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 NoShips on May 8th, 2017, 11:01 pm 

"History will be kind to me for I intend to write it." - Winston Churchill


We often hear scientists assert, in no uncertain terms, that such-and-such a theory has been "disproven" or "falsified" or "refuted".

Well, our topic is "Should we believe scientists?", and in this particular case, at least, I would advise extreme caution lest you find yourself the hapless victim of "Whig" scientific history (i.e., a tendentious history written by the victors).

Loyal subscribers might recall kevinandrew asserting on page 7 that "The power of science lies in its ability to prove most theories are wrong.", the exchange that followed, and my attempt to make clear the philosophical reasons why such claims are at once badly misguided and, I believe, indefensible.

Yet, we still -- on almost a daily basis -- see claims such as the following:

"Mickleson[sic]-Morley disproved the ether hypothesis over 120 years ago." -- posted today in the thread "I think I have just discovered the ''Aether' "

Sigh!

Let's forget all about recondite philosophical objections for now, and just appeal to common sense. Okie dokie? From Wiki, I glean the following...

Fact 1: The celebrated Michelson-Morley experiment was performed in 1887.

Fact 2: The aether was not simply abandoned en masse in 1887. (I'm not even sure any scientists renounced it then.) Respected scientists continued to take the aether seriously for decades afterwards; some attempting to defend it; others conducting further tests. Read for yourself:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luminiferous_aether

If the aether had indeed been disproven in 1887, why, I wonder, would serious people continue to squander their time on it? Might as well be researching Nessie or alien abductions, eh?


Whenever I see a claim like the one I'm inveighing against here, I always want to ask to claimant: If the aether was indeed disproved in 1887 as you claim, what are we to say of all those respected scientists who did not immediately renounce it? What was their problem? Too dense to understood the "disproof" or what?


Once again, for your edification, ladies and gentlemen, I reproduce the following from my post at the bottom of page 7

"[...] That phenomenon is conversion. Max Planck is often quoted to the effect that 'new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it'. A similar sentiment was expressed a half-century earlier Harvard's Professor Joseph Lovering, when he told his students that there are two theories of light, the wave and the corpuscular. Today, he is said to have remarked, everyone believes in the wave theory; the reason is that all those who believed in the corpuscular theory are dead. There is a measure of truth in such statements, as we all know, and yet a new scientific idea does win adherents, and even convinces some opponents, as has been seen in many examples throughout this book." -- J. Bernard Cohen, "Revolution in Science"
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Re: A Simple Question: Should We Believe Scientists?

Postby Positor on May 9th, 2017, 9:38 am 


Thanks. I am carefully studying this article. I'll let you know if I have any particular comments on it.
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Re: A Simple Question: Should We Believe Scientists?

Postby NoShips on May 9th, 2017, 11:14 pm 

Food for thought, ladies and gentlespoons...


On page 7 of this thread, Kevinandrew wrote:

kevinandrew » May 1st, 2017, 5:04 am wrote:What is science? Science means knowledge - specifically knowledge that can be checked/repeated. If it cannot be checked or repeated, then its not really science. In my opinion, we should be sceptical about science and only believe it if it can repeated and checked.



My reply to Kevin, also from page 7:

Kevin, I think all would agree that if an observation is verified ("checked and repeated" as you say), barring radical skepticism -- evil demons and brains in vats -- we can be pretty certain that our eyes are not deceiving us and can justifiably claim knowledge.

For now I'm ignoring possible complications arising from the oft heard claim that all our observations are "theory-laden", that is to say, not only are the theories we construct dependent on observational facts, but more worryingly, observational facts themselves are dependent, at least to some degree, on the theoretical/conceptual apparatus we bring to bear upon our observations. "Theory without observation is empty; observation without theory is blind" as the wise men say. In other words, the concern is that no theory-neutral language exists within which we can simply describe the raw, brute facts: there ARE no raw brute facts; all our so-called facts are infused with theory. Most of us share a naive intuition that while theories might come and go, facts are facts (those facts, you assure us, that have been "checked and repeated"), but if our facts are indeed theory-laden, then when our theories change, the facts change too.



