A Simple Question: Should We Believe Scientists?

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

Re: A Simple Question: Should We Believe Scientists?

Postby Positor on June 27th, 2017, 10:43 am 

NoShips » June 27th, 2017, 2:57 pm wrote:
Positor » June 27th, 2017, 9:09 am wrote:But if so, evolution involves more than a mere tautology; it claims something informative.

What exactly?

Positor wrote:That new species can evolve naturally, rather than (as was previously thought, and as creationists still believe) only be created by divine intervention, as in the Book of Genesis.

NoShips wrote:Which is to say nothing more than the deus ex machina didn't do it. Right?

Right. Consequently:

1. "Only the fittest survive" is not a tautology. An omnipotent God could save the unfit if he loved them.
2. There is a natural mechanism for creating new species, rather than just creating variants of the same species. This mechanism, which involves heritable characters (see SciameriKen's recent post), is part of any theory of evolution by natural selection. Again, it is not tautological: the existence of such a mechanism is a contingent fact.
3. The Bible is wrong (which is quite an important claim).
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Re: A Simple Question: Should We Believe Scientists?

Postby NoShips on June 27th, 2017, 10:47 am 

Positor » June 27th, 2017, 11:43 pm wrote:
1. "Only the fittest survive" is not a tautology. An omnipotent God could save the unfit if he loved them.


Ahem, how do you define "fit" again?

Hated by God?

Let's say God started taking potshots at really tough lions. Would that make them unfit?
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Re: A Simple Question: Should We Believe Scientists?

Postby NoShips on June 27th, 2017, 10:50 am 

Positor » June 27th, 2017, 11:43 pm wrote:3. The Bible is wrong (which is quite an important claim).


Gosh. All of it? Surely they got something right?

Extraordinary claims...
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Re: A Simple Question: Should We Believe Scientists?

Postby NoShips on June 27th, 2017, 10:51 am 

Everything he says is a lie. Even "the" and "amen"

Steady on, old chap!
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Re: A Simple Question: Should We Believe Scientists?

Postby NoShips on June 27th, 2017, 10:54 am 

Positor » June 27th, 2017, 11:43 pm wrote:2. There is a natural mechanism for creating new species, rather than just creating variants of the same species. This mechanism, which involves heritable characters (see SciameriKen's recent post), is part of any theory of evolution by natural selection. Again, it is not tautological: the existence of such a mechanism is a contingent fact.


Tell me how it could be wrong. Ugly dudes with acne getting laid a lot while Johnny Depp joins SPCF?
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Re: A Simple Question: Should We Believe Scientists?

Postby SciameriKen on June 27th, 2017, 11:00 am 

NoShips » Tue Jun 27, 2017 2:54 pm wrote:
Positor » June 27th, 2017, 11:43 pm wrote:2. There is a natural mechanism for creating new species, rather than just creating variants of the same species. This mechanism, which involves heritable characters (see SciameriKen's recent post), is part of any theory of evolution by natural selection. Again, it is not tautological: the existence of such a mechanism is a contingent fact.


Tell me how it could be wrong. Ugly dudes with acne getting laid a lot while Johnny Depp joins SPCF?


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Re: A Simple Question: Should We Believe Scientists?

Postby NoShips on June 27th, 2017, 11:04 am 

Are you saying I'm shoooorrrttt!!!!????

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4yWPV-jCoME
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Re: A Simple Question: Should We Believe Scientists?

Postby NoShips on June 27th, 2017, 11:05 am 

Is that Braininvat in the pic?

*giggle*
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Re: A Simple Question: Should We Believe Scientists?

Postby Braininvat on June 27th, 2017, 1:27 pm 

That's me, in the bikini, but without boobs, slimmer hips, and a head that vaguely resembles Hugh Laurie.

Haven't we nailed down fitness, the biological definition, reasonably well? I think Positor and SciKen both covered it.

