Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Evolutionary Dead End?

Please forgive the digression, but all of this discussion of financial and social breakdown, overpopulation and impending water and energy shortages, lead me to make the following observations.

As a scientist with interest in just about everything, I have come to the conclusion that the underlying cause for most, if not all, of these problems is that our psychology and cultures have not caught up with the Scientific Revolution.

I will begin with that statement that science has emerged as the most useful method of determining fact, if not truth.

However, like our cousins the Great Apes, we still waste resources when they are plentiful, with no thought of the future. We still generally pick our leaders as the most virile male, i.e. the silverbacks, rather than their ability to actually solve problems.

And we still insist on pre-Enlightenment thinking, as is demonstrated by this piece from DC's Improbable Science 'blog:

A recent report by the King's Fund in the UK on complementary medicine contains the following passage:

“This report outlines areas of potential consensus to guide research funders, researchers, commissioners and complementary practitioners in developing and applying a robust evidence base for complementary practice.”

In other words, if we spend enough money, we will find the stuff that works, and best way to use it.

However, the US National Institutes of Health has spent over $1 billion in the past decade on carefully researching these practices. Not a single one was found to be of benefit. This was so distressing to some there, that each new report resulted in a slew of resignations.


James Higham said...

we still insist on pre-Enlightenment thinking

Thank G-d for that but the opposite is actually true - it was this rush to embrace something so fundamentally flawed as the Enlightenment, the precursor to the new dark ages, which has landed us where we are.

Science is fine for what it is - a desire to explain the universe and how each and everything works. Why not?

But there is a metaphysical side too and it is unscientific to ignore it - there is too much phenomena out there and that requires empirical analysis, not dogmatic anti-metaphysical statements, just because scientists don't like explanations form other dimensions.

Mu concept of a scientist is the one in The Day the Earth Stood Still. Faced with the "reality" of the spaceman, he chose to go along with it than say, "No, it couldn't be so."

Paddington said...

James - I take it from your comment that you are not in the science fields. If I am wrong, I apologize.

While some practicing scientists can be quite dogmatic, especially outside their own field of expertise, I have never met one who would not change their minds if given repeatable data that shows them to be wrong. That's just how science works.

Science, in general, ignores the metaphysical, since it is based on methodological naturalism (not philosophical naturalism). However, when adherents to religions, alternative medicine, acupuncture, crystal healing, etc. make claims about the real world, they run into science. There has not been one well-controlled scientific experiment that shows that any of this has merit.

Indeed, the James Randi Educational Foundation offers a $1 million cash prize to anyone who can do anything 'supernatural'. All the person has to do is what they claim, under conditions that prevent cheating and self-delusion. No judging is involved.

Sackerson said...

Think your piece is right, P; "civilisation and its discontents".