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Author Topic:   Stephen Jay Gould: The Hedgehog, the Fox, and the Magisterís Pox
ringo
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Posts: 13718
From: frozen wasteland
Joined: 03-23-2005
Member Rating: 1.7


(1)
Message 16 of 92 (759601)
06-13-2015 12:18 PM
Reply to: Message 8 by Faith
06-13-2015 10:53 AM


Re: Science, Humanism and Spirituality
Faith writes:

... I resented scientific reductionism with its unbelievable arrogance in reducing us and our amazing abilities and our complicated history to the lowest materialist ponderings of the ********* / stooppidest scientist out there.


It's funny how you equate humility about our "amazing abilities" to arrogance.
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nwr
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Posts: 5537
From: Geneva, Illinois
Joined: 08-08-2005
Member Rating: 4.3


Message 17 of 92 (759603)
06-13-2015 12:28 PM
Reply to: Message 10 by mikechell
06-13-2015 11:29 AM


Artificial Intelligence is coming ... maybe not in our lifetime, but it's coming.

We are exactly half way there. The "artificial" part is working perfectly. The intelligence part -- not so much.

Fundamentalism - the anti-American, anti-Christian branch of American Christianity

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Tangle
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Posts: 5098
From: UK
Joined: 10-07-2011
Member Rating: 2.1


Message 18 of 92 (759605)
06-13-2015 12:45 PM
Reply to: Message 7 by MrHambre
06-13-2015 10:36 AM


MrH writes:

Gould takes issue with the way Wilson defines a reductionist approach as "solving" matters by breaking them down into their constituent elements. Even in science, emergent properties can't be explained using this approach: defining water as H2O tells us nothing about the property of liquidity, because it's not contained in the constituent atoms. So a reductionist approach is going to be useful in some sense, but the notion that it's sufficient for explaining complex human cultural phenomena is simply not true.

Well yes....I understand the point that you're making but that's a very misleading way of describing how a scientist might approach the problem of explaining the properties of water. In practice he's use multiple methods, including looking at its molecular make-up and comparing it to other fluids.

Scientists trying to understand human experience would - and do - take multi-disciplinary and multi-method approaches and try to piece things together. How far that will get neither us can say, but to claim that science can never do it, is itself, unscientific.

I fully share your skepticism about the ultimate worth of such an approach. However, I wonder whether there's not an equal amount of hubris in the view that Scientific Man will not only tame time and space and decode the universe, but also solve existential questions about the meaning of existence with the tools of empirical inquiry.

I don't see why we can just assume that we can crack the lot either. - it seems a montrous hubris. But we are barely out of the cradle as far as scientific and social development goes. We've only had science proper for a few hundred years and for most of that we needed steam. We only unscambled our DNA a couple of years ago

I certainly don't feel that human beings are "special" in that they're separate from the biosphere or blessed; but we're unique in the sense that we've developed an understanding of our place in the universe and our responsibility to each other and the rest of life on Earth.

I think the real point is that life itself is special - seemingly rare. Being able to fly is damn special too, as it breathing under water. Picking consciousness out as specially, special is very human. (But I agree, it seemingly is.)

I don't see this specialness as necessarily being impregnable to scientific enquiry though. And I wouldn't reduce scientific enquiry to a reductionist accusation of reductionism. If you get me.

Edited by Tangle, : No reason given.


Je suis Charlie. Je suis Ahmed. Je suis Juif.

Life, don't talk to me about life - Marvin the Paranoid Android

"Science adjusts it's views based on what's observed.
Faith is the denial of observation so that Belief can be preserved."
- Tim Minchin, in his beat poem, Storm.


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mikechell
Inactive Member


Message 19 of 92 (759641)
06-13-2015 10:56 PM
Reply to: Message 15 by MrHambre
06-13-2015 12:00 PM


Science will, if we live up to our meaning and potential, be able to tell us everything that we are.

You're a true man of faith.


That's almost an insult. I'll take it as a joke.

