Vanity thought #1398. Dog days are over

It’s a song from a last decade with unclear meaning, at least to me. When I tried to investigate it I got that the phrase was written as a graffiti on a wall and that was enough for the singer to make a song out of it. That’s not what I mean today, of course, my meaning is rather literal.

When Śrīla Prabhupāda came to the West it was the height of the dog civilization – people have decided that worshiping God was unprofitable and relied on their own efforts instead – instead of God they served dog. It’s an old joke that stopped being funny long time ago but it was pertinent in those days. Prabhupāda liked talking about “dog civilization”. Dogs run on four legs, humans run on four wheels, but the goal is the same, he used to say.

Well, good news – dog days are over. It doesn’t mean that people have turned to God, obviously, but their godless model of development has become bankrupt, and today I want to discuss the role of science in all that.

Although we know that it was greed and the mode of passion that created modern civilization, for the ordinary people the credit goes to science. It was the scientists who came up with inventions that transformed peoples lives and set us on the path of progress. For all practical purposes, our progress simply mirrors that of the science. Scientists push the boundaries and soon enough we get to reap the benefits – radio, TV, cars, internet and so on.

By now we all probably realize that our model of development is unsustainable as we simply don’t have enough resources to feed our growth. Our planet is only so big, at some point we’ll just run out of room. There’s also the global warming problem. There’s also the rise of illiberal societies like China and Russia. There’s decline of the West. There’s also the ticking demographic bomb. Good times will not last however you look at it. Will the science come to the rescue?

Everybody hopes that it will, that it will invent new technologies to wean us off fossil fuels, new methods of growing food, increase our productivity so that fewer workers can support the graying population and so on. I feel, however, that it’s all just wishful thinking with no basis in reality, or rather it misunderstands the role of science in the modern society.

Originally, science was a triumph of human spirit and curiosity. People were after the truth, they wanted to discover the world and the universe, they wanted to know how it all works. In KC speak we can probably say that they saw Absolute Truth in the form of the universe and it’s flawless organization, and they served this understanding of the Absolute Truth with all their hearts, honestly, sincerely, and without any personal hidden motives.

Well, not anymore.

Just like the rest of the civilization science has become too big to sustain its perpetual growth. The days when everybody could practice cutting edge research in his own house are long gone. Today’s science needs money and it needs lots of it. It also needs a lot of highly specialized equipment and lots of manpower. We have computers to help process the data, of course, but in many cases science needs massive supercomputers, not just a laptop.

We are in the situation when it’s clear we won’t get another Large Hadron Collider or another Hubble – the world simply can’t afford it anymore. We obviously have the money and we can always print as much as we want but we are not going to spend it on scientific research, we have other priorities, like two hundred trillion dollars of debt (three times world’s GDP), for example. We have wars and terrorism and huge unemployment, we simply can’t afford science.

We can’t build another LHC or Hubble for technological reasons, too – there obviously are limits on how bug these things can be. Particle collider needed to prove string theory should be the size of the galaxy, we are obviously not building that. Our space exploration program is developing backwards – from regularly flying to the Moon to no American rockets to carry people to orbit whatsoever, so forget Hubble.

To be fair the string theory can be worked on by anyone with a laptop as it’s mostly theoretical at this stage but we should also keep in mind that scientists have been going at it for half a century and still have very little to show for it when we compare it to what string theory is purported to produce. I can’t think of any other scientific theory that would require so much math for so little gain. AFAIK, nothing is stopping string theory development, there aren’t any principal obstacles like the elusive solution to uniting quantum mechanics with Einstein’s relativity. String theory got it all, it just needs more math to explain it in detail. It’s not really up to visionary thinkers at this stage to move it forward, it’s up to nerds to do the calculations, and nerds are swamped.

I’m afraid their hit their physical limits already but string theory is only getting started, and, as we know from history, there will be the next theory up shortly that would need even more math and even bigger experiments. The civilization just can’t keep up with the required pace.

There’s another force at work against science, too – greed. With so much money involved greed becomes inevitable, and with funds gradually drying up it takes the center stage. Profits have replaced principles. While on the surface investments in scientific research might keep growing, they are not advancing science, they are monetizing it, and funds are drying up for those who want to pursue science as a calling, a vocation rather than occupation.

When money matters so much science develops in a direction decided not by scientists but by sponsors, by corporations, and corporations want to get their money’s worth. They are not in the business of discovering the Absolute Truth, which should never be a business at all, and so no one is left to actually advance science, no one is able to withstand the allure of money. Greed corrupts everything and everyone who comes in touch with it.

I think anyone hoping that science will discover solutions to world’s problems is extremely naive. Corporations are having the best time of their lives, the talk about “green energy” and such is only a PR effort, vastly overblowing whatever little progress they have actually made. They do not see global warming as a problem, they see stopping it as a direct threat to themselves instead and so they will fight tooth and nail to keep their profits, so that they can afford to pay lip service to “sustainable development” and whatever, and science will comply, it has no choice.

The example with treatment of irreducible complexity I talked about for the past two days is another reason why science has become morally bankrupt and reactionary. Being so attached to its current position it will not move forward and will not embrace new ideas that might breath new life into it.

Two hundred years ago it was easy to deal with the critics – you could just carry on with your work and prove that you are right by a practical example. Now science has become institutionalized, you must comply and there’s no work outside the institution to carry on, and no one will accept your proof even if you find it. Institutionalized science abhors challenging ideas and so it will not move forward.

In short – science has lost its soul and subverted the very ideals that made is so successful in the first place. It has no future but a gradual decline even if will probably keep churning useless technological innovations at an ever increasing rate. In that sense dog days are only beginning – what is truly over is the search for the Absolute Truth, even if in the form of the universal laws.

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