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Old 03-06-2016   #11
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Re: Science says stop complaining

Quote Originally Posted by Malone View Post
I love it when I see the fanatics of determinism holding forth and declaring how they believe people should behave if they were truly enlightened and scientific. They somehow miss that if their rigid determinism is true then people are no more free to choose other paths than they are themselves. But that's the thing, those people think they're exceptions to their own loudly trumpeted rules: "Given free-will is an illusion we should reform society so that it...." etc etc etc.
Anyone ever read Eliezer Yudkowsky, Less Wrong or any of that stuff? Even though in most cases they're very intelligent and thoughtful people who pay more attention to not only their science, but their ethics, than probably the average person does, I can't help but think "I really, really don't want these people to have power in society."
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Old 03-06-2016   #12
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Re: Science says stop complaining

Quote Originally Posted by teguififthzeal View Post
I accept evolution as fact and theory and I've read Darwin's work. The culture of science has always just been sort of abhorrent to me. Especially the fluff philosophers and populists around the edges.
Oddly enough(?), this is pretty much how I feel. Out of intrinsic interest, and shamed into it by the assertions of C.P. Snow, I'm reading up on the laws of thermodynamics at present. (I realise I now need to go back and brush up on algebra and read it again, but anyway...) I'm finding it pretty interesting, etc.

However, as soon as scientists depart from this textbook kind of stuff and begin to speak more casually, I'm surprised by how often I feel a real, deep visceral repulsion at some underlying value system that is not itself science but is prevalent among scientists.

No doubt it's because we have different brain types.

"As the Director of one of the five greatest museums in our Eastern States has more than once remarked to me, From the Stone Age until now, what a decline!" - Ananda Coomaraswamy
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Old 03-07-2016   #13
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Re: Science says stop complaining

It's just sort of this paper mache unicorn optimism...as if because we can look upon life in it's abundance things are good in and of themselves.

Try looking at a litter of blind baby chicks.

“The real reason why so few men believe in God is that they have ceased to believe that even a God can love them.”
― Thomas Merton, No Man Is an Island
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Old 03-07-2016   #14
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Re: Science says stop complaining

Quentin, yes, science can explain your lamentable failure to embrace life, but there is good news:

"It seems that even later in life you can change your outlook. Even for the pessimists, that should be worth celebrating."

Can science explain why I'm a pessimist? - BBC News
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Old 03-07-2016   #15
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Re: Science says stop complaining

Quote Originally Posted by Justin Isis View Post
Anyone ever read Eliezer Yudkowsky, Less Wrong or any of that stuff? Even though in most cases they're very intelligent and thoughtful people who pay more attention to not only their science, but their ethics, than probably the average person does, I can't help but think "I really, really don't want these people to have power in society."
I've listened to Yudkowsky, but for some reason he usually bores me to tears. Two of the guys I like listening to in the A.I. community are Ben Goertzel and Demis Hassabis.

In a couple of days, the Google Deepmind computer program, AlphaGo, is playing a match against the strongest Go player in the world. I listened to Hassabis' lecture on the match, and supposedly AlphaGo is not a 'brute force' program like IBM's Deep Blue that defeated Gary Kasparov at chess years ago. It should be interesting.

http://www.theguardian.com/technolog...ind-go-alphago

In 2010, Demis Hassabis co-founded and was CEO of DeepMind Technologies, a London-based machine learning startup, specializing in building general-purpose learning algorithms.
In January 2014 DeepMind was acquired by Google for a reported £400 million (approximately $625 million), where Hassabis is now Vice President of Engineering leading their general AI projects. One of DeepMind's conditions for Google was that they establish an AI Ethics board.

In October 2015, DeepMind, with AlphaGo program, achieved an AI'breakthrough' by beating the European Go champion.

Demis Hassabis' lecture on A.I. (If you're not into to science, skip it)


And this is just for fun. From another Google acquired company, Boston Dynamics. Google must have more money than God.

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Old 03-07-2016   #16
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Re: Science says stop complaining

Perhaps as a data scientist, my perspective on this matter of science allowing us to explain human behavior or human decision making, is one of wonder, excitement, and of course some trepidation... (ethics discussion on AI is as equally fascinating as it is vital to the advancements in that field)

I have to say though that I am at a bit of a loss in understanding some of the posts that I have seen on this thread. There is clearly an anti-science bent on some of the posts, ranging from disbelief/skepticism of what science can contribute in the field of understanding human behavior (as though human behavior should largely be confined to the qualitative/subjective) to outright annoyance that there are scientists daring to use empirical methods to help society better understand human behavior, human emotion, human decision making, etc.

