scientific worldview

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Time of the Magicians: Wittgenstein, Benjamin, Cassirer, Heidegger, and the Decade That Reinvented Philosophy by Wolfram Eilenberger

Albert Einstein, Charles Lindbergh, disinformation, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Johannes Kepler, liberation theology, precariat, scientific worldview, side project, traveling salesman, wikimedia commons

See also Duma Revolution (1905) Safranski, Rüdiger, 192–93 Salomon, Gottfried, 21, 193–95, 222 Saxl, Fritz, 128, 131–32, 180, 182, 245 Saxony, 185 Scheler, Max, 15, 103–4, 319–20 Schelling, Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph, 24, 35 Schiller, Friedrich, 332 schizophrenia, 179–80 Schlick, Moritz, 270–73, 275, 321, 352–55 Schoenflies, Arthur Moritz, 193–94 scholasticism, 244 Scholem, Gershom (Gerhard) and Benjamin’s Arcades Project, 291–92 Benjamin’s correspondence with, 33–34, 89–90, 92–94, 199–200, 209–10, 291–93, 336, 345–46, 350–51 and Benjamin’s military service evasion, 31–32 and Benjamin’s plans for journal, 138 and Benjamin’s relationship with Lacis, 26–27, 225 emigration to Palestine, 195, 223 and grant paid to Benjamin, 346–47 Schön, Erich, 143 Schopenhauer, Arthur, 275 Schultz, Franz, 194, 195, 209 scientific worldview and Cassirer’s Individual and the Cosmos, 242–50 and Heidegger’s phenomenology, 178 and influence of Wittgenstein’s Tractatus, 171–72 and Kepler’s ellipses, 241–42 and logical analysis, 41 and mythical thinking, 136–37 and physics, 14, 108, 110, 279 and Wittgenstein’s Tractatus, 158, 159 See also Enlightenment era and ideals; natural laws and science Scientific Worldview: The Vienna Circle, The, 352–53 Sein questions, 52. See also Dasein “Self-Assertion of the German University, The” (Heidegger), 363 senses and sensory experience, 59, 107, 109, 123.

So far, then, Cassirer’s project is on good Kantian, and therefore also idealistic, ground. But his “philosophy of symbolic forms” heightens an idea of Kant’s. Namely the idea that there are many different ways of giving structure, form, and sense to the world we live in. Kant’s fundamental world-creating categories essentially take their cues from the scientific worldview of Newtonian physics. That was the world whose “conditions of possibility” had initially to be grasped and described. Cassirer takes his epistemological impulse for opening his project to a diversity of essentially equal forms of access to the world from the linguistic studies of Wilhelm von Humboldt.

With similar suspicion Wittgenstein may have heard, by the time of his stay in Vienna on holiday in August 1923, that his Tractatus was now also beginning to inspire seminars and discussion groups (later known as the “Vienna Circle”) at the city’s university. The Vienna group wanted to save and heal society by adhering to a strictly scientific view of the world. This certainly did not correspond to Wittgenstein’s approach, since he saw the purely scientific worldview as yet another wrong track that his era had placed itself upon, and one that was, in its supposedly value-free and enlightened clarity, based on particularly stubborn misunderstandings. However painful it might have been to go through that damned book again, proposition by proposition, there were some things that needed clarifying.


pages: 511 words: 139,108

The Fabric of Reality by David Deutsch

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, Arthur Eddington, butterfly effect, coherent worldview, complexity theory, conceptual framework, cosmological principle, different worldview, Donald Knuth, Douglas Hofstadter, Georg Cantor, Gödel, Escher, Bach, Johannes Kepler, Occam's razor, phenotype, Richard Feynman, scientific worldview, Stephen Hawking, the scientific method, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions, Turing machine

Is there an underlying, master-preference that controls preference changes? If so, it could not itself be changed, and utilitarianism would degenerate into the genetic theory of morality discussed above. What, then, is the relationship of moral values to the particular scientific world-view I am advocating in this book? I can at least argue that there is no fundamental obstacle to formulating one. The problem with all previous 'scientific world-views' was that they had hierarchical explanatory structures. Just as it is impossible, within such a structure, to 'justify' scientific theories as being true, so one cannot justify a course of action as being right (because then, how would one justify the structure as a whole as being right?).

On the face of it, Bishop Berkeley would seem to have a point, that virtual reality is a token of the coarseness of human faculties - that its feasibility should warn us of inherent limitations on the capacity of human beings to understand the physical world. Virtual-reality rendering might seem to fall into the same philosophical category as illusions, false trails and coincidences, for these {102} loo are phenomena which seem to show us something real but actually mislead us. We have seen that the scientific world-view can accommodate - indeed, expects - the existence of highly misleading phenomena. It is par excellence the world-view that can accommodate both human fallibility and external sources of error. Nevertheless, misleading phenomena are basically unwelcome. Except for their curiosity value, or when we learn from them why we are misled, they are things we try to avoid and would rather do without.

Since faith in revealed truth had been found to be incompatible with rationality (which requires an openness to criticism), many people nevertheless yearned for an ultimate foundation to things in which they could believe. If they did not yet have a reductive 'theory of everything' to believe in, then at least they aspired to one. It was taken for granted that a reductionist hierarchy of sciences, based on subatomic physics, was integral to the scientific world-view, and so it was criticized only by pseudo-scientists and others who rebelled against science itself. Thus, by the time I learned biology in school, the status of that subject had changed to the opposite of what Aristotle thought was obvious. Life was not considered to be fundamental at all.


pages: 789 words: 207,744

The Patterning Instinct: A Cultural History of Humanity's Search for Meaning by Jeremy Lent

"Robert Solow", Admiral Zheng, agricultural Revolution, Albert Einstein, Alfred Russel Wallace, Atahualpa, Benoit Mandelbrot, Bretton Woods, British Empire, Buckminster Fuller, Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty, cognitive dissonance, commoditize, complexity theory, conceptual framework, dematerialisation, demographic transition, different worldview, Doomsday Book, en.wikipedia.org, European colonialism, failed state, Firefox, Francisco Pizarro, Garrett Hardin, Georg Cantor, happiness index / gross national happiness, hedonic treadmill, income inequality, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Internet of things, invention of gunpowder, invention of writing, Isaac Newton, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Johannes Kepler, Lao Tzu, Law of Accelerating Returns, mandelbrot fractal, mass immigration, megacity, Metcalfe's law, Mikhail Gorbachev, Nicholas Carr, Norbert Wiener, oil shale / tar sands, out of africa, peak oil, Pierre-Simon Laplace, QWERTY keyboard, Ray Kurzweil, Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, Scientific racism, scientific worldview, shareholder value, sharing economy, Silicon Valley, Simon Kuznets, social intelligence, South China Sea, Stephen Hawking, Steven Pinker, technological singularity, the scientific method, The Theory of the Leisure Class by Thorstein Veblen, theory of mind, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions, Thomas Malthus, Thorstein Veblen, Tragedy of the Commons, Turing test, ultimatum game, urban sprawl, Vernor Vinge, wikimedia commons

The unbroken connection of modern India with its past extends beyond the wandering sadhu; it's rooted deep in the shared cognition of the Indian people, many of whom regularly discuss the details of legends thousands of years old and continue to worship gods with hymns composed even earlier.2 When the Indo-European horsemen thundered from their original homeland into Greece and India thousands of years ago, they brought with them a shared set of ideas about the cosmos. What was it that led one tradition to create the “Greek miracle,” laying the foundation for the modern scientific worldview, while another became known for its spiritual investigation into humanity's place in the cosmos? As we explore this question, we'll identify some surprising elements both traditions continued to hold in common. Understanding their common foundations, as we'll see, allows insights into each of these two great cultures that would otherwise remain concealed.

The dualistic chasm remained impassable as ever, only now the dichotomy of soul and body was reborn into the modern age as a dichotomy of mind and body. “The substance,” he wrote, “in which thought immediately resides is called mind. I use the term ‘mind’ rather than soul since the word ‘soul’ is ambiguous and is often applied to something corporeal.”38 With the rise of the scientific worldview in modern times, the notion of “soul” has been segregated into purely theological territory, while the idea of “mind” has become ubiquitous, reinforcing the same dualistic split in the conception of a human being that was established by the Platonic-inspired church fathers. Our Cartesian Legacy It is almost impossible to overstate the profound impact Descartes has had on modern cognition.

