Re: regarding the YINYANG post on extropians

From: Russell Blackford (
Date: Fri Jul 27 2001 - 19:01:42 MDT

Party of Citizens wrote

>What will you call it when Science corrects thinking which is erroneous,
>false, mistaken, delusional? How about "cognitive therapy"? Is the big
>picture of this Truth of Science, Absolute Truth?

Science is simply the process (and I emphasise *process*) of rational
inquiry into nature. It is not a body of Truth and the truths it discovers
are always provisional. Okay, now a correction to the above: there is some
rational inquiry into nature that is probably not meaningfully called
"science". The larger field of rational inquiry is called "philosophy". When
questions are refined to the point where it is possible to test hypothetical
answer by precise mathematical modelling, by using instruments that allow
for very close observation, and by the design of experimental apparatus that
enable us to use hypothetico-deductive thinking at a very fine level, that
is what we are inclined to call science. In this sense, science as currently
understood is mainly a product of the 17th century, particularly beginning
with Galileo and Kepler (though they had important precursors way back to
classical times). Though some philosophers disagree (as Mark has pointed
out), there is no sharp boundary between science and philosophy. Although
the whole field of rational inquiry can be called "philosophy" we commonly
use the word in a narrower sense to certain kinds of rational analysis of
questions that cannot currently be tested effectively by the methods of
science, or other more specialised methods that may operate in humanities
disciplines such as literary criticism.

It is possible to base religious beliefs on a process of rational inquiry,
but they are usually based on tradition, childhood indoctrination,
irrational experience, inspired guesswork in a state of ignorance of the
world's functioning, etc. By and large, religious views are not provisional
(though sophisticated religions do actually adapt to try to keep their
doctrines consistent with well-established scientific theory).

These are the basic differences between religion and the kinds of thinking
that constitute rational inquiry (there are also specific humanistic forms
of rational inquiry - again, there is no sharp boundary between these and
philosophy. There is not necessarily a sharp boundary between them and
science (eg, the sudy of history can use the scientific techniques I
described above)).

I can't speak for others on the list, but I object to my philosophical and
other beliefs being called "religious", because they are not based on the
religious "way of knowing" (or, as I would say, of "not knowing" - I
actually loathe the expression "ways of knowing") as described above. To the
extent that they *can* be (conceding that I can't be running around
performing all the experiments, mastering the all the relevant maths, etc
myself), my beliefs are based on the processes of rational inquiry and are
open to change as they are exposed to further outcomes from those processes.

I hope this puts the record straight on why I think there is no
transhumanist "religion" and why there is probably no extropian "religion".
I say "probably" because I can't commit the extropes to all the above. I do
think that someone who refers to him/herself as a "transhumanist" is saying
that they take a *philosophical* position (if someone on this list calls him
or herself a "transhumanist" but doesn't take this stance, I'll be very
interested indeed).

If extropians likewise say that their position is based on rational inquiry,
then they should likewise accept the analysis above, or something very like
it. They can then claim correctly (as people like Max More actually do) that
extropianism is a sub-set of transhumanism, which is not a religion but a
scientifically-informed philosophy.



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