ABE: Let's not make science sound like something it isn't (namely religion). It's a tool humans developed to understand natural phenomena through empirical testing. It's not supposed to tell us the meaning of life.

Maybe it's not supposed to, but it already has. The purpose of life is to continue the species. We are just another animal on this planet of life. There's nothing more "important" about us than that.

newbie question ... I've seen "ABE:" written before a comment before. What does it mean?


evidence over faith ... observation over theory

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Coyote
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Posts: 6012
Joined: 01-12-2008
Member Rating: 2.4


Message 20 of 92 (759642)
06-13-2015 10:59 PM
Reply to: Message 19 by mikechell
06-13-2015 10:56 PM


ABE = Added by edit
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MrHambre
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Posts: 1494
From: Framingham, MA, USA
Joined: 06-23-2003


Message 21 of 92 (759643)
06-13-2015 11:20 PM
Reply to: Message 18 by Tangle
06-13-2015 12:45 PM


Tangle writes:

that's a very misleading way of describing how a scientist might approach the problem of explaining the properties of water. In practice he's use multiple methods, including looking at its molecular make-up and comparing it to other fluids.


Fine. The only approach Gould is criticizing is the reductionist approach.

Scientists trying to understand human experience would - and do - take multi-disciplinary and multi-method approaches and try to piece things together.

Except when they don't. Yale professor David Gelertner criticizes neuroscientists for sticking to the mechanistic analogy of brain-as-biological-computer long after it has outlived its usefulness. Machine fantasies might be preferable to religious ones, but are they getting us any closer to the truth about consciousness?

But we are barely out of the cradle as far as scientific and social development goes. We've only had science proper for a few hundred years and for most of that we needed steam. We only unscrambled our DNA a couple of years ago.

And scientific endeavor has become the domain of an elite who are beholden to corporate largesse rather than motivated by a commitment to the truth. It's no wonder that science defines us as gene machines and cosmically irrelevant pollution. That's exactly the way our corporate overlords would like us to think of ourselves, as nothing more than docile consumers and obedient employees.

Picking consciousness out as specially, special is very human.
Fair enough. But it's something that science has struggled with modeling, and it represents a substantial shortcoming in reductionist methodology. As Gelertner explains:
quote:
Your subjective, conscious experience is just as real as the tree outside your window or the photons striking your retinaóeven though you alone feel it. Many philosophers and scientists today tend to dismiss the subjective and focus wholly on an objective, third-person realityóa reality that would be just the same if men had no minds. They treat subjective reality as a footnote, or they ignore it, or they announce that, actually, it doesnít even exist.

I think philosopher Thomas Nagel's work The View From Nowhere is a very important response to this question.

I don't see this specialness as necessarily being impregnable to scientific enquiry though. And I wouldn't reduce scientific enquiry to a reductionist accusation of reductionism. If you get me.

Again, I don't want to make it seem like I don't think scientific inquiry can be of any value here. It's just that I don't think questions of value, meaning, and agency are scientific matters. And I think the burden of proof is on the science cheerleaders to describe what benefit science can be to our understanding of them.
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MrHambre
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Posts: 1494
From: Framingham, MA, USA
Joined: 06-23-2003


Message 22 of 92 (759644)
06-13-2015 11:30 PM
Reply to: Message 19 by mikechell
06-13-2015 10:56 PM


mikechell writes:

The purpose of life is to continue the species. We are just another animal on this planet of life. There's nothing more "important" about us than that.


Once again, I wonder why we're supposed to believe that science is equipped to describe the human condition in any more ennobling terms than this.

If you say science tells us we're just gene machines, then I submit that you're expecting science ---a useful tool in many areas--- to validate your prejudices about human potential.


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nwr
Member
Posts: 5537
From: Geneva, Illinois
Joined: 08-08-2005
Member Rating: 4.3


Message 23 of 92 (759645)
06-13-2015 11:35 PM
Reply to: Message 21 by MrHambre
06-13-2015 11:20 PM


Except when they don't. Yale professor David Gelertner criticizes neuroscientists for sticking to the mechanistic analogy of brain-as-biological-computer long after it has outlived its usefulness.

