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The Antiscience – Part II

Posted November 04, 2010 4:45 PM by Bayes

Preface

What is the Antiscience? The Antiscience is an aversion to the abstraction of science. Science is expressed mostly through mathematics among scientists. When a theory is presented to a nontechnical or semi-technical audience, people who do not have the mathematic background needed to actually understand the work being presented, simplifications are made to convey the general concepts involved.

In the past this worked because the public had an intrinsic trust in the scientific method and did not presume to question the integrity of the work. Increasingly, however, an aversion for abstractions has developed into a disdain of abstraction among the general public. Applied to science, distrust has arisen regarding concepts that cannot be proven concretely in the sense of either by a manifestation of a new technology based on the theory, or by some demonstration of the principle.

The absurdity of discussing and debating science without understanding the math involved is analogous to debating the grammar of Leo Tolstoy in War and Peace without being able to speak, read or write Russian. Yet this is one of the most apparent features of the Antiscience.

We must tread carefully and not let our personal prejudices fill in the blanks here. The Antiscience is much more than creationism or believing the world began a few thousand years ago. Those are fringe beliefs that are easily written off as the eccentricities of a particular group. The Antiscience is much more pervasive and insidious than that.

The Antiscience permeates our cultures of the West, manifesting itself in subtle vanities and superstitions, often seemingly allied with science itself, but just as unfounded and ridiculous as those more obvious examples listed above. This version of the Antiscience resides in all of us to differing degrees, since we are all children of the age and culture. It is easy to point the finger at the fringe and deride the obvious illogic of their beliefs. It is much harder to dispassionately examine our own beliefs for similar frivolities.

The Antiscience is a manifestation of the anti-abstraction sentiment characteristic of the philosophical age in which we reside, the age of existentialism. It is completely logical that our philosophical age, which began at the end of World War II, should reject the abstract, given the atrocities abstractions abetted in the World Wars and the emergence of ideological totalitarian regimes afterwards identified as enemies of "the west". However, as with all ages, what began as repudiation and rejection of the excesses of abstraction of the previous age has now itself wandered into its own excess.

A brief note on the title "The Antiscience"

The title "Anti(Subject)" usually signifies a polemical essay or treatise. If this was a two-part series against science, I would have named it "Antiscience". But that is not the intent of these blog entries. Rather, I named this two-part series "The Antiscience" because I'm trying to explain the origin and nature of an already existing anti-science sentiment held by society and manifested in a multitude of ways.

For those who are familiar with classical literature, this analogous to the difference between the titles "Anticato" and "The Anticato". The first, "Anticato", was a set of arguments against Cato the Younger written by Julius Caesar around 45 BC. The latter, "The Anticato" (a book that was never actually written) would be an evaluation of those arguments.

A brief note on the topic of religion appearing in this work

Yes, these posts contain references to religion. Anyone who has actually read Hegel or Nietzsche or Sartre will understand why. Let me be clear - I am not promoting any doctrine or set of beliefs. Religion is a pervasive aspect of the human experience and it would be impossible to discuss the philosophy of any age without including it. I do ask the reader to try and remember as you read this that the source of the Antiscience is not religion. I feel I have to say this explicitly here in the beginning because it is a preconception many readers incorrectly hold.

I hope the clarifications above relieve my critics of at least some of their misconceptions regarding my motives and conclusions. Thank you all for taking the time to read this essay and your subsequent comments.

The Antiscience, Part II

"All movements go too far". -Bertrand Russell

Perhaps the most obvious vanity of humanity is the perpetual belief that somehow we are not repeating some pattern of the past in a new and interesting way. In The Antiscience Part I, I described a pattern in philosophy since the Renaissance where new, contrary ideas are born in opposition to the overzealousness of a previous philosophical age. Those ideas mature and become the philosophy of a new age. Finally, those ideas are taken far beyond their original intent and are usurped by a new set of contrasting ideas - and the age ends.

In Part II, I hope to demonstrate that this pattern continues today and that The Antiscience is nothing more than the overzealous last act of our current age of philosophy.

Two World Wars and the Death of Realism

World War II ended with the surrender of Japan, the last of the Axis powers, to the Allies on August 14, 1945. In total, World War II (1939-1945) had resulted in over 60 million deaths. Two-thirds of those deaths were civilians.

Not since the Black Death had so high a percentage of the population died so quickly. The bloody French Revolution (1789-1799) and subsequent Napoleonic Wars (1803-1815) had caused only 5 million deaths, more than ten times less than the slaughter of World War II.

From 1800 to 1939, the world's population had little more than doubled, yet there had been 10 times more death in a quarter of the time. Before World War II, of course, came World War I, a conflict previously known as the Great War, a title that could be held for only 21 years. World War I had resulted in roughly 16 million deaths. This was a horror at the time, but quaint by World War II's new standard.

"Evil is the product of the ability of humans to make abstract that which is concrete."- Jean Paul Sartre

At the end of the first half of the 20th century, two World Wars had lead to somewhere between 50 to 100 million deaths. That number alone, although horrific, wasn't the worst of it. Rather, it was in the manner of death where the real horror lay. Men had been doing terrible things to men for as long as man could act, but the detached way in which people were now killed could not help but stir revulsion in those who were involved.

Whether it was from poison gas, machine gun, artillery or bomb, the method seemed to have efficiency. Efficient killing: was there anything that more symbolized the Realist philosophy?

The concentration camps of Europe weren't just notably terrible for the Nazi slaughter of millions of Gypsies, Poles and Jews. These "camps", as they were euphemistically called, were models of efficiency that employed techniques developed during the Industrial Revolution to mass produce death.

The efficiency was – and is - disturbing. These deaths weren't murders of passion, but of the detached brutality of an amoral society. It was as if the society itself had become sociopathic. This was deplorable behavior justified by the "truths" of realism, or at least what passed for truth. Fascism, Communism, and Social Darwinism were all constructs of the Age of Realism, and were responsible for over 100 million deaths (counting Stalin's purges).

Finally, all of this death and destruction and dehumanization reached a crescendo with the Atom Bomb. In a few days, two cities in Japan were destroyed and hundreds of thousands were killed. Suddenly, man had the ability to cause death like never before. The World Wars ended, but the sense of relief was short-lived. When the U.S.S.R., America's ally turned adversary, developed its own atom bomb by 1949, a nuclear conflict resulting in deaths far beyond anything seen before was suddenly possible.

People felt like leaves caught up in a hurricane, swept around by the gusts of human endeavor without the slightest ability to resist. They were bit players in a vast tragedy and they knew it. All these philosophers and their complicated theories hadn't changed anything. Men lived, married, fought, died, just as they always had, except now man had the ability to devastate man beyond imagining.

So what do you do when, at any moment, you could be playing your death scene with a mushroom cloud backdrop? How does one liberate oneself from a constant fear of extermination?

The answer was to reject the abstract and to embrace the moment. Out of the carnage of the Second World War emerged a school of thought manifestly appropriate for living under the shadow of nuclear annihilation. The movement was called Existentialism.

Existentialism

"Every existing thing is born without reason, prolongs itself out of weakness, and dies by chance." - Jean-Paul Sartre

A common mistake that is often made when evaluating our current age of philosophy, the age of Existentialism, is to confuse it with Realism. Although Existentialism and Realism are very different ways of looking at the world, these two schools of philosophy coexisted for a brief time, as is always the case when this sort of change occurs.

The confusion between Existentialism and Realism manifests itself most obviously with the inclusion of Friedrich Nietzsche as a Existentialist, or as a father of Existentialism. This is absurd. An existentialist doesn't say "God is dead"; an existentialist doesn't care.

The true father of Existentialism was Jean-Paul Charles Aymard Sartre, who stirred the movement with his essays, "The Transcendence of the Ego", written in 1937, and with "Being and Nothingness" in 1943. At their core, both essays are assaults on abstract thought. As a movement, Existentialism was born in 1945 with a lecture by Satre to the Club Maintenant in Paris. Later, this talk was published as "Existentialism is Humanism," a short book that can be summarized into a few important tenets.

Man defines himself and is not subject to predestination

Man is thus responsible for his actions

Man is ultimately alone

Man is thus free, being subject to no higher authority

There is no ideal morality

Man is thus free to form his own morals

Basically, the book is saying that there is no perfect, idealized reality or morality with which man must conform. The abstract ideals that were ought in previous philosophical ages were mirages. At first, this seems like a devastating thought. After all, without higher ideals, what is the point of man's existence? Sartre, however, comforts the reader by pointing out that this in fact liberates man, since he is only answerable to himself and thus is free.

Existentialism as Antirealism

"Evil is the product of the ability of humans to make abstract that which is concrete."- Jean Paul Sartre

The Democratic West had just endured terrible wars in which its enemies were ideologically-driven, either by Fascism or Shintoism, and was now engaged in a Cold War with the ideology of Communism. It isn't difficult to see why Western thinkers would embrace a philosophy that rejected conformity to a strict doctrine or ideology, and which instead championed personal freedom.

Certainly, the pervasive threat of nuclear annihilation created an audience ready for a philosophy that deemphasized the abstract and emphasized existence, or literally living in the moment. Soon, Existentialism was adopted as the West's de facto school of philosophy.. Philosophers turned their backs on high-minded ideals and abstractions, and instead concentrated on tangibles. Sartre, Camus, Simone de Beauvoir, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, and other philosophers explored and defined what it meant to be an Existentialist.

The result was an emphasis on the concrete and a dismissal of the abstract with regard to human existence and action. For example, killing a person means that you are cruel. It doesn't matter if there abstract justifications for the murder; the action itself is what matters.

Since the ideological-driven genocides of the early 20th century were enabled through the philosophy of Realism, Existentialism fought back by invalidating the Realists' argument. If you murder 6 million helpless people, you're cruel - whatever your reasons. This example illustrates a common theme in all new ages of philosophy. The new philosophical schools make a lot of sense in the beginning, usually because they provide a contrast to the excesses of the previous age. Invariably, however, as the new philosophy evolves, grey areas emerge - and the seeds of future excesses are sown.

Existentialism in the Late 20th Century

"I tore myself away from the safe comfort of certainties through my love for truth - and truth rewarded me." - Simone de Beauvoir

There was a play staged in 1966 called Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern were the two courtiers hired by King Claudius to spy on his usurped nephew, Hamlet, in the Shakespearian play of that name. Rosencrantz & Guilderstein Are Dead follows the protagonists, Guil and Rose, as they are swept along in the events which unfold in Hamlet. The genius of the 1966 drama is that the two protagonists, rather than being portrayed as conspirators with King Claudius, are instead presented as bit players in a drama where they are unable to avoid their fate and are swept along in the tide of the major characters. Guil and Rose had a role to play, and it wasn't a happy role, but it was a role they couldn't avoid because it was bigger than them.

Guil articulates this existential dilemma in the following soliloquy:

Guil: "Wheels have been set in motion, and they have their own pace, to which we are....condemned. Each move is dictated by the previous one--that is the meaning of order. If we start being arbitrary (Guil means Guil and Rose by "we") it'll just be a shambles: at least, let us hope so. Because if we happened, just happened to discover, or even suspect, that our spontaneity was part of their order, we'd know that we were lost"

In the 1950s, Existential ideas began to become increasingly ingrained in the public's psyche. Young actors such as James Dean and Marlon Brando explored existential angst in the movies Rebel Without a Cause (really, could there be a more existential title?) and The Wild One.

The Beat Generation was laying the groundwork for the cultural revolution to come in the 1960s. With Allen Ginsberg's Howl, with its taboo subjects such as drugs and homosexuality, and Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged expressing the triumph of rugged individualism over social conformity, the 1950s were alive with Existentialist thought and feeling.

The 1960s and 1970s saw the full-on adoption of Existentialist ideals by the mainstream. In the United States, there was the passage of the Civil Rights Act and the birth of the conservative movement. This latter phenomenon, which stood for increased personal freedom and laissez-faire economics, would rise from the ashes of Barry Goldwater's presidential defeat in 1964 to achieve Ronald Regan's victory in 1980.