It seems easier to grasp when the environment changes rapidly and existing adaptations no longer work as well to survive, thrive, and get laid. Those without the Lactase Persistence gene did fine in the Cro-Magnon times. Then game got scarcer and suddenly the LP mutation which was quite rare proved useful in extracting protein from herd animals without having to slaughter them. So those who were fit, in this changing scenario, were those who would derive strength and fertility from the new bump up in protein availability that their LP gene afforded. So one has, not a tautology, but an informative explanation as to why a rare mutation surged to 80% in a few generations, and why modern humans can drink milk after the age of 3.

Imagine a bunch of environmental changes, a variety of rare mutations like that one, and it's easier to see how eventually the genome would change so much that you would have a new species. (and I use "environmental" change here to refer to any kind of external influence, in case that clarifies things....)

If we're going to critique scientific certainty, and I think we should, we should pick a dumber theory. JMO.
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Re: A Simple Question: Should We Believe Scientists?

Postby hyksos on June 27th, 2017, 8:58 pm 

Evolution was just some zany idea Darwin came up with one morning after a night of partying with atheist radicals in Paris. (..or something like that?). viewtopic.php?f=117&t=32193
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Re: A Simple Question: Should We Believe Scientists?

Postby BioWizard on June 27th, 2017, 9:45 pm 

NoShips » 25 Jun 2017 06:15 pm wrote:Once an interpretation is given, we find out if logic matches up with reality. Nelson Goodman has a wonderful quote on this. Lemme search....

Edit: Found it...

"A rule is amended if it yields an inference we are unwilling to accept; an inference is rejected if it violates a rule we are unwilling to amend."

No one liked him much either LOL.


I liked the content of that post, and therefore liked the post.

Regarding your last comment, however, you seem to think (or at least wish to imply) that people dislike you because you challenge their thinking. I can't speak for others, but I can say I dislike you because you're annoying. I find it time consuming and bothersome that I have to weed through your annoyance to get to any worthy content, and I admit that too often I feel like you may be intentionally trolling others (which you sometimes blame on booze - but that still doesn't make it anybody else's problem).

I know this may be construed as a fairly personal and off topic post (though looking at many of your posts in this thread, maybe not). In any case, I just wanted to let you know why I for one have opted to more or less ignore you - in response to your feigned dismay that you're not liked around here. Though hey, it's your badge of honor, right? You've made the brainwashed scientists actually use their thinker for once! You're making waves man!!! Tee hee and what not.

I suspect SciameriKen may have reached a similar point. But hey, some folks here still talk to you, so at least you still have that going.
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Re: A Simple Question: Should We Believe Scientists?

Postby BioWizard on June 27th, 2017, 10:29 pm 



I just saw this, LOL! Spot on.
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Re: A Simple Question: Should We Believe Scientists?

Postby Braininvat on June 29th, 2017, 12:38 am 

No need to dogpile on Noships, guys.

I don't think NS was sealioning. For one thing, he seems to be widely read on this topic, and is not placing the burden of educating himself "entirely on the other party." Nor is he attempting to harass you, or waste your time. He has hung in here for 25 pages, answering pretty much every post addressed to him, and with good humor. He has recommended specific papers and books from respected figures in the philosophy of science, which is more than most members do when they wander in here. He's also recommended some heterodox offerings, and not having read them, I am unable to say if they have any merit, but I am making note of them for future perusal.

I hope we can continue, with less mockery on one side, and less, er, elbow-bending on the other.
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Re: A Simple Question: Should We Believe Scientists?

Postby mitchellmckain on June 29th, 2017, 1:02 am 

There are several things which bother me about the comparison of what is happening in the cartoon and an internet forum created for the purpose of discussions in science and philosophy. Nobody is invading your home or your breakfast. All participants are coming here for this express purpose.

However, if the differences from the cartoon are made clear, then I can see the point about pushing ones soapbox issues a little too persistently. There should be a point where participants can agree to disagree. If there is no objective evidence then you should acknowledge that your reasons are subjective and at that point discussion may very well be over (i.e. ending in an acceptance of different points of view).

Furthermore, if someone pursues an agenda in thread after thread without regards to the topic of the thread then that I would call that being a troll let alone a "sea lion."
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Re: A Simple Question: Should We Believe Scientists?

