It Is Time for Metamodernism

Over my career, I have been a natural scientist; my undergraduate preparation was in science education. I spent many delightful hours in science labs gathering and interpreting data, and I was fortunate that my professors (in botany) included original research.  

As a science and math teacher, my thinking and teaching was dominated by modernist ontology. I believed there was a single answer to most questions and we could find it through the applications of planned research; although I knew “the scientific method” as presented in textbooks is a myth, but I valued the systematic collection of data and its interpretation. I valued the curriculum I taught and believed it to be filled with apolitical information, even when we were dealing with controversial issues. 

Later in my career, I was exposed to postmodern ontologies. I valued the perspective one brings to problem framing, data collection, and interpretation.  As an educational researcher, I understood the problems to wicked and that the same curriculum was likely to be experienced differently by different participants and that none should be privileged. The skepticism I had developed as a science student was expanded to bring skepticism to perspectives and systems.  

When folks ask me to explain postmodern ontology, I often point to the lyrics of the Talking Head’s “Cross-eyed and Painless,” specifically the lines: 

Facts are simple and facts are straight 
Facts are lazy and facts are late 
Facts all come with points of view 
Facts don’t do what I want them to 
Facts just twist the truth around 
Facts are living turned inside out 
Facts are getting the best of them 
Facts are nothing on the face of things 

More recently, I have begun to question postmodern views. This seems to have coincided with the growing availability of misinformation and conspiracy theories, opinion being expressed as fact, and our collective rejection of reason. I have discovered the term metamoderism has been used by philosophers to capture the ontology that I seem to have adopted. 

I do believe science is the best solution to solving problems, even those that we recognize as being wicked and differently perceived by individuals. If we can agree on an outcome that we want, science is the best way to solve it. Consider the need to reduce mass shootings. If we agree that is a worthy social outcome, then science can be used to evaluate the interventions we devise. When evaluating information, we can allow individuals to hold contrary opinions, but those need to be evaluated against empirical evidence and those that are not supported by those observations must be rejected from the public discourse and decision-making.  

It seems our culture has suffered a disintegration of the quality of the information we use in the last generation. Reason is waning. Hypocrisy is waxing. Rationality is rejected. 

It seems we need a greater role for science, but science that is improved by including more perspectives and interpretations of circumstances as we frame and solve problems. Those parts of our polity that reject the value of diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts in businesses and organizations are using postmodern facts, and we will all suffer.