Quote of the Day: Scientific Knowledge

 

“It is a profound and necessary truth that the deep things in science are not found because they are useful; they are found because it was possible to find them.”  J. Robert Oppenheimer, opening quote of Richard Rhodes The Making of the Atomic Bomb

Science is a profoundly amoral exercise. Scientific merit has nothing fundamentally to do with morality. Basic research is driven primarily by what can be done, not what should be done. This has largely always been the case. Even in the modern world, the fundamental questions are decided less by patronage or granting agencies or moral concerns, since no one knows the full application yet. Some people might be researching something revolutionary right now, while people mock their work for being impossible.

It is something to keep in mind when people treat science as a religion or magic wand to wave around — “I Freaking Love Science,” etc. Science tells you how, it does not tell you why.

On the other hand, applied science is much more under control of whoever is doling out patronage. If you provide ample funding for research that supports your view, it should not surprise you that research will be done according to your desires. Climate science is especially notable for being driven by politically desirable results. The only solution to global cooling or global warming or whatever is letting government have all the power. Similarly, we are being told that science says sex and gender are completely unrelated, despite the massive correlation that we observe — well over 90 percent of XYs identify as male and show predominantly male characteristics. Same for XXs being women. This is an easy conclusion, but people press away from it.

In essence, the best science can aim for is to be an amoral quest for knowledge, but that is quite worthwhile. It brings to mind one of Oppenheimer’s other quotes:

“Science may not be everything, but science is quite beautiful.”

Published in Science & Technology
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  1. OmegaPaladin Moderator
    OmegaPaladin
    @OmegaPaladin

    This quote was suggested by my father.  I needed to get this out the door quickly as I will be traveling to three states today. (I really miss the ability to schedule posts to post later, which I have on other sites.)


    You too can submit a Quote of the Day post, the easiest way to start a fun conversation. We have many open dates on the January Schedule to choose. If you’re not busy between Christmas and New Year’s, write a post and hold it for your date. We’ve even include tips for finding great quotes, so choose your favorite quote and sign up today!

    • #1
  2. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    If the folks who are worshiping science as their false idol only understood science.

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  3. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    I entertain myself on occasion by bullyragging the radical materialists with the concept that they may not have morality until they have developed and demonstrated a morality meter.

    “Good” and “evil” lie outside the problem space. That’s okay, as long as it is acknowledged. 

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  4. I Walton Member
    I Walton
    @IWalton

    Neither do ethicists, political folks, moralists, philosophers,  or anybody nor much of anything produced knowingly by man.   Isn’t that the whole point of Genesis?

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  5. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    I Walton (View Comment):

    Neither do ethicists, political folks, moralists, philosophers, or anybody nor much of anything produced knowingly by man. Isn’t that the whole point of Genesis?

    It’s the whole point of Job 38.

    (My favorite book for when I get uppity.)

    • #5
  6. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    Percival (View Comment):
    I entertain myself on occasion by bullyragging the radical materialists with the concept that they may not have morality until they have developed and demonstrated a morality meter.

    I understand the China government is developing such a meter. 

    • #6
  7. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    Percival (View Comment):
    I entertain myself on occasion by bullyragging the radical materialists with the concept that they may not have morality until they have developed and demonstrated a morality meter.

    I understand the China government is developing such a meter.

    For government specified “virtue.”

    It seems to me that the classless society folks are in the process of artificially introducing a class division. It will be interesting to see how that works out.

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  8. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Percival (View Comment):

    It’s the whole point of Job 38.

    (My favorite book for when I get uppity.)

    Must be time to read it again. 😈

    • #8
  9. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    The inherent problem in the march of scientific discoveries is that the scientists often get way ahead of the ethicists. The scientists are single-minded and focused on their microscopes and telescopes. The ethicists are not so focused. Their gaze is scattered over a very wide area.

    The greatest symbol for our age in which we have made so much progress in science and so little progress in ethics is the warehouse of frozen embryos being stored in the United States. In 2009 there were an estimated 400,000 frozen embryos.  Scanning the articles returned in a Google search for the current number, it appears that there are probably close to a million today.

    That warehouse full of embryos represents our hopes and fears, our accomplishments and failures.

    The warehouse inventory grew the way all problems grow–good intentions along with a dose of “let’s worry about that tomorrow.” What do we do now with these embryos?

    President George W. Bush once hosted a “party” for the Snowflake children. GW was trying to make the point that some of the embryos can help childless couples have children.

    Other than that, I have no idea as to what to do now with the embryos left over from in vitro fertilization procedures.

    But western civilization needs to get serious about facing the ethical dilemmas brought on by science and business working together. I think I’m seeing another crisis on the horizon–the gathering of the world’s genetic material. I am worried about this. I can think of a lot of ways this newest craze could end very badly.

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  10. Western Chauvinist Member
    Western Chauvinist
    @WesternChauvinist

    OmegaPaladin: “Science may not be everything, but discovering God’s creation science is quite beautiful.”

    Science is just a tool. It’s the truths it reveals and the endeavors it makes possible that are inspiring to the human mind.

    One of the first steps I took back to the faith was a transcendent moment I had after solving a multi-page mathematical proof. It was a rush of consciousness of connected human thoughts going back to the beginning of humanity — like having your life flash before you, except it included all cognition ever, not just mine at the moment. It occurred to me maybe Einstein once trod the same mental path! The moment gave me pause to consider maybe we were all connected by something (Someone) greater than ourselves.

    It didn’t last and still took me ten or more years and events to finally give in, but it opened me up to the possibility.

    I like Bishop Barron’s description of faith as being “at the far edge of reason.” It’s not unreasonable. It’s reason plus.

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  11. Doug Watt Moderator
    Doug Watt
    @DougWatt

    Just a minor quibble. Animals are amoral. They act upon instinct. Human beings make immoral or moral decisions. Human beings are capable of rationalizations, or reasoned decisions.

    Cats do not kill for fun, instincts drive them to hunt. Movement, and size trigger the instinct to hunt, something they have no control over. Dogs may understand that you are displeased with their actions, but they don’t know why you are displeased.

    A scientist may rationalize the production of a hydrogen bomb, or Zyklon-B, but they rationalize away their use by placing the blame on philosophers. Philosophers rationalize away their use, and encourage scientists to keep researching more efficient weapons.

    • #11
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