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Elevating Science, Elevating Democracy - Comments

Mango's Avatar Comment 1 by Mango

Is science the most successful human activity? Plant and animal domestication may trump science in terms of enabling cultural development, but perhaps science wins in terms of the scope of its successes.

Tue, 27 Jan 2009 11:06:00 UTC | #313013

AmericanGodless's Avatar Comment 2 by AmericanGodless

HURRAH! It is very rarely you see anyone debunking the big lie that says science can tell us nothing about values (Bronowski did 30 years ago and more, but most people have forgotten, or never heard of him).

The Big Bang doesn't tell us how to live our lives? It tells us that if we want to know whether the universe carries evidence of such a thing, we need to avoid fooling ourselves. Science provides "scant counsel on same-sex marriage?" It does tell us that if we call same-sex relationships "unnatural" then we must fool ourselves into classifying much of what does exist in nature as "unnatural".

We must act in such a way that what is true may come to be known to be true. That is the ethical imperative of science. Lies and self-deception poison both science and democracy.

Tue, 27 Jan 2009 11:20:00 UTC | #313020

SurfDude's Avatar Comment 3 by SurfDude

Jews, Catholics, Muslims, atheists, Buddhists and Hindus have all been working side by side building the Large Hadron Collider and its detectors these last few years.


I doubt if any of the designers of the LHC are anything but atheists or at worst, pantheists.

Tue, 27 Jan 2009 11:23:00 UTC | #313022

Ai Deng's Avatar Comment 4 by Ai Deng

Strange, I was previously oblivious to any opposition to evolution or the Big Bang in China. I can see abortion and global warming as being sensitive topics, given the approximate population of 3 billion and existing energy producing infrastructure (largely coal).

In the time I have spent in China, I have never heard any dissent toward evolution (jin-hua-lun). While in Beijing, I read part of a Chinese magazine that discussed it, and it didn't down it from what I could tell. In my opinion, if this was the case in the past, it certainly isn't that way today. I'm gonna ask around for clarification though.

By the way, if anyone is interested to know, the primary Chinese word for China is Zhong-guo, which literally means Middle Kingdom. I have been told this is consistent with their historical cultural belief that they were located at the center of the Universe.

Tue, 27 Jan 2009 11:32:00 UTC | #313028

Deevolved's Avatar Comment 5 by Deevolved

Science's role in our society should not be about "what" to think, but "how" to think. I will tell my children that I don't care if they believe in the big bang, evolution, gravity, ect...but I do care HOW they came to their conclusion.

If we can teach young kids how to THINK scientifically, the rest will take care of itself. It's very hard (although not impossible) to think like a scientist AND fly a plane into a building in the name of allah. It's very hard to think scientifically and kill someone because they are gay, black, christian, ect.

In my opinion, there is something about the process of analytical thinking that make you a better person; as opposed to coming to conclusions based on faith or religion, which we all know can lead to violent, hurtful, and destructive actions.

Tue, 27 Jan 2009 11:57:00 UTC | #313043

Dhamma's Avatar Comment 6 by Dhamma

Ai Deng,

Three billion people? Where? Not in China.

Tue, 27 Jan 2009 12:01:00 UTC | #313044

ina.j's Avatar Comment 7 by ina.j

on the topic of Obama and science - guys, you should really watch colbertnation.com January 26th episode. In a second part a book on the subject 'Republicans against science' is presented. On the fourth, a ... I won't bother to comment.

This is an American comedy show on which prof. Dawkins has performed so briliantly once.

Tue, 27 Jan 2009 12:10:00 UTC | #313049

BigJohn's Avatar Comment 8 by BigJohn

I am going to withhold celebrating any proclamation from a politician. I can only hope. We shall see what happens.

Tue, 27 Jan 2009 12:51:00 UTC | #313076

Ai Deng's Avatar Comment 9 by Ai Deng

Dhamma,

You know that is strange, I have always known the population to be 3 billion, or 10 times the United States. Apparently I am wrong, it is less than that. 1.33 billion according to the CIA.

Tue, 27 Jan 2009 12:55:00 UTC | #313080

Needscowbell's Avatar Comment 10 by Needscowbell

This is refreshing. It will be nice to have science taken seriously by the oval office again.

Tue, 27 Jan 2009 12:56:00 UTC | #313081

NewEnglandBob's Avatar Comment 11 by NewEnglandBob

This is a good article, even if it went a wee bit off on a tangent about China.

#2 by AmericanGodless - I enjoyed your addition to the topic.

