Posts by BenWilson

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  • Hard News: It was 20 years ago tomorrow ...,

    Yup, fees were first, and means tested. I seem to recall that means (of the parents) testing was also brought in for allowances around then too. Goff was the Minister responsible, IIRC. That opened the door. Are you sure about 1993? I remember 1992 as the first year of loans.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8587 posts Report Reply

  • Southerly: Seventy per cent Monteith's,…,

    Russell wrote on this too, should the threads merge? Nice piece, btw, and an interesting philosophy behind it. Does it mean if some cretinous bogan does a huge burnout nearby, that this is an integral part of the piece?

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8587 posts Report Reply

  • Hard News: It was 20 years ago tomorrow ...,


    Very nice.

    The idea that '89 was great for Europe, not so great for NZ, resonates for me. But student loans and other barbarities aside, it is still a time I remember fondly.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8587 posts Report Reply

  • Hard News: Miracles just rate better, okay?,

    I believe the French consider History a science, and therefore it gets well funded.

    Australians seem to have the same approach to sport.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8587 posts Report Reply

  • Hard News: Miracles just rate better, okay?,

    Well, Wikipedia says so.

    Well, that must be true then.

    Seriously dude, how far do you think I have to look to find people making claims about being scientists and what their methods are? Every hair brained crackpot who does some experiments can, and frequently does make such a claim.

    Where’s your evidence that that’s how it is commonly portrayed?

    What could you even accept as evidence of such a claim? A hundred people saying that? A thousand? So far this thread abounds with claims of the type. Have a read through it.

    Check out that assumption: no one else who disagrees with his conclusion could possibly have examined science’s advantages and limits!

    No one who claims it is the most superior thought developed by man. But I suspect what he means is that it is impossible to examine those limits, not that people have not tried.

    What happened to contrasting it with treating it as a method?

    A method that is treated as the source of truth. I don't quite get what you're asking.

    But he wasn’t writing a critique of voodoo. He was criticising the orthodox view of science as a methodological approach. If he doesn’t at least provide an alternative way of saying what science is, it is untenable to claim he wasn’t against science.

    I don't agree - you can like something without thinking it is a method. I don't think poetry is particularly methodical, for instance, but I like, it, I'm all for it, and I think it contains a lot of truth. I particularly dislike authors who try to claim that something is or is not poetry. In doing so, they merely show the limits of their imagination.

    There are no hard and fast rules about how “Observation and description of a phenomenon or group of phenomena”, goes.

    Dude, there are no hard and fast rules anywhere in science. Everything could be overthrown. In this example, that particular rule, Rule Number One in your methodology that you claim has a broad consensus, was not followed at all by one of the most famous modern scientists, when he made his most famous discovery, and shattered modern understandings of the universe.

    The achievements of scientists don’t exclusively come down to methodology, but the methodology is essential.

    In Einstein's case, rule Number One was not only not essential, it was not possible.

    It’s a methodological approach – how else would you describe it? Oh, that’s right: you don’t know.

    I've already answered this question. You just don't like the answer because it isn't "A methodology". I said that I find Lakatos to have the best characterization of how science progresses, in research programmes that each have their own methodologies. There was no 'uber methodology' at all, although he described some conditions by which a program could be called 'progressive' or 'degenerating'. The corollary of this, which Feyerabend rightly saw, is that there is no clear demarcation of what constitutes a scientific research program at all . Voodoo could be called a research program, although Lakatos would no doubt call it 'degenerate'. He is very careful to do this, because of Kuhn's famous case study that showed that if the demarcation criteria suggested by Popper (and seconded and thirded etc by all of your links - although Popper is at least wise enough not to insist on Rule Number One), then the Copernican revolution would never have got off the ground. It would have been shown to be false very early on, by virtue of a number of things:

    1. Copernicus was not more accurate in predictions of the motion of heavenly bodies, as was observed at the time. This failure to improve spanned decades.
    2. Parallax was not observed, and could not be. This suggested the earth could not possibly be in motion.
    3. Any number of ideas about motion were violated by the idea - the fact that things don't fly off the face of the earth from centrifugal force, the fact that objects fall down rather than sideways, the fact that we can't feel the motion of the earth. It took centuries for these issues to be satisfactorily reconciled.
    4. The established pool of scientists disagreed with it.

    It is just as well, according to Kuhn, that no such dogma on what was scientific and what was not existed at that time. There was only the Church, which foolishly insisted on religious dogma, a far less insidious kind, because it is so easily seen.