It can relate to something as simple as a pen, the organizing principles of which are human-made, and equally well be applied to the unfathomably complex organization of the human brain.23 The Modern Relevance of Li When Needham recognized what the Neo-Confucians meant by the relationship between li and qi, he immediately saw its congruity with the modern scientific worldview. Several decades earlier, Einstein had transformed physics with his famous equation, E = mc2, which states that the energy of a body is equal to its mass times the speed of light squared. Energy and matter were recognized as transmutable. The traditional Chinese notion of qi as an all-pervasive force of energy and matter could now be related to the findings of modern science.24 Needham was not alone in noticing the confluence of traditional Chinese thought with the new physics.


pages: 412 words: 115,266

The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values by Sam Harris

Albert Einstein, banking crisis, Bayesian statistics, cognitive bias, end world poverty, endowment effect, energy security, experimental subject, framing effect, hindsight bias, impulse control, John Nash: game theory, longitudinal study, loss aversion, meta-analysis, Monty Hall problem, out of africa, pattern recognition, placebo effect, Ponzi scheme, Richard Feynman, risk tolerance, scientific worldview, stem cell, Stephen Hawking, Steven Pinker, the scientific method, theory of mind, ultimatum game, World Values Survey

Nevertheless, many scientists seem to worry that subjecting people’s religious beliefs to criticism will start a war of ideas that science cannot win. I believe that they are wrong. More important, I am confident that we will eventually have no choice in the matter. Zero-sum conflicts have a way of becoming explicit. Here is our situation: if the basic claims of religion are true, the scientific worldview is so blinkered and susceptible to supernatural modification as to be rendered nearly ridiculous; if the basic claims of religion are false, most people are profoundly confused about the nature of reality, confounded by irrational hopes and fears, and tending to waste precious time and attention—often with tragic results.

So, I think, would many scientists. And yet, as we have seen, most scientists have been trained to think that such judgments are mere expressions of cultural bias—and, thus, unscientific in principle. Very few of us seem willing to admit that such simple, moral truths increasingly fall within the scope of our scientific worldview. Greene articulates the prevailing skepticism quite well: Moral judgment is, for the most part, driven not by moral reasoning, but by moral intuitions of an emotional nature. Our capacity for moral judgment is a complex evolutionary adaptation to an intensely social life. We are, in fact, so well adapted to making moral judgments that our making them is, from our point of view, rather easy, a part of “common sense.”

Taking humanity as a whole, I am quite certain that there is a greater consensus that cruelty is wrong (a common moral precept) than the passage of time varies with velocity (special relativity) or that humans and lobsters share a common ancestor (evolution). Should we doubt whether there is a “fact of the matter” with respect to these physical and biological truth claims? Does the general ignorance about the special theory of relativity or the pervasive disinclination of Americans to accept the scientific consensus on evolution put our scientific worldview, even slightly, in question?17 Greene notes that it is often difficult to get people to agree about moral truth, or to even get an individual to agree with himself in different contexts. These tensions lead him to the following conclusion: [M]oral theorizing fails because our intuitions do not reflect a coherent set of moral truths and were not designed by natural selection or anything else to behave as if they were … If you want to make sense of your moral sense, turn to biology, psychology, and sociology—not normative ethics.18 This objection to moral realism may seem reasonable, until one notices that it can be applied, with the same leveling effect, to any domain of human knowledge.


pages: 406 words: 108,266

Journey to the Edge of Reason: The Life of Kurt Gödel by Stephen Budiansky

Albert Einstein, anti-communist, business cycle, Douglas Hofstadter, fear of failure, Fellow of the Royal Society, four colour theorem, Georg Cantor, Gödel, Escher, Bach, John von Neumann, laissez-faire capitalism, P = NP, Paul Erdős, rent control, scientific worldview, the scientific method, Thorstein Veblen, Turing machine, urban planning

But the new group was distinctive for its strongly analytical cast. “All members of the Circle had a background of scientific research,” said Karl Menger, “took the scientific method seriously, and in fact expected to obtain a consistent Weltbild—picture of the world—through what in the Circle was called die wissenschaftliche Weltauffassung,” the scientific worldview. The group was distinctive, too, for being one of the few places in the still very hierarchical world of Austrian higher education in which members of three generations, men and women, Austrians and foreign visitors, met and debated on equal terms.4 Café Josephinum, which Gödel lived above in 1927–28 By the time Gödel joined the circle, Schlick had begun leading the discussions, which took place in what Menger called “a rather dingy room” next to Schlick’s office on the ground floor of the Mathematics and Physics Institute.

Neurath had been the chief instigator of a public offshoot of the Circle founded the year before, the Ernst Mach Society, which launched a series of popular books, pamphlets, and public lectures.18 In his manifesto he claimed for Schlick’s group the name “The Vienna Circle,” declaring, “The scientific worldview serves life, and life embraces it,” along with other slogans pledging to free the proletariat from the oppression of metaphysics, theology, and capitalism. “All of us in the Circle were strongly interested in social and political progress,” recalled Carnap. “Most of us, myself included, were socialists.”

It was his duty, he said, to oppose the atheistic and destructive ideas of positivism, through which Schlick had insidiously tried to destroy the deeply held religious beliefs that he had grown up with. At his trial, Nelböck declared to the judge, “For me, Schlick’s behavior expressed the utter lack of scruples of his so-called scientific worldview.” As the judge summarized Nelböck’s testimony at his trial, his former professor had “robbed him of his love, of his creed, and of his means of livelihood.” Sentenced to ten years in prison, Nelböck immediately became a martyr of the anti-Semitic and anti-liberal right, particularly at the university.


Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Kimmerer

back-to-the-land, clean water, commoditize, double helix, invisible hand, music of the spheres, oil shale / tar sands, p-value, Pepto Bismol, Potemkin village, scientific worldview, the built environment, the scientific method

A lens that brings the material world into focus but blurs the spiritual is the lens of a people made of wood. It is not more data that we need for our transformation to people of corn, but more wisdom. While science could be a source of and repository for knowledge, the scientific worldview is all too often an enemy of ecological compassion. It is important in thinking about this lens to separate two ideas that are too often synonymous in the mind of the public: the practice of science and the scientific worldview that it feeds. Science is the process of revealing the world through rational inquiry. The practice of doing real science brings the questioner into an unparalleled intimacy with nature fraught with wonder and creativity as we try to comprehend the mysteries of the more-than-human world.

Trying to understand the life of another being or another system so unlike our own is often humbling and, for many scientists, is a deeply spiritual pursuit. Contrasting with this is the scientific worldview, in which a culture uses the process of interpreting science in a cultural context that uses science and technology to reinforce reductionist, materialist economic and political agendas. I maintain that the destructive lens of the people made of wood is not science itself, but the lens of the scientific worldview, the illusion of dominance and control, the separation of knowledge from responsibility. I dream of a world guided by a lens of stories rooted in the revelations of science and framed with an indigenous worldview—stories in which matter and spirit are both given voice.


pages: 467 words: 114,570

Pathfinders: The Golden Age of Arabic Science by Jim Al-Khalili

agricultural Revolution, Albert Einstein, Andrew Wiles, Book of Ingenious Devices, colonial rule, Commentariolus, Dmitri Mendeleev, Eratosthenes, Henri Poincaré, invention of the printing press, invention of the telescope, invention of the wheel, Isaac Newton, Islamic Golden Age, Johannes Kepler, Joseph Schumpeter, Kickstarter, liberation theology, retrograde motion, scientific worldview, Silicon Valley, Simon Singh, stem cell, Stephen Hawking, the scientific method, Thomas Malthus, trade route, William of Occam

Later Islamic scholars such as the polymath al-Bīrūni in the eleventh century dismiss this story as highly unlikely, claiming that a more likely scenario was that the Sindhind was a translation of a Persian version already in use in Gondēshāpūr. The only likely truth in the story is therefore that the Siddhanta did indeed pass through two translations on its way to the Arabs. It is not until well into the ninth century that we see among Islamic scientists and philosophers an emerging confidence in a new rational and scientific world-view that led many to criticize astrology as not having a place alongside true sciences like mathematics and astronomy. Some, however, continued to dabble in it, including the mathematician al-Khwārizmi. Others, even centuries later, would recognize its importance in convincing their less-enlightened rulers to continue funding their astronomical projects.

This is rather simplistic and has contributed to the notion that the decline of the golden age coincided with a backlash from conservative Islam against Mu’tazilism. While this hostile response certainly took place, it had little to do with waning of the bright light of scientific progress in the Islamic world centuries later. Conversely, many Muslims around the world have viewed Mu’tazilism and, by extension, the rationalist scientific world-view with a degree of hostility. This has been either due to their fundamentalist, or literalist, interpretation of the Qur’an, making them view all secular philosophy with suspicion, or because they have associated the theological views of the Mu’tazilites with al-Ma’mūn’s unpopular inquisition (mihna) in which he tried to enforce his doctrinal beliefs on the general populace.


pages: 150 words: 45,389

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi, Abraham Verghese

coherent worldview, delayed gratification, medical residency, scientific worldview, Silicon Valley, stem cell

There is no proof of God; therefore, it is unreasonable to believe in God. Although I had been raised in a devout Christian family, where prayer and Scripture readings were a nightly ritual, I, like most scientific types, came to believe in the possibility of a material conception of reality, an ultimately scientific worldview that would grant a complete metaphysics, minus outmoded concepts like souls, God, and bearded white men in robes. I spent a good chunk of my twenties trying to build a frame for such an endeavor. The problem, however, eventually became evident: to make science the arbiter of metaphysics is to banish not only God from the world but also love, hate, meaning—to consider a world that is self-evidently not the world we live in.


