Tuesday, February 7, 2017

I Think You've Had Entirely Too Much Whine Already So This Is My Final Word For Now

The exemption from considerations of morality granted to themselves by scientists may point out one of the more unfortunate aspects of a specialization in science among English language scientists in the post-war period.  That so many of today's scientists, unlike those of the past, are totally deficient in the disciplines of the parent of science, philosophy and the once queen of the sciences, theology, is obvious.  The list of arrogant, conceited scientists who have mocked and disregarded the need for philosophy now that they've got the golden key to knowledge is long and rather shocking.*

More shocking is that the claim that science can be separated from considerations of morality even of absolute standards of morality such that even philosophy have largely ceded to theology. Considering that the entire enterprise of science relies, absolutely on such morality, the claim is stunningly clueless.

Science, itself, relies absolutely, its status as a reliable method of finding the truth about what it studies, ultimately and completely on the honesty of scientists, on the moral integrity of those credentialed and paid to be scientists.   Science is only as reliable as it is rigorous in enforcing the moral stand that it is a sin to tell a lie and that lies must be rooted out and habitual liars distanced from science or science, itself, fails and its reputation for reliability must, therefore, suffer.   The ultimate reputation of science relies on the moral integrity of its priesthood as much as any religious denomination does.  It, having a later development, has yet to fully suffer the consequences of that failure in so many cases with the body of scientists exacting consequences from those who violate that morality, in so many cases.  Given its structure, it is more likely that religion will be able to punish violators than scientists whose violations are often profitable for equally amoral businessmen, the military and governments.   The likelihood that such violators will be exposed and punished effectively by their colleagues so as to result in a great reformation of science is proving to be not likely at all.

When scientists violate the moral stand NOT CONTAINED IN SCIENCE that they must tell the truth and not lie, they, rightly, bring the entire thing down.  They might rely on the habit of people holding science and scientists in high regard, they might, even more so, rely on the credulous belief of the public, the vast majority of who have to take scientists word for things because even other scientists have to do that** but, eventually, the reputation of science and peoples' belief in it will rightly fail when scientists, themselves, take advantage of the exemption from morality that they have made for themselves.  And if there is one thing that is obvious, the willingness of amoral people with science degrees and holding positions of scientists is at a crisis level of failure now.  You can read the results in Retraction Watch, in blogs and other sites that monitor both the petty failures in honesty and the outright fraud which science contains to an alarming degree now.  The biggest question is if that much of it is discovered and exposed, how much of the rest of it is reliable. Much of that fraud was in place as science, being used and cited by other scientists, taught as science on the undergraduate and high-school levels and distributed through popular science journalism and the adulatory mechanisms of sci-blogs.

Scientists who insist that science has no room or need to consider the morality of what they do find the results of that exemption very comfortable and useful and convenient when someone like me brings this topic up but they are so clueless of the philosophical and moral basis of how science exists at all that they should be the subject of complete skepticism instead of being given the benefit of the doubt on which virtually all public understanding of science ultimately rests.  Only in a few cases are the consequences made uncomfortable for the offender.  If nothing else, the flexible, convenient and ultimately discrediting norms of academic freedom will protect them.   They probably won't lose tenure and may gain emeritus status when they stop publishing and teaching.

* I strongly suspect this is due primarily to the British positivist dictatorship that has held sway in the culture of science for some time now, especially as adopted by scientists around New York, Cambridge Mass. and LA in the pre-war and post-war periods.  It has gotten so bad that atheist philosophers, hankering after the repute of science have been junking the standards of their own field to claim a Darwinian or other sciency authority for their publications.

**  Anticipating your next bottled whine, here's one of the most honest statements ever made about the reality that even scientists must rely on the honesty and rigorous practice of their own colleagues, bolding and underlining are mine.

"Third, it is said that there is no place for an argument from authority in science. The community of science is constantly self-critical, as evidenced by the experience of university colloquia "in which the speaker has hardly gotten 30 seconds into the talk before there are devastating questions and comments from the audience." If Sagan really wants to hear serious disputation about the nature of the universe, he should leave the academic precincts in Ithaca and spend a few minutes in an Orthodox study house in Brooklyn. It is certainly true that within each narrowly defined scientific field there is a constant challenge to new technical claims and to old wisdom. In what my wife calls the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral Syndrome, young scientists on the make will challenge a graybeard, and this adversarial atmosphere for the most part serves the truth. But when scientists transgress the bounds of their own specialty they have no choice but to accept the claims of authority, even though they do not know how solid the grounds of those claims may be. Who am I to believe about quantum physics if not Steven Weinberg, or about the solar system if not Carl Sagan? What worries me is that they may believe what Dawkins and Wilson tell them about evolution."

Richard Lewontin:  Billions and Billions of Demons

He went even farther than that earlier in the essay in exposing the extent to which even the most eminent of science professionals have to take things on faith within their own field.

"First, no one can know and understand everything. Even individual scientists are ignorant about most of the body of scientific knowledge, and it is not simply that biologists do not understand quantum mechanics. If I were to ask my colleagues in the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard to explain the evolutionary importance of RNA editing in trypanosomes, they would be just as mystified by the question as the typical well-educated reader of this review."

Update:  Now you're claiming what you've been claiming isn't an article of faith among the scientistic, materialist atheists, especially of the English speaking peoples.  I had one of you whining at me when I pointed out that not only not much is understandable through reductionist practices such as work, to a very limited extent in physics and chemistry, but even that methodology doesn't go far.  

I've pointed to this quote on the rapid decrease in effectiveness of the reductionist method par excellence as admitted by some eminent scientists such as the French mathematician René Thom.

The excellent beginning made by quantum mechanics with the hydrogen atom peters out slowly in the sands of approximations in as much as we move toward more complex situations…. This decline in the efficiency of mathematical algorithms accelerates when we go into chemistry.   The interactions between two molecules of any degree of complexity evades precise mathematical description … In biology, if we make exceptions of the theory of population and of formal genetics, the use of mathematics is confined to modeling a few local situations (transmission of nerve impulses, blood flow in the arteries, etc.)  of slight theoretical interest and limited practical value… The relatively rapid degeneration of the possible use of mathematics when one moves from physics to biology is certainly known among specialists, but there is a reluctance to reveal it to the public at large … The feeling of security given by the reductionist approach is in fact illusory. 

It is exactly that claim made far past the point where it can actually be effectively used in the biological sciences, even the merely physical part of those, nevermind in the far more attenuated alleged science dealing with unseeable mental processes and the impossibility of the rigorous observation, description and quantification of "behaviors".   When it is proposed to do that in the unrecorded past, the claim reaches its ultimate absurdity.   And with that failure, the dishonesty of those claiming to apply reductionistic methods and finding truth rises, perhaps even exponentially, though that magnitude can't be honestly measured.  We can have some faith that it would be a very large number if that were possible.

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