Ossónoba Philosophical

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Philosopy is the mother of all sciences. Here Stallinga.org describes what is science/philosophy and the deplorable state of science in the world

A.F. Chalmers wrote a wonderful book entitled "What is this thing called science?", a title we would like to use here as well. Because, after all, what is this thing called science? It has become more and more obvious that people have no inkling anymore about what science is and what it isn't. Mostly people think that if you are intelligent (had high marks at school) and study something with state-of-the-art equipment or methods, than this classifies you as a scientist.

But it isn't. That isn't (necessarily) science.

Even worse, society itself starts defining the science in that way. Does anybody still see the difference between 'science' and 'technology'? Between a PhD and an engineering degree? Does anybody still care? Why should you care? Probably you don't mind the idea of a 'rocket scientist' as the summum of intelligence, even while nearly all rocket scientists were rocket engineers instead; They developed and used technology to put a man on the moon.

It gets even worse. Most universities join the game and attribute PhD degrees to students of their engineering departments. Ignoring the fact that these people receiving a Philosophical Degree never had a single lecture on philosophy in their entire life. It is as if you give a diploma of computer engineering to somebody who learned how to cultivate potatoes, just because computer engineering sounds sexier. That does not make sense.
This does not mean that Philosophy/Science is better (or worse) or more difficult (or easier) than Technology/Engineering, but that it should be very clear that the two are very different indeed. Society will get into trouble if it cannot make a clear distinction.

It gets even worse. Even the most prestigious universities lose the path and start copying the ideas mandated by society. We suspect that this is due to the fact that society ever more requires 'efficiency' from the universities and thus scientific subjects have to be 'useful' for society somehow. Yet, this is the same as demanding that art should be useful. How useful is Mondriaan's Red  Blue and Yellow? How useful is to know that stars go into supernovae? How useful is scaling the channel length in transistors down to 25 nanometer?

The last example was to check if you were not falling asleep. Indeed, the last item was technology again. In fact, one item of science is that it has no (direct) use for society, while the scaling down of transistors seems a very beneficial step indeed.

Yet, even one of the most prestigious universities in the world has succumbed to the fashion of modern times and starts adopting the politically-correct stance on science. Saying for instance that Science is not battling Religion, as stipulated by the United Nations, while the two are, and always have been, clearly in an eternal battle.

Wasn't it Martin Luther who said "Reason is the biggest enemy of faith"? Quite so. A scientist does not 'believe' or 'trust' anything or anybody. Truth is not found by believing in things, nor by repeating the common opinion, or by voting. The latter is often done in society, "The consensus among scientists is ...", etc. The religious stance (Don't study or discuss at all. Believe!), the political stance (The majority decides; by debating I'll make it my majority) and the scientific stance (Search for the verifiable truth, independent of social pressure or financial or political interests). Science is Philosophy, philo-sophia, the love for knowledge. Not philo-pecunia or philo-potentia, or philo-iPhone, the love for money or power or gadgets.

Yet, The University of California at Berkeley, probably by the need to get 'accepted' by society that pays for them, in its description of science[2], writes that science involves a 'feedback' from society that has "Benefits and Outcomes". But, pure science does not have benefits, nor outcomes or goals. Did Galileo think about developing some application when he argued that objects fall equally fast. Did Newton have in mind some device to sell when he developed his Theory of Gravity?
No. Of course not. That would be like the engineer DaVinci. Even Einstein commented, "Anyone who thinks science is trying to make human life easier or more pleasant is utterly mistaken."

Another serious error the author of those pages of Berkeley makes is stating that science needs "Community Analysis and Feedback". Or, in other words, you need to get some form of approval from your scientific colleagues. In other words, colleagues are going to decide on the validity of your ideas. Indeed, this is how science works in 2013. Scientists have to be part of a social network to get their ideas accepted. Popularity is thus more important than correctness. To get your paper accepted, you have to do a lot of diplomacy, and actually, this is more important than the scientific part.

Yet, history has shown that all major scientific breakthroughs came against the then generally accepted ideas. Social networks tend to only repeat what is already 'known' and makes science into a political popularity "truth by ballot" system.
That, while all science breakthroughs were done by 'loners'.

Yet, the biggest error the authors make is trying to placate the religious sentiments in our society. They write that it is a misconception that science contradicts the existence of God[1]. Yet, science does contradict the existence of God.
The logic behind it is quite simple and has three simple steps:

1) According to scientific method, the best model is the one that explains things with the minimum number of ingredients (William of Ockam*). If something is not needed to explain the world, then remove it from the model. God is not needed to explain the world, so God does not exist.
Also, Einstein: "The aim of science is, on the one hand, as complete a comprehension as possible of the connection between perceptible experiences in their totality, and, on the other hand, the achievement of this aim by employing a minimum of primary concepts and relations."
2) If a god is needed to explain a creation of a system as complex as our universe, if a creator is needed, then the unavoidable question is: Who created the Creator? (If the answer is "has always existed", then this can also be true for the universe and we revert to observation (1)) [age-old discussion of the Unmovable Mover]
3) Goedel has mathematically shown that no system can be self-complete. This is a mathematical proof/equivalent of (2). There are a lot of people that think that Darwin's theory goes against religion, but it doesn't. God might have created evolution. However, Goedel's ideas do go against religion, since God cannot include Himself. "Can God create a stone so heavy it cannot lift Himself?"

Science is pure and only assumes things that are consistent with measurements (reality) and that are necessary to explain reality. Sometimes it is suggested that, in the scientific method, something is correct until proven wrong. Ergo, since science cannot proof the non-existence of a god, the model of an existing god is correct and thus God exists.

That is not how it works. We could for instance also say that the back of the moon is green, and since you have no proof to the contrary, our idea is correct until you prove us wrong. That is not how it works! We start with a simpler model, that the back of the moon is the same color as the front that we can easily see and measure, until some piece of evidence/data forces us to think otherwise.

Now apply this to the concept of a god. Do we need a god to explain the world? No. Therefore there is no god in a scientific point of view. Until you find some piece of evidence for it. Just like the back of the moon is the same color as the front of the moon until it is shown that the universe is more complicated and has a two-color moon.

Well, people can still believe in a god (that is a human right), but they can't hide behind science. There also is no obligation to adhere to the scientific method, everybody can decide to think otherwise and not be a scientist, just as we can decide to be not a member of religion X. Somebody can be religious and still be a great and intelligent investigator/researcher, for instance working in technology, and even disagree with the above, but cannot deny that science is for the moment contradicting the existence of a god. That would namely imply saying that "science is a great tool, but only for things that fall outside the set of things I believe in", as if you can be a part-time scientist or that there are things you are not allowed to discuss.

You can be agnostic and a scientist. No problem. Actually being open minded is the best, because it happens too often that people are sticking to their model (beliefs) in spite of evidence. ("Trust your model; facts can be disposed of"). Yet, open minded is not the same as assuming true everything that you cannot prove wrong.
Believing there is no god is just as silly as believing there is one.

This point of view, obviously, will not fall well in a society that wants to please everybody, and demands politically-correct tolerance for all ideas (except, of course, the idea of intolerance; showing Goedel right yet again). Entities making such statements as presented here will be cut off funding. Well, if that is the case, ... so be it. All for the love of knowledge! Philo-sophia.

[1] http://undsci.berkeley.edu/teaching/misconceptions.php#c1
[2] http://undsci.berkeley.edu/article/0_0_0/howscienceworks_02

For more information, contact me at The University of The Algarve,

Prof. Peter Stallinga