Comment on Neil Ryder’s “Science and Rhetoric”, Ernst von Glasersfeld

What Ryder says about rhetoric and the use of metaphors in the writings and
thinking of scientists, is extremely appropriate in an age of rampant
scientism. I have to point out, however, that he fails to mention the most
pernicious “transformation” wrought by the popularisers of science, such as
Scientific American, New Scientist, NOVA, etc.

All the great scientists of the last hundred years (and some much earlier
ones) have in one place or another clearly stated that their purpose was to
create plausible theoretical models for the organisation of experience and
that these models must not be considered representations of absolute reality.
Hence Medawar’s stress on “openness and tentativeness”.

The rhetoric of the professional science writers totally disregards this
epistemological position. They present science as an unveiling of ultimate
reality and thus foster a fundamentalism that is as dangerous as the
religious versions.

Ernst von Glasersfeld
Scientific Reasoning Research Institute
University of Massachusetts
Amherst, MA 01003, USA