The Science Delusion

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

The Science Delusion

Postby Lozza on March 29th, 2019, 1:45 pm 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1TerTgD ... ex=24&t=0s

It's only a relatively short video to watch, about 18 minutes, and I believe the speaker makes a few interesting points about science and how many scientists view things.

Any constructive thoughts?
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Re: The Science Delusion

Postby PaulN on March 29th, 2019, 2:48 pm 

Note that Sheldrake's book was published as "Science Set Free" in the US, and "The Science Delusion" in the UK.

Agree that science should reject dogmas, and be seen as a set of useful methods rather than a belief system. This view can help achieve the more positive US book title. His dog experiments are quite interesting and imo deserve further attention. His platonic "morphic field" theory I find less compelling.
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Re: The Science Delusion

Postby PaulN on March 29th, 2019, 2:50 pm 

BTW I hope that "any constructive thoughts" is in no way an attempt to discourage critique here. Critique and peer review are vital in any field.
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Re: The Science Delusion

Postby Lozza on March 30th, 2019, 12:12 am 

PaulN » March 30th, 2019, 5:50 am wrote:BTW I hope that "any constructive thoughts" is in no way an attempt to discourage critique here. Critique and peer review are vital in any field.


Fair point. I don't wish to discourage critique, but I do wish to stifle dogmatic belief systems. A topic like this can be quite provocative to someone of dogmatic beliefs, whereas personally, I enjoy entertaining different approaches. In having discussions like this at similar forums, it's my experience that many scientists function contrary to their scientific heroes....breakthroughs are often made by those going against conventional thinking, not by dogmatic adherence to convention within a given field. BTW, I'm not a scientist, but enjoy following different sciences.

I hope that has clarified things for you.
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Re: The Science Delusion

Postby Reg_Prescott on March 30th, 2019, 2:26 am 

PaulN » March 30th, 2019, 3:48 am wrote:Note that Sheldrake's book was published as "Science Set Free" in the US, and "The Science Delusion" in the UK.

Agree that science should reject dogmas, and be seen as a set of useful methods rather than a belief system. This view can help achieve the more positive US book title. His dog experiments are quite interesting and imo deserve further attention. His platonic "morphic field" theory I find less compelling.




I love this guy! Sheldrake reminds me a lot of another man I admire enormously: David Berlinski. Both are obscenely clever, hugely knowledgable, and most of all, never afraid to speak out against the regnant scientific orthodoxy, even though the repercussions for doing so can be quite staggering in their ferocity.

It seems to me men like Sheldrake and Berlinski do us all a great service by having both the courage and the talent to challenge dogma in science.

Yes, I said the D-word. Naughty naughty!

One isn't supposed to use the word dogma in connection with science. It's a bad word. After all, we wouldn't want any parallels being drawn with religion now, would we?

Well, what's so bad about dogma anyway? Thomas Kuhn, while putting paid to simpleminded falsificationist accounts, drew attention to the fact that dogma plays an essential role in science. Were scientists to abandon their most cherished theories at the first whiff of recalcitrant data, well, they'd have no theories left!

Two examples:

(1) In Darwin's time, the most well confirmed theories of the day suggested the Earth was a few dozen million years old. All agreed, as far as I understand, this would not be enough time for Darwin's theory to kick in. The evidence, then, was at odds with the theory.

So what did the Darwinians do? Declare a falsification and renounce their theory?

Evidently not. Seems they just (dare I say "dogmatically") ignored the awkward evidence. After all, a good theory, like a good man nowadays, is hard to find.


(2) In the year after Einstein published his seminal paper on special relativity, the celebrated experimentalist, Walter Kaufmann, published results in the same journal that appeared to quite definitively refute SR.

Did the great man bat an eyelid? It seems not. Lucky for us, eh? Chalk up another point for dogmatic adherence to a prized theory in the face of embarrassing evidence.


Meanwhile, Max Born has this to say on the matter...

"When a scientific theory is firmly established and confirmed it changes its character and becomes a part of the metaphysical background of the age: a doctrine is transformed into a dogma"


Moral of the story: Kuhn refers to it as the "essential tension". Dogma (or "conservatism" for the more squeamish) plays a vital role in science. Then again, surely we don't want our theories carved in stone for all eternity? Thus, mavericks like Sheldrake with the guts to rock the casbah perform an equally vital function.
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Re: The Science Delusion

Postby bangstrom on March 30th, 2019, 4:26 am 

I read Rupert Sheldrake’s book Morphic Resonance and I found his theories to be quite convincing. Not because of what he had to say but because they confirmed so many of my own experiences and theories such as my versions of the theory that the constants can’t be constant.

One of my observations is what Sheldrake called the “Miroslav Hill effect.” Microbes taken from a stock culture tend to experience a negative effect when grown on a novel culture medium but their growth rate improves when transferred over a period of time to other agar plates by means of serial transfers. This is consistent with what one should expect when microbes adapt and evolve to a new environment. The unexpected result is that when you start over again by going back and sampling from the stock culture, the stock culture also displays an improved ability to grow on the novel medium.

The mycologist, Paul Stamets claims he and his fellow mycologists are convinced that fungi can communicate at a distance and he considers mushrooms to be sentient beings. He suspects that mushrooms may be more aware of our presence in the forest than we are of them. Mushroom mycelia resemble neurons under the microscope and a slice of mushroom tissue has more cellular connections than a slice of human brain.