Adam Smith: Father of Economics by Jesse Norman

"Robert Solow", active measures, Andrei Shleifer, balance sheet recession, bank run, banking crisis, Basel III, Bear Stearns, Berlin Wall, Black Swan, Branko Milanovic, Bretton Woods, British Empire, Broken windows theory, business cycle, business process, Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty, Carmen Reinhart, centre right, cognitive dissonance, collateralized debt obligation, colonial exploitation, Corn Laws, Credit Default Swap, credit default swaps / collateralized debt obligations, crony capitalism, David Brooks, David Ricardo: comparative advantage, deindustrialization, Eugene Fama: efficient market hypothesis, experimental economics, Fall of the Berlin Wall, Fellow of the Royal Society, financial intermediation, frictionless, frictionless market, future of work, George Akerlof, Hyman Minsky, income inequality, incomplete markets, information asymmetry, intangible asset, invention of the telescope, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, Jean Tirole, John Nash: game theory, joint-stock company, Joseph Schumpeter, Kenneth Arrow, Kenneth Rogoff, lateral thinking, loss aversion, market bubble, market fundamentalism, Martin Wolf, means of production, money market fund, Mont Pelerin Society, moral hazard, moral panic, Naomi Klein, negative equity, Network effects, new economy, non-tariff barriers, Northern Rock, Pareto efficiency, Paul Samuelson, Peter Thiel, Philip Mirowski, price mechanism, principal–agent problem, profit maximization, purchasing power parity, random walk, rent-seeking, Richard Thaler, Robert Shiller, Robert Shiller, Ronald Coase, scientific worldview, seigniorage, Socratic dialogue, South Sea Bubble, special economic zone, speech recognition, Steven Pinker, The Chicago School, The Myth of the Rational Market, The Nature of the Firm, The Rise and Fall of American Growth, The Theory of the Leisure Class by Thorstein Veblen, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, The Wisdom of Crowds, theory of mind, Thomas Malthus, Thorstein Veblen, time value of money, transaction costs, transfer pricing, Veblen good, Vilfredo Pareto, Washington Consensus, working poor, zero-sum game

In specifying and emphasizing the machine-like aspects of systematic natural science, and starting to form them into a sophisticated account of scientific method, Smith went some way beyond Hume, and embarked on a line of thought that has had many imitators. Indeed, in the modern era the view has arisen that Newton’s scientific worldview was entirely mechanistic and deterministic, an account of the cosmos as working by clockwork which he regarded as closed, completed and the final truth. This suggestion has proven useful as a basis from which to argue against the existence of God; or, more recently, to draw comparisons with general equilibrium theories in economics, as we shall see.

Mr Market, 224–225, 228, 252 mutual sympathy, 62 My Own Life (Hume), 129–130 narco-capitalism, 263 Nash, John, 203 Nash equilibria, 299 natural philosophy, 18–19, 164–165 natural progress of liberty, 272 natural sciences, 44–46 natural selection, 170 natural theology, 73–74 natural theory of liberty, 105 See also system of natural liberty nature femininity of, 214 Hume on, 28 laws of, 45–46 state of, 77 See also human nature the Navigation Acts, 11, 100–101, 189, 278 Nelson, Julie, 216–217 neoliberalism, 220–221, 245, 323 The New Atlantis (Bacon), 164 Newton, Isaac, 19, 25 Maclaurin on, 39 method of, Smith, A., on, 43 Principia Mathematica by, 28, 46, 165, 167 scientific worldview of, 45–46 Newtonianism, 43 No Free Lunch, 225, 251 the noble savage, 65 norm-formation, 309–311 norms anti-social, 308 ethical, 298 in justice, 222–223, 236 of markets, 223, 237 moral, 147, 170, 308 social, 146–147 in social contract, 296 theory of, 295–300 values and, 230 North (Lord), 138–139 Oakeshott, Michael, 26 “Of Rhetoric” (Hume), 41 “Of the Protestant Succession” (Hume), 90–91 Offer, Avner, 305–306 On the Definition of Political Economy (Mill), 200 On the Duty of Man and Citizen (Pufendorf), 74–75 On the Spirit of Laws (Montesquieu), 74, 292 Ostrom, Elinor, 215 Oswald, James, 6–7, 9–10, 81 Oxford, 22–26, 30, 98–99 Oyster Club, 136–137 Pareto, Vilfredo, 194 Pareto optimality, 194 Peel, Robert, 122 personal morality, 318 Phaedo (Plato), 131 philosopher, Smith, A., as, 190 philosophy.


pages: 913 words: 265,787

How the Mind Works by Steven Pinker

affirmative action, agricultural Revolution, Alfred Russel Wallace, backpropagation, Buckminster Fuller, cognitive dissonance, Columbine, combinatorial explosion, complexity theory, computer age, computer vision, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, delayed gratification, disinformation, double helix, experimental subject, feminist movement, four colour theorem, Gordon Gekko, greed is good, hedonic treadmill, Henri Poincaré, income per capita, information retrieval, invention of agriculture, invention of the wheel, Johannes Kepler, John von Neumann, lake wobegon effect, lateral thinking, Machine translation of "The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak." to Russian and back, Mikhail Gorbachev, Murray Gell-Mann, mutually assured destruction, Necker cube, out of africa, pattern recognition, phenotype, Plutocrats, plutocrats, random walk, Richard Feynman, Ronald Reagan, Rubik’s Cube, Saturday Night Live, scientific worldview, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, sexual politics, social intelligence, Steven Pinker, theory of mind, Thorstein Veblen, Turing machine, urban decay, Yogi Berra

The DNA inside the testes and ovaries cannot peer outside and considerately mutate to make fur when it’s cold and fins when it’s wet and claws when there are trees around, or to put a lens in front of the retina as opposed to between the toes or inside the pancreas. That is why a cornerstone of evolutionary theory—indeed, a cornerstone of the scientific worldview—is that mutations are indifferent overall to the benefits they confer on the organism. They cannot be adaptive in general, though of course a tiny few can be adaptive by chance. The periodic announcements of discoveries of “adaptive mutations” inevitably turn out to be laboratory curiosities or artifacts.

. … Natural selection could only have endowed savage man with a brain a few degrees superior to that of an ape, whereas he actually possesses one very little inferior to that of a philosopher. Wallace’s paradox, the apparent evolutionary uselessness of human intelligence, is a central problem of psychology, biology, and the scientific worldview. Even today, scientists such as the astronomer Paul Davies think that the “overkill” of human intelligence refutes Darwinism and calls for some other agent of a “progressive evolutionary trend,” perhaps a self-organizing process that will be explained someday by complexity theory. Unfortunately this is barely more satisfying than Wallace’s idea of a superior intelligence guiding the development of man in a definite direction.

First, if the mind is a system of organs designed by natural selection, why should we ever have expected it to comprehend all mysteries, to grasp all truths? We should be thankful that the problems of science are close enough in structure to the problems of our foraging ancestors that we have made the progress that we have. If there were nothing we were bad at understanding, we would have to question the scientific worldview that sees the mind as a product of nature. Cognitive closure should be true if we know what we are talking about. Still, one might have thought that the hypothesis was merely a daydream, a logical possibility that could go no further than late-night dorm-room bull sessions. McGinn’s attempt to identify the humanly unsolvable problems is an advance.


pages: 232 words: 67,934

The Immortalization Commission: Science and the Strange Quest to Cheat Death by John Gray

Alfred Russel Wallace, anthropic principle, anti-communist, dematerialisation, disinformation, George Santayana, laissez-faire capitalism, Law of Accelerating Returns, life extension, Nikolai Kondratiev, random walk, Ray Kurzweil, scientific worldview, the scientific method

Scientific naturalism is the theory that human beliefs are evolutionary adaptations whose survival has nothing to do with their truth. But in that case scientific naturalism is self-defeating, since on its own premises scientific theories cannot be known to be true. If Myers and the psychical researchers wanted to use science to undermine the existing scientific world-view, Balfour used science to put science in doubt. The problem of rational belief is not limited to religion. The basis of science is the empirical method, which uses the senses to build up a picture of the world; but science tells us that our senses have evolved to help us get by, not to show us the world as it is.


pages: 284 words: 79,265

The Half-Life of Facts: Why Everything We Know Has an Expiration Date by Samuel Arbesman

Albert Einstein, Alfred Russel Wallace, Amazon Mechanical Turk, Andrew Wiles, bioinformatics, British Empire, Cesare Marchetti: Marchetti’s constant, Chelsea Manning, Clayton Christensen, cognitive bias, cognitive dissonance, conceptual framework, David Brooks, demographic transition, double entry bookkeeping, double helix, Galaxy Zoo, guest worker program, Gödel, Escher, Bach, Ignaz Semmelweis: hand washing, index fund, invention of movable type, Isaac Newton, John Harrison: Longitude, Kevin Kelly, life extension, Marc Andreessen, meta-analysis, Milgram experiment, National Debt Clock, Nicholas Carr, P = NP, p-value, Paul Erdős, Pluto: dwarf planet, publication bias, randomized controlled trial, Richard Feynman, Rodney Brooks, scientific worldview, social graph, social web, text mining, the scientific method, the strength of weak ties, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions, Thomas Malthus, Tyler Cowen: Great Stagnation

