Sunday, December 31, 2006

Democracy and Science

Western world is deeply based on Democracy. The ability for each individual to voice their opinion in equal manner. Each voice is assumed, by default, to carry equal weight. This is of course before the comments are actually evaluated by the population, after which the majority usually ends up deciding which voices are superior. The point being that 'Good' ideas and 'Bad' ideas are are both introduced and elevated on "one person, one vote" idea. Even when done by proxy, even then it's by representatives elected by the same principle.

At the same time, the western world also is prominently involved in two very undemocratic systems: Science and Religion. Both elevate certain principles above the 'equality' of all other. And both insist that the principles are not 'opinions', but (near) facts.

The fight over the past few decades regarding the worth of an principle or opinion has been divided in politics into 'conservative' and 'progressive' (liberal) opinions. 'Conservative' opinions more often are forwarded as actual principles because of their relation to some long established tradition. They are essentially presumed to have 'stood the test of time' by going through rigorous processes that disband all but the best of ideas. But have they really?

Religion seems to be divided between the two conservative and progressive-liberal factions in the same way. A conservative might stick to a traditional position of homosexuality while the liberal would adopt a 'new' position on it. They both may attempt to find justification in the same religious book but their positions are still considered "new" or "old". Established principle or new opinion.

Almost similarly, in science there are 'conservative' and 'progressive' factions who either represent the established principles or new opinions. The 'recent' String Theory advocates would nicely fit into the 'progressive' crowd here because they were introducing a 'new opinion' to established principles. (I will note that this is not quite the same as the religious example since String Theory does not actually attempt to overthrow the existing principles, merely extend them.)

But what is really dissimilar about the two methods, even though they both produce principles over opinions? It's the origins of the recursive priories that new opinions must conform to.

In religion, the priories are top-set. Ask any religious person and they will affirm their faith in the divinity of at least some portion of the religion; those priories have been set not by a merely human process, but an infallible divine will. Any new opinion must conform to them quite reasonably, or the opinion must be dismissed from everyday considerations for its disruptive effects.

In science, a new opinion must also conform to most priory principles or face summary dismissal from the majority. However, the scientific priories are not top-set. No principle has been deemed to been top-set. The process for every existing priory principle started as a mere 'opinion'. This opinion, like the Bill in School House Rock, had to work its way up the chain. It could not take shortcuts. But then again, its treatment would not be any different than that of the priory principles had been.

What does this mean in politics that get daily doses of science every so often? It could mean that progressive-liberals need to be willing to adopt structure of overlying principles, and conservatives need to be willing to take a second look at the 'divine' principles and give them the same treatment they give to all new opinions. This would cause pseudo-scientific and new-age religious people like Deepak Chopra to actually have their claims evaluated from a solid ground, and introduce real debate into conservative circles where divine priories are used to quickly dismiss new ideas.

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