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Science And Associated Nonsense


romansh
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In the last day a post about science hit a nerve ... because it reflects a lot of nonsense that passes as erudite wisdom in some circles.

 

"science in the modern world has become thoroughly corrupted"

This is "thorough" nonsense. Now I am not saying there are certain aspects that cannot be criticized:

  1. Way science is funded is suspect ... in that there has to be a purpose (or at least a perceived purpose) rather than just curiosity and that there has to be hope of being published. Which in of itself is not a bad thing but certainly skews direction.
  2. Science medicine is particularly susceptible to a publication bias. But there is a tremendous pressure from the public at large for the applied biochemistry, biomechanics, medical instrumentation etc. It is the public themselves that are doing the corrupting however innocently.

True science (per Karl Popper, a statistical exploration not of truth but of what is the least false) is unfortunately just a remnant of the Rationalist's ideal. It has been replaced largely by Scientism, an absurd modern theology where scientists are immune from human weakness.

As much as I agree with Popper there are other aspects. Here the author the statement tries to promote a continued misconception of what science is. Now scientists may fall for believing they striving for truth or even have found The Truth®, in practice they are striving to get closer to the truth by whittling away the false. So the author here confounds science with scientist.

 

The author does not appear to understand science is a process that is measured in millennia and not in a few catchy phrases. I have absolutely no problem with scientism. Also scientists as a whole (not necessarily as individuals) are receptive of criticism of the current issues facing science. I would strongly recommend Sean Carroll's The Big Picture

 

Science grew out of theology

Perhaps outgrew theology is more of an apt statement.

 

 

 

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You are right in that I did dip into hyperbole, but when two out of the three top medical journal editors publiclty state that less than half their published studies are valid I think it's fair to say science has a problem. These editors described a pervasive, corrupt system of industry control.

 

The lead CDC researcher evaluating vaccine safety research recently confessed that his committee deliberately destroyed any data which showed vaccines caused damage. Openly admitted fraud at the top levels of scientific review.

 

I did speak too broadly, but this is a casual conversation where comments are brief. I think we will end up largely in agreement.

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You are right in that I did dip into hyperbole, but when two out of the three top medical journal editors publiclty state that less than half their published studies are valid I think it's fair to say science has a problem. These editors described a pervasive, corrupt system of industry control.

 

The lead CDC researcher evaluating vaccine safety research recently confessed that his committee deliberately destroyed any data which showed vaccines caused damage. Openly admitted fraud at the top levels of scientific review.

 

I did speak too broadly, but this is a casual conversation where comments are brief. I think we will end up largely in agreement.

 

I agree the pharmaceutical industry has problems. Ben Goldacre's book Bad Pharma catalogues in detail the missteps. But as a whole I trust the medical industry (and note I say industry) with my health way more than I would say prayer or any god.

 

Regarding scientism this word is often used as a pejorative as you well know ... particularly among people of "religion" or perhaps with an anti-science bias. Now I can't tell whether you meant it this way, but I suspect you probably were well aware of its impact on the casual reader on this forum.

 

But before I summarize what scientism means to me, I'll give my interpretation of Joseph Campbell's purposes of myth/religion; this is in my words and goes by my acronym assp

 

awe - religion/myth gives humankind a sense of awe of the world/universe we live in.

science - religion/myth was the main method of divining the way the universe ticks, of course this was formalized with natural philosophy and of course science as we know it today.

society - religion/myth provided and still does to some extent guidelines as to how people within communities might go about their business.

psyche - religion/myth provides an understanding of how we as individuals flow from dust to dust and ashes to ashes. Gives us and understanding of how to transition through the various stages of life.

 

Note - that these days science is in a position to provide at least some input to all of these aspects.

 

Scientism (for me)

  1. Generally does not assume things without evidence ... and if it does it is explicit in its assumptions.
  2. Does use reductionism (but then we all do to some degree), It does not think everything can be explained from quantum phenomena. Scientism uses the appropriate level of reductionism for its explanations.
  3. Science is a process (and so is scientism). It does understand that The Truth is evasive, and it is epitomized by George EP Box's quote, All models are wrong, but some are useful.
  4. These models are tested to destruction, they are tested against the real world not some imagined one.

Just some thoughts

Edited by romansh
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Romansh, we are lucky that our education included Karl Popper and the philosophy of science. The vast majority of the public do not understand science is based on testing which hypothesis is statistically the least false.

 

They think when they click on a science article it is a proven fact. They overgeneralize, mistake correllation for causation and have no way of judging qualifications and competencies.

 

It's not that different than the way people who are nominally religious get their entire spiritual content from the sporadic sermon applied to a juvenile chatechism.

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They think when they click on a science article it is a proven fact. They overgeneralize, mistake correllation for causation and have no way of judging qualifications and competencies.

 

It's not that different than the way people who are nominally religious get their entire spiritual content from the sporadic sermon applied to a juvenile chatechism.