Postby BioWizard on June 29th, 2017, 6:25 am 

mitchellmckain » 29 Jun 2017 12:02 am wrote:There are several things which bother me about the comparison of what is happening in the cartoon and an internet forum created for the purpose of discussions in science and philosophy. Nobody is invading your home or your breakfast. All participants are coming here for this express purpose.

However, if the differences from the cartoon are made clear, then I can see the point about pushing ones soapbox issues a little too persistently. There should be a point where participants can agree to disagree. If there is no objective evidence then you should acknowledge that your reasons are subjective and at that point discussion may very well be over (i.e. ending in an acceptance of different points of view).

Furthermore, if someone pursues an agenda in thread after thread without regards to the topic of the thread then that I would call that being a troll let alone a "sea lion."


I was given the run around by NoShips back in Nov 2016: http://www.sciencechatforum.com/viewtop ... 37&t=31949

I spent pages and pages answering his questions only to have him move the goal post each time in between mocking me and making a circus of the thread. In the end, agree to disagree I did. But I also decided not to engage him about a single subject since then - my time is too short these days and I would rather spend it where I feel it would be most productive (and perhaps appreciated).

Braininvat, I am glad you like NoShips and that he likes you. I don't expect or require that everybody's likes and dislikes be normalized. And it's entirely possible that interacting with him outside the scope of these threads allows one to see a totally different side of him, one which may have allowed you to bond and fondly overlook his sealioning (sorry, I can't think of a better word now) of science folks around here. Or maybe you are less inconvenienced by his style, or find that the "humor" value you perceive justifies it. I don't. Lots of folks here inject a healthy sense of humor into the forum without being even a little annoying (your esteemed self included, Biv. Dave also comes to mind). In any case, you can rest assured that I value diversity and I think it strengthens this forum - as it does any society. Which is why I've not tried to get NoShips banned for simply disliking him, despite feeling thoroughly trolled by him in the Deniable Darwin thread. He remains, however, one of the most annoying people I've ever encountered here. So much so that I've avoided wasting a single second on him since talking to him in Nov of last year. And I'm an admin here. If I were a passer byer, I would've probably been even less inclined to waste my time.

But don't worry, this is no witch hunt and nobody is going to dogpile. I just wanted to dot the i's about the idea that NoShips has been floating - that I hate him for what he says:

NoShips » 24 Jun 2017 10:30 pm wrote:
SciameriKen » June 25th, 2017, 12:27 pm wrote:
We may need a new way to discuss this as we've potentially spawned 10 different threads here :D


It's my thread and I tolerate spawning. LOL

To be serious, I know certain people (hello Biowizard tee hee) hate what I say, but you get kudos for allowing me to say it. Thank you. You have a wonderful site. Might invite the Chens.


First of all, I absolutely don't hate him, I dislike him. Hating someone over a forum discussion is just silly. Second of all, I dislike him because I find him extremely annoying and very wasteful of my time (a.k.a not what he says, but how he says it). Though even then I have clearly not "disallowed" him from saying whatever he wants to say around here. I simply choose to not waste my own time on it. Implying/stating, in a thread with which I had no involvement, that I hate him for challenging scientists and that I've somehow restricted his freedom of speech is kind of... sealion-y?

I believe we're clear now. I will probably just go back to ignoring NoShips, and we can all carry on as we were. Cheers.
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Re: A Simple Question: Should We Believe Scientists?

Postby Braininvat on June 29th, 2017, 12:05 pm 

Cool.

I hope that Noships and others can review some of the first pages of the thread, which had some excellent discussions, and decide if those issues have been resolved or at least if they have a better idea of what happens to raw data when its interpreted, and when that process might lead to some knowledge of "how the world works."
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Re: A Simple Question: Should We Believe Scientists?

Postby Braininvat on June 29th, 2017, 12:27 pm 

I have wondered if the fascinating discussion of Nelson Goodman, Hempel, and the Grue conundrum may have led us a little far afield in evaluating the specific claims of ET, which is not a single assertion but rather a vast body of theoretic statements that have grown in their Bayesian prior credences as raw data, ever fresh, keeps lapping at our inductive shores. (That's why your request, NS, of assigning a truth probability to ET, may have caused some to give up on the discussion....there is no unitary probability determination of so many theoretic statements.....)

