Archive for December 11th, 2019

Science Is What Humans Do. Human Life IS Exploratorium, Not Just A Vivarium

December 11, 2019

Existentialism, they said, and we should chuckle. Human existence is not about just being here, or there. It’s about learning and thinking, mostly, and then talking about it, humanly. among humans.

All is discourse. Top US “Democrats” agreed to let the US Congress to vote on Trump’s USMCA, the new NAFTA, a big progressive advance (insuring a minimum $16 hour/wage for 45% of the work). Within an hour, they decided to impeach him. First talk to progress, then address the rage of the base base…  Talk to one, then talk to the other…

Science come from “sciere”, to know in Latin. Science is what we know, that mean what we know for sure. When it becomes useful, one calls it technology (Greek for “specialized discourse”) or engineering (that which is born). There are also “human sciences”, where the knowledge is specifically directed to what humans do, and why, and what they did.

Humans are natural born scientists. Toddlers spend much of their waking time experimenting: they do something, and observe what happens. Then they do it again, until they are fairly confident they can tell in advance what will happen in some situations. 

The experimental method is as natural, as human, as it gets: that’s how brain grow, eating information, just as the body grows, eating food. What’s not natural is the arrogance of those who know “god” (= the ultimate explanation of the universe).

When the experimental method was “invented”, supposedly, in the Middle Ages, what was invented was a cure to the addiction to the Bible god, a particularly idiotic perversion which affected the Roman empire and was the proximal reason for its fall (this is an allusion to the Frigidarius battle of 394 CE, which opposed the Franks, mostly and the Catholic fanatics of Theodosius I and his Goths). By the Eleventh Century, the likes of Berengar, a famous theologian in France insisted that, actually reason was god, and not the bible…

We live in a scientific world. Everywhere we look, human science is in action: cars, planes, food, energy, phones, computers, and medicine. Not trying to understand the basics of why it works is like not trying to understand witchcraft: we put ourselves at the mercy of those who know, the sorcerers. We also are then unable to understand what will be good and what will be bad. So children have to learn enough science to take part in society in a manner informed enough to call this People Power (“Democracy”).  

When a young monkey observes another monkey break a nut open with a stone, all the fundamentals of the scientific method are present. So science is not uniquely human.  However, science is what humans produce on a scale no other animal does. There are two types of knowledge: knowledge one discovers by trying oneself, and the knowledge one acquires by culture. Science enables to predict how nature, things will evolve, from some clues. 

Children are genuine intellectuals, trying to figure things out, 24/7 (as long as they aren’t neurologically damaged as autistic children are). Later, they learn other things, to forget mortality.Science is all about finding nuts to eat, and the stones to break them.

Science explains the past, and makes for a better future. That progress in humanizing the human experience, is real and no laughing matter: legs are rarely sawed through without anesthetics, nowadays… As they still were, just 200 years ago. Why did mountain ranges rise, why there are earthquakes? Someday, when we understand the details of why there are earthquakes well enough, we will be able to predict when they happen, or even prevent them to happen all together.

Science is useful, even when it sounds fancy, and deprived of utility. Why did the dinosaurs, those giants, disappear? It sounds like an interesting question. It turns out, it is a crucial question, for not just civilization, but also the biosphere. And the answer to that question is not drawn with enough certainty yet. 

When dinosaurs disappeared, how did the oceans die? Or close to die? We don’t know for sure. Actually, we don’t really know.

Patrice Ayme