Wayne Busby

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What is wrong with the scientific method.

.this scientific method that we have developed to understand the known universe, reaches the limits of its effectiveness where it as a process, at best measures reality as our senses and current use of our mental faculties are able to process physical existence.

Make no mistake. the sciences of the mind are in their infancy and ,coincidentally, unaided, our senses (and by extension most tools we use in producing empirical data about our environment) are feeble when compared to those levels of acuity enjoyed by the vast majority of species on earth.

In short our perception of reality is not the true face of reality.

It seems as though we are once again at an impasse similar to when those learned ones were sure that the earth was flat and that we are at the center of the universe.

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    Mar 2 2011: It is certainly true that our unaided senses are inferior to those of certain other species. But our tools can perceive the world far better than any animal can. The difference between our vision and that of an eagles is many orders of magnitude less than the difference between an eagle and the Hubble. Whatever deficiencies we have in our senses are more than made up for by our tools.

    But even our sense are quite acute, at least when it comes to what we need to interact with reality. I don't need the ability to see a rabbit from a hundred feet in the air, I don't need to hear sound underwater for hundreds of miles like the whales do. But I still perceive reality just fine.

    I would also argue that ancient cultures did not have a deep understanding of nature, or at least not as deep as ours. The Chinese, the Greeks, the Persians, and more, all had valuable insights into nature. But there was little cohesive theory of why these things were. Even the Greeks in their golden age attributed the why of things to the gods, though there were a few atheists around. It is fascinating to study ancient cultures, and they often hit upon some of the same things that science has produced. But science produces insights into the nature of things more often and far more easily than any ancient method of acquiring knowledge.

    The scientific method brings together both theory and evidence in order to produce knowledge. And there is no one method, either. But all types try and do the same thing: predict what will happen, say why that thing will happen, and watch that thing happen. You need a prediction, then the theory behind that prediction, and the evidence that verifies that prediction. If you can say what will happen, why it will happen, and it then does happen, you can reasonably say that you know something.

    The scientific method is the best tool we have for understanding the world.
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      Mar 2 2011: Hello Daniel,

      My point is that the factors that led to the development of another species ability are dissimilar to what led to or catalyzed our own.

      We will never see what an eagle sees the way an eagle see it. Even if we built a device that matches their particular level of acuity. Perception checked by physiological condition and reinforced by unique life experience, forms paradigm.Outside our interpretation of those physical structures we can identify, we can only assume the way other creatures interpret their environments. Inside our own species - as shown on this website - how far are we from seeing eye to eye on certain issues? Even with the help of Hubble - incredible as it is - how much and what are we really seeing?

      r/t 'I would also argue that ancient cultures did not have a deep understanding of nature, or at least not as deep as ours.' Please view Ron Eglashs' Ted talk on African Fractals (the origin of Fibonacci numbers) and other Talks describing the pharmaceutical knowledge of indigenouse folk in the South American rain forest etc...
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        Mar 3 2011: Hi Wayne,

        I hope you'll pardon the brevity of this, your comments deserve more comprehensive responses than I am able to provide.

        Your first paragraph seems to describe conception. We may never know how the eagle conceives the world, but we can know how it perceives the world. We do this by understanding the anatomy, and verifying with behavioral tests. If a creature has eyes that can perceive infrared they should respond to things painted in infrared, sort of stuff.

        "seeing eye to eye" just because two individuals disagree on a particular topic does not mean that there is no definite reality to the world, or because of that disagreement we are unable to perceive reality as it truly is."how much are we seeing?" By using mostly just the visible light we can know the chemical composition of distant stars. This is called astronomical spectroscopy.

        Ancient people were as smart as we are, they just didn't know as much. So it's no surprise that ancient cultures could stumble across something profound about the nature of reality. However, there was no organized method of finding those things out. A culture would get stuck on certain things, like circular symmetry or fractals, but would rarely create an efficient method to keep discovering new things. Science is the most efficient method we have tried.

        Same thing for pharmaceutical knowledge: A people will quickly learn through trial and error which plants are good for you, and which are not. Some one comes along who finds this interesting, and tries to figure out why this is so. They then pass on what knowledge they can. The scientific method is a far more efficient gatherer of knowledge. Nomadic peoples have an amazing knowledge of their environment, how to stalk prey, avoid predators, and which plants give you a rash. But they rarely formed a cohesive framework to understand why things worked the way they did.

        Due to length restrictions, I excluded my sources. If you wish I will happily supply them
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      Mar 2 2011: QFMFT-"The scientific method is the best tool we have for understanding the world."
      People who remain unimpressed with the wonders of science, do not understand them.
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        Mar 6 2011: Hi Tobias and thank you Wayne for this thread, truly enjoyable discussion!

        "The scientific method is the best tool we have for understanding the world." - concur

        John Dewey argues similarly that, "there must be discovery - the process of learning something by research, by investigation or by reflection without being taught." Further he warns... "exaggeration of the scientific method, ...stresses investigation or research as if it were the only occasion for thought."
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        Mar 8 2011: Thanks Tobias! I just looked up QFMFT, until now I had no idea what that meant. So I'm thanking you for leading me to new knowledge. I stole the phrase itself, though, from Carl Sagan. I can claim no credit for it.
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      Mar 3 2011: Daniel and Tobias,
      Thank you for your time and the reflexion encouraged by your insight. I hope that you will bear with me a little longer so that I may make more clear my position.

