AAR
Click here for full forums index
 
 FAQFAQ   SearchSearch   MemberlistMemberlist   UsergroupsUsergroups   RegisterRegister 
 ProfileProfile   Log in to check your private messagesLog in to check your private messages   Log inLog in 
 
Volume versus Validity
Goto page Previous  1, 2
 
Post new topic   Reply to topic    AAR Forum Index -> The Wild Wild West Forum
View previous topic :: View next topic  
Author Message
norcalgolfer



Joined: 06 Jul 2009
Posts: 38
Location: Ranch Cordova, CA

PostPosted: Sun Sep 20, 2009 8:59 pm    Post subject: Re: Volume versus Validity Reply with quote

Mark wrote:
With a non-discriminating audience, volume overpowers validity.

"If fifty million people say a foolish thing, it is still a foolish thing." - (Anatole France or Bertrand Russell, depending on the quote site)

"The soundest argument will produce no more conviction in an empty head than the most superficial declamation; as a feather and a guinea fall with equal velocity in a vacuum." -Charles Caleb Colton, author and clergyman (1780-1832) (quoted on AWAD)

I suggest that Gresham's law (Bad money drives out good) applies to ideas. I think we are seeing a form of it in our culture that I have summarized in my opening sentence above. When the majority of the population can't tell real science from snake oil, more snake oil than real science will spread around because snake oil takes much less work to produce than real science.
wiki: Gresham's law:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gresham's_law
wiki: snake oil:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Snake_oil


I have to say I find this extremely interesting coming from you, due to the other post you have on WWW about global warming. I am very curious what you think about the majority of environmental scientists coming out and saying that AGW is exactly what you are talking against..snake oil, pseudo science, and so on. I will re-post the links I posted on the global warming post of yours.

http://epw.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=Files.View&FileStore_id=83947f5d-d84a-4a84-ad5d-6e2d71db52d9

http://www.tech-know.eu/uploads/Letter_UN_Sec_Gen_Ban_Ki-moon.pdf

Look at the credentials of the people claiming that AGW is exactly what you are writing against in this post, snake oil and pseudo science, with absolutely no data backing up the claims that CO2 or GHG are affecting our climate in any negative way whatsoever.

Are those scientists incapable of distinguishing real science from snake oil??
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail
Mark



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
Posts: 1368

PostPosted: Sun Sep 27, 2009 1:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

This post is primarily about the sideshow Sterling started.
The abortion shift in wording was from Sterling. Her post used "human being" in 1 line & "human life" in the next. I posted about "human being" because I didn't even spot her wording shift.
I was responding to the post at the level of the post, which was arbitrary assertions labeled as facts.
Abortion discussions are highly emotional partly because definitions of most of the terms used are beyond the scope of current science, so every party to any discussion can define terms to suit themselves.
Here, to show reasonably standard usage, are a few definitions from the Oxford American Dictionary and an unabridged Random House Dictionary:
Baby: A very young child, esp. one newly or recently born. An infant. A newborn or very young animal.
Child: A young human being below the age of full physical development or below the legal age of majority. A boy or girl. A baby or infant.
Embryo: The young of a viviparous animal, esp. of a mammal, in the early stages of development within the womb, in man being up to the early part of the third month.
Fetus: An unborn or unhatched offspring of a mammal, in particular an unborn human baby more than eight weeks after conception. The young of an animal in the womb or egg, esp. in the later stages of development when the body structures are in the recognizable form of its kind, in man being from the latter part of the third month until birth.
Human being: A man, woman, or child of the species Homo sapiens.
Parasite: An organism that lives in or on another organism (its host) and benefits by deriving nutrients at the host's expense.
Viable: Medicine (of a fetus or unborn child) able to live after birth.
Zygote: A diploid cell resulting from the fusion of two haploid gametes; a fertilized ovum. The individual developing from such a cell.
Based on these definitions, my use of the word "parasite" for a zygote, embryo or fetus (any stage of development in the womb) is correct.

