Basically he rips into a speech given by Nobel prize-winner Harry Kroto. I’ll not bore you with the details, but basically he claims that apart from science there are other ways for determining truth. Really!! … How about Astrology, voodoo, palm reading, crystal gazing, tea leaves,rituals , meditation, prayer, etc.
OK then lets think about it for a moment. Quite clearly Mr Kroto is using the word ‘science’ as a shorthand for what might better be termed ‘rational inquiry’. Now I will indeed grant Mr Brown one key point, there are indeed other forms of inquiry that lie outside the domain of rational inquiry, we have a special term to describe them – irrational inquiry, but is this what he is getting at? You bet it is.
What is indeed curious is that Mr Brown tends not to be explicit and actually explain what other ways he has for arriving at truth, but given all the shoe shuffling and hand waving going on, I’m sure you can guess, it is a rather familiar pattern. OK, here is a not so subtle clue, his blog on the Guardian falls into the context of “Comment is Free – Belief” context. “Ah ha” you say … yes exactly, now you get it, and can grok what he is implying about ‘other’ roads to ‘truth’.
OK, lets clarify things a bit. If curious and you actually read his article you will find a couple of concepts being inter weaved (hence my assertion regarding the hand-waving). First, is science the only road to objective truth – yes of course it is. But he then proceeds to discuss subjective truth (morality is the example he gives) and so he makes the claim that we have other aspects to the concept of ‘truth’. So how can we tackle such abstractions, should these be seen as the place where ‘belief’ steps in to take over? No of course not. Historically belief was indeed our attempt to grapple with such concepts, but we do not need to lean upon bronze age texts to address such issues, we can still apply logic and critical thinking. The term we utilize that describes this process is ‘philosophy’. It is truly better? Well, as a quick example, an ancient text might tell you that being gay is wicked and immoral, but if you logically examine that assertion, then you soon discover that there is no justifiable reason for such a stance, so yes, you do indeed arrive at better answers.
We are into word games here, and it all very much depends upon how you define terms such as “science” and “truth”. Bottom Line: Muddling things up and waving your hands about does not make a case for alternatives to rational inquiry and critical thinking, no other method has been shown to be as successful as science in furthering our understanding of the universe, and our place in it.
Am I wrong, can Scientology, David Icke, astrology, tarot reading, etc. grant us all some wonderful insights into the higher truths about life, the universe, and everything? … in a word … No.
Finally a couple of links:
- Here is the video of Mt Kroto’s speech that offended Mr Brown. It took place at the Nobel laureates meeting this year in Lindau, Austria
- Here is the link to Andrew Brown’s blog.