sciolist: Skinnier than me. (Default)
[personal profile] sciolist
I heard Sam Harris talking on the radio this morning (apparently touting a book) about how we can derive morality from science. This being something I'm rather keen on, I was happy that he said something concise and clear before I regretfully had to leave the car (and radio) and go into work.

To paraphrase:
We can make decisions about good and evil based on the wellbeing of humans and animals. All that sort of stuff is tied into anthropology, sociology, economics etc which Science can certainly get a handle on. Is it 'right' to coerce women into wearing burqas, as they do in Afghanistan? Women get beaten or killed for not going about their lives in a cloth sack. Afghanistan has a 12% literacy rate for women and an average life expectancy of 44 years. It's an unfortunate place to be born if you're female.

So it might be fairly rational and sane to infer that wellbeing is not being increased by burqa-coercion. Harm doesn't seem to be limited by that practice. Hence it may be less good than other options.

Apologies if my above paraphrase gets muddy or confused, I'm not trying to claim direct cause in either direction between burqas and the literacy rate. But one could make observations, look at data, make hypotheses and generally strive to make the world a better place with less harm in it.

And secondly, a referral of more 'Scott Adams is a bit crap' vein via Pharyngula.
http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2011/04/why_sockpuppetry_is_stupid.php

"Scott Adams, creator of Dilbert, has been discovered to have tried to pad his reputation with a fake ID … he's used the pseudonym "PlannedChaos" to go around the web praising Scott Adams as a "certified genius".
You know, it's a good rule of thumb that if you have to announce that you're a genius, you aren't a genius.
I've been remarking on Adams' stupidity for years. He's a creationist apologist who doesn't understand science, and the kind of insipid apologist for religion who thinks Pascal's wager is a good argument. It's no surprise that he had to cobble up imaginary sycophants to make himself look good.
And then, of course, there's the classic, standard Adams riposte whenever he's exposed as a fool. Sure, he said something stupid, he'll say, but he did it because he's funny and you are even dumber for taking him seriously. It's no surprise that that is his response now.
I'm sorry I peed in your cesspool. For what it's worth, the smart people were on to me after the first post. That made it funnier.
That schtick wore out ages ago."

Date: 2011-04-18 11:03 am (UTC)
shamus: (Default)
From: [personal profile] shamus
"how we can derive morality from science"
"We can make decisions about good and evil based on the wellbeing of humans and animals. All that sort of stuff is tied into anthropology, sociology, economics etc which Science can certainly get a handle on."

I have a problem with this. You end up with the whole Star Trek "the needs of the many" crap. Yes, you can look at a given system and scientifically come up with a set of behavioural decision rules for the individual elements of that system that will maximise the health of the whole system. But what happens when you look at subsets of the system or supersets? I contend that the set of behavioural decision rules for the individual will change depending on the scope of the system you are taking into account.

And then there are the potentially counter intuitive examples such as the advances made in engineering and medicine during wartime.

Date: 2011-04-18 03:37 pm (UTC)
shamus: (Default)
From: [personal profile] shamus
Pretty much. There's two ways of looking at it. Morality is personal and subjective, and there are different moralities depending on the scope you choose to examine.

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