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Is A Rational Nation Ruled By Science A Terrible Idea? (newscientist.com) 609

Slashdot reader schwit1 quotes an article from Jeffrey Guhin, an assistant professor of sociology at UCLA: Imagine a future society in which everything is perfectly logical. What could go wrong...? Last week, US astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson offered up the perfect example of scientism when he proposed the country of Rationalia, in which "all policy shall be based on the weight of evidence". Tyson is a very smart man, but this is not a smart idea. It is even, we might say, unreasonable and without sufficient evidence... employing logic to consider the concept reveals that there could be no such thing...

First, experts usually don't know nearly as much as they think they do. They often get it wrong, thanks to their inherently irrational brains that -- through overconfidence, bubbles of like-minded thinkers, or just wanting to believe their vision of the world can be true -- mislead us and misinterpret information... And second, science has no business telling people how to live. It's striking how easily we forget the evil that following "science" can do. So many times throughout history, humans have thought they were behaving in logical and rational ways, only to realize that such acts have yielded morally heinous policies that were only enacted because reasonable people were swayed by "evidence".

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Is A Rational Nation Ruled By Science A Terrible Idea?

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  • Well... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mhkohne ( 3854 ) on Sunday July 10, 2016 @11:39AM (#52482955) Homepage

    Running things by believing whatever your friends on the internet says isn't really working out, so let's try it! If it doens't work, at least it'll be able to say that...

    • Re:Well... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 10, 2016 @11:44AM (#52482977)

      Allow me to introduce you to Eugenics. It was perfectly valid and rational system in it's day, backed by what at the time was believed to be hard scientific data.
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eugenics

      • Re:Well... (Score:5, Funny)

        by Njorthbiatr ( 3776975 ) on Sunday July 10, 2016 @12:04PM (#52483069)

        What's wrong with eugenics?

      • Re:Well... (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Jeremiah Cornelius ( 137 ) on Sunday July 10, 2016 @12:07PM (#52483089) Homepage Journal

        Allow me two literary examples, that will surely illustrate the quandry better than can I, myself.

        First, I propose Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley. Anybody embarking on a discussion of technophillic, purely-rational society without having read this book, speaks from a deficit. That supposedly well-educated men like De Grasse Tyson make shallow, straw-man proposals are a strong argument that Huxley's literary presentation is as valid today, as it was in 1931.
        Wikipaedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brave_New_World [wikipedia.org]
        The full text of the novel: Brave New World [huxley.net]

        A second point is made metaphorically, by Gothe, in his "Sorcerer's Apprentice". It is a poem, and suffers in English. For the purpose of our argumentation, it is sufficient to be familiar with the presentation of this material in Disney's "Fantasia" - provided that an audience is equipped with an ability to understand allusions, and to make practical intuitions.

        In the end, I suppose Dr. De Grasse Tyson - a delightful fellow - is adept at understanding and representing the powerful creative and intellectual efforts of others, while exhibiting little individual insight or power for deep thought.

        • Re:Well... (Score:4, Insightful)

          by VAXcat ( 674775 ) on Sunday July 10, 2016 @12:16PM (#52483131)
          Actually, I never read Brave New World as a dystopia. It sounded pretty sweet - plenty of responsibility free sex and drugs, no anxiety, and no pesky religion to muddy everything up and do the evil that religion does. Sounds great to me! I wish we were doing half so well now.
          • Re:Well... (Score:4, Insightful)

            by Jeremiah Cornelius ( 137 ) on Sunday July 10, 2016 @12:42PM (#52483255) Homepage Journal

            You assume that you are at least a Beta not a Delta or a Gamma.

            • Re:Well... (Score:4, Interesting)

              by wierd_w ( 1375923 ) on Sunday July 10, 2016 @12:50PM (#52483329)

              the premise for having deltas and gammas was that there is labor that no intelligent person would want to do. (cleaning toilets all day, for instance.)

              Given sufficient advancement in technology, there is no legitimate reason to produce deltas and gammas (which were created on purpose, specifically to fulfill these service roles), since artificial servitors can fill those roles, both more reliably, and more affordably.

              Since we are "Nearly there" in terms of automation eclipsing manual labor in service industry positions, his supposition is not incorrect.

