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phoenix goodman

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Does the scientific establishment unwittingly suffer from paradigm bias? Does it assume incorrect axioms of existence?

In the light of Thomas Kuhn's "Paradigm Shift" theory, and inspired by the TED controversy of removing Rupert Sheldrake's talk, let us examine the current scientific establishment.

The scientific process is capable of historical meta-analysis to make sense of its own patterns and processes. As Kuhn points out, every generation of scientists tend to assume premises that are fundamentally false but define the paradigm in which they work, and all assumptions flow from those premises.

Two major examples to illustrate are the geocentric/religious paradigm overthrown by Copernicus, and the Newtonian absolute space-time paradigm overthrown by Einstein. Of course, we must look to the actual psyche's of the establishment itself in those contexts. Was Copernicus not considered a heretic? Did not pre-Einsteinian physicists literally just ASSUME absolute spacetime as an axiom when contemplating physics? They are only easily shown to be incorrect in 20/20 hindsight, although up to that point, all the textbooks of school and general consensus among very smart 'experts' propagated those fallacious foundations.

Scientists that are overly specialized, careerist, non-philosophical, and lacking in paradigm shattering intuition/creativity might be the 'gatekeepers' of today, propagating fallacious assumptions themselves, and dismissing all non-establishment positions as heretical.

Has science itself transcended all biases? Has it overcome all incorrect assumptions? Was Newtonian absolute spacetime the final barrier? If not, then we MUST give 'heretics' a shot, should we not? What if they are a paradigm shifter?

As a thought experiment- if we are to contemplate the hypothetical that there are indeed wrong assumptions, what might they be?

Could it be that matter emerges from mind, and not the other way around?
Can Cartesian dualism be solved?
Could it be that the paradigm of Empiricism is merely a subset of the superior Rationalism?

Was Leibniz right?

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  • Mar 25 2013: It's like you're trying to wedge some kind of domino effect where there isn't one.

    For example: All of evolution isn't going to crumble just because we don't know the piece between rocks and living tissue.

    Another example: Math didn't wait for someone to discover how to use "0". They could still add, subtract, multiply and divide long before adding knowledge of "0" into the rules of math.

    Also, all of physics and chemistry aren't anxiously waiting around until we know everything there is to know about God particles. They're not taking a break from new discoveries and new applications. They're going on at 100% speed, just like they always did.

    Also, philosophy, no matter how much you would like it to, isn't a science. It's not testable at all, and there is no way to apply anything philosophy offers to any part of science or technology. In fact, I could probably argue for the opposite: Science has changed our view and understanding of philosophy.

    Until science came along with verifiable, testable, and repeatable data, philosophy was often the only way for us to explain things. Witness the fact that we didn't know where starlight came from until the late 1800's, for example. The hypothesis about starlight varied from religious to metaphysical, with a huge sprinkle of BS intertwined as well. A purely philosophical view would dance around the issue and ultimately conclude "we don't know what we don't know" or "we know what we don't know" depending on what school of philosophy one belonged to.

    Again, I ask: How is philosophy relevant in science? I don't see the connection, even after thinking about it for a couple of days now. Enlighten me - name a couple of examples?!
    • Mar 26 2013: @Harro Penk:

      This should help you - Quoting James Burns below: " .. science, like any other endevour, suffers from existing in it's own time, and will eventually be corrected in some ways by the next shift in thinking. We never know enough to judge the age we are living in"

      And from myself:

      At core the "scientific method" is based on a philosophical perspective / belief system, which cannot be proven to anyone that did not "choose" to share that perspective / belief system.

      Also, the "scientific method" is performed by people .. people are not perfect .. they bring their own "biases / belief systems / philosophies / fears" to the table .. and so every result is seen through that filter each person has and potentially affected / judged with that bias.

      That's two examples for you.

      If you need any more Enlightening examples then I might suggest you go do the leg work and find out for yourself.
      • Mar 26 2013: Sorry I need to add another reply here John, but look:

        Your examples aren't examples?!

        Instead of stating examples of how philosophy could possibly bridge the gaps, you showed examples of how gaps could exist in science. Although, I do need to correct you on your view of science a little.

        Science isn't:
        Someone writing up some paper, it gets published, and the world moves on.