Meanwhile, the counterculture of the 60s and 70s ushered in the rejection of the old social mores by standing against the restrictions of society and embracing behaviors such as "free love" and mind-altering drug use. The 1980s welcomed the triumph of existentialism with the ascendance of freedom as the West's defining virtue in its struggle with the "evil empire", a phrase spoken by Ronald Reagan himself, and the Soviet Union's ideological allies in the Eastern Block.

Finally, the post Cold War 1990s witnessed a world where laissez-faire economics reigned supreme. The baby-boomers, the first generation born in the Existential Age, had matured and made the tenets of Existential philosophy the mainstream.

Existential Angst and Freedom

Two themes that occur in Existentialism are Angst and Freedom. Existential Angst, the lonely side effect of the self-determined existence (i.e., there is no higher ideal to guide you), was explored and eventually praised as the curse of the thinking man. Angst was elevated from a sad emotional state to a condition of the heroically aware. Freedom - ironically enough, since Existentialism was to be a movement of no abstractions - became an ideal. Freedom was the purest characteristic of life, and must be preserved against superstition and ideology.

At first, the veneration of freedom meant that overt political repression (such as was seen in Fascist and Communist governments) must be opposed; however, by the end of 20th century, this tenet had morphed into a doctrinal view among some that any restriction of any kind upon freedom was negative. This, of course, was far beyond the original intent of Sartre in "Existentialism is Humanism". But as we've seen already, all philosophies are taken too far eventually.

This overzealous interpretation was inevitable. It should be noted, however, that before it was taken to such extremes, the reduction of restrictions and promotion of freedom in all fields did much good in the West. Examples include the widespread adoption of laissez-faire economics, which removes the state from transactions between private parties; and the civil rights movement, which essentially eradicated the justification of segregation.

Existentialism and Religion

Existentialism had a profound effect on religion. Sartre was an Atheist, although he supported the idea of religion sentimentally. Ultimately, he commented that it was hard (but not impossible) to be an Existentialist if one wasn't an Atheist. After all, what could be more abstract then the concept of God?

The existential rejection of the abstract and insistence upon the self-accountability of man stood in direct opposition to religious ideas about an omnipotent, omniscient deity who governed a deterministic universe. Atheism today, as represented by advocates such as Richard Dawkins, utilizes this argument, rejecting religion as an unlikely abstraction meant to protect adherents from Existential angst.

"Faith is the great cop-out, the great excuse to evade the need to think and evaluate evidence. Faith is belief in spite of, even perhaps because of, the lack of evidence".- Richard Dawkins

Some existentialists tried to reconcile religion by indicating that Existential angst, a product of self-determination, could only be soothed by a leap of faith in God. These Christian Existentialists indicated that God could not be proven by any intellectual means, but rather embraced from despair and loneliness by a leap of faith.

This "Post Modern Christianity" emphasized man's personal relationship with God while rejecting religious doctrines, ceremonies, and traditions. Man's relationship with God could only be understood by each individual and thus the relationship is uniquely personal. This philosophy has become the de facto mainstream religious view held in the West. Adherents define themselves as "spiritual" and profess a belief in God, but do not attend weekly religious ceremonies. They also tolerate other religions as "other paths" to God.

"I do not deny for a moment that the truth of God has reached others through other channels - indeed, I hope and pray that it has. So while I have a special attachment to one mediator, I have respect for them all and have tried to give a fair presentation of each". –John Macquarrie

Existentialism is the Antiscience

At first blush, Existentialism would appear to be a boon for scientific thought in that science rejects superstition and demands empirical evidence for the verification of a hypothesis. Indeed, in the early days, the two were in lockstep. But Science proposes universal truths, which some existentialists object to since Existentialism believes in the preeminence of self over outside "truths". A scientist wasn't just saying F=ma for him or herself. Rather, a scientist was saying F=ma applies to everyone. The existentialist argument against this is presented below by Maurice Merleau-Ponty-

"Science manipulates things and gives up living in them. It makes its own limited models of things; operating upon these indices or variables to effect whatever transformations are permitted by their definition, it comes face to face with the real world only at rare intervals. Science is and always will be that admirably active, ingenious, and bold way of thinking whose fundamental bias is to treat everything as though it were an object-in-general - as though it meant nothing to us and yet was predestined for our own use." – Maurice Merleau-Ponty (L'oeil et l'esprit)

So here we are, and it's been a long journey, but there is the source of the Antiscience, summarized in 1961 by Maurice Merleau-Ponty. There above is the seed from which all the assaults on modern science spring. Look at Maurice Merleau-Ponty's arguments against Science:

1. Limited Models

2. "their definition" and "fundamental bias"

3. Face to Face with the "real world" only at rare intervals

Here's another quote that more succinctly summarizes his philosophy:

"We know not through our intellect but through our experience." –Maurice Merleau-Ponty

Maurice Meleau-Ponty had presented existential arguments that are commonly used by deniers of evolution, global warming, and the scientific establishment itself. These groups, however, are the fringe. Existentialism is a mainstream philosophy. Thus, although the above is used to discredit science directly, it also pervades society and is subtly undermining science in the mainstream.

How many times have you heard people question the value of fundamental research? Have you noticed that technology must be presented at the conclusion of research to justify it to the mainstream? What is technology but the tangible manifestation of the abstraction of science? Science used to be about the advancement of knowledge; however, it is now a widely held belief that advancement in knowledge (which is abstract), without a corresponding advancement in technology (which can be applied to the self), is a failure. What could be a more Existentialist view of science?

How many times have you heard people take pride in their ignorance of abstract subjects? Is it so surprising that in an age of Existentialism when abstraction is vilified, that knowledge or discussion of abstraction is not be considered desirable unless it serves a concrete end (such as making money)?

These seemingly innocent sentiments illustrate the depth to which Existentialist belief pervades our society and reveals itself as the true manifestation of the Antiscience.

Coping with the Antiscience

Scientists have struggled for years with how to handle this undercurrent of Antiscience sentiment. Some scientists attribute the deficiency to a lack of scientific and mathematical training by the general public. Some blame religious extremists or religions in general, since these are the most outspoken and obvious of opponents and conform with their own Existential beliefs. Some scientists suggest that they lack the ability to express themselves well, essentially adopting and accepting the Existentialist argument that scientists are "detached from the real world".

The purpose of this two-part post is to suggest the true reason behind the Antiscience - that we are in the beginning of the end of the Existentialist Age. In this present age, a time when the tenets of the Existentialist Philosophy are fully adopted by the mainstream and tending toward the extremes, the anti-scientific sentiment will only grow. The general public's existential aversion to abstraction and universal truths will grow, no matter what we as scientists try to do to stop it.

Indeed, Science itself is infested with Existential idealisms and prejudices, rotting us from within as we attempt to come to terms without. Too many scientists dream of being the next Einstein, a revolutionary who overturned the scientific "establishment" rather than simply being happy doing their part to promote discovery. Scientists often use of technological progress as scientific justification rather than the more truthful "advancement of knowledge". Scientists accepting the blame for failing to articulate science better to a mathematically illiterate public. The irrational overreliance of the heuristic, Occam 's razor, and its ill advised extension to non-scientific topics. No, scientists are not immune to Existentialism, how could we be?

Conclusion

Existentialism is a wonderful philosophy that promotes values and lessons beneficial for those who take the time to learn it. As with all philosophies, however, it often fails when overextended. Since at least the time of cave wall paintings, and probably even earlier, humans have strived to understand and explain the world around them.

A natural consequence of this ambition was the development of abstraction. To reject this fundamental aspect of human nature is merely to lie to ourselves. We cannot turn our back on abstraction simply because it has caused harm in the past. That ignores all the good that it has brought us as well. We must embrace who we are, regardless of the perceived danger, and accept again that there is nothing shameful or naïve in debating philosophy, or striving for knowledge without need of material gain.

We must recognize cynicism for what it is, the refuge of the fearful, and set aside our existential angst, which comes not from our solitude and burden of existence, but rather from forcing a set of beliefs upon ourselves that are contradictory to our nature. Only when we start to do these things, only when we start to reject the tenets of existentialism in their most extreme forms, only then can we stop the Antiscience.

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#1

Re: The Antiscience – Part II

11/04/2010 7:35 PM

What the hell are you talking about?

Could narrow that down to 100 words or less?

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#2

Re: The Antiscience – Part II

11/04/2010 8:15 PM

There at the end you say:

"...only when we start to reject the tenets of existentialism in their most extreme forms, only then can we stop the Antiscience."

But, why is rejecting existentialism in its extreme forms necessary for rejecting the Antiscience? Why can't we begin rejecting existentialism in its 'normal forms'? Or reject the Antiscience simply out of hand without worrying about its existential correspondence?

And what do you say to the religious Antiscience folks who also reject existentialism?

What about those of us who aren't existentialists and who suffer no existential angst? Should I lament the fact that I have no such angst?

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#3

Re: The Antiscience – Part II

11/04/2010 9:38 PM

Welcome back Roger.

Have you just excommunicated Soren Kierkegaard from the existentialist camp?? Or he doesn't count because he is 19th century? You counted Nietzsche.

Just because existentialists like Nietzsche focused on the lens of subjective human experience over objectivism does not mean that existentialism is the anti science, any more than belief in transcendant non material beings prevents one from doing science.

To those who embrace an existential worldview, it is that we find the problems of human existence to be of far greater importance (or at least interest) than the mere 'counting and classifying of objective mathematical or scientific truths.' The focus is on the individual, and the individuals struggle alone in the world, rather than on the world. However some of us do okay in the sciences too.

By choosing carefully your existential exemplars, you make existentialism to be nigh an equivalent to nihilism. I myself find "existential joy" in my engineering, and emulate Marcel in finding joy in my encounters with the astonishing discoveries that there are in this world of objectivity, whether that be the tidy way the calorie values of caterpillar poop all converged in our lab tests, or the way it feels to know that the material that I helped to design works better in processing and performance and now makes an entire industry X% more efficient.

Or how it takes my breath away when I stare out at the vastness of the stars in the sky, count the perseids every August, or try to fathom the volume of water going over the niagara escarpment.

Existentialists are not proponents of / nor the personification of the antiscience.

However it is interesting that despite our technological and scientific progress, the Science of the objective world has not come any closer to answering the SPIRITUAL questions that we all face.

Neither are all existentialists atheists.

I avoid writing Theistic apologias, because I am not one.

I believe that you have created a well documented but conveniently edited definition of existentialism, one which neither conveys its breadth, nor its rich opportunities for joy over angst.

Very well written, and researched, and an interesting thesis, but not one which I can embrace.

Glad to have your thoughtfulness and ambition back.

milo

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#4
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Re: The Antiscience – Part II

11/04/2010 11:12 PM

Hi Milo,

Thanks for the comments. I would like to make a few clarifications. If you remember Part I, I discussed how the Renaissance gave way to the Enlightenment, the Enlightenment to Romanticism, and Romanticism to Realism. I explained that the prevailing feature of each of the philosophical ages listed above was that it was in direct opposition to tenets of the age that came before it. Thus Romantics rejected pure reason, and the Realists rejected sentiment.

In part two, I'm trying to say that the age of Realism was replaced by the age of Existentialism. I'm indicating that Existentialism is at its core a rejection of abstract concepts which got out of hand at the end of the age of realism (Aryanism for example used as an abstract justification of the murder of countless millions).

So I'm saying we live in an age of Existentialism, which at it's core has an aversion to abstract ideas and favors concepts of individual freedom and concreteness. One cannot say one is not an Existentialist in this age any more than a man from the Enlightenment can say he is not of the Enlightenment. It is the world we live in, the culture we were and are born into. Existentialism has shaped our unconscious value system.

It's the reason we expect science to produce technology. It's the reason we promote "laissez-faire" economics (literally "let do" (meaning- leave it alone)). It's the reason we foolishly overextend Occam's Razor to the point that it borders on superstition. Occam's Razor is Existentialist doctrine "The simplest explanation is most likely the correct one". That is a rejection of abstraction.

The Antiscience is merely one of many manifestations of this age of existentialism. It is a rejection of the abstract process science uses to develop it's ideas. It is a rejection of abstract scientific ideas itself.

You wrote that Nietzsche was an Existentialist, but I went to pains to point out he wasn't in my post above. It was a long post I know, so you may have skimmed that part and missed that statement. Nietzsche was a realist. Soren Kierkegaard was not an existentialist. Certainly some of his ideas are echoed in Existentialism, but that is where the similarities end.

