Discussion: The ultimate pseudoscience

subpage of Post discussion

Post: The ultimate pseudoscience

Abd responses are in indented italics. A subsequent reply by Simon is in double indent, lightly edited.

Simon Derricutt wrote, 2019/02/28 at 8:32 am

Abd – any physics undergraduate first has to get used to the idea that two of the basic descriptions of how the universe works (quantum mechanics and Einstein’s general theory of relativity) are mutually exclusive. They can’t both be correct, and yet we work with them as if they are both correct – you simply choose the description that is relevant to the situation. This applies to other descriptions of reality and formulae where a different formula is used in different ranges.

I would not say it that way. Rather than saying that they are mutually exclusive, I would say that neither is complete, and once we understand that, they can both be “correct,” that is, useful for prediction. Contradiction is an interpretation, and the idea that only one theory can be correct is quite limiting. It’s an assumption, not an actual fact.

In reply to Abd ulRahman Lomax. 2019/03/01 at 8:54 am

Abd – It’s fun to go outside the normal discussions here, and the need to put things into words helps me to clarify thoughts where I may not have been sure of my current position.

[quoting the above] In the standard interpretations, QM and GTR are not compatible. I’d prefer to state this as that QM tells you what is actually happening, whereas GTR tells you what you can measure to be happening, and what you see (and thus measure) is distorted by the finite speed of light. Given that the GPS satellite system will only give you the right answers when we use the Sun-Earth frame of reference, though, there’s an indication that the GTR may not be the best answer we can produce as regards “what we measure to happen”. This is rather interesting, and one of those things where we may find that things we thought were impossible, such as FTL (faster than light) travel, may actually be possible.

I would not go there, because I see no evidence. But I do not claim that anything is “impossible.”

It’s thus pretty obvious to anyone who dives that bit deeper that our current state of knowledge is only an approximation, and that we should regard even well-tested theory as not totally to be trusted.

“Not totally” is accurate. That is, if it is science, as distinct from dogma, everything is provisional. We routinely trust what has been useful for prediction, especially for precise predictions, within the realm of application of the theory. That is a heuristic for efficiency, and not a proof of ultimate truth. We each have the right to choose what we investigate, and we can check out the unicorn reported in a garage, or not, as we choose. We make choices like this all the time, and there cannot possibly be a proof of “no unicorn,” because perhaps it is invisible, but we do not require absolute proof for making routine decisions.

What becomes offensive is when heuristics that give us freedom to choose are used as if they prove falsehood, when we forget that absence of evidence is not evidence of absense, and especially forgetting the common-law principle of “testimony is presumed true unless controverted.” When pseudoskeptics say “there is no evidence,” they commonly mean “I have not seen evidence that has convinced me.” The latter would be honest, the former is pseudoscientific, because they are not omniscient (at least I think not!) and could not possibly know that evidence does not exist.

[quoting the comment about pseudoskeptics . . .] Agreed. That also applies to sceptics, though. For pseudosceptics, if they’ve stated what evidence would convince them and it arrives, they often shift the goalposts. Miles’ painstaking care on measuring Helium concentrations, and the blinded analysis of those flasks, and the resulting correlations, should be convincing to anyone who understands the difficulties overcome and the consequences of a slip-up. Still, it’s just possible that such a correlation may be pure chance, and someone could likely work out the probability. The probability that I win the lottery is up in the many millions to one, yet it happens to someone several times a year.

To be clear, there is no universal “pseudoskeptic.” All of us are, to one degree or another, believers or skeptics, or pseudo-either. If you can find an example of a skeptic or pseudoskeptic who declared that a correlated ash would convince them, I’d appreciate a citation. I do not actually recall such an incident. I would not expect a smart skeptic (pseudo or not) to announce what would convince them, because predicting the future is hazardous. Rather there were many objections made to cold fusion results — and interpretations. What you say here is a common critique of cold fusion skepticism, but it’s a nonscientific argument, rather a complaint that skeptics are being “unfair.” What I have seen is that we have poorly conveyed what was found by Miles. Under ordinary conditions, what was found would probably have resolved the reality issue.

But cold fusion was not an ordinary finding. For whatever reason, there was a massive rejection cascade, based loosely on fact at the time, but on fact that rapidly became obsolete, but that is still repeated to this day (“Nobody could replicate.”) This demonstrates inertia in wide public opinion.

So, next step was replication with increased precision. That was only weakly done, two experiments, two cells only. Not enough. Hence my proposal for what was accepted and funded in Texas. And I have not heard from them in a long time. I need to get on it and do some more cage-rattling. They are long overdue from the original schedule, apparently. 

