Philosophical Musings

August 23, 2007

Science as Attire is as good as it gets

Filed under: religion,science,society — Elad Kehat @ 9:09 am

Eliezer Yudkowsky is worried that “many people, especially in the media, understand science only as a literary genre.” A worthy read.
Hardly surprising though. There’s no reason really to expect people to behave in the scientific age any different than they did in any previous age, i.e. treat science the same way religion used to be treated.
Most people who believe in evolution, do that just as others believe in ID, and in just the same way that some are protestants, some catholics and some Jews. They choose to believe mainly due to social reasons.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to say that science and religion should be treated as equals – science is better simply because in general it’s willing continually test its basic hypotheses and admit mistakes. However, that too is done on the general level, i.e. through culture and over generations, and seldom on the personal – show me more than a few scientists willing to shed off their misconceptions in face of new evidence. Einstein certainly couldn’t.
And regarding the X-Men decidedly unscientific use of mutations, science, and specifically the theory of evolution, is used here as a literary tool just as religion and superstition were used in fairy tales and fantasies of old. The human mind is always looking for an explanation. We aren’t willing to accept fantastic powers and events without one. However, the explanations that we’re willing to accept are surprisingly simple. Apparently most of us don’t require an explanation of the explanation, maybe because that would lead to a chain of “dangerous” questioning that evades any further explanation in the end (god, or the big bang) which could drive you to existentialist musings which inevitably make you feel bad.
Which leads me back to Yudkowsky, and his closing words:
“You had best ask yourself which future experiences your belief prohibits from happening to you.”
Exactly, and most people would rather feel safe than venture to unknown future experiences. We need to separate science as a form of constructive critical thought that can generate an understanding of our world that continuously shatters our previous world views, from science as a social phenomenon, that since the 19th century has ascended to become an attire to don, if you are to be accepted in intelligent society. Most people prefer the latter.

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