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The Hubris of Science?


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This phrase came up on another thread. I'm not convinced that science IS hubristic. The great Feynman said that science was a culture of doubt, so while individual scientists may be hubristic the culture of doubt imposes a collective modesty upon all who participate, surely?

Science bashers strike me as as comically inconsistent; they use their GPS to find a pizza place (the GPS requiring relativistic equations), they turn on their microwaves and expect a hot Pizza to emerge (thanks to quantum theory which made them possible) and then they sit down in their armchairs and pontificate about the folly of scientific theory. Have your pizza and eat it!

Reality check.

Olly

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Ahhh

But in general - Science provides Rules, Laws, Constants and facts, where Theories are the follies of the unsure....

I remember reading an interesting article regarding the validity of Einsteins theories, while recognising his brilliant mathmatical brain - questions whether science has slowed or been stunted in theorietical debate and providing facts and laws in providing solutions to the universe due to people easily recognising a Einsteins theory as fact rather than a theory - pointing to constraints in his general relativity theory and the fact that light is no longer considered constant, with scientists trying to cram in evidence or trying to conform to his theories, rather than rip them up and start again.

Chris

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Science is hubristic - whether thats lay people ascribing certainty to scientific theories (which the scientists often dont) or whether its the smugness of individuals or collectives it does regard itself these days as the arbiter of all things.

Science has become a kind of tyrant to the people that feels it can mow down all other debate. The MMGW is one extreme example where we are told to believe it because 'science says so' - science has yet to make a reliable prediction on climate.

But lets skip MMGW which is even more contentiouso (and likely to lead to a bunfight where the mods will stop the therad - and rightly so Mr Moderator Sir :)

Science whether collectively or by individuals representing it has made endless pronouncements in a Canute like manner about things which are far from certain and in more cases than not been proved wrong. Now the science fans will say 'aha but thats because science admits its failures'

I would take two points there - an endless prediction which occasionally is correct doesnt exactly engender any faith in the answers but more critically science DOESNT often admit it got it wrong - at leat not until a foot is applied to its throat and it is dragged kicking and screaming to the right answer.

If you doubt this read up on Koch and his germ transmission theories, read up on Bohr and Einstein or read the science journals on sexuality. The evidence is clear on that last one but STILL its disputed because it doesnt fit with prejudice. Science history is littered with this ("Aneastetic is a chimara" thats from the Lancet by the way)

I for one dont doubt science has made some great strides but it cant be the arbiter of all things which people would have you think it is.

As for microwaves - they werent invented from quantum theory they were developed from noticing that cans of beans could be heated up in front of a ships rader in WW2 which is why they were originally called radar ovens.

But back to the hubris - how many times do you hear on the radio that this or that should be banned, restricted, reduced because science says its harmful. Science may well be able to show harm but I am more interested in liberty and freedom.

Just because science says its harmful to smoke, drink, drive at over 30mph doesnt mean it should be illegal. One element is harm the other is my liberty. I wish to do what I wish to do - if its harmful its at my risk. I dont require a nanny in a lab coat to advise me.

Science has moved from being a force for good and the rational towards an all powerful tyranny against which arguments for faith, liberty, self determination are all overwhlemed by the oh so practical voice of science and its acolytes demanding proof. Proof strangely is something often lacking in science itself which very often is skewed to prejudice and prior belief.

Hubris - what better example than the LHC and a desire to prove that 'God got it wrong' I paraphrase but theres an assumption in science that we should be able to understand the universe. Errrr why ?

Why should an ape like species with very limited technology be able to understand it ? Dont let the techno fool you there. To date our real inventions are very limited. Some would say to fire, the wheel but I'd be a bit more generous and include the steam engine, the amplifier and the transistor.

These are in fact the sole building blocks of our 'techno' world and there has yet to be a serious jump in our capabilities since the 60s - everything else has been a refinement of what was around then. Magnetic processors may change that as may carbon nanotubes but its still all a very primitive level of technolgy.

