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August 4th First Monthly Service on SCIENCE: IS IT ENOUGH?

Posted: Tue Aug 06, 2019 10:52 am
by tim
The August service began with our usual look at what the NTCOF is doing and intends to, mainly to explore and discuss what it is like to be who we are with the intention of improving the quality of our lives. We considered the words of American playwright Jonathan Larson:

“There's only now, there's only here. Give into love, or live in fear. No other course, no other way.”

The service included a Moment of Science on the subject of genetic engineering in China using the CRISPR gene-editing process. The Chinese are WAY AHEAD of anyone else, including the USA, in this work. In an article in the most recent Science magazine, one of the developers of the CRISPR system observed that China “is a country and a culture that really values science and technology.” So the Chinese are very committed to this work. The results are expected to be improved strains of plants and animals, much better knowledge and treatment of human illnesses and potentially a good deal more. Of course, this is all unknown to the American public who would likely feel that it “doesn't matter.” But eventually it WILL matter a great deal.

The bulk of the service was then taken up with a consideration of science: what it is, what it isn't, and whether it is “enough” for various purposes. One clear conclusion was that scientific progress depends on people continuing to ask questions no matter how much is learned about objective reality. The “gaps” into which supernaturalists continually try to insert their nonsense are not defects but, rather, the frontiers of understanding. And the criticism that science needs ethics does not give primacy to supernaturalism and its Might Makes Right principle (and that ultimate might makes ultimate right) but to rational methods of implementing The Golden Rule.

A lot of material including a video clip was presented based on the 20th Century physicist and Nobelist Richard Feynman. Feynman repeatedly made such points as that concepts like “energy” and “gravity” and “friction” relate to scientific accounts of the world but are not themselves really science. In an address to science teachers in 1966 Feynman sketched the history and impact of science by pointing out how animals including humans learn from experience but that what is learned was at first not preserved and passed on to others. Eventually, this problem was solved by language and, especially writing, which allowed the accumulation of knowledge. But, he said:

“ … there came a time in which the ideas, although accumulated very slowly, were all accumulations not only of practical and useful things, but great accumulations of all types of prejudices, and strange and odd beliefs. Then a way of avoiding the disease was discovered. This is to doubt that what is being passed from the past is in fact true, and to try to find out ab initio again from experience what the situation is, rather than trusting the experience of the past in the form in which it is passed down. And that is what science is: the result of the discovery that it is worthwhile rechecking by new direct experience, and not necessarily trusting the experience from the past. I see it that way. That is my best definition.”

Adler further considering a number of things about science, we explored whether and to what degree science is “enough.” And we concluded with an observation of Aldous Huxley, the British author of the novel Brave New World and other works and the grandson of Thomas Henry Huxley who was known as “Darwin's Bulldog” and the atheist who coined the term “Agnosticism.” Said Aldous Huxley:

“Science is not enough, religion is not enough, art is not enough, politics and economics is not enough, nor is love, nor is duty, nor is action however disinterested, nor, however sublime, is contemplation. Nothing short of everything will really do.”