Tue, 27 Jan 2009 13:07:00 UTC | #313089

Fuzzy Duck's Avatar Comment 12 by Fuzzy Duck

When Obama said that, my whole family applauded. There's a lot of work to be done, but this article was encouraging.

Tue, 27 Jan 2009 13:21:00 UTC | #313122

Dustin14's Avatar Comment 13 by Dustin14

Anyone else feel calling science and democracy "twins" was a mistake? It reminded me too much of the "academic freedom" approach of ID advocates, and there argument that since so many people believe in creationism and would like to see it taught that somehow validates it. Science is not a democracy you cannot simply vote something into being a fact.

Tue, 27 Jan 2009 14:10:00 UTC | #313193

aquilacane's Avatar Comment 14 by aquilacane

Political Promise is an idiom that means wouldn't it be nice

Tue, 27 Jan 2009 14:15:00 UTC | #313198

troyreynolds86's Avatar Comment 15 by troyreynolds86

NewEnglandBob,

I wouldn't say he went too much off on a tangent, even if he wasn't terrificially clear as to what he meant. Science in China will always need to be viewed with additional skepticism because the Party has their hands in everything, making sure that the conclusions adhere to orthodoxy. Same as with Big Tobacco Science or Big Pharma Science. Science with an agenda must be questioned very carefully.

I wouldn't say that science and democracy are twins, but I would say that democracy operates best when adhearing to reason and skepticism and when personal prejudices are checked at the door.

Troy

Tue, 27 Jan 2009 14:32:00 UTC | #313213

Hepius's Avatar Comment 16 by Hepius

"But nobody was ever sent to prison for espousing the wrong value for the Hubble constant. There is always room for more data to argue over."

Not sure I agree with the way this statement was written. Galileo might have problems with it as well.

Was the author trying to say that scientists don't send other scientists to jail for disagreeing with them?

Tue, 27 Jan 2009 14:51:00 UTC | #313225

comet halley's Avatar Comment 17 by comet halley

It is great to hear a President of the United States utter these words.
Maybe Al Gore would have done the same if he got in.
Let the geek inherit the earth!

Tue, 27 Jan 2009 15:20:00 UTC | #313238

RedPen's Avatar Comment 18 by RedPen

In other great news, new embyronic stem cell studies are moving forward. This particular one deals with spinal cord injuries.

Tue, 27 Jan 2009 15:27:00 UTC | #313244

YouGottaShowMe's Avatar Comment 19 by YouGottaShowMe

2. Comment #328399 by AmericanGodless on January 27, 2009 at 11:20 am

HURRAH! It is very rarely you see anyone debunking the big lie that says science can tell us nothing about values (Bronowski did 30 years ago and more, but most people have forgotten, or never heard of him).

Well, hear, hear! Well said and certainly spot on. Just one thing: Which of the ten or so episodes would I have to look at specifically to find a juicy quote to that effect?

Tue, 27 Jan 2009 15:45:00 UTC | #313249

AmericanGodless's Avatar Comment 20 by AmericanGodless

19. Comment #328642 by YouGottaShowMe:

The best source for a Bronowski quote on science and values is, of course, his short book "Science and Human Values." That is the source of the statement I paraphrased -- we must act in such a way that what is true may come to be known to be true. In "The Ascent of Man" there is the episode on "Knowledge or Certainty," although there his emphasis is the ethical lesson from science that all human knowledge is fallible. He also commented on the connection between science and democracy, or as he said, "the democracy of the intellect," when he talked about Johnny von Neumann, who he said was "in love with the aristocracy of the intellect." I think that is in another episode of "Ascent," but I don't have a copy of the book at hand to look it up right now.

Tue, 27 Jan 2009 16:06:00 UTC | #313257

DamnDirtyApe's Avatar Comment 21 by DamnDirtyApe

They need to succeed here. That's pretty much the only thing that's going to win over the opposition.

Tue, 27 Jan 2009 16:08:00 UTC | #313259

Friggertool's Avatar Comment 22 by Friggertool

Do not judge him by the content of his manifesto, but the colour of his money.

Tue, 27 Jan 2009 17:10:00 UTC | #313273

aegis's Avatar Comment 23 by aegis

RE the first comment - Plant and animal domestication are in large part a science, and the scientific method greatly increased their scope and effectiveness.

"Was the author trying to say that scientists don't send other scientists to jail for disagreeing with them?"

Yes. Gallileo was kept in house arrest because his (correct) views departed from the "received Knowledge", AKA bullshit, of the church. He wasn't jailed for being wrong - he was jailed for being RIGHT.

