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 Forest_Dump on April 18th, 2017, 12:27 pm 

There can be lots of examples where a little critical thinking can make all the difference. There are lots of scientific studies that show eating salt can be bad for your health. But not having enough, such as in a very hot environment, can also cause problems and even death. Doesn't negate all those other studies. How much should we trust a globe? Well we know most borders are just lines on a map, countries aren't coloured as they are on a globe, some countries may have splot up or (rarely) joined since the map was made and we even know that the closer you look, the more likely erosion or continental drift may have changed things. But still for the most part, you can still "trust" most globes for most things.
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Re: A Simple Question: Should We Believe Scientists?

Postby Lomax on April 18th, 2017, 7:01 pm 

NoShips » April 18th, 2017, 12:09 am wrote:Seems to me all above (Eclogite, Lomax, BiV) are simply trivializing Prof Feynman's remarks: so you're telling me that what he means by scientists being ignorant is that they don't know everything?; they're not omniscient?

Well, whoever thought they were?

(e.g. "When we concede that scientists don't know everything..." - Lomax) You don't say! Next you'll be telling me they can't leap over tall buildings in a single bound :-)

Then it's hard to tell what you can possibly think Feynman meant. Did he mean that science is believing that the experts are so dumb they are never worth listening to? One, so to speak, doubts it. Otherwise you will have to explain to me the point of the Feynman quote and why you think it works in your favour.
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Re: A Simple Question: Should We Believe Scientists?

Postby NoShips on April 18th, 2017, 8:14 pm 

Forest_Dump » April 18th, 2017, 10:39 pm wrote:
Well there might be some prospect for clarity here. Although I would prefer to avoid dwelling on contrasting definitions, some of this seems more like the definition of a realist (leading me to wonder if there is a sharp distinction between an empiricist vs a realist - I am more familiar with the dichotomy of realists vs. positivists). But I will move on.

By what I take to be your usage, the empiricist simply notes observations, presumably including correlations between phenomena, but without looking for underlying causal factors? So no attempt is made to determine whether correlations are spurious?

How about something as simple as dropping a ball? In your useage, wouldn't even the most strict empiricist eventually notice that a released ball almost invariably moves in a very predictable direction that would/could/should(?) be explained by the unobservable (?) "cause" of this metaphysical thing we call gravity? Would it then be consistent with that view that we still don't have a solid handle on what causes gravity (beyond the perhaps now trite observation that gravity appears to be just a property of matterwithout having to go further)?



(Gotta be brief here -- 4 replies to compose *panic* )

As you're no doubt aware, Forest, empiricist skepticism about causality traces back to David Hume in the 18th century. We may talk a lot about causality, says Hume, but we never experience it, and thus should be wary of reifying this, and all other, metaphysical ghouls. Causality, properly understood, is nothing more than a 'habit of the mind' that we impose on events which are reliably experienced together; it is not something out there in nature.

I suppose an empiricist like Hume would say of smoking: "Smoke a lot for an extended period and you're likely to end up with lung cancer". He would balk, I presume, at any suggestion of smoking making you have cancer. Our self-imposed concept of causation refers to nothing more than regularities in nature.

For a more modern empiricist treatment of causation -- and a jolly good read -- you might try Bas van Fraassen's "The Scientific Image" (after you're through with Feynman, of course). I can't remember what he says about it. :-)

Oh yeah, I agree: positivism and empiricism are, to me at least, pretty much the same beast, although there do exist annoying pedants out there who make fine distinctions between the two.
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Re: A Simple Question: Should We Believe Scientists?

