism." (Karl Giberson, The Wonder of the Universe: Hints of God in Our Fine-Tuned World, Kindle Locations 2083-2086)

In other words, scientists believe there is a real world out there to be studied, and that we can make statements (claims) about that world which are true, independently of culture.