              Huxley just did not envision an artificial servitor class satisfying the necessary role. That's why he created the Delta and Gamma classes in his fiction.

              • Re:Well... (Score:4, Insightful)

                by Jeremiah Cornelius ( 137 ) on Sunday July 10, 2016 @01:06PM (#52483417) Homepage Journal

                Huxley probably could imagine an extrapolate automation in labor.

                His object was not to demonstrate flaws in a society built on supposed rationality. His target was more basic - that satisfaction of the human condition cannot be met by full rationalization and meeting of physical needs in a structured external world. In fact, the presence of Soma was to indicate a function of SUPPRESSING those human aspects that were entirely unable to be satisfied by the purely rational and practical.

                Huxley's target for criticism is not a future, optimized society, but the culture that we live in today, as emerged from the Cartesian revolution - the "enlightenment".

                Again, an appreciation for parables is an indication of the capacity for insight.

              • by dbIII ( 701233 )

                since artificial servitors can fill those roles

                Somebody still has to look after the artificial servitors - eg. clean the gunk out of the soup machines.
                That was part of the joke of Red Dwarf where Lister and Rimmer were so lowly that they were servants to the servant machines.

            • "Time Machine" sounds great, to those who assume they are Eloi.

              • No, I am a morlock. I have never imagined otherwise. I even have the seemingly perverse pleasure in repairing and maintaining machines.

            • From what I remember of the book (and, admittedly, it's been a couple of decades since I last read it), the Deltas and Gammas were just as happy as the Betas. It was only the Alphas that had any issues in that regard.
            • Re:Well... (Score:4, Interesting)

              by ranton ( 36917 ) on Monday July 11, 2016 @09:33AM (#52488419)

              You assume that you are at least a Beta not a Delta or a Gamma.

              Any problems in the society described in "Brave New World" are constructs of the author to create conflict for the plot. The society as a whole is an example of a near Utopian society once to insert a more realistic form of genetic engineering and workplace automation. Once you add those there is no reason for the different classes.

      • Actually, eugenics was always based on a flawed pop-science interpretation of evolution. Mainly on the false premise that evolution had an objective goal, and that we could inpret that goal and hasten things along through selective breeding of humans. It was good old fashioned racism and classism with a pseudo science wrapper.
        • by quenda ( 644621 )

          premise that evolution had an objective goal, and that we could inpret that goal and hasten things along through selective breeding of humans.

          You have it backwards. Evolution favors the "fittest" - In our society that means the people who have the most children: e.g. the uneducated, the religious conservatives.
          Eugenics is about using selective breeding to fight against evolution. But not in the way you might think. People are not farm animals.
          Eugenics just means providing the right economic incentives, for example free childcare for working parents. Encourage good parents to have more children, and troubled young people to delay parenthood until

    • Running things by

      There is the error in your beliefs about good government, namely that it should "run things".

    • It has already been tried to some degree. Nazi Germany based a lot of its policies on the treasure of science from the execution off crippled and mentally ill people who were scientifically shown to be a burden to society presently or in the future with their T4 program or their eventual final solution for those of lesser heritage through the scientific wonders of Eugenics.

      And this proud scientific achievement was not alone in just Nazi Germany. Eugenics was prevalent in many areas outside of Germany includ

    • Deeper problem (Score:4, Insightful)

      by the_povinator ( 936048 ) on Sunday July 10, 2016 @04:09PM (#52484533) Homepage
      I think people in this thread are missing the deepest problem with Tyson's idea.

      The problem is that science, if done well, can tell us what the observable consequences of our actions might be, but it will never tell us what outcomes we should value. For instance, do we value equality or progress? Do we value the happiness of animals as much as that of humans? Do we value freedom or security? The answers to none of these questions are self-evident (and saying that they are self-evident does not make it so).

      These are all the province of moral philosophy, and that field gives no easy answers.

      Dan

  • by judoguy ( 534886 ) on Sunday July 10, 2016 @11:42AM (#52482973) Homepage
    "Imagine a future society in which everything is perfectly logical." Mere logic is worthless. Sophistry [yourdictionary.com] is often used to justify the control of others.

    For the children, of course.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Way too many words have been said while beating around this simple bush:

      Any conclusion about how something "should" be is a combination of two elements:

      1) how things already are
      2) our preferences

      Science gives us #1. Our values give us #2. Eliminate either from the equation, and you have all kinds of stupidity and suffering.

