Today I’m going after science. Well, one specific fallacious argument popularly used by science in favour of maintaining antiquated views, which is, in principle, opposed to the whole mantra behind science as a whole. That argument is apriorism. A priori is a latin phrase representing a type of knowledge (or proof of knowledge) that can be ascertained through the mind alone; it is used in an epistemological sense to contrast with A posteriori, which is knowledge (or proof of knowledge) that requires external input, such as sensory data (seeing is believing). I’m not here to delve into the depths of epistemological philosophy. Rather, I’m going to show you what the term means in the argumentative sense.
First off, I’m once again using the term argumentative in the rare but correct way: ‘relating to arguments/argumentation’, which is to say, an argument as a logical statement or a series of logical statements. Too many people get confused about ‘argument’; it brings up all kinds of implications of disagreement and anger with some people. The horror of having your views questioned and such.
But anyway, back to Apriorism. The technical definition is when a piece of A posteriori knowledge is taken as A priori and thus becomes immune to criticism and any evidence against it is dismissed. Consider the statement, A = A. There is nothing to be said against such an argument, it is true 100% of the time, no matter what. This is because it is an A priori proof; the statement proves itself like a tautology. What about the statement, Jupiter has 67 moons? This isn’t self-evident; you have to actually look at Jupiter through a telescope to determine this, you have to find the proof in the real, corporeal world.
Let’s say a scientist discovered these orbiting masses around Jupiter and concluded in his fully codified theory that Jupiter has 67 moons, the statement would remain a theory until enough time has passed and enough people believe it that on one mysterious midsummer night, the theory becomes fact. Nobody quite knows how it happens but at some point in time, when the planets are aligned (rather fittingly), all the ‘maybe’s disappear and it becomes something that is just true.
Then a new scientist discovers a large celestial body orbiting Jupiter quite closely that doesn’t appear in any way in the original guy’s report. In fact, the new scientist says that this object was hidden by Jupiter itself because of the alignment of its orbit and only now reveals itself to us. Here is where Apriorism comes in: The suggestion and evidence of a new moon are dismissed entirely because ‘Jupiter has 67moons’, instead of the theory being altered or a new theory taking its place, the new evidence is ignored because the original theory is just taken as obviously correct. That is Apriorism. Perhaps it doesn’t make as much sense with an astronomical setting so I’ll give a different example.
This is one I found online: “John was rude to me. Boys are so mean!" this might seem like a different fallacy but actually it’s just stripped down to the basics. The fallacy lies in the hasty generalisation, the promotion of experience to fact. This example could be extended by somebody pointing out “Dave isn’t mean!”, to which the idiot would reply “Dave isn’t a real boy then”. Somewhere along the line, meanness became a prerequisite for ‘boyhood’. Sounds stupid. Is stupid. Sounds childish. Is childish. Sounds like it would never actually happen and yet it genuinely does. People deny exceptions to a rule without ever reconsidering the validity of a rule.
“You can’t be gay, you’re not camp enough”
“That dog bit me, Rottweilers are vicious”
The primary problem here is that ordinarily these rough generalisations are dismissed as opinion and we all get on with our tea parties and multi-ethnic, vegan-friendly orgies without being particularly disturbed. Science, though, uses Aprioism to prop up all of its dogma. And don’t say Science doesn’t have dogma or rigid beliefs; it does. ‘Science adjusts its view over time depending on what’s observed’ Yes it does, and that is a belief. A rigid one at that. Will science ever give up that belief? Either way, I’m proven right because either it will give it up and will adopt open dogma or it won’t and it proves it as a rigid belief.
Gravity, the Big Bang, Evolution, the speed of light, they are all theories with evidence. There is no such thing as undisputable proof; it’s funny that people shout things like ‘You can’t deny it! It’s undisputable’. Evidently, it isn’t. At least one person is disputing it. But anyway, those theories are very widely held as fact now. They are also very widely disputed. Proof (slang for evidence) has been provided for both sides and different people accept different truths (some accept no truths). If all we have to go on is human experience then the only utterly undeniable truths are tautologies. But nonetheless, scientists preach their nonsense as though they have a stronger grasp on reality than anyone else. Realists incense me with their misguided belief in absolutes. Don’t get me wrong, even the detractors of science fall folly to believing nonsense, theory, opinion and experience as though it were fact but I’m saving those for other rants.
Nietzsche put into words his indignation towards this worship of absolutes perhaps better than I could (naturally, a translation):
To the realists!
You sober beings, who feel yourselves armed against passion and fantasy, and would gladly make a pride and an ornament out of your emptiness, you call yourselves realists, and give to understand that the world is actually constituted as it appears to you; before you alone reality stands unveiled, and you yourselves would perhaps be the best part of it, oh, you dear images of Sais! But are not you also in your unveiled condition still extremely passionate and dusky beings compared with the fish, and still all too like an enamoured artist? And what is "reality" to an enamoured artist! You still carry about with you the valuations of things which had their origin in the passions and infatuations of earlier centuries! There is still a secret and ineffaceable drunkenness embodied in your sobriety! Your love of "reality," for example oh, that is an old, primitive "love "! In every feeling, in every sense impression, there is a portion of this old love: and similarly also some kind of fantasy, prejudice, irrationality, ignorance, fear, and whatever else has become mingled and woven into it. There is that mountain! There is that cloud! What is "real" in them? Remove the phantasm and the whole human element from it, you sober ones! Yes, if you could do that! If you could forget your origin, your past, your preparatory schooling, your whole history as man and beast! There is no "reality" for us nor for you either, you sober ones, we are far from being so alien to one another as you suppose ; and perhaps our good will to get beyond drunkenness is just as respectable as your belief that you are altogether incapable of drunkenness.