Scientists and Virtue

Discussion in 'Science & Society' started by lightgigantic, Feb 6, 2009.

  1. lightgigantic Banned Banned

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    Recently read this quote by Maurice Wilkins

    To say that the essence of science is that you are always inquiring and open-minded is to say that you are in fact living a virtuous life.This, of course, refers to how the scientist ideally works; in practice, you find that it is very different.

    Is open-mindedness a prerequisite for successful science?
    Does open-mindedness require virtue, even for a scientist?
     
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  3. cosmictraveler Be kind to yourself always. Valued Senior Member

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    Many times a scientist will make the answers they find fit even if they aren't correct. That way they are right even though they are wrong.
     
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  5. Enmos Staff Member

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    Your beef is with humans, not scientists.
     
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  7. lightgigantic Banned Banned

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    and is this celebrated as "good" science?
     
  8. Read-Only Valued Senior Member

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    Boo-hiss-boo!!!! There are very, very few scientists like that - they don't last very long.

    I completely agree with Enmos - your complaint is NOT about scientists but about human nature in general. True professionals do not act in such a fashion. The few that do are just after grant money and therefore are nothing but con artists - NOT scientists at all.
     
  9. Nasor Valued Senior Member

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    During the 1940s there were Nazi scientists who gathered very useful data about things like how and why people die of hypothermia, what temperatures can be tolerated and for how long, etc. They did this by experimenting on Jewish subjects who usually died during the research. In terms of scientific quality, it's good science; they were great about having controls, making careful observations, etc. But although it was great research from a scientific standpoint, I would submit to you that these researchers were not living "virtuous lives." So no, I don't think that being a good at science is synonymous with being virtuous or living a virtuous life.
     
  10. Read-Only Valued Senior Member

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    While that is certainly true, Nassor, I don't think they should even be considered human beings, much less scientists. At least as far as this particular discussion goes.
     
  11. Nasor Valued Senior Member

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    Of course they were scientists. The fact that they were performing evil experiments doesn't make those experiments any less scientific. If you're going to argue that anyone who doesn't lead a virtuous life isn't really a scientist, then it's going to be hard to provide counterexamples of good scientists who weren't virtuous. Of course that was an extreme example, but I'm sure if you looked around you could find plenty of other examples of people who were great at science but bad at being human beings.

    Edit:
    It's also easy to find examples of people who are perfectly willing to question things and be open-minded in their chosen field of research, but are remarkably closed-minded about other things. I personally know scientists who are open-minded about their research and perfectly willing to admit when they are wrong (about science) and accept new data that contradicts their theories (about science), but then they switch their brains off when talking about religion, or politics, or any number of other things. It's like they've trained themselves to be scientific when thinking about "scientific things," but not when they're thinking about "nonscientific things."
     
    Last edited: Feb 9, 2009
  12. Read-Only Valued Senior Member

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    Nope, you COMPLETELY misunderstand me. In no way am I upholding the idea that scientists are somehow virtuous or "wonderful" people - they are humans like the rest of us. There's every flavor of the scale - good, indifferent, bad and worse.

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    My point was that anyone who engages in activities - scientific or otherwise - that causes harm to individuals is something less than 'human' in my opinion.

    There's also something to your final comment that I believe you're overlooking: many scientists are actually reluctant to try and apply themselves outside their discipline. And that's one of the MAIN reasons you won't find many true professionals that will even comment on stupid conspiracy theories - like the ones that have sprung up about 9/11.

    A biologist, for example, knows full-well that he is NOT qualified to assess anything about structural engineering, effects of fire on structural materials, etc. And the ONLY ones that are willing to do that already have a cracked head sitting on their engine block.

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    Like that very stupid Steven Jones and similar ones. They are idiots of the first order.
     
  13. Nasor Valued Senior Member

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    Yeah, I completely agree there. It seems like feeling that you're actually qualified at something tends to make you feel much less qualified at everything else. I assume it comes from realizing how much you know about a subject, and being aware that you don't know nearly that much about anything else.
     
  14. Read-Only Valued Senior Member

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    That's both true and quite reasonable. Every single scientific discipline today is so full of information - with new information being added almost every single day - that's it's really a major effort just to to try and stay current.

    Unlike in the distant past, professionals no longer have the time and the convenience of being a "general scientist/experimenter like famous people of yore. (Franklin, Edison, Faraday, etc.)

