The Hubris of Science

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Hubris – Excessive pride or self-confidence.

I don’t think I have ever witnessed greater hubris, bigotry and contempt for other people’s opinions than that displayed by some of our so-called rationalist scientists. Laurence Krauss and Richard Dawkins come to mind. They leave the religious bigots in the shade.

I’m an ex-scientist, having studied theoretical physics for my degree and for my PhD. Science is useful, but it should make no pretensions to truth. We tend to forget that science is concerned with creating maps of reality – it’s a map, not the territory. Isaac Newton postulated “force at a distance” when he invented his equation for the law of gravity. Einstein came along and rubbished that idea by creating a new model – that gravity is the result of the curvature of space and time. These are just models, and no doubt Einsteins great work will be modified at some point.

Such has been the success of these models in helping us control and manipulate the environment that many scientists have become imbued with a religious fanaticism equalled only by the people they deride. It’s my opinion that most scientists are not all that bright. Yes, they might be good at math, remembering stuff, dissecting frogs and building particle colliders, but there is no real insight in all of that. We need to turn to philosophy and metaphysics to get insight. What contemporary scientists tend to forget is that all the greats (Einstein, Newton etc) where closet philosphers. Einstein was reading Kant when he was 16 years old, and Newton studied alchemy. They didn’t get their insights out of thin air.

Philosophy is very unfashionable in scientific circles, and so is God. I have nothing to say about the latter, it just depends on what a person means by God. Philosophy however is a different matter, and I shall take a brief journey into Kant to illustrate a few issues.
I don’t think anyone would argue with the fact that our minds and bodies have a very particular and finite construction. They work in very definite ways. Kant spent most of his life trying to understand how our minds work, and he delivered some quite startling conclusions. Time and space are properties of our consciousness. There is no “out there” other than the one our minds (brains) create. This view is vindicated scientifically by Einstein’s special relativity – time and space are different for all observers depending on their motion. As I mentioned earlier, Einstein read Kant.

Kant also said our minds operate according to 12 laws (or categories). Causality is a property of our mind, and not things. We think in terms of categories, and if we see something we haven’t come across before it will just go in our uncategorized category. We also perceive reality as being comprised of objects – and so on. We don’t create reality, we just shape it according to how our minds work, and we are trapped within this framework the mind creates. We should make no pretensions to knowing what “the truth” is. All our science and thinking is “instrumental” – we create ideas and concepts because they are useful, not because they are true.

So the next time you see some half-wit scientist displaying their hubris, just remember they can make no claims to truth, they are boasting because they are ignorant. If they understood the limits of our ideas and thinking they might display a little more humility.

By MB

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