What do Scientists do?

About this hub

This hub was triggered by the question, "What are the three most important issues that scientists must address today?" But the question itself is flawed. It shows a common misunderstanding of what Science is and what Scientists do. I'll first address these questions, then I'll dare to suggest that society's problems are to be solved by society, not blamed on scientists. We are all responsible for our present mess - so we should all share responsibility for fixing it.That's reasonable, isn't it?

Albert Einstein

To answer the question...

Wouldn't it be so easy to say 'Global Warming, HIV and Cancer'? But let's take a step back and look at the question before trying to answer it.

Scientists don't address issues

Issues are addressed by politicians who control which projects are funded and which ones are buried. Technologists, engineers and specialists of many disciplines are tasked by their political and commercial masters to find economically viable solutions to politically or commercially important problems. Meanwhile, science goes its own sweet way.

'Must address'?

You can't say 'must' to a scientist, any more than you can say it to an artist. Scientists are not wage slaves to be ordered around. Did anyone tell Newton - you must formulate laws of motion - or to Einstein - you must postulate relativity theory? Did someone instruct Darwin to propose an evolutionary model? Clearly the idea is ridiculous, because no-one apart from the gentlemen themselves was in a position to do so.

What do scientists do?

They do exactly what Karl Popper explained. They try to understand natural phenomena and formulate theories that describe the observable and predict the not-yet-observed. They ensure that their theories are falsifiable by contradictory observation, They do not claim to have stated truth; instead they invite refutation. If none is available, they might have advanced human knowledge, but they understand that everything is tentative. That is what science is and what scientists do.

What about the three issues?

They are societal, to be solved by society. Scientists (or at least scientific workers) can help, but so can rock stars (Live Aid?) and for all I know, Candlestick-makers. Time for bed, Zebedee...

Postscript

I wrote this hub two years ago as a quick answer to a question. I have since written several more rigorous articles on critical thinking and Scientific Philosophy. But as these don't sit naturally on HubPages I have moved them to their own site, The Rational Express.

Thanks for reading!

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Comments 87 comments

Pharo 9 years ago

Well, I can see why I'm the first to comment. No body else made it through to the end and managed to stay awake. I almost dozed at that ridiculous attack on the word "must" in the question posed.

I'm glad I read this. It's proof that absolutely anyone is allowed to write a hub.


Paraglider profile image

Paraglider 9 years ago from Kyle, Scotland Author

Hi Pharo - Certainly anyone is allowed to write a hub, just as anyone is allowed to read one. I wasn't attacking the word 'must'; I was simply observing that Science, as distinct from scientific work, is a creative activity closely parallelled, in its creative aspect, to Art, and therefore not subject to imperatives. I strongly recommend reading Karl Popper - he explains this with great clarity. Thanks for visiting.


LdsNana-AskMormon profile image

LdsNana-AskMormon 8 years ago from Southern California

Paraglider -

I liked this Hub... and, you bring up interesting thoughts.

Scientists, as much as anyone who is creative, exploratory, etc... is most oppositional of having anyone tell them 'how' to...

I feel, that in your response above, you made a very insightful comment.

You said, that "science is a creative work, is a creative activity closely paralleled, in its creative aspect, to art, and therefore not subject to imperatives".

What I hear you saying, is that - that which is created, (nature/science) is done randomly, according to what? An artist, is very independent in how and what they create. Often times, without thought, allowing their mind, to create spontaneously.

Those who choose to experience 'art' may take it or leave it. It does not matter. It is not imperative that it be accepted, or even understood. Perhaps there are rules of conduct, which are general and even universal in art, but nonetheless... it still does not matter to 'the' artist.

But, 'science' although created by an Artist, is math, when it comes down to the actual discovery of a 'thing'. Therefore, in scientific work... of discovering that which the Artist has produced, must ultimately become imperative or exact... to understand and know the Artist.

Does this not verify, a Master Artist... or perhaps a Mathematician?

I believe, that scientific work is very important. When they figure out the equation -- it always reveals the Artist. So it thrills me!

What I do not appreciate in scientific work, is the creativity, that many scientist, when an equation is not yet conclusive... put into their research. And this perhaps, may well keep them from the answers...

I apply this to the matters of those things, that are seemingly at odds with what is presented from both science and religion - and the unfortunate fact, that many believe; is that it 'must' be one or the other...

This take, always creates divisiveness. There is a third consideration, that more should look at.

Thank you. I enjoyed the pondering.

tDMg

LdsNana-AskMormon


Paraglider profile image

Paraglider 8 years ago from Kyle, Scotland Author

Thanks for the considered comment - you've restored the balance as the only previous comment was pretty negative. There's a big distinction between scientific (or technological) work, which is largely derivative, and true science which is creative. I keep coming back to Karl Popper because he was first to explain this fully. Science is "that which has not yet been proved false". It is not "that which has been proved true". And as such, it is simply our best 'guess' to date, expressed in a falsifiable hypothesis.


LdsNana-AskMormon profile image

LdsNana-AskMormon 8 years ago from Southern California

(and... my pleasure)

EXACTLY!

The problem I have with the community of strictly scientists, is that they often purport their theories, as absolutes... and often want to therefore leave the potential for a creator, out of it completely. The unfortunate part of this, is that many people think science IS math, and not the fact that math proves science 'when' it is calculated correctly.

