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  #1  
Old 06-21-2008, 11:07 AM
Bloggingheads Bloggingheads is offline
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Default Science Saturday: Time’s Arrow

Afterthought
We apologize for the occasional (and occasionally surreal) glitches in the audio-video synching of this diavlog. Taking a page from Sean Carroll, we have decided to blame the occurrence of these glitches on the Big Bang. Fortunately, aside from a cut that had to be made around 25:52, the conversation is mostly intact.

Last edited by David; 06-21-2008 at 12:07 PM..
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  #2  
Old 06-21-2008, 12:19 PM
thprop thprop is offline
 
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Cool What the #$*! Do We (K)now!?

IMDB Entry

Official site with trailer

Plot synopses:
"WHAT THE #$*! DO WE KNOW?!" is a radical departure from convention. It demands a freedom of view and greatness of thought so far unknown, indeed, not even dreamed of since Copernicus. It's a documentary. It's a story. It's mind-blowing special effects. This film plunges you into a world where quantum uncertainty is demonstrated - where neurological processes, and perceptual shifts are engaged and lived by its protagonist - where everything is alive, and reality is changed by every thought. Written by Anonymous

Amanda, a divorced photographer, finds herself in a fantastic Alice-in-Wonderland experience when her daily, uninspired life literally begins to unravel, revealing the cellular, molecular and even quantum worlds which lie beneath. Guided by a Greek Chorus of leading scientists and mystics, she finds that if reality itself is not questionable, her notion of it certainly is. Stunning special effects plunge you into a world where quantum uncertainty is demonstrated - where Amanda's neurological processes, and perceptual shifts are engaged and lived - where everything is alive, and reality is changed by every thought. This film gives voice to the modern day radical souls of science, making them the true heroes of our day as they conquer and map the greatest uncharted territory yet - man's consciousness itself. Written by Anonymous

It is part documentary, part story, and part elaborate and inspiring visual effects and animations. The protagonist, Amanda, played by Marlee Matlin, finds herself in a fantastic Alice in Wonderland experience when her daily, uninspired life literally begins to unravel, revealing the uncertain world of the quantum field hidden behind what we consider to be our normal, waking reality. Written by Producers
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  #3  
Old 06-21-2008, 12:36 PM
Bloggin' Noggin Bloggin' Noggin is offline
 
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Default Re: Afterthought

I'm thrilled to see we've got a philosopher of science at last -- now if only I could get the diavlog to actually start running!!!
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  #4  
Old 06-21-2008, 12:48 PM
look look is offline
 
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Default Is that a smoking jacket you're wearing?

Well, please put it out.
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  #5  
Old 06-21-2008, 02:37 PM
bjkeefe bjkeefe is offline
 
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Default Random Afterthoughts

Absolutely fantastic diavlog! I watched it straight through and then watched it straight through again.

Minor quibble 1: I admired the spirit of defending those who continue to work on, and believe in the potential of, string theory. It struck me as eminently sensible when David pointed out that sometimes, problems are hard, and should not be subjected to some arbitrary time limit to prove that they're worth working on. There is, however, the messiness of the real world, which among other things says that there is only so much money to go around, and that every dollar spent in pursuit of further string theory research is a dollar not given to some other line of inquiry. It also says that every bright young physics student who goes into that field because that's where the money and action are is a bright young student who is not working on another problem. I am not saying that we should completely stop spending money and time on string theory work; I just wish that Sean and David had acknowledged this.

Minor quibble 2: when David tried to argue about the entropy problem by giving the example of returning to his office and finding it cleaner (in a higher state of organization) then when he left it, he neglected to consider that this could easily be explained by realizing that additional energy had been added to the system (in the form of someone else coming into his office and doing work). But he did kind of pull this one back, which leads me to what might have been my favorite half-minute of the whole conversation.

I don't mean to disrespect our esteemed students of philosophy here in the forums, and I know that I am being a bit sophomoric here, but still, I can not resist reacting thus: Would that philosophers more often make this admission.

Conspiracy theory: the glitch in the middle was a ham-handed deletion of the part where Sean and David were really bashing John Horgan.
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  #6  
Old 06-21-2008, 02:40 PM
bjkeefe bjkeefe is offline
 
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Default Re: Is that a smoking jacket you're wearing?

... or are you just happy to have tenure?
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  #7  
Old 06-21-2008, 04:25 PM
bjkeefe bjkeefe is offline
 
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Default More Links

You can read more about What the #$*! Do We (K)now!? on Salon. David is quoted on page 2 of this article. There's a good post about the movie on Skeptico, too.
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  #8  
Old 06-21-2008, 05:37 PM
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Default Re: Is that a smoking jacket you're wearing?