But my final argument for hubris is this - go work in a University reserach department (and I have) and sit on a budget meeting where various profs face budget cuts and you will see hubris by the spadeload :D

Science isn't some 'pure' force working for the good of mankind. Its proprietry, personal, budget led, money seeking.

I heard a science fan on R4 a few weeks ago claiminng that they can implant false memories into a fruit fly. When asked 'isnt that scary - dont you think its dangerous after all in the wrong hands it could be used on humans' the profs answer was 'oh we are a long way from that' - he missed the point. When Lise Meitner realised where physics were leading in 1937 they were a long way from 'that' then. That in case you hadnt guess was Hiroshima.

Science is amoral. Given its head it would enslave you in a way that would make the medieval church wince.

I rest my case ;)

Edited by Astro_Baby
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Hubris - what better example than the LHC and a desire to prove that 'God got it wrong' I paraphrase but theres an assumption in science that we should be able to understand the universe. Errrr why

As much as I think the LHC is the biggest waste of expenditure ever carried out....science needs to make mistakes and errors as well as results...so as much as I would rather the money go into research into providing more space exploration...I can't help wonder what else will the collider come up with? Higgs Boson - boring......

Man has always had a weakness on their own mortality....which then goes into a topic not welcome on SGL....with the other flip of the coin those that wish to provide evidence to the contrary..with both paries having a hubris mindset.

Man will destroy himself before he finds himself....???

Chris

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I think one has to realise (the obvious) that ALL science is a human activity. Frankly I do think that the LHC is a worthwhile (albeit perhaps overly expensive!) investment - Hubristic(?), sometimes, but in HUMAN terms, incalculable? For what it's worth, when old Maggie Thatcher came on a "State Visit" to our experiment at CERN, she was shown around, by my onetime boss... I hope it betrays no confidences to relate her GENUINE surprise was that (quoting roughly): "You can get so MANY people to work together in such harmony"! She allegedly, further observed, THAT was she couldn't achieve, even in her own cabinet! LOL. Of course, shortly afterwards, her sundry... minions cut the (then) "science budget" as ever? :D

Non-serious: But I learned, early on, that Astrononomers always "hate" Particle Physicists - In much the same way "Spike" (dog) , in Tom & Jerry cartoons, hates "Tom" (cat). I do miss Science, but certainly not the Politics therof! :)

Edited by Macavity
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I think part of the issue is that people mis-interpret what 'science' is. Science is a process for testing ideas through the collection of evidence. That's it. 'Science' doesn't claim anything, although admittedly sometimes people who work with the scientific method do. But that's really a separate issue.

The idea that there is a body of facts called 'science' is quite a problematic misconception. There just isn't. Our school and exam systems don't do anything to help with this misconception.

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I think one has to realise (the obvious) that ALL science is a human activity. Frankly I do think that the LHC is a worthwhile (albeit perhaps overly expensive!) investment - Hubristic(?), sometimes, but in HUMAN terms, incalculable? For what it's worth, when old Maggie Thatcher came on a "State Visit" to our experiment at CERN, she was shown around, by my onetime boss... I hope it betrays no confidences to relate her GENUINE surprise was that (quoting roughly): "You can get so MANY people to work together in such harmony"! She allegedly, further observed, THAT was she couldn't achieve, even in her own cabinet! LOL. Of course, shortly afterwards, her sundry... minions cut the (then) "science budget" as ever? :D

Non-serious: But I learned, early on, that Astrononomers always "hate" Particle Physicists - In much the same way "Spike" (dog) , in Tom & Jerry cartoons, hates "Tom" (cat). I do miss Science, but certainly not the Politics therof! :)

it says something about Mrs T that not only do you remember something she said 20(?) years ago but that you thought it was genuine! (sorry off topic)

ps i thought only shakesperean tragic heroes suffered "Hubris"?

