Quote note (#217)
If ‘scientism’ is about ignoring these objections, and exploring reality with absolute contempt for all constraint, then the XS posture is unreservedly scientistic:
Scientific inquiry into the truth about human nature is a worthy part of the modern scientific project, and one that deserves our support. However, it is not morally neutral. Scientists who want to study human nature must justify their research in moral terms: What might this research tell us about who we are as human beings, and what might it mean for how we should live? Trying to separate the moral questions from the results of inquiry by claiming that all the moral questions are already settled would make scientific inquiry both irresponsible and irrelevant. Making such claims is irresponsible because it ignores the reality that many people in society who see things differently may use the claims for pernicious ends. But it is also an admission of irrelevance. Why inquire about human nature if not in the service of the Socratic question of how we should live? An open-minded dedication to free inquiry into the truth, notwithstanding the barriers of taboos, traditions, and authority, is admirable — but real open-mindedness also calls for recognizing when taboos, traditions, and authorities embody reason and goodness and deserve our respect.
There are no authorities that can be trusted to impose these qualifications, or trusted to be able to impose them. The more radically immunized to all such considerations science can be, the more we’re going to learn things, and if what we discover deeply upsets us — better still. If there’s a “trust us” in there somewhere, its credibility was already long dead and stinking by the late 20th century. Whether delegitimated through epistemological malignancy, or social fecklessness, there are no public institutions or authorities left that deserve an iota of trust today.
Scientists are flaky monkeys, to be tormented by cold criticism, but science is a work of Gnon. Best then, to do what’s going to be done. Strip truth down to the basics — where it means only reality claims capable of withstanding rigorous, non-orchestrated criticism (and ultimately Nakamoto consensus) — or get out of the way, before you’re pushed. Truth curation is over (and was already, virtually, half a millennium ago).