I argue that the study of variability rather than invariance should head the reading research agenda, and that strong claims of orthographic are unwarranted. I also expand briefly on Frost's assertion that an efficient orthography must represent sound and meaning, by considering writing systems as dual-purpose devices that must provide decipherability for novice readers and automatizability for the expert.
Background: Empirical studies in Muslim communities on organ donation and blood transfusion show that Muslim counsellors play an important role in the decision process. Despite the emerging importance of online English Sunni fatwas, these fatwas on organ donation and blood transfusion have hardly been studied, thus creating a gap in our knowledge of contemporary Islamic views on the subject. Method: We analysed 70 English Sunni e-fatwas and subjected them to an in-depth text analysis in order to reveal the key concepts (...) in the Islamic ethical framework regarding organ donation and blood transfusion. Results: All 70 fatwas allow for organ donation and blood transfusion. Autotransplantation is no problem at all if done for medical reasons. Allotransplantation, both from a living and a dead donor, appears to be possible though only in quite restricted ways. Xenotransplantation is less often mentioned but can be allowed in case of necessity. Transplantation in general is seen as an ongoing form of charity. Nearly half of the fatwas allowing blood transfusion do so without mentioning any restriction or problem whatsoever. The other half of the fatwas on transfusion contain the same conditional approval as found in the arguments pro organ transplantation. Conclusion: Our findings are very much in line with the international literature on the subject. We found two new elements: debates on the definition of the moment of death are hardly mentioned in the English Sunni fatwas and organ donation and blood transfusion are presented as an ongoing form of charity. (shrink)
The goal of this essay is to illustrate how Ebrahim Moosa's method of “contrapuntal reading” can be applied fruitfully to the Sunni hadith literature. My case study is the set of penalties (hudud) for illicit sex, which include flogging, stoning, and banishment. I propose a fresh reading of these sacred texts that brings to the fore the ethical dimension of Prophet Muhammad's conduct, especially his strong reluctance to apply these measures. I conclude by identifying four ethical problems that the stoning (...) penalty raises and suggest how the hadith literature can be read to argue against the validity of this specific punishment. (shrink)
Background: Empirical studies in Muslim communities on organ donation and blood transfusion show that Muslim counsellors play an important role in the decision process. Despite the emerging importance of online English Sunni fatwas, these fatwas on organ donation and blood transfusion have hardly been studied, thus creating a gap in our knowledge of contemporary Islamic views on the subject.Method: We analysed 70 English Sunni e-fatwas and subjected them to an in-depth text analysis in order to reveal the key concepts in (...) the Islamic ethical framework regarding organ donation and blood transfusion.Results: All 70 fatwas allow for organ donation and blood transfusion. Autotransplantation is no problem at all if done for medical reasons. Allotransplantation, both from a living and a dead donor, appears to be possible though only in quite restricted ways. Xenotransplantation is less often mentioned but can be allowed in case of necessity. Transplantation in general is seen as an ongoing form of charity. Nearly half of the fatwas allowing blood transfusion do so without mentioning any restriction or problem whatsoever. The other half of the fatwas on transfusion contain the same conditional approval as found in the arguments pro organ transplantation.Conclusion: Our findings are very much in line with the international literature on the subject. We found two new elements: debates on the definition of the moment of death are hardly mentioned in the English Sunni fatwas and organ donation and blood transfusion are presented as an ongoing form of charity. (shrink)
Juridical councils that render rulings on bioethical issues for Muslims living in non-Muslim lands may have limited familiarity with the foundational concept of wilāyah (authority and governance) and its implications for their authority and functioning. This paper delineates a Sunni Māturīdi perspective on the concept of wilāyah, describes how levels of wilāyah correlate to levels of responsibility and enforceability, and describes the implications of wilāyah when applied to Islamic bioethical decision making. Muslim health practitioners and patients living in the absence (...) of political wilāyah may be tempted to apply pragmatic and context-focused approaches to address bioethical dilemmas without a full appreciation of significant implications in the afterlife. Academic wilāyah requires believers to seek authentication of uncertain actions through scholarly opinions. Fulfilling this academic obligation naturally leads to additional mutually beneficial discussions between Islamic scholars, healthcare professionals, and patients. Furthermore, an understanding derived from a Māturīdi perspective provides a framework for Islamic scholars and Muslim health care professionals to generate original contributions to mainstream bioethics and public policy discussions. (shrink)
: Drawing from work in feminist moral philosophy, Tobin argues that the most common methodology used in practical ethics is a questionable methodology for addressing practical problems across diverse cultural contexts because the kind of impartiality it requires is neither feasible nor desirable. She then defends an alternative methodology for practical ethics in a global context and uses her proposed methodology to evaluate a problem that confronts many Sunni Muslim women around the world.
