• karl stone
    430
    The way to do that is to accept a scientific understanding of reality in common, as a basis to apply technology.
    — karl stone

    Ok, could you perhaps expand on "accepting a scientific understanding of reality" in some specific detail, given that this idea seems central to your thesis? If you are willing, please try to avoid typing the sentences you've already shared a number of times and try to explain it from some different angle, the more specific the better. Perhaps you could use some particular technology like AI or genetic engineering as an example?Jake

    Maybe you could expand on what it is you don't get. It really is something you need to 'get' for yourself, because I can't crawl inside your head and point out the contrast between your ideological worldview, and a scientific worldview. I have described the evolution of humankind, and how tribal morality was manifest in an innate moral sensibility, and the tribal kinship structure.

    I've explained how hunter gatherer tribes employed God as an objective authority, to allow for an explicit moral code, or law and order, that applied to everyone (think about Moses coming down the mountain with his stone tablets) to thereby overcome the tribal hierarchy problem, and join together to form societies and civilizations.

    And I've explained how this created an ideological power structure that had a necessary resistance to the occurrence of science. Science as an understanding of reality has been suppressed these past 400 years - even while science was used to power the industrial revolution. Applying science and technology as dictated by ideological notions brings us to the edge of extinction. We need to accept a scientific understanding of reality - and apply technology accordingly.

    I don't know how else to say it. Asking me to "say all that again... only slower, and using different words" is not a legitimate request. If you have a specific question, I'll do my best to answer it.
  • Jake
    1.2k
    Maybe you could expand on what it is you don't get.karl stone

    Ok, here's an example.

    Why did a scientific understanding of reality not prevent Los Alamos scientists from CHOOSING to build the bomb?

    Wait, stop, no blame shifting please. Every Los Alamos scientist had the choice to refuse. They could have chosen death rather than to build a doomsday device. But they didn't refuse, they instead willingly participated and had pride that they had been selected for such a high priority project.

    The Los Alamos scientists had the scientific understanding of reality or they couldn't have built the bomb. Having the scientific understanding of reality didn't stop them from choosing to build the bomb.

    I'm not trying to demonize the scientists here. I'm simply saying that they were human beings like the rest of us, and a scientific understanding of reality did not seem to be a sufficient mechanism for preventing them from doing something insane.
  • karl stone
    430
    Ok, here's an example.

    Why did a scientific understanding of reality not prevent Los Alamos scientists from CHOOSING to build the bomb?

    Wait, stop, no blame shifting please. Every Los Alamos scientist had the choice to refuse. They could have chosen death rather than to build a doomsday device. But they didn't refuse, they instead willingly participated and had pride that they had been selected for such a high priority project.

    The Los Alamos scientists had the scientific understanding of reality or they couldn't have built the bomb. Having the scientific understanding of reality didn't stop them from choosing to build the bomb.

    I'm not trying to demonize the scientists here. I'm simply saying that they were human beings like the rest of us, and a scientific understanding of reality did not seem to be a sufficient mechanism for preventing them from doing something insane.
    Jake

    But they didn't, necessarily, have a scientific understanding of reality. They were specialists in particular scientific fields; operating within an ideological context - in which, the world isn't seen as a single planetary environment, but rather - a jigsaw puzzle made up of nation state shaped pieces. There's nothing that more promotes that ideological worldview than war between nations. I assume the threat of another nation developing the doomsday weapon first was the overwhelming factor. But you're asking me what other people thought. I can't know that.
  • Jake
    1.2k
    But they didn't, necessarily, have a scientific understanding of reality.karl stone

    Ok, so who is it exactly that you are referring to regarding "a scientific understanding of reality"? Imaginary people as yet to be born?

    The larger point is this. Unless you can aim us at something or somebody specific which can change the equation, it remains madness for us to use the "more is better" paradigm to give ourselves more and more power without limit.

    We might reach a compromise by agreeing to:

    1) Pull the plug on "more is better" for now.

