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Author Topic:   What are acceptable sources of "scientific knowledge"?
Ben!
Member (Idle past 1184 days)
Posts: 1154
From: San Diego, CA
Joined: 10-14-2004


Message 1 of 38 (724900)
04-21-2014 12:11 PM


A lil' help from admins in generating a topic (or series of topics) centered around the general question: what are our (science-types) ideals and expectations on how we want people to participate in this debate and, more generally, in democracy and life as a community?

I don't think that discussion, directly, would lead to anything fruitful--too wide open, too opinion-oriented. Instead, I want to break things down into fairly narrow topics.

First step: understanding better what exactly science-types think of as "knowledge"--what is it and where does it come from? This includes questions like:


  • When we request each other to provide evidence in an argument, should we be referring to source papers that contain original data, or is referring to authorities good enough?

  • If it's good enough, when and why is that the case?

  • Is scientific knowledge the set of all source data in the literature, or is it the set of inferences and conclusions that have been generally agreed upon by the scientific community, based on those data?

If and when I get concrete answers about that, I can ask more concrete questions like: if I'm not a nerdy book-worm whose primary interest is learning about the natural world, how do I participate in your democracy? Or more generally, how do you expect a general public who is not necessarily compelled by knowledge to interact with you? Does it have to be on your terms? If so, why?

Any help in clarifying these thoughts, and ultimately spawning a simple, narrow topic to start would be appreciated!

Edited by Ben!, : Edited to change the message mood.


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Admin
Director
Posts: 12533
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Joined: 06-14-2002
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Message 2 of 38 (724901)
04-22-2014 8:58 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by Ben!
04-21-2014 12:11 PM


I'll promote this and suggest narrowing the focus to your first step:

Ben! writes:

First step: understanding better what exactly science-types think of as "knowledge"--what is it and where does it come from? This includes questions like:


  • When we request each other to provide evidence in an argument, should we be referring to source papers that contain original data, or is referring to authorities good enough?

  • If it's good enough, when and why is that the case?

  • Is scientific knowledge the set of all source data in the literature, or is it the set of inferences and conclusions that have been generally agreed upon by the scientific community, based on those data?


--Percy
EvC Forum Director

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Admin
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Message 3 of 38 (724903)
04-22-2014 8:58 AM


Thread Copied from Proposed New Topics Forum
Thread copied here from the What are acceptable sources of "scientific knowledge"? thread in the Proposed New Topics forum.
    
NoNukes
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Posts: 9998
From: Central NC USA
Joined: 08-13-2010
Member Rating: 2.2


Message 4 of 38 (724909)
04-22-2014 10:13 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by Ben!
04-21-2014 12:11 PM


When we request each other to provide evidence in an argument, should we be referring to source papers that contain original data, or is referring to authorities good enough?

If it's good enough, when and why is that the case?

No reference is so good as to be unquestionable. In fact citing references is only the start of a discussion. There is also verifying that a proponent is correct about the reference, verifying that the reference is relevant, and then verifying that the reference is correct.

Papers with data, at least to the point that we understand the data, are more easy to verify, but it is equally important that the reasoning and implications based on the data are correct.

As to your last question, I don't think limiting the conclusions to what is generally agreed on is a useful technique for a debate site. What is wanted is a chain of fact and assertion that is logically rigorous and based on the truth and the strength of that chain is what we want to discuss here.


Under a government which imprisons any unjustly, the true place for a just man is also in prison. Thoreau: Civil Disobedience (1846)

I have never met a man so ignorant that I couldn't learn something from him. Galileo Galilei

If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom, and deprecate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground, they want rain without thunder and lightning. Frederick Douglass


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Dr Adequate
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Posts: 15963
Joined: 07-20-2006
Member Rating: 4.9


Message 5 of 38 (724911)
04-22-2014 10:29 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by Ben!
04-21-2014 12:11 PM


When we request each other to provide evidence in an argument, should we be referring to source papers that contain original data, or is referring to authorities good enough?

Well that would depend in the first instance on how obscure and how contentious the issue is. Would anyone bother to give a reference for (let's say) the claim that granite is an igneous rock? First one would just assert it, if challenged one would point out that it's in all the textbooks and everyone believes it, finally one might actually start marshaling data.

After all, a real scientific paper wouldn't give references or arguments for that, so unless someone is inclined to doubt it, why should I?

If it's good enough, when and why is that the case?