Next, consider carefully SciameriKen's remarks on page 8:

SciameriKen » May 3rd, 2017, 9:28 am wrote:
I don't think it counts to say I used the B-word if I was just restating the question you posted lol. Regarding an instrumentalist approach - are there any scientist out there who do not take this perspective? Even your favorite guy Tyson will say something is "FACT" when really it just has tons of "planes flying behind it support" so to speak. How many times does the sun need to rise for it to be a fact that the sun always rises?



It's a fact that the sun rises, you say, Ken? A raw, brute fact untainted by the conceptual/theoretical apparatus we bring to bear on it? A fact that is not "theory-laden"?

Well, it might be if the Earth was stationary, I suppose.
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Re: A Simple Question: Should We Believe Scientists?

Postby SciameriKen on May 10th, 2017, 12:39 am 

So we are really breaking things down to simple concepts now aren't we?

The sun always rises is a fact - a raw, brute fact? Well maybe not if a black hole swallows our sun up before it rises right? Well maybe after the sun is risen it is a fact that the big blazing thing I point to in the sky is the sun? Well as you just said - if our eyes aren't deceiving us -- but what if they are?

As you write, " In other words, the concern is that no theory-neutral language exists within which we can simply describe the raw, brute facts: there ARE no raw brute facts; all our so-called facts are infused with theory. Most of us share a naive intuition that while theories might come and go, facts are facts (those facts, you assure us, that have been "checked and repeated"), but if our facts are indeed theory-laden, then when our theories change, the facts change too.

In bold I think sums it up - in italics is an important point. At some point, when i notice the sun comes up every morning I generate a hypothesis - I will observe in the morning and I hypothesize the sun will come up -- lo and behold it does -- I repeat the experiment multiple times - sun comes up -- I announce my theory the sun rises in the morning - the people love it soon they become to rely upon it as fact and it yields benefits to their lives. Then my adversary launches a satellite into space and informs all that in fact the earth is spinning around - the new fact is the sun does not move at all. The theory as you say has changed the fact.

Does this mean my elaborate theory was false the whole time? My response to that is who cares? Decisions have to be made based upon the best available information. Scientist provide the best available information - that is why we should believe scientist.
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Re: A Simple Question: Should We Believe Scientists?

Postby NoShips on May 10th, 2017, 1:09 am 

SciameriKen » May 10th, 2017, 1:39 pm wrote:So we are really breaking things down to simple concepts now aren't we?

The sun always rises is a fact - a raw, brute fact? Well maybe not if a black hole swallows our sun up before it rises right? Well maybe after the sun is risen it is a fact that the big blazing thing I point to in the sky is the sun? Well as you just said - if our eyes aren't deceiving us -- but what if they are?

As you write, " In other words, the concern is that no theory-neutral language exists within which we can simply describe the raw, brute facts: there ARE no raw brute facts; all our so-called facts are infused with theory. Most of us share a naive intuition that while theories might come and go, facts are facts (those facts, you assure us, that have been "checked and repeated"), but if our facts are indeed theory-laden, then when our theories change, the facts change too.

In bold I think sums it up - in italics is an important point. At some point, when i notice the sun comes up every morning I generate a hypothesis - I will observe in the morning and I hypothesize the sun will come up -- lo and behold it does -- I repeat the experiment multiple times - sun comes up -- I announce my theory the sun rises in the morning - the people love it soon they become to rely upon it as fact and it yields benefits to their lives. Then my adversary launches a satellite into space and informs all that in fact the earth is spinning around - the new fact is the sun does not move at all. The theory as you say has changed the fact.

Does this mean my elaborate theory was false the whole time? My response to that is who cares? Decisions have to be made based upon the best available information. Scientist provide the best available information - that is why we should believe scientist.


Who cares indeed! Spoken like a good instrumentalist: just get busy curing cancer and sending people to the Moon, and who gives a flying hoot whether scientific theories successively approach truth, eh?

