Are so-called “scientific realists” trying to kidnap the concept “science”?

How can science have been turned into a religion today (eg. cladistics and particle physics), about a century after it was falsified as a such (ie, with the formulation of Russell’s paradox)? This process is more surprising given that also Einstein’s realism was falsified about 30 years later, and quantum physics (in the form of instrumentalism) won the battle with realism thereafter, and Nazism’s realism (ie, race biology) also was defeated in the Second World War?

Is there a kidnapping attempt by realists of the concept “science” going on? Are realists trying to reclaim by force what they lost by reason? Can they not bow their heads for reality’s incomprehensibility instead of battling against facts? Science that contradicts facts (like “scientific realism”) can of course not be called science (from Latin scientia, meaning “knowledge”), because if knowledge does not have to agree with facts, then “knowledge” is synonymous with “statement”. Without the additional criterion that scientific statements also shall agree with facts, science decays into mere conceptualization (which Russell’s paradox thus shows is paradoxically contradictory).

After the formulation of Russell’s paradox, we can understand that science is not about understanding reality, but about modeling reality to predict and manipulate it (ie, instrumentalism). Russell’s paradox showed that “the true nature” of reality is inaccessible to us, by showing that it is in fact a paradox, because a paradox is contradictory and can thus not be real. If it could be real (which cladists and particle physicists believe, assert, and even claim to have verified empirically), then science would decay into a triviality, because then facts would not be different from fiction. The fact that facts are different from fiction thus falsifies the idea that reality is comprehensible (ie, what cladists and particle physicists believe, assert, and even claim to have verified empirically), but does instead support the logical conclusion that reality is incomprehensible (by being a paradox).


4 responses to “Are so-called “scientific realists” trying to kidnap the concept “science”?

  1. If you think that reality is inaccessible and that science is only about predicting phenomona (instrumentalism), then I guess that you are advocating for a purely utilitarist classification of life. If so, you must be close to pheneticism (also called “numerical taxonomy”, see Sneath and Sokal), which is a nominalist philosophy of taxonomy. Am I right?

    • I’m advocating an orthogonal system of classification, like the Linnean system, because only such a system is consistent. The concept “phenetic” is invented by cladists on the basis of the difference between homologies and analogies, assuming that we can choose to only acknowledge homologies in a cladistic system or not. This difference is, however, an inconsistent cladistic illusion. This choice is actually not given. Fact is instead that we have to use an orthogonal system of classification to be able to acknowledge all homologies. We simply can’t acknowledge all homologies within a cladistic system, because this system is inconsistent (ie, ultimately paradoxically contradictory).

      The problem with cladistics is that it starts from an inconsistent axiom – that classes are real (ie, that the average, or the type, is real instead of the variation, which btw also is the basis for racism). This problem means that cladistics is inconsistent throughout its reasoning. It draws inconsistent conclusions and creates inconsistent concepts. It means that non-cladists can’t even discuss reality consistently with cladists. Your (cladistic) question is thus inconsistent. What do you mean with your statement “advocating numerical taxonomy”? If anyone is “advocating numerical taxonomy”, then it is cladists. No classification can be more “numerical” than cladistics is. Cladistics actually IS “numerical taxonomy”. The problem with “numerical taxonomy”, however, is that it is inconsistent (actually ultimately paradoxically contradictory) if it isn’t arranged orthogonally (like the Linnean system is).

      So no, I’m not “advocating numerical taxonomy”, but advocating a (numerical) taxonomy that can acknowledge all homologies, and I understand that such a taxonomy must be orthogonal (like the Linnean system is). If we consistently start from organisms instead of from classes, then we consistently acknowledge homologies instead of kinds, and then we understand that a consistent taxonomy requires an orthogonal system (like the Linnean system). Cladistics is simply fundamentally contradictory by starting from the axiom that classes instead of organisms are real. It is actually the inconsistent foundation for typology like Nazism (and was also formulated by the Nazist Willi Hennig). Every taxonomy is “numerical” by nature, our primary problem (as biological systematists) is to avoid contradiction. Only secondarily can we consider whether such a taxonomy can be framed as a “tree of life” or not. And, unfortunately, such a taxonomy does not appear to be possible to frame as a “tree of life”. Instead, the idea of a “tree of life” appears to be an inconsistent oversimplification.
      Our task (as biological systematists) is to describe evolution consistently and unambiguously, and our problem is that this problem appears to lack a solution. I’m just arguing that it is better to acknowledge this lack than to argue for racism (as cladistics does). I can’t explain reality, but think it is important to argue against cladistics to avoid the devastating consequences this inconsistent approach creates.