I guess it's good enough when the other person thinks it's good enough.

Is scientific knowledge the set of all source data in the literature, or is it the set of inferences and conclusions that have been generally agreed upon by the scientific community, based on those data?

It's mainly the inferences.

Consider for example the law that "like charges repel". This is an inductive inference that goes beyond the data points that support it. And the same can be said of any general law. If this wasn't scientific knowledge, if we confined the concept to data points about past events, then apart from anything else scientific knowledge would have no practical value.

If and when I get concrete answers about that, I can ask more concrete questions like: if I'm not a nerdy book-worm whose primary interest is learning about the natural world, how do I participate in your democracy?

Well maybe you don't. I have never studied Japanese, so I don't take part in discussions of what the Japanese word for "watermelon" is.

Or more generally, how do you expect a general public who is not necessarily compelled by knowledge to interact with you?

Well, no-one is obliged to. But people who want to express an opinion should either study the subject, or defer to the people who have, or ask them questions and learn from them.

Edited by Dr Adequate, : No reason given.


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Stile
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Posts: 3022
From: Ontario, Canada
Joined: 12-02-2004
Member Rating: 3.0


(1)
Message 6 of 38 (724918)
04-22-2014 12:04 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by Ben!
04-21-2014 12:11 PM


Knowledge
Ben! writes:

what are our (science-types) ideals and expectations on how we want people to participate in this debate and, more generally, in democracy and life as a community?

I expect people to be honest and listen to other people.
You don't have to agree at all, but if you don't, then I also expect you to explain why you don't agree. Otherwise, there's not all that much to debate.

I expect people to understand the difference between facts (things you can only disagree with if you can show them to be incorrect) and opinions (things people can disagree with for hardly any reason at all).
Almost the same is the difference between objective and subjective, but not always...

I expect people to act with respect.
When something is factually wrong there are different ways to go about indicating the correction. Take a moment to consider going about such a thing in a tactful manner.

When someone has a different opinion, it is possible to make fun of it or explain your own opinion. Different circumstances call for different strategies.

First step: understanding better what exactly science-types think of as "knowledge"--what is it and where does it come from?

Knowledge: a human understanding of the external reality we find ourselves existing within.
-goal is not to be exact in some over-arching, absolute sense (this is impossible... we do not have a "reality" measuring stick in order to test if we're "absolutely correct" about anything)
-always based upon available information (data... evidence... observations...) from that external reality, not opinions or desires from our imaginations
-goal is, therefore, to expand our knowledge as much as possible in order to be accurate as much as possible
-as the available information changes or is added to, our knowledge similarly 'is changed or is added to' as a reflection of the new pool of information

When we request each other to provide evidence in an argument, should we be referring to source papers that contain original data, or is referring to authorities good enough?

Depends on the subject and the audience.
In general, though: referring to authorities can be just fine but source papers that contain original data will always trump referring to authorities with no source papers and no data.
And again... referring to actual data that can be repeated (regardless of any source paper or authority) will always trump everything.

The important factor is getting the information from the external reality. If you can show that to be valid... then you're the trump card. Always. Source papers with original data is a very good way to do this, but certainly not the only way... and not necessarily the best way.

If it's good enough, when and why is that the case?

When all audience members are satisfied that the data is an accurate description of the external reality as much as possible.

Wanting-more-information-but-currently-being-unable-to-obtain-any is not a valid excuse to prevent the current best possible explanation from the information that actually is currently available from being the most rational option.

Not being satisfied because you don't like the explanation is not a valid excuse either.

The only valid objection is if you can show the best-possible-explanation-from-the-information-that-actually-is-currently-available to be false using some of the information that actually is currently available... otherwise, you're only talking about hopeful possibilities... and there's billions of those as long as you have a good enough imagination.

Is scientific knowledge the set of all source data in the literature, or is it the set of inferences and conclusions that have been generally agreed upon by the scientific community, based on those data?

A bit of both, as it should be. Just not all of the picture:

Scientific knowledge is the set of all source data in the scientific literature, yes.
We then use this data to derive additional sets of inferences and conclusions, yes.

But, you cannot forget the next, very important, step:

These additional sets of inferences and conclusion are then tested against the external reality in order to gain more information.

