Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Some More Notes About Why Science Is Remarkable

As to what qualities make science remarkable in human history and different from other human traditions... chief among them is that it is a methodology that helps us help each other get our of our heads

most human traditions and activity is steeped in thinking that human interactions and events and stories are the most interesting and important things around.  and in fact we are still steeped in 1000s of years old traditions that have imagined that the entire universe was created and is governed by  something like a human mind.  and that mindishness is something kind of like vapor, not to be ANALYZED, taken apart.  and that our own experience is due to a vapor like soul that is trapped in corrupt physical bodies that are just dungeons of pain, corruption and death.

so to me science is so remarkable because it breaks out of this pattern in a few ways.

(1) Most people are more interested in human stories rather than stories about rocks and worms.  and if they are at all interested in rocks and worms it's maybe because they could use the rocks to build a house or use a worm to help cure their grandmother's cancer.  what makes science special (akin more to poetry perhaps) is to simply see rocks as COOL or wonder what the world is like from a worm's perspective, and to value bodies and stuff as much as human life-experience.

(2) science succeeds because it is a tradition of realizing that we can easily fool ourselves in our experiments because we are sloppy or subconsciously swayed by how WE WANT the experiment to turn out, and then it is a tradition of CIVIL DISCOURSE, that we build a network of publishing our experiments in detail and critique each other's experiments when we find instances of each other subconsciously fooling ourselves (worldwide network spanning languages and cultures).  It is a tradition where doubt is cultivated and admired. while many scientists are subject to human foibles just like everyone else, it is remarkable that this is a stated goal of science: to doubt and find where we fool ourselves even if it leads to discomfort.

(3) a predominant approach of science is to analyze seemingly monolithic experiences in terms of interactions between discrete parts (akin to its general interest in stuff), and even if the project is to analyze less mechanical phenomena like fields, waves, fluids, science is certainly steeped in paying attention to the interactions between discrete parts in the experimental apparatus used to study them.  and it is the interest in stuff, playing with a prism, wondering why the positions of the moons of Jupiter lag behind the published tables.. that lead to more abstract theories about less stuff-like electromagnetic fields.

It is this interest in stuff and explanation of phenomena in terms of interactions between parts that can lead to a world view that human soul/experience might be interaction between earthen parts as opposed to some alien vapor temporarily trapped by earthen shells (good riddance too them and the Earth in the world to come).  this is a valuable perspective.