I understand, that those with faith-based knowledge, are most likely just as irritating to those 'proclaimed' rational scientists, who would never admit their personal opinions. LOL

Thanks for the chat.

tDMg

LdsNana-Mormon


Paraglider profile image

Paraglider 8 years ago from Kyle, Scotland Author

Well, it's inevitable that a scientist will want his theory to be true, but still it must be set out in a manner that makes definite predictions. These can be tested and if shown false, they refute the theory.

The religious communities are not engaged in scientific investigation and do not submit their theories to a process of logical refutation.


lxxy profile image

lxxy 7 years ago from Beneath, Between, Beyond

Very interesting Hub..short, but very frank.

"Issues are addressed by politicians who control which projects are funded and which ones are buried."

This is very, very true. One day your species will understand politics is something that most be done away with.


Paraglider profile image

Paraglider 7 years ago from Kyle, Scotland Author

Ixxy - thanks. It is a lot shorter than my normal, because it was dashed off in response to rather a 'tabloid' question.

I wouldn't do away with politics entirely, but I'd like to divorce it from the short electoral cycle and from corporatism. Tricky!


R.G. San Ramon 7 years ago

I think you've got great content. Ixxy is right. It's simple, "but very frank." You really put your point across, no buts no ickwicks. However, if I may add, in relation to the 'must adress' part, the question must have been posted instead by a politically oriented mind. :P


Paraglider profile image

Paraglider 7 years ago from Kyle, Scotland Author

R.G. - thanks :) I did revisit the topic later in a longer hub http://hubpages.com/hub/Freedom-from-Belief with a lot more meat behind it. This one was more of a brief answer.


pinkhawk profile image

pinkhawk 7 years ago from Pearl of the Orient

...it really catches my attention and curiosity, indeed- its worth the time reading hubs from a great writer like you Sir/ Ma'am?...thank you very much! Your hubs are interesting and informative...hmm.. while I'm reading this hub, it makes me nod (agree!) :)...

"Scientists are not wage slaves to be ordered around"-agree!!! because they have a great fashion and love on what they are doing and not just after the money...some thinks that they are all so serious and weird but being a part of a research institution and have a chance to work with them- my big great bosses, i think they are not- they also have humor and sometimes are really funny esp outside work! :)...

(Oh i remember a slogan of one of the organization here-quoted from Albert Einstein- "If we knew what it was we were doing, it would not be called research")- i think that's really great! :)

Thank you Sir/Ma'am once again! :)


Paraglider profile image

Paraglider 7 years ago from Kyle, Scotland Author

Pinkhawk - thank you. And for this too "If we knew what it was we were doing, it would not be called research" I like it!

p.s., male, last time I checked :)


pinkhawk profile image

pinkhawk 7 years ago from Pearl of the Orient

ok Sir, noted! :):):)....


Kimberly Bunch profile image

Kimberly Bunch 7 years ago from EAST WENATCHEE

Great stuff!


Paraglider profile image

Paraglider 7 years ago from Kyle, Scotland Author

Thanks Kimberly :)


joy 7 years ago

nice answers


Paraglider profile image

Paraglider 7 years ago from Kyle, Scotland Author

Joy - nice comment :)


fatfist profile image

fatfist 7 years ago

Another misconception I'd like to clear up about science:

The religious often claim that science hasn't proven god doesn't exist, so until then ....blah blah blah!

Well no! Science is not in the business of proving existence or anything else. Science is in the business of "studying" that which exists, according to the scientific method.

If god exists and is able to be studied, then yes, science will. Until then, please stop mis-representing and mis-quoting science!

The same also applies to atheists. You cannot claim that science has disproven god thru evolution, quantum mechanics, relativity, big bang or anything else. Why? Read what I wrote above - it applies to you too.

Theists and atheists, please take your discussions back into the realm and context to where their arguments originated - philosophy/logic. Science has nothing to do with god either way. Science only studies that which exists.


Paraglider profile image

Paraglider 7 years ago from Kyle, Scotland Author

Fatfist - that is all true. This hub was conceived as a brief answer to a question, but I've discussed the religious angle in a few other hubs, e.g. http://hubpages.com/hub/Believers-Agnostics-Atheis... and http://hubpages.com/hub/Freedom-from-Belief Thanks for the visit & contribution.


prettydarkhorse profile image

prettydarkhorse 7 years ago from US

hi...good points paraglider, sicentists and that science are tentatives. Does this mean scientist are just the ones who open the gates and then open again anohter gates untit the other gate is closed, another gates open. Is this the process for the search for the ultimate truth?Is ther an ultimate truth, please answer paraglider hmmmm.....


Paraglider profile image

Paraglider 7 years ago from Kyle, Scotland Author

Scientific knowledge is 'that which has been proposed and not yet shown to be untrue'. I think there will always be more and more questions to ask. As the field of inquiry is infinitely wide, I don't think phrases like 'the ultimate truth' are useful or fruitful. The phrase comes from a religious world view, not a scientific (or rational) view. Happy Halloween!


Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 7 years ago from The Ozarks

Paraglider, you write: "Issues are addressed by politicians who control which projects are funded and which ones are buried."

In a free society, politicians do NOT control which projects are funded and which are not.

Consider "Project Bow" a scientific experiment involving a cross-fostered chimpanzee who has acquired language and literacy.

Project Bow was not funded by the government. It is completely private. In a time when the powers that be have banished chimpanzees from university campuses across the U.S. and Canada, at a time when established researchers like Sally Boysen have their funding cut and their apes taken from them, I am continuing my work with Bow, precisely because no government funding was involved, and because private ownership of acreage, money, and chimpanzees has not YET been banned.


