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Author Topic:   Consilience - the Unity of Knowledge
anglagard
Member
Posts: 2158
From: Big Spring, TX, USA
Joined: 03-18-2006


Message 16 of 27 (517316)
07-31-2009 6:04 AM
Reply to: Message 12 by Stile
07-30-2009 9:30 AM


Absurdity Quiz
Stile writes:

I find most humanities' "answers" to be the opposite of "much intellectual consequence or interest." Well, that's not true. They certainly are interesting but they really can't have too much consequence (in the grand scheme of reality sense) because there's no way to know if they're actually true. And, in most cases, it's obvious that there's no single correct answer.

I think "having no correct answer" has another name, life.

A quiz:

Who/What is better:

1. Shakespeare or Sagan?

2. Bach or AC/DC?

3. Kurosawa or Spielberg?

4. Michelangelo or Dali?

5. Tacitus or Suetonius?

6. Hugo or Dickens?

7. Math or physics?

6. Physics or engineering?

7. Engineering or computer science?

8. Computer science or chemistry?

9. Chemistry or geology?

10. Geology or biology?

11. Biology or Economics?

12. Economics or political science?

.............. and so on.........

Sarah Palin or Carl Baugh?

Score:

A = all of the above (except Palin and Baugh)
B = math
C = political science
D = Sarah Palin
F = Carl Baugh

Edited by anglagard, : add the question so i could score the answer

Edited by anglagard, : No reason given.

Edited by anglagard, : correct scoring


The idea of the sacred is quite simply one of the most conservative notions in any culture, because it seeks to turn other ideas - uncertainty, progress, change - into crimes.
ó Salman Rushdie

This rudderless world is not shaped by vague metaphysical forces. It is not God who kills the children. Not fate that butchers them or destiny that feeds them to the dogs. Itís us. Only us. - the character Rorschach in Watchmen


This message is a reply to:
 Message 12 by Stile, posted 07-30-2009 9:30 AM Stile has responded

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Stile
Member
Posts: 2941
From: Ontario, Canada
Joined: 12-02-2004
Member Rating: 3.9


Message 17 of 27 (517332)
07-31-2009 8:10 AM
Reply to: Message 16 by anglagard
07-31-2009 6:04 AM


No correct answer at all?
anglagard writes:

Stile writes:

And, in most cases, it's obvious that there's no single correct answer.

I think "having no correct answer" has another name, life.

There is a subtlety in here that I would like to explain a bit more.

I would say that Life has "no single correct answer."
However, I do not agree that Life has "no correct answer."

Life does have a correct answer. It's just subjective and different for each and every one of us. That doesn't make it wrong, it just makes it subjective.

For simplicity's sake:

What is your favourite colour?

Stile: Green
Ugly guy: Brown

We can't say that "there is no correct answer" because both answers are correct (given that me and ugly guy aren't lying).

We can only say that "there is no single correct answer" in the sense that there isn't one answer that is correct for everyone.

However, both answers certainly are correct.

I know this is a very simple and irrelevant example, but I think it shows how subjective answers exist as correct answers, they're just not correct for everyone.

Which is why I do not understand an "arrogant humanities scholar" who would "inform" people that he has the answer to a subjective question. It doesn't make sense.

Sorry if this post is pedantic, sometimes I just keep typing...


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Hyroglyphx
Member
Posts: 5512
From: Austin, TX
Joined: 05-03-2006


Message 18 of 27 (517381)
07-31-2009 12:58 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by RAZD
07-28-2009 7:55 PM


The God of the 21st century
"What is the relation between science and the humanities, and how is it important for human welfare?"

He says every college student should be able to answer this, every politician should be able to answer this, every public thinker should be able to answer this.

So what is your take on the relation between science and humanities and how important it is for human welfare?

That really depends on defining some principles, I would say. So many wonderfully beneficial things have come about to serve all of humanity by way of science. The problem is that incalculably inhumane atrocities have also come about by way of science.

There is a trend going on these days where people are beginning to almost anthropomorphize "science" in such a way as if to a God. "Science" has replaced demigods and demagogues because the absence of God leaves an unfilled and unfulfilled vacuum. That empty space needs to be filled with something meaningful to humans. Be that as it may, science is not a trophy we place on a mantle, or an idol to be worshiped, it is simply a way of explaining various physical phenomena.

On this side we have nuclear energy which provides countless human beings with an indispensable product, helping the longevity of mankind. And on the other end of that same discovery we have something that will destroy all of humanity in the blink of an eye, rendering that longevity moot.