Quote:
Originally Posted by bjkeefe View Post
... or are you just happy to have tenure?


(Dang the minimum message rule!)
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  #9  
Old 06-21-2008, 05:46 PM
AemJeff AemJeff is offline
 
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Default Re: Random Afterthoughts

Quote:
Originally Posted by bjkeefe View Post
Minor quibble 1: I admired the spirit of defending those who continue to work on, and believe in the potential of, string theory. It struck me as eminently sensible when David pointed out that sometimes, problems are hard, and should not be subjected to some arbitrary time limit to prove that they're worth working on. There is, however, the messiness of the real world, which among other things says that there is only so much money to go around, and that every dollar spent in pursuit of further string theory research is a dollar not given to some other line of inquiry. It also says that every bright young physics student who goes into that field because that's where the money and action are is a bright young student who is not working on another problem. I am not saying that we should completely stop spending money and time on string theory work; I just wish that Sean and David had acknowledged this.
I'm totally with you on how good this discussion was. I think I want to add a caveat to your caveat, here. I'm not sure on what other lines of inquiry (Loop Quantum Gravity?, is there much else?) the dollars being spent on string theory would be better spent. My takeaway here is that the complaints of unfalsifiability (neologisms ahoy!) are somewhat premature. That gravity can be predicted in certain configurations is a hard to overstate triumph of string theory. The embedded assumption for many critics seems to boil down to "it's to complex: too hard to solve, too many solutions.") I think there are several answers to that sort of complaint.

First, who's to say what the upper limit to the difficulty of fundamental questions is going to be? As we continue to increase our theoretical resolution (if you will) toward the Planck scale, it would seem that the difficulty is going to increase exponentially - that's pretty obviously true in terms of the energy cost of doing empirical work - but there's no reason to assume that the theoretical problems aren't going to get a lot harder before we reach the end of that road.

Also, what string theory seems to give us is a definition of a multivariant solution space. Since that space seems to contain on the order of 10^500 discrete solutions, the apparent complexity seems to be in part a consequence of missing data. If we can start to make some good guesses about the actual values of some of the defining parameters, then we can start reducing the difficulty of the problem. Nail down a few of those values and maybe the solution becomes computable in real time. Maybe.

I've managed to fold my particular thoughts into my response to one small point (and my objections aside, Brendan is making a good point) - what I'm trying to say is that string theory looks to me, from my limited perspective as an interested non-physicist, like the best extant theoretical avenue. I'm not sure I want to subject it to a direct comparison to other, less fruitful (as measured today) lines of inquiry. My broader concern is that as the problems become harder, that we have the necessary attention span to pursue the solutions in the face of that difficulty. Arbitrary limits based on prior experience may not serve the cause of science very well.
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  #10  
Old 06-21-2008, 06:35 PM
bjkeefe bjkeefe is offline
 
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Default Re: Random Afterthoughts

AemJeff:

Quote:
First, who's to say what the upper limit to the difficulty of fundamental questions is going to be? As we continue to increase our theoretical resolution (if you will) toward the Planck scale, it would seem that the difficulty is going to increase exponentially - that's pretty obviously true in terms of the energy cost of doing empirical work - but there's no reason to assume that the theoretical problems aren't going to get a lot harder before we reach the end of that road.
This is a worry I share. I was thinking during the diavlog of how many breakthroughs have been made in the past, in many branches of science but particularly theoretical physics, by individuals or small groups that needed very little funding to achieve real breakthroughs. I thought of Hawkings's line in A Brief History of Time, paraphrased: We have come so far in physics that we now have to spend a great deal of money to produce a result that we can't explain.

I am not against string theory research or, say, the LHC, but I do sometimes wonder just how far down the slope of diminishing gains we already are in in studying the very small. I'm not even talking about practical applications of the potential results; I'm just considering much more pure knowledge we're acquiring, and at what opportunity cost.
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  #11  
Old 06-21-2008, 06:38 PM
bjkeefe bjkeefe is offline
 
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Default Re: Is that a smoking jacket you're wearing?

Quote:
Originally Posted by look View Post
(Dang the minimum message rule!)
Yeah, don't you hate that?