Paraglider profile image

Paraglider 7 years ago from Kyle, Scotland Author

Aya - Project Bow is under the radar and besides, it does not require serious funding. Politicians decide whether or not to fund particle accelerators and space telescopes.


Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 7 years ago from The Ozarks

Paraglider, yes, it's under the radar ... for now. What is the significance of that fact for this discussion, though?

Einstein did not require any funding. The work was all in his head. Nobody paid him to do it. Nobody cared. But if the government (of any country) decided to launch an investigation of relativity, then you can bet it would cost millions. It's not what you do that costs -- it's how you do it and who does it, and what regulations are in place to make it cost more.

Project Bow does require funding, as Bow does need to eat and he needs a secluded place in which to live safely, and he requires twenty-four hour a day supervision. If he were at a government owned facility, it would require at least $100,00.00 a year just to keep him, about another $100,000.00 a year to pay me, and possibly millions for facilities, medical personnel, computer programmers, janitors, welders, hygienists, and typists, not to speak of the medical insurance and catastrophic insurance of every sort that would be absolutely mandatory.

The reason Project Bow hardly costs anything is that the government is not involved.


prettydarkhorse profile image

prettydarkhorse 7 years ago from US

Happy halloween too! See, thats why I like to read your hubs, am learning a lot, after reading all your hubs, I will be more knowledgeable already, still I would like you to put together all your writings which are related then you can publish them too, I will be the first one to read again.


Sufidreamer profile image

Sufidreamer 7 years ago from Sparti, Greece

Aya: I worked in a government funded fisheries laboratory - they produced great and world renowned research. Or, I could have gone out in a rowing boat with a fishing line.

Private funding is simply not going to come up with the funding for large scale projects, unless they can manipulate the results to suit their agenda. Politicians do, too, but at least they fund pure science rather than judging all research by how much money they can directly make out of it.

It is like an intellectual club that you attempt to beat people around the head with - I could write a hub about the decline of Greek dancing and you would manage to blame the government and claim that it is because we did deregulate the Greek dancing market. This is a Hub about scientists, not politics or economics.

I respect your strength of conviction, but there is a time and a place. I long ago ceased listening - any good points that you may have are lost amongst the constant noise.


Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 7 years ago from The Ozarks

Sufi, read my hub about what happened to Sally Boysen. See what they claimed each chimp needed for his or her maintenance. I am not making this up.


Paraglider profile image

Paraglider 7 years ago from Kyle, Scotland Author

Prettydarkhorse - I have thought of making a compilation, but I don't think I'll have the time until I stop working full time. Maybe yet another retirement project?

Aya - Einstein's theoretical work was carried out in a very different intellectual landscape from today's, and while it's true that he was able to theorise alone, the equipment that was eventually able to test his theories was not built in Charlie's garage or by General Motors.

I have to agree with Sufi, that you do tend to bring your agenda wherever you visit. Your comments are welcome of course, even if they sometimes seem less about the hub I've written than about the one I might have written and didn't ;)

I'm sorry to hear Greek dancing is in decline. I blame Global warming...


Sufidreamer profile image

Sufidreamer 7 years ago from Sparti, Greece

Aya: It was late, and that probably came off a little harsher than intended, but the point remains. I love talking with you about Project Bow, but as soon as you start mentioning free markets and government, I switch off. Quite simply, I have little interest in Ayn Rand, Austrian Schools or invisible hands - they bore me.

Paraglider: You might be on to something - I will reduce my carbon footprint immediately. A small sacrifice to make for the beleaguered Greek dancing industry :)


Paraglider profile image

Paraglider 7 years ago from Kyle, Scotland Author

Hi Sufi - an aside, at the time of writing, people are visiting Dropout Nation at the rate of one per 30 seconds, from Stumbleupon, landing on the Michael Gartner article. Let's hope a few of them keep coming back!


Sufidreamer profile image

Sufidreamer 7 years ago from Sparti, Greece

Just checked the activity thing out - that is fantastic news. Very good to have Mike on board - he has the handy knack of digging up interesting information :)


Sufidreamer profile image

Sufidreamer 7 years ago from Sparti, Greece

PS - As an aside aside - I hope that you have something special planned for your 100th Hub!


Paraglider profile image

Paraglider 7 years ago from Kyle, Scotland Author

The big 100? Maybe a commercial for Single Malt Whisky ;)


Sufidreamer profile image

Sufidreamer 7 years ago from Sparti, Greece

Sounds great :)

We do get single malts over here, but they are very expensive so I stick with the ouzo. Luckily, my brother-in-law arrives in just over a week and has been instructed to bring a bottle of Bunnahabhain :)

Mind you, I can imagine that such liquid pleasures are even more difficult to come by in your part of the world!


poetlorraine 7 years ago

we meet again, that is 3 times in one day.... what is going on..... followed Sufi here, figured if he read it must be worth reading speak soon no doubt


Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 7 years ago from The Ozarks

Sufidreamer, Project Bow and the funding for Project Bow are closely related topics. You can't say that what I am doing is great without realizing why I am able to do it and why that is great, too.

Paraglider, primatology is a branch of science. Ask other primatologists, if you don't believe me, what kind of funding it takes to run an ape language project and how many support personnel it usually requires. Most scientists go home at the end of the day and on weekends. The apes never go home. Somebody has to be there for them. Ask any reputable university in the United States or Canada why they no longer allow such projects. Money will come up. Large figures, in fact. They will tell you what kind of endowment they would need to have to be able to do this.