This "more information," regardless of whether it confirms or denies the inferences and conclusions, is then assimilated into the literature as part of "scientific knowledge" and the process of deriving new sets of inferences and conclusions from the current level of knowledge is begun again. And it's then tested again.
And new guesses are then derived again.
And they're tested again.
And new guesses are then derived again.
And they're tested again.
And new guesses are then derived again.
And they're tested again.
...
...until we have all the knowledge (that's going to take a while).

if I'm not a nerdy book-worm whose primary interest is learning about the natural world, how do I participate in your democracy?

Take a look at the external reality around you.
Does it make sense with what the nerdy book-worm's say?
If so... then explain why you think the current explanation is satisfactory.
If not... then show what you think is incorrect about the current information.

If you can't understand/learn/educate-yourself-about what the nerdy book-worm's say... then you have a few options:
-ask some questions in order to help with your learning
-don't participate

It's the same thing as any other high-end endeavor.
If you can't understand/learn/educate-yourself-about what the professional basketball players are doing on the court... then you have a few options:
-ask some questions in order to help with your learning
-don't watch basketball on TV

Or more generally, how do you expect a general public who is not necessarily compelled by knowledge to interact with you?

I don't.

If you aren't interested in "the truth about how things in this universe work" then I don't expect you to interact with me on the truth about how things in this universe work.

The same way that if you're not interested in basketball, I don't expect you to interact with me about basketball.

Does it have to be on your terms? If so, why?

No, it certainly doesn't have to be on my terms. You can want to gain an accurate description of our external reality on whatever terms you'd like.
The important concept is that you want to gain an accurate description of the external reality we find ourselves existing within.
If you do want to... then that's all that's necessary. The reason why you want to is up to you and is something you need to figure out for yourself.
If you don't want to do that, however... then there's no reason for you to discuss such things, why would you?


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ringo
Member
Posts: 13745
From: frozen wasteland
Joined: 03-23-2005
Member Rating: 1.7


Message 7 of 38 (724920)
04-22-2014 12:22 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by Ben!
04-21-2014 12:11 PM


Ben! writes:

Is scientific knowledge the set of all source data in the literature, or is it the set of inferences and conclusions that have been generally agreed upon by the scientific community, based on those data?


I think of "knowledge" as a geodesic sphere; the joints are the data points and the beams are the inferences that connect them. No data point or inference can stand alone - i.e. hang freely in space; they are all connected.
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RAZD
Member
Posts: 19100
From: the other end of the sidewalk
Joined: 03-14-2004
Member Rating: 2.5


Message 8 of 38 (724924)
04-22-2014 3:59 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by Ben!
04-21-2014 12:11 PM


Conspiracy Theory and Validation
A couple of friends of mine have been saying for a while that the US govt is involved in "chemtrails" ...

... and I have always politely smiled and nodded, but actually considered this to be a conspiracy theory.

http://www.collective-evolution.com/...nto-earths-atmosphere

quote:
NASA Admits To Chemtrails As They Propose Spraying Stratospheric Aerosols Into Earths Atmosphere (April 18, 2014 by Arjun Walia)

It’s really amazing how many people are waking up to the fact that “chemtrails” are different from “con-trails.” What was once considered a conspiracy to many is now a fact, chemicals are constantly sprayed into our atmosphere and have been for quite some time now.

Not long ago, NASA personnel gave a lecture (that was also streamed live) at their Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology. It was a series of talks by scientists and engineers exploring the topic of Geoengineering and Climate Intervention.

... Solar Radiation Management (SRM) by spraying stratospheric aerosols into the atmosphere. (1) The lecture outlines how SRM would require the equivalent of airplanes spraying aerosols into our atmosphere for decades. ...


So if a body like NASA admits to spraying chemtrails from airplanes then I guess that part of it is not a conspiracy ... I say "that part" because the other part of the conspiracy theory is that the chemicals are for mind control (get out the tinfoil hats).


we are limited in our ability to understand
by our ability to understand
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Taq
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Posts: 7198
Joined: 03-06-2009
Member Rating: 3.1


Message 9 of 38 (724925)
04-22-2014 4:22 PM
Reply to: Message 8 by RAZD
04-22-2014 3:59 PM


Re: Conspiracy Theory and Validation
So if a body like NASA admits to spraying chemtrails from airplanes then I guess that part of it is not a conspiracy ... I say "that part" because the other part of the conspiracy theory is that the chemicals are for mind control (get out the tinfoil hats).

All good crackpottery and consiracy has a kernel of truth. That is what makes it so compelling to the nutters. You could just as easily point to the fact that burning jet fuel does put chemicals in the air, or even point to crop dusters that put chemicals in the air.

