Science and Magic

Recent debates about evolution have revealed the august and nearly sacred position of modern science in our world. In many respects, science and technology define the world we live in: the length of our lives, our expectations of convenience, our sense of tragedy, our ability to impose our will on others, our concept of knowledge and truth. But science has triumphed in part by displacing other sources of knowledge, in many cases dismissing them as being of merely antiquarian interest.

I recently re-read C.S. Lewis’ Abolition of Man and was struck by his treatment of the scientific project’s shady origins.

In his view, "wisdom" has always been in the backseat as far as scientific studies are concerned. Indeed, the whole concept of wisdom is dismissed; there are simply more accurate and more predictive theories. The real motive always was to conquer nature and make our lives easier. This is far from all bad--who can dispute the achievements of modern medicine, for example. But by denigrating philosophy, theology, and the other studies, this triumph of science over all other species of knowledge risks empowering us at the very moment we're the least morally capable of putting technology to good use.

As then Cardinal Ratzinger said in an interview in Le Figaro, "I have always been skeptical of the concept of progress. There is, of course, a progress in the amount of knowledge, in science and technology. But this progress does not necessarily bring about a progress in moral values, nor in our ability to put to good use the power granted by knowledge. On the contrary, power can be a factor of destruction. I have always been contrary to the Utopian spirit, to faith in a perfect society–conceiving of a perfect society once and for all means excluding the freedom of every day. It is certainly true that reason and morality are fragile, that a society can always autodestruct. We must hope in the presence of sufficient moral strength that is capable of contrasting evil."

Lewis notes that the origins of science reveal something of its character:


I have described as a `magician's bargain' that process whereby man surrenders object after object, and finally himself, to Nature in return for power. And I meant what I said. The fact that the scientist has succeeded where the magician failed has put such a wide contrast between them in popular thought that the real story of the birth of Science is misunderstood. You will even find people who write about the sixteenth century as if Magic were a medieval survival and Science the new thing that came in to sweep it away. Those who have studied the period know better. There was very little magic in the Middle Ages: the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries are the high noon of magic. The serious magical endeavour and the serious scientific endeavour are twins: one was sickly and died, the other strong and throve. But they were twins. They were born of the same impulse. I allow that some (certainly not all) of the early scientists were actuated by a pure love of knowledge. But if we consider the temper of that age as a whole we can discern the impulse of which I speak.

There is something which unites magic and applied science while separating both from the wisdom of earlier ages. For the wise men of old the cardinal problem had been how to conform the soul to reality, and the solution had been knowledge, self-discipline, and virtue. For magic and applied science alike the problem is how to subdue reality to the wishes of men: the solution is a technique; and both, in the practice of this technique, are ready to do things hitherto regarded as disgusting and impious—such as digging up and mutilating the dead.

If we compare the chief trumpeter of the new era (Bacon) with Marlowe's Faustus, the similarity is striking. You will read in some critics that Faustus has a thirst for knowledge. In reality, he hardly mentions it. It is not truth he wants from the devils, but gold and guns and girls. `All things that move between the quiet poles shall be at his command' and `a sound magician is a mighty god'.3 In the same spirit Bacon condemns those who value knowledge as an end in itself: this, for him, is to use as a mistress for pleasure what ought to be a spouse for fruit.4 The true object is to extend Man's power to the performance of all things possible. He rejects magic because it does not work;5 but his goal is that of the magician. In Paracelsus the characters of magician and scientist are combined. No doubt those who really founded modern science were usually those whose love of truth exceeded their love of power; in every mixed movement the efficacy comes from the good elements not from the bad. But the presence of the bad elements is not irrelevant to the direction the efficacy takes. It might be going too far to say that the modern scientific movement was tainted from its birth: but I think it would be true to say that it, was born in an unhealthy neighbourhood and at an inauspicious hour. Its triumphs may have-been too rapid and purchased at too high a price: reconsideration, and something like repentance, may be required.

Lewis feared that the apparent scientific triumph over nature may very well return us to an even more complete domination of man by nature. Nature can dominate in more ways then one, including the domination of one's self by his own morally deformed inner nature or the domination of others by scientific elites and their own untaught natures. In both case, the domination would be magnified by the capabilities technology provides. I've always found in telling in this regard that so many "educated" people associated with great acts of evil--Mohammad Atta, Mengele, bin Laden--received a scientific education of some sort.

Any true conservatism should begin by recognizing and reducing the current supremacy of the natural sciences in our world and promoting a restoration of a complete education in the humanities, including the concomitant of a moral and religious education. Young people spend most of their waking hours in school, six to seven hours per day. The cost of teaching them that moral matters are simply debatable "matters of opinion" with no certainty compared to Boyle's Law does inestimable harm to the type of society we live in. This is not a question of politics so much of culture. What we read, what we teach, and what we assume about knowledge directly affects the decisions we make, policies under which we live, and the texture of our lives. Moral renewal of any kind depends on rejecting the widely held premise that scientific knowledge is the only real knowledge.

Posted by at January 4, 2006 12:17 PM
Comments
Comment #110140

Amusing to watch believers in Middle Eastern religions twist and turn when their supersticions are contradicted by scientific fact.

Did you know Buddhism and science do not conflict at all. There is no such conflict as w described in this article.

Science and Buddhism answer ‘how’ questions. Middle Eastern religions attempt to answer ‘why’ questions. But since Middle Eastern religions seek to go beyond the human limitations of Kantian rational psychology & cosmology, they can only speculate. The speculation about unknowables wouldn’t be a problem, except that the speculations become supersticions, made-up stories which defy facts.

Science and Buddhism can be wrong. No problem. Simply make the correction.

The Middle Eastern religions cannot tolerate errors, since disproving made-up stories undermines the entire basis of their speculations.

What is it you really want? You can still be a Christian or Jew or Muslim if you’d like. But what is the actual problem, and what can you actually do?

Posted by: phx8 at January 4, 2006 12:57 PM
Comment #110142
I’ve always found in telling in this regard that so many “educated” people associated with great acts of evil—Mohammad Atta, Mengele, bin Laden—received a scientific education of some sort.

And this says what? What about all the educated scientists looking for proof of events in the bible? What about those scientists who see no conflict with science and religion? Many scientists are very religious. They recognize the beauty of the world God created, and strive to understand as much as possible with the intelligence and curiosity that God created in the human species.

Any true conservatism should begin by recognizing and reducing the current supremacy of the natural sciences in our world and promoting a restoration of a complete education in the humanities, including the concomitant of a moral and religious education.

Religious education has no business in schools, unless it teaches about ALL religions. What, exactly, is so threatening in “the current supremacy of the natural sciences”? What gives them supremacy? Perhaps because they are studiable and provable?

This appears to be just another post to have religion (read intelligent design) in schools.


Posted by: womanmarine at January 4, 2006 1:21 PM
Comment #110145

“I’ve always found in telling in this regard that so many “educated” people associated with great acts of evil—Mohammad Atta, Mengele, bin Laden—received a scientific education of some sort.”

To be fair however, C.S. Lewis also said in the “Screwtape Letters” (and I para-phrase as I don’t have my copy with me).

“The most evil men are the often the most religious ones.”

Posted by: chantico at January 4, 2006 1:39 PM
Comment #110147

womanmarine - did you read the full article? Did you read it with only a defensive mindset?

“But by denigrating philosophy, theology, and the other studies, this triumph of science over all other species of knowledge risks empowering us at the very moment we’re the least morally capable of putting technology to good use.”

Science’s “pursuit of truth” often is corrupt, policially motivated and leads to abuse of power, just as much if not more than religion.

I agree that Religion has no business in schools, I do not want to rely on the school system to teach that.

Posted by: tc at January 4, 2006 1:46 PM
Comment #110150

Chris

Congratulations on such a provocative post so early in the new year. As a scientist, it sparked a few relevant thoughts.

The scientific method, contrary to Lewis’s facile retelling, was not part of the alchemist’s toolbox, but developed later. The scientific method is the core of science and inseparable in identity. Lewis conflates the physical apparatus of alchemy with that of scientific chemists, and concludes they are “twins.” This is analogous to noting the similarities between astrology and astronomy and saying they are twins. They both study the stars, but with very different undergirding philosophies and methods. Lewis was a literature professor and not really familiar with the inner workings of science. See CP Snow for a more cogent analysis of science and culture.

You (or whoever you picked this up from) reveal a bit of ignorance when you say that Mengele, Atta, and bin Laden were educated in science: they were actually two engineers and a physician, both of which USE science, but neither of which is a scientific endeavor. Some may practice science, but in the main physicians try to employ the facts that science gives along with logic to diagnose and treat illness. Scientists may use engineering to build experimental mechanisms, but engineers use scientific findings to build successful engines of all types. But the scientific method is not necessary in either field. Logic is, however.

I think this cultural confusion of science with fields that utilize its outputs leads to the type of mistaken diatribe you create here. Business is as much a consumer of science as medicine and engineering, but rarely do the shortcomings of capitalism get laid at the feet of science. Science is, purely and simply, a method to infer with measurable certainty what will happen next based on observations so far. It is an ever evolving task, because it is impossible to accomplish. There are always residual uncertainties, and these cracks in the facade lead into the wide-open fields of religion, philosophy, and the study of man as thought and spirit. Such study is appropriate, perhaps even in public education, but not in the context of math and science and surely not from a single point of view philosophically or religiously.

Posted by: Mental Wimp at January 4, 2006 1:52 PM
Comment #110151

Who said I believed in public schools?

That’s the problem with public schools, they must cater to the lowest common denominater and leave out wide swaths of learning that are necessary but on which society at the state and federal level lacks consensus. So entire areas of education are neglected. This wasn’t always so, but religious and moral education has been militantly displaced from the publc square and schools of all kinds.

Womanmarine asks why are sciences supreme today? Several reasons. First, they have rather dramatically done what they set out to do: provide technology to relieve man’s estate. Second, they have the illusion of certainty based on their method. Third, the sciences and the philosophical foundations that support them have explained away other types of knowledge as mere “storytelling,” as evidenced the true believer in the first comment.

I don’t think science and religion contradict one another, incidentally, nor am I particularly convinced by the proponents of intelligent design. I do think, however, that the way science is taught, its supreme position, and the like all flow from the “logical positivist” philosophy that undergrids much of science and that this philosophy corrodes other important parts of knowledge, particularly in the realm of moral knowledge, by suggesting only natural scientific knowledge is authentic.

Science is largely supreme in its sphere, but the error is to conclude that sphere is supreme and total, when it fact it is only a part of the whole corpus of what is out there and worth knowing and capable of being known.

Posted by: Roach at January 4, 2006 1:53 PM
Comment #110152

Chris

I hope you realize that the study of science in our country is fast degrading. Graduate schools in science are filling up with Asian and European students who have good a scientific background. Far from being regarded as supreme, it is dismissed by a majority these days as corrupt, misguided, etc. Much of that criticism comes from neo-Luddites, but also from the religious right, who see it as a threat to biblical inerrancy. I hope that’s not what you meant by “the whole corpus of what is … capable of being known.”