Sterling's rape example just demonstrates how different our values are. To me that example would be a prime argument FOR abortion, yet she presents it as if against abortion. To force a woman to give birth and then have a lifetime reminder of being raped does not sound moral to me. I place the self-determination rights of a real, living woman higher than those of a potential future human. Once you assign human rights to any pre-birth stage of development, what is to stop more extensions? New extremists could want to assign rights to gametes because those also have the potential to lead to a new human being.

My personal position in any discussion of abortion is that a woman's right to determine the use of her own body and anything growing in it should be complete.
My comfort level stops at an independently viable fetus, but that does not change my position that women should have the right of total self-determination for their own bodies.
What I mean by independently viable is able to live with ordinary parental and societal support. If viability required living without parental support, no child would count as viable until several years after birth. If viability required ability to live without support from society, I doubt that I would count as viable or that much of the human race would count as viable.

As for the drive to survive, there are certainly biological roots, but there are varied expressions shaped by culture and individuality. Studies of social insects and of altruism can be especially interesting. Altruism can increase chances of kin-group or species survival without individual reproduction and even at the cost of individual survival. With current population trends, at some point choosing to remain childless is actually doing more to assist life on Earth than having children. Unless things have changed since the last time I read about the topic, there is an inverse correlation between education plus standard of living and childbearing: better educated people tend to have less children.
My reference to the Catholic church was specifically to placing value on fecundity or unrestrained fertility. That is certainly one belief system about species imperatives, but it is a poor fit for the modern world with an overabundance of humans straining the biosphere. Actually, relying on many offspring is a survival strategy more associated with insects, fish, amphibians or reptiles than with higher mammals.
If you want to use Utilitarian arguments (greatest good for greatest number) for use of limited resources as a basis for arbitrary survival decisions, you need to look at the opposite of Sterling's suggestion. Many elders are still productive members of society. A zygote or fetus is an unknown potential. If it is born (there are a lot of natural abortions/miscarriages), it may or may not ever be a productive member of society. A child is a guaranteed drain of resources for years or decades, but there is no way to know if one will grow up to be productive. So a pure evaluation of usefulness to society would place zygotes WAY BELOW elders because the elders have a proven current value and a known rate of attrition and the zygotes are a guaranteed drain with only an uncertain hope for value decades later and a measurable probability of later breeding to add even more burden to the biosphere.

The only reason unrestrained human breeding hasn't already caused a Malthusian crisis greater than already exists in parts of the world is that science and technology has kept agricultural productivity growing for many decades. Unfortunately, the unrestrained breeding has continued and the agricultural productivity it hitting limits (in arable land, fresh water, ability to use fertilizers, ability to increase yields, etc.), so the possibility of a Malthusian population adjustment (catastrophe/disaster) is growing. Utilitarian arguments must take into account the possibility that a point has been reached where adding to the number reduces the good (my definition of good includes quality of life, not just existence).
There seems to be a strong human tendency toward short-sightedness and believing that human actions are on too small a scale to have major impacts. Past examples of unexpected impacts include fisheries collapses and the Dust Bowl. Current ongoing examples include population growth, pollution (air, ground, freshwater, oceans, low Earth orbit) (hormones & their analogs are an especially problematic subset of water pollutants), growing dead zones off many coasts, more overfishing that is causing harvested species to shrink and threatening more fisheries collapses, resource depletion (oil, fresh water, etc.), habitat destruction, etc. Science and technology can only mitigate the problems until our species wakes up and slows down on the excessive breeding.

Reasons I included abortion in a list of topics where people should pay attention to scientific facts and apply scientific thinking:
Medicine, an art dependent on science, can determine whether continuing a pregnancy will endanger a woman's life.
Medicine can determine whether a fetus is currently viable.
Medicine can sometimes determine early if there are genetic defects so severe as to prevent a viable birth or to produce a severely limited life-expectancy.
Scientific study can provide a fan of future possibilities based on extrapolations of population, technology, resources, pollution, etc. to suggest what range of human population is sustainable on the Earth, and within that range what subset can support lives at levels above bare survival. People could then use such information in deciding whether adding more humans to the current population is a good idea.
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
Mark



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
Posts: 1368

PostPosted: Sun Sep 27, 2009 1:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I will emphasize here that all message board posts are opinions. I am trying here to explain the basis of my opinions in this thread. I include many statements in factual format without wording qualifying them as opinions because adding all the qualifying wording would make a long post even longer (and harder to read).
This post is unintentionally exemplifying a corollary of my original point: it takes me a long time to write a reply when I try to be clear and careful rather than quick and casual.