    2) If at some point in the future the world is inhabited by beings who have a scientific understanding of reality, whatever that is, then we could revisit the "more is better" paradigm at that time.

    As it stands, you're trying to reject my "more is better" concerns by offering in it's place a vague fantasy world which doesn't exist, at least not at this moment in time.
  • karl stone
    430
    But they didn't, necessarily, have a scientific understanding of reality.
    — karl stone

    Ok, so who is it exactly that you are referring to regarding "a scientific understanding of reality"? Imaginary people as yet to be born?Jake

    You're like that fish - who, when asked "How's the water?" answers: "What the hell is water?" There's a difference between an ideological understanding of reality; that is, the world seen through the lens of religion, nation states and money - and a scientific understanding of reality. You don't even seem to realize that your very identity and purposes are shaped by religious, political and economic ideologies.

    Well, I'm sorry to break this to you champ, but those ideologies are not true - not in the way science is true anyway. They're conventions, and they do not describe reality as it really is. That difference is the problem. It's why everything is getting in strange ways worse, despite astonishing scientific and social advancement over the past 200 years. It's a mistake in the program - something we need to put right to ensure we can progress toward a long and bright future.

    But let's not get ahead of ourselves. How's the water?
  • Jake
    1.2k
    There's a difference between an ideological understanding of reality; that is, the world seen through the lens of religion, nation states and money - and a scientific understanding of reality.karl stone

    Um, what exactly is a "scientific understanding of reality"? Chanting the phrase is not an explanation.

    To your knowledge, does anyone on Earth currently have a "scientific understanding of reality" as you define it?

    If your answer is yes, what are the names of the people who you feel have a "scientific understanding of reality"?

    If your answer is no, then can we agree giving human beings more and more power at an ever faster pace is not such a great plan?
  • karl stone
    430
    Um,Jake

    From Umbridge!

    what exactly is a "scientific understanding of reality"? Chanting the phrase is not an explanation. To your knowledge, does anyone on Earth currently have a "scientific understanding of reality" as you define it? If your answer is yes, what are the names of the people who you feel have a "scientific understanding of reality"?Jake

    It's in contrast to an ideological understanding of reality - as is quite simply, the world understood in scientific terms. So, it's not something one has as such - but rather, something of which many people are capable. You do accept, I suppose - that the world is a single planetary environment. It's not made up of nation state shaped pieces. The world didn't come with borders painted on it. Nation states are made up - and yet, it's through the lens of these made up ideas, we make decisions about how to apply technology - not least, nuclear technology.

    If your answer is no, then can we agree giving human beings more and more power at an ever faster pace is not such a great plan?Jake

    No. We can't agree. Stop the world I wanna get off - is never the answer. Responsible management is the answer. Responsible to a scientific understanding of reality first, and ideological considerations, like profit - second.
  • Jake
    1.2k
    Responsible management is the answer.karl stone

    Who exactly are you suggesting to be capable of responsible management? Who exactly has this scientific understanding of reality you can never stop talking about? Who exactly?

    You have no idea. Thus...

    A fantasy plan.
  • karl stone
    430
    Who exactly are you suggesting to be capable of responsible management? Who exactly has this scientific understanding of reality you can never stop talking about? Who exactly? You have no idea. Thus... A fantasy plan.Jake

    What a stupid question. Who exactly? You mean like Mr Smith of 33 Elm Tree Lane, Nicetown, Anywhere. You want height, weight, date of brith, shoe size and star sign? Who exactly? You have no idea. Thus... a stupid question.
  • bogdan9310
    18

    As a whole, pretty much.
    But I'm not going to hit science like that, some science is good. Depends on how you use it. What if scientists started to experiment on themselves instead of trusting a 3rd party, who is describing what they feel using language, and it's at that point where a lot of mistakes are done.
    They use language.
  • bogdan9310
    18

