Re: Nothing beats science (was: This war is not about terror...)

From: J. R. Molloy (
Date: Tue Oct 09 2001 - 08:06:31 MDT

From: "Eliezer S. Yudkowsky" <>
> Science is a formalized tool that reflects a greater whole - for example,
> the experimental method reflects (among other things) the Bayesian
> Probability Theorem. I don't need magic to know whether or not I'm
> happy. There's a certain subjective sensation I call happiness, and it's
> not exactly hard to tell whether it's present, and at what intensity, and
> why.

In addition, since happiness correlates to serotonin and other neuromodulator
hormone levels, it can be measured scientifically. Other emotions correspond
to brain activity in specific regions. For example, love is coincident with
activity in the anterior cingulate cortex, middle insula, putamen, and caudate
nucleus. Consequently science can determine if one is in love by measuring the
intensity of activity in these regions.

> The question I ask myself ultimately reflects a physical fact about
> my brain-state, and an external observer who wanted a definite answer to
> the question could find one. If I were confused about the definition, an
> external observer could discover everything there was to know about the
> confusion.

I think that explains the process sufficiently to give credit to science in
your example. Also, aesthetic values can be quantified and measured
computationally, given the elements which comprise such values as beauty and
attractiveness (as these values derive from symetry and balance, etc.).

> Not everything involves controlled experimental studies, but that's
> because controlled experimental studies aren't always necessary to find
> simple answers to routine questions. It doesn't mean that there's
> something outside of science. I don't use a scientific methodology to
> determine whether I'm happy for the same reason I don't use a scientific
> methodology to determine where I left my wristwatch; it would be
> overkill. It doesn't mean that the location of my wristwatch is a deep
> truth that science can never comprehend.

In further support of your comments, I'd add that since intelligence impels
scientific methodology, intelligence may also decide when such methodology is
not necessary to solve lesser problems.

> Asking an ambiguous or observer-dependent question does not mean that the
> underlying reality is uncertain or subjective. It doesn't even mean that
> the question is outside of science. If science can precisely describe the
> ambiguity or the observer-dependency, science can combine that description
> with the description of reality to yield the best available answer to the
> question.

Even if the underlying reality is uncertain or subjective, that does not
prevent science providing an objective analysis linked to a grid of known
facts. Scientific methods can fill in knowledge gaps by testing overall
systems. Once a correlation is established, it can be tested to see if
exceptions occur, which would falsify the answer under consideration. So,
science beats every alternative methodology because only science can
ultimately verify solutions derived by intuitive or serendipitous methods.

Nothing beats science...
What a great slogan! Would make a nice bumper sticker.

--- --- --- --- ---

Useless hypotheses, etc.:
 consciousness, phlogiston, philosophy, vitalism, mind, free will, qualia,
analog computing, cultural relativism, GAC, Cyc, Eliza, cryonics, individual
uniqueness, ego, human values, scientific relinquishment

We move into a better future in proportion as science displaces superstition.

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