Richard Dawkins and twitter are the fun, there is no doubt about that. Most recently he stated that failing to abort a Downs Syndrome fetus was immoral.
Now, I actually agree with him on one level. A fetus is not a person. So he is not advocating the extermination of any people. And really, I think its good advice for most people. There are those who are happy to embrace the harder path… of raising a child with this condition. (I’m sure I’m being politically incorrect.TFB.) Good on them. But they are the minority, and raising a child is a huge undertaking as it is.
That said, I can certainly understand how those with Down’s syndrome, as well as people close to them, might be offended by his ‘moral’ imperative. This is why people who are experts in a field, should probably stick to their field of expertise, instead of pontificating… especially on twitter. Being moral, at least according to quite a few, involves empathy, something Mr. Dawkins sometimes isn’t really brimming with. How immoral of him.
Down’s syndrome people are not worthless. Nor should they be bullied, mocked, discarded… and nor should their existence be associated with the idea of immorality.
The ethics here are not easy though. Female feticide in certain places is a serious demographic problem, and one can bet if there ever is a test for the gay, lots of parents will be lining up to ensure only straight children happen. As parents, that should be their choice, but one informed by facts, not silly moralizing, so Mr. Dawkins should really know better.
Meanwhile… back at the ranch…
Over at why evolution is true, more silly scientist stuff.
The question is: How has the ‘academic discipline’ of philosophy helped science?
Gotta give him credit, it’s the right way to load…. I mean… phrase the question.
So what is so wrong about this… wisdom seeking… question?
First, if one were to ask, how has ‘philosophy’ helped science, you run into a nonsense question. Science is the result of a fusion of empirical and rational philosophies, so really it owes its entire existence to, and is merely an extension of philosophy proper.
The loaded question however is about the ‘discipline’, as in university philosophy departments, and is of course, just an extension of the ongoing pissing contest between academics of different disciplines.
The discipline of philosophy is generally located on the humanities side, because it is essentially the ‘history of philosophy’. So within that framework… we could rather ask, how does the ‘history of science’ help science? Quite a lot.
Its all about lessons learned, and the ongoing learning of the lessons from history. But you know, to learn you have to study it, or it won’t be much help.
On a side note, the ‘Euthyphro Argument’ does not “dispel the notion that morality must come from god’s dictates”.
Euthyphro was part of Socrates project of attacking the sophists(evil ‘paid’ teachers, the horror) who claimed to be able to teach virtue. In this particular case, the virtue in question was piety. Socrates, as was his style, uses rhetoric to stymie the rhetoricians, when he shows a logical conflict between ‘being good’ and ‘doing good’. The fact, the sophists can’t answer this problem indicates, to Socrates, they are not qualified to teach, let alone get paid to teach, piety.
Socrates, at least the one described by Plato, is not an atheist. He denied it, right to the end, and his last reported words were an invocation to a god. An amusing invocation, but still.
I’m not saying there is a good answer to the euthyphro problem from the religious perspective, but to a certain degree it is just a logic problem based on conflicting premises. Impressive rhetoric, but that was kinda his thing.
Meanwhile.. at the other ranch….
Someone else is sandwalking through the demarcation problem… with such ease.
‘science is a way of knowing based on evidence, rational thinking, and healthy skepticism. This includes economists, physicians, and philosophers’
But this also includes foodies, carpenters, and hair stylists… and its not really a way of knowing, it is actually at least 2 different ways of knowing, rational(based on logic) and empirical(based on evidence). Skepticism is more about the rigourous application of both… so it can help, sometimes.
But the thing is, science doesn’t actually end there. It also involves ‘intuition’, the human brain’s pattern matching ability, which can often bridge the gap to new scientific discoveries. Coming up with theories that need to be tested is fundamental to modern science and is often based on ‘crazy’ ideas. The good part about modern science is that we don’t stop at ‘crazy’. You need religion for that.
It also involves another way of knowing, argument from authority, or knowledge gained from experts. Whether its the layman reading a science article, or even the peer review process, knowledge gained from experts in the field is invaluable… and not just in science.
Philosophers of science have been trying to nail down the different aspects of both: what scientists actually do, and what they should be doing to do ‘good’ science.
How much skepticism is healthy? Which takes precedence, logic or evidence? How do we best take advantage of both? What if we only have one and not the other?
No, you probably don’t need to take philosophy of science to do lab work, but knowing how to balance a recipe of experts, intuition, observations and logic is the art of science. Something scientists often do… without thinking too much about it. But they probably should… its part of being rigourous rationalists.
Damn…. now I’m hungry.