Why should I believe in science?

Whether one believes in science, or opts for other modes of apprehending reality depends on the values he happens to possess. And since further reasons depend on these values, these values cannot be justified by further reasons. We have reached rock bottom, and it turned out to be a morass of values. But this is not the end of the story. The values which shape our preferences for modes of knowledge cannot be deduced from bodies of knowledge without circularity, but the values of the bodies of knowledge can be matched against the values we do possess. A culture that is fit enough for survival and rich enough for enjoyment is a widely shared human value. To assure such a culture, a rigorously tested system of empirical know- ledge must be at hand. Knowledge through illumination, and an aconceptual and arational set of insights are of little use in this regard. Knowledge must satisfy the knower, as Whitehead emphasized, and the essential freedom of choosing one's mode of knowledge is rooted in the satisfactions which different modes bring to different people. This freedom is not restricted by compelling evidence in favor of the truth of one mode of knowing over the others. Individually, we have the freedom to believe in whatever mode of knowledge we wish, by affirming the appropriate values and criteria. But collectively we must exercise care that enough of us opt for scientific knowledge, not to assure us of grasping immutable truth, but to present us with the enduring conditions under which we can individually pursue the modes of knowledge we prefer.
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DOI 10.2307/2106809
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