From Science To Sophistry

One way to observe the death of scientific rationality is to watch the triumph of sophistry over empirical science. We see this everywhere these days and a recent article in Scientific American is a particularly egregious example of outright sophistry.

This article asserts that “human sex is not binary,” which is a denial of basic biology. What is interesting is that it attempts to make what appear to be scientific arguments for this false claim. The strategy is not to say: “science is bunk,” which would at least be more honest, but rather to say scientific facts are exactly the opposite of what biology has always said up to now. The fact that such an article was published in a supposedly reputable magazine indicates the degree to which science has been colonized and corrupted by ideologues. It is important to understand how this article is sophistry and not science.

What is Sophistry? 

But first, let us define sophistry. Sophists have been around since the days of Socrates and Plato describes them in his dialogues. Plato portrays Socrates as a man fixated on the rational quest for truth at all costs. This is what makes him a philosopher. The sophist, on the other hand, tells young men from leading families that he can provide valuable training in how to debate effectively and win arguments. Such skills will come in handy in swaying the crowds and getting political power. For Plato, philosophy is a search for truth, but sophistry is not.

The main difference between a search for truth and sophistry is that a search for truth presupposes an objective standard and seeks to measure truth claims by that standard. Philosophy measures truth by valid deductions from true axioms. Plato holds that the intellect is able to know these axioms by deductive reasoning applied to everyday human experience such as the reality of change in the world.

Natural science, on the other hand, measures truth by repeatable, empirically measurable, experiments. For this reason, natural science can only speak about that aspect of reality that is accessible to the five senses. Some of the pre-Socratic philosophers contended that all reality consists of the empirically accessible world. They were philosophical naturalists. Nature is all that exists.

But Plato argues that the empirical world of change is not all there is to reality. He holds that this changing world of flux is dependent on an unchanging world of permanence that is more real than the material world. The immaterial realm is not accessible to the five senses, but it is accessible to the intellect.

Plato describes sophistry as recognizing no objective standard of truth, which reduces all claims to power plays. Modern sophists seek to clothe queer theory, which reduces all truth claims to power plays, in the august robes of natural science. The result can only be the ideological capture and destruction of science by irrational ideology.

We can see in Greek philosophy the whole history of philosophy in the West. We see philosophical naturalism in some of the pre-Socratics, realist metaphysics in Plato, and the equivalent of postmodernism in the Sophists. In the past two centuries, our culture has rejected realist metaphysics and the reality of the spiritual, permanent realm and has tried to implement the philosophical naturalism of the pre-Socratics. We have been regressing and not progressing and the result has been a descent into sophistry.

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Craig Carter | “Scientific American Descends into Sophistry” | June 8, 2023


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