Ever since the start of the twentieth century, a growing interest and importance of studying fatwas can be noted, with a focus on Arabic printed fatwas (Wokoeck 2009). The scholarly study of end-of-life ethics in these fatwas is a very recent feature, taking a first start in the 1980s (Anees 1984; Rispler-Chaim 1993). Since the past two decades, we have witnessed the emergence of a multitude of English fatwas that can easily be consulted through the Internet (‘e-fatwas’), providing Muslims worldwide (...) with a form of Islamic normative guidance on a huge variety of topics. Although English online fatwas do provide guidance for Muslims and Muslim minorities worldwide on a myriad of topics including end-of-life issues, they have hardly been studied. This study analyses Islamic views on (non-)voluntary euthanasia and assisted suicide as expressed in English Sunni fatwas published on independent—i.e. not created by established organisations—Islamic websites. We use Tyan’s definition of a fatwa to distinguish between fatwas and other types of texts offering Islamic guidance through the Internet. The study of e-fatwas is framed in the context of Bunt’s typology of Cyber Islamic Environments (Bunt 2009) and in the framework of Roy’s view on the virtual umma (Roy 2002). ‘(Non-)voluntary euthanasia and assisted suicide’ are defined using Broeckaert’s conceptual framework on treatment decisions at the end of life (Broeckaert 2008). We analysed 32 English Sunni e-fatwas. All of the e-fatwas discussed here firmly speak out against every form of active termination of life. They often bear the same structure, basing themselves solely on Quranic verses and prophetic traditions, leaving aside classical jurisprudential discussions on the subject. In this respect they share the characteristics central in Roy’s typology of the fatwa in the virtual umma. On the level of content, they are in line with the international literature on Islamic end-of-life ethics. English Sunni e-fatwas make up an influential and therefore important developing body of Islamic orthodox normative authority on end-of-life ethics that is still open for further research. (shrink)
Degrees of belief are familiar to all of us. Our conﬁdence in the truth of some propositions is higher than our conﬁdence in the truth of other propositions. We are pretty conﬁdent that our computers will boot when we push their power button, but we are much more conﬁdent that the sun will rise tomorrow. Degrees of belief formally represent the strength with which we believe the truth of various propositions. The higher an agent’s degree of belief for a particular (...) proposition, the higher her conﬁdence in the truth of that proposition. For instance, Sophia’s degree of belief that it will be sunny in Vienna tomorrow might be .52, whereas her degree of belief that the train will leave on time might be .23. The precise meaning of these statements depends, of course, on the underlying theory of degrees of belief. These theories offer a formal tool to measure degrees of belief, to investigate the relations between various degrees of belief in different propositions, and to normatively evaluate degrees of belief. (shrink)
“Rational beings pursue and value truth (the true, along with the good and the beautiful). Intellectual conduct is to be judged, accordingly, by how well it aids our pursuit of that ideal.” What does this mean, and is it true? Even if intelligent life had never evolved or otherwise existed, Venus would still have orbited the Sun, so it would still have been true that Venus orbited the Sun. It is not the being thus true of what is true that (...) we value indiscriminately. Some truths are good, but not all, far from it. In loving the truth, then, what we value is not the being true of the truths. What we value in pursuing truth is rather our grasping it, our having it. What does this mean? Only through believing it does one relevantly have a truth: we have the truth that snow is white by believing that snow is white. In pursuing the truth what we want is (at least) true beliefs. Suppose you enter your dentist’s waiting room and find all the magazines taken. Deprived of reading matter, you’re sure to doze off, but you need no sleep. Are you then rationally bound to reach for the telephone book in pursuit of truth? Were you not to do so, you would forfeit a chance to pluck some desired goods within easy reach. If random telephone numbers do not elicit a wide enough yawn, consider a randomly selected cubic foot of the Sahara. Here is a trove of facts, of the form grain x is so many millimeters in direction D from grain y, than which few can be of less interest. Or take some bit of trivia known to me at the moment: say, that it was sunny in Rhode Island at noon on October 21, 1999. I confess that I will not rue my loss of this information, nor do I care either that or how early it will be gone. As interpreted so far, the view that we rationally want truth as such reduces to absurdity, or is at best problematic. What then is it we want in pursuing truth? If it is not after all true beliefs indiscriminately, what then is it? A manageable number of true beliefs? Obviously not; it is not just a matter of numbers.. (shrink)
