Science, society and related matters: an exchange

NB: A student of mine, Sai Mukhesh recently sent me these philosophical considerations on science, truth and society. I replied with a few scarce observations (appended beneath his text) because his queries were too vast, and my knowledge too limited, for me to say much. Aside from the reminder that Freudian psycho-analysis must not be confused with psychiatry; and that psychotherapy definitely does not reduce mind to body. I post the exchange for those who might find it interesting. There are also links for further reading. DS

Science is not lord and master of human beings. Like any other discipline, scientific discipline would not exist if it were not for human creativity/stupidity. Pure sciences like physics, chemistry, and biology exist because of human curiosity to understand the natural world and construct further knowledge based on fundamental principles. But, of course, wondering about the natural world around us is an age-old phenomenon with myriad explanations in cultures worldwide. So, there is spirituality in practicing pure science, at the fundamental level, at least from my experience, in both theory and practice.

We know that any discipline as we go higher contains a lot of abstraction, and science is no exception. Abstraction is part and parcel of curiosity as well. If it were not for the abstractness of mathematics, nothing could have come out. However, we all have access to other forms of knowledge. We should care for them; in fact, give other possibilities an equal opportunity. It needs to be questioned what these different types of knowledge are.


Then there are traps. This is important. By being scientific, any law lends itself to falsifiability. It is precisely for the same reason why Freud's statements on behavior could not be called scientific. You cannot experiment and prove or disprove it. Falsifiability does not apply here. However, Freud's way of explaining perhaps giving us some form of knowledge, though it cannot stand scientific rigor. For example, the relation between depression, anxiety, and taking pills. Almost all psychiatrists and psychotherapists reduce mind to body. They give meds saying that hormone 
imbalance in the brain, related to childhood trauma, etc. However, they completely rule out the possibility of other reasons as to why one is depressed or anxious. Of course, supplying the brain with dopamine, serotonin, etc., makes you feel better as days pass. Psychiatry is a science that can be falsifiable if somebody comes and dismisses the theory through a set of experiments; the problem arises when the science restricts itself to the domain of the brain alone. 


Ultimately, I think science is good at what it does, but it does not mean that science is all there is. The human mind can only process what one can see, but it does not mean what we cannot see does not exist. Within the realm of human experience, science could explain the phenomenon with humility. However, there may be other things that we may not know that are operating in ways we can never know. It does not also mean science can quench the curiosity of every curious question that is asked. The positivistic view that everything and anything can be explained through science cannot be true. History discipline exists if it could be explained through science. It is a trap, I think.

One could very well pursue their interest in science without worrying about the destruction it causes. It is not the science that is destructive; it is the user that is destructive. It is redundant to argue that Einstein should not have come up with E=mc^2 because it is the basis for building nuclear weapons or nuclear power. All I am trying to say, one cannot apply breaks to human curiosity. But, of course, for a few decades now, the abstractness has risen to a level where we, now, suffer from irrelevance. Mindless technology exists, cars pollute, species die of climate change, and we die of air pollution. How can science be blamed when people in power and consumers do what they do? I am content with science that does not need technology to make things clear for me. To appreciate the physical world around me: one, I could observe it; two, I can look for scientific explanations.

We know the mindless expansion of technology will not stop. By that logic, unfortunately, it only seems plausible that, at least in the realm of destructive technologies, the less bad people have access to it before it falls into the hands of evil. Science is the product of humans, but many scientific theories are the product of curiosity rather than the sadistic aim to make people suffer. If one's curiosity is to make people suffer, that is another matter to investigate, though. By the same logic, the situation allowed for the nations to know more and more. Unfortunately, we do not live in a world where paper and pencil could provide solace to science students; it is the race to know more and more abstract technologies while completely ignoring the implications. You and I should think hard about what put us in this place? Acts have significance, and they are leading us to conflict.


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Truth is the whole and will always remain elusive

Yes there are pre-scientific forms of knowledge, but there need not be an insuperable barrier between them

Everything speaks, even seas and winds and trees and glaciers - we simply need to learn how to listen

Positivist / scientistic hubris disregards the elusive and fundamentally mysterious character of the whole

Conscience is the impulse to the Good - but we gave it away to some ideologically defined Great Cause

Reason is the impulse to the truth, but we gave it away to science and mathematics

With utmost humility I say humans will never grasp eternity; nor infinity

In the presence of Eternity, there cannot have been Creation, because the latter implies a beginning

No final answer nor perfect system (of thought or life) exists.

All answers are unstable, though the questions recur and will keep recurring in every generation

We cannot abandon the question of the good society, nor free ourselves from the responsibility for answering it by deferring to History or Progress or Fate or Tradition

Humans will always remain unfinished animals, primarily because of the damnable gift of the ever-wondering intellect

The striving for completion must be complemented by metaphysical resignation, lest it inflate our search for sovereignty over nature

Religion is a attempt at such a reconciliation - but stumbles in claims of revelation, of final and complete knowledge

Nation-worship is dishonest atheism

We have handed over creativity and intellect to reified economic categories such as 'growth' (ie ever-accumulating capital); and to ideological categories such as The Nation. 

In consequence we have discarded our natural human empathy and responsibility 

We need to crawl out of the spectacle and realise our humanity and sense of beauty, goodness and wonder

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Tanya Gold - How materialism makes us sad

Beware the destruction of the state! An interview with Timothy Snyder

Can Capitalism and Democracy Coexist?

Andrew Calcutt: The surprising origins of ‘post-truth’ – and how it was spawned by the liberal left

A pre-history of post-truth, East and West. By MARCI SHORE

Michiko Kakutani - The death of truth: how we gave up on facts and ended up with Trump

Farewell to reality - WHY WE’RE POST-FACT by Peter Pomerantsev

How capitalism created the post-truth society — and brought about its own undoing. By Keith Spencer

Helen Pluckrose: Postmodernism and its impact, explained

Why can’t we agree on what’s true any more? By William Davies

Alexander Klein: The politics of logic

Walter Benjamin: Capitalism as Religion (1921)

Didier Fassin: The blind spots of left populism

What happened to democracy in 2020?

My Correct Views on Everything: Leszek Kolakowski's correspondence with E.P. Thompson

Shreya Ila Anasuya - Happy birth and death anniversary, Shakespeare, and you’ve given us a new play as a present // Everything and Nothing by Jorge Luis Borges

Ivan Turgenev on Hamlet and Don Quixote // The madness in Hamlet and Don Quixot

Nikolai Berdyaev: The Religion of Communism (1931) // The Paradox of the Lie (1939)e

Salman Rushdie: how Cervantes and Shakespeare wrote the modern literary rule book


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