- Capitalism and Alternatives -

Nikhil, you might enjoy this thread too.

Posted by: Gee ( si ) on November 08, 1999 at 13:48:26:

In Reply to: A slightly unrealistic view of 'science', though. posted by Gideon Hallett on November 08, 1999 at 11:14:51:

: 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.

I agree that being a scientist entails a philosophy (we could say being anything does). We'll come to the question of speculation.

: 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.

So we have a question dont we. When is it right to excercise power and what do we base this moral judgement upon? Or do we look only at known/ theorised consequences, referring to all else as speculation.

: 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.

The idea is that 'objective truth' is not there for people to dictate at all. That objective truth 'is' and that a scientist endeavours to get as close an understanding of it as possible, with the verification of this accuracy being via the experiment.

: 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.

Yes - the Newton, Einstein, feynman/hawking lineage is a good example. Ever more accurate representation of what is actually real.

: 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.

To conclude with the last line, for sure, one would have to know it. The best we can be is 'agnostic', or not-knowing. To assume, as some philosophers do, that this means everything is subjective (up to the subject) is a pretty big leap though. It is reasonable to suggest that there is such a thing as 'objective reality' and refer to ever increasibgly accuarte observations as evidence of this. As you say - thats as far as we can go.

: 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.

Or a natural phenonoma as suggested by the very rapid climate changes which, evidenced in geological and ice-core samples, appear to be associated with our climate through the ages. The suggestion being that our last few thousand years have been unusually 'quiet' and fairly radical cyclical change is the norm.

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

Did I Ask? Anyway- I shall take that as lending you a reasonable degree (no pun intended) of credibility with regard to science.

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