Some philosophers have argued recently that introspective evidence provides direct support for an intentionalist theory of visual experience. An intentionalist theory of visual experience treats experience as an intentional state, a state with an intentional content. (I shall use the word ’state’ in a general way, for any kind of mental phenomenon, and here I shall not distinguish states proper from events, though the distinction is important.) Intentionalist theories characteristically say that the phenomenal character of an experience, what it is (...) like to have the experience, is exhausted by its intentional content. Visual experience, and on some views sense-experience generally, does not involve the awareness of ’qualia’, intrinsic, non-intentional features of the experience. According to Gilbert Harman and Michael Tye, support for this view comes from introspecting on experience. Tye describes his ’argument from introspection’ as follows: Standing on the beach in Santa Barbara a couple of summers ago on a bright sunny day, I found myself transfixed by the intense blue of the Pacific Ocean. Was I not here delighting in the phenomenal aspects of my visual experience? And if I was, doesn’t this show that there are visual qualia? I am not convinced. It seems to me that what I found so pleasing in the above instance, what I was focusing on, as it were, were a certain shade and intensity of the colour blue. I experienced blue as a property of the ocean not as a property of my experience. My experience itself certainly wasn’t blue. Rather, it was an experience which represented the ocean as blue. What I was really delighting in, then, were specific aspects of the content of the experience. Tye goes on to suggest that this might have been the sort of thing Moore meant when he said that the sensation of blue is ’diaphanous’, and glosses this as follows: When one tries to focus on it in introspection one cannot help but see right through it so that what one actually ends up attending to is the real colour blue. 1An early version of this paper was presented at the conference, Mental Phenomena III in Dubrovnik, Croatia.. (shrink)
All complex systems are complex, but some are more complex than others are. Biological systems are generally more complex than physical systems. How do biologists tackle complex systems? In this talk, we will consider two biological systems, the genome and the brain. Scientists know much about them, but much more remains unknown. Ignorance breeds philosophical speculation. Reductionism makes a strong showing here, as it does in other frontier sciences where large gaps remain in our understanding. I will show that reductionism (...) and its claims have no bases in actual scientific research and results. The Human Genome Project will serve as a case in point.. (shrink)
Quantum field theory (QFT) combines quantum mechanics with Einstein's special theory of relativity and underlies elementary particle physics. This book presents a philosophical analysis of QFT. It is the first treatise in which the philosophies of space-time, quantum phenomena, and particle interactions are encompassed in a unified framework. Describing the physics in nontechnical terms, and schematically illustrating complex ideas, the book also serves as an introduction to fundamental physical theories. The philosophical interpretation both upholds the reality of the quantum world (...) and acknowledges the irreducible cognitive elements in its representation. The interpretation is based on an analysis of our ways of thinking as the are embedded in the logical structure of QFT. The author argues that philosophical categories are significant only if they play active and essential roles in our knowledge and hence constitute part of the theories in actual use. Thus she regards physical theories as primary, extracts their categorical structure, and uses it to rethink key philosophical questions. Among the questions this book tries to answer are: What are the quantum properties independent of measurements? How do we refer to individual things in a continuous field? How do theories relate to objects? What are the general conditions of the world and of our ways of thinking that make possible our knowledge of the microscopic realm, which is so intangible and counterintuitive? As a penetrating analysis of vital themes in contemporary science, the book will engage the interest of students and professionals in physics and philosophy alike. (shrink)
