Should libertarians focus on science literacy?

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Should libertarians focus on science literacy?

  • Xxxx

    A discussion relating to whether or not libertarians should put an emphasis on science literacy in the hopes that it will guide people away from making harmful public policy choices such as restricting medical or biotechnology advancements.

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  • foobar

    Science-as-candle-against-the-darkness?

    At the physical scales pertinent to the self-interested human,
    which is to say remote indeed from quarks & quasars, science
    is essentially weather (biomedical, ecological, economic,
    linguistic, …) We are witness to slow-motion collisions of
    impossibly complex, oft grievously politicized, and still
    nascent disciplines. What to one player looks like basic
    scientific ‘literacy’ is mere agitprop to another.

    I dare say we should not be in the Truth business just yet.
    Public policy might even be swayed by it. (Public policy?
    Who ordered that!?)

    If someone does not already care to know the difference between
    protons & proteins, why should we really care whether they do?
    It’s likely that they care about something that we don’t, though
    I do myself express amazement that the 1882 Kashmir postal
    markings are often mistaken for the 1885 series, oy.

    A self-styled magician once said that the fundamental equations
    of quantum theory are latter-day rune-lines. They provide adepts
    with a set of evolving incantations, diagrams, and notions that
    confer to them considerable power over Nature, both conceptual
    & practical. I don’t comment on the fruitfulness of this pretty
    romance, just that mages shouldn’t be dismissed under narrow
    notions of what makes for a scientific illiterate. The liberated
    (and even libertarian) quantum field theorist can indeed be a
    druid, beard permitting.

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      Xxxx

      “Science-as-candle-against-the-darkness?

      At the physical scales pertinent to the self-interested human,
      which is to say remote indeed from quarks & quasars, science
      is essentially weather (biomedical, ecological, economic,
      linguistic, …) We are witness to slow-motion collisions of
      impossibly complex, oft grievously politicized, and still
      nascent disciplines. What to one player looks like basic
      scientific ‘literacy’ is mere agitprop to another.

      I dare say we should not be in the Truth business just yet.
      Public policy might even be swayed by it. (Public policy?
      Who ordered that!?)”

      “If someone does not already care to know the difference between
      protons & proteins, why should we really care whether they do?”

      I don’t. Many of those subjects while interesting are not all that practical. However, as I addressed in my article, there are subject that are practical matters where science literacy can save lives and science illiteracy can put them at risk.

       

      “It’s likely that they care about something that we don’t, though
      I do myself express amazement that the 1882 Kashmir postal
      markings are often mistaken for the 1885 series, oy.

      A self-styled magician once said that the fundamental equations
      of quantum theory are latter-day rune-lines. They provide adepts
      with a set of evolving incantations, diagrams, and notions that
      confer to them considerable power over Nature, both conceptual
      & practical. I don’t comment on the fruitfulness of this pretty
      romance, just that mages shouldn’t be dismissed under narrow
      notions of what makes for a scientific illiterate. The liberated
      (and even libertarian) quantum field theorist can indeed be a
      druid, beard permitting.”

      I’m not sure of the relevance or point you’re trying to make here.

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    foobar

    By the way, Eric, I much appreciated your original essay in

    the Science forum.

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      Xxxx

      Thanks Valentin I appreciate that.

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    Lincoln Gardner

    I just finished reading The Origins of Virtue: Human Instincts and the Evolution of Cooperation. In it, Matt Ridley mentions that Darwin was influenced by Adam Smith. Then along comes Dawkins with his seminal book The Selfish Gene in which he makes the statement that “money is a formal token of delayed reciprocal altruism.” I don’t pretend to be a scholar on Mises but what better way to understand human action than to observe and learn from nature how order is emergent and doesn’t require a central planner? I’d encourage anyone to also read read Dawkin’s The Blind Watchmaker. Anyway, Ridley traces the evolution of the human ability to engage in complex social interaction and concludes that government distorts, more often than it complements, our evolved predisposition to cooperate.

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      Xxxx

      The Blind Watchmaker is next on my list to read. Your comment is amazing on so many levels and perfectly describes my current train of thought. One of my future articles is going to discuss various aspects of evolution as spontaneous order and its parallels to market forces. I may delay that article until after I’ve read The Blind Watchmaker though.

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    Jared Rice

    Astrophysicist here. There is nothing to be lost by being scientifically literate and there is nothing to gain by being scientifically illiterate. In my experience, libertarians are well-versed in the logical thought structures needed to understand complicated social issues and are therefore prepared to tackle any of the hard sciences. I do not understand those who are so delightful in their ignorance of scientific principles (right-wing statists I am glaring at you). An understanding of science can only add to the worldview of anybody willing to exercise their curiosity for such topics.

    As an anarchist, I am happy to report that many fellow anarchists are at the very least curious about science. Some are also scientists themselves. The core principles of science are similar to some anarchist principles. There are no overlords in science, there are only curious people discovering curious things about our universe. No one scientist is “the best” and the scientific community is built upon giving merit to ideas, not personalities.

    Should libertarians/anarchists focus on science literacy? Sure, if they are curious about the universe. You cannot understand stars and galaxies and planets and particles and life without an understanding of physical principles and observations guided by mathematics, logic, and creativity.

    But all of this should never be forced, as you all know. Most of the profound realizations I have made about the universe came about through curiosity guided only by my desire to understand.

    The current technological paradigm can only continue its growth if there are passionate individuals pursuing knowledge with a desire to improve their own lives. For those who have not been introduced to science in a robust manner, I suggest hopping on to YouTube and watching some lectures by the physicist Richard Feynman. He is an excellent teacher for all levels of understanding.

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      Xxxx

      I’ll definitely have to check out Feynman. I’ve heard his name pop up several times. If you haven’t read my article, https://theanarchoecologist.liberty.me/2014/05/18/science-literacy-libertarians-an-intervention/,  I think that I’ve outlined fairly well why being scientifically illiterate can hurt your cause in the eyes of potential adopters of your ideas. As you said about Right-Wing statists with each time they open their mouths push more and more people away ensuring their own extinction.

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      Jared Rice

      Fantastic article, Eric! I cannot tell you how many times I (foolishly) got involved in flame wars with conspiracy theorist nuts about “chem trails” and other nonsense. It really boggles my mind that some who are intelligent enough to recognize the illegitimacy of “government” cannot understand basic scientific principles.

      Indeed, those who are scientifically illiterate are doing themselves a great disservice. It is beyond me that in the information age, some can remain ignorant of basic scientific principles.

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      Xxxx

      Indeed, thanks for your encouragement!

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    Lincoln Gardner

    I posted an article on Ridley’s book The Origins of Virtue: Human Instincts and the Evolution of Cooperation. http://lincolngardner.liberty.me/2014/05/23/the-origins-of-virtue-human-instincts-and-the-evolution-of-cooperation/?refer=libertyme

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      Xxxx

      Awesome, I’ll read this now, thanks.

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      Xxxx

      Wonderful article Lincoln. I guess perhaps my first impression that libertarian and economic texts have largely ignored ecology’s advances in understanding mutual symbioses was incorrect. There were tons of overlap between economics and ecology in the beginning and lots of focus on competition, with some predation thrown in, but mutualism, parasitism and commensalism have generally been ignored.

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    Lincoln Gardner

    Thanks Eric! I like your article too. It’s been interesting to see the contrast between how folks regard the climate change (97% of scientists think it is man made, therefore something must be done) versus GMO’s where the scientific studies find GMO’s, generally, to be safe. But that science is ignored by GMO opponents even though they’re often the same people who rely on science to support their climate change agenda.

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