Thursday, March 20, 2008

"Science, Knowledge, Wisdom, Life"

Random Thoughts on "Science, Knowledge, Wisdom, Life" Between Two Individuals Conducted In The Distant Past


Least we forget the finite nature of our own being, it would serve us well to contemplate our own being in relationship to the universe. The vagaries of life are numerous as we strive to fix our relationship to the universe and to understand ourselves. How remarkable in mankind’s short history have we added to our knowledge of our environment and at the same time compounded the situation with more questions than answers. We discuss our origins, our purpose, what makes the universe function, a god’s existence, our relationship to extraterrestrial, personal relationships, ethics, theology, mortality--our personal niche in the scheme of everything. The birth of science [astronomy], dim in the history of man, started with the gaze to the sky and deeply infused it with the mythology of powerful gods doing what no mortal man could do. It has taken a long time for man to gather the reigns of his own destiny and become more sophisticated in conceptualization. Thus lies the paradox and ensuing problems: Will wisdom through the acquisition of knowledge prevail and provide a better life or will mankind subjugate himself to petty characteristics of greed and evil and the promotion of "bad science" and all that emanates from "bad science"? The rigors of scientific methodology are paramount and as such demand that scientific knowledge be accurate from which sound theorems can be postulated and as a direct consequence a better understanding of ourselves and the universe. Philosophy has provided the tools for the analysis and an arena for a heuristic epistemology. And philosophical subdivisions provide a basis for ethics, theology, linguistics, etc. The insistence of empiricism for an epistemology of the universe [including mankind] is and should not be promoted for there may well be things that science cannot isolate and analyze--there might always be a need for mystery: The aesthetics of thousands of bursting stars into oranges, blues, pinks, and yellows, the profound love between a man and a woman [a Romeo and Juliet], a simple pleasure in the sip of an aged Laphroaig, conversation. Are those and many more to be reduced to quantification? Thus, it does indeed require wisdom to understand the scope of the universe--it is life.


Science, knowledge, wisdom and life are the basis of our existence as active human beings, interacting with nature and our community in order for survival. Humanity has always searched in philosophy [a mankind’s manifestation for an understanding of his existence] a guide to reach a purpose. Then there is a link with science, which attaining the real knowledge provides the necessary tools for the man’s liberation from the myths imposed by society.

It is the man’s role a wise analysis of this knowledge acquired by science. Science, cool and exact as it is, cannot say rules to the human behavior - but humans can use it to rule their own behavior with wisdom. The scientific advances which allow the understanding of the genetic code, the physics laws, the chemical reactions, etc. aid man to behave in a new society which uses the technology developed until now, but only the man, with his free-will, can determine the limits of his behavior. Science when used without wisdom is a "dummy" science, which carries to undesirable purposes, like weapons production and benefaction of a little part of humanity, ensuing in greed and power disputes. The same occurs to a fragmented science, without a methodological basis, made by scientists who do not work for "love for science" but for love for themselves and their own bank accounts.

Only the "life" consciousness can bring wisdom. When a human being understands that he is alive and is a part of a living body [earth and its ecosystem] he starts to see value in his capacity of understand philosophy and science to transform the environment where he lives in a better place.

When the human being realizes that he is not a self-sufficient being, but a being which is a part of a whole and has a participation in its maintenance, he develops the necessary wisdom to deal with the knowledge provided by science - this is life.


“Science when used without wisdom is a "dummy" science....”--that is an understatement for wisdom in the sciences is more than the acquisition of scientific knowledge through implication of “good science” but has more to do with the ability to present truthful and accurate representations of the physical realm. And yes, it is the wise scientist [teacher] that has a passion for the sciences and cares little for the Swiss bank account and the Porches in the drive way. This doesn't mean that the scientist must be poor, but that the goals are beyond the monetary.

Also correct is the stereotypical image of science being generated by one individual, for it is a cooperative effort. Trace the history--even Einstein relied on previous individuals. Loaners in science are science fiction and promote a closed system of a worthy integrated interaction among knowledgeable individuals. After all it is a “community” of individuals defining the universe.


"Also correct is the stereotypical image of science being generated by one individual, for it is a cooperative effort" - Indeed, for the evolution of science is only possible with the existence of a scientific community in that its participants exchange their experiences in an historical period or along the history. The maintenance of a "good science" is provided by scientific ethics among the members of the community that are living at the same historical moment and by the wisdom which has been transmitted since the first discoveries until the current days.

A professor of mine said once that the "real" science is not in the school books, for in those books the knowledge is shown in an accomplished and clean form, that has already been tested for many years. In his opinion, school books are just tools to comprehend the "real" science which is in the papers and journals. In the papers one can find the reasoning, the methodology and the scientific "instinct" that the scientist developed to reach his goal - the results of his research. Then, knowledge provided by science is important not only in its final form, but also has its importance in the process in that the scientific community executes to reach it [scientific method].

