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The social role of science
This small book is addressed to laymen, primarily those of Buddhist or similar persuasions, who are dissatisfied with the present use being made of science and the very powerful technologies which it has engendered. It is especially for those able to think independently, and who refuse to accept the dictates of 'experts' in a world run by them that is increasingly violent and insane. It presents a possibility that the Reader may never have considered: that of a completely new type of science founded in his own culture and traditions; addressing and serving his own interests and needs rather than those of major corporations, governments and the military; and compatible with the world of Nature and the spiritual ambitions of Mankind. From this can arise new kinds of technology on which to base a better society.
Science and technology are commonly thought to be products of the modern world, but in a very general sense they have always been part of human life. The spinning of yarn and weaving of cloth are fundamental to civilized life, and although both are usually designated as crafts, they are a form of technology. Both rely on bodies of knowledge learned by trial and error over centuries, and passed down from one generation to the next by families, trades and guilds. An established body of knowledge is the basis of all science; so whether we speak of traditional knowledge begetting arts and crafts, or science begetting technology, the process is the same. All technology results from the application of science to practical ends, and although technology can be learned and applied without any knowledge of the science from which it sprang, its ongoing development requires such knowledge.
Of particular interest is the original source of the traditional knowledge of a race or tribe. Many ancient races attribute the foundations of their culture and learning to figures popularly regarded as mythological. These are often described as gods, but many now believe that at least some were of extraterrestrial origin. This is refuted by orthodox academia, but the topic makes for interesting reading.
It leads in turn to the subject of religion, which is just as fundamental to emerging human culture as are arts and crafts. Worship of and obedience to a god or gods is evident in every primitive culture, and is still an important part of all present-day cultures. However, disbelief in the gods has existed since antiquity as well, and its appearance within a tradition marks a new stage of intellectual development in which philosophy develops separately. The relationship between these four disciplines – philosophy, religion, science and technology – is an important focus of the material examined here, since it is of crucial importance in understanding the modern world: where we came from, how we arrived here, where we think we are going, and what alternative futures might be available.
The publication of Newton's Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica in 1687 is generally taken to mark the beginning of Modern Western Science, which differs so significantly from all earlier scientific traditions that it will be referred to hereinafter by the abbreviation MWS. At the time, the Principia was considered to be a work of Natural Philosophy, as the full title indicates: Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy. Neither was Newton a scientist; the word was coined in the 1930s by William Whewell in order to differentiate scientists from philosophers, since many of the latter were overly fond of fruitless speculation and religious manias. Nonetheless, from a modern perspective, MWS was well under way by the eighteenth century, and its demands on technology often overflowed into industry and home life, usually as improvements to such things as utensils, glassware, tools and the like, but occasionally as significant new technologies such as electricity.
By the nineteenth century this process was well recognized. European universities first appeared in the eleventh century as centres of religion and medicine, but gradually became repositories of many other intellectual activities including science, philosophy, mathematics and engineering. Although they preferred to remain aloof from politics and military ambitions, their potential to contribute to both saw academics frequently inveigled into schemes and intrigues that, in a conventional view, were beyond their purview, and often morally dubious if not corrupt. Comme ca change, plus la meme chose.
A significant change that occurred from the fifteenth century onward remains all but unrecognized by laymen and academics alike, this being the relationship between philosophy and science. The ancient Greeks possessed both, and are revered as the progenitors of European arts, learning, and intellectual life. However, Greek academic science was considered to be a part of philosophy: an intellectual activity quite separate from the sciences on which the arts and crafts of laymen were founded. In other words, academic science tended to be purely theoretical and remote from mundane affairs, as often parodied in the joke about learned elders disputing the number of teeth in a horse's mouth.
In 350BCE Aristotle wrote that horses have forty teeth, and this was accepted as absolute truth until the end of the Middle Ages. In the parody, when 'a youthful friar of goodly bearing' suggested to his elders that a horse be fetched and its teeth counted, he was drummed out of their convention for his impertinence. This emphasizes the important change that occurred after the fifteenth century: philosophers had come to understand that some of their seemingly abstract speculations could be put to the test in practical experiments. Of course, this had been true of alchemists, magicians and the like throughout history; but although their accumulated bodies of knowledge could be considered as sciences, they lacked rigour, consistency and rational coherence. They had failed to discover the key to true scientific work: empiricism.
It is often remarked that the basis of science is 'observation, analysis and deduction': the so-called 'scientific method'. What this means in practice is that an idea should be so formulated as to be amenable both to stated conclusions and to experimental validation. Suitable experiments can then be devised and performed, and the results collated and analyzed for comparison with the conclusions. Almost always there are differences; these are applied to reformulate the original idea so as to produce new conclusions in accord with the results, and the process is repeated until conclusions and results concur.
This is why philosophy and science split into two distinct disciplines: the former is primarily abstract and speculative, often addressing questions such as the origin of the universe that cannot ever be proved. The latter begins thus, but with the intention of devolving to practical insights and determinate proof. This is best seen by noting etymologies and definitions:
- Philosophy is from the Greek philos meaning lover or seeker, and sophia meaning truth or wisdom.