Years ago in my student days I would occasionally test the commonly held opinion that people can feel when they are being stared at. I would sit near the back of an auditorium and stare at a female in one of the front rows- out of scientific curiosity- and see if she would turn around and to see who was looking at her. It usually didn’t take long before she would turn around and look my way. Sheldrake claims women are more sensitive to being stared at than men.

I have often experienced what Sheldrake calls “telephone telepathy” where I can sense who is calling by the sound of the ring but probably no more than the next person and I have always dismissed this as coincidence because I was usually wrong. One occasion was different. I was wakened from a sound sleep by an unusually vivid dream where two people were discussing calling me on the phone. I barely had time to think, ‘That was a weird dream.’ when the phone rang and I knew who was calling and what it was about.
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Re: The Science Delusion

Postby Lozza on March 30th, 2019, 10:38 am 

Yes, it seems to me that we (humans) try to make either the evidence fit the theory or the theory to fit the evidence. We're in an awkward, yet very understandable situation, whereby we are attempting to describe the box (the universe), its purpose and how it was formed, from within. Clearly, this is our only option. But I'm continually amazed at how definitive so many scientists are about their studies and observations.

I wondered why so many cosmologists were so hung-up on the Big Bang Theory until I read Stephen Hawking's book, A Brief History of Time. I can now appreciate why this is the favored theory, but after viewing Sheldrake's video, I again find myself questioning it, though again, I can still appreciate that we need a starting point to work from.

My current bugbear pertains to archaeology and the great pyramids, whereby archaeologists like to believe that they are experts in engineering too. Despite the fact that we currently do not possess the technology to replicate the pyramids, lift the great weights involved, let alone the precision, they would try to have us believe that the ancients possessed such technology after only about 500 years of "civilization", despite not having developed pulleys and tackle yet. When you start to work out the weight of the blocks and how many people you would require to pull those blocks into place, it becomes a nightmare of impossibility combined with impracticability. But will archaeologists concede that? Not on your life!

I'm not alluding to extraterrestrial interference, though it's as likely as anything else, but I AM alluding to the distinct possibility that humankind is older than we are prepared to believe. And quite possibly, that we had developed into a more advanced technological state than we live in currently, but due to some catastrophe like an Ice Age or a Meteor hitting the planet, we lost the technology and much of the population. Let's face it, if an event such as that happened now, our technology would be useless and we would be starting from scratch again. Things made out of metal would have corroded into nothing and there would be little to no evidence of that age, unless it got fossilized.

This has been an interest of mine since seeing videos of pyramids approximately 80 feet under water, off the coast of Japan, and there are others located around the world that are also under about the same amount of water, off the coast of Cuba, I believe. It then seems to me, that they needed to be built before the melting of the last Ice Age, making mankind and "civilization" much older than we give credit to.

Here's a brief vid of the pyramids off the coast of Japan...https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gWg2_24E4wk

And this one off the coast of Cuba...https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X7d9Dx4KI3E

Albeit, these examples are not examples that Sheldrake mentioned, it is along the same lines. So my question is, why do so many "experts" adhere to conventional thinking so stringently in the face of overwhelming evidence that contradicts that belief?
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Re: The Science Delusion

Postby Serpent on March 30th, 2019, 12:54 pm 

Another, related question is: What evidence is considered "overwhelming" and by whom.
In the case of pyramids, for example, I'm rather underwhelmed by evidence - that I have seen to date - for a more technologically advanced older civilization.
In the case of the universe, I am overwhelmed by every theory except ID.
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Re: The Science Delusion

Postby bangstrom on March 30th, 2019, 3:53 pm 

Reg_Prescott » March 30th, 2019, 1:26 am wrote:

(1) In Darwin's time, the most well confirmed theories of the day suggested the Earth was a few dozen million years old. All agreed, as far as I understand, this would not be enough time for Darwin's theory to kick in. The evidence, then, was at odds with the theory.

So what did the Darwinians do? Declare a falsification and renounce their theory?

Evidently not. Seems they just (dare I say "dogmatically") ignored the awkward evidence. After all, a good theory, like a good man nowadays, is hard to find.


There is a similar problem with the Big Bang which is why we have Alan Guth’s cosmic inflation period added ad hoc to the theory to make it fit the estimated time span. This and other patches to the theory do not give me confidence in its validity.

Reg_Prescott » March 30th, 2019, 1:26 am wrote:
(2) In the year after Einstein published his seminal paper on special relativity, the celebrated experimentalist, Walter Kaufmann, published results in the same journal that appeared to quite definitively refute SR.

Did the great man bat an eyelid? It seems not. Lucky for us, eh? Chalk up another point for dogmatic adherence to a prized theory in the face of embarrassing evidence.

When Einstein was asked what he would say if Eddington’s measurements of the stellar positions about the eclipsed sun in 1919 had discredited his theory, Einstein replied: “In that case, I would have to feel sorry for God, because the theory is correct.”
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Re: The Science Delusion

Postby davidm on March 30th, 2019, 8:35 pm 

Here ya go, Reg! I posted this for you — oh, what? A year ago? But facts make no difference to you, do they? But I post again!

David Berlinski makes an ass of himself defending intelligent design

And, yeah … Darwin’s theory was falsified by young earthism of his era, sez you!

Did it ever occur to you that Darwin’s discoveries falsified young earthism???

Guess not!

And, yeah … Einstein was “falsified” … so was continental drift … because, maybe, plate tectonics had not yet been discovered?

Oh, and did it ever occur to you that as a standard for scientific theories, falsificationism is complete bullshit?

Guess not!