      That is really all there is to it.

    • Yeah, imagine perfect logic in decision making. Keeping in mind that retaining non-productive members of society is...illogical.

      Better to "retire" the elderly by sending them to be ground up into "pure pork sausage", while they can still contribute. Ditto children (and adults, if any get past childhood screening) who are incapable of thinking clearly....

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 10, 2016 @11:45AM (#52482983)

    science has no business telling people how to live

    Maybe, but it would still be better than allowing religion or money telling people how to live.

    • Not if some religion is true.

      (Here we begin a predictably unresolved debate about religion, rationity, what constitutes evidence, limits of human ability to reason soundly, straw men, etc.)

      • Which bit is true? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by sjbe ( 173966 ) on Sunday July 10, 2016 @02:50PM (#52484035)

        Not if some religion is true.

        Ok, which bit is true? How do you propose to objectively prove it? How do you tell the difference between the "false" religions and the "true" one(s)?

        Rhetorical questions of course. Religion by definition cannot be objectively true because it depends of belief in something which isn't falsifiable. If it cannot in principle be measured or observed (with past, existing or future technology) then it cannot be true.

        (Here we begin a predictably unresolved debate about religion, rationity, what constitutes evidence, limits of human ability to reason soundly, straw men, etc.)

        You're the one that brought it up...

  • The actual tweet (Score:5, Informative)

    by tomhath ( 637240 ) on Sunday July 10, 2016 @11:47AM (#52482989)

    “Earth needs a virtual country: #Rationalia, with a one-line Constitution: All policy shall be based on the weight of evidence[.]”

    All the reaction to that tweet is based on what people assume he meant by it. This is obviously a sociologist's dream topic to discuss because it can mean whatever you want it to mean and debate it endlessly without ever reaching a conclusion.

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      Problem is a lot of issues are not well understood enough to take a perfectly rational, evidence based approach on. And particularly with psychology, sociology and other "soft" science, evidence is often weak and we just have to try things and see how they turn out.

      We do have some fairly rational countries, like there northern European ones, and they are the best places in the world to live overall. But even they rely on a lot of old wisdom, tried and tested but not necessarily well understood ideas.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      As vague as his statement was, there is still A LOT wrong with it. Data does not equal Truth (Capital 'T'). To govern, it is not enough to know the speed of light or understand general relativity. Science provides no special wisdom or insight into the nature of human suffering. Science is not truth. Science is an epistemological baseball bat that you whack ideas with. If they die from their injuries, then they had it coming...The ideas that survive get passed to the next scientist, and the next, all across

  • by DogDude ( 805747 ) on Sunday July 10, 2016 @11:49AM (#52482995)
    ... which is essentially a corrupt theocracy. I'd gladly live in a society run by rational ideas over what we have now.
    • by JaredOfEuropa ( 526365 ) on Sunday July 10, 2016 @12:17PM (#52483135) Journal
      How policies are designed is only one side of the coin. The other side is deciding what to create policies for. That's where things start to get dangerous; the weight of evidence and rationality alone are not sufficient to set the scope of government. In the past there have been some rational arguments for race segregation, killing old people at age 75, and so on. Even if something seems rational and can be proven to be more efficient (for society), it still might not be a good idea, so you still need a set of rules to protect our civil liberties. What is rational and efficient depends on your principles as well, for example: do you believe in distribution of income and to what extent?

      Also, people are not rational and there's little chance that they ever will be. Your policies will need to reflect that. You can try and ban religion "because it's stupid" but you're going to have some nasty riots on your hand. For that reason I don;t believe in a "rational society", but I do believe at the very least that we should apply some "weight of evidence" to the kind of policies we are making today.
    • by judoguy ( 534886 )

      ... which is essentially a corrupt theocracy. I'd gladly live in a society run by rational ideas over what we have now.

      Oh, you mean something like Scientific_socialism [wikipedia.org].

      No thanks.

    • Which country are you call in a theocracy? If you mean the US, I'm curious why you think it is one.

      And if you'd gladly love elsewhere, why don't you? Wouldn't that be... "rational "?

