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Re: [existlist] Re: What is science?

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  • 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 1 of 4 , May 28 12:05 PM
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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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