My initial post's title and opening was a reference to the frequent failure to distinguish between frequently or loudly repeated arguments and valid arguments. Any argument about an issue that is the subject of scientific research must refer back to that research--arguments on the subject that reject the research on any basis other than better research are worthless. Not liking the research results is NOT a valid argument. Any appeal to emotion rather than logic is irrelevant to the validity of a result of scientific research. Anyone debating scientific issues needs to be able to think like a scientist.
Beyond topics normally considered to be scientific, I personally think that thinking like a scientist is one of the best approaches to many topics, but scientific thinking is only a preference rather than indispensible for non-science topics.

Definitions from OAD & RHD:
Science: the intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behavior of the physical and natural world through observations and experiment. A particular area of this. A systematically organized body of knowledge on a particular subject. A branch of knowledge or study dealing with a body of facts or truths systematically arranged and showing the operation of general laws. Knowledge, as of facts or principles; knowledge gained by systematic study.

The nature of science is something I didn't realize I need to spell out in this thread. There are already a couple long posts in the "Reality, science and climate (long)" thread. This is another attempt.
Science is a process and a way of thinking, not just a body of knowledge.
When I use the word science by itself I am usually thinking of the process: use of the scientific method and critical thinking. This was the intended topic of my original post. Since I didn't define terms, I think some people read science as referring to the bodies of knowledge of individual sciences.
Ideal science involves fact-checking and logical thinking. Real science inserts lots of human elements with emotions, possible falsification and claim-jumping for personal gain, clinging to positions despite evidence, etc., but in the long term (sometimes it takes generations) it reaches a reasonable approximation of the ideal. The peer review system used for many scientific publications is one attempt to minimize problems from the way real people approach science, but even that still doesn't always catch conflicts of interest and has many problems of its own. There are other mechanisms at work in science to try to minimize the impacts of unavoidable bias and error as well as deliberate fraud.
Ideal science includes awareness of all biases affecting research and methods for compensating or correcting for any effects of those biases. Science as practiced by real people undoubtedly misses some biases. I saw a nice list of 27 biases in a book excerpt recently: Family Bias, Authoritarian Bias, Attractiveness Bias, Confirmation Bias, Self-Serving Bias, In-Group Bias, Out-Group Bias, Group Consensus Bias, Bandwagon Bias, Projection Bias, Expectancy Bias, "Magic Number" Bias, Probability Bias, Cause-and-Effect Bias, Pleasure Bias, Personification Bias, Perceptual Bias, Perseverance Bias, False-Memory Bias, Positive-Memory Bias, Logic Bias, Persuasion Bias, Primacy Bias, Uncertainty Bias, Emotional Bias, Publication Bias, Blind-Spot Bias. A quick check of Wikipedia finds an even longer list of biases:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_cognitive_biases

Science is descriptive (modeling reality), not prescriptive (telling what to do). Science can be very good at saying HOW to do something once one has decided for reasons outside of current science WHAT one wants to do, and it can be very good at saying what is most likely to result from doing (or not doing) something. Telling people what to do is in the realm of morality or spirituality outside the scope of current science. As I said in one of my earlier posts, I have seen very little published science dealing with spiritual questions, but I still hope the day will come when such questions are addressed by scientific research.

Most scientific knowledge (with the possible exception of mathematics) is more probabilistic than true/false, which some people aren't comfortable with. I recall a discussion at a conference years ago with a psychologist who didn't like the idea that all our knowledge of planetary orbits is just a best-fit solution to a lot of data rather than some sort of pure equations derived from first principles. Even the best-validated theories in science don't express absolute truths, just very high probabilities.

