KNOWLEDGE-MAP (p)

KNOWLEDGE-MAP (p) - Journal of Scientific Exploration...

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Journal of Scientific Exploration Vol.9, No.2, pp.257-275, 1995 0892-3310/95 © 1995 Society for Scientific Exploration Two Kinds of Knowledge: Maps and Stories HENRY H. BAUER Chemistry & Science Studies Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University Blacksburg, VA 24061-0212 Abstract —The most reliable knowledge is map -like: “If you do this, then that will always follow.” But such knowledge carries little if any inherent human meaning. Most meaningful is story-like knowledge, which teaches about morals and values; but about that, agreement cannot be forced by demonstration. Failure to distinguish between the meaningfulness and the reliability of knowledge helps to make arguments intractable. It would be very useful always to ask about a bit of claimed knowledge, “Is this more like a story or more like a map ?” The Problem Bitter and long-standing disputes are everywhere, over what is right and what is wrong. Concerning anomalous claims, arguments of that sort are familiar enough to readers of this journal. But where does the authority lie to settle such an argument? The belief is common that where knowledge is concerned science (and only science) is authoritative. This underlies the fuss about C. P. Snow’s (1959) contrasting of “The Two Cultures”, the scientific and the literary. The view- point is perhaps most clearly exemplified by such groups as the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (see its magazine, Skeptical Inquirer ); but it is general throughout society, illustrated for instance by the frequently expressed belief that a lack of scientific literacy augurs doom for our society (Bauer 1992a, chapter 1). Science and religion are typically portrayed either as entirely separate and incommensurable or else as antagonists, with science standing for knowledge and religion standing for “values”. Thus Appleyard (1992) argues explicitly that science has separated values from knowledge. Earlier societies saw the world as human-centered, he says; they interpreted Nature from a human standpoint and ascribed moral and transcendent characteristics to some aspects of Nature; whereas nowadays we see the world as impersonal and interpret (or seek to interpret) human beings from Nature’s standpoint as revealed by the natural sciences. In such an impersonal world, moral values are only happenstance in human culture, not anything inherent in the universe. The real issue is the meaning or value of knowledge for human beings and where the authority to certify knowledge resides. Typically, discussion has 257
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258 H. H. Bauer been couched in terms of such dichotomies as Snow’s Two Cultures 1 ; and di- chotomies are intractable. So long as we conceive knowledge and meaning (or value) as distinct things, science as the embodiment of knowledge and religion as the embodiment of meaning remain but doubtfully and problematically co- existent.
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KNOWLEDGE-MAP (p) - Journal of Scientific Exploration...

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