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Author Topic:   What are acceptable sources of "scientific knowledge"?
Ben!
Member (Idle past 230 days)
Posts: 1161
From: Hayward, 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.


Replies to this message:
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Ben!
Member (Idle past 230 days)
Posts: 1161
From: Hayward, 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 230 days)
Posts: 1161
From: Hayward, 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 230 days)
Posts: 1161
From: Hayward, 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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 Message 9 by Taq, posted 04-22-2014 4:22 PM Taq has responded

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 Message 16 by Taq, posted 04-23-2014 11:20 AM Ben! has responded

  
Ben!
Member (Idle past 230 days)
Posts: 1161
From: Hayward, CA
Joined: 10-14-2004


Message 17 of 38 (725003)
04-23-2014 11:41 AM
Reply to: Message 16 by Taq
04-23-2014 11:20 AM


Re: Conspiracy Theory and Validation

Can you expand on this? It's not clear to me why this isn't a reasonable concern to have.

Perhaps you could explain why it is a reasonable concern. The fact that no one can present a reasonable argument is what makes it unreasonable.

Would you accept that there's a long history of governments trying to control their populace? Either through force, through selective access to information, or other means? I do.

I also accept that the US government does its fair bit of shady, back-room stuff. All of the recent NSA revelations a nice example of it, but plenty of others, including the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment.

I know the government (and particularly defense agencies) are funding research related to AI, reading minds, brain-computer interfaces, and alike. As a researcher in the AI field, I have a pretty clear view of those things.

To hear that a government agency is spraying chemicals in the atmosphere without our knowledge would not be surprising. That there's a potential effect of such aerosols on brains would not be surprising. To know that the government was interested in such effects, and had hypotheses about the effects, would not be surprising.


Given their experience, that seems reasonable to me--not to you?

What makes it reasonable?

I thought I outlined that in my previous post relatively clearly, so I will leave things waiting for a response to that.


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Replies to this message:
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Ben!
Member (Idle past 230 days)
Posts: 1161
From: Hayward, CA
Joined: 10-14-2004


Message 24 of 38 (725080)
04-24-2014 9:38 AM
Reply to: Message 21 by Dr Adequate
04-23-2014 2:08 PM


Re: Illogical use of logic?
Apart from anything else, I don't particularly want people to agree with me for bad reasons.

So I went to a screening of a Dawkins & Krauss documentary. They suggested that the key to solving global warming is education. Seems in line with what you say above.

For me, desperate times call for desperate measures. I'd rather recognize and accept the current state of affairs, raise enough capital to have a stellar ad campaign convincing people that global warming is the #1 issue of our lifetime, and make progress, than take such a systemic approach that clearly is much slower and therefore riskier (in terms of effecting change). It's a recognition of what people are, what their rights are, and using our logical minds to work with that.

For me, what you've written comes off as extremely passive. Why do you feel comfortable to rest on your principles and let this stuff happen? Perhaps you live in a country where you're generally shielded from the effects of global warming, religious war, or anything else that calls for more creative, immediate solutions than "let's educate everybody"? People are going to suffer and die--we know this.

I'm very interested to understand and discuss; in my eyes, what you've expressed is simply a different form of fundamentalism. So, here's to hoping you're willing to engage a bit about it


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Ben!
Member (Idle past 230 days)
Posts: 1161
From: Hayward, CA
Joined: 10-14-2004


Message 25 of 38 (725083)
04-24-2014 9:53 AM
Reply to: Message 22 by Taq
04-23-2014 6:21 PM


Re: Conspiracy Theory and Validation
You respond like I gave just the one justification. That's not correct.

I didn't say (or at least didn't mean to say) it's reasonable to believe it; I am arguing that it's reasonable to consider it, rather than dismiss it out of hand (as I feel you're doing).

The government planting mind control chemicals in jet fuel so that it can be used to control the minds of the US population is ludicrous.

I wasn't suggesting they can control minds generally, but there are lots of effects that could be dealt with this way (like, reducing motivation, suppressing responsiveness to improper acts, etc). If we found out that a government agency allowed particular chemicals to be used to treat plants/foods, despite knowing that they have such suppressive effects, ... I wouldn't be totally surprised.

