Dear converts corner,
I am a scientist and a mathematician who has just watched the program Enemies of Reason.
My questions are simple …
Who decides what progress is?
What is progress and how is it measured?
In my work I use scientific and mathematical methods to prove out engineering designs. I quantify improvements in design against specific measurable quantities and thus progress the design. All of this is based on me having a prior knowledge of what a desirable outcome is.
Through out the above mentioned program the contribution to human progress made by science was held up as the overriding reason for turning to evidence based assessment and rationalism. All well and good these are things I am glad to accept.
However, unless I’m missing something I have not yet heard what the ultimate goal of the human race is. In the absence of an ultimate goal it is hard to measure progress. Putting a man on the moon is good progress to putting a man on the moon, but can’t really be described as a pinnacle of human achievement unless we know what we’re measuring against.
My current rationale on all of this is that we are only really doing the things we are because our intellect has evolved to a state in which we are basically bored. For me doing science and maths interests me and stops me being bored. It also earns me money (which provides economists and the like with something to interest them) which I use to do more things to prevent me being bored. For others religion, dancing, drugs or drink do the trick. Therefore the concept of progress is in the eye of the beholder.
It is interesting that methods of boredom alleviation other than science and maths are condemned because they inhibit progress to an unspecified and quantifiably correct goal for the species developed by scientists and mathematicians.
Lighten up and live and let live.