Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Who's Who in the Science Hall of Fame, National Library of Scotland

For names and works go to:
The importance of this collection of white males (who do deserve their fame) is not that it doesn't include women or members of minority groups. The significance is that today no individual is excluded from a career in science by reason of these restrictions. Social situations can and do change. Magical action, such as constructing lists on the basis of gender or race, does not solve past, present, or future issues of discrimination. The real impediment is the lack of quality K-12 education in the United States, which is necessary to prepare all students for successful adult lives. One does not magically become a scientist, engineer, or mathematician. Education is required.

The traditional domination by males of scientific and technological pursuits can be traced to the Stone Age male hierarchy, which has denied education to outsiders. Science is 'secrets of the universe' stuff; powerful stuff, and its control perpetuates male dominance. The tragedy for humanity is that 50% of the brains of our species have been excluded from discovery, invention, and problem-solving. This percentage is increased by the majority of males, who have no function other than as expendable labor, as tools to subjugate other humans, or to be sacrificed in war.

The scientific community today consists of members from cultures the world over who have adopted the premise of a shared physical reality that can be discovered by means of the scientific method: observation, data collection, a tentative hypothesis, the design and implementation of experiments that yield confirmation or refutation of the hypothesis, and formulation of a theory that explains and predicts all related observations. Work must be reviewed by the scientific community and withstand its challenges. Revision or demotion of ideas is always on the table. The scientific method is not culturally dependent. When we say that a culture has been westernized, we mean that it has taken on a scientific point of view, at least in part.

Science serves a different purpose than myth; it explains phenomena using physical laws and mathematical models. The unknown is assumed to be continuous and coherent with the known; if it is not, then previous conclusions must be reviewed. Scientists are confident that the unknown will eventually be understood, because this has been the pattern of discovery in the past. Scientists routinely and accurately predict outcomes that demolish those of so-called prophets, whose garbled forecasts never come true.

The supernatural dimension is totally outside physical reality. It exists exclusively in the human brain. Supernatural beliefs actually defy reality. Believers worship aberrations commonly known as miracles, which don't occur. People imagine the most mundane coincidences to be miracles.
Attempts to prove that either religious belief or scientific knowledge "wins" miss the point. The two types of thinking cannot be reconciled as is often claimed. These languages of thought co-exist in the human brain, but this is due to the nature of the evolution of the brain, which is an additive process; our brain retains and builds on animal brains from their earliest appearance. (More later.)

Magical thinking is the default mode of the human brain. Magic thinking does not describe how the universe works. Belief in a supernatural origin of the universe and its contents, including life, requires the overthrow of the very processes that are fundamental to the universe – this is a human fantasy. . The goal of science is to accurately describe how the universe does works. The recognition that a mathematical system of physical forces underlies the universe is supported by the universe itself.

Mankind has ventured into the void, from sending rovers to wander Mars, a planet that has a geologic history of its own and looks remarkably like parts of earth, to the Hubble Space Telescope, which helps us to "see" the early universe, to probes that are sending earth their farewells from the boundary of the solar system. The human (and animal) instinct for mathematics has led us in our exploration of our expending environment, not religious magic.

Human technical talent clearly outstrips our social development, which is stuck in a Stone Age male hierarchy maintained by violence and magical religions. Male domination has trapped humanity in cycles of brutality, mass murder, war, cruelty, and destruction. Man is a killer whose favorite prey is his own species.

God's actions are mysterious because he doesn't exist.

The ideas that succinctly and accurately describe nature are mathematical statements, and these form the basis of science. Our understanding of nature hasn't come from the average person, but from individuals who desire to discover the underlying causes of what can be observed in nature, individuals who have often risked their lives to step outside socially sanctioned myth. Risking personal attack, ridicule, exile, or death, a miniscule number of human beings have provided others with improved living conditions, often with little thanks from the beneficiaries. Religious people who scorn the work of scientists are invited to return to the Stone Age, and to do without the products of science and technology, especially medical care. They are invited to endure horrific infections, skin diseases, gangrene, blindness, and death from a broken bone or uncontrolled bleeding, or perhaps slow starvation. Add extreme punishments like stoning, burning, and amputations for minor offenses, and having to endure slavery and the never-ending hatred for females. Have a Nice Day!

Americans seem unable to "get" the distinction between religion and science. Christians trot out scientists who attend church or profess belief in a supernatural being as proof that their god exists, when what this demonstrates is that the human mind can entertain any idea that can be thought, without regard to its correspondence to reality. Scientists are prone to the same magical hoarding that buries the archaic mind in a dungeon of nonsensical ideas.