I have used a new line consisting of multiple underscores in such situations, but there's something meta about what you used that I prefer.
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  #12  
Old 06-21-2008, 07:13 PM
jhorgan jhorgan is offline
 
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Default Re: Afterthought

Sean and David, I’m flattered that among all the string critics out there you single out a humble journalist like me for rebuttal. But you neglect to address the serious problems posed by strings, so I'm obliged to remind the BHTV audience once again. One problem, which dates back to the origin of string theory, concerns empirical accessibility. Gaining the kind of experimental confirmation of strings that we have for, say, quarks would require accessing the Planck realm, which is more than 20 orders of magnitude beyond the reach of any accelerator. Stringers once hoped that, in lieu of empirical evidence, they would show mathematically that there is one logically inevitable and unalterable (as Steve Weinberg has put it) version of string theory that precisely describes our world. But this hope has recently been dashed by the so-called Alice’s Restaurant problem. String theory now comes in so many versions that it “predicts” virtually anything! Including universes with no gravity at all (and I say this of course because of David’s comment that string theory “predicts” gravity). These problems, not the “20 year statute of limitations” that you guys harp on (and of course it’s actually been 30 years), explain why string theory is widely viewed as a glorious, fascinating failure, a spectacular example of what Imre Lakatos called a regressive research program. But hey, Freudians are still hanging on decades after losing scientific respectability, so why not stringers?
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  #13  
Old 06-21-2008, 07:25 PM
AemJeff AemJeff is offline
 
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Default Re: Random Afterthoughts

Quote:
Originally Posted by bjkeefe View Post
AemJeff:



This is a worry I share. I was thinking during the diavlog of how many breakthroughs have been made in the past, in many branches of science but particularly theoretical physics, by individuals or small groups that needed very little funding to achieve real breakthroughs. I thought of Hawkings's line in A Brief History of Time, paraphrased: We have come so far in physics that we now have to spend a great deal of money to produce a result that we can't explain.

I am not against string theory research or, say, the LHC, but I do sometimes wonder just how far down the slope of diminishing gains we already are in in studying the very small. I'm not even talking about practical applications of the potential results; I'm just considering much more pure knowledge we're acquiring, and at what opportunity cost.
Brendan, I don't really accept the premise that diminishing returns is a good model for the state of the art in theoretical physics. I think there's at least one more Newton/Einstein type of theoretical paradigmatic earthquake in store - the point of reconciliation between quantum mechanics and general relativity. If (I'm not optimistic) we can actually push knowledge out to the Planck scale we're talking about immeasurably greater knowledge, many orders of magnitude greater power over our environment than is even currently imaginable. Even if we never quite climb that mountain, achieving what Rudy Rucker calls "femtotechnology" (if nano is molecular scale, femto is atomic scale) would bestow enormous benefits, both in terms of pure knowledge and in sheer engineering wizardry. And even accelerator technology has already yielded huge engineering benefits in the form of modern medical imaging technology.

There's no question but that the cost of the pursuit of knowledge is going continue to increase rapidly. I think the benefits are likely to scale, as well. But, I am an SF fanboy and that might imply something about my judgment in this arena.
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Last edited by AemJeff; 06-21-2008 at 07:25 PM.. Reason: missing comma
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  #14  
Old 06-21-2008, 07:42 PM
bjkeefe bjkeefe is offline
 
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Default Re: Random Afterthoughts

AemJeff:

In many ways, I share your feelings. Certainly, I was hugely annoyed when the SSC was canceled, and I agree that further pursuit down any road almost inevitably yields unexpected spinoffs and benefits.

One quibble: When you say that you expect "at least one more Newton/Einstein type of theoretical paradigmatic earthquake," I can't help but point out that both of these were completely new things. Einstein's first relativity paper, IIRC, had zero footnotes, and even had they been used back in the 17th centure, I doubt the Principia would have any, either. While I think the effort to unify GR and quantum theory is certainly a laudable goal, it seems to me more of an incremental step. Maybe "incremental" is a little unfair, but there still remains a difference -- lots of people can envision the goal and have ideas about how to get there. The complete paradigmatic upsets produced by Newton and Einstein seem to me to be at a whole other level. They're the sort of thing that we intuitively expect sometime, but we can't at all predict when they will happen, or even in what direction they lie.
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  #15  
Old 06-21-2008, 08:25 PM
StillmanThomas StillmanThomas is offline
 
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Default If it's not disturbing, you're not doing it right

Sean's comment (my post title) begins an interesting short discussion here. It's this way of thinking that alienates me from science today, since it presupposes the kinds of "knowledge" that will be discovered. This, to me, is scientism, which Wikipedia (from the Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy) defines as (among other things), "the belief that the methods of natural science, or the categories and things recognized in natural science, form the only proper elements in any philosophical or other inquiry."

