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PostPosted: Mon Sep 22, 2014 8:04 am
 


Some really good points brought up in this article, I think.

Quote:
How our botched understanding of 'science' ruins everything

Here's one certain sign that something is very wrong with our collective mind: Everybody uses a word, but no one is clear on what the word actually means.

One of those words is "science."

Everybody uses it. Science says this, science says that. You must vote for me because science. You must buy this because science. You must hate the folks over there because science.

Look, science is really important. And yet, who among us can easily provide a clear definition of the word "science" that matches the way people employ the term in everyday life?

So let me explain what science actually is. Science is the process through which we derive reliable predictive rules through controlled experimentation. That's the science that gives us airplanes and flu vaccines and the Internet. But what almost everyone means when he or she says "science" is something different.

To most people, capital-S Science is the pursuit of capital-T Truth. It is a thing engaged in by people wearing lab coats and/or doing fancy math that nobody else understands. The reason capital-S Science gives us airplanes and flu vaccines is not because it is an incremental engineering process but because scientists are really smart people.

In other words — and this is the key thing — when people say "science", what they really mean is magic or truth.

. . .

The vast majority of people, including a great many very educated ones, don't actually know what science is.

If you ask most people what science is, they will give you an answer that looks a lot like Aristotelian "science" — i.e., the exact opposite of what modern science actually is. Capital-S Science is the pursuit of capital-T Truth. And science is something that cannot possibly be understood by mere mortals. It delivers wonders. It has high priests. It has an ideology that must be obeyed.

This leads us astray. Since most people think math and lab coats equal science, people call economics a science, even though almost nothing in economics is actually derived from controlled experiments. Then people get angry at economists when they don't predict impending financial crises, as if having tenure at a university endowed you with magical powers. Countless academic disciplines have been wrecked by professors' urges to look "more scientific" by, like a cargo cult, adopting the externals of Baconian science (math, impenetrable jargon, peer-reviewed journals) without the substance and hoping it will produce better knowledge.

Because people don't understand that science is built on experimentation, they don't understand that studies in fields like psychology almost never prove anything, since only replicated experiment proves something and, humans being a very diverse lot, it is very hard to replicate any psychological experiment. This is how you get articles with headlines saying "Study Proves X" one day and "Study Proves the Opposite of X" the next day, each illustrated with stock photography of someone in a lab coat. That gets a lot of people to think that "science" isn't all that it's cracked up to be, since so many studies seem to contradict each other.

This is how you get people asserting that "science" commands this or that public policy decision, even though with very few exceptions, almost none of the policy options we as a polity have have been tested through experiment (or can be). People think that a study that uses statistical wizardry to show correlations between two things is "scientific" because it uses high school math and was done by someone in a university building, except that, correctly speaking, it is not. While it is a fact that increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere leads, all else equal, to higher atmospheric temperatures, the idea that we can predict the impact of global warming — and anti-global warming policies! — 100 years from now is sheer lunacy. But because it is done using math by people with tenure, we are told it is "science" even though by definition it is impossible to run an experiment on the year 2114.

This is how you get the phenomenon of philistines like Richard Dawkins and Jerry Coyne thinking science has made God irrelevant, even though, by definition, religion concerns the ultimate causes of things and, again, by definition, science cannot tell you about them.

. . .

For example, our approach to education is positively obscurantist. Nobody uses rigorous experimentation to determine better methods of education, and someone who would dare to do so would be laughed out of the room. The first and most momentous scientist of education, Maria Montessori, produced an experimentally based, scientific education method that has been largely ignored by our supposedly science-enamored society. We have departments of education at very prestigious universities, and absolutely no science happens at any of them.

. . .


http://theweek.com/article/index/268360 ... gn=twitter


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PostPosted: Mon Sep 22, 2014 8:28 am
 


Some good points. Maybe too much of an emphasis on applied science. pure science challenges predictive rules as much as establishes them.

Then:

Quote:
studies in fields like psychology almost never prove anything, since only replicated experiment proves something and, humans being a very diverse lot, it is very hard to replicate any psychological experiment.
vs
Quote:
Maria Montessori, produced an experimentally based, scientific education method that has been largely ignored by our supposedly science-enamored society
Have her experiments been replicated?