It is perfectly true, within a geostatic paradigm, to claim that the Sun rises, and equally true under a heliostatic paradigm that the Sun only appears to rise: the reality is that the Earth rotates daily on its axis. Is that how you wanna play?

Who cares? The scientific realist cares. Braininvat cares. Anyone who believes that science is providing us with a progressively more accurate description of reality cares. I presume just about everyone reading this cares.

On the other hand, Thomas Kuhn, Paul Feyerabend, and now -- if I take your comments at face value -- you too, Ken, don't care.

Somehow, though, you don't seem the type. You might wanna rephrase the final paragraph a little more carefully. I strongly suspect you do care. :-)
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Re: A Simple Question: Should We Believe Scientists?

Postby NoShips on May 10th, 2017, 1:17 am 

In case the above isn't all that clear, Ken. I'm not sure whether you realize or not, but the sentence in your post that I've highlighted is ambiguous. It can be read as:

"Maybe my elaborate theory was false the whole time. Maybe it wasn't. Either way, who cares?" (This is the reading that first occurred to me)

or

"Yes. My elaborate theory was false the whole time, but who cares?" (All in the name of progress, eh)

I suspect it's the latter you would wish to endorse. Right?
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Re: A Simple Question: Should We Believe Scientists?

Postby SciameriKen on May 10th, 2017, 7:45 am 

NoShips » Wed May 10, 2017 5:09 am wrote:
SciameriKen » May 10th, 2017, 1:39 pm wrote:So we are really breaking things down to simple concepts now aren't we?

The sun always rises is a fact - a raw, brute fact? Well maybe not if a black hole swallows our sun up before it rises right? Well maybe after the sun is risen it is a fact that the big blazing thing I point to in the sky is the sun? Well as you just said - if our eyes aren't deceiving us -- but what if they are?

As you write, " In other words, the concern is that no theory-neutral language exists within which we can simply describe the raw, brute facts: there ARE no raw brute facts; all our so-called facts are infused with theory. Most of us share a naive intuition that while theories might come and go, facts are facts (those facts, you assure us, that have been "checked and repeated"), but if our facts are indeed theory-laden, then when our theories change, the facts change too.

In bold I think sums it up - in italics is an important point. At some point, when i notice the sun comes up every morning I generate a hypothesis - I will observe in the morning and I hypothesize the sun will come up -- lo and behold it does -- I repeat the experiment multiple times - sun comes up -- I announce my theory the sun rises in the morning - the people love it soon they become to rely upon it as fact and it yields benefits to their lives. Then my adversary launches a satellite into space and informs all that in fact the earth is spinning around - the new fact is the sun does not move at all. The theory as you say has changed the fact.

Does this mean my elaborate theory was false the whole time? My response to that is who cares? Decisions have to be made based upon the best available information. Scientist provide the best available information - that is why we should believe scientist.


Who cares indeed! Spoken like a good instrumentalist: just get busy curing cancer and sending people to the Moon, and who gives a flying hoot whether scientific theories successively approach truth, eh?

It is perfectly true, within a geostatic paradigm, to claim that the Sun rises, and equally true under a heliostatic paradigm that the Sun only appears to rise: the reality is that the Earth rotates daily on its axis. Is that how you wanna play?

Who cares? The scientific realist cares. Braininvat cares. Anyone who believes that science is providing us with a progressively more accurate description of reality cares. I presume just about everyone reading this cares.

On the other hand, Thomas Kuhn, Paul Feyerabend, and now -- if I take your comments at face value -- you too, Ken, don't care.

Somehow, though, you don't seem the type. You might wanna rephrase the final paragraph a little more carefully. I strongly suspect you do care. :-)


Scientific theories do get better over time - both my and my adversary's theories answer the question will the sun rise in the morning - they also both predict that the sun will not rise if the sun disappears - but now my adversary's theory now also predicts the sun will not rise if the earth stops spinning.