  • by mdelcorso ( 70934 ) on Sunday July 10, 2016 @11:50AM (#52483003)

    Let's compare Science against the philosophies that current rule our societies.

    Nationalism? Capitalism? Fear? RELIGION??!

    I'll take science....

  • No (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Being misled while attempting to base your laws off of actual physical evidence isn't is bad as us currently making up our laws based off the fucking BIBLE.

  • by david.emery ( 127135 ) on Sunday July 10, 2016 @11:51AM (#52483009)

    Any optimization approach/algorithm is set up to maximize the value of its utility function. Consider two utility functions for getting from "A" to "B", 'fewest miles' or 'fastest'. A direct route that takes you down 10 miles of roads at a speed limit of 30 MPH, compared to 20 miles on an interstate at 65 MPH, will win under the first utility but not under the second.

    The same thing holds true for public policy. Do you want "most lives saved?" Do you want "greatest economic output?" Do you want "Least tax burden?"

    So independent of any other consideration, there is huge judgement and therefore huge variation when trying to conduct 'rational policy' by what you choose as your utility function.

    • by wierd_w ( 1375923 ) on Sunday July 10, 2016 @12:00PM (#52483047)

      How about "Greatest utilitarian happiness?"

      http://utilitarianphilosophy.c... [utilitaria...osophy.com]

      Right now, our society(ies) are being managed for the increase in happiness of the 1%, which is contradictive to maximizing utilitarian happiness (which seeks the highest degree of happiness for all members of the society.)

      It appears to me that a scientifically guided society would favor utilitarian happiness as the utility function.

      • by phantomfive ( 622387 ) on Sunday July 10, 2016 @02:21PM (#52483867) Journal
        How you define happiness makes a really big difference there. You still run into the same questions (Do you want "most lives saved?" Do you want "greatest economic output?" Do you want "Least tax burden?") but now you have to define them in terms of happiness instead.
    • by afgam28 ( 48611 ) on Sunday July 10, 2016 @12:06PM (#52483083)

      The same thing holds true for public policy. Do you want "most lives saved?" Do you want "greatest economic output?" Do you want "Least tax burden?"

      So independent of any other consideration, there is huge judgement and therefore huge variation when trying to conduct 'rational policy' by what you choose as your utility function.

      It sure would be nice to have a universal utility function for all public policy. But in the meantime, what if we just said that any of those (lives saved, economic output, lower tax burden) are an acceptable foundation for you to base an argument on, but "because my ancient book of sacred texts says so" isn't?

      This wouldn't lead to 100% logical consistency in policy, but it would surely be an improvement over the current system, don't you think?

      • by Dog-Cow ( 21281 )

        Have you ever read the Old Testament? Have you learned the Babylonian Talmud? At least once religion is all about creating a functioning society that enriches everyone's lives as much as possible. Sure, there's ritual components to Judaism, too. It is a religion, after all. However, assuming that no religion can provide a basis for a functioning society demonstrates your ignorance of religion.

    • Excellent point. Regardless of "weight of scientific evidence," people are still going to have values, and those values are going to differ. Today, many freeways have a speed limit of 70MPH. I bet if you lowered it to 60, you'd save a couple hundred or thousand deaths each year. Lowering it to 50 or 40 would reduce the deaths even more.

      But at some point, we have to establish a baseline for how many annual traffic deaths we find "acceptable" as a society. You're left with either a law based on sheer ev
    • That's true. But even if people were to agree completely on their "utility functions" (values, preferences), it would still be impossible for government to optimize it: it simply lacks the necessary information and is intrinsically incapable of acting without corruption.

      The best way we know for optimizing utility functions in real societies is via distributed decision making, aka, a free market. And once you do that, individuals can also have different utility functions.

      • Well, (1) widely distributed decision-making has real problems with ensuring everyone has reasonably enough information to act rationally in a timely basis; (2) then an assumption that people act rationally in aggregate. The two very large scale distributed decision-making examples I can think of are (a) stock markets and (b) elections. It's going to be damn hard to argue the value of large scale distributed decision making from -those- two examples.

  • by cirby ( 2599 ) on Sunday July 10, 2016 @11:53AM (#52483019)

    ...according to someone who many or may not actually be rational about any given subject.

