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Science and morality

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Interesting article here on how little consequence scientific theories (in particular here cog sci evidence for determinism) have on culture and decision making.

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7 Comments

  1. Huenemann says:

    I think it just takes a while for scientific conclusions to permeate a culture. I can imagine a similar study done in the time of Copernicus, suggesting that no matter what the astronomers theorize, people will keep believing the earth is stationary. I wonder how long it took for “most people” to accept heliocentrism.

    Of course, it might be different with a very metaphysical conclusion, especially one at odds with the way “most people” construe so important a practical notion as moral responsibility. I can imagine legal theorists making the shift first, adopting something like Fischer and Ravizza’s compatibilism (see http://books.google.com/books?id=KfEjxO0V7rEC), and that mindset gradually working its way through the reading public, and then the TV-watching public.

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  2. Kleiner says:

    I don’t think the issue is that not enough time has passed for this new cog sci stuff to settle in. What I thought was interesting about the article is that no matter how much time passes, scientific theories that have apparent metaphysical consequence don’t end up having all that much consequence.
    To take heliocentrism as an example:
    Plenty of time has passed for ‘most people’ to accept heliocentrism and for it to fully settle in to our culture framework. But the fact is that this did not really change our tendency to view humans as special and unique (even though that was supposed to be the apparent effect of heliocentrism). Now this might just be ‘bad faith’ – a stubborn refusal to admit we are just random bits of cosmic dust in a random corner of the universe. Or, perhaps, the everyday experience of people (and the Implicit Philosophy that follows from it) has some wisdom in it after all.

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  3. Jon Adams says:

    “Plenty of time has passed for ‘most people’ to accept heliocentrism and for it to fully settle in to our culture framework.”

    Astonishingly, 1 in 5 Americans still believe the sun revolves around the earth!

    http://www.nytimes.com/2005/08/30/science/30profile.html

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  4. Kleiner says:

    Sad. But my point is this: for those 4/5 Americans for whom heliocentrism is taken to be an obvious fact, that scientific fact has not actually changed their view that there is something special about humans.

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  5. Jon Adams says:

    Right, I understood your point. My interjection was somewhat tangential; I just wanted to share what I found interesting.

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  6. Kleiner says:

    On the tangent: I am always amazed at statistics like that (that 60% of Americans cannot point to the Middle East on a map, etc etc). Who are these people? Do I know any of them and just don’t realize it?

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  7. Huenemann says:

    Is the Middle East east of the Midwest?

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