    Having said all of that, I still think Popper is extremely profound, at least as concerns the theory of the growth of knowledge. And the words of Newton and every other scientist talking about their own sciences can't be ignored. I just don't think they can speak for all science, for all time. In short (LOL), I have a nuanced and open view of what science is. I don't claim to know the pan-methodology because every attempt to describe it that I've ever seen has serious flaws.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8587 posts Report Reply

  • Hard News: Body image and the media,

    Then you watch the build go from an easy project to an 18-way clusterfuck, see the people weeping over the problems

    Having had this happen to me as a young man, I can't bear to watch it. But I will say this about such a venture - it teaches you a lot. You learn a great deal about who to trust, and what an art project management really is. I could have saved myself a lot of heartache if I'd listened to the independent lawyer I was sent to (I'm not sure exactly why, it seemed like some kind of due diligence oversight) who took great pains to make me aware of just how risky my undertaking was, and exactly how bad it could go afterward. He had that air I've come to recognize since, of a person telling someone truth and knowing they won't follow the advice, that kind of resigned but determined voice of unwanted reason. It was particularly interesting when he said that the debtors would come after me, not my partner. I'd never really considered it that way, that she was not coming into it with anywhere near as much to lose, and this prediction bore out big time. It took me about 5 years to come back from all that financially, and only because I had to become a total breadhead in the meantime, giving up my dream career to chase the gold to pay the debts. So it goes sometimes.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8587 posts Report Reply

  • Hard News: Miracles just rate better, okay?,

    Brent, snap! I was DipCompSci too (although the other was Arts-Philosophy esp Logic). And like you, I didn't find much that was 'scientific' about it, but that does of course depend on your definition, and so it goes around. Are we pseudoscientists, then, as Popper would have it? My own abandoned Master's thesis was to be on the topic of "Is Artificial Intelligence a pseudoscience?". Having been extremely impressed by Popper (not uncommon amongst people who have a logical turn of mind), I was inclined to think that yes, it was a pseudoscience - it had predicted that machines could approximate human intelligence and those predictions had turned out to be false (and still are, IMHO).

    But by the end of a year's research, I was far less convinced - it seemed to me that a hell of a lot was going on in pursuit of this goal, that it was being approached, just extremely slowly (I was doing it myself, developing AI solutions in vehicle scheduling). That the approach was "ad hoc" as Popper constantly decried, was in many ways "built in" to AI. Indeed I became so convinced of this fact that I lost all taste for making any kind of claims about what methodology AI research should be forced to submit to. I couldn't see any point in it at all. That led to my sympathy to Feyerabend.

    It seemed to me that philosophers really have little place in science, and it seems weird to me that scientists still seem to love Popper. I can only speculate that they are generally philosophically naive, and the idea of having their methodology put onto a logical footing is psychologically attractive, however unexamined that position really is. Certainly when I read books written by famous scientists about science I'm amazed at the fact that the philosophy of the late 20th century appears basically unknown to them. To laypeople who know little of either science or philosophy, the views are even older, vaguely waffling between the views of Newton and those of Pythagoras.

    I cannot see it being replaced with anything else, ever. Refined, adjusted, adapted - yes. But, chucked out and replaced - no.

    That could just be a failure of imagination, or a failure of clear definition. Certainly when one utterly refuses to define science then it hard to imagine it ever being toppled - what is being toppled? Once can just say "yes, but we never said science was that".

    To that end, religion still survives. It can claim never to have been toppled either, it just adapted what it was saying to accommodate the newly discovered facts that it previously had refused. It can slither and slide around any attempts to pin it down, using only anecdotal definition, and it has done this. Indeed, it would seem that religion is as popular today as it ever was.

    Religion was, after all, the main custodian of science for centuries. It was not against science at all, as many have claimed. It was just against heretical science. I don't defend this, but you have to see it for what it was, an ideology that looked to philosophers far too much for insights into methodology, and in doing so blinkered itself to what could, in the end, plainly be seen through a telescope. Aristotle had some compelling arguments about why the earth was the center of the universe, in particular the fact that parallax was not observable. It was still not observable during the time of Galileo and perfectly reasonably counted against the Copernican model.

    There can be no replacement for looking at something, coming up with an explanation for it, and then testing that explanation to establish under what conditions it seems be true.

    There could be many replacements for that. Einstein did not observe the gravitational bending of light and then come up with an explanation for it. No one had observed any such thing at the time, and that very consequence of his theory was a count against it in the early days. But he stuck to his guns, because he was convinced by the mathematics. Having done so, subsequent experiments have shown that the gravitational bending of light does actually happen. This came many years later. But that only served to convince other people of the truth in Einstein's theory - he himself had come up with it in a way that defies explanation by the naive view that science attempts to explain what it observes in the world.

