Fuller full of himself

By Razib Khan | January 31, 2006 3:34 pm

The Guardian has a piece titled Steve Fuller: Designer trouble, in reference to testimony that the aforementioned professor gave to the Dover court. After reading the article I have to say that I’m not surprised that he testified, he seems to not be of any camp aside from that of Steve Fuller, and oh how he loves himself. Fuller notes that “It is not like people love you for doing this” in reference to his pro-ID testimony at Dover. Sure, but it gets you 1400 word write ups in The Guardian, along with putting “social epistemology”1 on the map that has to make you somebody.
Addendum: Fuller repeats the common assertion by many that monotheism is a necessary condition for the initiation of science (see Rodney Stark’s recent books for a strong form of this argument). I’ve seen this contention before, and I’m not convinced, though I don’t discount it. Of late my main problem has been the tendency of some historians and sociologists to make inferences from perceptions and assumptions about mental states when I sense that these scholars aren’t up to speed on the latest work in cognitive psychology which tells you to be cautious about conclusions you derive from introspective common sense.2 This sort of abduction should be treated with care, but my impression is that Fuller has used the Christianity ~ science connection in debates several times. That makes his defense of Intelligent Design all the more irritating, because the high standard of proof and certitude that he holds evolutionary theory to doesn’t extend to his own views, which in this case seem to be far more tendentious.
1 – If Wikipedia is to be believed a lot of social epistemology is pretty sensible (and some not). Some of my more off the wall posts definitely assume a sort of social epistemology framed by a transhumanist teleology. It just goes to show you that it is how you use a tool, not the tool itself, that is problematic.
2 – Example (roughly adapted from Stark) – Chinese believe in an unknowable essence, Christians believe in a comprehendible personal God, ergo, Christian universe is comprehensible, making science possible. Chinese universe is unknowable, it just is, making science impossible. Leaving aside the assertions about the character of Chinese and European religious worldviews for a moment, I am skeptical that Chinese and European intellectuls really had a non-nominalist sense of what these terms meant and cognitively represented higher powers any differently. I believe in these generalizations as much as I do in Max Webers work where he predicted that East Asia would never develop economically because of Confucian values (now Confucian values are the reason for development!).

  • http://www.srcf.ucam.org/~ajl59/ Corkscrew

    If the Chinese universe was unknowable then how come they were coming up with cool maths (the Chinese Remainder Theorem and Pythagoras’ Theorem, for example) millennia before Westerners came across them?

  • http://www.scienceblogs.com/gnxp razib

    read starks’ books, and he’ll tell you that that’s “nonsense!” (he really likes to use this as a surefire way to rebut any disagreemants with his hypothesis)
    though seriously, stark has some interesting data and provocative arguments, but
    1) he overplays his hand
    2) he makes scholarly errors because he is out of field, and that really undermines his credibility as an erudite interpreter (please see the charles martel discussion in for the glory of god, anyone with a history class in this area will see what i’m talking abut).
    3) he is blind to other disciplines who cast doubt on the relevance of the parameters that he works back as the causative factors in intercultural differences.

  • David B

    Is monotheism necessary for the initiation of science? The ancient Greek and Hellenistic world was polytheistic, but its scientific achievements were not negligible. Most historians would put Archimedes, Aristotle*, Hipparchus, Ptolemy and Galen among the greatest of all scientists. (Not to mention Euclid, Apollonius of Perga, and Diophantus in pure mathematics.) The modern scientific revolution began (with Copernicus, Vesalius, etc) by correcting some of the errors of the Greeks, but it wouldn’t have got off the ground without the Greek achievement as a starting point. The real innovation of modern science is its emphasis on systematic empirical testing through experiment and quantitative observation, of which there was comparatively little among the Greeks. But I don’t see that monotheism is a necessary condition for this.
    *Aristotle would count as a great scientist on the strength of his biological work alone. His ideas on physics and cosmology were largely wrong, but you have to start somewhere!


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About Razib Khan

I have degrees in biology and biochemistry, a passion for genetics, history, and philosophy, and shrimp is my favorite food. In relation to nationality I'm a American Northwesterner, in politics I'm a reactionary, and as for religion I have none (I'm an atheist). If you want to know more, see the links at http://www.razib.com


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