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Protecting Science And Ourselves

Post-Modernism's Attacks on Science Imperil Personal and National Security

By Tal D. Ben-shachar

Post-modernism, today's dominant philosophical doctrine, is taking a grave and dangerous turn. In the past, post-modernism has limited its attacks to the humanities, but recently it has been trying to add science to its list of victims. The attack on science, objectivity's last stronghold, poses an imminent threat to society.

Objectivity is fast becoming a word of the past. Post-modernism denounces any from of objective truth and with it any from of knowledge claiming that truth (and knowledge) is constructed subjectively, emanating from one's environment. Through denouncing objective standards for measuring truth, post-modernism has led to the near-demise of numerous disciplines.

In art, for example, according to post-modernism no one can rightfully claim that Beethoven's Ninth Symphony is superior to a song called "Cop Killer." No one can justify that Michelangelo's "David" is a better work of art than Duchamp's "The Fountain" (an upside down urinal). There is no longer an objective standard for evaluating art.

To ignore the difference in quality between Beethoven and `Gangsta Rap' is absurd. All one can do is feel pity for those who don't appreciate the difference in artistic value between a masterpiece and a urinal. One can also feel saddened by the fact that very little great art is being produced today because of the spread of post-modernist philosophy.

To discount the importance of science is even more preposterous. Science's project is revealing the truth that is often hidden from out bare perceptions. in stark contrast, postmodernism's project consists in destroying the very concept of objectivity and truth. And for post-modernism to complete its project, science has to be discarded as having any claim on truth and objectivity.

The attack on science is taking place on two fronts--one direct, the other indirect. The direct attack is an attempt to render science subjective and hence to place it on equal ground with the rest of the disciplines which have already been infected by post-modernism's ideas. The indirect attack is aimed at diverting funds from scientific research to the humanities, which are already in the clutches of post-modernism.

The direct attack relies primarily on the fact that mistakes are made in science, and therefore scientific results cannot be trusted as objective. But to discard the whole of science because human beings are fallible, because we are capable of making mistakes, is ridiculous.

First of all, the fact that post-modernism posits a claim and argues for it is a violation of its most fundamental tenet (who is to say that one argument is superior to another?). But even the post-modernists are prepared to drop their non-confrontational, self-righteous facade--albeit at the price of contradicting the very core of their philosophy--in the name of the cause.

Self-contradictions aside, it is also impossible to argue against the absolute advances made in the sciences. These advances stand the definitive test--reality. It is impossible to argue that antibiotics saving millions of lives or the development of electricity making the lives of millions more comfortable, are not objective advances.

The indirect attack on the sciences is exemplified by our very own Professor of English and Comparative Literature, James Engell '73, who was quoted in last week's Crimson as being concerned with the amount of resources the United States already invests in science. But scientific research constitutes the seeds which will determine the future of this country. And if money is taken away from scientific projects, the U.S. will reap what it sows.

Discarding science threatens the very life of each and every one of us. Beyond the noble cause of finding truth, science plays a very important practical role in our lives. Staying ahead in terms of technology (Which relies on scientific research) is of paramount importance for the economy of the U.S.

The world is extremely competitive and the U.S. cannot afford to lose its lead in technology. Already, too little money is being fed into labs, and there are signs of a narrowing gap between the United States and other countries in terms of science and technology. It is the technological edge that makes the U.S. a leading economic force today.

Without economic prosperity, many of the luxuries and even fulfillments of basic living needs that we take for granted today will dissipear. Yet despite this, post- modernists are demanding that money be re-allocated from the sciences to their departments. Diverting money from the sciences to the humanities, especially to those disciplines whose main concern is destruction of all that is rational, is equivalent to tying a rope around the future of the U.S.

Science fulfills yet another important role. The safety of the citizens of the U.S. and of the citizens of the many countries which rely on the U.S. for support depend on the advanced technology of the U.S. It was thanks to superior technology that the U.S. saved the world from falling into the hands of Nazism and Communism. More recently, the Gulf War was won, with minimum loss of lives, through technological superiority.

Cutting research programs will allow other countries to overtake the U.S. and could lead to grave consequence. Cutting scientific research and with it scientific development will result in literally cutting the life line of the United States.

What the post-modernists don't realize is that they too will suffer if science is ever relegated to a lower place on the rung of priorities. In the long run, due to the economic burden of a scientific-technological decline, there will no longer be adequate funds to support the programs that sustain the post-modernists. This is perhaps the only good thing that may come out of discarding science.

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