Thursday, July 2, 2009

On my Personal Philosophy: Scientific Material Probabalism

Written as a time-capsule on my current worldview, to be read over in subsequent years to examine how and when my philosophy evolves:

At the current date 7-02-09, my philosophy is one of my own making. I purport that the best way to view the world is through the universal solvent that is called modern science. How should we judge the validity of ideas? I propose that the only way to properly judge the truth claims made by others is to use the scientific method. When the scientific method is inapplicable or evidence is not forthright, healthy skepticism and logical rationalization followed by probabilistic approaches will suffice as tentative devices.

I feel it necessary to create a self-definition of what my philosophy is, so as to refer back to this definition in the future. I must admit that I am reluctant to use a word or concept that already has a school of philosophy tied to it, but perhaps a combination of terms will lessen the confusion of terms.

"Scientific Material Probabalism"

Science is the main theme of this philosophical worldview. By using the tenants of inductive reasoning and empirical testing, science has been the most successful tool in discerning truth claims from falsehoods. By taking the scientific method we come to an understanding that so far there is no evidence of supernatural events, hence the following of materialism. Probabalism comes into the picture when we start to talk about the limitations of scientific findings, knowledge and "proving" things. I propose (it has been iterated many times before by philosophers of science) that in science something can never be known to 100% certainty, therefore one has to look at the findings of science in a probabilistic fashion. e.g. Creationism 1.6*10^-35 % (this is made up and is actually the Planck length if you wanted to know where I got the number from) chance of being true, while evolution 99.9999...% true. But what about claims that are 50-50, or even claims with which we have no answers for? A tenet of the philosophy is the willing acceptance to say "I don't know". When "I don't know"'s are found, that is when you can do either of two things: be content with not knowing at the moment or actively pursue the answer to the proposed question.

A common criticism towards scientific findings is that "science changes and paradigm shifts occur which turns science on its head" or "look scientists said eating eggs is bad ->good -> bad -> good etc...." I propose that the pragmatic approach is best to deal with such statements. So what if our current understanding of gravity is wrong, will airplanes fall out of the sky if a specific type of quantum gravity is found to be more accurate than general relativity? Perhaps the best definition of science is found in the following book:

Sagan, Carl, "The Demon-Haunted World: Science As a Candle in the Dark". Ballantine Books, March 1997 ISBN 0-345-40946-9, 480 pgs.

Science is a process, a self-correcting process that changes, this is the beauty of science, the strength of science, and by no means a Weakness.

Now on to moralistic properties of this philosophy. Recently, Sam Harris, HERE, made comments on using science to compare political ideologies and practices in order to form a new political system that promotes social wellness, equality, while maintaining high levels of prosperity. (No, this is not communism or utopianism, it is a progressive stance) I would go one step further and compare cultural practices, I will state that different cultural practices are harmful to a society (nationalism, tribalism, harmful religious practices). The major stepping stone for this type of scientific social study would be, what combination of factors (social well being, equality, freedoms, happiness) should be maximized? I will not delve into the subject of social engineering as this is an extremely deep field, but I hope that the reader can understand the direction that i was going in with what is written above.

Now, what about individual moral actions or moral stances. I propose a new definition called "moral probabalism" (not to be confused with the 16th century catholic philosophy.) The main stance of this philosophy is that a moral action much be approached individually (every case is different) and judged based upon the context surrounding the action taken or being taken, with all of the information available at the time an action must be taken or not taken based upon the probability of the outcome connected to a certain value property. As to what the value property is it has to be defined at the moment, it could be for the good of an individual, for the planet, for the species, etc...

to be continued......

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