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Monday, August 06, 2007

100, a really hot number

It has cooled a bit, the mercury hovering around 100 Fahrenheit. I like Fahrenheit, the scale of measurement of temperature that is, for I don't know much about Gabriel Fahrenheit, except for what Bro. Clarence told me this evening. It was Fahrenheit who came up with the glass tube filled with mercury, for the predictable expansion of mercury made for an accurate thermometer. It was 1714 when Fahrenheit came up with the scale for his mercury thermometer, with 32 as the freezing point of water and 212 at the boiling point. And when someone says the mercury is hovering around 100, I know exactly what that means. 100 is a nice, big, and hot number. I mean, 37.7C just isn't a very telling number, no impact, no hotness to it at all.

And later I took some notes after a discussion around the dining table. With Bro. Clarence back, it seems science is the topic of the day, or how science relates to the human condition, or put another way, as a person of faith, how do I react to the modern world where science, or I should say the byproducts of science, have consumed those who find themselves in the middle of modernity. So forgive me if you've heard much of this before.

Science is amoral, the scientist can be moral, amoral, immoral. Science itself does not question the morals of the scientist. Of course society attempts to hold the scientist to whatever ethics and morals that they deem right. The question becomes, what is "right"? Science gives an answer that is relative to each and ever entity, what is "right" for the gazelle is "wrong" for the lion. "Rightness" for the gazelle is survival, "rightness" for the lion is eating the gazelle, for survival.

" I'm uncertain whether or not science embraces any particular economic or political system. I'd be curious for you to elaborate."

Obviously the R&D of any company is where you will find scientist doing scientific things, so no question about science and business working hand in hand, that's what modern economics is all about, invention for fun and profit and a more comfortable life for all. Right? Without this economic system that embraces science, scientist would be out chopping wood and milking cows, and so would everyone else, for without scientist getting paid to discover and invent and make things that others can use, then the scientist is not a working member of the tribe, somewhat like the shaman, or priest. Now what about the university, that world apart from the messiness of the business world, how about the sanctity of the research lab? Surprise, surprise, research labs are funded, for the most part, by government and business. The "military-industrial complex" that Ike warned about is what helps fund many university research labs today.

"In the 20th century, a variety of sources, from government organizations to military funding to patent profits to corporate sponsorship to private philanthropies, have shaped scientific research."

So I would say that amoral science "embraces" anyone that does it. The religious (scientist and nonscientist) can attempt to add morality to the mix. The non-religious scientist can attempt to add his or her own personal morality to the mix. But sometimes morality is left by the wayside. Thomas Edison attempted to demonstrate the safety of DC electricity (and corner the market) by electrocuting animals using Tesla's AC electricity as promoted by his rival George Westinghouse. In NYC he electrocuted "Topsy" the elephant to prove his point that his competitor's brand of electricity was dangerous. But in the end, "science" doesn't care, for science is merely a tool for discovering truths -- one truth is AC electricity can kill an elephant. Science, an amoral tool in an amoral universe.

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