Postmodern Science, The Foundation of Postmodern Christologies
(What is the Historical Context of the Postmodern
Cafeteria of Christologies?)
Narrative Displacement in the Method Theory of Science:
Ideas Have Consequences (The Demise of True Truth/Objectivity)
What would be the difference if someone would say “I just don’t like modern art,” or I just don’t like modern music,” or “I just don’t like modern architecture,” or “I just don’t like modern literature.” What would be the reaction if someone says that he or she does not like modern science? Would this imply that some other period of science, eg. Greek, Sixteenth Century, 17th-18th century, 19th century modern or postmodern science was preferable? What is the basis for this overwhelming preference of what form of science is currently preferable?
Postmodern Challenges and Opportunities: The Death of Positivism/Scientism; Goedel’s refutation of the mechanical mode of explanation; Anti Science; Postmodern Feminist Science; Postmodern Multiculturalism and Feminist Science; Counter Culture meets the Neurophysical Revolution; The Demise of the person in Postmodernism; Lost Souls in Cyber Space: Loss of the Scientists in the Narrative Displacement of Science; Patterns of Christian Response to the Scientific Enterprise, eg. the Bible; Impossibility of Neutrality; Science and Islam; Evangelical Response to Science; the Roman Catholic Response to Science; Narrative Displacements in Science and their consequences for Missions/Evangelism; Logic, Language, True Truth.
Is postmodern science overwhelmingly preferable to what scientists have done in the past and why? As Hilary Putnam observes, for those who first tried to deal with the quest of progress in science, the grounds for claiming that Newton was a better scientist than Aristotle seem to be much clearer and stronger than any grounds for claiming that Shakespeare was a better poet than Homer. (H. Putnam, Reason, Truth and History (Cambridge University Press, 1981, p. 176)
The phenomenal advances in modern/postmodern chemistry, physics and astronomy and the technological implications of these advances in modern medicine and space exploration provides enormous evidential justification for scientific methodology for obtaining True Truth.
Kuhn, Feyerabend and Laudan have chronicled the extremely circuitous route of scientific explanation. Kuhn’s thought is surely seriously flawed when he insists that narrative displacement in the history of science such as the one for Ptolemaic to Copernican astronomy from the phlogiston theory of Lavoisier’s theory of oxygen and from either theory to Maxwell’s theory of electromagnetism can be explained by his paradigm based view of science. (T. Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions French second edition (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1970, chp. 7, pp. 66-76) The raison de ‘etre of scientific narrative displacement abandons all connection between rational or preferable scientific explanation and truth. (see Larry Laudan, Progress and Its Problems (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1972, pp. 3,4) Carolyn Merchant provides one of the most thorough treatments of the development of modern science and changes which took place in epistemological and metaphysics views (see her book in bibliography).
Narrative Displacement From Classical to Feminist Science
There can be no doubt that social and cultural values significantly influence the practice of science; however, the connection between the social and cultural choices about how the distribution resources and the natural method of science is far from obvious. Broad social and cultural values upon scientific inquiry is certainly an important and valuable contribution to the postmodern critique of science. However, the additional claim that the methods and nature of science are male biased is another matter altogether.
Once our attention is focused upon the entropy between meta scientific values and scientific inquiry, the most prominent question quickly becomes the one of whether or not the social and cultural values shape and determine the nature of scientific inquiry, scientific reasoning itself. The main question of the feminist critique of classical science and epistemology become: “Are the traditional (scientific methods and traditional criteria of knowledge themselves male biased?” This question is radical, so much so that Feminists envision a revolution based upon a feminist science and feminist epistemology which will transform “all Western consciousness and civilization.” (Ruth Bleier, Science and Gender: A Critique of Biology and Its Theories on Women (NY: Pergamon, 1984, p. 199).
