Why we need science: Advice wanted

Hi folks! I’m working on a visual and I wanted to bounce it off a few people before I finished putting a section of my project together.

As a quick summary, it’s part of a project to enable diverse people to join a co-operative corporation that gives people a ton of autonomy and control over their lives in exchange for a little productivity boost. Like a lot of co-operatives, ethical hiring is a major part of this (more so, in fact) and one of the issues we run into here in the States is respect for science.

So, I’m working on defining things a bit differently (with science simply being what we use when we realize that our brains are poorly suited to a task…more of an acknowledgement that we need help than anything) and was trying to put together a sort of Venn diagram to partition things out.

I’m incorporating the other end of the analog scale as well (things we don’t need science or anything for because we’re having fun and not trying to convince anybody of anything)

Here’s what I have so far. I think it’s pretty solid but was wondering if anybody had any good ideas/advice/etc.


I disagree with everything in the overlapping “Personal” and “OPB” area that doesn’t overlap with “Needs Science.”

I think that consent laws should be set based on scientific studies on which laws would cause the greatest reduction of psychological trauma on youth.

I think that Deception/transparency regulations should be set after scientific study into what yields the best results for taxpayers.

I think that, when social norms and standards are at odds with science, science is the proverbial lighthouse that tells the battleship, “No, you adjust course.”

Yes, I know that means that the OPB circle would be fully contained by the “Needs Science” circle, but I think that’s the point. Things that affect us all should be studied scientifically.

I’m also a little confused why some of the “needs science” stuff isn’t in “other people’s business” (for example, “research”), but that annoys me a lot less.

I’d expand “art” to be “creative expression,” as, for me, “art” excludes some things that “creative expression” doesn’t (e.g. writing). Maybe throw in “sports” alongside “games,” too.

That’s all that immediately jumps to mind. I hope this helps.


There’s a typo in ‘critical thinking’ in the middle section.

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That’s just to test the viewer’s critial thinking skills.


Nope, total typo! thanks!


I put a lot of thought into that, I’ll be putting detail in the descriptions, but we do need a place for the things that are social and cultural …but you’re right I need to clarify that section is specifically for cultural things.

However, that’s a deliberate design artifact. The whole co-opernation concept is designed so that people can move from group to group somewhat freely, so people can choose their social norms and not be trapped by them.

Additionally, the other aspect is that there’s not ONE set of norms/customs/etc. that works for all people. The last thing we want are generic, milquetoast solutions that nobody particularly likes or hates. If one group wants to be poly, another wants to be nudists, and another wants to be furries then the plan is to encourage that. (the same goes for lesser things like social eating, acceptable altered substances, communication, and the like of course)

Thanks though, I’ll need to clarify that bit!

But basically, the answer to this…

…is that if science doesn’t give a single answer, then people can choose between what exists or make their own. There is no battleship or lighthouse, that’s more of a metaphor for the status quo. Instead we have lots of islands and dinghys. :slight_smile:

Yeah, I’ve been waffling between generic words that cover lots of options and a specific examples. It’ll probably end up a mix, it’s just WHAT mix that’s up in the air!


I know a four-circle Venn diagram can be tricky to execute, but maybe another circle for ‘can benefit from science’ could be added… or you could just broaden the ‘needs science’ circle by making it ‘needs / can benefit from’… actually, you can just pop ‘needs’ completely inside ‘can benefit from’.

I’m thinking games/sports is a good example of something on the periphery.

The co-opernation concept is kinda like a giant experiment, which over time should generate some useful data concerning which types of social organisation most benefit which kinds of people. So all that stuff @nimelennar mentioned could be on the periphery too.


Woah. Where to start?

Doesn’t grouping art, faith and love (and silly things) as personal and seemingly obvious risk trivializing the values of one or more of the diverse people who are prospective members of the co-op?

What’s the desired outcome?

Now this one may fit only into the personal and seemingly obvious circle.

That is a perfect analogy and metaphor wrapped up in one!

Have a pretend like: :heart::green_heart::blue_heart::purple_heart::yellow_heart:


This almost sounds like we’re deriving our ought (values) from our is (science) which would be unscientific.

I reject your entire argument.

