Saturday, February 25, 2006

Progess - some Socratic questions

A blog can't really be Socratic since there is nobody to answer me. But, in the spirit of asking insightful questions about things that are important to us I offer this post. First, you'll want to bear in mind that progress is being defined here as an increase in our ability to understand and manipulate nature, to create goodas and services, and to incorporate widely held values in social policy and law.

Here are my questions:

1. Is is really true that scientific progress makes society better? One could argue that practical problem-solving without basic research continues to provide far more value to society than scientific research.

2. Is it really true that technological progress improves society? Once again, one could argue that everyday problem-solving is far more valuable than prestigious and sexy technological innovation like fission reactors, and genetically altered animals.

3. Is unrestrained progress in science and technology really desirable? If not, then how do we know what restraints there should be or in what direction progress ought to be guided? I'm making the big assumption that a way could be found to guide progress in science and technology. (Regardless of our collective decision, we had better discuss the criteria for what counts as a good decision.)

4. What sort of progress in science and technology will best support widely held human values like family, health, individual liberty, and material security? How do we know?

Looking for a thesis, theme, or term paper, or dissertation topic? Read those questions again!

Next Up: Nationalism


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