Behaviors of chaotic systems are unpredictable. Chaotic systems are deterministic, their evolutions being governed by dynamical equations. Are the two statements contradictory? They are not, because the theory of chaos encompasses two levels of description. On a higher level, unpredictability appears as an emergent property of systems that are predictable on a lower level. In this talk, we examine the structure of dynamical theories to see how they employ multiple descriptive levels to explain chaos, bifurcation, and other complexities of nonlinear (...) systems.. (shrink)
Philosophers tend to be pretty impressed by human self-knowledge. Descartes (1641/1984) thought our knowledge of our own stream of experience was the secure and indubitable foundation upon which to build our knowledge of the rest of the world. Hume – who was capable of being skeptical about almost anything – said that the only existences we can be certain of are our own sensory and imagistic experiences (1739/1978, p. 212). Perhaps the most prominent writer on self-knowledge in contemporary philosophy is (...) Sydney Shoemaker. The central aim of much of his work has been to show that certain sorts of error are impossible (1963, 1988, 1994). David Chalmers has likewise attempted to show that, for a suitably constrained class of beliefs about one’s own consciousness, error is impossible (2003, sec. 4.1). Even philosophers most of the community thinks of as pessimistic about self-knowledge of consciousness seem to me, really, to be fairly optimistic. Paul Churchland, famous for his disdain of ordinary people’s knowledge about the mind, compares the accuracy of introspection to the accuracy of sense perception – pretty good, presumably, about medium-sized, nearby matters (1985, 1988). Dan Dennett, often cited as a pessimist about introspective report, actually says that we can come close to infallibility when charitably interpreted (2002). The above references concern knowledge of the stream of conscious experience, but philosophers have also tended to be impressed with our self-knowledge of our attitudes, such as our beliefs and desires. Consider this: Although I can be wrong about its being sunny outside, I can’t in the same way be wrong, it seems, about the fact that I think it’s sunny outside. Some.. (shrink)
This paper presents two interpretations of the fiber bundle formalism that is applicable to all gauge field theories. The constructionist interpretation yields a substantival spacetime. The analytic interpretation yields a structural spacetime, a third option besides the familiar substantivalism and relationalism. That the same mathematical formalism can be derived in two different ways leading to two different ontological interpretations reveals the inadequacy of pure formal arguments.
In the past two or three decades, complexity not only has been a hot research topic but has caught the popular imagination. Terms such as chaos and bifurcation become so common they find their way into Hollywood movies. What is complexity? What is the theory of complexity or the science of complexity? I do not think there is such a thing as the theory of complexity. Not even a rigid definition of complexity exists in the natural sciences. There are many (...) theories trying to address various complex systems. What I try to do is to extract some general ideas that are implicit in these theories, and more generally, in the way that scientists face and think about complicated situations. (shrink)
The recent work of Paul Teller and Sunny Auyang in the philosophy of Quantum Field Theory (QFT) has stimulated the search for the fundamental entities in this theory. In QFT, the classical notion of a particle collapses. The theory does not only exclude classical, i.e., spatiotemporally identifiable particles, but it makes particles of the same type conceptually indistinguishable. Teller and Auyang have proposed competing ersatz-ontologies to account for the 'loss of particles': field quanta vs. field events. Both ontologies, however, (...) suffer from serious defects. While quanta lack numerical identity, spatiotemporal localizability, and independence of basis-representations, events--if understood as concrete measurement events--are related to the theory only statistically. I propose an alternative solution: The entities of QFT are events of the type 'Quantum system, S, is in quantum state, Ψ '. These are not point events, but Davidsonian events, i.e., they can be identified by their location within the causal net of the world. (shrink)
America has poured about 200 billion dollars into cancer research since President Nixon declared war on cancer in 1971. How is the war going after three decades? Why do assessments vary as widely as “beating cancer” and “loosing the war on cancer?”.
Speculations from God’s position are illusory; we have no access to that position. Ontology concerns not with what exist as God ordains but with what exist as intelligible within the bounds of human understanding. It calls for analyzing not only nature but also the characteristics of our own thinking that make possible analysis and knowledge of nature, so that we do not inadvertently attribute our conceptual contributions to what exist naturally.