If we answer in the affirmative, we must face the possibility of feminine science and feminine epistemology. The relative paucity of women in scientific development might well be an issue in historical, social and political interest in itself, but it is not the main focus of the feminist critique of science. The intellectual history of intellectual fields in Western culture, including art, literature have been dominated by men without the activity itself becoming identified as masculine. As Keller observes, what we need to explain is “why scientific thought is male thought,” and we will then understand why most scientists have been and are male. (Evelyn Fox Keller, Reflection on Gender and Science (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1985, p. 14)
Several feminist writers have argued in a variety of different ways that the very nature of feminist scientific reasoning is “unique” and different from the classical scientific method as historically practised (see esp. Harding, feminist standpoint theories) “grounded a distinct feminist science in a theory of gendered activity and social experience” and try to “reconstruct the original goals of modern science.” Postmodern Feminism is here to stay, whether in science or Christology (compare with Helen E. Longino, “Can There Be A Feminist Science?” (Hypotia, 2 no. 3 (Fall, 1987):51-64). If it is possible to have both Masculine Science and Feminine Science which can justifiably lay claim to be objective and nonarbitrary, then are we to expect the same of Black Science, Hispanic Science, Arian Science or Muslim Science, etc.?
The central criticism is that male thought has dominated the content and method of the observations, laws and theories of the practising class of scientists. Thus, the feminist critique challenges the clams which have been made for the objective and universal character of scientific thought and scientific method. The most crucial question becomes one of whether the scientific method of classical science is simply the scientific method of white, middle class males, one amongst perhaps a cafeteria of scientific methods. Or, alternatively, is there such a theory as a uniquely feminist science? (eg. Christology, etal.)
The nature of the scientific enterprise is not necessarily jeopardized by acknowledging that much historically reveals sexism in science. Harding says, for example, that the “modes of defining research problems and designing experiments” as sexist (Harding, The Science Question in Feminism, p. 9), the feminists emphatically declare that scientific interests and choices are frequently not made on simply scientific grounds (eg. Medical Research--smoking, high cholesterol, heart disease, etc. often reveals a high male statistic, rather than female, eg. the fairness of investigation research names). Most of the questions raised are not even questions about the nature of science.
Is There A Feminist Science?
As previously acknowledged, there is no doubt that social and cultural values significantly influence the practice of science. Though the relationship of the importance of valuable distribution of current feminist critique of science does not logically entail the additional claim that the method and nature of science are male biased is certainly not self evident. The history of narrative displacement in the history of science does not positively evaluate a la a feminist critique, i.e., male biased science. Cultural values does not necessarily shape and determine the nature of the scientific inquiry, scientific reasoning itself.
The main question of the feminist critique of classical science and epistemology becomes: “Are the traditional scientific method and criteria of knowledge male biased?” Donna Haraway poses the following questions as crucial ones for the feminist critique of science: “Is there a specially feminist theory of knowledge growing today which is analogous in its implications to theories which are the heritage of Greek science and of the scientific revolution of the seventeenth century? Would a feminist epistemology. . .be a family member to existing theories of representation and philosophical realism? Or should feminists adopt a radical form of epistemology that denies the possibility of access to a real world and an objective standpoint? Would feminist standards of knowledge genuinely end the dilemma of the cleavage between subject and object or between noninvasive knowing and prediction and control? Does feminism offer insight into the connection between science and humanism? Do feminists have anything new to say about the vexed relations of knowledge and power?” (Donna J. Haraway, “In The Beginning Was the Word: The Genesis Biological Theory,” Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, 6, no. 3, p. 470).
Several feminist writers have argued in a variety of different ways that the very nature of feminist scientific reasoning is unique and different from the classical scientific method as practised. (see bibliography Susan Bord and Helen Longino). Radical feminists have vainly attempted to avoid the pitfalls of radical relativism, which derives from Kuhn’s thesis of incommensurability. It appears that political pressure ushers in the direction of a more radical stance, and philosophical good sense pushes in the direction of a more moderate one. Longino’s effort to escape this dilemma is expressed between what she calls “constitutive values” and “contextual values” (op cit, “Can There Be a Feminist Science?” (p. 51-64)
This dilemma is expressed in the positivistic claim of “Value Free” scientific research (eg. “objectivity”). Feminist science is a total reversal of Bacon’s “doctrine of idols.” These “idols” were to escape bias and confusion. (Francis Bacon, New Organum (ed. with introduction by F. H. Anderson (NY: Bobbs Merrill, 1960, bk. 1, sec xxxviii-ixviii). According to Longino, seeking an unbiased value free science might easily go away by harboring hidden values which differ from ones which the feminists might prefer. Instead, Longino claims “we can acknowledge our ability to affect the course of knowing and fusion or favour research programs that are consistent with the values and commitments we express in the rest of our lives.” (Longino, “Can There Be A Feminist Science?” p. 212)
Since Longino’s version of feminist science is a form of externalism, the reasons for accepting scientific claims or adopting scientific theories are external to the method of science. The ultimate consequences of Longino’s thesis is Hobbesian war--“All ideologies against all.” Feminist critics painfully acknowledge that such a view does not represent or accurately describe our postmodern Western society. Feminist science cannot rationally escape “ethical egoism.” The interest of Feminist science cannot escape its own “self interests to have everyone else acting on an enlightened basis of such a theory. What social influences of social/cultural values impact the nature of the scientific enterprise. If our culture is a male dominated society, do Feminists aspire to a female dominated society? This smacks much like resurgent gnostic feminism! The real battle between feminist science and male dominated science is not a battle concerning the nature of science at all. Until epistemology and rationality are acknowledge in such a battle there can be no possibility of a peaceful or reasonable resolution based upon some common ground of evidence.
