Friday, August 23, 2013

Orwell's Warning about Scientific Autocracy

Someone sent me a link to this blog (life in B flat--http://ncu9nc.blogspot.com/) with an article about how George Orwell also warned of the autocratic potential of scinece "George Orwell: "... the scientists themselves would benefit by a little education." Darwin agrees."

Most people know that George Orwell wrote about the dangers of authoritarian government in his novels 1984 and Animal Farm. What is less well known is that Orwell also wrote about the danger of the authoriarian potential of science. In his essay What is Science? Orwell argued that society confuses science, the "method of thought which obtains verifiable results by reasoning logically from observed fact", with narrow areas of knowledge such as chemistry and physics. Because of this confusion, society mistakenly attributes broad authority to scientists when their specialization actually makes them narrow minded and so unqualified to exercise broad authority.


Orwell wrote that scientists encourage this confusion in order to protect their own prestige and power. I think Orwell is right about this. I have written that scientists protect their power in various ways, such as suppressing information about ESP and the afterlife, conspiring to establish philosophical naturalism as a fundamental tenet of mainstream science, and initially ridiculing discoveries that were later admitted to be important. Because of all these actions, scientists have lost credibility with the public. People are more likely to believe in ESP if they are told it has been disproven by science. All of this supports Orwell's contention that scientists should not be given broad authority, which I also agree with. I have written that the public should demand government fund parapsychological research even though mainstream scientists are against it.
This kind of observation, seen as "attack on science," by hard core Dawkamentalists, is being made more and more in the last half of the twentieth century and has not ceased. The blog article makes the point that Orwell thought scientists are to ghettoized into their own areas of expertise and don't have a broad enough outlook or education. That's no doubt true and may be why they reduce all forms of knowledge to just their specialty.

The blog quotes a long section from Orwell's work "What is Science?" This is linked to a site called Geore Orwell Letters.com. Written for the Tribune, 1945. Another thinker who echos the same concerns is C. Write Mills, who invented the terms "white collar" and "power elite," and "military industrial complex." Mills taught at Columbia University from 1946 to 1962. He was very popular and well published in both academic and popular press. He thought that science used it's "objectivity" as mask to high behind, so that self interest posed as objectivity and indifference to the plight of the suffering posed as "being scientific." Two of his major works were The Power Elite, and The Sociological Imagination. That latter is on my list of all time favorite books. Both Orwell and Mills are favorites of mine.

9 comments:

JBsptfn said...

Good post. I knew that you would be interested in that entry since it dealt with Orwell, and I know that you did some entries talking about him in relation to Atheists.

Metacrock said...

Hey JB. not only that but I'm glad to know about that blog life in B flat. I was looking at other stuff in it and it's pretty good. I don't care for esp or psychic research but I'm not opposed to researching it.

JBsptfn said...

You should put that on the blog roll.

Also, speaking of the blog roll, the Refutation of Infidels link under Tekton is dead.

You should delete it, and replace it with this (I got it through the internet archive):

http://web.archive.org/web/20101110020740/http://refutationofinfidels.blog.com/2009/07/

The top entry is Evolution and Extreme Genesis Literalism.

Metacrock said...

Thanks JB. I did actually add life in b flat to Metacrock's blog but I will add the speicific Orwell thing to AW.

I'll also check out the other one.

JBsptfn said...

Thanks, but actually, that link that you labeled "way back" is from a defunct blog called refutation of infidels, not Tekton.

Metacrock said...

at the top of the page there is a banner saying "way back machine." I thought this was on the way back machine. It might be an ad for it. I don't think I've seen ads for it. So I assume that was it.

Metacrock said...

I see. it's not Tekton. picky picky picky. where's the fun in always getting it right?

JBsptfn said...

I shouldn't have been too picky. I just didn't get too much sleep last night. Sorry.

Metacrock said...

that's cool. I was just kidding. ;-)