Do Skeptics Hold Science Back?

What’s the difference between being skeptical and empirical? If you say there is no difference, then we’re good to go. But, if you hold there is a difference, then there’s a problem. Logically speaking, there should be little or no difference.  If there’s little or no difference, then why compound terms? One who now calls her/himself a skeptic could simply say they have an empirical point of view. It seems (I could be mistaken) that some (most?) skeptics aren’t satisfied with only an empirical point of view. They seem to want something stronger–that’s why they use the term “skeptic.”

 

Further, being a skeptic is a kind of worldview, whereas taking an empirical approach is more about method. This is where the BIGGEST problems come up for skepticism in my opinion. A skeptical worldview limits even scientific results: A skeptic isn’t open-minded enough in the first place about observations nor about hypothesizing about those observations (steps 1 and 2 of the hypothetico-deductive method). These two steps are stifled right out of the gate.  A fortiori the second two steps (experimentation and corroboration) are curtailed and thus the skeptic remains skeptical, wrapped up in a limited point of view. It’s like Whitehead’s aeroplane that doesn’t ever make it into the air–oh, sorry–I should provide the quote (“The true method of discovery is like the flight of an aeroplane. It starts from the ground of particular observation; it makes a flight in the thin air of imaginative generalization; and it again lands for renewed observation rendered acute by rational interpretation.” (PR 5 or 7–I forget) The skeptic won’t fly into the thin air of imaginative generalization, but great minds soar!

 

Imagine if Michelson, Morley, Einstein, Bohr, Heisenberg, etc., were skeptics! They would have dismissed so-called errant observations as fantasy or mistake. Planck said (mathematically) that light relates to matter in terms of “quanta” of energy, which made little sense to even a mild or open-minded skeptic, because it contradicted then current theories of light (as wave). Einstein seized on this idea, and it’s relation to the photoelectric effect, and changed science, while a skeptic would pooh-pooh the whole thing.  Of course, entities that don’t fit scientific ideas of waves or particles wouldn’t make sense, either. In fact, they’d be nonsense to the skeptic because they don’t fit the limited scientific picture. This leads to another point: In order to expand science, you’ve got to think in what amounts to unscientific terms. Red shift and the relation of dead-matter/live energy are two other areas Einstein enlightened us with radically unconventional thinking that skeptics would try desperately to shoot down. But not even skeptics can stop science from changing and advancing!  (BTW: scientific law evolves with the state of “actual entities” (as defined by Whitehead in his magnum opus Process and Reality)—law isn’t omnitemporally and omnispatially free like scientists think.)

I’m tired…it’s 3:30AM Hawaii Time and Space!

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