Critiques of Post
(And of Irrationalism in General)
The President of Fantasyland: Bush v.
Post Modernism and Scientific Certainty
He who will not reason is a bigot,
he who cannot is a
and he who dares not is a slave.
Sir William Drummond
Skepticism is the chastity of the
About "PoMo" and this Section:
The Gadfly has been properly scolded for including under
the heading of "Post Modernism," a grab-bag" of examples of and
comments upon kookery, junk science, "New Age" fantasies, and so
forth. Some quite respectable scholars have willingly designated
themselves as "post-modernists," and it is admittedly unfair to
associate them with UFO-freaks, astrologers, channelers, and the like.
Thus I have added the line, above: "...and of irrationalism in general."
Even so, I am underwhelmed by what I have encountered
of the scholarly post-modernists. To repeat an old but cherished
critical "kiss-off," the post modern ideas that I have encountered
are "interesting and original -- unfortunately, that which is interesting
is not original, and that which is original is not
The best of "modern" scholarship,
exemplified by science, displays a disciplined and public search for
verifiable truths concerning an objective world -- truths that are
independent of subjective biases of the investigator. Contrary notions
that all "knowledge" reduces to belief or that "the
meaning of the text is the interpretation," reject this central tenet
of "modernism." So too, truth claims that will not admit to
experimental testing or the support of empirical evidence. For the
purposes of this site, I will call all this "Po Mo" -- albeit the
"post-" of "post-modernism" is a misnomer. Radical
subjectivism is more "pre-" than it is "post-" since it
dates back to the Sophists of ancient Greece, and has been with us
constantly ever since. Likewise superstition and belief systems that
are innocent of any foundation in confirmable fact.
And they are still with us today -- witness cable
TV and the supermarket tabloids. Now, perhaps more than ever, they
should be countered with the voices of sweet reason, and the perpetual
question: "Now why should I believe that?"
The Cost of Kookery
From the National Science Foundation
Does it matter if people believe in astrology, extrasensory perception
(ESP), or that aliens have landed on Earth? Are people who check their
horoscopes, call psychic hotlines, or follow stories about alien abductions
just engaging in harmless forms of entertainment? Or are they displaying
signs of scientific illiteracy?
Concerns have been raised, especially in the science community, about
widespread belief in paranormal phenomena. Scientists (and others) have
observed that people who believed in the existence of paranormal phenomena may
have trouble distinguishing fantasy from reality. Their beliefs may
indicate an absence of critical thinking skills necessary not only for
informed decision-making in the voting booth and in other civic venues (for
example, jury duty), but also for making wise choices needed for day-to-day
As many as one-third of Americans believe in astrology... Twelve
percent said they read their horoscope every day or "quite often."
... Nearly half or more believe in ESP.... Between one-third and
one-half of Americans believe in UFOs...
"Belief in the Paranormal or Pseudosciece"
Science and Engineering Indicators 2000
National Science Foundation
NSF Division of Science Resources Studies
"New Age Epistemology" Described (but by no means endorsed) by
Theodore Schick and Lewis Vaughn:
There's no such thing as
objective truth. We make our own truth. There's no such thing as
objective reality. We make our own reality. There are spiritual,
mystical, or inner ways of knowing that are superior to our
ordinary ways of knowing. If an experience seems real, it is real.
If an idea feels right to you, it is right. We are incapable of
acquiring knowledge of the true nature of reality. Science itself
is irrational or mystical. It's just another faith or belief
system or myth, with no more justification than any other. It
doesn't matter whether beliefs are true or not, as long as they're
meaningful to you.
How to Think About Weird
Things: Critical Thinking for a New Age, (Mayfield)