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I am of the opinion that scientists will ignore results which don't support the theories which they hold dear. This "hubris" (new word to me, btw) attitude is one which I have often remarked upon regarding doctors, dentists, solicitors, in fact pretty much anyone whom I have personally encountered who has gained a degree at university. So much so, that I am convinced that the 1st lecture all under graduates have to attend is "how to be a smart alec* know it all who can't be told anything 'cos they already know everything that there is to know, and should there be anything which they are unaware of, it isn't worth knowing"

*word changed so as not to upset any young persons who may be reading this.

Edited by yeti monster
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This "hubris" (new word to me, btw) attitude is one which I have often remarked upon regarding doctors, dentists, solicitors, in fact pretty much anyone whom I have personally encountered who has gained a degree at university.

i ask very very humbly not to be accused of hubris. i am not worthy.

dan

(humble) solicitor

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I think part of the issue is that people mis-interpret what 'science' is. Science is a process for testing ideas through the collection of evidence. That's it. 'Science' doesn't claim anything, although admittedly sometimes people who work with the scientific method do. But that's really a separate issue.

The idea that there is a body of facts called 'science' is quite a problematic misconception. There just isn't. Our school and exam systems don't do anything to help with this misconception.

Well said.

Olly you are a tinker;)

Reading through the thread some of the comments have been interesting and others just weird.

I'm sat in my GP surgery having my lunch thinking about the discussions I'm going to have with patients and the decisions I'm going to making this afternoon. Some say medicine is an art rather than a science and I'm sure that's partly right - picking up on the nuances of what people say, understanding how their condition impacts on their life and coming up with a plan tailored to suit them isn't really science or even the appliance of science.

Then there is witchcraft, there's plenty of that in modern medicine, the placebo is our most reliably effective drug. A doctor who is positive and enthusiastic about resolving the patients problem gets patients better quicker than one than one who is more aloof. Quoting Voltaire, "The art of medicine consists of keeping the patient amused while nature heals the disease".

But the science wont go away, or more correctly for me, the scientific method. Imagine the chap who has recently been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. He is at greater risk of developing cardiovascular problems. Actually we don't know that for certain. Many thousands of people with diabetes and without have been monitored and it just seems that way. It could all be a statistical quirk but that would be very improbable. Of course drug companies fund a lot of these studies and have a tendancy to bin the ones that aren't helpful to their cause, and researchers want to make a name for themselves so the waters are a bit muddied. Then their are confounding factors and sample bias and so on. Actually it's much easier to just accept or rubbish the data than seriously analyse it! So our chap with diabetes is likely to have his diabetes reduced by having his cholesterol lowered by one of a group of chemicals called statins. But of course that is based on best evidence. The term evidence based medicine is emotive, not all things can be neatly measured and of course, we have all that publication bias stuff to think about.

So my chap with diabetes comes to see me and says, "should I be on a statin?" Should I say

i) From what I know at the moment the possible benefits of treatment are likely to outweigh the possible risks so I think you should be be taking a statin.

ii) Here is a book on statistics and some trial references, look it up for yourself

iii) don't go on what I say, I'm just trying to hit my quality and outcomes framework targets so that I can buy a new telescope

iv) Science is hubris, forget the statin, just enjoy life!

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it says something about Mrs T that not only do you remember something she said 20(?) years ago but that you thought it was genuine! (sorry off topic)
And I think, if you hadn't CHOSEN to "politicise" my post, my broadly ironic message was clear enough re. my general opinion on ALL politicians? But occasionally, I think REAL LIFE experience can add a little spice to the abstract debate of such things? ;)

Be assured anyway that I have MY OWN opinion of a lot of things... I occasionally I use the language of irony? I occasionally encourage a certain... self deluded superiority in others too! LOL But mostly I just "muck around" here. Gawd, gimme a break? Heck, to be frank, I begin also to slightly TIRE too of emoticon-free, impersonal, slightly "techy", world of (even) SGL recently? I sense I'm not the only one. Admittedly I should have kept out of this one... No real complaint, I suspect I simply need a LONG sojourn away from the internet... :D

P.S. FWIW, I had to look up HUBRIS as well. :)

Edited by Macavity
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i ask very very humbly not to be accused of hubris. i am not worthy.

dan

(humble) solicitor

Thanfully, and I am a great believer in this theory, there are always exceptions to the rule.