        Science is:
        Someone writes a paper, it gets peer reviewed, published, debated, etc. Other studies that try to replicate the data or somehow/otherwise attempt to find the same data points or conclusions are created, written, peer reviewed, published, and debated.

        I think you have a "simplistic" view of science (I'm not trying to make fun of you, please). The scientific method isn't just about "hanging out in labs" and "wearing white coats". The core of the scientific method isn't the scientist. It's the peer review that takes place. Guess why that's done?

        To reduce error and bias. Every scientist has bias, and every measurement has error. That's a known thing. By having independent research verify data and conclusions, science tries to reduce or eliminate both.

        You don't have that in philosophy. You don't have anyone going around attempting to reduce bias and error. Heck, it's just like religion in that respect. Whatever statements are made, they stand on their own with - you pick your personal flavor of the month - whatever philosophy suits your argument.

        Being rich = good (capitalism)
        Being no richer than anyone else = good (communism)
        Being mostly equal = good (socialism)
        Being mostly poor = good (republican)

        Sorry, couldn't help myself on the last one.

        I hope this sheds some light one my assertions, John. As I said before, I was hoping for an example or two where your idea of philosophy had something to add to the conversation, but ... perhaps you mistook my request?
        • Mar 26 2013: Well you did ask:

          "How is philosophy relevant in science? I don't see the connection, even after thinking about it for a couple of days now. Enlighten me - name a couple of examples?!"

          And I took your question literally since I was trying not to add any bias (of course not entirely possible) and I gave what I believe to be relevant examples.

          I showed you that there were connections between science and philosophy.

          1. Science can be considered a philosophical belief system
          2. Science is performed by people who hold a myriad of other philosophical belief systems that clash.

          So, it should be pretty obvious to that philosophy is relevant.

          Now, you are saying you want a different type of connection well ... hehe .. sorry I'm fresh out of rabbits for the moment.

          Your description of the scientific method is reasonable, in a perfect world, where every scientist could put their ego aside but we don't have such a world and instead the method is corrupted and people being people and money being scarce old biased results are relied upon rather than re-investigated with fresh eyes.

          On here recently, you had a classic case in point, where an anonymous bunch of nobodies got to censor a couple of talks for what has so far seemed to be political/personal reasons.

          I say nobodies since we the viewers don't know their credentials and even if we did I'd still want to be able to make up my own mind.

          This then sparked a massive debate (fortunately) but I have friends who trusted (past tense) TED's reputation so much so that they initially automatically assumed that TEDs censorship decision was OK and perfectly acceptable for them even though they had not taken the time to look at the talks themselves.

          I think I'd be more interested to discover why you are choosing to find it impossible to see a connection/relevance.

          The existence of a relevance should not be so troubling to you.
        • Mar 26 2013: john your points:

          1. Science can be considered a philosophical belief system
          2. Science is performed by people who hold a myriad of other philosophical belief systems that clash.

          are both just plain incorrect. science can be considered the exact antithesis of philosophy, and scientists do not hold even 1 philosophical belief, much less a myriad of them.
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      Mar 27 2013: Re: "Again, I ask: How is philosophy relevant in science? I don't see the connection, even after thinking about it for a couple of days now. Enlighten me - name a couple of examples?!"

      I like Sean Carroll's quote from the article I quoted above:
      " the point of philosophy is not to be “useful” to science, any more than the point of mycology is to be “useful” to fungi. Philosophers of science aren’t trying to do science, they are trying to understand how science works, and how it should work, and to tease out the logic and standards underlying scientific argumentation, and to situate scientific knowledge within a broader epistemological context, and a bunch of other things that can be perfectly interesting without pretending to be science itself. And if you’re not interested, that’s fine. But trying to undermine the legitimacy of the field through a series of wisecracks is kind of lame, and ultimately anti-intellectual — it represents exactly the kind of unwillingness to engage respectfully with careful scholarship in another discipline that we so rightly deplore when people feel that way about science. It’s a shame when smart people who agree about most important things can’t disagree about some other things without throwing around insults. We should strive to be better than that."
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      Mar 27 2013: @ben jarvis Re: "john your points:
      1. Science can be considered a philosophical belief system
      2. Science is performed by people who hold a myriad of other philosophical belief systems that clash.

      are both just plain incorrect. science can be considered the exact antithesis of philosophy, and scientists do not hold even 1 philosophical belief, much less a myriad of them. "

      Are you speaking for all scientists?