The original article posted by QC (thank you for posting it) was quite brief and while I too would be annoyed or dumbfounded by any talking head or blogger who simply says "according to science" stop complaining or stop doing X, what is the real difference though in saying, "there have been tremendous advances in our scientific understanding of the fields of cardio vascular health, and we now know that smoking 5 packs of cigarettes a day will have adverse material effects to the x,y, and z vital organs, which in turn shorten your life span by X number of years. If you value your health and the health of other members of society who come in contact with your second hand smoke, you would do well from refraining from smoking."

What happens when we see more breakthroughs in brain mapping to the point that we can indeed better understand and explain certain human behavior and phenomena. Are we saying that we simply need to disregard these findings or that we don't like the way in which discoveries are occurring, simply because they are scientific discoveries.

Perhaps I have misunderstood the tone and tenor of some of the posts, and I'm not trying to lampoon anyone, I'm just trying to get a better ideas as to where folks are coming from.
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Old 03-07-2016   #17
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Re: Science says stop complaining

Quote Originally Posted by Comrade Tulayev View Post
Perhaps as a data scientist, my perspective on this matter of science allowing us to explain human behavior or human decision making, is one of wonder, excitement, and of course some trepidation... (ethics discussion on AI is as equally fascinating as it is vital to the advancements in that field)

I have to say though that I am at a bit of a loss in understanding some of the posts that I have seen on this thread. There is clearly an anti-science bent on some of the posts, ranging from disbelief/skepticism of what science can contribute in the field of understanding human behavior (as though human behavior should largely be confined to the qualitative/subjective) to outright annoyance that there are scientists daring to use empirical methods to help society better understand human behavior, human emotion, human decision making, etc.

The original article posted by QC (thank you for posting it) was quite brief and while I too would be annoyed or dumbfounded by any talking head or blogger who simply says "according to science" stop complaining or stop doing X, what is the real difference though in saying, "there have been tremendous advances in our scientific understanding of the fields of cardio vascular health, and we now know that smoking 5 packs of cigarettes a day will have adverse material effects to the x,y, and z vital organs, which in turn shorten your life span by X number of years. If you value your health and the health of other members of society who come in contact with your second hand smoke, you would do well from refraining from smoking."

What happens when we see more breakthroughs in brain mapping to the point that we can indeed better understand and explain certain human behavior and phenomena. Are we saying that we simply need to disregard these findings or that we don't like the way in which discoveries are occurring, simply because they are scientific discoveries.

Perhaps I have misunderstood the tone and tenor of some of the posts, and I'm not trying to lampoon anyone, I'm just trying to get a better ideas as to where folks are coming from.
I think there are so many different things going on here it would be hard for me to say briefly where I'm coming from. In my OP, obviously what I'm implying is along the lines of the dangers of scientism, as it's sometimes referred to, and pop-science, to use the term that Gveranon later used.

But I can't pretend to feel very positive about the physical sciences in general, try as I might to be open-minded about this. It does seem to me far more likely that science will wipe out the human race than religion will, for instance (though they may well work together on this project), and I see very few scientists agonising over their responsibilities, at least publicly (and I do think it would be good to see this publicly).

This is something that another TLOer posted somewhere recently:

http://geniusrealms.com/blogosphere/?p=473

I'm not posting that to endorse all of the views there. Some of it seems insightful to me, and some of it seems bizarre. Anyway, this is more on the side of the stuff that I can agree with:

Quote
As far as philosophy is concerned, science will always remain nothing more than a glorified Rorschach ink blot. Unless it radically changes its nature and abandons the scientific method, this will always be the case. It is one of the inherent limitations of science. This is why I am always puzzled and amused whenever I hear physicists talking about their search for the Theory of Everything. Of course, with scientists and their god-given habit of redefining common words, the “Everything” they talk about does not really mean everything, and their search for the Theory of Everything usually refers to the more technical goal of uncovering a consistent set of laws or equations that can describe all of the processes that physicists observe in the universe. But there are still some physicists who have grander aims and continue to hope that cosmology will one day uncover the ultimate explanation of things. What they do not realize, however, is that in order to find the ultimate explanation of things one has to leave science behind and enter the realm of pure logic.
If you go to Dawkins's website, you should be able to find there a letter to his children where he warns them against the dangers of 'the appeal to authority'. This is one of the great fallacies to be avoided (he says). But in online interactions with science-advocates (not sure of the best way to designate them, as I'm not sure how many are actually qualified) I see the appeal to authority being used all the time to silence people. The attitude I come up against repeatedly is that ScienceTM is the truth, as if nothing can be true without first asking the permission of a scientist. So, if you don't study science, you get treated as an ignoramus, and if you do, you tend meet up against the narrowed eyes of suspicion: "A little knowledge is a dangerous thing!" and all that.

It's true, of course, but pulling up the drawbridge only makes things worse. Besides, the world existed before science was a concept, and there are other ways of engaging with the world. My impression is that, increasingly, scientists want all those other ways to fall under the authority of science itself.

