The Purpose of Science

Discussion in 'Science & Society' started by Servant, Feb 27, 2001.

  1. Servant Registered Member

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    Science serves a purpose in society. What might that purpose be?
     
  2. Crisp Gone 4ever Registered Senior Member

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    Hi Servant,

    Do you have any idea how many books have been written on this subject ? :) - Anyway, I'll get back on this tomorrow or so, it's getting a bit to early here.

    Bye!

    Crisp
     
  3. Servant Registered Member

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    No. How many?
     
  4. Doc Brown Registered Member

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    "What's wrong with science being profitable?"
    "Nothing, as long is your motive is to search for truth, which is what the pursuit of science is all about."

    --dialogue in Contact
     
  5. Cris In search of Immortality Valued Senior Member

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    Science is systematized knowledge derived from observation, study, and experimentation.

    It is because of science that we know all that we know.

    Without the knowledge gained by science and the discipline required we would be no better than apes.

    Compare this with religious faith that has been in conflict with science almost forever. Religious faith also claims to be able to establish knowledge but does not use the scientific methods defined above but relies on revelations from alleged supernatural sources.

    The two approaches tend to be opposite and the claims by each often cannot be resolved by mutual agreement, conflict is inevitable.

    The purpose of science is simple: Science enables us to improve our quality of life, in many cases quite dramatically.

    Hope this helps
    Cris
     
  6. Servant Registered Member

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    Hello Cris,

    I agree with all that you say. Indeed, science is systemized and based on observation, etc. It is also true that we know much about the physical universe due to science. I must also agree that religious faith for the longest time has disagreed with--and even opposed--science; Galileo comes to mind. However, the religious extravangances of several hundred years ago are becoming less and less permissible in our day and i can see religion and science already confirming each other in many respects.

    Now, on your comment that "the purpose of science is...to improve our quality of life...", i am assuming that you are insinuating improvements relative to the physical condition of life--such as better communication systems, medicine, and so forth. This is a noble goal, doubtless. Yet, on the one hand we have great and wonderful scientific breakthoughs and on the other we have disasterous consequences caused by such breakthroughs. How to reconciliate the two?

    Science has a noble purpose to fulfill, but it is human beings who do the science. Human beings cannot live on science alone. There must be something that transcends the goal of discovering the secrets of a material universe within the framework of a person's inner being. I call this "faith". Eistein believed in God, as did many of the greatest scientists the world has known. Consequently, i feel that the purpose of science must be above and beyond just an improvement of our material condition. There is a deeper thing which must be discovered, in my opinion.

    I am a Baha'i and in my faith it is clearly stated that science and religion go hand-in-hand; one cannot exist without the other. If man lived by science alone he would end up in a degradating state of materialism. If, on the other hand, man lived by religion alone, without science, he would be overwhelmed with superstitious beliefs. Therefore a balance must exist between science and religion; what is unacceptable to reason should not be condoned.

    The purpose of science, therefore, should be to improve man's material existence, yes, but it should also be to discover those attributes of the Creator which remain hidden to human eyes--both inner and outer.
     
  7. Boris Senior Member Registered Senior Member

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    Servant,

    It irks me how religious people invariably assume that Materialism is a "degrading state". May we have some justifications for such a claim?
     
  8. Servant Registered Member

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    Doc Brown,

    I visited your website. The theories are all immensely interesting. Lots of probabilities. What is the purpose of science according to you?
     
  9. Servant Registered Member

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    By "degradating state" i mean that if one lived life based solely on materialism his humanity would be no better than that of the animal for, you see, the animal has not the faculty of compassion, understaning and other such human virtues; that is to say that animals do show signs of these virtues but these are not as highly developed as in the human species.

    Materialism, it is obvious to anyone, leads to greed and other such conditions and robs man of his humanity. My meaning here is that since man is material to begin with, he does need "materialism" to a prescribed degree. But this should be kept in balance. If all of man's energies be focussed on materialism (material pursuits and the like), certainly his human condition would suffer a degree of degradation. But this is true of religion, as well: should a man forsake science, sacrificing it solely for the sake of religious pursuits, this would create an imbalance in his humanity. Both science and religion are necessary in a human life. This is my opinion.
     
  10. caligula Registered Member

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    I believe that one of the 'blind paths' is to follow the premise that Science must have a purpose in that it exists by itself.

    It has been well described above as a systematic process ; a method. The definition of Science as anything but an all-encompassing record of observations is to imbue it with qualities greater than its parts.

    Science is a tool - nothing more. It is a convenient and imprecise term of describing not only the physical world but what was previously deemed to be metaphysical. It has its religious adherents in that they blossom and 'belong' in the radiance of its umbrella.

    Unfortunately , other social associations occur ; where stereotypes abound - in the very halls of learning themselves. In its most base form - it is assumed that the idea of an individual skilled and/or with natural ability in observation and categorization is incompatiable or highly unlikely to have similar skills in Sport - in short......a jock cai'nt be a geek! In another direction an individual with math or science skills is deemed to be almost moronic in the Humanities area and be challenged in the filed of human communications.

