The Price of Shunning the Challenge of Postmodernism

“Some scientists and exponents of “scientism” will be tempted to turn their back on [the challenges posed by epistemological relativism: attacks on the objectivity of science]. They may well suppose that, if people who can’t or won’t do the hard work to understand science wish to pretend it isn’t the best approximation to the truth about the world we have, that is their problem. And if there are people whose wish that there be a reality – religious, spiritual, holistic, metaphysical – that transcends anything that science can know about, leads them to the thought that science is blinkered and partial in its account of the truth, well, who are we scientists to take them from their dogmatic slumbers? But the stakes for science and for civilization are too high simply to treat those who deny its objectivity in the way we would treat those who claim the Earth is flat.” – Alex Rosenberg (2005), ‘Philosophy of Science’, p. 191. (Emphasis mine)

5 Responses to “The Price of Shunning the Challenge of Postmodernism”

  1. I’d like to know why this is dubbed “the postmodernist challenge”.

  2. Jelte says:

    Is the new title clearer?

  3. No. “The Postmodernist Challenge” and “the Challenge of Postmodernism” are equally puzzling labels. Nowhere in the quote is postmodernism mentioned, so I’d like to know why an association has been made between what Rosenberg says in the quote and something called ‘postmodernism’.

    I’d also like to point out that one need not at all appeal to epistemological relativism in order to attack the objectivity of the sciences. It’s not as if there’s a simple dichotomy, either the objectivity of the sciences, or epistemological relativism.

  4. Jelte says:

    Dear Cheryl,
    Thanks for your comment. Tackling your two points in reverse order (since I anticipate that the second one will be the start of a juicy thread):
    [2] There are alternatives to Scientific Objectivity other than Epistemological Relativism.
    I’m sure you’re right! What are the most promising candidates, in your view?

    [1] What’s postmodernism got to do with it?
    I understand postmodernism, when used to undermine the objectivity of science, to be: an approximation to radical epistemological relativism.

  5. Milo says:

    Scientists are people too. Rosenberg seems to lack wisdom. I don’t need to attack science. It’s easy enough to attack what people have done with it. We’ve done some helpful things too. To do what’s right, we need wisdom, and to get wisdom, we need to be conscious of ourselves. This is difficult, yet possible to do. To be wise, we just need to look at what is happening in our life, in each moment. That’s it!

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