I don't understand why this concept has to be limited to scientific realists versus instrumentalist. Perhaps the crux of the debate though is whether the perfect theory exists? Am I right? I believe Brainvat alluded to an "asymptote approaching zero" scenario - does this make him an instrumentalist?

Is the issue more than this though - the topic of this thread is whether we should believe Scientists - however, I think you are taking believe in the biblical sense as in I believe with 100% certainty that there is a god. I can't speak for others, but Science is not a religion - I feel its just a tool to navigate through the existence generated by the only known truth, "I think therefore I am".
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Re: A Simple Question: Should We Believe Scientists?

Postby NoShips on May 10th, 2017, 10:25 pm 

It looks to me like you're blazing a trail towards relativism without realizing it, Ken (if facts are always theory/paradigm dependent, how can one theory/paradigm be closer to truth than another?), and your third paragraph is irrelevant: belief does not require certainty. For now, though, I just want to clear up this:

SciameriKen » May 10th, 2017, 8:45 pm wrote:
I don't understand why this concept has to be limited to scientific realists versus instrumentalist. Perhaps the crux of the debate though is whether the perfect theory exists? Am I right? I believe Brainvat alluded to an "asymptote approaching zero" scenario - does this make him an instrumentalist?


I've been working around a somewhat vague dichotomy between scientific realism, on the one hand, and scientific anti-realism on the other hand, both of which consist of a family of related, but not identical, positions.

Strictly speaking, for an instrumentalist, scientific theories are not "truth-evaluable"; they are neither true nor false, not even candidates for truth or falsity. As the name suggests, the instrumentalist regards scientific theories as instruments or tools or calculating devices.

A tool like a hammer, or a theodolite, might be useful, but never true, although your theodolite may allow you to derive some predictions (what's my current latitude, or whatever these things do) that are truth-evaluable.

Braininvat is not an instrumentalist insofar as he subscribes to the view that scientific theories track truth; at the very least they aim to be true, even if they do not always, or even cannot, attain it.
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Re: A Simple Question: Should We Believe Scientists?

Postby SciameriKen on May 10th, 2017, 11:03 pm 

NoShips » Thu May 11, 2017 2:25 am wrote:It looks to me like you're blazing a trail towards relativism without realizing it, Ken (if facts are always theory/paradigm dependent, how can one theory/paradigm be closer to truth than another?),

I've been working around a somewhat vague dichotomy between scientific realism, on the one hand, and scientific anti-realism on the other hand, both of which consist of a family of related, but not identical, positions.

Strictly speaking, for an instrumentalist, scientific theories are not "truth-evaluable"; they are neither true nor false, not even candidates for truth or falsity. As the name suggests, the instrumentalist regards scientific theories as instruments or tools or calculating devices.



How would an instrumentalist deal with two competing theories? Would it suffice to say they would choose the better "tool"? Based on what?
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Re: A Simple Question: Should We Believe Scientists?

Postby NoShips on May 10th, 2017, 11:14 pm 

SciameriKen » May 11th, 2017, 12:03 pm wrote:How would an instrumentalist deal with two competing theories? Would it suffice to say they would choose the better "tool"? Based on what?


Well, suppose you were an instrumentalist living circa the year 1600. Everyone around you is debating the merits of the new Copernican model of the cosmos versus the hoary old Ptolemaic model.

You, being an incorrigible instrumentalist, and much to the amusement of your realist peers, take the position that neither model is true or false; they do not even purport to be true or false. To construe one, or both, as representations of reality is to misconstrue.

Presumably you would adopt the model/theory more conducive to your needs, whatever they are -- constructing astronomical charts, navigating your way to Tahiti for a dirty weekend, etc.

You might even adopt one model for certain purposes, and the other for different purposes...
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Re: A Simple Question: Should We Believe Scientists?

Postby SciameriKen on May 11th, 2017, 12:07 am 

NoShips » Thu May 11, 2017 3:14 am wrote:
SciameriKen » May 11th, 2017, 12:03 pm wrote:How would an instrumentalist deal with two competing theories? Would it suffice to say they would choose the better "tool"? Based on what?


