Sep 5, 2010

myths, circa 2010

A lot of scientific epistemology or historiography focus on the methodology of discovery, the paradigm shifts of humans and the viability and/or rationality for accepting such shifts - and the varying conclusions as the whether or not we were correct to accept these (and what proof we should demand in the future for the acceptance of scientific 'theories').

All of this can be reduced back to the impact of "myth" on our understanding of the world - the majority of the populace believes what they're told.

If we're told that apples fall because God commanded it; if we're told that it's because of some 'force'(gravitational) - none of this materially changes what we've experienced or what our experiences have conditioned us to expect - apples fall to the ground. All that scientific discourse has done, at least in the mundane sense, is rob us of our ability to appreciate experiences as unique and 'mystical'and given them, instead, the cold skepticism of Rationality.

Thus we are all skeptics. But to what end?

2 comments:

  1. You say "rob us" like it's a bad thing. Are we actually any better off if we see the perfectly commonplace events of the world as mystical and unique (and inexplicable) happenings?

    [actually, what terrifies me is that a lot of people would say yes]

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  2. i honestly can't decide ravi. i think that the majority of human beings need explanations for things, and i support, mostly, scientific endeavors to understand how the world works. but i question what impact scientific knowledge has on our ability as human beings to cope with everyday events. now that i've written it out, it sounds strange, and possibly contradictory.
    but let's assume that we know everything there is to know about the universe. since we know how things work, we are now able to control them, ie fashion our reality to how we want it to be - (ok so this is not 100% true of all knowledge in the sciences, eg gravity. but i'm thinking of the recent advances in microbiology and nanotech). we start tinkering with how we think things should work, trying to make a 'better' world.
    suddenly we can hold no one else responsible for our decisions, our failures, our demise. we're the masters of our own fate and the fate of the rest of the world - and that's a pretty lofty responsibility.
    no, we weren't 'better off' leaving things to the magical world of mysticism (at least not where curing disease and the green revolution were concerned), but suddenly we're left holding the bag where previously we were just the innocents caught in the web of some 'magical, mystical being' that we didn't understand - whether that's mother earth or animal spirits or what have you.
    so yeah, science has become a new kind of myth, our new explanation for how the world works, but instead of allowing us to blame the gods for tragedies and thank them for good-fortunes, we're left blaming or congratulating ourselves.

    is the knowledge worth the responsibility?

    (kind of a moot point at this point as we can't really back up 150 years of scientific understanding. but still an interesting thought exercise into what mentality pre-scientific humans lived with.)

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