An example of thinking like a scientist at the personal level relates to recurring discussions of typos. Ever since I've participated in email & message board discussions of books I've joined occasional threads people start with complaints about typos. Several years ago I started keeping a record of typos I noticed during my reading. I now have typo counts for over 1,100 books that let me say BASED ON DATA that typos are not just a recent problem and not just limited to the romance genre. The "thinking like a scientist" part is that I systematically collected data and based conclusions on the collected data rather than just describing a vague impression or an anecdote based on a single example.
Another example of thinking like a scientist at the personal level relates to politics. Applying scientific thinking to politics includes getting facts and being aware of biases. For example, two publications I read and trust are The Washington Spectator and the Hightower Lowdown. I can't recall ever seeing facts mentioned in the Spectator contradicted by other sources later, and the Lowdown is almost as good. I'm aware of a bias of Hightower against genetically modified food that I don't share, which affects how I read his remarks on that topic. I've never seen an explanation for his bias in any of the issues I've read. I read my local newspaper with an awareness that it has a very right-wing editorial bias. A general scientific approach to the health care debate would have killed the "death panel" scare nonsense right away. Garbage like the "death panel" claim is why I tend to avoid many media sources as so low-fact (if not fact free) that they are not worth the time it takes to read/view/hear them.
I'm far from saying science is perfect, but the scientific method is the best available tool for modeling reality that I'm aware of.

Some limits of science:
I've never heard that anyone has actually come up with a successful proof that objective reality exists.
A common scientific assumption is that objective observations are possible. Replication of observations by multiple researchers does produce a reasonable approximation of objective observations from the subjective reality.
Many scientists assume the validity of materialism, thus limiting the scope of issues they think science can address.
Many scientists (explicitly or implicitly) use Occam's Razor (the simplest explanation is the best) even though it is a statement of human mental preference rather than a natural law.

Responding to other posts:

JaneO: I hope the above makes clear how the whole initial post was one topic for me, not a disjunction.

I included the quiz because it is referenced in the study I cited. Yes, it is trivial specific scientific knowledge, but a valid test of the ability to apply scientific reasoning would be much more difficult to design, would take much longer, and would be harder to get people to participate in.

Science and health care: health care depends on knowledge from many sciences, including anatomy, bacteriology, biology, botany, chemistry, dentistry, ecology, economics, endocrinology, epidemiology, genetics, gynecology, histochemistry, hypnology, immunology, microbiology, neuroanatomy, neurobiology, neurology, neuropathology, neurophysiology, nucleonics, nutrition, obstetrics, ophthalmology, optics, optometry, parasitology, pharmacology, physics, physiology, primatology, psychology, psychoneuroimmunology, sociology, thanatology, toxicology, virology, zoology, and undoubtedly many other sciences I didn't think of since I never studied medicine. Imagine trying to talk to a doctor without terminology from the sciences: "I feel/want mumble mumble mumble. You have a mumble mumble mumble." Understanding whether a vaccine is needed, effective and safe depends on science (e.g., the "swine" flu debate). Scientific study of real-world medical practice can identify effective vs. wasted efforts. As just one example, there are a lot of expensive drugs getting a lot of use due to advertising and promotion rather than studies proving good results. Scientific study of existing systems can also tell us real costs and benefits of existing government-run and private-enterprise health care--not just scare stories and partisan distortions.

Science and education: the USA seems to have developed a large subculture that doesn't teach scientific thinking because such thinking threatened some people's religion a century or more ago. People who grow up without understanding scientific thinking are less able to contribute to an increasingly technology-dependent society or make informed decisions on public policy issues involving science.

Science and pollution/cleanup: scientific studies are identifying more types and consequences of pollution all the time. Cleanup technologies are dependent on science.

Sterling: The over-saturation I was referencing with the word "volume" is the excess of NON-science circulating on scientific topics. On religions, AFAIK, all "people of the book", no matter how many warring sects they form, claim that their particular book interpreted in their particular way is ultimate authority.

