The Debate about Funding Basic SciencePosted: June 21, 2015
The comment below concerns the article here:
I find the issue of objectivity/subjectivity to be where some critical mistakes are commonly made, and have three points here: i). Issues must be assessed objectively. ii). Good/bad is naturally subjective. iii). The nature of ultimate good/bad does still require definition.
i). When a given idea of good/bad is being considered, such as “Should more public money be devoted to general science research?” maintaining an objective position can be difficult. This is presumably because we’re all naturally selfish, and thus tend to let our own personal interests taint such assessments. In this post Massimo Pigliucci seems to have done a good job of building an objective assessment, while Michael White quite clearly seems to have let his own interests taint his assessments. In fact this seems to be such a common problem that we often don’t even complain when we see such subjectivity, and perhap just ask to hear the other side as well. I do find this unfortunate however. As mother always said, “Two wrongs don’t make a right!” Though it may be appropriate for a lawyer to represent his/her client in a biased manner, such subjectivity in science and philosophy shall simply bring failed assessments on each side.
ii). The tables then become turned regarding that which is good/bad itself, since this will always be subjective. This can be an even greater problem since it commonly isn’t formally understood (and yes even though Coel keeps mentioning, “Objective good does not exist!”). Nevertheless those who do formally understand good/bad to be subjective, do need to set this example and thus formally state exactly who’s good is to be promoted for any such question. (I suppose Massimo thought it clear that the subject here was “America,” though formal declarations can still be useful since other subjects may be substituted, and we also must not propagate the myth of “objective good.”)
iii). Then the final piece of the puzzle here happens to be “meta.” What exactly is ultimately good/bad for a given subject? It isn’t difficult to see why such discussions can become nauseating for those in the business, since this issue has exhaustively been explored for thousands of years without much consensus. Will we here do any better, or instead produce beaten down meta-ethics speculation? And if only the latter, perhaps we must then each just develop our own faiths from which to live by? I do, however, hope that youthful optimism can emerge once again!
The answer which I propose is “qualia.” I see this as a crucial engineering feature which permitted non-conscious minds (such as the computers we build) to evolve into conscious minds. Given this punishment/reward aspect to reality, good/bad for any given subject over a given period of time, will be the magnitude of its positive qualia minus the negative. So what is the best use of public funds regarding science research? Whatever brings the greatest amount of happiness for any given subject.