Wednesday, September 16, 2009


A friend recently told me that Social Science has not kept up with the “hard sciences” and technology.

The origins of science lie in philosophy. Ours originated in Greece in the sixth century BC. If only science had observed the strictures of philosophy with greater fidelity. So much technical and scientific effort has been expended on making better war machines. Man has not benefitted from this colossal waste.

In 2500 BC, oriental philosophers already had the same view of matter as 20th century physics. Metaphysics preceded Nobel prizes for science. Niels Bohr said, "For a parallel to the lesson of atomic theory...we must turn to those kinds of epistemological problems which already thinkers like the Buddha, and Lao Tzu have confronted."
(Quote from "The Tao of Physics", by F. Capra.)

Aristotle said man's most important quest is the search for happiness. In the Zen perspective, man's drive to arrogate the products of science is an endless egoic quest, which can never be sated. It is actually the source of his unhappiness. Science has become our sacred cow, the golden calf that promises hedonistic worshippers comfort, wealth, and pleasure.

Advocates of material progress fail to mention that science and technology have produced WMD's, a world full of discarded environmental garbage, and the poisoning of air, soil, and water with the effluents of affluence.

Philosophy is concerned with one’s fundamental premises, and sets the stage for how you interpret the evidence of your senses. We would be better off by first directing our science students toward the enlightenment of philosophy and the moral imperitives of ethics. Afterward we could arm them with the scientific skills required, among other things, to reverse the damage done by their predecessors.
(MBA's and Law students would be separately re-socialized.)

The fact that you cannot elicit "proofs" in Social studies does not invalidate those disciplines. That is not their business. Their function is to give us the "oughts", the moral imperitives of human life, spirit to inhabit mortal flesh. This is difficult because our system supports science for its material payoffs.

The trick is to keep science as the servant of man, without stifling intellectual inquiry. But that may be like trying to put the genie back into the bottle.

Rules for civilized social conduct have been around longer than the Atom Bomb, and other weapons of mass destruction. They just have not been observed.