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 SciameriKen on May 12th, 2017, 11:00 am 

NoShips » Fri May 12, 2017 12:50 pm wrote:
SciameriKen » May 12th, 2017, 9:33 pm wrote:
The article you posted makes very good point, but it misses something very important - ID is not science - it is agenda. It serves one purpose and that is to protect a strict interpretation of the Bible.

Well, Ken, this response strikes me as just more of the same bullying and hypocrisy. As Laudan correctly notes in the article I posted:

"Rather than taking on the creationists obliquely in wholesale fashion by suggesting that what they are doing is "unscientific" tout court (which is doubly silly because few authors can even agree on what makes an activity scientific), we should confront their claims directly and in piecemeal fashion by asking what evidence and arguments can be marshaled for and against each of them."

Now, if there was a universally agreed upon timeless and invariant "Method" of science (i.e. The Scientific Method of Nordic folklore), disputes like this one over who is, and who is not, doing science could be easily settled by appeal to this Method. People like you and I, and even these odious Creationists, would be able to determine for ourselves, in a fair and objective manner, whose activities pass scientific muster.

My own considered opinion on the matter is that there exists no such Method. If you've discovered it, Ken, be sure to share. As things stand for now, though, it's not the method that determines who's doing science, but rather simple, imperious dictatorial fiat: "We'll tell you who's doing science" - the folks with the right colored hats.

Nice to have a hat, eh?

As for "agenda", are you seriously gonna stand there with a straight face, one hand on your heart and the other raised, and solemnly swear so help you Dawkins, that scientists do not have their own "agendas"? -- that scientists are motivated by nothing other than a disinterested thirst for knowledge? A race of superbeings aloof to human baseness, cupidity and foibles? The Stepford Scientists?

Sigh, times like these I miss that Pyongyang gulag.

You do know Isaac Newton felt he was revealing God's laws, right? Should he get the boot from the Good Science Club too for being religiously motivated?




Absolutely correct - The goal of science is to maximize our ability to describe reality. Anything that is not aligned to that goal is agenda driven. There is nothing wrong with what Isaac Newton did because he was not attempting to tie his scientific theories to what is not scientifically founded (i.e. the bible).

If you think those that established ID did so to maximize our ability to describe reality then I think I have a theory for why you are flat broke - how often are you taken by scammers? :D
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Re: A Simple Question: Should We Believe Scientists?

Postby dandelion on May 12th, 2017, 12:32 pm 

NoShips » May 8th, 2017, 6:35 am wrote:
dandelion » May 8th, 2017, 7:20 am wrote:
Also, sorry if I missed it, but, NoShips, do you have a view about sufficient grounds for any knowledge?


Er, not yet, just some kinda vague and epistemically pusillanimous scruples about preferring to err on the side of caution.

Stick around :-)

Hi. So, NoShips, in your view there are interactions? And for argument's sake, in your view, reason?
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Re: A Simple Question: Should We Believe Scientists?

Postby NoShips on May 12th, 2017, 7:27 pm 

SciameriKen » May 13th, 2017, 12:00 am wrote:
Absolutely correct - The goal of science is to maximize our ability to describe reality. Anything that is not aligned to that goal is agenda driven. There is nothing wrong with what Isaac Newton did because he was not attempting to tie his scientific theories to what is not scientifically founded (i.e. the bible).

If you think those that established ID did so to maximize our ability to describe reality then I think I have a theory for why you are flat broke - how often are you taken by scammers? :D



Science hereby thanks you for electing yourself spokesman and making it clear that scientists everywhere are a perfectly homogenous bunch, unanimous about what the goal and methods of science are, or ought to be -- not unlike mindless sheep or North Korean patriots, come to think of it.

Oh wait! That would be a very silly thing to say, not to mention more than a wee bit condescending. Ken, I can only assume you were picking your nose in class again when I wrote (on page 9):

"Every time you hear a scientist aver "Science is all about [...]", or "Science has nothing to do with [...]" I strongly suggest you take it with a pinch of sodium chloride. What you're hearing is an opinion, if that is not made explicit by the scientist herself, and bet yer Sinatra collection losers like myself with no life, given a little time, can scrape up a few quotes from noted scientists who aver the exact opposite."


But now, like a bull in a china shop (you must stop doing this, dude) you aver: "The goal of science is to maximize our ability to describe reality."

It was already adumbrated on page 4 that reality might be too lofty a goal in the view of some eminent scientists when I said:

"If it's examples (of bona fide scientists) you want, you'll find strong empiricist [i.e. anti-realist - me 5/13] tendencies in the writings of Mach, Duhem, Poincare, Bridgman, and the early Einstein, among others."


On the Wiki page for Ernst Mach, for example, we learn:

"Thus scientific laws while somewhat idealized have more to do with describing sensations than with reality as it exists beyond sensations."


