Archives for posts with tag: science

Of course, the only reasonable way to measure science would be scientifically; that is to say, objectively. So how do we measure science scientifically? Well, by subtracting all value, science could only be measured quantitatively. We know x about the universe, we know how to do y, and we know how z happens, and we add those up and that is the measure of science. Science is really just a series of notches on humanity’s belt. Unfortunately for science, even this measure is flawed because scientific data tends to be paradigmatic and something we learned today could very well be considered false tomorrow. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing as recognizing science’s fallibility is often celebrate by the scientifically minded, but since valuing fallibility is a value, it can’t be taken into account by our measure of science and must be discarded. The scientific measure of science ends up being mostly disappointing.

Luckily, we don’t measure science scientifically. I don’t think many people would equate the invention of the printing press with the invention of the slinky, as a quantitative approach would mandate. Collectively, we tend to value the spread of information more than we do the warped physics of spirals and staircases. We value penicillin because we happen to enjoy being alive. We value the observation of space because we tend to be a very curious species about the universe surrounding us. We value sliced bread because doing the slicing ourselves is always just such a mess. We aren’t looking for the cure for cancer because we think it would be a neat little factoid, we are looking for a cure for cancer because we value not dying from cancer. Obviously each person’s values will be different and people will value some scientific discoveries higher than others, that is just the subjective nature of individuality. In the end though, we measure science by our cultural values, and then somewhat ironically celebrate science for abstaining from participating in those same cultural values. So it’s a curiosity to me that we tend to ignore the measure of the process with which we measure everything else.

Today we live in something that I heard one time and loved: the Christian hangover. What this means is that Christianity in the West was kind of a big deal right up until God died, and then we mostly forgot about it. However, parts of it carried on and we’re using a bit of the hair of the dog to tide us over. What this means for our value system is that the old Christian values still remain without any of the God backing them up. We still consider murder and stealing bad, for example, but the reason nobody questions why is because we still assume the absolutist nature of morality that is associated with Christian belief, even though the ‘why’ is gone.

So why is murdering somebody a bad thing? Maybe people get as far as that we shouldn’t harm others, but then you have to ask further questions like, what constitutes harm? and WHY shouldn’t we harm others? Do we adopt the social contract model where I won’t harm you so you don’t harm me? Do we consider this self-interested approach a valid basis for morality?

Unfortunately, by not asking these questions, or by tacitly ignoring those who do, our baser nature has seeped into our cultural values and infected them. We celebrate greed and selfishness by declaring the ultimate goal of individuals in society to be succeeding financially at any cost. We’re taught not to go into the arts, but into something that will get us a job. To compete with our peers rather than cooperate with them. Our science reflects these values and most scientific development centres around product enhancement and resource extraction, or ultimately just something to eventually sell. We sacrifice our passions so that we can live according to values begotten by an amnesia of how we got to this point in the first place.

I don’t mean to suggest that during the Christian era there was a mightier moral fibre, but that there was a guideline (created by a grassroots organization, mind you) against which things could be effectively measured. Today, with that guideline gone, we’ve essentially allowed the dominant power group to define the new set of guidelines against which everything is to be measured. Unfortunately, we are too blinded by our scientific mindset which alienates moral questioning with its dismissal of values to efficiently retaliate for a more effective cultural value system.

I don’t plan on proselytizing my own value system to replace the current one (in this blog, anyway), I merely want to illuminate what I perceive to be a fatal flaw in the scientific worldview: namely its avoidance of values and the consequences that follow from that.

I don’t mean the end of the world as in a form of an environmental or man-made Armageddon, either through global warming eliminating the human race, or an asteroid obliterating the planet, or a series of massive volcanic eruptions making Earth unlivable. I mean the final stage of our planet, as in our sun dying, rendering any kind of life on Earth impossible. Or incinerating the planet, I can’t remember which is the case, but the idea is the same.

There are two scenarios that can come to pass if humanity has miraculously managed to last that long: either we have developed scientifically to the point that we are spread out among the stars and mankind survives, or we have not, and we die with our planet. There isn’t really a third option.

The majority of people look at this as the obvious need for scientific progress, as they believe that the continuation of our species is the preferred option. Humans as individuals cannot live forever, but we can, as a species, expand for an eternity if we make science and reason the focal point of our development. Human beings have achieved great things in the past, and it is not unlikely that we could continue to achieve them into the future if we maintain our path of rational enlightenment.

Let’s look at some of the progress we’ve already achieved. Has any of it come about without some atrocity or another? The achievements of the past, like the pyramids, the cathedrals of Europe, the Taj Mahal: these wonders of engineering that tourists of today clamor around in order to take kitschy photographs of themselves next to were all built by slaves. If you throw enough human suffering and death at something, you can create anything. These things we look at as great achievements are often created for the most superficial of reasons. The pyramids are the self-aggrandizing tombs of the rulers of the land who considered themselves gods, and felt they deserved to be treated as such in death. The Taj Mahal is a tomb for the Shah’s favourite wife. The cathedrals are testaments, not to the glory of God, but to the glory of His representatives on Earth. All these achievements, from all that suffering, for vanity.

But what about the scientific progress that leads to the improvement of society? The industrial revolution and the advent of the machine promised to reduce our workload to almost nothing, increasing both the leisure and overall health and happiness of humans across the globe. In reality, however, the industrial revolution lead to inhumane working conditions, class stratification, and the destruction of the environment.

