Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Why Science-Based Living?

There are two reasons why Science-Based Living is the focus of this blog; Science, and Living.

First, Science. Why Science-Based?
Although it may seem obvious, it's worth stating that just because something is "secular" doesn't mean that it is Science-based. Although the world is becoming more secular, and ultimately more science-based, there are still many major companies that have Faith-based by-laws or mission statements. And, regardless of where you fall in terms of your religious leanings, the only groups that currently proactively discourage science and scientific learning are religious groups, especially in their communities, and ultimately, with their children. So, if you care about science, the only antagonists are religious. Believing in science and using it appropriately will not be a big leap for most people, so I will move on to try to convince you of the more important part.

Second, Living?
Even though the popularity of science as a tool is undisputed and has been the clear gold standard for hundreds of years now, science has remained a heady, fact finding exercise that is engaged almost exclusively in pursuing pure science (ex. research, studies, fact finding, etc.). This is the highest goal of science and it needs to be preserved. However, for the rest of society, that does not engage in scientific research or study, science has almost nothing to offer, at least not until after a Corporation puts it through its factories and turns a new scientific discovery or technology into a product that becomes part of our food, our work, and our home. What this means is that for most people, science is not an important part of their lives, save that they are glad that someone somewhere is doing it and helping them to get neater, cheaper things. More importantly, it also means that when the average person decides what is valuable, moral, worthwhile, and meaningful, science (and its associated critical thinking) is playing a very small role in their decision.

Now, science is a complex subject, and as with any complex subject (like morality, law, happiness, and education) those of us with little experience in that area prefer to have someone with perceived authority and expertise to 'give us the answer', since we assume that this someone will have the right (or at least better) answer. Unfortunately, although this generally happens in science communities as it does in any other (such that there is a hierarchy based on experience and expertise), this doesn't jive well with the idea of pure Scientific, where everything is open to inquiry, and there is no authority that hands down the correct answer from on high. When something like that happens in Science, it is usually a red frag of something going terribly wrong. Even though the Science community has maintained its course as the leader of intellectual breakthroughs, and has established journals and libraries filled with tested results and debated theories, they have purposefully avoided establishing any type of authority that settles a question permanently. Doing so is just unscientific, since science allows all idea and theories to be up for debate and open to testing and criticism. However, by doing so Scientists have relegated themselves almost exclusively to doing the pure science, and letting others interpret and apply their results as they apply to society and individuals. This results in, an abandonment of the masses (and even themselves) by the science community, inasmuch as it relates to some of the most basic of human needs, including identity, community, happiness, and worldview. The cultural and social milieu of the masses is ultimately left to work itself out.

When we try to meet those more basic human needs, we are left with three choices:
  1. We look to our family to fulfill these needs and answer these questions.
  2. We embrace a larger religious, cultural, or ethnic community of our heritage, and use this as our identify.
  3. We join secular groups (book clubs, sports groups, school communities).
Now, none of these are bad per se, and each play important roles in building a healthy personal identity. Families are obviously important, and play the most important role in our early development and world view. Religious communities in particular have learned the value of down playing the intellectual and dogmatic particulars of their faith, while focusing on the social and communal needs of their community. This has allowed certain religious groups that embrace community over dogma to be incredibly successful (ex. Mormons, Non-denominational Churches, Mega-Churches). Lastly, Secular groups are exclusively designed to fulfill these social needs. However, ultimately they all have their down sides.

Family, although important, may not be an environment that encourages positive ideas or learning. They also should not be expected to have a thorough foundation in science, or to be responsible for maintaining and communicating that information. The best we should expect is encouragement.

Religion communities that represent our cultural heritage may ultimately teach us to reject science, and embrace ideas that have been shown to be anti-social, false, dangerous, or self-destructive. This is not always the case, and history is chalked full of religious minded men and women who have been champions of science. However, the strongest opponents of science, and perhaps the only, are religious.

In terms of independent secular groups (book clubs, sports groups, school communities, local bars game nights, music concerts, etc.), these are not bad, and should be an excellent part of a persons routine and community life. However, these activities are focused solely on one activity or interest, and do not have a larger vision for the individuals overall happiness or success. Unless these activities are related back to a community of individuals that care about the attendees, and have a plan for their well-being that is based on good ideas, it only satisfies a person's short term needs for social interaction. They are also usually neutral on science and reason (unless that happens to be the topic of the group), and their purpose does not relate to improving the critical thinking skills of the individuals in the community, and ultimately their happiness or success.

Solution: Science-Based Communities, that promote Science-Based Living

Ultimately, the solution requires Secular, Science-Based groups that have a solid foundation in Science and a mission statement for the promotion of science, but with a primary focus solely on the happiness, success, well-being, and fulfillment of its community. Modern religious groups and colleges have successful models that can be nearly photo copied, since their focus is community and not dogma. Until solid and recognized Science-based communities like this exist, people will continue to look for their social fulfillment to communities that may not have their best interest in mind.

Now, there are small groups of Secular, humanist, freethinking, atheist, or agnostic groups that have been mildly popular in the last 200 years. However, their popularity has been eclipsed by the rise in fundamental Religious groups that have been able to make huge inroads in membership, societal norms, pop culture, and education and law. The popularity of the religious groups is a direct result of the breakdown of the family unit (based on modern advances in social structure and civil liberties, and technological advances based around travel and careers) and the focus of the science community to be focused almost entirely on Pure Science only. What this has left is a void in society, which religious groups have been more than happy to step into, and 'help' guide people and society back on track.

People embrace the norms and practices of the community that embraces them. Ultimately, science is providing no coherent, formal community or culture to embrace. Therefore, we are left to be guided by our broken families, our religious communities which may reject science, or secular groups that do not have a larger vision for our overall happiness or success. For humanity to succeed and survive, science needs to embrace the basic social needs of humanity, and provide meaningful solutions. This is one step towards that solution. It is a place to increase awareness about science and community, and to encourage formal establishment of groups dedicated to these needs.

Now, none of this is meant to take away the great strides that secular, scientific, or civic groups have made. We are constantly reaping the benefits or the had work of the generations that have come before us, and we need to recognize that. However, if science and reason are going to become more popular among the average population, and not just be concerned with pure science, and relegated to the few in labs, universities, and corporations, it needs to engage society, and help shape a culture that is more than technology. It means taking care of not only the intellectual and technological needs of people, but also their social needs of people. We need people to be smart, but also happy, and community and culture are important parts of that.

I hope this blog is just one more step towards a happier, smarter, science-based future.

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