Is Science a value system?

Discussion in 'The Cesspool' started by Magical Realist, Jan 15, 2015.

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  1. exchemist Valued Senior Member

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    I think I see your basic point, which sounds to me like a criticism of what has been called "scientism", i.e. the elevation of a pragmatic discipline for understanding the physical world into a total worldview, from which, among other things, a moral code can supposedly be derived. You are contending, if I understand you, that any values a subscriber to scientism may claim are derived from their scientific outlook have instead been subjectively attached by them to what should be a value-free intellectual enterprise. Is that a reasonable paraphrasing?

    I tend to think the attaching of values to science is inevitable and merely results from science being just another human enterprise. We all, thank goodness, apply our values to our activities and studies, almost unconsciously. We are moral beings. People sometimes try to argue that moral behaviour arises from what can be shown scientifically to work best for human society. I struggle with this, starting with the subjectivity in deciding what is "best". Furthermore, if you consider the "selfish gene" hypothesis, for example, it seems to me it can only explain a certain amount of the sort of altruistic behaviour that most of us admire.

    To turn it on its head, there are also other people - a lot of them - who insist that science should be governed by a moral code, imposed from outside science by society. One sees the effects of this in legislation concerning topics and methods of research and sometimes in the dismissal or censorship of uncomfortable findings or hypotheses.
     
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  3. krash661 [MK6] transitioning scifi to reality Valued Senior Member

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    you should stay away from those youtube videos. youtube faithfuls are pathetically hilarious.
     
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  5. krash661 [MK6] transitioning scifi to reality Valued Senior Member

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    and what do you think you sound like ?
     
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  7. krash661 [MK6] transitioning scifi to reality Valued Senior Member

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    • Please do not insult other members.
    there's the old forest gump quote stupid is, stupid does. . meaning if you're stupid, you will do stupid things.
    in this case, stupid is, stupid says.
     
  8. krash661 [MK6] transitioning scifi to reality Valued Senior Member

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    this topic is one big insult.
     
  9. rpenner Fully Wired Valued Senior Member

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    Astronomy, of course, gave us astrophysical observation, which allows us to know that physics isn't just a local fluke.

    A laboratory for ideas of motion and time
    • Demonstration that motion about the Earth (or even the Sun) is not the principal organizing principle of the universe.
    • Demonstration of the finiteness of the speed of light -- the roughly 17-light-minute diameter of Earth's orbit is detectable against the regularity implicit in the motion of Jupiter's moons
    • Demonstration that the motions of bodies in the solar system are good approximations of conic sections
    • Demonstration of the conservation of angular momentum
    • Demonstration of central force law
    • Unification of Terrestrial and Celestial laws of motion, enabling all aspects of space-probes and manned space flight
    • Removal of comets, eclipses and the like from the canon of the supernatural
    • Demonstration that the Sun was a star
    • Demonstrations of Shapiro delay, the advance of Mercury's perihelion and deflection of distant starlight near the sun allowed for confirmation that space, time and motion were much closer to Einstein's conception than Newton's
    • Spectral lines allow testing of quantum chemistry results that can't be easily testing in terrestrial labs due to the denseness of matter
    • The size of the conceptual universe got much larger with the development of astronomy.

    Is science a value? I think that requires someone to assert that ignorance is also a value, as that is the alternative to science.

    People are driven to fill their empty heads with things. Science fills them with the best communicable, reliable, precise descriptions of the behavior of phenomena and gives a map for learning more. Authoritarian anti-science gives them only a description of behavior the authoritarian source wants of them and cannot describe the behavior of phenomena reliably without leaning on science.
     
  10. PhysBang Valued Senior Member

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    Do you have an example of this? Or is it too much of science as ideology to ask you for evidence?
     
  11. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member

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    Yes! Well put! That's all I'm saying. Science prides itself in putting emotion and value aside in its acquisition of information and formulation of theories. Yet for some it has become an exceedingly emotional and value-filled experience, representing a vision of the human race conquering ignorance and solving problems towards achieving some utopian dream. I don't fault people for using science in this personal way. I myself find myself doing it too. But to be strictly scientific, this use of science IS scientism, and cannot be justified in scientific terms. We simply cannot logically derive moral conclusions based on mere information. If science is the salvation of mankind, it is only because we elevate it to be such.

    I agree. It's surely never a given what works "best" in a society. Science demonstrates many examples of this. We split the atom. A better society or a worse society? We invent pesticides. A better society or a worse society? Computers? Half of us are now obese, at risk for things like diabetes and heart disease. So it's always a matter of selective preference and personal values when it comes to HOW science is bettering society. The vision of science as a panacea for all problems seems laden with subjective moral assumptions and personal goals that are not found in science itself.

    I feel like this sort of devaluation of scientific data comes from having a world view in conflict with the one many base on science. Religion, as well as a sort anti-establishment mindset, where science is equated to a totalitarian rule of a "new world order", illustrated in novels such as 1984, Brave New World, Gattacca, and The Giver. Many people fear the authoritarian use that is made of science, using its data to achieve personal political and social agendas.
     