The simple animal faith that emeralds will continue to be green, and that moose skeleta won't turn up suddenly in pre-Cambrian shale beds, is born out of millions of years of we hominids putting confidence in the regularity of nature and finding our confidence rewarded. Science didn't just start a few centuries ago when Francis Bacon put on a lab coat. You can't really argue with a mammal getting its epistemological treats from the phenomenal tray.

There's always room for doubt. Bayes said the P of prior credence was never 0 or 1. Hume said much the same, that induction was about odds, not truth chiseled in marble. A moose could turn up next to a trilobite in a lava bed. Emeralds could all be blue starting in three years. We could all be living in the Matrix, and be liberated from our vats in the next 10 minutes. I put P near, but not at, zero for all of those. YMMV.

As further reading, I would suggest Charles Sanders Pierce on abductive reasoning. It doesn't have to yield truth, it just has to make our guesses better. Would anyone want to guess, on finding a moose next to a trilobite, that mooses, contrary to everything else we've learned about them, have mastered the art of time travel? It's an inference, but not to the best explanation. What the best one is, I leave to others. If anyone happens to send a forensic team and they find elbow-patch fibers on the moose, from the jacket of a mischevious professor, then I will attempt a guess at that point. Again, YMMV.
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Re: A Simple Question: Should We Believe Scientists?

Postby NoShips on July 1st, 2017, 9:15 am 

Braininvat » June 30th, 2017, 1:27 am wrote:I have wondered if the fascinating discussion of Nelson Goodman, Hempel, and the Grue conundrum may have led us a little far afield in evaluating the specific claims of ET, which is not a single assertion but rather a vast body of theoretic statements that have grown in their Bayesian prior credences as raw data, ever fresh, keeps lapping at our inductive shores. (That's why your request, NS, of assigning a truth probability to ET, may have caused some to give up on the discussion....there is no unitary probability determination of so many theoretic statements.....)


I disagree with respect, BiV. The whole point of the "digression" to ravens, condoms, grue et al was to at least provide a first approximate answer to the question "What is the nature of the relationship between evidence and theory?" (after all, you might have to face worse than an annoying sealion one day on stage). Now answers we've covered include "Evidence is that which is an instance of a theory" (ravens - but then grue got in the way). Another answer is that "evidence is that which is entailed by a theory" (the hypothetico deductive model) also problematic, as we saw, I hope). The Bayesian answer is "evidence is that which raises the prior probability of a theory". (you think Bayesianism is without problems? LOL Stay tuned).

Now the most commonly proffered answer by evolutionary theorists is "Evidence is that which our theory explains". Ken told us a good explanation is one that encompasses as many facts as possible ("The answer to your question is that it is the explanation that addresses the most known facts"- page 20). I would suggest this is cause for concern rather than champagne. The God dudes can proffer an explanation for every known fact. See the prob? You may call it a shite explanation, but an explanation nonetheless. The Newtonians, on the other hand, could not account for (i.e. explain) the anomalous orbit of Mercury, and candidly admitted as much. It's little things like these that convince me we're still doing good science. If you can explain anything, get nervous, I say.

At the very least then, we'd need an adequate account of explanation. What, if anything, makes one better than another?

Some call it being a pest. They said that about Socrates too. ET is hard and confusing; I know I'm confused. If you think otherwise, I suggest it is you (not you, BiV) who has failed to dignify it with sufficient thought.

Now to begin with, no one has yet explicated the causal relationships that obtain between physical entities (traits, genes, whatever), fitness (whatever that is), and reproductive success. I'm pretty sure I know why too: it's a hard question.

See if you can do it without confusing yourself. I mean no disrespect. It's a confused concept.
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Re: A Simple Question: Should We Believe Scientists?