Existentialism begins with Sartre. He led the movement away from Realism. He helped developed the tenets the world (at least the western world at first) embraced. Its true I was selective in my excerpts, after all, the post is already too long, but I picked the ones that defined Existentialism as it was born in the late 40s and 50s. The ideas that have become the tenets of our age: individualism, freedom, and aversion for abstraction colloquially called "Practicality" or "Common Sense".

It's easy to look back 100 years and see the motivations of a particular age and how it ties together. It's much harder to realize that the time we live in is no different except for the theme. The men of the Enlightenment yelled "Liberty" as they slaughtered. We yell "Freedom". It's hard to step back from those truths we fervently believe to be absolutes and realize that we are simply caught up in a fad, just like every generation that came before us.

The age of Existentialism in which we live, by the very nature of its tenets becoming doctrine as the age swings from rebellion of realism to excess in its own right, just as every age before it has, is gradually rejecting all abstractions. Science in this case is the one that we're discussing. The Antiscience is thus a natural attitude found in the mature stages of the age of Existentialism in which we live. That's what I'm saying. I'm saying we're in the Age of Existentialism, and as it becomes more extreme and rejects abstraction more and more indiscriminately, we scientists find ourselves on the defense more and more.

Scientists justifying the pursuit of science "why should we fund a supercollider?, what is the benefit (meaning: practical benefit)?" Scientists justifying the scientific method: "But it's only a theory (meaning an abstraction, not a proven reality that people can touch and feel). Scientists defending themselves against characterisations "Scientists lack common sense (meaning that somehow prolonged exposure to abstraction dulls one's practicality). The Antiscience is all around us and within us, stripping away at hated abstractions even as we desperately try to stave off the attacks and work.

Anyway, thanks for reading it Milo and for your comment.

Roger

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#6
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Re: The Antiscience – Part II

11/04/2010 11:58 PM

Structuralism... hmmm. You know probably "ideology" is the enemy.

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#8
In reply to #4

Re: The Antiscience – Part II

11/05/2010 12:23 AM

What would probably be considered a more traditional definition of Existentialism http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/existentialism

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#10
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Re: The Antiscience – Part II

11/05/2010 1:36 AM

Excellent link, Garthh- but not something that can be absorbed in a single reading!

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#5

Re: The Antiscience – Part II

11/04/2010 11:51 PM

I see part 1 is still locked down

how long before we can expect the same here?

For those one you who don't know a blog owner may turn off comments

The timing of the comments for part one being shut down is suspect

Part One spawned this effectively silencing one of the most vocal critics of antiscience in the history of this site

& here

Let the games begin

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#13
In reply to #5

Re: The Antiscience – Part II

11/05/2010 9:42 AM

Blink now posts as Moronic Bumble. You know that.

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#15
In reply to #13

Re: The Antiscience – Part II

11/05/2010 11:31 AM

That could be

I'd be surprised to find Mr Bumble on this thread...

MB only seems to comment on certain types of technical issues

Whereas Blink would comment on a wider range of subjects

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#7

Re: The Antiscience – Part II

11/05/2010 12:21 AM

Roger-

I always enjoy reading your contributions, although I don't always concur...

The real question that comes to mind, though, after reading your dissertation is, what is on the horizon with the potential to displace Existentialism? Who are the thought leaders that will open the way to the new model?

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#22
In reply to #7

Re: The Antiscience – Part II

11/05/2010 2:43 PM

cwarner7_11,

I think this Age of Existentialism has one act left to play. Past ages like the Enlightenment, Romanticism, and Realism lasted what seems like around 100 years. One theory I'm playing with is you need one generation to formulate the ideas, one to incorporate the ideas, and then a last one to be born into the ideas and to extend them too far. The Baby Boomers are definitely the generation that incorporated these ideas, so the echo boomers are probably the ones who will take them too far as they grow older. Since they are around 20 to 30 now, we probably have to wait another 20 to 30 years before the next generation after them comes of age and says "Screw this, I'm sick of you shouting freedom and individualism about everything, I'm not buying this anymore" and has a counter movement. That however is speculation and could be completely wrong.

What age comes next I can't tell you. I suspect the discovery of cellular life on another planet through spectroscopy will occur in the next 25 to 50 years and have a profound effect on humanity as we realize once again how unimportant we are. What that effect will be I have no idea.

I can only list a few of my philosophical beliefs that disagree with existentialism. For instance, existentialism suggests there is no higher authority to dictate morality thus we are free to choose our own morality, however I don't buy that. I believe morality developed as an evolutionary response to the environment. Pack animals, such as ourselves, tend to have similar behavioral traits, such as empathy and altruism that significantly effect our concept of morality. Certainly the concept of "Individualism" is contradictory to a certain extent in light of our evolved nature, that's easy enough to prove by putting a person in isolation for prolonged periods of time. If Individualism was really an ideal, the person wouldn't experience pain and eventual insanity from such isolation.

I sometimes point this out with the extreme example that if we evolved from spiders, individuality would be a true ideal and cannibalism wouldn't be a social more. The point being that the concept of morality, which often strikes us as esoteric, is just really a set of evolved behaviors naturally selected over millions of years. I think when philosophy tries to impose values that are unnatural to our species upon us that is leads to a sort or discordance where people sense something is not right but can't articulate what it is.

When our values are not mysterious things but rather evolved traits, you lose some of the mystery around them and institutions can be designed to more intelligently exploit our strength as a species and make up for our weaknesses. For instance, I believe the reason that communism will never work as a government is because as pack animals (to be clear here, "pack animals" means animals that hunt in packs, like wolves) we instinctually form hierarchies. Trying to impose a system with no hierarchies is stupid because it contradicts our nature in a fundamental way. At the same time, no pack would allow a member of a pack to starve, even if that member were old, or lame, or unproductive, thus it makes sense that we offer social programs. Packs aren't hereditary in terms of leadership, when a pack member is strong enough, they can challenge a leader. In essence that is what democracy does, it allows the pack leaders to be challenged.

It's a bit much to take in I'm sure, but the truth is a lot of our institutions have developed features over time that only make sense if you consider our behavior to be mostly dictated by our evolution. Now I know people don't like the idea that much of our behavior is unconsciously driven, but all you have to do is sit through a magic act (where this is exploited) for a half hour to be disabused of the vanity that our primary behaviors are conscious decisions.

Anyway, that is an example of how I view the world differently than Existentialism says I should. Upon writing part II and looking deeply at my own behaviors, I was stunned by many Existentialist beliefs I did hold to be truths and perhaps took too far (I'm somewhere between the boomers and echo boomers in terms of age). It's quite unflattering when you realize how predictable you are (I'm talking about myself here).

Thanks for reading and your comment,

Roger

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#25
In reply to #22

Re: The Antiscience – Part II

11/05/2010 3:20 PM

"The Baby Boomers are definitely the generation that incorporated these ideas, so the echo boomers are probably the ones who will take them too far as they grow older. Since they are around 20 to 30 now, we probably have to wait another 20 to 30 years before the next generation after them comes of age and says "Screw this, I'm sick of you shouting freedom and individualism about everything, I'm not buying this anymore" and has a counter movement. That however is speculation and could be completely wrong."

According to wiki and the US Census bureau, the "baby boomers" are those who were born between 1946 and 1964. That puts them in the ages of 46 - 64 yrs old. Us Generation X'ers are already coming up in the world saying "screw this". and then there is Generation Y (mid-1970's to early 2000s) are right there with us.

I think the "screw this" attitude is more curiousity of the world around us as a whole. Even the unknown and paranormal is becoming popular. Popular shows like "Ghost Hunters" and "Paranormal State" are examples of this. There is no current scientific way of proving or disproving if a human has a spirit, let alone that human spirits can walk the earth after death of the body. It is all based on individual experiences......oh wait, that could be seen as Existentialism. Ok, I am thoroughly confused now. It is quite possible that these ages span more than three generations. It should probably be more like 5 generations (each generation spans about 20 years in time). The ideas keep getting taken further and further with each generation until they get extended to far. So to add this to your theory with this new thought, it will be Generation Z that comes up with the new idealogical era. The oldest of Gen Z are around 10 years old so it will take a while before they can influence our society.

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#27
In reply to #25

Re: The Antiscience – Part II

11/05/2010 3:32 PM

Personally I find this growing interest in ghosts and things that go bump in the night worrysome. In a world where more and more depends on high technology it is down right scary that the general population's understanding of that technology seems to be shrinking. People who don't understand how things work are easily mislead swindled and fooled. They become easy marks for snakeoil salesmen or should I say politicians.

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#34
In reply to #27

Re: The Antiscience – Part II

11/05/2010 8:30 PM

I found Michael Crichton's "State Of Fear" quite illuminating on the subject of media generated fear mongering...

Chris

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#29
In reply to #22

Re: The Antiscience – Part II

11/05/2010 4:10 PM

"...existentialism suggests there is no higher authority to dictate morality thus we are free to choose our own morality..."

When one participates in a social order ("joins the pack"), there evolves a "higher authority" in the communal mind that defines moral behavior. Those who chose not to conform to the "common mores" of the pack are ostracized or punished (which is true of the behavior of most pack species with which I am familiar). The uniqueness of the human experience is the fact that our social organization has evolved significantly from "simple" hunter/gatherer, random access accumulation of resources through the programmed agrarian model requiring planning for future events, to our current arrangement dependent on very detailed division of labor arrangements that dictate significant interdependencies with which our ancestors did not have to deal. In other words, morality is a moving target, as far as humans are concerned, and what served past generations may not be appropriate for the current organizational structure.

"I believe morality developed as an evolutionary response to the environment."

Which is a simpler way of saying what I just tried to say...

"Certainly the concept of "Individualism" is contradictory to a certain extent in light of our evolved nature, that's easy enough to prove by putting a person in isolation for prolonged periods of time."

I am not sure I agree with you on this. First of all, I have experienced self-imposed isolation (sailing about single handing for a period of years), although not subjected to sensory deprivation. While uncommon and rare in the modern world, such self-imposed isolation is not unique to our age- reportedly, part of the process of transitioning to "adulthood" in some hunter/gather societies of days gone by actually required a solitary sojourn, and this is often touted as a road to "enlightenment" within various modern religious models. I do not feel I experienced "insanity" from my adventures, and the only "pain" encountered was the occasional return to port to restock certain materials that I did not have the capability to produce myself...

Because our social orders are evolving (at least, I hope they are still evolving- I would have a whole lot of trouble dealing with the concept that this is a good as it gets!), the moral authority of past generations is immediately suspect, because they were defining the rules based on the relationships that held in the past. This, of course, does not mean that the past moral authorities are wrong, it just means they are suspect, and need to be evaluated within the modern evolutionary stage, and adjusted accordingly.

Members of a pack congregate to accomplish some purpose- be it more efficient hunting, or improving the survivability of the offspring, or some other motivation that benefits the pack members. When, as with humans, one has eliminated all of the competition and the major threats to survival (and survival of the species), the motivation for communal cooperation changes as well. What was once condoned behavior becomes antisocial (my favorite example is the concept of genocide, which not only appears to have been a quite common response to intraspecies competition among earlier generations, according to the "sacred writings" of such as the perpetrators of the God of Abraham, as they have come down to us, the "higher authority" actually condoned genocide as an appropriate approach to expanding one's realm. I can not, without doiing a bit of research, provide actual citations to support this, but, if memory serves me right, Joshua reportedly received specific instructions from his "higher authority" in the proper perpetration of genocide against the inhabitants of Jericho. Other examples can be found in the "sacred writings". Although I do not have personal experience with any of this, it seems that genocide has only become taboo in recent history- say the past century or so...).

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#98
In reply to #29

Re: The Antiscience – Part II

11/10/2010 1:31 PM

"according to the "sacred writings" of such as the perpetrators of the God of Abraham, as they have come down to us, the "higher authority" actually condoned genocide as an appropriate approach to expanding one's realm."