  12. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member

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    Well there's certainly no question that astronomy has provided us tons of information about outer space and the universe. But really now, how much does this information benefit the vast majority of human beings? Does knowing the sun is a star, or that there are black holes, or knowing the speed of light, really better my life in any tangible way? It's accurate information about a vast set of very far away things, things so far away they have little relevance to the problems of everyday life.

    You're saying acquiring all this abstract knowledge about how nature works is a value in itself? I don't see that. The vast majority of the facts I learned from science in school have zero relevance or application to my life. When have I ever needed to know the chemical composition of water, or its boiling point, or the 6 flavors of quarks? When has anyone ever had to use the scientific method to live life successfully? Why don't they teach us useful things in school, like how to fish, or how to survive in the woods, or how to buy a home?
     
  13. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member

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    Several examples can be found in this thread already. Here's one by Carl Sagan:

    "There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we've ever known."

    Ofcourse I don't debate the validity of Sagan's moral conclusion. But it's certainly not something that is logically entailed by knowing we live on a pale blue dot. Another person might see our insignificance as an imperative to survive and compete with other humans for more success. Afterall 7 billion of us are crammed on this tiny blue dot. Limited resources and growing population suggest an every man for himself scenario. A dog eat dog world, since we are but flashes in the pan in terms of astronomical time.
     
  14. gmilam Valued Senior Member

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    No. Science is amoral. It is only a tool for acquiring knowledge. What we do with that knowledge is up to us.
     
  15. Seattle Valued Senior Member

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    If all that anyone was taught in school was how to buy a house no one would be able to buy a house. To be able to afford a house you need to be educated (in general).

    You wouldn't have a car, or a phone or a computer if someone didn't learn the things you say you have no need of.

    Most people need to be educated in a society in order for a few not to have to be.
     
  16. PhysBang Valued Senior Member

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    You are presenting only a small part of a longer work. Sagan does not seem to merely be relying on scientific results to draw his conclusion.

    What in this thread is an example of scientism and how?
     
  17. gmilam Valued Senior Member

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    That's why Carl qualified his statement by saying "to me". It's his opinion.
     
  18. paddoboy Valued Senior Member

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    And at the present time, we seem to have a glut of them at the moment....well at least five anyway.
     
  19. rpenner Fully Wired Valued Senior Member

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    Every invention of the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries built on either Newton's Laws of Motion or its descendents: Quantum Mechanics and General Relativity.

    That's how fundamental astrophysics gets -- it was the fundamental bridge between reality and the abstractions of reality that formed modern physical theory.

    You pooh-pooh "knowing the sun is a star, or that there are black holes, or knowing the speed of light" but two of these things are related to everyday package and goods delivery across the World. Every shipping truck and ship and many door-to-door deliveries are handled with Global Positioning systems based on General Relativity. Knowing the sun is a star allows one to generalize from the brief snapshots of the lives of all stars that the history of human observation are (relatively speaking) to speak to the history and future of our sun, and by extension the Solar System. So we know the Earth is ancient -- over a hundred million times older than a human generation, which helps us grow crops, breed crops, build cities, etc.

    If you never relied on global commerce, ate commercially grown crops or lived in a city, well then I would be hard pressed to point out how post-1600 astronomy has helped you personally. But then you would be living in some sort of isolated, electricity-free, commune and not be chatting on the Internet.

    Science is progressive -- it gets better and better at describing phenomena over time. So to try and pooh-pooh a field where global benefits were widely disseminated to the benefit of all mankind in the historical past seems like willful blindness. The charge of "how have you helped me recently" doesn't sound fair when voiced from a soapbox built of science's achievements.
     
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  20. exchemist Valued Senior Member

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    It's a fair challenge. I am not sure there are many people who really contend they derive their morality from science. I sometimes have the feeling that people like Dawkins strike this pose, but if you put me on the spot I'm not sure I can come up with a quotation to support my suspicion. I suspect that for most of us, while a scientific outlook may be a big part of what informs our view of the world, and gives us part of our self-image, we would acknowledge that there are other cultural and social influences on us and that these play a valuable role as well.
     
  21. Seattle Valued Senior Member

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    No one is claiming (that I'm aware of) that the reason they don't kill, steal, cheat and rape is derived from science

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  22. exchemist Valued Senior Member

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    Yes, somehow this thread seems to have developed a second strand, distinct from the original question. This is a discussion of what is the value of science to society, as distinct from the original issue of whether science is a source of moral values for society.

    I agree it seems perverse in the extreme to argue science is not of value.
     
  23. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member

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    Wow..that's quite a stretch from astronomy to GPS to shipping deliveries. I used to deliver packages for a living and not once did I rely on a GPS. And knowing the sun is a really ancient star helps crops to grow and cattle to breed? I coulda sworn we've been doing that as a species for thousands of years prior. Sorry, you still offer no evidence that astronomy benefits us at all. And no, precious little I've learned from science ever enters into my daily life. I took two years of geology in college and ended up joining the military. How did that information impact my life? It didn't. No more than knowing how cells divide, or how matter is formed, or how gravity works, is ever useful to me. Sorry if you consider that blasphemous.
     
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