The odds against the Miles finding being the result of chance were 750,000 to one, he calculated. Most criticism of his work focused only on the possibility of error in the measurement of heat, and error with helium measurements. They ignored the correlation. That’s a spectacular error.

As to winning the lottery, sure, someone wins. But we use probabilities all the time to make decisions. For what purpose? What practical decision is being made? It is possible that there is an unrecognized systematic artifact that imitates helium production in the heat artifact, the most obvious being correlated leakage or release from the cathode (from prior contamination.) I’ve looked for such explanations. None of them have legs, that I have seen so far. So my point is not to treat heat/helium as proven beyond any possible doubt, but well enough (by far) to justify the investment of research dollars and effort. If this were a cardiac medication, we’d be throwing billions at it. If I had a 750K to 1 chance of winning a lottery, with any reasonable return, I’d be putting every dollar I could find into it.

Where we find an anomaly, and the theory doesn’t predict it, there’s an indication that the theory is inadequate to explain all of Reality and is thus actually wrong, even though for the most part it works adequately and predicts most other events.

You went a bridge too far, Simon. “Inadequate to explain all” does not mean “wrong.” No theory will ever “explain all of reality,” this would be the delusion of a pile of meat imagining that it can comprehend the ultimate. Unless, of course, the ultimate decides to create that, I can’t say it’s impossible. But I doubt it.

Agreed it’s unlikely we’ll be able to explain all of reality, but an anomaly does say that the current explanation is insufficient. For Cold Fusion, if we accept the experimental evidence then the current nuclear theory is missing some interactions that can physically happen. First it’s necessary to accept the experimental evidence, and for people who believe that science is complete that’s a bit difficult.

If anyone believes that science is complete, it is well known that belief can generate endless rationalizations to avoid facing contradictory fact. It is a fundamental error to reject experimental results, if that is being done. Doing that is departing from the standard politics of science. Dispute interpretations, fine! Disputing results is an intense insult to the scientist, to scientific progress, and a demonstration that science has been abandoned, unless one is prepared to charge fraud. 

Pseudoskeptics often claim that cold fusion “believers” refuse to accept the negative replications, but that is simple ignorance. Cold fusion researchers almost fully accept that Cal Tech and MIT reported their data reasonably (or, a few, still close to reasonably, missing, they allege, a small amount of heat. However, that level of heat would be actually astonishing, given what those attempts actually did. From what became well-known afterwards, the FP Heat Effect would not be seen. The largest problem was utterly inadequate loading, and there were historical reasons for it.

An anomaly does not show, in fact, that the theory is incomplete or wrong, it shows that we don’t understand something, and that is all. Cold fusion did not actually contradict any clear theory; in order to conclude that it did, one had to imagine what cold fusion was and then apply theory to the imagination, concluding then that, by the well-established theory, it was impossible, and that process is so flawed that I’d think it obvious, but it wasn’t.

However, communicating with skeptics, I focus on conveying the evidence, not on insisting on this or that interpretation. I find it much more successful than claimed that they are stupid head-in-the-sand pseudoskeptics! 

During my years of Failure Analysis, the first stage in fixing a problem was to get agreement that a problem existed. That could take a while.

Indeed. 

Anomalies are thus far more important in shaping our understanding of the way the universe works than theories that mostly work, and explaining the anomaly can either give rise to a modification of the relevant theory or lead to a totally new theory and understanding. LENR is such an anomaly, and the evidence that it actually works in practice would be more than sufficient for scientific acceptance if it wasn’t so much against the standard hot fusion experience and was somewhat easier to perform.

Yes. It could be very important. It is also important to understand existing theory, and it is quite unlikely that cold fusion actually contradicts what is truly well-known, only certain assumptions — and possible ignorance of the full range of possibilities.

A few years ago (sorry, no links) I saw a program about an experiment at Harvard (IIRC) where the investigation was to do with the health impacts of the doctor’s “bedside manner”. They found that the patients where the doctor was pleasant and engaged with the patient and discussed the problems for a longer time had better outcomes than where the doctor was just as polite but treated the illness as being separate from the person who had it, and simply prescribed the correct pills/treatment. Probably similar to the placebo/nocebo effect, and so the “holistic” medicine (such as Chinese, acupuncture, homoeopathy etc.) starts off with an advantage since such people treat the person and not necessarily the illness. There are medical stories of anomalies, too, such as spontaneous remission of cancers, which may be pointers that we could do better with such diseases if we treated them differently.