The command to the people of Israel to kill all the inhabitants of the Promised Land was not for the "expanding of one's realm", but because God, "the higher authority" wanted to protect them from the ungodliness of those people. God knew they, the Israelites, would be tempted to fall into the ungodliness of the inhabitants of the Promised Land, so He told them to kill all the inhabitants of the land they were to occupy. This was to protect them spiritually, not to expand their realm. They were going to take the land anyway, because that was what God had promised them. The people of Israel didn't follow God's command to get rid of all the inhabitants of the land and they paid a dear price for their disobedience.

This was also for the purpose of letting the inhabitants of the land know that they weren't just dealing with anybody. They were dealing with a nation of people who were led by God. This doesn't mean that God is mean, it means that He hates sin. The way the city of Jericho was taken also showed the people in Canaan that God was leading the people of Israel.

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#99
In reply to #98

Re: The Antiscience – Part II

11/10/2010 1:39 PM

Then the "guest" descended among the people of reason and looked about himself and saw that there was logic and so he spake. "Let there be nonsense among the learned, and let it rise up and devour all that is good and wise." And it was so.

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#103
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Re: The Antiscience – Part II

11/10/2010 1:46 PM

ga.

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#100
In reply to #98

Re: The Antiscience – Part II

11/10/2010 1:43 PM

That's one of the most offensively stupid rationalizations I've encountered.

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#102
In reply to #98

Re: The Antiscience – Part II

11/10/2010 1:45 PM

hahahahahahahahahahahahaha

that is so ridiculous!

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#116
In reply to #98

Re: The Antiscience – Part II

11/12/2010 1:26 PM

The point is not WHY this particular deity condoned genocide, but the fact that it is documented that genocide was, in fact, an acceptable solution in the eyes of this deity. If one accepts the practice, then the reason for parcticing it is a bit moot...

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#117
In reply to #116

Re: The Antiscience – Part II

11/12/2010 4:51 PM

Um - well - may I add:

If one is of the "literal" school - a longish pause on encountering "it is Gods Will", might be 'useful' in contemplating if the 'Will' is in conflict with the Tenets.

It usually turns out to be "acceptable" only to the human claiming preeminent representation of the Deity.

Which must give pause to said Representative's right to Represent and so call all utterances and policies into question.

Especially if they involve "fear", "loathing", "exterminate!"

Because That never go's well.

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#118
In reply to #116

Re: The Antiscience – Part II

11/12/2010 4:59 PM

I wonder if it was prophesied before or after the event.

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#35
In reply to #22

Re: The Antiscience – Part II

11/05/2010 10:26 PM

I'm fascinated

please do expand the humans as pack animals analogy...

on one hand you compare democracy to a pack? Pack behavior is much closer to communism, where the strongest rule

or Packs as altruistic groups who take care of the weak or sick, when in reality packs sacrifice the the lessor members of the group to keep the predators at bay

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#36
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Re: The Antiscience – Part II

11/05/2010 11:08 PM

Garthh-

What is commonly referred to as "communism" in today's world actually has nothing to do with the original concept. What we call communism today is more akin to totalitarianism. Communism is more an economic model than a political model, and the ideal of communism requires no leadership at all, since everyone is working toward the good of the community...

"Sacrificing" the weak for the benefit of the pack is actually quite altruistic- it is the survival of the whole as opposed to the survival of the individual- the community benefits.

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#9

Re: The Antiscience – Part II

11/05/2010 12:49 AM

Roger. I'm not sure I all agree with or even understand everything you're saying, but I'm sure l appreciate your motivation and effort. Please continue.

One question though - Is Existentialist a PC way of saying penguin?

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#11

Re: The Antiscience – Part II

11/05/2010 3:24 AM

Roger, has it occurred to you that "scientists" are so poor at explaining, in less than 10,000 words, why we need to invest in their "We need to know! and that's reason enough!" position, that investing actually requires a momentous "act of faith"?

I offer this as a person who 'converts' science to 'technology', so deals in "need", which extrapolates to what gets funded.

I.e "anti-science" is a myth, "science with a visible gain" becomes a reality.

"Visible" being both the funding distinction, and "goal of science", - is I suspect your only conundrum.

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#26
In reply to #11

Re: The Antiscience – Part II

11/05/2010 3:31 PM

Hi 34point5,

Actually no faith is required. Scientific Journals require scientists to keep their ideas succinct. These journals are open to the public (by going to a public library). So really scientists present their ideas succinctly in a format that is open to everyone. The problem is that scientists write in a different language, that of technical terms and mathematics. Most of the public is illiterate in math and technical terms and ask for a translation. The translation is inevitably much longer.

If someone wants to understand science, you have to learn math and the technical terms. There are books and classes out there that allow you to do this. Jorrie for example taught himself Relativity and now can read just about any scientific paper on the subject and have a general idea what is being discussed. However it took Jorrie a long time to become literate, it's not easy, it's what graduate school is for for scientists. Most people are unwilling to put in the effort to become literate.

If a person is too lazy to become literate, that is fine, but they forfeit the right to have an opposing opinion on the subject. Like I said in my post, if you can't read, write, or speak Russian, you really aren't qualified to criticism the grammar of Tolstoy's works such as War and Peace.

All of that said, its the inherent Existential aversion to abstraction coupled with the elevation of the ideal of "Practicality" in society that empowers someone who is illiterate to feel entitled to an opinion.

To put it another way, I'm positive I have no business on an NFL field and if I tried to be a WR I'd make a pretty big fool of myself fairly quickly. However many people believe they can do precisely that in the scientific arena, which when you think about it is quite presumptuous.

Roger

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#32
In reply to #26

Re: The Antiscience – Part II

11/05/2010 5:11 PM

Well to me, math is a modeling system, and just like any other - as good as the soundness of the the "starting assumptions". "Lift" would be one you have issue with, where how much of which model, depends on "starting assumptions".

However, I am having difficulty deciding if your 'literacy' response is 'elitist' or 'defensive' of inability to 'translate'. I can understand Tolstoy is best translated by someone bilingual. But that person has to do more than 'word by word' substitution, they must translate the 'thoughts expressed' across the gulf.

I.e. Convert what Tolstoy was painting (in Russian) to the same picture in the destination language's imagery methodology.

It is not a case of "literacy" so much as "understanding" of the picture/s.

It's ironic that your error in tense in that Tolstoy's grammar sentence, would "be a problem" for an English Language Pedant, calling your whole credibility into question, whereas an 'understander' would 'understand'. The same is true of Math Language Pedants.

Or in 'my world' - your NFL parallel is insecure;

If the goal to win the game - Why would I 'play' my field tactician?

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#41
In reply to #32

Re: The Antiscience – Part II

11/06/2010 10:36 AM

My point is, if you are criticizing the grammar of a translation of War and Peace, it's not Tolstoy's grammar your criticizing anymore.

The only way to have an informed opinion on the grammar of Tolstoy in War in Peace is to be able to read Russian. It's the same way with science.

Like Richard Feynman once said:

"Listen, buddy, if I could tell you in a minute what I did, it wouldn't be worth the Nobel Prize."

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#44
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Re: The Antiscience – Part II

11/06/2010 1:36 PM

"The truth is not necessarily the facts." William Faulkner - A Fable, Nobel Prize.

How you put the facts together is the point.

I agree that if I don't know Russian grammar, and Russian, I am not going to be much good as a translator.

Still I can tell you what Absolam Absolam is about, and what even what use War and Peace has as a story.

I don't focus on the minutia of things. It is the truth that is my target. War is bad weather. Peace is good weather. You will be betrayed in either case by either the truth, or the lies.

It is good to be lucky since we all have a screw loose.

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#50
In reply to #41

Re: The Antiscience – Part II

11/06/2010 5:13 PM

Roger there is no logic link in that set of dependents.

It's like arguing that if you aren't 'a qualified mechanic' you can't see a blown head light.

Feynman, jointly with Julian Schwinger and Sin-Itiro Tomonaga, received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1965. He developed a widely used pictorial representation scheme for the mathematical expressions governing the behavior of subatomic particles, which later became known as Feynman diagrams

How fast do you read?

Not everything has to be the "War and Peace" version.

But obviously, if one is either challenged in expressing the core thinking, or unclear them selves on the 'essential aim/gain', or simply wanting to paint it/themselves as so gob-smack brilliant, or steal all the kudos - it's bound to take longer.

And 'elitism' and 'confounding' are the tools of choice.

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#57
In reply to #50

Re: The Antiscience – Part II

11/07/2010 11:52 AM

Scientists aren't challenged at expressing core thinking. If you go to Japan and can't understand what's being said because you don't speak Japanese, you can't say "Japanese people are challenged at expressing themselves clearly". Clearly in that scenario the fault lies with you for not being able to speak the language.

Scientists are force to express ideas to a precision not seen in regular life when they publish to journals, so you see, it isn't that Scientists are challenged in expressing themselves, it's that non-scientists are not precise about expressing themselves. Now this is perfectly acceptable in everyday life where precision is not required. However in the scientific arena precision is essential, and if one does not have the vocabulary (ie math and technical terms), they can't hope to understand what is being said nor contribute.

With my Tolstoy analogy, I was showing that once something is translated, you can't criticize Tolstoy's grammar. After translation, you're criticizing the grammar of the translation, which may simply be a function of an incompatibility of two languages (there are expressions that simply cannot be translated from one language to another). In the same way, once science has been "translated" for a nontechnical public, criticisms of the actual scientific methods used are impossible. The only thing a translation does is convey a general idea of what the theory says. You can't argue the science based on the translation anymore than you could argue Tolstoy's grammar based on a translation.

To bring it back to existentialism, the reason the nontechnical public would even presume to debate a subject they are effectively illiterate in is because of this disdain of abstraction that permeates our culture. The modern superstition of "common-sense" trumping the "ivory tower, elitist science" (ivory tower and elitist negative connotations of detachment of the abstract). Societies aversion to the abstract runs so deep that there actually exists a widely held superstitious belief that people who spend a lot of time working with abstraction (scientists, Ph.D.s etc.) are somehow less human (detached, elitist, no common-sense, oblivious, clueless, naive, etc. are all terms commonly used to describe technical people). It's quite a profound and telling characteristic of our society that springs from Existentialist doctrine.

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#62
In reply to #57

Re: The Antiscience – Part II

11/07/2010 12:29 PM

"Clearly in that scenario the fault lies with you for not being able to speak the language."

that is probably true, but still...

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#90
In reply to #62

Re: The Antiscience – Part II

11/09/2010 10:47 PM

Chris,

Thanks so much for the Engrish (and the two extra dots). I feel human the more now than before the "Lose water Room" ! This feels like the touch of friendship.

-S

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#91
In reply to #90

Re: The Antiscience – Part II

11/10/2010 2:31 AM

in the old times... all humans spoke one language, and worked together... (those danged Elohim.. )

perhaps this is another reason for abstraction (use of symbols and signs) is to try to communicate with each other, regardless of language.

Perhaps some of the problem with the general perception of science is a lack of common symbology for basic meanings?

Chris

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#92
In reply to #91

Re: The Antiscience – Part II

11/10/2010 7:47 AM

Yousaid "perhaps problem is lack of some common symbology for science"

I think roger's key point was that mathematics and abstract symbologys are needed for the precision required by Science, and that these are lacking in the general culture, hence the misunderstanding of science by the laity.

I agree with this point, but do not see it as removing the general populations right to have an opinion, as they do have some "skin"in the game.

as scientists and technological enablers, it is up to us to do a better job of communicating, rather than condemning the general population for not having achieved the same level of numeracy as us.

Thats the key difference that I have with Roger's point. Drawing lines that divide between "those who can do the math"and those who can't/don't, may be a valid identification, but does not advance us toward a solution and potentially condemns those who must pay from having any discretion over how their resources are used, and how there life conditions may be changed. Please excuse format issues and typos, sent from my iPad. Milo

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#93
In reply to #92

Re: The Antiscience – Part II

11/10/2010 9:51 AM

Hi Milo,

You Wrote:"as scientists and technological enablers, it is up to us to do a better job of communicating, rather than condemning the general population for not having achieved the same level of numeracy as us."

I think it's like trying to describe the color green to a blind man. If the public is illiterate in the math involved in the science, there is no way the technical details can be conveyed, no matter how well the person communicates. All that can be conveyed is the general idea.

