From Rick Dutkiewicz:

Dr. Glenn,

I couldn't help but think of you when I read this quote.

It made me smile a bit, and I thought that I should share it with you.

Thanks so much for your great insights and down-to-earth revelations.

"These scientisms, as I shall call them, are clusters of scientific ideas which come together and almost surprise themselves into creeds of belief, scientific mythologies…. And they share with religions many of their most obvious characteristics: a rational splendor that explains everything, a charismatic leader or succession of leaders who are highly visible and beyond criticism, certain gestures of idea and rituals of interpretation, and a requirement of total commitment. In return the adherent receives what the religions had once given him more
universally: a world view, a hierarchy of importances, and an auguring place where he may find out what to do and think, in short, a total explanation of man. And this totality is obtained not by actually explaining everything, but by an encasement of its activity, a severe and absolute restriction of attention, such that everything that is not explained is not in view."
—Jaynes, J., The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, Mariner Books


Thanks for the mention of Jaynes, who pretty well explains the philosophical game. It gives me yet another chance to expound. The quote reminds me of Thomas Kuhn’s “paradigms,” which could be substituted for “scientisms.” It has much of the same approach that Kuhn used. As I explained in the Ten Assumptions of Science, we need to articulate assumptions (i.e., “beliefs”) in science in order to propose theories that can be tested. The Big Bang Theory has its methodologies, its charismatic leader (Hawking), and its loyalty tests for publication in mainstream journals. A scientism, paradigm, or worldview helps us to determine what is deserving of our attention. It tells us what to think so we won’t have to do the impossible—think of everything at once. It is necessary that “everything that is not explained is not in view.” This is because the universe is infinite. We never will be able to explain everything, although we always can do a better job of it. Of course, like Kuhn, one of the first post-modernists, Jaynes proposes no evolutionary progress. It is as if scientific theories, like religions, come into favor and go out of favor in an endless cycle. The truth is that we can never prevent others from examining the ground where the bodies lie. The new students that were not adequately indoctrinated have a tendency to be curious about “everything that is not explained.” We progress because we learn more and more about the infinite universe over time. So scientific progress, like history itself, is not a cycle, but a spiral. When in the depths of a regression like the one experienced in modern physics since Einstein and the development of the Big Bang Theory, prospects may seem bleak indeed. Nonetheless, the great project begun by Copernicus will reach its eventual conclusion in acceptance of the Infinite Universe Theory. Not that such a theory will explain everything, which it could not, by definition, but that it will put us in our place. At least we will be free of a universe that explodes out of nothing, just as we are free of an earth circumnavigated by the sun.

Jaynes, J., 1976 [2000], The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, Mariner Books, 512 p.

Kuhn, T.S., 1970, The structure of scientific revolutions (2 ed.): Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 210 p.

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