Postby NoShips on April 18th, 2017, 8:21 pm 

Braininvat » April 18th, 2017, 11:31 pm wrote: Nosh

The chat has moved on, but I wanted to comment briefly on the above. I hoped my dinosaur bone example addressed the issue of taking a theoretical framework for granted. I pointed out that the assumptions behind K-Ar dating were all carefully scrutinized and not at all taken for granted. E.g. bones that can't themselves be dated, can be dated by determining the age of igneous rocks in the layer or surrounding layers they are found. Lots of empirical basis for that. Potassium-40 decays at a constant rate, regardless of temperature and pressure. Lots of empirical basis for that. And many honest attempts at falsification are thrown at each assumption. Could a bone gravitate away from its original level of rock somehow? Could a radionuclide decay at a variable rate? Et cetera. Just saying, a lot of what Kuhn talks about is not science per se, but bad science, or maybe I should say, the potential of science to go bad. So maybe the discussion should focus on: How do we recognize a bad scientist, so that we cannot be duped into believing her/him? Or, in some cases, a whole area of science that has been corrupted in some way? Having solid criteria for this would, presumably, enable us to identify good science that we may, provisionally, accept. I would prefer to say "provisional acceptance" rather than "belief," given the pitfalls of belief.


Noted!

Kuhn had a theory about science, and like all theories, it's almost certainly wrong. That's not to say there aren't some valuable lessons to be learned though. For example, BiV, how many times in these forums have you seen a comment, advanced by what appear to be practicing scientists, to the effect: "Yes, all it would take is one recalcitrant observation to bring the entire edifice of relativity theory tumbling to the ground".

Kuhn, Lakatos et al, ushering in the so-called historical turn in the philosophy of science, effectively put paid to this, and other, scientific fairy tales. One recalcitrant observation almost never (not sure I even need that "almost") sounds the death knell for a cherished, well-entrenched theory. Some folks still haven't got the memo though.

Oh, and stop calling me Nosh. I ain't no comestibles.
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Re: A Simple Question: Should We Believe Scientists?

Postby NoShips on April 18th, 2017, 8:34 pm 

SciameriKen » April 18th, 2017, 11:45 pm wrote:
No ships I'm going to attempt a new approach to understanding the scientific process that might justify why we should believe scientist.

I think it might be better to think of scientist as lawyers - which I know will probably make you believe scientist even less. Scientific experiments yield facts - but it is important to remember these facts are always conditional. A news article may report something like "Coffee prevents heart disease", which sounds like a scientific fact. However, the reality of this hypothetical study is that the data show coffee was beneficial over the timeline of the study in specific groups of people with each having their unique lifestyle/genetic differences, while most likely reaching a significance level whereby there remains still a slightly less than 5% chance the observed differences were due to pure chance.

This is where the scientist come and and act like lawyers. Just like a lawyer building a case with facts (evidence) to propose a concept (i.e. the man is guilty) beyond a preponderance of doubt (99% likelihood of guilt), the scientist is going to build a case with facts (scientific studies) to propose a concept (i.e. coffee prevents heart disease), beyond a preponderance of doubt (p value arbitrarily decided to be less than 0.05). Both are interpreting facts, while knowing the caveats of the facts, the support a claim.

Can a layman do this? Sure. Can a layman defend themselves in court? Sure. Is that a good idea? probably not. Likewise attempting to grasp scientific concepts without a background in science may also have similar complications to going to court without an attorney.

Furthermore - both can be wrong - innocent men have gone to jail and we all think running marathons is good for your health.

Hope this helps!



Well, if you wanna talk about 'scientific facts', be my guest... and be it on your own head, friend.

The problem is, given that you admit the fallibility of all scientific knowledge claims, you may find yourself having to countenance absurdities such as:

"It's a scientific fact that X, but it might not be true."

(where I come from, at least, there are no untrue facts; if it ain't true, it ain't a fact)

These red faces can be easily avoided with a little prudence:

"We think it's a scientific fact that X"

The same applies, mutatis mutandis, for those who insist on speaking of "proof" in science. After all, do you really wanna be caught in the spotlight endorsing:

"We've proved it; but we might be wrong"


That such honorific assignments are at odds with our semantic intuitions I think can be easily demonstrated by considering the following. Suppose X turns out to be false after all. Would you be inclined to say

(i) "X used to be a scientific fact, but no longer is", or

(ii) "We used to think X was a scientific fact, but turns out we were wrong"

(try it yourself with "prove")
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Re: A Simple Question: Should We Believe Scientists?

Postby NoShips on April 18th, 2017, 8:52 pm 

Lomax » April 19th, 2017, 8:01 am wrote:Then it's hard to tell what you can possibly think Feynman meant. Did he mean that science is believing that the experts are so dumb they are never worth listening to? One, so to speak, doubts it. Otherwise you will have to explain to me the point of the Feynman quote and why you think it works in your favour.


