Tag Archives: Ray Kurzweil

Armchair philosophers throwing around ideas in their head


FAITH (Photo credit: cacigar)

I was just reflecting on this forum topic I was reading online about science. I’m not a scientist but I’ve always been really interested in scientific discoveries from way back as a kid. Anyway the topic was leading towards this idea that everything but science has pretty much been a waste of time, that before modern science came around, people were like a bunch of armchair philosophers throwing around ideas in their head and arguing about things that didn’t necessarily have any basis in the real world. While that does make sense, it raises science on a pedestal, as if science and it’s methods are somehow separate from the human condition. The problem with that belief, and it is a belief, is that it’s not accurate when you look at the history of science and where science is today.

Overall, I just feel there’s too much credence we give to what comes out of the institution of science. There’s guy called Thomas Kuhn who was a physicist and philosopher who investigated the history of science. He basically was saying that science / technology isn’t this continual improving linear discipline that comes to more and more truth and better inventions as it goes along (which people like Ray Kurzweil love to imagine), but that the findings of science get stuck in cultural paradigms.

So if new information comes along and it breaks the current paradigm it’s always faulted, rejected etc. The only way new truth gets absorbed in science is when the cultural paradigm shifts. The thing is a cultural paradigm can shift closer or actually further away from truth, as a culture moves forward in time. This somewhat explains why relying on “authorised” findings like the peer review process is basically going to be counterproductive if we’re actually interested in discovering new truth and helping to shift our current paradigm so new truth can be arrived at.

Take for example meta-analysis, which basically runs a statistical analysis of all the peer reviewed scientific papers on a particular topic to get an idea of what findings are the most statistically probable against all the others. That’s all well and good until you consider that the bulk of research is funded by groups / organisations / governments etc with a particular vested interest. Now the big issue  is not only will you arrive at a heavily swayed concept of “truth”, but you have major policies like medical / health / education etc. and media / public opinion all influenced by this weak criteria of arriving at truth.

So what’s happened in many respects at least in western society is science has become a bit of an untouchable discipline. We have many people generally not doing their own personal investigations and take “facts” told to them by official scientific bodies as gospel. It’s a blind faith that’s not unlike the same religious blind faith that science attempted to oust. We hear things like this new pill is 96% proven to heal some disease and it’s got say a 0.01% chance of us getting side effects and we go, “yep all good I’m going to swallow it”, and we swallow it without really knowing the truth. That’s the definition of blind faith and blind faith in anything as well as the institution of science can be very damaging.

So what I’m suggesting is its actually not science alone that aids us to discover new truth, but it’s definitely a useful tool. If we throw the baby out with the bathwater, if you disregard all other forms of investigation (philosophy, religion, spirituality etc.), you’re not left with science as a useful tool anymore, what’s left is actually a dangerous tool. So what we have today is an institution corrupted and skewed. Check out Rupert Sheldrake‘s recent talk on TED wich was banned from them – The Science Delusion:

On the flip side, scientists also get inspired by their inner life. An example I’ve read a few times about is how the German organic chemist, Friedrich August Kekulé von Stradonitz day-dreamed of a snake eating it’s own tail (Ouroboros symbol) before discovering the ring shape of the benzene molecule. What I’m getting at is I feel it’s actually by enhancing our sensitivity to what’s in and around us that will open our awareness to new possibilities and therefore new truth. So as more people become sensitive and open, our current cultural paradigm can much more easily shift towards new discoveries and new truth, the type we couldn’t have even conceived of beforehand. When we look at sensitivity, it’s directly connected to being in tune with our feelings as well as having a good grasp of them, so it’s interesting that you find this condescension around people being open to their feelings, when that’s actually where much of our new discoveries derive from.