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What is science?

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  • louise
    Is science a set of current theories, enshrined in information systems, including books? Does it include attendant practical skills, and the products of those
    Message 1 of 4 , May 28, 2007
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      Is science a set of current theories, enshrined in information
      systems, including books? Does it include attendant practical
      skills, and the products of those skills?
      Authority is enforced, or else persuasive. Enforcement may involve
      the exploitation of ignorance, concerning scientific knowledge, as
      well as the superior weight of technology, whether, say, on the
      level of the individual and his family, who may have high walls
      round his property, telecommunications, computers, motor vehicles,
      etc., or at the level of the state, with guns, tanks, aeroplanes,
      and so on. I am pitching this in quite a simple-minded fashion,
      because am unsure whether the underlying premises for debate are
      shared, a familiar uncertainty for me personally at this forum.
      Another aspect of the alliance between scientific knowhow and the
      practice of authority would be the gradual shift in the form of its
      raw material, so to speak. From the physical to the symbolic, from
      the strong man and his weaponry, to the tokens of money and their
      ultimate transfer to a world of ideas, examined only by accountants,
      or not at all. The state evolves, the nodes of authority and
      influence diffuse and concentrate in ways quite inaccessible to the
      common man. There is the continuance of that particularly twentieth-
      century dilemma, when the individual man at the end of his tether
      finds there is no-one to shoot. Just what is the art of living,
      when the right is so hard to find? It is an ethical term, the
      right, and traditionally linked to ideas of truth. So we come back
      to philosophy, or at least as an individual existentialist that is
      my own experience.

      Louise
    • jaime.denada
      Very well expressed. JD ... Another aspect of the alliance between scientific knowhow and the practice of authority would be the gradual shift in the form of
      Message 2 of 4 , May 28, 2007
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        Very well expressed.

        JD

        --- In existlist@yahoogroups.com, "louise" <hecubatoher@...> wrote:

        Another aspect of the alliance between scientific knowhow and the
        practice of authority would be the gradual shift in the form of its
        raw material, so to speak. From the physical to the symbolic, from
        the strong man and his weaponry, to the tokens of money and their
        ultimate transfer to a world of ideas, examined only by accountants,
        or not at all. The state evolves, the nodes of authority and
        influence diffuse and concentrate in ways quite inaccessible to the
        common man. There is the continuance of that particularly twentieth-
        century dilemma, when the individual man at the end of his tether
        finds there is no-one to shoot.
      • jimstuart46
        Louise, I think you ve got it exactly right, and I agree with your underlying premises for debate . Let me add some comments which I think are in line with
        Message 3 of 4 , May 28, 2007
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          Louise, I think you've got it exactly right, and I agree with
          your "underlying premises for debate". Let me add some comments
          which I think are in line with what you are saying.

          In the old days there used to be a debate: Science versus Religion.

          Those on the side of religion appealed to authority – either the
          authority of The Bible or the authority of the Pope. Those on the
          side of science appealed to the evidence. The scientific results
          were open to view – you could do the experiments yourself to verify
          the scientific results.

          Science was still like that when I was at school. I could heat
          things up, measure the expansion, plot my straight line graph and
          corroborate Boyle's Law (or was it Charles's Law?)

          So science starts out by being anti-authority. Who needs an
          authority when we can do the experiments ourselves?

          Unfortunately now science has advanced so much that only PhD
          students with funding from Government or Industry can check out the
          latest research results. And, I guess, they are told which
          experiments to do.

          So now you and I have to trust the experts. And when the experts
          disagree what do we do? And when the experts don't seem trustworthy
          what do we do?

          The ideals of science are great ideals. The carefulness of
          measurement, the calibration of the instruments, the repeatability
          of the experiments, the respect for the objective evidence, the
          rationality, the disinterested pursuit of the truth, the beauty of
          the equations, the impressiveness of the predictions (yes the
          eclipse happened exactly when the scientists said it would), the
          advances in medical practice based on scientific results (I guess a
          lot of us wouldn't be contributing to this forum if it wasn't for
          medicines taken, or operations performed, in the past).

          Louise asks: "Is science a set of current theories, enshrined in
          information systems, including books? Does it include attendant
          practical skills, and the products of those skills?"

          My answer is "Yes", and science is good.

