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the Post-Scientific Age?
Posted: 03 May 2008 08:08 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 16 ]  
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Jehu, your perception of science seem to be colored by Mary Shelly. You seem to see scientist as impassioned toilers ever digging for new information, and yet reluctant to take responsibility for their monsters gone amok. Once the creature has been unleashed, it is a futile effort for the philosophical to run after it with torches, eager to consign the unwanted discovery to hell. Such efforts, in life as in literature, are at best short lived.

The truth is that scientist are often all too aware of what they have created, and unlike their literary counterparts, are usually willing to accept the consequences. By this, I mean that a scientist answer to destructive science is more science.

Take your example scientist working for the military-industrial complex. Yes they have created many a terrible weapon. Yet, they have also developed many life saving devices. And don’t forget that most of what is developed for military use filters back into civilian society. Fewer people die in emergency rooms because of developments in military technology.

I feel that it will be the developments of science that will drive our society forward to a better, more peaceful future. It is only by a science which is unbound that we will be able to develop answers for the troubles of today. To expect a change in human nature prior to those developments is naïve. All that the philosopher and the politician can do is cry about the perceived negatives in the developments science. To wait for them to grow up enough to better handle the possible dangers means that we will likely miss out on the possible benefits.

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Posted: 04 May 2008 03:55 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 17 ]  
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Jehu - 03 May 2008 09:33 PM
mpbrockman - 03 May 2008 07:19 PM

Jehu, you’re all over the place here. Science complicates our lives and destroys the world, but you’re not against it, after all it’s only the selfish scientists that are bad, or maybe it’s the politicians that are bad, but philosophers can maybe fix that given their long track record of making things all better…

The gist of your argument, if there is one, seems to be that science should wait until we’re all better people. That’s about as unrealistic as it gets. Care to clarify?

My argument is quite simple, philosophy has shape our present worldview, and that worldview is leading us inexorably toward the destruction of ourselves and our planet. Because of our view, we cannot see beyond our self-serving interests, neither as individuals nor as nations, and so we continue to exploit the weak, and appease the powerful. All the while, our limited resources continue to be squandered, our environment polluted, and our children poisoned by the very food they are given to sustain them. Now, one might say that this is not the fault of the scientists, but of those who misuse their discoveries, but this argument has little force; for if I leave a loaded gun in the hands of a child, or even an adult who is not mentally competent, then am I not responsible if they should kill someone with it? Now it is obvious that we cannot keep scientific discoveries out of the hands of those who are not worthy of such knowledge, and so I say that we must change peoples view, so that they will be less apt to misuse it.

Lovely sentiments - right up there with “love is the answer” and “war is bad”. Do you have any concrete proposals to accompany the rhetoric?

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Posted: 04 May 2008 06:24 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 18 ]  
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Celsus - 04 May 2008 12:08 AM

I feel that it will be the developments of science that will drive our society forward to a better, more peaceful future. It is only by a science which is unbound that we will be able to develop answers for the troubles of today. To expect a change in human nature prior to those developments is naïve. All that the philosopher and the politician can do is cry about the perceived negatives in the developments science. To wait for them to grow up enough to better handle the possible dangers means that we will likely miss out on the possible benefits.

I’m afraid that your feelings are not supported by the facts, for whatever good has come out our scientific endeavours, and there has been a great deal, it is far outweighed by the bad. Again, I am not saying that there should be no science, I am only saying that knowledge must be tempered by wisdom, and the two are not equivalent.

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Posted: 04 May 2008 06:30 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 19 ]  
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mpbrockman - 04 May 2008 07:55 AM

Lovely sentiments - right up there with “love is the answer” and “war is bad”. Do you have any concrete proposals to accompany the rhetoric?

As I have already said, we cannot rectify the problem without that we change the underlying view that is the root of it, and so instead of demanding some sort of quick fix, wouldn’t it be more productive if we enquired into the nature of the problem?

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Posted: 04 May 2008 06:36 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 20 ]  
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Celsus - 04 May 2008 12:08 AM


I feel that it will be the developments of science that will drive our society forward to a better, more peaceful future. It is only by a science which is unbound that we will be able to develop answers for the troubles of today. To expect a change in human nature prior to those developments is naïve. All that the philosopher and the politician can do is cry about the perceived negatives in the developments science. To wait for them to grow up enough to better handle the possible dangers means that we will likely miss out on the possible benefits.

I do not think science is going to make us better people unless science can discover how to turn off our aggressive, destructive and anthropomorphic nature.  Science is not going to solve our problems as long as we have instinctive impulses that do dastardly deeds. Science is not our savior.  It is only as good as we ourselves decide to be.

