- Capitalism and Alternatives -

A slightly unrealistic view of 'science', though.

Posted by: Gideon Hallett ( UK ) on November 08, 1999 at 11:14:51:

In Reply to: remarkable argument posted by Gee on November 08, 1999 at 10:43:13:

: : Scientists become senators? How is taht going to happen? Actually, I would MUCH prefer engineers running the economy of this country than the current crop of philosophy or business grads. I think that lkarge scale economic industries should alrgely be controlled by engineers and otehr technology experts, who collaborate with democratic representatives of teh workers.

: Thats an interesting proposal!

It's somewhat short-sighted not to realize that scientists are philosophers; Ph.D. stands for "Doctor of Philosophy"; the mere fact that it is natural philosophy doesn't alter the fact that it is all ultimately speculation.

: : Yes, but how undue? Do you really think taht a small caste of rainforest ecologists is going to take over the country? Most of those guys don't even WANT power.

: I thought they wanted to stop other people from demolishing the rain forest? Is that not power of a sort?

If person A holds a loaded gun to person B's head, they have power over person A (unless person A wishes to die, which most people don't).

The climactic effects of rainforest devastation are just as severe, if not more so, in that devastation of the rainforest affects millions. A logging company has the power of life and death over people already; people who are not on their payroll.

The only power such rainforest ecologists seek is to prevent the loggers from committing acts which will result in the destruction of the environment and the ensuing deaths arising from it. That's no more unreasonable than most criminal law. If that's power, then yes, it's the power that keeps most of our civilisation going without killing each other in the streets for money.

: : Science (pure, not applied), serves objective truth. What ahppens when 'social' needs do not coincide with objective truth.

: Sums it up really.

And exactly who dictates "objective" truth? You can never be certain of the final truth of anything; the goal of science is to discern phenomena, not to define them.

Pure science is a Platonic form; an unreachable. Applied science is what appears to be "the real world" to us. In a pure Universe of reason, we live in a homogenous, isotropic, elastic Universe in which it is possible to measure things exactly every time. The observed "real" Universe is a place of entropy, anisotropy and inelasticity; the best theory you can ever get "fits the observed data"; it is not necessarily the "real thing"; merely the most accurate model so far.

There is no such thing as a scientific fact; get used to it. All you can say is that something "appears to be the case so far". Similarly, there is no objective truth that we can discern.

That's why the Global Climate Coalition can continue to dispute global climate change, despite the observed data that show that mean surface temperature has risen by 0.5 degrees Centigrade over the last 25 years and predictions that localised continental warming could reach 8 Centigrade by the end of next century. If there weren't any room for doubt, the GCC would be nailed out to dry. Unfortunately, we live in a fuzzy world, which means that lobbyists can always argue that it's just a statistical blip.

(B.Sc. in physics, since you ask.)

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