Whaddya gonna do? :-D
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Re: The Science Delusion

Postby Reg_Prescott on March 31st, 2019, 7:37 am 

Lozza » March 30th, 2019, 11:38 pm wrote:Yes, it seems to me that we (humans) try to make either the evidence fit the theory or the theory to fit the evidence. We're in an awkward, yet very understandable situation, whereby we are attempting to describe the box (the universe), its purpose and how it was formed, from within. Clearly, this is our only option. But I'm continually amazed at how definitive so many scientists are about their studies and observations.



(my emphasis)


I couldn't agree more, Lozza.

Given the rather dismal track record of past scientific theories which were once regarded as true, only to be renounced by scientists of a later generation as incomplete, flawed, or just plain false, it seems to me the a priori probability a rational person ought to assign to any scientific theory being true is roughly zero.

That is to say, even without having been told what the theory is, the evidence from history is more than adequate to regard any truth claims with a very healthy skepticism.

This does not mean, of course, that we should not be very grateful for (some of) the fruits of science. It's well known by now that even false theories can yield true predictions, and thus some measure of intervention and control over nature.

Scientists do, of course, pay the obligatory lip service to the fallibility of science. When we zoom in on any particular prized theory, though, it seems the supposed fallibility always lies with someone else's theory. This is seen most clearly in the almost pathologically violent reaction to anyone with the gall to critique evolutionary theory. Richard Dawkins et al have done a splendid job of convincing the world that any evolutionary skeptic is somehow deficient or deranged (to wit "stupid, ignorant, insane, or.... wicked!"). Science is a fallible business, so we're told, but cast aspersions on evolutionary theory and there is something wrong with you.

It's a worrying (to me anyway) phenomenon, exhibited par excellence in the unholy malevolence directed at David Berlinski in the Jerry Coyne review DavidM posted above. I lost track of the number of Coyne's "idiot", "liar", "moron", etc. ad hominem ravings. Then, apparently forgetting how dumb Berlinski is, Coyne tells us (paragraph 11), "... since I don’t think Berlinski is stupid ...".

You mean, Professor Coyne, that Berlinski is an idiot and a moron, but not a stupid one?

Returning to the original point, Lozza, I can only assume the reason, or one of the reasons, why scientists tend to be so "definitive" is due to unfamiliarity with the history of science. And I do not refer here to the dismayingly prevalent "Whig" histories of science; those written, and those popularized in the mass media, by the victors from the victors' perspective, regaling us with a succession of one success story after another, conveniently ignoring that for every success story there were a hundred or a thousand failures.

It's easy to get a skewed perspective of the vicissitudes of the Scottish national football team if all one has ever seen is the video "Scotland's Greatest Wins".

It's a short video. :)
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Re: The Science Delusion

Postby TheVat on March 31st, 2019, 10:56 am 

Hiya, Colin!


This does not mean, of course, that we should not be very grateful for (some of) the fruits of science. It's well known by now that even false theories can yield true predictions, and thus some measure of intervention and control over nature


Fair point, which raises the question of a binary view of falseness - are theories either false or not? Or can they have false portions coexistent with portions that accurately describe a reality? A false theory that yields "true predictions" can't be entirely false, can it? E.g. a theory of light as particles, while perhaps not correct on the particulate nature of light, offers a model that is convenient in describing some quantized interactions with measurement devices. We may allow that light is really waves, while enduring the paradox that it can behave in a particulate manner, because that whole photon thing is such a useful approach. Maybe science needs more nuance than is offered by simple true/false menus?

I agree about Sheldrake, and he offers really interesting experimental models to pursue. Berlinski, as you know, underwhelms me, but i see no need to revisit that here. Like Paul, I am intrigued by Sheldrakes pet knowledge experiments (would it be asking too much from the god of puns for him to also study ducks?).
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Re: The Science Delusion

Postby Lozza on March 31st, 2019, 11:52 am 

Reg_Prescott » March 31st, 2019, 10:37 pm wrote:
Lozza » March 30th, 2019, 11:38 pm wrote:Yes, it seems to me that we (humans) try to make either the evidence fit the theory or the theory to fit the evidence. We're in an awkward, yet very understandable situation, whereby we are attempting to describe the box (the universe), its purpose and how it was formed, from within. Clearly, this is our only option. But I'm continually amazed at how definitive so many scientists are about their studies and observations.



(my emphasis)


I couldn't agree more, Lozza.

Given the rather dismal track record of past scientific theories which were once regarded as true, only to be renounced by scientists of a later generation as incomplete, flawed, or just plain false, it seems to me the a priori probability a rational person ought to assign to any scientific theory being true is roughly zero.


What's the adage? Innovation is 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration.

That is to say, even without having been told what the theory is, the evidence from history is more than adequate to regard any truth claims with a very healthy skepticism.


Agreed.

This does not mean, of course, that we should not be very grateful for (some of) the fruits of science. It's well known by now that even false theories can yield true predictions, and thus some measure of intervention and control over nature.

Scientists do, of course, pay the obligatory lip service to the fallibility of science. When we zoom in on any particular prized theory, though, it seems the supposed fallibility always lies with someone else's theory. This is seen most clearly in the almost pathologically violent reaction to anyone with the gall to critique evolutionary theory. Richard Dawkins et al have done a splendid job of convincing the world that any evolutionary skeptic is somehow deficient or deranged (to wit "stupid, ignorant, insane, or.... wicked!"). Science is a fallible business, so we're told, but cast aspersions on evolutionary theory and there is something wrong with you.