Really agree with this:
Quote:
Countless academic disciplines have been wrecked by professors' urges to look "more scientific" by, like a cargo cult, adopting the externals of Baconian science (math, impenetrable jargon, peer-reviewed journals) without the substance and hoping it will produce better knowledge.
Too bad Lemmy isn't here so we can rag on him. Maybe Khar will step in.

Quote:
This is how you get people asserting that "science" commands this or that public policy decision, even though with very few exceptions, almost none of the policy options we as a polity have have been tested through experiment (or can be).
Wasn't there at least one person here arguing that we should be governed by technocrats?


Like his swipe at Dawkins. But religion is a term also misused, and it is not just about the ultimate causes of things, but how those ultimate causes apply to our lives. So you get nutbar ideas like Adam was running around with the dinosaurs, which Science can easily disprove. Beware the wrath of the believers tho.

Science is the most powerful tool we have for understanding our world. Unfortunately it's based on a fallacy, that of the objective observer. No such thing, to greater or lesser degree, depending on what's being observed. It's Goedelian.


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PostPosted: Mon Sep 22, 2014 8:46 am
 


Yeah a little oversimplified for my tastes, but then I've been as far down as the epistemological well as I care to go--Godel's INcompoleteness Throem, Turing's Halting Problem, Zeno's Paradox and Hume's Problem of Induction. It all gets pretty inky down there.


Kick at the rock, Sam Johnson, break your bones:
But cloudy, cloudy is the stuff of stones.

-- Richard Wilbur, Epistemology

Although I find atheist evangelists invoking the name of Science as godkiller just as annoying.

Science is not based on the notion of objective observer, actually. It was until about 1901 or so, witht he advent of quantum mechanics. The assumption of objective observer is close enough for most experiments though.

Science does assume that the universe is objective though; that it has existence outside of our selves.


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PostPosted: Mon Sep 22, 2014 8:52 am
 


Zipperfish wrote:

Science is not based on the notion of objective observer, actually. It was until about 1901 or so, witht he advent of quantum mechanics. The assumption of objective observer is close enough for most experiments though.

Science does assume that the universe is objective though; that it has existence outside of our selves.


Did not know that, good to know. I've read a bit about quantum theory as it relates to consciousness, and you're right, most of the quantum boys start sounding like mystics. Some even seem to have crossed over to the light, where they are not maintaining it has existence outside ourselves. One of them, the quote was "there is no there out there." Wish I could remember who that was. Another alludes to the fact that vision is not light striking the retina and then being "seen" by the brain, ie that this has been proven to be false (in that there's a lot more involved), but he doesn't say what the current accepted theory is. For certain, in part, our brains tell us what to see. Ie it will fill in missing information with best guess, and we're not even consciously aware.

What we really need is a much better developed science of consciousness, or maybe unconsciousness would bet the better term. I don't subscribe to your idea that we are basically unconscious robots, if I got that right, but that certainly is a factor that is not taken into account in discussions of free will.


Found it:
Quote:
"There is no out there out there", physicist John Wheeler said in his attempt to explain quantum physics. All we know is how we correlate with the world. We do not really know what the world is really like, uncorrelated with us. When we seem to experience an external world that is out there, independent of us, it is something we dream up.

Modern neurobiology has reached the exact same conclusion. The visual world, what we see, is an illusion, but then a very sophisticated one. There are no colours, no tones, no constancy in the "real" world, it is all something we make up. We do so for good reasons and with great survival value. Because colors, tones and constancy are expressions of how we correlate with the world.

The merging of the epistemological lesson from quantum mechanics with the epistemological lesson from neurobiology attest to a very simple fact: What we percieve as being outside of us is indeed a fancy and elegant projection of what we have inside. We do make this projection as as result of interacting with something not inside, but everything we experience is inside.


But you're right. Trying to think your way thru that rabbit hole just means you come out the other side with a bad hangover. The answer is to sit and observe, the basic scientific method.


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PostPosted: Mon Sep 22, 2014 10:15 am
 


andyt wrote:
Did not know that, good to know.




Shrodinger's Cat is the most famous example.

