Science, reason and moral questions
Post Reply
 
Thread Rating:
  • 1 Votes - 1 Average
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
03-05-2017, 05:04 AM
RE: Science, reason and moral questions
Since my original post seems to be vaguely phrased, I'll paraphrase my position.

https://www.ted.com/talks/sam_harris_sci...at_s_right

If I understand Sam Harris's position correctly, he is claiming along the lines that science is a sufficient tool to answering objective moral questions. Please do correct me if I misunderstood his position. I'm not claiming that there is no such thing as objective morality. I do not see how I am in a position to make absolute claims about "objective" morality. I'm just a primate that happens to be capable of some abstraction. I cannot answer moral questions "objectively" because all my judgments will be based on my past experience and thoughts and that is not a good tool for making absolute claims about abstract things like "morality", let alone "objective morality". That doesn't mean we shouldn't try to think about these things but it means we need to incorporate a significant level of uncertainty into our claims. Science is not a sufficient tool (on its own) for measuring, quantifying and coming up with objective claims about morality. The main reason I'm saying this is due to the fact that the way we think about and apply science is both basic and limited. At least for now.

The limitations of science include:

A) the way in which a lot of scientific facts get interpreted and understood is open to the subjective biases of the experimenters or of the scientific community, regardless of whether or not there's peer review. In "The structure of scientific Revolutions" Kohn argues that it usually takes a whole generation of scientists to accept a new paradigm, even if that newer paradigm was superior to the older one. (https://www.google.com.tr/?gfe_rd=cr&ei=...s&spf=554)

B) the majority of scientists do not take into account the fact that cognitive heuristics can influence the judgment of the experimenters when thinking about their hypothesis.(On cognitive heuristics: https://tonoticeandtolearn.com/2013/05/0...-science/) Since there's no protocol or a standardized way to account for the way in which cognitive heuristics can influence scientists' judgment, it's plausible that the community might collectively miss something important. Ironically, that's the very reason why science undergoes major paradigm shifts every few decades. The scientific community reaches seemingly contradictory facts after it ignores some things for too long. Not being aware of the fact that cognitive heuristics play a role in influencing our scientific research is probably one of the things that facilitate things like this happening. An example where a paradigm shift needed to be found for physics to continue was the shift from classical physics into quantum physics. Paradigm shifts like that have been happening throughout the last century. How reliable do you think trying to discover an objective moral value system would be, given our current scientific understanding ? What are the chances for our current scientific understanding won't get replaced by a more advanced understanding 50 years from now ? Isn't it a bit too early assume that attempting to apply a form of objective morality won't lead to more problems than solutions, especially since our current scientific understanding is still evolving as we speak ?

C) Science focuses on empirical facts. However, scientific facts does not account for the fact that we cannot extract abstract and mathematical models from our observations. Empiricism is limited by the senses and reality isn't as simple as that. What I'm trying to say is that the traditional deterministic and empirical model is not sufficient to account for the complexity that exists in nature. That's were we might need to consider adding things like chaos theory into our traditional scientific thinking (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_njf8jwEGRo).

D) There are many psychological variables which our current understanding of science cannot measure. Subjective questionnaires, interviews, ..... hardly scratch the surface when it comes to understanding the subconscious and unconscious tendencies that humans have. Neuropsychological techniques are still in their infancy.

"Reality" includes known knowns, known unknowns, unknown knowns and unknown unknown. Science mainly focuses on known knowns (e.g. natural selection) mostly and unknown knowns (e.g dark matter). It does not account for known unknowns (which is dealt with by becoming aware of psychological and cognitive heuristics) or unknown unknowns (????). (http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v48...46a.html). One may argue that we don't need to understand all of "reality" to find objective morality but I think that taking that approach while ignoring all the other things I mentioned above might both be intellectually dishonest and problematic. The reason why scientific thinking can be regarded as better than religious fundamentalism is because it describes reality in a way that dogmatic religious thinking is too afraid of describing. It describes it in a way that accounts for more variables and in a way that seeks exploration rather than dogmatism.

That's why I think that we should use science as one tool among many when we try to approach abstract things like moral questions. However, we should not forget that science is embedded within "reality" and that "reality" is not embedded within science. I described what I mean by "reality" in the paragraph above. I might be mistaken. You can reach your own conclusions as to whether these points are valid points or not. I'm looking forward for your constructive criticisms.
Find all posts by this user
Like Post Quote this message in a reply
03-05-2017, 07:01 AM
RE: Science, reason and moral questions
(02-05-2017 09:38 PM)true scotsman Wrote:  Life does have a purpose because as I've already pointed out the existence of a living organism is conditional while a rock's existence is not. Life consists of a purposeful struggle for values.