    Who'se senses? Do scientists just listen to what other people tell them? Do they experiment on their own senses?
  • Jeff Allyn
    2

    The way I reconstruct your argument does not imply that all science is bad. The argument presupposes a distinction between science and scientism. Your idea, as I understand it, is that because science works by analyzing concepts we already know before we ever do any science, not all knowledge is scientific or a part of science, i.e., scientism is false.
  • Jake
    1.2k
    You mean like Mr Smith of 33 Elm Tree Lane, Nicetown, Anywhere.karl stone

    Yup, that's what I mean. If you can't identify a single person who meets your standard of "accepting a scientific understanding of reality" then you have no basis upon which to propose that we should give human beings ever more power at an ever faster rate. According to your own posts there is literally no one on Earth currently capable of managing the new powers emerging from the knowledge explosion, and yet you want to release these new powers anyway.
  • karl stone
    430
    Yup, that's what I mean. If you can't identify a single person who meets your standard of "accepting a scientific understanding of reality" then you have no basis upon which to propose that we should give human beings ever more power at an ever faster rate. According to your own posts there is literally no one on Earth currently capable of managing the new powers emerging from the knowledge explosion, and yet you want to release these new powers anyway.Jake

    Great. Me! That was easy. Sadly, almost everyone else is operating within an ideological environment - drawing their identities and purposes, their beliefs and terms of analysis from those ideas, existing between them, as if in a collective consciousness. It's thus very difficult for people to see beyond those ideas, to the scientific reality. But I've been doing this for years, and truly have tried to adjust my thinking in relation to scientific truth.

    For example, I accept that humankind is a single species - which evolved on this planet, emerged from Africa around 70,000 years ago - and spread in all different directions. I see the commonalities in cultures rather than the differences - like for example, writing, music, art, architecture, agriculture, pottery, jewelry, and so on and on - things human beings do, only in culturally distinct ways.

    I find this contrasts dramatically with the ideological idea of other peoples, of other religions and other nations, viewed as alien - because of the acceptance of ideological ideas in themselves, on their own terms. It's difficult, because people do consider those ideas definitive - and treat me as coming from a particular religious, national, socio-economic class group - relative to their own. I haven't encountered anyone who thinks like I do - and to be honest, I go back and forth. I'm not crazy. But it is a useful additional perspective.
  • Jake
    1.2k
    Great. Me! That was easy.karl stone

    Ah, I see now. It's ok for us to proceed with "more is better" because Karl is here to manage whatever might happen. Ok, so it's just one person, but because it's Karl that's ok. So everybody, don't worry about AI or genetically engineered babies, because Karl is here to fix it if anything goes wrong. Phew!!

    Sadly, almost everyone else is operating within an ideological environmentkarl stone

    My friend, you are TOTALLY LOST within your own ideology. I'm totally ripping it all to shreds and you don't notice, you don't care, but just keep on chanting, chanting, chanting.

    Ok, this is how I become Mr. Grouchie Pants dealing with such sillyness, so it's time for me to bow out. Thanks for the chat!
  • karl stone
    430


    I get that reaction a lot. Don't worry about it - it's fine. It seems to me, that writing on a philosophy forum, you should be able to encompass and handle a contrast between the religious, political and economic ideological architecture of societies, and a scientific understanding of reality - without flipping out, and going all ad hom, but clearly, you're not a philosopher!

    Instead, you're one of the people who need be afforded their illusions, even as scientific ideas are applied to direct the application of technology, to secure a sustainable future. The pertinent principle is "existential necessity" - which both justifies adopting science as truth, i.e. to address problems it's necessary to address for humankind to continue to exist, and at the same time limits the implications of science as truth - thus affording people like you your ideologically described identities and purposes. Because honestly, it doesn't matter what you think. Probably best you don't.
  • Terrapin Station
    6.8k
    Science only analyzes existing concepts, and there is no scientific research before a concept is created.bogdan9310

    "Analyzes existing concepts," "creates concepts," and the word "only" in application to either claim about concepts makes no sense when in the same sentence we're admitting research.
  • leo
    128


    If science is truth, why do scientists contradict each other? If a scientific consensus is truth, why are scientific consensuses of the past contradicted by scientific consensuses of today? And how do you know scientific consensuses of today won't be contradicted by those of tomorrow?