And you were probably hunting Pokemon again (Tsk tsk!) when I wrote on page 8:

"Quantum physics may well constitute an exception to my claim [that realism is dominant in science - me 5/13]: QM, as these guys will tell you themselves, is weird, and thus seems to defy any common-sense realistic interpretation. As a calculating device, on the other hand, it works wonders by all accounts. "Shut up and calculate; never mind what it all means" as they say LOL"


The dictum "Shut up and calculate" is an expression of instrumentalism, viz., the view that the goal of science, in this case at least, is not to describe reality, as you insist, but rather to simply get the numbers right.

Ask your friends in the quantum physics department whether they believe QM theory describes reality (or aims to describe reality), as you adamantly assert. You might get a shock. Niels Bohr tells us, for instance:

"Physics is not about how the world is, it is about what we can say about the world"



These ID guys want the same thing you want, Ken. Although it's always far easier to simply dehumanize one's adversary than to put in the hard work of actually trying to understand a person. As Bertrand Russell said (in another context), it enjoys all the advantages of theft over hard toil.
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Re: A Simple Question: Should We Believe Scientists?

Postby NoShips on May 12th, 2017, 7:41 pm 

dandelion » May 13th, 2017, 1:32 am wrote:Hi. So, NoShips, in your view there are interactions? And for argument's sake, in your view, reason?


Sorry, Dandelion. I don't understand what you mean.
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Re: A Simple Question: Should We Believe Scientists?

Postby Braininvat on May 12th, 2017, 7:51 pm 

Never a dull moment, NS. I am experiencing a mild crisis of the epistemic variety, thanks to this thread, but crises usually give me a thrill. That, plus a small buzzing sensation 1.5 inches below my left eye, as if a cicada were lodged in a sinus cavity. I will try to get a better handle on what empirical adequacy might be and how to meter my skepticism when all the evidence trays are filled to overflowing and favor one interpretation strongly over another. Maybe I can circle back to your Bohm v Bohr example, if I get some free time in abundance. Thanks again.
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Re: A Simple Question: Should We Believe Scientists?

Postby NoShips on May 12th, 2017, 7:57 pm 

Braininvat » May 13th, 2017, 8:51 am wrote:Never a dull moment, NS. I am experiencing a mild crisis of the epistemic variety, thanks to this thread, but crises usually give me a thrill. That, plus a small buzzing sensation 1.5 inches below my left eye, as if a cicada were lodged in a sinus cavity. I will try to get a better handle on what empirical adequacy might be and how to meter my skepticism when all the evidence trays are filled to overflowing and favor one interpretation strongly over another. Maybe I can circle back to your Bohm v Bohr example, if I get some free time in abundance. Thanks again.


Ke-ke! :-)

I've been reading a lot about that lately, and there are a few terrific books on the topic of how Copenhagen achieved almost absolute hegemony despite the fact that Bohm's theory, by all accounts, is empirically indistinguishable.

Evidence and logic (blah blah) aside, it seems to have a lot to do with the pure rhetorical persuasiveness of Bohr, Heisenberg, et al, cowing all (or most) dissidents into servile submission.

And if you've read Feyerabend's "Against Method" you'll know he says very similar things about Galileo's promotion of the Copernican model -- by hook or by crook kinda thing. I do remember he uses the word "subterfuge". So much for Scientific Method. Tee hee!
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Re: A Simple Question: Should We Believe Scientists?

Postby Forest_Dump on May 12th, 2017, 8:20 pm 

Well I have to admit that I have a very analogous set of beliefs to your openness to the plausibility of ID. Its kind of embarassing because it comes from an area in physics where I am not all that educated in but a lot of the history and philosophy of science quotes and examples you have referred to could as easily be applied here. Let me explaon.

I used to be big on listening to music, especially classic rock, and spent a lot of money on concert tickets, albums and ultimately expensive stereo equipment including a very pricey turntable. And I quickly noticed that the "theory" held that a single tiny needle, delicately balanced but ultimately dragged through a single wiggly groove in a record produced all this great music. You could literally hear a singer, maybe backup vocals, multiple instruments, drums PLUS things like sometimes a hand squeaking on a guitar and sounds from an audience ranging from a stray cough or shout out to tons on clapping, cheering, etc. And different records would have different sounds and these sounds would come out of both left and right headphones or speakers seperately and/or blended to various degress (I won't go into some of the stuff crom a Pink Floyd album). But my point is that "science" tries to explain this as coming from ONE single crystal needle dragged through this groove so that this ONE single needle just vibrates and produces all these sounds (of course even more unbelievealbe when you consider records of symphanies, etc.) I mean I haven't heard one single scientist offer a viable explanation for that that I could believe and, of course, we know the relevant sciences like physics, etc., have gone through a lot of changes and franly the only people I have ever heard of talking about aything even close to this have worked for the related industries so I think we can be safe in assuming they just ant to protect their secrets.