Paraglider profile image

Paraglider 7 years ago from Kyle, Scotland Author

Aya - no-one can think about everything, and I will be honest with you - I haven't thought through my feelings about your project. To be honest, I am unsure whether or not your project is in the best interests of your chimpanzee. I am not saying it is not; I simply don't know. There are far, far more important things than money to consider when you are hugely influencing the life of a sentient(?) creature,


Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 7 years ago from The Ozarks

Paraglider, fair enough. I understand why you might have reservations. I welcome you to read more about it, before you make up your mind.

As far as the funding issues are concerned, one reason they are occurring is because the tide of popular opinion has turned against this type of research. So, returning to your original topic, the only people who can proceed with scientific research on this front are the ones who are not subject to the restraints of popular opinion or public funding. That's how this discussion ties into the hub you wrote! You can't say "must" to a true scientist. You also can't say "must not!" A true scientist is free to do what he will.


Paraglider profile image

Paraglider 7 years ago from Kyle, Scotland Author

But Aya, is that true? A true scientist, philosopher, artist, has absolute freedom of thought, but not of action. Supposing I want to test my theory that elephants can feel no pain? Should I then be 'free' to buy an elephant to experiment on? In your profile you say "I wanted to bring up a chimpanzee and teach it language". OK, you've had a go, but what did the chimpanzee want? Are you exercising 'dominion over the animals'? Is what you are doing ethically acceptable? I do not know, I have not given it enough thought. But to assert that it is your right, as a free American, is simply off the radar as far as I am concerned. It sounds like the argument of a spoiled child. I was brought up to believe 'I want' does not get. I am sure you look after Bow like your own child. I am not sure the 'experiment' is ethical.


Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 7 years ago from The Ozarks

Paraglider, what if I said I wanted a human child to bring up in a particular way. (I did, in fact, say and do that, too.) Is it ethical to bring a child into the world just because you want it? I believe it's the only ethical reason to do so! If you don't want it, then you can't be a good parent.

Do you think Bow would even have existed if not for me and people like me? He was born in Missouri. If it weren't for the fact that this IS legal, he would never have been born at all.

The people who are fighting against breeding chimpanzees in captivity are fighting for the extinction of a dying species. The only chance chimpanzees have is to co-exist with humans in places where they are wanted.


Paraglider profile image

Paraglider 7 years ago from Kyle, Scotland Author

Aya - it depends on the way, surely? I don't doubt your motives at all, but checks should be in place, surely, to prevent such things as breeding fighting dogs, and other abuses? Society has a legitimate interest in what is happening.


Quilligrapher profile image

Quilligrapher 7 years ago from New York

Para, another very informative read. I guess the current discussion is further proof that some well-written hubs never die.

I would also venture a guess that, had you had the luxury of more time, you might have even included Madame Marie Curie, along with Newton, Einstein, and Darwin, in your list of “gentlemen” scientists.

I can’t say what triggered that thought but I just couldn’t resist sharing it with you. It comes at no cost and I imagine is worth at least half that much.

Q.


Paraglider profile image

Paraglider 7 years ago from Kyle, Scotland Author

Hi Q - yes, Marie Curie certainly merits inclusion, though I don't think her huge reputation is seriously dented by my original omission!

{{It comes at no cost and I imagine is worth at least half that much.}}

Nice phrase - I'll probably borrow it at the first appropriate moment :)


Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 7 years ago from The Ozarks

Paraglider, I'm glad you don't doubt my motives. That means a lot.

However, the issue that is applicable here, and that I don't think you quite see yet, is that different people consider different things to be abusive. For instance, I think that neutering dogs and cats is an unkind act that does not take into account the best interests of the animal being mutilated. But many very simple minded people who believe in ethical treatment of animals are very much in favor of neutering and are even campaigning to make it mandatory.

What is ethical or unethical is a matter for people to deliberate on and decide privately. Allowing public officials to make this decision for everyone is what creates death camps, animal shelters, chimpanzee sanctuaries, and concentration camps of every other sort.


Sufidreamer profile image

Sufidreamer 7 years ago from Sparti, Greece

I didn't realise that I was simple minded, thanks.

We neuter our cats because there is a serious problem with the cat population around here - it is a hard, short life for the feral cats and adding more kittens will not help the problem. We take in kittens that would have otherwise died - they are now happy, secure, and two are currently curled up upon my lap.

As for the other point that you failed to answer, I still cannot see why you have to push your libertarian agenda at every opportunity. This hub is about science, not economics or politics, which are mentioned only in passing. You seem to want to divert every single thread onto your fear of government and it is, quite frankly, dull.

As for the ethics and private individuals - Paraglider nailed it with the fighting dogs. A few years ago, Greece had no legislation about animal welfare - animals were not treated well and were starved, beaten and left untreated. Things have improved recently with just a few basic laws - your point is weak.


Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 7 years ago from The Ozarks

Sufi, Paraglider's hub was about this thesis: that no one should tell a scientist what issues he "must" address. Paraglider went on to say that a project should be funded by government, but that scientists should be free to do as they wish. I was merely pointing out the internal inconsistencies in that position. Every scientific discovery has ethical ramifications. Most research requires funding. If the funding is not private, then it all boils down to telling scientists what they must or must not do. Everything I said was on point.

I agree that the substance of the debate on neutering is not within the purview of this hub's content. But what is very significant is that you and I (both intelligent people) can have diametrically opposing views about what is ethical. It is because views on ethics are so variable that ethics should not be forced on people by other people.


