Monday, February 18, 2013

I trust science but so did Hitler and Pol Pot

Science can be comforting because it is about some relative certainties . But those certaintes are mostly small ( it can't tell you whether you will be happliy married or not and it doesn't tell you whether you are destined to survive and your brother not )  Should we expect it then to banish all fear and replace religion ;Or will it be used,  like religion can be,  to be a potent poison - a reason to kill your brother . Truth even when it involves science is often much bigger than it .The truth has a way of breaking out of idealism and categorisism and setting us free
It seems the best way to store this dangerous  stuff is to keep the all ingredients of good decsionmaking in seperate places.  Everybody learns best if categories of knowledge are retained and it was good to see this established by discussion on TV last night . This doesn't mean the categories and storesafes  are perfect - just that we can contest boundaries best when we study both individual cells of knowledge and experience and then move onto their overlap areas. There is also no contest if there is only one player ;and only one person controls the conversation.(science , politics religion literature , history)

The ABC's attempt to rerun the false premise that Science gazumps religion and ( philosophy) went bad last night because it allowed its main guest to say that the above ecosystem function principle was no longer valid . Krauss said philosophy provided a bridge to reality testing that is no longer needed .  While his simple premise has always been popular , many scientists,  philosophers or fiction writers DO NOT accept this overly simple idea --- that science will eventually answer all our questions .
One reason most category students  don't accept the over ascendancy of science is because we don't know as much as Krauss says we do - we still need philosophy of some kind to inform the choices and drivers within us . We need some answers NOW  to decide how to resist our hormone drivers ,talk to our children, reform the ecosystem , use welfare  money, deal with disobedient citizens,  who to marry and what work to do. The when and how of community will use both science and world view .
We need values that science struggles to clearly identify. Even Plebechek should realise that the last leaders who took the view advocated by her and Krauss directly justified a curriculum control that allowed some people to kill others;  on the basis of science and science alone ( the survival of the fittest) .Krauss says science has brought only good,  but forgets  about the ends justifying the means Science spells out the logic of production  but does'nt spell out its purpose  If you leave that purpose with the leaders to decide,  they may , as they have done just use it for self centred ends
More reasonable and less fanatical people on the panel say science can be used for good or bad and has been . As Dickson  said,  religion puts a reason brake (what should have been a consensus issue) on some,  who , like little children , use the logic of self preservation to go no further. The reactionaries need a grand philosophy of community to substitute for the Christian one,  but they are unwilling to say what it should be .
The gazumping , even if "the God of the gaps"  closes with time, will not happen because neither science or philosophy can answer all the questions we want answers to . Krauss 's overstating of what science can tell us becomes evident in his distracted talk  of the world shaking significance of flooding islands and ice bergs.
If philosophy teaches us anything,  it  is that politics and right actions are only simple if ethical decisions are simple . Krauss would have been more credible if he recognsed that , like his certainty on what we should do about sea level rise,  advocates of science only solutions were prone to overstate " some certainties"; and even some moral impertives   Clearly, he overstated certainties on the best CC policy, even though he did go beyond ABC policy on the matter.

ANYONE who has studied one discipline has no right to say his discipline is the overridingly important one ---they all are . There are some questions science is good at answering  ( like how much detail about the big bang you can find in a book thats not even focused on it )  but there are some questions microscopes periscopes and telescopes can't seem to answer
Without respecting the boundaries in the Cells of life (  the old buildings at univ, the nature of life ) we can't interact reasonably and responsibly with each other . We trade in the dark as Plato said .  The paradox is that you can't study history and literature , science and faith , literature, art,  and politics  if you don't study them both seperately and together.Greg Hunt made that point very well. You can't progres unless you coalesce
Mark Scott and the Board of the ABC need to ask themselves whether they are part of the education revolution or in need of it .  Their first target for a product  review might be the ageing reactionaries who are becoming fanatical enough to rerun tapes they made 20 years ago , Tapes that to annoy their own former friends,  because those friends , unlike them , have gone ahead and studied the subject more deeply - the philosophical profession and the writing profession.

The evidence on the night was that,  instead of looking like they had a handicap to growth ( "some weird old beliefs") , the majority of Christians and Christian thinkers took a number of study disciplines very seriously  ( and were clearly all over Australia attracting a growing number of unbelieving students to their schools ) .

Before you start a fight,  make sure you are not just punching the air. No need to try and  control the discussion about the truth- it has a habit or breaking out eventually under its own steam.