So let me bounce some ideas out there. We know needles can have fantastic properties. Doctors use them to inject some kinds of fluids (but who ever gets to check to find out that isn't just some kind of water). And so do acupuncturists. And we know that crystals apparantly vibrate in weird and wild ways that New Age people use to change their moods without even dragging them through grooves to make them vibrate. So one hypothesis might be that the phonograph stylus doesn't actually produce sounds or music but simply produces a vibration that unlocks this music that is already in your head. Makes more sense to me than expecting people to believe that one needle can sound like Pink Floyd at one time and Led Zeppelin the next. Or maybe the sounds are out in the atmosphere as a kind of remnant energy and the vibrations merely drags specific strings of energy out of the air. Doesn't this sound a lot more scientific to you or at least as plausible?

I do have some other related ideas. One is about the well-known "fact" that no two snow flakes are ever identical but are amazingly complex (they obviously have to be to all be different given how many are around here some winters). Such complexity and variation all from molecules consisting entirely of two atoms of hydrogen and one of oxygen clearly can't be accidental (statistics alone would imply that some snowflakes must be identical but I have never heard of anyone finding and documenting such a case). So I propose an intelligent freezer controlling all of this (who probably slips the odd copy but conveniently makes sure one goes to northern Canada and the copy to Scotland or Antartica, etc.). I call it the IFy for short but then again maybe there is one per snowflake so we are dealing with a lot of IFies.

Does this all sound like plausible science to you?
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Re: A Simple Question: Should We Believe Scientists?

Postby NoShips on May 12th, 2017, 8:50 pm 

Forest_Dump » May 13th, 2017, 9:20 am wrote:Well I have to admit that I have a very analogous set of beliefs to your openness to the plausibility of ID. Its kind of embarassing because it comes from an area in physics where I am not all that educated in but a lot of the history and philosophy of science quotes and examples you have referred to could as easily be applied here. Let me explaon.




Well, before going any further, you'll find I said on the previous page:

"Personally, I consider the western monotheistic account implausible in the extreme; the scientific account I see as more or less vacuous at its core."


and also (same post):

"My position is one of skepticism: in my opinion we are largely ignorant of how "all this" came about."

I do not find ID particularly plausible (whereas I find Darwinian type explanations simply vacuous).

Once you stop misrepresenting me, Forest, we can perhaps move ahead. Why do you persist in doing this?

Edit: Never mind. No need to answer that. I think I already know why.
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Re: A Simple Question: Should We Believe Scientists?

Postby SciameriKen on May 12th, 2017, 8:52 pm 

NoShips » Fri May 12, 2017 11:27 pm wrote:These ID guys want the same thing you want, Ken. Although it's always far easier to simply dehumanize one's adversary than to put in the hard work of actually trying to understand a person. As Bertrand Russell said (in another context), it enjoys all the advantages of theft over hard toil.



I call Bull on all this Shippy. ID guys do not give a crap about what future discoveries ID leads to. My only assumption at this point is that you argue from ignorance. You truly do not understand how the theory of evolution works - if you did then you would see that these two theories are not even in the same ballpark as far as what they are able to accomplish.

I will also stand by what i said before - The goal of science is to maximize our ability to describe reality. The important word in this sentence you breezed by is "maximize". We may not be able to describe reality - reality may not even exist - but by the development of reproducible experiments we can in some part maximize our ability. QM guys included.

No Ships - seeing as the thread is 300+ with no real progress on the horizon and the tone of your writing is edging on the side of offensive I'll give you the final word. Enjoy.
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Re: A Simple Question: Should We Believe Scientists?

Postby Forest_Dump on May 12th, 2017, 8:55 pm 

Well all I am saying is that, just as you find Darwinian theories vacuous and implausible, so too I find the vibrating crystal theory to be vacuous and implausible. So I just invented my own theories that I think are very bit as plausible as the out-of-date scientific explanaitions. Don't you agree?
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Re: A Simple Question: Should We Believe Scientists?

Postby NoShips on May 12th, 2017, 8:59 pm 

Forest_Dump » May 13th, 2017, 9:55 am wrote:Well all I am saying is that, just as you find Darwinian theories vacuous and implausible, so too I find the vibrating crystal theory to be vacuous and implausible. So I just invented my own theories that I think are very bit as plausible as the out-of-date scientific explanaitions. Don't you agree?


You continue to misrepresent me. Darwinian-based accounts, in my opinion, are vacuous precisely because they are trivially true. They're highly plausible in the same way that "all bachelors are unmarried men" is highly plausible.

In other words, they lack empirical content.

To establish whether the hypothesis "In a certain environment E, and all else being equal, yellow pythons will survive and reproduce more successfully than brown pythons" is true or false, empirical investigation is required. Its truth or falsity cannot be known a priori.

On the other hand, the truth of the hypothesis "All else being equal, those organisms with traits conducive to survival and reproduction in a given environment E will tend to survive and reproduce more successfully than those without" can be known from our armchairs. And that's the core of Darwinism.
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Re: A Simple Question: Should We Believe Scientists?

