Saturday, April 30, 2011

Science ethics and morals

Iain Walker #886

Oh, the bright light of Truth!

It is true - as you correct me - that Darwin wrote about "survival of the fittest" and not "strongest".

It also is true that "the Nazi idea of a 'master race' has precious little to do with Darwinism, but derives from a variety of late 19th century political, pseudo-scientific and mystical ideas. The links with evolutionary theory as promulgated by Darwin are tenuous and indirect at best."

However, this is a widely shared modern opinion about German - and also USA - scientific ideas some ninety years ago. Highly respected scientists and academics were at that time totally convinced about the truth of their Darwinism deduced "survival of the fittest race" theory which is an evolutionary step in the history of an intellectual idea that eventually did not survive among the fit ideas of modern genetics.

Actually, future generation may similarly judge our popular scientific ideas that are such truths to us as nothing but pseudo-scientific, politically motivated nonsense, if not mystic in the Ultima Thule style. Science fixes itself.

For what, after all, is Evolution? Is this human brain activity, interpretation based on Hegel's brilliant ideas translated by mental processes into practical interpretation of all existence but without the sort of atheistic materialism that Marx and Engel introduced into Hegel's world?

Maybe not. Time will show.

It is also true that "The Lysenko debacle that screwed up Soviet agriculture for decades shows how Soviet communism was capable of rejecting good science (in this case Darwinism and Mendelian genetics), on ideological, faith-based grounds."

Again, this was not how Father Sun Josef Stalin and his favorite scientists saw the matter in the atheistic workers paradise of the 1930'ies. They were quite convinced about the truth of Lysenko's idea that learned things can be inherited in the cycles of life.

It is also true what I write that Dr Josef Mengele shows what medical science can be in the hands of an almighty person who is somewhat curious about the Laws of Nature but has little empathy for other human beings suffering in his hands. Science without any commonly shared value system can be a monstrous thing - and continues to be such.

We humans are built such that we are never fully satisfied without having answers to questions that are by definition beyond the reach of good science and enter to the hazy realms of Theoretical Philosophy and Theology.

In this vein, Douglas Adams tells in his classic BBC radio 1978 comedy The Hitchiker's Guide to Galaxy about a super-intelligent pan-dimensional race of beings that has constructed a supercomputer called "Deep Thought" to give the Ultimate Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, The Universe, and Everything.

Adams got it almost right missing the Truth only by 10:

"Deepest Thought" says that the Ultimate Answer is not 42 but p52.

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