Science and truth

Discussions on the philosophical foundations, assumptions, and implications of science, including the natural sciences.

Re: Science and truth

Postby NoShips on November 21st, 2016, 12:31 pm 

I never understand much of Badger's jelly. Is it just me or the Myanmar beer?
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Re: Science and truth

Postby neuro on November 22nd, 2016, 11:33 am 

NoShips, I'm sorry, I do not see the purpose of going on with this.
We clearly speak two different languages.

In my language,
True/false apply to statements. Not to reality. Reality IS, it is not "true".

Truth is not the reality (why should we need two different terms to indicate the same thing?).
Truth is the appropriate appreciation, description, understanding of reality.

What is there is ontology.
Whether I am right in interpreting it the way I do (whether I do o do not possess the "truth") is epistemology.

This in my language.
I may certainly be wrong, because I may not understand anything about what "ontology" and "epistemology" refer to (I am only a physician, not a philosopher).
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Re: Science and truth

Postby NoShips on November 22nd, 2016, 11:48 am 

Neuro, I think almost everything you said above is exactly right. We're speaking the same language! But it seems at variance with some of your earlier remarks. For example you said on the previous page:

"But we must not forget that truth is not an ontological question, it is an epistemological one." (I disagree with the red bit)

But directly above you tell us:

"In my language,
True/false apply to statements. Not to reality. Reality IS, it is not "true
" " (I agree!)



You've switched from telling us truth is an epistemological concept to a semantic one.
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Re: Science and truth

Postby neuro on November 23rd, 2016, 5:24 pm 

excuse me: are semantics (the study of meanings) a branch of ontology (the study of what IS) or of epistemology (the study of knowledge/cognition)?

or are they possibly an independent discipline that has nothing to do with epistemology, knowledge, cognition?
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Re: Science and truth

Postby NoShips on November 23rd, 2016, 5:59 pm 

neuro » November 24th, 2016, 6:24 am wrote:excuse me: are semantics (the study of meanings) a branch of ontology (the study of what IS) or of epistemology (the study of knowledge/cognition)?

or are they possibly an independent discipline that has nothing to do with epistemology, knowledge, cognition?




Like yourself, Neuro, I don't see that semantics has anything to do with ontology.As for epistemology, it's, um, true that we apply the predicate true to beliefs (which are indeed the concern of epistemology) just as we do to statements.

But ask yourself: in virtue of what is a belief true? What makes a belief true or false?

The amount of time the belief has been held? The identity of the believer (prince vs pauper)? Clearly not. Or, as with statements, the semantic content of the belief?

It's a good question you raise, though, and one I hadn't consciously thought about until you brought it up. Basically, to begin with, I asserted that truth is the concern of semantics just because, erm, everyone else does. (at least in the kind of stuff I read).

Truth, meaning, and reference, it seems, are the big three of semantics, or at least, are frequently cited as being so.

Not sure if this response is adequate or not. If not, maybe others can help.
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Re: Science and truth

Postby BadgerJelly on November 24th, 2016, 2:40 am 

I think a lot of what is being said here is part of a wider global problem. There is simply a lack of understanding in what science as method offers. How science operates politically is an area that needs some attention.

I think it true to say that people who've studied science understand that when something is called a scientific truth or fact it is framed within a certain technical use of words.

When the average joe heres scientists saying this or that they apply a whole different category of "truth" to what is being said.

No matter whether yoy are a scientist, an artist or a factory worker, you live your life by way of distinguishing facts from fictions and reconciling what is vague into some form of true/false dichotomy.

I am reminded of some.author whose name evades me (the writer of Cats Cradle I believe?). Who have a scientist merely partaking in research and creating something that destroys the Earth. Feynman himself commented on celebrating dropping the H bomb and partying and playing the bongos obvlivious to the hororific destruction just performed.

There is a lot of fear and misunderstanding about the term "science" and people of such a rigid "scientific mindset" are blinded by this. I really feel that all scientists need to take on a more political role in society amd show themselves for what they really are. People investigating nature not people claiming possession of "truth". Because whether you like it or not that is a very common opinion and only you can change it right now.
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Re: Science and truth

Postby hyksos on December 9th, 2016, 2:53 pm 

This question of Science and Truth is likely to become less and less important to people in the coming centuries.

Our civil societies have recently overcome the 20th century, and lets include the last decade of the 1890s here as well. At a social level, we are still experiencing reverberations of that time -- aftershocks if you will.

Humans are people. People are humans. And people have emotional and psychological desires. People want to know why they are here. They want to know "WHo am I?" They want to know "Am I good person?" "Should I do this?" They strongly desire answers to purpose and the meaning of their lives. People want to know what the universe is and what its purpose is. People even have spiritual lives and engage in religion to fulfill their spiritual yearning.

Because science exploded , it showed that the stories in the holy books were stories. Myths. Mythologies. This created the temporary delusion -- a widespread delusion -- that science was somehow meant to replace religion. And in replacing it, the responsibility of religion to resolve emotional and psycho-spiritual problems was placed squarely on the shoulders of Science. It was believed that science would deliver on that promise.

