Thursday, January 27, 2011

#136: Steve Fuller

Fuller is a sociologist and best known as a post-modernist alibi for intelligent design creationism. He works and lives in the UK (Warwick, but Fuller is still American), where he is actually a celebrated sociologist who has won prizes and awards. Tells you something about the field. He is mostly associated with social epistemology as an interdisciplinary research program. Social epistemology is a normative discipline that addresses philosophical problems of knowledge using the tools of history and the social sciences. It is utter bullshit, in other words (skepticism is a white male European construct).

For the purposes of our encyclopedia, Fuller is most notable for his extensive support of creationism, publishing books and papers and even participating at the Dover trial (for the defense, though his argument may have hurt them more than helped them), claiming that the theory of evolution and intelligent design creationism should be accorded equal status as scientific theories. He also claims that ID needs and should receive “affirmative action” among the sciences. He has also claimed that Darwinism leads to abortion and euthanasia, showing where his ideas really come from. (Steven Poole called his book “Dissent over Descent” “an epoch-hopping parade of straw men, incompetent reasoning and outright gibberish, as when evolution is argued to share with astrology a commitment to "action at a distance", except that the distance is in time rather than space. It's intellectual quackery like this that gives philosophy of science a bad name”; Michael Ruse judged it to be “completely wrong and […] backed by no sound scholarship whatsoever”)

He has also argued that science is basically a religion, and that modern science has its basis in an attempt by humanity to transcend itself and reach God – and that science itself “does not make sense without the Abrahamic backdrop”. More muddleheaded POMO idiocy is discussed here, here, and here.)

Norman Levitt responded to Fuller’s bullshittery, in particular his book Science Vs. Religion with eloquence and insight (here, here, here, and here (Sahotra Sarkar also had an eloquent response; also here)). After Levitt passed away, Fuller wrote one of the more bizarre eulogies in history, calling him “"a minor science fascist” and accusing him (rather than Fuller himself and his POMO followers) of being a “pioneer of cyber-fascism, whereby a certain well-educated but (for whatever reason) academically disenfranchised group of people have managed to create their own parallel universe of what is right and wrong in matters of science”. The “eulogy” is discussed here.

Fuller is currently associated with Dembski’s blog Uncommon Descent (no link provided). Also made an appearance in Expelled.

Diagnosis: Total idiot; not only impervious to critical thinking, but using POMO to justify not engaging in it. Blathering crackpot. May have some influence, but probably not among the usual fundamentalist creationists. His ilk is a threat to civilization nonetheless, and Fuller should be taken as an example of the ridiculousness of POMO and where it might actually lead.

1 comment:

  1. Now now. Social epistemology isn't all bullshit. The problem with Fuller's social epistemology is - in the worlds of Alvin Goldman - it is "veriphobic". Some scientific theory X isn't true or false, it's a social construct. Good social epistemology of the sort Goldman pursues accepts that epistemology deals in things which are true or false, and there are social pressures on that. Like if we looked at something like a newspaper or a science lab or Wikipedia or whatever, there are social pressures there which can promote or prevent the discovery or transmission of true beliefs.

    I mean, if you took some bullshit homeopath and you put them next to a scientist, you may find that there are similarities in the social structure around them, but if you are sane you can see that the social structures around the scientist enable him or her to better know the truth about the natural world while the social structures around the homeopath are there for show, in order to make it look like they are doing science, when in fact they are doing pseudoscience. If you can't make this distinction, which people like Fuller and the other veriphobic social epistemologists can't, then you are missing half the picture about science (or other professions or ways of life that aim towards finding out truths about the world).

    Social epistemology needs to be rescued from the postmodern ghouls like Steve Fuller because there is a fruitful research programme in exploring the social factors around epistemology. But for it to not be completely self-defeating and pointless, you kind of need a belief in the possibility of truth, which postmodernists like Fuller have rejected (and, most contemporary philosophers would say, for some very bad reasons).