Do You Feel Lucky?

(and feel free to comment! My older posts are certainly no less relevant to the burning concerns of the day.)

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Why Trust Science? Pt. 2 of 2

The second good reason to trust the modern scientific community is: predictive theory that gives you the promised results. Because long before Hiroshima was destroyed, Einstein knew enough about the power locked in atoms (which we now call the strong nuclear force) to sign his name to a letter to the President, warning him about atomic bombs. Scientists had glimpsed how reality worked on the smallest scales. They knew there was a danger, more importantly: they knew why there was a danger. They had figured out how reality operated on those scales. All they needed to prove it was to bring it into testable range, and after years of work they did bring that reality into testable range. And the fact that they had understood it correctly was proved.

The worth and validity of "done science" (the facts predicted by and then established by the scientific method and no longer in dispute as "active science"), is proved conclusively by its fruits: motorcars, microwaves, rocketships, radar, nuclear weapons, satellite, telecommunications, on and on. Is science a good thing?

Well, ask yourself: are you reading this article using the internet?

OK. Is science a moral thing, then? Well, ask yourself: have you ever murdered anyone? And maybe the answer to that last question is "yes." But if you committed an atrocity, even if you used a gun, or a bomb, or some other technological wonder, it was not science that corrupted you. Science is concerned solely with how things work. Science has nothing to say about what you do with what reality is, and with how it works.

But science can tell you, more and more every year, what reality is, and how it works. We know it is trustworthy by the fruits that have come from it.

1 comment:

Jen said...

True. If someone's science allows them to build something and it works, clearly they know what they are doing.
Black holes are in a different category, I would say, but never mind that.
But just because Bob can build an atom bomb, proving his knowledge of atoms, doesn't mean that Jim should be trusted when he tells us Piltdown Man is the real thing.
In other words, successes in one are do not validate the entire field.
A little learning is a dangerous thing. It is possible to learn enough about something that it works for a while, then later does much more spectacular damage than it could have if you'd never learned about it.
Of course technology isn't moral or immoral. But it's used by people who are.