[extropy-chat] SI morality

Harvey Newstrom mail at HarveyNewstrom.com
Mon Apr 26 22:44:14 UTC 2004

Chris Phoenix writes:
> I've gone through a crisis of faith with regard to scientists recently.
> In many areas, I've come to realize, scientists are far too
> self-assured.  They think they're practicing science, when in fact they
> are merely contributing to science.

This means that you shouldn't dismiss all scientists.  You need to 
distinguish between the ones actually practicing science and the ones 
merely contributing to science.  That is why I harp on the scientific 
method from time to time.  Because I try to distinguish the difference.

>   A lone scientist can run
> experiments, observe, make hypotheses, form opinions... but cannot 
> fully
> practice science, because science can only emerge from interactive
> criticism.  We are all too fallible to trust ourselves to generate good
> science without lots of help.

Exactly.  This is why science requires peer review, repeatability of 
experiments, and the like.  We must always regard lone scientists with 
suspicion because their work is not science, or at least has not been 
verified by science yet.

> So how can science be reported to the real world?  If one scientist's
> opinion isn't trustworthy, what about lots of opinions together?
> Michael Crichton has called this "consensus science," and correctly
> attacked it.  It's no more than a popularity contest for ideas, and the
> popularity of an idea has little to do with its truth.

This is where publishing is required by true science.  it is not enough 
to have scientists claim something, even in a group.  They must 
demonstrate it clearly, and give instructions so that other people can 
demonstrate the same thing for themselves.  Then other scientists can 
either repeat the experiment to prove it, repeat the experiment to 
disprove it, or critique the methodology to explain why the proof is 

It is only when scientists give opinion rather than experimental 
evidence that the process falls apart.  So again, I would suggest that 
true scientists don't fall into this untrustworthy group, but only 
those who don't follow the scientific method.


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