David's assertion that "it's a sad business" to try to assimilate what we're learning with what we think we already knew is itself a sad business in my opinion. I'll quote again from one of my favorite e.e. cummings poems (I cited this in another comment a few months ago):

who cares if some one-eyed son of a bitch
invents an instrument to measure spring with

The analytical way of thinking kills something in the experience of reality. Science, for all its incredible insights and inventions, does not answer deep fundamental questions about life for many millions or billions of people. Materialists often assert that those questions have no validity, that people who ask those questions are wasting their time. Science can tell me an enormous number of things about what is happening here. To my mind, it cannot tell us "why," and it never will be able to.
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Last edited by StillmanThomas; 06-21-2008 at 08:46 PM.. Reason: Fixed citation
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  #16  
Old 06-21-2008, 08:55 PM
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Default Re: Afterthought

I like how David Albert explores the studio space.
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  #17  
Old 06-21-2008, 10:16 PM
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Default Re: Random Afterthoughts

Quote:
Originally Posted by bjkeefe View Post
Minor quibble 2: when David tried to argue about the entropy problem by giving the example of returning to his office and finding it cleaner (in a higher state of organization) then when he left it, he neglected to consider that this could easily be explained by realizing that additional energy had been added to the system (in the form of someone else coming into his office and doing work). But he did kind of pull this one back, which leads me to what might have been my favorite half-minute of the whole conversation.
I think he realized that, so I wonder where he was going with that illustration, in trying to say why a picture would not necessarily demonstrate that time only goes forward...?
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  #18  
Old 06-21-2008, 10:28 PM
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Default Re: If it's not disturbing, you're not doing it right

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bokonon View Post

who cares if some one-eyed son of a bitch
invents an instrument to measure spring with

The analytical way of thinking kills something in the experience of reality. Science, for all its incredible insights and inventions, does not answer deep fundamental questions about life for many millions or billions of people. Materialists often assert that those questions have no validity, that people who ask those questions are wasting their time. Science can tell me an enormous number of things about what is happening here. To my mind, it cannot tell us "why," and it never will be able to.
I was thinking a bit along those lines, except I think that it's cool that everyone can find something that fascinates them and then enjoy exploring it. I'm sure both diavloggers spend a lot of time in awe of the universe, too!

Here's one of my favorite cummings poems:

anyone lived in a pretty how town
by: e.e. cummings


anyone lived in a pretty how town
(with up so floating many bells down)
spring summer autumn winter
he sang his didn't he danced his did

Women and men(both little and small)
cared for anyone not at all
they sowed their isn't they reaped their same
sun moon stars rain

children guessed(but only a few
and down they forgot as up they grew
autumn winter spring summer)
that noone loved him more by more

when by now and tree by leaf
she laughed his joy she cried his grief
bird by snow and stir by still
anyone's any was all to her

someones married their everyones
laughed their cryings and did their dance
(sleep wake hope and then)they
said their nevers they slept their dream

stars rain sun moon
(and only the snow can begin to explain
how children are apt to forget to remember
with up so floating many bells down)

one day anyone died i guess
(and noone stooped to kiss his face)
busy folk buried them side by side
little by little and was by was

all by all and deep by deep
and more by more they dream their sleep
noone and anyone earth by april
wish by spirit and if by yes.

Women and men(both dong and ding)
summer autumn winter spring
reaped their sowing and went their came
sun moon stars rain
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  #19  
Old 06-21-2008, 10:31 PM
AemJeff AemJeff is offline
 
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Default Re: If it's not disturbing, you're not doing it right

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bokonon View Post
Sean's comment (my post title) begins an interesting short discussion here. It's this way of thinking that alienates me from science today, since it presupposes the kinds of "knowledge" that will be discovered. This, to me, is scientism, which Wikipedia (from the Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy) defines as (among other things), "the belief that the methods of natural science, or the categories and things recognized in natural science, form the only proper elements in any philosophical or other inquiry."

David's assertion that "it's a sad business" to try to assimilate what we're learning with what we think we already knew is itself a sad business in my opinion. I'll quote again from one of my favorite e.e. cummings poems (I cited this in another comment a few months ago):

who cares if some one-eyed son of a bitch
invents an instrument to measure spring with

The analytical way of thinking kills something in the experience of reality. Science, for all its incredible insights and inventions, does not answer deep fundamental questions about life for many millions or billions of people. Materialists often assert that those questions have no validity, that people who ask those questions are wasting their time. Science can tell me an enormous number of things about what is happening here. To my mind, it cannot tell us "why," and it never will be able to.
I'm not quite sure what alternative you're proposing. I love cummings. I'm betting you could find a great number of working scientists who would agree with the sentiment expressed in the lines you quoted. The thing is that even a botanist, often especially a botanist, can see a flower as an exquisitely beautiful thing even while considering its purpose and structure. There's no incompatibility, I'd say the opposite, between a romantic understanding and an analytic understanding of something. "Scientism" to the extent that the term has a function, seems to be as an epithet used by those who don't like some scientific idea or other. Science has its limits - this particular diavlog had as its topic the idea of how to understand those limits; but as a direct means of understanding the world it has no peer. Philosophy provides the tools (science itself, after all, is just an application of empiricism), and romanticism provides the underlying motive (I'd argue that commerce is a distant second in that regard, and best for us that it's so), but science is the tool by which we explicitly increase our understanding of the world. Did I forget to mention religion? Show me a religiously based civilization with one tenth of one-percent of the success of Western Civ since Galileo.