Well, suppose you were an instrumentalist living circa the year 1600. Everyone around you is debating the merits of the new Copernican model of the cosmos versus the hoary old Ptolemaic model.

You, being an incorrigible instrumentalist, and much to the amusement of your realist peers, take the position that neither model is true or false; they do not even purport to be true or false. To construe one, or both, as representations of reality is to misconstrue.

Presumably you would adopt the model/theory more conducive to your needs, whatever they are -- constructing astronomical charts, navigating your way to Tahiti for a dirty weekend, etc.

You might even adopt one model for certain purposes, and the other for different purposes...


I get all that but at some point model A just works better than model B -- Evolution is dominant over ID - I suppose an instrumentalist would suggest let the people who enjoy ID have it while you continue to use evolution - would that be correct?
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Re: A Simple Question: Should We Believe Scientists?

Postby NoShips on May 11th, 2017, 1:25 am 

SciameriKen » May 11th, 2017, 1:07 pm wrote:
I get all that but at some point model A just works better than model B -- Evolution is dominant over ID - I suppose an instrumentalist would suggest let the people who enjoy ID have it while you continue to use evolution - would that be correct?


Ah, I've made my thoughts on evolutionary theory plain on this site before -- and didn't win many friends in the process LOL.

Well, from a practical/instrumentalist point of view, it's useless. What good is it? It yields no non-trivial predictions. It won't help you construct any star charts, and it doesn't help anyone navigate to Tahiti. Other members have muttered protests about cancer and flu shots before (much as the religious nutcase, under similar circumstances, is liable to holler in outrage "How can you be against God??!!"), yet under scrutiny these emotively inspired appeals seem built on quicksand: as far as I can see, Edward Jenner was doing just fine in his vaccine research without any help from ET.

Those of a more epistemically purist persuasion might appeal to knowledge for knowledge's sake: "Just think of the theory's explanatory power", to which I respond "What explanatory power?" I don't see it, despite the enthusiastic panegyrics of others. So you've found the key to evolution? Go on, please tell. "Yes, yes, you see, we've discovered that evolution happens to ... those most able to evolve."

And the next time some joker on the TV, with sacerdotal prescience, invokes my hunter-gatherer ancestors in the Pleistocene to explain ...well... everything, from syphilis to Sudoku, I won't be held responsible...

(I'm in two minds about which panacean slogan issued by which Ministry of Propaganda is more soul-destroying: "It was God's will" or "It was natural selection")

Doing science, if we can call it that, was never so easy!

The other thing that bothers me about evolutionary theory is the "football hooligan" element it seems to attract: the tribalistic bullying -- the xenophobic hatred -- directed towards anyone who, for whatever reason, expresses heterodox views or doubt over orthodox views. We don't see anything like this degree of viciousness and ferocity in other domains of science. These poor ID bastards might as well write Harry Potter novels for all the difference that content makes. That any books these guys write will be routinely excoriated by the scientistic faithful is a foregone conclusion -- even before they have been written!

These ID dudes aren't just wrong, they're evil, at least if the Scientistic Ministry of Propaganda is to be believed.

So much for healthy skepticism!

Ah, don't get me started, Ken... :)
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Re: A Simple Question: Should We Believe Scientists?

Postby SciameriKen on May 11th, 2017, 5:43 pm 

NoShips » Thu May 11, 2017 5:25 am wrote:
SciameriKen » May 11th, 2017, 1:07 pm wrote:
I get all that but at some point model A just works better than model B -- Evolution is dominant over ID - I suppose an instrumentalist would suggest let the people who enjoy ID have it while you continue to use evolution - would that be correct?



Well we could go back and forth on how the theory of evolution actually advances my work while ID does nothing for me, but that is for another thread. My question is not about which of the two are right - but rather how would an instrumentalist view this situation?
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Re: A Simple Question: Should We Believe Scientists?