    I've met a lot of high-reputation scientists and academics over the years, and far too many of them are pretty useless outside of their chosen profession. A significant number of them are pretty useless INSIDE their chosen profession, too - and those are the ones who would be talking the loudest about whatever government policies were in question. You wouldn't be getting Richard Feynman advising you about physics. You'd be getting that sociology professor who blathered their way to a doctorate setting everyone's social policy, with no way of stopping them.

    Until we can figure out a way to rationally measure rational thinking, we'd be falling into the trap of believing "experts" who actually let their own self-interest control them.

    • Until we can figure out a way to rationally measure rational thinking, we'd be falling into the trap of believing "experts" who actually let their own self-interest control them.

      Exactly. We all think we are rational beings whose decisions are made via a logical and rational thought process, when we actually are often irrational in very predictable ways. We just don't know it; and thus are often easily influenced into doing things that are not rational or making irrational decisions.

      For example, many people would drive 5 miles to save $10 on a $20 item, yet not be willing to to save $10 off of a $1000 item; yet in each case they save the same amount of money, the purchase price has

  • by dhaen ( 892570 ) on Sunday July 10, 2016 @11:57AM (#52483035)
    their answers are taken out of context or cherry picked by non-experts - often the people with an agenda.

    In general I would rather have experts in charge than careerists - who account for 90% of politicians.

    Having said that I remember an encounter with a mathematician colleague who was looking under the bonnet (hood) of his car for an electrical fault because both headlamps were out. It took only a little lateral thinking - and a bit of persuasion from me for him to accept that probably he'd been driving on just one, and hadn't noticed it till the second one failed. Nevertheless he accepted the counter argument, just imagine any politician doing that.

  • It is never science itself that is 'evil', it's the implementation of policies (chosen by irrational humans), then selectively plucking out disparate facts that (seemingly) support the policy and calling it 'scientifically-based'.

    (a poor example) The chemical processes involved in (traditional) photography are scientific. They've been investigated, the knowledge shared, the processes broken down to their component parts to better understand, the results verified a million times.

    Using photography to 'prove'

  • by archer, the ( 887288 ) on Sunday July 10, 2016 @12:09PM (#52483097)
    > They often get it wrong, thanks to their inherently irrational brains that -- through overconfidence, bubbles of like-minded thinkers, or just wanting to believe their vision of the world can be true -- mislead us and misinterpret information

    Yes, but
    1) Most are willing to admit they are wrong when an experiment result contradicts their theories.
    2) Most are looking for the right answer, not the most profitable one.

    I'd take that over our current Golden Rule model every time. Just look at leaded gasoline, waste disposal, or climate change to see examples of the golden rule hurting the average person. We have gotten rid of leaded gasoline, but it took one scientist [wikipedia.org] nine years to convince the government that big business was lying. We're still fighting big business for good, long-term waste disposal and to minimize climate change

    The only challenge I see is that, if we ever did switch to the Science Rule model, greedy idiots will claim to be scientists and put the true scientists in the minority, which would bring us back to the Golden Rule model anyway.

    (I say Most in the bullets above because I'm pretty sure folks in it for the money these days wouldn't be scientists. But I also know there are a few bad scientists, so I sure as heck won't say 100%. I have no idea of how to test a scientist to see if they are good or not, other than to have well educated folks review a scientist's previous work.)
  • ...should have died in the pot-fueled dorm room bullsh*t session they were formed in. This is one of them.
    Like the article says, scientists are people too, and they may have finely honed their knowledge in their area of expertise, but beyond that, they know as much- or as little- as anyone else.
    It's also absurd to think that the selection of topics of study, or the lead 'scientists' in charge of an area of policy, won't be driven by considerations outside of strict evidence. They'll fabricate it to obtain t

  • Just think of the bonus we'd get on our science research! We'd be ahead on tech in no time if we switch our government to science-focused technocracy. I mean, sure, we'd probably lose the military bonuses we get from our current government type, but since when have we had a war where that would have mattered? If we switch, we could achieve a tech victory in no time!
  • A huge problem (Score:3, Insightful)

    by nine-times ( 778537 ) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Sunday July 10, 2016 @12:14PM (#52483119) Homepage

    There's one huge reason why ruling your society based on "science" is a bad idea: What you will generally find is that, whatever method you use to govern, it will eventually fall under the sway and corruption of the rich and powerful. Attempting to merge science and politics won't result in politics being ruled by scientists, but in science being run by politicians.