Any use of reason and evidence internal to the received method falls prey to the methodology to justify conclusions based in any non received method (see my essay, “Loss of Transcendence: Idolatrous Absolutes”, esp. pp. 26-32, Relativity of Contextual Schema, p. 26; “Justification of Belief and Behavior” p. 28, “Explicating Historicism, 29-32); “God Man and Nature in Carl Sagan’s Universe” and “The Counter Culture Meets the Neurophysical Revolution,” “The Demise of the Person in Post Moderns,” and “Social Construction of Reality.”
If Longino’s analysis is followed--natural science--would be true “a fortiori” for the social sciences including political science. Normal persuasion and argumentation based on evidence or observation of any kind, including statistics, would not be a viable option if, according to feminist science, a person’s observation and experience and reasoning are all shaped by prior commitment to the underlying social/cultural values. We are left only with an ideological tribal cultural war of competing world views. Evidence and persuasion/argumentation would have to give way to propaganda and “epithet slinging.” Genetic fallacies and “ad hominem” fallacies would become the order of the day (often Feminists consider the use of “ad hominem” to be a sexist term). They are visible in all categories of our postmodern multicultural maze!
Feminists must recognize that the background assumptions which have been operative in science are those from “capitalist” and “male supremacists societies” and set about constructing their own new social context with its unique contextual valued (ibid., Longino, p. 269). If it is possible to have both Masculine Science and Feminine Science which can justifiably lay claim to be objective and non-arbitrary, then are we to expect the science of Black Science or Hispanic Science or Aryan Science to be of equal standing.
Feminist science stems from sociobiological characterization of women. The sociobiologists and the feminists are on the same track. If all reasoning and data are filtered through and colored by those general cultural and social values, then so are all of the scientific data and theories, similarities and differences of the characteristics of the sexes. Feminist science is a vicious circle! We must be able to answer the questions: (1) What makes a feminist? and (2) What makes it science?
Radical feminists are in the same position as sociobiologists who desperately search for some “objective” scientific facts to support a general theory which has the effect of tainting all facts. As Bleier points out, the attempt by sociobiologists to link some innate human nature to a particular genetic configuration is hopelessly mired in a circular argument:
Sociologists themselves as well as geneticists argue that it is not possible to link any specific human behavior with any specific gene or genetic configuration. The only evidence for such a link is that which is provided by sociobiologists’circular logic. This logic makes a premise of genetic basis of behaviors, then cites a certain animal or human behavior, constructs a speculative story to explain how the behavior (if it is genetically based) could have served or could serve to maximize the reproductive success of the individual and this conjecture then becomes evidence for the premise that the behavior was genetically determined. (Ruth Bleier, Science and Gender: A Critique of Biology and the Theories on Women (NY: Pergamon, 1984), p. 17)
Feminist science is in the same boat as sociobiology in the sense that it is a meta scientific theory in that it appeals to evidence and facts and deductive reasoning (all reasoning is deductive; there is no inductive reasoning). The leap to relativism is unavoidable, if Feminist philosophy of science is caused by distortions of female bias--not only is classical science under the blade of classical male dominated “objective” and “neutral” claims. Is the result to be remedied by tribal ideological confrontation between “male domination” or “female domination”?