(thinks: there's probably a branch of "science" devoted to proving that there is always an exception to the rule, and no doubt they will ignore any results which prove to the contrary).

Edited by yeti monster
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And I think, if you hadn't CHOSE to "politicise" my post, my broadly ironic message was clear enough re. my general opinion on ALL politicians? But occasionally, I think REAL LIFE experience can add a little spice to the abstract debate of such things? ;)

Be assured anyway that I have MY OWN opinion of a lot of things... I occasionally I use the language of irony? I occasionally encourage a certain... self deluded superiority in others too! LOL But mostly I just "muck around" here. Gawd, gimme a break? Heck, to be frank, I begin also to slightly TIRE too of emoticon-free, impersonal, slightly "techy", world of (even) SGL recently? I sense I'm not the only one. Admittedly I should have kept out of this one... No real complaint, I suspect I simply need a LONG sojourn away from the internet... ;)

P.S. FWIW, I had to look up HUBRIS as well. :D

sorry - I missed the "irony". i just thought it was interesting that Mrs T gave your boss a little pat on the head and you all thought it was genuine (er, unless you were being "ironic"). no offence meant.

here's a smiley :)

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sorry - I missed the "irony". i just thought it was interesting that Mrs T gave your boss a little pat on the head and you all thought it was genuine (er, unless you were being "ironic"). no offence meant.

here's a smiley :)

No Problemo. And indeed Backatcha! ;)

Unfortunately I am no "philosopher". LOL. I do speculate that there is a certain surprise among "lay" folk that there is this... possibility, that whole "communities" can live without overt conflict. Imperfect? Eletist as it is, I feel that scientific collaboration may be a start.

I suspect such is rather TYPICAL, but perhaps not optimal (LOL):

A Life in the Day: Dr Brian Cox - Times Online

At least if you're campaigning for more money for/from the STFC? :D

(Don't tell 'em Pike - Or at least, don't mention the WINE?)

Edited by Macavity
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No Problemo. And indeed Backatcha! :D

Unfortunately I am no "philosopher". LOL. I do speculate that there is a certain surprise among "lay" folk that there is this... possibility, that whole "communities" can live without overt conflict. Imperfect? Eletist as it is, I feel that scientific collaboration may be a start.

I suspect such is rather TYPICAL, but perhaps not optimal (LOL):

A Life in the Day: Dr Brian Cox - Times Online

At least if you're campaigning for more money for/from the STFC? :)

(Don't tell 'em Pike - Or at least, don't mention the WINE?)

sorry - I was being a smart-a**e and I deserved a slap ;).

but what do Swindon Town Football Club have to do with anything:icon_scratch:? (hah - who was saying that acronyms should be explained...)

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Thanfully, and I am a great believer in this theory, there are always exceptions to the rule.

(thinks: there's probably a branch of "science" devoted to proving that there is always an exception to the rule, and no doubt they will ignore any results which prove to the contrary).

Actually, in maths there is Godel's theorem which states that any mathematical system of rules is incomplete (i.e., there are true statements which cannot be proven true, or false statements which cannot be proven false). Turing had a similar observation in the field of computation theory.

Science as other's have said is a human endeavour, and therefore has many flaws. Indeed people rant against science often cite bad scientific practices to discredit all of science.