    Of course, there are other more specific problems, one being that "scientists" are often not as detached and rational as they believe themselves to be. What constitutes sufficient evidence is itself under constant debate. There are difficulties with the question of whether science can determine morality... And more. Every vague or uncertain point and every place where there's wiggle-room will become a tool of people seeking political power.

    And why do you think "creationism" is a thing, after all? You try to marry science and politics, and politicians will exploit ignorance and uncertainty to make their positions sound "scientific" to those who don't know better. Neil deGrasse Tyson wants more of that? He should stick to physics, and stay out of fields he doesn't understand.

  • So far as I can see, these articles express the view that a society based entirely on objective decision making wouldn't be perfect and therefore shouldn't be considered. Well, Duh! Surely it is completely obvious that it wouldn't be perfect, not least because there are large areas of the human condition not amenable to the scientific approach.

    But, surely the question is not whether such a society would be perfect, but whether it would be better - on average - than other arrangements currently on offer
  • by Nonsanity ( 531204 ) on Sunday July 10, 2016 @12:21PM (#52483159)
    I think the OP is falling into an anti-science fear-mongering state of mind that misrepresents the core idea of evidence-based policy making. The best thing about science is that it is constantly improvingâ"getting closer to what we might call (with some inherent romanticism) the truth. The anti-science knee-jerk reaction to this is that, because scienceâ"at some given point in its progressionâ"has not yet reached "the truth" then it is wrong and therefore worthless. I argue that there is no better way to move consistently in the direction of truth than the rigorous application of evidence and careful testing that is true science. When it comes to the application of what is learned through the scientific methodâ"a moving target that is constantly improvingâ"to public and governmental policies and laws, there is more than one way to use it, depending on the nature of the government installed. A totalitarian society might tend towards additive applicationâ"creating new laws and rules for society to limit its bounds. A case of "science says this change is optimal so this change will now happen," for example. This is not a methodology that most of us would find comfortable. But in a representative society that values fairness and freedom, such as what we aspire to here in the United States, the application should be of a subtractive nature. Science should be a filter to prevent patently wrong and harmful laws for being enacted and a measuring stick to judge the validity of laws created in more ignorant times. With science-based knowledge continuously improving, something no other form of knowledge acquisition can claim, applying that knowledge to prevent oppressive or dangerous laws is an obvious choiceâ"far better than letting the laws bend to the wills of lobbyists and political powerhouses which have no secure claim to truth or accuracy and, in fact, are often dead-set against them. There is no inherent imperative that science should or would be used to inflict legal restrictions upon American citizensâ"that form of application requires a more totalitarian government. (A form of government that a scientific analysis might steer a society away from.) We should embrace the benefit of scienceâ"more accurate knowledgeâ"and not ignore what we've learned by sticking our heads in the sand and claiming tradition, expediency, selfishness, and ignorance trump truth.
  • A nation ruled by science is no guarantee of benevolence. Take away any sort of human factor in society and you could get people like Josef Mengele.
  • Freedom requires a certain amount of illogical latitude. There are all kinds of things people should be free to do which might cause harm to themselves or not be rational or logical. You cannot be free in a society which imposes strict logic and reason. Logic and science would seek to minimize risk and harm, but without risk and possible harm, innovation can be severely stifled. So while it is a good thing to generally live life rationally, and with laws based on science... it cannot be taken to an extre

  • by runningduck ( 810975 ) on Sunday July 10, 2016 @12:44PM (#52483269)

    Using scientific reasoning to rationally choose between potential decisions is a great idea, but it doesn't solve the problem of deciding the basis of the questions. Logic can really only solve for one variable at a time. People will still have to decide which societal variables to solve and how to balance the weight of multiple variables. Fair is never fair to everybody. You are always having to make trade-offs between forms of fairness: equity, equality and welfare.

  • Anti expert (Score:5, Insightful)

    by thegarbz ( 1787294 ) on Sunday July 10, 2016 @12:45PM (#52483279)

    First, experts usually don't know nearly as much as they think they do. They often get it wrong, thanks to their inherently irrational brains that -- through overconfidence, bubbles of like-minded thinkers, or just wanting to believe their vision of the world can be true -- mislead us and misinterpret information... And second, science has no business telling people how to live.