Postby NoShips on May 11th, 2017, 6:18 pm 

SciameriKen » May 12th, 2017, 6:43 am wrote:
Well we could go back and forth on how the theory of evolution actually advances my work while ID does nothing for me, but that is for another thread. My question is not about which of the two are right - but rather how would an instrumentalist view this situation?


I suppose the same way the fellah with a rubber screwdriver and an opaque protractor would view the situation: with some dismay.
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Re: A Simple Question: Should We Believe Scientists?

Postby NoShips on May 11th, 2017, 6:31 pm 

SciameriKen » May 12th, 2017, 6:43 am wrote:
Well we could go back and forth on how the theory of evolution actually advances my work while ID does nothing for me, but that is for another thread. My question is not about which of the two are right - but rather how would an instrumentalist view this situation?


According to the Scientific Ministry of Propaganda (who blare their messages 24/7 through loudspeakers in my prison cell that can't be turned off), those ID guys are wicked subverters of truth, blinded by religious dogma, and motivated by a self-serving desire to protect their own personal interests, while bona fide science is characterized by a disinterested search for truth.

But you don't seem all that "disinterested" either. Orthodox evolutionary theory keeps you in a steady job, eh?

The drinks are you on you then, Ken. I'm broke again.
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Re: A Simple Question: Should We Believe Scientists?

Postby Forest_Dump on May 11th, 2017, 6:50 pm 

As far as the relationship between evolutionary theory and the interpretation of fossils go, I might recommend E. Trinkaus and P. Shipman's (1992) book "The Neanderthals: Changing the Image of Mankind." A great read and it fills in a ton of the history concerning how the interaction of the development of eolutionary theory and other more political ideas, including the Piltdown hoax, influenced the way we have looked at the fossils directly relating to human evolution. In fact for those interested in human evolution, I would call this one of the real must reads. I won't make any predictions that this book will appease NoShips' creationist leanings but it won't hurt and might even give him what appears to be some fresh ammunition.

Along those lines, at some point NoShips, when you are trying to deal with actual data and interpret it in some kind of meaningful manner, there comes a time when you need to put aside the theoretical musings and actually come up with something. So I am curious, have you ever actually worked with any kind of data that might even loosely fall into the category of science and make sense of it?
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Re: A Simple Question: Should We Believe Scientists?

Postby NoShips on May 11th, 2017, 6:59 pm 

Forest_Dump » May 12th, 2017, 7:50 am wrote:As far as the relationship between evolutionary theory and the interpretation of fossils go, I might recommend E. Trinkaus and P. Shipman's (1992) book "The Neanderthals: Changing the Image of Mankind." A great read and it fills in a ton of the history concerning how the interaction of the development of eolutionary theory and other more political ideas, including the Piltdown hoax, influenced the way we have looked at the fossils directly relating to human evolution. In fact for those interested in human evolution, I would call this one of the real must reads. I won't make any predictions that this book will appease NoShips' creationist leanings but it won't hurt and might even give him what appears to be some fresh ammunition.



See what happens? Speak out against injustice and you're immediately labelled "one of them".

"Better lock up your daughters, ladies and gentlemen. Some say he's a sexual predator too."


I've been very clear in other places that I couldn't give a flying lemur about God, Forest. Yes, you were there too.

"Don't trust him, ladies and gentlemen. Everything he says is a lie: even "a" and "the"."
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Re: A Simple Question: Should We Believe Scientists?

Postby Forest_Dump on May 11th, 2017, 7:03 pm 

NoShips wrote:See what happens? Speak out against injustice and you're immediately labelled "one of them".

"Better lock up your daughters, ladies and gentlemen. Some say he's a sexual predator too."


I've been very clear in other places that I couldn't give a flying lemur about God, Forest. Yes, you were there too.

"Don't trust him, ladies and gentlemen. Everything he says is a lie: even "a" and "the"."


Of what injustice do you speak and are speaking out against?
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Re: A Simple Question: Should We Believe Scientists?