Postby NoShips on July 1st, 2017, 9:35 am 

Braininvat » June 30th, 2017, 1:27 am wrote:
The simple animal faith that emeralds will continue to be green, and that moose skeleta won't turn up suddenly in pre-Cambrian shale beds, is born out of millions of years of we hominids putting confidence in the regularity of nature and finding our confidence rewarded. Science didn't just start a few centuries ago when Francis Bacon put on a lab coat. You can't really argue with a mammal getting its epistemological treats from the phenomenal tray.


Faith indeed. But this is simply a restatement of Hume's original "problem of induction": why should we believe all that stuff? Ans: all that stuff has tided us well in the past. The question is not one of where we'd place our bets -- we all know that -- the question, rather, is what are we justified in believing?

Russell's chicken (reminds me of you LOL), after one thousand observations of the farmer feeding him every day, comes to believe "it's a law". Now how is our faith in the greenness of emeralds more highly justified than his?

Because that's the way it's always been?

You know this, friend.
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Re: A Simple Question: Should We Believe Scientists?

Postby NoShips on July 1st, 2017, 9:40 am 

Put it this way:

"My belief that the farmer will continue to feed me every day is highly justified. I've seen it happen a thousand times." - a chicken

vs

"I believe newly dug up emeralds will be green. I've seen a thousand and they were all green." -another chicken, though better looking and well read

You bettah than me?

Yes, yes, you and chicken's betting habits have been observed -- 1000 times. I see no reason why either's behavior will change.

Oops, pardon moi.
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Re: A Simple Question: Should We Believe Scientists?

Postby Braininvat on July 1st, 2017, 10:28 am 

I suppose multiple lines of evidence would differentiate the two examples? The chicken only knows "I get fed. Then again. Then again..."

We know not just that emeralds have been turning up green, but a vast array of physics and chemistry findings that supply something that chickens don't have: a WHY. Emeralds are green for various reasons - there goes Quine again! The chicken doesn't know why it gets fed, all it has in the one brute fact: I've been fed. Many days now. In short, my Bayesian betting, based on the multiple prior credences of optics and crystal doping and how certain wavelengths of light impinge on the retina, and so on, has given me an epistemic advantage over my feathered friend on the farm. In short (and I do have go now, for real), my past is richer than the chicken's past. The chicken has a string of belief, I have a web of belief.
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Re: A Simple Question: Should We Believe Scientists?

Postby NoShips on July 1st, 2017, 10:39 am 

Braininvat » July 1st, 2017, 11:28 pm wrote:I suppose multiple lines of evidence would differentiate the two examples? The chicken only knows "I get fed. Then again. Then again..."

We know not just that emeralds have been turning up green, but a vast array of physics and chemistry findings that supply something that chickens don't have: a WHY. Emeralds are green for various reasons - there goes Quine again! The chicken doesn't know why it gets fed, all it has in the one brute fact: I've been fed. Many days now. In short, my Bayesian betting, based on the multiple prior credences of optics and crystal doping and how certain wavelengths of light impinge on the retina, and so on, has given me an epistemic advantage over my feathered friend on the farm. In short (and I do have go now, for real), my past is richer than the chicken's past. The chicken has a string of belief, I have a web of belief.



Very clever answer, as always.

But I still smell induction, Mr Cogburn....


"We have seen lots of green emeralds, and we have good reasons to believe they are green because of their mineral structure and so forth... therefore.... we have good reason to believe that the greenness of emeralds has a good causal account, and that causal account will continue..."
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Re: A Simple Question: Should We Believe Scientists?

Postby NoShips on July 1st, 2017, 10:41 am 

Compare : "I believe the farmer likes me"

That's my causal account.

Bless 'im. Wanna see my neck, Mr Farmer?

And by the way, not to be a killjoy, but to invoke causal-explanatory accounts is to beg the very issue at hand. Empiricists do not admit causal-explanatory accounts.

The Humean condition is the human condition.

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Re: A Simple Question: Should We Believe Scientists?

Postby hyksos on July 1st, 2017, 2:11 pm 

I was about to come to this thread and leave some notes about how the vast majority of DNA on earth is tied up in the oceans in these little machines called marine bacteriophages. I was going to say something about how this is suggestive of evolution having actually happened.

