We wholeheartedly agree with the analysis of Jonathan Newman for Ron Paul’s Liberty Report, and would go even further to say that science itself, not just scientism, is at issue. Our analysis may be found in our book Science’s First Mistake … a free .pdf download may be found at www.sciencesfirstmistake.com where we consider many unmentioned absurdities in scientific theory, indeed in all theory.
“The world is observable because it is unobservable.” “The condition of its possibility is its impossibility.” These two apparently nonsensical sentences actually make perfect sense. What Niklas Luhmann is saying in these two statements is that observation is not, cannot be, what we think it is. Observation of a part is only possible because the whole is unobservable. Not that the ‘whole’ in this respect can be defined, for then that ‘whole’ would need to be distinguished from everything but the ‘whole’ itself; that is distinguished from nothingness. Such separation is inherently problematic for reasons that are investigated at length in the book, starting from the impossibility of defining ‘nothing,’ as noted by Luhmann. The ‘whole’ therefore takes on two different meanings in itself (introducing yet another distinction): the ‘whole’ defined by an observation that separates that whole internally into what is being observed, and what is not; and the whole as the external reality that remains unattainable without the operation of observation.
And yes, before anyone mentions it, we are aware that in making these ‘observations’, we are ourselves theorising. Welcome to the limitations of the human condition.
Ian Angell and Dionysios Demetis.
After a few issues and with a delay of a couple of months, it’s finally here. The paperback version of Science’s First Mistake is available in the United States. If you’re in the US, help us spread the word by forwarding the link below to your Philosophy of Science/Epistemology/Systems Theory/Methodology/Science friends!
The Science & Medical network asked us to write an article about Truth and Science. Click below to read the pdf version of it, as it was published in the Journal of the Science and Medical Network.
Click here to read Article
After the hardback version of the book had a great run, our publisher has now made the book available in paperback! This means that the book is available at a more accessible price (£18). Check here for orders through Amazon.
Quite often, people ask us why we are “against science” and why we have chosen such a controversial title for our book. To find a full explanation for the latter you’ll just have to read the Epilogue to the book.
We will elaborate (just a little) on the former in this blog.
Let’s make it quite clear, we are not “against science” in the usual sense of the phrase. Science enables humankind to deliver sophisticated descriptions of the world (mostly of physical reality), and even more importantly it delivers a utility that projects those descriptions onto the practical realm. It enables us to construct technology, to ‘observe’ the world around us in ways that are truly novel and often surprising. Science further enables us to re-synthesize such constructs and acquire more complex descriptions of the world and more complex technologies; in this way we ‘develop’ – even up to a point where we construct the instruments for our own self-destruction (hence the continuous discussions that this century might be humanity’s last – and not only in the sense of the ridiculous Mayan-calendar “propheteering”).
Our objection Continue reading →
Ian Angell will be taking part in “an evening of informal, intelligent and exciting chat” on the evening of 27th January 2011 between 7pm and 8.45pm, at The Science Museum’s Dana Centre,
165 Queen’s Gate,
The subject of the discussion is:
“Is science the only path to truth? Does it have all the answers?”
Also there will be Jane O’Grady, philosopher and journalist, City University; David Papineau, philosopher, King’s College London
; Raymond Tallis, clinical scientist, philosopher and poet
Facilitator for the evening will be Jack Klaff, the writer and actor (see his web site for information on his role in Star Wars!)
Admission to the event is free, although pre-booking is advised.
Reservations: 020 7942 4040 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information check out:
The number One is singular; unique. Indeed, each number is unique. Each is an abstraction that occurs just once. What is more, the only property a number can have must be arithmetical. Numbers are not coloured, or scratched, or lop-sided – they do not have a position or size (in any physical sense). The only properties they can have (for example being a prime, a square, or being a Fibonacci or a Perfect number) are those that emerge out of the expanding self-referential system that is arithmetic.
There can be no misinterpretation with numbers, other than by erroneously operating the system’s procedures. Hence arithmetic is as close to objectivity as we can get, possibly because it is purely abstract, devoid of all physical attributes and thus of all interpretation … indeed independent of any observer. That is why arithmetic/mathematics can be shared without ambiguity by initiates to the system, and why arithmetical/mathematical proofs are possible.
However, paradoxes arise the moment numbers are mapped onto the physical world. The unique number Two is the sum of One and the same One – because there can only be one One. Yet when I talk about ‘two’ chairs say, that is ‘one’ chair and another necessarily different ‘one’ chair, what am I doing? I have thought into existence some idealized yet vague notion of what a chair is, and in my head I have recognized that each chair roughly corresponds, that is each is similar to that ideal. I then decide for the sake of utility that I can dispense with vague notions of similarity, and from now on I will consider them the same. I must deny all properties in each unique chair that are at variance to the ‘one true chair’ that is my ideal.
However the ‘two’ same (=similar) chairs are necessarily different. To make this definitive statement I don’t even need to go looking for microscopic differences in shape, colour or texture – they are in different positions in space, which immediately denies any claim to the singularity of ‘chair-ness’. Two is the sum of One and the same One, but ‘two’ chairs is the sum of ‘one’ chair and a different ‘one’ chair. So the use of the number ‘two’ in the physical world is already at variance with the Two of arithmetic. Indeed in the physical world for there to be ‘two’ things the same, they have to be different – a paradox. If they were the same, that is each is a One, then they would be the same in all respects including their position in space. Hence they could not be differentiated, and so there would be only ‘one’ chair apparent and not ‘two’.
After Ian appeared on Laurie Taylor’s Thinking Allowed to talk about Science’s First Mistake, BBC Radio 4 received a number of comments from listeners – surprisingly the majority was supportive of our position. However, some of Laurie’s humanist contacts objected to our take on numbers, particularly Ian’s throwaway line “numbers are absurd”. Consequently, Laurie asked to interview Ian so he could write a column on these ideas for the New Humanist magazine. They met up on the afternoon of Friday, November 12, and spent a jolly hour bouncing the ideas around. You’ll have to read Laurie’s column to find out what was said. However, during that conversation it suddenly dawned on Ian that his skeptical attitude towards numbers did not emerge while writing the book. Ask any of the students who, for the past two decades, have attended his lectures on Information Systems Management as part of the LSE Masters programme in Analysis Design and Management Systems.
Oscar on the absurdity of numbers
The students on that course are very familiar with Ian’s cat Oscar. Oscar is special; he can talk. Continue reading →
To listen to the BBC Radio 4 interview of Ian Angell on Science’s First Mistake, follow this link here and then use the slider of the player to move to 18.00/28.30.
The Grand Design, the latest book of Professors Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow, has caused great offence in religious circles. Christian, Muslim and Jewish leaders have lined up to say that Hawking is misguided in claiming that God was not needed in the Creation. Rather than attempting a rebuttal of the book’s denial of God’s existence, the clerics should instead be asking: “Does Physics exist?; Does Mathematics exist?” other than as self-referential delusions in the heads of scientists. Richard Feynman points to the paradox that Physics is based on mathematics, which is not a science, as the test of its validity is not experimental.
One much repeated quotation from The Grand Design is ‘[b]ecause there is a law such as gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing. Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist.” Here Hawking is implying that the universe is an ‘it’ that can be grasped using the notion of gravity, which by implication must be a precursor of the universe – there can be no evidence for anything extra-universal. Continue reading →