    This predication is perpetuated by Society itself , whereupon it has become more of a convenience than a rule. A young Scientist has , more often than not , found succour in this compartmentalization where he or she can rest easy in the refuge of the Lab and not be properly expected to excel in the other directions of human endeavour.

    Some stereotypes are difficult to dispel - such as a predisposition in an argument ......to either cite specifics or shut up.....a bit harsh in a discussion about lovemaking , or the softness of a medoc or the colour of curtains.

    Stereotypes are clasped to the breast of the insecure , the unsure and the initiate. Thence , the statement become epithet ; ...."I am a Scientist...so,...all at the same time excuses one , explains away clumsiness and is a tacit apology for past , current and future gaffes.
    This from a person who would not tolerate for an instant such inconclusiveness and sloppiness in experimentation and recording in their own genre.

    It can be , in some places , almost sacriligous to consider Science a hell of a lot of fun!

    Regards..................Caligula
     
  11. Cris In search of Immortality Valued Senior Member

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    Oh Servant, are you in trouble! There are several definitions of the word materialism, and you have chosen to describe the version that is typically seen as derogative but is wholly inappropriate in the context of comparison with religions and philosophy and the pursuit of knowledge.

    Materialism, correctly placed in this context is simply the doctrine that matter is the only reality and the mind and emotions are merely functions of it. It then follows that such a doctrine includes a rejection of any religious or supernatural account of things.

    Degradation? Greed? Oh man! I hardly know where to begin. But since Boris threw the challenge then I hope he sees your response, he is capable of a far better and penetrating rebuke than myself. And if he misses anything I’ll fill in any gaps.

    Bye for now
    Cris
     
  12. Servant Registered Member

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    Cris,

    My definition of materialism is the following:

    "...a doctrine that the only or the highest values or objectives lie in material well-being and in the furtherance of material progress..."

    (Merr-Webster's: http://www.m-w.com/cgi-bin/dictionary)

    The implication in this meaning is that people give little credence, less attention to the very thing that makes them human, mainly, virtues (or "qualities", if you like). Virtues have very little to do with "materialism," as you will readily realize. It also implies that an individual's focus is more on matter that must perish rather on values which last eternally.

    Your opinion that my choice is "wholly inappropriate in the context of comparison with religions and philosophy and the pursuit of knowledge" assumes everyone must conform to a stereotypical, pre-arranged, pre-determined set of rules set by others when embarking on such topics. I cannot agree with this. However, it is true to say that we must define our terms if intelligent conversation is to be pursued with the aim of understanding.

    The topic here is the purpose of science, i believe.
     
  13. m3harri Registered Member

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    Science ???

    Science has two primary definitions.
    We can think of Science as a body of knowledge or as the process of obtaining that knowledge via the scientific method.
    Regarding as the question "What is purpose of science?"
    I do not know what context you are thinking of but the definition as I gave it is self-explanatory. The body of knowledge has been gather to be used as the user sees fit. The purpose of the scientific process is to uncover the facts on particular study. The end purpose of science depends of the person or persons using science. One can find facts that could help them feed the hungry or build a bomb. Scientists are often accused of nefarious motives and some cases this is a founded concern. However, it the governments, business, and in the end consumers/voters that pass or fail technology derived from science.
    As humans are involved in both ends of science it is imperfect. Fortunately the scientific method has self-correcting features. Experiments are repeated and the peer review processes are designed to weed the chafe from the wheat. When these features are given the run around we are more than justified in being suspicious.


     
  14. Cris In search of Immortality Valued Senior Member

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    Servant,

    Science operates entirely within a Materialistic framework. It is a tool that is purely objective and gives no regard for anything that cannot be observed or detected. In this sense there can never be any reconciliation between religious faith and science, they are mutually exclusive. It is only the religionists who hope that the two are joining forces since they depend on science for survival, and faith alone sustains nothing but self-delusion.

    Cris
     
    Last edited: Mar 1, 2001
  15. Servant Registered Member

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    Cris,

    I don't know what to answer your last post. You are right in your view but i have a different view. Thank you for sharing.



    m3harri,

    You make a very fine point when you say that, "The end purpose of science depends [on] the person or persons using science. One can find facts that could help them feed the hungry or build a bomb."

    How utterly a sincere statement this is! This is nothing but the truth.

    I am totally at a loss when contemplating the billions and billions of dollars spent in space science alone when millions of people are dieing of aids in Africa. Should governments inject the funds expended in such endeavours within the scientific communities working toward a resolution of the aids problem, in one week we would eradicate the ailment from the face of the earth!

    I am confounded at the misery of the human condition in many parts of the world while governments invest billions in developing nuclear bombs, perfecting instruments of destruction, and in sending missions to Mars. Should governments steer the energies of their scientists toward a resolution of world poverty, in one day we would eradicate poverty from this planet!