But it appears I have arrived too late. The forum regulars are already catching on to what is really going on in this thread. The most glaring portion of this thread is NoShips refusal to discuss the specifics about any particular scientific theory. It is as if he knows ahead of time that he must keep the subject in completely abstract generic terms in order to seem to strengthen his position. If he were possibly drawn into specific pieces of evidence and their specific theories, he would surely lose ground quickly, much like a failing army getting bogged down into mud.
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Re: A Simple Question: Should We Believe Scientists?

Postby Sivad on July 1st, 2017, 3:54 pm 

Should We Believe Scientists?

Maybe it's enough just to accept that science is the best we can do. That means you don't necessarily have to believe science, but you can't disbelieve science in favor of something else. If you doubt science then you're pretty much committed to philosophical skepticism. I guess it would still be possible to hold beliefs, they just wouldn't be rationally warranted. Your views would be purely fideistic.
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Re: A Simple Question: Should We Believe Scientists?

Postby NoShips on July 2nd, 2017, 4:39 am 

hyksos » July 2nd, 2017, 3:11 am wrote:I was about to come to this thread and leave some notes about how the vast majority of DNA on earth is tied up in the oceans in these little machines called marine bacteriophages. I was going to say something about how this is suggestive of evolution having actually happened.

But it appears I have arrived too late. The forum regulars are already catching on to what is really going on in this thread. The most glaring portion of this thread is NoShips refusal to discuss the specifics about any particular scientific theory. It is as if he knows ahead of time that he must keep the subject in completely abstract generic terms in order to seem to strengthen his position. If he were possibly drawn into specific pieces of evidence and their specific theories, he would surely lose ground quickly, much like a failing army getting bogged down into mud.



It's hard to know what to to when confronted with someone such as yourself, Hyksos. You've already made your position clear, a few pages ago, that science produces no knowledge; one consequence of which is that nothing scientists say should be believed, when they're talking shop at any rate. Absolutely nothing!

Now, if you ask me, it's about as arrantly absurd as a position can possibly be, the kind of thing we might expect to hear from a fellow claiming to be Napoleon. It is, nonetheless, your position, and you're the little Corsican who has to face the consequences.

Now, what on earth would be the point of bringing up DNA, marine bacteriophages, and whatever else when, on your own account (not mine), scientists know diddly-squat about these things?

Come to think of it, why even mention evolution at all? According to your position of scientific omni-ignorance, the amount of knowledge science has to boast on the issue is -- better steady yourselves now, folks -- zilch!

Now who's supposed to be the bad guy here again?
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Re: A Simple Question: Should We Believe Scientists?

Postby NoShips on July 2nd, 2017, 5:01 am 

Sivad » July 2nd, 2017, 4:54 am wrote:Should We Believe Scientists?

Maybe it's enough just to accept that science is the best we can do. That means you don't necessarily have to believe science, but you can't disbelieve science in favor of something else. If you doubt science then you're pretty much committed to philosophical skepticism. I guess it would still be possible to hold beliefs, they just wouldn't be rationally warranted. Your views would be purely fideistic.


You have my complete agreement, Sivad. I'm not the person here claiming that science produces no knowledge. Like everyone else, oops, I mean, almost everyone else, I believe a great deal of what science has to say. But also, like everyone else, not all of it.

Who can seriously doubt a claim such as, say, Jupiter is farther from the Earth than Venus, or that the blood circulates?

At the other extreme, in the murky depths of theoretical physics, for example, surely not even scientists themselves commit themselves en bloc to a belief in, say, multiple universes or string theory. Such claims are self-confessedly highly speculative; not of sufficient epistemic warrant to merit the honorific title knowledge.

(Although I'm currently reading a wonderfully well written book called "String Theory and the Scientific Method" by string theorist cum philosopher Richard Dawid who does hold that string theory commands epistemic warrant despite a paucity of empirical evidence -- he appeals to non-empirical evidence of the kind we've discussed earlier in the thread.)

We all draw the line somewhere. The question, then, is: where is the appropriate point to draw it?

