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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 22 2013: "Does the scientific establishment unwittingly suffer from paradigm bias? Does it assume incorrect axioms of existence?"

    I believe that this is your original question? I don't know what at least half of the statements made by others here are all about. I do know what they are not about: Science.

    You state a very basic, unsophisticated question regarding paradigm bias, but you also don't seem to understand what the basis for a paradigm are, or at least you don't seem to delve into anything resembling a definition or an objective statement regarding your understanding of the matter. Insofar, I would weigh in that a paradigm is the underlying logical construct which is generally accepted by scientists, or at least used by most scientists in regards to a particular subject.

    I would like to point out that your question has been asked for at least 150 years now. It is not new. It is basically another iteration of religious subjectivism vs. scientific objectivism. I would argue that they are more exclusive than you appear to believe, and that philosophy, beyond the quest for "truth", really has no business in science.

    Scientists don't concern themselves with the moral underpinnings of subjective questions like "is there really a rock in this space vs. do I just think it into this space". They simply make a few observable, repeatable assumptions, perform their measurements, derive their hypothesis, and (hopefully) find that their data is in line with expectations based on the work of others that came before them, or colleagues that are to follow.

    Lastly, I'd like to chime the following tune: Science is the only activity in all of human endeavor, whose base tenet includes a set of values which attempt to reduce bias as much as possible, and which purposely allow for continuous improvement - outright rejection, even - of the stated assertions. Compare this to politics, law, religion, etc? Where are you going with this?
    • Mar 23 2013: "Scientists don't concern themselves with the moral underpinnings of subjective questions like "is there really a rock in this space vs. do I just think it into this space". They simply make a few observable, repeatable assumptions, perform their measurements, derive their hypothesis, and (hopefully) find that their data is in line with expectations based on the work of others that came before them, or colleagues that are to follow."

      Scientists who fail to consider the implications of the intestability of the universal reliability of the observations they make in the conducting of science have an unexamined assumption sitting at the heart of their process. Scientists may get a long way, a very long way, with this assumption as their foundation, but I strongly suspect that they will eventually discover limitations, and that this assumption and others will be responsible for that.

      Philosophy offers an avenue for thinking about all this, and potentially for overcoming such limitations.
      • Apr 4 2013: "Scientists who fail to consider the implications of the intestability of the universal reliability of the observations they make in the conducting of science have an unexamined assumption sitting at the heart of their process."

        Lewis, which part of science is "intestable" (Not legally permitted to make a will, as by reason of being under the age of majority or mentally incompetent.)? I think you may have meant: "Untestable". And my reply is as follows, please read slowly at your own peril:

        If something is untestable, it is not science.
        • Apr 4 2013: In and un are more or less interchangeable prefixes, get over it. The word test has latin roots, and in- is traditionally used in latin context, (un- for germanic / english) so there.

          ...

          Scientists can't, for example, reliably test whether they are dreaming or not. Practitioners of lucid dreaming will tell you that it's not always possible to become aware of a dream, and that sometimes direct questioning gets a negative result. Some times the dream seems perfectly real and passes all tests, and you wake up later and remember that you couldn't determine that you were dreaming.

          They also can't test whether they're in a simulation that is designed specifically to thwart any test of its existence. The simulation might specifically tailor results of any experiment conducted within it to match hypothesizes that aren't actually true.

          These are philosophical points, but I think that failure to think about them introduces distortion in one's understanding of what science is and what it can do.
      • Apr 5 2013: Lewis:

        "Scientists can't, for example, reliably test whether they are dreaming or not. "

        The key word you've injected into your reply is "reliable". In any other part of science, this would refer to error, or perhaps distortion in datapoints. It is still testable, although perhaps not to engineering precision. Your example is a non-example. The fact is that REM sleep and various forms of other sleep and dreaming are well studied subjects. Heck, we even know that lack of sleep (and dreaming) ultimately will kill a person (Jiang Xiaoshan).

        "They also can't test whether they're in a simulation that is designed specifically to thwart any test of its existence."

        I honestly don't see how you can possibly not call that statement metaphysical. It's basically religious dogma dressed up to look like another episode of "The Matrix", with two parts of conspiracy theory and one part "eye of newt" thrown in for good measure.

        Science is about the real, the measurable, the repeatable, and the testable. It is not about thought experiments and movie plots.

        I keep reading, time and again from you and others, how philosophy "invented" this and that. All false. At best, philosophy has given names to particular logical constructs. It hasn't invented a single candle flicker. Even the example of Occam's razor (someone else's mention) is far fetched to be included in this discussion. The razor is self-evident. Philosophy didn't create it so that we now have access to its principles! It was there all along. We don't need to invent lavish fairy tales to explain things or make the world into a giant Goldberg machine. The simplest explanations are usually the ones that work. Just ask Fox news (LOL).
        • Apr 6 2013: Of course they are metaphysical examples - my point is that materialistic science has no access to the metaphysical, including to determine whether it is relevant or not. Scientists simply go with the default assumption that these examples can't be answered and don't matter, but that default assumption is still a real assumption, a metaphysical assumption, that lays at the heart of the scientific endeavour.
          -
          To say that Occam didn't invent his razor is like saying that Newton didn't invent gravity. Gravity is also self-evident, is Newton's law of universal gravitation then a 'lavish fairy tale' too? The formalisation of knowledge through philosophy allows people to have formal conversations about that knowledge, and write about it, and identify paths to new knowledge.

          Has science made a candle flicker? I'm talking about science, not scientists who can blow a candle out if they want, but science itself. Show me a candle flickering from science.

          Philosophers can blow on candles too. They can also influence people, large numbers of people. They can create systems of applicable knowledge, systems like democracy, economics, human rights, aesthetics, justice, mathematics, logic, and SCIENCE. Some of these things are no longer thought of as belonging to the philosophical realm, but they began there.

          "Thus, to sum up our discussion of the value of philosophy; Philosophy is to be studied, not for the sake of any definite answers to its questions since no definite answers can, as a rule, be known to be true, but rather for the sake of the questions themselves; because these questions enlarge our conception of what is possible, enrich our intellectual imagination and diminish the dogmatic assurance which closes the mind against speculation; but above all because, through the greatness of the universe which philosophy contemplates, the mind also is rendered great, and becomes capable of that union with the universe which constitutes its highest good." - Bertrand Russell

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