The Value of Science - Richard Feynman

Discussions on the philosophical foundations, assumptions, and implications of science, including the natural sciences.

The Value of Science - Richard Feynman

Postby mtbturtle on September 6th, 2012, 9:16 am 

Feynman, Richard P. (1988), The Value of Science, from the (highly recommended) Classic Feynman: All the Adventures of a Curious Character.

First, the 1988 Introduction by Feynman himself (he died one month later):

When I was younger, I thought science would make good things for everybody. It was obviously useful; it was good. During the war I worked on the atomic bomb. This result of science was obviously a very serious matter: It represented the destruction of people.

After the war I was very worried about the bomb. I didn't know what the future was going to look like, and I certainly wasn't anywhere near sure that we would last until now. Therefore one question was: is there some evil involved in science?

Put another way, what is the value of the science I had dedicated myself to—the thing I loved—when I saw what terrible things it could do? It was a question I had to answer.

"The Value of Science" was a kind of report, if you will [Feynman gave that "report" as a public address to a 1955 meeting of the National Academy of Sciences.] on many of the thoughts that came to me when I tried to answer that question.

Richard Feynman, January 1988


Then the lecture itself:
The Value of Science
From time to time people suggest to me that scientists ought to give more consideration to social problems - especially that they should be more responsible in considering the impact of science on society. It seems to be generally believed that if the scientists would only look at these very difficult social problems and not spend so much time fooling with less vital scientific ones, great success would come of it.
It seems to me that we do think about these problems from time to time, but we don't put a full-time effort into them - the reasons being that we know we don't have any magic formula for solving social problems, that social problems are very much harder than scientific ones, and that we usually don't get anywhere when we do think about them.
I believe that a scientist looking at nonscientific problems is just as dumb as the next guy - and when he talks about a nonscientific matter, he sounds as naive as anyone untrained in the matter. Since the question of the value of science is not a scientific subject, this talk is dedicated to proving my point - by example.
The first way in which science is of value is familiar to everyone. It is that scientific knowledge enables us to do all kinds of things and to make all kinds of things. Of course if we make good things, it is not only to the credit of science; it is also to the credit of the moral choice which led us to good work. Scientific knowledge is an enabling power to do either good or bad - but it does not carry instructions on how to use it. Such power has evident value - even though the power may be negated by what one does with it.


http://www.phys.washington.edu/users/vladi/phys216/Feynman.html
User avatar
mtbturtle
Banned User
 
Posts: 10229
Joined: 16 Dec 2005


Re: The Value of Science - Richard Feynman

Postby neuro on September 6th, 2012, 12:48 pm 

Thank you MTB.

By the way, I was wondering whether one might simply paraphrase:
Talking about the Value of Science is just like talking about the Value of Knowledge.

And I would say that their value is not in what they're used for - that is the Value of your intention and action, not of science / knowledge per se - but in their giving you the means to do it (plus some metaphysical value in terms of intellectual growth, wonder, discovery, understanding...)
User avatar
neuro
Forum Moderator
 
Posts: 2620
Joined: 25 Jun 2010
Location: italy


Re: The Value of Science - Richard Feynman

Postby Marshall on September 6th, 2012, 1:35 pm 

neuro wrote:Thank you MTB.

By the way, I was wondering whether one might simply paraphrase:
Talking about the Value of Science is just like talking about the Value of Knowledge.

And I would say that their value is not in what they're used for - that is the Value of your intention and action, not of science / knowledge per se - but in their giving you the means to do it (plus some metaphysical value in terms of intellectual growth, wonder, discovery, understanding...)


My immediate reaction (wise or not) is that this is all just common sense. Feynman is obviously right and what you say, Neuro, is right too except that it does not resolve anything for us.
You don't rank or prioritize or organize the values you just throw in intellectual growth wonder understanding...

So naturally I have to mention the Aliens.
What would they think of us (if they existed) if we had not discovered and measured the speed of light? I mean REALLY!!!
I have to raise the issue of the honor of the human mind

We have to consider this. We support scientific research because it is honorable.