Even today, our computing systems would be impossible without the continuation of the horrific working conditions now hidden from view in third world countries, and the polluting effects of mining the necessary toxic heavy metals, and the waste that comes with the inevitable obseletion of the electronic device, and its subsequent trip to the landfill.

If this trend continues, and we are lucky enough to survive and surpass the destruction of the earth, we would be barbaric conquerors of the universe. Pillaging each planet we came across, either oblivious or apathetic to the carnage that would follow in our wake. And for what? To what purpose do we continue to progress towards infinite expansion across the stars? Do we simply desire immortality? Are we really only Pharaohs, wishing to be gods, uncaring about the suffering it requires to get us there? Do we want to live forever simply out of vanity? What meaning is there to immortality?

Look at the life of an individual. Do we want to be the person who, in their ambition, crushes those on his way to the top, who cares not for the world around him as he blindly revels in his wealth, his achievements? What are the regrets most people have on their death bed? An article from the Huffington Post lists the top five, and the running theme is wishing that there had been more time for a truer connection with oneself and with others. The meaning of life is revealed by those who are about to lose it, and the life lived with meaning, with connection, is the one worth living, not the one dedicated to progress or ambition.

As a species, who do we want to be? Which is the preferred end of the world scenario? Do we want to be the heartless conquerors, who subjugate the universe with the hubris of our imagined divinity, or do we want to be the species that dies with our planet, content that we lived with meaning, and have accepted our fate as mortals? I would rather die with a smile on my face, knowing I had lived and loved to the best of my ability, and I would prefer the same life and death for our species as well.

I am not suggesting that the two are mutually exclusive. It is not impossible for us to achieve peace on Earth without abandoning our dreams of a scientific utopia. However, our culture is still incapable of extricating the avarice, aggression, and dominance that has so far accompanied scientific progress, and trying to fix that problem with only more scientific progress is a self-defeating process. To achieve the best of both worlds, we need to prioritize the world with connection and meaning, because that is the ideal. That is the world, the universe, worth living in.

I know what you’re thinking. Everything is science! When an apple falls from a tree, that’s science. When the morning sun crests over the horizon  welcoming a new day, the earth’s rotation and the sun’s rays refracting through the atmosphere create a beautiful sunrise: that’s science. How can somebody not believe in a sunrise? Well, the sunrise can suck it.

Science was invented when people discovered that perception was flawed. You put a stick in water, and it looks like it bends. Reality has made you look foolish by telling your brain to interpret this straight stick as bendy. Since reality likes to laugh right in our faces at how stupid we are, we invented science in order to wage unholy war against it. But first, we needed to make something up in order to create science, and what we came up with was numbers.

You see, numbers don’t actually exist. There is no evidence of numbers in nature. Numbers are a human construct created in order to understand the universe. There are ten fingers on our hands only because we created the concept of the number ten in order to explain those silly pointy things sticking out of the end part of our arms.

A byproduct of this human creation is time. There are no days; we just live on a spinny orb thingy that occasionally faces something really bright and hot. Matter moves about, decays, and dies, and we came up with this neato little tool called time in order to measure that transformation of matter. However, it’s not actually real, it’s just a thing we came up with to explain why sometimes it’s dark and sometimes it’s light, and why when you throw enough of those dark/light thingies together, eventually you’ll die. I guess we found these explanations soothing.

The most critical aspect of science is measuring things. If there was no measurement, there would be no science. However, all forms of measurement, be they physical or chronological, are human constructions. They’re made up. They’re not real. And since they are our own fictions, the rules that we create for them will work 100% of the time because they exist within their own realm of abstract thought. 2 + 2 = 4 because our concept of the number two, and another of our concept of the number two add up to the abstract concept known as the number four. Pi works for finding out shit about circles because the circle is a mathematical construction created within the realm of numbers; ie. it doesn’t exist. It’s the equivalent of saying that Jesus Christ can be both the God and the son of God at the same time because within the realm of Christianity, those concepts make sense. God + Son of God + Holy Spirit = God. If that doesn’t make sense to you, it’s because you are not approaching it from within the realm of Christianity.

The rules of math work within the realm of math, just as the rules of Christianity work within the realm of Christianity. The mathematician will point to a single rock and say, that is one rock, and the Christian will point to the rock and say that it is a creation of the Lord and it took Him a day to do it. Meanwhile, reality will say it’s just a rock.

Scientists even know this. Any scientific theory, when applied to actual reality rather than safely residing on a piece of thesis, will necessarily have a margin of error. To calculate something perfectly is impossible, due to the fictional nature of our measuring tools, and accommodation must be made for this if a practical use of science is to be implemented.

Think of real life. You can tell a person from Siberia what warmth is, and even if they fully understand how speeding up particles will increase their temperature, they won’t actually understand until they move to literally anywhere else and experience it. Think of meeting a pretty new girl (or boy, I just happen to be a boy so this gendered story works for me). Is liking her a series of complicated chemical reactions in the brain, or is it listening to the same song over and over because it reminds you of her, and waking up each morning and having your first thoughts be of her?

A sunrise isn’t science; science is only the explanation of the sunrise. A sunrise is a sunrise. Explanations are interchangeable. Liking a pretty girl can be explained either by chemical reactions in the brain, or by Eros shooting you with an arrow. Within the paradigm of each, the rules will always make sense. It is life that is constant. It is life that is real.

Post-script: I anticipate (and genuinely hope) that science nerds will get upset over this. I’m not saying that science is a bad explanation. Science is actually a very good explanation. However, it is only an explanation, and my point is that life should take precedence over the explanations for it, because explanations all have inherent flaws within them.