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Thread: On skepticism and how we view science through History

  1. #1
    Member Array pholiveira's Avatar
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    Jan 2009

    Default On skepticism and how we view science through History

    This is going to be a bit vague, but I expect to at least seek for an answer or an explanation for why I'm wrong.

    In my view, I portray science as serving different social purposes (or merely consequences) throughout post-Renaissance history. I draw a line between science from Renaissance to Industrial Age, and science as we know it today, when I focus on its social and academic impact.

    With that said, apparently in the first phase I outlined there is a strong concept of mentor-student when it comes to discovering truth and applying it on whatever it is. Taking an example from Brazilian history, most sons of aristocrats, landowners, wealthy people in general, went to study in Europe to get closer to current trends of thought, be it scientific, political, commercial, etc. It's like free-thinking and innovativeness is *supposed* to stay within a closed group of intellectuals that rise and fade with the years. The rest of the people is expected to follow it. Some of the most crafty ones are "assigned" to put those new concepts in action, like creating powerlines after the discovery of electricity and how to produce it; leading revolutions after the Illuminists defied the concepts that sustained absolutist monarchies.

    I see that trend as promoting intellectual submission through an illusion that things and concepts brought forward by science are regarded as absolute truth from that moment on. I suspect a majority of the theorists themselves thought that their own contribution on the search for knowledge was valuable for their time, but it couldn't stop there.

    Taking a leap towards the current world, I see that skepticism is slowly becoming the norm in a greater share of the population. Probably because of the overall size of the scientific community and the relatively easy dissemination of a new theory onto the populace, a hypothesis won't last long as one, true and absolute - soon there will be someone trying to prove it wrong. The thing is, most probably it's never regarded as true and absolute, because a greater share of people who have access to it will start pondering on its mistakes and realizing it isn't perfect. The scientist is no longer a tutor we need to listen to religiously: we can treat him as a companion to guide us, or as partner in the search for truth instead.

    So the question is: when did this new pattern of education begin? How could we move from that mindset to ours? Is there an important variable I overlooked that could give me an answer? Is there really a difference between then and now? I fyes, it all comes back to the first question - what changed it, and when?

    Hm, I expressed myself fairly well... hope someone can help me with this.

  2. #2


    Your best bet would be to look into the Enlightenment.

  3. #3
    Banned Array
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    Jul 2008


    For thousands of years, people could break new ground in science without much effort, and that's quite unlikely today. All the simple breakthroughs are used up.

    Still, Brazil?

  4. #4
    Senior Member Array matmos's Avatar
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    Mar 2008


    Quote Originally Posted by Jack Flak View Post
    For thousands of years, people could break new ground in science without much effort, and that's quite unlikely today. All the simple breakthroughs are used up.
    Reminds me of the rumour about Charles H. Duell, head of the US patent office in 1899. The apochraphyl story is that he resigned because there was "nothing left to invent".

    The Charles Duell Rumor

    It's an interesting point, whether the story is true or not.

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