Data are hoarded, scientists refuse to collaborate, and grudges can play a role in peer review. The human aspect of science plays an important role when it comes to the acceptance of new knowledge. We don’t always weigh the evidence for and against a new discovery or theory and then make our decision, especially if it requires a wholesale overhaul of our scientific worldview. Too often we are dragged, spouting alternative theories and contradictory data, to the new theoretical viewpoint. This can be very good. Having more than a few contrarians keeps everyone honest. But it can also be very bad, as when people irrationally hold onto ideas for too long, refusing to admit the errors of their ways.


pages: 244 words: 73,966

Brief Peeks Beyond: Critical Essays on Metaphysics, Neuroscience, Free Will, Skepticism and Culture by Bernardo Kastrup

active measures, cellular automata, cognitive dissonance, commoditize, conceptual framework, dark matter, Isaac Newton, phenotype, placebo effect, scientific worldview, the scientific method

Everything else – all abstractions, all conceptual frameworks – is provisional. We must never forget this, lest we totally lose our connection to reality. There are other ways in which consciousness is an anomaly under materialism in general, not only its rather absurd eliminative formulation. For instance, today’s scientific worldview requires that every property of a living system be explainable, at least in principle, by Darwinian evolution. In other words, if consciousness really exists – for instance, as an emergent property of the brain – it should play a role useful for survival. Otherwise, it is impossible to explain why it allegedly arose in the first place.


pages: 261 words: 86,261

The Pleasure of Finding Things Out: The Best Short Works of Richard P. Feynman by Richard P. Feynman, Jeffrey Robbins

Albert Einstein, Brownian motion, impulse control, index card, John von Neumann, Murray Gell-Mann, pattern recognition, Pepto Bismol, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman: Challenger O-ring, scientific worldview, the scientific method

But you all know something about the wonders of science–it isn’t a popular audience I am talking to–so I won’t try to make you enthusiastic once again with the facts about the world: the fact that we are all made of atoms, the enormous ranges of time and space that there are, the position of ourselves historically as the result of a remarkable series of evolution. The position of ourselves in the evolutionary sequence; and further, the most remarkable aspect of our scientific worldview is its universality in this sense that although we talk about our being specialists, we are really not. One of the most promising hypotheses in all of biology is that everything the animals do or that living creatures do can be understood in terms of what atoms can do, that is, in terms of physical laws, ultimately, and the perpetual attention to this possibility–so far no exception has been demonstrated–has again and again made suggestions as to how the mechanisms actually occur.


pages: 292 words: 88,319

The Infinite Book: A Short Guide to the Boundless, Timeless and Endless by John D. Barrow

Albert Einstein, Andrew Wiles, anthropic principle, Arthur Eddington, cosmological principle, dark matter, Edmond Halley, Fellow of the Royal Society, Georg Cantor, Isaac Newton, mutually assured destruction, Olbers’ paradox, prisoner's dilemma, Ray Kurzweil, scientific worldview, short selling, Stephen Hawking, Turing machine

So, if all possible worlds exist and we are living in a simulation whose laws are not quite consistent with one another, does this make any difference? Indeed, should it make any difference?36 It will be rather de-motivating if you are a (simulated) scientist trying to understand the way the world works. Anything could happen without reason. Not surprisingly, simulated realities are not welcomed into the scientific world-view. Philosophers take them more seriously and some have even tried to use them as arenas to discuss ethics. The problems they spawn are unusual. Robin Hanson has suggested the possibility of being in a simulated reality might produce its own influences on how you should act.37 Simulated experiences, no matter how real they may seem, are much more likely to be brought to a sudden and unpredictable end than typical real experiences.


pages: 287 words: 95,152

The Dawn of Eurasia: On the Trail of the New World Order by Bruno Macaes

active measures, Berlin Wall, British Empire, computer vision, Deng Xiaoping, different worldview, digital map, Donald Trump, energy security, European colonialism, eurozone crisis, failed state, Francis Fukuyama: the end of history, global value chain, illegal immigration, intermodal, iterative process, land reform, liberal world order, Malacca Straits, mass immigration, megacity, open borders, Parag Khanna, savings glut, scientific worldview, Silicon Valley, South China Sea, speech recognition, trade liberalization, trade route, Transnistria, young professional, zero-sum game, éminence grise

Imitation as such never works, but if you imitate what your object of imitation is trying to repress about himself, perhaps you can get away with it. Perhaps you will be able to overcome while imitating. The best of both worlds, or so it must have seemed. Russian nationalists clearly understood that Western supremacy was based on a scientific worldview, a coherent system of ideas and technology, which could not be resisted by Western technology alone. Communism existed on the same plane and thus could be trusted to have the same propaganda value as Western liberalism. It offered, in any case, one other powerful advantage. It was an ideology that stressed the material and economic aspects of society above all others, and could thus be used by Russia to concentrate its energy on just that area where it needed to catch up with the West.


pages: 879 words: 233,093

The Empathic Civilization: The Race to Global Consciousness in a World in Crisis by Jeremy Rifkin

agricultural Revolution, Albert Einstein, animal electricity, back-to-the-land, British Empire, carbon footprint, collaborative economy, death of newspapers, delayed gratification, distributed generation, en.wikipedia.org, energy security, feminist movement, global village, hedonic treadmill, hydrogen economy, illegal immigration, income inequality, income per capita, interchangeable parts, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Internet Archive, invention of movable type, invention of the steam engine, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, James Watt: steam engine, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Mahatma Gandhi, Marshall McLuhan, means of production, megacity, meta-analysis, Milgram experiment, Nelson Mandela, new economy, New Urbanism, Norbert Wiener, off grid, out of africa, Peace of Westphalia, peak oil, peer-to-peer, planetary scale, scientific worldview, Simon Kuznets, Skype, smart grid, smart meter, social intelligence, supply-chain management, surplus humans, the medium is the message, the scientific method, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, The Wisdom of Crowds, theory of mind, Tragedy of the Commons, transaction costs, upwardly mobile, uranium enrichment, working poor, World Values Survey

The very notion of “composing” one’s thoughts conjures up the idea of well-thought-out linear progression of ideas, one following the other in logical sequence, a mode of thought very different from that in oral cultures, where redundancy and discontinuity in thought often are the rules. By eliminating the redundancy of oral language and making precise measurement and description possible, print laid the foundation for the modern scientific worldview. Phenomena could be rigorously examined, observed, and described, and experiments could be made repeatable with exacting standards and protocols, something that was far more difficult to achieve in a manuscript or oral culture. Print made possible universal literacy, preparing successive generations with the communication tools they needed to manage the complexities of the modern market and new ways of working and socializing.

Optics—telescopes and microscopes—also became a critical tool in the arsenal of scientists like Galileo, Kepler, Newton, and so on, in their probing of nature. Alan MacFarlane and Gerry Martin, in their book Glass: A World History, observe that glass inventions were pivotal in advancing the rational, scientific worldview that catapulted Western Europe into the Modern era and the Industrial Age. But while glass products helped deepen self-consciousness, extend the central nervous system, and create a more complex civilization, the entropy bill was staggering. Whole forests across Western and Northern Europe were decimated to fuel the glassworks industry.


pages: 317 words: 100,414

Superforecasting: The Art and Science of Prediction by Philip Tetlock, Dan Gardner

Affordable Care Act / Obamacare, Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, availability heuristic, Black Swan, butterfly effect, buy and hold, cloud computing, cuban missile crisis, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, desegregation, drone strike, Edward Lorenz: Chaos theory, forward guidance, Freestyle chess, fundamental attribution error, germ theory of disease, hindsight bias, How many piano tuners are there in Chicago?, index fund, Jane Jacobs, Jeff Bezos, Kenneth Arrow, Laplace demon, longitudinal study, Mikhail Gorbachev, Mohammed Bouazizi, Nash equilibrium, Nate Silver, Nelson Mandela, obamacare, pattern recognition, performance metric, Pierre-Simon Laplace, place-making, placebo effect, prediction markets, quantitative easing, random walk, randomized controlled trial, Richard Feynman, Richard Thaler, Robert Shiller, Robert Shiller, Ronald Reagan, Saturday Night Live, scientific worldview, Silicon Valley, Skype, statistical model, stem cell, Steve Ballmer, Steve Jobs, Steven Pinker, tail risk, the scientific method, The Signal and the Noise by Nate Silver, The Wisdom of Crowds, Thomas Bayes, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!