You Wrote:"but does not advance us toward a solution and potentially condemns those who must pay from having any discretion over how their resources are used,"

The solution is if you want to have an opinion on science you need to learn the math. The non-technical public demand that scientists take work that took the scientist a decade to develop the math skills to even be able to do and simplify it enough while retaining it's intricacies to explain it to the general public. Then when the scientist fails at the impossible task, the non-technical public calls a scientist a "bad communicator".

The non-technical public has a sense of entitlement that they haven't earned with regards to scientific opinion. As I've said before, I think this is the result of a lack of respect for the abstract concepts sciences uses as it's tools to develop and verify theories. An Existentialist born unfounded confidence in their superstition in their own "common sense" as compared to the detailed abstract work of the scientist.

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#94
In reply to #93

Re: The Antiscience – Part II

11/10/2010 10:21 AM

And somehow you missed my point that" I think roger's key point was that mathematics and abstract symbologys are needed for the precision required by Science, and that these are lacking in the general culture, hence the misunderstanding of science by the laity."

As a parent raising children and as a son taking care of alzheimer parent, I cannot agree that failing to communicate, is our "fate"

Nor acceptable.

respectful interaction is possible even when cognitive skills have either not yet developed or having been severely degraded.

Math is critical tool, but to put all blame on the fact that not everyone can do the math is to give one he'll of a free pass to "scientists" that they probably don' need.

Richard Feynman's clear demonstration of rubber behavior t low temperatures effectively communicated a number of "abstract "concepts without a rigorous mathematical treatment.

communication is a two way street, and as scientists and technical professionals we must step up to the challenge of communicating effectively.

Milo

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#95
In reply to #94

Re: The Antiscience – Part II

11/10/2010 11:31 AM

Scientists have gone to great pains to explain the science they are working on. The problem is the public is satisfied with an overview and it isn't possible to relate technical scientific details colloquially. You can say that it's unacceptable that Green can't be explained to a blind person, but that doesn't change the fact it's true.

If its that important to a person to have informed opinion, then they should learn the math and technical terms involved.

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#106
In reply to #93

Re: The Antiscience – Part II

11/11/2010 5:15 AM

"the non-technical public calls a scientist a "bad communicator"."

Are you calling me "non-technical"?

"The non-technical public has a sense of entitlement that they haven't earned with regards to scientific opinion."

No Roger no! "smart" does not = 'Carte blanche', you have to, like everyone else, 'demonstrate the value'.

If you can't see what 'value' will appeal, be that "flapping your arms" and becoming Picasso, or selling a shoe, you don't get funded - end of story.

I.e. Learn to make yourself understood in "common values" - then "common sense" will support you.

It's "Pragmatism".

I think you have obfuscated to "existentialism", to deliberately not say "pragmatism" - as you see the 'science' as 'pragmatic pure-ism' and math as the 'ultimate arbiter'.

Which is about as "realistic" as 'imaginary numbers', 'variable constants', Philosophy, Theology, "The Golden Rule", Mona Lisa's smile, or one of Picasso's bulls.

Why is anything 'valuable'?

Acclimation

Want some?

How?

"Communicate"

[Smart ≠ 'Carte blanche']

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#107
In reply to #106

Re: The Antiscience – Part II

11/11/2010 10:21 AM

You Wrote:"you have to, like everyone else, 'demonstrate the value'."

The value of knowledge is self-evident, but that's not what you mean, you mean practical, non-abstract value. You presuppose that anything without useful "real-world" applications is somehow worthless (A very existentialist point of view). This is of course the Antiscience in all its glory.

You Wrote:"I think you have obfuscated to "existentialism", to deliberately not say "pragmatism" - as you see the 'science' as 'pragmatic pure-ism' and math as the 'ultimate arbiter'."

Pragmatism, especially the weight we give it and "common sense" today, is directly due to the existentialist movement and its anti-abstraction emphasis. However Existentialism has elevated other unrelated tenets such as individuality and Freedom, to doctrine as well. To suggest that I'm replacing Pragmatism with Existentialism is to greatly oversimplify what I have presented.

To Summarize this string of comments:

Scientists speak to other scientists very precisely through publications using math and technical terms. Any translation of such papers to a nontechnical public inevitably loses significant precision. This is not the fault of the communication skills of the Scientist, but the fault of the illiteracy of the nontechnical public.

A suggestion has been made that this is a cop-out and that there is always a way to explain a concept if you are a good communicator. I countered this argument by pointing out a clear example of the impossibility of conveying an abstract concept if your audience doesn't have the prerequisites necessary for learning the topic, namely my example was "If you want to explain the color green to someone, the person you explain it too must have sight. If they don't, it doesn't matter how great a communicator you are, you will not be able to explain what green is."

Finally, it was argued that scientists must be able to convey the value of their research to decide whether or not it will get funded. Whether or not it will be funded is specifically determined by its "pragmatism". I argue that the value of additional knowledge is self-evident and the idea that there must be a practical (read: tangible) outcome is based on Existentialist values that I say throughout this blog, is the Antiscience.

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#108
In reply to #107

Re: The Antiscience – Part II

11/11/2010 10:23 AM

Sorry about that, that last post was me (as if you guys needed me to tell you).

-Roger Pink

Also, I haven't said it in a while, so thank you all for your comments. I've enjoyed responding. I really appreciate the respect, thoughtfulness and consideration everyone has shown in this discussion.

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#111
In reply to #107

Re: The Antiscience – Part II

11/11/2010 5:20 PM

"The value of knowledge is self-evident, but that's not what you mean, you mean practical, non-abstract value. You presuppose that anything without useful "real-world" applications is somehow worthless (A very existentialist point of view)"

Based on the 'Roger continuity'; it is "evident" that you forgot to log in. You might argue it's "self evident" to me, and be right; but is it to all reading this thread? No. Many 'interpretations' could be applied, other than a simple oversight.

With that in mind; 'interpreting' my conversation to date, as above, in terms of the distinction you make between "abstract" and "practical, non-abstract value" or "that anything without useful "real-world" applications is somehow worthless", makes it "self evident" I'm obviously failing to communicate.

I mean; All knowledge has worth and it's a matter of making the 'worth' "self evident".

You argue that is Existentialism and somehow prevents scientists doing the same thing.

All existentialism is; is the recognition/admission that humans are motivated by/interested in, what touches their 'existence'. Always been there, always will. Your post is your existentialist motivation at work.

Whereas pragmatism is the exorcising of "emotion" from decision making.

The problem with Pragmatists, is they tend to deny "social abstracts" when dealing with "social issues", and in doing that they fail to grasp the "full evidence".

A pure pragmatic argument might be; "it doesn't matter how great a communicator you are, you will not be able to explain what green is".

At first glance, it is 'correct' due to the 'self evident' absence of sensors.

But it pragmatically precludes 'why' seeing green is 'important'.

For instance in military ordinance 'colour blindness' is a factor, not a prohibiter, in explosives handling qualifications. What is important is being able to reliably distinguish between what others call "colours".

Similarly, a number of scientists may have had a 'better reception' by the 'flat world' Papacy, if the 'advantages' of a 'round world' were 'communicated' in a manner that touched both sides Existentialist desires.

However; some science things are more 'self evident'. Like "Greek Fire". Some less so, but only because the 'advantage of knowing' is as yet 'un-communicated'.

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#96
In reply to #92

Re: The Antiscience – Part II

11/10/2010 1:17 PM

Hi Milo,

your reference to Roger's point was exactly what I was thinking of as I wrote my sentence. I agree with your conclusions

The thing is... there is no avoiding abstraction. Mathematics is a system of symbological abstraction. the numbers we use are abstractions. The equations we use are abstractions. I was merely suggesting a system of symbological abstraction that more people could share. Language is a system of abstraction, where words represent concepts, ideas, and functions. Grammar is a set of rules for arranging those abstractions consistently to ensure that the original meaning is conveyed as accurately as possible.

What matters is repeatability in those abstractions, and that the results agree with reality as much as we can possibly determine through our observations. (both personal and technologically)

There is no avoiding abstraction. Even to understand 'precision' we must use abstraction. Our brains are using abstraction, as 'reality' is not occuring inside our brains, with respect to the real events we are observing. We have pictures and words and other abstractions stored as memories, and mental processes operated as abstractions. The interesting thing is the quality of our abstraction, and the degree to which the mind can not separate 'reality' from mental process. This is the evidence that our minds are abstraction based processors. There is no avoiding abstraction. All understanding comes from it.

Let's examine the ratio Pi for precision. This is defined as the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter. To resolve Pi numerically, it is turning out to be an eternal calculation. Here are some different representations of this ratio. (all from the wiki link)

All of these represent the same attempt to express the fundamental ratio, but some communicate to a wider audience what the subject is, but do all represent the necessary precision or accuracy? I would say that they all are precise enough for the purpose of communication, however the graphic is the most communicative, across languages, education levels, political orientations, or what have you. Therefore I am suggesting a graphic, or symbolic method of mathematical or scientific representation CAN be made, which will communicate science to a wider audience, without sacrificing precision. The level of audience understanding of course will depend on their education, but there is no need to exclude them from the conversation entirely.

Ultimately, these lesser educated masses are the consumers of science, in that they are consumers of engineered products, and that they pay taxes. If one respects this fact, and truly respects the less educated csstomers, and the power they wield, then communications must take the highest priority, even above the practice of science. This is a general principle within human endeavers anyway.

Abstraction can not be avoided.

All precepts in science are abstractions; including experiment', observe, calculate, understand... etc

Communications is the highest priority in human endeavors.

There are different types of abstraction.

We can choose the 'best' abstraction for our purposes.

We have choice.

Chris

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#97
In reply to #96

Re: The Antiscience – Part II

11/10/2010 1:28 PM

And the symbology most likely to come to mind when you say pi?

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#101
In reply to #97

Re: The Antiscience – Part II

11/10/2010 1:44 PM

mmmm

I'm sure that is how the ancients first discovered Pi... by trying to figure out how to cut the pie so everyone could have equal segments... (what is diameter?)

I appreciate your humour... but there is a lot of science in pie. Without science, we woudn't have pie.

Everything that anyone has ever known or will know, in this universe, comes from science, and by science, I mean experimentation, observing, and communicating.

A great example is Tesla's story and obsession with tracking all sources to his ideas. He insisted that he was just a 'meat machine' and that every idea had an identifiable input to him... and that there was no 'inspiration'... just a long process inside the mind. To me, it also means that everything we need to know, even about the spiritual world, is already available and knowable to us. (I know, I'm confusing issues, straddling fences, etc.)

I prefer coconut or banana cream pie.

Chris

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#105
In reply to #96

Re: The Antiscience – Part II

11/10/2010 8:32 PM

I'd not thought of existentialism as the root of anti science. I pretty much looked at religious fundamentalist as anti science.

Episcopalians tend towards great love of science, politics, and believe and pray to God. Was explained to me once that they, as educated as they were, and used to abstract thinking could believe in God, and pray to Jesus, because they were abstract thinkers.

The run of Pi crossed my mind as infinite while thinking about issues and opinions in this blog thread. I remember that early radio telescopes looking for intelligent life in the universe looked, and may still look for Pi. The supposition was that it was a universal mathematical reality. What symbols, and how other than an Alien TV Picture of Pi Professor from Planet X would make it clear outerspace people knew Pi, inclines one to ask if Roger and all would do a Pi, Existentialist, Pro Science TV Show?

After reading Sartre, and Camus, I long forgot about existentialism. I pretty much thought Sartre some sort of jerk off, and Camus a great writer of stories of wondering stoics.

The Fall and The Plague seemed to me great works about the human condition, self conscious with drivers beyond instinct and hunger. What does the lion regret?

At any rate the noir novels and movies of the post WWII era reflected to me a great disappointment with all idealized institutions and life as it was clear that force was required no matter how idealistic one or any group may be.

Ben Franklin wrote that some Quakers secretly gave money for defense during the French and Indian War.

Thing that drives us mad is that Science is made of absolutes like Zero degrees, or equal and opposite reactions to inputs of force, and then Pi that won't stop...

Such would justify a rational belief in eternal life aye? There is a working mystery, but meantime I have some practical problems to solve.