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Posted: 04 May 2008 07:58 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 21 ]  
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lindajean - 04 May 2008 10:36 PM

Science is not going to solve our problems as long as we have instinctive impulses that do dastardly deeds.
Science is not our savior.  It is only as good as we ourselves decide to be.

Yes, we cannot do good with the aid of science unless we use it responsibly. If thats Jehu’s whole point with this thread I feel like a “duuuh” is in order.
The reverse is also true however and its rarely pointed out. There is a great deal of good that we could never do no matter how good our intentions, if we didn’t have the science to back it up.

We could measure our civilizations advance in two values, scientific development, and intellectual development or enlightenment or whatever we want to call it.
There is an equilibrium here obviously, just as we advance our knowledge and technology we must advance our mentality at the same pace. Both mentality and technology are dependant on each other. If the gap gets too great the equilibrium falls and we wipe ourselves out.

World war 2 was a close call, Germany was not far off from developing nukes of their own. If they had done so, that would probably had been a demonstration of when the gap got too great. The cold war was a close call too but after world war 2, we’ve closed the gap in the west. The islamic world is a problem.
Either way, this all boils down to the question of mentality. Because we can’t really control the technological advancement, atleast we can’t halt it. So we must try to keep advancing our mentality instead. Which I guess is the whole point of forums like these.

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Posted: 04 May 2008 08:30 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 22 ]  
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lindajean - 04 May 2008 10:36 PM

Science is not going to solve our problems as long as we have instinctive impulses that do dastardly deeds.

(I feel I should preface these statements by pointing out that most people see me as very pessimistic. I certainly would never be accused of being a “people person.” But then I guess liking people and being afraid of them are two entirely different things.)

Frankly, I disagree with this sentiment. It always amazes me to read the rather dismal view most people have of humanity, even among those who claim to be secular humanist.

The truth is that most humans are neither aggressive nor destructive, but this is how we perceive them. I would direct you towards Steve Salerno’s article on TV journalism in the latest issue of Skeptic (Vol.14 No.1) for an example of just how people are brain washed into thinking that the world is a frightening place with danger lurking around every corner.

The simple truth is that most people are fairly decent. Most would rather help you than hurt you. The reason why murders, cults, suicide bombers, et al are news is precisely because they are not the norm. If we would spend a little more time trying to understand why people exhibit these aberrant behaviors, instead of just locking them up, perhaps we could limit these acts even more.

This is not to say that there aren’t bad people out there, and we should be vigilant of them, but to use the criminals and profiteers to label all humans as vicious wild animals is every bit a prejudicial as saying that certain people are bad just because of the color of their skin.

There are always going to be a small few who will commit dastardly deeds, but to somehow suggest that these people will prevent the betterment of society is absurd. Perhaps if we taught our children the art of critical thinking, they would be better able to recognize the scammers, and then would be less likely to fall for their lies.

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Posted: 04 May 2008 11:41 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 23 ]  
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Jehu - 04 May 2008 10:24 PM
Celsus - 04 May 2008 12:08 AM

I feel that it will be the developments of science that will drive our society forward to a better, more peaceful future. It is only by a science which is unbound that we will be able to develop answers for the troubles of today. To expect a change in human nature prior to those developments is naïve. All that the philosopher and the politician can do is cry about the perceived negatives in the developments science. To wait for them to grow up enough to better handle the possible dangers means that we will likely miss out on the possible benefits.

I’m afraid that your feelings are not supported by the facts, for whatever good has come out our scientific endeavours, and there has been a great deal, it is far outweighed by the bad. Again, I am not saying that there should be no science, I am only saying that knowledge must be tempered by wisdom, and the two are not equivalent.

I would disagree, the good far outweighs the bad—your interpretation of the “facts” is not one that I agree with.  I, for one, would not like to live in the world as it was even 100 years ago, and certainly would not want to live in a pre-scientific world.  Having said that, I certainly agree that knowledge needs wisdom as companion and we need to expend a good deal more energy developing the wisdom to deal with the knowledge we have acquired, something that requires as a first step calming the panic that people get into, the desire for excitement, the tendency to over-react that is preyed upon by supermarket tabloids, advertiser, and politicians.  (I might point out that in every century there are people who have worked to transmit what wisdom they have acquired, like bees gathering necter from wherever it is found and centralizing it for redistribution when the time is ripe.)

By the way, is this Yahun posting again under another assumed name?

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Posted: 05 May 2008 01:16 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 24 ]  
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burt - 05 May 2008 03:41 AM

By the way, is this Yahun posting again under another assumed name?

Ohhhhhhh…

I should have recognized that trying-to-nail-jello-to-the-wall sensation my own self.

My sincere thanks, burt.