As much research shows, the ability to find it is a marker of a healthy, resilient mind. Among survivors of the 9/11 attacks, for example, those who saw meaning in the atrocity were less likely to suffer post-traumatic stress responses.28 But as psychologically beneficial as this thinking may be, it sits uneasily with a scientific worldview. Science doesn’t tackle “why” questions about the purpose of life. It sticks to “how” questions that focus on causation and probabilities. Snow building up on the side of a mountain may slip and start an avalanche, or it may not. Until it happens, or it doesn’t, it could go either way. It is not predetermined by God or fate or anything else.


pages: 356 words: 102,224

Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space by Carl Sagan

Albert Einstein, anthropic principle, cosmological principle, dark matter, Dava Sobel, Francis Fukuyama: the end of history, germ theory of disease, invention of the telescope, Isaac Newton, Johannes Kepler, Kuiper Belt, linked data, low earth orbit, nuclear winter, planetary scale, profit motive, scientific worldview, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, Stephen Hawking, telepresence

Uncommon strength of character is needed to resist the blandishments of those who assure us that we have an obvious, even God-given, superiority over our fellows. The more precarious our self-esteem, the greater our vulnerability to such appeals. Since scientists are people, it is not surprising that comparable pretensions have insinuated themselves into the scientific worldview. Indeed, many of the central debates in the history of science seem to be, in part at least, contests over whether humans are special. Almost always, the going-in assumption is that we are special. After the premise is closely examined, though, it turns out—in dishearteningly many cases—that we are not.


pages: 439 words: 104,154

The Clockwork Universe: Saac Newto, Royal Society, and the Birth of the Modern WorldI by Edward Dolnick

Albert Einstein, Apple's 1984 Super Bowl advert, Arthur Eddington, clockwork universe, complexity theory, double helix, Edmond Halley, Isaac Newton, Johannes Kepler, lone genius, music of the spheres, Pierre-Simon Laplace, Richard Feynman, Saturday Night Live, scientific worldview, Simon Singh, Stephen Hawking, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions

The Society’s devotion to this innovative way of probing nature amounted to a call for people to think for themselves. That idea, which seems like the merest common sense to us, struck onlookers at the time as dangerous and obviously misguided. It’s always the case that history is a tale told by the victors. But the triumph of the scientific worldview has been so complete that we’ve lost more than the losing side’s version of history. We’ve lost the idea that a view different from ours is even possible. Today we take for granted that originality is a word of praise. New strikes us as nearly synonymous with improved. But for nearly all of human history, a new idea was a dangerous idea.


pages: 357 words: 110,017

Money: The Unauthorized Biography by Felix Martin

bank run, banking crisis, Basel III, Bear Stearns, Bernie Madoff, Big bang: deregulation of the City of London, Bretton Woods, British Empire, business cycle, call centre, capital asset pricing model, Carmen Reinhart, central bank independence, collapse of Lehman Brothers, creative destruction, credit crunch, David Graeber, en.wikipedia.org, financial deregulation, financial innovation, Financial Instability Hypothesis, financial intermediation, fixed income, Fractional reserve banking, full employment, Goldman Sachs: Vampire Squid, Hyman Minsky, inflation targeting, invention of writing, invisible hand, Irish bank strikes, joint-stock company, Joseph Schumpeter, Kenneth Arrow, Kenneth Rogoff, mobile money, moral hazard, mortgage debt, new economy, Northern Rock, Occupy movement, Plutocrats, plutocrats, private military company, Republic of Letters, Richard Feynman, Robert Shiller, Robert Shiller, Savings and loan crisis, Scientific racism, scientific worldview, seigniorage, Silicon Valley, smart transportation, South Sea Bubble, supply-chain management, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, too big to fail

It was a revolution in man’s understanding of the physical universe: nothing less than “the emergence of abstract rational thought, of philosophy and scientific theory in a form still recognizable to modern practitioners.”6 Precisely because of its extreme backwardness relative to the ancient civilisations of Mesopotamia and Egypt, it was in the Greek Aegean, and within only decades of the transition from an entirely illiterate culture, that the modern scientific worldview was invented. But it was not only man’s understanding of the physical universe that the fertile encounter between the sophisticated East and the primitive West revolutionised: it profoundly changed his understanding of the social world as well. The organisation of society on earth was traditionally conceived of as the mirror image of the divine household in the heavens above.


pages: 524 words: 120,182

Complexity: A Guided Tour by Melanie Mitchell

Alan Turing: On Computable Numbers, with an Application to the Entscheidungsproblem, Albert Einstein, Albert Michelson, Alfred Russel Wallace, anti-communist, Arthur Eddington, Benoit Mandelbrot, bioinformatics, cellular automata, Claude Shannon: information theory, clockwork universe, complexity theory, computer age, conceptual framework, Conway's Game of Life, dark matter, discrete time, double helix, Douglas Hofstadter, en.wikipedia.org, epigenetics, From Mathematics to the Technologies of Life and Death, Garrett Hardin, Geoffrey West, Santa Fe Institute, Gödel, Escher, Bach, Henri Poincaré, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, John Conway, John von Neumann, Long Term Capital Management, mandelbrot fractal, market bubble, Menlo Park, Murray Gell-Mann, Network effects, Norbert Wiener, Norman Macrae, Paul Erdős, peer-to-peer, phenotype, Pierre-Simon Laplace, Ray Kurzweil, reversible computing, scientific worldview, stem cell, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thomas Malthus, Tragedy of the Commons, Turing machine

Throughout this book we have seen how the concepts of information and computation are being extended to encompass living systems and even complex social systems; how the notions of adaptation and evolution have been extended beyond the biological realm; and how the notions of life and intelligence are being expanded, perhaps even to include self-replicating machines and analogy-making computer programs. This way of thinking is progressively moving into mainstream science. I could see this clearly when I interacted with young graduate students and postdocs at the SFI summer schools. In the early 1990s, the students were extremely excited about the new ideas and novel scientific worldview presented at the school. But by the early 2000s, largely as a result of the educational efforts of SFI and similar institutes, these ideas and worldview had already permeated the culture of many disciplines, and the students were much more blasé, and, in some cases, disappointed that complex systems science seemed so “mainstream.”


pages: 396 words: 117,149

The Master Algorithm: How the Quest for the Ultimate Learning Machine Will Remake Our World by Pedro Domingos

Albert Einstein, Amazon Mechanical Turk, Arthur Eddington, backpropagation, basic income, Bayesian statistics, Benoit Mandelbrot, bioinformatics, Black Swan, Brownian motion, cellular automata, Claude Shannon: information theory, combinatorial explosion, computer vision, constrained optimization, correlation does not imply causation, creative destruction, crowdsourcing, Danny Hillis, data is the new oil, double helix, Douglas Hofstadter, Erik Brynjolfsson, experimental subject, Filter Bubble, future of work, global village, Google Glasses, Gödel, Escher, Bach, information retrieval, job automation, John Markoff, John Snow's cholera map, John von Neumann, Joseph Schumpeter, Kevin Kelly, lone genius, mandelbrot fractal, Mark Zuckerberg, Moneyball by Michael Lewis explains big data, Narrative Science, Nate Silver, natural language processing, Netflix Prize, Network effects, NP-complete, off grid, P = NP, PageRank, pattern recognition, phenotype, planetary scale, pre–internet, random walk, Ray Kurzweil, recommendation engine, Richard Feynman, scientific worldview, Second Machine Age, self-driving car, Silicon Valley, social intelligence, speech recognition, Stanford marshmallow experiment, statistical model, Stephen Hawking, Steven Levy, Steven Pinker, superintelligent machines, the scientific method, The Signal and the Noise by Nate Silver, theory of mind, Thomas Bayes, transaction costs, Turing machine, Turing test, Vernor Vinge, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, white flight, zero-sum game

If you’re a scientist or engineer, machine learning is a powerful armory that you don’t want to be without. The old, tried-and-true statistical tools don’t get you far in the age of big (or even medium) data. You need machine learning’s nonlinear chops to accurately model most phenomena, and it brings with it a new scientific worldview. The expression paradigm shift is used too casually these days, but I believe it’s not an exaggeration to say that that’s what this book describes. If you’re a machine-learning expert, you’re already familiar with much of what the book covers, but you’ll also find in it many fresh ideas, historical nuggets, and useful examples and analogies.


pages: 379 words: 113,656

Six Degrees: The Science of a Connected Age by Duncan J. Watts

Berlin Wall, Bretton Woods, business process, corporate governance, Drosophila, Erdős number, experimental subject, fixed income, Frank Gehry, Geoffrey West, Santa Fe Institute, independent contractor, industrial cluster, invisible hand, Long Term Capital Management, market bubble, Milgram experiment, MITM: man-in-the-middle, Murray Gell-Mann, Network effects, new economy, Norbert Wiener, Paul Erdős, peer-to-peer, rolodex, Ronald Coase, Savings and loan crisis, scientific worldview, Silicon Valley, supply-chain management, The Nature of the Firm, the strength of weak ties, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Toyota Production System, Tragedy of the Commons, transaction costs, transcontinental railway, Vilfredo Pareto, Y2K