It is the massive leap from "putting chemicals in the air" to "a government wide conspiracy to control your mind" that differentiates the sane from the nutters.


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Taq
Member
Posts: 7198
Joined: 03-06-2009
Member Rating: 3.1


Message 10 of 38 (724927)
04-22-2014 4:36 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by Ben!
04-21-2014 12:11 PM


When we request each other to provide evidence in an argument, should we be referring to source papers that contain original data, or is referring to authorities good enough?

If you are citing specific research, then you should always try to cite the original peer reviewed paper that the research is found in. If you don't understand the material, a good alternative is a quote from one of the scientists in a secondary article, like those found in Scientific American. In those articles, the scientists will "dumb down" the findings for a more general audience.

For general knowledge, a well respected college level textbook is a good place to start, and can usually be found in your local library. If you are talking about biochemistry and you quote Stryer, then I know it is probably solid info. Stryer's textbook is still considered to be one of the standards.

If you lack that reference, then your best bet is to qualify your statements, and ask if an expert in the discussion can verify what you are saying.

if I'm not a nerdy book-worm whose primary interest is learning about the natural world, how do I participate in your democracy?

By supporting nerdy book-worms who do study the natural world. Investment in science is an investment in society.

Or more generally, how do you expect a general public who is not necessarily compelled by knowledge to interact with you?

Science and scientists should always be held accountable by the general public. This is done through oversight and making sure that safeguards are in place. For example, Congress makes sure that administrators watch over how public research money is spent, and that research adheres to the ethics set forth by Congress in law (i.e. HIPAA rules for human subjects). As far as the science itself, it is inherent competition in science that keeps things honest. I think we expect the public to leave that to the scientists.


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Dr Adequate
Member
Posts: 15963
Joined: 07-20-2006
Member Rating: 4.9


Message 11 of 38 (724928)
04-22-2014 5:00 PM
Reply to: Message 8 by RAZD
04-22-2014 3:59 PM


Re: Conspiracy Theory and Validation
Having read the article, it is, still, apparently all bollocks.

So if a body like NASA admits to spraying chemtrails from airplanes ...

Which they admitted where?


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Ben!
Member (Idle past 1184 days)
Posts: 1154
From: San Diego, CA
Joined: 10-14-2004


Message 12 of 38 (724966)
04-23-2014 9:42 AM
Reply to: Message 4 by NoNukes
04-22-2014 10:13 AM


Illogical use of logic?
Thanks for the reply @NoNukes!

As to your last question, I don't think limiting the conclusions to what is generally agreed on is a useful technique for a debate site.

Sorry if I was unclear, but my main focus is not about discussion here, but more generally about what we expect / demand from others in how decisions are made in our lives.

No reference is so good as to be unquestionable. In fact citing references is only the start of a discussion. There is also verifying that a proponent is correct about the reference, verifying that the reference is relevant, and then verifying that the reference is correct.

I can see how this is a process to follow when there's contention on an issue. But this only works if data data exist and are clear on one side or another, without holes. It also assumes a willingness and ability to understand those data.

So if, for example, I support some position (let's say, anti-abortion) based on my religion, and someone responds with information about why my religion is bunk because of depositional layering... what's the expectation for a response? Is it my job to suddenly research and understand such data? How could I judge otherwise? What if I had tickets to a ball game that I wanted to go to instead?

I'm just not sure that slinging around scientific data is the best way to approach things. I can't imagine why someone would choose to go through all the effort to understand data that is slung by an opponent, when it's way faster and easier to dismiss it out of hand.

Or, to say it another way: responding to illogic with logic seems to me itself illogical and missing the point. You've assumed a logical proponent when every indication is that they're not. So, as a logical person, it may be worthwhile to explore other approaches. What other approaches might accomplish the same goal (bringing someone else to your same conclusion) without using logic as the method?


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Ben!
Member (Idle past 1184 days)
Posts: 1154
From: San Diego, CA
Joined: 10-14-2004


Message 13 of 38 (724968)
04-23-2014 9:55 AM
Reply to: Message 5 by Dr Adequate
04-22-2014 10:29 AM


Thanks @Dr Adequate for the reply! Quick note: my questions below aren't trying to be antagonistic, but I want to understand how the ideas you shared map onto practical considerations in my current situation... and I couldn't make that mapping myself. Hence, questions!