Again, yes.

Still, for medical problems, there’s always been the option of “getting a second opinion”, where it can be seen that the underlying implication is that there may be a better way than the standard ideas of both the reason for an illness and of the way of curing it. Allergies and auto-immune problems may be fixed by introducing parasites – they give the immune system something real to fight against. Life is complex, and we are continually finding new inter-relationships in the way our bodies work. Maybe the real surprise is that our bodies work at all, since the way they work is very complex.

I consider reality a miracle.

Agreed again…. The whole system does seem pretty unlikely, but then if it wasn’t the way it was we wouldn’t be here talking about it. Rather than producing a plausible-sounding explanation, though, I prefer to leave the origins and reasons (if any) as “unknown”.

I invent “plausible reasons” all the time, but I do not pretend that they are anything more than inventions, and the standard I apply is not “truth” but whether or not they are empowering or inspiring. I find it is not necessary to believe in these explanations for these to have high function. It may be much better to not “believe,” as long as we takes action of some kind and keep our eyes open. The kind of faith I suggest is not blind, it seeks to see as clearly as possible. Not necessarily to “understand,” which is a slippery slope. 

However, despite the materialistic view of medicine, where the system can be either mechanically adjusted by surgery or chemically adjusted using pills, or where the brain can be electrically-adjusted to reduce the shakes from Parkinson’s disease, it seems that the mind also has an effect on the wellness of a person.

My training and history suggest that the distinction between “material” and “the mind” is artificial. I take a stand that there is one Reality, not two or many. Routinely, I think of what we call the mind as the activity of the brain, but also consider it a collective phenomenon, i.e, the human mind, as a collective intelligence that may operate, at times, on a scale different from and more powerfully in some ways than our individual thinking and understanding.

And then, on the issue of a mind that is beyond material, I remain agnostic. I allow it as possible, I even use it in myth (i.e., in creating inspiring interpretations), but I have no experience that is definitive in distinguishing the my brain and senses from some non-physical mind. The physical mind is an absolute miracle, and can do things that are commonly unexpected.

Also agreed. I feel my self as a distinct item separate from my body, but there is no acceptable proof of such a non-material entity that is separate from the material body, so until such proof turns up I’m leaving that as unknown too. The brain forms an analogue of the reality around us and fills in bits it hasn’t (or can’t have) perceived, and gives us the illusion of a continuous reality. Stage magicians exploit the gaps in perception to make it appear that things happen that we “know” are impossible. Part of learning science is learning how our senses fail in specific situations, and also knowing the limitations of our methods of measurement. There are way more ways to be wrong that to be right.

Well, my training suggests dumping “right” and “wrong,” at least as anything more than shorthand. It is generally more powerful to declare that “it’s all good,” as long as we don’t fall into believing that “good” is something specific. In science, I suggest reporting data and being very careful to distinguish interpretation of data. When I see a paper that begins with “We set out to prove . . .” — and what they say is what they believe, I wince. Something got wired exactly backwards. I am much more interested in papers that are more like “We set out to measure what happens if . . .” or, at a more advanced stage in research, “We set out to show that the predictions of the theory fail, to measure the deviation between predictions and actual results.”

And they they can say, “This is what we found,” or even, sometimes, “We found the theory accurate within experimental error.”

Another way of thinking of mind is as pattern. Is the smile of the Mona Lisa real? Indeed, everything we experience is neurons firing, and patterns of neutrons firing, and patterns of patterns. Or is it? To answer the last question, I would need a means of distinguishing some exception from “just another pattern,” and I have no idea how that could happen, but it could arise that I believe it happened. This pile of meat would not actually know. But certainty can arise without proof, if we take a functional view of certainty, and allow it to be relative rather than absolute.

If we ignore that effect of the mind as being “unscientific” then we’re most likely missing something.

What is it that makes life worth living, and does what a person believes or is experiencing in that area have any effect on health? I think there are many studies indicating that “the mind” — you did not define it, but here I simply mean the activity of the brain — can have a profound influence on health.

Indeed. If we ignore anything, it is, by definition, ignorance! The placebo effect works through human social interaction and individual ideas and thoughts, and those are real in their realm.

Still, since everyone has a different mind and because everyone has a unique genetic signature, trying to fix the mind to cure an illness won’t be the standard “do this and it will be fixed” approach that science likes.

Science does not have likes and dislikes, not the real thing. What you are referring to, Simon, is the habit of people to want to believe we understand things, and not understanding something is a threat, a danger, or it is thought to be so. If fear causes us to lose detachment, we actually lose science in the mix. 