Postby Forest_Dump on May 12th, 2017, 9:18 pm 

NoShips wrote:You continue to misrepresent me. Darwinian-based accounts, in my opinion, are vacuous precisely because they are trivially true. They're highly plausible in the same way that "all bachelors are unmarried men" is highly plausible.

In other words, they lack empirical content.

To establish whether the hypothesis "In a certain environment E, and all else being equal, yellow pythons will survive and reproduce more successfully than brown pythons" is true or false, empirical investigation is required. Its truth or falsity cannot be known a priori.

On the other hand, the truth of the hypothesis "All else being equal, those organisms with traits conducive to survival and reproduction in a given environment E will tend to survive and reproduce more successfully than those without" can be known from our armchairs. And that's the core of Darwinism.


Wow. On that I will have to move to other things because you certainly don't know much about evolutionary theory. There is FAR too much to correct in that one little line for me to deal with now. Don't they even teach more and better in highschool now? Where are you from???
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Re: A Simple Question: Should We Believe Scientists?

Postby Braininvat on May 12th, 2017, 11:26 pm 

I have to say, Forest's diamond stylus theory of psychic crystal brain excitation was a pretty funny and clever way to make a point about theories and empirical adequacy. I plan to conduct an experiment in which I drag a diamond stylus across the surface of a blue suede shoe and see if I can pick up Elvis from the Akashic record. We must not be corseted by narrow interpretation!
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Re: A Simple Question: Should We Believe Scientists?

Postby dandelion on May 13th, 2017, 7:17 am 

NoShips » May 13th, 2017, 12:41 am wrote:
dandelion » May 13th, 2017, 1:32 am wrote:Hi. So, NoShips, in your view there are interactions? And for argument's sake, in your view, reason?


Sorry, Dandelion. I don't understand what you mean.


I wonder about the nature of the “kinda vague and epistemically pusillanimous scruples about preferring to err on the side of caution”. From what I’ve read, the writing here suggests some acceptance of empirical knowledge, and perhaps at least from the coherence of the arguments made, some acceptance of knowledge through reason. I also see now a mention of trivial truth, which might suggest some acceptance of variability of rational knowledge value. Does your view agree with these? Again, sorry if any of this has obviously been covered- I haven’t read all that has been written or linked to- and hope this is clearer. (Also, attempting to quote, I pressed a number of buttons, sorry about that too!)
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Re: A Simple Question: Should We Believe Scientists?

Postby Forest_Dump on May 13th, 2017, 9:16 am 

NoShips

I highlighted that one sentence because in many ways, to use a phrase you might be more familiar with, it is clear you are mispronouncing shibboleth.

Darwin did come up with the idea of natural selection (although there are those who give more credit to Wallace) which was indeed powerful in and of itself but more so because of the impacts of the idea in terms of how to go about doing research. However much of that didn't come about until the early to mid 20th century with the "New Synthesis" which many call Darwinism or Darwinian Evolutionary Theory in honour of Darwin. But it is a lot more than just Darwin's idea of Natural Selection. Certainly some like Dawkins (and Dennett) give a lot of attention and credit to Darwin and Natural Selection and they do make some excellent progress but IMHO it is also limited in many ways because of the kind of problems or questions it tackles which generally begin with individuals or even individual traits (i.e., specific genes).

However for many others, the focus in more on populations. Additionally, for some, increasingly attention is focused less on thinking about individuals and populations on the path to evolving into what we see now and more on understanding past populations in their own terms as subjects worthy of study all on their own. So we don't look at dinosaurs as simply on the way to becoming crocodiles of turkeys but as worth thinking about in their own terms. Similarly, we don't necessarily spend all our time wondering about the mechanisms for how Australopithecines or Neanderthals became modern people but try to figure out how they might have lived with each other, etc. There are subtle differences in how these kinds of historical sciences are conducted as well as different kinds of historiiographic interests in where how and why our interests have changed which brings in a lot of those questions about politics, etc., you like to dwell upon.

I have to admit that I was flummoxed by your critigue that evolutionary theory is flawed because it doesn't generate useful predictions (although I think it does when it comes to things like flu shots) because a big part of the back of my mind is the question of "who cares?" Not like I am going to be around in 50,000 years to see how these predictions will work out. Sure people like Dawkins seem to focus on how and why things are what they are today but I just happen to be one of those people who are far more interested in how and why thngs were as they were back then. Of course these different perspectives both inform each other but they definitely also have their different biases because they really do ask fundamentally different kinds of questions and require very different kinds of data and modes of interpretation. In some ways I would even go so far as to say they require and entail very different paradigms.