 

We can catch scientists saying some piece of corroborating evidence is proof. For me: sad but understandable.

 

But we have the other side of the general public who assert some really strange things without any corroborating evidence. Then use science's missteps or the fact that it does not prove anything, to promote any old junk and then be up in arms or plead special causes when people examine the actual evidence for the claim.

 

If we have a claim regardless how it has come to pass: whether scientific, intuitive, Biblical analysis, throwing chicken bones, there is no better method to examine the validity of the claim than observation and analysis of the data obtained.

 

Nevertheless,

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The issue with scientism is the treatment of science in manner more befitting religion. More often than not, the validity of the claim is not examined at all.

 

Three good examples are vaccine effectiveness, cancer and global warming. All are active and important areas of research, but there are attempts to use the judicial system, foundation financing, peer review and media control to silence the research of unpopular hypotheses.

 

Researchers on the wrong side of the political correctness fence are essentially deemed heretical and shunned, and the public gets a one-sided view. I do not think stifiling dissent is appropriate for science and I don't think you do either.

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I think there is compelling evidence the case for anthropogenic global warming may be grossly overstated. The data may be right, but the conclusions seem unjustified. Many informed scientists disagree with the AGW careerists.

 

Here is a presentation by a Nobel laureate that made the methodologies and results seem logically inadequate, at least to my little peanut brain. The earth has huge natural variations, and valid measurement of worldwide climate change is a tall order.

 

 

There was also the well-publicized scandal of deliberate and admitted data falsification and conspiracy by the AGW proponents several years ago. Granted, industry factions put their dirty fingers everywhere but that only increases the need for independent science distanced from corrupting influences.

 

In spite of this there has been national and international clamor to make propounding climate change skepticism a crime. This is case of science attempting to insulate their dogma against any possible factual discovery and is not unlike the Roman pontiff's persecution of Galileo.

 

This is what distresses me - seeing science move backwards towards scholasticism. When the politicians say that only science which supports their constituencies is valid and other scientists must be silenced we have a problem.

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I think there is compelling evidence the case for anthropogenic global warming may be grossly overstated. The data may be right, but the conclusions seem unjustified. Many informed scientists disagree with the AGW careerists.

 

...

 

I listened to the video and there is nothing there I had not heard before.

 

Well based on glacier loss, the greening (again) of Greenland, loss of sheet ice in Antarcticand Artic (North West Passage) carbonation of the oceans etc Global Warming is definitely occurring. Now the question becomes to what degree has civilization contributed to this warming.

 

Things to bear in mind ... our planet (life) is in a thermodynamically unstable state or far from equilibrium (the bad news), but good news is it is in a quasi steady state where the energy balances balance ... at least roughly. So we could ask ourselves what are the sources of energy fluctuations? The sun is the big one:

Solar-cycle-data.png

So here we have data up to 2005 ... not a big variation.

Of course over geological time our position in the galaxy and precession of the Earth's tilt etc can have a dramatic effect on global temperatures. But of course this is irrelevant to our current situation.

A lack of volcanic activity can also have a big effect as can cleaning up pollution.

 

But the question we should asking is: what effect will a small temperature rise have on our biological system that is far from chemical equilibrium? We can see a positive benefit ie an increase in growth rates consuming CO2 from the atmosphere but on the negative side we will also an increase in decay rates releasing the same recently sequestered carbon and then the previously stored carbon near the surface. Which one is quicker? I don't know. I did not hear your Nobel Laureate address this problem.

 

As I mentioned the oceans are being carbonated ... acidified. This will prevent calcium carbonate forming life from growing shells. They will dissolve as quickly as they are formed at least in the worst case.

 

Regarding being part of the natural cycle ... philosophically I agree with this wholeheartedly, mankind is part of nature and there is nothing that we do that is supernatural or unnatural. We are stardust after all and eventually we will become stars again.

 

And as for manipulating data:

An alternative view. http://www.factcheck.org/2015/02/nothing-false-about-temperature-data/

 

ps forgot to mention the increased release of methane hydrate as the oceans warm a little. Another greenhouse gas ... we don't have a good sense of what the risk is ... but it is not zero.

Edited by romansh
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The disagreements about AGW is an example. It demonstrates a point about belief systems.

 

My point is Science theory is logical, but in public practice and popular understanding it typically functions as a religion. AGW is a complex subject but instead of deliberate and measured reasoning most people's logic stops at, "An authority figure says it is a fact, so I believe it."

 

This is closely related to the criticisms of spirituality discussed by Progressive Christianity.

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The disagreements about AGW is an example. It demonstrates a point about belief systems.

Yes ... and remember it applies to yours as much as mine. So how do we adjudicate between our various belief systems (or more neutrally the various beliefs that are out there). And this goes back to my comment about having intuitions or throwing chicken bones; we need a reliable method and I accept there is no absolutely reliable method.

