virus: Faith, dig it?

Reed Konsler (
Tue, 26 Jan 1999 23:25:06 -0500

carlw (
>Ummm, no. Scientific thinking follows a process, the scientific method.
>The scientific method simply posits a procedure which is designed to
>reduce errors and come up with ways to make useful predictions about
>the world we live in. To make any other claims about the scientific
>method is to claim far more for it than it claims for itself. This is a
>frequent error made deliberately by people who have chosen to be
>irrational, or made through ignorance by people too foolish or ill-educated
>to know better.

Hmm...I think Richard was trying to get at the motivation of the user of the scientific method, rather than trying to define it's metaphysical purpose. Why do scientists use the Method? Becuase it seems to provide useful results. Why should they care one way or the other? Becuase the journey to useful results brings the scientist a sense of the same way that a video game brings the player a sense of satisfication.

The question then becomes, to what does one wish to yoke their sense of satisfaction, and why? The answers to those questions are the heart of the matter.

>Critical thinking is an important aspect of being rational. It
>is an important aspect of determining whether a proposition
>is useful and believable. If something is proposed, for example
>the idea of a god or gods, then the onus rests upon the proponent
>of such an idea to demonstrate the evidence leading them to
>propose such an hypothesis, the manner in which their theory
>is falsifiable, and the useful predictive capability their theory provides.

That's good philosophy, but science isn't really practiced that way. In fact, if you asked the top 10 scientists of this generation to define the scientific method, hypothesis testing, etc...I think you'ld be quite surprised by how different their interpretations of "what science is" differs from yours, and from each other. One thing most successful scientists agree on is that the key element of practice is an irrational passion for the work: "fire in the belly". In general, the imagery scientists use with each other is visceral and not mental...the struggle in science is always in the bowels of the problem.

There is also a strong divide between experimentalists (with whom I have the most experience) and theoreticians. Experimentalists, who actually do most of the testing and evidence gathering, are a quite anti-intellectual bunch...they're too busy tinkering with their toys. It is the theoreticians that are more intellectual and ideological about "science" and the "philosophers of science" (many of which haven't ever conducted a legitimate scientific experiement in their life) who are the most dogmatic about what is and is not proper practice.

But then, I suppose creating such defintions is the job of the philosopher...

>Once a person bases their thinking upon an "irrationality", they
>cannot claim to be rational and thus their arguments are not useful.

The utility of an hypothesis is an empirical can't know a priori, that an "irrational" idea will not produce good results. You must test the claim. It's certianly a good generalization to say that one shouldn't follow strategies that don't make sense. But, in doing so, you have accept that at least a few good ideas are going to slip by you becuase you neglected to actually test them.

Or, in other words: doing experiments in your mind is faster, but going through the physical process in the world is more accurate. Furthermore, if you do all the experiments in your mind, then you'll never encounter anything unexpected. I think that would be boring and, eventually, leave one with little sense of satisfaction. How many games of chess can you play with yourself?


  Reed Konsler