What is really happening is startling, and should hit the reader like ice water poured down their back. Science cannot answer these questions. Or even more profoundly, science could not answer these questions about ultimate purpose, meaning, and ontological status of "What is X?" (Man, life, electron, universe.)

Now if you come into the Marketplace of Science, and you say "Science. I need to build a toaster that pops after 4 minutes and can be adjusted by a dial setting." Science will fill your basket with plenty. If you say "Science. I need to make a projectile hit a target from 2 miles away fired from a tank." Science will fill your bags until they overflow, until you can't fit those bags in the back of your SUV. You want to design efficient solar panels? You need to make powerlines that carry electricity? You want to cure dry skin on your face? Science will deliver again and again.

You come into the Marketplace of Science and you say "Science. I need to know who I am and my purpose in life." You will leave with an empty basket. "Science. I want to know what the universe is and what is its ultimate purpose." ("Should I build this tank in the first place?") You will leave late after it gets dark, having found nothing after so much searching. You will drive home feeling empty; unfulfilled.

People need drama. People need a compelling story. People want sexy intrigue. People want to feel grounded and bettered by experience. People are not robots who just need to be fed mathematical equations that "predict phenomena" with extreme accuracy. People are people -- they want something beyond just a recipe to follow to build a piece of technology.

It comes down to imagining a future time in which people no longer care about psycho-spiritual puzzles. Those future people, lacking the emotional need, do not project their desires on to religion, neither on to science. These are people who live in a culture that does not care about purpose, or perhaps finds the question itself senseless. A culture in which people are perfectly satisfied by equations which predict the phenomenal action of physical systems, and nothing more.

"Does science get at Truth?" Nobody asks because nobody cares. They are too obsessed with

"Can this equation predict and model weather?"

"Can this algorithm make the car drive by itself?"

"Can this statistical method increase the bottom line of my portfolio?"
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Re: Science and truth

Postby NoShips on December 9th, 2016, 9:01 pm 

Well, Hyksos, as I noted earlier in the thread, whatever position you adopt yourself on the matter, it remains a brute fact that many scientists do speak of science bringing us the truth.

Try telling an evolutionary biologist, for example, that his theory of evolution is just a "model" and see what happens.

I'm more sympathetic to your own instrumentalist position myself. Who cares if quarks really exist as long as you can do something about this baldness and erectile dysfunction.
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Re: Science and truth

Postby hyksos on December 20th, 2016, 4:13 am 

NoShips » December 10th, 2016, 5:01 am wrote:Try telling an evolutionary biologist, for example, that his theory of evolution is just a "model" and see what happens.


Well that's easy. You can tell such an evolutionary biologist about the reasons that the theory of Evolution was proposed in the first place.

Natural Selection was meant to act as a solution to a problem inside the discipline of biology regarding variation. Within the narrow innards of Victorian biology, they supposed there was a rigid, concrete, reasonable, and concise differentiation between a species and a variety. Over several decades, instead of uncovering the magical line which differentiates species, they found nothing in nature other than exceptions to every rule. Even hybridism did not have any "hard, fast, reliable" rules to it.

To resolve this pesky, (albeit boring) little problem inside their discipline, evolution by Natural Selection was proposed as a solution. In it's most conservative form, it says that variations in reproductive success will drive a population into diversity over many generations. Denying the theory in that form would be like denying that statistics is correct. That would be like claiming 3+4 does not equal 7.

Even today, some textbooks will curtail their own excitement, and fall back consistently onto the conservative form of the theory. Your college textbook may say that evolution is a "..change in allele frequency.".

Of course this is not what you meant when you said "evolution is just a model". And you expect that your strawman overbearing evolutionary biologist won't be using that definition either. You are probably right. And to be honest, it wouldn't be so difficult to find an overbearing young biologist who would respond in the way you claim he would. What you meant by evolution there, was most likely common descent.

Ya know, the whole thing about "We came from monkeys" or we are "descendants of bacteria". We recoil in emotional horror from the possibility -- we fear our very humanity has been denigrated and insulted by such claims. "I'm not talking about the changes in allele frequency over time gosh darn it, by evolution I meant to say this idea that we all evolved from apes in African jungle". And these sorts of emotional responses and their variations -- these derive from the mistaken assumption that scientific theories are supposed to be little stories. Like little Sunday school narratives that we listen to with a plot; that "teach us a lesson" about life and ourselves.

Evolution really is a model. As you said. It's actually a description of a statistical process. Any evolutionary biologist who tells you otherwise is an ideologue

It's not that just the lay audience (the 'people') don't want mathematical processes that describe the dynamics of a system. Rather it's worse. In most cases people indeed expect a narrative/story because they think in narratives. People don't want models and formulas. They want stories that teach a lesson, help us find our place, help ground us and "better" us.

People are people. They are more concerned with who they are, than they are with the ruthless, brutal, mathematical veracity of a scientific theory vis-a-vis the evidence it models.
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