Few top ranked scholars are going into government or academic professions; many are going into Think Tanks, which are supported by private interests that are guided often by ideological self-interest.
To suggest that intellectuals rise above ideology is impractical. Explicit commitment is preferable to bogus neutrality. But truth is an indispensable touchstone.
It is true that ideology can influence the Science but not for long... In the same way that the Church and Aristotle's Ideas influenced technology for well over 1000 years... in the end the power of Rome is now very diminished regardless of the burnings and denouncements and torture. The Age of Enlightenment is upon us which till recently entrenched the free and open congress of ideas and the freedom to express them. It led such "technical luminaries" as Ben Franklin to help pen the Declaration of Independence. Those who signed, though flawed in some ways, expressed the best that society at the time could muster in "dark times" of oppression.
The world is a set of competing "ideologies" and while there is a diversity of opinion there will be a competition similar to Darwinian Selection which ultimately "culls" the obsessed politically correct "fools" from the system. Corrections of ideology will occur from time to time ... such as the excesses of the market and the belief that it could "defy gravity" against all morality and common sense for so long. Hint: The World Economy --- Globalization, The "Free" Market, Small Government... --- Pick any two.
Unfortunately in Science's case the lag in time may seem long but a process is in motion which ultimately ... in the fullness of time... wins through. This can be graphically illustrated by Nazi Germany and it's ideology which shaped it's pre-war super-science. Germany just before WWII was a decade ahead of the rest of the world in several key technologies. However it had a mor*n as it's leader and he was entrenched in his "quasi-religious" philosophies which did not engender any "free will" for the masses. There were no questioning of his authority or the correctness of his ideological approach.. he was a totalitarian through and through. I am sure he had his Think Tanks too with their "religious objectives" such as the search for the origins for a Teutonic version of the Aryan Races. All religious "feel good" stuff for the "Homeland" to dwell upon. Wikipedia: Thule Society
This "religious nonsense" can exist in a political vacuum and even flourish... but in the end... when an Ideological and Totalitarian Power is confronted by even a backward and anally retentive technological Power like Great Britain during the early part of WWII, the "Truth will out". It is the very essence of Science to "travel better" in free and open society (even in wartime) when a knowledge of science is true wisdom and leads to power (though this "struggle" is not inevitable at least in the short term). Unfortunately as all will say "Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely". Unfortunately no society can lay an eternal claim to "freedom". If needs to be restated in each generation. The "openness" of wartime Britain was replaced by a "new theology" in peacetime... when their immediate goals were obtained and behind them. There was a mistrust of Science and especially the Scientists such as those at Bletchley Park and of course cleaver people like Alan Turing (Enigma code breakers and early information theory development) and Thomas (Tommy) Flowers (the inventor of "Colossus"... the forerunner of the first reprogrammable digital computers). Wikipedia: Colossus - WWIIWikipedia: Alan Turing
Other people such as Sir Frank Whittle and his turbo-Jet engine was also laughed at by the Air Ministry and by Churchill and his project languished practically until after the war... Of course Germany developed the ME262 and that was really something... Fortunately for the west Hitler was in charge and his ideology once again "saved the day for all"... he commissioned his jets as Bombers and nobody could dissuade him (See Adolf Galland's Book).Wikipedia: Adolf Galland
Another "lucky event" was Hitlers influence over the German Atom Bomb Project which he considered as being "Jewish Physics" and a travesty since Hitler consider Jews as being "sub-human" and probably lower than rats on the evolutionary scale. See the movie "Triumph des Willens" or "Triumph of the Will" by the talented Director Leni Riefenstahl. Talent is not enough when you deal in lies. However the west has learned a lot from Nazi Propaganda as we all know.Wikipedia: Triumph of the Will
Sir Winston Churchill did not like all this new science and it threatened "the natural order" in Great Britain which was based on a class structure they inherited from those long years in "the Raj" and earlier Feudal Society.Wikipedia: The British Raj in India
So Churchill, after the war was won, began to turn back the clock to a point where much of these new ideas "did not exist"... at least at an official level. Alan Turing was a great patriot in the War but peacetime Britain could not accept such an open and defiant personality who was also a homosexual and Tommy Flowers was an "upstart from the working classes" who attended a Public School. Churchill saw the two of them as "threats" and the rest is history. Recently both their stories have been made more public but only in hindsight and "too late" to give any credit for their real legacy. After destroying all of the computers and all of the plans Churchill though Britain was "safe" again from these devilish developments. He was wrong... The United States decided that they were not going to be held back by these "bad ideologies". So Jets, Computers and even Atom Bombs and other technologies advanced relentlessly in countries where the mind was open and falters in countries where the mind was closed. Overall these developments have arguably assisted mankind in it's development but it always rests in the hands of "fools" to stuff things up. They and their peoples unfortunately get "awarded" the "Darwin Award" for their errors. Today the German People have come through at the other end of a very long and dark tunnel. They are thriving now but I am sure these former follies will be remembered if they "choose" them to be remembered. I hope that this will not need to happen again for more bitter lessons to be learned by all.