Golfer: I skimmed the items in your links. They are much too long for me to be willing to read completely on a topic that has already wasted a lot of time when I could be pleasure-reading. (I visit this site regularly because I'm a book lover.) Your links are actually a first in many months of posts on this topic. Many of the comments are the same disingenuous or fallacious objections I have seen repeated too many times already, but a subset seem to be legitimate scientific questions. I still think the global warming model is solid enough that it only needs tweaking, but it looks like some of the questions will take more data to settle.

The bottom line of why I think the ability to think scientifically is important is that due to breeding beyond a level of population sustainable with old knowledge all of humanity now needs science and technology to survive.
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
Sterling_95



Joined: 04 Oct 2008
Posts: 212

PostPosted: Mon Oct 05, 2009 7:01 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Mark wrote:
This post is primarily about the sideshow Sterling started.


About the sideshow that I started, Mark? Look, I used the example of abortion as a primary example of showing how pure science may be a contradiction in terms and to demonstrate how reliance on science does not always create clear solutions free from human values - religious or otherwise.

If you believed that it was a sideshow, you could have requested a different example or simply answered my post on pure philosophical terms. I would have been willing to do it.

As it is, you created a post that had several nasty little jabs towards people who follow religious values. When I answer you, you accuse me of starting a 'sideshow'. Another poster challenged you and your answer is tl;dr.

Quote:

The abortion shift in wording was from Sterling. Her post used "human being" in 1 line & "human life" in the next. I posted about "human being" because I didn't even spot her wording shift.


Trust me, the wording shift was not an attempt to move the goalposts. It was due to the fact that human life is human life regardless of brain wave activity or autonomy. Some would classify a fetus as human life but not a human being as it is inseparable from its host. If you want me to go back and change 'human life' to 'human being', I will do so.

Quote:
I was responding to the post at the level of the post, which was arbitrary assertions labeled as facts.


And yours was full of nothing but facts, I suppose?

Quote:
Abortion discussions are highly emotional partly because definitions of most of the terms used are beyond the scope of current science, so every party to any discussion can define terms to suit themselves.


I used the term 'infant' to describe it when they are post birth.
I used the terms 'fetus' and 'zygote' to describe them as they develop.
The only terms that you may take issues with are 'human being' (which I explained my use of) and human life, which is rather difficult to disprove.

hu·man(hyōō'mən) n.
1. A member of the genus Homo and especially of the species H. sapiens.

life: /laɪf/ n. 1.the condition that distinguishes organisms from inorganic objects and dead organisms, being manifested by growth through metabolism, reproduction, and the power of adaptation to environment through changes originating internally.

Since a zygote is of homo sapien genetic coding and respirates, develops, defecates and requires nutrition, all standards for "life," human life would be the correct term. A parasitic human life, but human life still.

Quote:
Based on these definitions, my use of the word "parasite" for a zygote, embryo or fetus (any stage of development in the womb) is correct.


You would be correct. You would also be correct to use the word 'incubator' instead of 'woman'. Shall we switch to that term for future debates?

Quote:
Sterling's rape example just demonstrates how different our values are.


When I used the rape example, I said, "given the facts above...it is logically unsound". I was arguing based on a darwinist logic, not on values. Morals do not enter into the equation.

Your original post contained the following:

Quote:
yet all too many modern laws are fundamentally religious in origin rather than rational.


Yet in your counter-argument you use the terms "moral", "self-determination", "rights", all value laded terms rather than rational, factual descriptions.

You can't have it both ways, Mark. You can't argue to leave out all belief based systems out of law and science save the ones that you favour.

Quote:
Once you assign human rights to any pre-birth stage of development, what is to stop more extensions? New extremists could want to assign rights to gametes because those also have the potential to lead to a new human being.


Once again (saying nothing of my own position on the argument), there's a counter-example of why infants should receive rights when a fetus at the same age of development does not. Read Utilitarian bio-ethics by the notorious Dr Singer at Princeton University.