Posted by: Mental Wimp at January 4, 2006 1:59 PM
Comment #110162

tc:

Yes, I read the whole thing, and since it was about science, I read it with no mindset but curiosity. In fact, I read it twice.

But by denigrating philosophy, theology, and the other studies, this triumph of science over all other species of knowledge risks empowering us at the very moment we’re the least morally capable of putting technology to good use.

It hasn’t been my experience, limited though it may be, that science denigrates philosophy or theology, both of which deal with the human emotional/mental condition, as opposed to the physical facts where science attempts to learn “the truth” of the physical world. Philosophy and theology are separate disciplines. To me this is attempting to compare apples and oranges. One doesn’t replace the other, they can co-exist.

Roach:

So entire areas of education are neglected. This wasn’t always so, but religious and moral education has been militantly displaced from the publc square and schools of all kinds.

Militantly? Just curious. Are you equating religious and moral education? My parents taught me both, and I firmly feel that while school should add to the moral issue as it comes up in the education of facts and history, religion should not.

Public schools are denigrated too much. They are valuable. Affording everyone access to an education should be extended even to college. Why do you suppose other countries are forging ahead of us in the sciences? Are they perfect? No. Strive to improve them, not denigrate them.


I’m afraid I totally disagree with your post’s assessment.

Posted by: womanmarine at January 4, 2006 2:21 PM
Comment #110167

Chris,

Based on the title of your article I expected to be outraged by it. I thought that it would be just another simplistic repackaging of the idiocy around Intelligent Design. I did not find it to be that bad… although I agree with the most of the criticisms made by phx8 and womanmarine. I do agree with you that science does not necessarily result in wisdom or morality. For example, we have the scientific and technical knowledge, (I work for GM as an Experimental 12 Volt Electrician - Product Engineering) we have the scientific and technical knowledge to build huge SUVs that waste resources and contribute to global warming (However GM does build great cars). Yet the scientific knowledge that these SUVs contribute to global climate change does not give our fundimentalist Christian President the morality or wisdom to do something to protect the environment for our decendants - in fact - it is mostly the godless scientist that want to do something to protect the environment - supported by a few enlightened fundimentalist Christians and of course Democrats.

Posted by: Ray G. at January 4, 2006 2:28 PM
Comment #110171

womanmarine - they are different disciplines but what you fail to recognize (from what I’ve read) is that Science’s attempt to find the truths of the physical world also involves the human element of proving their political agenda or satisfiying their quest for power (money, fame, etc.). This is not all science, but holding “Science” as the ultimate and ONLY truth is dangerous because it is just as open to corruption as any of the “humanities.”

Posted by: tc at January 4, 2006 2:32 PM
Comment #110172
I’ve always found in telling in this regard that so many “educated” people associated with great acts of evil—Mohammad Atta, Mengele, bin Laden—received a scientific education of some sort.

Yes, but think of how many more people associated with great acts of evil went to law school.

Posted by: Burt at January 4, 2006 2:34 PM
Comment #110177

TC:

Science’s attempt to find the truths of the physical world also involves the human element of proving their political agenda or satisfiying their quest for power (money, fame, etc.)

You confuse me here. Should political agenda be kept out of science? Sure. Ask any scientist, and the only input they want from goverment is funding. Are there unethical scientists? Sure. They are in every profession, every walk of life. Does that make science bad? Hell no.

I think you’re just trying to denigrate science, and not differentiating between the hard and soft sciences. There are some great, ethical, and yes, religious scientists. You’re lumping them all together.

Posted by: womanmarine at January 4, 2006 2:44 PM
Comment #110178

tc,

You point out the weakness in who pays for or performs the science, not in the sciences itself.

Experimental results are subject to peer review and falsehoods are rapidly discovered since they are readily shown out in reality. Bad science is thrown out and science moves on.

Religion, on the other hand, is belief only. There is no reality in it other than what a sect’s adherents want to see. Since those not in the sect don’t see the so called “evidence” it is not science. That’s not to say one cancels the other, but bad religion has no such limits as science.

Morality is subjective and dependant on time, location (culture), and lineage (genetic). What was true 500 years ago is not true today.

Three different things, intertwined as a power play. Usually with the second claiming rights to all three.

Posted by: Dave at January 4, 2006 2:47 PM
Comment #110179

I believe that this is an age in need of wisdom. I believe some seed of that wisdom is contained in the constants of human nature, constants that the old religions address very well. I believe though, that the old wisdom itself is not as applicable as it once was, and we need new wisdom to face the new complexities and conditions of the age.

Implicit in my point is this: we need to understand the new complexities of the world. We cannot gain the bread of wisdom in this world, so radically different from that of old, except by the sweat of our brow.

The rejection of science and the teaching of science is an obstacle to wisdom. How can you make wise decisions where your knowledge is lacking? We need to learn about the world in order to work wisely within it.

One part of the solution will be to understand science not in terms of its more deterministic past, but in terms of the new, more complex future, to understand that the world is so complex that science can only guide us to a certain extent. On other matters, it can only be an advisor, not a king.

Another part will be the willingness to let go of the illusions of the past, where we believed we could live by the principles of an agrarian society while dealing the problems of an urban and suburban one. The shift between our country being a mainly rural nation, and it being mainly urban and suburban has been a profound one, and with it, it carries a certain level of change in how we deal with science and technology. We can no longer act as if our actions affect ourselves alone. We must learn anew how to love our neighbor

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at January 4, 2006 2:49 PM
Comment #110181

Roach,

I have to agree with others here - I’m not sure where you are going with this post. There is a great distinction between the discoverers (scientists) and the engineers who put the discoveries to use.

Einstein, a pure scientist, was also religious in his own way while Oppenheimer, while a gifted theoretician, made his greatest contribution as an engineer of sorts.

Regardless, science and the pursuit of knowledge is not at fault for the world today and the problems you ascribe to it. I think the issue reverts to us.

Our desire for an easier life, whatever that means, is what drives the tinkerers and machine makers to create our automated world.

The vast majority of human beings believe whatever the leading theorists, scientific or religious, tell them. You are right in that most look to science for some explanation of the world.

It appears people are deriving more comfort from science than religion. Why? Well, how about the Catholic church scandals, Jim Baker, Jimmy Swaggart and quasi-religious lobbyists for starters.

You can’t just point the finger at science.

Here is the other real problem - information. In the middle ages, information was controlled and the palace intrigue that dominated Catholicism never reached the faithful.

Without information, belief came easy. Today’s religious scandals are pranks compared to the likes of the Borgias but they are broadcast around the world.

However, there are too many points in your post which contradict reality and history:

“Any true conservatism should begin by recognizing and reducing the current supremacy of the natural sciences in our world and promoting a restoration of a complete education in the humanities, including the concomitant of a moral and religious education. “

Most leaders argue that our decline as a nation is predicated by how few scientists we produce, so I’m not sure we need even more literature, philosophy and history majors.

“But science has triumphed in part by displacing other sources of knowledge, in many cases dismissing them as being of merely antiquarian interest.”

I think if you look far back before the Dark Ages, before the age of magic, and you will find more true Scientists such as Euclid, who have always been trying to explain the world we experience everyday.

“I’ve always found it telling in this regard that so many “educated” people associated with great acts of evil—Mohammad Atta, Mengele, bin Laden—received a scientific education of some sort.”

No greater acts of evil in the modern era were committed than by a failed artist from Vienna and a seminarian from Russia.

Posted by: CPAdams at January 4, 2006 2:59 PM
Comment #110184

sorry if I’ve restated some points made by others, my post was interrupted by a meeting and several phone calls.

Posted by: CPAdams at January 4, 2006 3:06 PM
Comment #110185

CPAdams,

Most leaders argue that our decline as a nation is predicated by how few scientists we produce, so I’m not sure we need even more literature, philosophy and history majors.

Educating students more in the humanities does not mean that we should decrease the scientific training of students. What we need is scientists with a good grounding in the humanities and humanities experts with good grounding in science. Neither alone is a sufficent system.

Posted by: Erika at January 4, 2006 3:09 PM
Comment #110186

I apologize if my point is not didactic enough, but my point is clearly not to say that science is bad, or false, or dangerous because it contradicts certain peoples’ religious belief.

My point is that science is not enough for a culture to have vitality, but that we live in a culture that thinks it is the only real truth—see Dave’s point about morality being subjective—and thus it tends to crowd out other areas of learning and assume an exagerrated importance in issues that are only tangentially scientific, i.e., when does “human life” begin and end in relation to an issue like abortion or euthanasia.

Take the point about the need for more scientists and engineers and fewer literature and history majors. Is this true? It’s true, such studies help ceratin technological fields and have direct benefits to national defense. But what use are A-Bombs and F-22s if we do not have a country worth defending or if we do not have a well grounded belief in why that country is worth defending. Science cannot answer these human and spiritual needs, yet, without sufficient attention to them, science and the technology it creates is just an unwieldly extremely powerful tool that can point just as easily towards Viagra and Hybrid cars as it can towards Auschwitz and the machinegun. Science is, at best, morally neutral, though its methods are often immoral, e.g., stealing of cadavers, human experimentation, fetal tissue research, etc. Without a well grounded culture with moral consensus, there is literally nothing to hold back science but scientists themselves. I concede many are undoubtedly honorable, decent, and in some cases religious. But those beliefs will be eclipsed by the dictates and demands of science—more technology, more research always—and have little ability to hold back scientists when they are dismissed as mere superstitions by the establishment. The question is not the morality of individual scientists but the health of a culture defined so strongly by the preeminence of natural science.

Posted by: Roach at January 4, 2006 3:15 PM
Comment #110187

Erika,

Roach’s post essentially blames the decline of morality and Western civilization on science.

My rambling, at times incoherent points were that returning to the superstition and blind faith of the Middle Ages is not the answer and that except for the total lack of information, there were many reasons to question faith in religious leaders and doctrine in the Middle Ages, many more than today.

Posted by: CPAdams at January 4, 2006 3:21 PM
Comment #110189

CPA Adams I feel sorry for you that teaching Aristotle, Plato, Aquinas, Shakespeare, Kipling, Rousseau, as well as the Ten Commandments and the Bible is, for you, the repetition of “superstition and blind faith.”

I also feel sorry for you that your view of the Middle Ages is so caricatured and ill informed.

Maybe you should read Chaucer some day to see what you’re missing. The Middle Ages involved no more blind faith than today’s “blind faith” in logical positivism, moral relativism, egalitarianism, and other shibolleths of the age. How often are those really questioned in a serious way?

Posted by: Roach at January 4, 2006 3:25 PM
Comment #110194

Roach,

I will not be as eloquent as you, but let me say this. People don’t live through small pox, the flu, measles, mumps, or any other cured disease today because of God. Science did that for us. What good is a “ well grounded culture “ without people to live it?

Posted by: Vic at January 4, 2006 3:43 PM
Comment #110199

Roach,

you don’t know me so don’t moralize and make inane pedantic statements. I love the humanities and minored in philosophy before studying law. I’ve studied the bible extensively as well, both formally and as a personal pursuit related to my faith. I know enough about the Ten Commandments to know that the sixth is ‘thou shalt not murder’ not ‘thou shalt not kill’.