The way until the scientific knowledge is not a constantly linear and safe road, but a path with many forks, an arduous road, that for many times drives the researcher to dead ends. The ones who follow this road with ethics and wisdom are able to find a safe way that drives them to the truthful knowledge, even if at the end of this safe road they find another hard track - then the process goes on.


This certainly is the case--“...books are just tools to comprehend the "real" science which is in the papers and journals.” Those books are the fundamentals and it is the journals/papers that keep currency in science. But, be the acquisition of knowledge through books, papers, journals, it is only a part of the equation of wisdom. Knowledge by itself has no required antecedent--it is sterile, a body of data. Wisdom mandates much more such as working in tandem with knowledge, experience, and age. Wisdom is a bonus for age, despite the predictable infirmities, for maybe we can draw a perspective of “life”. Learn to realize that not all can be reduced to formulae and definitive statements. There may well postulates too: Humbleness, insight, intuition, curiosity.

I have to chuckle, in thinking like you, that the paths to scientific discovery are long indeed and full of potholes, detours, dead ends, and robbers. It is indeed the wise who knows the correct paths. Many times things have been halted or postponed for the road hazards. The driving forces?...perhaps a bag full of “what ifs”.

“Real” science is then the analysis/extrapolation of empirical data into theories of the universe? All of this then would equal knowledge? “Real” science would include the above plus books and, as Bellatrix mentioned, current materials. But, this knowledge by itself, is not sufficient for the meaning of “life”, is it? This is where I believe the wisdom issue comes into play. It is the human cognitive process that really comes into importance. The knowledge is taken and through some process [matrix unknown]--perhaps longevity, experience, knowledge, intuition, etc. [any and all in various proportions]--the glimpse of what “life” is about may be revealed. I still believe that quantification of everything would certainly make a dull universe--the excitement and mystery of the “living process” would die.


I agree with your statement: "Wisdom mandates much more such as working in tandem with knowledge, experience and age" - wisdom is like a key, a link which joins knowledge to life: To know how to apply the knowledge acquired through science in our quotidian, making our life better. Few people have this "gift", partly attained through life experiences. You are right when you say that "age" is just a component of all things that compose "wisdom". We have on mind the image of an old bearded man - the wise one - advising the youngster, immature and still afraid of life. Thinking that an old person who lived many experiences along his life is wiser than a younger one could seem a logical thought, but not always an older person has a positive attitude towards life.

When we are talking about science, one of the principal components of "wisdom" [beyond the ones already mentioned: knowledge, experience and age] is "ethics". The scientist who knows how to use science for the well-being of society, without stealing or falsifying data, neither willing evil [it seems spooky but there are "mad scientists" around the world!] nor using science with greed is the wise researcher, aware of his social role in life protection.


An interesting side thought: “Thinking that an old person who lived many experiences along his life is wiser than a younger one could seem a logical thought, but not always an older person has a positive attitude towards life.” An interesting thought for I never considered an attitudinal individual disposition. I suppose that those prone to negativity and self-aggrandizement would offer a biased posture as well as those desiring personal wealth/power. Those like Hitler or Vlad “The Impaler” couldn't compete in wisdom to a Confucius or Einstein. Their agendas were a bit different.

And yes, the element of wisdom would certainly necessitate a sense of ethics. However, I seriously doubt that all scientists exhibit a high value sense of ethics. There are numerous cases of fraudulent research and much infighting--for what reason? Basically to gain wealth and status--the common good of societal advance were certainly shelved.
I fear that such situations will be around for quite some time and exhibit the “not to good” side of mankind.

But I still believe that absolute quantification is not a desired element of the description of the universe. Psychologically, the UFO phenomena, for example, may well have a temporary positive characteristic for it may mirror a desire for mankind to “really” believe in extraterrestrials and have contact with other beings--a belief that their may be a savior in the universe that can intervene and offer assistance when mankind appears to be self-destructing. Perhaps a limited and temporary substitution for failing faith. Thus, there is still mystery in life that no formula can describe or should. Like I said, its more pleasing for most to visually observe the “colors” of the universe than look at some black ink notations on a piece of paper that attempts to describe and encompass an aesthetic experience. Many would agree that the ambiance of a cold winter night’s observation of the illuminated sky with anticipation of it ending with a wonderful sense of delight of an aesthetic nature [and the hot coffee/chocolate in a warm house] is far better than sitting in a chair and seeing similar description in a book. The aesthetics of the universe far outweigh scientific quantification.

It is curious and ironic that the concept of wisdom usually is connected with maturation and seniors: “Curious”, for it indicates that chronology does have a part in the equation of the balance of experience and knowledge; “ironic”, for it summons the fact of individual finiteness. An individual reaches a base knowledge and a wealth of experiences and is suddenly faced with the potential of the end of life. Perhaps, that’s where “theology” becomes significant?