In the end, whether or not you are aware of it (and perhaps you are genuinely unaware of it - and if so then I apologize for some of my pokes above), I have no difficulty see influences and biases coming from the iD and creationist camps in what you are writing and thinking. I would suggest what you really need to do is consider what it is you really want to know about and why those kinds fo questions are of concern to you. Then maybe you can pull some of these questions and critiques back together into a more coherent package. Obviously there is something important to you in all of this or you wouldn't dwell on it so much.
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Re: A Simple Question: Should We Believe Scientists?

Postby wolfhnd on May 14th, 2017, 10:18 pm 

Contrary to popular opinion science is about close enough. If you are looking for "truth" chances are you are you are dreaming.
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Re: A Simple Question: Should We Believe Scientists?

Postby NoShips on May 14th, 2017, 11:47 pm 

wolfhnd » May 15th, 2017, 11:18 am wrote:Contrary to popular opinion science is about close enough. If you are looking for "truth" chances are you are you are dreaming.


Glad to hear your thoughts, Wolfhnd, although my initial concern on reading your post is that you're doing exactly what SciameriKen was doing earlier. See his post at the top of this page, and my response immediately below, most pertinently this passage:

"Every time you hear a scientist aver "Science is all about [...]", or "Science has nothing to do with [...]" I strongly suggest you take it with a pinch of sodium chloride. What you're hearing is an opinion, if that is not made explicit by the scientist herself, and bet yer Sinatra collection losers like myself with no life, given a little time, can scrape up a few quotes from noted scientists who aver the exact opposite."

To be more explicit, Wolf, what you're doing is making a blanket statement of the form "Science is all about [...]" or "Science has nothing to do with [...]" -- the kind I cautioned about in my reply to Ken -- which, if understood as simply a normative expression of one person's opinion about what science ought to be, is entirely innocuous. And it goes without saying, of course, that you're perfectly entitled to your opinion, like all the rest of us.

The problem is, though, at least as I see matters, is that statements of this kind without a qualifying "in my opinion", are read more naturally as an assertion of an undisputed fact. In other words, when Ken tells us "The goal of science is to maximize our ability to describe reality" and you subsequently tell us "science is about close enough [to truth]", rather than as a personal prescription, readers are more likely to take this as a description of science and its goals; a description that scientists and other thinkers in all times and places are unanimously agreed upon. And on this reading, I'd have to counter that the claim is simply false, as I did with Ken.

Scientists are neither mindless sheep nor North Korean patriots, as if this even needs to be said. They're a pretty heterogenous bunch, surely you'd agree, not easily quailed into uniformity of thought -- at least not the most outstanding specimens at any rate -- instantiating a veritable panoply of diverse views on what the goals and methods of science are, or ought to be.

I already demonstrated that Ken's assertion "The goal of science is to maximize our ability to describe reality" cannot be sustained, if understood as a description of scientists' own collective, unanimous views about the goal of science. No doubt many scientists do slip comfortably into Ken's one-size-fits-all pullover; nevertheless a significant subset of others does not.

The same could be said for your own grab-bag, Wolf. Highlights of the show so far have included having to listen to Neil deGrasse Tyson's (page 5) sacerdotal proclamation that "The good thing about science is that it's true whether or not you believe in it"-- close enough, for prof Tyson, is apparently not good enough -- as well as my own bête noire Dawkins insisting much to my chagrin and now your chagrin too that "Gravity is not a version of the truth. It is the truth."

Remember what you said above: "If you are looking for "truth" chances are you are you are dreaming."? Someone had better pinch Tyson and Dawkins then. (And there's plenty more where they came from.)

If fortune deserts you, you may also hear him wax gaily, among other things, on the fact of evolution, with nary a hint, that this doubting Thomas can perceive anyway, of the "close enough" type epistemic modesty you purvey. Facts are, after all, by definition true.

Meanwhile, what do you say yourself, Wolf, to a claim such as "Gold is a chemical element with 79 protons in the nucleus"?

Close enough? Or exactly right? In cases like this, which could be multiplied indefinitely, do you say that science approximates truth, or that science attains truth?
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Re: A Simple Question: Should We Believe Scientists?

Postby NoShips on May 15th, 2017, 12:13 am 

"Yes, scientists, pfft, they're all the same" - anon

Well, I certainly didn't say it. Bet I'm the one that gets lynched again though :-)
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Re: A Simple Question: Should We Believe Scientists?

Postby thehedglin on May 28th, 2017, 5:41 pm 

No. It is not either required or recommended that one simply believe someone because "they are a scientist". It is much better to look at the actual results and conclusions that they make, check if the methodology they used was sound, and be sure their conclusions rationally follow from the results. Science is NOT a person, so no matter who is doing it, the method and conclusions are all that really matters. A crap paper is a crap paper, no matter whose name is written on it.

Yay, my first post.
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Re: A Simple Question: Should We Believe Scientists?

Postby NoShips on May 29th, 2017, 6:39 am 

Welcome to our den of iniquity, Thehedglin!

