The Irrationalities and Perplexities of Scientific Discourse

Identity Theft[The excerpt posted herein, the reader should note, has been faithfully recopied from Dr. Robert R. Robertson’s private collection (“Morts et Leurs Lettres Mortes”). A PDF version is available upon request.]

To whom it May Concern:

Anti-Science, Etc

The charge of anti-scientism is a badge I wear proudly, although I once thought that it was somehow a shameful thing to be opposed to that irrational beast. In what follows, I will give a handful of reasons as to why I stand opposed to the idea that science discovers truth, and more importantly the idea that science is a reliable means of understanding the world.

1. The Problem of Analogical Language

Within the context of a supposedly purely materialist discourse, that is to say within scientific discourse, there are two inescapable structuring elements, viz time and space. Without these three presupposed elements of structuration there are neither objects nor events to be observed, cataloged, experimented upon, etc. This is a problem for scientific discourse, for the search for the origin of the universe presupposes (a.)time, (b.)space, and (c.)matter, which are themselves assumed to be the structuring elements of all scientific discourse. The origin of the universe, or the origin of time, etc are events in time. In other words, there can never be an explanation of the origin of the universe, time, matter, for any explanation would presuppose the existence of what amounts to a “bare bones” universe consisting of space and time and matter. Thus, any theory that attempts to explain the origin of space, time, matter is reduced to speaking in absurdities. If the universe came to be, then it happened all at once or it progressively unfolded. In either case, it would have to have (a.)space in which the event takes place, (b.)time, and (c.)some basic and – assumed to be – necessary material entity to undergo change. Thus, there is no way for the materialist to ever cogently explain the origin of time, space, matter. There can be no cogent scientific theory explaining the origin of the universe, time, etc.

2. The Problem of Other Minds

Assuming that (1.) doesn’t dismantle vain attempts to give a materialistic explanation of the origins of space, time, and matter, we run into another problem. This is, in brief, the problem of other minds. Scientific discourse presupposes the following fundamental factors that cannot be proven via scientific inquiry: (i.)that minds are generally alike in their functioning, (ii.)that there are other minds that exhibit a general similarity among themselves, and (iii.)that other minds, if they exist and are generally alike, will not lie individually or collectively in order to achieve some benign, beneficial, or harmful end. There is no way to scientifically determine any of the above. Thus, scientific discourse begins with, proceeds on the basis of, and is held together by personal testimony accepted on good faith. Note that the personal testimony that is accepted is that of those in the scientific community regarding the reality of the existence of minds that are generally alike, the general similarity of minds among themselves, and the honesty of other minds; hence, an appeal to experimentation does not help, for experimentation presupposes (i.), (ii.), and (iii.). To appeal to experimentation, in other words, is to appeal to the testimony of other minds, and such testimony can only be accepted on the basis of good faith.

3. The Problem of Observation

The problem of induction lies at the root of this problem, which is disturbingly simple. In a nutshell, the problem is with observation itself. All observation is limited. Thus, it is not possible to identify relevant and irrelevant factors in a given phenomenon under consideration; and if this is not possible, then no amount of observation will ever provide the observer with what he needs in order to validate or invalidate his musings. What observational criteria exist? Who is it that has established such criteria? If it is an individual who has established these criteria, then the criteria are limited to his observational capacities (by which I mean his native biological capacities, as well as his technological, both human and mechanical, capacities). In any event, the criteria are, necessarily, laid down arbitrarily. And if they are arbitrary criteria, there is no way to know if they are the correct criteria for observation. And if this is so, then scientific findings based upon observation carried out according to these arbitrarily established observational criteria are false.

4. The Problem of Identity (Pt.1)

Strictly speaking, no two entities are identical. If A and A’ are identical in every other way, they nonetheless differ with regard to their being two numerically distinct entities. And numerically distinct entities, strictly speaking, do not occupy the same location. Consequently, given that the location of entities in space entails a finite number of relationships between them, numerically distinct entities will also differ qualitatively with respect to the relationship they bear to one another. This is problematic for scientific discourse because this further demonstrates that there are no repeatable events, for there are no repeatable entities, nor are there repeatable relationships between entities.

5. The Problem of Identity (Pt.2)

The assertion that “A” is anything, therefore, is irrational. Likewise, however, the assertion that A is not x, y, or z is also irrational, for it presupposes that while A is without an essential, definitional identity, x y, and z have an essential, definitional identity which is not predicable of A. Negative propositions (e.g., A is not A) are supervenient upon positive propositions (e.g., A is A). Consequently, the illusion of a “humble” exploration of a given phenomenon rests upon a constellatory network of positive propositions (i.e., identity assertions) without which neither positive nor negative predication relating to the phenomenon in question would be possible. The Law of Identity, in other words, undergirds and makes possible even the most radical aspirations to skepticism.

The problem, is simple: Either scientific discourse can justify its identity claims (with respect to either its phenomenal subject or its subject’s attendant predicates) and thereby justify its consequent inductions, or it cannot do so and, for this reason, cannot speak with authority about its phenomenal subject nor its subject’s attendant predicates. It cannot justify its identity claims at all. Therefore, it cannot justify its claims to knowledge.

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