The Cult of Science

Great piece by Jonathan Ree in the New Humanist reviewing the work of Bruno Latour particularly his latest “The Modern Cult of the Factish Gods” (Hat tip to David Morey on Facebook)

But who in this great brawl is really believing naively? Not the religious believers, according to Latour, but the modern atheists, afflicted as they are by the “naïve belief … that ignorant people believe naively”. Indeed the much-loved contrast between the so-called “facts” that provide a foundation for enlightened knowledge and the “fetishes” that animate the beliefs of fools is itself a superstition – a delusion which Latour proposes to commemorate with his new hybrid word “factish”.

Factish, in short, is what happens when our own “facts” turn out to be fetishes, and the “fetishes” of others turn out to be facts.

But who is the image-worshipper at this table? Not the believers, surely, because however much they treasure their icons, they know very well (most of the time at least) that they are human artefacts. If superstition is at work here, it seems to be on the side of the idol-smashers, however modern they may be and proud of their dispassionate rationality; otherwise how could they get excited about destroying something that is after all no more than an image? Icons are thus the idols of the iconoclasts, making a cult of their anti-cultism.

(My emphasis) Has all the feel of a Foggy-Froggie / PoMo – he is French, but look at that jacket! Indeed he was one of the targets of the great Sokal hoax, but he has nailed the superstition – the psychological disease I call scientism – the delusion he calls factish and Maxwell calls scientific neurosis.

Value-free science is a superstition.

(PS Looks like the New Humanist / Rationalist Association is the antidote to the naivete of the BHA. Time to switch subscriptions.)

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