I agree with Dennet: (from your Wikipedia citation)
Quote:
"when someone puts forward a scientific theory that [religious critics] really don't like, they just try to discredit it as 'scientism'".
I don't see much there, there, in the term.
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  #20  
Old 06-21-2008, 10:58 PM
Eastwest Eastwest is offline
 
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Default Afterthought: We're Being Strung Along by Strings...

Quote:
Originally Posted by jhorgan View Post
....I'm obliged to remind the BHTV audience once again. One problem, which dates back to the origin of string theory, concerns empirical accessibility. .... String theory now comes in so many versions that it “predicts” virtually anything! ....
David (also known as "Professor And-So-Forth-And-So-On" [100 times!?]) describes this so nicely himself (with a beautifully sputtering preamble) here. (This ain't quite "dingalink-of-the-week," but still, it does a fair job of pointing out a big problem.)

"Everything Always Happens." Wow. Sounds like politics!

Quote:
But hey, Freudians are still hanging on decades after losing scientific respectability, so why not stringers?
Amen.

EW

Last edited by Eastwest; 06-21-2008 at 11:00 PM..
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  #21  
Old 06-22-2008, 12:04 AM
bjkeefe bjkeefe is offline
 
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Default Re: If it's not disturbing, you're not doing it right

Bokonon:

Quote:
To my mind, it [science] cannot tell us "why," and it never will be able to.
This is not a very meaningful accusation, because, as has been pointed out by many, science first began to make real progress when it stopped asking "Why?" and started asking "How?"

Just because science can't answer every conceivable question is no reason to be down on it. The scientific method of inquiry is far and away the most fruitful approach we've ever come up with. There's no shame in it not being a complete panacea, and at the same time, there's no reason not to see just how far it can go. So, to accuse someone of "scientism" because his or her first approach is to ask Can this question be approached scientifically? seems like needless carping. Maybe it'll work, maybe it won't. But we won't know if we don't try, and it's hard to see how it hurts to try.
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Old 06-22-2008, 12:42 AM
StillmanThomas StillmanThomas is offline
 
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Default Re: If it's not disturbing, you're not doing it right

Quote:
Originally Posted by look View Post
children guessed(but only a few
and down they forgot as up they grew
Another of my favorite cummings poems. Thanks for quoting it.
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Old 06-22-2008, 01:05 AM
StillmanThomas StillmanThomas is offline
 
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Default Re: If it's not disturbing, you're not doing it right

Quote:
Originally Posted by AemJeff View Post
"Scientism" to the extent that the term has a function, seems to be as an epithet used by those who don't like some scientific idea or other.
You aren't responding to what I wrote; you're commenting on how others have used a term I used. I haven't criticized a single scientific idea explored by the diavloggers.
Quote:
Originally Posted by AemJeff View Post
as a direct means of understanding the world it [science] has no peer.
I agree that science has no peer in understanding how the world works. Nor did my post suggest otherwise.
Quote:
Originally Posted by AemJeff View Post
Show me a religiously based civilization with one tenth of one-percent of the success of Western Civ since Galileo.
Of course, that depends on what you define as success. If you mean the manipulation of physical reality (engineering), I certainly can't disagree. If you mean the ability to create weapons that terrify us, pose existential threats to the survival of the species, we're certainly "successful" there. If you mean the ability to poison our environment to the point where we threaten the survival of the species, again, I'm not arguing. Some of us, however, don't really believe that Western Civilization (if it can be called that at all) is terribly successful in a spiritual sense. I'm not talking about religion here, which I generally find off-putting.
Quote:
Originally Posted by AemJeff View Post
I agree with Dennet: "when someone puts forward a scientific theory that [religious critics] really don't like, they just try to discredit it as 'scientism'".
Well, we've come full circle, haven't we? I have no quarrel with any of the scientific theories our quests discussed. I find string theory (about which, I confess, I don't know much) fascinating. I love the idea of the multiverse, and am pretty convinced we'll eventually prove that to be the case. I won't be stunned if some of what we now believe to be distant galaxies turn out to be other "universes," that is, artifacts of other "big bangs." I also believe that "reality" has many unseen dimensions.

