How much does impartiality matter?

How much does impartiality matter?
Ratheius Netheros

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Posted Aug 11, 2009 - 10:44 PM:
Subject: How much does impartiality matter?
Scientists and philosophers, even pragmatists, seem to be quite adamant that we have an obligation to go where the evidence "takes us." Why, if at all, do we have such an obligation? Shouldn't we judge things based on their benefits to us, now, rather than their potential future "usefulness."

For instance, we have seen that the scientific models of impartiality have been beneficial to humanity. Therefore, we should continue to embrace them as pragmatic methodologies. That being said, why do we have to accept the "scientific model" in all cases. I can accept, for example, the idea that "murder is wrong" in a loose sense. I can assume it is wrong except, say, when the ends justify the means. Aside from philosophers, most people utilize language in such a loose manner. If you confront them with a case of "just murder," they will save, of course, that murder being wrong does not apply in all cases.

Contrastingly, we have the scientific paradigm. Unlike murder, though, the usefulness of this "rule" is considered as an absolute, in many circumstances. Why commit to such an absolute? As we have seen from evidence, failing to accept the scientific model, as a whole, seems to be unjustified. It's been proven useful. However, do we have to accept it in how it guides our actions?

Dawkins writes of a many, for instance, who advocated a particular theory. When proven wrong, he was thankful to his opponent and shook their hand. He had been shown "the truth." He was, in fact, wasting his time. I would not advocate ignoring the evidence. It should be followed, studied, and valued for its own sake.

However, it seems to me that the scientists, if their methodology lead them to such a "rational" conclusion, would begin to accept anything. For instance, if we accept the premise that conceivability equals possibility (a strong one, I know), consider the thought experiment below:

Upon a new discovery, scientific evidence concludes that humans have no inherent value. In addition, evidence suggests that morality and ethics do not exist. From this, that is no rational reason to consider the murder of a small child is not just morally neutral. To test a new scientific idea, it is necessary to perform a test that will likely kill a child. Many children will be used. Again, the scientific models support the justifiability of this action.


Will the scientist, then, who receives this new information go the the theorist and shake his hand? Will they appreciate having been shown "the truth"? Why do many scientists presume that, since scientific models have proven useful, they will necessarily always provide the right "beliefs?"

We pursue scientific enterprise, or should, only when it agrees with our ethics. Similarly, if scientific "fact" disagrees with our sentiments, we should not "believe it." We should utilize it as a fiction to perpetuate the scientific model. Why commit to the scientific paradigm as a belief "now" when it does not correspond to what are our interests at the current time?

For instance, if the belief the sun revolved around the Earth was important and held dear, we should believe it. However, we should utilize scientific method as a "fiction" to discover potentially "preferable truths" that will overturn our earlier, false belief.

The fact that scientific evidence implies a conclusion is not sufficient to "believe" the conclusion, only to act on its behalf. A person only has an obligation to "believe" when said evidence corresponds to what is in their interests. These interests may be explanatory within the context of science, but they are known only through experimentation by the individual and knowledge accessible, ultimately, by them alone.


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