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Thread: Science and Totalitarianism

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    Ni dieu ni maître! Senior Member a completely inoffensive name's Avatar
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    Default Science and Totalitarianism

    I think I have danced around this question before regarding China, but I figure I should explicitly pose it now.

    Is Science and Totalitarian politics fundamentally incompatible? I've read arguments that the scientific method (when taught right) will instill a degree of skepticism and rationality in a middle class or "scientific" class which chafes under politics dictated by cult of personalities or pseudo science.

    Perhaps this is the fundamental key many have forgotten. China's rise in living standards did not invoke any political reforms. Maybe it's not the wealth of the public, but their scientific literacy which makes democratic institutions preferable over totalitarian ones. As China becomes more of a global leader in scientific knowledge and transitions from cheap labor to a knowledge based economy, that is when we will see growing demand for democracy and diversity of thought within the political environment. Thoughts?
    In all these papers we see a love of honest work, an aversion to shams, a caution in the enunciation of conclusions, a distrust of rash generalizations and speculations based on uncertain premises. He was never anxious to add one more guess on doubtful matters in the hope of hitting the truth, or what might pass as such for a time, but was always ready to take infinite pains in the most careful testing of every theory. With these qualities was united a modesty which forbade the pushing of his own claims and desired no reputation except the unsought tribute of competent judges.

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    Headless Senior Member Pannonian's Avatar
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    Default Re: Science and Totalitarianism

    Democracy checks tyranny. Technocracy checks irrationalism. China is run by technocrats with no democratic layer. Corruption and bureaucracy allowing, their government's policies aims for the most efficient solutions to problems, with no regard for humanity whatsoever.

  3. #3

    Default Re: Science and Totalitarianism

    Quote Originally Posted by a completely inoffensive name View Post
    I think I have danced around this question before regarding China, but I figure I should explicitly pose it now.

    Is Science and Totalitarian politics fundamentally incompatible? I've read arguments that the scientific method (when taught right) will instill a degree of skepticism and rationality in a middle class or "scientific" class which chafes under politics dictated by cult of personalities or pseudo science.

    Perhaps this is the fundamental key many have forgotten. China's rise in living standards did not invoke any political reforms. Maybe it's not the wealth of the public, but their scientific literacy which makes democratic institutions preferable over totalitarian ones. As China becomes more of a global leader in scientific knowledge and transitions from cheap labor to a knowledge based economy, that is when we will see growing demand for democracy and diversity of thought within the political environment. Thoughts?
    I don't understand what "science" has to do with popular consciousness of democracy. Has this been demonstrated anywhere, causally either with reference to science education or to a measure of institutional and technological growth? Possibly relevant from the first page of Google results:

    Quote Originally Posted by Democracy and science: two sides of the same coin?
    https://pedagogikkogkritikk.no/index.php/ntpk/article/view/559/2559

    Although this study includes only 18 pre-service teachers, the study indicates that students during the compulsory education in Norway acquire a rather thin understanding of democracy and without any connectedness between the natural science subject and the concept of democracy.

    Orthogonally: I can't find it, but I recall one article discussing modern information processing and the rising advantage of authoritarianism over democracy in this regard:

    1. Democracy distributes and disperses information processing through individuals, enterprises, civil society, and other groups.
    2. Totalitarianism centralizes information processing to the state/organization apparatus. [n.b. It's important to emphasize that China explicitly abandoned this pure model after Mao, you know, for all the reasons we recall]
    3. In the past, administrative and technological structures did not afford centralized controllers the capacity, speed, or flexibility to process information as efficiently and effectively as in democracies. For example, democratic economic planning (or more precisely, economic planning in democratic countries).
    4. The above has changed. Now centralized processing can be as or more efficient than distributed processing, and avoids the shortcomings of democracy, such as - you know, having multiple competitive-but-not-antagonistic societal pillars of power.
    5. ???
    6. Profit with data


    I guess you don't even need boots to stamp on a human face forever (or however long we have).

    Does something about biometric or digital data need to be established as a human right and resource?


    Is Science and Totalitarian politics fundamentally incompatible? I've read arguments that the scientific method (when taught right) will instill a degree of skepticism and rationality in a middle class or "scientific" class which chafes under politics dictated by cult of personalities or pseudo science.
    This actually sounds verbatim like something social democrats of the pre-war era would have speculated, come to think of it.
    Last edited by Montmorency; 01-14-2019 at 02:35.
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    Member Member Tuuvi's Avatar
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    Default Re: Science and Totalitarianism

    Quote Originally Posted by a completely inoffensive name View Post
    I think I have danced around this question before regarding China, but I figure I should explicitly pose it now.

    Is Science and Totalitarian politics fundamentally incompatible? I've read arguments that the scientific method (when taught right) will instill a degree of skepticism and rationality in a middle class or "scientific" class which chafes under politics dictated by cult of personalities or pseudo science.

    Perhaps this is the fundamental key many have forgotten. China's rise in living standards did not invoke any political reforms. Maybe it's not the wealth of the public, but their scientific literacy which makes democratic institutions preferable over totalitarian ones. As China becomes more of a global leader in scientific knowledge and transitions from cheap labor to a knowledge based economy, that is when we will see growing demand for democracy and diversity of thought within the political environment. Thoughts?
    I think it depends on the field and whether or not the research could pose a threat to the state's legitimacy and power. Hard sciences like physics, biology, and the like can co-exist with a totalitarian regime just fine, because they don't have anything to do with society and governance. In fact they are probably quite useful to totalitarian governments because the research done in those fields can be used for weapon development, nuclear programs, crafting policies, and so on. Any modern state needs engineers, doctors, etc.

    Social sciences like sociology and anthropology on the other hand, could expose failures in state policy or social antagonisms the government doesn't want uncovered, and I'm willing to bet they're heavily censored and suppressed in more authoritarian countries (I'm too lazy to find a source to back up this claim though).

    I disagree with your assumption that whether or not a country is democratic or not is a matter of the peoples' preferences and how brainwashed they are by propaganda. I think a lot of people, scientists included, are apolitical and are willing to tolerate an oppressive government so long as their salary is decent and they aren't negatively affected by the state's rule. I also think a lot of people, the working poor included, are deeply dissatisfied with their oppressive government but they keep it to themselves because agitating for political change would result in harsh punishment and even death. It's important to remember here that all states, democratic and authoritarian ones alike, maintain their power through violence, not just "consent of the governed".
    Last edited by Tuuvi; 01-15-2019 at 04:12.

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    Default Re: Science and Totalitarianism

    Mainland China never experienced a democracy. And with a significant percentage of the population raised out of the poverty level, this is an actual improvement to their living standards. And the Chinese cities developed way beyond the point that the Chinese ever dreamed of before. I've talked with several people from China. Some of them I met since the mid-1990s. They said that they supported their government because of the improvement in the economy. China used to be a country that experienced famines during the Cold War due to Mao's errors. The current leader, Xi Jinping, gained popularity with his anti-corruption campaign. Corruption drags the living standards and the rights of the average people down. There are examples in other countries, which the Chinese are well-aware of. And with people unable to express their doubts due to censorship and the fear of punishment, they'll think it's better just to conform to the government. Thus, it gets harder to spread the ideas in improving human rights.

    This doesn't mean that all of them blindly support their government. Some of the Chinese express their doubts on the Chinese government when they're outside the country or in China privately where the government can't hear them. I know a few Chinese who used to support Xi Jinping until he took away the term limit. I think that if the slowing down of the economy gets worse, people will become more expressive on their disapproval.

    North Korea is a country that never experienced a democracy, nor did they ever experience a fully opened economy. Currently, their main economy is the black market. Prior to the North Korean regime, Korea was under foreign occupation. And before that, Korea was run by a monarchy. The North Korean defectors have said that this was one of the reasons why it was hard to get the people to overthrow the North Korean regime. It would be harder for a totalitarian government to keep control if the people experienced a democracy for a significant amount of time (unless invaded and occupied by a stronger totalitarian country).
    Last edited by Shaka_Khan; 01-15-2019 at 09:51.
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    Default Re: Science and Totalitarianism

    One thing to remember about China is that it is wracked by protests throughout the country, daily, and has long been so (Economist: "Why protests are so common in China"). The thing is, these protests are not like the Yellow Jackets in France or Occupy Wall Street, whose byword are/were basically " the system". If millions of people started marching through China's public spaces demanding wholesale (if underspecified) social and governmental change, that would give the Party deja vu of Tiananmen Square...

    Rather, Chinese protests are generally "issue" protests, such as unmet government commitments, urban migrant permitting rights, HIV patient rights, Falun Gong rights, Tibetan rights, industrial-sector labor unrest... the important thing is that these protests are limited in scope, intend to "work within the system", and are largely non-political. That suits the leadership just fine, or at least relatively fine given the baseline social stress.

    Divide and conquer and all that.

    FWIW
    Last edited by Montmorency; 01-15-2019 at 08:43.
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    Member Member Gilrandir's Avatar
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    Default Re: Science and Totalitarianism

    Quote Originally Posted by Shaka_Khan View Post
    Mainland China never experienced a democracy. And with a significant percentage of the population raised out of the poverty level, this is an actual improvement to their living standards. And the Chinese cities developed way beyond the point that the Chinese ever dreamed of before. I've talked with several people from China. Some of them I met since the mid-1990s. They said that they supported their government because of the improvement in the economy. China used to be a country that experienced famines during the Cold War due to Mao's errors. The current leader, Xi Jinping, gained popularity with his anti-corruption campaign. Corruption drags the living standards and the rights of the average people down. There are examples in other countries, which the Chinese are well-aware of. And with people unable to express their doubts due to censorship and the fear of punishment, they'll think it's better just to conform to the government. Thus, it gets harder to spread the ideas in improving human rights.

    This doesn't mean that all of them blindly support their government. Some of the Chinese express their doubts on the Chinese government when they're outside the country or in China privately where the government can't hear them. I know a few Chinese who used to support Xi Jinping until he took away the term limit. I think that if the slowing down of the economy gets worse, people will become more expressive on their disapproval.

    North Korea is a country that never experienced a democracy, nor did they ever experience a fully opened economy. Currently, their main economy is the black market. Prior to the North Korean regime, Korea was under foreign occupation. And before that, Korea was run by a monarchy. The North Korean defectors have said that this was one of the reasons why it was hard to get the people to overthrow the North Korean regime. It would be harder for a totalitarian government to keep control if the people experienced a democracy for a significant amount of time (unless invaded and occupied by a stronger totalitarian country).
    Quote Originally Posted by Montmorency View Post
    One thing to remember about China is that it is wracked by protests throughout the country, daily, and has long been so (Economist: "Why protests are so common in China"). The thing is, these protests are not like the Yellow Jackets in France or Occupy Wall Street, whose byword are/were basically " the system". If millions of people started marching through China's public spaces demanding wholesale (if underspecified) social and governmental change, that would give the Party deja vu of Tiananmen Square...

    Rather, Chinese protests are generally "issue" protests, such as unmet government commitments, urban migrant permitting rights, HIV patient rights, Falun Gong rights, Tibetan rights, industrial-sector labor unrest... the important thing is that these protests are limited in scope, intend to "work within the system", and are largely non-political. That suits the leadership just fine, or at least relatively fine given the baseline social stress.

    Divide and conquer and all that.

    FWIW
    And this all bears on science because....
    Quote Originally Posted by Suraknar View Post
    The article exists for a reason yes, I did not write it...

  8. #8

    Default Re: Science and Totalitarianism

    Quote Originally Posted by Gilrandir View Post
    And this all bears on science because....
    This topic isn't just about science. It's about whether science can affect a totalitarian country. It's wondering whether science can bring democracy or not. I'm saying that science alone can't change a totalitarian country. There are other factors.

    Speaking of China, the relationship between Canada and China is getting more and more tense.



    China released a Canadian teacher for allegedly working there illegally:



    China is Canada's second largest national two-way trade partner after the United States.
    Last edited by Shaka_Khan; 01-15-2019 at 12:04.
    Wooooo!!!

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    Darkside Medic Senior Member rory_20_uk's Avatar
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    Default Re: Science and Totalitarianism

    The Soviet Union was not overthrown by science, good or bad; from the renaissance to very recently almost all countries at best had extremely limited democracy with a minute fraction of wealthy men voting. Science didn't have any issue with that.

    Some scientists even tried to use the "scientific method" to prove other races are lesser or sub-human. Others were more than happy to use science to devise weapons to kill and mutilate people whose only difference was being directed to fight by a different leader.

    Last edited by rory_20_uk; 01-16-2019 at 18:41. Reason: racists/races
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    Apr 04-Nov 11 Senior Member Strike For The South's Avatar
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    Default Re: Science and Totalitarianism

    I mean, what is science being "taught right"? All that comes to mind to me is the new atheism movement and its thinly veiled Islamophboia, or the techbros who wish to harken back to some soviet style Technocracy.

    Human beings are more than data and results. I've got my eye on science.
    “I was not designed to be forced. I will breathe after my own fashion. Let us see who is the strongest.” -Thoreau

    My aim, then, was to whip the rebels, to humble their pride, to follow them to their inmost recesses, and make them fear and dread us. Fear is the beginning of wisdom.

    I am tired and sick of war. Its glory is all moonshine. It is only those who have neither fired a shot nor heard the shrieks and groans of the wounded who cry aloud for blood, for vengeance, for desolation.

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    Praefectus Fabrum Senior Member Anime BlackJack Champion, Flash Poker Champion, Word Up Champion, Shape Game Champion, Snake Shooter Champion, Fishwater Challenge Champion, Rocket Racer MX Champion, Jukebox Hero Champion, Cub Shoot 2 Champion, My House Is Bigger Than Your House Champion, Funky Pong Champion, Cutie Quake Champion, Fling The Cow Champion, Treasure Diver Champion, Tiger Punch Champion, Virus Champion, Solitaire Champion, Worm Race Champion, Slack Man Champion, Japanese Baseball Champion, Rope Walker Champion, Penguin Pass Champion, Skate Park Champion, Super Mario Mushroom Champion, Watch Out Champion, Lawn Pac Champion, Weapons Of Mass Destruction Champion, Skate Boarder Champion, Fish Kill Champion, Lane Bowling Champion, Bugz Champion, Makai Grand Prix 2 Champion, KF 9000 Champion, White Van Man Champion, Parachute Panic Champion, BlackJack Champion, Stans Ski Jumping Champion, Smaugs Treasure Champion, Sofa Longjump Champion Seamus Fermanagh's Avatar
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    Default Re: Science and Totalitarianism

    Quote Originally Posted by Gilrandir View Post
    And this all bears on science because....
    Because science is too idealistically labeled as "a-political."

    Science for the sake of science is the 'dream' of quite a few idealists, but it seldom happens. Life intrudes with deadlines, funding issues, etc. Hence, politics.
    "The only way that has ever been discovered to have a lot of people cooperate together voluntarily is through the free market. And that's why it's so essential to preserving individual freedom.” -- Milton Friedman

    "The urge to save humanity is almost always a false front for the urge to rule." -- H. L. Mencken

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    Praefectus Fabrum Senior Member Anime BlackJack Champion, Flash Poker Champion, Word Up Champion, Shape Game Champion, Snake Shooter Champion, Fishwater Challenge Champion, Rocket Racer MX Champion, Jukebox Hero Champion, Cub Shoot 2 Champion, My House Is Bigger Than Your House Champion, Funky Pong Champion, Cutie Quake Champion, Fling The Cow Champion, Treasure Diver Champion, Tiger Punch Champion, Virus Champion, Solitaire Champion, Worm Race Champion, Slack Man Champion, Japanese Baseball Champion, Rope Walker Champion, Penguin Pass Champion, Skate Park Champion, Super Mario Mushroom Champion, Watch Out Champion, Lawn Pac Champion, Weapons Of Mass Destruction Champion, Skate Boarder Champion, Fish Kill Champion, Lane Bowling Champion, Bugz Champion, Makai Grand Prix 2 Champion, KF 9000 Champion, White Van Man Champion, Parachute Panic Champion, BlackJack Champion, Stans Ski Jumping Champion, Smaugs Treasure Champion, Sofa Longjump Champion Seamus Fermanagh's Avatar
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    Default Re: Science and Totalitarianism

    Quote Originally Posted by rory_20_uk View Post
    The Soviet Union was not overthrown by science, good or bad; from the renaissance to very recently almost all countries at best had extremely limited democracy with a minute fraction of wealthy men voting. Science didn't have any issue with that.

    Some scientists even tried to use the "scientific method" to prove other racists are lesser or sub-human...
    I am pretty sure you meant 'races' and not 'racists.' Racists have volunteered proof about themselves having deficiencies in their thinking.


    And yes, the Eugenics science was ultimately quite racist. Proving differences between human phenotypes is easy, but nobody has proved any difference in essential nature.
    "The only way that has ever been discovered to have a lot of people cooperate together voluntarily is through the free market. And that's why it's so essential to preserving individual freedom.” -- Milton Friedman

    "The urge to save humanity is almost always a false front for the urge to rule." -- H. L. Mencken

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    Ni dieu ni maître! Senior Member a completely inoffensive name's Avatar
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    Default Re: Science and Totalitarianism

    Quote Originally Posted by rory_20_uk View Post
    The Soviet Union was not overthrown by science, good or bad
    Planned economy failed due to bad economics?
    In all these papers we see a love of honest work, an aversion to shams, a caution in the enunciation of conclusions, a distrust of rash generalizations and speculations based on uncertain premises. He was never anxious to add one more guess on doubtful matters in the hope of hitting the truth, or what might pass as such for a time, but was always ready to take infinite pains in the most careful testing of every theory. With these qualities was united a modesty which forbade the pushing of his own claims and desired no reputation except the unsought tribute of competent judges.

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    Ni dieu ni maître! Senior Member a completely inoffensive name's Avatar
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    Default Re: Science and Totalitarianism

    Quote Originally Posted by Strike For The South View Post
    I mean, what is science being "taught right"? All that comes to mind to me is the new atheism movement and its thinly veiled Islamophboia, or the techbros who wish to harken back to some soviet style Technocracy.

    Human beings are more than data and results. I've got my eye on science.
    Poor phrasing on my part. I think the gist of what I have read entails a science curriculum that more emphasizes values such as intellectual honesty, deliberation, and patience, in addition to the fundamental knowledge that students are expected to learn.
    Last edited by a completely inoffensive name; 01-17-2019 at 05:21.
    In all these papers we see a love of honest work, an aversion to shams, a caution in the enunciation of conclusions, a distrust of rash generalizations and speculations based on uncertain premises. He was never anxious to add one more guess on doubtful matters in the hope of hitting the truth, or what might pass as such for a time, but was always ready to take infinite pains in the most careful testing of every theory. With these qualities was united a modesty which forbade the pushing of his own claims and desired no reputation except the unsought tribute of competent judges.

  15. #15

    Default Re: Science and Totalitarianism

    Quote Originally Posted by a completely inoffensive name View Post
    Poor phrasing on my part. I think the gist of what I have read entails a science curriculum that more emphasizes values such as intellectual honesty, deliberation, and patience, in addition to the fundamental knowledge that students are expected to learn.
    Are professional scientists especially honest, deliberative, or patient as individuals?
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