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Posted: 05 May 2008 04:07 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 25 ]  
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mpbrockman - 05 May 2008 05:16 AM
burt - 05 May 2008 03:41 AM

By the way, is this Yahun posting again under another assumed name?

Ohhhhhhh…

I should have recognized that trying-to-nail-jello-to-the-wall sensation my own self.

My sincere thanks, burt.

Nay! Do not invoke Him That Shall Not Be Named, lest ye conjure devils too terrible to contemplate!

Frankly, I’ll reserve judgment on Jehu possible identity until he starts spouting off on ancient Egypt.

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Posted: 05 May 2008 11:08 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 26 ]  
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Celsus - 05 May 2008 12:30 AM

The simple truth is that most people are fairly decent. Most would rather help you than hurt you. The reason why murders, cults, suicide bombers, et al are news is precisely because they are not the norm. If we would spend a little more time trying to understand why people exhibit these aberrant behaviors, instead of just locking them up, perhaps we could limit these acts even more.

I agree that the majority of humans are not committing the dastardly deeds I spoke of. This is a good thing and if it were true we would likewise be the victims of much more violence. Given that most of us are not victims of egregious acts, we can conclude most people are not inherently “evil.”


However, it would be remiss of me to state that human nature (behavior) has a neutral impact on technology because history has proven just the opposite. So we can believe (all we want) that science will solve all of our problems, but I argue it will do no such thing as long as there are those among us who will use it in harmful ways.

Yes, science/technology have done remarkable and outstanding things in the course of our lives.  I am not arguing in any way that science does not provide a higher standard of living for millions of people, because clearly it does.

This is not to say that there aren’t bad people out there, and we should be vigilant of them, but to use the criminals and profiteers to label all humans as vicious wild animals is every bit a prejudicial as saying that certain people are bad just because of the color of their skin.

I am not labeling “all humans as vicious wild animals” only making a point that it takes a certain “bad seed” to bring the catastophic events into motion.  Until the aggression and violence is quelled inside individuals/groups/governments,  technology will always be used in harmful ways, in some manner and to some degree.

There are always going to be a small few who will commit dastardly deeds, but to somehow suggest that these people will prevent the betterment of society is absurd. Perhaps if we taught our children the art of critical thinking, they would be better able to recognize the scammers, and then would be less likely to fall for their lies.

I don’t think they will prevent the “betterment of society” but they will slow it down and will stifle it periodically.

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Posted: 05 May 2008 11:19 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 27 ]  
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lindajean - 04 May 2008 10:36 PM

Science is not going to solve our problems as long as we have instinctive impulses that do dastardly deeds.
Science is not our savior.  It is only as good as we ourselves decide to be.

Unbeliever says:
Either way, this all boils down to the question of mentality. Because we can’t really control the technological advancement, at least we can’t halt it….


My point exactly—the behavioral component will prevent us from always using science/technology in positive ways.

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Posted: 05 May 2008 11:36 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 28 ]  
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Not to highjack the thread too much, lindajean, but it is fun to read your signature and the statement of a pope trying to define femininity (and isn’t his statement something that ought to apply to priests???).  A much better perspective on the feminine shows up in The Marriages of Zones 3, 4, and 5.  It looks at both the nurturing aspect, and the fierce aspect.

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Posted: 05 May 2008 11:50 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 29 ]  
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burt - 05 May 2008 03:36 PM

Not to highjack the thread too much, lindajean, but it is fun to read your signature and the statement of a pope trying to define femininity (and isn’t his statement something that ought to apply to priests???).  A much better perspective on the feminine shows up in The Marriages of Zones 3, 4, and 5.  It looks at both the nurturing aspect, and the fierce aspect.

Thanks. I’ll check it out. 

I vacillate between deciding if his words are humorous (as in ironic)  or pathetic. I guess they are both. (But it is a gentle reminder to me of why I find religion genuinely creepy from a female perspective.)

As far as the priests go, he is having too much difficulty reminding them to keep their hands (and other body parts) off of children. Teaching them the virtues of “femininity” would be a distraction.smile

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Posted: 05 May 2008 07:22 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 30 ]  
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burt - 05 May 2008 03:36 PM

Not to highjack the thread too much,...

Generally, I do not feel that threads need to adhere too firmly to their stated topics. Threads should follow the rules of conversation, and should naturally travel where ever the discussion leads.

Be that as it may, I must commend your politeness. Particularly since this thread has essentially been hijacked already.

My original purpose for instituting this thread was to find out if others had noticed, as I have, that many people seem to feel that science is just another belief system. This has morphed into a discussion about the ethics of new technology. That’s cool, but it is a detour from the threads initial query.

So I thank you for your consideration, Burt.

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