Yet another weird SF fan

I'm a mathematician, a libertarian, and a science-fiction fan. Common sense? What's that?

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Yet another weird SF fan

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Crookes, Shockley, and Political Correctness

I have often encountered arguments of the form: “If you accept the products of science you must accept everything scientists say.” This is usually used to defend a conclusion from today's brand of Political Correctness. It's worth looking at applying similar standards to the PC conclusions of yesteryear.

For example, William Crookes did research in both cathode-ray tubes and spiritualism. Are you going to say: If you watch television, you must take spiritualism seriously? William Shockley was a racist who was the co-inventor of the transistor. If you use any electronic device today, are you required to take racism seriously?

Science is not the same thing as “what scientists say,” especially when the sayings in question are mere off-hand remarks expressing a commonly-accepted social prejudice. This can be seen more clearly when the social prejudices in question change.


Blogger Lord Runolfr said...

More importantly, the statements of any one scientist have to be evaluated carefully, based on the evidence. The statements of a vast majority of scientists, however, have probably already been evaluated pretty thoroughly.

Hence, you should take the threat of global warming pretty seriously, since huge numbers of scientists have looked at the evidence and agree that it's a real threat, while Michael Behe is a fringe lunatic.

6:09 AM  

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