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Transgressing the Boundaries: How Postmodernism can Revolutionize Science

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Finally, Postmodernism gets it due.

Over the past two decades there has been extensive discussion among critical theorists with regard to the characteristics of modernist versus postmodernist culture; and in recent years these dialogues have begun to devote detailed attention to the specific problems posed by the natural sciences.  In particular, Madsen and Madsen have recently given a very clear summary of the characteristics of modernist versus postmodernist science. They posit two criteria for a postmodern science:

A simple criterion for science to qualify as postmodern is that it be free from any dependence on the concept of objective truth. By this criterion, for example, the complementarity interpretation of quantum physics due to Niels Bohr and the Copenhagen school is seen as postmodernist.

Clearly, quantum gravity is in this respect an archetypal postmodernist science. Secondly,

The other concept which can be taken as being fundamental to postmodern science is that of essentiality. Postmodern scientific theories are constructed from those theoretical elements which are essential for the consistency and utility of the theory.

Thus, quantities or objects which are in principle unobservable — such as space-time points, exact particle positions, or quarks and gluons — ought not to be introduced into the theory. While much of modern physics is excluded by this criterion, quantum gravity again qualifies: in the passage from classical general relativity to the quantized theory, space-time points (and indeed the space-time manifold itself) have disappeared from the theory.

Read the full text of this famous paper in the history of science:
Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity

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Written by frrl

June 3, 2010 at 3:32 am

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