      Do you believe that scientific theories must be, in principle, falsifiable by an experiment? If you hold such belief, I have a surprise for you: it is a philosophical belief formulated by philosopher of science Karl Popper. If you don't hold this belief, then you should agree that creationism is a scientific theory and the existence of a transcendent Creator is a scientific question.

      Do you believe that natural laws are uniform and work in the same way across the universe, worked the same way in the past and will work the same way in the future? Another surprise. It's a philosophical belief too. If you don't believe this, you cannot deny that the world was not created in 6 days.

      You might be also surprised that scientists not only have philosophical beliefs, but some were religious too. Big bang theory was created by a catholic priest, Geroges Lemaitre, genetics was founded by a monk, Gregor Mendel, Newton believed in God. The notion that science is incompatible with religion or philosophy or that scientists don' t hold philosophical or religious beliefs does not make any sense to me.

      Without philosophical beliefs, there is no solid understanding of what can be proved by scientific method and what cannot. It leads to enormous confusion - people attempt to prove all kinds of stuff and present all kinds of claims as "scientific".
      • Mar 27 2013: Arkady (a bit informal, but I think after a couple of back-and-forths we should grant each other such liberties?),

        Fundamentally, you are obfuscating science with all that bias that Mr. Goodman was talking about. In the same breadth, you are then making religious martyrs out of scientists, and turning philosophers into "fathers of science".

        I can assure you that the following were not discovered by Popper:
        Experimental method, critical thinking, mathematics, peer review, etc. Basically anything that had anything to do with science at all.

        At best, Popper, being a philosopher, gave a name to some processes that were already in place, or perhaps came up with a way to think about them.

        I still maintain one of my original assertions: Philosophy doesn't create anything. At best I may be able to add the following caveat: It creates a few terms and definitions for philosophy students to fret over.

        While your mention of several religious scholars is admirable (you've done your homework), it doesn't really point to a philosophical gap at all. If anything, if you want to be honest, you should look at the work they did and how they accomplished it. None of them just pointed to some philosophy or some religous dogma and said: "That's how it is 'cause it says so right here." No. They all did real science work - with all the sweat and tears and blood required, all the peer review, all the debates and tests and retests that must be done to pass the gauntlet of skepticism.

        I'm sorry Arkady, I still don't see the relevance that philosophy would play in science, as you seem to. Science is. It just is. Not because there's some dogma behind it, but precisely because there isn't. You see a rock - it's a rock. It has a certain composition, a certain mass. It's located here and not there, and it can be felt, touched, smelled, seen, etc. That's it.

        If anything, I could grant you this: Perhaps the philosophy of science is not to have a philosophy? Big circle, no?
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          Mar 27 2013: Arkady is my name. That's what I prefer to be called. "Mr. Grudzinsky" is how teachers call me when my kids are in trouble at school.

          Re: "I'm sorry Arkady, I still don't see the relevance that philosophy would play in science, as you seem to. Science is. It just is. Not because there's some dogma behind it, but precisely because there isn't. You see a rock - it's a rock. It has a certain composition, a certain mass. It's located here and not there, and it can be felt, touched, smelled, seen, etc. That's it."

          That's a philosophical statement. Won't you agree? And a circular one too: "a rock is a rock". It's not meaningful. Meaning is exclusion. To create meaning is to define what an object in contrast to what it is not. When mycology is studying fungi, it's important to define what constitutes fungi and how fungi are different from other types of organisms. When philosophy is studying science, it's important to understand what science is and how to distinguish scientific claims from non-scientific claims.

          But you are right. Definitions of science don't change what science is any more than definitions of light change the nature of light. They just add to our understanding. This spares scientists a lot of effort excluding a multitude of claims from the domain of science. If you read the article about evolution that I referred to, you might see the same thought there.

          Of course, Lemaitre and Mendel made their discoveries as scientists, not as clergymen. My comment was in context of Ben's remark that scientists don't hold philosophical beliefs. Misunderstanding the context is often the source of flamed discussions.

          Re: "If anything, I could grant you this: Perhaps the philosophy of science is not to have a philosophy? Big circle, no?"

          I can grant you this also. I have said long ago that circular reasoning is at the bottom of any reasoning. Once we realize the circularity, it's time to stop - we reached the bottom of it :-)

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