If it's good enough, when and why is that the case?

I guess it's good enough when the other person thinks it's good enough.

Well, I'm trying to talk more generally about decision-making as a community. I'm hoping for a bit deeper analysis and thought on what is satisfactory for the communities we live and interact with.

Any thoughts on standards that you think best apply to communities you're familiar with?


Is scientific knowledge the set of all source data in the literature, or is it the set of inferences and conclusions that have been generally agreed upon by the scientific community, based on those data?

It's mainly the inferences.

Thanks! OK, so... which are the inferences to believe, and which are the inferences to doubt? Where's the place that does a nice job summarizing all the relevant inferences, tracing them back to other inferences, that ultimately get back to the data?

I really need that, so I can *not* spend hours and hours of my life investigating and verifying stuff I don't know. Since, as you say below, I should basically be quiet unless I'm knowledgeable enough about this stuff.


If and when I get concrete answers about that, I can ask more concrete questions like: if I'm not a nerdy book-worm whose primary interest is learning about the natural world, how do I participate in your democracy?

Well maybe you don't. I have never studied Japanese, so I don't take part in discussions of what the Japanese word for "watermelon" is.

Are you suggesting that only those well-educated in democracy (or political science more generally) should participate in democracy? If so, two questions:


  1. What evidence do you have that that's a good way to go?

  2. Anyway, that's not how the American democratic system works. What strategy to use in the American system?


Or more generally, how do you expect a general public who is not necessarily compelled by knowledge to interact with you?

Well, no-one is obliged to. But people who want to express an opinion should either study the subject, or defer to the people who have, or ask them questions and learn from them.

What do you mean by "should"? And, as someone who's looking for practical answers to current situations... how would I ever apply this? I'm looking for answers that I can apply to current situations, not for proscriptive definitions that others would likely outright reject (if not directly, then indirectly).


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Ben!
Member (Idle past 1184 days)
Posts: 1154
From: San Diego, CA
Joined: 10-14-2004


Message 14 of 38 (724978)
04-23-2014 10:26 AM
Reply to: Message 9 by Taq
04-22-2014 4:22 PM


Re: Conspiracy Theory and Validation
It is the massive leap from "putting chemicals in the air" to "a government wide conspiracy to control your mind" that differentiates the sane from the nutters.

Can you expand on this? It's not clear to me why this isn't a reasonable concern to have. What data make you so confident in this? And what is a "nutter"?

For me, it's sane to have the concern. As far as I can tell, some people have a lesser sense of control over their own actions than others, and I think such people would naturally tend towards believing in mind control conspiracies. Given their experience, that seems reasonable to me--not to you?


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Theodoric
Member
Posts: 5772
From: Northwest, WI, USA
Joined: 08-15-2005
Member Rating: 9.3


Message 15 of 38 (724987)
04-23-2014 10:59 AM
Reply to: Message 8 by RAZD
04-22-2014 3:59 PM


Re: Conspiracy Theory and Validation
NASA Admits To Chemtrails As They Propose Spraying Stratospheric Aerosols Into Earths Atmosphere

Bullshit. This article does not support the sensationalistic headline.

The whole site seems to be a repository of woo.

quote:
Collective Evolution is an independent news and media website where people interested in elevating their consciousness, natural health, personal development, alternative news, and creating a better world come to catch up on what’s the latest. We author original and consciousness expanding articles, editorials and videos that encourage and empower readers to begin making change in their own lives.

http://www.collective-evolution.com/...-collective-evolution

Seems to be anti-vaxer .

Here are more "articles" on the site.

http://www.collective-evolution.com/...ct-of-alien-abudction

Oh and they are way out there on politics too.

quote:
How do you know that the United States is not a Country, but a corporation? It’s so simple that it has been completely overlooked by most people; every corporation is required to have a President, Vice President, Secretary and Treasurer. Many also choose to have Dun & Bradstreet corporate numbers (DUNS). Independent states of the union do not have these titles by comparison, although they all are now also incorporated.
Citizens of the United States are also incorporated, hence the uppercase name on all legal documents designating your legal corporate fiction and the associated Cestui Que Vie Fund attaching a financial value on your body and issued at the time of obtaining a Birth Certificate.

http://www.collective-evolution.com/...e-back-the-republic-2

Oops. Just saw the smiley face. I hope it is for the source, not just your last line.


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

"God did it" is not an argument. It is an excuse for intellectual laziness.


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