Tue, 27 Jan 2009 17:38:00 UTC | #313280

Jesus86's Avatar Comment 24 by Jesus86

You are all being sucked in by a few nice-sounding words. Remember, these words were spoken moments after Obama exited from the Christian Church across the street from the White House. Know him by his actions, not by his words!

If Obama is turning a corner by taking science seriously, why is he still opposed to gay marriage? (See comment #2 above.)

If Obama is turning a corner by taking science seriously, why is he still planning to waste untold billions of dollars in the futile attempt to mitigate the phantom menace of "global warming"? (The scientific evidence for antropogenic global warming is about as convincing as it is for intelligent design.)

If Obama is turning a corner by taking science seriously, why is he spending trillions of dollars to "stimulate" the economy (when government spending has never worked before in the history of the world)?

Obama is as ignorant of cosmology, biology, climatology, and economics as George W. was. He's just a politician.

Tue, 27 Jan 2009 23:09:00 UTC | #313349

Bitchfinder General's Avatar Comment 25 by Bitchfinder General

'you could feel a dark cloud lifting like a sigh from the shoulders of the scientific community in this country.'

Is this man a professional writer? Oh dear.

Wed, 28 Jan 2009 00:27:00 UTC | #313379

Art Vandelay's Avatar Comment 26 by Art Vandelay

A very weak article: it doesn't really say anything, just wishy-washy platitudes that I could have come up with.

But nobody was ever sent to prison for espousing the wrong value for the Hubble constant


Dr. Fang got in trouble initially because he favored the Big Bang

Doesn't this undermine his own argument?

Wed, 28 Jan 2009 01:45:00 UTC | #313403

Peribolos's Avatar Comment 27 by Peribolos

You are all being sucked in by a few nice-sounding words. Remember, these words were spoken moments after Obama exited from the Christian Church across the street from the White House. Know him by his actions, not by his words!

If Obama is turning a corner by taking science seriously, why is he still opposed to gay marriage? (See comment #2 above.)
So far on many issues I would argue that his actions actually go further than what was promised. Had he promised to close Guantanamo and then go on Al Jazeera admitting that he had Muslim family members and that he empathised with Muslims prior to the election he wouldn't have got elected. As I understand it he has already begun rolling back restrictions on federal funding for stuff the religious right don't like.

If Obama is turning a corner by taking science seriously, why is he still planning to waste untold billions of dollars in the futile attempt to mitigate the phantom menace of "global warming"? (The scientific evidence for antropogenic global warming is about as convincing as it is for intelligent design.)
I'm no climate scientist but anthropogenic surely? And here you seem to be on the wrong side of consensus within the scientific community.

If Obama is turning a corner by taking science seriously, why is he spending trillions of dollars to "stimulate" the economy (when government spending has never worked before in the history of the world)?
Firstly much as I might like to claim otherwise, economics is a long way off being a proper science. Secondly this statement is b*llocks.

Obama is as ignorant of cosmology, biology, climatology, and economics as George W. was. He's just a politician.
That would be a frankly herculean effort, but even if it were true it doesn't matter. All that is required is that he listen to those who do understand those areas and allow them space to work.

Wed, 28 Jan 2009 01:53:00 UTC | #313406

mira's Avatar Comment 29 by mira

7. Comment #328431 by ina.j on January 27, 2009 at 12:10 pm

the topic of Obama and science - guys, you should really watch colbertnation.com January 26th episode. In a second part a book on the subject 'Republicans against science' is presented. On the fourth, a ... I won't bother to comment.
This is an American comedy show on which prof. Dawkins has performed so briliantly once.

Well I checked it out. The first thing mentioned in the episode was how Obama gave an order to close down secret CIA prisons. It may be true on the US soil (I personally have doubts). But you probably don't know that they are trying to delegate the prisoners to the allies for example in eastern europe (even EU members). As you can guess these countries are not so happy about such a display of 'friendsip'.
I hope all the best for the US but some caution is reasonable after all even Obama is still a politican...
Mira

Wed, 28 Jan 2009 04:23:00 UTC | #313470

SaganTheCat's Avatar Comment 30 by SaganTheCat

If Obama is turning a corner by taking science seriously, why is he still planning to waste untold billions of dollars in the futile attempt to mitigate the phantom menace of "global warming"' (The scientific evidence for antropogenic global warming is about as convincing as it is for intelligent design.)


it saddens me that you always know that a statement like this will never be backed up by any kind of rational argument.

I would love to know what you think the evidence consists of, how it was gathered, over what time scale etc but we both know that won't be forthcoming.

be honest. just tell us who feeds you your opinions

Wed, 28 Jan 2009 04:41:00 UTC | #313474