    What is it with this recent trend of anti-expertism? This arguement was used in the Brexit as well as several political campaigns of recent times. People confronted with evidence that something isn't working rather than address the evidence move straight into either:

    a) attacking something about a study that has nothing to do with the evidence e.g. who commissioned it or the fact that it disagrees with an own internally biased study (see Australian election where the Coalition attacked Labor's economic credentials as non existent despite their treasurer winning awards for his policy and the direct impact of his policy keeping a country out of a recession.

    b) attacking people who believe in studys saying things like "The public is sick of experts". Interesting this is a statement often made by a career politician rather than their far more educated advisers. Damn those smart people with their fancy degrees, what would they know.

    This is the rise of President Camacho

  • Therefore the entire premise falls flat on it's face, right out the starting gate. Human beings are just animals who happen to be smarter than the other animals on this planet, and this simple FACT is reflected day after day in the news, and in our recorded history. We can't even get people to give up the totally irrational, illogical, and sometimes silly idea of 'god/gods' and religion, and by the way look at what it does to our so-called 'civilization'? It is ruining it, it is holding us back, it could de
  • There are many different logic systems and using the wrong one in context can be bad, as any young man who has tried to use formal logic when girlfriend logic was contextually required has learned the hard way.

    But the core of the problem doesn't change: It's who defines what logic is appropriate that causes the grief because any logic system is based on a values table. Sometimes this is explicit sometimes implicit, but it's always there. This difference between values is the core problem and where the solut

  • First, experts usually don't know nearly as much as they think they do. They often get it wrong, thanks to their inherently irrational brains that -- through overconfidence, bubbles of like-minded thinkers, or just wanting to believe their vision of the world can be true -- mislead us and misinterpret information...

    I'm not quite sure how you can make "scientists" mean "experts"; a scientist is somebody who conducts research, guided by evidence and logic - a true scientist is instictively averse to making bold statements about how things are, because they know how easily a good-sounding theory can be tripped up by reality - whereas "experts" is a much more loosely defined group, ranging from those few who actually know what they talk about, to the many that don't, but like to hear their opinions; a certain Mr Trump spr

  • What?!!! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by smooth wombat ( 796938 ) on Sunday July 10, 2016 @12:52PM (#52483339) Journal
    science has no business telling people how to live.

    Is the author seriously suggesting science shouldn't tell people that smoking is dangerous to their health and the health of those around them? That for their own well being they shouldn't smoke? What about pregnant mothers who do drugs? Does the author truly believe that women shouldn't be told how they're poisoning their unborn child through drugs?*

    If the author is a scientist (I didn't check), they should have their credentials revoked. It is well within the realm of science to tell people how to live their lives BUT not force them to. People should be free to determine their own course of action based on the scientific evidence and in so doing, can not later complain no one told them something was bad for them (see cigarette lawsuits for a perfect example of such a situation).

    * I only bring this up because of the whiners who talk about abortion killing a person yet remain absolutely silent when pregnant women poison that same person for nine straight months. Apparently poisoning is perfectly acceptable to them so long as something comes out. After all, they're not the ones who are going to pay for the mentally/physically deformed kid.
  • If your a rational expert an you're wrong you admit you're wrong and make corrections. You are also always iterating. Always testing and improving. This is what people don't like about socialists. Unlike you're communism/capitalism with simple (and wrong) answers to complex problems socialism says you can't just fix it once and *bang* utopia. There's no such thing as a simple solution to a complex problem. If there's a simple solution then you're problem wasn't really complex, was it?
  • Bacause you know, humans?

    Humans just don't like anything.

  • It is even, we might say, unreasonable and without sufficient evidence... employing logic to consider the concept reveals that there could be no such thing... First, experts usually don't know nearly as much as they think they do. They often get it wrong, thanks to their inherently irrational brains that -- through overconfidence, bubbles of like-minded thinkers, or just wanting to believe their vision of the world can be true -- mislead us and misinterpret information...

    Except politicians know even less, a

  • ...so what could possibly go wrong?

When a Banker jumps out of a window, jump after him--that's where the money is. -- Robespierre

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