Hey dude, hope my comments didn't come across as curt. Wasn't meant that way.

What I'm trying (clumsily) to say is that by all accounts Richard Feynman was a very smart chap. Therefore I find it hard to believe he's saying nothing more than a jejune "scientists don't know everything". My granny could have told you that!

I suggested my own interpretation earlier (and, of course, I'm far from certain that it's right). Seems to me Prof Feynman is warning us to be wary of believing scientific experts; not because they're 'dumb' (sigh!), or not because they're inadequately qualified, but rather because scientific claims are, by their very nature, susceptible to revision.

Let's try an example. And let's make the stakes high to prevent flippant answers. An evil demon has taken one of us hostage, oh let's say BraininVat, and is holding a gun to his head. We're told:

"Scientific experts currently estimate the age of the Earth to be 4.5 billion years. You can choose to bet for or against this being the correct answer. I'm in a good mood so let's say I'll allow a margin of error of half a billion years on either side. Oh, by the way, I'm omniscient. If you bet wisely, this wretch goes free; otherwise he eats lead. Place your bets, please."

I'd bet against, and no, not because the experts are dumb. These things do tend to get revised a lot though. How about you, Lomax?

A life hangs in the balance...
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Re: A Simple Question: Should We Believe Scientists?

Postby Forest_Dump on April 18th, 2017, 10:36 pm 

I'd take that bet. What do I have to lose? (By the way, BiV has nothing to lose either - so long as the gun is pointed at his (empty) head and not the vat.)

Obviusly you have a different age in mind, so how old do you think the earth is?
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Re: A Simple Question: Should We Believe Scientists?

Postby Forest_Dump on April 18th, 2017, 10:55 pm 

I might also note that either you believe these aliens have supernatural powers or they just have a better developed science than we have. I would guess the latter.
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Re: A Simple Question: Should We Believe Scientists?

Postby NoShips on April 18th, 2017, 11:06 pm 

Forest_Dump » April 19th, 2017, 11:36 am wrote:I'd take that bet. What do I have to lose?


Hmm, depends if he owes you any money or not.

Forest_Dump » April 19th, 2017, 11:36 am wrote:Obviusly you have a different age in mind, so how old do you think the earth is?


Haven't a clue. I can't do any better than the experts. You do realize how many times this figure has been revised? But you think we've finally nailed it now? Aren't we the lucky generation!

Forest_Dump » April 19th, 2017, 11:36 am wrote:I might also note that either you believe these aliens have supernatural powers or they just have a better developed science than we have. I would guess the latter.


Aliens? Who mentioned aliens?
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Re: A Simple Question: Should We Believe Scientists?

Postby NoShips on April 18th, 2017, 11:09 pm 

You'll notice I've mastered the quote function. Only took 3 years and a little help from a Greek goddess :-)
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Re: A Simple Question: Should We Believe Scientists?

Postby SciameriKen on April 18th, 2017, 11:15 pm 

NoShips » Wed Apr 19, 2017 12:34 am wrote:
Well, if you wanna talk about 'scientific facts', be my guest... and be it on your own head, friend.

The problem is, given that you admit the fallibility of all scientific knowledge claims, you may find yourself having to countenance absurdities such as:

"It's a scientific fact that X, but it might not be true."

(where I come from, at least, there are no untrue facts; if it ain't true, it ain't a fact)

These red faces can be easily avoided with a little prudence:

"We think it's a scientific fact that X"

The same applies, mutatis mutandis, for those who insist on speaking of "proof" in science. After all, do you really wanna be caught in the spotlight endorsing:

"We've proved it; but we might be wrong"


That such honorific assignments are at odds with our semantic intuitions I think can be easily demonstrated by considering the following. Suppose X turns out to be false after all. Would you be inclined to say

(i) "X used to be a scientific fact, but no longer is", or

(ii) "We used to think X was a scientific fact, but turns out we were wrong"

(try it yourself with "prove")



You are seriously complaining just to complain my friend. So because there is a slim possibility that science might be wrong you are throwing the whole thing out??? Yet scientific methodology continues to deliver progress. Is there any other worldview that provides more than somebody writing fables to explain everything? Do you have any alternative or are you just going to continue to bash science for just being mostly right.
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Re: A Simple Question: Should We Believe Scientists?