As others have said, science gains most of its strength out of doubt. Us scientists provide no facts or laws, but observations (fraught with all difficulties of noise, system biases, drift, operator errors, etc.), and models which explain these observations (all more-or-less limited). Whether you call these models theories, hypotheses or laws is more a matter of taste than anything else. As Karl Popper said, we cannot verify these models, only falsify them. Thus, what scientist CAN provide is proof that a particular model is wrong (even though models can then often be embellished with all kinds of gizmos to make it work again, in which case Occam's Razor should be used to cut the excrement)

Regarding science being right or wrong morally, Richard Feynman had something to say about that as well, quoting a Buddhist saying: "At birth everyone receives a key to heaven, but the same key opens the door to hell." Like this key, science gives us great power to do good, but also great power to do evil. It is up to us to make proper use of this power.

Indeed this collision between scientific models and our personal belief of what is right or wrong is at the heart of many peoples' doubts about scientific theories. From the outset, Darwinism was considered unethical because God could not be so callous and wasteful of his creatures. Science, however, is not here to prove that the world works the way we personally would like it to be, but to find out how it (probably) works, whether we like it or not.

As Terry Pratchett frequently notes in his novels: if you shout at the universe that life is not fair, the only answer it is likely to give is: "So?"

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Well said.

Olly you are a tinker;)

Reading through the thread some of the comments have been interesting and others just weird.

I'm sat in my GP surgery having my lunch thinking about the discussions I'm going to have with patients and the decisions I'm going to making this afternoon. Some say medicine is an art rather than a science and I'm sure that's partly right - picking up on the nuances of what people say, understanding how their condition impacts on their life and coming up with a plan tailored to suit them isn't really science or even the appliance of science.

Then there is witchcraft, there's plenty of that in modern medicine, the placebo is our most reliably effective drug. A doctor who is positive and enthusiastic about resolving the patients problem gets patients better quicker than one than one who is more aloof. Quoting Voltaire, "The art of medicine consists of keeping the patient amused while nature heals the disease".

But the science wont go away, or more correctly for me, the scientific method. Imagine the chap who has recently been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. He is at greater risk of developing cardiovascular problems. Actually we don't know that for certain. Many thousands of people with diabetes and without have been monitored and it just seems that way. It could all be a statistical quirk but that would be very improbable. Of course drug companies fund a lot of these studies and have a tendancy to bin the ones that aren't helpful to their cause, and researchers want to make a name for themselves so the waters are a bit muddied. Then their are confounding factors and sample bias and so on. Actually it's much easier to just accept or rubbish the data than seriously analyse it! So our chap with diabetes is likely to have his diabetes reduced by having his cholesterol lowered by one of a group of chemicals called statins. But of course that is based on best evidence. The term evidence based medicine is emotive, not all things can be neatly measured and of course, we have all that publication bias stuff to think about.

So my chap with diabetes comes to see me and says, "should I be on a statin?" Should I say

i) From what I know at the moment the possible benefits of treatment are likely to outweigh the possible risks so I think you should be be taking a statin.

ii) Here is a book on statistics and some trial references, look it up for yourself

iii) don't go on what I say, I'm just trying to hit my quality and outcomes framework targets so that I can buy a new telescope

iv) Science is hubris, forget the statin, just enjoy life!

Interesting angle Martin

However what would you prescribe or do??

If you had given me that diagnosis....I am pretty sure I would trust that you knew the best way for me to manage the situation.

My basis would be simple - I am not knowledgeable in medicine so would have to accept the advise from someone that was.

I have to give advise all the time at work - sometimes I am right and sometimes I am wrong....

Funnily If I say it can be done - it goes well, If I say it can't be done, it is not well recieved...:)

In a previous job I once had to explain to a newish sales director that he could not keep on openly quoting figures for efficiencies of our equipment because it was impossible in physics to achieve and it made our company look stupid.

It turned out that he trawled our database for the best results we had got for the efficiency of our mercury lamps and used this as a sales tool - dis-regarding the fact it was in a quarenteend file as a deuterium source had drifted whilst in operation and voided a whole selection of results.

