Saturday, January 22, 2005

Science and why Stevie Wonder is god

I read R. Mordecai Plaut's "The Scientist as Poet; the Baal Mesorah as Scientist." It is well written, compelling, and, well, not only inaccurate, but logically flawed. Before I get into details, I readily admit that I have not heard of, nor read, of the experts he quotes, whom, he admits, have been in relative obscurity. I have to say that, based on the quotes provided, it is well deserved. My background in science has been mostly doing it, not studying the philosophy behind it.

R. Plaut's argument can be summarized as follows:

1. Science at present does not seek to describe reality as readily observed, it seeks to describe events that can be seen only with instruments and other technology. "Since science is practiced at such a remove from everyday experience, it is clear that understanding our familiar world cannot provide a credible motive for the practice of science as it is now done."

comment: The goal(motive) of science is to explain the world. I don't understand why there needs to be a difference between what is easily observable and what is not easily observable. The motive for science is to explain all observations, readily observable or not. The fact that technology is neccesary to collect observations does not negate them. Understanding our world is a credible motive for the practice of science as it is now done. Here R. Plaut appears to say that explaining subatomic particles, the inner workings of cells, research on a molecular and cellular level, to say nothing of astrophysics, are not a credible motive for the practice of science, since all are done "at a remove from everyday experience."

2. R. Plaut then goes on to say that science must have some other function.


comment: The comment on number one shows that science does not need to have any other motives, so the arguement has already failed. The function of science is to organize and explain the function of the world. However, since R. Plaut has his own definition of what are the motives for science, he can procede with this erroneous assumption.

3. And that function is to ".. achieve .. a psychologically satisfying world view." Furthermore, "this subjective motive has a decidedly unscientific character to it...the motive behind it all is reminiscent of what drives poets and creative writers."

comment: Actually, it is the function of philosphy and sometimes religion to give man a psychologically satisfying world view. Science is concerned with how the world works, bit by bit, part by part. Science is based on data, and proving hypotheses. Here it seems that R. Plaut is trying to redefine science to fit his purposes yet again, transforming science from the rational to the irrational, from data based to figments of the imagination.

4. Next, R. Plaut states that "the material which remains of the efforts of other cultures to answer this need we call myths..(which is).. the attempt to deal with the larger questions that confront.. the authors." Furthermore, he says that modern science and "earlier mythologies" are not directly related to truth, and "there is no reason to think that modern scientific answers are true.

comment: Science, as noted previously, is data based. A proof is accepted in the scientific world if it: explains the known data in a rational fashion, accounts for any lacunae in the data, and predicts correctly other verifiable data. Therefore, there actually is good reason to think that modern scientific answers are true, when they adhere to these concepts. Modern science is directly related to the truth. since science is always ready to accept new evidence and new theories, as more data is added to the knowledge base, the closer one comes to the truth. Here, R. Plaut appears to deny any validity to scientific conclusions, saying that they are "not directly related to the truth."

5. Finally, he says "Science aims..at literary creation. It tries to produce a mythology for modern man." In essence, since science attempts to explain experience, and is not true, and myth attempts to explain experience, and is not true, then science is myth.

comment: lets start with some definitions(taken from the webster online dictionary)

science- : the state of knowing : knowledge as distinguished from ignorance or misunderstanding

2 a : a department of systematized knowledge as an object of study b : something that may be studied or learned like systematized knowledge
3 a : knowledge or a system of knowledge covering general truths or the operation of general laws especially as obtained and tested through scientific method b : such knowledge or such a system of knowledge concerned with the physical world and its phenomena : NATURAL SCIENCE
4 : a system or method reconciling practical ends with scientific laws


myth;
a usually traditional story of ostensibly historical events that serves to unfold part of the world view of a people or explain a practice, belief, or natural phenomenon .


So, the difference is that myth is a story that explains a practice or belief, or natural phenomenon. Science is the system of knowledge covering general truths obtained and tested through scientific method. I guess if you dont want to accept scientific method, or that the world works in an orderly fashion, you might start to believe that science is a myth. However, the logic is still flawed. Just because science and myth share the same characteristic(trying to explain the world) doesn't mean that they are the same. By the same logic, you could say that

Stevie Wonder is blind
love is blind
god is love
Stevie Wonder is god.
QED


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