Singer, Peter. Practical Ethics, 2nd edition, Cambridge, (1993), pp. 175-217
Quote:
Infants are sentient beings who are neither rational nor self- conscious. So if we turn to consider the infants in themselves, independently of the attitudes of their parents, since their species is not relevant to their moral status, the principles that govern the wrongness of killing non-human animals who are sentient but not rational or self-conscious must apply here too. As we saw, the most plausible arguments for attributing a right to life to a being apply only if there is some awareness of oneself as a being existing over time, or as a continuing mental self. Nor can respect for autonomy apply where there is no capacity for autonomy.


The Netherlands also allow euthanasia for infants with certain diseases even if diseases are not terminal.
Quote:

If you want to use Utilitarian arguments (greatest good for greatest number) for use of limited resources as a basis for arbitrary survival decisions, you need to look at the opposite of Sterling's suggestion.


Depends on whether we're discussing Utilitarianism or Utilitarian bioethics. I was discussing the latter, hence the reliance on the notorious Dr Singer. To answer your hypothetical scenario using both utilitarianism and utilitarian ethics, you would be correct in saying that the zygotes lack a proven value while elder may have more of an attrition value. The correct answer in that case would be to design a test that regularly measures value and production for over a set span of time (let's say about every 6 years, because historical child labour laws show that children as young as 6 were working in factories). If the member of society - whether adult, elder or child - is failing to produce up to standards, remove all resources from it. That would cull the population in a hurry. But it certainly would not be a world I would want to live in.

Quote:
Reasons I included abortion in a list of topics where people should pay attention to scientific facts and apply scientific thinking:


I can answer every one of your facts with a counter on why values and beliefs do and must apply as well as science.

Medicine, an art dependent on science, can determine whether continuing a pregnancy will endanger a woman's life.
And if she chooses to carry to term regardless, doctors cannot overrule her.

Medicine can determine whether a fetus is currently viable.
Yet people will often have abortions even past the existing date of viability. The UK recently had a huge dust-up when they tried to change the cut-off for abortions from 24 weeks to 22 weeks. Amillia Taylor was delivered at 21 weeks and recently turned 2

Medicine can sometimes determine early if there are genetic defects so severe as to prevent a viable birth or to produce a severely limited life-expectancy.
Choice and values still enter into it. If a couple decides to abort their perfectly healthy, genetically perfect fetus, while another couple carries to term a high risk fetus with spinal bifuda and Downs' Syndrome, they are legally entitled to.

Scientific study can provide a fan of future possibilities based on extrapolations of population, technology, resources, pollution, etc. to suggest what range of human population is sustainable on the Earth, and within that range what subset can support lives at levels above bare survival. People could then use such information in deciding whether adding more humans to the current population is a good idea.
Then you go into the ethical tangle of who has to comply and who enforces the rules. Third World countries have an exponentially higher birth rate than developed countries. Should we tell them to cull their breeding rates to match Europe's or they will no longer receive foreign aid?

I believe JaneO hit the nail on the head when she said that science tells us how things are and ethics and beliefs tell us what to do with the information
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
Sterling_95



Joined: 04 Oct 2008
Posts: 212

PostPosted: Mon Oct 05, 2009 7:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Going on, I read your most recent post and was glad to see that you acknowledge the limits of science and the scientific method. I prefer systems theory myself, but that's with its own weakness.

Quote:
The over-saturation I was referencing with the word "volume" is the excess of NON-science circulating on scientific topics.


That would depend on the information presented. I found out that Darwin's "tree of life" had been debunked from an intelligent design paper. Although I didn't agree with the rest of the paper, I went back and researched the study debunking the tree of life and was surprised to find that it was indeed valid. I did a similar thing on the 'death panels' that you mentioned; I looked up Sarah Palin's original quote, then researched the authorities that she was referring to and saw how they could apply (or not apply) to the current situation.

Quote:
On religions, AFAIK, all "people of the book", no matter how many warring sects they form, claim that their particular book interpreted in their particular way is ultimate authority.