Sometimes individuals exert so profound an effect that their influence truly seems to have been guaranteed. When Einstein’s original paper on special relativity was published in 1905, it overturned the scientific order of the past three hundred years, and from that moment on, Einstein’s greatness was assured. Descartes and Newton also single-handedly revolutionized the scientific worldviews of their times—Descartes with analytical geometry and Newton with his universal theory of gravitation. Sometimes, in other words, a profound outcome implicates an equally profound cause. Breakthroughs of this nature, however, are exceedingly rare, and most social and scientific change is not wrought by giant cognitive leaps of singular genius.


pages: 443 words: 112,800

The Third Industrial Revolution: How Lateral Power Is Transforming Energy, the Economy, and the World by Jeremy Rifkin

"Robert Solow", 3D printing, additive manufacturing, Albert Einstein, American ideology, barriers to entry, borderless world, carbon footprint, centre right, collaborative consumption, collaborative economy, Community Supported Agriculture, corporate governance, decarbonisation, distributed generation, en.wikipedia.org, energy security, energy transition, global supply chain, hydrogen economy, income inequality, industrial cluster, informal economy, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), invisible hand, Isaac Newton, job automation, knowledge economy, manufacturing employment, marginal employment, Martin Wolf, Masdar, megacity, Mikhail Gorbachev, new economy, off grid, oil shale / tar sands, oil shock, open borders, peak oil, Ponzi scheme, post-oil, purchasing power parity, Ray Kurzweil, Ronald Reagan, scientific worldview, Silicon Valley, Simon Kuznets, Skype, smart grid, smart meter, Spread Networks laid a new fibre optics cable between New York and Chicago, supply-chain management, the market place, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thomas Malthus, too big to fail, transaction costs, trickle-down economics, urban planning, urban renewal, Yom Kippur War, Zipcar

If technology, like art, imitates life, the new networked infrastructure of the TIR economy comes more and more to imitate the workings of the natural ecosystems of the planet. Creating economic, social, and political relationships that mimic the biological relationships of the ecosystems of the Earth is a critical first step in re-embedding our species into the fabric of the larger communities of life in which we dwell. A new scientific worldview is emerging whose premises and assumptions are more compatible with the network ways of thinking that underlie a Third Industrial Revolution economic model. The old science views nature as objects; the new science views nature as relationships. The old science is characterized by detachment, expropriation, dissection, and reduction; the new science is characterized by engagement, replenishment, integration, and holism.


pages: 510 words: 120,048

Who Owns the Future? by Jaron Lanier

3D printing, 4chan, Affordable Care Act / Obamacare, Airbnb, augmented reality, automated trading system, barriers to entry, bitcoin, book scanning, Burning Man, call centre, carbon footprint, cloud computing, commoditize, computer age, crowdsourcing, David Brooks, David Graeber, delayed gratification, digital Maoism, Douglas Engelbart, en.wikipedia.org, Everything should be made as simple as possible, facts on the ground, Filter Bubble, financial deregulation, Fractional reserve banking, Francis Fukuyama: the end of history, Garrett Hardin, George Akerlof, global supply chain, global village, Haight Ashbury, hive mind, if you build it, they will come, income inequality, informal economy, information asymmetry, invisible hand, Jaron Lanier, Jeff Bezos, job automation, John Markoff, Kevin Kelly, Khan Academy, Kickstarter, Kodak vs Instagram, life extension, Long Term Capital Management, Marc Andreessen, Mark Zuckerberg, meta-analysis, Metcalfe’s law, moral hazard, mutually assured destruction, Network effects, new economy, Norbert Wiener, obamacare, packet switching, Panopticon Jeremy Bentham, Peter Thiel, place-making, Plutocrats, plutocrats, Ponzi scheme, post-oil, pre–internet, race to the bottom, Ray Kurzweil, rent-seeking, reversible computing, Richard Feynman, Ronald Reagan, scientific worldview, self-driving car, side project, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley ideology, Silicon Valley startup, Skype, smart meter, stem cell, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Stewart Brand, Ted Nelson, The Market for Lemons, Thomas Malthus, too big to fail, Tragedy of the Commons, trickle-down economics, Turing test, Vannevar Bush, WikiLeaks, zero-sum game

All thoughts about consciousness, souls, and the like are bound up equally in faith, which suggests something remarkable: What we are seeing is a new religion, expressed through an engineering culture. What I would like to point out, though, is that a great deal of the confusion and rancor in the world today concerns tension at the boundary between religion and modernity—whether it’s the distrust among Islamic or Christian fundamentalists of the scientific worldview, or even the discomfort that often greets progress in fields like climate change science or stem-cell research. If technologists are creating their own ultramodern religion, and it is one in which people are told to wait politely as their very souls are made obsolete, we might expect further and worsening tensions.


pages: 436 words: 127,642

When Einstein Walked With Gödel: Excursions to the Edge of Thought by Jim Holt

"Robert Solow", Ada Lovelace, Albert Einstein, Andrew Wiles, anthropic principle, anti-communist, Arthur Eddington, Benoit Mandelbrot, Brownian motion, cellular automata, computer age, dark matter, David Brooks, Donald Trump, Edmond Halley, everywhere but in the productivity statistics, Fellow of the Royal Society, four colour theorem, Georg Cantor, George Santayana, haute couture, Henri Poincaré, inventory management, Isaac Newton, Jacquard loom, Johannes Kepler, John von Neumann, Joseph-Marie Jacquard, Long Term Capital Management, Louis Bachelier, luminiferous ether, Mahatma Gandhi, mandelbrot fractal, Monty Hall problem, Murray Gell-Mann, new economy, Nicholas Carr, Norbert Wiener, Norman Macrae, Paul Erdős, Peter Singer: altruism, probability theory / Blaise Pascal / Pierre de Fermat, random walk, Richard Feynman, Schrödinger's Cat, scientific worldview, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, selection bias, Skype, stakhanovite, Stephen Hawking, Steven Pinker, Thorstein Veblen, Turing complete, Turing machine, Turing test, union organizing, Vilfredo Pareto, Von Neumann architecture, wage slave

What possessed him to write a consciousness-raising mathematical satire like Flatland—his only book still in print—is not really known. As a progressive educator, he might have wished to shake up the English mathematics curriculum, with its dreary emphasis on the memorization of long proofs from Euclid. And, as a modern-minded churchman, he was no doubt attracted to the challenge of reconciling the spiritual and scientific worldviews. Abbott’s doorway to higher dimensions was the method of analogy. We cannot readily picture to ourselves a space with one more dimension than our three-dimensional world. We can, however, imagine a space with one less dimension: a plane. Suppose there were a society of two-dimensional creatures confined to a planar world.


pages: 533 words: 125,495

Rationality: What It Is, Why It Seems Scarce, Why It Matters by Steven Pinker

affirmative action, Albert Einstein, autonomous vehicles, availability heuristic, Ayatollah Khomeini, backpropagation, basic income, butterfly effect, Cass Sunstein, choice architecture, clean water, coronavirus, correlation coefficient, correlation does not imply causation, Covid-19, COVID-19, crowdsourcing, cuban missile crisis, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, David Attenborough, delayed gratification, disinformation, Donald Trump, effective altruism, en.wikipedia.org, Erdős number, Estimating the Reproducibility of Psychological Science, feminist movement, framing effect, George Akerlof, germ theory of disease, high batting average, index card, Jeff Bezos, job automation, John Nash: game theory, John von Neumann, libertarian paternalism, longitudinal study, loss aversion, Mahatma Gandhi, meta-analysis, microaggression, Monty Hall problem, Nash equilibrium, New Journalism, Paul Erdős, Paul Samuelson, Peter Singer: altruism, Pierre-Simon Laplace, placebo effect, QAnon, QWERTY keyboard, Ralph Waldo Emerson, randomized controlled trial, replication crisis, Richard Thaler, scientific worldview, selection bias, Stanford marshmallow experiment, Steve Bannon, Steven Pinker, sunk-cost fallacy, the scientific method, Thomas Bayes, Tragedy of the Commons, twin studies, universal basic income, Upton Sinclair, urban planning, Walter Mischel, yellow journalism, zero-sum game

Now, before looking at the data, one cannot blow off the possibility of a hot hand on the grounds of causal plausibility in the way one can blow off the gambler’s fallacy. Unlike a roulette wheel, a player’s body and brain do have a memory, and it is far from superstitious to think that a spurt of energy or confidence might persist over a span of minutes. So it was not a breach of the scientific worldview when other statisticians took a second look at the data and concluded that the boffins were wrong and the jocks were right: there is a hot hand in basketball. The economists Joshua Miller and Adam Sanjurjo showed that when you select streaks of hits or misses from a long run of data, the outcome of the very next attempt is not statistically independent of that streak.


