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Terminators: Wordplays for Ideas & Insights

Science is not Omniscience

Some of the issues discussed at the Asilomar conference can be expressed in these words: science, conscience, omniscience, prescience and conscious.

Science comes from the Latin 'scire' meaning "to know."

'Omni' means "all" and thus "omniscience" means "all-knowing." Ironically, "science" to a researcher is as much the pursuit of what we don't know as it is the codifying of what we do know. Yet many people expect omniscience of science.

Prescience means foreknowledge to some, foresight to others. It's not just a vague intuition or a hunch, but the ability to peer down the road and make out obstacles and opportunities.

In some uses, prescience means to know what is going to happen before it happens. In "A Christmas Carol" by Charles Dickens, the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come carries both connotations of prescience, when Scrooge asks of him, "Are these shadows of things that Will be, or are they shadows of things that May be, only?"

Conscience literally translates as "with knowledge" but means the moral voice or the ethical compass that guides our choices.

Conscious, as in "conscious decision," implies an awareness and an acknowledged choice between two or more options, where the options are weighed and assessed, and some are chosen while others are not. Scrooge knew well of these.


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