Postby NoShips on April 18th, 2017, 11:19 pm 

SciameriKen » April 19th, 2017, 12:15 pm wrote:
NoShips » Wed Apr 19, 2017 12:34 am wrote:
Well, if you wanna talk about 'scientific facts', be my guest... and be it on your own head, friend.

The problem is, given that you admit the fallibility of all scientific knowledge claims, you may find yourself having to countenance absurdities such as:

"It's a scientific fact that X, but it might not be true."

(where I come from, at least, there are no untrue facts; if it ain't true, it ain't a fact)

These red faces can be easily avoided with a little prudence:

"We think it's a scientific fact that X"

The same applies, mutatis mutandis, for those who insist on speaking of "proof" in science. After all, do you really wanna be caught in the spotlight endorsing:

"We've proved it; but we might be wrong"


That such honorific assignments are at odds with our semantic intuitions I think can be easily demonstrated by considering the following. Suppose X turns out to be false after all. Would you be inclined to say

(i) "X used to be a scientific fact, but no longer is", or

(ii) "We used to think X was a scientific fact, but turns out we were wrong"

(try it yourself with "prove")



You are seriously complaining just to complain my friend. So because there is a slim possibility that science might be wrong you are throwing the whole thing out??? Yet scientific methodology continues to deliver progress. Is there any other worldview that provides more than somebody writing fables to explain everything? Do you have any alternative or are you just going to continue to bash science for just being mostly right.



Um, everything I said to you consisted of semantic analysis. There was no science-bashing. You misread.
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Re: A Simple Question: Should We Believe Scientists?

Postby SciameriKen on April 18th, 2017, 11:29 pm 

NoShips » Wed Apr 19, 2017 3:19 am wrote:Um, everything I said to you consisted of semantic analysis. There was no science-bashing. You misread.


Fine. Then where do you stand? Should we believe scientists?
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Re: A Simple Question: Should We Believe Scientists?

Postby Forest_Dump on April 18th, 2017, 11:41 pm 

NoShips wrote:Aliens? Who mentioned aliens?


You got me there. Supernatural demons it is.

You do give these old philosopher "priests" a lot more credit than I do. While I certainly think some history of science and philosophy is important and necessary from time to time, I have to admit that I also frequently drift away from thinking much about the various "isms" (and have to admit that I never read much Hume - no time so far. Truth be told I am struggling with Locke and Rosseau these days - read a few pages and then drift off into more technical stuff of greater interest to me. Feynman id better but then he has more funny stuff.) My more typical pattern is to read stuff related to whatever data set I have in front of me and then touch base on broader philosophical material (technically spanning multiple paradigms) when I get curious about broader implications. So I have to wonder if you have any real point or lesson in mind or are just playing at being contrarian.
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Re: A Simple Question: Should We Believe Scientists?

Postby Braininvat on April 19th, 2017, 12:18 am 

Forest_Dump » April 18th, 2017, 7:36 pm wrote:I'd take that bet. What do I have to lose? (By the way, BiV has nothing to lose either - so long as the gun is pointed at his (empty) head and not the vat.)

Obviusly you have a different age in mind, so how old do you think the earth is?


Heh. And I would bet the vat on 4.5 GY. There's just a shit-ton of good evidence. Not all that different from Noships climbing aboard a jet to travel across the sea. He may find it scary, but I don't think he would set foot in the flying machine if he really doubted the scientific results in fields like aerodynamics. Nor would he ever take medicine, if he didn't have some belief in the scientific rigor of pharmacology, biochemistry, cell biology, clinical trials, etc.

We all make educated guesses, more or less, on the findings of scientific research. What aids our guessing is when things work, and work consistently. Jets keep taking off. Medicines keep healing or alleviating. Our PCs and phones keep booting up and letting us talk to, or type to, people on the other side of the planet. Baking soda and vinegar keep generating eruptions of foam and salty water. As others point out, the best answer to the OP is the world we presently live in.
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Re: A Simple Question: Should We Believe Scientists?

