Real narrow science

October 9, 1998

Scientist John Lloyd's widely held view supporting "critical realism" against anti-realism that science discovers "a realityI out thereI independent of our theorising" (Letters, THES September 18) confuses a knowable, empirical realm with an unknowable, transcendental one or a God's eye view.

This misses the anti-realist's point: first, that nothing can be known independent of a human perspective and of the sociocultural decisions to fund certain areas rather than others; and second, that realism and the kind of anti-realism that is cognitivist and "non-relativist" unify science and social science very differently.

The way realists close the gap of mind and world lets science and religion be reconciled, but at the cost of ushering in scientism and religious absolutism, of stripping science of reflexivity, of denying cognitive status to art and the humanities, and of producing today's technocratic, bureaucratic and relativistic tyranny.

Without epistemological, ethical and ideological awareness, science will not solve our problems, but worsen them.

David Rodway

Lecturer in art and philosophy Kensington and Chelsea College London

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