Well, yes, good points, but then after we've checked for typos, corrected factual slip-ups, confirmed that all cited sources are kosher, exposed lunatics who have escaped from the local asylum now posing as nuclear physicists, and all the rest, it seems we're left with a restatement of the original question, viz.,

"Should we believe scientists? How do we know that their "conclusions rationally follow from the results?" How can we be sure that their "methodology is sound", i.e., reliably yields statements worthy of our belief?"

Charlatanism, incompetence, data-fudging, and fraud, though occasional worries as I'm sure scientists themselves will admit, are not my principal misgivings here.

After all, even when all the proper precautions (phone calls to the asylum) have been taken, and the customary safeguards (peer review, etc.) deployed, it's not at all uncommon for bona fide scientists themselves, appraising exactly the same data, to disagree about what conclusions follow 'rationally' from the results. Highly trained, competent and gifted scientists by no means invariably believe each other! From this we see that a body of data/evidence rarely, if ever, leads ineluctably to a single conclusion. Evidence and logic, despite certain advertising to the contrary, are not by themselves sufficient to the task, at least in some cases, perhaps most cases. Theories, it would appear, are massively underdetermined by evidence. To get a taste of this, see the current thread on "Interpretations and Consensus" of quantum physics.

Neither is it particularly rare in the history of science to see disagreement vanquished, a virtual consensus achieved, only to have it overturned by posterity, a concern we've touched on earlier in the thread, languishing under the lugubrious title of "the Pessimistic Induction". Even the most highly confirmed theories that may to one generation appear beyond any reasonable doubt can and do succumb to the vicissitudes of scientific fortune, a fortiori our less well confirmed theories seem all the more precarious.

It's far from obvious, then, that appeal to rationality or 'sound' methodology can break this kind of deadlock. If we knew which methods were sound, there would be no problems of the kind just adverted to!

With these concerns in mind, we've also contrasted the merits of various epistemological positions that one might adopt to scientific claims, from the more audacious stance of the scientific realist who holds that theories are to be understood as accurate representations of reality, including all those unobservable entities and mechanisms posited therein, moreover, quite possibly true, to the more subdued and cautious strictures of the empiricist who limits knowledge/truth claims to the realm of the observable, or the instrumentalist who flat out denies that scientific theories are truth evaluable at all.

Any thoughts?
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Re: A Simple Question: Should We Believe Scientists?

Postby thehedglin on May 29th, 2017, 12:35 pm 

Well, I won't be so droll as to say that evidence and sound logic are all on needs, but it seems to me that science differs from philosophy in one rather stark way...

Application.

Most, if not all, of the more contentious fields are still in their veritable infancy. Plus, science isn't about absolute truth, as the concept itself would literally destroy the method. Changes in theories happen all the time, it is highly unlikely that we would ever find we did not orbit the sun, but changes in our orbital geometry could happen tomorrow. It is impossible for science to remain as static, as say, a dictionary.

However, what an individual should BELIEVE, is a different matter to science. If the evidence and logic given for a conclusion FAILS to convince a person, then they literally cannot simply force themselves to believe it, simple as that. So when one asks what we should believe from science, I can only ever say that one should believe those things that manage to convince them, as all else would seem incomprehensible.
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Re: A Simple Question: Should We Believe Scientists?

Postby Thelogo on May 29th, 2017, 3:22 pm 

I have just read the first page, I'll continue reading but I'll doubt I see a response to the main question: should we believe scientists? with a negative reply.
Nowadays science is heavenly influenced by politics and business (climate, medicine). But assuming all research is done ethically, without third party interests, people should not believe scientists. I'll try to make that argument.

(i) We thought we had very strong evidence for electrons, but turns out we were wrong. After all, there can be no evidence for a non-existent entity. (see also witches), Or

(ii) The evidence for electrons remains very strong, even though they are now known not to exist.

And if you choose (ii), I'm afraid I'll not only have to shoot you, but talk to you about God too. After all, the evidence for God, until quite recently, was taken to be so overwhelming as to be not worth mentioning -- by virtually everyone, um, if you'll pardon my Eurocentricity. Ask Isaac Newton. Or perhaps, on his behalf, I might impertinently ask you, Mitchell: "Just look at all that exquisite design in nature, eh. Don't you agree that the evidence for God's existence is overwhelming?"


Why was god taken as matter of fact in the past? I've heard some explanations that those people were just naive, and made up stories. That is not only baseless, it is also false. Do we really understand how they really sensed the world and their thinking process?
If god was something nobody questioned it was because they had "evidence" that suggested it was real. How rapidly human senses change have been underestimated. Just think how our sight might change in the next 3000 years. Are we going to see the same things, in the microscope and telescope? the way we see the world is going to change again rather drastically.

Ok, putting my serious face back on... Have scientists believe in God? Sure, and many still do. I am one of them. Is the belief in God founded on objective evidence? No, the evidence for the existence of God has always been quite subjective. Did the belief in God come from science? No. So what is the relevance of this belief to the topic of discussion? Nothing whatsoever.


