Hallelujah We’re Postmodernists

Here is an interesting little item I turned up in my never-ending quest for material for Butterflies and Wheels. The author is a curator at the Smithsonian Institution, which is a somewhat staggering fact in light of this article. He is also the author of a highly unfavorable 1997 review of The Flight From Science and Reason in the American magazine Science, which provoked such outrage that the book editor of Science resigned. So we know what to expect, and we get it. Rhetoric, rhetoric, and more rhetoric, and a procession of outrageous assertions. I am tempted to quote and quote, but you can read the piece for yourselves. Perhaps just one or two…

…the more sophisticated paladins of transcendent science…recognize their want of ‘affirmative defenses’ of the quintessential truth of scientific facts and concepts, and for this very reason have limited themselves largely to ridiculing particular expositions and expositors of a heresy that they are unable generally to refute. When, rarely, they do come forth with an argument to demonstrate the innate superiority of the knowledge produced on their side of the chasm, it is invariably an appeal to the wondrousness of contemporary technology.

Needless to say, in turning away from that unconditioned “scientific truth” so prized by Clark Kerr’s Berkeley scientists, away from unconditioned truth generally, postmodernity ceases to regard Truth as a prime value. No longer is truthfulness expected anywhere in our culture, and its breach is regarded as excusable in any circumstance covered by a moral intent and guided by a sense of responsibility.

It’s funny, I don’t recall ever reading a scientist calling truth ‘transcendent’, or even capitalizing it; it seems to be only the critics who ever do either of those, as if sneering could do the work of argument. But maybe that’s yet another of the joys of our ‘step into postmodernity’.

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