The Development of Modern Science

Ashley Baker, a student in the y:1 class The Development of Modern Science, posted this on the class blog:

Before this summer, it had never really occurred to me that science and reason overlap with the science of reason. Science is. But what is it? Why is it what it is, and how can this be explained objectively? Uncommon Sense, by Alan Cromer, and The Philosphy of Science, by Samir Okasha, bring it all into perspective (even if they never reach steadfast conclusions).

Albert Einstein and Leo Szilard

If science doesn’t analyze itself, isn’t that inherently unscientific? It’s important to remember that a study is a study, whether it be of Shakespeare or a migration pattern. People jump at the opportunity to debate a scholarly claim about the meaning behind the Bible- and it seems that even more would argue against the claims of a scientist. However, I don’t see that happen. Sure, there are medical journals, and “Wired” magazine, but while they’re deciding whether or not mechanical toothbrushes are better than manual, the rest of the world has divided between those who know The Lion King was based on Hamlet, and those who know it absolutely wasn’t. Frankly, if scientists don’t question themselves, who’s going to? In a perfect world, everyone would ask  ”why?” and “who says so?”. But they don’t, and they never will (unless they’re angry with the government). Those who make the check are responsible for rechecking it. If the leaders of the Manhattan Project had waited for the public to make sure that the bomb was going to work, and if they had any questions about it, there would be crickets followed by a shout, “it’s not our job”.

On a different note, less related to my own conjectures on the philosophy and responsibilities of science, there was a really amazing quote in Uncommon Sense that revealed the nature of war in a way I’d never thought of it, “war is only possible because the warriors in each army have learned to control their intragroup aggression, and direct it at the males of another group” (Cromer 55). It is amazing that a species so irrational and so illogical ever hit upon the idea of a knife, or a means of communication. But isn’t it neat to think about? Such constructive organization to reach a destructive goal. Studies in science often end in entropy, and perhaps human civilization is simply another example of an organized system that inevitably will spin uncontrollably into chaos beneath some unknown microscope.

One other idea from Uncommon Sense regarded slavery. Cromer says, “Although we think of slavery as evil, at the start it was a substitute for killing captives” (Cromer 59). In his long dissertations about the development of humans and human logic, he certainly notes some ‘uncommon’ thoughts that do make ‘sense’. The section regarding human and animal domestication brings up the point that, at some point in time, people learned to control themselves, and not kill all their sheep at once.

It’s pretty amazing really, and I doubt many people appreciate what agricultural domestication meant. When a lion kills a zebra, that’s it. Done. He eats the whole thing, stripes and all. When the next day comes, he’s hungry again. So the question- as Cromer explores- is why? Why us?

One Response to “The Development of Modern Science”

  1. Juliette Michael says:

    This is really good Ashley.

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