New book calls science a "Priesthood"

Discussion in 'Science & Society' started by rpenner, Dec 24, 2011.

  1. rpenner Fully Wired Valued Senior Member

    It does look like spam. But Queensland is a vey strange place, and I am capable of believing that this poster thinks this plagiarism and commercial affiliation is appropriate material. Thanks for the catch, Trooper.

    On the basis of a Google search, which shows a spam campaign has been running for about 23 days by "Lola Hernsheim" all with the pocket nappies commercial affiliation, I strongly favor the spam hypothesis. It is an open question what Lola Hernsheim believes since none of the words are hers.

    Maybe I would have caught that myself, but I was surprised by the appearance of a Dennis Markuze post.
    Last edited: Dec 28, 2011
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  3. RichW9090 Evolutionist Registered Senior Member

    Your statement here is imprecise and not useful. It shows a lack of undersanding both of science in general and epidemiology in particular.

    What does being an "indicator" mean? Certainly nothing that a scientist would claim. However, and quite precisely, we know the correlation between smoking and lung disease, smoking and heart disease, etc. Smokers have precisely measured increased rates of both, and smoking correlates with a whole host of other things as well. There is nothing imprecise, beyond the standard margins of error in any scientific statistical study, about it. And of course, all scientific explanations are statements of probability.
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  5. ughaibu Registered Senior Member

    A risk factor, a contributor to raised probability, etc.
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  7. rpenner Fully Wired Valued Senior Member

    The actual actuarial and medical science claims are in the form of correlations with life expectancy and disease diagnosis rates in studies large enough to be overwhelmingly confident in the direction and magnitude of the correlations.
    So "is an indicator" is a popular press bastardization of science, not the actual state of human knowledge. I would point you to reviews of these studies, but I don't have good medical journal search skills.
    Progress in cosmogony seems to be in proposing ideas which can be shown not to work. Following up the dead ends in a maze is also science because until we show they are dead ends, we don't know that they are dead ends. There is no widely accepted cosmogony hypothesis, so I would argue that the field is in its infancy. When mature it should tell us something useful about the nature of fundamental physics.

    Observations of nature are by means of apparatus both natural and man-made. Millikin is credited for measuring the fundamental charge of the electron, but that statement confounds the observation: "Millikan and Fletcher levitated a bunch of oil droplets of a certain size in an electrical apparatus and recorded meter readings" with its interpretation in light of Newtonian mechanics and Maxwellian electrodynamics and the work of others, including measuring the viscosity of air. Since the latter was poorly or incorrectly known, Millikin's calculations led to a slightly incorrect synopsis of his observations.

    In a similar way, our personal and scientific experience colors our communication of our observations. We fit observations into our heads and sometimes our eyes fail us (example: we are blinded by glare) and sometimes our heads fail us (example: a magician produces coins from containers we thought we knew to be empty). So observations, to be useful, need to be communicated. This can render them unreliable. So we reserve the term "fact" for observations we have confidence in and their interpretations in the best available scientific theory. It's a fact that DNA molecules encode heritable information in humans, even though you have never seen your parents DNA and likely have never seen a report comparing its sequence to your own.

    Those models, assuming they are reliable, are precise, useful and communicable descriptions of nature.
    "Science has to be a precise, useful and communicable description of nature." was coined in reaction to posts that were vague "The universe is like a tomato with all the seeds as galaxies and the inside like the outside.", or useless "The universe conspires to make all electrons seem alike, but they have hopes and fears and ambitions, not that any measurement will show you." or gibberish "The donut turns rigidly in two ways at once and this allows it to triangulate on its center." Some aren't even descriptions of nature as they explicitly reject confrontation with observations and when such observations are raised as problematic, the poster simply denies the observations.

    While crackpots are concerned only with styling themselves as knowledgable intellectuals and therefore have no need for a philosophy of what constitutes knowledge.

    Mark Balaguer has not argued against this point (that "the most precise and most useful descriptions are necessarily communicated in mathematics" ) because he has not defined precise in a way that does not involve mathematics and he has not defined another means to usefully summarize observations of nature. Mathematics is not just of field of abstract study, but is also a language.