pages: 478 words: 142,608

The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins

Albert Einstein, anthropic principle, Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, Ayatollah Khomeini, Brownian motion, cosmological principle, David Attenborough, Desert Island Discs, double helix, en.wikipedia.org, experimental subject, Fellow of the Royal Society, gravity well, invisible hand, John von Neumann, luminiferous ether, Menlo Park, meta-analysis, Murray Gell-Mann, Necker cube, Peter Singer: altruism, phenotype, placebo effect, planetary scale, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Richard Feynman, Schrödinger's Cat, scientific worldview, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, stem cell, Stephen Hawking, Steven Pinker, the scientific method, theory of mind, Thorstein Veblen, trickle-down economics, unbiased observer

He was too intelligent not to recognize the head-on collision between his religion and his science, and the conflict in his mind made him increasingly uneasy. One day, he could bear the strain no more, and he clinched the matter with a pair of scissors. He took a bible and went right through it, literally cutting out every verse that would have to go if the scientific world-view were true. At the end of this ruthlessly honest and labour-intensive exercise, there was so little left of his bible that, try as I might, and even with the benefit of intact margins throughout the pages of Scripture, I found it impossible to pick up the Bible without it being rent in two.


pages: 443 words: 131,268

Martians by Kim Stanley Robinson

A Pattern Language, Colonization of Mars, double helix, epigenetics, Kim Stanley Robinson, Live Aid, scientific worldview, Zeno's paradox

And yet his whole life physics had been getting more and more complicated, with postulated microdimensions taken as fact, and symmetries of fairly simple but scarily small strings invoked as explanations even though they were many magnitudes of size smaller than could ever be observed—the unobservability was itself mathematically provable. Thus the search for a final unifying theory was, as Lindley noted, a kind of religious quest; or the messianic movement in the religion that the scientific worldview had become. Then he met Bao Shuyo. Over a winter in Da Vinci Bao took him through the latest in superstring theory, step by step. The idea of extra microdimensions was straightforward. There were seven extra dimensions but all very small, and arranged in a thing called the “seven sphere.”


pages: 544 words: 134,483

The Human Cosmos: A Secret History of the Stars by Jo Marchant

Albert Einstein, Alfred Russel Wallace, Arthur Eddington, British Empire, complexity theory, Dava Sobel, Drosophila, Edmond Halley, Eratosthenes, game design, Henri Poincaré, invention of writing, Isaac Newton, Johannes Kepler, John Harrison: Longitude, lateral thinking, lone genius, mass immigration, meta-analysis, Nicholas Carr, out of africa, polynesian navigation, scientific mainstream, scientific worldview, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, Searching for Interstellar Communications, Skype, social intelligence, Solar eclipse in 1919, Stephen Hawking, Steven Pinker, technological singularity, the scientific method, Thomas Bayes, trade route

The clocktower still stands today, and North has pointed out that its great medieval bell is about the right size to have once belonged to the abbey, and that its inscription, Missi de celis habeo nomen Gabrielis (“I am heaven sent, in Gabriel’s name”), suggests it came from a church. The sound of Richard’s clock may ring out still. Certainly, the implications of the technology Richard pioneered still resonate through the modern world. The social and philosophical changes inspired by mechanical clocks helped to create the scientific worldview that defines modern Western society, as well as driving the breathtaking economic and technological advances that propelled Europe out of the doldrums of the Middle Ages and allowed it to dominate the planet. Meanwhile, these self-turning machines caused one more fundamental split with the universe that we inhabit.


pages: 547 words: 148,732

How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence by Michael Pollan

1960s counterculture, Albert Einstein, Anton Chekhov, Burning Man, cognitive dissonance, conceptual framework, crowdsourcing, dark matter, Douglas Engelbart, East Village, experimental subject, Exxon Valdez, Golden Gate Park, Google Earth, Haight Ashbury, Howard Rheingold, Internet Archive, John Markoff, Kevin Kelly, Marshall McLuhan, Mason jar, Menlo Park, meta-analysis, moral panic, Mother of all demos, placebo effect, Ralph Waldo Emerson, randomized controlled trial, Ronald Reagan, scientific mainstream, scientific worldview, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), sensible shoes, Silicon Valley, Skype, Steve Jobs, Stewart Brand, the scientific method, theory of mind, Thomas Bayes, Whole Earth Catalog

Yet even to questions of this kind Griffiths brings an open and curious mind. “The phenomenology of these experiences is so profoundly reorganizing and profoundly compelling that I’m willing to hold there’s a mystery here we can’t understand.” Griffiths has clearly traveled a long way from the strict behaviorism that once informed his scientific worldview; the experience of alternate states of consciousness, both his own and those of his volunteers, has opened him to possibilities about which few scientists will dare speak openly. “So what happens after you die? All I need is one percent [of uncertainty]. I can’t think of anything more interesting than what I may or may not discover at the time I die.


Sorting Things Out: Classification and Its Consequences (Inside Technology) by Geoffrey C. Bowker

affirmative action, business process, corporate governance, Drosophila, information retrieval, loose coupling, Menlo Park, Mitch Kapor, natural language processing, Occam's razor, QWERTY keyboard, Scientific racism, scientific worldview, sexual politics, statistical model, Stephen Hawking, Stewart Brand, the built environment, the medium is the message, the strength of weak ties, transaction costs, William of Occam

Scientists can only deal with data as presented to them by their information base just as historians of previous centuries must rely heavily on written traces. When creating a new information infrastructure for an old activity, questions have a habit of running away from one. A technical issue about how to code process can become a challenge to organizational theory and its data­ base. A defense of process can become an attack on the scientific world-view. Susan Grobe, a nursing informatician, has made one of the chief attacks on the N I C scheme. She believes that rather than standardized nursing language, computer scientists should develop natural language processing tools so that nurse narratives can be 2 74 Chapter 8 interpreted . Grobe argues for the abandonment of any goal of pro­ ducing "a single coherent account of the pattern of action and beliefs in science" (Grobe 1 992, 92).


pages: 499 words: 152,156

Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth, and Faith in the New China by Evan Osnos

conceptual framework, crony capitalism, currency manipulation / currency intervention, David Brooks, Deng Xiaoping, East Village, financial independence, Gini coefficient, income inequality, indoor plumbing, information asymmetry, land reform, Lao Tzu, low skilled workers, market fundamentalism, Mohammed Bouazizi, Plutocrats, plutocrats, prosperity theology / prosperity gospel / gospel of success, rolodex, scientific worldview, Silicon Valley, South China Sea, sovereign wealth fund, special economic zone, Steve Jobs, transcontinental railway, Washington Consensus, Xiaogang Anhui farmers, young professional

Unlike the public denunciations and confrontations of the 1960s and ’70s, the Party was encouraging people to celebrate their “Red birthday” (the anniversary of the day they joined), and every member was expected to write a two-thousand-word self-evaluation. The market sensed an opportunity, and soon there were websites offering to sell “model” self-evaluations. They came drafted with the requisite apologies, such as “I didn’t pay enough attention to establishing a scientific worldview.” My journalist friend who joined the Party while in college tried to write her own self-evaluation, but when she read it aloud at the monthly meeting, she was criticized for failing to include the approved phrases, so she went back to the standard list. In the seven years I had been gone, the language had changed.


pages: 934 words: 232,651

Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe, 1945-1956 by Anne Applebaum

active measures, affirmative action, anti-communist, Berlin Wall, centre right, deindustrialization, disinformation, Fall of the Berlin Wall, falling living standards, hiring and firing, illegal immigration, indoor plumbing, Internet Archive, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, land reform, language of flowers, means of production, New Urbanism, Potemkin village, price mechanism, road to serfdom, Ronald Reagan, scientific worldview, Slavoj Žižek, stakhanovite, strikebreaker, union organizing, urban planning

One such spectacle took place in a school theater in Wittenberg: students who refused to join the FDJ or insisted upon going to church were named, condemned, and expelled one by one, before the whole school. Many left the stage weeping.33 In 1954, the state would even introduce the Jugendweihe, a secular alternative to Protestant confirmation services, a ceremony that was supposed to impart to young people “useful knowledge in basic questions of the scientific world-view and socialist morality … raising them in the spirit of socialist patriotism and proletarian internationalism, and helping them to prepare themselves for active participation in the construction of developed socialist society and the creation of the basic preconditions for the gradual transition to communism.”


