Metaphor, metaphor - all is metaphor
Posted by aogMonday, 01 March 2004 at 15:13 TrackBack Ping URL

In yet another post on evolution, Orrin Judd says

Darwinism represents a shift in philosophical theory—a change in the metaphor by which we comprehend ourselves—not an actual science.

The problem with this assessment is that all science is metaphor. The reason is the same problem involved in observing the physical world. No one can see infrared, or nanometer scale electronics or tranverse pressure waves in the Earth’s mantle. In every case, we’ve built tools that perform sensory metaphors for the real data. Ususally these are visual metaphors, where we show infrared radiation as visible green radiation. Occasionally other senses are used, such as force feedback tunneling electron microscopes. In every case, however, some mechanism converts from the actual reality to some metaphor that’s directly apprehensible to our existing senses.

In the same way, regardless of what the “real” model for a physical phenomenon is, in order to be apprehensible by humans it must be translated in to human understandable concepts. That is precisely what a metaphor is.Even mathematics as we use it is a metaphor for the fundamental mathematical facts1.

The bottom line is that we, as humans, have a limited set of physical senses and mental structures. Anything we want to understand (in whatever limited sense) that is not directly perceived must be mapped in to these senses and structures via metaphor. Until we start rewiring ourselves, we stuck with that.


1 One doesn’t need to resort to Platonism to agree with this, as there’s no requirement that mathematical forms exist in any physical sense.

Comments — Formatting by Textile
oj Monday, 01 March 2004 at 18:12

Yes, that is the point.

R C Dean Wednesday, 03 March 2004 at 07:03

Oh, its worse than that. Even “direct sensory input” is converted by our nervous system into metaphor. What you see when you look at something is a mental construct based on electrical impulses generated when photons strike your nerve cells.

End of Discussion