The Tribe of Science

This is an expanded and improved version of my comment to the article There is only one dogma of science: truth is better than fantasy. The term “tribe of science” is taken from that blog’s author reply to my comment, as I found his term to be more descriptive and poetic than my original term.


Science exists in two forms. There is the concept of science itself, and there is science as a group belief – the tribe of science. Like one has Christianity as in the bible, and Christianity as a group belief that often has little relation to the bible. There is science as a method or idea, and science as a symbol; a group ideal that one feels connected to.

There are Christians who react with violence to “heathen” behaviour, though the new testament  never allows violence, not even as a reaction to violence – one should turn the other cheek! This is Christianity as the group symbol – the reaction does not stem from the belief in Christ, but from the group attachment. Similarly, there are scientists and “Believers in Science” who not only discard but ridicule statements, ideas, experiences and thoughts without as much as considering the possibility of their “truth”, much less trying to disprove them. This is far from how conclusions are reached by scientific means, exactly like the violence and warmongering of many christian groups is far from the teachings of Jesus. There are also those who seem to deny the possibility that current scientific theories may have overlooked/misunderstood something – who in words may say that “according to current knowledge there is no indication that…” while obviously believing and behaving as “there is no possibility that…”.

The kind of behaviour as described above explains why some call atheism and “science” for beliefs: many who profess their conviction in either of these (usually both) display the same type of behaviour, reasoning and closed-mindedness that is often, especially by these people themselves, connected to religiousness. Religious people’s behaviour towards their religion does not, in general, come from the fact that they believe in a God, but because the religion is, as I have called it here, the group ideal. This type of behaviour and attitude comes from humans group behaviour – our tribal nature -, and it is only natural (and reasonable) that such behaviour should occur within “science” as well when it becomes a group ideal. (To be fair though, some concepts/ideals/beliefs are more easily abused by our tribal nature than others).

Religions and political movements have wrongfully been blamed for actions that are generally thought of as a result of the content of a religious/political belief itself, or the nature of religious beliefs. The true culprit is the tribal nature of humans. As discussed in Categorizing Beliefs, if one is concerned about people’s behaviour, beliefs should be classified according to the relevant properties – making the psychological attachment more important than philosophical content. According to internal, psychological criteria, “science” or “evolution” can be a belief equally well as Islam.


4 thoughts on “The Tribe of Science

  1. According to the above mentioned, does it mean that people react in general in a “tribal way”? Does it mean that most of their decisions influence the opinions of what the others say? Does it mean that in fact they do not follow their own will but the will of someone else? Then it means that one actually does not know who he really is and what he wants or why he does what he does. It seems to me as one would be naturally “insane”in legal meaning of the words.
    To sum up, acting in the “tribal way” in any group would mean that a human does actually not have any own opinion. Unfortunately, it usually feels like this, as the novel 1984 by Orwell. Nevertheles, we’ll see what the future brings…


    • One should be aware of that the mechanism described above constitutes a general description of the process, which means that we can observe such behaviour in a majority of people. So you are right, Michaela, when you say “general” and “the most”. Despite of some people who do not follow the pattern and try to form “their own will”, numerous are still those who unconsciously adopt the opinion of the group. The key word here is unconsciously, for those who diverge are often unconscious, as well. This tragical unconsciousness of the choice is what Maximus is tying to highlight in the article.

      As to the word “own” applied to opinion or will, we want to emphasize that it is almost impossible to draw the line between the “one’s own” and the “other’s”. Whether one adopts an opinion or form it oneself, one still experiences the opinion as one’s own. Asking oneself quiestions is a privilege of the wisest, isn’t it? Ask yourself “who you really are and why you do what you do”, and you will see that the ultimate answer is almost inconceivable.


    • One of the questions that interest me the most, and which is in some sense the focus of many of our articles here, is in what sense does the things we commonly talk about – will, self, morality and so on – actually exist. What is our “will”?

      The people I claim act and react in tribal way, they are not coerced or bribed to do so. Usually, if not always, they are hardly conscious of it prior and during the process. Why do they do act as such then? It seems the most probable answer, one that has some scientific foundation in psychology, is that humans are, commonly, naturally inclined to such behaviour. It is something inside them that draws them towards the “tribe”, to defend it and act as part of it. Can we not say, then, that it is their will to do so?

      In a sense, one can say that a decision made at gunpoint is not against one’s will, but according to one’s will to live. Tribal behaviour is acting according to one’s, let us call it, will to society.

      One can object and say that this tribal behaviour is, usually, not according to one’s will since one is not conscious of exactly why one is behaving a certain way. But if will is to be so directly connected to consciousness, then it will be difficult to say if we ever act according to our will. Even if we can give a conscious explanation for our behaviour and thinking, is this explanation true? We know from psychology that such explanations are often, depending on the context, post hoc, and in many situations not trustworthy. What is actually the role of the consciousness?

      On the topic of that question, we will soon publish a new article, where we describe real experiments and observations done scientifically and then discuss them. I think you will find it very interesting.


  2. Pingback: Implausibility of Objectivity | Interactive philosophy

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