Mark, trust me, all people are convinced that doing certain things a certain way is the only correct way, not just religious people. It's human nature. Just watch a newlywed couple trying to agree about the 'correct' way to load the dishwasher Very Happy
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
Mark



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
Posts: 1368

PostPosted: Mon Oct 19, 2009 11:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sterling, on all the points in the abortion sub-thread where I said science must be used and you said values must also be used to make choices, all the abortion arguments I have seen in the USA that want to ban ALL abortions on religious grounds would completely DENY the ability to choose. (I should emphasize that while almost all attempts I read about to ban abortion are religiously motivated, there are also many religiously-motivated pro-abortion arguments. Look up the group called the Religious Coalition FOR Reproductive Choice.) I wouldn't like the culling world you propose either, but that whole drift into utilitarian discussion started from your reference to children as valuable property ("a potentially valuable piece of property"). Unfortunately, I've read a lot of fiction & nonfiction suggesting that barring drastic social changes we are heading for a world likely to be just as unpleasant. One SF example I still remember decades after reading it is "The Sheep Look Up" by John Brunner, where the death of America is an optimistic solution. There have been more than a few suggestions that human actions are in the process of causing a mass extinction event on a scale unseen since the end of the age of dinosaurs.

I made a how/what distinction in an earlier post, but I want to emphasize that science has the potential to address "what to do" questions--science has not yet done so to date due to some of the materialist-assumption-imposed limits I mentioned earlier.

The mindset of science could be described as more oriented to questions than answers. Every new answer opens up new questions. Years ago the science fiction author Theodore Sturgeon was associated with the phrase "ask the next question" symbolized graphically by a letter Q with an arrow. This is the heart of science as well as science fiction.

The process of science accepts that any given piece of "scientific knowledge" could be invalidated later, though there is a definite hierarchy of degrees of certainty. Well-established bodies of knowledge are doubted much less than new or cutting edge fields, though even they can be changed by strong enough evidence. Some past "knowledge" survives the processes of science in revised or refined forms. Examples include the mesmerism of a couple centuries ago leading to the hypnotism of today and Darwinian evolution. Darwin did an amazing job with the knowledge of his day but was seriously hampered by the extant model of inheritance (which reads really strangely now that we have some understanding of genes). It took a century for various sciences to fill in a lot of details and explain a lot of mechanisms underlying the evolutionary processes Darwin described. Some other past "knowledge" is essentially discarded or invalidated by later science. Off the top of my head, a few examples of former & now devalued "knowledge" are epicycles, phlogiston, phrenology, N-rays, and the luminiferous ether.

This is an OT board on a site devoted to the romance genre. The whole genre celebrates making the emotional choice over the rational choice when a character has an option. I enjoy the genre or I wouldn't have read thousands of books in it, but I, like many readers separate fiction from reality. The genre includes many novels with heroines choosing "bad boy" heroes over stable (boring) good providers, but I also see many posts from readers saying those heroes are good choices only in fiction and they would run the other way IRL.

This topic brought to mind a chicken-and-egg speculation that I don't think I've ever seen addressed, though there could have been lots of studies I never heard of. Science deals with knowledge that is never final--it is always open for correction or improvement. Liberal or progressive thinking has a very similar attitude toward societies--they are always open for improvement. (The opposite attitude being that the past is somehow perfect.) Does a tendency for scientists in general to be politically more liberal or progressive (seen in the survey I cited in the OP) reflect an underlying psychology that drew them to scientific careers in the first place? Does scientific training increase progressive thinking? Does progressive thinking make scientific training easier? If both scientific and liberal thought reflect an underlying character inclination toward openness to change, how deeply ingrained is the character trait? Is it as hard to change as handedness, only easy to change during limited learning periods like learning a native language, or much easier to change?
Speaking personally, I was interested in science many years before I was ever interested in politics, but both interests could be reflections of a more basic aspect of my nature.
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
Display posts from previous:   
Post new topic   Reply to topic    AAR Forum Index -> The Wild Wild West Forum All times are GMT - 5 Hours
Goto page Previous  1, 2
Page 2 of 2

 
Jump to:  
You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot vote in polls in this forum


Powered by phpBB © 2001, 2005 phpBB Group