    There are big issues with seeing science as providing truth. Scientists identify apparent regularities in our collective experience, then use them to build devices that behave in a regular way to achieve a specific goal. That's the part of what they do that makes people say science works, because it has brought us technology. Another big part of what they do, is making up stories about what happened in the distant past or what will happen in the distant future or what happens on tiny unobservable scales or what happens in conditions with too many intractable variables, we call it science too but what it really is is fantasy storytelling, fiction, remotely connected to the regularities they have identified.

    And then if you take one of these stories as truth, and call it the scientific understanding of reality, you're gonna be disturbed when someone else comes with a totally different story that matches the identified regularities just as well.

    What I do agree with in your post, is that we would probably be much better off if we focused on what we have in common rather than on our differences. Find what we all have in common then build from that starting point, rather than focusing on the differences and then ensuring that what's different remains separate, under control. People focus on differences because they fear, they fear what's not like them because what's not like them they don't know and they don't understand, they don't want to take the risk, better protect oneself from it or kill it. That's how we get genocides and wars. Now how do you get people to stop fearing each other, that's the hard part.
  • karl stone
    430
    If science is truth, why do scientists contradict each other? If a scientific consensus is truth, why are scientific consensuses of the past contradicted by scientific consensuses of today? And how do you know scientific consensuses of today won't be contradicted by those of tomorrow?leo

    With regard to scientific method and epistemology - any scientist will affirm, that all scientific conclusions are held to be provisional in lieu of further evidence; but I'm not speaking as a scientist. I'm speaking as a political philosopher - using ordinary language, to compare two conceptions of reality. I use the term truth in a less than philosophically exacting manner - but am making a comparison between a religious, political and economic ideological worldview - and a scientific understanding of reality. It's thus fair to say that science is true, whereas ideology isn't true. Ideology is conventional.

    For example, from the 17th century until 1979 it was true that the capital city of China was Peking. Now that's not true. It's now Beijing. But one cannot, by the same token argue that the Copernican system of planetary motion was not true - merely because it was superseded by Newton, then Einstein. Compared to several references in the Bible to the Earth 'fixed in the heavens' - Copernican planetary motion is true. Darwinian evolution lacked the mechanism for the transmission of characteristics from one generation to another - but compared to the idea of creatures created fully formed and fixed by God, Darwinian evolution is true. Not as true as the neo-Darwinian synthesis with genetics, that describes today's understanding - and maybe not as true as some future appreciation of how epigenetics functions over time, but true. The bacterial theory of infection - compared to evil spirits, or miasmas - is true. I could go on, but the point, I hope is clear.

    If you take the sum total of scientific knowledge, it paints an increasingly valid and coherent, broad brush stroke picture of reality - that's true, and that matters. It doesn't matter if some detail changes as science discovers more. It matters that we understand rather than suppress a scientific understanding of reality, and that we apply technology responsibly, as opposed to applying technology as dictated solely by religious, political and economic ideology.
  • leo
    128


    I agree that it matters we apply technology responsibly. What I don't agree with is that science gives us the way to apply technology responsibly. Some use science to reach the conclusion that some beings are 'better' than others, and use that understanding to justify doing the worse atrocities to beings seen as below as long as it can improve the well-being of the 'better' ones. Sometimes these 'lower' beings are from other species, sometimes they are from our own. Science gives us technology, but remains moot on how we should behave with each other, on where we should go.

