Sunday, January 2, 2011

Computerized Gods - J. Weizenbaum Ph.D. | Rational Vedanta

As many have observed, modern science has become a religion, at least for Western man. Like other religions, it has a priesthood, roughly organized on hierarchical lines. It has temples, shrines, and rituals and it has a body of canons. And. like other religions, it has its own mythology. One myth in particular states that if, say, by experiment a scientific theory is confronted in reality with a single contradiction, one piece of discontinuing evidence, then that theory is automatically set aside and a new theory that takes the contradiction into account is adopted. This is not the way science actually works.

In fact, some people have the same type of very deep faith in modern science that others do in their respective religions. This faith in science, grounded in its own dogma, leads to a defense of scientific theories far beyond the time any disconfirming evidence is unearthed. Moreover, disconfirming evidence is generally not incorporated into the body of science in an open-minded way but by an elaboration of the already existing edifice (as, for example, by adding epicycles) and generally in a way in which the resulting structure of science and its procedures excludes the possibility of putting the enterprise itself in jeopardy. In other words, modem science has made itself immune to falsification in any terms the true believer will admit into argument.

Perhaps modern science's most devastating effect is that it leads its believers to think it to be the only legitimate source of knowledge about the world. Being a high priest, if not a bishop, in the cathedral of modern science— my university, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology —I can testify that a great many of what we sometimes like to call "the MIT family," faculty and students, believe that there is indeed no legitimate source of knowledge about the world other than modern science. This is as mistaken a belief as the belief that one cannot gain legitimate knowledge from anything other than religion. Both are equally false.

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