That being said, Dennet's comment is not really intellectually honest, and neither is your using it to refute what you apparently think I said. What I specifically disagreed with in the diavlog was David's assertion that science represents a completely different epistemic search for knowledge, and that attempts to harmonize it with what we previously thought we knew was a "sad business." Zen, for example, is an extremely empirical method of exploring how human consciousness works. It yields knowledge about the "internal universe" that isn't today and probably never will be accessible to science. But that's only one small example.

I liken Dennet's comment to this hypothetical: "Oh, I saw Young Frankenstein, and I could never take science seriously after that." Religious fundamentalists are probably the worst possible exemplars of other ways of knowing. I would put them right down there with scientific fundamentalists.
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Last edited by StillmanThomas; 06-22-2008 at 01:40 AM.. Reason: Fix typos
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  #24  
Old 06-22-2008, 01:18 AM
StillmanThomas StillmanThomas is offline
 
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Default Re: If it's not disturbing, you're not doing it right

Quote:
Originally Posted by bjkeefe View Post
Just because science can't answer every conceivable question is no reason to be down on it.
BJ:

Nowhere in my post did I criticize science, per se. What I criticized is the idea that science is the only way of acquiring knowledge. I'm not "down on science;" I find it fascinating. I find all of the theories these diavloggers discussed interesting.

The problem, as I see it, is hubris; the overweaning pride exhibited by many scientists that theirs is the only valid way to acquire knowledge, and that only information thus obtained is truly knowledge. I think that's what David demonstrated in the snippet I included in my original post.

Quote:
Originally Posted by bjkeefe View Post
as has been pointed out by many, science first began to make real progress when it stopped asking "Why?" and started asking "How?"
This is precisely my point. Science can't answer the question "why." Nevertheless, it is a breathtakingly important question. Therefore, we need other ways of knowing. Religious fundamentalism is a terrible one, in my opinion. But to dismiss the entire spiritual quest because it is not scientific, or because fundamentalists exist, is arrogant beyond belief.
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  #25  
Old 06-22-2008, 01:33 AM
chrisn chrisn is offline
 
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Default As to Aemjeff:

Science can not answer the when, why, what questions without referring to either metaphysics or religion. To ask such questions of science is probably to demand too much of it, and to misunderstand what it can and can't do (which happens all the time to scientists and non-scientists).

Of course deep metaphysical assertions fly thick and fast in science, but it provides a certain type of knowledge that neither metaphysics nor religion seem able to provide.
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  #26  
Old 06-22-2008, 01:46 AM
bjkeefe bjkeefe is offline
 
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Default Re: If it's not disturbing, you're not doing it right

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Originally Posted by Bokonon View Post
What I criticized is the idea that science is the only way of acquiring knowledge. [...]

The problem, as I see it, is hubris; the overweaning pride exhibited by many scientists that theirs is the only valid way to acquire knowledge, and that only information thus obtained is truly knowledge. [...]

This is precisely my point. Science can't answer the question "why." Nevertheless, it is a breathtakingly important question. Therefore, we need other ways of knowing. [...]
All of this moves me to ask:

o What other ways have you found that allow you to acquire knowledge?

o How do you evaluate the worth of the knowledge acquired in these other ways?

o Can you give some examples of "why?" questions that you have found answers to that show the power/effectiveness of these other forms of knowledge?

I'm not looking to diss your religious beliefs or anything. I'm just curious about what non-scientific ways of seeking knowledge have worked for you.
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  #27  
Old 06-22-2008, 03:11 AM
StillmanThomas StillmanThomas is offline
 
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Default Re: If it's not disturbing, you're not doing it right

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Originally Posted by bjkeefe View Post
I'm not looking to diss your religious beliefs or anything. I'm just curious about what non-scientific ways of seeking knowledge have worked for you.
Brendan,

This really isn't an environment where I'd feel free to talk about that stuff. Frankly, most of the time when I post comments regarding the Science Saturday diavlogs I'm just astonished at the responses I get. Time and again, people criticize points I've never made, assume things about me and my beliefs that have no basis in reality, or generally go off on some tangent that has nothing to do with my original comment. See my responses to the comments I've received on this post for example.

I'm sure that some of the disconnect is because I'm not clear enough in what I've written. I'm doing these comments in order to learn how to express myself more clearly. I was a tech writer for years, but writing about my personal beliefs is very hard for me. Still, it seems to me that people here (not the other diavlogs, interestingly) just don't read carefully. If you mention the word spiritual, people immediately assume you're some kind of fundamentalist whacko. I suppose it's because most people here have such an impoverished experience of spirituality. Sad, but unfortunately, not too surprising to me.