He was adamant that the plots were valid to provide as evidence :D went into a whole rhetoric of his professional qualifications and suggested that the source could not have thrown out the plots as much as it had done.

Information is useless if people want to interpret it in a manner they wish to perceive...

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Well, I have read through the evidence. It isn't pure or cast iron but it is pretty overwhelmingly in favour of statin treatment provided the statin doesn't cause excessive side effects. However, the likely benefit to the individual is much less predictable than it is to a population. Most people taking heart disease prevention treatment will never develop heart disease anyway and others may go on to get it despite the Rx. So we are only ever talking probabilities.

Most people take my advice, a few prefer their own world view. Fortunately when it comes down to critical things like health most people seem to suspend their world weary scientific cynism. Fortunately doctors have been coming off their pedestals (apart from the BMA continuing to try to ban boxing) and see their role as working with patients by involving them in their management and, where appropriate, giving options for management.

I have a great love of science, it's about trying to understand why things are the way they are. The application of science is a completely different thing, much more complicated and messy.

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Cor blimey! And Maritn B, you call ME a tinker! Huh... Mind you, I wish you were my doctor. I can hear you now; 'Shut up, Olly, and die like an astronomer! You are too old to believe in pills.' And indeed I am.

Astro Baby, reading your post is like trying to read the books in a library just as they are being hit by a hand grenade. Microwaves were invented after the heating of beans by radar. Aha, and where did radar come from? Was it discovered after otherwise inexplicably hot beans were discovered next to a pile of wires and magnets? (BTW, in the version I heard it was nice cool pints of beer being boiled into an unquaffable foam which overflowed onto the transmitters, extinguished them and permitted the enemy to approach unseen and bomb our Coventry Cathedrals.)

My original point conceded that individual scientists are hubristic.

Fighting for funding is about employment, prosperity and personal stability. It has nothing whatever to do with science as I raise the subject.

Science seems to have demonstrated that smoking is dangerous. It has absolutely nothing whatever to say about whether or not you should do it. Other people might.

You won't be smoking in my house because I don't want you to and it is MY HOUSE. Science doesn't come into it!

The public takes science too seriously? I have the opposite impression. There is an all pervading misconception, already identified in this thread, that science produces incorrect 'facts' that are really just 'theories' and are constantly being replaced by brand new ones. Everyone on this thread, including you, knows why this a misconception. You make this clear. My point is that in the non scientific community (which includes both the educated and uneducated wise and the educated and uneducated foolish) - the misconception is widespread. It even stains the radiant face of Radio 4's Today programme.

I'm sorry, but I cannot accept that undergraduates and graduates have a monopoly on smart aleckery. They may hone their skills in these areas but the skills themselves are fairly widespread. I was ruddy smart in the Alecks before going to university, I can tell you.

Oh, and 'Mrs T.' Remind me...?

Olly

PS Michael, I greatly enjoyed your post. You'll have to be careful though. I would love to discuss the wastefulness or otherwise of two hyenas immobilizing a beast by hanging onto its testicles and nostrils while their colleauges devour it alive but the subject is off limits here.

Edited by ollypenrice
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Well, I have read through the evidence. It isn't pure or cast iron but it is pretty overwhelmingly in favour of statin treatment provided the statin doesn't cause excessive side effects. However, the likely benefit to the individual is much less predictable than it is to a population. Most people taking heart disease prevention treatment will never develop heart disease anyway and others may go on to get it despite the Rx. So we are only ever talking probabilities.

Most people take my advice, a few prefer their own world view. Fortunately when it comes down to critical things like health most people seem to suspend their world weary scientific cynism. Fortunately doctors have been coming off their pedestals (apart from the BMA continuing to try to ban boxing) and see their role as working with patients by involving them in their management and, where appropriate, giving options for management.

