Even science fails

God and the economy
Writing "The Irrational Atheist" was an interesting exercise in swimming through a sea of unsupported assumptions and incompetent arguments. But one thing I noticed is that beneath the vast compendium of logical blunders and factual errors, there was a single false belief that serves as a flawed foundation for the entire New Atheist attack on Christianity. That is the idea that reason is capable of dictating individual belief.

This atheist paradigm is almost invariably entwined with left-liberal politics as well as a science fetish because it depends upon a progressive narrative. This is due to the 18th century propaganda of the Enlightenment, which is looking increasingly outdated and irrelevant. The progressive narrative is primarily dependent upon three factors, technological advancement, wealth and peace, which it credits to the increased secularism of Western society.

The inherent problem is that these three factors can also be attributed to economic growth, which has accompanied the increase in technology, wealth and peace. Some secularists have gone so far as to claim that secularism is actually the cause of economic growth, but this is clearly incorrect since historical economic growth in more religious periods has exceeded the growth that took place during the 20th century. It is, in fact, an egregious error, since there is a growing body of evidence that it is secularism itself that is the product of economic growth.

Since I pay fairly close attention to various markets, it did not escape my attention that the New Atheists hit the best-seller lists very close to the time that the socionomists at Elliott Wave International were forecasting a Grand Supercycle peak. Sam Harris' "The End of Faith" was published in August 2004, with the Dow at 10,600. Richard Dawkins published "The God Delusion" in September 2006, when the Dow struck 11,508. And Christopher Hitchens appears to have marked the peak of both the New Atheism and the Dow when he published "god is Not Great" with the Dow at 13,188 in May 2007.
I think there's clear evidence to make a case that an over-reliance on reason accompanied the peak in social mood. Non-mainstream writers such as Vox Day have attacked the secular over-reliance on reason for years, but with the turn in social mood, this is turning into a mainstream position. As with other social mood shifts, however, we are still in the early stages. First, reason will be exposed as not having all the answers and we'll slowly drift back towards the equilibrium position.
Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth; and God has placed in the human heart a desire to know the truth—in a word, to know himself—so that, by knowing and loving God, men and women may also come to the fullness of truth about themselves.
For now, the attacks on science begin in earnest with,THE TRUTH WEARS OFF: Is there something wrong with the scientific method?

The article is long and contains several examples, but the conclusion provides a nice summary.
This suggests that the decline effect is actually a decline of illusion. While Karl Popper imagined falsification occurring with a single, definitive experiment—Galileo refuted Aristotelian mechanics in an afternoon—the process turns out to be much messier than that. Many scientific theories continue to be considered true even after failing numerous experimental tests. Verbal overshadowing might exhibit the decline effect, but it remains extensively relied upon within the field. The same holds for any number of phenomena, from the disappearing benefits of second-generation antipsychotics to the weak coupling ratio exhibited by decaying neutrons, which appears to have fallen by more than ten standard deviations between 1969 and 2001. Even the law of gravity hasn’t always been perfect at predicting real-world phenomena. (In one test, physicists measuring gravity by means of deep boreholes in the Nevada desert found a two-and-a-half-per-cent discrepancy between the theoretical predictions and the actual data.) Despite these findings, second-generation antipsychotics are still widely prescribed, and our model of the neutron hasn’t changed. The law of gravity remains the same.

Such anomalies demonstrate the slipperiness of empiricism. Although many scientific ideas generate conflicting results and suffer from falling effect sizes, they continue to get cited in the textbooks and drive standard medical practice. Why? Because these ideas seem true. Because they make sense. Because we can’t bear to let them go. And this is why the decline effect is so troubling. Not because it reveals the human fallibility of science, in which data are tweaked and beliefs shape perceptions. (Such shortcomings aren’t surprising, at least for scientists.) And not because it reveals that many of our most exciting theories are fleeting fads and will soon be rejected. (That idea has been around since Thomas Kuhn.) The decline effect is troubling because it reminds us how difficult it is to prove anything. We like to pretend that our experiments define the truth for us. But that’s often not the case. Just because an idea is true doesn’t mean it can be proved. And just because an idea can be proved doesn’t mean it’s true. When the experiments are done, we still have to choose what to believe.
And this will muddy the waters, especially in highly politicized issues such as global warming. Look for global warming skepticism to become cool, so cool that even the NYTimes will join in.

No comments:

Post a Comment