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If You Got a Better Idea, Let's Hear It!
So, a lot of otherwise informed and rational people (NOT counting religious fundamentalists, who are purposefully misinformed and therefore irrational) are now questioning Scientific Method.
This would be perfectly acceptable under the rules of scientific method, itself, if it were not gone about so boodleheadedly.
The attackers - and a lot of them really are attackers, not legitimate questioners - tend to reject the species' most carefully-controlled recipe for investigative thought on what they see as logical grounds.
The Method, you see, was invented by those same Dead White Guys whose narrow-minded take on what we used to call "Western Civilization" also captured or co-opted most of the world's literature, art and philosophy while it was simultaneously colonizing and exploiting the non-European 95 percent of the planet; and incidentally oppressing the absolute 50 percent of everybody who happened to be female.
Now, the Dead White Guys made a lot of the mistakes that human flesh (of whatever hue or sex) seems heir to. They tended to see their sex and culture as the human "ideal" and to mistake successful aggression for ethical conduct.
(Most societies and individuals who are members thereof have a very narrow in-group philosophy of history and sociology. It is no accident that in many languages the synonym for "human" is that group's name for themselves; their own particular tribe. The obvious implication is that all those other people aren't; human, that is.)
But Scientific Method is the crowning achievement of Middle-Eastern/European thinkers' self-conscious quest to become something better than superstitious jingoists.
The best and most reasonable of us, whatever race or religion, have always been able to see and identify our most pernicious follies. They have historically done a remarkable job of advancing the techniques of thought and investigation.
The inventors of Scientific Method; the Bacons, et al; used a self-reinventing philosophy to try to rid human thought of its most basic flaw; the unquestioning acceptance of the status quo as reality.
The infamous "Golden Fleece" award, initiated by one Senator Proxmire as a brilliant public relations ploy late last Century to keep getting himself reelected to Congress, typically ridicules "scientific research" into supposedly useless or manifestly self-evident areas of inquiry which thereby keep otherwise-unemployable academic investigators rolling in the taxpayers' money.
Granted that scientific research is a wasteful process! Most lines of inquiry lead down blind alleys and into dry holes.
What the clever Senator forgot...or forgot to mention...is that a lot of what is self-evident just plain ain't so!
(It is perfectly obvious to any unsophisticated observer that the Earth is basically flat, with wrinkles, and the sun goes around it in a predictable pattern, with only a few disturbing glitches.)
And knowledge which is useless in today's society might revolutionize tomorrow's. What good was a semiconductor in 1948?
I haven't read enough of these "post-modernist" (Now there's an oxymoron!) philosophers and other assorted academics to be certain what they variously would substitute for the organized thought of Scientific Method, but I cannot feature any of their schemes being an improvement. In contrast, what I do understand of their philosophies would have us return to one or a number of pre-rational techniques that Scientific Method long ago identified as spurious.
A lot of the people in science are imperious, imperialistic, narrow-minded bastards. (So are a lot of the people in religion, politics and even art.) But it isn't the Method which has made them so; it is their personal failure to follow the Method which has betrayed them; and us.
Scientific Medicine has for too many centuries claimed omniscience which it never possessed.
Part of this was deliberate technique; any doctor knows that his patients want him to appear to know what is the matter with them whether he has the slightest idea or not.
Part of it, of course, was simple megalomania; the tendency we all have to - just because we obviously know more about what we know best than most other people - think we know more than we do.
At any rate, as it became manifest to more and more of the non-scientific and non-medical public that Medicine knows precious little about most of what can go wrong with our organisms, more and more of that public went looking for somebody who did know. Thus, the birth of the currently fashionable proliferation of "Alternative Medicine."
What most of the searchers got, in practically all cases, was exactly what they were looking for; somebody who would tell them in persuasive and convincing ways that There Were Answers to their Questions, and Paths to Health which were not recognized by the medical establishment.
Which is to say that their acupuncture or homeopathy or vitamin regimen works perfectly well in something over 80 percent of their cases. Which is about the success rate of Christian Science, prayer or simply Doing Nothing Without Making Oneself Sick With Worry.
Or conventional medicine, for that matter.
The truth is that about 20 percent of what is wrong with us will continue to make us miserable, or ultimately kill us, no matter what. What conventional medicine can affect is to modify which 20 percent; how miserable, and when "ultimate" shall be.
This is why so many conventionally-trained physicians no longer ridicule "Alternative Medicine" and often encourage their patients to seek it, at least as supplemental therapy.
Most of getting well is thinking that it's possible to get well. If ingesting expensive doses of terminally attenuated drugs makes you get better, your doctor is not going to quarrel with that result.
(Many homeopathic prescriptions are so dilute that only the most sensitive and sophisticated chemical assays can detect their presence in the solution; some not at all. Homeopathy became popular during the 19th Century when overmedication with a lot of powerful drugs was the norm. Diluting laudanum is probably a good idea.)
But don't mistake this official Medical surrender to the realities of human psychology for science, though it obeys one of the tenets of Scientific Method ("Keep looking until you get an ironclad answer; do what works best in the meantime.") It is simply surrender, for the time being, to the Great Unknown.
For the time being.
The Method continually chips away at the impassive face of our ignorance. Our successes are small, and hard won. But we must not dismiss them as unreal, or somehow "politically motivated” because they contradict the traditional wisdom which supposedly served our species so well, and in so many places in the world, for so long.
The absolute truth is that when it comes to anything but human interaction most "traditional wisdom" is horse shit. The people who have lived by it all these ignorant centuries never identified it as such because it always has worked fairly well.
Except when it didn't; and those failures of our fundamental philosophy it is always best to ignore or rationalize in the interest of hope and other mental health techniques.
Scientific Method was painfully evolved over several centuries to investigate those failures. In the process, unfortunately for many people's peace of mind, it also had to investigate the basis-in-reality of a lot of traditional wisdom's successes, and found the accepted cause-and-effect chain to be badly fractured.
See, you can't just question the bad stuff; you have to question the good stuff, too. Because "bad" and "good" are cultural definitions and change as the culture changes. And the culture always changes.
So Scientific Method was overwhelmingly invented by European thinkers, mostly male! So what!?
Until about the 14th Century (Western calendar, of course) most of what was useful or desirable - including rudders, gunpowder, silk and peaches - was invented by Chinese. Should we deny the value of these inventions because the Chinese have been historically isolationist and jealously wished to keep their discoveries to themselves?
No more than we should all hasten to ingest powdered rhino horn to combat glitches in the male sexual function, which happens to be another celebrated artifact of traditional Chinese culture.
Rudders turn ships in the water; gunpowder explodes (for better or worse); silk is a useful textile and peaches taste good and seem to be good for you. Powdered rhino horn, except for some minor urinary tract irritation and the purely psychological effect it might have on the believing male imagination, probably does nothing but contribute to the extinction of the world's few remaining rhinoceri.
The only reliable way we have yet devised to sort for the truth among these various cultural artifacts is Scientific Method. And some of those Dead White Guys; their minds were clear and their hearts were pure. Their only agenda was formulating a strategy to think better.
Don't dismiss them because they didn't always come up with the answers.
That will take us to the end of our forever, whatever our technique of inquiry.