pages: 761 words: 231,902

The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology by Ray Kurzweil

additive manufacturing, AI winter, Alan Turing: On Computable Numbers, with an Application to the Entscheidungsproblem, Albert Einstein, anthropic principle, Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, artificial general intelligence, Asilomar, augmented reality, autonomous vehicles, backpropagation, Benoit Mandelbrot, Bill Joy: nanobots, bioinformatics, brain emulation, Brewster Kahle, Brownian motion, business cycle, business intelligence, c2.com, call centre, carbon-based life, cellular automata, Claude Shannon: information theory, complexity theory, conceptual framework, Conway's Game of Life, coronavirus, cosmological constant, cosmological principle, cuban missile crisis, data acquisition, Dava Sobel, David Brooks, Dean Kamen, disintermediation, double helix, Douglas Hofstadter, en.wikipedia.org, epigenetics, factory automation, friendly AI, functional programming, George Gilder, Gödel, Escher, Bach, informal economy, information retrieval, invention of the telephone, invention of the telescope, invention of writing, iterative process, Jaron Lanier, Jeff Bezos, job automation, job satisfaction, John von Neumann, Kevin Kelly, Law of Accelerating Returns, life extension, lifelogging, linked data, Loebner Prize, Louis Pasteur, mandelbrot fractal, Marshall McLuhan, Mikhail Gorbachev, Mitch Kapor, mouse model, Murray Gell-Mann, mutually assured destruction, natural language processing, Network effects, new economy, Norbert Wiener, oil shale / tar sands, optical character recognition, pattern recognition, phenotype, premature optimization, randomized controlled trial, Ray Kurzweil, remote working, reversible computing, Richard Feynman, Robert Metcalfe, Rodney Brooks, scientific worldview, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, selection bias, semantic web, Silicon Valley, Singularitarianism, speech recognition, statistical model, stem cell, Stephen Hawking, Stewart Brand, strong AI, superintelligent machines, technological singularity, Ted Kaczynski, telepresence, The Coming Technological Singularity, Thomas Bayes, transaction costs, Turing machine, Turing test, two and twenty, Vernor Vinge, Y2K, Yogi Berra

Every day we hear reports about the experiences of others, and we may even feel empathy in response to the behavior that results from their internal states. But because we're exposed to only the behavior of others, we can only imagine their subjective experiences. Because it is possible to construct a perfectly consistent, scientific worldview that omits the existence of consciousness, some observers come to the conclusion that it's just an illusion. Jaron Lanier, the virtual-reality pioneer, takes issue (in the third of his six objections to what he calls "cybernetic totalism" in his treatise "One Half a Manifesto") with those who maintain "that subjective experience either doesn't exist, or is unimportant because it is some sort of ambient or peripheral effect."11 As I pointed out, there is no device or system we can postulate that could definitively detect subjectivity (conscious experience) associated with an entity.


pages: 798 words: 240,182

The Transhumanist Reader by Max More, Natasha Vita-More

23andMe, Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, artificial general intelligence, augmented reality, Bill Joy: nanobots, bioinformatics, brain emulation, Buckminster Fuller, cellular automata, clean water, cloud computing, cognitive bias, cognitive dissonance, combinatorial explosion, conceptual framework, Conway's Game of Life, cosmological principle, data acquisition, discovery of DNA, Douglas Engelbart, Drosophila, en.wikipedia.org, endogenous growth, experimental subject, Extropian, fault tolerance, Flynn Effect, Francis Fukuyama: the end of history, Frank Gehry, friendly AI, game design, germ theory of disease, hypertext link, impulse control, index fund, John von Neumann, joint-stock company, Kevin Kelly, Law of Accelerating Returns, life extension, lifelogging, Louis Pasteur, Menlo Park, meta-analysis, moral hazard, Network effects, Norbert Wiener, pattern recognition, Pepto Bismol, phenotype, positional goods, prediction markets, presumed consent, Ray Kurzweil, reversible computing, RFID, Ronald Reagan, scientific worldview, silicon-based life, Singularitarianism, social intelligence, stem cell, stochastic process, superintelligent machines, supply-chain management, supply-chain management software, technological singularity, Ted Nelson, telepresence, telepresence robot, telerobotics, the built environment, The Coming Technological Singularity, the scientific method, The Wisdom of Crowds, transaction costs, Turing machine, Turing test, Upton Sinclair, Vernor Vinge, Von Neumann architecture, Whole Earth Review, women in the workforce, zero-sum game

According to our best scientific understanding, it seems that the dead stay dead, but if we live in a simulation, the Mind can copy us before we die and paste us in a new, perhaps better, simulation. III. Conclusion I am the first to admit that this is a mythology and not a scientific theory. I believe it is a mythology compatible with rationality and the scientific worldview. Modern science says that reality, at a fundamental level, is much weirder than our simple, intuitive models, and lets us glimpse at vague and veiled shadows of wonderful things in heaven and earth. If anything, I am persuaded that reality may be much weirder than mythology. Many transhumanists with an ultra-rationalist approach have a very hard time considering parallels between transhumanism, spirituality, and/or religion.


Global Catastrophic Risks by Nick Bostrom, Milan M. Cirkovic

affirmative action, agricultural Revolution, Albert Einstein, American Society of Civil Engineers: Report Card, anthropic principle, artificial general intelligence, Asilomar, availability heuristic, backpropagation, Bill Joy: nanobots, Black Swan, carbon-based life, cognitive bias, complexity theory, computer age, coronavirus, corporate governance, cosmic microwave background, cosmological constant, cosmological principle, cuban missile crisis, dark matter, death of newspapers, demographic transition, Deng Xiaoping, distributed generation, Doomsday Clock, Drosophila, endogenous growth, Ernest Rutherford, failed state, feminist movement, framing effect, friendly AI, Georg Cantor, global pandemic, global village, Gödel, Escher, Bach, hindsight bias, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), invention of agriculture, Kevin Kelly, Kuiper Belt, Law of Accelerating Returns, life extension, means of production, meta-analysis, Mikhail Gorbachev, millennium bug, mutually assured destruction, nuclear winter, P = NP, peak oil, phenotype, planetary scale, Ponzi scheme, prediction markets, RAND corporation, Ray Kurzweil, reversible computing, Richard Feynman, Ronald Reagan, scientific worldview, Singularitarianism, social intelligence, South China Sea, strong AI, superintelligent machines, supervolcano, technological singularity, technoutopianism, The Coming Technological Singularity, Tunguska event, twin studies, uranium enrichment, Vernor Vinge, War on Poverty, Westphalian system, Y2K

Since the advent of the Nuclear Age, one apocalyptic threat after another, natural and man-made, has been added to the menu of ways that human history could end, from environmental destruction and weapons of mass destruction, to plague and asteroid strikes (Halpern, 2001; Leslie, 1998; Rees, 2004). In a sense, long-term apocalypticism is also now the dominant scientific worldview, insofar as most scientists see no possibility for intelligent life to continue after the Heat Death of the Universe (2002, Ellis; see also the Chapter 2 in this volume) . Millennia/ tendencies in responses to apocalyptic threats 79 4.5 Contemporary techno-millennialism 4. 5 . 1 The s i n gu l a rity a n d tech n o - m i llen n ia l i s m Joel Garreau's (2006) recent book on the psychoculture of accelerating change, Radical Evolution: The Promise and Peril of Enhancing Our Minds, Our Bodies - and What It Means to Be Human, is structured in three parts: Heaven, Hell and Prevail.


pages: 1,737 words: 491,616

Rationality: From AI to Zombies by Eliezer Yudkowsky

Albert Einstein, Alfred Russel Wallace, anthropic principle, anti-pattern, anti-work, Arthur Eddington, artificial general intelligence, availability heuristic, backpropagation, Bayesian statistics, Berlin Wall, Build a better mousetrap, Cass Sunstein, cellular automata, cognitive bias, cognitive dissonance, correlation does not imply causation, cosmological constant, creative destruction, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, dematerialisation, different worldview, discovery of DNA, disinformation, Douglas Hofstadter, Drosophila, effective altruism, experimental subject, Extropian, friendly AI, fundamental attribution error, Gödel, Escher, Bach, hindsight bias, index card, index fund, Isaac Newton, John Conway, John von Neumann, Long Term Capital Management, Louis Pasteur, mental accounting, meta-analysis, money market fund, Monty Hall problem, Nash equilibrium, Necker cube, NP-complete, P = NP, pattern recognition, Paul Graham, Peter Thiel, Pierre-Simon Laplace, placebo effect, planetary scale, prediction markets, random walk, Ray Kurzweil, reversible computing, Richard Feynman, risk tolerance, Rubik’s Cube, Saturday Night Live, Schrödinger's Cat, scientific mainstream, scientific worldview, sensible shoes, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley startup, Singularitarianism, Solar eclipse in 1919, speech recognition, statistical model, Steven Pinker, strong AI, sunk-cost fallacy, technological singularity, The Bell Curve by Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray, the map is not the territory, the scientific method, Turing complete, Turing machine, ultimatum game, X Prize, Y Combinator, zero-sum game

The first three introduce the question of how the human world relates to the world revealed by physics: “Lawful Truth” (on the basic links between physics and human cognition), “Reductionism 101” (on the project of scientifically explaining phenomena), and “Joy in the Merely Real” (on the emotional, personal significance of the scientific world-view). This is followed by two sequences that go into more depth on specific academic debates: “Physicalism 201” (on the hard problem of consciousness) and “Quantum Physics and Many Worlds” (on the measurement problem in physics). Finally, the sequence “Science and Rationality” and the essay A Technical Explanation of Technical Explanation tie these ideas together and relate them to scientific practice.