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#109
In reply to #105

Re: The Antiscience – Part II

11/11/2010 10:28 AM

You Wrote:"I'd not thought of existentialism as the root of anti science. I pretty much looked at religious fundamentalist as anti science."

Yes, I think this is a commonly held misconception and one I hoped my post would bring others to question. Certainly religious fundamentalism is a very visible manifestation of the Antiscience, but as I've argued I think the root cause comes from the overextension of the tenets of existentialism. I think this is harder for people to accept because it makes us all guilty, since we are all children of the age of existentialism and thus unconsciously take for granted as fact things that may in fact simply be superstitions and biases (Occam's razor for example).

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#112
In reply to #109

Re: The Antiscience – Part II

11/11/2010 8:03 PM

Sometimes things are as they seem. The religious fundamentalists I have worked with have never even heard of Existentialism, and believe the world is 6 thousand years old.

Was up in a bucket wiring Xmas Tree lights for a park holiday display with a guy speaking of a Scientific American article about the 12 hominids when he said, "That's not possible, the world is 6 thousand years old according to the Bible."

However much Existentialism is part of the mental landscape, it is a philosophy which is weaker and overpowered by theology.

A Fable, by William Faulkner confronts the conflict between truth and reality. Belief is truth to some regardless of the facts. It may be same as the stoic sadness that runs through the texture of The Plague.

The math there is in the numbers of dead, unknown soldiers buried in graves marked by the symbols of nations.

P.S. I am fond of William James writings in Varieties of Religious Experience, and the Harvard Lectures about the delicacy of democracy. William James is considered the only American Philosopher of international stature. Pragmatism was what his philosophy was called, though like Camus, he was reticent about the label.

Can you call Niceism, a philosophy?

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#63
In reply to #57

Re: The Antiscience – Part II

11/07/2010 12:33 PM

very thought provoking... generally I agree. good points.

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#65
In reply to #57

Re: The Antiscience – Part II

11/07/2010 1:50 PM

If scientists aren't challenged at expressing core thinking, why are they misunderstood. I don't think language has limits, though I may have limits to how well I might express myself. In your scenario you seem to be looking to enforce the flaw, and not find a solution, which is obviously the employ of translators.

I disagree with your thesis that precision is not required in everyday life, otherwise why do we continue to use pennies in transactions at the drugstore? Why do carpenters continue to use 16th inch measurements? The common desire for an accurate timepiece conflicts with your thesis, for people in general do seem to like for the trains to run on time. We are constantly looking for precision in words to describe paint colors.

These are everyday events. Just because the Stoplight incorporates yellow as a transition, doesn't mean Red doesn't have a precise meaning.

I really don't agree that I cannot argue with what I receive as translated works. I have read War and Peace, and have read The Plague. I also read Bertrand Russell's explanation of the General Theory of Relativity. It is no terrible thing at all that we have to work with others to make ourselves understood. It is just the way it is.

'Course I can find instances where there is a day in and day out need for a common language required for solving the immediate problems not open to discussion or the delays translation may entail. There is a reason all pilots flying internationally must know English for instance.

Far as "ivory tower, elitist science", the local ivory tower elitists I have as enemies deserve my distrust and enmity because of rock solid displays of divorce from common sense principles of fairness and their pandering to those that think they are better than me. Their hypocrisy is extreme, and they don't like it when it is pointed out in clear language so much that they disengage and retreat to that tower where they really ought to have stayed in the first place.

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#104
In reply to #65

Re: The Antiscience – Part II

11/10/2010 2:58 PM

well said!

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#67
In reply to #57

Re: The Antiscience – Part II

11/07/2010 3:50 PM

"Clearly in that scenario the fault lies with you for not being able to speak the language."

My current Avatar [flag] aside; I liked Tornado's' post citing F =ma, as being inescapable for drivers.

When teaching that "language", a car is a good example as most students aspire to driving. Or if the math/physics has relevancy to their existential values, they learn the language.

Now you can argue one teacher is better at the translation than another, I.e. You can't can argue the science based on the translation .... you could argue Tolstoy's grammar meaning based on a translation - so not "The only thing a translation does is convey a general idea of what the theory says" - unless you qualify the quality of the translation, as say "poor".

"It's quite a profound and telling characteristic of our society that springs from Existentialist doctrine"

Well given this blog is 'a position rooted in your existence', [as are all positions of all people, hence the "Existentialist doctrine"], somewhat ironic.

"Societies aversion [citation needed] to the abstract runs so deep [citation needed] that there actually exists [citation needed] a widely held superstitious [citation needed] belief [citation needed] that people who spend a lot of time [citation needed] working with abstraction (scientists, Ph.D.s etc.) are somehow [citation needed] less human (detached, elitist, no common-sense, oblivious, clueless, naive, etc. are all terms commonly used [citation needed] to describe technical people theorists"

Seems to me, the Pro-Precision argument is somewhat 'a flag of convenience'.

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#12

Re: The Antiscience – Part II

11/05/2010 7:34 AM

Hi Roger,

You don't know me, but my first post was meant to be a joke, illustrating the concept that you put fourth in your opening statement.

I am not a mathematician, but I do consider mathematics to be the one absolutely indisputable science. Once a formula is shown to be true the argument is over.

Maurice Meleau-Ponty had presented existential arguments that are commonly used by deniers of evolution, global warming, and the scientific establishment itself. These groups, however, are the fringe. Existentialism is a mainstream philosophy. Thus, although the above is used to discredit science directly, it also pervades society and is subtly undermining science in the mainstream.

It's quite apparent that you hold the people that practice science in very high regard. You paint the public with a very broad brush, but don't even touch on the idea that there are inherent flaws within science itself.

The recent release of internal emails between the global warming "scientists" revealed these flaws in an undeniable way. i.e., it's okay to withhold data that conflicts with our hypothesis because what we are doing is for the greater good of humanity. This is not a public perception problem, but a complete willingness on the part of the scientists to skew the data to fit their own preconceived notions of what it should show.

Interestingly, we've got another very recent blog in which the article demonstrates, what I consider "bad" science.

http://cr4.globalspec.com/blogentry/14500#newcomments

In recent years scientists have revealed themselves to be at best fallible, and at worst, completely disingenuous. It is this, from which my own personal scepticism was born, not through some existential delusion or fear of the abstact.

Have a good day!

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#16
In reply to #12

Re: The Antiscience – Part II

11/05/2010 12:53 PM

"I am not a mathematician, but I do consider mathematics to be the one absolutely indisputable science. Once a formula is shown to be true the argument is over."

and

"The recent release of internal emails between the global warming "scientists" revealed these flaws in an undeniable way. i.e., it's okay to withhold data that conflicts with our hypothesis because what we are doing is for the greater good of humanity. This is not a public perception problem, but a complete willingness on the part of the scientists to skew the data to fit their own preconceived notions of what it should show."

Are contradictory. Climate scientists have used basic statistics to determine the relevant data for the planets temperature since it has been measured. I am not going to explain statistics to you as it would be lengthy to fully explain. To further your understanding of what is debated in the climate science realm, go here and look at the links that I have provided. There is a one hour video that explains the science and the math used.

To get back on topic, your comments are a prime example of what the OP is saying. You are not a mathematician and don't understand the basic statistics concepts used in determining how the average global temperature has increased. You don't understand the planetary history and how we are supposed to be well on our way to the next ice age while the average global temperature continues to rise. You don't understand that science has proven (once again) that everything we do has a consequence. One of those consequences being ocean acidification due to high level of CO2. With all of this lack of knowledge and understanding (not your fault as this appears to be outside of your field of expertise), you have a personal opinion that is contrary to what has been proven by climate science. I don't claim to be an expert in climate science or know much about climate science as I am just an air quality compliance engineer, but I do understand what the expert scientists are telling us.

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#17
In reply to #12

Re: The Antiscience – Part II

11/05/2010 12:55 PM

The flaws of which you speak are not in science but in the scientists ...... a huge difference.

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#18
In reply to #17

Re: The Antiscience – Part II

11/05/2010 1:02 PM

I think you explained it more efficiently than I did.

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#19
In reply to #18

Re: The Antiscience – Part II

11/05/2010 1:10 PM

Actually Roger had it covered in the original post

"Too many scientists dream of being the next Einstein, a revolutionary who overturned the scientific "establishment" rather than simply being happy doing their part to promote discovery."

I've been waiting to read part 2 ever since part 1 was shut down. Lets see if we can all keep this discussion on topic and civil. Great OP Roger.

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#21
In reply to #19

Re: The Antiscience – Part II

11/05/2010 2:06 PM

I agree with the fact that we have done a good job so far staying on Roger's original topic, regardless of whether we see that as The Antiscience, Structuralism, or in my case Postmodernism.

I too hope that we stay continue to stay on track.

To that end, I would like to offer the following:

I am having difficulty seeing Occams razor (principle of parsimony) being used as evidence of existential thinking. 1) William of Ockham was medieval by my reckoning (14th century) (OK Late medieval ) sort of predating this existential movement by a few hundred years, and 2) it was taught to me in my Upper level science classes as an undergraduate at university. So to say that cultural adoption of a widely used scientific tool is somehow bad and also somehow 'existential' and thus anti-science is beyond my ability to resolve.

Is it wrong for society to ask for simplicity rather than complexity, when that works so well for the experimentalist? Most of us prefer the look of materials that utilize the "smallest effective difference" to make their point, Rather than the blaring screeching of say, used car advertisement deSIgN principles.

Sometimes, simple is better.

That currently we reject Abstraction also seems a stretch, when considering the fact that the majority of us work with symbols, not actually hands on manipulating material in our work these days.

I think that Roger has clearly defined what I mean by the term "postmodernism," which is the denial of the objective; denial of the modern scientific paradigm and its 'Authority.' Authoritay

Postmodernism does deny the certainty of what we "know" from Science. I just don't get why it is being labelled existentialism.

Smiles all around for keeping this discussion professional.

We certainly can't have this kind of discussion at the sports bar down the street in my neighborhood.

Milo

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#23
In reply to #21

Re: The Antiscience – Part II

11/05/2010 2:54 PM

I've never been much for philosophy. I recall my first college philosophy class where the professor spent the entire class challanging us to prove that we were there. At the end of the class he proclaimed that we had fail to prove it. At that point I figured if I couldn't prove I was there, then he couldn't prove I wasn't. I skipped the rest of the term.

So I'm not up on all the terms and names but I read both of Rogers posts with interest and I think he did a great job of explaining what he thinks is happening. I will cautiously say that I agree with him. Call it existentialism or what have you. If it walks like a duck and talk like a duck ...........

However if the rest of the world has gone too far in rejecting the spiritual and is accepting nothing unless it has absolute proof? They have left me behind. I insist on proof but I usually depend on those who know more about the subject than I do to prove it. But then I am also a skeptic, when someone tells me he has cured the common cold by using magic crystals? I ask to see the double blind clinical studies, and I look for peer reviews of the work. There is a happy balance between being too skeptical (cynic) and being too easily convinced. (sheep).

What I'm really curious about is if existentialism has run its course? What comes next?

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#28
In reply to #23

Re: The Antiscience – Part II

11/05/2010 3:48 PM

What comes Next?

Roger has made some nice comments in his response to CWarner about that.

While Roger has been explaining the philosophy that underlies this, perhaps the answer might be teased out in changed behaviors...

I would say that we are seeing the beginnings of the next wave in the nurturing and caring for others and the planet.

I don't have any higher terminology for it, but right now I'd call it PostFriedmanism.

Using Freidman as a proxy for capitalism. Later I'll share another name for it.

In Friedmans view, the job of the company was to make profits, and any diversion of resources or profits by the management is theft.

Corporations job is to make profits. Period.

Our country started on the premise that all men were created equal. and we had rights as individuals and in groups (states.) And our legal system gave corporations legal standing as men.

That was pretty much the capitalist mantra until the last I'm going to say last 10 years or so, when corporate social responsibility became part of the mission, not a "theft or diversion of resources" from the mission.

THATS A HUGE REVERSAL OF A LOT OF INSTITUTIONAL POWER.