Anyway, thanks as always for your feedback, Brendan. I always appreciate your thoughts.
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  #28  
Old 06-22-2008, 03:23 AM
StillmanThomas StillmanThomas is offline
 
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Default I will say this, however

For me, Stevie Ray Vaughan is true, universally. So is Satchmo (Louis Armstrong), and Django Reinhardt / Stephane Grappelli, in their pre-war period. Grappelli maybe throughout his life. Kafka is true, as far as he want. e.e. cummings is true. Kurt Vonnegut, also, as you might be able to tell from my (badly chosen, perhaps) handle. Joseph Heller. Zen, in practice, and some forms of yoga and the Vedanta, as long as you're talking about practice and not worship / religion. Finally, for me A Course in Miracles (the Urtext) is true.

This is not exhaustive, and doesn't really answer your questions. I felt like I had to do better than my non-answer above, however.
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  #29  
Old 06-22-2008, 04:17 AM
bjkeefe bjkeefe is offline
 
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Default Re: I will say this, however

Bokonon:

I understand your reluctance to talk in detail about these matters (although I do wonder: What part of posting under a pseudonym don't you understand? ;^) ).

I don't know about truth in music (and I certainly have no interest in trying to define what that might mean), but I would agree to this extent: there's definitely something there. Maybe the fundamental truth was expressed by the Duke: "If it sounds good, it is good."

I'd also say that there can be lots of truth in good fiction.

Religion/spirituality/Zen, as you might have guessed, I'm a little more dubious about. On the other hand, there is truth in the statement, "Whatever works for you." So, whether it provides peace of mind or helps one to get along better with neighbors or whatever, I guess I could go that far.

I do believe that at least some of any of the above is amenable to scientific inquiry, though. Some is already in existence. For example, neural scanning to see how the brain responds to pleasurable music or when in a spiritual state is beginning to some results. For another, we've long had automated ways to generate music that appeals to large groups of people. For another, statistical systems like Amazon's and Netflix's "you might also like" systems are getting pretty accurate.

I grant that those examples miss the point, somehow, at least so far. "Soul" in music still means something ineffable to me, or at least I'm content to think they do to the point where I have no interest in having my taste in music so well-defined that new songs can be generated for me automatically.
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  #30  
Old 06-22-2008, 05:49 AM
AemJeff AemJeff is offline
 
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Default Re: If it's not disturbing, you're not doing it right

My post wasn't a refutation of yours, it was a comment regarding the word itself ("scientism") about which I do have deep problems, and an attempt to get you to clarify what you meant - it's my fault I wasn't clearer about that.

Quote:
Of course, that depends on what you define as success. If you mean the manipulation of physical reality (engineering), I certainly can't disagree. If you mean the ability to create weapons that terrify us, pose existential threats to the survival of the species, we're certainly "successful" there. If you mean the ability to poison our environment to the point where we threaten the survival of the species, again, I'm not arguing. Some of us, however, don't really believe that Western Civilization (if it can be called that at all) is terribly successful in a spiritual sense. I'm not talking about religion here, which I generally find off-putting.
Here, I'm not with you at all. Western Civ has its faults, and certainly doesn't address every sprirual need of its citizens. The "existential threats" are a consequence of its spectacular success in unraveling the deep mysteries of the world. If we can't learn to address these and other issues that flow directly from our unprecedented power over our environment we're in deep trouble, but I don't take the fact that we have these problems as a de facto indcator of spiritual malaise. Rather, I'd say that with power comes responsibility, and we'd damned well better learn to appreciate our current role, and come to terms with it.

If you measure the quality of individual lives, that's the measure of success I have in mind. Despite the continued existence of deep misery, the average life of a citizen of this civilization is measurable better than that of any prior civilization: in terms of opportunity, leisure, health, access to education, ability to travel and communicate, any metric you care to name. The very idea of "human rights" is an invention of this civilization. And at this point it's global - the benefits aren't evenly distributed, but the effect is available to some degree to almost everybody; the citizens of truly benighted shitholes like North Korea notwithstanding. That's not an argument that there's no room for improvement, or that there's no injustice. However, there's a great deal less injustice than at any prior point in history, and way more wealth to spread around.

In what sense does any of this imply a poorer spiritual health, on the average, than what was available at any time prior to this? I think that argument moves the goalposts, makes a comparison to something that has never existed.
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Last edited by AemJeff; 06-22-2008 at 05:53 AM..
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  #31  
Old 06-22-2008, 11:07 AM
Whatfur
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Default A self-aggrandizing fraud???

I have always thought so, but it is nice to hear others who share the same sentiments...

Thank you Mr. Albert!