It is honorable to be one of the species that underdances how geometry is affected by concentrations of matter---that geometry is not just a rigid fixed Greek framework. Though I must say the Greek framework is exquisitely beautifuly, but nature does not work according to it, there are these small corrections.

We have to consider how Others might see us. That is what a sense of Honor is. :-D
May the blessed Feynman look down from the Heavens on you and beat his drum for you. amen.
User avatar
Marshall
Honored Member
 
Posts: 7916
Joined: 17 Oct 2006


Re: The Value of Science - Richard Feynman

Postby Percarus on February 10th, 2015, 12:36 am 

... After the war I was very worried about the bomb. I didn't know what the future was going to look like, and I certainly wasn't anywhere near sure that we would last until now. Therefore one question was: is there some evil involved in science?...

The thing that we have to keep in mind is that can we imagine a world without some form of science? Without science we would not have the means to communicate via mediums like this, and at best we would be living in a cave or some rudimentary shelter wondering as to how we would obtain our next meal and not be someone else's primal feast. Science, in effect, is about understanding how things work and why and hence it is not an exaggerated notion to say that science is the most important element in humanity's existence. Curiosity and thirst for knowledge is what led to the multiple branches of science and I would not go insofar as stating that there is evil in science – because there is not!

Science is the elemental stone that gave us security and comfort in life, and surely as there can be instances in which science can be used to great evil (such as the atomic bomb) it is more-so human ill-founded human nature that shapes it towards evil if at all. Science is about understanding how things works, on a fundamental basis, but the biggest misconception about science is that it has to be fully understood in order to fully appreciate it. When one turns the TV on, or uses a mobile phone, he/she does not necessarily understand the mechanics of it and instead we are granted inherited knowledge that we put to use for recreational and facilitation reasons. Bottom line is, science is not evil, what is evil are memes implanted onto the human mind that contradict logic of ethics (another science discipline). Ethics being a discipline of social sciences in my opinion (aka. philosophy to a great extent), and quoting Alex Barbos:

…Social sciences made us understand that, if we want to survive, we need to work together in an organized matter. This is what led to the apparition of the economic system, the political systems and the education system. …


With science humanity through the ages has been able to obtain a greater degree of self-awareness, and ultimately leads to a fine tuning process of growing at peace with the fundamental aspect that drives our inner nature, altruism – the altruistic gene concept. With this concept comes the enlightened state that indeed we are all connected, existence itself, and were it not for the complex relationships between the living and non-living we would never have the capability to appreciate the little things we take for granted at times.

Education is our first encounter with science and that in effect is bio-accumulative and inherited to a great extent. It is almost as if human beings were created/evolved with a natural tendency to thrive on science both on an intellectual level and for spiritual growth. Science allows us to determine where we are headed towards and where we come from and ultimately it is one of the greatest drivers of complexity of life itself.

neuro wrote:...By the way, I was wondering whether one might simply paraphrase:
Talking about the Value of Science is just like talking about the Value of Knowledge. ...

I would disagree there. The value of knowledge reflects a more personal inner stance as to one's understanding of concept(s) at large and is rather subjective and not objective. Whereas science is rather objective in nature – science can be granted without intrinsic knowledge itself. Would you not say that gaps in 'knowledge' is what drives one forward to pursue further lore whilst science itself is an 'act' that can be accumulated as knowledge if one should desire it. Some say ignorance is bliss, others care to disagree – we are all individuals but ultimately we are connected through sentience which can be further facilitated through science.

Marshall wrote:...What would they think of us (if they existed) if we had not discovered and measured the speed of light? I mean REALLY!!! ...