I have a great love of science, it's about trying to understand why things are the way they are. The application of science is a completely different thing, much more complicated and messy.

I am pretty glad I chose a vocation where I can be wrong...I don't envy you.

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Radar came from Watson Watt as an experimentalist without wishing to sound rude I am quite well read on the development of radar and the magnetron which made possible centimetric radar. My degree is in electronic engineering and specifically radio and televion systems. Watson Watt was very much an experimentalist rather than a theorotician. Read as I might I find no mention of Watt being involved in quantum theory.

You may as well try to prove that the Wright brothers developed flying through an understanding of Newtons Mechanica or more advanced theories on airflow design techniques. Without trawling through a reference I cant be sure but Quantum Physics didnt arrive until long after the invention of radio from which radar came as far as I know.

My point is that science MAY touch on our lives in many ways. I think I'd live without a microwave to be honest though and see no reason because some enterprising matelot observed his soup would heat up in front of a radar to hold science in any greatb esteem. All the more so since most of the really useful stuff has come from gifted amateurs.

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In its modern usage, hubris denotes overconfident pride and arrogance; it is often associated with a lack of humility.......

Are we all not capable of the above??

Who likes to be wrong or shown up to be wrong....??

Many advances in our civilisation whether through science or just simply stumbled across have ultimatly come from having a point of view and sticking with it...

hubris as shaming the victim, not because anything happened to you or might happen to you, but merely for your own gratification

I fail to see where Science has adopted the above - but I may be wrong....

Science is such a big cover all that tries to fill in the gaps of our understanding on many subjects....as we progress we adapt it, remove some of it, re-think it and include new processes.

I cant see where a group of white coats have turned up at funerals of cancer victims and saying he should have listened to us about that smoking....

Science for me is about providing a massive toolbox for people to rummage about and pick out the tools they require.....

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Shouldn't this thread be entitled the hubris of scientists :) . Science itself is a set of theories, proven or otherwise, which try to explain what goes on around us. Scientists on the other hand are human, so are capable of the complete range of human emotions and failings, including hubris...

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Astro Baby, you seem to have me on the origins of radar but what about the way modern microwaves are designed, calibrated, tested? I don't know. Do they use beans? Anyway I enjoyed the exchange and will gladly be wrong on that score. The GPS stands, I think, and science will still prove the Pizza unhealthy but allow you to eat it.

The traditional use of hubris is much more interesting than the modern and has much, much more to do with the debate in progress. It refers to a particular kind of pride concerned with the defiance of the will of the gods. (Uh -oh. I've started so I'll finish.) It was used in Aristotle's analysis of Greek tragedy in which he saw a doomed hero, hubris afflicted, unwilling to accept the bounds of mortal knowledge and seeking to do what it is not destined for man to do. (Fly like Icarus for instance.) Hubris describes the desire to transcend the human condition. Yes - as we do in scientific enquiry. To know what we do not know.

What I always found WRONG with Aristotle on tragedy was that his analysis seems to reduce Tragedy (the art form) to the level of morality play. In reality the Tragic Hero always seems to make our hearts sing with the glory of his endeavour, however doomed it may be. Aristotle would have us 'purged' (by catharsis) of this arrogant desire yet I aways feel inspired! Defiant! I WILL find out what happened at 10 to the minus 43 second and how many dimensions there are and how time really works! I will!

Ooohhh. I think I have just proved that science is hubristic. Now there's a thing...

Olly

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science will still prove the Pizza unhealthy but allow you to eat it.

In truth what will happen is science will have a THEORY that Pizza is unhealthy create a lot of fuss about it heating up the sun or destroying the ozone layer. The imperfect science will then be used as an argument (its a scientific fact etc) to ban you from eating pizza.

Thats my big worry with science these days - its seen as an infallible hyper rational tool when in fact it is neither.

I think we'll have to agree to differ :) We'll discuss it over a large bottle of vino collapso at some time ;)

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