Yep, I was a bit sloppy there. Rather than “likes”, I should maybe have said “aspires to”. My inbuilt thesaurus fails sometimes. For me, I try to maintain that detachment from beliefs and question whether they have a reasonable basis. I’ll most likely fail in some areas where there’s some belief I haven’t recognised as such.

It is the nature of language to be a bit sloppy. I encourage paying attention to precision of expression, though, it can be a great way to learn, to hone and develop our understandings. Yes, we also all fail, it is part of the process. Failure is a stepping stone on the path to success.

You’ll need to use statistical methods to analyse results and have a large (statistically significant) cohort to be able to show any effect, and how you measure the effect and how you process the figures will be a source of error. Too easy to come to a wrong conclusion by making a subtle mistake somewhere. In the medical papers published, maybe somewhere over 50% of them can’t be replicated, and thus fail the standards of science.

Well, I do not think an isolated report is, itself, a failure, merely because it is true testimony, and honest report is a major part of science.  I do think there are many poor papers published, with unwarranted conclusions, and because I’ve been reading many medical papers, I’ve seen quite a few.  The problems are not so much in the reports of experience (measurements, etc.), but in interpretation.

And with cold fusion, given that nobody knew WTF was actually happening, many solid experimental reports were rejected for publication “because no explanation.” As if explanation should come before the accumulation of data, springing lotus-born from genius. Probably not.

Often the inventor’s explanation of the reason can be wrong, though the experimental data may be valid. An example here would be Brillouin, where their explanations can’t be true based on what populations of the expected intermediate reactions would be produced, and yet I think their experimental results are real and honestly reported. OK, a bit of spin as to projected progress and future development rate, but that’s pretty normal. Interpretation errors are, as you say, pretty usual when it’s something new.

And when an information cascade has arisen, confirmation bias can cause even replication to be suspect. There are no easy ways to bypass open and careful investigation that sets aside, as much as possible, unnecessary assumptions.

I rather like the Royal Institution’s motto – take nobody’s word for it. Go test it yourself rather than simply accepting the standard theory. For LENR, for most people that will mean buying one at Wal-Mart once it’s on sale. Since most people won’t know how their phones work, yet use them anyway, not really much difference in principle.

Well, just because someone says something, it does not become true except that they said it, and then, legally, their report of their experience, analyzed to distinguish testimony of fact as distinct from their interpretations, is to be generally trusted. When a scientist lies about their results, their data, and if this is discovered, their career is over, or should be. If they merely make an interpretive error, it’s common and to be expected. Even if they are experts, it happens.

What the pseudoskeptics are basically saying is that what they know is the absolute truth, and that people who don’t agree with them are wrong.

Well, they are not actually saying the first thing, but it is an implication allowing them to assert that others are wrong, which is what they actually do. Questioning the basis for the beliefs others assert is not wrong, if the questions are actually looking for the underlying evidence, but often, for pseudoskeptics, it is an exercise in feeling-good-because-better-than-others. Which fails.

It doesn’t actually work, the errors of others never make us happy, but, then again, I don’t know that I have ever met a happy pseudoskeptic. Happy skeptics, yes! But the latter do not go around waving a sign “I’m a rational skeptic! And you are an idiot!”

Real science isn’t like that – all theories are up for being disproven providing the experimental evidence is solid. Proposing an absolute truth is the province of religion, not science. About the only rule that could be seen as absolute is that if you do the same thing, you’ll get the same result, but even there the uncertainty principle tells you that you can’t do the same thing twice anyway. We thus modify that rule to be “if you do near-enough the same thing, then you’ll get near-enough the same result”. That’s of course one of the problems with LENR, in that mostly it’s difficult to do something that’s near-enough the same when we don’t know precisely the conditions we’re aiming for.

Right.

“What arises when we look at something from two different points of view at the same time?”

My response is “why stick to only two points of view?”.

Hah! that’s a way of avoiding the question. There is something we commonly know about that is an answer to the question, that actually conveys something. I tend to be a literalist, that might be a clue. I don’t know how to see anything from more than two points of view at a time. I can make a list of possibilities, but that isn’t seeing.

Yep, maybe a bit of a side-slip there, but I actually do this sequentially rather than at the same time. Possibly people who can hold two or more viewpoints simultaneously are pretty rare, anyway.

Nonsense. It’s routine and quite abnormal not to be able to do it with two. You are referring to a particular kind of point of view called an “opinion.” There is, however, the old story of “two Jews, three opinions.” 

