Challenges to Science

English: A game of Tug of War during College R...

English: A game of Tug of War during College Royal at the University of Guelph. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I wrote this paper about 30 years ago for the HiC magazine. I welcome comments on it now. Has anything changed over those many years?

Next week I want to consider some of the current problems we face: climate change deniers, beginning and end of life issues, distribution of scarce resources, and others.

Humanist in Canada, Summer 1983; by Bob Lane

   – ©2005, 2007 Bob Lane

Over the past two hundred years science has proved itself to be the most powerful intellectual method yet devised. The “scientific method” has become the paradigm for all disciplines which deal in empirical fact. Observation, generalisation, falsification, repetition of experiments have become orthodox methodology which is rarely questioned and not often understood.

Today there are several challenges to science. In the United States, and to some degree here in Canada, one of the centerpiece theories of contemporary science — evolution — has come under strong attack by a group of fundamentalist Christians who call themselves “creationists”. They are trying to get creationism taught in the school system as a scientific theory on equal footing with evolutionism.

A second challenge comes from those who believe in paranormal phenomena: ESP, out-of-body travel, clairvoyance and the like. The tremendous interest in this area of “psychic” phenomena is witnessed by the procession of movies, books, television shows, and newspaper columns devoted to the mysterious powers of people who can, seemingly, bend spoons with mind power alone, predict events before they occur, and, in general, are tuned in to some dimension of reality that the rest of us, bound by our five senses, can only vicariously experience. Are any of these phenomena real? Or are they merely hoped for evidence of some spirit world that promises us immortality? Or are they, more seriously, hoaxes perpetrated on a gullible audience for very non-scientific reasons, like greed?

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Opportunity Knocks – twice


Modern Philosophy - Sarnia, Ontario

Modern Philosophy – Sarnia, Ontario (Photo credit: ecocessories)

Teaching Early Modern Philosophy: New Approaches

Most survey courses in early modern philosophy are informed by a familiar narrative, based on the development of empiricism and rationalism and their synthesis in Kant‘s philosophy. Over the last few decades, this narrative has come under heavy criticism and is now rejected by many scholars. The narrative focuses primarily on epistemological and metaphysical issues, whereas scores of early modern authors had little interest in epistemology and were driven by natural-philosophical, political, or theological concerns. The traditional classifications of empiricists and rationalists have been questioned. Many regard the standard account of developments within each camp (‘Locke begat Berkeley, Berkeley begat Hume’) as inadequate. A large body of scholarship has brought to light the historical relevance and intrinsic significance of numerous figures beyond the empiricist and rationalist triads. The omission of women philosophers from the canon is hard to justify and perpetrates deleterious stereotypes. Despite scholars’ dissatisfaction with the standard narrative, the narrative still informs most survey courses, manuals, and anthologies. A growing number of teachers are keen to try new approaches to the teaching of lower-level courses (in the American system, or undergraduate courses in the British system). Yet scholarly up-to-date, pedagogically well-thought-out models that they may follow or draw inspiration from are far and wide in between.
To remedy this, Metaphilosophy solicits papers illustrating new ways of teaching lower-level courses on early modern philosophy. The papers will be published in a symposium, guest-edited by Alberto Vanzo (University of Warwick). Submissions may address, among others, the following issues.
– Should teachers focus on a narrow set of canonical authors and if so, which ones? If we should abandon the very idea of a canon and follow the contextualist approach that is popular in recent scholarship, what criteria should guide teachers’ selection of philosophical problems, texts, and authors?
– Scholarly developments have helped us make better sense of the relation of early modern philosophical doctrines with political events and with developments in a wide range of disciplines, from medicine to theology. Taking these developments into account has proven necessary to correctly understand several arguments of early modern philosophers. How much weight should teachers give to the ways in which philosophical developments were influenced by non-philosophical factors, vis-à-vis focusing on the internal logic of philosophers’ arguments?
– The early modern period saw significant shifts and disagreements on the nature, tasks, and methods of philosophy. How can these be highlighted in low-level courses, so as to familiarise students with competing stances on the nature of philosophy and its relation to the natural sciences?
– Teachers are sometimes torn between competing demands and expectations: that they give students a historically accurate understanding of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century philosophies, which include unpalatable or idiosyncratic claims, and that they highlight the continued relevance of those philosophies to current-day discussions, at the risk of reinventing (instead of merely reconstructing) early modern views when the gulf between past and present appears too wide. How should teachers balance these tendencies in low-level courses?
– How can one effectively integrate areas, traditions, and figures that were traditionally marginalized (e.g. moral philosophy, women philosophers) within the curriculum, rather than simply juxtaposing them with standard topics and authors? How can teachers of lower-level courses give their due to the scores of Aristotelians, school philosophers, and other ‘losers’ of early modern philosophy?
Deadline for submissions is 1st October 2014. Manuscripts should be prepared according to the guidelines available at

and should be submitted via email or regular mail to:

Department of Philosophy
Southern Connecticut State University
New Haven, CT 06515, USA
For information, please email Alberto Vanzo (

The University Press of Mississippi has expressed an interest in a sequel to my edited collection “Comics as Philosophy” and has encouraged me to contact qualified contributors.
This time around I’d like to focus on  Graphic Novels within the following areas:
•       Action and Adventure
•       Autobiography and Biography
•       Children and Young Adult
•       Crime and Mystery
•       Educational
•       History
•       Horror
•       Humour
•       International
•       Non-Fiction
•       Science fiction and Fantasy
•       Sex and Love
•       Superhero
•       War and Politics
If you are interested, please contact me for further details! Please forward this email to any other Philosopher whom you think may be interested.

Jeff McLaughlin

Certainty is demonic


Bertrand Russell, London [220309]

Bertrand Russell, London [220309] (Photo credit: danielweiresq)

Today’s Quote: “Dogmatism and skepticism are both, in a sense, absolute philosophies; one is certain of knowing, the other of not knowing. What philosophy should dissipate is certainty, whether of knowledge or

– Bertrand Russell

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Why study philosophy?

Shouldn’t I be taking business courses so I can get a job? Or computer science?

But philosophy? Isn’t that for dead Greeks?

I want to be prepared for employment when I finish college, and not end up a cab driver or a beer slinger!

Why study philosophy?

fauxphilnews: Obama releases philosophy from strategic reserve

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