The word 'belief' is ambiguous, referring sometimes to what is believed, sometimes to the act or state of believing it. I believe that as I write this it is sunny outside. This belief is true. What is true is what I believe, namely that it is sunny, not my believing it. On the other hand, my belief that it is sunny is rational and unshakeable, and it played a causal role in my deciding not to wear a (...) coat today. What is rational, unshakeable, and played a causal role is my believing a certain thing, not the thing I believe. I will say that what I believe is an object of belief , and that my believing it is a belief state. (shrink)
It is now fashionable to say that science and technology are social constructions. This is true, or rather, a truism. Man is a social animal. Man is a linguistic animal, and language is social. Hence all products of human activities and everything that involves language are social constructions. But an assertion that covers everything becomes empty. The constructionist mantra that science or technology is “not a simple input from nature” attacks a straw man, for no one denies the necessity of (...) enormous human efforts in research, development, and design. To say that these are social activities should not imply that they are indistinguishable from other social activities such as politicking or profiteering. An investigation into their peculiarities will bring to relief their intellectual and technical characteristics. The argument that science and technology are social constructions because they involve many assumptions is again a truism. Whenever we think, whenever we find things intelligible, we invariably have used some concepts and made some assumptions. Philosophers such as Kant have painstakingly analyzed concepts without which intelligibility is impossible. The important questions are not whether scientists and engineers make assumptions but what kind of assumptions they make; not whether they make judgments, but what kind of reasons they offer to support their judgments. Are the assumptions and justifications all social? Or are they mainly technical? Admittedly, the boundaries between the two are not always sharp, but is it impossible to make any differentiation at all? (shrink)
Epistemology is the study of knowledge and justified belief. Belief is thus central to epistemology. It comes in a qualitative form, as when Sophia believes that Vienna is the capital of Austria, and a quantitative form, as when Sophia's degree of belief that Vienna is the capital of Austria is at least twice her degree of belief that tomorrow it will be sunny in Vienna. Formal epistemology, as opposed to mainstream epistemology (Hendricks 2006), is epistemology done in a formal (...) way, that is, by employing tools from logic and mathematics. The goal of this entry is to give the reader an overview of the formal tools available to epistemologists for the representation of belief. A particular focus will be the relation between formal representations of qualitative belief and formal representations of quantitative degrees of belief. (shrink)
Most philosophers appear to have ignored the distinction between the broad concept of Virtual Machine Functionalism (VMF) described in Sloman&Chrisley (2003) and the better known version of functionalism referred to there as Atomic State Functionalism (ASF), which is often given as an explanation of what Functionalism is, e.g. in Block (1995). -/- One of the main differences is that ASF encourages talk of supervenience of states and properties, whereas VMF requires supervenience of machines that are arbitrarily complex networks of causally (...) interacting (virtual, but real) processes, possibly operating on different time-scales, examples of which include many different procesess usually running concurrently on a modern computer performing various tasks concerned with handling interfaces to physical devices, managing the file system, dealing with security, providing tools, entertainments, and games, and possibly processing research data. Another example of VMF would be the kind of functionalism involved in a large collection of possibly changing socio-economic structures and processes interacting in a complex community, and yet another is illustrated by the kind of virtual machinery involved in the many levels of visual processing of information about spatial structures, processes, and relationships (including percepts of moving shadows, reflections, highlights, optical-flow patterns and changing affordances) as you walk through a crowded car-park on a sunny day: generating a whole zoo of interacting qualia. (Forget solitary red patches, or experiences thereof.) -/- Perhaps VMF should be re-labelled "Virtual MachinERY Functionalism" because the word 'machinery' more readily suggests something complex with interacting parts. VMF is concerned with virtual machines that are made up of interacting concurrently active (but not necessarily synchronised) chunks of virtual machinery which not only interact with one another and with their physical substrates (which may be partly shared, and also frequently modified by garbage collection, metabolism, or whatever) but can also concurrently interact with and refer to various things in the immediate and remote environment (via sensory/motor channels, and possible future technologies also). I.e. virtual machinery can include mechanisms that create and manipulate semantic content, not only syntactive structures or bit patterns as digital virtual machines do. (shrink)
Mind is not some mysterious mind stuff; no such stuff exists and the universe comprises only physical matter. It is an emergent property of certain complex material entities, not brains alone but whole human beings living and coping in the physical and social world. This thesis involves three ideas: materialism, emergent properties, and intentionality. The first two belong to the mind-body problem and the status of mental properties in the material universe. The third refers to the mind-world relation, the symbiotic (...) relation between subject and object in cognition and experience. (shrink)
The supervaluationist approach to branching time (‘SBT-theory’) appears to be threatened by the puzzle of retrospective determinacy: if yesterday I uttered the sentence ‘It will be sunny tomorrow’ and only in some worlds overlapping at the context of utterance it is sunny the next day, my utterance is to be assessed as neither true nor false even if today is indeed a sunny day. John MacFarlane (“Truth in the Garden of Forking Paths” 81) has recently criticized a (...) promising solution to this puzzle for falling short of an adequate account of ‘actually’. In this paper, I aim to rebut MacFarlane's criticism. To this effect, I argue that: (i) ‘actually’ can be construed either as an indexical or as a nonindexical operator; (ii) if ‘actually’ is nonindexical, MacFarlane's criticism is invalid; (iii) there appear to be independent reasons for SBT-theorists to claim that ‘actually’ is a nonindexical expression. (shrink)
Behaviors of chaotic systems are unpredictable. Chaotic systems are deterministic, their evolutions being governed by dynamical equations. Are the two statements contradictory? They are not, because the theory of chaos encompasses two levels of description. On a higher level, unpredictability appears as an emergent property of systems that are predictable on a lower level. In this talk, we examine the structure of dynamical theories to see how they employ multiple descriptive levels to explain chaos, bifurcation, and other complexities of nonlinear (...) systems. (shrink)
On a sunny day, on the seashore, Tactic and Tictac receive their first message in a bottle. They are good at radical interpretation. They master logic pretty well too. And they have independent evidence that ‘∨’ and ‘∧’ are sentential connectives (for “disjunction” and “conjunction”, as they have learned to say). “Look, Tactic says, look at this—a disjunction!” He holds it up.