Postby SciameriKen on April 19th, 2017, 2:36 pm 

Here's a video for y'all:

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Re: A Simple Question: Should We Believe Scientists?

Postby NoShips on April 19th, 2017, 7:10 pm 

Just woke up and watched your video, Ken. I know deGrasse Tyson is a very popular, and seemingly affable, fellow, but I have to say, he's up there on my list with Dawkins and Krauss as least favourite people. These guys, in their missionary zeal to promote their faith, habitually advance claims which are exaggerated, vacuous, or as is often the case, manifestly and outrageously false -- and it seems other scientists are not the least bothered by this!

The situation reminds me a bit of the common condemnation (from people like us) of moderate Moslems for not being more vocal in their denouncement of the fanatics among them.

At 2:50 we're told, "It's not something to say I choose not to believe e=mc2; you don't have that option."

To which I'd respond: I do have that option, thank you, professor. Is there any equation in science which was ever considered more absolutely certain, more immune to revision, than "f=ma"? Well, we're now told f=ma is not applicable in all situations, which is to say it is -- strictly speaking -- false. What makes you so sure e=mc2 will not suffer the same ignominy?

Immediately afterwards we're told, "When you have an established emerging scientific truth, it is true whether or not you believe in it."

Ignoring the contradiction (emergent established?), Tyson's remark reduces to "If something is a truth then it's true" -- a vacuous tautology which tells us nothing whatsoever about whether that something is true or not.

In the video below, the good professor's fervour attains new orgiastic heights:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yRxx8pen6JY

"The good thing about science is that it's true whether or not you believe in it"

It's almost painful to have to listen to this. What are you telling us, professor? All of science is true? (obviously false). Some things in science are true? (my granny agrees). Those things in science which are true are true? (sigh!)

The audience seemed to enjoy it, though, judging by the rapturous applause. What's the difference between a televangelist and a Neil deGrasse Tyson? Never mind, I'll be in my cave if you need me.
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Re: A Simple Question: Should We Believe Scientists?

Postby Eclogite on April 19th, 2017, 8:26 pm 

NoShips » Wed Apr 19, 2017 11:10 pm wrote:The audience seemed to enjoy it, though, judging by the rapturous applause. What's the difference between a televangelist and a Neil deGrasse Tyson? Never mind, I'll be in my cave if you need me.
My problem NoShips, that makes it difficult for me to take you seriously, is that in many of your posts there is the same agenda driven, semi-hysterical, evangelical outpouring that you condemn. It gets in the way of what could be an interesting discussion. So I'll probably just go away.
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Re: A Simple Question: Should We Believe Scientists?

Postby Braininvat on April 19th, 2017, 8:57 pm 

To which I'd respond: I do have that option, thank you, professor. Is there any equation in science which was ever considered more absolutely certain, more immune to revision, than "f=ma"? Well, we're now told f=ma is not applicable in all situations, which is to say it is -- strictly speaking -- false.


This is where your Ignorance Slip is showing, Noships. "Strictly speaking" F=ma is still true, but in a limited case. That is NOT the same as "false." It's these casually dropped inaccurate remarks on your part that undermine your thesis.

As for E=mc2 turning out false....hey, that would be great, we could stop worrying about nuclear warheads and learn to love the Bomb! But, alas, the relationship between matter and energy shows no signs of altering, so you may be in for a disappointment. Well, actually, you should be happy because it means the sun keeps shining and warming the Earth so we don't turn into a ball of ice.

Just remember, gentlemen: no fighting in the War Room!
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Re: A Simple Question: Should We Believe Scientists?

Postby SciameriKen on April 19th, 2017, 9:06 pm 

NoShips: To which I'd respond: I do have that option, thank you, professor. Is there any equation in science which was ever considered more absolutely certain, more immune to revision, than "f=ma"? Well, we're now told f=ma is not applicable in all situations, which is to say it is -- strictly speaking -- false. What makes you so sure e=mc2 will not suffer the same ignominy?


Just to pile on - I think the issue you are facing in relating to scientist is that you have a very binary view of truth. F=MA is true in probably 99.9999% of the situations you will observe in your life -but because it may not be true 0.0001% of the time then F=MA is false and should be dispensed with?
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Re: A Simple Question: Should We Believe Scientists?

