On a Way of Thinking

As time goes by it seems to be that people have less and less confidence in the findings of science; maybe because of the many conspiracies that exist or because of what it does not align with what they want to be true. They shouldn’t be blamed as I think there is a big gap in how people actually see what science is or why and how it works. The answer to many of these issues is a lack of scientific literacy or literally being curious.

Being scientifically literate doesn’t mean that you should be studying in the sciences for formal training but how you perceive, question and deduce the world around you. Pseudoscience is kinda big and it looks like it can increase due to the echo chambers that appear to grow online.

It’s not that pseudoscience and superstition and so called beliefs are something new. They’ve been with us as long as we’ve been human. But we live in an age based on science and technology with formidable technological powers. Science and technology are propelling us forward at accelerating rates and if we don’t understand; by we I mean the general public. If it’s something that “Oh, I’m not good at that. I don’t know anything about it.” then who is making all the decisions about science and technology that are going to determine what kind of future our children will live in?

There’s a danger in all this; One is that we’ve arranged this society based on science and technology in which nobody understands anything about science and technology, and this combustible mixture of ignorance and power is going to blow up in our faces sooner or later. And the second reason that I’m worried about this is that science is more than a body of knowledge, it’s a way of thinking. A way of skeptically interrogating the universe with a fine understanding of the human fallability. If we are not able to ask skeptical questions to interrogate those who tell us that something is true. To be skeptical of those in authority then we are up for grabs for the next charlatan, political or religious, who comes ambling along. The people have to be educated and they need to practice their skepticism and education. Otherwise we don’t run the government. The government runs us.

For example it’s funny that some people not trained in the domain of finance can read stock market quotations and financial pages. Look how complex that is. People not trained in the domain of sports are able to look at sports statistics. Look how many people can do that. Understanding science is no more difficult than that. It doesn’t involve greater intellectual activities but the thing about science is first of all it’s after what the universe really is and not what makes us feel better. And a lot of the competing doctrines are after what feels good and not what’s true. Millions of people understand that science does not prove religion because religion is faith based.

Looking a little deeper into that; What is faith? — Belief in the absence of evidence. Now I don’t propose to tell anyone what to believe, but for me believing when there is no compelling evidence looks like kind of a mistake(that I make sometimes too). The idea is to hold belief until there is compelling evidence and if the universe does not comply with our predispositions then we have the wrenching obligation to accomodate to the way the universe is.

I actually think about this and ask “So who is more humble?” The scientist who looks at the universe with an open mind and accepts whatever the universe has to teach us? Or somebody who says everything in this book must be considered the literal truth and never mind the fallibility of all the human beings involved in the writing of this book?

We loose people who are dear to us during the course of our lives to death, we have great relationships with some before they pass away. We miss them when they die and would love to believe they are spirits who are around somewhere. We’d give almost anything to spend five minutes a year with them. We hear their proper voices talking to us after they have departed. Does it mean they are in the next room? No. In my case I think it means that I’ve had an auditory hallucination about it. I was with them so long. I heard their voices so often. Why shouldn’t I be able to make a vivid recollection?

Also I have this thought that it’s arrogance to exclude the possibility of life elsewhere like outside of our solar system or galactic neighborhood. Now I believe there is a lot we don’t know but it does not mean that every fraudulent claim has to be accepted. We demand the most rigorous standars of evidence especially on what is important to us. So if for example some guy comes up to me — a channeller or a medium: “I can put you in contact with your dead grand parents or friend.” Well because I want so terribly to believe that I know I have to need to reach in for added reserves of skepticism because I’m likely to be fooled and much more minor, to have my money taken.

When I think about what would it be like to be dead myself I personally got to embrace the thought that this is it. After our time here we just go to a long dreamless sleep and the one thing it has done for me is to enhance my sense of appreciation for the beauty of life and of the universe and the sheer joy of being alive. The appreciation of every moment, every inanimate object and to say nothing of the exquisite complexity of living beings. You imagine missing it all and suddenly it is so much more precious.

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Bill Morrisson

Bill Morrisson

ML researcher and engineer. I write mainly about A.I. , Computer Science, Mathematics, how they fit in industry and thoughts about Science and life in general.