But truth is an indispensable touchstone
Unfortunately "Truth" is not so easy to define. What was true in pre-war Britain is not true today. Science develops and builds on the past to create an ever growing edifice of "fact" that approaches truth. We cannot ever 'achieve" real truth any more than a Religious "True Believer" can ever achieve truth. Science simply improves "material Truth" which is a "working draft" (a work in progress) of some as yet unseen and infinitely long process of approach to an "Absolute Truth". Mathematics can define truth in propositions and theorems in a different way to "physical reality" which is truly a great work for some but it is not mathematics that define what our world and it's Physics can achieve. We are continually redefining the meaning of our "Relative Truth" according to our needs and our openness to accept the change that it brings. Kurt Gödel and his Incompleteness Theorems showed conclusively and "mathematically" that none of our theories (Scientific or otherwise) that are based on fundamental propositions can achieve true "Truth".Wikipedia: Kurt GodelWikipedia: Gödel's incompleteness theorems
This is because a new revelation will always in some way subtlety affect the underlying postulates and this process is by it's nature "endless". Of course you can then take the point of view that some Guru's already know the "Ultimate Truth" but this is the error that all religions have and that individuals such as Hitler had. There is no "Rest" for those who would seek what is "True". Everything "true" today was once merely a conjecture in the mind of a philosopher of Science. Furthermore all the truth we hold dear today will one day be reduced to or shown to be falsehoods on the path to Truth of a later age. In the end there are no "half-truths" only great lies. Every "Great Lie" has at it's foundation a relative truth that misses the mark by a very tiny fraction. If this was not so everyone would see through all "Lies" and people like Adolf Hitler would never arise to supreme power.
So "scholars" beware... There is a very 'ill tempered genie" waiting in the wings to assist mankind but it does not like "being put into a bottle".
26th April 2009 - 10:36 AM
I have often wondered what the world would be like if adults had the energy level I see constantly displayed by children at play. Perhaps we see a bit of this energy when we see the old tycoon still struggling for more money and grasping for more power even as death appears eminent.
It appears to me that energy is generated in humans when we are in action and when that action meets certain needs. If we extrapolate from the children and adults at play we might very well conclude that when action is play, energy will continue to be generated.
How do we adults make our actions seem to be play rather than work? Action becomes play when we are creating. Also action becomes energy generating when it fulfills our needs for immortality.
I would claim that play, power, survival, and the need for immortality are the four sources of human energy.
In the beginning of civilization thought and knowledge was regarded as valuable things. However, we have discovered that thought and knowledge can also be dangerous and destructive. Today technology, one of our most touted accomplishments, is often presenting us with daunting dangers. “Therefore, with the growth of technology the human race is faced with tremendous crisis.”—David Bohm
“So the kind of thought that’s going on all around us begins to take over in every one of us, without our even knowing it. It’s spreading like a virus and each one of us is nourishing that virus…I’m trying to say that most of our thought in its general form is not individual. It originates in the whole culture and it pervades us.”--David Bohm
A fundamental need of our being is self-activation. The self-activation demanded of me may prove to be without inner friction, i.e. with inner pleasure or it may, contrarily, create inner discord and un-pleasure. The feeling of pleasure with self-activation “is always a feeling of free self-activation”.
Economics is a good example of how some sciences handle human relationships. Economics treats humans like objects and ignores there subjective aspects. Humans are treated as two dimensional rather than like a diamond with multiple facets. Economics is a good example of a science that ignores nonlinear problems, i.e. problems not under the lamp-post.