Dave & Lanny,

I have been enjoying reading your conversation in this thread of comments and would like to weigh in and perhaps make a distinction that will help to integrate your two viewpoints.

From the perspective of both philosophy and science, I see that your discussion stems not from so much a conflict of ideas as from a conflict in your perspectives.

My hope is to shed some light on this topic by making a distinction between scientific domains of knowledge and non-scientific domains of knowledge.

I will discuss Lenny’s use of the word “knowledge” within scientifically-accessible domains of knowledge then consider Dave’s use of “knowledge” as it applies to non-scientific domains.

I am trained as a scientist and like Lenny tend to believe that experimentation followed by rigorous analysis is necessary to produce verifiable knowledge. Scientific knowledge is not the result of large numbers of community members creating their own set of opinions no matter how well argued. The history of science is full of examples of “knowledge” generated by common scholarly beliefs that had no grounding in scientific verification.

That does not mean that I believe that scientific verification is the end-all and be-all. It simply is a powerful means of differentiating between true “knowledge” vs. opinion.

Why do I say that scientific verification not the end-all and be-all? For many human problems, rigorous verification is simply not possible. The most common example is the problem of human “love.” Human social dynamics are simply too difficult to reduce to a reasonable number of experimental variables. Poetry is a much more reasonable approach to understanding love!

Scientists tend to distinguish between the domains of “knowledge” that lend themselves to scientific analysis and those that do not.

I would venture that scientific knowledge has great value but has a very limited scope and doesn’t lead to wisdom, whose proper domain is the human affairs. And like Dave, I believe that wisdom can only be achieved in dialogue.

Anyway that is my synthesis of your two seemingly opposing views. I hope you liked it 😉