So that tells me that we should not applauding science itself, but human beings who appropriately use science benevolently, and holding accountable those who use it malevolently. Science is a tool that we utilize. It's not like science does anything without the mind and hand of man harnessing what it dispenses. And it, as it is with nature, is certainly indifferent to our joys or suffering.

So then my answer to his question is that science and humanities can go together quite well. If they don't, it is only because man has manipulated it.

Edited by Hyroglyphx, : No reason given.

Edited by Hyroglyphx, : typos


"I love the man that can smile in trouble, that can gather strength from distress, and grow brave by reflection. 'Tis the business of little minds to shrink, but he whose heart is firm, and whose conscience approves his conduct, will pursue his principles unto death. " Thomas Paine
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Straggler
Member
Posts: 10196
From: London England
Joined: 09-30-2006


Message 19 of 27 (517388)
07-31-2009 1:21 PM
Reply to: Message 12 by Stile
07-30-2009 9:30 AM


Re: CP Snow - "Two Cultures"
Really?

In my bid for dramatic effect I may have exaggerated the issue.

I'd get frustrated very quickly if someone answered subjective questions with arrogant, firm answers.

I think where humanities and arts students misunderstand science is in a perceived lack of creativity. If it isn't "creative" in a more obvious sense then it just isn't that interesting. That sort of mentality.

Personally I would argue that in many ways science requires a high degree of creativity. But it also requires a foundation of understanding and knowledge from which that "creativity" can be launched.

Edited by Straggler, : No reason given.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 12 by Stile, posted 07-30-2009 9:30 AM Stile has acknowledged this reply

  
RAZD
Member
Posts: 18858
From: the other end of the sidewalk
Joined: 03-14-2004
Member Rating: 3.6


Message 20 of 27 (517739)
08-02-2009 11:43 AM
Reply to: Message 10 by Stile
07-30-2009 9:13 AM


the meaning of conscilience - what is a "perfect" human?
Hi again Stile,

Thanks for that. I have to admit that I didn't quite know what the word "consilience" meant, and I was too lazy to go and look it up. I mean, c'mon... it would have taken at least 40 seconds. Not to mention stopping my hand from typing and having to reach for my mouse. That was just too much for me.

Especially when you think you know what the word means from context. So we have two different avenues reaching the same concordant conclusion/s.

Message 12

I don't see any reason why humanities could possibly be considered "higher knowledge" than science. It's impossible to have high confidence in a "correct" answer. There's always a measure of "or this entire concept could be completely irrelevant, really..."

Ah, but you are confusing "correct" with "right" -- it is possible to have a "correct" answer from science but never a "right" answer - see anlagard, Message 16.

Message 11

I agree with the broad, general sense of this statement. Personally, I'd add something in like "Humanities tells us what we think OUGHT TO BE."

One way to look at it is to see what a "perfect" human being would be when viewed by science and when viewed by humanities (from art to philosophy).

Perhaps a list of words and then which ones belong in what columns?

healthy
fit
intelligent
inquisitive
caring
...

Enjoy

Edited by RAZD, : addd


we are limited in our ability to understand
by our ability to understand
Rebel American Zen Deist
... to learn ... to think ... to live ... to laugh ...
to share.


• • • Join the effort to solve medical problems, AIDS/HIV, Cancer and more with Team EvC! (click) • • •

This message is a reply to:
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RAZD
Member
Posts: 18858
From: the other end of the sidewalk
Joined: 03-14-2004
Member Rating: 3.6


Message 21 of 27 (517743)
08-02-2009 12:00 PM
Reply to: Message 7 by New Cat's Eye
07-29-2009 7:38 PM


Re: CP Snow - "Two Cultures"
Hi Catholic Scientist,

Thanks for the The Two Cultures link.

I think the constructionists are wrong because science works. Here we are on these internets, we've put a man on the moon, F-16s, etc... science can obviously "objectively make unbiased and non-culturally embedded observations about nature".

I was thinking more along the lines of the "splinter cultures" in the Gordon R. Dickson Childe Cycle stories (science fiction, Dorsai, etc), where the breakup of culture is almost complete, and where you have many different subcultures that can converse, but not with complete understanding of each other.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Childe_Cycle

quote:
As originally envisioned, the Cycle was to stretch from the 14th century to the 24th century; the completed books begin in the 21st century. The cycle deals with the conflict between progress and conservatism. It also deals with the interaction and conflict among humanity's traits, most importantly Courage, Faith, and Philosophy.