So Now Nucor Steel tells analysts it is the number 1 recycler in North America. (Not a steelmaker, a recycler!) Gerdau Steel, Number two recycler in North America. Us army is marching over recycled bridges : USArmygreen Patagonia self taxed itself a percent for the planet, Pepsi is using its diverse workforce to find worthwhile opportunities and darn near every company is seriously trying to make a difference with Social responsibility. (some better than others). Ecological. Labor, sustainability, diversity, quality of life.

"Everybody" expects corporate social responsibility nowadays, and when I was a wee lad, that was tantamount to embezzlement (unless you are talking about money for the boy scouts, wink wink or the united way) you now see a reversal of the norm.

So if Roger's Existentialists are lone wolves, the post existentialists (The PostFriedmans' are sincere team players, and truly empathic. So they are are giving to microcredit, recycling their underwear, (probably not a joke) and making time to do projects like habitat for humanity ( there was none of that going on in the 1970's except on communes...) So I would say that Institutionalised Empathy is the new wave, and us "lone wolves" are absolutely gonna hate it when they tell us "our soda's are no good for us " and we have to eat like the caring Nannies want us to... etc etc.

Thats my quick take. Not as Noble perhaps as Roger's but a clear reversal of a lot of intellectual inertia from profits, profits only to profits with social responsibility.

An Empathic worldview. What today many of my NRA friends would call "Nanny Statism"-Going beyond our individual and state rights to a genuine collective right to assure a Sustainable and group enabled quality of life etc.

Us old farts would hate it.

Milo

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#43
In reply to #28

Re: The Antiscience – Part II

11/06/2010 11:01 AM

Hi Milo,

I think what you're describing is more a hive mentality, not a pack mentality. Also, there are different types of packs. I was speaking generally. What I guess I'm suggesting is that we could better design institutions such as government, business, etc. if we studied human nature. Human nature, to a large degree, is a consequence of evolution, so it makes sense to examine how we evolved and what we are to figure out how best to harness our potential.

We may be pack animals, but monkeys are different from wolves are different than lions, though they all work in groups. As much as such an approach would reject extreme individualism, so too would it reject extreme socialism, since neither is what we really are.

I view it as the equivalent of individuals acknowledging their own strengths and weaknesses so that they can concentrate on what they're good at and avoid those things, or compensate for those things that they're not. That is really what institutions like Democracy try to do.

For instance the founding fathers created an executive branch because they understood that people need a clear leader, however they also created checks and balances because the understood that people in power will often try to consolidate power. These are rules developed over time through experience with human nature. I'm simply suggesting a more efficient approach. Designing things around our natures rather than trial and error approaches.

Roger

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#45
In reply to #43

Re: The Antiscience – Part II

11/06/2010 1:44 PM

Back to you Roger, thanks. I think that c warner in post 29 and Garth in post 35 were inquiring about the collective (pack/hive) structure.

I think that you are right regarding that we need to better design our institutions; but the task is fraught with peril that we would in fact enhance our "negative' natures (I believe you mentioned Aryanism in one of your responses) rather than our positives, and obviously the redesign is going to have cost consequences on the established powers.

Frankly the tribal structures in Iraq and Afghanistan are examples we probably ought to consider, as they are an evolutionary development in those places for those people in their circumstances.

So what first principles would you propose for creating these more efficient organizing / structuration approaches besides your original point of rejecting or discounting existentialism?

Milo

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#46
In reply to #45

Re: The Antiscience – Part II

11/06/2010 2:00 PM

The great thing said during existentialist fad philosophical discussions was that we needed God so much as to have it not matter whether we found God, or invented God. In this way existentialism was positive.

My own thesis is that pragmatism is superior to existentialism. From William James I get two important concepts. One is that democracy is very delicate, and the other, that nothing will work in politics if you don't believe in it.

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#47
In reply to #45

Re: The Antiscience – Part II

11/06/2010 2:13 PM

Milo-

One of the points I was trying to raise is that appropriate social institutions are dependent on solcial relationships. What is appropriate for a hunter/gatherer society is not going to be appropriate for an agrarian society, because the needs of the group and the relationships between members are different. Likewise, in our modern society with extensive specialization dictates significantly different institutional requirements (and morality rules) than an agrarian society. Since many (if not most) of the members of modern specialized societies are dependent on the "system" to provide the necessities (how many of us are really capable of efficiently gathering our own food, or even building our own shelter?), true "independence" of the individual is not a viable option (whereas, in a hunter/gather society, most members share similar skills and have the ability to survive independent of the group). Since the diversity of specialization and ability results in also a diversity of priorities among community members, we become more dependent on social order (and moral codes) to insure that the majority of the needs and desires of the populace are being addressed.

Most of our modern social institutions were derived to suit the needs of an agrarian society, in which specialization was considerably more limited and cross-training more viable, such that, should a key member become incapacitated, it would be relatively easy to cross train another member of the society to fill the gap. Many of these traditional social institutions are proving inadequate to suit modern needs (i.e., the traditional concept of the extended family and the sanctity of marriage vows no longer hold the values they did for our grandparents, mostly because they do not meet the needs of a transient, mobile technical society).

We still run in packs- but we have "evolved" from the original model to which the convnetional "pack mentality" proves adequate. We are still social animals, and we still require "rules" for inter-relating, but the very nature of those interrelationships has changed dramatically in the past couple of centuries...

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#55
In reply to #47

Re: The Antiscience – Part II

11/07/2010 12:28 AM

Our social organizations have not kept pace with our expanding knowledge base.

Philosophy may have some interest as an academic pursuit

how much influence does whatever the current philosophical trends are have on reality?

It's fine to ponder how the symptoms of our collective dysfunction came about

what are the solutions to the present state of affairs?

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#60
In reply to #55

Re: The Antiscience – Part II

11/07/2010 12:19 PM

What you have, and how you use it become the question. Do people see science as a friend, or an enemy?

Certainly there is evidence that religious organizations are threatened by science and even simple logic.

What flaws does science produce? Is truth beauty? What does it really mean that Pierre, who is the Lucky Man, has a screw loose, and loves death as a Mason?

Currently there is nowhere to run to. Mars is not a realistic destination for mankind as it is. Logic would dictate the creation of new humanity designed to live naked on Mars.

Science abhors flaws whereas ethics demand we learn to live with them. Then we discover that some ideas are so flawed as to threaten our existence. Whether or not we are all equal becomes a serious question. We are best to live as if we are all equal, whether it is true or not. Truth is we can only be temporarily perfect physically and therefore can only have any permanent perfection as ideas.

Part of the perfection of CR4 philosophically is its simple existence as a Forum wherein we help each other figure some things out.

The tragedy of life is to live according to incorrect ideals. Helping others live, helping your friends and family live spiritually and physically well, happy safe and warm, seems as much a philosophically solid belief system as I can accept as true and beautiful enough to support using the tools of science.

What the world needs now is a funny mathamatician, a funny scientist. I had the opportunity to talk with Professor Irwin Corey one time.

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#24
In reply to #21

Re: The Antiscience – Part II

11/05/2010 3:15 PM

Hi Milo,

Jean Paul Sartre said "Evil is the product of the ability of humans to make abstract that which is concrete."

Consider how strongly worded that statement is. It's important to remember the historical context into which existentialism was born. Two world wars, revolutions in Russia and China. Fascism and Communism as past and present threats. Existentialism was born as a rejection of the abstraction of atrocity. As with all important philosophies, this is a perfectly reasonable response to the first half of the 20th century. Existentialism is, at it's core, anti-abstraction. All the works of existentialism essentially have this form:

"If I remove this abstraction, what am I left with?" For instance, if I remove god, what am I left with? If I remove the concept of destiny, what am I left with? If I remove the concept of universal morality, what am I left with? All of the tenets of existentialism come from removing an abstraction and examining the consequences.

Post Modernism is simply an example of Existentialism, specifically asking the question "If I remove the abstraction "objective truth", what am I left with?". Post Modernism came after Existentialism and is a subset of Existentialism.

You Wrote "We certainly can't have this kind of discussion at the sports bar down the street in my neighborhood."

That is precisely what I mean by "Existentialist ideals permeate society". What we are discussing is very abstract and thus such discussions have become almost a social more. When you discuss philosophy in public, people get uncomfortable, mainly because Existentialism tells them it is a waste of time. I pretty much never discuss these things in real life as I don't need them thinking I'm crazy by not conforming to social expectations.

Regarding Occam's Razor, in science it is only used as a sorting tool in very specific situations where most of the facts are known. It's true that often the simplest explanation is the correct one, but many many times a much more complicated explanation turns out to be true. Existentialism, which favors simplicity over abstraction, took Occam's idea and elevated it to almost a superstition. In fact, what I wrote as Occam's Razor, which I believe is the colloquial understanding, is not what Occam said at all. So not only did we, in our Existentialist fervor, latch on to the idea of Occam's Razor, we altered it to make it reflect our Existentialist ideals.

Roger

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#30
In reply to #24

Re: The Antiscience – Part II

11/05/2010 4:23 PM

In Francis Bacon's monumental work, the "Novum Organum" he lamented the fact that "scientific principles" are either over-simplified, representing the world as we would like it to be rather than as it actually is; or simple principles are extended well beyond the realm in which they have been verified- making "universal" laws based on "local" observation. Note that Bacon was writing this in the late 16th century (he left our world about 20 years before Isaac Newton was born, if memory serves me right).

Mr. Bacon also noted that "No universal rules can be made, as both situations and men's characters differ."

I do believe this predates most assessments of the origins of Existentialism...

The writings of Francis Bacon do not seem to get the attention they deserve...

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#42
In reply to #30

Re: The Antiscience – Part II

11/06/2010 10:46 AM

I think Francis Bacon is well recognized as a pivotal philosopher in the early stages of the Enlightenment.

There are many authors whose ideas were used by the Existentialists who themselves were not existentialists. It's the same as how Differential Geometry is absolutely key to General Relativity, yet we wouldn't suggest Bernhard Riemann really was the one who invented Relativity.

The founders of Existentialism, specifically Sartre and his colleagues, took ideas from different authors over different times, altered them a little, added some ideas of their own based on their experience and voila, a new philosophical movement was born.

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#66
In reply to #21

Re: The Antiscience – Part II

11/07/2010 3:50 PM

Modern age dates really from the 1500s and advanced sailing technology, ships, and techniques. My own favorite "existentialist" Camus rejected the label apparently. Stoicism was what his stories oozed. The disease can be defeated if I keep on doctoring and cleaning things up.

The era of philosophical drivers from prior to WWI to the Present are as much reflected in movies and potboiler detective pulp fiction, as in text books for philosophy majors. In the Film Noir classics it is clear that being right is not enough, and that power and force must be employed to win.

For the existentialist, this truth is sort of depressing. Damn, you mean I have to do something!

Whom of us would love science if it were not for Jules Verne, or Theodore Sturdgeon, or Heinlein, or Assimov, or Clarke? What really was Roddenberry about but the Classics knowing full well that nothing about the aspirations of mankind changes, while a shovel may be improved.

Too bad Nevil Shute aint around to spin out more stories. I do believe that of writers most beloved by all engineers, Mr. Shute is the one for CR4 members. Few of CR4 could really give a hoot about Sartre. Mr. Shute's philosophy was basically stoic. His autobiography is titled Sliderule. -This is what it adds up to.

Read Round the Bend, Roger.

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#20
In reply to #18

Re: The Antiscience – Part II

11/05/2010 1:21 PM

You guys are right. The flaws are with the scientists, not the science. That was the point I was trying to make, hopefully it wasn't lost.

I am certainly not qualified to argue for or against man made global warming. I do know that there is not consensus among the experts, and that some of those experts are willing to fudge the data to further their claims, (flawed scientists).

Thanks for pointing out my error, I didn't intend to imply that science itself is flawed.

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#14

Re: The Antiscience – Part II

11/05/2010 11:23 AM

Roger, awesome article. This reminds me of one of antiscience's greatest minds, Joe Bruce. In his theorems he writes...

"Magnets, how do they work?
and I don't wanna talk to a scientist
Y'all lying, and getting me pissed"

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#31

Re: The Antiscience – Part II

11/05/2010 5:04 PM

1."We know not through our intellect but through our experience."

In the beginning, there was absolutely nothing. Stuff happened and here we are. Everything we know has been the result of experimentation with reality.