    You have the view that science gives an approximation to truth and approaches it ever closer, only working out details over time while keeping the same big picture, and that it is not conventional. But what makes that broad-brush picture somewhat coherent over centuries is not that scientists of each generation evaluate all the available evidence and agree that this broad-brush picture is the only one approximately valid, but that they grew up in a world where they are taught this picture, and are taught to build upon it to work out the details. It's the story we tell each other and tell our children and that they tell to their own children that remains coherent, rather than the story remaining coherent as a sign that we must be approaching truth.

    As an example, the available scientific evidence does not show in any way that Earth is not 'fixed in the heavens'. All we can really say if we're being scientifically honest, is that the story where Earth revolves around the Sun is easier to match with the available evidence than the story where Earth is the center of the heavens. You can come up with a story where Earth is fixed at the center and still account for the motions of the celestial bodies in as precise a way as we do now. The two stories cannot be compared scientifically, they are a matter of taste. Those who hold simplicity as a greater ideal want to stick to the first story and that's the one taught in schools, while some with other ideals prefer the second one. Why would simplicity make the first story more 'true' than the second one, what would make subjective simplicity a criterion for truth? It's only a matter of subjective taste.

    And sometimes some parts of the broad-brush picture do change drastically. It used to be common scientific wisdom that there are no such things as microscopic germs causing diseases, that there are no such things as tectonic plates moving under the surface of the Earth, that we would never reach the surface of the Moon, that we would age at the same rate no matter our velocity and no matter how close to a celestial body we are, that all things have definite trajectories, now the current scientific wisdom is the opposite, and maybe the one of tomorrow will be something totally different yet again. We have now the common scientific wisdom that we can't see most of the stuff in the universe and that in the far future everything will have disintegrated and all life in the universe will have ceased to exist forever, which has far-reaching implications, but possibly the scientific wisdom in some decades or centuries will be the opposite yet again.

    And then there is the fact that current scientific wisdom sees us as meaningless heaps of elementary particles subjected to unchanging cosmic laws, if all people really ascribed to this point of view I think the world would fall into a chaos worse than we have now, into even more widespread nihilism and depression. So for all these reasons I don't think that by pushing a 'scientific understanding of reality' onto people you will get what you really wish for. The picture it gives is not that nice at the moment, and not that true or devoid of conventionality either.

    We build weapons to protect ourselves from others or to attack others, because we fear others. Increasing the power and efficacy of these weapons without reducing the fear that gives people the incentive to create them and use them simply brings us closer to destruction. We don't see others as beings like us, we see them as potential threats. We don't attempt to understand what led someone to hurt someone else, out of fear we see the one who hurts as a monster. And then we hurt the monster, and become monsters ourselves in someone else's eyes. But what if there is no such thing as monsters, but only beings who fear and who commit atrocities out of fear? What if if we really attempted to understand others we would learn to see the good in them and the fear on which they act, rather than assuming they are threats we need to attack or defend against? Then maybe the solution is not to be found in science, but in caring about others rather than only about oneself. Then how do you get people to wake up about this, I don't know, maybe it's a matter of caring about others every day until love spreads and wins over fear.
  • karl stone
    430
    The argument in your first paragraph can be boiled down to three words: "ought from is." It is an idea proposed by David Hume (1711-76)

    "In every system of morality, which I have hitherto met with, I have always remarked, that the author proceeds for some time in the ordinary way of reasoning...when of a sudden I am surprised to find, that instead of the usual copulations of propositions, is, and is not, I meet with no proposition that is not connected with an ought, or an ought not."

    Wonderfully poetic, and in a shallow sense, correct. No list of facts adds up to a value. One cannot derive ought from is. Yet as Hume notes, we do so all the time. If one accepts a scientific understanding of reality, the reason for this presents itself fairly readily.

    Human beings were for the longest time, hunter-gatherers living in kinship tribal groups - not at all unlike chimpanzee troops in social structure. Chimpanzees have social hierarchies, and morality of sorts - where they groom eachother and share food, and remember who reciprocates, and who doesn't. Relating this dynamic to human tribal evolution - it's safe to assume that moral behavior was promoted by sexual selection and natural selection, where moral behavior promoted both the individuals breeding prospects, and the success of the tribe relative to other tribes.

