Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Fuller full of himself   posted by Razib @ 1/31/2006 12:30:00 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.

Update: Since I mentioned Rodney Stark's work, here is a somewhat overwrought review in TNR of his newest book. Stark's contention that the Greeks didn't have science and that only Christianity has theology are provocative (depending on how you define "science" I could accept the former, though the TNR reviewer points out Stark's tendency to vary the definition depending on how it fits his thesis that Christianity was directly, fundamentally and necessarily responsible for the modern world as we know it). Unfortunately, he has started to take a progressively more polemical tone recently. This does not necessarily invalidate his thesis exposited in his recent books (One True God and For the Glory of God make the same argument), but it does undermine his pretensions toward scholarship (as does dismissing those who disagree with him as believing in "nonsense!"). His claim to erudition was definitively burst for me on page 130 of For the Glory of God where he repeats established orthodoxy of the 1960s in regards to the great "stirrup controversy", as if that is the state of knowledge presently, a few pages after claiming to have immersed himself in the historical literature and criticizing other scholars for relying on out of date models! (he could be selectively using this out of date material to back up his thesis of course, but then he is guilty of what he decries) Though I fully grant that the propogandistic arguments of secularist scholars (see David Gress' critique of Will Durant in From Plato to NATO), there is no reason now to veer to the other extreme in the interests of "balance."

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!).