IMO, Dawkins is a hypocrite of the highest order, and lacks personal insight. He's turned "atheism" into a religion of its own, and like so many other religions, likes to profit from it. That's the hypocrisy. The lack of personal insight is that when talking to theists, most will openly admit that it's an emotional experience, yet no atheist that I've encountered will concede that their stance is equally emotional. Neither can evidence their belief system, so the only conclusion we can draw from their stance is that it is an emotional one. Agnosticism is a rational conclusion to the issue in stating "I don't know" and it can be taken a step further with ignosticism which adds, "not only do I not know, I don't know what you're defining as a 'god'".

It's a worrying (to me anyway) phenomenon, exhibited par excellence in the unholy malevolence directed at David Berlinski in the Jerry Coyne review DavidM posted above. I lost track of the number of Coyne's "idiot", "liar", "moron", etc. ad hominem ravings. Then, apparently forgetting how dumb Berlinski is, Coyne tells us (paragraph 11), "... since I don’t think Berlinski is stupid ...".


Infantile responses are par for the course at forums, so I just place such people on my "ignore" list, or here, "foe" list. I have no objection to disagreement or ignorance, for we are all ignorant of many things at an individual level, but I would much prefer a reasoned response, or Heaven forbid, the posing of a question. Ridiculing from a position of ignorance is the mark of a fool.


You mean, Professor Coyne, that Berlinski is an idiot and a moron, but not a stupid one?

Returning to the original point, Lozza, I can only assume the reason, or one of the reasons, why scientists tend to be so "definitive" is due to unfamiliarity with the history of science. And I do not refer here to the dismayingly prevalent "Whig" histories of science; those written, and those popularized in the mass media, by the victors from the victors' perspective, regaling us with a succession of one success story after another, conveniently ignoring that for every success story there were a hundred or a thousand failures.

It's easy to get a skewed perspective of the vicissitudes of the Scottish national football team if all one has ever seen is the video "Scotland's Greatest Wins".

It's a short video. :)


I tend to think that it has a great deal to do with what I have described above. One thing that I've noticed about intelligent, well educated people, is that they are frequently immature, meaning that the prospect of admitting that they might be wrong is untenable. Let's face it, intelligent people are often masters at baffling people with their bullshit, and so, not being held accountable, and their track record of doing this goes back to their childhood with both their parents and their teachers at school, let alone their classmates. They start to think that they are "special", and so, start to believe their own bullshit. The ability to admit that one is wrong is the path to emotional growth. Many are not only not on the path, they are in the wilderness.

I don't like to use TV programs to make my point, but in this case I make the exception as it's so accessible and accurate...the program The Big Bang Theory is very insightful in its writing of characters...it's a double "fish out of water" story...."geeks" are fish out of water against the rest of society, yet there is Penny who has the average person's emotional maturity level within that group, also making her a fish out of water within that group. Sheldon Cooper has the emotional age of a 2-3 year-old child (psychology and social sciences are hokum), and the rest of the group has the emotional age of about a 6-8 year-old child, liking to read comic books and play video games all the time, but are socially inept. Penny is the odd one out, but is the person the entire group turns to for social interaction issues.

Now, please don't misunderstand me, I'm not saying all intelligent people are like this. I have no idea as to the ratio. But I find it very scary indeed how many I have encountered in math-based sciences such as computing, mathematics and physics, that are. It's these sorts of fools that believe that replacing people with robots is a good idea. Yeah? Then what are people supposed to do for a living? And the fact is, they don't think it through that they are actually working to replace themselves. They seem to think that they are working to replace others (who they don't really care about), but can't see the bigger picture that it includes themselves.

This is turning into a rant, so I'll stop here. :)
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Re: The Science Delusion

Postby Serpent on March 31st, 2019, 12:09 pm 

What if science doesn't consist of individual theories that are T or F, dogmatically adhered-to or debunked; dismal failures or shattering triumphs?
What if it's an organic process of human curiosity puzzling and arguing and reasoning its way from generation to generation, consuming whatever information is available and growing?

Of course individual humans can be stubborn, short-sighted, closed-minded and selectively deaf, just as they can be observant, insightful, logical and objective or deluded, beguiled, romantic and just plain silly. In fact, any one human can be several of those at the same time.

But science just rolls right over their petty foibles, taking along whatever works, leaving behind whatever doesn't.
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Re: The Science Delusion

Postby Lozza on March 31st, 2019, 1:25 pm 

Serpent » April 1st, 2019, 3:09 am wrote:What if science doesn't consist of individual theories that are T or F, dogmatically adhered-to or debunked; dismal failures or shattering triumphs?
What if it's an organic process of human curiosity puzzling and arguing and reasoning its way from generation to generation, consuming whatever information is available and growing?

Of course individual humans can be stubborn, short-sighted, closed-minded and selectively deaf, just as they can be observant, insightful, logical and objective or deluded, beguiled, romantic and just plain silly. In fact, any one human can be several of those at the same time.

But science just rolls right over their petty foibles, taking along whatever works, leaving behind whatever doesn't.



I believe there's a great deal of validity in your appraisal of people stumbling along, it's just that not many of these people seem to see it that way and choose to be adamant about their hypotheses and theories. I've lost count of how many people talk of Darwin's Theory as a law instead of a theory...they seem to forget that there's quite a distinction between the two. Darwin's Theory would become meaningless if we found out that we (planet Earth) were nothing but a petri dish for a higher life form, wouldn't it? I'm not suggesting it is, but who knows?