Courage is personified by the Dorsai, Faith by the Friendlies, and Philosophy by the Exotics, but they are not the only splinter cultures:

quote:
Other Splinter Cultures include the hard scientists of Newton and Venus, the miners of Coby, the fishermen of Dunnin's World, the engineers of Cassida, the Catholic farmers of St. Marie, and the merchants of Ceta.

I don't think it is a complete dichotomy, or even a "trichotomy", but a mix of what each person understands about reality, all coming from different backgrounds, education and experiences. I'm not even sure I could define two extremes for a spectrum.

quote:
The internal consistency of the series suggests that the resolution to be sought in Childe is the evolution of Responsible Man, individuals who integrate the three disciplines of the Dorsai, the Exotics, and the Friendlies to the overall advancement of humanity, and who do possess explicit if not yet well-defined paranormal abilities.

Enjoy.

Edited by RAZD, : added again


we are limited in our ability to understand
by our ability to understand
Rebel American Zen Deist
... to learn ... to think ... to live ... to laugh ...
to share.


• • • Join the effort to solve medical problems, AIDS/HIV, Cancer and more with Team EvC! (click) • • •

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Straggler
Member
Posts: 10196
From: London England
Joined: 09-30-2006


Message 22 of 27 (517752)
08-02-2009 12:15 PM
Reply to: Message 21 by RAZD
08-02-2009 12:00 PM


Re: CP Snow - "Two Cultures"
So what do you make of CP. Snow's lecture? Does it have any relevance at all today? Or Not?
This message is a reply to:
 Message 21 by RAZD, posted 08-02-2009 12:00 PM RAZD has acknowledged this reply

  
petrophysics1
Inactive Member


Message 23 of 27 (519912)
08-18-2009 11:44 AM
Reply to: Message 10 by Stile
07-30-2009 9:13 AM


The ability to observe is the key
The humanities cannot ever be more than "a best guess" because there's nothing to verify or test the answer against.

Hi Stile,

You are a detective and there has been a bank robbery. Bank manager has been shot and killed for refusing to open the vault.

You have 5 witnesses to the crime.

A biologist, a chemist, a physicist, a mathematician, and an artist.

You get a description of the criminal from the 4 "science" types. The artist draws you a portrait of the criminal.

Given your quote above, do you throw out the drawing as bullshit?

Science is observation plus an explanation.

The humanities are OBSERVATION.

The sciences show and teach us how to explain what we observe, the humanities teach use how to look at and observe the world, not necessarily explain it.

Science begins with observation, but we have to know all the ways of observing, that is where the humanities come in.(Do you really think a scientist who cannot draw sees the world the same way someone who can draw does?)

The accurate observation is first, then come the explanations.

To discover new things a person must be able to think and observe in all the ways possible, that includes not only science but all the humanities as well.

Education cannot teach a person everything, there is just to much to know. What it can do is try to teach a person all the ways of observing and thinking. A person who can draw, or play music, or speak a second language sees the world differently than someone who cannot. In the same way a person who knows math or science sees much more around them relating to that.

To me the basis of science is observation, as such the humanities rooted in different ways of observing, are fundamental to doing science.

Edited by petrophysics1, : No reason given.

Edited by petrophysics1, : No reason given.


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Stile
Member
Posts: 2941
From: Ontario, Canada
Joined: 12-02-2004
Member Rating: 3.9


Message 24 of 27 (519925)
08-18-2009 12:55 PM
Reply to: Message 23 by petrophysics1
08-18-2009 11:44 AM


Re: The ability to observe is the key
petrophysics1 writes:

Stile writes:

The humanities cannot ever be more than "a best guess" because there's nothing to verify or test the answer against.

...

You get a description of the criminal from the 4 "science" types. The artist draws you a portrait of the criminal.

Given your quote above, do you throw out the drawing as bullshit?

No, of course not.

I take the portrait as the "best guess" that it is and use it to try and catch the criminal. Of course, we must remember that it still is nothing more than a "best guess" since we have nothing to verify or test the answer against (like a video tape of the robbery). What makes you think the portrait is anything more than a "best guess" in terms of accuracy? We know that portraits drawn from descriptions of human memory are very prone to error. Regardless of the error in translation through the artist, there's also error in the human memory in the first place.

In order to have accurate knowledge of the criminal, however, the "best guess" of the portrait is not-so-useful. In order to have accurate knowledge of the criminal, we would require DNA or a video tape or some other objective, verifiable method of identification.

