OT: language origin and creationism

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM
Thu Apr 1 15:03:00 UTC 2010

No, Sali, you are in a "good" disputatious mood. Many elements of "doing
science" uneniably involve the familiar human tendencies
toward self-justification, hidden agendas, throwing one's weight around,
researching the trendy to get in line for the cash, etc.

Such incidentals, though, are not the logical scaffolding that science is
based on. At their worst, the social misdeeds hinder the expansion of
knowledge, steer funds in unproductive directions, ignore or skirt important
ethical issues, ruin careers, etc., etc. They have no effect on whether,
taken together, the evidence shows that dino fossils are millions, not
thousands, of years old, or that matter converts to energy.

However, just as the presence of some pedophiles among its clergy does not
logically discredit the foundational ideals of a church, the existence of
scientists who are greedy, biased, ruthlessly ambitious, narrow-minded, or
inept doesn't discredit the intellectual underpinnings of science itself.
If all scientific research were carried out by such people, we'd still be
relying on tin-can telephones, if we could get the cans.  But it isn't. So
we have vaccines and H-bombs, both of which work rather well.

Obviously "science" (like religion) is a double-edged sword, and it may wind
up doing us all in (as may religion with a little scientific assistance).
But both science and religion are only secondarily "about" wielding power.
Most people who enter these fields are attracted by other ideals. If more
ambitious individuals often make reach positions of authority at lightning
speed, it doesn't discredit the sincerity or effectiveness of the rest. Nor
does it alter the fact that scientific knowledge, unlike religious faith, is
not founded on the authority of any single, radically homogeneous and
exclusive source that, as Bill's quote makes refreshingly clear, is proud to
be aloof from any inconvenient aspects of reason.


On Thu, Apr 1, 2010 at 9:18 AM, Amy West <medievalist at w-sts.com> wrote:

> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
> -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Amy West <medievalist at W-STS.COM>
> Subject:      Re: OT: language origin and creationism
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> >Date:    Wed, 31 Mar 2010 18:27:35 -0500
> >From:    "Salikoko S. Mufwene" <s-mufwene at UCHICAGO.EDU>
> >Subject: Re: OT: language origin and creationism
> >
> >Jonathan Lighter wrote:
> >>  There are plenty of liberal-arts Ph.D's who still haven't figured it
> out.
> >>  They claim that "science" is just a hot new form of "religion" and both
> >  > are merely synonyms for "authoritarian power." They're wrong, but you
> don't
> >>  have to take my word for it.
> >>
> >>
> >SSM: Sadly, the practice of science /cum/ scholarly research among some
> >of us is not that different from religion. Research paradigms often
> >instantiate this, research on the origins and evolution of language are
> >no exception. And, gosh, some personalities pervert it. Maybe I am just
> >in a bad disputatious mood today?
> It is always good to have someone taking another position. I've
> appreciated your contrarian takes on this problem. It gives me more
> to think about, so that whatever I do, it will be better considered.
> ---Amy West
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

"If the truth is half as bad as I think it is, you can't handle the truth."

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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