I remember reading prior to the Hubble telescope going up, that it was estimated that there was only a one in a billion chance of there being other intelligent life in the universe. Then the Hubble went up and started operating (after they fixed the lens) only to discover that there were billions of galaxies with billions of star systems within them....so the chance of ONLY one in a billion suddenly became a certainty of there being the chance of millions of planets with intelligent life, if we go by the original statement of one in a billion. I'm sure the person that made that statement re-evaluated it afterwards, but it makes my point of the certainty that people like to use, when there is no way of being so certain with our limited scope.
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Re: The Science Delusion

Postby TheVat on March 31st, 2019, 1:52 pm 

No pun intended on "scope" I'm sure. :-)

Moving this to P of Sci forum. Best exposure there, I hope.
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Re: The Science Delusion

Postby Serpent on March 31st, 2019, 2:13 pm 

Lozza » March 31st, 2019, 12:25 pm wrote:I believe there's a great deal of validity in your appraisal of people stumbling along, it's just that not many of these people seem to see it that way and choose to be adamant about their hypotheses and theories.

Of course they do! Human beings do not live our individual lives in the long-view of history. We need conviction to get on with any kind of endeavour. Belief in one's political cause, or religion, or parenting style, or scientific theory is what gives us the fortitude to do the hard work and take the hard knocks.
I've lost count of how many people talk of Darwin's Theory as a law instead of a theory...

Make that +1. Kind of like the round earth theory. We depend on preponderance of evidence to form the convictions upon which we act.
Darwin's Theory would become meaningless if we found out that we (planet Earth) were nothing but a petri dish for a higher life form, wouldn't it?

No, I don't think so. Discovering that a watch is in a submarine at the bottom of an ocean would have no affect on the validity of observations by someone who had studied its mechanism.
Evolution (and I wish people would stop referring to Darwin as if he were solely responsible for that branch of science over the last two centuries) still describes the principles whereby our biological development operates. Whatever the meta-context might be for that process, it's the one in which we exist.

Actually, this is a good example of how science grows.
Sound observation can be tested and enlarged and built-on, so that even if the original theory is replaced at some future time, by something bigger, or the basic assumption proves incorrect, the data continues to be useful. This is what I meant by science not consisting of individual theories. Even very silly hypotheses can yield valuable insights, or starting points for fresh lines of inquiry.

I remember reading prior to the Hubble telescope going up, that it was estimated that there was only a one in a billion chance of there being other intelligent life in the universe. Then the Hubble went up and started operating (after they fixed the lens) only to discover that there were billions of galaxies with billions of star systems within them....so the chance of ONLY one in a billion suddenly became a certainty of there being the chance of millions of planets with intelligent life, if we go by the original statement of one in a billion. I'm sure the person that made that statement re-evaluated it afterwards, but it makes my point of the certainty that people like to use, when there is no way of being so certain with our limited scope.

If you never make a decision until all the data is in from every conceivable instrument of the future, you'll never do anything, know anything, say anything or think anything. The estimate was an estimate according to what was known. The new estimate is an estimate, according to what is known.
All knowledge is provisional.
So's life.
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Re: The Science Delusion

Postby Reg_Prescott on March 31st, 2019, 2:47 pm 

Lozza, I think I love you.

Where have you been all my life?

(Gosh, I miss ObviousLeo so much)


@BiV, as usual, very insightful thoughts.

Hoping to respond tomorrow. Love this thread :)
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Re: The Science Delusion

Postby Lozza on April 1st, 2019, 2:25 am 

Serpent » April 1st, 2019, 5:13 am wrote:
Lozza » March 31st, 2019, 12:25 pm wrote:I believe there's a great deal of validity in your appraisal of people stumbling along, it's just that not many of these people seem to see it that way and choose to be adamant about their hypotheses and theories.

Of course they do! Human beings do not live our individual lives in the long-view of history.


Well, some do...empires and dynasties are not built upon short-term thinking. Corporations work on 5, 10, 20 and even 50 year plans. But I take your point that generally, individuals don't.

We need conviction to get on with any kind of endeavour.


That's true, but that's addressing our level of commitment to task, not whether we are, or are not, open to new ideas or approaches to the same task or problem.

Belief in one's political cause, or religion, or parenting style, or scientific theory is what gives us the fortitude to do the hard work and take the hard knocks.


Yes, I agree. It's just a little unfortunate that you included politics and religion in your examples, for I could really let loose on the waste of energy that politics is, and how religion has become redundant. But in essence, yes, you have a fair point.

I've lost count of how many people talk of Darwin's Theory as a law instead of a theory...

Make that +1. Kind of like the round earth theory. We depend on preponderance of evidence to form the convictions upon which we act.
Darwin's Theory would become meaningless if we found out that we (planet Earth) were nothing but a petri dish for a higher life form, wouldn't it?

No, I don't think so. Discovering that a watch is in a submarine at the bottom of an ocean would have no affect on the validity of observations by someone who had studied its mechanism.
Evolution (and I wish people would stop referring to Darwin as if he were solely responsible for that branch of science over the last two centuries) still describes the principles whereby our biological development operates. Whatever the meta-context might be for that process, it's the one in which we exist.


Okay, let's call it "evolution". I see at least two ways of looking at it in the context that I mentioned of the petri dish...1) Earth may well have been "seeded" and then just allowed to grow or develop at its "natural" rate, in which case, yes, evolution still holds true from our perspective. Or, 2) It was not only seeded but there has been frequent intervention in order to achieve a specific result. In this case, our idea of evolution becomes somewhat redundant.

