Friday, November 23, 2007

The Saw of Science

Tools are inert. Every tool must be wielded by a person. People use tools to achieve goals. The result of wielding a tool is a product of the skill and intent of the wielder, and the suitability of the tool to the task. Consider a tree saw: it can be used to destroy a tree, to kill it, or it can be used to prune a tree, cutting away deadwood and diseased limbs to strengthen it. The way in which it is to be used is up to the person wielding it. Is either way "true", or "good", in some objective sense?

What happens next depends on you.

Consider science: it is also a tool which can be used to destroy or improve, not physical objects but ideas. A person can choose to destroy an idea by cutting it off, or improve it by pruning away the bad branches. You might reply: "Science depends on truth and so it can only cut away the bad. If it cuts down the idea, the idea was bad." This isn't honest. All ideas are subject to denial. All ideas depend on assumptions which can be shown to be suspect or "wrong" given the right context. The result of wielding the saw of science is very strongly dependent on the intent of the wielder. This intent is often an a priori attempt to disprove challenging ideas. This is a terrible way to use such a powerful tool.

It seems to me that a person interested in truth should turn science on their own ideas as a skeptic. One way to do this is by attempting to find the truth in those things that are challenging. If we do this we will find and fill the gaps in our own ideas. This goes beyond science to things about which science has nothing to say as well. In our lives, as we consider the ideas of other people we know to be sincere and intelligent, it damages us if we do not consider their ideas as seriously as we consider our own. The world is vague and as much as we want to have clear lines we cannot.

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Blogger friarminor said...

Tools. Just reminded me of my 2 year old daughter insisting on getting water from the sink even if it is beyond her reach. Surprisingly, she pulled a plastic chair and just did it. Crude but it's a start!

Interesting take on things, sir. Keep up with the posts. Happy New Year!


Wed Jan 02, 02:11:00 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You do not mention the obvious that science can produce life saving discoveries, and also life killing activites. Remember that Dr. Mengele was a doctor and scientist, who was also a sadistic monster.


Tue Apr 01, 01:04:00 PM EDT  

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