If this makes it in the dingilink frame of fame can it be called:

Gore in a NUTshell?

Last edited by Whatfur; 06-22-2008 at 11:13 AM..
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  #32  
Old 06-22-2008, 12:03 PM
piscivorous piscivorous is offline
 
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Default Re: A self-aggrandizing fraud???

Come on the models are more important than the actual (Warming On 11 Year Hiatus) data! You should know that by now.
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  #33  
Old 06-22-2008, 07:02 PM
bjkeefe bjkeefe is offline
 
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Default Re: If it's not disturbing, you're not doing it right

Quote:
Originally Posted by AemJeff View Post
[...]
Good answer, AemJeff.
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  #34  
Old 06-22-2008, 07:08 PM
bjkeefe bjkeefe is offline
 
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Default Re: A self-aggrandizing fraud???

Quote:
Originally Posted by Whatfur View Post
[...]Thank you Mr. Albert!

If this makes it in the dingilink frame of fame can it be called:

Gore in a NUTshell?
You and Pisc do realize that they weren't talking about An Inconvenient Truth there, I hope.
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  #35  
Old 06-22-2008, 07:52 PM
Whatfur
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Default Re: A self-aggrandizing fraud???

Quote:
Originally Posted by bjkeefe View Post
You and Pisc do realize that they weren't talking about An Inconvenient Truth there, I hope.
Keep hope alive...maybe they will change the 2000 election decision too.

An expanded version...
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  #36  
Old 06-22-2008, 08:16 PM
handle handle is offline
 
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Default Re: A self-aggrandizing fraud???

Quote:
Originally Posted by Whatfur View Post
I have always thought so, but it is nice to hear others who share the same sentiments...

Thank you Mr. Albert!

If this makes it in the dingilink frame of fame can it be called:

Gore in a NUTshell?
You really should try to clarify this post.
In spite of the vagueness of it, it appears to me as if you have taken the vlogger out of context, WHILE he is complaining about being taken out of context, in a movie that had nothing do do with Gore, but then you recommend it be falsely named, so as to be erroneously taken as a criticism of the Gore movie?
Now I think I finally understand your aversion to empiricism. It's hard to like what you don't understand.

Maybe I can help, just stick to the point that god made us, we made cars, cars run on gas, so if you hate gas, you hate god, and you will be sent to Gitmo!! (along with AL Gore)

Last edited by handle; 06-22-2008 at 09:58 PM.. Reason: disjointed! OMG!
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  #37  
Old 06-22-2008, 08:36 PM
handle handle is offline
 
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Default Re: A self-aggrandizing fraud???

Quote:
Originally Posted by Whatfur View Post
Keep hope alive...maybe they will change the 2000 election decision too.

An expanded version...
The supreme court, or the science community? Or MLK? Maybe you should avoid the science thing and stick to delusional politics.

You might want to slow down a bit, you sound a little more unbalanced than usual. By the time you wingnuts lose the election, you will be certifiable.

Wait! I get it! insanity defense! Brilliant! You must be up to your red white and baby blues in some dodgy ass shit.
I won't mock your desperation anymore (much), but I WILL leave you with three words: swiss bank account

Last edited by handle; 06-22-2008 at 09:38 PM.. Reason: [par]
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  #38  
Old 06-22-2008, 09:22 PM
handle handle is offline
 
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Default Re: A self-aggrandizing fraud???

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Originally Posted by bjkeefe View Post
You and Pisc do realize that they weren't talking about An Inconvenient Truth there, I hope.
I don't think so, and I don't think they will 'cause when Sean includes the Gore movie as an example of getting it right, and David says it's a good example, and then resumes talking about his involvement in "What the bleep.." the wingnuts will do what he is talking about, hear what they want. It would be nice if the vloggers themselves could clarify...
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  #39  
Old 06-22-2008, 09:42 PM
bjkeefe bjkeefe is offline
 
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Default Re: A self-aggrandizing fraud???

Quote:
Originally Posted by handle View Post
[...] It would be nice if the vloggers themselves could clarify...
It is obvious from context what they're talking about. I suspect even if Sean or David checked in that Whatfur's response would still be some sort of willful denial.
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  #40  
Old 06-22-2008, 09:43 PM
look look is offline
 
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Default Re: A self-aggrandizing fraud???

Quote:
Originally Posted by Whatfur View Post
Keep hope alive...maybe they will change the 2000 election decision too.

An expanded version...
Although it's unclear unless you listen all the way through, you'll hear beginning at about 2:45, that he's been talking about the 'bleep' movie, and then returns to the Gore movie as an example of a good format.

http://bloggingheads.tv/diavlogs/121...1:43&out=24:54
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