Admittedly, my use of the term "meaningless" was a bit strong.

Actually, this is a good example of how science grows.
Sound observation can be tested and enlarged and built-on, so that even if the original theory is replaced at some future time, by something bigger, or the basic assumption proves incorrect, the data continues to be useful. This is what I meant by science not consisting of individual theories. Even very silly hypotheses can yield valuable insights, or starting points for fresh lines of inquiry.


Yes, I totally agree. I've stated previously in this thread that I appreciate the need for a starting point to work from.

I remember reading prior to the Hubble telescope going up, that it was estimated that there was only a one in a billion chance of there being other intelligent life in the universe. Then the Hubble went up and started operating (after they fixed the lens) only to discover that there were billions of galaxies with billions of star systems within them....so the chance of ONLY one in a billion suddenly became a certainty of there being the chance of millions of planets with intelligent life, if we go by the original statement of one in a billion. I'm sure the person that made that statement re-evaluated it afterwards, but it makes my point of the certainty that people like to use, when there is no way of being so certain with our limited scope.

If you never make a decision until all the data is in from every conceivable instrument of the future, you'll never do anything, know anything, say anything or think anything. The estimate was an estimate according to what was known. The new estimate is an estimate, according to what is known.
All knowledge is provisional.
So's life.


That's also true, but I'm not taking the position that we should all be inert until we "know" everything that there is to be known....we would never learn anything at all if that were the case, for we would be idle. My issue, put simply, is the attitude that some would like to portray definitive knowledge. An example of this would be Black Holes....until VERY recently, it had been proffered, quite definitively, that nothing could survive entering a Black Hole, however there's currently a lot of material and speculation that Black Holes could be wormholes. If one was to have suggested this only a few years ago, they would have been dismissed as being at the very least uninformed, and at worst, wearing a tin-foil hat. People that believe they have definitive knowledge are dismissive of alternate ideas. THAT'S my issue.

I like scientists that use phrases to the effect of, "our current thinking is...", for that, to me, is a more accurate and genuine position to take in contrast to a statement of definitive knowledge.
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Re: The Science Delusion

Postby Lozza on April 1st, 2019, 3:15 am 

Reg_Prescott » April 1st, 2019, 5:47 am wrote:Lozza, I think I love you.


Hahaha! Careful, that could turn into hate tomorrow. I seem to have a track record whereby people can like me one day, and dislike me the next.

Where have you been all my life?

(Gosh, I miss ObviousLeo so much)


@BiV, as usual, very insightful thoughts.

Hoping to respond tomorrow. Love this thread :)


I'm genuinely pleased that someone else is enjoying the thread as much as me.

Cheers,
Loz.
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Re: The Science Delusion

Postby Reg_Prescott on April 1st, 2019, 7:42 am 

TheVat » March 31st, 2019, 11:56 pm wrote:
Fair point, which raises the question of a binary view of falseness - are theories either false or not? Or can they have false portions coexistent with portions that accurately describe a reality?


Well, a standard intrumentalist view holds that theories are neither true nor false; they are not in that line of work; they are not truth-evaluable. Theories, rather, are properly regarded as more like rules (c.f. "Do not feed the animals" which is similarly non truth-evaluable) from which truth-evaluable predictions can be derived.

A modern day empiricist like Bas van Fraassen, by contrast, holds that theories are truth evaluable, but that the epistemic warrant is insufficient to justify any truth claims.

What these two anti-realist positions share in common is that the aim of science is, or ought to be, simply to produce theories that are empirically adequate. That is to say they "save the phenomena", i.e., get the observable realm right and never mind what, if anything, is going on behind the scenes.

These are positions I'm sympathetic to myself.

TheVat » March 31st, 2019, 11:56 pm wrote:A false theory that yields "true predictions" can't be entirely false, can it? E.g. a theory of light as particles, while perhaps not correct on the particulate nature of light, offers a model that is convenient in describing some quantized interactions with measurement devices. We may allow that light is really waves, while enduring the paradox that it can behave in a particulate manner, because that whole photon thing is such a useful approach. Maybe science needs more nuance than is offered by simple true/false menus?


The history of light theories provides a good argument, I believe, for adopting the kind of vaguely empiricist position I sketched above. We've gone from light as corpuscles (Newton), to light as being waves of one kind or another, to the current view of light as photons.

It's far from obvious how this could be described as an approach to truth, even if it be the case that instrumental accuracy has steadily increased.

Similarly for theories of gravity: I don't think any physicist still believes that gravity is an attractive force which acts instantaneously over any distance against a backdrop of absolute space and time, which would be the case if Newtonian physics was construed realistically.

In both cases, then, we see -- at least intuitively - an increase in empirical adequacy. The stories told by our forebears about what's going on behind the scenes, on the other hand, would appear to have been hopelessly wrong.

And these theories under discussion right now must surely be regarded as some of the most highly confirmed in all science.

TheVat » March 31st, 2019, 11:56 pm wrote:Like Paul, I am intrigued by Sheldrakes pet knowledge experiments (would it be asking too much from the god of puns for him to also study ducks?).

Tee hee!
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Re: The Science Delusion

Postby Reg_Prescott on April 1st, 2019, 8:10 am 

Lozza » April 1st, 2019, 12:52 am wrote:
IMO, Dawkins is a hypocrite of the highest order, and lacks personal insight. He's turned "atheism" into a religion of its own, and like so many other religions, likes to profit from it. That's the hypocrisy. The lack of personal insight is that when talking to theists, most will openly admit that it's an emotional experience, yet no atheist that I've encountered will concede that their stance is equally emotional. Neither can evidence their belief system, so the only conclusion we can draw from their stance is that it is an emotional one. Agnosticism is a rational conclusion to the issue in stating "I don't know" and it can be taken a step further with ignosticism which adds, "not only do I not know, I don't know what you're defining as a 'god'".