    With the crush of information, it's about all anyone can do - and be competent - is to work solely within his chosen field and perhaps skim what's available on those that are very closely related to his chosen areas of work. There simply isn't enough time to venture far from "home" anymore. And no reason to waste effort speculating about things not directly related to their own work.

    Just to reemphasize a point I made earlier, that's what ignorant individuals like Scotxx are incapable of understanding and why they put such foolish faith in someone that's a water engineer (Jones) who tries to appear to be an expert on melting steel and nonsense such as that. And like the idiot podiatrist (lowly, ordinary foot doctor) who claims to be removing implants from alien abductees - nothing but pure, unadulterated hogwash and nonsense. But fools who want so badly to believe that kind of garbage look up to those cranks as brilliant geniuses. Absurd behavior!!
     
  15. Roman Banned Banned

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    I thought a virtuous life didn't involve hookers, blow or "money-shots". Open-minded & inquiring isn't virtuous, it's practically the opposite.

    What moral philosopher considers fucking goats or eating man flesh virtuous?
     
  16. Roman Banned Banned

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    A "money-shot" is where you ejaculate on your partner. Also known as a pearl necklace or map of Hawaii.
     
  17. Cordelia_2_PNIsuiter Registered Member

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    "I thought a virtuous life didn't involve hookers, blow or "money-shots". Open-minded & inquiring isn't virtuous, it's practically the opposite.

    What moral philosopher considers fucking goats or eating man flesh virtuous?"- Roman Banana, oh, sorry, I meant Roman...

    Or for that matter biotech body brokering or mind squatting?
     
    Last edited: Feb 11, 2009
  18. theobserver is a simple guy... Registered Senior Member

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    I guess so. And in reality most current day scientists are not open minded.

    1. they believe that unless a phenomena can be observed and reproduced, it doesn't fit to be in the field of science. I think they are contradicting the very essence of being a scientist when they do this.

    2. Social reputation of scientists count when they bring in a new theory. Newbies get attacked brutally even if they were right(but in the polished scientific ways obviously).

    3. Many of what we call as technology wouldn't have existed if scientists actually cared about nature and was idealistic in their efforts. Even though many technological advancements make things better and easier for humans, it makes it hard for nature and other species.

    Most scientists lack the essential basic knowledge to classify many fields as pseudoscience. If there is something which few people understands, there is a high possibility that there is something important about it which we cant figure out. Unless a scientist acquire the same level of knowledge and experience as a pseudo scientist, he cant qualify himself to argue against them.

    If the system is evolving at a quantum level or changing when observed as observer effect suggests, its highly possible that only the physical world can be measured and experimented or only at a physical level observations can be made but the big picture would remain unclear.
     
  19. Crunchy Cat F-in' *meow* baby!!! Valued Senior Member

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    This is the essence of being a scientist... not science itself.

    A "virtuous" life? Sounds like an underhanded attempt to inject theism into a stereotypical scientist image.

    It's a pre-requisite for a scientist to have a chance at flourishing. But open-mindedness for a scientist may be very different than what you think it is.

    Nope.
     
  20. Read-Only Valued Senior Member

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    What a gross departure from reality!

    I strongly suspect that you don't even realize how absurd your statements are. For starters, a scientist - due to his profession - is always going to have a MUCH greater level of knowledge (AND experience!) than any so-called pseudo-scientist. And that's why all pseudo-scientists are left in the dust scrambling with absurd explanations as to why the believe what they do.
     
  21. theobserver is a simple guy... Registered Senior Member

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    They do. I didn't said they don't have better knowledge than pseudo scientists. But when it comes to labeling a field as pseudoscience, they have not much of knowledge related to that field; instead only basic logical arguments. My point is that, you cannot logically argue for or against a subject when you don't have enough knowledge about the related field.
     
  22. Read-Only Valued Senior Member

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    Still incorrect. If it is a related field - just you stated above - they will still have considerable knowledge about it. And although unrelated fields might be a different matter, a genuine, professional scientist will STILL be light-years ahead of ANY puny pseudo-scientist. (One cannot become a real scientist without more than just a basic knowledge of ALL scientific fields of inquiry.)
     
  23. lightgigantic Banned Banned

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    Crunchy cat
    so can one make advancement in science without being a science?
    there are various general noble qualities associated with being open minded - the question is whether these foster being open minded
    How do you think maliciousness and open mindedness marry as compatible disposition traits?
    interesting .....
     

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