Science and beliefs (was: the gods)

Vidyasankar Sundaresan vidya at
Fri May 30 00:44:18 UTC 1997

On Thu, 29 May 1997, Dominique.Thillaud wrote:


> 	Science, as languages, is an human, sociological and ideological
> product. Without 'nature' but with 'functions'.

I'll leave the question of 'nature' aside, for the moment.

> 	One of them is to give us a structured and pragmatic world-view.

Pragmatic, yes. Structured? That is open to question. There is as yet no
scientific theory of everything, to give a structured world-view.

> 	And the 'endlessly ...' is effective only on the long duration.
> Science don't change continuously and not faster than languages or
> religions.

If you believe Thomas Kuhn, it changes rather suddenly, with
gestalt-shifts occuring unpredictably. This might happen tomorrow, or
nothing might change for a century. Surely, languages and religion are
very different in such respects? 

But then, forget the well-known philosophers of science. If, in your view, 
science does not have 'nature' what prevents it from changing whenever it
is considered expedient to do so? Rather, the historical record indicates
that it is in the 'nature' of science to resist change unless observed
data warrant one. However, this resistance does not scare scientists into
halting their data-collecting activity. They go on collecting their data,
and when the situation demands, by and large, they are not afraid to
question their earlier premises. 

> 	But many scientist who extract power and notoriety from science
> like to persuade you they are uninteressed and ideological-free. Sorry, but
> that's not true.

Let us not throw out the baby with the bath-water. Although science is not
a monolithic entity, it is more than a sociological construct. What many
scientists say or do affects the larger picture of science only
marginally. There is a large number of scientists of moderate ability, and
a small number of real geniuses. And despite ideological partiality, some
scientists have contributed a mighty lot to the scientific understanding
of physical reality.

And although scientists and philosophers have not articulated this as such
in the west, to me, the real complaint against science seems to be an
underlying suspicion that it lays claim to some sort of 'apaurusheyatvam'
and hence, universality. Is that so?

> 	Regards,
> Dominique
> 	P.S.: And don't forget an other function: to give war-power
> (military and economical). Recall Archimedes and Sicilia, Galileus and
> Venice, Einstein and USA. Ask you: 'who pays ?' and 'why ?'. Even the
> development of medicine is linked to war: chirurgy and asepsy were first
> for wounded soldiers. If you wont Tamil to be teached in USA, propose a
> plan to invade Tamil Nadu with GIs or pop-corn.

Let us see. A thousand years or more ago, chariots drawn on wheels were
widely used in warfare. Does that mean that the invention of the wheel was
a bad thing? More often than not, military benefits are a side product of
a scientist's work. Let us take medicine. What motivated somebody to keep
researching fungi that fought bacterial infection, resulting in the
discovery of penicillin and other antibiotics? What motivated another man
to observe cowpox and smallpox patients and come up with the idea of
vaccination? If these are not indications of the overflowing milk of human
kindness, what is? If men fight and kill, blame politics and human nature,
not science.

And if the only important questions are who pays and why, then rest 
assured, fundamental science is on its way out, and is not a threat to
other world-views any more. The super-collider is not going to be built,
because the politicians see no tangible military benefits from it.
Meanwhile, scientists want the project to go on, not for its military
benefit, but because they think they can learn fundamental truths about
particle physics from the experiments. 


More information about the INDOLOGY mailing list