    The consequence of this is that there's an innate moral sensibility ingrained into human beings by tribal evolution, and so a list of facts does have moral implication for us - even while logically, no list of facts adds up to a value. Hume's conjecture is thus incomplete, yet has been widely employed to dismiss scientific understanding as morally neutral, or worse yet, morally vacuous.

    As I've already written almost as much as you have, just on your first paragraph - I'm only going to add that scientific understanding has progressed in leaps and bounds since the advent of the computer, necessary both for communication and large calculations. I hope we will continue the discussion and address the issues you raise, but it would require a ridiculously lengthy post to do so here.
  • Jake
    1.2k
    I agree that it matters we apply technology responsibly. What I don't agree with is that science gives us the way to apply technology responsibly.leo

    Forgive the repetition please, but it seems useful to make a clear distinction between 1) science and 2) our relationship with science.

    If our relationship with science was objective, detached and rational we could use the methods of science to develop tools and processes which could help us better manage technology. There would seem to be nothing about science itself that would prevent this, as science is just a conceptual machine with no agenda of it's own.

    The problem as I see it is not with science itself, but that our relationship with science has taken on too many of the characteristics of the relationship we used to have with religion. The same human frailties that once caused us to accept religions as a "one true way" have been transferred to science. The same human frailties that once caused us to have an unquestioning relationship with religious clergy have been transferred to the new "science clergy". The same human frailties that once caused us to seek a religion flavored heaven have been transferred to the modern quest to create a technological heaven on Earth. And so on...

    We think that the Enlightenment liberated us from all these old ways of thinking, but what happened instead is that the old ways of thinking were just aimed at a new target.

    Religion is a useful enterprise until one gets all carried away with unquestioning belief in a "one true way". It's the same with science. It's not religion or science that is the problem, but our relationship with these enterprises.
  • Rank Amateur
    1.2k
    agree and well put
  • Jake
    1.2k
    We build weapons to protect ourselves from others or to attack others, because we fear others.leo

    Yes, and we fear others because we perceive ourselves to be divided from reality, separate and alone, and thus vulnerable. "Me" is perceived to be very very small, and "everything else" is perceived to be very very big, and so fear in all it's forms becomes a foundation of human psychology, and is expressed in symptoms of fear such as violence.

    Adding more and more power at an ever accelerating rate to this equation is just poring fuel on the fire. So long as fear remains a foundation of human psychology giving humans ever more power is a prescription for disaster.

    We don't get this because we've been getting away with this doomed formula for a very long time, and so we blindly assume that we can get away with it forever. What we don't see is that this formula (giving ever more power to fearful people) worked in the past only because the power was very limited. To ignore this inconvenient fact is to remain stuck in 19th century thinking.

    The good news is that the sense we have of being separate and alone (and thus fearful) is an illusion generated by the nature of thought, what we've made of psychologically. Religion has been exploring this illusion in a variety of ways for thousands of years, and now science is as well in it's own way.

    A key obstacle that we face in liberating ourselves from this fear generating illusion is that the illusion is generated by thought. Thus, thinking about the problem doesn't solve the problem, but instead fuels it.
  • Jake
    1.2k
    Hi Rank! Glad to see you here.
  • Rank Amateur
    1.2k
    in my view, it is self evident that, as you say, science has no agenda. Science makes no truth claims that are not experimentally supported. And science makes no claim at all about anything else. All physics is, at every level, at its core is just a mathematical model of an observation. It is just taking the world in front of us, and turning it into numbers. Then we can change variables to predict results, than experimentally check to see if those results happen. That's it.

    And every use, or belief, or argument that is made in the name of science that is outside this, is just an argument based on faith in science, not about the science.
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