Thursday, February 21, 2013

"He is absolutely correct on this."

Turdblossom strikes again, but this time at least he was able to use the quarter of his brain that still functions (I think he overdosed on butter growing up) and recognize that I – as usual – was right after all.  To quoth: "ACTUALLY, before my friend, the idiot, calls me out on it, [blah blah sciencey blah] ...  He is absolutely correct on this."  I assume Knuckle-blisters over there only has access to his working brain parts for very brief intervals, since shortly before that admission he appears to claim I am unaware of the difference between actual butterflies and pictures of flies on sticks of butter.  I should have known my piercing, ingenious wit would fly right over his buttery noodle!

Enough about that blatherskite.  You ever think science is evil?  I don't, because I do it every day and humans are very good about rationalizing their behavior (Hitler never thought he was doing evil – even Will Smith knows that!).  Science is very powerful, and the arrow of time points to disorder, so evil uses of science are probably inevitable.  But what is so special about science?

Before I answer that, let me explain why my formidable mind has this topic at the top of its queue.  Recently the New York Times Magazine had an excellent piece on food companies, junk food, and rising obesity.  It's long, but absolutely worth the read (an impassioned endorsement here).  Bottom line: snacks are specifically formulated to make you eat as much of them as possible.  At some level, the companies are required to do this, since as corporations they have to – by law – maximize profits.  But without scientific methods, they wouldn't have succeeded so spectacularly so quickly, and with such devastating results for the nation's health.

Science is just a methodology, or way of doing things.  Observe some phenomena, come up with some guesses as to what causes/explains it, and try to figure out what guess, if any, is right.  The power of this approach doesn't emerge, however, until we keep track of everyone's observations, guesses, and tests.  In this situation, progress can be quick since bad ideas can't last.  Aristotle's ideas, for example, were completely wrong and yet persisted for TWO THOUSAND YEARS, because that's not what was done (and in the Platonic worldview, it should be sufficient to just sit around and think about things, just like some theorists I know).  When ideas are free – but falsifiable ones not tolerated – it's amazing what we can learn.

But, there's no moral compass: if you want to efficiently find out how to get people to try, buy, and become addicted to your food-like product irrespective of the consequences, then – as Greg Kelly would say –

To summarize:
1) Science is a tool, like a hammer: use it to build a house for your neighbor, or to bash his head in.
2) Plato and Aristotle were assholes.

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