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The Socialist 21 February 2008 |
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Science, Marxism and the big bang
By Pete Mason
Reviewed by Roy Farrar
Science, Marxism and the Big Bang
Science, Marxism and the Big Bang is written in a style that may not be familiar to the modern reader - that is, of a polemical presentation. In certain critical reviews this is necessary in order to follow the arguments as laid out by the authors being criticised and to more fully refute and correct them.
The book is a reply to Reason in Revolt by Alan Woods and Ted Grant, published in 1995. Their book has been useful in providing a foil against which Pete Mason has produced a very useful introduction to Marxism in relation to science and to its real method.
Pete outlines the development of philosophy, from the ancient Greeks through to dialectical materialism, and further, provides an exposition of the relationship of Marxism to scientific discovery.
The arrogant stance of Reason in Revolt is far from helpful. The cover blurb poses the question: will "this encounter" between Marxist philosophy and science "provide the basis for a new and exciting breakthrough in the methodology of science?"
Scientists, if not indifferent to Marxism, would not welcome such high-handed philosophical meddling, and therefore could see this as an unnecessary intervention into the existing scientific method.
Pete Mason makes clear that Marxism is not a substitute for science. This does not mean that Marxism is not a science, or an adjunct of science, nor a question of Marxism versus science!
Marxism reveals science not just as a theoretical, but importantly as a human and social activity: that science is not something for itself, but a very crucial part of economic and social development.
Through the method of dialectical materialism we have a way of judging the probable development of future trends in advance of other 'thinkers'. But Marxism is certainly not a dogma where the lines of social and economic development of humankind will have been pre-ordained. This is a complete distortion.
The method of Marxism emphasises the impossibility of doing this. Marxism's value lies in its method as a guide to action, not as a creed or a cosmogony - a theory of the origin and development of the universe.
Examining any particular historical stage we can discern the necessity of the development of certain forms as an outcome from the contradictions of some previous state.
These contradictions are of inestimable importance to science, because out of the struggle to solve them emerges some unpredictable and novel discoveries, raising further and formerly unsuspected problems.
Marxists can foresee processes that are ongoing and unfolding and have no need to declare for either the eternal (and infinite!) existence of a universe essentially like ours, nor a single primordial origin.