    I am appalled at the lack of true humanity in those who aggressively argue that the pursuit of science for science's sake is a noble goal. It is such a saddening thing to realize how inconsiderate and hard of heart man has become. We spend several billions in sending NEAR to a rock hovering in space while next door millions of babies die of malnutrition! Where is the "humanity" in such a conduct?

    The end purpose of science should be to serve humanity and the quality of that service depends on "the person or persons using science," as you rightly point out. But it is true to say that if the scientist is sick in his purpose, his science will also be thus. And if his purpose be healthy, so likewise will be the end result of his findings. Yet, you are correct in saying that by and large governments, business and end users will determine the direction of scientific focus. This does not say much for the moral quality of contemporary man.
     
  16. Boris Senior Member Registered Senior Member

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    Servant,

    As long as you are using the m-w online dictionary, I'll quote the *other* definition of Materialism for you:

    "1 a : a theory that physical matter is the only or fundamental reality and that all being and processes and phenomena can be explained as manifestations or results of matter"

    Here, we are not using the word "materialism" to denote preoccupation with wealth or satisfaction of bodily desires; rather, we are using the name of the philosophy Materialism (note the capital M) -- as opposed to philosophical Dualism (essentially a philosophical perspective of any theistic faith.) I thought this would only be too obvious to be missed by anyone, since it is *philosophies* we are considering, not ethical frameworks. Now....

    A total nonsequitur in the view of the intended meaning of Materialism, and altogether meaningless. Meaningless because human capacity for compassion, understanding, &c is inherent in the human cognitive architecture (i.e. the brain); such "virtues" exist regardless of philosophical or metaphysical stance, just as do any other faculties of the body.

    Again, a nonsequitur. Metaphysical belief is not the same thing as ethics. A Materialist can be as morally sophisticated as any theist, and then some. Even more so, because a Materialist's ethical code can only arise from structured arguments, not from some cultural myth.

    Besides, you would have to acknowledge that until very recently, 99.9% of the world's population was religious (and a good fraction of it deeply religious). That didn't prevent humanity from being consumed by greed or indeed losing itself over and over again. Therefore, not only are your claims concerning Materialism unfounded and unreasonable, but your very grounds for leveling such allegations are nonexistent.

    Define "human condition". I certainly hope your definition does not include self-effacement before authority or the autosuggestion of prayer.

    Then again, a Materialist framework does not prevent anyone from practicing or enjoying the full repertoire of human potential, from science to art to interpersonal bonding. Indeed, if anything a Materialist is more liberated in the range of self-expression than any theist.
     
  17. Cris In search of Immortality Valued Senior Member

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    Servant,

    Re your last remarks to m3harri.

    I pretty much agree with all of those remarks. As I stated earlier I see the purpose of science as a way to improve the quality of life. What better way than to find cures for diseases etc.

    The human genome project demonstarted a way that the international science community was able to cooperate. We need more of that cooperation but focused on specific problems. And I suspect a lot of that is going on. Certainly those working on cancer research in different countries tend to ignore international boundaries and share their notes. I am sure many scientists see the defficiencies in the system. But it is our politicians who seem to be more influenced by big business than the needs of the people, who create the lack of focus.

    Cris
     
  18. discord5 Registered Senior Member

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    Materialism

    Materialism is also an easy way to tell if i should feel the human emotion of empathy for another.
    A materialist would look at a bum and say "oh that poor man" because you know you'd be unhappy in his position.

    =>
     
  19. wet1 Wanderer Registered Senior Member

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    Science has no purpose except to the human race. We are by nature a curious species. That same curiosity has brought us from wondering if we should leave the trees to today's present state. If the apes had a much they'd have had a leg up on us and chances are good in the competion for food we'd have lost out. (visions of Planet of the Apes).
     
  20. cjosie d Registered Member

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    Science and Society

    Hello
    We must not forget that our future depends on tomorrow.

    As members of our community, and the world, we must not over-look the growing need of science and what it offers to carry us throughout our lives... whether a medical breakthrough, a new energy source to keep
    us comfortable in our homes or offices, or put food on our tables.

    Science offers many options to better our lives and the world around us. We cannot deny the need for
    discovery and advances on any level to improve and provide.

    Look around at the many medical conditions that have been helped by science and new medicines and technology. If it were not for hard-work and reaching beyond the known, many people would not be
    living today. These same pioneers in the science fields, have broken many barriers and discovered
    a vast number illnesses and conditions that would have gone undetected, resulting in loss of life.

    Science has a place in our society and must not be denied.

    Our political leaders must open their eyes and minds and learn to accept the accomplishments of science and developers of new methods of technology..... our citizens must open their eyes and minds and realize our society needs new and innovation to survive. We cannot always depend on the past and its 'tried and true' methods.
    We must break away from the idea that science will destroy and the unknown will hurt us..

    We must use our intelligence to grow and discover instead of relying on fears of the unknown that continue to hold us back and place restrictions on our very being.

    Only our narrow-minds and unwillingness to learn, expand and make use of the many technological advances will be our downfall...
     

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