Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Constructivism and subjectivism

This is something I have experienced in online discussions recently. The discussions were about religion and extremism after Baroness Warsi and her complaints of militant secularism. There was a very volatile twitter debate and I was trying to be a non-militant, but the web is a place where arguments are easily polarised. This is the argument of the "Net Delusion", which I need to get around to reading. 
The problem is that people cannot accept that the way you perceive the world and the language you use and the descriptions you make and even the way you experience the world is not objective. Some scientists (in particular the ones that are most vocal, but often the least capable) will never accept that objective beliefs are not possible. They also argue that this view is not dogma, by defining dogma narrowly to mean the pig-headedness of those who do not share their views. 
Why does cognitive science still exist as a discipline when constructivist science does not? A computer is a metaphor for the brain, and not even a very good one, and certainly not a description. A computer can only do what it is programmed to do. It will never have the heuristics of intuition and imagination. At least we have moved on from behaviourism but this need for objective truth allows the "scientists" to try to undermine constructivism and phenomenological research. There is a suggestion that if research is not quantitative and objective then it is not rigorous. In reality even physics has had to accept the role of the observer in the experiment and maths has had to accept that there is no absolute truth where some aspects are not defined arbitrarily. 
The personal irony is that I have been moving steadily to the more quantitative end of science and that now I am mostly a statistician!

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