If Republicans were right, and trans people were all just clever peeping Toms, then they’d be right to ban them from washrooms that don’t match their birth sex. How do we know they’re wrong? Neuroscience tells us that the brains of trans people are different than those of cis people, and social science tells us that predators don’t tend to cross-dress, which is (among other reasons) why they’re wrong about the bathroom thing as well. The ought must be informed by the is.

Science comes from the same root as “sword” or “scissors” — it’s the knife that separates truth from falsehood.

Imagination may give us ideas about how to create utopia, but science tells us if those ideas will work: what parts of ourselves we can change, and how to do so, what parts of our nature we have to work around, and which workarounds work best.

If you’re worried that we’ll transform into heartless creatures of pure logic if we let science make it moral code, don’t be, because science is only as heartless as the scientists doing it.


While science can inform judgment, it can’t establish values, which is what the is/ought problem points to, and why ethics is a domain of philosophy and not science. If you’re totally misinformed (as the GOP often is), that’s a separate problem, but that’s because their values are deeply flawed (hatred of anything outside their unrealistic norms, their anti-intellectualism, their authoritarianism, etc.), so they explicitly reject facts that would otherwise inform judgment.

Why it’s bad to murder, rape, steal, be greedy/cruel/anti-intellectual/etc., and not bad to be weird/gay/non-Christian/etc. aren’t scientific problems but ethical ones. But arguments about them can either be informed by science or be stupid. The GOP’s running with stupid as well as holding terrible values so they can fulfil their role as the party of complete moral failure.

I disagree.

The former attributes have measurable negative outcomes both to individuals and to society as a whole; the latter don’t.

You can measure a negative outcome once you’ve got values determining what’s good/bad, but there’s no good-o-meter/bad-o-meter, those judgments themselves are not open to quantitative analysis by experiment, even if you can inform those judgments with science to make better ones.

If ethics were something one could do science to work out you wouldn’t have virtue ethics, utilitarianism, the categorical imperative, and other theories of ethics all floating around on semi-equal footing, you’d put them under the good-o-meter to find the one that had the highest readings and be done. Values aren’t objectively measurable in that way (which isn’t to say they’re subjective).

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Can I bring up something a lot less contentious than values?

Art preservation. Really art and everything preservation. There are a lot of oil paintings by great masters that are currently being turned into soap by ongoing chemistry.

Anything preserved by digitization is preserved using science. That means all of your photos, that dumb video of you and your girlfriend at the pond, or the ebook version of Fahrenheit 451.

I would argue that economics and critical thinking don’t exactly need science. Critical thinking was developed at first by people who thought your body was governed by proportions of yellow bile, black bile, blood, and phlegm. You don’t need science to develop critical thinking, and if you ask Thomas Kuhn, science marches right along without it. Same goes for reason.

Economics aspires towards science, but it may yet prove irreducible. I’d call psychology as a field more scientific than economics ever was or possibly will be. It has an unfortunate tendency of proving unable to predict anything. Part of it comes from strong social incentives to adhere to particular framings and the inability of economists to abandon them in favor of new theories and ideas doesn’t sound very sciency to me. We’re still seeing the same Keynesian/Hayekian divide that doesn’t seem amenable to resolution with better measurement.


Also science only works as well as it does because it is value neutral. Stick to the quantitative analysis and it’s excellent. Try to pull in a qualitative analysis that isn’t quantifiable and you get a thing that’s not science any more.

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I know what you meant there, but in chemistry qualitative analysis is about determining what something is. Whereas quantitative is a matter of “how much”.

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Not mine. Trying to get ethics out of science is a 300+ year failed project.

If I could do it for us I’d be famous. :smiley_cat:

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Yes, qualitative isn’t really the right term, and by quantitative I really mean something like ‘a thing you can objectively measure in a way that you can assign some quantity to it that other people doing the same measurement will also get,’ I’m sure if I’d studied Phil. of Science more/more recently I’d have a better technical vocab. for the domain.


You have a point.

Sometimes “values” are orthogonal to the “right/wrong” answers that science can provide.

I’ve been drawn a bit off of my original point, which was: when social norms and standards are at odds with science, science wins.

So, if it’s a question that science cannot answer (like “what’s the best value system?”), then we’ll have to turn to other things as well as science. On the other hand, in those instances that science can give us a definitive answer for something, then if those answers conflict with someone’s moral code, that moral code can go die in a fart.