The Ideal of the Noble Scientist

Discussion in 'General Philosophy' started by Magical Realist, May 29, 2015.

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  1. exchemist Valued Senior Member

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    Sigh! For the nth time, at least for the sake of any other readers, science does NOT deal in "proof". Karl Popper was very clear about this. You can accumulate evidence for a theory in science, which may in time become pretty overwhelming, but you can never prove it. Scientific theories are (usually imperfect) models of the physical world, not mathematical theorems.

    People who demand "proof" of scientific theories are almost always anti-science and usually have an axe to grind: creationists, climate change deniers, believers in little green men, or crop circles, that sort of thing. Generally fools or knaves, to a man.
     
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  3. exchemist Valued Senior Member

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    Exactly. I know what MR is about: he wants to stress the imagination part - and conveniently brush under the carpet the need for explanation and prediction of reproducible observation, so that he can claim his notions about little green men and big foot are science

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  5. Yazata Valued Senior Member

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    Your second paragraph doesn't appear to be consistent with your first, Exchemist.

    You start off by talking down to Wellwisher regarding the problem of induction, seemingly unconcerned that his point still stands if we replace 'proof' with a phrase like 'publish peer-reviewed results in prestigious journals'. From the point of view of the lay audience, those two are pretty much equivalent. The demands on laypeople to just shut up and believe are largely the same.

    Then your ill-conceived second paragraph reads like a full-frontal statement of Sciforums' prevalent scientism. Your phrase "anti-science" is reminiscent of how "heathen" used to be used. Presumably being 'anti-science' is a terrible thing, a fault that justifies condemnation by all devout Sciforums participants. But why? What justifies the introduction of that implicit moral-judgement? Assuming that somebody really is 'anti-science', what's wrong with their being that?

    How should we define "anti-science"? Is possession of unorthodox views on some hot-button issue (creationism, UFOs, climate change) sufficient to make someone 'anti-science'? How could that be, given your own correct statement in the paragraph immediately preceeding that science does not deal in proof? Presumably there's an implicit and as-yet unjustified argument in there that while science does not deal in logical certainty, it nevertheless wields sufficient authority that laypeople must accept its pronouncements (or those of its rhetorical spokesmen) without a murmur of skepticism or doubt, on pain of being dismissed as "fools or knaves, to a man".
     
    Last edited: Jun 1, 2015
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  7. sideshowbob Sorry, wrong number. Valued Senior Member

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    I'm not talking about the revolutionaries of science. I'm talking about the people who want to throw science out the window and replace it with nonsense like creationism. THEY are the ones who should understand science before they try to replace it.
     
  8. Yazata Valued Senior Member

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    MR's enemy is scientism.

    I guess that I'd define 'scientism' as adherence, whether implicitly or explicitly, to one or more of the following ideas:

    1. Reality is coextensive with the universe as conceived by contemporary science. Nothing can possibly exist that falls outside the scope of, or is inconsistent with, contemporary science.

    2. Science possesses a single unique procedural methodology that serves to define what 'science' and 'the practice of science' are and constitutes the only intellectually acceptable way of acquiring knowledge about any subject.

    3. Moralizing the idea of science by introducing the use of terms like 'anti-science' and 'denier', with the clear implication that these heretics and heathens are not only factually mistaken, but morally evil as well.

    Most of MR's posts that generate such anger and consternation here on Sciforums are intended to challenge one or another of these doctrines of the board's catechism. His fondness for ghosts challenges #1. His talk about creativity and imagination challenges #2. His doubts about scientists' nobility challenges #3.
     
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  9. sideshowbob Sorry, wrong number. Valued Senior Member

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    The whole "scientists' nobility" thing is a strawman. So is the notion that anybody thinks science-deniers are morally evil.
     
  10. rpenner Fully Wired Staff Member

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    I think all of willful ignorance, intellectual dishonesty and science denial are moral failings on the spectrum of evil. I also respect that, as with addiction and learning impairment, there may be complex cultural, psychological and even, perhaps, physical root causes that partially or fully exonerate some individuals from moral culpability for these human failings. But we need not turn a blind eye to our fellow humans failings when we put them on pedestals as leaders or people to emulate in thought and deed.

    Pragmatically, willful ignorance, intellectual dishonesty and science denial are toxic to debate about phenomena, physical or social, that actually occur. Therefore these behaviors will invariably contribute negatively to the speakers reputation in arenas where such topics are seriously contemplated. Not because these people are evil, but because these behaviors are poison to society.

    But, regarding evil, science denial has lent itself to be a great tool of evil. Tobacco, Tetraethyl Lead, Homeopathy, and other vested interests have found it useful to have a mouthpiece speak out against the scientific evidence to the detriment of the public health.
     
