On One Hand

August 25, 2005

Science and Morality

Filed under: Uncategorized — ononehand @ 11:20 am
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Science is the process of forfeiting what we want to be true or what we think is true to accept what we observe to be more likely true through a process designed to seek truth in spite of our ever-present biases and preconceptions. Because science functions this way, we are often called to accept facts and ideas we don’t like – but reality exists the way it does whether we acknowledge it or not, and we will be affected by reality the way it is whether we acknowledge it or not. Through our willingness to change our views, we discover obsctacles we didn’t realize we faced, and once we accept them we can begin to cope with reality’s unavoiadable consequences.

Many of us are led by science to make uncomfortable adjustements to our religious views on the age, size, and nature of the material Universe. But when we accept theories like the Big Bang Theory and the Origin of the Species, we find that the ultimate questions (about the purpose of existence) are still up to Faith and we make medical and technological advancements in the meantime. Similarly, many of us are led by science to make the uncomfortable acknowledgement that our behavior, including the fuels we consume, impacts the environment we live in, sometimes dangerously. But through the discovery of unfortunate circumstances like Global Warming and environmental pollution, we can expend a little effort to adjust our behavior now, by cutting back on our use of fossil fuels, and avoid the much greater effort of saving ourselves when the situation has reached a higher state of urgency.

It is vital to build a moral and legal system within and fully acknowledging the discoveries of science, rather than denying reality in order to continue our lifestyles as they are. In a dichotomized society like the United States, we see that some political groups are much more willing to acknowledge science while others live in a dreamworld where the Universe seems to constantly absolutely validate oneself and one’s own irresponsible behavior. This one-sided attention to science gives the initial impression to an observer that science itself has a “bias” toward one political group. However, an “objective” observer will be able to recognize the desired objectivity within science itself, and realize importance of NOT POLITICIZING SCIENCE.

Those involved in science know more than anyone how widely science is misunderstood by most people who analyze it from a political paradigm. Science is independent and functions independently of influence – it is impossible to conduct “biased” or “unbiased” science because science functions under the understanding that bias is always there, and is rooted in testing, observation, review, and re-testing, rather than systemic critique from a political standpoint. Specific facts and figures can be validated yet later falsified through tests containing innacurate auxiliary assumtpions, but the existence of a sexuality-gene or distant planet orbiting a distant star are single-fact hypotheses that haven’t yet been supported by the interconnectedness of widely-accepted grand-Theories like Relativity and Evolution, each fitting into a vast network of interconnected ideas that strongly support each other.

Anyway, back to my point, it is clear that one group of people more strongly supports science than the other. As Liberals and Progressives, we, with an unwaverable base morality of human rights and dignity that all Americans basically share, are willing to adjust our secondary behaviors and political views in acknowledgement of what science calls to our attention. We tend to accept the theory of that states that greenhouse gasses effect global climate, as this has been the case through previous ice ages and warm periods and has been observed to be occuring today, and based on that acknowledgement, we develop a moral opinion that we should release less greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere by consuming less fossil fuel. We accept the discoveries of scientists who specialize in medicine stating that THC can have positive medicinal effects in spite of our attitues toward recreational users, so are generally willing to legalize perscribed medicinal use of marijuana. It is logical that, since Liberals are more likely to accept the findings of science, most scientists are likely to call themselves liberal. It is also logical that, since Liberals are interested in the findings of science, they are willing to fund it, to seek new discoveries that might require us to change our minds about more issues, for the benefit of all. HOWEVER, it is always important that we continuously avoid the politicization of science. As I have said, science functions independently and is then used as foundation for our social morals and opinions. It should never be the other way around – social morals and opinions shouldn’t be the foundation for science. Pesudo-science resulting from a reversed system has spawned arianism, eugenics, social darwinism, the ridiculously bigoted findings of the Family Research Institute, and so-called “Creation Science.”

Science gives us a workable model of the nature of reality, and we build our morals over it. We aren’t obligated to trust everything in science, but if we want to criticize a particular finding, we have to first become scientists, and accept the rules and the process of science. We can’t stand outside science as a whole and claim it has political bias, and we can’t interperet scientific findings selectively for the sake of our political views. Otherwise we come out ignorant, spouting irrelevant facts and critiques, and reason solely to justify irresponsible behavior.

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4 Comments »

  1. you seem a bit frustrated.

    Comment by bradfordneal — August 25, 2005 @ 10:10 pm | Reply

    • I get annoyed that I can’t seem to have scientific conversations with anyone because they always want to interject with politics.

      Comment by ononehand — August 26, 2005 @ 12:05 am | Reply

  2. Read closer, I never said the scientific method circumvents bias. I said that’s what it’s designed to do. Science is a process toward obtaining a model of the Universe that combines and explains all human observations, not a direct route to truth, and science is always improving upon itself, which leaves plenty of room for inaccurate conclusions. That’s why it’s vital that any scientist be willing to change his or her mind in the face of evidence – it’s called an ontological commitment. The larger and more complex the theory, the more individual (and widely disparate) tests have been observed to affirm that theory therefore and the less likely the theory is to be falsified later. Theories are frequently modified, but very, very few are actually falsified.

    Science really only answers “yes” or “no” to questions asked by a scientist, so the types of questions asked can send the observer toward a partial-truth. Also, false auxiliary assumptions can require that testing methods be improved upon. This usually has to do with naiivety from stating out with an incomplete picture, not bias.

    Comment by ononehand — August 26, 2005 @ 12:03 am | Reply

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