      I never stated that the scientific method was not the best or most efficient method for understanding what we perceive as reality. What I am saying is that given what we do know about what we as humans are working with (physiologically speaking), it is of great importance that we realize that outside the box there may be other tools available. Yet only available if we are open to looking for them.

      I also continue to believe that as much as possible a collaborative approach or stance should be taken to improve the possibility of a more in-depth understanding of reality as (again) we are able to perceive it.
      for example: a person who is legally blind will typically use his/her other senses in much more seamless and consequently augmented fashion, in order to more clearly define their environment.
      Or we might be able to chemically define the composition of grass, its scent, and probable effect it might have on a person with a particular allergy if we read said information in a scientifically researched document, if however you were to lay in that grass and use every bit of the sensual acuity available to you, you will have a far greater appreciation (relevant sensory data include) for grass.

      No person can know for sure how some of the more Elder cultures came by the staggering knowledge we are only now capable of synthesizing, I do not in the least believe, however,and there is no documented proof that it was 'stumbled upon' - any more than the Mayans or the ancient Greece stumbled upon what they came know.

      Forgive me if I am still unclear the words are not enough.
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        Mar 6 2011: I think we already have a collaborative stance. Ask any scientist if they're willing to cooperate in increasing our understanding of reality and you will get a resounding YES! Science is all for probing the nature of reality.

        Experiencing the world is not the same as understanding the world. Yes, laying in the grass and having a reaction to it gives you a far greater appreciation for grass (and not laying in it if you're allergic to it), but simply laying in the grass does not give you greater understanding of grass, what it is, how it works, why I get rash when I lay in it, etc. Science can explain what our body experiences, but physical sensation alone does not always explain that sensation. But science is not divorced from experience or appreciating the world - quite the contrary. Most scientists are awed by the grandeur of nature. As Einstein said, "...cosmic religious feeling is the strongest and noblest motive for scientific research."

        Sorry for the misunderstanding, I don't want you to think that I meant that elders were traipsing through the world, stumbling across right triangles and pendulums. I wanted to convey the idea that there was no dedicated framework for exploring the world in place. Each culture, or sometimes each person, had to find a way to understand the world for themselves. They couldn't stand on the shoulders of as many giants. Each culture had to start, essentially, from the beginning. Those discoveries took hard work and dedication, but there was no widespread flow of ideas between cultures. The Greeks probably came closest to science, and being cosmopolitan, they could have opened the door wider to cross-cultural exchanges of knowledge. Any other culture could have theoretically done the same, but is was not until after the renaissance that a cohesive method of discovery and a widespread network of knowledge came into existence. I do not wish to denigrate ancient accomplishments, only to point out that we have improved on their method.
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        Mar 6 2011: Dang the enforced brevity of these responses. You remarks are cogent, and thoughtful. I enjoy reading them and thinking about them, and I am open to your ideas. What sorts of tools did you have in mind to add to the repertoire of science? I can think of one or two, like have more traipsers. People who just wander around examining things that interest them. Or encouraging the rebirth of the polymath.

        On a tangent, would you support an effort to expand the comments? I was thinking of putting it forth in the Ideas section.
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          Mar 8 2011: Hello Daniel,

          Sorry it took so long to get back to you. Thanks for your encouragement. I would be happy to expand as you mentioned. Feel free to take the lead.

          I too think that the polymath is a great idea. I must confess that I do not currently have any concrete idea on how to complement the Scientific Method. However, I wonder if more resources were dedicated to examining what knowledge remains within elder cultures, if there may be some answers there.
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      Mar 12 2011: You seem to be unfamiliar with the Vedic civilization of the past .. or of the Indian scriptures which have clear cut explanation for how the world functions .. or a deeper understanding of the world, and our own subjective experience within it.
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        Mar 12 2011: Can you elaborate? Discussion including a multicultural approach to this question are most welcome.
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    Mar 5 2011: Cheers all!

    Here is a wonderful example of what is going on here.

    Please all of you Sage and Scientist alike, watch these short videos which illustrate the folly of not collaborating towards some mutually acceptable understanding of ideas. Presented with humility.

    www.youtube.com/watch?v=bJVBQefNXIw&feature=related

    Another example of the same type (duplicating the experiment lol):

    www.youtube.com/watch?v=jAeeZ2A3g8U

    Morale: "Knowing in part may make a fine tale, but Wisdom comes from knowing the whole."