How does aspirin reduce pain and inflammation? How does it prevent heart attacks? Why does it upset the stomach? How do scientists discover the answers? This article examines research and development in the history from willow bark to aspirin to “super aspirins” Celebrex and Vioxx. Scientists adopt various approaches: trial and error, laboratory experiment, clinical test, elucidation of underlying mechanisms, concept-directed research, and rational drug design. Each approach is limited, but they complement each other in unraveling the mystery of a (...) wonder drug. (shrink)
One winter’s Saturday Clarence wakes up. He realises he has left his umbrella at work. The oﬃce is locked, and he can’t get in. Being one of those people who punish themselves for their mistakes, he can’t bring himself to buy a replacement. He has an engagement six kilometres down the road and starts wondering whether it will rain. Normally, this would not be a problem, but his motor vehicle has broken down because he forgot to have it serviced. And (...) of course, he blames himself for this mistake, so it is only natural that he can’t bring himself to hire a cab or take a bus. He really should hope that it rains and that he gets drenched on the way to his engagement, but he is only human after all, and a small part of himhopes that it is a sunny day. (shrink)
Chance and accidents play important roles in scientific discoveries, but they are not blind luck. Serendipity is not merely stumbling on things unsought for, it is the ability to see significances and find values in the things stumbled upon. Without this ability, accidents do not lead to discoveries, as Pasteur observed: “Chance favors the prepared mind.” What are the characteristics of a prepared mind in science? How do chance and serendipity work in scientific research in general and drug discovery in (...) particular? (shrink)
PDF version This talk explores three concepts of system in engineering: systems theory, systems approach, and systems engineering. They are exemplified in three dimensions of engineering: science, design, and management. Unifying the three system concepts is the idea of function: functional abstraction in theory, functional analysis in design, and functional requirements in management. Signifying what a system is for, function is a purposive notion absent in physical science, which aims to understand nature. It is prominent in engineering, which aims to (...) transform nature for serving the wants and needs of people. (shrink)
Perhaps Archilochus simply meant that the hedgehog’s single defense defeats the fox’s many tricks. Yet, the hedgehog and the fox were turned into metaphors for two types of thinkers and writers by the historian philosopher Isaiah Berlin. All the thinking and actions of the hedgehog revolve around a single vision and are structured by a single set of principles that the hedgehog holds to be universal. Foxes lack such central vision and universal principles; they seize many experiences and pursuit many (...) ends, always holding concrete particulars to be paramount. Each way of thinking has its strength and weakness; neither is superior to the other. Berlin cited Plato, Dante, and Dostoevsky as hedgehogs; Aristotle, Shakespeare, and Pushkin foxes. Tolstoy was diagnosed as a fox who imagined himself a hedgehog. (shrink)
Scholars in science and technologies studies talk about a “pure science ideology” or “scientific ideology.” Stereotyping applied science as a dull and mindless practice that generates no new knowledge, the ideology grossly distorts both pure and applied science. What is its origin?
What is technology, what does technology mean? One notion, which originated in the Greek téchnē, points to the rational ability to create and produce. This ability is primordial, for to produce the means of living and create meanings of life in work are vital to human existence. Modern technology grew out of ancient téchnē by developing its own reasoning and knowledge into science.
PDF version General principles and globally valid knowledge are essential to the progress of science and technology. However, globalization should not obscure the local origins of empirical knowledge and the necessity of particular factual information in practical applications of science.
