• jorndoe
    1.5k
    I'd say that science is descriptive of what is, whereas ethics is proscriptive, about what we want.
    So, science just informs, which happens to be good, because it can inform ethics. (y)
    The two play different roles, yes?
    Out at the edges of stabilized models, it's clearer that scientific results are tentative/provisional in principle.
    And so it takes more science for us to smarten up more (assuming we can), as long as we don't mentally replace reality with the models.
    What we do with it, is another matter, though doing away with ignorance and errors seems good enough, after all, what we don't know can still harm or help us. (y)
    Science being informative sure has transformed societies/lives over time.
    (n) science deniers.
    Incidentally, in my adventures, I've found that "scientism" more often than not is the (misused) go-to buzzword when people wish to shun objections to poorly justified assertions, or someone whining when their dear-held belief has been found wanting. (n)
  • DingoJones
    2.5k
    And then the question is, what's the price we're willing to pay for that delay? You're calling it a grace period, but it means real, tangible benefits for a lot of real people? How do we even begin to weigh these against future risks?Echarmion

    Same way we do with all future risk assessment. In this case we know that science is the tasty poison that will eventually kill us. So we weigh the benefits against total destruction. Total destruction trumps those benefits and shows us that science is bad.
  • Echarmion
    2.2k
    Same way we do with all future risk assessment. In this case we know that science is the tasty poison that will eventually kill us. So we weigh the benefits against total destruction. Total destruction trumps those benefits and shows us that science is bad.DingoJones

    Does it? This is a serious question. Why do we care about the ultimate survival of humanity? For one, as long as we don't figure out a way to get around the 2nd law of thermodynamics, total destruction will happen anyways. For another, future humans aren't actual people. They're potentials. Their moral standing seems questionable. How is it to be measured?
  • counterpunch
    1.6k
    I think that you are right to see science as a tool rather than as end in itself.Jack Cummins

    That's not my position. Give your specs a once over with a j-cloth, and you'll see I argued:

    Science is not just a tool. It's also an understanding of reality; quite at odds with an ideological understanding of reality.counterpunch

    Your error is easily remedied. I'll simply change 'you are right' to 'one is right' - and read it as disagreement.

    it was the pursuit of science, as a way of triumphing over nature and ecology, which may have contributed to the problems which humanity are facing.Jack Cummins

    Not exactly. Imagine that, in 1635, instead of putting Galileo on trial for heresy, the Church had welcomed Galileo's scientific proof as the method by which to decode the word of God made manifest in Creation.

    Science would have been invested with moral authority, and integrated into politics over the past 400 years. Instead, science suspect of heresy was stripped of moral authority, and pimped out to government and industry - to serve ideological ends. i.e. Trump digs coal.

    Were science valued as an understanding of reality, "Trump digs coal" would be an impossibility, and so would many other things, like nuclear and biological weapons, burning forests, landfill. Ideologically, all this makes sense. Scientifically, it does not.

    Do you see?
  • Joshs
    2k
    I agree that the pace of cultural
    change has accelerated. I disagree that one can lift out science from among all of the modalities of cultural
    creativity ( the arts, poetry, politics, music , philosophy) and give it sole credit from this acceleration. All cultural
    modes of an era are inseparably intertwined and thus all are equally , reciprocally responsible for intellectual development.
  • Sunlight
    8
    Science with respect to the COVID-19 epidemicWayfarer

    Anyone who was following the WHO alongside, say, scientists like Yaneer Bar Yam, or statisticians like Nassim Taleb, saw a different story when it comes to COVID-19 and science. In the early days, WHO repeatedly claimed that directives for COVID-19 ought to be "evidence-based". This is why they took a very conservative stance in the beginning and claimed, for example, that travel bans were not necessary to fight the virus. But as Taleb pointed out some time ago:

    "...evidence follows, does not precede, rare impactful events and waiting for the accident before putting the seat belt on, or evidence of fire before buying insurance would make the perpetrator exit the gene pool."

    To this day, it boggles my mind that nobody who was in a position of power got their warning. And the story followed the same path for mask wearing.

    All this to say science is good. Though, when scientists do their jobs poorly or don't realize that modelling under extreme uncertainty is not going to give us the answers we need in time, the results can be deadly.

    Here's another one. Anyone spot the irony in Bill Gates' involvement in the COVID-19 response and his company releasing genetically modified mosquitoes into the environment?. We're really good at science but when we are horrible decision makers, the science starts to hurt.
  • DingoJones
    2.5k
    Does it? This is a serious question. Why do we care about the ultimate survival of humanity? For one, as long as we don't figure out a way to get around the 2nd law of thermodynamics, total destruction will happen anyways. For another, future humans aren't actual people. They're potentials. Their moral standing seems questionable. How is it to be measured?Echarmion

    Sure, if you don’t care about the survival of humanity then science isn’t bad according to my argument.
    Also, just because total destruction will happen anyways in billions of years doesn’t mean we should not care about being destroyed now. That’s fallacious, like saying there is no point to living because you eventually die.
  • Echarmion
    2.2k
    Sure, if you don’t care about the survival of humanity then science isn’t bad according to my argument.DingoJones

    Obviously I'm not just talking about what I care about in an emotional sense. This is a philosophy forum, I'm asking how to address the problem from the perspective of moral philosophy.

