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Go to: Moral confusion in the name of 'science'

zoro's Avatar Jump to comment 291 by zoro

Ah, sorry, I missed that additional definite article, 'the'! In addition, I agree: it's gonna be tough finding an adequate statement for "the" goal. That's why I keep offering multiple options!

Sun, 04 Apr 2010 19:19:00 UTC | #455880

Go to: Moral confusion in the name of 'science'

zoro's Avatar Jump to comment 289 by zoro

spiderdancer, you can certainly find lots of company in advocating that "the goal is morality" (Plato, Kant, et al., as well as all clerics), but I agree with E.O. Wilson that the best place to find and understand the bases for morality is not in some "transcendental space" (e.g., Plato's forms) but in evolutionary biology (which isn't my field). If you're interested, I've already written quite a bit exploring the sources and meanings for human values (e.g., see Chapters B, M1-P2, and V of my online book at as well as at my blogs at and at ); a summary is that, what you (and Plato, Kant, et al. and all clerics) advocate has been amply demonstrated to be not only a dead-end but usually a very deadly one.

Sun, 04 Apr 2010 18:21:00 UTC | #455875

Go to: Moral confusion in the name of 'science'

zoro's Avatar Jump to comment 288 by zoro


First, perhaps your re-phrasing "This [needing data in addition to logic] is not the same as saying 'science is not bounded [constrained] by logic'!" is an improvement. The point I was trying to make (and continue to hold) is that, in science, logic is just another tool. I won't try to be quantitative about it, but I'd guess that it's about 10% of the total enterprise. It would similarly be unwise to constrain one's construction enterprise by utilizing only a hammer! Further, please appreciate the context of my original remark, namely, to argue that philosophers such as Fionn constrain themselves with logic, whereas a much more powerful method (the scientific method) is available to scientists.

Next, sorry, but your statement, "This is instinct. It is not a 'goal'." doesn't seem to me to be sound. I would argue that our goals to survive and to help our families survive are now instincts (for all animals, including humans).

Finally, re. your question "What does 'human well being' have to with spreading the genes?" I don't recall making any such suggestion. I did suggest that possibly one formulation of the goal of humans might be "to ensure that our genes prosper" (although I wouldn't advocate such a formulation), but that's quite different from a goal of "spreading the genes". Instead of such a suggestion, I would suggest that, for the human genome to PROSPER, current "spreading" should be reduced by a factor of ten!

Your additional comments about "spreading the genes" seem also to be misdirected.

Sun, 04 Apr 2010 17:42:00 UTC | #455870

Go to: Moral confusion in the name of 'science'

zoro's Avatar Jump to comment 285 by zoro

spiderdancer, sorry, but I don't understand your point.

Disregarding (at least for now) discussions about objectives, I claim that moral values have meaning only with respect to some objective. For example, in my view, you can't decide if it's moral to eat less or more until you define your goal (to "refuel"? to lose weight?…). Do you disagree that it's first necessary to know one's goal(s) before evaluating morality?

Sun, 04 Apr 2010 16:49:00 UTC | #455855

Go to: Moral confusion in the name of 'science'

zoro's Avatar Jump to comment 284 by zoro

Bonzai, thank you for your stimulating comments.

First, with respect to your question, "science is a rational enterprise, is it not?", although (as a snide remark) I question if the funding of science is a rational enterprise (!), of course I would agree that science should be (and generally is) rational – thankfully with a few flights of wild imagination. Yet, I would continue to maintain that it's not constrained (or confined) by logic.

Realize that logic is an astoundingly restrictive enterprise: although it's useful for gaining knowledge (e.g., to gain the knowledge that E = mc^2), it's totally useless in supplying new information. To gain new information, experiments must be performed. (For your possible interest, I hammer away at that point, for my teenage granddaughter, at .)

With respect to your point that invariance of the laws of physics follows logically from the requirement of the homogeneity and isotropy of space-time, of course I agree, but then, there's no "logical" requirement that space-time be homogeneous and isotropic. Of course, if it weren't, physics would be hugely more complicated than it already is, but then, Nature has always seemed to be relatively unconcerned about the travails of physicists! Thus, again, the only way to gain information about space is not via logic but via science.

Re. your question about our "goal" being that our genes prosper and your suggestion that the concept of 'goal' implies some level of planning and choices, what comes to mind is Alan Watts' dictum: "We're much smarter than we think!" Applied here, many of our goals are now instinctive. For example, if a projectile is coming at your head, then without thinking, you'll duck (in response to your instinctive goal to survive) and if your child is in danger, you won't need to engage in any "planning and choices", you'll just do whatever your instincts demand (in response to your instinctive goal for your child's safety).

And if I were more easily offended, I'd really get angry with anyone who suggested that I was "sounding like the Pope"! More to the point, though, surely sane humans agree that, to optimize human well-being, the human population of this world should be reduced by a factor of about 10.

Sun, 04 Apr 2010 16:30:00 UTC | #455849

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