Sufidreamer profile image

Sufidreamer 7 years ago from Sparti, Greece

If you think that private funding 'frees' scientists, then you are sadly mistaken. As a case in point, one of my graduate class found a job with a major oil company, to monitor pollution levels in the estuary. He was told exactly what results to find before he even started the experiment - there was to be no pollution. Governments are not perfect, and I am no apologist, but your idea that private enterprise will not tell scientists what to do is very naive. Try finding some useful and unbiased research about Global Warming and you will see what I mean.

As for the ethics, I gave you an example. Before legislation = animal cruelty. After legislation = less animal cruelty. Once again, you have skirted around the issue and tried to fit it into your preset little box. I fear for a world in which people have free rein to set their own ethics - there are bad people in the world, Aya, and they do not all work for governments. You are pretty much saying that I should be able to torture a dog, with impunity. How does that work?


Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 7 years ago from The Ozarks

But, Sufi, are you saying that the government should be allowed to come in and castrate my animals, because you believe that not doing so is unethical? Or do you agree with me that I should let you castrate yours, while I leave mine unmutilated?

I believe that if we allow bad people to mistreat some animals who are under their care, the animals will die and will not reproduce and so the torture will be short-lived.

The sanctuaries won't let chimps breed. That means, that only those people who do let chimps breed will have any chimps left.

In this way, ethics enforces itself. That's how I think it works.

This is also why there are very few bad mothers in nature, but many bad mothers in a country with child protective services.


Sufidreamer profile image

Sufidreamer 7 years ago from Sparti, Greece

Sorry, Aya, but you just sent a chill down my spine. I cannot believe that you just said:

"I believe that if we allow bad people to mistreat some animals who are under their care, the animals will die and will not reproduce and so the torture will be short-lived."

I have seen cases where the torture went on for years, Aya, and the person responsible then just finds another dog.

"But, Sufi, are you saying that the government should be allowed to come in and castrate my animals, because you believe that not doing so is unethical? Or do you agree with me that I should let you castrate yours, while I leave mine unmutilated?"

Aya, you are doing this 'either/or' trick, evading the issue and attempting to appeal to emotion. Think about human cloning as a hot ethical topic - should we just let private individuals clone humans without considering the ethical, psychological or sociological implications? Medicine does not have a great ethical record - sometimes wider implications have to be considered.

"In this way, ethics enforces itself. That's how I think it works.

This is also why there are very few bad mothers in nature, but many bad mothers in a country with child protective services."

I think that you will find that mistreatment of children happens in all societies, with child protection services or not. Besides which, if we allow bad people to mistreat some children who are under their care, the children will die and will not reproduce and so the torture will be short-lived.

Ethics do not enforce themselves - every human society since the dawn of man has had taboos - why is that?


Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 7 years ago from The Ozarks

Sufi, you just made my point for me. The point is: we don't always know what will be good. I may be wrong. You may be wrong. Or we could both be wrong and someone else is right. So that's why it is better for reality to decide what the truth is -- instead of letting our neighbors tell us what to do.

Here is another example. Most people love their children and want them to prosper. No two people agree on what is best. Right now there is a controversy in the U.S. concerning the swine flu vaccine. Some believe it will save lives. Others believe it is deadly. (Now, it's quite possible that both extremes are wrong. Very few people have considered that it might be a placebo.)

Should we force people to all make the same decision? Or should we let each family decide for itself?

If all take the vaccine and it is deadly, all will die. If none take the vaccine, and the epidemic is serious and the vaccine is effective, then again all will die. But... if some take it, and some don't, then as a society we are hedging our bets, and what's more, the people who were right will prosper.

On top of which, if it is a placebo and there is no epidemic, it doesn't really matter, does it?


Sufidreamer profile image

Sufidreamer 7 years ago from Sparti, Greece

No, Aya, I did not make your point for you; just because you say it did, that did not make it so. At the end of the day, I don't personally get to decide anything for you, nor would I want to, so your first paragraph is completely irrelevant.

Again, you deflect questions that are uncomfortable to with. You failed to clarify your belief that you would allow the torture of animals. You failed to answer the question of whether human cloning is acceptable. You failed to address the issue of child protection services.

Thus, I did not make your point for you, you just decided that it did because it gives you a way of dodging tough questions. Even now, you are trying to manipulate the debate towards the same circular arguments that you have used ever since you first joined Hubpages.

With the vaccine - I tend to inhabit the grey areas of life, so stop trying to force me into answering a yes/no loaded question. An answer to that statement would require much research and a hub-length comment. ;)


Paraglider profile image

Paraglider 7 years ago from Kyle, Scotland Author

Aya & Sufi - I have not been ignoring these posts, but I've been specifying a technical expansion of a TV channel, which pays the bills. I've knocked off for the night and have this observation:

Aya said - {{Sufi, Paraglider's hub was about this thesis: that no one should tell a scientist what issues he "must" address. Paraglider went on to say that a project should be funded by government, but that scientists should be free to do as they wish. I was merely pointing out the internal inconsistencies in that position. Every scientific discovery has ethical ramifications. Most research requires funding. If the funding is not private, then it all boils down to telling scientists what they must or must not do. Everything I said was on point.}}

I wonder if you read the hub at all? I carefully stated that issues 'are' addressed by politicians who control, etc. The 'should be' is your projection onto my original, to set up a straw man to burn down.

Further, I made a clear distinction between 'technologists, engineers and specialists of many disciplines' (in other words, scientific workers) and 'scientists' who, as I stated, 'go their own sweet way'.