Quote:
I've read a bit about quantum theory as it relates to consciousness, and you're right, most of the quantum boys start sounding like mystics. Some even seem to have crossed over to the light, where they are not maintaining it has existence outside ourselves. One of them, the quote was "there is no there out there."


The thing is, we have a common experience for a tree. Both you and I see it and can touch it and can develop symbols for it such that each know which the other is talking about. If we meet stragers, we find that they acknoedlge the existence of the tree. All cultures likely talked about trees, or wrote about them, and they shared the same essential treeness.

Note that such a common experience is not found in religion. While spirtuality is almost universal, the religious manifestation of that varied widely from culture to culture and there was no common experience for what was god or the gods.



Quote:
What we really need is a much better developed science of consciousness, or maybe unconsciousness would bet the better term. I don't subscribe to your idea that we are basically unconscious robots, if I got that right, but that certainly is a factor that is not taken into account in discussions of free will.


I believe free will is an illusion, but not that we are autmatons. I extend the idea that free will is an illusion to the enitre idea of self, which I also think is an illusion. There is no place, in my philosophy, where I end and you begin. (This, in my opinion, is where Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins fail--they are more than willing to do away with free will, but not so willing to sacrifice their egos on that same altar.) Anyways, at tyhe end of the day, it's a phiolosophy (as opposed to a religion) of Zen Buddhism for me. Which is why I agree with most of your following comments as well.

Quote:
Found it:
Quote:
"There is no out there out there", physicist John Wheeler said in his attempt to explain quantum physics. All we know is how we correlate with the world. We do not really know what the world is really like, uncorrelated with us. When we seem to experience an external world that is out there, independent of us, it is something we dream up.


John Wheeler is a lot of funny, though he's pretty out there. A ferocious intellect though. Robert Bohm was anotehr theoretical physicist who was pushing the envelope too.


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PostPosted: Mon Sep 22, 2014 10:48 am
 


andyt wrote:
Zipperfish wrote:

Science is not based on the notion of objective observer, actually. It was until about 1901 or so, witht he advent of quantum mechanics. The assumption of objective observer is close enough for most experiments though.

Science does assume that the universe is objective though; that it has existence outside of our selves.


Did not know that, good to know. I've read a bit about quantum theory as it relates to consciousness, and you're right, most of the quantum boys start sounding like mystics.


That reminded me of a good rant I read a couple months ago:

Quote:
You know what's great? Thinking. Thinking about science is wonderful, but so is thinking about philosophy, thinking about ethics, thinking about language, thinking about myth and archetype, thinking about story and verse, and thinking about almost anything else. The ability to enjoy our minds, and the minds of others, is one of humanity's greatest gifts. It doesn't need to be excused by adding the word "quantum."

. . .

This is also what I hate about shoving "quantum" stuff into where it doesn't belong. When you have to compare your art, your mythology, or your sociology with quantum mechanics, you're tacitly admitting that not one of them was worth thinking about in the first place. You're essentially saying, "Yeah, this is stupid crap, but it might be associated with Important Science


http://io9.com/quantum-mechanics-it-doe ... 1609440180

The 'double slit' experiment was also a bit of a wake up call in that the observer can change the outcome of an experiment just by observing it.


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PostPosted: Mon Sep 22, 2014 11:12 am
 


DrCaleb wrote:
[
This is also what I hate about shoving "quantum" stuff into where it doesn't belong. When you have to compare your art, your mythology, or your sociology with quantum mechanics, you're tacitly admitting that not one of them was worth thinking about in the first place. You're essentially saying, "Yeah, this is stupid crap, but it might be associated with Important Science


http://io9.com/quantum-mechanics-it-doe ... 1609440180

[/quote]

Human nature though. What animtaed Frankenstein? Electricity. At the time electricity was mysterious. What created spiderman? A radioactive spider created Spiderman, because radioactivity adn atomic power were the big mysteries at the time. In the new spiderman, it's a genetically engineered spider (because we know that radioactivity just fucks you up).

The forefront of science is where the mysteries still lay. That's why peopole latch their cart to it.

Although I 'm a guilty party, because I once sold a story to an anthoilogy publishing "Quantum Fiction." I hadn't written in for teh anthology; it was just this bizarre little piece I had no idea what to do with.


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