The humanities are OBSERVATION.

... the humanities teach us how to look at and observe the world, not necessarily explain it.

Yes, and they attempt to do so without having anyting to verify or test the answer against, as your portrait example shows us splendidly. Leaving the humanities to still be nothing more than a "best guess."

I'm not saying that best guesses are useless. But it is dangerous thinking indeed to take a "best guess" as an accurate description of truth.

The accurate observation is first, then come the explanations.

Correct. Science is based on accurate observations. The humanities cannot tell us whether or not the observations are accurate... because they are only a best-guess. Only verification and objectivity can show us if the observations are accurate.

Science is based on verification and objectivity. It is not based on the humanities.

Again, this isn't to say that the humanities are useless for everything, it's just that they're not very useful for obtaining known-to-be-accurate knowledge about the world. The best they can provide are best-guesses about ideals. Which is it's own useful tool for studies involving more thought-based exercises.


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Theodoric
Member
Posts: 5765
From: Northwest, WI, USA
Joined: 08-15-2005


Message 25 of 27 (519960)
08-18-2009 6:04 PM
Reply to: Message 24 by Stile
08-18-2009 12:55 PM


Re: The ability to observe is the key
Again, this isn't to say that the humanities are useless for everything, it's just that they're not very useful for obtaining known-to-be-accurate knowledge about the world. The best they can provide are best-guesses about ideals. Which is it's own useful tool for studies involving more thought-based exercises.

Very good summation. This explains exactly the study of history, which was my field of study. It is very hard to know exactly what happened in the past. At best we have a very good interpretation of the facts.

For example one just has to look at the recent scholarship about Lewis and Clarke and the Battle of Little Bighorn to see that history is a "best guess" field. This is not to say it has no value, it has extreme value, it is just that there are not absolutes.


Facts don't lie or have an agenda. Facts are just facts
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themasterdebator
Inactive Member


Message 26 of 27 (520219)
08-19-2009 11:33 PM
Reply to: Message 5 by RAZD
07-29-2009 4:46 PM


Re: Is there a "right" answer?
I would say humanity is focused on goal setting while science is focused on goal reaching. About the only thing science cannot do is set an end goal for experiments. That is where humanities come in. Humanities would assign things value(generally to people and satisfying a certain need or want of theirs), science would then be the processing of most efficiently maximizing that value.
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RAZD
Member
Posts: 18858
From: the other end of the sidewalk
Joined: 03-14-2004
Member Rating: 3.6


Message 27 of 27 (523501)
09-10-2009 6:44 PM
Reply to: Message 26 by themasterdebator
08-19-2009 11:33 PM


where is the feedback?
Hi themasterdebator, sorry for taking so long to respond.

I would say humanity is focused on goal setting while science is focused on goal reaching.

I have a little bit of trouble with this, because strictly speaking you could have {the humanities} making decisions on what goals to set completely uninformed by the reality of different options and the ramifications of those decisions.

Take the issue of stem cell research for instance - an issue fraught with emotion for some people, but which has vast potential for good new medical solutions to problems that plague people. Schrubbia made a stupid uniformed decision based on emotion and kowtowing to religious fanatics, limiting research to specific cell lines that came from mostly abnormal\diseased people, completely oblivious to the fact that thousands of brand new healthy stem cell lines are discarded every year by fertility clinics. This in spite of a survey of the owners of those discarded cells where they overwhelmingly supported donating the cells to research.

Humanities would assign things value(generally to people and satisfying a certain need or want of theirs), science would then be the processing of most efficiently maximizing that value.

And if the "value" assigned is based on belief rather than knowledge and evidence, we can end up doing worthless work for nonsensical goals.

What you need is a feedback system, an intermediate between what is (or may be) possible and what is wanted that evaluates the practicality as well as the desirability of the goals.

I used to quip that science was the art of understanding the universe, and that engineering was the art of making practical use of that knowledge. The problem is that it doesn't end there -- if you allow engineers to design everything then you end up with towns in square blocks and buildings produced by rubber stamps. You need artistic input to the designs to make them more organic, and satisfying to the subjective nature of people.

What you end up with is a design spiral with multiple opportunities for input before the final design is agreed on by all factions.

Enjoy.


we are limited in our ability to understand
by our ability to understand
Rebel American Zen Deist
... to learn ... to think ... to live ... to laugh ...
to share.


• • • Join the effort to solve medical problems, AIDS/HIV, Cancer and more with Team EvC! (click) • • •

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