- Science is from the Latin scientia meaning knowledge.
- Technology is from the Greek tekhne meaning art or craft and logos meaning discourse.
- Religion is from the Latin religio meaning approximately reverence.
In practical terms, religion can be thought of as the technology of social and spiritual philosophy. Few people have the time or inclination to pursue the deeper questions of life and existence in any detail; what they require is a set of rules and activities for use in daily life, with occasional rituals, ceremonies and celebrations throughout the year. Today, all religions have decayed into ossified doctrine and meaningless ritual. A few determined individuals sometimes risk their reputations by forcing new creative insights and activities into them, but these soon fall prey to the same degeneration, though many become commercially successful.
The crucial point concerning philosophy and science is their parent-child relationship. Modern science consists of a body of facts and doctrine under ongoing development by the scientific method as previously described. Philosophy, by contrast, is an active pursuit of truth in its many guises: social, spiritual, planetary and cosmic. Strictly speaking, science has no concern with truth, which is always and ever a personal value judgement. Its concern is validity: how well its body of ideas corresponds to the evidence of reality. Equally strictly, there is no such thing as 'scientific truth': the term is a misnomer revealing a lack of understanding of what science actually is.
The importance of this for the modern world is never understood for a number of reasons, perhaps the most important being the demotion of philosophy to an outdated relic of the past, and its replacement by Science as the sole arbiter of truth. This occurred in 1927, a date all but unknown to laymen, and marked the beginning of a crucial change in social philosophy. Scientific thinking at the time was veering strongly towards materialism, whereas society in the main was religious in varying degrees and persuasions. The advent of the atomic bomb in 1945 immediately changed that. Scientists obviously had the power of God at their command, almost literally if only destructively, Their philosophy must surely be the truth: who could gainsay them?
During the last half of last century, materialism and its inevitable concomitants, moral relativism and ethical degeneration, quickly dominated the attitudes of major corporations, since it freed them from social obligations to focus solely on expansion, hegemony, and above all, ever increasing profits. Corruption soon saw these spreading to politics, government, bureaucracies, academia and society in general. Everyone employed today by major corporations must either accept and adopt corporate materialism, or maintain a form of schizophrenia: materialist at work but religious or spiritual at home. Few are happy with this demand; still fewer can escape it.
Equally unknown to the public is the course followed by what remained of real science after 1945. Theoretical physics quickly adopted Quantum Mechanics (QM) and General Relativity (GR) as its foundations: the former applies at the smallest scales of subatomic particles, the latter at the largest of stars and galaxies. Most of what passes for scientific research these days is, in fact, technological R&D (research and development). No-one understands what QM and GR mean in philosophical terms, as a perusal of the literature will prove. More to the point, understanding itself is regarded by MWS not just as unnecessary, but as meaningless and delusional. Laymen may find this incredible, and one of the tasks of this book's successor is to explain why and how this came about.
Technological researchers do not need philosophical understanding of the phenomena they investigate; nor, at the leading edge, do they possess it. All they require is a clearly specified goal, almost inevitably defined to accord with corporate and military interests; equipment and funds provided by the same; and sufficient time and patience, by a process of trial and error, to identify those materials and procedures that can attain their goal. It is the scientific equivalent of the fabled thousand monkeys at their thousand typewriters hammering away at the works of Shakespeare. For all their many remarkable achievements, this is not science: neither based on nor in pursuit of insight and understanding, only of results.
It can now be understood why MWS no longer serves the needs or interests of the general public, and in many areas acts against them. It is the paid servant of an international elite bent on establishing a global corporate state in which laymen provide a workforce, a consumer base, a gene pool, organ farm and cannon fodder. Scientific personnel are required to accept materialist doctrines in order to gain accreditation and preferment; dispute results in disapprobation.
Most people have spiritual or religious convictions of some kind. Many have experienced what are commonly called supernatural or psychic events; many more make conscious or semiconscious use of psychic faculties in daily life, and so cannot accept materialist philosophies. A science that served their needs would not only admit the existence and reality of these things, but would investigate them with a view to developing practical exercises, disciplines and methods that allow ordinary people to strengthen, enhance and apply their natural psychic gifts. Instead, MWS denies and ridicules everything other than purely physical phenomena and techniques.
In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, many leading scientists were firmly convinced of the reality of extra-physical phenomena, and devoted much effort to investigating them. The development of atomic energy and the philosophical change it engendered within MWS made such work impossible, at least publicly. Behind the scenes, the military and secret services of large countries have spent enormous amounts of time, effort and money seeking military uses of psychic faculties. They have also devoted considerable effort to ensuring that the public is persuaded that such things are impossible.
A public science that used modern technology to investigate extra-physical phenomena would soon develop psychophysical technologies to replace chemicals in agriculture, medicine and industry. This goal may seem overly ambitious to some, but it can be achieved with patience, determination and courage. As explained in the final chapter, the purpose of this book's successor is to explain how this can be done. What concerns us here is to explain, simply and clearly, why it can never be achieved by Modern Western Science.