Education Science

Is science the ultimate good?

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NATURE ALERT: Volume 442 Number 7104 pp719-846

Revival in Iran p719
Whatever its motivation, Iran’s support for education and science is to be welcomed.
10.1038/442719b
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Whatever its motivation??? How about this motivation: Let’s get really good at science and give our children outstanding educations so that we can destroy the infidel and end western democracy. Iran’s support for education and science is to be welcomed — yeah, right. (For the grammatically challenged, this is two positives equaling a negative.)

20 Replies to “Is science the ultimate good?

  1. 1
    Joseph says:

    I guess it all depends on what they are teaching. Unfortunately Wm. is most likely correct. These people will bite the hand that feeds them…

  2. 2
    Mats says:

    I am sure Nature would agree with the following:

    “Whatever its motivation, the type of medical experiments Dr Josef Mengele was performing on prisioners of war are welcome and encouraged”.

  3. 3
    JasonTheGreek says:

    Same thought here Mats. I’m sure we could easiy say that the Nazi experimentation lead to some scientific knowledge, though I doubt anyone would call it knowledge anyone really needed.

    That’s just insanity to praise Iran’s “revival” like this. I wonder what dictionary they’re looking at- because I don’t see ANY revival or anything in Iran right now. I guess scientific training to get nukes into the hands of terrorist might be considered a scientific revival to some.

  4. 4
    Smidlee says:

    According to Star Trek it is; science will be man’s saviour. Obviously there are those who believe in this vision.

  5. 5
    bFast says:

    This thread asks a very meaningful question. We somehow seem to loose sight of the fact that the scientific endoevor is only one method of obtaining knowledge. Science seems so incapable of recognising so much of what we each knows to be true. Science has little use for personal experience, unless the experience is repeatable. So much of experience is not.

    When I think of a good example of what I am talking about, for the edification of those science-heads who just don’t get it. Just watch the movie “Titanic”. The movie opens with the science heads gathering the facts. It then puts meat onto the bones of those facts, leaving science in the dust after about the first 10 minutes of a three hour flick. That’s a reasonable ratio of what percentage of knowledge is available to science.

  6. 6
    BarryA says:

    JasontheGreek writes: “I’m sure we could easiy say that the Nazi experimentation lead to some scientific knowledge, though I doubt anyone would call it knowledge anyone really needed.”

    Jason, let us assume the opposite, that the Nazis through their human experiments cured cancer. They still would have been wrong. When it comes to certain types of goods, cost/benefit analysis is out of place. The reason this is difficult to see is that the word “good” is used in many different senses. Take the following example. Chocolate cake is good and woolen sweaters are good. Therefore, I might take a little less chocolate cake in order to get more woolen sweaters. But try this: Justice is good and woolen sweaters are good, therefore I will take a little less justice to get more woolen sweaters. Obviously, the second sentence makes no sense.

    In moral philosophy, chocolate cake and woolen sweaters are “conditional goods.” Justice is an absolute good. An absolute good can never be traded for a conditional good.

    Is all this too theoretical for you? OK, how many humans in their earliest stage of development will you trade for a cure for diabetes? My answer is “zero.” Others answer, “as many as it takes.” They are wrong.

  7. 7
    bFast says:

    BarryA, amen! Preach it!

    As a diabetic I may some day be asked to accept a cure that is the product of human embrio research that I disaprove of. It will be an issue very close to home. My position is already settled, however. I cannot directly benefit from the direct destruction of another.

  8. 8
    Carlos says:

    The assumption made here by the authors of the Nature article is not, by itself, outrageous. They are assuming that scientific training will counteract fundamentalism. The inference seems to be — and one can see this all the time in apologists for scientism — that science is an expression of rationality, and rationality is antithetical to religious dogmatism, therefore the more science, the less religious dogmatism.

    Unfortunately — as the Nazi case indicates — admiration for and technical training in science is compatible with religious dogmatism. (I consider the Nazism to have been a kind of religious dogmatism — just not a Christian one.)

    By the way, Nazi research contributed to the formation of NASA, and some Nazi scientists went to work for NASA. Carl Jung, whose work is still taken seriously in backward parts of the world like California, was almost indicted as a war criminal. So the case is not merely hypothetical.

