Thursday, July 30, 2015

Is Neo-Darwinian Exposition Often a Case of Science Fiction or Fiction Science?

In my book, The Integration of Faith and Learning: A Worldview Approach, I referenced William D. Romey's article, "Science as Fiction or Nonfiction: A Physical Scientist's View from a General Semantics Perspective" (ETC, 37:3, Fall 1980, 201-207) in which Professor Romey says, "It is time to recognize the fictional dimension of all science and to acknowledge what is often thought 'pure' is a blend of fictional and nonfictional elements. . . ." He notes that inferences in science often involve "a leap across a gap of unknown dimensions," and that "any inference, then, may not be far from a flight of fantasy."

What brought these comments to mind was a book review by S. I. Hayakawa, that famed semanticist, discussing science fiction and L. Ron Hubbard's book, Dianetics. (ETC, 8:4, Summer, 1951, 280-293). In that review, Professor Hayakawa describes "the dangers entailed in the profession of science-fiction writing." How he describes the practice reminds me of how discussions of evolutionary "facts" and processes are often presented. Read Hayakawa's description  here and see if it doesn't resonate with a lot of Neo-Darwinist rhetoric:

"The art consists in concealing from the reader, for novelistic purposes, the distinctions between established scientific facts, almost-established scientific hypotheses, scientific conjectures, and imaginative extrapolations far beyond what has even been conjectured. The danger of this technique lies in the fact that . . . the writer . . . may eventually succeed in concealing the distinction between his facts and his imaginings from himself." As a result, adds Hayakawa, the writer's imaginings can "acquire so vivid a verbal existence that they may begin to  have, in the writer's evaluations, 'actual' existence."

From a semantics perspective, you could say that such writers have imprisoned themselves in their own verbal cage. Or, from a more ordinary perspective, it could be said that they have come to believe their own propaganda.

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