Why can't subjective knowledge have any validity? This has to do with epistemology, but if it is one day proven that subjective evidence is as valid as objective evidence, the whole scientific world would be turned upside down.
This view can't be called "scientific" but just as the human body-senses-continue to evolve, new concepts have to emerge to keep up with a constant changing reality.

The reason why you should not believe them is that in general they are always looking at a very specific/narrow part in time and space, and putting aside the most widely encompassing ideas.
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Re: A Simple Question: Should We Believe Scientists?

Postby Braininvat on May 29th, 2017, 6:38 pm 

[quote]have just read the first page, I'll continue reading but I'll doubt I see a response to the main question: should we believe scientists? with a negative reply.[ /quote]

Several members had negative replies to the question, which underscores the importance at SPCF of reading a thread before replying to it. It also allows you to become familiar with our regular members and their perspectives.

I might also suggest reading up on the defintions of subjective and objective, in order to better evaluate the claim that subjective evidence is as good as objective. Or if "subjective evidence," by which I gather you mean a personal revelation of some variety, meets any criteria of empirical adequacy. Your final paragraph, in which you characterize scientists, may need some clarification - can you offer an example of the "narrow" aspects to which you refer?
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Re: A Simple Question: Should We Believe Scientists?

Postby NoShips on May 29th, 2017, 6:50 pm 

Hi again!

thehedglin » May 30th, 2017, 1:35 am wrote:Well, I won't be so droll as to say that evidence and sound logic are all on needs, but it seems to me that science differs from philosophy in one rather stark way...

Application.


This is hard to deny, and I for one wouldn't deny it. Then again, isn't this irrelevant? The question is not about applications; it's about believing scientific knowledge claims. Many posters have pointed out that science works ("It got us the the Moon"). Unless you can demonstrate that "it works" allows us to infer "it's true", or at least likely to be true, I don't see how this helps. See our lengthy discussion of the "Success Argument" (aka the "Miracle Argument" or "No Miracles Argument") on earlier pages.


thehedglin » May 30th, 2017, 1:35 am wrote:Most, if not all, of the more contentious fields are still in their veritable infancy. Plus, science isn't about absolute truth, as the concept itself would literally destroy the method. Changes in theories happen all the time, it is highly unlikely that we would ever find we did not orbit the sun, but changes in our orbital geometry could happen tomorrow. It is impossible for science to remain as static, as say, a dictionary.


You're not the first to bring it up, but I can make no sense of the notion absolute truth. To me any proposition, at least those that are truth evaluable at all, is either true or false, whether that proposition be "The cat is on the mat", "Electrons have a mass of, um, whatever it is", or "Jesus was the only begotten son of God". What's the difference between a proposition being absolutely true and just plain, old fashioned true?

The method? What method?

thehedglin » May 30th, 2017, 1:35 am wrote:However, what an individual should BELIEVE, is a different matter to science. If the evidence and logic given for a conclusion FAILS to convince a person, then they literally cannot simply force themselves to believe it, simple as that. So when one asks what we should believe from science, I can only ever say that one should believe those things that manage to convince them, as all else would seem incomprehensible.


Again this seems unhelpful. To rephrase your comment: "One should believe those things that they find believable".
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Re: A Simple Question: Should We Believe Scientists?

Postby NoShips on May 29th, 2017, 6:56 pm 

@ Thelogo

Thought I'd point out that of the two quotes in your post above, only one is my own (the first one).
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Re: A Simple Question: Should We Believe Scientists?

Postby NoShips on May 29th, 2017, 7:10 pm 

thehedglin » May 30th, 2017, 1:35 am wrote:
Most, if not all, of the more contentious fields are still in their veritable infancy. Plus, science isn't about absolute truth, as the concept itself would literally destroy the method. Changes in theories happen all the time, it is highly unlikely that we would ever find we did not orbit the sun, but changes in our orbital geometry could happen tomorrow. It is impossible for science to remain as static, as say, a dictionary.


Now this is an interesting question. I was actually going to start a thread on this question the other day. Not sure if it's all that relevant to our thread here but who cares, eh? Let's have a look...

In a Newtonian universe, against a backdrop of absolute space, it seems perfectly legitimate to claim that the Earth orbits the Sun. The Sun remains static (it it did -- we no longer believe this either, do we?) while the Earth revolves. The Earth's motion is absolute. The Sun is at rest.

But we don't live in a Newtonian universe, do we? As far as I can gather, Einsteinian relativity displaced any notion of absolute motion. For argument's sake, assuming the truth of relativity, then, who's to say who orbits who? (leaving Donald Trump out of it for now)

What would a physicist say on this? I'm curious.


Edit P.S. Hmm, just to be annoying, I don't think dictionaries are very "static" either, are they? :-)
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Re: A Simple Question: Should We Believe Scientists?