    Colyvan and Zalta's review of Balaguer's Platonism and anti-Platonism in Mathematics

    Hartry H. Field's Science Without Numbers: A Defence of Nominalism (1980) seems to be just that -- but the work is largely mathematical. That large parts of Universal Gravitation can be done without numbers is no surprise to any student of Newton. But both Newton's geometry and Field's relational language are mathematics.

    Page one of review of Field's Science Without Numbers: A Defence of Nominalism

    Field's Nominalism -- the belief that physics relationships are real, is anti-scientific, not anti-mathematical. For example, Field's primary example, Newtonian mechanics and gravitation, is wrong-headed since that is not the best summary of the behavior of the universe, and the current best understanding is quite different while still preserving Newtonian physics as workable approximation at human scales. Nominalizing incorrect summaries of nature beggars the notion of "real."
  8. Trooper Secular Sanity Valued Senior Member

    Yes, you’re right. Queensland is a vey strange place. I wonder why. I had a strange encounter with a crank that was from there.

    I do try to leave my sarcasm at the door, but then I think to myself, “Oh, what the hell…nobody knows me.”

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    You’d think that a nuclear physicist would be able to figure out what pocket nappies are, eh? :bugeye:

    "These affronts to human pride aren't the goal of science, but they result from the basic character of science. If the arts are driven to create beauty and express human qualities, the sciences have no such mission. Scientific ideas aren't, or at least shouldn't be, evaluated on the basis of whether they are reassuring to humanity. One result may be that many people dislike science because it has been the bearer of bad (or at least not complimentary) news. However, it hardly makes sense to shoot the messenger."

    What is Science?

    What Science Isn't.
    Last edited: Dec 28, 2011
  9. ughaibu Registered Senior Member

    I think that's a misleading characterisation. Assuming that reliability is assessed by predictive accuracy, such accuracy doesn't imply usefulness or ontological correspondence.
    Fair enough.
  10. Dywyddyr Penguinaciously duckalicious. Valued Senior Member

    Yeah, but then again you've already shown that you're not that smart.

    Complete rubbish.
  11. Walter L. Wagner Cosmic Truth Seeker Valued Senior Member

    We're still using disposable DIAPERS in the US.
  12. rpenner Fully Wired Valued Senior Member

    Orac of Respectful Insolence also chimes in on the misguided deference towards cranks advocated by Margaret Wertheim and compares it to the howling mobs of anti-vaccine lunatics and perfidious medical quacks.

    Which follows Steve Novella's excellent dissection (posted yesterday).

    Finally, there is another review of the book which reinforces my opinion that book and New Scientist opinion articles share much common ground.
    Last edited: Jan 10, 2012
  13. Diode-Man Awesome User Title Registered Senior Member

    It stinks pretty badly when anyone name calls science.

    "Church propaganda" states that science is illogical. **PUKES**
  14. Ghostintheshell Registered Member

    To be fair, i know quite a lot of people who take "science" on blind faith whilst chastising all religion. Its strange because they often don't see the parallels between their fairly militant and aggressive attacks on religion and spirituality and the same attitude that the church had towards science not too long ago. They all believe in the big bang theory for example but none of them can expain it - they have FAITH that others know what it's all about and so accept it... on faith, from people with authority (in this case intellectual).
    One of the most important attitudes to have regarding science imo is that nothing should be taken as dogma, full stop. I believe something to be true if all attempts to disprove it fail, but am willing to change my view on things pending furthur developments. So i guess it could be called a "priesthood" in a broad sense. The priesthood of curious minds - where people exchange their current beliefs based on their own experiences and experiments within the world around them.
  15. river

    I find this happening

  16. Grumpy Curmudgeon of Lucidity Valued Senior Member


    So, do you second guess your doctor or surgeon? Or do you respect the education they received in their own specialized field and the accrediting agency that insures they learned it? Science is a lot like that in that in the various fields of science, the education required to understand them is simply beyond most people(or rather, most people have other things to do). I know that my limit was reached when it came to calculus and Quantum Mechanics.
    Religions are a different cup of tea. Any boob can be ordained as a minister, often in the mail. And some of those boobs spew non-sense and do real damage in people's lives, like L.Ron Hubbard who created Scientology. When based upon no evidence, evidently anything goes, eh?