I'm glad I hold a worldview that affirms, and validates the fact that life does have a purpose and that has an objective code of values to guide it's achievement instead of a storybook morality that has as its goal the pleasure of an invisible, magic being.

It's not clear to me what you mean, by "purposeful struggle for values". And whether this applies to all life or primarily human life. Does the life of a plant have a purposeful struggle for values, an ant, a fish? bird?

And what exactly are these universal values, life is struggling for?

"Tell me, muse, of the storyteller who has been thrust to the edge of the world, both an infant and an ancient, and through him reveal everyman." ---Homer the aged poet.

"In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it."
Find all posts by this user
Like Post Quote this message in a reply
03-05-2017, 07:10 AM (This post was last modified: 03-05-2017 07:14 AM by Robvalue.)
RE: Science, reason and moral questions
Science is, metaphorically, the best tool for the job. But you still have to pick the job you want it to do. Science could just as easily be used to be as efficiently "evil" as possible. The tool has no opinions.

Hey, let me dig another video out of my archive about this.




I have a website here which discusses the issues and terminology surrounding religion and atheism. It's hopefully user friendly to all.
Visit this user's website Find all posts by this user
Like Post Quote this message in a reply
[+] 3 users Like Robvalue's post
03-05-2017, 07:20 AM
RE: Science, reason and moral questions
(24-04-2017 01:50 PM)Primordial Wrote:  Greetings friends,
Some people claim that our current understanding of science and reasoning abilities are sufficient for answering "moral" questions. I disagree with this notion because I find that cognitive heuristics often interfere in the validity of our judgement in ways we don't quite understand yet. Thus, I would not regard current science as a reasonable tool for tackling such questions. Do you agree/ disagree ? What criteria or philosophies would you use to answer such questions ? And on what basis would you choose to approach these problems that way ?

While I think it's obvious that scientific discoveries can inform moral judgments, the conception that science can determine metaethical or normative moral rules is false. People like Sam Harris assume that egalitarian society and human well-being are just rational goals. But as many philosophers have pointed out, there's nothing irrational about me having slaves. I think the attempt to set a realist morality will ultimately fail. Morality is subjective, meaning moral judgments can't have truth values. As Hume said, there is no amount of is statements that can lead to ought statements without asserting foundation ought statements. These basic statements are person's core values. And moral statements represent evaluative judgments according to these values. But there is no rational or logical reason to assert one set of values over another. I think people like Harris want something concrete to respond to religious morality, but there is no such thing. Any moral realist stance will ultimately have to argue that certain moral judgments are true. Justifications for this position always lead to either Divine Command Theory or intrinsic good existing in the universe (often both). Neither of these is tenable.

"I think part of the appeal of mathematical logic is that the formulas look mysterious - you write backward Es!" - Hilary Putnam
Find all posts by this user
Like Post Quote this message in a reply
[+] 3 users Like Naielis's post
03-05-2017, 07:25 AM
RE: Science, reason and moral questions
(02-05-2017 09:38 PM)true scotsman Wrote:  I'm glad I hold a worldview that affirms, and validates the fact that life does have a purpose and that has an objective code of values to guide it's achievement instead of a storybook morality that has as its goal the pleasure of an invisible, magic being.

How do you establish this objectivity?

"I think part of the appeal of mathematical logic is that the formulas look mysterious - you write backward Es!" - Hilary Putnam
Find all posts by this user
Like Post Quote this message in a reply
03-05-2017, 07:58 AM
RE: Science, reason and moral questions
Hey Nails, you hit the Nail on the head Big Grin I totally agree with you. I find Harris' analysis of morality to be fundamentally flawed and presuppositional.

I'm married and I can fucking well use science to prove it. Let me go get some test tubes...

I have a website here which discusses the issues and terminology surrounding religion and atheism. It's hopefully user friendly to all.
Visit this user's website Find all posts by this user
Like Post Quote this message in a reply
[+] 2 users Like Robvalue's post
03-05-2017, 10:18 AM
RE: Science, reason and moral questions
(03-05-2017 07:25 AM)Naielis Wrote:  
(02-05-2017 09:38 PM)true scotsman Wrote:  I'm glad I hold a worldview that affirms, and validates the fact that life does have a purpose and that has an objective code of values to guide it's achievement instead of a storybook morality that has as its goal the pleasure of an invisible, magic being.

How do you establish this objectivity?

By means of the axioms, the primacy of existence and the objective theory of concepts.

Do not lose your knowledge that man's proper estate is an upright posture, an intransigent mind and a step that travels unlimited roads. - Ayn Rand.