I also know that for much of humankind, particularly in ages where education was scarcer than wealth, religion WAS superstition and blind faith.

My point was most people didn’t question because they didn’t have enough information to question. And the few people with knowledge did have many questions - not only Aquinas and Luther but Galileo and others who were charged as heretics for daring to question.

I would add Whitman, Thoreau and Voltaire to your list of great minds.

“The Middle Ages involved no more blind faith than today’s “blind faith” in logical positivism, moral relativism, egalitarianism, and other shibolleths of the age. How often are those really questioned in a serious way?”

Do you really mean what you say or are you making a rhetorical point?

I found your post to wax romantically about a bygone era that, to me, did not resemble your description.

Mankind’s pursuit of reason and knowledge (science) is as ancient as thought.

So, you find a lack morality and introspection in this country? So do I. My point again - don’t blame science.

Blame:

downsizing
less free time than even Japan
mtv
televangelists
hollywood endings
popular culture
rap
hip hop
[add some more of your own]

Blame us. And our insatiable desire for easier, not the engineers who give us what we ask for.

Posted by: CPAdams at January 4, 2006 3:55 PM
Comment #110201

“The real motive always was to conquer nature and make our lives easier.”’

This statement was made in reference to science.

Funny, but I see the ‘real motive’ of religion to be very much the same thing. Our existence is explained, our future after life is explained and guaranteed, and our behavior is given strict guidleines to follow…

As for nature, well, religion assures us that it is here for our use. Religion assures us that we are superior to all other life forms because we are of “God’s” image… Explanations, yes. Legitimate ones, not necessarily…

As for philosophy, well, I perceive that to be a rational thinkers religion… :) And once again, it is conjecture and opinion. Which, I might add, I find nothing wrong with…


Perhaps life would be grand if we just lived with good intentions toward others and allowed people to follow the paths the must…

Posted by: MJ Shaw at January 4, 2006 4:00 PM
Comment #110202

Sorry if I hurt your feelings CPAdams, but your extensive use of strawmen and failure to respond to what I actually wrote—rather than your impressionistic vibe from the same—compelled me to conclude certain things about you … things not dispelled by your belligerent self-defense.

Posted by: Roach at January 4, 2006 4:05 PM
Comment #110205
Educating students more in the humanities does not mean that we should decrease the scientific training of students. What we need is scientists with a good grounding in the humanities and humanities experts with good grounding in science. Neither alone is a sufficent system.

I have never met a scientist weak in the humanities. There are many students of the humanities weak in science and math.

Lewis is one of those romantics who is distressed by science unraveling the mysteries of life. Most scientists, on the other hand, are amazed by the elegance of discovering the order and chaos in the universe. Knowing why the sky is blue doesn’t make it any less beautiful.

Posted by: Loren at January 4, 2006 4:07 PM
Comment #110208

Staphen Daugherty,

You wrote:

The rejection of science and the teaching of science is an obstacle to wisdom. How can you make wise decisions where your knowledge is lacking? We need to learn about the world in order to work wisely within it.

I almost always agree with, enjoy, and feel enlightened by your articles and posts. I don’t fully understand this particular quote however because I do not see the teaching of science as an obstacle to wisdom. I agree with and understand the second part of it which says that knowledge and understanding are essential to wisdom. So this particular quote seems self-contradictory. Perhaps it is a typo?… or you could expand and explain it?…

I particularly enjoyed and support Mental Wimp’s post on this thread. There should be no conflict between science and religion. Religion and phylosophy address questions about meaning, purpose, and the ultimate nature of reality that are by definition beyond the realm of science and experimental provability. The problem arises when religions attach thier faith to mtyhologies and magical beliefs that can be proven incorrect. The realm of what can be experimentally proven is ever expanding and so religions do need to retreat - retreat that is - into a deeper, more personal, more spiritual, more experiential, more profound, less dogmatic faith based belief system. I have no problem with teaching comparitive religion, including Intelligent Design, in high school phylosophy or literature classes. I do however have a problem with teaching the scietific idiocy of faith based Intelligent Design, as if it were actually science, instead of faith, in public schools.

Posted by: Ray G. at January 4, 2006 4:10 PM
Comment #110209

I find it ironic that this thread appears in the red column, when it is the Republicans that always want to gut funding for social purposes such as public education, healthcare, the arts, etc. Perhaps if we didn’t allow big business to determine the course of our lives, we wouldn’t be so focused on those trades which most directly benefit big business. The arts, literature, and an appreciation of them requires a fostering and patient approach; it takes awhile to understand why Pollock is considered a good painter. A culture dominated by the “bottom line” will never produce anything other than what is readily marketable; and science is one of those few academic areas which also has tremendous practical application that is empirically measureable.

Posted by: ant at January 4, 2006 4:14 PM
Comment #110212

Ray G

“…rejection of…the teaching of science…” is what Stephen was lamenting.

Posted by: Mental Wimp at January 4, 2006 4:26 PM
Comment #110217

Roach,

unless my reason has left me, this is your main point.

“But by denigrating philosophy, theology, and the other studies, this triumph of science over all other species of knowledge risks empowering us at the very moment we’re the least morally capable of putting technology to good use. “

I’m not attempting to raise strawmen, but I do disagree with your basic premise:

- that science denigrates philophy and theology;
- that now is the time we are least morally capable of putting technology to good use

I inferred that your quote of Lewis on magic and the Middle Ages combined with your wanting science in its proper place indicated your preference for an age where science did not reign supreme, hence my rant.

I can prove empirically that education in the humanities - as well as all other subjects - is at its highest in the history of Western civilization. I found your post ignored this basic fact when you stated your premise.

I believe that morality is founded on choice and making a moral decision begins with the awareness of what the options are. Because a substantial number of our population have sufficient knowledge to make somewhat informed choices, I believe now is the time in history we are most capable of putting technology to good use.

Posted by: CPAdams at January 4, 2006 4:32 PM
Comment #110222

Roach,

I think you’re confusing “science” with “technology.” I don’t think many educated people would believe investigation of the social sciences is less important than the physical sciences.

Science: The observation, identification, description, experimental investigation, and theoretical explanation of phenomena.

Technology: The application of science, especially to industrial or commercial objectives. The scientific method and material used to achieve a commercial or industrial objective

Posted by: Dave at January 4, 2006 4:42 PM
Comment #110223
The cost of teaching them that moral matters are simply debatable “matters of opinion” with no certainty compared to Boyle’s Law does inestimable harm to the type of society we live in.

I’m really puzzled. Where exactly is this instruction of moral relatism occurring? In nyc, ethics is part of our science curriculum. We start our students in elementary school with values classes. In my daughter’s school, the student of the month award is not based on GPA, but on some redeeming value to society stressed during that month(but not only that month). Believe me, any one on this list would agree with these values.

And I’d really like to ask you, Chris, why you know anything? Because someone told you, or because you discovered it yourself independently, or that someone told you, and it has been reinforced through experience and practice. How is science in conflict with this epistemology?

And isn’t capitalism an amoral social philosophy? Isn’t the commandment thou shalt not kill a matter of debate, especially when it comes to killing the enemy or a criminal? I don’t say this to have a discussion on capital punishment or war(or vegetarianism), but to bring up that moral relatism is inherent in our society, and definitely in our dominant religeons.

Posted by: Loren at January 4, 2006 4:44 PM
Comment #110225

oops, I meant relativism.

Posted by: Loren at January 4, 2006 4:46 PM
Comment #110227

Human experience is subjective, as is moral experience and development. There’s no way around that. What is objective is that human nature tends to shape human morality in certain directions. This is the phenomena that comes up in nearly every society. Every functioning society has, for example, inhibitions against kiling other human beings, as well as circumstances under which it is permissable.

The argument should not be whether or not morality and wisdom are objective things. They’re not, quite obviously. But they do deal with objective things. The argument should be as to how these things shape the proper response. Taken from that perspective, the need for so many moral qualities and virtues of character become much easier to explain, and much easier to integrate with Scientific and technological discussions. The mistake is in trying to prove the value of morality, faith, and other human enterprises by “scientific” means, or by making these things more scientific in their appearance. Truth is, there are things about these humanities that science can speak to, but the methods by which conclusions are reached best differ greatly.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at January 4, 2006 4:47 PM
Comment #110228

Roach,

to complete my thought, now is also the time we are most capable of misusing technology, not as a result of any moral deficiency, but simply because of the ubiquitous nature of technology today.

Posted by: CPAdams at January 4, 2006 4:48 PM
Comment #110231

Roach,


What could be more moral than to pursue, discover and unlock the mysteries of the universe?
I don’t see a conflict between facts and beliefs. It’s the relationship between the two that makes both equally important.
Science and religion share many similarities.
They empower us, give us purpose and drive us to discover more.

CPAdams,

I enjoyed you posts.

Posted by: Andre M. Hernandez at January 4, 2006 4:54 PM
Comment #110233
The mistake is in trying to prove the value of morality, faith, and other human enterprises by “scientific” means, or by making these things more scientific in their appearance.

For example?

Posted by: Loren at January 4, 2006 4:57 PM
Comment #110257

Loren-
One practice I find annoying are the attempts to rationalize biblical events in one way or another. These are narrative tales whose purpose was never to act as the kind of heavily analytical, primary source evidence-based history that we now concern ourselves with.

One group wants to treat the bible as if it’s documentary fact, claiming that the Genesis account is as it was, treating all scientific explanations on the subject as therefore invalid. Another side wants to take events like those in Exodus, events filtered through centuries of the telephone game we call oral tradition, and find the natural events that are represented in those scriptures, and interpret the bible from that.

Secret formulas, dates, specified complexity, etc. It all seems to me like an attempt to catch God in the butterfly net. I think whether or not the original events in the bible happened the way they did, there was always a spiritual significance that the text was supposed to carry for these people, and that spiritual significance often gets lost when people mix the overall meaning the stories convey with a excess of factual and literary parsing.

But that’s not the limit of it. Such parsiness becomes annoying to me when people try to work out the secret formulas for making hit movies or books. It becomes annoying when people engage in human enteprises like economics, business, and art, and expect to be able to reduce everything to basic, indivisible rules, and still get something meaningful out of it. Humans are more complex than atoms or laws of physics. We should respect the necessity of a different analytical approach. not beat our heads against the wall.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at January 4, 2006 7:01 PM
Comment #110270

For those who want to debate moral standards, my question is why is it wrong to steal, lie, kill, rape, and generally be deceitful? Where does the law get the standard for these things? Why does society look at a person of fine moral standing the way they do and what is their criteria for that opinion?

Posted by: tomh at January 4, 2006 9:20 PM
Comment #110278

I think there is support for Intelligent Design type thinking to be found in the theories of higher mathematics.

For instance, while arguing I.D. on another thread I brought up pi and the golden ratio. Some stalwart defender of Darwin scolded me that pi extended out to the google decimal place is a random number. I didn’t catch that in time to squawk. Pi is anything but a random number.

Really, this is what is so unique about this universe. It came equipped with pre-existing mathematical verities, some of them of astounding beauty and irreducible complexity. The Mandelbrot set and its pictorial expression as Tor’ Bled-Nam gives me a real sense that whoever or whatever cooked up our universe, their basic design instinct was NOT randomness everywhere. Chaos theory and all geometry and topology almost insist on a Platonic realm that pre-existed the Big Bang.

