Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Blinded by Science!

This post relates mainly to pseudo-science spokesmuppet, Bill Nye, and climate change.

This is the link to Ike's 1961 Farewell Address that the above references and links to, if you want to read it first.  Eisenhower was a pretty smart old boy.

The post reminded me of an exchange I had with someone the other day about spanking children.  There has been a study conducted, allegedly, over fifty years that shows how detrimental corporeal punishment is to children.  I said that 50,000 years of experience has proven otherwise.

The first challenger hit me about how I had lived so long.  My reply was that I had spoken with the gods of the copy book headings.  Someone else offered not so much an argument as a condemnation of my archaic attitude.  I pointed out that the same western civilization that had practiced disciplining children for all of its history had also provided the culture and technology that allowed him to condemn them on his smart phone.

A third person attacked on the basis of the advancement of science, saying that we have "progressed" because of the scientific method and thus the results of the study were better than the experience of millions of families over thousands of years, which brings me to the point of all this.

Science is not a unified disciplined.  Physics, chemistry, to some extent biology -- these disciplines are very different from psychology and sociology, for example.  We have advanced tremendously in our understanding of physical science.  Our engineering in electronics is far ahead of where it was fifty years ago.  Most of the advances in medicine are the result of improved technology -- engineering rather than biology.  We do know quite a bit more about genetics than we used to.  No one argues about the value of our studies in those areas.

However, I would like for someone to point out to me some of the positive improvements in my life as a result of advancements in sociology.  I'll sit here and wait if you need a few minutes.   ... Really, I rather think that I would not know if sociology ceased to exist as a "science".

With psychology and psychiatry, I could agree that there have been improvements in the treatment of mental illness, but some of the drugs being used can have frighteningly dangerous adverse effects.  People who commit mass murders are often found to be taking psychotropic prescription drugs -- omelets/eggs, I suppose.

Dr. Spock speculated -- and that's what it was, speculation -- that spanking should be avoided.  That was a lot more than fifty years ago.  A lot of children in my generation were raised by Spock's method.  I was not.  The good thing was, back in those days, you could still get away with punching an obnoxious kid in the mouth.  If his parents refused to straighten him out, there was a good chance his peers would teach him a lesson.  I'm afraid that is not the case anymore.

Aside from the contamination of science with politics and political power that Eisenhower warned about, some things, like the study on spanking, pass themselves off as science but are hardly in the same class as studying the properties of graphene, developing better lithium ion batteries, or building a liquid thorium reactor.

The argument from Science! is, thus, a logical fallacy.  If you have a good family, the odds are improved that it will produce good children, and disciplined, adaptive, socially well adjusted adults.  A good family, history and tradition -- which are at least as much science as is sociology -- tell us, is a mother and a father together in a loving, supportive, trusting relationship, teaching the child their values and passing on their traditions.

Physical discipline is a natural outgrowth of living in an unsafe world.  When failing to obey parents could easily mean death, a little bit of pain helps to inoculate the child against all the dangers that are out there.  We do it because it works.

Morality is pragmatic.

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