    Also, just because total destruction will happen anyways in billions of years doesn’t mean we should not care about being destroyed now. That’s fallacious, like saying there is no point to living because you eventually die.DingoJones

    The difference to me is that I'm already alive and I want to keep being alive. This doesn't apply in the same way to potential future generations. And it's not just about having or not having future generations. It's about whether or not the advantages to actual people outweigh the drawbacks for potential people.
  • DingoJones
    2.5k
    Obviously I'm not just talking about what I care about in an emotional sense. This is a philosophy forum, I'm asking how to address the problem from the perspective of moral philosophy.Echarmion

    Right, and if the survival of humanity isn’t important to your moral philosophy then my argument wouldn’t apply. I’m not knocking that perspective I’m just conceding that my argument requires that you care about humanities survival.

    The difference to me is that I'm already alive and I want to keep being alive. This doesn't apply in the same way to potential future generations. And it's not just about having or not having future generations. It's about whether or not the advantages to actual people outweigh the drawbacks for potential people.Echarmion

    I’m not sure how to respond to that. I’m not really concerned with future generations or drawbacks for potential people I was talking about survival of the species.
    Survival of the species is good, science is bad because it will ensure our species will not survive.
  • Manuel
    1.5k
    Wittgenstein has a point, not all, but a point:

    We feel that even if all possible scientific questions be answered, the problems of life have still not been touched at all. Of course there is then no question left, and just this is the answer.

    I don't agree with his "this is the answer" part.
  • Echarmion
    2.2k
    Right, and if the survival of humanity isn’t important to your moral philosophy then my argument wouldn’t apply. I’m not knocking that perspective I’m just conceding that my argument requires that you care about humanities survival.DingoJones

    The thing is, it really bothers me that I cannot find a good argument for why it should matter. It seems like it clearly should matter, but it's hard for me to figure out exactly why.
  • DingoJones
    2.5k


    Well that’s another topic but caring doesn’t seem the sort of thing you need a good argument for. You either care or you don’t, and whether or not you should care about something has no bearing on if you actually do.
  • Banno
    14.5k
    The anecdote about televisions is spot on.
  • Wayfarer
    13.8k
    Anyone who was following the WHO alongside, say, scientists like Yaneer Bar Yam, or statisticians like Nassim Taleb, saw a different story when it comes to COVID-19 and science.Sunlight

    You may well be right. What I was commenting on was the well-documented villification of public health officials that occured in the USA, particularly under the previous president. Also the fact that attempting to 'follow the science' doesn't mean you have a playbook or script as to what that entails, and so, if there are changes of policy or failures, it doesn't mean that 'science is wrong'.
  • Banno
    14.5k

    I will be winning when this thread continues without my intervention. That's when I will know the point has been well-made and is bothersome.

    I have absolutely no bad feelings towards BannoJack Cummins

    I can fix that...
  • Wayfarer
    13.8k
    I say that the problem with science is when its methodological attitude is generalised to describe the universe in general. So I take issue with this:

    it's also an understanding of realitycounterpunch

    I say, following Kant, that science is the understanding, not of reality as such, but of phenomena, of how things appear to us, and discovery of the patterns and principles (i.e. 'laws') that underlie them and can be used to make predictions.

    But science excludes some factors from consideration so as to arrive at a precise causal link between cause and effect, or between prediction, measurement and outcome. It concentrates on just those factors which are amenable to precise measurement and scientific prediction - the factors that came to be known as 'primary attributes' in the science of Galileo. Whereas factors include meaning, intentionality, and purpose are regarded as of a secondary (and implicitly derivative) status. They are 'bracketed out', so to speak, or regarded as implicitly being derived from the factors and principles which govern the doings of the objects of physics. Which is precisely the origin of modern physicalism (and so, naturalism).

    This leads to the tacit but widespread attitude that science 'proves' or 'shows' that the universe, as such, is devoid of meaning, purpose or intention (as per the Bertrand Russell passage quoted upthread) - the challenge being that if you claim this is not so, it's up to you to show it. Which, of course, is impossible, because the kind of demonstration required is just the kind that assumes the secondary or derived reality of the very attributes you wish to show.

    That, anyway, was the picture up until about the mid-twentieth century, although it's changed considerably since. But physicalism of that kind is still prevalent in English-speaking philosophy, perhaps less so in continental. I don't know if it says anything about science as such, but it does say something about the presumed authority of science as arbiter or umpire of reality, in my view.
  • Janus
    10.9k
    If science caused that stuff, science is causing global warming.

    The missing piece is that all of that and science as well are the result of capitalism (among other material causes).
    frank

    The rapid growth of science and technology, along with population, is mostly down to fossil fuels; i.e. it would not have happened without all that very cheap energy.