Posted by: Michael L. Cook at January 4, 2006 9:42 PM
Comment #110280

Tomh,
To do so would be that a person is to be found Wrong by Nature and that my friend should not/will not every change unless Men want to give up their Brith Right in Society.

Posted by: Henry Schlatman at January 4, 2006 9:46 PM
Comment #110281

Stephen

Isn’t it the religeous zealot who wants to show that the Bible is the literal truth, using science to prove that Moses did actually part the Red Sea, and denies the validity of radioactive dating to pove that the Earth is actually only a few thousand years old?

I believe that the Bible is full of spiritual truths that don’t need to be literal to be worthy of study. To assert that the Bible is the literal truth is to INVITE critical investigation.

Regarding the dissection of art, those who use it to create mass entertainment are merely applying observations others have made on what makes a particular work worthy of critical praise. Most often, this application results in sterile media, like trying to make a TV with just a cabinet. As a science teacher, I try to teach my students how to be critical thinkers, in other words, to spot bullshit when they see it.

IMO, most of the criticism of science is directed at pseudoscience, or based on a misunderstanding of what science actually does, like C.S. Lewis’ conflagration of alchemy and chemistry, or astrology and astronomy in the original post.

Our morals are based upon agreements within previous and current cultures, which are based upon our understandings of human nature and the results of our behaviors on society and individuals. It is logical, I believe, for moral codes to evolve as our understandings become more refined. Slavery is a perfect example. As we realize our common heritage, it becomes impossible to continue to justify ownership of another human being.

Posted by: Loren at January 4, 2006 10:08 PM
Comment #110282

Mental Wimp,
Again and again you prove that your nom de plume doesn’t suit you in the least! In my view, your first reply was about as perfect a response as could be given to this article.

womanmarine:
“Public schools are denigrated too much. They are valuable. Affording everyone access to an education should be extended even to college. Why do you suppose other countries are forging ahead of us in the sciences? Are they perfect? No. Strive to improve them, not denigrate them.”

I couldn’t agree with you more, and I am so tired of listening to people trash talk public education and public educators! Maybe because I’m a product of a public school education myself and I know that I was given a great foundation for my college years there. Also, my sister and several close friends are teachers working in public schools — and I feel that a group of harder working and more dedicated people who are truly not financially rewarded for their amazing efforts would be difficult, if not impossible to find.
America should be striving to improve public education — but making demands without providing the funding for No Child Left Behind is quite obviously not the way to meet that objective.

Loren:
“Where exactly is this instruction of moral relatism occurring? In nyc, ethics is part of our science curriculum. We start our students in elementary school with values classes.”

Nail on the head there, Loren. We needn’t bring religion into our public schools, thereby turning them into religious schools, we need only have Civics and Ethics classes become a mandatory part of every public school curriculum.

Posted by: Adrienne at January 4, 2006 10:13 PM
Comment #110283

Roach, Mental Wimp, et all,

You talk about the use of Science and Magic as they can not exist in the same realm of being. Science as we know it today can not explain it all because of the way we have taught ourselves to think over the eons while Magic can be used by the Freewill of the Individual in an attempt to find and seek what is really Right & True by the Spoken Word of all Humans. How can I prove that the 21st Century Thinking of Science today is being taught wrong and thus everything that is spun off of it is twisted? And more important, how can I show the political spin placed upon this Ancient Known Fact. Ah, the Pyramid of Life and the Ancient Wisdom that it has 8 Sides instead of the 3 sides of a triangle taught in every school regardless of Race, Color, or Creed.

Roach,
As a lawyer, you ask for evidence so that you can place before the Courts of the Land the “Truth” in your case within the Framework of the Laws of the Land. So if I tell you that a “Cube” has 12 sides than I would have to be able to prove it, correct? And even though my comments go well outside “The Box” accepted by every Expert on planet Earth as the Known Truth, I still say that I am right in my realm of thought vs. Reality. In order to make my case allow me to ask Mental Wimp the following questions;

Is it not a fact that our government and society worldwide teaches and uses the standard that a Cube has 6 sides. While the history of how man came to this conclusion is really unknown, the idea is based on how we perceive the cube in the real world does it not?

However, in order for any “Cube” to exist in Reality does it not have to have 12 Sides? 6 on the outside and 6 on the inside given the known fact that Mass is not absolute? The difference makes up the thickness of the walls and therefore gives the “Cube” its mathematical shape, correct?

So I ask you, Mr. Roach can you or any of your so called experts explain to me why this fact of Reality is not taught to our children Today? For until the advent of 3D computerization this fact was unseen by the Common Eye of Man, but watch TV and one quickly becomes aware of this fact of life. Yet, the “Learned Ones” still insist that we follow and teach this false knowledge and wisdom of The Ages, why?

Posted by: Henry Schlatman at January 4, 2006 10:16 PM
Comment #110294

Michael,
“Really, this is what is so unique about this universe. It came equipped with pre-existing mathematical verities, some of them of astounding beauty and irreducible complexity. The Mandelbrot set… gives me a real sense that whoever or whatever cooked up our universe, their basic design instinct was NOT randomness everywhere. Chaos theory and all geometry and topology almost insist on a Platonic realm that pre-existed the Big Bang.”

That does not follow. You’re making conclusions based upon the convenient assumption that this is the only possible universe. There could be many universes in which the mathematical constants of this universe differ. Given an endless number of opportunities, some universes could last only a moment, with mathematical constants creating impossibilities for persistence. Others could persist.

This possibility negates the Platonic version of ideal forms. In other words, there might be many caves, and many shadows, and many planets on which the quality of light & shadow fundamentally vary from this cave we call home.

Posted by: phx8 at January 4, 2006 11:10 PM
Comment #110295

Henry Schlatman
The question still is there. Where did the sense of moral right and wrong begin? Who decided that something is wrong or right from a moral perspective? It didn’t just pop up from human nature. It had to have an origin. And what is that origin?

Posted by: tomh at January 4, 2006 11:17 PM
Comment #110298

phx8:
“This possibility negates the Platonic version of ideal forms. In other words, there might be many caves, and many shadows, and many planets on which the quality of light & shadow fundamentally vary from this cave we call home.”

Yes. Exactly. And what beautiful prose!

tomh:
“It didn’t just pop up from human nature.”

What proof have you that it didn’t? And why not?

“It had to have an origin. And what is that origin?”

In my opinion, the origin of Ethics WAS and IS a product of the intelligence of the human mind, in combination with our emotional responses.

Posted by: Adrienne at January 4, 2006 11:28 PM
Comment #110300

I stumbled across this and thought it might be of interest to folks who have been reading some of the topics presented by Chris recently:

This link is to a chapter written by Teddy Roosevelt in 1913 entitled The Search for Truth in a Reverent Spirit.

For my own 2 cents, I find scientific knowledge and scientific theories are different from knowledge from other sources in that they can be proven wrong. Science must be able to make testable predictions about the natural world and be disprovable through some form of observation or experimentation. If they can’t, what use are they? I can come up with hundreds of untestable theories that rationalize all the data at my disposal, but in the end I haven’t accomplished much. I have no way of sifting out the good theories from the bad theories; I am just as ignorant as I would be if I just said “I don’t know” but less honest with myself.

What science can’t do for us is answer the moral questions that we’ve been wrestling with throughout history. I think it a danger to pretend that the obervable facts that science provides can answer these questions for us. Science can provide the means to smite one’s enimies in war but cannot tell us when it is just to go to war. Science may teach us that we are evolutionary cousins with chimpanzees, but it does not excuse us to act like chimpanzees.

I enjoyed the TR article and though some others who read this thread might like it too.

Posted by: DRA at January 4, 2006 11:36 PM
Comment #110306

DRA,
Thanks for the link, good article, learned something tonight.

Adrienne,
And thank you! It did come out rather well, if I do say so myself.

The thread is stumbling around the ontological argument for the existence of God. But again, even granting that wisdom, or spirituality, can somehow transcend knowledge, and that wisdom can somehow apprehend that which is beyond the limitations of Kant’s rational psychology, cosmology, & theology, what then? Even if the ontological argument were true, and even if we could know the unknowable, and even if we touched those ideal Platonic forms, does it matter? Does it help?

It comes back to the original grousing by C.S. Lewis, and the questions about morality, and ethics; because really, whether God exists or not is irrelevant. It doesn’t matter. That is not the fundamental question.

What matters is the original impetus for practicing science in the first place. What matters is the seeking, the search for knowledge and wisdom, the search itself.

There is a problem which is causing suffering.

Recognizing that is the first step.

Posted by: phx8 at January 5, 2006 12:59 AM
Comment #110317

First, on public schools…

Schools do get a bad rap. Some of the “all or nothing” crowd wish to dismiss all attempts of teaching morality unless it is tied to a specific religion.

Most school districts, such as here, have created a list of core values in cooperation with the community. The school district offical I took a class from said it was the easiest thing he had done in almost 30 years in school district administration.

Everyone of different and no faith looked at the list, smiled, nodded and that was it.

Schools are responsible for creating good citizens in a democratic society. That means citizenship and the respect for laws and the rights of all people.

As to the particulars or values and morality it is a no win situation for the teachers. If they were to try to teach a specific morality there would be a competing sect or denomination that would not agree.

Imagine a teacher say that it is okay to have divorced parents because sometimes two people cannot live together, but the children are still loved and they are still a family, bound together by the parents’ love of their child.

Ooops. Here comes someone saying that divorce is a sin that is unforgiveable. If your parent remarries outside the church without an annulment they are living in sin and all their children will be bastards.

Teachers are not qualified to be considerate of all religions. Yours as well as anyone elses.

Believe me, even entering the teaching license program with a BA in Business from CSUSB I still had to go through almost 2 solid years of classes to get a license (Which I offically don’t have yet until after doing my student teaching).

People really do expect too much from teachers. How about if we deal with working them towards being caring, responsible citizens and the parents deal with the particular personal moral issues?

Everyone wants the government to stay out of places where it doesn’t belong. Everyone just seems to have different ideas of where that is.


Second, Frankenstein’s Monster….

When I read this it struck me on so many levels. Moslty just because science can do something, does that mean it should? This is a question we have to deal with more and more.

I am pro science all the way. Stem cell? Yes.

Am I concerned that alchemists (magic) and scientists have a common heritage? Nope. One branched off to where evidence lead them… the other stuck to trying to change nature for personal gain. One survived, the other didn’t.

Do I care if medicine companies are motivated for profit to research cures? Nope. Some scientists are there to find cures because that is what motivates them… some for money and glory.

We all need to be critical consumers… not just of the products we buy but of the information and the frontiers that are being pulled back.

During the Manhattan Project there was serious debate over whether once started a nuclear explosion would stop! Scary huh?

Posted by: Darren7160 at January 5, 2006 4:19 AM
Comment #110326

Michael,

The Mandelbrot set… gives me a real sense that whoever or whatever cooked up our universe, their basic design instinct was NOT randomness everywhere.

The Mandelbrot set was “cooked up” by the c points in complex plan where the mathematical recursive suite defined by:

z(n+1) = z(n)2 + c
z(0) = 0

DON’T escape, aka don’t tend to infinity.

As every mathematical formula, there’s no real randomness in it. That’s also why in computer software industry we always talk about pseudo-random generators, because we still rely on math to generate random-like numbers.

Keep also in mind that the mandelbrot set as rendered in these very colorfull pictures is in fact the inner, black part. The color part of these pictures are actually complex points that are NOT in the set. Mathematically, the *speed* at which they escape the set has not so much importance as it has for these art-like pictures.
Keep in mind also that these pictures are *always* an approximation, limited by the numbers of max iterations made before considering a point into the set. That means that the edge is always an approximation.

For example of the most famous *sort of sign* given to Mandelbrot set, see Buddhabrot.
It’s still just a very graphical color mapping of mathematical computation…

PS: Math is design by man. So far.

Posted by: Philippe Houdoin at January 5, 2006 6:49 AM
Comment #110341

In the conservative rights attempt to create doubts in science, we are seeing an increasing inability in people to recognize the difference between you know what from shinola. And that’s their ultimate goal. Conservatives such as those should be ashamed of themselves.

Posted by: Dan at January 5, 2006 9:15 AM
Comment #110344

If I restate thoughts already presented, please forgive me…

The essential difference between “science” and “magic” is not, “which one is true?” but “which one is more important?”

To wit: A lion to a “scientist” is a collection of bones, cells, blood, DNA, etc. To the “magician” a lion is a symbol of majesty and power. Both visions are important. The appropriate question is not “which one is true” but “Which one will make humans happier and wiser?” At best, the jury is still out on that one.

Posted by: Larry at January 5, 2006 9:53 AM
Comment #110347

Larry,
Are you proposing that the “jury is still out” in deciding if magic (perhaps restated as “awe of the unknown”) is better for human kind than science(perhaps restated as curiosity to know the unknown)?
You think dealing with the world through symbolism and rhetoric are possibly better than dealing with the world as it actually is?

Henry,
A cube is a cube no matter what you call it. We simply assign the word “cube” to a 3D object with six equal squares as it’s surfaces.

This is the problem many have with ID, the other fundamentalist BS, and the administration. They are trying to change the meanings of words to justify and defend their positions rather that actually prove their positions. A prime example: redefining torture so that we’re “not” doing what everyone else calls torture.

To paraphrase Dan; they want us to believe that sh!t is shinola because they call sh!t “shinola”.

Posted by: Dave at January 5, 2006 10:17 AM
Comment #110349

Michael L. Cook-
Just about any logical hypothesis can be supported with mathematics, either higher or lower. It doesn’t follow, though, that such a hypothesis is true. There is such a thing, in the natural sciences, as being elegantly wrong. That’s why we need experiment and observation rather than just pure thought to derive theories that are working approximations of reality.

Pi and the Golden ratio are not random, but they are approximations, and the limits that puts on the mathematical ability to determine things is important. The wind doesn’t need to calculate where it will head next, it just does.

If we need to predict the weather, though, we have to predict where the wind will go from that scale up. We predict such things by feeding our first measurements into the equations, and then feeding the results from that back into the equations, repeating iterations over time until we get to our desired point in time. Our predictions, though, begin to have less and less of a resemblance to what actually happens at some point, both because of the imperfections of our models, and the imperfections of our measurements.

That we must approximate to predict and manipulate comes back to haunt us as the tiniest error in estimation and the limited resolution of initial conditions gets amplified in each iteration.

I too marvel at the complex, yet wierdly orderly world we got here. But I take a position of humility here. If we are incapable of fully and precisely determining something like the weather, the climate, the effect of reducing or removing a species, or other things like that, how can we possibly discern the pattern of the divine within the earthly?

First and foremost, how does one distinguish divine artifice from natural process, When the natural process is itself divine artifice! Moreover, what God would need to intervene if such a God were the author of everything. One would suppose that a perfect God gets it right the first time, and only intervenes afterwards in ways that don’t disrupt what he got right the first time around.

I would submit that Supernatural means, when God employs them, would look no different than odd quirks of natural phenomena, and could not be proved otherwise, because of our inability to observe the supernatural directly.

I would submit that supernatural means are metaphysical, extending beyond our space and time the way an operating system extends beyond an application.

I would further submit that if God changed the basic rules of reality, we would not know the difference because the reality that would allow such comparison no longer exists. You can’t scientifically discern the unreal from the real.

We’re better off not trying to build the tower of Babel here, to find God at the top. We’re outclassed here. We’re better off admitting that We cannot prove God from science and that that we have to settle for faith in these matters. Then we can work on the reasons out in everyday life for having faith, the reasons in our experience of life. That’s what the bible speaks to most, and speaks to best.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at January 5, 2006 10:21 AM
Comment #110358

Loren-
People also are trying to use science to sort of bring religion back down to earth as well. That Sea of Reeds thing is an example- God parts a marsh, instead of the chaos waters (the alternative translation my professor on the subject provided). They comb through the material with the sense that what matters is dispelling any and all myths. They forget, as the literalist zealots among the religious do, that the bible was not written to serve as a basis for such critical inquiry or parsing.

This ties into storytelling, a subject about which I’m very much interested, and which I’ve done much theoretical work about. My position is that art deals in the emergent phenomena of the mind, and the culture that all the individual minds of the world support. There’s no reducing storytelling to atomistic rules, because what regularities there are in what works, storytelling-wise, are themselves the result of other complex phenomena.

Society is similar. There are regularities, but they themselves are the result of other systems that themselves bear examination and meditation upon. We cannot assume that we will ever have final understanding about art and society, because these things are rooted in the complexity of life, and a reductionist examination of these things would just be mind-numbingly insufficient to describe it.

DRA-
Your points are a very good distillation of my basic argument, and probably done with fewer words. Bravo.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at January 5, 2006 10:34 AM
Comment #110362

Dave-
The world “as it actually is” is a meaningless collection of sub-atomic particles. To the extent that we assign importance to this world (including taking the time to discuss these issues in cyberspace), we are employing symbolism and looking beyond pure science. I am not against science. But science should not be our God. Lest you draw the wrong conclusions, I oppose teaching Creationism in public schools. But children should learn that evolution and survival of the fittest are not answers to the question, “Where did I come from?” any more than “In the usual way” is an answer to the angry parent’s question, “How in the world did my daughter become pregnant?”

Posted by: Larry at January 5, 2006 10:45 AM
Comment #110365

To all…
A thousand years ago, I suppose schools in Europe only taught religion. Faith was the dominant (only?) motivation for intellectual inquiry. It was Galileo that started it all when he dropped objects off the tower of Pisa and observed that they hit the ground at the same time, contradicting the world view of the Greeks (Aristotle I think) who said heavier objects fell faster than lighter. This represented the beginning of the “prove it to me” world view. In the 18th and 19th centuries, many important scientists were also theologians, because science was still a manifestation of the power of the Almighty. For example, the magazine “Scientific American” was started to explain the wonders of Nature so that readers could marvel at the omnipotence of their God (or something like that). For some reason, science is now viewed as a completely independent field of thought. But we still have no concept of what life is, nor of why the Big Bang occured. In my opinion, such questions are very well answered by a core belief in Magic (sorry, a Creator).

Posted by: Larry at January 5, 2006 10:58 AM
Comment #110367

very nice post, Stephen.

Religious leaders have battled science for centuries and have expended great efforts to restrain it within their specific religious frameworks. The fear of science disproving the existence of God extends to the trial of Galileo and beyond.

The ID debate is another iteration of the same tired fear. That fear resembles the superstition and blind faith of past eras and wants to pull us back to some romanticized version of the past. For me, succumbing to that fear is a disservice to humanity itself.

To swing off on a tangent for one moment, I’m always amused how the conservative Christian interpretation of the Old Testament (and Genesis in particular) differs from that of many Jewish ‘denominations’. The same groups that argue for original interpretation of the Constitution ignore the original interpretations of the Books of Moses.

Posted by: CPAdams at January 5, 2006 11:01 AM
Comment #110375

Michael,

The Mandelbrot set… gives me a real sense that whoever or whatever cooked up our universe, their basic design instinct was NOT randomness everywhere.

The Mandelbrot set was “cooked up” by the c points in complex plan where the mathematical recursive suite defined by:

z(n+1) = z(n)2 + c
z(0) = 0

DON’T escape, aka don’t tend to infinity.

As every mathematical formula, there’s no real randomness in it. That’s also why in computer software industry we always talk about pseudo-random generators, because we still rely on math to generate random-like numbers.

Keep also in mind that the mandelbrot set as rendered in these very colorfull pictures is in fact the inner, black part. The color part of these pictures are actually complex points that are NOT in the set. Mathematically, the *speed* at which they escape the set has not so much importance as it has for these art-like pictures.
Keep in mind also that these pictures are *always* an approximation, limited by the numbers of max iterations made before considering a point into the set. That means that the edge is always an approximation.

For example of the most famous *sort of sign* given to Mandelbrot set, see Buddhabrot.
It’s still just a very graphical color mapping of mathematical computation…

PS: Math is design by man. So far.

Posted by: Philippe Houdoin at January 5, 2006 11:25 AM
Comment #110384

Mr. Houdoin-
Most mathematicians, I think, would disagree with your comment “Math is design by man.” They strongly feel, I am told, that mathematics is pre-existing (like the undiscovered New World to European explorers in the 15th century). Complex numbers, set theory, etc. are all discoveries, not inventions.

Larry

Posted by: Larry at January 5, 2006 12:02 PM
Comment #110390

As I read the thread here, it seems that we have attempted to boil a complicated subject down to science being “good” or “evil”. When I read the initial post, that is far from what I got.

The question raised in my mind is not whether the science and the scientific method should be taught but instead in what proportion should they be taught (or studied) versus the humanities. And once taught, whether either form of knowledge should have primacy over the other.

As many have pointed out the scientific method has many advantages, it calls for transparancy, rationality, and reproducability. The characteristics of the scientific method are wonderful because they also tend to weed out fallacies and hoaxes and allow us to be certain of results until somebody smarter (or luckier, or more observent) comes along to see the fallacies, and either extends or turns the original argument on its head.

Many see truth and beauty in this process, others are threatened by it.

However, science (not scientists) at it’s core is also naturalistic and amoral. These two qualities leave quite a void in other forms of knowledge. The humanities fill this void. And there is no cut and dry method to the humanities. Instead there is a caucophony of methods for explaining and exploring the “human condition”.

Because the methods are so varied, they invite a lot of discussion and debate. Some are riduculed (mtv, rap, and televangilism were above), and others are extolled (Shakespeare, religion, and C.S. Lewis were above). This exploration results in each individual developing his personal morality.

Despite Darren’s plea to realize that “People really do expect too much from teachers. How about if we deal with working them towards being caring, responsible citizens and the parents deal with the particular personal moral issues?” The reality is that the two are forever intertwined. As a teacher society gave you the responsibility to debunk the personal moral teachings of bad parents.