  2. You seem to assume in your answer that I am a cladist, which I am not. I understand your criticism of cladism, but I have difficulties to understand the system you advocate because of the very abstract manner in which you express yourself. By ‘orthogonal’, do you mean the same thing than Mayr’s ‘dual criterion’ (genealogy + similiarity). If so, I figure out that you defend evolutionary systematics like Mayr, Simpson, Ashlock, Cavalier-Smith, Zander, Benton, etc. Isn’t it? However, the philosophy underlying the work of these people is a form of realist materialism, not nominalism.

    They are several ways to create a Linnean system of life. Evolutionary systematics is a consistent way to do so. Pheneticism is another. As I said it was called “numerical taxonomy” in the 60’s, but as you noted every modern taxonomy is now numerical. My point is that pheneticism does not consider the difference between analogy and homology to be revelant for the making of the classification. They advocate a purely utilitarist classification based only on ‘overall similarity’ and not genealogy at all. Their philosophy is rather instrumentalist, like yours, which the reason why I thought you were advocating something similar.

    • An orthogonal system of classification (hereafter called an OSC) is a system of classification that first classifies the objects (in this case “organisms”) into classes and then classifies these classes into classes of categories (where “classes” are infinite whereas categories are finite), like the Linnean system. What we call these classes of objects and classes of categories (eg, species, genera, families, etcetera) is irrelevant. We can even number them or use any combination of letters and numbers. What is relevant, however, is that this kind of system keeps “class” (ie, infinity) and category (ie, finiteness) consistently apart, because by this it avoids Russell’s paradox. Not using a system an OSC kind instead leads right into the infinite carousel of Russell’s paradox (eg, cladistics).

      This matter is thus fundamentally not about whether we shall try to distinguish homologies from analogies or not, but about avoiding Russell’s paradox. It is this paradox that created the chaos in biological systematics before Linné.

      The question whether we shall try to distinguish homologies from analogies or not is complicated. The main problem is that every particular science requires a particular classification, whereof the classification is nominalistic per definition (ie, classes are decided, not found) by consistency (ie, to avoid Russell’s paradox). It means that the difference between homologies and analogies is fundamentally inconsistent. However, if we use an OSC, then this difference is not inconsistent, that is, is consistent. It means that we can distinguish homologies and analogies iff (if and only if) we use an OSC. The next problem is that biological systematics primarily is a classification (ie, an assumption), but that an OSC transforms it into a conclusion (ie, a deduction). The OSC thus makes it fundamentally ambiguous between assumption and conclusion. This problem further complicates the matter by not only influencing biological systematics, but also all sciences that use biological systematics. While biological systematists that aims at distinguishing homologies from analogies requires flexibility in the OSC, scientists that use biological systematics instead requires rigidity in the OSC. The question thus grows into a question for the whole community of biological scientists. Biological systematics is the foundation for all biological sciences, so the question is if we can allow biological systematists to make regular updates of the system based on what they from time to time consider are homologies respectively analogies. Can biological sciences have a floating base? What do we do with general deductions for certain groups of organisms when these groups are repealed by some biological systematists? And, what do we do if biological systematists do not agree? The question is thus not whether we shall try to distinguish homologies from analogies or not, but rather how we can do it without destroying all other biological sciences. This question ought to be discussed between representatives for many different biological sciences, but it does of course require understanding of the problem in all biological sciences. Presently, the problem is oversimplified by cladists into the case of Russell’s paradox they call “the tree of life”. A rational solution of the problem is thus as far away as it possibly can be. The matter is thus instead maximally polarized between simplifiers (ie, populists) and rationalists.

      I fundamentally adhere to an evolutionary systematics, but also realize the problem with it for all other biological sciences. I thus advocate a meeting between representatives for all biological sciences to seek a solution of this fundamental problem for all of us. In this meeting, cladists must however be excluded, because they do not even understand the problem.

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