Postby NoShips on April 19th, 2017, 9:07 pm 

Braininvat » April 20th, 2017, 9:57 am wrote:
This is where your Ignorance Slip is showing, Noships. "Strictly speaking" F=ma is still true, but in a limited case. That is NOT the same as "false." It's these casually dropped inaccurate remarks on your part that undermine your thesis.


Strictly speaking the theory "all mammals lay eggs" is still true, but in a limited case. Stick to a monotreme farm and you'll be just fine.

What you're telling me is that f=ma is true in all situations... except those where it's not true. Right?

Braininvat » April 20th, 2017, 9:57 am wrote:As for E=mc2 turning out false....hey, that would be great, we could stop worrying about nuclear warheads and learn to love the Bomb! But, alas, the relationship between matter and energy shows no signs of altering, so you may be in for a disappointment. Well, actually, you should be happy because it means the sun keeps shining and warming the Earth so we don't turn into a ball of ice.


False analogy, pal. If you're gonna argue that bombs exploding prove E=mc2, I might as well argue that combustion proves the existence of phlogiston.

No doubt bombs will continue to explode, and stuff will continue to combust: how we describe these phenomena may not be so irrefragable.
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Re: A Simple Question: Should We Believe Scientists?

Postby NoShips on April 19th, 2017, 9:12 pm 

SciameriKen » April 20th, 2017, 10:06 am wrote:
Just to pile on - I think the issue you are facing in relating to scientist is that you have a very binary view of truth. F=MA is true in probably 99.9999% of the situations you will observe in your life -but because it may not be true 0.0001% of the time then F=MA is false and should be dispensed with?


What if I was a quark? Would f=ma still be "true in probably 99.9999% of the situations I will observe in my life"?


And P.S. If there are 99 black cats, and one white cat, the hypothesis "all cats are black" is false. This is not negotiable lol.
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Re: A Simple Question: Should We Believe Scientists?

Postby Forest_Dump on April 19th, 2017, 9:44 pm 

NoShips wrote:And P.S. If there are 99 black cats, and one white cat, the hypothesis "all cats are black" is false. This is not negotiable lol.


But it is definitely safe to say that most of the cats are black. In fact 99% of them are black. If I were to bet on the colour of any given cat...
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Re: A Simple Question: Should We Believe Scientists?

Postby NoShips on April 19th, 2017, 11:01 pm 

This might be a fitting time to rehearse what I consider to be perhaps the wisest words I've ever heard:

"Whenever you think you have a handle on the truth [or whenever you think you've figured out what makes Jones tick], look in the mirror and say to yourself 'I may be wrong. I may be very wrong. I may be hopelessly and irretrievably wrong' ... and in that, you'll almost certainly be right."

-- Daniel N. Robinson
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Re: A Simple Question: Should We Believe Scientists?

Postby NoShips on April 19th, 2017, 11:16 pm 

Forest_Dump » April 20th, 2017, 10:44 am wrote:
But it is definitely safe to say that most of the cats are black. In fact 99% of them are black. If I were to bet on the colour of any given cat...


Bet away. I'll join you. We're gonna be rich!

Filthy lucre notwithstanding, the hypothesis "all cats are black" remains false.

I never said f=ma is not useful (got us to the Moon, and all that); I said it's not true (according to scientists' own diagnosis).
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Re: A Simple Question: Should We Believe Scientists?

Postby SciameriKen on April 19th, 2017, 11:30 pm 

NoShips » Thu Apr 20, 2017 1:12 am wrote:
SciameriKen » April 20th, 2017, 10:06 am wrote:
Just to pile on - I think the issue you are facing in relating to scientist is that you have a very binary view of truth. F=MA is true in probably 99.9999% of the situations you will observe in your life -but because it may not be true 0.0001% of the time then F=MA is false and should be dispensed with?


What if I was a quark? Would f=ma still be "true in probably 99.9999% of the situations I will observe in my life"?


And P.S. If there are 99 black cats, and one white cat, the hypothesis "all cats are black" is false. This is not negotiable lol.



Well good thing you are not a quark right?