If a neo-Nazi parent teaches his child hate of blacks and Jews, teachers have to fight back with their curriculum which teaches the History of Slavery and the Holocaust. Otherwise, that child has not a chance of developing into a responsible citizen. Just as we have the responsability to educate the children of the closed-minded religious right to the beauty and truth of evolution in the scientific realm. To do otherwise is a cop out.

I think that I have to agree with the premise of Roach’s post. The world analyzes the growth of scientific preparedness as an indicator of our economic future. It is a useful measure, just as literacy rates were a century ago. There is no doubt that we need to continue our improvement here.

However, as a nation we have to continue to debate and refine our apporach toward understanding the human condition. If the humanitites don’t remain on equal footing with the sciences, we inch ever closer to a world where truth and beauty of the human condition will be examined under a microscope not under the stars or over a bottle of good wine.

The good news is that the quality of the debate on this post seems to indicate that we are still very capable of the debate.

Posted by: Rob at January 5, 2006 12:15 PM
Comment #110405

Larry,

It sounds as if you think the magically “created” physical world is

“a meaningless collection of sub-atomic particles.” Posted by Larry at January 5, 2006 10:45 AM
. Then why study this world at all?

Rob;

If a neo-Nazi parent teaches his child hate of blacks and Jews, teachers have to fight back with their curriculum which teaches the History of Slavery and the Holocaust. Otherwise, that child has not a chance of developing into a responsible citizen.
Posted by Rob at January 5, 2006 12:15 PM
Unfortunately, in Nazi Germany the prejudice you describe was held by “responsible citizens”. Morality is always relative although I believe science attempts to objectively define it in terms of a common “goodness”. I.e.; Humanities, as a set, are a benficiary of science and a user of its techniques.

Posted by: Dave at January 5, 2006 1:21 PM
Comment #110417

Dave,

I think science in general is a beneficiary of the humanities. The first step in the scientific process was logic and observations. These grew out of philosophy not the inverse. Math is another basic tenet of science and it’s logical base also grew from philosophy.

My post didn’t deny that morals are relative, it stated that we all have to participate in the debate on morality and be equipped through our education to do so. We do that by being taught how to reason not just through the scientific process by also through the process of building and analyzing arguments that relate to non-observable, non-natural phenomena such as “the spirit” or “kindness” or “evil”. Otherwise, we never progress as “reasonable citizens”. Without the capacity for empathy and sympathy slavery becomse subject to only market forces not political ones. The qualities of empathy and sympathy may be able to be explained by science, but they can’t be developed by it. They can in the study of the humanities.

I haven’t seen any hard science on goodness, but I’d be interested in your links. My bet is that the premises on which they are based are found in the humanities.

I’m again not trying to argue that science is bad, I’m a huge fan. I also like it in its applied form, but the humanities deserve to operate on equal footing in education.

Science techniques have to remain subservient to morality.

Posted by: Rob at January 5, 2006 1:46 PM
Comment #110433

Posted by Rob at January 5, 2006 01:46 PM

The qualities of empathy and sympathy may be able to be explained by science, but they can’t be developed by it. They can in the study of the humanities.
I still believe the techniques used in the humanities are scientific in nature. I.e. Objectivity in study and measurement.
Science techniques have to remain subservient to morality.
I disagree. SCIENCE is amoral. TECHNOLOGY requires moral constraint, not subservience.


Posted by: Dave at January 5, 2006 2:57 PM
Comment #110438

Dave,

You’ll notice I said science techniques not science.

So the technique used in concentration camps of seeing how long it takes prisoners to drown are still fair game?

Posted by: Rob at January 5, 2006 3:13 PM
Comment #110444

Tomh,
You ask some hardball questions Where did the sense of moral right and wrong begin? Who decided that something is wrong or right from a moral perspective? It didn’t just pop up from human nature. It had to have an origin. And what is that origin?
that The Founding Fathers answered in a very particular-way. See, knowing that Man has never, is never, and most likely will never be capable of living in a Nation/Society that requires absolute right all the time. Thus the question asked of Our Courts and Society is not what will be found “Unalienable Right Regardless,” but what has been proven to be right by the evidence brought before “The Robe of Justice.” And that as American Gentlemen we should always give the Ladies and Less Fortunate (Intellectual capacity) the privilege of letting God Prove them wrong, And while I won’t go back to the beginning of how “The Word of Law” got started in this blog, one of my projects over at In My Humble Opinion is to open up a discussion on exactly how we can teach our children the way to Discover the Truth in “The Law and Politics as our Forefathers did some 150 years ago based on the single simple fact that everything that we know and understand comes from “I the Consumer.”

However, Politically Speaking Only our government is designed to function in a manner that our Society learns what is right from the generations before them since what can only be known to be right has to be attempted first before the evidence is placed in the Realm of Reality. Hence, the reason for “The Cube.” Although once spoken a person may come to understand that it is Right and true, try getting Society to accept it as a Rule of Law and Teach it to our Children. While over the natural course of Human Events people will come to know this bit of information and accept it over what they all ready know, it does not mean that they will change the way that they perceive it in their mind. C& F in the temperature and common weights are prime examples of that in the American Society.

40 years ago or so, Our Elders took on their Elders because they asked the same questions that you ask today. And although I am Constitutionally Bound to not define those answers as I understand it to be, I will say that in America by the Laws of the Land the “I the Individual” can have it “All” with just one catch. First, I have to be able to prove by “Cold Hard Facts” that “We the People” can have it “All.” Now were is that line and how does one define it is a question that not even Our Courts have the Constitutional Right to answer for their duty is only to tell us what is outside the Realm of Right not what is Right. So allow me to politically ask you what do you see as Right and Wrong about the Society created by Our Elders in the 70’s?

See, this is the political debate that neither the Democrats or Republicans want to face as they have now become the Establishment that all of them said was wrong. Given the natural course of Human Events in the World and A Lame Duck President, shouldn’t America begin that critic of what our Society’s Nature has become like. And in Politics, the Rule of Right and Wrong belongs to a roomful of “Grandma’s” for what they demand to be Right Regardless matters more than what we know to be absolutely right.

Posted by: Henry Schlatman at January 5, 2006 3:38 PM
Comment #110450

Dave,

You’ll notice I said science techniques not science.

So the technique used in concentration camps of seeing how long it takes prisoners to drown are still fair game?

Posted by: Rob at January 5, 2006 03:13 PM
==============================================
I was specific in my answer as well. Pure science, and I’ll extend this to it’s techniques, is without morals. It is up to the scientist to have morality and society to limit what the scientist can do experimentally. The ‘technique’ you exampled is ‘empirical observation,’ not ‘drowning’. Observation is amoral, ‘drowning’ someone is ‘immoral’.

Other example: Most people today oppose uninformed human trials. Remember the Tuskeegee experiments in America where until 1972 men were unknowingly observed in a syphylis experiment? I will say again, morality is relative and often transient.

But, this is really semantics. I think we agree that scientists need to have contemporary morals as guidance in what they do to get data, and the engineers need to have morals with what they do/create with the data. However, transient morality or morality specific to a specific culture or religion can be generally discarded as guidence for science in general, although it would impact a scientist as an individual. Only universal values, elements of which are subject to real debate, apply universally.

Posted by: Dave at January 5, 2006 4:04 PM
Comment #110453

Dave,
Question; how would you define a 3D object with six equal squares as it’s surfaces if you could not use the word “Cube?” Not having studied the History of the Spoken Language in depth, I can’t even begin to answer why a cube is just a cube. Yet I do know what you mean when you tell me you saw one and isn’t that the Art of Communication which is the Cornerstone of Politics. Hence, he who holds the Right & True Words of Life in his speech knows and can see the Truth while others believe what they have been told to think is Truth. 2004 proved that in our Society as many citizens were hoodwinked into thinking nothing was wrong in our government. However, if you watch closely over the next few months you’ll see that not even our President is “Above the Law” or should I say the Realm of Thought which Society as a whole perceives to be Right & True when the Truth is presented to Congress.

Posted by: Henry Schlatman at January 5, 2006 4:08 PM
Comment #110468

Henry,

how would you define a 3D object with six equal squares as it’s surfaces if you could not use the word “Cube?”
Exactly as I said:
a 3D object with six equal squares as it’s surfaces

As I poseted before:

This is the problem many have with ID, the other fundamentalist BS, and the administration. They are trying to change the meanings of words to justify and defend their positions rather that actually prove their positions. A prime example: redefining torture so that we’re “not” doing what everyone else calls torture.
To paraphrase Dan; they want us to believe that sh!t is shinola because they call sh!t “shinola”.
Posted by Dave at January 5, 2006 10:17 AM
Or in this case, they want us to believe a cube is really a tax cut.

But, I hope, as you posted out:

if you watch closely over the next few months you’ll see that not even our President is “Above the Law” or should I say the Realm of Thought which Society as a whole perceives to be Right & True when the Truth is presented to Congress.

Posted by: Dave at January 5, 2006 5:01 PM
Comment #110564

The Gospel is really good news. Even to treat as a story how the God of the universe sent his own son to die for all humanity is stirring. The point is the value of every human in his sight and his demand that we value them the same even to the point of laying down our own lives. This is a good basis, maybe not the only origin, of law and science.
The way fundamentalists throw around judgments makes God seem like a skitzo. One minute loving and the next killing off because of petty offences. This would be confusing to kids in a public school. There should be a freedom to teach value in schools, even biblical ones. but opening the door again like we had it would probably be hijacked by the greed and judgment crowd. This is a frustration to normal Christians.

Posted by: Kruser at January 6, 2006 1:09 AM
Comment #110580

Regarding science and magic:

Both reflect and define an aspect of truth. Both employ a limited perspective. Human scientific understanding is fragmented and connects in fits and starts, with some errors and backtracking on the way. Magic (a clumbsy term for the ability to manipulate and appreciate the pattern reflected by all manifestations of life) can be approached scientifically, but it is largely understood through inductive, not deductive reasoning.

As magical and scientific understanding continue to evolve they become more alike than dissimiliar. As science defines more pieces of the puzzle of life in all its forms the fragmented picture becomes more clear. As man’s consciousness evolves his understanding of the mysteries of life become detailed, changing from a hazy knowing of the correct, to a more complex form as newly understood truths overlap filling gaps formerly bridged by inductive leaps.

Thus science evolves from clearly defined points, things we know through discovery, becoming more uniform as the points fill the gaps making the whole picture more visible. The magical view, on the other hand becomes more complex as the perceiver’s ability to see the layered relationships grows.

But both views approach the same end as they both reflect the true structure of manifestation.

Posted by: good king ned at January 6, 2006 3:36 AM
Comment #110600

Good news Kruser,

We do teach values in school. It never really stopped, though there might have been a few who over reacted out of some particular reason or another.

Values have been taught. Part of the mission of schools is to create good citizens in a democratic society. This includes values such as honesty, respect, integrity and compassion.

Some refuse to belive that values are being taught becuase they are not based on a particular religous teaching.

If I say it is wrong to kill to as many people as their are religons (monotheistic, polytheistic as well as paganism) I will surely get back from each of them something within their religous beliefs that says the same thing.

Same with honesty, integrity, compassion …

The values are taught, but it is up to the parent’s to attribute it to a particular religion if they want to. That should not be the teachers responsibility.

If you have any questions concerning exactly what values are being taught to your children, please google your state’s department of education and visit their website.

Posted by: Darren7160 at January 6, 2006 8:57 AM
Comment #110618

Henry, why don’t you look up the word sophistry in the dictionary and give us a full report. Your writing is the most pure example I’ve ever seen.

P.S. We’re not writing German. Your extensive and excessive capitalizations for emphasis—including words that are not particularly momentous, or which you misuse—does not lend your rantings any greater gravitas. It just makes you appear incredibly pretentious and uneducated.

Roach — This critique of Henry and how HE appears, will not be tolerated. It violates our policy. This will be your last and only warning before losing privileges here. — WatchBlog Managing Editor.

Posted by: Roach at January 6, 2006 10:31 AM
Comment #110624

Attention Phillipe Houdoin: on researching further into the question of whether pi is a random number or not, I only came to Timothy Ferris’s conclusion that no one has as yet proven that the digits of pi follow a random distribution. But on the other hand, it is still possible that after awhile pi settles down to be all zeros or all 7’s or some repeatable sequence. Supercomputers are rapidly pushing back the limits of known digit expansions of pi.

As for everything humans have touched being only pseudo-random numbers, I am happy as an intelligent design proponent to banish “randomness” altogether as a concept and I have cited frozen spacetime and the illusion of time being due to an observer’s movement as arguments in that direction.

But it is a holy grail for us mystics to find numbers that have special significance, such as the number eleven which is significant in Kaluza-Klein physics theory and also in supergravity theories (according to Paul Davies.)

Posted by: Michael L. Cook at January 6, 2006 10:53 AM
Comment #110642

A “mystical” proponent of “intelligent design”???

This is the problem many have with ID, the other fundamentalist BS, and the administration. They are trying to change the meanings of words to justify and defend their positions rather that actually prove their positions. A prime example: redefining torture so that we’re “not” doing what everyone else calls torture. To paraphrase Dan; they want us to believe that sh!t is shinola because they call sh!t “shinola”. Posted by Dave at January 5, 2006 10:17 AM
BTW: My special number is 42… Posted by: Dave at January 6, 2006 11:43 AM
Comment #110644

Cook said: “the illusion of time being due to an observer’s movement”

That’s funny! Since the very definition of time is perceptible change. One day when all life on earth is extinguished, by definition, time will cease to exist. But, as long as change is perceptible, time shall exist. Thinking by notions of Intelligent Design as science is the only thing I see frozen around here (Texas, 47 degrees and rising! :-)

Posted by: David R. Remer at January 6, 2006 11:44 AM
Comment #110674

Rob,
My use of cold meds is my excuse for missing your comment, my apoligies.

I did not want to edit your point to make it brief because it would not do it justice. Also, some of the things I said just a post or two back apply to this so instead of my restating them I would ask anyone interested to scroll up a couple of inches.

“Despite Darren’s plea to realize that “People really do expect too much from teachers. How about if we deal with working them towards being caring, responsible citizens and the parents deal with the particular personal moral issues?” The reality is that the two are forever intertwined. As a teacher society gave you the responsibility to debunk the personal moral teachings of bad parents.

If a neo-Nazi parent teaches his child hate of blacks and Jews, teachers have to fight back with their curriculum which teaches the History of Slavery and the Holocaust. Otherwise, that child has not a chance of developing into a responsible citizen. Just as we have the responsability to educate the children of the closed-minded religious right to the beauty and truth of evolution in the scientific realm. To do otherwise is a cop out.”

There are ethics classes in all professions I can think of… and in education it seems like there is always a balance between what are America’s societial values and those of the individual. Every class in education I have taken ends up dealing a lot with the ethics of what should be taught and how it should be taught.

Okay… here is another plea. Most teachers just want to be teachers. They want to work with children. I base this on 3 years of education classes at one of the top education colleges. They do not come into the program with political agendas or with even the idea that they will be shaping the values of students. They just want to work with kids.

Now… I have had conversations with other students… some just hope to look to the school, the neighborhood and the school board for what to teach as far as values.

When I guestioned them specifically on the topic of racism some fell back on the, “We teach them how to think, not what to think… We need to conform to the values of the local society, and if that is racisist then I will try to “lead” them away from that… show them the facts and the truth, but ultimately, that will have to be their decision… I am just a guide.”

Okay… I might get slammed for this, but here goes. I believe that as a society we have agreed upon values that are necessary for us to have the type of democratic society we all want.

One of these being respect of minorities and of differences, each person should be judged on his actions, not the color of his skin, ethnicity and cultural background. (This can be expanded out but I will focus on this one)

When it comes to wanting our schools to teach values, such as people say they want us to do, they are asking us to also determine right and wrong, good or bad. In a public school these will have to be based on what characteristics does it take to be a good citizen.

Therefore, I can say that racism is bad for America. I can say that it is wrong to judge someone based upon the color of his skin.

I cannot say that homosexuality or divorce is bad. (this can be extended out too… gun control, abortion…)

I further questioned the students who said they would lead, or guide their students towards thinking the way the teacher wanted.

I agree that a student that can reach their own conclusions accepts these conclusions better than if told what to accept… but what if, after leading the student towards the right moral answer the student still does not come up with what the teacher desires? They say they will keep trying.

I personally have always hated people that keep trying to question me until they get the answer they want. I know what they are doing and it is very irritating… Instead, if we are preparing them to become adults (they aren’t there yet) then in the case of racsim I will make an absolute statement that it is wrong.

I will listen and discuss with a student opposing view based on logic and reason. No one needs to defend, or accept, hatred. I will not force the person to change their mind, but I will not pretend to support their belief, just their right to it.

Why? Because acceptance of others really is important to the functioning of society and the debate of the other issues.

Might I be in conflict with a racist parent or neighborhood? Yes. Will that stop me? No.

Posted by: Darren7160 at January 6, 2006 1:13 PM
Comment #110675

Larry,

Most mathematicians, I think, would disagree with your comment “Math is design by man.” They strongly feel, I am told, that mathematics is pre-existing (like the undiscovered New World to European explorers in the 15th century). Complex numbers, set theory, etc. are all discoveries, not inventions.

Platonists does, indeed. Constructivists too.
But it’s hard today to sort out how many mathematicians follow these (old) schools compared to the formalists, logicists, social realists and all the other variant math “philosophical” schools.

Postmoderm mathematicians are, for example, quite opposing platonism, rejecting its *netherworld* of mathematical objects… As does cognitivists like George Lakoff, who promote an embodied mind of mathematics:

“Mathematics may or may not be out there in the world, but there’s no way that we scientifically could possibly tell.”

Anyway, I’m going off-topic here. My point is that among mathematicians the fact that math is or isn’t *existing*, alone, in the universe is still debated and, most probably, will continue for a long long time…

Posted by: Philippe Houdoin at January 6, 2006 1:15 PM
Comment #110689

Michael L. Cook-
Randomness is not so much the issue in science, as is the loss of our powers of prediction in dealing with complex systems.

As far as relativity goes, though, time plays an important role It’s Einstein himself who unites space with time, and puts forward the idea of gravity as being the acceleration associated with mass-warped space.

Time does indeed freeze as one approaches the speed of light, but since light and other similar zero rest mass objects are the only entities in this universe capable of such speeds, the rest of us can only experience relativistic speeds, and the accompaniment of time dilation that produces such things as the twins paradox.

As for numbers, though, we have to be careful to distinguish numbers that have a special signficance in reality from those that only have a special significance in our minds.

We must realize that science is not divine law, but our best approximation science advances upon the improvement of those guesses with experiment and observation used to discern whether the implications of the theories truth are there (or more precisely, whether they are not!) Good science, like good religion, requires an admission of human fallibility, and vigilant, continuous correction to make up for it. The difference between Science and Religion, is that science spends its time correcting our explanations for the way the world works, while religion spends its time correcting for the errors that are born of human nature. Mixing the two may seem tempting, but the subjects of correction are not at all compatible.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at January 6, 2006 2:42 PM
Comment #110694

Darren,

If I followed your post and I think I did, then I agree with the approach. My point was very similar, I think.

Teachers (particularly public school teachers) have been hired to develop educated citizens. As part of that education, they have the responsibility to teach the values of our society. How do they do that, by teaching the history, literature, philosophy, and science that informed our beliefs as a community (be it village, state, country, or world).

I would think that these values are the heart of every curriculum in the country. As to how to teach values, I agree that the subject matter can make the point without the teacher having to. I’m not suggesting that the teacher needs to become a priest. My argument instead is that teachers have to recognize that the reason the subject matter is part of the curriculum is based in part on a judgement on which values we prefer as a society. They can’t go in blind to the classroom thinking that they “aren’t teaching values.”

As to which ones a teacher believes they can openly endorse and argue, I would give teachers more personal lattitude on that subject than your post seems to suggest you would, but going down that path would take us even further off topic than we already are, so I’ll leave it there.

Posted by: Rob at January 6, 2006 2:53 PM
Comment #110810

Roach,
If my written offends you I am sorry, but I have looked up the word sophistry,/em> and find that my ideology is no less of a fable story than an other religion or theory that atempts to explain how and why Man exist on this planet we call Earth.

However, sonce you insist that my stance is wrong how about some solid proof. Can you explain to me and others here why is it unethical and immoral for “I the Corporation” who creates the million dollar yacht to sue society so that I can have my legal right of as many potentailly economically viable customers as “I the Wal-Mart’s” of the World? Yet, as “We the Consumers” not only is it our right, but our ethical and moral duty to see that the poorest consumer who adds positvely to the function of society to have the potential to buy that million dollar yacht if their freewill so desires.

No, my methods may not fit your limited world of thinking, but proving that what I say is wrong according to the princples established by Our Founding Fathers is going to take more than ranting. Cold Hard facts of Life in the “Real World” based on the ideology that everyone is created equal in the society that we have constructed over the last 35-40 years can be proven and is based solid on the Laws of the Land so please don’t take this the wrong way; however, you as a lawyer should know above all of us that not every Human is a corporation. Yet, is not socoeital laws set at that standard? Like I’ve said before, all that I am doing is moving it to the next level of Realm of Thought brought on by the natural evolution found in our society which is what our Founding Fathers wanted.

Posted by: Henry Schlatman at January 6, 2006 9:51 PM
Comment #110826

Stephen Daugherty: Suppose a person somehow becomes convinced of paranormal powers in a way that is uniquely personal and unrepeatable? Maybe its a meaningful coincidence, or a series of things they witness, or an outright miracle, but from that moment on they are empirically convinced that science does not explain everything because, by golly, they have personally experienced some undeniable, in-your-face example of a reality that science can not even begin to explain.

That’s where I am coming from. Having had such experiences first hand, I have to consider this: is there such a thing as a partially mystical universe?

Now we come to SCIENCE, in the sacred sense that you seem to consider. Really, a good definition of SCIENCE is whether it makes a prediction that you can take to the bank. If I can predict particular bio-chemical reactions correctly, I am a pharmaceutical company. I have some patent applications out there based on the rational world that you believe in. That’s cool. I believe in rationality. It’s good business. Good to teach to kids as well, so the little buggers can make an honest dime.