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  11. billvon Valued Senior Member

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    I wouldn't say any of the above defines the board's "catechism." 1) is regularly disproved by new discoveries, and that is acknowledged here.. 2) I have never seen anyone here claim that there is a single methodology that results in accurate/useful knowledge either within the framework of science or outside it. 3) Being anti-science is not in and of itself immoral. However, when people use their anti-science beliefs to push attitudes/beliefs that will harm others (anti-vaccine activism, climate change denial) then they are indeed being immoral - which is why they are (rightly) vilified.
     
  12. brucep Valued Senior Member

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    They're no inconsistency in exchemist paragraphs. Wellwisher posts nothing but nonsense with respect to these threads. If you don't know this you need to do some research so you can develope a bullshit meter.
     
  13. brucep Valued Senior Member

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    The voice of reason.
     
  14. brucep Valued Senior Member

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    Instead of evil we can use stupid. Science deniers are stupid. They don't have any problem using the Internet and computers to lie about science. That makes them intellectually dishonest to boot.
     
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  15. paddoboy Valued Senior Member

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    Agreed. But just as obnoxious as wellwisher's generally meaningless posts, are the immediate support and back up he gets from at least two kindred souls.
    To them its the highlighting of every poster's right to post and say what ever he feels, be it lies, word salad punctured with the odd scientific sounding word, or just plain and utter bullshit trolling.
    While on principal I somewhat agree anyone has that right, but I also agree that anyone spouting bullshit needs to be brought to task over it, and be made accountable.
    Which then again sees another "quality" raise its ugly head. The victim mentality that these sorts revel in.
    Personally while I find wellwisher's posts as quite annoying, I also very rarely read them due to the "word salad" that is evident in near all his posts.
    Perhaps this is his [ and his supporters] philosophical take on the science being discussed, but as rpenner has so aptly put it, it is the willful ignorance, intellectual dishonesty, and denial of science that is so evident.
     
  16. exchemist Valued Senior Member

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    1) If you think that publishing results in a competent journal is remotely the same thing as "proof" of a theory, then you are not the man or woman I have always taken you for. It is also very disappointing that you choose to introduce deliberately pompous-sounding stuff about "peer review", when nothing I have said at any stage refers to the process of scrutiny that the modern scientific establishment happens to use, now that science has become such a massive industry. Everything I have said applies to people from the time of Newton onward, i.e. long before any of this modern paraphernalia was in place.

    2) I do get fed up with people demanding "proof" of science theories - invariably singling out those they personally disagree with, for reasons that have nothing to do with science. My point is merely the same one Popper made so many years ago. It is hardly controversial, nor does it represent haughty "scientism", as you seem to imply. It is in fact the contrary: theories are mere models, provisional, incomplete, regularly not fully consistent with each other and often transitory, when seen from the perspective of history.

    3) I heartily acknowledge that I do despise people who take an anti-science stance. To me it is a form of willed barbarism.
     
    Last edited: Jun 1, 2015
  17. exchemist Valued Senior Member

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    Not a bit of it. Most of MR's posts that cause annoyance are those that push daft ideas, UFOs, Big Foot, ghosts and so on. The common feature of all these alleged phenomena is the utter lack of repeatable observation behind them.
     
  18. brucep Valued Senior Member

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    Looks like the forum terms and rules don't leave moderation much room to criticize intellectual content, intent, or trolling other members and subject matter with a load of nonsense.
     
  19. Yazata Valued Senior Member

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    The first paragraph puts down Wellwisher for using the word "proof", pointing out (correctly in my opinion) that science doesn't typically result in apodeictic certainty.

    Then the second paragraph launches into a denunciation of those who fail to believe as commanded by science's rhetorical spokespeople.

    So apparently, despite the admitted lack of formal proof and logical certainty, psychological certainty is still mandatory.

    Why? What justifies that expectation? What qualities does science possess that arguably should command laypeople's total and uncritical assent?
     
  20. paddoboy Valued Senior Member

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    Correct.....Science is always in the state of evolution, though some "theories" do and certainly have grown in certainty over time. Do you doubt for instance, that if you jump up in the air, that you won't come back down?

    The scientific method is an everyday extension of common sense and logic.
    When fanaticism in its many forms such as delusions of grandeur, tall poppy syndrome, and just plain anti science paranoia, blind people to what is in most cases rather obvious, particularly in the cases of individuals such as MR, wellwisher, Rajesh, constant theorists etc, and the alternative nonsense, or just plain philosophical claptrap that these same individuals are prone to fabricate, then those interested in science and its advancement act as necessary.
    No, but neither is alternative nonsense that has no observational and/or experimental evidence to support it. And that is certainly the case with our philosophical friend wellwisher and the dreams and paranoia of MR.
    Do you doubt evolution and the certainty of that?
    How about SR and GR?

    What do you put in their place? and what evidence do you have that supports whatever you have in mind, or evidence that invalidates the incumbent model.
    All I hear are pathetic excuses, and fabricated conspiracy nonsense.