Much complexity we see around us stems from a similar source, structures generated by the interactive combination of many constituents. The constituents themselves can be rather simple, so can the relation between any two. However, because there are so many constituents in a large system, their multiple relations generate a relational network that can be highly complex, variegated, and surprising.
“I myself was forced to call myself a molecular biologist because when inquiring clergymen asked me what I did, I got tired of explaining that I was a mixture of crystallographer, biophysicist, biochemist, and geneticist.” Thus explained Francis Crick, who with James Watson discovered in 1953 the double helical structure of DNA, the genetic material..
Objectivity – to account for nature as it is, free from subjective biases – is a standard of science and commonsense. However, postmodernists distort it into God’s perspective. Because God’s position is beyond human reach, they dismiss objectivity as a sham and relegate all science and knowledge to be nothing but social constructions relative to specific cultures. Their forced choice between two polar options – an illusory absolute stance and arbitrary cultural fashions – is unwarranted. Objectivity has clear meaning within (...) the bounds of human understanding. (shrink)
Like science, engineering engages in analysis and synthesis. But whereas scientists tend to break matter down to its most basic building blocks, engineers ultimately aim to assemble myriad components into a complex system. Because the components are heterogeneous, engineers must integrate knowledge in many areas, and multidisciplinary teamwork is common practice. Like science, engineering covers both the general and the particular. But whereas scientists tend to design particular experiments for discovering general laws of nature, engineers tend to formulate general principles (...) for designing particular artifacts. Modern engineering has developed general theories about large types of artificial systems, notably information, control, and computation theories. These engineering theories are most effective for designing concrete artifacts, yet their abstract theorem-proof format is closer to pure mathematics than the format of physical theories, which are closer to applied mathematics. The apparent paradox accentuates the engineering emphasis on creating things rather than discovering phenomena already existent. (shrink)
“Inventing AIDS.” “Constructing cancers.” Relax; no bioterrorist mischief is implied. Like “Construction of nature,” “Social construction of illness,” “Social construction of scientific facts,” and many others, these are titles of scholarly books and projects in science, technology, and medicine studies. They express a fashion shared by doctrines loosely known under the rubric of postmodernism. It is recognizable by the frequent scare quotation marks around words such as truth, reality, scientific, and objectivity. The scare quotes convey the message that scientific knowledge (...) is so permeated by politics and cultural biases that it cannot be true and any claim to objectivity is illusory. (shrink)
“Closure occurs in science when a consensus emerges that the ‘truth’ has been winnowed from the various interpretations.” More than once in library books I saw “sic” scribbled in the margin pointing to the scare quotation marks in this and similar texts. If the readers read on, they would discover that scare quotes around scientific truth, fact, reality, nature, technological progress, and similar terms are fashionable in postmodern literature and are spreading beyond it. Scientific results are “true.” Scientists arrive at (...) the “fact.” What do the scare quotes mean? What are their effects? (shrink)
PDF version As a scientific productive activity, engineering is closely associated with natural science on the one hand and industry on the other. The emergence of chemical engineering was influenced by the America’s industrial structures and academic institutions. The science-oriented characteristic of chemical engineering in turn impacted the development of industrial structures, especially the rapid rise of a competitive petrochemical industry.
It is a sunny autumn day, and our protagonists have taken their meals outside, to enjoy the mild rays of the September sun. The NIAS cook Paul Nolte, as always glowing with pride while serving out his delicious food, has prepared a traditional Dutch meal today with sausage, red cabbage and pieces of apple.
At first, he was merely scary and cool: tall, shrouded in black, with a deep, forbidding mechanized voice. Darth Vader, dark lord of the Sith -- torturer, murderer, fiend. But Vader, who returns to screens this week in Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith, isn't simply evil, which may add to his appeal. While the first three released Star Wars films tracked Vader's redemption -- introducing him as the embodiment of evil, then revealing he was Luke Skywalker's father, then allowing (...) him to redeem himself -- the prequel trilogy has chronicled his descent, from sunny-faced slave boy to Sith lord. (shrink)
Seeing a rose or hearing the doorbell is among the most common and immediate of experiences. Sense perceptions are also most fundamental and important; on them base all our factual knowledge and empirical science. Does their epistemological priority stem from their being unanalyzable primitives given to us? Do they have structures? If so, what are the structures and where do they come from? The importance of these questions extends beyond psychology to the justification of all knowledge and science.