    I'm fully open to the idea that many such baffling things will happen in science, and when they do, they will be some of the most profound discoveries of all time. The science that progresses slowly and methodically, is like the book written by a committee, a summary of the past and a consensus on the future, rather than the brilliant, arrogant tearing into all established beliefs that characterized the science that forms the basis of our mythology about the subject. Our scientific heroes did not sit around legislating about who was not scientific - instead they contended with such people, made leaps of faith of their own, and astonished the world with their audacious discoveries. Centuries later, philosophers attempt to understand this, but, not being scientists themselves, they are inclined merely to summarize how the science of the past was, and falsely extrapolate that to the science of the future. Beware of this. Thus spake Feyerabend.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8587 posts Report Reply

  • Hard News: Body image and the media,

    I'm still struggling with the medical profession's insistence on the amazing value of 'skin to skin' with my newborn. He never seems to appreciate being drowned in a forest of hair, although I suspect he would find stubble burn even worse. He does, however seem well content with his face firmly planted between a pair of breasts, grinning smugly at me. Enjoy it while you can, kid. They're only on loan.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8587 posts Report Reply

  • Hard News: Miracles just rate better, okay?,

    I never said defining or delineating science was unproblematic.

    And yet you have made many such delineations with respect to particular instances. On what basis have you done this?

    However, there is broad agreement as to what the scientific method entails.

    Where is your evidence that this agreement is broad? And even if it is broad, is it true? Do you really think this link gives sufficient detail to decide whether a pursuit is scientific or not? Do you even think they have the right to make such a delineation? Definitely Popper would be proud to have read it, since it is heavily influenced by his thoughts. Kuhn is mentioned, but what he said largely ignored, since his work basically shows that this method was not applied in anything like this way in the Copernican Revolution.

    I notice this is "science according to physicists" which is not uncommon when waxing philosophical about science. The bias shows, because some kinds of pursuits commonly called scientific do not, for instance, place anywhere near the level of emphasis on "predictive power". Any study of the past struggles with it, like anthropology, historiography, geology. Furthermore, a number of things called scientific don't involve very much by the way of experiment - I studied computer science for many years, and experiments were few and far between. In that field, as in mathematics, proof of correctness is far more important.

    That may be true of some of his writing, but not all, it doesn’t seem. For example:

    science is much closer to myth than a scientific philosophy is prepared to admit... It is conspicuous, noisy, and impudent, (AM, p. 295).

    [From Wiki]Feyerabend advocates treating science as an ideology alongside others such as religion, magic and mythology

    You presume that Feyerabend dislikes the noisy conspicuous impudence of science. You would be wrong. Like Popper, he saw that as a strength. He is simply countering the idea that it is sober, humble and methodical, as it is commonly portrayed.

    In seeking to treat it as an ideology he is simply contrasting it with treating it as truth . It might not be truth. The exact same thing happened to magic, mythology and religion. They were once considered true, and this did them, and humanity, damage. They need to be seen for what they are, a viewpoint.

    It’s hard to see how you’re not “against science” to a degree if you want to compare science to voodoo.

    It's not hard at all. You could be "for voodoo". I think Feyerabend felt that voodoo had its place.

    Furthermore, it seems to me he is effectively arguing that science is nothing; if you take the method out of science, what’s left?

    I don't know - you haven't put the method into it yet ;-) But yes, this was a criticism I mentioned above - he fails to characterize science. This is hard to reconcile with his apparent respect for it. What is it that he has respect for? He never really says. He only gives examples (usually of people who were "conspicuous, noisy, and impudent")

    It makes for a good starting point, but is not the full answer.

    Actually it goes right back to Popper, who is way down the chain of scientific theorists, but not at the end, by any stretch.

    It’s an ideology of sorts, but not the same as Zoroastrianism, communism, or voodoo.

    Funny you should mention communism. Popper considered that to be a scientific theory - one that had been proven false. I think he would have felt the same way about both Zoroastrianism and voodoo. Feyerabend, on the other hand, would have felt they were simply short on results, but still worthwhile studies for anyone who was interested.

    And what was his answer?

    Like yours, a series of anecdotes. But his conclusion was that the method was not only not defined, it was indefinable.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8587 posts Report Reply

  • Hard News: Right This Time?,

    What *motivates* them to be wrong *in this particular way* is really the key issue, though. Joe and Lucy are totally right to point that out.

    Indeed. They're modern myths and shed more light on the authors than the subjects.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8587 posts Report Reply

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