What you are not grasping is in this world being mostly right is enough to get the job done.
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Re: A Simple Question: Should We Believe Scientists?

Postby Forest_Dump on April 19th, 2017, 11:31 pm 

NoShips wrote:I never said f=ma is not useful (got us to the Moon, and all that); I said it's not true (according to scientists' own diagnosis).


Can't you be hoisted on your own petard?
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Re: A Simple Question: Should We Believe Scientists?

Postby NoShips on April 20th, 2017, 12:14 am 

SciameriKen » April 20th, 2017, 12:30 pm wrote:
Well good thing you are not a quark right?

What you are not grasping is in this world being mostly right is enough to get the job done.


Mostly right? This argy-bargy began with Prof deGrasse Tyson importuning us, "It's not something to say I choose not to believe e=mc2; you don't have that option."

I say we do have that option. Are you on my side now, Ken, or do you insist that e=mc2 is forever invulnerable to revision? Noli me tangere! If so, I'd like to hear your justification. A gut feeling or what?

Can't happen? Remember what J.C. Maxwell told us about the luminiferous aether being the most highly confirmed entity in all science? Prof Maxwell might also have told me I have no option but to believe.


P.S. What you (and Forest and BiV) are failing to grasp is that false theories yield true predictions too.

Does the theory "all birds can fly" (in conjunction with the usual auxiliaries) yield any true predictions ? Ans: yes -- lots of 'em! Is the theory true? Ans: no

Does the theory "all birds are flightless" (in conjunction with the usual auxiliaries) yield any true predictions ? Ans: yes -- lots of 'em! Is the theory true? Ans: no

Does phlogiston theory (in conjunction with the usual auxiliaries) yield any true predictions ? Ans: yes -- lots of 'em! Is the theory true? Ans: no

Does Newtonian mechanics (in conjunction with the usual auxiliaries) yield any true predictions ? Ans: yes -- lots of 'em! Enough to get us to the Moon and back. Is the theory true? Ans: no

Does Einsteinian relativity entail (in the logical sense) certain observational consequences? (nukes and such, as BiV pointed out). Ans: yes. Have these consequences been confirmed? Ans: not half! Do these observational consequences entail the truth of Einsteinian relativity? Ans: no.

(Einstein himself was fully aware of this, of course)
Last edited by NoShips on April 20th, 2017, 1:56 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: A Simple Question: Should We Believe Scientists?

Postby NoShips on April 20th, 2017, 1:43 am 

Here's what Marshall had to say about f=ma in another lighthearted thread:

"Since F=ma has been known to be false for over 100 years, there is no way it could be definitional in contemporary physics. So the thread declares itself to be a light-hearted one. What's life for, if not for a little enjoyment?"

viewtopic.php?f=10&t=25943&p=285320&hilit=Newton%27s+second+law+definitional#p285320

(c.f. "This is where your Ignorance Slip is showing, Noships. "Strictly speaking" F=ma is still true, but in a limited case. That is NOT the same as "false." It's these casually dropped inaccurate remarks on your part that undermine your thesis." - BiV, above)

The moral of this story, ladies and gentlemen, would appear to be: If you want a scientist to candidly admit the falsity of f=ma, argue for the opposite position :-)
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Re: A Simple Question: Should We Believe Scientists?

Postby Eclogite on April 20th, 2017, 3:06 am 

NoShips » Thu Apr 20, 2017 3:16 am wrote:
Forest_Dump » April 20th, 2017, 10:44 am wrote:I never said f=ma is not useful (got us to the Moon, and all that); I said it's not true (according to scientists' own diagnosis).

(I haven't quite gone away yet.)

My recollection is that most scientists do not claim that science searches for "truth", but for practical models of reality. As models they are necessarily incomplete. If you insist that a model must be complete to be true, then you will indeed find that almost all the claims (i.e. models) of science are false. This, however, is to attack a strawman.

So why does Dawkins posture as he does? Well my personal view is because he is a bit of a religious maniac who has adopted militant atheism as his religion.

Why does deGrasse Tyson posture as he does? Well my personal view is because he is targeting a specific audience who do not understand that a theory is as good as it gets in science and that is pretty damn good.
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