Continuing the discussion from
Side Comments on Evolution of the Eye:
We care about questions here, and we do not have agree on the answers.
Good conversations require constructive and respectful resistance. Conversations are boring if we all agree, but there are frustrating and bruising when we are rude tor dismissive to one another.
What, then, does constructive resistance look like?
@Mung, I want to show you how I have been respectfully disagreeing with and questioning @NLENTS.
Look at this Thread:
Nathan Lents: Bad Design of the Eye?
Common Ground on Bad Design
Or this set of questions:
@NLENTS I totally agree that science forces moral questions on us. I’m not sure how it arbitrates them. Perhaps you can work out an example for us.
How could science demonstrate that genocide is morally wrong?
How could science demonstrate that racism is wrong?
How could science demonstrate that all humans have universal rights?
If science is capable of of arbitrating moral questions, these two positive controls should be extremely easy to answer with science. Can you show us how?
So, does this mean that if genocide reduces net suffering it is morally good? How do you establish scientifically that utilitarianism is morally correct? How you justify throwing away the enlightenment concerns over utilitarianism because of the tyranny of the majority (remember John Stuart Mills)? How do you decide who’s utility function is the correct one?
To be clear, you offer several high level statements about moral philosophy. Great. However, moral philosophy is not science. So all these “hows” have to answered somehow with the scientific method.
I very much disagree with
@NLENTS, but I think he is a reasonable and intelligent scientist. I’m going to get nowhere by being rude to him. I want him as a friend. I’m going to treat him with respect, even as a explain why I think he is wrong.
Other are doing this too. Look what
@PdotdQ ( Can Science Demonstrate Racism or Genocide is Morally Wrong?), and @jongarvey write a salient test case for utilitarianism, which (to the point) can’t be resolved by science,
My own contemporary example, though, is simpler. Leading relief charity organisers - previously lauded for their unique planning and administrative abilities in disaster relief - have been accused of using the bait of food-aid to procure sexual favours from poor disaster victims.
The scientific calculus seems simple in this case. The abilities of Aid Director X are the best hope for the survival hundreds of thousands of shattered lives. But if his sexual needs are not met by the exploitation of a few women, he will withdraw his labour and go elsewhere, at the cost of the well being, and indeed the very lives, of the entire population. The same unfortunate outcome will arise if he is involuntarily removed by disciplinary procedures.
Quite clearly, then, the moral thing to do is to turn a blind eye to his
peccadillos in the interests of the greater good.
There seems to be some reason to suppose that the guilty parties in this scandal have made something like that kind of calculation. So what scientific metric would Harris envisage that would deal justly with the abuse of insignificant poor people by “indispensible” rich people?
The conversation is much more interesting and ultimately more convincing when we keep things substantive, and respect the expertise of experts.
@NLENTS is far outside his field when he argues for ethics. He is going to get more of pushback and should expect this. However, in science, he knows something more. We need to respect this too, even if we are convinced he is wrong.
These are some of the principles of communication that are a critical foundation for a new way forward here. I understand this is new rules for many people, but the rewards are high. We do not want an echo chamber here. We want common ground where people who disagree can cogently engage the grand questions.