    Mere science, as in investigating and learning how things work, is in itself a good thing. As others have noted, it is the politicization and capitalization of science that is pernicious.
  • Fooloso4
    2.6k
    The problems that science creates can only be solved by science and intelligent policy decisions.
  • Janus
    10.9k
    I say, following Kant, that science is the understanding, not of reality as such, but of phenomena, of how things appear to us, and discovery of the patterns and principles (i.e. 'laws') that underlie them and can be used to make predictions.Wayfarer

    But this is merely stating the obvious; there is for us no "reality as such"; at least there is nothing " as such" that could ever be discovered by humans, because anything discovered by humans is not what you would define as "as such".
  • Banno
    14.5k
    We caught the puffer-fish of antirealism.
    It concentrates on just those factors which are amenable to precise measurement and scientific prediction - the factors that came to be known as 'primary attributes' in the science of Galileo.Wayfarer
    So the LHC is set up to examine primary attributes such as solidity, figure, extension, motion. There's a quaint truth in that.

    But this -
    I say that the problem with science is when its methodological attitude is generalised to describe the universe in general.Wayfarer
    ...the problem with science is that it does what it says on the label? There is a mystery called "reality" that Kant's philosophical machinations render ineffable, so that his followers can criticise science for not being able to do what they themselves think impossible. That's not a problem for science, but for whatever else it was you expected from it...

    What if "reality" is exactly what science is dealing with? Don't play the giddy word game in which we can have no knowledge of the thing in itself. Instead pretend that what we do have knowledge of is exactly what is real. After all, that's a difference that makes not difference, but has the advantage of shorting out nonsense like
    ...there is for us no "reality as such"...Janus

    That is, @Wayfarer is right, but just says it wrong.

    With that, I'll throw the puffer fish back into the sea; but doubtless it will return.
  • Tom Storm
    2.2k
    You're on fire, Banno...
  • Janus
    10.9k
    What if "reality" is exactly what science is dealing with? Don't play the giddy word game in which we can have no knowledge of the thing in itself. Instead pretend that what we do have knowledge of is exactly what is real. After all, that's a difference that makes not difference, but has the advantage of shorting out nonsens like

    ...there is for us no "reality as such"...
    Banno

    Right, there is no reality that science is dealing with other than what @Wayfarer would term "reality for us". That just is the only reality, there is no other, no "as such" other than in our fevered metaphysical imaginations.

    Is that feverishly imagined "reality in itself" really as toxic as puffer fish, though? Or can it be enjoyed, properly prepared, as a delicacy, just as the puffer fish is in Japan?
  • Manuel
    1.5k


    There is no contradiction in saying science studies reality, but that it does not reach thing in themselves. It needn't even come from Kant, Russell says something similar.

    Or to state it differently, I don't see why this would be a problem. Unless you have something specific in mind.
  • Wayfarer
    13.8k
    ...the problem with science is that it does what it says on the label? There is a mystery called "reality" that Kant's philosophical machinations render ineffable, so that his followers can criticise science for not being able to do what they themselves think impossible. That's not a problem for science, but for whatever else it was you expected from it...Banno

    You profess admiration for Wittgenstein, I wonder what you make of this interpretation of his work, by Ray Monk, his biographer, and whether you can see any connection with what I said

    His work is opposed, as he once put it, to “the spirit which informs the vast stream of European and American civilisation in which all of us stand.” Nearly 50 years after his death, we can see, more clearly than ever, that the feeling that he was swimming against the tide was justified. If we wanted a label to describe this tide, we might call it “scientism,” the view that every intelligible question has either a scientific solution or no solution at all. It is against this view that Wittgenstein set his face.

    Scientism takes many forms. In the humanities, it takes the form of pretending that philosophy, literature, history, music and art can be studied as if they were sciences, with “researchers” compelled to spell out their “methodologies”—a pretence which has led to huge quantities of bad academic writing, characterised by bogus theorising, spurious specialisation and the development of pseudo-technical vocabularies. Wittgenstein would have looked upon these developments and wept.

    Presumably, according to you, in vain.
  • Banno
    14.5k
    I wonder what you make of this interpretationWayfarer

    Why, I agree with it! Indeed, see the thread I started about his student: Midgley vs Dawkins, Nietzsche, Hobbes, Mackie, Rand, Singer..., who took this theme to heart.

    Do you think this somehow incompatible with what I argued here? Take care, because I am saying you are right, and if you show that I am wrong, you may pull down your own foundation.
  • Banno
    14.5k
    There is no contradiction in saying science studies reality, but that it does not reach thing in themselves.Manuel

    Of course there isn't - the thing-in-itself is a locutionary pretzel, like the little man who wasn't there. It closes itself of from any discussion, not just science.
  • Janus
    10.9k
    I don't think @Banno is arguing that science, in the narrow reductive sense, can answer all questions; he merely seems to be asserting that science, in the general sense as something like" open and unbiased investigation", is a good thing.
  • Manuel
    1.5k


    There isn't much to say about it, true.

    But it has has epistemic consequences, if it exists.
  • Banno
    14.5k
    It's only consequence is the production of philosophy papers and poor forum threads.
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