Postby Braininvat on May 11th, 2017, 7:18 pm 

So, harumph, keeping things clear....Noships, you are not beholden to any theories of how species come to be, either scientific or supernatural? If this is the case, then "creationist leanings" was falsely attributed and we must give Forest 10 lashes with a wet lemur?

So we don't get trapped in a binary either-or, can you suggest a middle path or a theory of speciation that would somehow satisfy our curious monkey brains? And that doesn't involve writing a Hairy Potter tale?
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Re: A Simple Question: Should We Believe Scientists?

Postby NoShips on May 11th, 2017, 7:34 pm 

Braininvat » May 12th, 2017, 8:18 am wrote:So, harumph, keeping things clear....Noships, you are not beholden to any theories of how species come to be, either scientific or supernatural? If this is the case, then "creationist leanings" was falsely attributed and we must give Forest 10 lashes with a wet lemur?

So we don't get trapped in a binary either-or, can you suggest a middle path or a theory of speciation that would somehow satisfy our curious monkey brains? And that doesn't involve writing a Hairy Potter tale?



Hey BiV

Well, we've been through all this -- in spades -- in other places. My position is one of skepticism: in my opinion we are largely ignorant of how "all this" came about.

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

This is not to say there's not a wealth of knowledge of what I'd regard as natural history. A satisfactory theoretical account (the aforementioned "how" bit), on the other hand, may lie ahead. Or may be unattainable. No one, pace Hegel, really expects a general theoretical account of history these days, do they?


@ Forest - The injustice is the bum rap that these ID dudes take from scientists and science fans. I've spoken out against the bum (no pun intended) rap taken by gays too. That doesn't make me gay. Not that it matters much. Sigh!
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Re: A Simple Question: Should We Believe Scientists?

Postby Forest_Dump on May 11th, 2017, 7:48 pm 

Don't get me wrong. I do think there is a valid place for critiquing theoretical underpinnings and musing on the nature of the world. But is is also necessary, at times, to get down to the task of actually trying to explain things rather than just poke holes in other peoples' ideas. So my main question stands. Do you ever do anything that requires you to do science or even come up with some practical best guess?
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Re: A Simple Question: Should We Believe Scientists?

Postby NoShips on May 11th, 2017, 8:14 pm 

Forest_Dump » May 12th, 2017, 8:48 am wrote:Don't get me wrong. I do think there is a valid place for critiquing theoretical underpinnings and musing on the nature of the world. But is is also necessary, at times, to get down to the task of actually trying to explain things rather than just poke holes in other peoples' ideas. So my main question stands. Do you ever do anything that requires you to do science or even come up with some practical best guess?


No, I'm not a scientist. I don't fix toasters or save children from burning buildings either. Do you? My contribution (*cough splutter*) lies in education. If the students find the tuition unsatisfactory, they disappear, and I starve. Several years ago I stopped pouting and asking, "Well, smarty-pants, could you do any better?" on the grounds that people just laughed at me.


* Raise curtain *

Waiter : "Your soup, sir"
Forest : "Thanks"

Forest (thinks - "Christ, this tastes like shit. And there's a lemur in it.")

Presently...

Waiter : "How is your soup, sir?"
Forest : "Sterling, my good man, sterling. Here's a handsome tip."

Forest (thinks - "Well, I can't do any better myself")

*Close curtain*
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Re: A Simple Question: Should We Believe Scientists?

Postby NoShips on May 11th, 2017, 8:21 pm 

Act 2, Scene 1
-----------------

Treasurer : Here's my new economic master plan, Mr President. It will be ruinous to our nation.

Trump : Well, I was never much good at economics. I couldn't do any better myself. And you seem nice. I wouldn't want to hurt your feelings. Approved!
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Re: A Simple Question: Should We Believe Scientists?

Postby Forest_Dump on May 11th, 2017, 9:47 pm 

Actually I have it on good authority that lemur tastes pretty good.
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Re: A Simple Question: Should We Believe Scientists?