2. "Science is and always will be that admirably active, ingenious, and bold way of thinking whose fundamental bias is to treat everything as though it were an object-in-general"

This is deep, but wrong. Science conducts experiments to understand; to clarify and isolate knowable entities, preferably to a binary case, else a statistically repeatable result, and will use whatever methods give repeatable results.

Mathematics is one significant method. It is however fundamentally an abstraction, as much as any processor with an ability to calculate must necessarily abstract from reality. Mathematics is abstraction because it is humans that assign meaning to it. One needs a dictionary of symbolism and structure, units and relationships to use it and understand it.

Chris

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#33

Re: The Antiscience – Part II

11/05/2010 8:06 PM

Ah, well, I said Philosophy always knocks at the door of Theology, and made up a spiritual practice I've challenged CR4 participants to try experimentally. Works? Doesn't work? - Works for me.

I like Sam Harris's book The End of Faith, for the concept that we have a spirit life we feel in this one, and it ought to be enough.

I lose some charisma because I say never believe in anything too much. It is not all enough respected to represent yourself as fallible. It is true that people love lies that comfort them, more than the truth.

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#37

Re: The Antiscience – Part II

11/06/2010 2:01 AM

You are a naive child. I pity you.

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#38

Re: The Antiscience – Part II

11/06/2010 3:24 AM

I am not an engineer. I observe people. Without people, engineering would be moot. So far, you have shown yourself to be a hypocrite and a coward.

Go back to the cubicle dude!

If I am wrong, please provide links showing me how you have helped anyone.

I love me a civil conversation!

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#39
In reply to #38

Re: The Antiscience – Part II

11/06/2010 3:50 AM

who are you speaking to?

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#40
In reply to #39

Re: The Antiscience – Part II

11/06/2010 4:41 AM

Why,the OP of course. The blogger. Holy Moley, do you guys have issues?

I look forward to hearing from roger pink, I want to see first hand how roger has benefited anyone.

The ball is in your court roger........prove me wrong.

GO BOY!!!!!!!

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#48
In reply to #40

Re: The Antiscience – Part II

11/06/2010 3:37 PM

Well perhaps there is a dialog going on behind the scenes.. but something is missing from this thread to explain your attitude to me... I don't understand.

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#49
In reply to #40

Re: The Antiscience – Part II

11/06/2010 4:57 PM

kramarat-

I happen to derive significant benefit from Roger's posts- specifically, although I may not agree with everything he says, his thoughts stimulate my own mental exercises, far more so than your rather negative and unwarranted attacks.

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#51

Re: The Antiscience – Part II

11/06/2010 7:40 PM

Back in Part I, I wondered if the current outlook would be characterized as postmodernism. Existentialism seems to fit also.

Virtually any ideology--even communism or fascism or behaviorism to name a few--contains some elements of truth. Problems arise if such insights are taken too far, or into areas where they do not really fit.

Social constructionism, for instance, has some valid aspects. The whole game and culture of chess is a social construction. The boards and pieces, of course, are part of physical reality; and the annotated games are a historical reality; all stemming from the social reality of agreement on the rules. The rules could have been otherwise, but they are the way that chess society made them.

Literature is likewise a human-created reality, social in that it is shared, commented on, interpreted, etc. Art, cuisine, music, and politics are similar. There is much to respect in social realities like these. "Social reality" need not be a poisoned term.

However, it should be remembered that these realities started out as fantasies. If many people can now enjoy them and agree on them, they become a "convention." But that does not necessarily make them universal, nor a part of "natural reality" or "scientific reality."

I think a key confusion arises when people claim that scientific reality is just another social construction. One can envision a novel, a recipe, a melody, or a polity--and perhaps bring it into being. (If other people cooperate and if it doesn't violate natural reality.) But wishing that you could flap your arms and fly, or build an over-unity device, will not make it so.

Focusing on natural reality (and testing it), science seems unique in its widespread agreements, cross-cultural scope, and ability to lead to technological accomplishments. If you don't care for romance novels, sushi, or rap "music", you can opt out. If you don't like representative democracy, you can move to any number of other polities. But if you drive a car, you can't opt out of F = ma. There is considerable choice of participating or not in various social realities, but no real choice about natural reality.

Wishful thinkers may resent that, and also resent people who do understand science and technology. I suspect this is where a lot of antiscientific sentiment comes from.

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#52
In reply to #51

Re: The Antiscience – Part II

11/06/2010 8:05 PM

ga.

and if you CAN flap your arms and fly, you still can't escape F= ma.

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#61
In reply to #51

Re: The Antiscience – Part II

11/07/2010 12:27 PM

You Wrote: "Virtually any ideology--even communism or fascism or behaviorism to name a few--contains some elements of truth. Problems arise if such insights are taken too far, or into areas where they do not really fit."

Well said, and precisely what I'm trying to express with regards to Existentialism. I think as a reaction to the first half of the 20th century, where abstraction was used to rationalize atrocity, a certain level of anti-abstraction made sense. Sort of a "Whoa, lets take a step back here" reaction. The problem as you stated above is when that is extended to areas where it isn't as good a fit. Thus the Antiscience.

You Wrote:" If many people can now enjoy them and agree on them, they become a "convention.""

This is precisely what I was saying when I suggested the first generation develops the tenets. The next generation indoctrinates them thus they become "conventional thinking".

"Every generation laughs at the old fashions, but follows religiously the new." -Henry Thoreau

This is because what is convention to us permeates our belief system and is difficult to recognize. What's worse is when you are born into a world where the tenets have become doctrine, it's the only world you know. It doesn't occur to you that this is not how it has always been, and more importantly, how it will always be. There is a vanity in human nature that makes us believe we are original and individual when we are more often each and everyone of us cliches.

On a personal note, as I did research on this post and slowly realized the Existential root of many modern concepts, I was a bit embarrassed by how many things I took for granted as truth is merely the fashion of the times. The most important idea I wanted to relay from that point on is that we are all the Antiscience, because we are all children of the age of Existentialism.

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#64
In reply to #61

Re: The Antiscience – Part II

11/07/2010 12:50 PM

I must give you points for being able to embrace such depressing thoughts as "we are all cliché's" It is that sort of thing that I shy away from. I'm more in agreement with Emerson, and the notion of the Oversoul, which makes us all unique, however uneducated. (not a vanity, but an ultimate reality)

On this note of whether there are aspects of life beyond death, I think that science, were it to study such things, might be able to make some serious gains in knowledge, if by nothing else, than the statistical analysis of it all. Simply by making the serious study of this sort of non-traditional subject, more anecdotal information can be compiled and analyzed, as more and more people would be willing to share the information. So long as it remains taboo, the information will be distorted, mythologized, philosophized, religiousized, and abtracted. Just before you discard this proposal, also realize that the subject will Never go away until we do study it.

I submit that the ancient Egyptians had a fairly intense culture surrounding death, which I believe came from the notion that the ancient gods had actually 'conquered' death. (by adjusting their own dna clock, and granting themselves greatly extended lifespans) To me, this is the ultimate purpose of all our dna research.

It is true, I am not so educated in the study of 'isms'. I would be interested to know more of what truths we all take for granted?

Chris

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#53

Re: The Antiscience – Part II

11/06/2010 8:14 PM

Roger,

I can't for the life of me figure out what your links [SMV1] to [SMV14] are tying to link to because they all go to the same place! Maybe if they went where you intended, I could figiue out what you are trying to say. Please check them out.

-S

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#54

Re: The Antiscience – Part II

11/06/2010 8:43 PM

Roger, your SVM# links are all messed up, they all hit the CR4 homepage.

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#58
In reply to #54

Re: The Antiscience – Part II

11/07/2010 12:02 PM

Thanks to both you and Data for the heads up. Unfortunately I don't have the ability to edit the blog so I'll have to wait till Monday to fix it.

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#56

Re: The Antiscience – Part II

11/07/2010 10:21 AM

Sorry Guys,

Apparently, cheap whiskey doesn't mix well with high dollar philosophy.

I'll avoid getting involved in philosophical discussion in the future.

I apologize for my rude remarks Roger.

No responses are necessary, I'm unsubscribed from this blog.

Carry on fellas.

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#59
In reply to #56

Re: The Antiscience – Part II

11/07/2010 12:08 PM

If I had a dime for all the posts I wish I could take back that were either jokes gone wrong or written in anger, or whatever, I'd probably have at least $10. My point being don't worry about it. See you around CR4.

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#68
In reply to #59

Re: The Antiscience – Part II

11/07/2010 7:48 PM

Right on brother. I was lying about being unsubscribed.

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#69

Re: The Antiscience – Part II

11/08/2010 9:11 AM

Roger, it is as though you have weaved a piece of cloth here, and I want to address, not a small patch of that cloth, but individual threads that show on the surface from place to place, and so I will ramble without seeming to directly address your blog. I do thank you for the explanations, I was too busy going to evening school, working and raising a family to learn any much of these "isms".

As an experienced structural design engineer, I was assigned new grads, I found, in the seventies, that their professors had insisted on teaching engineering as an academic subject. This resulted in engineers who knew how to design a beam, a column, how to analyse an indeterminate structure but they hadn't a clue as to how to design a building. Abstract thought and experiment, science for it's own sake has a cost. I was not asked if I wanted to contribute to, say, the large colliders, but the funds come from somewhere because they surely don't pay for themselves. Who should pay for the abstract thinkers to sit in their ivory towers and think up names for the prevailing "ism"?

As a sixteen-year-old, I started work in London. I was lucky, I was dropped into a draughting room as a clerk, leading to work on the drawing board that I loved. I even enjoyed going to the tech one day a week but not the great lumps of homework. Many of my peers opted out of everything, "Why try?" they said, "John Foster Dulles is going to step over the brink one day and the Americans will start a nuclear war. They already used the bomb and they appear to be looking for an excuse to use it again." I cannot tell whether the brinkmanship was the real reason or an excuse for "copping out", perhaps they would have found another reason.

Brains are wired differently. I was so excited when I found Myers-Briggs. It was pseudoscience, but it was accurate. It explained the difference between rationals and non-rationals. It explained that the rational being can, by use of logic, of past experience and analogy thereto, determine almost instantly, whether a proposed path would lead to the right conclusion or not. It also explained that the non-rational person's brain is not wired to do this, nor to comprehend that it is even possible. I doubt that the non-rationals were ever able, or ever will be able , or even be interested enough to try, to understand the sciences.

If I have given the impression that studying or giving a name to an "ism" means little or nothing to most of us who struggle to provide for our families and avoid the slings and arrows. There are some pieces of information that I classify as "Well fancy that now," pieces; surprise but no impetus to remember. For those less well off, who are constantly assailed by the slings and arrows, such pieces are not worth the looking.

As a rational being, I do look for value, for a return on investment, whether of money or of effort such as time and encouragement of others.

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#70
In reply to #69

Re: The Antiscience – Part II

11/08/2010 9:18 AM

I gave you a GA, particularly on the basis of you being willing to share your experiences.

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#71
In reply to #69

Re: The Antiscience – Part II

11/08/2010 12:07 PM

"Myers-Briggs is pseudo-science"

as far as physical science norms it might be, but by social science standards, doesn't it stand up fairly well? I'm aware there are other personality assessment methods, but MB is the most popular, imho.

great post. ga. love the drafting bit, and the deeply insightful 'ability to design a building' part.

Chris

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#72
In reply to #71

Re: The Antiscience – Part II

11/08/2010 3:40 PM

Thanks. I really did love the work until I was pushed up the ladder.

MB. I'm very literal, MB is indefinite, but I did say it was accurate. If I say that I need it to yield exact answers to be science, I could make Quantum mechanics into a pseudo-science. Oh well, back to the drawing board.

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#73
In reply to #72

Re: The Antiscience – Part II

11/08/2010 4:00 PM

well by that sort of thinking, all science is pseudo-science!

even the 'laws' are really just very consistent theories.

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#74
In reply to #73

Re: The Antiscience – Part II

11/08/2010 4:03 PM

Chris-

There is more truth to what you say than you may realize...

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#76
In reply to #74

Re: The Antiscience – Part II

11/08/2010 4:41 PM

Even the smallest realizations have to over come inertia. Laziness was born

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