It seems to me that this wasn't always the case. I don't know when this attitude really started to become prevalent, but at the moment my general guess/impression is that Alan Turing marked (accidentally or otherwise) some kind of turning point.

Well, I think I started out by saying that there are aspects of science itself that worry me, apart from scientism, but I think I've ended up talking about the latter, really.

"As the Director of one of the five greatest museums in our Eastern States has more than once remarked to me, From the Stone Age until now, what a decline!" - Ananda Coomaraswamy
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Old 03-07-2016   #18
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Re: Science says stop complaining

Postscript: For the author of that blogpost, there is a turning point represented (not by Turing but) by Bohr and Heisenberg. I really don't know about that, so I can only quote him (again):

Quote
In the past, science was practiced by renaissance-type intellectuals who had a strong interest in philosophy. While the likes of Copernicus, Newton, Darwin and Einstein were no philosophic sages, they at least possessed an awareness of the limitations of science and understood that it had a context within the larger realm of philosophic thought. But this all changed when Niels Bohr and Werner Heisenberg came onto the scene and instigated the Copenhagen movement for interpreting quantum theory, an interpretation which gained an early foothold in the classrooms and has subsequently become the dominant paradigm ever since. The anti-causal, anti-logical nature of the Copenhagen interpretation succeeded in severing all connection between physics and philosophy.
My impression of the situation, even before I read this, was entirely in keeping with the first sentence here. I just don't know what the real change was/has been.

"As the Director of one of the five greatest museums in our Eastern States has more than once remarked to me, From the Stone Age until now, what a decline!" - Ananda Coomaraswamy
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Old 03-07-2016   #19
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Re: Science says stop complaining

Thank you for the clarification Quentin, I think I now better understand the criticism. It sounds to me that the annoyance is particularly focused on scientism, or the belief that science is the ONLY relevant mode of exploring the world and all phenomena contained therein and that all other non-empirical approaches to understanding the world are worthless.

I certainly cannot apologize on behalf of ALL or even any specific scientist that may indeed espouse what appears to be an extremely arrogant perception and understanding of learning, but I will say that in my own experience of situations where science meets non-scientific approaches, I have experienced the exact opposite phenomena of which you are describing.

Imagine if you will, working in a massive government agency, where 95-99% of all supervisors, managers, and decision makers are effectively making really important decisions about the provision of really important services provided to the public simply based on gut instinct, fuzzy intuition, limited observation (meaning not leaving one's office or cubicle except for perhaps 1 or twice a week to observe how services are being provided), and a reliance on lower level managers/supervisors who approach decision making and management of services in the same exact way.

I won't name names of any specific government agencies, but save for a few remarkable exceptions nearly ALL of government provides services in this way. This would simply be utterly crazy to most people and probably a little depressing, perhaps even a little illuminating as to why so much public monies buys so little for the public.

Unfortunately this is a reality... and it is I, the lone data scientist and perhaps one of 5 other data scientists in a County of over 12 million residents (100K+ government employees), that have the minority view. I assure you that arrogance is not a luxury that I can practice when I present actual findings from data to these managers. I regularly get angry stares, mumbles and grumbles, when I present extracted insights from data (that the agency collects) that completely contradicts the mis-perceived realities held by decision makers. I take no pleasure in undermining poor understandings of reality by decision makers, but there is a serious ego issue going on that people have when their deeply held perception of their little worlds is demonstrated to be erroneous.

It simply scares me that such important policy/personnel/service delivery decisions are being made in such an egregiously ignorant fashion. I say ignorant, not because they simply rely on limited tools and means for perceiving reality, but ignorant in that many of their perceptions of reality (such as, what the public wants, how services can best be delivered) are often badly wrong... and it is the public that suffers from such bad decision making.

Now that we are in presidential election season, taking things to a macro level, it absolutely scares the bejeezus out of me and leaves me so disheartened that there are actual candidates that are opposed to using scientific means of exploring the realities of their constituents. Not that they are ignorant of science but actually desire to disregard any scientific thought that may pertain to the simple realities of governing an entire nation.

This kind of counter-scientific thought is deeply disturbing and troubling to me, particularly when vital decisions are being taken on behalf of millions of people.

As a "scientist", I certainly recognize that there are many modes of thought and different explorations of reality that don't follow the empirical foundations of science. Some may be valid, some not so much. I guess what I am saying is that there are many wonderful tools in a myriad of scientific fields that allow us to better understand reality and the human condition, but there are many things that have yet to be discovered that other non-scientific traditions have used their own methods to make discoveries and I'm not one to immediately dismiss those discoveries simply because they were not made via the scientific method.
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Old 03-07-2016   #20
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Re: Science says stop complaining

In fact, I know someone who works in a similar job: that is, presenting data and figures to aid government policy. I certainly agree that the facts should be more consulted and more widely known for such purposes. ... phone call...

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