Even More Fuller
How funny – a harmonic convergence, or something. The very day that I noted the oddity of Steve Fuller’s comment on Meera Nanda’s book at Amazon, in view of his testimony at Dover – Michael Bérubé commented on exactly the same thing.
I’m working on something that I’ll explain more fully next week (when, I hope, it will be done), but in the course of my work on it I found that sociologist Steve Fuller blurbed Meera Nanda’s 2003 book, Prophets Facing Backward: Postmodern Critiques of Science and Hindu Nationalism in India by writing, “This first detailed examination of postmodernism’s politically reactionary consequences should serve as a wake-up call for all conscientious leftists.” Right, well, it so happens that I’m down with much of Nanda’s argument myself, as I explain in a bunch of things I’ve been writing lately. But wait! This Steve Fuller is that Steve Fuller, the author of Social Epistemology (and much, much more) who showed up in Dover, Pennsylvania this past October to testify that Intelligent Design is a legitimate science…
Snap. All the more interesting because Michael has told me that it was reading Meera’s articles here (at B&W) that caused him to worry about these politically reactionary consequences himself, and that’s why he’s writing about the subject now. Which is good since he’s an influential fella, on account of being such a damn brilliant writer (well, on other accounts too, but the writing is like some kind of atomic magnet). So that means B&W is useful, in its plodding little way, and it’s always good when I get to think that B&W is useful, because it keeps me going when discouragement over hackers and my inability to fix things that need fixing threatens to cause me to run away from home and become a confectioner.
So then, to add to the interest, Steve Fuller commented on Michael’s post, and Michael turned that into a new thread with comments from a lot of knowledgeable people like P Z Myers and John Emerson. There is also a comment at the Valve. And there’s a post from October at Panda’s Thumb.
I’ll just offer a few of Fuller’s…stranger remarks.
It’s not clear – at least not to me – that there is some psychologically credible line to be drawn between ‘revelation’ and ‘reason’. This distinction exists, if at all, at the public level of how you would have your ideas tested: By calculations? By experiments? By the Bible?
But in my circles people don’t talk much about their religious beliefs, so I just go on my reading and intermittent outbursts of others. I do wonder what might be the motivation for atheists to do science in the grand unifying sense: Why do they believe there’s sufficient order in the universe to merit the systematic efforts at inquiry?
Because they think there can be order without design, and because there’s an immense amount to find out about that if so (or, in another way, if not). That question is oddly reminiscent of Nicholas Buxton saying in that Guardian article that the only rational thing for people who think the universe is uncaused to do is jump off a cliff.
Actually if you’re a Darwinist ‘all the way down’, you should say that life began as some random collocation of micro-units of matter that happened to stabilize long enough to reproduce and then mutate: i.e. the self-bootstrapping theory of life. However, Darwinists don’t want to commit to this because it’s not empirically provable – which means it allows room for more feint-hearted Darwinists to believe that God kicked off the whole process.
Provable – oh dear. That’s a very basic mistake for someone in this field, especially when he does such a lot of de haut en bas condescending to everyone else on the thread.