          The trouble is mankind is bad (or, at least, some are bad), and not
          only do scientists sometimes cheat and make up results, but they
          also ignore results which did fit their expectations and
          preferences, they also misrepresent results to favour their own
          outlooks. Further, as has been said before, those in positions of
          power and influence like to appeal to the authority of science to
          further their ignoble aims. And they are able to hide there tracks,
          so, as Louise points out, when things go wrong, we, the ordinary
          citizens, have no-one to identify for blame.

          But all this is just the background against which the existentialist
          makes his decisive choices. As Kierkegaard pointed out, we choose in
          the light of objective uncertainty. I don't know for certain if
          carbon emissions from cars, planes and power stations are the cause
          of global warming, but I can choose, nonetheless, to reduce my
          carbon footprint.

          I don't know for certain whether a planned invasion will remove an
          evil tyrant and install a flourishing liberal democracy, but I can
          choose, nonetheless, to join the "Stop the War" campaign.

          Jim
        • eupraxis@aol.com
          I don t know for certain whether a planned invasion will remove an evil tyrant and install a flourishing liberal democracy, but I can choose, nonetheless, to
          Message 4 of 4 , May 28, 2007
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            "I don't know for certain whether a planned invasion will remove an

            evil tyrant and install a flourishing liberal democracy, but I can

            choose, nonetheless, to join the "Stop the War" campaign."

            It will not; and, yes, you should.

            Wil







            -----Original Message-----
            From: jimstuart46 <jjimstuart@...>
            To: existlist@yahoogroups.com
            Sent: Mon, 28 May 2007 11:17 am
            Subject: [existlist] Re: What is science?

























            Louise, I think you've got it exactly right, and I agree with

            your "underlying premises for debate". Let me add some comments

            which I think are in line with what you are saying.



            In the old days there used to be a debate: Science versus Religion.



            Those on the side of religion appealed to authority – either the

            authority of The Bible or the authority of the Pope. Those on the

            side of science appealed to the evidence. The scientific results

            were open to view – you could do the experiments yourself to verify

            the scientific results.



            Science was still like that when I was at school. I could heat

            things up, measure the expansion, plot my straight line graph and

            corroborate Boyle's Law (or was it Charles's Law?)



            So science starts out by being anti-authority. Who needs an

            authority when we can do the experiments ourselves?



            Unfortunately now science has advanced so much that only PhD

            students with funding from Government or Industry can check out the

            latest research results. And, I guess, they are told which

            experiments to do.



            So now you and I have to trust the experts. And when the experts

            disagree what do we do? And when the experts don't seem trustworthy

            what do we do?



            The ideals of science are great ideals. The carefulness of

            measurement, the calibration of the instruments, the repeatability

            of the experiments, the respect for the objective evidence, the

            rationality, the disinterested pursuit of the truth, the beauty of

            the equations, the impressiveness of the predictions (yes the

            eclipse happened exactly when the scientists said it would), the

            advances in medical practice based on scientific results (I guess a

            lot of us wouldn't be contributing to this forum if it wasn't for

            medicines taken, or operations performed, in the past).



            Louise asks: "Is science a set of current theories, enshrined in

            information systems, including books? Does it include attendant

            practical skills, and the products of those skills?"



            My answer is "Yes", and science is good.



            The trouble is mankind is bad (or, at least, some are bad), and not

            only do scientists sometimes cheat and make up results, but they

            also ignore results which did fit their expectations and

            preferences, they also misrepresent results to favour their own

            outlooks. Further, as has been said before, those in positions of

            power and influence like to appeal to the authority of science to

            further their ignoble aims. And they are able to hide there tracks,

            so, as Louise points out, when things go wrong, we, the ordinary

            citizens, have no-one to identify for blame.



            But all this is just the background against which the existentialist

            makes his decisive choices. As Kierkegaard pointed out, we choose in

            the light of objective uncertainty. I don't know for certain if

            carbon emissions from cars, planes and power stations are the cause

            of global warming, but I can choose, nonetheless, to reduce my

            carbon footprint.



            I don't know for certain whether a planned invasion will remove an

            evil tyrant and install a flourishing liberal democracy, but I can

            choose, nonetheless, to join the "Stop the War" campaign.



            Jim

















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