  9. 9
    BarryA says:

    Carlos,

    I don’t think Bill’s post goes to the article as a whole. It focuses solely on this sentence: “Whatever its motivation, Iran’s support for education and science is to be welcomed.”

    Bill’s point is that the writers at Nature have made a category error. They are treating progress in science, a conditional good, as an absolute good. Progress in science, unlike the preservation of human life, can be the subject of a cost benefit analysis. Is progress in science in Iran worth the increased risk to our safety by, for example, making it more possible that the nut jobs running the country will get nukes? The answer is obvious.

    bFast, just a suggestion: Consider the distinction between material and formal cooperation with evil.

  10. 10
    Carlos says:

    Perhaps it is a “category error” (relative vs. absolute good). I was more interested in what assumptions might have made this error possible in the first place.

  11. 11
    bFast says:

    BarryA: “bFast, just a suggestion: Consider the distinction between material and formal cooperation with evil.”

    Once, years ago I was in a market in Jamaica. There was a shirt for sale at a very good price, so I bought it. In the process of closing the sale, the salesman was bragging about how his brother “picked these shirts up off the manufacturer’s floor where he works.” Dispite this recognition that I was purchasing stolen property, I bought the shirt anyway. I have oft regretted my decision.

    Now, was that material or formal cooperation with evil?

    If medical science uses human embrios to figure out a cure for diabetes, yet finds a way of making the “injectables” from non-human hosts, or from ambilical cord host, or something, I will take it. I will not, however, because of my own standards, have injected into my body the direct genetic product of a micro-human which is sacreficed for the cause — even if that sacrefice cures the diabetes of a million others.

  12. 12
    BarryA says:

    Agreed.

  13. 13
    JasonTheGreek says:

    BarryA- I’m not sure if you thought I was saying some good did come out of the nazi’s work in science. If so, I wasn’t. I think some would call it some sort of advance- I haven’t studied the subject, so I don’t know precisely what they did, but let’s say they came up with unknown knowledge.

    I’m 100% against any knowledge they came up with. If they cured cancer by killing 1 innocent person or 1, 000 innocents, I’m against it.

    I never used to think much of abortion, because I’m a man and will never have to personally carry a child. As I grew older, I decided that abortion is wrong. Even if abortions somehow lead to a cure for a disease, I don’t think it would be right. I’d personally say- keep the disease and cherish a culture of life not a culture of death. I now think abortion is disgusting and can’t imagine that we’ve come to a point where we can kill tens of millions of unborn fetuses each year and live with ourselves.

    I’ve progressed to the idea that life is life. No matter how old. Well- that’s hard to say. When it comes to stem cells from embryos that will thrown out anyhow, I don’t know. Myself, I’m with people like the president, let’s just stick with a culture of life and go with caution as opposed to ending even POSSIBLE life. Curing disease is a nice idea and all, but certain costs aren’t worth it to me. Killing another or even destroying a life not yet begun is over the line in my view. That’s why, no matter what hypothetical cures an evil regime would come up with, it wouldn’t ever possibly be worth the cost in my eyes. On the particular instance in the post- no amount of “progress” (whatever that really means) is worth it if it’s done in an effort to hate others, maim, kill (I’m thinking of future nuke scientists, for example.) You have a ‘good’ (cure for cancer), but a cost (nukes in the hands of dangerous people)- the cost isn’t worth it, no way.

  14. 14
    Mats says:

    After seeing a comment on the same article in another place, we get the full knowledge what is behind Nature’s motivation:

    One practical advantage for science in Muslim countries is the lack of direct interference of religious doctrine, such as exists in many Christian countries. There has never, for example, been a debate about darwinian evolution, and human embryonic stem-cell research is constrained by humanistic rather than religious ethics. The Royan Institute in Iran was the first in the Middle East to develop a human embryonic stem-cell line, using spare embryos from its in vitro fertilization programme.

    http://creationsafaris.com/cre.....#20060816a

    So that’s why Naturepraises Iran. It has nothing to do with them doing good science, but rather it has to do with the TYPE of “science” Nature endorses (Darwinism, steem-cell research, etc, etc).

    Secondly, perhaps there has been a debate about Darwinian evolution in Iran, but those who defended it are no longer alive to tell the story.

  15. 15
    BarryA says:

    There is one unequivocally good thing that has come from our progress in science — as our technology increases our culture of death is shown to be more and more schizophrenic and incoherent.