Don't sacrifice for me, live for yourself! - Me

The only alternative to Objectivism is some form of Subjectivism. - Dawson Bethrick
Find all posts by this user
Like Post Quote this message in a reply
03-05-2017, 10:38 AM
RE: Science, reason and moral questions
(03-05-2017 07:01 AM)Tomasia Wrote:  
(02-05-2017 09:38 PM)true scotsman Wrote:  Life does have a purpose because as I've already pointed out the existence of a living organism is conditional while a rock's existence is not. Life consists of a purposeful struggle for values.

I'm glad I hold a worldview that affirms, and validates the fact that life does have a purpose and that has an objective code of values to guide it's achievement instead of a storybook morality that has as its goal the pleasure of an invisible, magic being.

It's not clear to me what you mean, by "purposeful struggle for values". And whether this applies to all life or primarily human life. Does the life of a plant have a purposeful struggle for values, an ant, a fish? bird?

And what exactly are these universal values, life is struggling for?

I mean that life requires values. These values require action to achieve. The values an organism needs are determined by its nature. An organism that fails in that action dies, ceases to exist. Most lifeforms act automatically to gain these values. Plants put down roots to get nutrients. they grow towards the light. They put out chemicals to protect themselves. Animals eat other animals, make shelter, hide to protect themselves from predators. They do these things automatically. Man is different. Most of his actions require him to choose. The primary action that man must perform is thinking. That's man's basic tool of survival. The vast majority of values that man's life requires do not occur in nature. Cloths, tools, food, knowledge, shelter all have to be produced and they all require him to reason and gain knowledge of how these things are produced. no one is born knowing how to build a house, grow crops, make cloths, gather medicinal plants and make the tools he needs to get his food. Chasing down a deer and killing it with our claws or biting it to death doesn't work to well for us. All these things take thinking and rational thought is not automatic. It is volitional. That man's consciousness is volitional is precisely why we need an objective code of principles. How do you grow a crop? How do you make a shirt? How do you tell food from poinson? These things must be learned. How long would you survive in the woods if you sat down, took no action and refused to think? Unlike the storybook, food does not appear from an invisible magic being. In reality these things take a lot of effort and thought. One of the great benefits of civilization is the division of labor allows some men to get very good at producing things that others need and thus we have the concept of trade. I don't have to spend all my time growing and producing everything I need from shoes to flour to medicine. I can trade the things I produce for what others produce.

Do not lose your knowledge that man's proper estate is an upright posture, an intransigent mind and a step that travels unlimited roads. - Ayn Rand.

Don't sacrifice for me, live for yourself! - Me

The only alternative to Objectivism is some form of Subjectivism. - Dawson Bethrick
Find all posts by this user
Like Post Quote this message in a reply
[+] 1 user Likes true scotsman's post
03-05-2017, 01:06 PM
RE: Science, reason and moral questions
(03-05-2017 10:18 AM)true scotsman Wrote:  
(03-05-2017 07:25 AM)Naielis Wrote:  How do you establish this objectivity?

By means of the axioms, the primacy of existence and the objective theory of concepts.

The proposal of axioms assumes moral judgments have truth values. It seems that this is an attempt to solve Hume's problem of how we arrive at ought statements from is statements. But the problem with this is that the axioms themselves lack truth value unless you posit the existence of goodness in the world.

"I think part of the appeal of mathematical logic is that the formulas look mysterious - you write backward Es!" - Hilary Putnam
Find all posts by this user
Like Post Quote this message in a reply
03-05-2017, 02:00 PM
RE: Science, reason and moral questions
(03-05-2017 10:38 AM)true scotsman Wrote:  [quote]I mean that life requires values. These values require action to achieve. The values an organism needs are determined by its nature. An organism that fails in that action dies, ceases to exist. Most lifeforms act automatically to gain these values. Plants put down roots to get nutrients. they grow towards the light.

You still seem rather vague here. Life requires values for what? To survive? What gave life these values? Natural Selection? If so does nature give and take away life’s values?

Survival of any organism, requires it to acquire whatever traits necessary for survival in the particular environment they find themselves in. Typically traits selected for by genetic mutation, in conjunction with natural selection.

Human life may entirely vanish, but life will likely continue to go on as a result of genetic mutation, and natural selection.

Our evolutionary produced brains, may be our most significant contributor to our current survival, and flourishing. but it can also be the death of us as well, damaging the very environment we’re dependent on for our survival, as result of our creativity and expansion, our conflicts over any number of competing values. Those thinking brains may the noose we hang ourselves on, the extension of humanity in general. Nature will not shed tear in our demise, our lives no more significant to it, than a cockroach. We’d just be another extinct species, that arose and thrived for a time, as a result of advantageous selected for traits, that where not as advantageous in less fortuitous environment.

"Tell me, muse, of the storyteller who has been thrust to the edge of the world, both an infant and an ancient, and through him reveal everyman." ---Homer the aged poet.

"In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it."
Find all posts by this user
Like Post Quote this message in a reply
Post Reply
Forum Jump: