Arts Or Sciences?

When you learn about something, do you find yourself more drawn to the arts or to the sciences? More creative or more rational?

Share why if you wish.

Arts Or Sciences?

Will The Future Be Better Than The Present?

Occasionally, it seems like progress is presented as inevitable. The present is better than the past, and the future will be better still. But is that actually true? Will our future be better than today?

There is no doubt that we face many problems in the present day that threaten our future. From climate change, to pollution, to overpopulation, to species extinction, and on and on.

And yet, there is still hope that, even if we can’t definitively solve these problems, at least we’ll make a start. Extrapolating the advances in science and technology over the last hundred to two hundred years provides some hope.

Carbon capture may reduce the level of greenhouse gases. At the same time, cold fusion could solve the problem of plenty of cheap, clean energy being generated, enough for the world’s population.

It goes beyond science and technology. Over the last hundred years, there have been few investments more reliable than the stock market. Yes, there have been notable crashes, but the overall trend line is up. Similarly, real estate prices have been good investments historically (at least since real estate has become a thing). Why wouldn’t these areas continue going up in the days ahead?

We are also making consistent progress in other areas. Slavery was legal throughout the world just two hundred years ago. Global poverty is declining (or at least it was prior to the COVID-19 pandemic). Why shouldn’t we see a future with fewer human rights violations, and more protection for minorities and those at risk?

But we have seen stretches in history where progress has stagnated or even reversed. Is a future where that comes to pass just as likely?

What do you think? Will our lives continue to improve in the future, or is society about to crash? Or somewhere in between?

Related questions: Is life today better than in the past? What do we owe the future? How do you plan for the future? Past, present, or future? What is the greatest problem facing humanity?


Should There Be Another Lockdown?

As COVID-19 continues to spread throughout the United States, having another lockdown has been discussed. Is it a good idea?

The argument for

Other countries that are experiencing a second wave of corona virus cases are instituting a second lockdown. The UK, for instance, has instituted a tiered system to try and contain further spread of the disease.

Closing non-essential businesses and instituting stay-at-home orders should slow the spread of the virus. Some communities are asking for help as  the number of new infections is at an all-time high.

The argument against

However, there are significant arguments against extreme measures like a lockdown. Local and national economies are already hurting from earlier efforts to contain the virus. Many businesses have already closed for good, and a record number of people have requested unemployment. Another lockdown would exacerbate economic problems, for both employers and employees.

A stay-at-home order also poses additional risks. Mental health difficulties are surging as well, and many people already struggling with loneliness and depression would face greater struggles. People in abusive situations at home would feel even more at risk as well.

It is not clear that a lockdown is even necessary. After being able to learn about the spread of the virus, relatively simple steps like mask wearing and physical distancing can have a large impact. We now know that the virus is spread primarily through droplets in the breath of those infected. Frequent hand-washing also prevents spread.

Moreover, more is known about treatment. The fatality rate of this second surge in cases is leading to a much lower number of deaths than the early infections in the spring. Increased testing and contact tracing have also been implemented in many communities.

However …

… the number of new cases is rising, including in many communities previously spared. Mandatory mask laws are being enacted in some states. A stay-at-home order — even for a few weeks — might disrupt the spread in many of our communities.

More than 230,000 people are dead, with cases and deaths continuing to rise. It seems something needs to be done.

Should there be another lockdown?

Related questions: COVID-19? Mask or no mask? How do you evaluate risk? What advice would you give your pre-lockdown self? Do you know anyone with COVID-19?

Science Fiction Or Fantasy?

Science fiction and fantasy often get grouped together in bookstores. However, they are quite different, and serve drastically different purposes. Do you like one better than the other?

Share why if you wish.

Science Fiction Or Fantasy?

Do You Believe In Fate?

There are many examples of fate or predestination in our culture. It was meant to be. If it is meant to happen, it will happen.

The idea of fate has a powerful appeal. It relieves us of responsibility. And in a world where we are drowning in our responsibilities, that can be attractive.

Fate and Religion

Sometimes, the idea of fate is tied to religion. If God has a plan for all of us, then we can have hope for the future, and that things will turn out alright, even if they seem dark right now. We all need hope to get us through trying times.

However, doesn’t the idea of fate, or a grand plan, negate the very foundation of religion? It is important that we have free will, so that our choices, for better or worse, have some meaning.

Fate and Science

Nineteenth-century science promoted the concept of a deterministic universe. If we know the position of all the particles in the universe, and where they are going and how fast, we can predict where they will end up. The universe, in that way, is like a giant, complicated billiard table.

Quantum mechanics changed that. Uncertainty was discovered to be a fundamental part of the way the quantum world of tiny, fast-moving particles works.

So it would seem that science is moving away from the concept of the deterministic universe, which would seem to leave out fate. But we don’t live in the quantum world, and the scientific principles of a mechanistic universe apply perfectly well to objects our size and going at our speed.

Fate and Us

It is easy to see the appeal of fate when an important event is about to happen or a crucial decision needs to be made. If I have an interview for a job that I really want to get, it feels good to believe that the decision is already made and all the players are just going through the motions.

It can also bring comfort at a traumatic time. When someone dies unexpectedly, it feels good to think that it was not a senseless death, but rather that it was part of some larger plan of which we are not aware.

But is that realistic? It’s also important to our sense of self to believe that we have free will. Oftentimes, it seems that people simply believe in fate or in free will as they want, without any larger thought to consistency. But maybe that’s okay.

Do you believe in fate? If so, are there certain circumstances where fate is easier to accept? Or is the idea of fate simply useful as a crutch or as a way to hold on to hope?

Related questions: How much of our thoughts are our own? What beliefs do you have that might be wrong? Are science and religion compatible? Free will or predestination? Is it a cruel world?