Once again, we see eye-to-eye, Lozza.

My two most despised high profile science popularisers must surely be Richard Dawkins and Lawrence Krauss.

A charge of hypocrisy is not one I'd pursue myself, but rather just sheer ignorance. Both men, in my opinion, are propagators of misinformation "of the highest order" -- I can only assume unwittingly.

Here, I refer not to their own areas of expertise, to which I must defer to their superior knowledge. Both men, though, have a nasty habit of standing back from their respective bailiwicks and pontificating on what I will term metascientific issues, i.e., those pertaining to the nature of science, theories, explanation, reduction, epistemology, truth, evidence, confirmation, method, etc., etc.

And both are utterly clueless. It's almost painful to have to watch or listen to, as one absurdity is advanced after another.

Now, there are people who devote careers to the aforementioned metascientific issues, namely philosophers and historians of science. These are the experts in this case.

I'm never quite sure if D & K are just blithely unaware of the existence of these experts, or too contemptuous to acknowledge their expertise.

Either way, one would be as well listening to Muttley. He's funnier, too.
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Re: The Science Delusion

Postby Reg_Prescott on April 1st, 2019, 9:22 am 

Lozza » March 30th, 2019, 11:38 pm wrote:But I'm continually amazed at how definitive so many scientists are about their studies and observations.




Freeman Dyson has this to say...


"In the modern world, science and society often interact in a perverse way. We live in a technological society, and technology causes political problems. The politicians and the public expect science to provide answers to the problems. Scientific experts are paid and encouraged to provide answers. The public does not have much use for a scientist who says, “Sorry, but we don’t know.” The public prefers to listen to scientists who give confident answers to questions and make confident predictions of what will happen as a result of human activities. So it happens that the experts who talk publicly about politically contentious questions tend to speak more clearly than they think. They make confident predictions about the future, and end up believing their own predictions. Their predictions become dogmas which they do not question. The public is led to believe that the fashionable scientific dogmas are true, and it may sometimes happen that they are wrong. That is why heretics who question the dogmas are needed."
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Re: The Science Delusion

Postby Serpent on April 1st, 2019, 9:30 am 

Lozza » April 1st, 2019, 1:25 am wrote:Well, some do...empires and dynasties are not built upon short-term thinking.

No, they're built upon absolute conviction, absolute commitment, absolute confidence in whatever they believe is The Truth and the right way and unquestioning obedience.
Corporations work on 5, 10, 20 and even 50 year plans.

Which change and often fail. And 50 years is well within one lifetime: a very short-term view in the history of scientific understanding.
[We need conviction to get on with any kind of endeavour.]

That's true, but that's addressing our level of commitment to task, not whether we are, or are not, open to new ideas or approaches to the same task or problem.

A conviction is not the same as commitment to a task. A theory, or cause, or ideal is not a mere task. It's not being given a technical problem to solve. It's the work of a lifetime, often the the life-long passion of a heretic.
May I recommend a book? https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/30671.The_Sleepwalkers
A theory becomes hide-bound only after it's generally accepted by the scientific community. Like every other community, it's populated by a majority of adequate professionals, a minority of high and low performers, a very small number of of kooks, cranks, mavericks and geniuses. The last category comes up with new ideas, which are applauded or jeered by the majority at the moment of introduction. (Which happens depends on a number of factors.) Once it's been supported, tested, elaborated, formalized, etc., the new idea is accepted by the entire community. It becomes the next generation's dogma, because the mediocre majority is teaching it in universities. The generation after that, it's passed on to the writers of secondary school textbooks; the following generation grows up having had to repeat it on exams.
So, of course it's true.
Until it's knocked over and the process repeats.

Okay, let's call it "evolution".

Yes, let's, and you can lose the quotation marks.
Or, 2) It was not only seeded but there has been frequent intervention in order to achieve a specific result. In this case, our idea of evolution becomes somewhat redundant.

No, it still doesn't. The observations are still valid; the facts on the ground do not change. The only way we might discover these "interventions" would be to find evidence of them in the fossil record. That evidence could come to light only if the fossil record and other indicators are a coherent and continuous body of well-documented findings, where points of interference stand out enough to indicate a pattern.
There are only two ways those earlier finds could become redundant:
1. if an entire, unbroken body of evidence showed up with the interference data clearly marked.
( If such a document did showed up, like Hitler's diaries or a full set of Dead Sea Scrolls... well, as a non-scientists, I'd be leery of its authenticity.)
2. the aliens themselves came and told us the whole story.

I like scientists that use phrases to the effect of, "our current thinking is...", for that, to me, is a more accurate and genuine position to take in contrast to a statement of definitive knowledge.

Okay.
I'm not committed to black holes, one way or the other.
But we still ought to have done something to prevent climate change, rather than dismissing all the scientists who said: Our current thinking is that we have only about fifty years to turn this around.
That was about 1970, and we did nothing, waiting for more definitive data; waiting to hear counter-arguments; waiting for proof.
Well, see, those early climate scientists were wrong - so there!
We only had thirty years to turn it around.
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Re: The Science Delusion

Postby TheVat on April 1st, 2019, 10:08 am 

Love that Freeman Dyson quote, Colin. I had the pleasure of meeting him once, but had not seen that succinct account of how science and society interact.