I'm perhaps more cautious than most in this regard, tending to lend credence to claims in the observable realm; maintaining a more agnostic stance towards the domain of the more theoretical. Not only does the history of science support such a stance, in my opinion, but it's a view by no means rare among some of the finest scientists themselves.

Try convincing Ernst Mach that atoms are real! Stubborn as a mule, I tell ya.
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Re: A Simple Question: Should We Believe Scientists?

Postby NoShips on July 2nd, 2017, 6:43 am 

One excellent book I can highly recommend to any members interested in gaining a greater understanding of evolutionary concepts is "Keywords in Evolutionary Biology" edited by Evelyn Fox Keller and Elisabeth A. Lloyd.

The book consists of an A-Z explication of terms commonly used in evolutionary biology. The editors and contributors laudably admit that the meanings and usages of many of these terms are implausibly confused, varying both diachronically and synchronically, and often utilized in quite incongruous ways by different writers. The collection of essays which constitute the book aims -- equally commendably -- at bringing a measure of clarification to the lexical imbroglio. Contributions are made by historians, philosophers, and biologists, including such luminaries as Stephen Jay Gould, Richard Dawkins (*cough*), Elliott Sober. and Michael Ruse.

My beady reptilian eyes were naturally attracted to the three essays on "fitness" contained within. The first by Diane Paul traces the historical evolution of the term from its initial vernacular understanding to the present day, illustrating the metamorphosis in meaning from that which is indicated by reproductive success to reproductive success itself. The symptom of the condition becomes the condition simpliciter.

I might here offer an analogy between fitness vs reproductive success with the concept of intelligence vs I.Q. test scores. What I take to be our standard present-day notion of intelligence corresponds exactly with the original (Darwin, Spencer, et al) meaning of fitness: a high I.Q. test score gives us a good indication of intelligence, but is not identified with intelligence, after all, it's quite conceivable that an intelligent person could deliberately perform badly on the test, for example (in a pathetic effort to impress the school Jocks maybe. Erm, a friend told me) - a low score is not the same thing as being unintelligent. Likewise with fitness: under the original definition, reproductive success gives us a good indication of fitness, but is not identified with fitness. The former, we might say, is a symptom of the latter, but not the same thing.

In the early-mid 20th century, Ms Paul meticulously chronicles, the meaning of fitness mutated, as these things often do, to become nothing more than reproductive success itself. This would be exactly analogous to us altering the meaning of intelligent to become "the quality possessed by those who perform well in I.Q. tests" - get a high score and you're smart; get a low score and you're not. And that's that!

Now, there are no free lunches, of course. This transformation of meaning comes at the cost of confronting the dreaded spectre of tautology. If fitness just is the quality of reproducing successfully then the fittest cannot fail to "survive"; "survival of the fittest" (i.e. natural selection) transforms from an empirical, testable, and therefore falsifiable (if you believe in such things), scientific hypothesis about how the world works into a purely definitional truth of the type "all bachelors are unmarried men".

(yes, yes, we know all about Quine. LOL)

(Compare with "All smart people score well in I.Q. tests" - Empirical or definitional? Falsifiable or unfalsifiable? )

I leave you now in the capable hands of Diane Paul...

"The development of population genetics in the 1920s and 1930s undermined the colloquial usage of fitness in evolutionary biology. In the work of J. B. S. Haldane, Sewall Wright, and R. A. Fisher, the gene was identified as the target of selection and selection itself was redefined as a change in gene frequencies. The measure of fitness became success in producing offspring, irrespective of the causes of that success. Moreover, what began as an indicator of fitness soon came to define its meaning. Haldane gave this new concept the (somewhat improbable) tag "Darwinian fitness" in his book The Causes of Evolution (1932)."

[...]

"In attempting to solve one problem, however, they had created another. If fitness is defined as success in surviving and reproducing, the statement that the fittest survive is apparently emptied of content. Thus was born the famous "tautology problem" which has bedeviled the field ever since."


The good news is you can read the essay online (if this link works):

https://books.google.com.tw/books?id=Hv ... es&f=false
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Re: A Simple Question: Should We Believe Scientists?