Since... I haven't changed my perspective very much for if anything I contemplate more on a personal relationship, come up with more questions, and even more remain unanswered about the universe. I am still in wonder of Hubble's or Spitzer's capture of age old events in pure and brilliant white followed by oranges, pinks, yellows. Maybe the revelation of the universe's methodology is shrinking despite its real expansion. An irony? Maybe there is a heavy price to pay for this vast accumulation of knowledge and the potential for ultimate understanding may totally demystify existence. I fear reductionism and have a difficult time separating the quest for a grand unified theory and an theory of everything. Maybe the lesson to learn is that Homo Sapiens are finite in existence and understanding and that phenomenal randomness of quantum mechanics is laying the ground work for the idea that chaos rules; that quantified definitions are impossible and irrelevant--especially when it involves precise human activity. Now, individual vagaries rule. History may suggest that species annihilation is the driving engine. Concepts and definitions may be more relevant that the existence of the antecedent entity. But the sobering fact remains that, like all species, there is a time limit of existence where most cease to exist naturally while man has the potential to accelerate the natural process.

Never in my lifetime did I expect to witness the wonders of all of the sciences and truly appreciate the fragile balance and co-existence of everything. Many systems depend upon another system and so on. I sometimes wonder if man has the capacity to comprehend the situation and truly realize the fragility and exercise self restraint, individually and as a society, to make sure the system doesn't collapse and herald the early demise of mankind. We are the custodians, whether divine or not, of this planet and to a larger extent our immediate place in space. That is species maturity and wisdom. Once that is understood then we may travel the universe.

Throughout this forum and the entire Internet as well there are myriad discussions regarding a "Theory of Everything" [TOE] and a "Grand Unified Theory" [GUT]--some are extremely serious, thought out, and offered in a scholarly fashion and there are as many individuals with their pet theories [hypotheses, please] that expound some of the most bizarre stances one ever heard. Dismissing the difficulties of establishing such hypotheses and offering proof [empirical], one should also ask the far more reaching question of the ultimate result of either one. What would we do with such knowledge of the universe? Without discussing the particulars, for there are other sections of the forums involved in those discussions , there is a difference between a TOE and a GUT. The GUT is attempting to embrace the laws of physics under one umbrella whereby all physical activities could be understood--where all physics are systematically intertwined. The TOE on the other hand embraces "everything": The sciences; sentient being activity [abstracts like freewill, creativity, destiny, purpose, etc.]. A TOE is more lethal than a GUT and carries far more implications than a GUT. Dismissing the feasibility of a TOE or even its value, a GUT is quite possible. But what would be done with such knowledge? Would science knowledge cease...would man have the wisdom to use such knowledge wisely?

"Science, Knowledge, Wisdom, Life"--like I have answers! I'm still matching socks. But we, nevertheless, do acquire some knowledge when older, but the issue is putting it altogether into some great revelation; some insight into the way phenomena functions. Maybe that's an illusion. Perhaps the universe in an overall perspective is chaotic and random and only small patterns emerge and coalesce into something meaningful. And how does one pass this insight into life and the universe to others? Does anyone pay any attention or does everyone have to discover their own wisdom that is doomed to a classification of one. It's like yelling in space--no one listens or if they do all is ignored. Wonder why? How bizarre...a wealth of accumulated life experience falling on deaf ears and of little value to only the "self" and the illusionary experience of believing that reaching out has beneficial qualities. Maybe the "act" of dispensing wisdom is more relevant.


There is no wisdom without learning. And life is our best teacher throughout our existences... We learn how to deal with sadness, happiness, love, illusions, frustrations, relationships, parents, kids, friends. But also, listening to what others have to say is worthwhile -- we are made of our own experiences and of what is transmitted to us from other people. Older and more experienced people have lived sometimes the same situation that a younger is facing for the first time, therefore a youngster should listen to his elders, agreeing or disagreeing, it is a part of the learning process. Funny: Many of our human abilities were passed from generation to generation, native tribes use their wisdom and old traditions to know what plant is a better medicine, what fruit is sweeter or what frog is poisonous. Yet the younger generations of the so-called "civilized world" are so troublesome and stubborn to learn from experience of others. Maybe Freud can explain that...

However, sometimes when you think you are yelling in space, there is an attentive ear behind an asteroid, listening cautiously to what you are saying. The most amazing thing about our actions is that we never know how they affect people, if it is a "short range" interaction or a "long range" one. Perhaps this is what makes human relationships so complex, and keeps wisdom and life mysterious.