Empirical adequacy - works for me. Several great physicists have acknowledged that they really can't try to be ontologists or metaphysicians as well.

The concept of empirical adequacy seems pertinent to climate change. We don't know everything, but we know enough to see that our ship is headed for the falls and it's time to start rowing away from them. History is littered with the corpses of societies that ignored worst-case scenarios and were waiting for pure epistemic certainties or for gods to swoop in and effect a rescue.
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Re: The Science Delusion

Postby Serpent on April 1st, 2019, 11:33 am 

There's an aspect I've left out, which may be worth considering when we make judgments about the validity of scientific ideas: their proximity.

Whether black holes exist, behave in a certain way, are caused by a certain chain of events - it's all very distant. Hard to study, hard to verify, and not of immediate concern to anyone on their planet aside from the cosmologists involved in that study. It's perfectly all right if they wrangle and waffle over that for another few decades.

Whether agricultural pesticides accumulate in human body-fat - that is close to our self-interest. We'd like a credible and well-documented answer asap.

Even within one discipline, there are proximate and remote subjects areas. Generally, more practical application, and more potential dangers require a greater degree of certainty - or at least show of confidence. Even if you're only 50% sure the thing will explode, it's better to evacuate the building than wait for verification. If it doesn't, you can wear the egg without shame. On the other hand, if you're 50% sure it won't explode, and wait to warn somebody until all the facts are in, you'd better stay in the building yourself.
As for dark energy, it's waited 13 billion years; another decade won't hurt.

I lied. Two things.
The other is how the scientist's conviction is presented, and to whom. It's quite possible for a scientist to be perfectly frank about his uncertainty regarding a theory when he's talking to colleagues, but then to simplify his idea and make it sound more coherent for a magazine reporter, who then writes up "just the good parts", so that it's presented to the public as a definitive statement and the scientist is accused of arrogance. Sometimes, too often, mass media pick up the morsel they think the public like and ignore the bulk of an exposition or paper. Even in his own book, a popularizer may be influenced, perhaps pressurized by his publisher, to sound more authoritative than he feels.
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Re: The Science Delusion

Postby Lozza on April 2nd, 2019, 2:30 am 

Serpent and Reg_Prescott,

I'd like to thank you both for your informed, well-reasoned and measured responses, and being so patient with a Schmuck lay-person such as myself. It's been a true delight to be educated by people such as you both. Your posts have been informative and succinct, requiring me to digest some of the information as well as consider aspects that I hadn't deliberated over. I find that I have no rebuttal to any of your posts, but am sure I will have a question to pose here and there. Again, I thank you.

Cheers,
Loz.
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Re: The Science Delusion

Postby Reg_Prescott on April 2nd, 2019, 2:34 am 

Lozza » April 2nd, 2019, 3:30 pm wrote:Serpent and Reg_Prescott,

I'd like to thank you both for your informed, well-reasoned and measured responses, and being so patient with a Schmuck lay-person such as myself. It's been a true delight to be educated by people such as you both. Your posts have been informative and succinct, requiring me to digest some of the information as well as consider aspects that I hadn't deliberated over. I find that I have no rebuttal to any of your posts, but am sure I will have a question to pose here and there. Again, I thank you.

Cheers,
Loz.



I'll see your layman schmuckness and raise.

Lol, thanks for a fun thread.
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Re: The Science Delusion

Postby Reg_Prescott on April 2nd, 2019, 2:52 am 

davidm » March 31st, 2019, 9:35 am wrote:Here ya go, Reg! I posted this for you — oh, what? A year ago? But facts make no difference to you, do they? But I post again!

David Berlinski makes an ass of himself defending intelligent design

And, yeah … Darwin’s theory was falsified by young earthism of his era, sez you!

Did it ever occur to you that Darwin’s discoveries falsified young earthism???

Guess not!

And, yeah … Einstein was “falsified” … so was continental drift … because, maybe, plate tectonics had not yet been discovered?


Oh, and did it ever occur to you that as a standard for scientific theories, falsificationism is complete bullshit?

Guess not!


Whaddya gonna do? :-D



One of the main reasons I no longer frequent this site frequently is you, David, and your domination thereof.

It seems your raison d'etre (between contorting everything I say) is to deploy your mediocre brain mocking other members. As Lozza said so wisely, and I paraphrase, mocking is easy.

I admire TheVat and Lomax more than I can express. Wonderfully clever, gracious, insightful gentlemen. Two men whose wisdom keeps me looking in here from time to time.

You're just, well, Jerry Coyne in a different penguin outfit.
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Re: The Science Delusion

Postby Reg_Prescott on April 2nd, 2019, 3:07 am 

davidm » March 31st, 2019, 9:35 am wrote:Here ya go, Reg! I posted this for you — oh, what? A year ago? But facts make no difference to you, do they? But I post again!

David Berlinski makes an ass of himself defending intelligent design

And, yeah … Darwin’s theory was falsified by young earthism of his era, sez you!

Did it ever occur to you that Darwin’s discoveries falsified young earthism???

Guess not!

And, yeah … Einstein was “falsified” … so was continental drift … because, maybe, plate tectonics had not yet been discovered?

Oh, and did it ever occur to you that as a standard for scientific theories, falsificationism is complete bullshit?

Guess not!


Whaddya gonna do? :-D




If, as you claim, falsificationism is complete bullshit, why would it "occur to me that Darwin's discoveries falsified young-Earthism?"

Duh!
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