    Science is not a priesthood, the process has more in common with referees and judges.
  17. Pincho Paxton Banned Banned

    This is the problem. A genius comes up with new science, it is then passed on to parrots. The parrots try to wipe the floor with the cranks, but the parrots aren't 100% sure who the cranks are, because they are following formulas. The genius does not follow formulas, he creates formulas from a higher understanding that those formulas cannot fill.

    So Genius = 100% understanding of his formulas, and their background.

    Scientist = 80% understanding of the formulas with little to no knowledge of where the formulas derived.

    Cranks = 100% knowledge of their theory, 50% formulas, but sometimes more study of a formula's derived physics.

    Then there is me. I am coming at science from a different direction. Forget everything, and start from scratch...

    Pinchoism = 100% understanding of my own theory, no formulas, derived physics from evolution of particles. = Darwinian Space-Time. Propagation through computer simulations replacing mathematics.

    And my motto is that computers should replace the mathematics that Newton suggested are proof of theory, because computers can model the universe at a particle level impossible for mathematics.
  18. Grumpy Curmudgeon of Lucidity Valued Senior Member

    Pincho Paxton.

    Always remember the GIGO principle. If you don't understand the basics you have no basis to produce anything with any corellation to reality. Computers are very capable within their limitations, number one of which is that computers are stupid(ultimately so), they will happily do their computations with pure non-sense but the output will also be pure non-sense, no matter how it is manipulated.


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  19. Pincho Paxton Banned Banned

    Old school thinking. We are now at a level of creating the universe from nothing. So long as you start with nothing you have no physics to cheat with.
  20. Grumpy Curmudgeon of Lucidity Valued Senior Member

    Noone says the Universe actually came from nothing(at least not seriously). We just do not know the conditions from which it came. Old school thinking is what got us this far, you have given no reason to abandon it for pure speculation.
  21. Pincho Paxton Banned Banned

    Then you are behind the times, and Old school. The Universe can logically come from nothing in current thinking. You don't need speculation, you just need basic logic.
  22. Aqueous Id flat Earth skeptic Valued Senior Member

    The OP concisely nails crankdom. The psychological aspect rpenner describes is by far the most curious aspect to me.

    Anti-science seems mainly relegated to particular kinds of hardened religious fundamentalists, or else the conspiracy theorists who seem to imagine Science in the way Protestants viewed Catholicism, that is, as a corrupt institution which abuses sacred principles. The difference is, of course, there is no pope of science, and no Vatican.

    While there must be fringe cranks who fit into some other category, the overwhelming majority of those who are launching the polemic tend to be of these two stripes.

    The psychology of religious based crankdom seems to revolve around denialism. Hardened fundamentalism has a shell whose thickness is proportional to the irritating effect of scientific knowledge on the soft tissues of superstition. If I had to pick a prevailing psychological cause, I think I would say it is fear. A person living in denial already has some clues that his worldview is skewed, but postpones his self-correction for so long that the idea of any sudden catharsis may be too painful to bear. For example, imagine his dilemma having to break the news to the kids he indoctrinated. I suppose if his reasoning ever got that far, shame would creep in to aggravate the fear.

    As for the conspiracy theorists, this is more evidently a paranoid response. There can be all kinds of underlying causes, but one of the first that jumps out is the hybrid that crosses fundamentalism with conspiracy theory.

    Both groups seem to exhibit envious resentment, perhaps feeling cheated out of the knowledge of fundamental principles that generally bind science loving people into consensus over the basics.

    Sometimes this phenomenon becomes unbearable, such as when cranks became active in politics with the agenda to derail funding and impose Byzantine policy. Although in some ways this has crested, the culture and myth that grew out of it is still rampant today and effects every kind of conversation, from economics to foreign policy and immigration. The latter two are invariably smeared with patent xenophobia, which not only harkens back to the premise of fear, but also demonstrates deep-seated loathing of an almost primal nature.

    As bad as it has been, the fever may be breaking. Any inquisitive person can fact check almost anything, so we are evidently on the cusp of a new phase in the evolution of society. I hope so. This period of the "terrible twos" has lasted my entire life. It's high time for a change.
  23. Pincho Paxton Banned Banned

    Yeah, the use of power words as a response shows why the religious belief is hard to attack. But doesn't work on me. You may be annoyed by your delusions defences sparking off in your brain, but they can spark for all I care. Some day science will realise how it deluded itself for hundreds of years.

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