Also, at no point did I say that scientists 'should be free to do as they wish'. There's a world of difference between 'doing' and theorising. I think my elephant example should have made that clear.


Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 7 years ago from The Ozarks

Paraglider, I did read your hub, but I am astonished by your own interpretation of what it means. For instance, I quote what you wrote: "They [ scientists] ensure that their theories are falsifiable by contradictory observation."

So, if one set of scientists states, as indeed they have, that only humans can acquire language, presumably this statement is falsifiable. How would one go about falsifying it? By showing that a non-human can acquire language. In order to do so, you have to interact with a non-human in ways that might enable the acquisition of language. If the politicians are the ones who control access to non-humans, then the politicians control who can falsify the hypothesis.

Did you really mean that it's the scientists' job to formulate hypotheses, and the politicians' job to go about checking to see if they are false?

That interpretation of your hub never occurred to me until I read your last comment!


Sufidreamer profile image

Sufidreamer 7 years ago from Sparti, Greece

"Did you really mean that it's the scientists' job to formulate hypotheses, and the politicians' job to go about checking to see if they are false?"

Another strawman, Aya - Paraglider never said that; you make a habit of putting words into people's mouths. Now, you are trying to force him into answering a loaded yes/no question. It is another facile appeal to extremism, a blind either/or view of the world.

By that reckoning, experiments such as the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment should have been allowed to stand, because to do otherwise would have meant letting the evils of government take over. The politicians and lawmakers prevent scientists from crossing ethical boundaries - that is what you cannot seem to grasp. Not perfect, by any means, but science does need clearly defined ethical boundaries, especially in medicine and psychology.

Ethics is an exceptionally complex field, with few right and wrong answers. It is certainly more complex than the 'Little House on the Prairie' simplicity that you keep banging on about. I am starting to understand that you are as dogmatic and uncompromising in your beliefs as the religious extremists.

EDIT: Aya - "Besides which, if we allow bad people to mistreat some children who are under their care, the children will die and will not reproduce and so the torture will be short-lived."

I think that you missed the point with that comment, Aya - I was turning your own words against you, not supporting your argument ;)

In fact, your agreement with that point is giving me goosebumps - that is a very dark place, Aya.


Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 7 years ago from The Ozarks

Sufi, perhaps I should clarify what I meant when I said that you made my point for me. You wrote: "Besides which, if we allow bad people to mistreat some children who are under their care, the children will die and will not reproduce and so the torture will be short-lived."

That was my point. I did not make it this explicit, but you did. It's also why I support a mother's right to end a pregnancy.

There is a branch of science that deals with the evolution of morality. It turns out that morality and ethics have survival value. That's why the less we intervene in the lives of others, the more likely it is that those others will find their own way to moral living.

Would I allow dogs to be tortured? Not in my home or under my rule! But the thing is, I don't control what goes on in other places. And I don't have the ambition to start dictating to others. Apparently, you do.


Paraglider profile image

Paraglider 7 years ago from Kyle, Scotland Author

Forgotten the Universities?

But, yes, if some theories in, say, eugenics, can only be tested by unethical means, then it is wholly proper that an official body, whether governmental or approved NGO, should be able to stop the experiments being carried out.


Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 7 years ago from The Ozarks

Paraglider, I'm not sure I understand what you mean by "Forgotten the Universities"? Could you clarify?

You seem to be very certain what is unethical when it comes to the treatment of dependents. In this, I think I am less dogmatic than either you or Sufidreamer.

The reason I fear government involvement in what we may or may not do is in part because I see how far reasonable people can disagree about what is ethical. When treating a chimpanzee as your own child is deemed unethical and dooming non-African chimps to extinction is considered ethical, I have serious reservations about letting politicians make decisions about ethics.


Sufidreamer profile image

Sufidreamer 7 years ago from Sparti, Greece

Again, Aya, you are putting words in mouths. Paraglider said nothing about being certain about what is unethical. You are the dogmatic one, Aya - you firmly believe that those who do not agree with your narrow views are wrong. Paraglider and I, on the other hand, have repeatedly stated that it is a complex field, with few absolutes.

As for your second point, it is so ridiculous that it is barely worth pointing out the flaw: Not everybody is reasonable, Aya. That is the real world outside the ivory tower of your ideology. It is yet another black/white appeal to emotion ie. if we do not agree with you, we hate chimps.


Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 7 years ago from The Ozarks

Sufi, I never thought or said that you hated chimps. You're taking this all too personally.

When I talk about dooming non-African chimpanzees to extinction, I am referring to what has been a mainstream movement to segregate all American chimpanzees in sanctuaries where they are denied the right to reproduce. The natural result of this policy is that chimpanzees are being phased out of existence outside their natural setting. If you don't believe me, read up on the sanctuaries. Read what they say about the "surplus chimpanzee population." Read what the Jane Goodall Foundation says. Read what many activists are suggesting.

I am talking about facts.


Paraglider profile image

Paraglider 7 years ago from Kyle, Scotland Author

The Universities are where peer review of scientific theory takes place. Government and/or commercial funding is not necessary except when the costs are very high.

And again, no. It is precisely because I am not certain what is unethical that I prefer to devolve that responsibility to a body of people rather than let everyone do whatever they want, unmonitored. Just as I would rather be tried by a jury than by a lone judge who might be a closet scotiaphobe.


Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 7 years ago from The Ozarks

Paraglider, I have not forgotten the universities. Perhaps you are not aware of this, but even private universities in the United States and Canada are highly dependent on government funding for their support.

