Shawn Otto: The War on Science

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John F
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Joined: Mon Mar 26, 2007 4:41 am
Location: Brooklyn, NY

Shawn Otto: The War on Science

Post by John F » Wed Aug 31, 2016 1:37 pm

I suppose most of us already know something of what this book is about, though its 500 pages are full of instances that were new to me. Otto writes about a three-front war on science: the ideological war, including fundamentalist religion; the identity politics war, meaning that so-called truth is subjective according to one's political identity group; and the industrial war, which sets profitability ahead of scientific fact and thinking. The first of these is irrational; the second, anti-intellectual; the third, corrupt. If you agree, you may not need to read this book. If not, then maybe you should.

There's a lot of pseudo-science ("scientism") out there masquerading as the real thing. This arose in another CMG thread in which a book by Bryan Appleyard titled "Understanding the Present: Science and the Soul of Modern Man" came up. The Wikipedia article on Appleyard ways, "The book explores his views about 'science's corrosive effect on morality,'" which is a right-wing absurdity. Science is a rational inquiry aimed at discovering the truth about the physical natural world; how can such truth "corrode" morality? It's the other way around, rigid morality and unyielding religious dogma corrode or distort or suppress the scientific pursuit of the truth. Wikipedia continues, "One opposing view is that his views are based on a 'tangle of misunderstandings' about the concept of science.'" That view is excerpted from an extensive discussion by Denis Alexander which can be read here: ... &q&f=false

The discoveries of science are themselves morally neutral, but they can create practical possibilities that raise moral and ethical issues even of life and death. We are now able to prolong the life of a brain-dead patient just about indefinitely, but should we? What moral issues does this raise that humans didn't have to deal with before the age of modern medicine? And who is to pay for it? The discovery of nuclear fission made possible the creation of economical power-generating plants and also the atomic bomb; the decisions to build either had moral aspects that were not weighed seriously at the time but we now take them very seriously indeed.

A scientific discovery can make possible a greater good or a greater evil or both; it's not the science but the humans who exploit it or choose not to that are good or evil. Science can subject us to new temptations which the philosophers and religious prophets of antiquity knew nothing of, besides which they often disagree among themselves. But they have provided us with ways of thinking about moral issues that still apply, if we choose to apply them.
John Francis

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