The only thing, it’s not really the whole truth. The whole truth is you never make a self-reproducing prokaryotic cell in a test tube. I think John von Neuman realized that in his mathematical model of life. Build a machine that has 150,000 unit pieces that all have to be “just so” for self-reproduction to take place, then throw in the kicker that it all happens in a chaotic universe that is absolutely indifferent to whether it supplies or not the type of weird special environments needed to produce and protect the sub-structures needed to approach a living, self-reproducing cell.

But all that is blarney. The real reality with me is that when I walk through a casino, my wife is followed by guys in suits. Why? Because she is psychic as hell. She “feels” when slots are ready to give. We have taken a lot of cruises paid for by that intuition. She doesn’t have a system, she isn’t a cheat. The only “scientists” around who know it are the casino employee observers, who take a keen interest, believe me.

So, keep up preaching SCIENCE, by all means. Just don’t expect everyone to prostrate themselves at your altar.

Posted by: Michael L. Cook at January 6, 2006 11:12 PM
Comment #110956

Michael L. Cook-
I don’t believe science will ever explain everything, but I believe that for the purposes of our limited existence here, it does very well in describing the natural world. The Supernatural? That world reaches to us from outside time, outside the things of this world.

There’s no partial mysticism here. The unity and seamlessness of this world, and the awesome choice that it requires of all who take on faith is mystical in and of itself. Mine is not a incomplete world, with the seams filled in by an intrusive supernatural, it is a complete world, backed and permeated with the potential of it all. God made no mistakes, and therefore needs no corrections.

Science is not mastery of the natural world, but mastery of ourselves, our way of reaching conclusions about the natural world.. We do our best to get out of our own way, as much as that’s possible.

You let your preconceptions about science get in the way. You seem to understand things more piecemeal, more by means of logic and sequence than environment and context.

I look at things, and I see a world in non-stop motion and interaction, where the laws of physics (or more accurately, what our laws approximate) conspire to create chaotic and complex systems that are more than the sum of their parts, more than just clockwork systems that break down in the absence of one gear or belt. Sciences has discovered a multitude of substances that can catalyze other chemical reactions, some doing so by chemical means, some by physical means. It has discovered any number of substances, including the phospholipids that compose our cell membranes, which self-assemble, without outside interference. In short, we have found that the world is more than able to produce wierd little environments. In fact, it specializes in them.

Have you considered that your wife’s psychic powers may be nothing more than the result of not constantly betting? Statisticians have found, that if you set the odds right, the more somebody plays, the more they lose money to the house. By being selective, she doesn’t play enough to lose. Additionally, by picking machines more or less at random, she doesn’t waste her time and money making one machine work, which is of course the intent of the casino.

Or could she genuinely be psychic? Who knows? I just don’t invest myself in that explanation right off the bat. I let myself entertain the mundane possibilities, because in the end, they’re sort of neat in how they can contribute to an explanation. The joy of a mystery is not in the conclusion, but how you get there.

I can understand perfectly why people would prefer a supernatural explanation. I write screenplays with people who have magic and psychic powers. I love the fantastic, love magic. But I also love a world that has a certain integrity to it, self-consistency based on rules that work smoothly and seamlessly. The fiction I describe is entertaining and meaningful for what it is, but I’m willing to accept that it is merely what I imagine.

I can’t require anybody to take my point of view, but I can invite them to understand it with me, and that has always been my aim.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at January 7, 2006 10:33 AM
Comment #110961

Question……..Is the magic that we finally live in a country that gives us the right of free will to think and experiment that God always wanted us to have? Could this be it? Please try adding freedom into all of your equations. See now, if Columbus wouldn’t have read his bible and figured out that the world was round and allowed Christians to found this great country we would never have had the gift of free will given to us by God in the first place. So the next time you go dismissing religion as some superstitious foolishness, think a little harder and longer please. Thank you. G A Phillips aka Booty1

Posted by: Booty1 at January 7, 2006 11:19 AM
Comment #110967

Mr. Daugherty, we have itemized her gambling expenses pretty well, as the IRS requires it since she got into the bigger money. Because slot machines are electronic and she plays with a plastic card it is possible to accurately record the losses and the wins.

Strangely enough, she doesn’t abuse the power and play a lot.

I am sure that you are familiar with the old Arthur C. Clarke quote that science, sufficiently advanced, always appears as magic to less advanced people.

Interestingly enough, the Russians at the end of the Cold War got into psychic investigations pretty heavily. Both Russia and the U.S. are working on how to control airplanes with brain waves alone, as pilots can be in such high-g situations that muscle movement becomes imprecise or impossible. You also might watch the “Psychic Detective” series—can’t remember if it is on A&E or the Science channel.

The interesting thing about the psychic detectives is that they seem to rely on images or feelings transmitted to them by the presence of deceased individuals. The whole phenomenon seems to be the antithesis of repeatable experiment and the psychics are pretty candid about their inability to produce on demand. That’s kind of the way my wife’s ability works—it’s either “bam” it’s there, or it’s not and she might as well go home.

Roger Penrose gets criticized for being too indulgent of us mystics in several ways: first, he believes that individual quantum events can initiate a mental process, secondly, he generally believes in Platonic mathematics, and thirdly, he seems skeptical of a computer ever becoming “conscious” in our sense. So, The Emperor’s New Mind and its sequel are good reading.

Posted by: Michael L. Cook at January 7, 2006 12:17 PM
Comment #111287

Michael L. Cook
Her lack of greed may have more to do with why she wins than any inexplicable power. If she plays less than is ideal in the eyes of the Casino, her odds are much better of winning. The more one plays, the more money the house gets from you. That’s how they stay in business.

I am familiar with the Arthur C. Clarke quote. Look at it again, though: he’s trying to say that anything that looks to have a mystical, magical explanation is really something rational we don’t understand fully yet.

As for Brainwaves steering airplanes? conceiveable, but aside from getting the detectors sensitive enough to register the impulses, you have to manage the complex job of controlling the aircraft’s controls by what is essentially biofeedback alone.

As for the high-G environments this is supposedly used to deal with, the real physiological problem ultimately is keeping the blood from vacating the upper quarters of the body. I particular, the brain. It’s getting you out of the frying pan, and into the fire. That’s if you can make it work.

Other scientists have commented about the quantum physics approach, and it essentially comes down to this: neat idea, but then the question becomes how the process works its way up. Also, quantum events are notorious for being random. Not just complex, but absolutely random. As in, you can’t tell the difference between an atom on the verge of decay and one that’s hanging around a little longer.

Mathematics I’ve commented on, so I’ll let my objections stand. To sum them up, it’s possible to create a beautiful mathematical model of something unreal.

As far as Consciousness in computers go, it may be nothing more than an emergent property of computers once they get complex enough in the right way. If such is true, though, then you get into the interesting question of whether consciousness is a property of sufficiently complicated brains, which is the thesis Ian Stewart and Jack Cohen put forward in their marvellous book Figments of Reality.

The thing to keep in mind with psychic detectives and those like them is that while its assumed the images are transmitted to them, their “recall” of events may be just a modified version of method acting, where actors use the surroundings and the accoutrements of the character together to create the plausible fiction of the character. My theory is that they use the reconstructive way that the brain binds memories and real-time events together to piece together things subconsciously from their surroundings. Similar circumstances and stories can lead to similar lines of thought.

It helps to keep in mind that Roger Penrose might be an authority in physics, but that he does not have much standing as a student of Neurosceince.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at January 9, 2006 1:09 AM
Comment #111343

Well, quantum events are unknowable, and we don’t know for sure they are quite random. If the “Zeno Effect” is real then the reason we never have for sure seen a proton decay (after many costly years looking)is because the observer matters. A proton “watched” by an intelligent observer won’t decay. Experimentally, that is one explanation for the results so far…

Then there is the idea that all “randomness” and chance is only an illusion. Spacetime could be an absolute frozen tableau. The window of our consciousness is the only thing that moves along. We never consciously apprehend two different things simultaneously, always sequentially, and the construct of random distribution is a construct of our mind.

In other words, we always analyze historical events, never future events. When the future becomes history we take stock and decide that the latest event fits in the “random” pattern we have come to expect or not, but no event in the future has any variability. It is already frozen and we don’t know it yet.

This, of course, is a dismal outlook concerning free will, but I have always maintained that intelligent design is another name for absolute determinism. Chaos theory is an elaborate working out of absolute determinism. There is no chance going on in proper chaos. That butterfly flapping his wings in Iowa helped push hurricane Katrina a little bit to the north. Nothing in pure chaos theory is an accident, not even the existence and inner mechanics of the butterly, so proper chaos doesn’t work with the Copenhagen interpretation.

Cats, butterflies, or atoms about to decay can either be viewed as in the weird “suspended” pre-collapse waveform state, or they can all be viewed as a fixed future that our conscious window hasn’t reached yet.

To me, the latter view accords better with David Bohm’s notions, better yet, make’s Bohm’s FTL pathfinder waves unnecessary. Time-reversed light or anti-particles seeming to come from the future aren’t unusual at all—they just are and have always been the fixed features of the frozen tableau. Note that many worlds or parallel universes do not really change the tableau, only extend its dimensions.
One could argue that free will consists of having the ability to jostle our moving window of consciousness off into other dimensions, but that would be a personal ability and science is basically a common-consciousness appreciation time up endeavor.

One thing I’ve noticed about the “psychic detectives” featured thus far on TV. None of them are clairvoyants. They all seem to have their visions or whatever of present or past situations.

Posted by: Michael L. Cook at January 9, 2006 11:00 AM
Comment #241924

Ladies, Gentlemen:


I find it interesting that people who have used every conceivable method to obtain and maintain power over other beings, human and non-human alike, while simultaneously demonstrating very little control over themselves, try to make Science and those of us who understand it into villains. To begin with, Science is simply the Laws, Codes and Ways of Nature. Natural Law is immutable; human beings do not control any aspect of it. Mathematics is the most exact science in the universe and no human dogma, doctrine, ideology, philosopy, etc. will ever change the fact that 1+1 will always equal 2. People whose primary aim is to exercise power over others have always been on guard knowing that there are those of us who look beyond their “omnipotent” facade to see where the real power lies. Science pointedly and specifically answers seven knowldege questions: who, what, when, where, how, why and the nature of. Scientific people realize that we do not control what happens. We simply connect the dots and try to understand natural phenomena, whether human beings are involved or not. Remember, the sum total of all that exists is 100%. The powerful Sprit Forces that exist in Nature are part of that 100%. Intelligence is composed of three things: knowldege, wisdom and understanding. Without Truth there is no Knowledge. Understanding is the receipt of Knowledge and Wisdom is its application. Intelligence has absolutely nothing to do with belief of any kind, particularly those that predominate much of of the world in which we live. Truth is eternal; the passage of time and the cyclical nature of existence has revealed all false doctrines to be just that. As a human being, I have failed the Truth a number of times in my life. It has never failed me.

Posted by: Andre' Powell at January 1, 2008 8:01 PM
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