    There are some here who are totally and fanatically anti science just for the sake of being "different" and trying to create an air of superiority about themselves in that they are able to do their own thinking...Most I might add, without any PhD, or without any other expertise or experience within that required discipline.
    Others of course have a religious agenda and as such would love to show science as being totally wrong, all the time.
    Perhaps your own agenda and support of the "poor victims" in question, prevent you seeing things as they truly are.
     
  21. sideshowbob Sorry, wrong number. Valued Senior Member

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    I'm just saying that not all science deniers are within the spectrum of evil and not all ignorance is willful. I would say that the average science-denier is too lazy to learn science and too arrogant to admit either his laziness or his ignorance - but I wouldn't call that evil.
     
  22. Spellbound Banned Valued Senior Member

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    Society and science repeatedly needs to reinforce concepts and beliefs through consensus, but the concepts, when identified, become "objective (based in agreement with others) reality".
     
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  23. Yazata Valued Senior Member

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    I'm struck by how quick you are to announce philosophical conclusions, in this case about the certainty of scientific results and about how those change over time, despite your taking pride in knowing nothing at all about the philosophy of science and your often spoken view that there is nothing of any interest there to learn.

    I do have a tiny amount of intellectual doubt about that, based largely on the problem of induction and the problem of justifying the assumption of the uniformity of nature. But in my real-life practical life, I don't doubt it at all.

    But I don't think of that as a scientific conclusion. It's common-sense, something that's shared not only by all human beings, but by other animal species as well. My guess is that an appreciation for gravity is hard wired into us. We see it with young animals and human infants in visual-cliff experiments and stuff.

    There you go again philosophizing again.

    I entirely agree that scientific methods (note the plural) are an outgrowth of common-sense and the natural logic of human cognition.

    But I'm a bit more skeptical about whether a single "Scientific Method" exists that all examples of the practice of science share, that explains the extraordinary success of modern science since the 17th century, and that demarcates the boundary between what is and isn't science. I'm inclined to think that view of "the Scientific Method" might be something of a modern myth.

    I'm most skeptical about any strong philosophical assertion that "the Scientific Method" is, or should be, the only method for acquiring knowledge in any subject whatsoever.

    You are always so defensive, so determined to battle "anti-science" wherever you imagine that you see it, that you've turned yourself into something resembling a scientism-fundamentalist. You demand that everyone else just have faith in the inspired word of science, and you aggressively attack anyone perceived as "anti-science", which apparently means anyone who doesn't believe precisely as they are told and might just mean anyone who is literate about the history and philosophy of science.

    The universe certainly appears to change over time. (That's what 'evolution' means.) But intellectually, I'm not 100% certain that it's true. I can't totally exclude the possibility that the universe just popped into existence a second ago, and me along with it, complete with "memories" and "evidences" of a history that never happened. But again, as with gravity, I don't doubt it in my everyday practical life. Given that animals have memories, I'd guess that an awareness of time and change is probably hardwired into us.

    If you are referring to Darwin's theory of biological evolution by natural selection, I'd assign that one a reasonably high likelihood of being true. I like to think that I have a fairly good understanding of evolutionary theory and the evidences supporting it, acquired during my years as a biological sciences undergraduate.

    I take it that 'SR' and 'GR' means special and general theory or relativity. I'm not a physicist and I only have a layman's understanding of those things. So they are both articles of faith for me, based on things like the respect I have for the scientific community. (Not unlike Catholics' respect for the teaching magisterium of the Church.) I'm not really in any position to intellectually assess advanced physical theories for myself. I will say that based on my layman's understanding, the special theory seems more plausible than the general theory.

    I don't really have active doubts about either one, though I consider both of them less certain than my personal common-sense experience of time and gravity. I'm more confident that gravity exists, than I am that Einstein correctly explained its nature.

    It's like that with science in general. As it becomes more remote from the world of everyday experience, as more assumptions are cooked into it, the more speculative and less certain it seems.

    "Pathetic excuses" for what?? Laypeople not credulously affirming their absolute certainty (psychological if not logical, if that distinction makes any sense) regarding whatever they are told is true in the almighty name of Science?

    What does the phrase "anti-science" mean? It's thrown around a lot on Sciforums, but nobody ever defines it. It's seemingly just an insult, a term-of-abuse, like "asshole" or "shithead".

    The ability to think for one's self and to form one's own conclusions isn't a bad thing.

    I'm not a science Ph.D., and neither I would wager are you. I rarely post on science subjects other than biology because I know little about them. But I do have two undergraduate majors (in biology and in philosophy) along with an MA in the latter subject. I've actually studied the history and philosophy of science.

    I don't really have any objection to you posting your many opinions on these subjects, which you admit you've never studied and apparently don't even think are worth studying. The philosophy instructor in me likes to see everyone trying their hand at philosophizing. I just wish that you wouldn't be so proud of your ignorance of the subjects that you are opining on, and that you wouldn't be so hostile and dismissive towards anyone who happens to say something that you disagree with.
     
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