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General Epistemology        Chapter II-2       

 

II-2 Brief History of science

 

(Permalink)(Was Chapter 13 in version 1)

 

Without considering details the historians would enjoy, the history of science clearly illustrates the intent of this book.

Without forgetting the deserved homage to the philosophers of the antic Greece and of the Arab world, we can say that science such as we conceive it today was founded by persons like Copernic, the first theorist, Galileo, the first observer and experimenter, and Newton, the first to formulate a physical law. However these persons had only a limited ambition: to predict the movement of the planets. And they did this within a framework of religious and metaphysical concepts which by no means they sought to question, and without expecting that they were at the origin of an authentic revolution.

A while later, people like Leibniz, enthusiastic, wished «to show the existence of God with mathematics». This ambitious project failed, because nobody really saw how to undertake such a demonstration. So, at the century of the Enlightenment, the encyclopaedists preferred to devote themselves to more concrete tasks, about which they were able to obtain useful knowledge and safe results: geometry (land survey), astrometry (calendars, tides...), techniques (industry...), natural history. These people were still Christians, but this preoccupation was no longer interfering with their study of physics and nature, that they already considered as a field different of spirituality.

The French revolution reinforced science without changing its essence. But, with persecutions against religious people, the radical refusal of religion had become a heavy tendency in society, which also counted members among scientists. The idea to use scientific methods to dispute religion developed, but, if we cannot «show the existence of God with mathematics», we can no more show His absence, hey hey hey... So the question was abandoned.

The 19th century developed a science very proud of its material achievements. But this very success in the material domains was understood as a valid motive to deny the spiritual domains, especially to state the inexistence of God and of the spirit, thus leading to modern materialism and rationalism. This also resulted into racist theories in anthropology (a very convenient way to justify colonialism) and into the political-economical ideologies like capitalism and marxism.

The 20th century saw (written in 1999) a very strong science, enjoying an unconditional support from the political power, with the development of large public institutions. But it is still strongly infused with rationalism and technocracy, which also spread into the administrative power. The matter and the «reason of Techniques» reign there as an undisputed master, often as a «revealed religion». Criticisms which appear (ecology, preservation of landscapes, spiritual rebirth, unexplained phenomena, alternative medicines...) cannot make show their legitimacy and all the more not their possible validity. Despite this, some strong characters like Einstein, Wignier, Chalmers... recurrently actuated the topics of spirituality or consciousness, in the frame of the institution, or while approaching Eastern spiritual conceptions.

One century later (written in 2008!!) science could at last play its true role, with giving clear and institutional warnings about greenhouse effect. But this time the delay in response was due to politicians and medias! We are however still far of a correct working: then science showed the true existence of parapsychology phenomena and UFOs, but its own institutions still «ignore» these results, a breakthrough however much more important than electricity. And it is still purposely told lies to the general public, with saying than these domains would be only «beliefs»...

This defect is however on the way of being addressed, with the appearance of groups which are independent from both the science institutions and governments, such as the IANDS or the SETI project, in order to quietly pursue researches considered as «heretic», without being hampered by hierarchical or financial pressions. We could think to a kind of ongoing revolution, which would lead to «another science». But when we see «other» results landing into the classical reference publications, we come in facts to an entirely different situation, and with my opinion much more interesting: a one science, which just does using the institutions which support it, but which leaves them in order to work as it wants, and eternal and unbeatable science, which only scraped off purely accidental and temporary ideological perturbations.

 

(All what follows was written in 1999. It is less valid today in 2011, but still relevant for understanding many things)

It is interesting to compare the organisation of institutional scientific research into various countries around the world. While simplifying we can distinguish two models: the French model and the American model.

In the French model (which was also in USSR), search is concentrated into large state administrations held by the clan of high-ranking civil servants (ENA, French high school for civil servants and fortress of technocracy, and which plays in France a role much comparable to the Communist Party in USSR). Rationalism, materialism and atheism reign there as masters and dictate alone the choice of «serious» subjects to study (with the very notable exception of the SEPRA (ex GEPAN), a department of the CNES which is dealing with UFOs, chapter II-8). Only one mention of spirituality or parapsychology can ruin your career and those who study ecology had to ask to be called «ecologues» in place of «ecologists», not to be confused with the naughty Greenpeace activists and lose their financial support! This ridiculous anecdote does not let us forget a definitively not funny reality: «science» is used as an ideological backing for all the antisocial technocratic choices, for instance nuclear power, highways, genetic fiddling, etc. On the other hand this system guarantees a science of excellent level in the fields where it agrees to work seriously. The best example is the French Science Academy, which makes very good physical science, but which was recently involved into the scandal of «recycling» nuclear wastes.

In the American system, in addition to these great public university centres, many private foundations finance laboratories, sometime large ones. This system guarantees an amount of pluralism, and today small private laboratories make good science on parapsychology, NDE, OBE... sometimes in collaboration with people in the public laboratories. An enthralling example is that of the SETI project, which moved to private funding, mainly from large computer companies, to escape a mindless refusal of public funding by the American Congress. The major disadvantage of the American system is that some of these foundations are used as umbrellas for occult groups or ideologies, which thus find a mean to introduce as being «the science» some questionable or even fascist ideologies (chapter II-7: genetism, sociobiology, behaviourism, extremist Darwinism)

A recent new feature in both American and French systems is the appearance of large biology and genetics laboratories (medicine, GMO...), held by private firms, a situation which arise different problems: -The situation of monopoly (questioning the reproducibility of the experiments and the freedom of the citizens) -The merchant motives and the large financial interests involved do not guarantee any more methodological protection against the psychological bias (the results are diffused only if they fit with commercial propaganda, drawbacks and subtle or long-run hazards are hidden, information no longer circulate from one laboratory to the other) -Important data on health of humanity are left between the hands of financial interests. In the long-run, we are even likely to see the evolution of mankind directed by these interests! What, the least which we can say, can hardly be interesting...

 

 

 

 

 

 

General Epistemology        Chapter II-2       

 

 

 

 

 

 

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