Really? I consider the speed of light to be only one small aspect of science. If indeed aliens discovered us and relished the fact that we had other highly evolved methods of science developed we would be granted significant praise for our other accomplishments. The arts, history itself, and emotional capacity principally would be most awe aspiring to some alien species ought them to exist. Or mayhap our weaknesses in compassion and caring, as imbued by an altruist gene, would shun us from any respect if indeed these cosmic entities were ruthless to the core bone. We never know quite what to expect from aliens as they could have evolved from entirely different constraints than our own development. Mayhap they are more concerned with the speed of a neutrino than the speed of light, or whatever other subatomic particle (or etc...) simply because they developed different senses than our own in perceiving the world. Maybe they have no visual organs to see photons as embedded in their structure, who knows?

Marshall wrote:...I have to raise the issue of the honor of the human mind

We have to consider this. We support scientific research because it is honorable....

By 'honour' I assume you mean that we value scientific research because it gives greater personal integrity and/or allegiance to moral principles. That to me is thinking about it a bit too deep. We, in my opinion, support science because it facilitates our lives and adds that aspect of excitement and wonder to the majesty of life itself, not because it is a duty as you so proclaim (well, some people may see science that way but not the average person imo).

It is 'honourable' to pursue science if it reflects and eventuates no evil I suppose. If indeed the cause of science is for a nobler cause, mayhap the good(s) of many in contrast to a few with intellect and potential development for growth being taken into account. Feynman points out that science does not give us instructions of how to 'use it', so what does? Ideals, virtue, a sense of history and empathy, or mayhap higher life could be the drivers that hold the answers to such questions. I indeed find it amazing that some primeval soup possibly established the fundamental building blocks of life, DNA, to such mind blowing lengths to create such INCREDIBLY complex organisms that indeed I would never dismiss the notion of there being no higher life out there.

There are experiments that will soon take place as to determine for a fact if indeed dark energy and dark matter exist out there. Although, these positronic experiments will take place in space (I think) we could still be a long way from discovering the nature of other dimensions, if at all possible. Is there a 'Prometheus' entity out there that carefully controls humanity's progress? Shall we be bestowed with fire from the gods yet again? And again, and again, time over again? And if we do come across alien species shall we bring the fire to them or instead obey star trek's prime directive? What shall be the ethical solution?
User avatar
Percarus
Banned User
 
Posts: 787
Joined: 16 Dec 2008
Location: Perth - Australia
Blog: View Blog (4)


Re: The Value of Science - Richard Feynman

Postby manishsqrt on May 18th, 2015, 12:31 am 

Feynman is the greatest scientist that has written so much about science for non scientific people.I always enjoy reading him.I think most of the future young scientists have same attitude as feynman towards the usefulness of science.Those people who are not very clear about its nature often don't like science subject.But everything has both good and bad aspect that is realized afterwards.
manishsqrt
Forum Neophyte
 
Posts: 49
Joined: 16 May 2015
Location: Varanasi


Re: The Value of Science - Richard Feynman

Postby RoccoR on February 24th, 2017, 7:28 pm 

mtbturtle, neuro, Marshall, Percarus, manishsqrt, et al,

I think that all of you have extremely interesting comments on the subject (Value of Science). I (for one) really appreciated your commentary.

I find it interesting that a lot of people cite Bohr and Einstein, Susskind and Feynman, Sagan - Green, DeGrasse Tyson and others when talking about the Cosmos and the expanding universe. But in modern times (the 20th Century and forward) the personality I think we often forget is Benoit Mandelbrot. I think we tend to overlook his contribution in the understanding of "fractal geometry" (self similarity - repeating quality of the natural universe - of which the Fibonacci sequence is just one example of the quality) and its contribution in understanding the relationship to the universe; even in the mathematical descriptions of the filaments of the universe and and characteristic of cosmic formations; and the universe.

Fingerprints Of God - The Design Of Creation - Black Holes, Dark Matter & Fractal Space Two-thirds of the way through (53 min mark).

Most Respectfully,
R
User avatar
RoccoR
Member
 
Posts: 75
Joined: 05 Feb 2017



Return to Philosophy of Science

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 8 guests