    Enjoy!
    • Mar 5 2011: Re Morale, " Only He who understands the whole, can also comprehend a part" What could be more reconciling than this quotation from Bible and scientific quest for The Theory of Everything! Maybe you are right, we are now in the middle of the painful process of parting with so familiar and dear to us illusion that subject and object are separated, that beauty dwells in art, for science- precision is enough....Now the best minds of our century make an attempt to reconcile what many people still see as opposits, but I see as complementary- the seemingly divergent pathways tracked by science on the one hand and the sacred traditions on the other.l
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      Mar 5 2011: Great rendition of that poem! Still I must respectfully assert that scientific method is far more powerful than ancient wisdom. The blind men seem to me like the unfortunate ancients stumbling in the dark without the wonderful flashlight that is science.
      • Mar 6 2011: To compare two things we must be aware of both. I have no idea how shamans perform, what they might see in trancelike state... Our minds tend to rebel at this, but it's our problem. So,the iconic question comes to the scene-Who is to judge, which is more powerful tool? I for one try to stay open.
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        Mar 6 2011: Hello Tobias,
        Yea, I like that version too. I don't believe, however that we have the same definition for the word Wisdom. Wisdom for me is something that intellect can never outshine, because it is wisdom that guides the proper (constructive, proactive...) use of intellect.

        Having said that I would agree with your statement as to the current scientific method being a far more powerful tool than those scientific observations those learned men were making in the poem.
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    Mar 4 2011: Agree!

    It seems like we have fallen into a set way of looking at things.. and if it doesn't fit into that way... well then it just can't be possible... At the end of the day, all great discoveries come from the same place... and go down a similar path... starting as a dream.. thought, a hunch, but always as a belief that the something incredible is possible.

    I think we need to get back to the state of mind that all things are possible.... see chaoticwatersinc.com where all things are possible... :)
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    Mar 15 2011: Hi, sorry as well for the delay. I want to dig through some of the history of science, particularly the split from natural philosophy to science and the astronomy/astrology split, as well as study more into ancient mathematics and inventions. Unfortunately I've been a bit wrapped up with some other things of late, but I am now able to pursue those areas of study. Bear with me a bit longer and I'll get you a more comprehensive reply.
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    Mar 8 2011: Hello Tobias D.
    "In fact, it is scientific method that points out our perceptive flaws so wonderfully."

    I feel as though you have proved my point better than I did. Imagine for a moment that you are one of those seven blind men and the group has fallen into a pit. In this case, however, you are of different nations. Without tools you might spend much of your time examining to the best of your ability your immediate environment, using whatever was at the disposal of your corporal forms. You might become extremely proficient in using your remaining senses in defining to some extent your surroundings.

    However, sooner or later you will run into some enigma that is beyond your ability to define given what was at your disposal. Your senses are simply incapable of acquiring enough data for your brain to understand this situation. You are a fish midday in a Saharan sandstorm. Out of your element.

    Fortunately you are human. An Apex species (expression of life) with a construct of a brain which, if properly nourished, thrives under such conditions. You build tools from what matter you have already measured, defined and catalogued, imbue them with instruction born of ridged formulae then set them to work on your problem. Your success is only a matter of time, yet.

    And here lies my point:

    Along the way, the many failures (opportunities to begin again more wisely) you encountered in developing said tools, should have taught you to stay open to other possibilities. Drunk on your success you abandon alternatives and , sadly, you cannot learn from what you have chosen to forget. Those alternatives which perhaps required more collaboration (which given enough time provides the best solutions) have gone back to the void to wait for wiser species to assimilate.

    We need to dig deeper into our global Human history then identify and refine those methods used by Elder cultures and complement the Scientific method with them. It can only help our cause. Time is running out.
  • Mar 4 2011: They have absolute idea some times.
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    Mar 1 2011: Thanks for your comment.

    I would like to see scientist work to improve the scientific method, in a way that somehow includes the wisdom of Elder cultures. I really think we are missing something when we ignore the fact that there are cultures all over the planet which have developed deep understanding of the nature of things, without the benifit of this method. Please view Ron Eglashs' talk on African Fractals (the origin of Fibonacci numbers) and others describing the pharmaceutical knowledge of indigenouse folk in the South American rain forest etc...

    Dan Airleys' talk on our ability to percieve the true nature of what we call reality may also clarify my position for you.
    Regards.
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      Mar 2 2011: That is one of my favorite talks but I dont think it bolsters your case.Just because human perception is flawed does not mean that scientific method is as well. In fact, it is scientific method that points out our perceptive flaws so wonderfully.
      I also think that science (archeology and anthropology) looks at ancient wisdom quite well.
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    Feb 28 2011: Without a basis to compare against, it's next to impossible to see what (if anything) is wrong.

    Yes, science's methods are limited, but all other methods are also limited in their own way, and in fact, I'd argue they are more limited.

    Latest physics researches, from what I've gathered (I'm not physicist, so take it with a grain of salt), decompose all matter into elementary particles, some of which with only mathematically proven (i.e. theoretical) existance. If all particles that compose our universe are proven to exist and are fully studied, or to be more precise, have their behaviour be describable by "law(s)", then it's likely there will be no limit afterwards - we'd be able to accurately describe everything that we can observe in one way or another, and shape it up however we'd like.

    Forget about artificial cells... imagine an artificial life that's not based on the kind of earthy cells we have, but still stuff that's in the universe.