Postby Athena on May 29th, 2017, 9:02 pm 

"Rather than taking on the creationists obliquely in wholesale fashion by suggesting that what they are doing is "unscientific" tout court (which is doubly silly because few authors can even agree on what makes an activity scientific), we should confront their claims directly and in piecemeal fashion by asking what evidence and arguments can be marshaled for and against each of them."

That is a curious statement to me because science clearly has rules and the creationist are not following the rules. However, those who are doing experiments to test the big bang theory are also on the path of determining if everything is the result of chaos or not. If everything is not the result of chaos, then what has determined what is?

May I add to this, even if it is proven we live in a defined universe, not a chaotic one, that does not prove the Bible or any other holy book is God's truth, any more than finding Troy proves the stories of Greek gods.
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Re: A Simple Question: Should We Believe Scientists?

Postby NoShips on May 29th, 2017, 9:08 pm 

Glad to have you aboard, Athena.

Athena » May 30th, 2017, 10:02 am wrote:
That is a curious statement to me because science clearly has rules and the creationist are not following the rules. However, those who are doing experiments to test the big bang theory are also on the path of determining if everything is the result of chaos or not. If everything is not the result of chaos, then what has determined what is?

May I add to this, even if it is proven we live in a defined universe, not a chaotic one, that does not prove the Bible or any other holy book is God's truth, any more than finding Troy proves the stories of Greek gods.



Oh yeah?

Go on then. What are these rules, and which one are the Creationists not following?

This might get bloody LOL :-)
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Re: A Simple Question: Should We Believe Scientists?

Postby Athena on May 29th, 2017, 9:18 pm 

dandelion » May 12th, 2017, 10:32 am wrote:
NoShips » May 8th, 2017, 6:35 am wrote:
dandelion » May 8th, 2017, 7:20 am wrote:
Also, sorry if I missed it, but, NoShips, do you have a view about sufficient grounds for any knowledge?


Er, not yet, just some kinda vague and epistemically pusillanimous scruples about preferring to err on the side of caution.

Stick around :-)

Hi. So, NoShips, in your view there are interactions? And for argument's sake, in your view, reason?


Awe reason. And exact what is meant by the word "reason"? I accept reason, is the controlling force of the universe. I think that reason is defined by physics unless we are speaking of living things, and then reason is defined by genes and environment. But I once got thrown out of a science forum for connecting this notion of reason with the word "god". I have no problem with believing there are controlling forces nor with lumping them into a concept of god or logos, but I have a big problem with the notion that the Bible is anything other than human created myth. That is, the reason things fall to earth is gravity. That does not mean the Biblical god is the reason things fall to earth. Can there be reason without a reasoner?

If we conclude there is a reasoner, does that prove one holy book is god's truth and the rest are not? Like would that prove a god wanted us to sacrifice animals? I don't think that science would prove that to be true, but maybe I should barbecue something in my back yard just incase?
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Re: A Simple Question: Should We Believe Scientists?

Postby NoShips on May 29th, 2017, 9:21 pm 

But first an important message from our sponsor...


The answer to the first reason is simple: there is no 'scientific method' ; there is no single procedure, or set of rules that underlies every piece of research and guarantees that it is 'scientific' and, therefore, trustworthy. Every project, every theory, every procedure has to be judged on its own merits and by standards adapted to the processes with which it deals. The idea of a universal and stable method that is an unchanging measure of adequacy and even the idea of a universal and stable rationality is as unrealistic as the idea of a universal and stable measuring instrument that measures any magnitude, no matter what the circumstances. Scientists revise their standards, their procedures, their criteria of rationality as they move along and enter new domains of research.

The main argument for this answer is historical : there is not a single rule, however plausible and however firmly grounded in logic and general philosophy that is not violated at some time or other. Such violations are not accidental events, they are not avoidable results of ignorance or inattention. Given the conditions in which they occured they were necessary for progress, or for any other feature one might find desirable. Indeed, one of the most striking features of recent discussion in the history and philosophy of science is the realization that events such as the invention of atomism in antiquity, the Copernican Revolution, the rise of modern atomism (Dalton ; kinetic theory ; dispersion theory ; stereochemisty ; quantum theory), the gradual emergence of the wave theory of light occurred only because some thinkers either decided not to be bound by certain 'obvious' rules, or because they unwittingly broke them.

Conversely, we can show that most of the rules which are today defended by scientists and philosophers of science as constituting a uniform 'scientific method' are either useless - they do not produce the results they are supposed to produce - or debilitating.

Of course, we may one day find a rule that helps us through all difficulties just as we may one day find a theory that can explain everything in our world. Such a development is not likely, one might almost be inclined to say that it is logically impossible, but I would still not want to exclude it. The point is that the development has not yet started : today we have to do science without being able to rely on any well defined and stable 'scientific method'.


P. K. Feyerabend - "Science in a Free Society"
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