It will soon be a time for some of us to reflect on an event that happened 60 years ago on the dates August 6th and August 9th 1945...the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan with nuclear weapons equivalent to 13,000 tons of TNT. It had never been done before and hopefully never done again. That generation of warriors in a world war conflict of aggression is now fading from existence but the politics, ethics, and science of the events are fresh and viable today. Disregarding the particular events of the era and the reasons for and against such actions, it is viable for discussion today for rogue and unstable regimes can appropriate weapons grade nuclear bomb materials and even less sophisticated materials for the dissemination of radioactive products. Serious global events have been defused by level headed leaders but the dangers remain real and devices are easy to deploy. The science and technology are blameless for they carry no ethics or any responsibility. It is the holders and users of such materials that must exhibit the ultimate responsibility...a sense of morality and maturity for something that can alter the Earth and the Earth's citizens. It is evident that mankind simply hasn't matured.

However you observe it, wisdom can sometimes fail--mistakes are made and so it is with science and life interpretations. Was the correct diagnosis made and treatment? Did I miss something in my methodology of the analysis of the data? Was my data tainted? "Doubt" and "anxiety" may just well be part of the dispense of wisdom. Oh well, whenever doing science and gaining knowledge humble oneself and remember what Socrates said: "The hottest love has the coldest end.".

Maybe Joseph Rotblat possessed wisdom we wish we had. Joseph Rotblat passed away this week. He was the only physicist that resigned from the Manhattan Project and spent the rest of his life arguing against the use of nuclear weapons and war in general. "Joseph Rotblat, the only physicist to resign from the Manhattan Project, has died at the age of 96. A nuclear physicist by training, he later changed fields to medical physics and was one of the founders of the Pugwash peace movement in 1957. Rotblat and Pugwash shared the Nobel Peace Prize in 1995 "for their efforts to diminish the part played by nuclear arms in international politics and, in the longer run, to eliminate such arms.""

There are species of moths that live but a few hours--that's it, their entire life in just a few hours. And we are privileged to have our life, in general, for about 75 years. On the cosmic scheme of things--it is nothing...a blink of an eye and yet in our brief span we discern order , and yes apparent chaos, in the universe and postulate our perspectives. Our duration is finite as best as we can conclude and sometimes one looks back at this brief span of existence and ponders the voluminous wisdom of our own circumspect lives and hundreds of prior generations. What spawned this musing is that Paul McCartney [near 64] is making an American tour promoting his latest album "Chaos and Creation". My God, where has the time gone. It just seams like yesterday that the 60's cultural revolution invaded the United States with "I Saw Her standing There" and "Hey You, Get Off My Cloud". Where is the wisdom?

Granted, the ramifications of hurricane Katrina are but a speck of an insignificant event no where close to exploding super novas and similar cosmic events, but they are nevertheless significant to the inhabitants of Earth--we live here and these types of events including the Asian tsunami of late 2004, countless earthquakes in the Mideast, or even ancient space debris encounters. It is our history; our way of life. It is what shapes our humanity, maturity, and destiny. And surely there is wisdom of the character of mankind and mankind's relationship to the environment: That understanding is certainly possible, but control is futile and will succumb to the laws of physics. That's wisdom...knowing what can and can't be done.

I never once thought of the technological developments today. Maybe it was the naivete of the 50's and 60's and the inability to comprehend the vast influence of scientific discoveries. I honestly thought that "slide rules" would be in vogue for a long time and accurate calculations were computed by logarithm tables. I must admit that hand held calculators are quicker and more accurate than the "sliding metal/bamboo pieces". And logarithms...what are they but a score of pages in an old reference book. One has to be humble in all of this technology in realizing key scientific discoveries that made all of the technology possible; humble in understanding that mankind does have the capacity to grasp the science of the universe and develop cool technology; humble in realizing just the fact that it "is" technology [for whatever end user goal] and that awe and reverence must be placed in proper perspective by realizing that "technology" doesn't rule. Mankind is the center and recipient of these marvels of comfort, convenience, healing, and insight and care and an exercise of proper perspective are mandatory.

For most of us, this is a time of reflection and a true expression of Thanksgiving...a time to be grateful to have the capacity to wonder and understand the universe and the ability to express what we have witnessed. It is more than just an attempt to understand the physics that surround and influence all citizens of the universe; it is a humbling posture. Let the physical eyes see the magnanimousness of the system; let the tools measure the infinite and the ultra small; let the imagination extrapolate the physical laws. But most of all be content to grasp the thought that not all may be revealed and, while we are here for a short time, evoke and practice the spirit of generosity, kindness, and pursuit of knowledge.

Disregarding the origin of the human species for it is really irrelevant in the scheme of things in that a mature species will focus on the core positive qualities of the species whereby the need of a mythology and point of origin is minor and a quaint pastime that will indulge the yet mysterious aspects of the universe. The knowledge of and reverence of the species will be the strongest force of understanding and motivation. Perhaps the quest will shift to ask the fundamental question of what is the most valuable assets of the species as the species settles into the sophistication of the universe. The commonalities are the laws of physics.

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