Am I a nutter?


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Ben!
Member (Idle past 230 days)
Posts: 1161
From: Hayward, CA
Joined: 10-14-2004


Message 32 of 38 (725278)
04-25-2014 10:10 AM
Reply to: Message 27 by Dr Adequate
04-24-2014 10:25 AM


Re: Illogical use of logic?
If they come to agree with me for bad reasons, what happens when someone shows them that the reasons are bad? Won't they come to regards me as a liar and a fool?

In my example, advertising would be backed by the science of global warming. The logic is the same as the current approach; it's the approach in convincing others that's different.

Rather than asking them to understand the scientific facts (which is failing), it's using a similar strategy to those they believe--advertising and promotion.

Won't they think that if I could have given good reasons, I would have done so? Won't they conclude that there are no good reasons?

You call people illogical for ignoring / misunderstanding / misrepresenting facts, then treating them as if they're logical. I'm suggesting that that position is itself illogical and fruitless.

Won't this cause them to react against my idea and the lying liar who deceitfully foisted it on them?

Nowhere did I suggest that you lie. Just realize that many people can't or won't understand the scientific facts. Present them with conclusions, emotions on potential futures, and other derivative materials that speak to them.

And then not only have I not convinced them, but I'm going to have a lot of trouble convincing them of anything else.

Isn't the point that we're already having trouble convincing them of anything?

Again, it's not a lie. It's just a different way to present materials. It's all the same conclusions, packaged in very different ways.

Different packaging for different people. Why force people to try and hear the same things? Who does that serve, in the end?

When I have a rock, it seems to me improvident to build my house upon the sand.

When you have gold and you need to sell it to have something to eat, it seems silly to sell it only on the condition that the buyer is willing and capable to verify that your gold is pure. I say: you know it's pure; stop trying to be so controlling, sell the damn thing, and eat!


This message is a reply to:
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Replies to this message:
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Ben!
Member (Idle past 230 days)
Posts: 1161
From: Hayward, CA
Joined: 10-14-2004


(1)
Message 35 of 38 (725310)
04-25-2014 4:00 PM
Reply to: Message 33 by Dr Adequate
04-25-2014 10:29 AM


Re: Illogical use of logic?
In general, I guess you have to study the psychology of your audience.

Yes, exactly! I feel like we (people focused on science and empiricism) have really failed to do this, in politics, conversations, and everything else--to the detriment of getting real traction on many of our ideas.

Too content to be right, not strategic enough to get the buy-in we need to make as big an impact now as what we want (and need) to.


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Ben!
Member (Idle past 230 days)
Posts: 1161
From: Hayward, CA
Joined: 10-14-2004


Message 36 of 38 (725312)
04-25-2014 4:11 PM
Reply to: Message 34 by NoNukes
04-25-2014 11:12 AM


Re: Illogical use of logic?
I'm pretty skeptical about this approach. Advertising can be applied regardless of the truth, and the deeper pockets are against the science. With all of the publicity so far, people still cannot tell the difference between climate and weather.

I agree that it's an uphill battle and that empiricists are far behind the game. I don't think it's a reason not to fight; I think it's a reason to start now!

In my eyes, something is better than nothing. Politicians with the biggest budget don't always win.... and I think smaller budget gaps are going to produce better chances of winning.

If not competing on these grounds, then how else to compete? I'm open to suggestions!

I believe that the Supreme Court is about to confirm that propagating absolute, bald faced, vicious lies using grotesquely huge amounts of money is absolutely cool during a political campaign, and few things are more politically involved than global warming.

Right. Again, we can't run away from the fight; this is the world we live in. If we don't try to compete here, then how do we win?

Really--I'm all ears. My best idea is to be right AND to be more politically savvy. To make more money, to use it for what we think is good, and ... generally, to be less satisfied with trying to be "right".


This message is a reply to:
 Message 34 by NoNukes, posted 04-25-2014 11:12 AM NoNukes has acknowledged this reply

  
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