Full Version: Mediocre Consensus-Science At Work: Hubristically Whistling In The Intergalactic Dark
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Extract from Chapter 13, "Extraterrestrial Science (Could Aliens Overcome Our Limitations?)"
in Nicholas Rescher, The Limits of Science (Univ. of Pittsburgh Press, rev. ed. 1999; orig. ed. Univ. Calif. Press, 1984),
p. 197-98:



(1) Might another, astronomically remote, alien civilization surpass our human science
and become "scientifically more advanced" than we are?

(2) A negative answer is indicated: the "science" of alien beings is bound to be very
different from ours.

(3) A critique is made of the uniformitarian thesis that since there is only one world
that all intelligent beings share, there is bound to be only one uniform science. Even
though there might well be enormously many intelligent civilizations in space, the prob-
ability that any have our scientific posture is negligibly small.

(4) It only makes sense to speak of being "more advanced" or "more backward" than
another when the parties are engaged in a common journey. This is hardly likely to be
so in the present case.

(5) Cognition is an evolutionary product that is bound to attune its practicioners to the
local peculiarities of their particular ecological niche in the world order.

(6) We must assume that their intellectual journey of reasoned inquiry will take them
in an altogether different direction. Our science is limited by the very fact of being our
science. It is thus far-fetched to suppose that an alien civilization might be scientifically
more advanced than we.

1. Could Science in Another Setting Overcome the Limitations of Our Human Science?

The preceding chapters have argued that natural science -- our science as we humans
cultivate it here on earth -- is limited and imperfect and is bound to remain so. It thus
becomes tempting to wonder whether an astronomically remote civilization might be
more scientifically advanced than we are. Is it not plausible to suppose than an alien
civilization might overcome the limitations of our science and manage to surpass us in
the furtherance of this enterprise?

On first thought, the question seems very clear-cut, for, as one recent discussion put it:
"any serious speculations concerning the capabilities of intelligent biological life and auto-
mata must take into account technical societies that may be millions or even billions of
years more advanced than our own." [1]

[1. Roger A. MacGowan and Frederick I. Ordway 3d, Intelligence in the Universe (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.:
Prentice Hall, 1966), 248.]

However, this seemingly straightforward matter is actually one of great complexity. This
complexity relates not only to the actual or possible facts of the matter but also -- and
crucially -- to somewhat abstruse questions about the very idea that is at issue here.

To begin with, there is the question of just what it means for there to be another science-
possessing civilization. Note that this is a question that we are putting -- a question posed
in terms of the applicability of our term, science. It pivots on the issue of whether we would
be prepared to recognize the product of their activities as constituting a (state of a branch
of) science. At the very least, this requires that we be prepared to recognize what those
aliens are doin as a matter of forming beliefs (theories) about how those things work in the
world and to acknowledge that they are involved in testing these beliefs observationally or
experimentally and applying them as (nonhuman) persons, duly equipped with intellect and
will, and we must then enter upon a complex series of claims with respect to their beliefs
and their purposes. . . . [etc., etc.]


An unintentionally revealing (and comical) example of the "No True Scotsman" logical fallacy, showing the
calibre of culture-bound thought unthinkingly applied by many professional "scientists" to this important subject.

This particular fallacy (named by the late Anthony Flew, a leading atheist, scientific positivist, logician, and philosopher
of religion of the 20th century, in his 1989 book Thinking About Thinking) is a way of reinterpreting evidence in
order to prevent the refutation of one's position. Proposed counter-examples to a theory are strategically dismissed
as "irrelevant" solely because they are counter-examples, but purportedly because they are not truly addressing
what the theory is actually about.

In folk parlance, this is the dirty trick of moving the goalposts mid-game (whenever the opposing team seems about
to actually score a goal) and ignoring that team's indignant response to this as merely the kind of poor sportsmanship
only shown by disgruntled chronic losers. . .  Cool

[Image: unit-1-nursing-research-msc-nursing-57-6...1472479950]

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[Image: Flew%27s+Argument.144.png]

Flew, toward the end of a long academic and professional career of working to show that "Divinity" is but a primitive
genetic holdover, a psychoanalytically-explainable human need for a Super-Alpha Leader trumped up as something
more awesome & flattering, and religious faith merely the delusive and rationality-destructive concommittant to this
irrational need, found himself at last persuaded by a preponderance of rigorously scientific evidence to fundamentally
and radically change his lifelong non-deist stance. Interestingly -- and predictably -- his more hyper-rational peers in
professional science and academia could only assign this tremendous volte-face to the onset of senile dementia.

Theirs is the same type of basically paranoid, fearful mentality feverishly manning the hyper-rationalist ultra-skeptic
barriers upholding what amounts to the Basic Secular Divinely-Dispensational Truth Of Human Provinciality, namely:
We Are Alone In The Universe & Thus Lord Of All We [Positivistically-Scientistically-Quantifiably] Survey.

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[Image: jUnolGN.jpg]   Cool