If you look, I'm sure you can find many web pages that shred Gelernter's ridiculous rant.

Fundamentalism - the anti-American, anti-Christian branch of American Christianity

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MrHambre
Member
Posts: 1494
From: Framingham, MA, USA
Joined: 06-23-2003


Message 24 of 92 (759647)
06-13-2015 11:44 PM
Reply to: Message 23 by nwr
06-13-2015 11:35 PM


nwr writes:

If you look, I'm sure you can find many web pages that shred Gelernter's ridiculous rant.


Yeah, but none that tell me anything more cogent than that Gelertner put science in a bad light for not living up to its ideals of open-mindedness and radical skepticism.

Just out of curiosity, what do you think is so "ridiculous" about Gelertner's ideas?


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mikechell
Inactive Member


Message 25 of 92 (759648)
06-13-2015 11:54 PM
Reply to: Message 22 by MrHambre
06-13-2015 11:30 PM


Once again, I wonder why we're supposed to believe that science is equipped to describe the human condition in any more ennobling terms than this.

You're not! Because it can't. Because we aren't "noble". That's just what religion is all about. Some way for humans to "feel" they are more than just another one of evolution's creatures.
If you say science tells us we're just gene machines, then I submit that you're expecting science ---a useful tool in many areas--- to validate your prejudices about human potential.[/qs]
I don't expect science to validate anything. I am always pleased when science reveals another truth. Or develops another item that makes our lives better. But I don't expect it to "reveal" any "truths" about humans. Since I am not seeking a "reason" for my existence, I don't need science to tell me there isn't one. Only those afraid to face that truth, need a god to make them feel important.

My loyalty is to my fellow human, not to some imaginary god.

Edited by mikechell, : No reason given.


evidence over faith ... observation over theory

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nwr
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Posts: 5537
From: Geneva, Illinois
Joined: 08-08-2005
Member Rating: 4.3


Message 26 of 92 (759650)
06-14-2015 1:05 AM
Reply to: Message 24 by MrHambre
06-13-2015 11:44 PM


Just out of curiosity, what do you think is so "ridiculous" about Gelertner's ideas?

Just to pick an example, Gelerter wrote:
quote:
That science should face crises in the early 21st century is inevitable. Power corrupts, and science today is the Catholic Church around the start of the 16th century: used to having its own way and dealing with heretics by excommunication, not argument.

Gelernter is himself a scientist. He ought to know how little power science actually has.


Fundamentalism - the anti-American, anti-Christian branch of American Christianity

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Tangle
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Posts: 5098
From: UK
Joined: 10-07-2011
Member Rating: 2.1


Message 27 of 92 (759660)
06-14-2015 4:58 AM
Reply to: Message 21 by MrHambre
06-13-2015 11:20 PM


MrH writes:

The only approach Gould is criticizing is the reductionist approach.

I doubt many would disagree. But it's a necessary first step in trying to understand something - pull it apart and see what it's made of.

Except when they don't. Yale professor David Gelertner criticizes neuroscientists for sticking to the mechanistic analogy of brain-as-biological-computer long after it has outlived its usefulness. Machine fantasies might be preferable to religious ones, but are they getting us any closer to the truth about consciousness?

But neuroscience knows diddly-squat so far. You start with what you know and then branch out - the machine analogy is partially successful, but it gets discarded when it outlives its usefulness. That's just science and it's inevitable that some will hang on to their pet theories longer than they probably should. I don't see it as anything worth shouting about - it happens in every field of science.

And scientific endeavor has become the domain of an elite who are beholden to corporate largesse rather than motivated by a commitment to the truth. It's no wonder that science defines us as gene machines and cosmically irrelevant pollution. That's exactly the way our corporate overlords would like us to think of ourselves, as nothing more than docile consumers and obedient employees.