    Consider: In any given hospital in the US, in one surgical suite a doctor can be performing life saving surgery on an eight-month old baby still in his mother’s womb while in the next suite over a doctor is busy chopping a baby of the same age into little pieces.

    Dr. Seuss said it best in “Horton Hears a Who:” “A person’s a person, no matter how small.”

  16. 16
    BarryA says:

    Carlos writes: “I was more interested in what assumptions might have made this [category] error possible in the first place.”

    Carlos, isn’t it obvious? The error is the result of a classic case of inductive reasoning from too few data points. The writer at Nature thinks: “I have progressed in the sciences and I’m a pretty good chap. All my friends have progressed in the sciences, and they are pretty good chaps too. I therefore conclude that anyone who makes progress in the sciences must be a pretty good chap.”

    The writer’s naivety would be touching if it were not so dangerous. Science is a method of investigation. It is neither good nor bad. People who make progress in science, on the other hand, can be either good or bad. George Washington Carver used science for good. The Mullahs in Iran are bent on using science to rain down death and destruction on us and our friends. [For those who are fuzzy on the whole good/bad thing, that would be bad.]

  17. 17
    bFast says:

    JasonTheGreek:

    I’ve progressed to the idea that life is life. No matter how old. Well- that’s hard to say. When it comes to stem cells from embryos that will thrown out anyhow, I don’t know. Myself, I’m with people like the president, let’s just stick with a culture of life and go with caution as opposed to ending even POSSIBLE life.

    This is another moral question that I personally had to face. As my wife and I were not producing children via natural means, the question of “extrordinar measures” came up. I chose to avoid any extrordinary measures, even to the point of being tested. (My feeling is that in being tested you create the potential for an “it’s your fault” construct within your marriage.) However, the concept of in vitro fertilization was discussed. The problem that I have with in vitro fertilization is that a handful of embrios are made, and one or two are implanted. These embrios are alive! They are little human babies!

    If I oppose abortion, which I do to the point of having protested in front of abortion clinics, then I must also oppose the culture of disposable embrios. They are one and the same thing! Now, I do not philosophically oppose in vitro fertilization, I only oppose the unnecessary phenominon of disposable embrios.

    There are three options with reguards to those embrios:
    1, you can make only as many embrios as you want to implant. The result is a somewhat less successful process, which may mean that you spend more bucks, and a few more months before you get pregnant.
    2, you can implant all the embrios you make, resulting in more multiple births.
    3, you “adopt out” the embrios, giving another couple the opportunity to be a parent.

    Any of the above options I find to be morally reasonable.

    By the way, I do not oppose any birth control method which protects from firtilization. However, once fertilization happens, a new human life has been created. Life, as far as I am concerned is SACRED! (Note that some methods, such as the “morning after pill” “inhibit conception”, however this is a technical expression — they stop the firtilized egg (spelled, HUMAN) from implanting into the mother — conception.)

    As for my family, well, someone out of the blue offered us a baby (their grandchild). We are now the proud parents of two children. There is a providence that science just doesn’t get!

  18. 18
    scordova says:

    Has Nature supported scientists who are victims of ALF? See: Voices in the Wilderness and More threats and More on recent Anti-Science activities by Mike Gene.

    Salvador

  19. 19
    John A. Davison says:

    Science is destroying mankind. Science has made it possible for humans to become a monoculture of nearly seven billion, an ecologicai impossibiity to maintain much longer. Science is destroying the earth at a rate unprecedented in the history of the planet through the steadily increasing levels of carbon dioxide alone. Only the Chinese are trying to reverse the problem of overpopulation. One solution is to make it mandatory to have only one surviving child per couple. The problem would dramatically reverse in two generations. I do not see that as a possibility and I don’t think anyone else does either. The only other solution is a world wide pandemic which will probably originate from the 7 billion chickens that science has also allowed us to maintain. The smartest thing we could do right now would be to make the consumption of chicken illegal. Fat chance! So much for science. Just a few unsolicited thoughts.

    It is hard to believe isn’t it?

    “A past evolution is undeniable, a present evolution undemonstrable.”
    John A. Davison

  20. 20
    landru says:

    Interesting – when supporting *Science* (said with lots of gravitas), one’s motivation is unimportant, yet when criticizing Darwinism, the motivation is so important, you don’t even have to bother considering the actual argument.

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