Feminist literature is filled with examples of male bias in Western culture--in science, philosophy, history and the arts (Harding, Bleier and especially Margaret W. Rassier, Women Scientists in America: Struggles and Strategies to 1940 (Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 1982). Feminist critics of modern science are certainly correct in their accusations that the rule of “autonomous” reason in Western science has been tyrannical, but the tyranny of reason is its repressiveness; postmodern reason is its willingness to accommodate any and all objections from any and all who question. (See esp. James F. Harris, Against Relativism, A Philosophical Defense of Method(LaSalle, IL: Open Court Pub. Co., 1972) and Steve Fuller, Social Epistemology (Bloomington, IN: Indiania University Press, 1988)
The Feminist criticisms of modern science are re-affirmations of fallibilism with which all beliefs based upon warrant and evidence are held. No belief whose warrant is supplied by the method of science is epistemologically privileged to the point that is immune to being overturned. This same fallibilism must also extend to the claims of feminists who defend a unique feminist science based upon gender differentiated cognitive abilities. All claims are not male biased! And it is the same method and the same use of reason which permits this scrutiny to take place. Jean Grinshaw points out:
The experience of gender, of being a man or a woman, infects much, if not all, of people’s lives.. But even if one is always a man or a woman, one is never just a man or a woman. One is young or old, sick or healthy, married or unmarried, a parent or not a parent, employed or unemployed, middle class or working class, rich or poor, black or white and so forth. . . Experience does not come neatly in segments, such that it is always possible to abstract what in one’s experience is due to “being a woman.” (Jean Grinshaw, Philosophy and Feminism (Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 1986), p. 84,85)
Feminists’ critique of modern science and accusations of male bias in science serve to focus on attention upon the question of the role which the community of inquirers play in scientific inquiry. But communities have no interpretive power to explain why giant minds enter the scientific arena to challenge the entire structure of the controlling community. The entire narrative displacement in the development of science more than enough evidences that often unique individuals transcend the community of protections of the received view of science from the Greek Aristotle to Galileo, Newton, Einstein, Heisenberg, Plank, Kepler, Crick, et al. The history of science is filled with geniuses who challenged the received narrative of their arena of scientific study.
If all scientific investigation is male biased, how could mistakes even be identified and corrected if in some important sense the scientific method is self critical and self corrective. It may be that what we learn from history is that we never learn from history, but what we learn from science is that we do learn science. In science we have a “criterion of progress” by which we are able to determine in advance of testing a particular theory whether it would represent an advance upon existing theories. The history of scientific development provides enormous amounts of data that laissez faire relativism in the case of human rationality and scientific inquiry is not possible. So, whereas we can easily understand and tolerate a person who prefers only Baroque music or early Renaissance art, we cannot easily understand or tolerate a person who prefers alchemy or nostradamus to modern science! (See Karl Popper, Conjectures and Refutations (The Growth of Knowledge) (NY: Harper, 1963, p. 217) All things cannot be relative.
Paul Feyerbend’s (and Kuhn’s concept of paradigm) anarchistic attack upon the idea of a systematic rational method for human knowledge and human inquiry has become the rallying point for radical relativists who reject such a notion of scientific progress. It was this kind of attack upon rationality and the abandonment of any systematic method for fixing belief which prompted the investigation into the various forms of radical relativism and the defense of method. Feyerabend says:
The idea of a fixed method, or of a fixed theory of rationality, rests on too naive a view of man and his social surroundings. To those who look at the rich material provided by history, and who are not intent on impoverishing it in order to please their lower instincts, their craving for intellectual security in the form of clarity, precision, objectivity, truth, it will become clear that there is only one principle that can be defended under all circumstances and in all stages of human development. It is the principle that anything goes. (Paul Feyerbend, Against Method (NY: Verso, 1975, p. 19) and his Farewell to Reason (NY: Verson, 1989).
Postmodern radical relativism, though melodramatic and grandiose, is ultimately nonsense. Feyerabend’s anarchism is intellectually, politically and practically self referentially inconsistent. He writes lengthy treatises on why we should prefer total intellectual anarchism to classical understandings of rationality and method, and, in doing so, he confirms the very method against which he rails. A game with no rules is not a game. Science with no rules is not science. Meta science with no rules is not meta science. Philosophy with no rules is not philosophy. Method allows for its own inspection and correction. Feyerabend contends that “all methodologies, even the most obvious ones, have their limits (Feyerabend, ibid, p. 53). But the limits of method are the limits of rationality and the limits of rationality are limits of relativism.
Dr. James Strauss
Lincoln Christian Seminary
Lincoln, IL 62656