Thursday, September 23, 2010

Science is not Omniscience

There are many things that science does not see, and cannot by its nature see. It cannot see beauty, or suffering, or anything which requires a human value judgement. It cannot afford human value judgements. And yet, it is used as a tool to affirm and support human value judgements. This is like getting a set of tools and then deciding on the fitness of human hands by seeing how well they fit the tools.

The problems really arise when men, having created tools like the scientific method, then turn their tools upon themselves. Materialism and naturalism, having spawned such tools, are then investigated by these tools. It leads to paradox; how does the observer avoid seeing what he already knows he will see?

Look at psychological studies. The majority of those used to propound or defend widely debated and circulated views in the last 20 years have been carried out on Americans. It is like saying the brain is purely biological, and the biological American is representative of the human race because we are all human. Yes, this is true, but with caveats: the brain is shaped by environment, and as Americans never tire of telling the rest of the world, America is exceptional and exceptionalist.

The response might be, "Why not look at something more 'hard science', like physics?" Yes, but the harder the science, the less it applies to the mystery of why we should think what we think. The more we break apart the biochemical (or, at a higher level of structure, neurological) basis of thought, the less we find about what the point of it ought to be. If it is all a legacy of survival, then we no longer need artistry and comfort. We no longer need to think about evil, since it is hard to imagine why we would carry any moral responsibility at all.

It boils down to aesthetics. Either there is an aesthetic sense or there isn't. The aesthetic sense would say, "Evil is ugly, it is wrong, it feels bad." Science might say, all these are the chemical stirrings of survival traits. Well, then evil is an artifact, and debating the ideal society and the life of man and the destiny of humanity is about as good as studying metallurgy.

Where is the survival value in this huge overcapacity to debate the 'unnecessary'? We seem to be coming up with value-judgement excuses about why this might be necessary. We have built a huge armillary sphere of science-based arguments about how values arise from evolved processes designed to cope with the environment, and this is projected into a future where computing power allows us to cope with larger-scale and even larger-scale environments. And this, we can calculate, leads to something even more complicated, which will be indistinguishable from God.

It is far easier to think like a child and believe in God. But I don't think adult pride accepts such things. Even when they are in line with the sharpest edge of Ockham's Razor. Science is the tool of our self-justification, when it should just be our most useful tool for the physical and material world. We don't use the screwdriver to justify the hand.

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