It just that evaluating our hypotheses by observation and analysis is a better [more accurate] method than just asserting some truth. At least in my perspective.

 

My point is Science theory is logical, but in public practice and popular understanding it typically functions as a religion. AGW is a complex subject but instead of deliberate and measured reasoning most people's logic stops at, "An authority figure says it is a fact, so I believe it."

That is why I suggest we look at scientism over centuries if not millennia Yes global warming is very complicated people have dedicated their careers to studying it. So having some Nobel Laureate in the latter stages of career as a reference just does not cut it for me. It is like Linus Pauling advocating for large doses of vitamin C; as brilliant a person he was in this case he was out of his depth and not evidence based.

 

Yes scientists are human too.

 

This is closely related to the criticisms of spirituality discussed by Progressive Christianity.

 

The problem with spiritualty is, ask a half dozen people what spiritualty is you will get half a dozen different answers. I might think of myself as spiritual in certain respects but it will be very different from that of an evangelical Christian and likely very different from the members of this forum. Even in The God Delusion by Dawkins, and many of his books for that matter, you can find accepting words of some kinds of spirituality, particularly of the Carl Sagan variety. The little bits I have seen of Sagan's Cosmos I found immensely spiritual.

 

A little bit camp but brilliant in my mind.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XGK84Poeynk

Edited by romansh
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Should we then dismiss spirituality as mere woo and wonder because it is partially immaterial?

 

In my opinion unless we can bring some evidence to the table for the immaterial we should dismiss that as woo.

 

Of course at this point we will get into a debate that the mind is immaterial, we may go off in really poor radio analogies.

When we say immaterial we are referring to a concept that some of us have trouble in seeing the substrate it is written in.

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B Alan Wallace says .... "Physicists in the late nineteenth century, when the scientific study of the mind began, regarded matter as stuff reducible to small particles and endowed with mass and spatial location. But twentieth-century physics, especially quantum mechanics, undermined this notion, replacing discrete particles of matter with the theory that all configurations of mass-energy consist of oscillations of immaterial, abstract quantities in empty space. At the most fundamental level, matter isn’t made of matter"

 

Now that is just a theory but so it is with all science as it is over time discarded for a better working model. Therefore i personally wouldn't dismiss it as woo until we find a better replacement theory.

 

Joseph

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B Alan Wallace says .... "Physicists in the late nineteenth century, when the scientific study of the mind began, regarded matter as stuff reducible to small particles and endowed with mass and spatial location. But twentieth-century physics, especially quantum mechanics, undermined this notion, replacing discrete particles of matter with the theory that all configurations of mass-energy consist of oscillations of immaterial, abstract quantities in empty space. At the most fundamental level, matter isn’t made of matter"

 

Now that is just a theory but so it is with all science as it is over time discarded for a better working model. Therefore i personally wouldn't dismiss it as woo until we find a better replacement theory.

 

Joseph

 

Joseph

I take your point ... the're likely is immaterial in the sense of magnetic and electric fields, gravitational warping of space, particles described as fields, etc.

 

In my experience though many people when reaching for the immaterial are referring to things like love, compassion, empathy and their anti-immaterial hate fear disgust. For me this kind of immaterial is written in the substrate you describe.

 

But then we don't want to go too far down this road for fear of being accused with pejoratives like scientism.

Edited by romansh
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I would classify it as poorly written.

 

It is the belief that we are communing with a higher power that appears to help.

I don't find it poorly written. The editor seems imminently qualified and obviously she does not either.

 

I am interested in the citation for the 'higher power' study you mention. Not many researchers attempt spiritual topics, and if it convinced you it must be good.

 

My opinion is that much of social psychology, including this study, is pseudoscience. It has aspects of all four factors I mentioned.

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I don't find it poorly written. The editor seems imminently qualified and obviously she does not either.

 

I am interested in the citation for the 'higher power' study you mention. Not many researchers attempt spiritual topics, and if it convinced you it must be good.

 

My opinion is that much of social psychology, including this study, is pseudoscience. It has aspects of all four factors I mentioned.

 

Then you will find much of what the science Templeton Foundation funds to of similar dubious quality.

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I will look at Templeton, but it is a big site. Suggest a starting place or be prepared to wait a while for a response.

 

On a scientific level, social psychology uses a 5% level to claim falsification of the null hypothesis. This is below six sigma and too low for credibility. The scientific standard is 1%.

 

The real problem is that it is published in a widely respected popular journal. There is no link to the actual research that can be critically examined. People believe the article is truth based only on this stamp of an authority shouting out, "Science says . . ." assuming the MC is Science when it is really Steve Harvey.

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Firstly six sigma is way less than 1 %.

 

I would suggest using an appropriate degree of probability for the subject matter under study rather than some arbitrary number.

 

Regarding the Templeton Foundation ... I can`t point to any particular section, but just take your time to get a flavour of it.

It sort of a Discovery Institute 'lite'.

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