A Canadian biologist recently wanted to work with me and Bow on finding a more objective standard of proof. She was not planning to bring funding to Project Bow, but she did hope to get equipment for herself while working on this project. She therefore contacted her institution's grant writer and the "animal certification people" to get all the proper permissions. It turned out that not only could she not apply for a grant, but even if she worked with us for free, her university would lose ALL its funding from the Canadian government.

She also learned that she is no longer allowed to show her private electical eel to her students, again, under pains of losing funding.

You have no idea how crazy the laws that are supposedly in place to prevent cruelty to animals have become!


Sufidreamer profile image

Sufidreamer 7 years ago from Sparti, Greece

"Sufi, I never thought or said that you hated chimps. You're taking this all too personally."

Nope - I merely enjoy a robust debate:)

You are the one personalizing the debate, I am afraid. You brought up your personal political beliefs and shoehorned them into a thread which has little to do with governmental control. I am genuinely sorry that you have trouble with Bow, and I like your work, but one individual case does not make me give up everything that I have learned and reasoned about ethics.

"I am talking about facts."

I have never disputed that - it may well be true, and I am familiar with the work of Jane Goodall. However, that is another deflection of the subject. Another time and place, but I have some sympathy for your views - that does not mean that I have to completely accept all of your ideology.

What I am talking about is the complexity of ethics and that it cannot be boiled down into a little ideological box. My particular speciality in ethics is in medicine and psychology - the record in those fields shames scientific research and, without Paraglider's 'Body of Experts,' I fear the ramifications :(


Paraglider profile image

Paraglider 7 years ago from Kyle, Scotland Author

Individual cases don't make good law. We all know that. But laws, policies, etc are also 'scientific' insofar as they are postulated in the hope of being universal and modified when shown to be lacking. If I was tasked with formulating some general animal cruelty legislation, I'd aim for the greater good of a million dogs and cats, and one household with a chimp would not feature. When the law is suddenly forced to notice the lone chimp, the law may be found lacking. That's where you need an ombudsman to arbitrate. You don't just cry foul against a good working law. But I can hardly believe I'm having to explain something that is so well understood by so many people.


Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 7 years ago from The Ozarks

Sufi, I did read Paraglider's hub. I'm constantly quoting from it, to show this not off-topic. Here's another sentence from the hub: "Scientists are not wage slaves to be ordered around."

My colleague from Canada is now receiving orders from her government about what sort of research she may be involved with without jeopardizing her university's funding. In what way is she not a wage slave being ordered around?


Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 7 years ago from The Ozarks

Paraglider, I've no doubt that a law written by you would be better than the law we currently have. ;-> Neither you nor I are likely to have the power to enact any legislation penned by us. When you consider who is writing these animal welfare laws, would it not be much better not to have any? These are not laws about household dogs and cats. They are laws about public money and who gets it and what they are allowed to do with it.

I'm not hoping to get any funding. But it would be so much easier to find people willing to work with me, if they weren't getting any either. Public funding manipulates scientists and corrupts the scientific community.


Sufidreamer profile image

Sufidreamer 7 years ago from Sparti, Greece

I will repeat my earlier comment, to save time:

"If you think that private funding 'frees' scientists, then you are sadly mistaken. As a case in point, one of my graduate class found a job with a major oil company, to monitor pollution levels in the estuary. He was told exactly what results to find before he even started the experiment - there was to be no pollution. Governments are not perfect, and I am no apologist, but your idea that private enterprise will not tell scientists what to do is very naïve. Try finding some useful and unbiased research about Global Warming and you will see what I mean."

Private funding leads to restrictions and corruption, too. That is the reality of science, I am afraid.

Paraglider's point was that scientists do not address issues, but try to follow the scientific method. Your quote is out of context, as he has already explained, at least twice:

"Issues are addressed by politicians who control which projects are funded and which ones are buried. Technologists, engineers and specialists of many disciplines are tasked by their political and commercial masters to find economically viable solutions to politically or commercially important problems."

The Hub was written as a response to the fallacy of stating that Scientists address issues - society must do that, which is what we have been trying to explain for the entire thread.

As predicted, your arguments are becoming circular in nature.


Paraglider profile image

Paraglider 7 years ago from Kyle, Scotland Author

Aya, it's not difficult. If you want absolute freedom to do anything you want, you have to use your own money. If you work for someone who tells you what to do, you have two choices: do it, or leave. In my life, I've done both. Your friend does not have the right to commandeer public funds to pursue her own agenda. She is, however free to choose whether to be an employed scientific worker or a self-employed scientist.


Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 7 years ago from The Ozarks

Sufi, you know what, I give up. Maybe I am really misreading this hub. I guess that I should accept that Paraglider, as the author, has the right to determine what it's about. For whatever it's worth, I thought I was on topic. "Issues are addressed by politicians." Fine. Whatever.


Paraglider profile image

Paraglider 7 years ago from Kyle, Scotland Author

11:00 p.m. here folks. I'm calling it a night, with work in the morning. See you soon - Dave.


Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 7 years ago from The Ozarks

Paraglider, I agree. My colleague is a servant of the Canadian government. As such she can't decide what scientific work she will do. I, on the other hand, am free. Which of us do you think will make a contribution to science where chimpanzees and language are concerned? Has the public funding of scientists helped advance science? No. But maybe that's not the topic here, either. The topic is: what do scientists do.


Sufidreamer profile image

Sufidreamer 7 years ago from Sparti, Greece

No worries, Aya - I am only an hour behind Paraglider, so it is time to finish. Thanks for the interesting debate - you have given me much food for thought.