Postby Forest_Dump on May 11th, 2017, 9:56 pm 

As an advocate, or at least open minded, have you read Behe's book? I did and found that a lot was simply criticism of science (and not what I would call constructive criticism or scholarly critique) and relatively little formulating a viable ID theory. And sadly what there was actually contained poor logic and semantic tricks. So, I also stand by my position in that I absolutely do not think ID theorists are being treated unfairly. On the contrary, I do not rule out some kinds of "god of the gaps" arguments and would like to see something approaching ID made scientifically viable. But ID proponents appear to me to be even worse at theory development than they are at theory critique. So, other than a rehash of Paley's 200 year old argument and a little theoretical cherry-picking pot shots at strawmen drawn from mainstream science, what positive things do you get from the ID theoriest? What happens when you turn your devestating critique on ID?
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Re: A Simple Question: Should We Believe Scientists?

Postby NoShips on May 11th, 2017, 11:01 pm 

Well, it's funny how perspectives can diverge so radically on matters such as these, Forest. I have read a handful of the books written by these ID guys (Behe's was not one, as far as I can recall), and what I do remember is being very pleasantly surprised. For one thing, the writers struck me as being extremely well read and knowledgeable in the philosophy of science, thus avoiding some of the almost childlike absurdities we hear being promulgated around these parts ("all it takes is one recalcitrant observation to topple even the best of theories" -- you know the kind of thing, perhaps a consequence of scientific overspecialization), and perfectly cogent in their argumentation. I don't remember spotting any of that "poor logic and semantic tricks" you refer to. Maybe that was just Behe.

On the other hand, I visibly squirm at times when subjected to the likes of Dawkins, Krauss et al careering at accelerated rates of idiocy. You surely know all the classics: Pre-Cambrian rabbits, and "We're both atheists; I just believe in one god fewer than you", and this one from page 7:

"Gravity is not a version of the truth. It is the truth. Anybody who doubts it is invited to jump out of a tenth-floor window." - R. Dawkins (quoted on page 7 of this thread)

(Late great Ozzie philosopher David Stove once held a competition for Worst Ever Argument. This one gets my vote.)

*cringes visibly*

Hey, and leave them lemurs alone!
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Re: A Simple Question: Should We Believe Scientists?

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

P.S.

I've posted this before, and it's a little dated, but it captures eloquently some of my gripes about the double standards and unfair treatment routinely dished out to these ID dudes:

http://faculty.washington.edu/lynnhank/Laudan.pdf

And, for the record (sigh!), no, Laudan isn't a Creationist; he's actually staunchly pro-science... just so long as you guys fight fair.
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Re: A Simple Question: Should We Believe Scientists?

Postby NoShips on May 12th, 2017, 5:26 am 

@ Braininvat - Thought you might like this...

I picked up another Steven Weinberg book -- "Dreams of a Final Theory" -- from the library today. On page xi of the preface, at the beginning of a long list of professional (as opposed to thanks to my publisher and wife LOL) credits and acknowledgements, we see this:

"I am also indebted for comments and advice on various topics to the philosophers Paul Feyerabend, George Gale, Sandra Harding, ..."

Well, did you EVAH!
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Re: A Simple Question: Should We Believe Scientists?

Postby SciameriKen on May 12th, 2017, 8:33 am 

NoShips » Fri May 12, 2017 3:14 am wrote:P.S.

I've posted this before, and it's a little dated, but it captures eloquently some of my gripes about the double standards and unfair treatment routinely dished out to these ID dudes:

http://faculty.washington.edu/lynnhank/Laudan.pdf

And, for the record (sigh!), no, Laudan isn't a Creationist; he's actually staunchly pro-science... just so long as you guys fight fair.


Oh those poor ID guys lol

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.

In that sense it would be like asking scientist to take seriously a theory by oil companies that burning oil heals the earth - in the end it is a big waste of time and resources.
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Re: A Simple Question: Should We Believe Scientists?

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

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 from human baseness, cupidity and foibles who always leave the toilet seat down? The Stepford Scientists?

Sigh, times like these I miss that Pyongyang gulag, er, I mean re-education facility.

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?
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