Postby NoShips on July 2nd, 2017, 7:30 am 

mitchellmckain » June 29th, 2017, 2:02 pm wrote:There are several things which bother me about the comparison of what is happening in the cartoon and an internet forum created for the purpose of discussions in science and philosophy. Nobody is invading your home or your breakfast. All participants are coming here for this express purpose.

However, if the differences from the cartoon are made clear, then I can see the point about pushing ones soapbox issues a little too persistently. There should be a point where participants can agree to disagree. If there is no objective evidence then you should acknowledge that your reasons are subjective and at that point discussion may very well be over (i.e. ending in an acceptance of different points of view).

Furthermore, if someone pursues an agenda in thread after thread without regards to the topic of the thread then that I would call that being a troll let alone a "sea lion."


What I find rather disturbing, Mitch, is that some members seem to labor under the misapprehension that science can be done without philosophy. Well, perhaps it can, but that would be like burying one's ostrich head in the sand. The issues remain even if you choose to turn the other way.

"But there is no such thing as philosophy-free science; there is only science whose philosophical baggage is taken on board without examination." - Daniel Dennett

This is a thread under the section "philosophy of science". No one's presence is obligatory. Scientists uninterested in sharing philosophical views may do something else. Smash test tubes together or whatever it is you guys do.

However, those genuinely interested in learning -- scientists, philosophers, or otherwise -- are most welcome. Why do you think I read all these books anyway? To spite my nose? To impress visitors? Never have any these days anyway.

Can't imagine why.
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Re: A Simple Question: Should We Believe Scientists?

Postby NoShips on July 2nd, 2017, 7:55 am 

Another observation I'd make, perhaps somewhat contrary, is that one reason scientists and philosophers tend to get each other's goats is due to educational background.

Philosophers, having been embarrassed umpteen times in the past, coz some annoying Richardhead always has a counterargument, tend to hedge their claims with caveats such as "in my opinion", "it seems to me", "I might be wrong but...", and so on.

Scientists, speaking from personal experience at least, tend to be more assertive, saying things like "It is true that..." and "We know that..."

(obviously bugging the bejesus out of philosophers LOL)

I suspect, as Thomas Kuhn, has observed, this is due, at least partially, to the scientific educational process itself. What is taught is a history of success; one victory to another. Anyone here ever given a course on phlogiston or caloric fluid?

The historian of science, on the other hand, sees a pattern characterized largely by failure. (This is not meant to be disrepectful)

I might be wrong, in my opinion, by and large, but it seems to me ... but to refresh memories, a couple of quotes I posted earlier in the thread:

"If there is one thing we can learn from the history of science, it is that the scientific theorizing of one day is looked on by that of the next as flawed and deficient. The clearest induction from the history of science is that science is always mistaken - that at every stage of its development, its practitioners, looking backward with the wisdom of hindsight, will view the work of their predecessors as seriously deficient and their theories as fundamentally mistaken. And if we adopt (as in candor we must) the modest view that we ourselves and our contemporaries do not occupy a privileged position in this respect, then we have no reasonable alternative but to suppose that much or all of what we ourselves vaunt as "scientific knowledge" is itself presumably wrong." -- Nicholas Rescher

"For in formulating the question as to how to explain why the methods of science lead to instrumental success, the realist has seriously misstated the explanandum. Overwhelmingly, the results of the conscientious pursuit of scientific enquiry are failures: failed theories, failed hypotheses, failed conjectures, inaccurate measurements, inaccurate estimations of parameters, fallacious causal inferences, and so forth. If explanations are appropriate here, then what requires explaining is why the very same methods produce an overwhelming background of failures and, occasionally, also a pattern of successes. The realist literature has not yet begun to address this question, much less to offer even a hint of how to answer it." -- Arthur Fine

"The ephemeral nature of scientific theories takes by surprise the man of the world. Their brief period of prosperity ended, he sees them abandoned one after the other; he sees ruins piled upon ruins; he predicts that the theories in fashion today will in a short time succumb in their turn, and he concludes that they are absolutely in vain. This is what he calls the bankrupcy of science." -- Henri Poincare
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