Oh dear now we're into conspiracy territory. Science has always been an elite field, confined to those with time, money and a brain. It arguably now less elite than its ever been as it happens not just in the heads of the Victorian gentry but also in universities and industry.

Science rightly defines us as gene machines because that's what we are. But it also says we're a product of our environment and upbringing and our genes are not our destiny. It's wrong to pull out one strand of the story and present it as the whole story.

It's just that I don't think questions of value, meaning, and agency are scientific matters.

Well I couldn't disagree more. I think we're perfectly at liberty to see how far we can get in understanding these things and to rule it out on the basis of - what? a belief of specialness? - is unscientific.

Gotta go - may be off-grid for a few days.


Je suis Charlie. Je suis Ahmed. Je suis Juif.

Life, don't talk to me about life - Marvin the Paranoid Android

"Science adjusts it's views based on what's observed.
Faith is the denial of observation so that Belief can be preserved."
- Tim Minchin, in his beat poem, Storm.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 21 by MrHambre, posted 06-13-2015 11:20 PM MrHambre has not yet responded

  
MrHambre
Member
Posts: 1494
From: Framingham, MA, USA
Joined: 06-23-2003


(2)
Message 28 of 92 (759669)
06-14-2015 9:21 AM
Reply to: Message 26 by nwr
06-14-2015 1:05 AM


nwr writes:

Gelernter is himself a scientist. He ought to know how little power science actually has.


I'd say science has a lot more power than you let on. The academic research and industry apparatus of science are staggeringly well-funded. My wife works at MIT, where the humanities are treated with contempt next to those lucrative hard sciences.

And the power science has over our imaginations in this millennium is hard to overestimate. Like Gould says in this book, scientists have been very successful in promulgating the secular mythology that states that science has been mankind's ticket out of ignorance and folly; its vision is free from the prejudices, vested interests, and biases that beset other human endeavors; and anyone who says there's anything unrealistic about the way we idealize science must be a religious nut or a crackpot.

Even in this thread, people talk about science as if it's synonymous with reality, or that it's self-evident that it's the only source of knowledge worth considering. If scientists like Dawkins and Krauss tell us we're nothing but gene machines or cosmic pollution, then dammit, that's all we are. If there were anything unique or meaningful about human existence, the story goes, science would have detected it by now! The audience for this sort of cheerleading has been groomed by a culture where gadgetry is more important than the arts or humanities, and where our view of what constitutes empirical inquiry is de-historicized and philosophically shallow.

I think Gelertner made some very good points in his article. A lot of the messages we get from the science industry are depressingly anti-humanistic. Still Better Than Religion! is a great slogan for people who prefer machine fantasies to religious ones. But those of us who consider ourselves humanists wonder how much difference there really is between the two.


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Replies to this message:
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nwr
Member
Posts: 5537
From: Geneva, Illinois
Joined: 08-08-2005
Member Rating: 4.3


(1)
Message 29 of 92 (759674)
06-14-2015 9:36 AM
Reply to: Message 28 by MrHambre
06-14-2015 9:21 AM


I'd say science has a lot more power than you let on.

Yes, sure. That's why the global warming problem was solved several decades ago. The scientists just used their marvellous power to solve the problem. They could ignore the denialists.

Meantime, back in reality, the only power that scientists have is the power of persuasion when they have good ideas that work. In an era where there is a lot of anti-science and global warming denialism, that power is not very effective.

Oh, and Gelernter is a denialist.


Fundamentalism - the anti-American, anti-Christian branch of American Christianity

This message is a reply to:
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MrHambre
Member
Posts: 1494
From: Framingham, MA, USA
Joined: 06-23-2003


Message 30 of 92 (759678)
06-14-2015 10:07 AM
Reply to: Message 29 by nwr
06-14-2015 9:36 AM


Meantime, back in reality

Since you ignored literally everything I wrote in my response, I'm going to return the favor.


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