Goodnight, Dave


jjarman profile image

jjarman 7 years ago from http://www.wix.com/THSC1776/THSC

I agree with the Author here. To move much further in almost any aspect of our growth as a species we must settle our differences and work together as Human Beings. God, nor any other intelligent species, will allow us to spread outside of our current situation until we can stop destroying ourselves every time we get close to moving on. If we act like a cancer to this planet God will treat us as such. If we act more like the spread of creation such as a pollen God will let our greatest minds continue their journeys. I have started writing on this subject. You should read my hubs if this interests you.

James R Jarman

Human


Paraglider profile image

Paraglider 7 years ago from Kyle, Scotland Author

James - thanks for commenting. I would state that case rather differently and say if we continue to advance our science and develop our technologies without examine the ethics of our activities then we may very well destroy ourselves. But with attention to ethics, our efforts can indeed be for the good of all humanity.

There is some chance for a universal appeal to ethics; there is none for a universal appeal to God, since we are so divided on that issue.


jc 6 years ago

what does scientist do


Moulik Mistry profile image

Moulik Mistry 6 years ago from Burdwan, West Bengal, India

If science over-develops allowing the scientists to flout the basic human ethics, why should we allow the honchos to spend astronomical amount of people's money? And thus science and scientists have contributed greatly towards creating mass-destructive wars all around the war...


Paraglider profile image

Paraglider 6 years ago from Kyle, Scotland Author

Moulik Mistry - yes & no. Of course science spawns technology, but it is the politicians who start the wars, not the scientists.


munirahmadmughal profile image

munirahmadmughal 6 years ago from Lahore, Pakistan.

"What do Scientists do?" They do what they do but we are not doing what we have to do. A Scientist is in search of the truth. This search is of great significane and value. A scientist puts forward his research before the whole world to test it and suggest any improvement in it. The comforts and luxuries we are availing today are all the results of the scientists. Science is a great blessing to mankind for the reason that it is based on verifiable knowledge.Nothing better has happened in the history of man than the advent of science in his life. The reason is that superstition, surmies and conjectures have been replaced by hard facts made subject ot acid tests.The world in which the science came was a world of ignorance, suffering and hardship. These have been turned into awareness, comfort and convenience. Science has served the mankind faithfully. It is the abuse or misuse of its achievements that resulted in creating disorder and chaos. But the advantages of it are being felt like brought day light every where. There has come a global revolution throughout by the blessings of the science.There is no walk of life where science has not played its role.World has become a global village and the United Nations Orgaization is playing its maximum role to create world fraternity and bring human problems to a joint table. We have to play our role to make the world loving and peaceful. Here also our apporoach must be scientific as well as humnistic. People say, science does not beleive in God is not true. How can a faculty that is in search of truth can deny the Ultimate Omni Scient, God Almighty. Science is one drop out of His Knowledge and it is proving day bey day that there is one supreme Being whose law is in force verywhere in the same way. Iron powder particles are attracted towards the magnet even in millions. Water flows downward everywhere. Water biols at a certain temperaturea nd freezes at a certain degree is same everywhere. Presence of God is felt in every atom and at every moment. How can a scientist deny it. Sooner or later he yields before the Truth. He has every right to express himself in search of the truth and may take h im time to reach the goal. To label him otherwise haastily is not justified on any sound principle of justice and fairplay. It is the education and awareness among the nations that would advance peaceful efforts. Misunderstandings and fallacies hould be removed on sound principles of social welfare and well being of all the people without any discrimination. Lack of knowledge results in much a do for nothing. Hence ascientit and people inother fields must join hand in removing the miseries of mankind. Negative lip service is of no use. Truth must prevail everywhere.


Paraglider profile image

Paraglider 6 years ago from Kyle, Scotland Author

munirahmadmughal - I'm not sure if you read my hub or if you just deposited your own? Scientists are in search of incontrovertible theories with high predictive power. Technologists and business use the results of science to change our physical world, for better and worse.

Citing the physical properties of matter is not evidence for God. That is not the remit of science.


nicomp profile image

nicomp 6 years ago from Ohio, USA

Modern science, for better or worse, is very much issue-driven at many colleges and universities. Funding is king. In order to get public funding, a researcher writes grant proposals oriented toward hot button issues. For example, the NSF wants to fund STEP projects and global warming projects; therefore they will receive proposals oriented toward those topics.


Paraglider profile image

Paraglider 6 years ago from Kyle, Scotland Author

nicomp - Unfortunately we've created a world dominated by finance, so it's true that pure 'blue sky' research funding is very rare. However, that changes the fields of study but the nature of science, to seek explanatory theories, is still the same.


Hi  6 years ago

i would like to ask you... what to do when you work really, really hard to achive a goal (this goal felt as a responsibility in your hearth) but then you feel that you hate doing what you were supposed to love.


kay-kay. 6 years ago

io would certainly like if you send your comments in an understandable way!!!!!!!!


Michael Adams1959 profile image

Michael Adams1959 6 years ago from Wherever God leads us.

short yes word must used a bit yes, but hub was right to the point and the shortness and usage of must was right on the point excellent hub


Paraglider profile image

Paraglider 6 years ago from Kyle, Scotland Author

Thanks Michael :)


RussellLHuey profile image

RussellLHuey 5 years ago

Interesting article about scientists. Thanks for sharing.


Paraglider profile image

Paraglider 5 years ago from Kyle, Scotland Author

My pleasure, Russell, thanks for commenting.


Pooja jain 4 years ago

good job]

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