The more diverse ways you have of looking at something, the more likely you are to see some connection with something else and thus gain a different approach that may succeed where other ideas have failed. There’s more strength in diversity.

Agreed, but what do we get when we look at something from two different points of view at the same time?

My suspicion: having many points of view available, can be stronger than having a limited number, but if we attempt to hold them all at once, we may actually get confusion, not clarity. There is power in dialectic that does not require assuming that full synthesis is only from two, but it might be two at a time. But that’s a red herring, the answer I’m looking for is simple, two words, well-known.

You’re probably right that it would lead to confusion, not clarity. I think that the logical processes need to run in steps, so that each step is seen to be valid. At any point there may be a split in the path depending on the theory/viewpoint used, but they’d need to be explored as separate paths rather than following both at the same time.

I’m not proposing it’s impossible to see from more than two points of view at a time, but I doubt I could manage it at my age. In doing the most difficult Sudoku, when I come to an impass in ordinary sequential elimination and proof, and when candidate lists do not fall into any more easily recognizable patterns allowing eliminations, I use experience to identify a “pair possibility,” i.e., some choice that must be X or Y, no other possibilities, and choose one pair for how many resolutions it generates visually (I take some time with it, making sure to check both possibilities for a significant number of resolutions). It doesn’t have to be the best choice, just good. And then I start marking the effects, and I look for interactions.

(I should say that I do Sudoku in ink, and that I start with marking possibilities with dots, but only the simplest, where a number is only located in two cells of a square, at first. Eventually, I start completing three-dot squares and then eventually all, so that every available candidate is marked (and what was marked and then eliminated has an X. This must be done before entering the bi-value sieve.)

So I mark the choice by circling the dot, and I write this first one on the outside (so that I can go back to that and choose the other possibility.) And when that either finds a contradiction or completes the puzzle, I do the other possibility, drawing a small triangle around the dots.

At this point I am effectively looking at two exclusive possibilities at once. I can do this one small relationship at a time, one step at a time. And this solves the most difficult Sudokus I can find, if I don’t make any mistakes.

Doing this for a triple possibility across many squares, forgeddaboudit, for me, at least. I do find triple cells (three cells with the same three possibilities in the same exclusion region), those are not generally difficult, but if I miss them, they show up when running the sieve.

Basically, if I can hold two possibilities in mind at once, I can compare them and tentatively eliminate one. I can then turn to another pair or matching one of the original pair with a new alternate candidate. So dialectical process does not require three at once, but could allow many, but sequentially.

But “What do we get. . . .”

The easiest way to get two points of view at the same time is to have two people. Resolve the disagreements in discussion if possible. One of my problems is that at times I skip a few steps in the logical process because I can see the answer already so go to it more directly, and so going through the logical steps with someone else helps in finding those jumps and detailing them as a set of steps rather than a leap.

Well, this is the power of communication, it can handle much more analysis than one person only. Yes, “seeing the answer already” has obvious hazards.

But this is not a person seeing some situation from two points of view at once, and that is what I asked about. How about ten people? At a certain point, a group size, it becomes process-inefficient, and my work with group process suggested (and we tried) chunking the process. Committee system, actually.  I’ve seen it work, and I have also seen it sabotaged. Turns out that some people, for whatever reason, don’t want clear process that empowers the community rather than some subset. That was mind-blowing, for me. So when I came across the Iron Law of Oligarchy, I understood it much better. There is a way around the Iron Law, but I don’t see that society yet recognizes the problem, much less possible solutions. Instead, we fall into an ancient story: the problem is Bad People. If we can just get rid of the Bad People, everything will be fine!

Not. The problems will replicate themselves with new faces, that’s all.

One of the hardest things to expose are the hidden assumptions and beliefs we use without thinking about them. The sort of things that everyone knows are true so they aren’t questioned. That can be where a group discussion is useful, providing there’s at least one person who challenges you to justify the assumptions and isn’t part of the group-think that has a set of common assumptions. Digging in the foundations and asking “why do you believe that?” can be useful.

And dangerous. After all, they condemned Socrates to death. When I’m running a Socrates game, I hope to remember to obtain consent. People can go ballistic when their basic assumptions are questioned without their consent.

Answer here because the page you replied on hasn’t got comments enabled.

Sorry about that. With pages, I have to manually enable it, I have found no automatic setting for posts. I actually did it when I first created this page, but that version was lost in some confusion. It’s been fixed.

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


What is it that makes life worth living, and does what a person believes or is experiencing in that area have any effect on health? I think there are many studies indicating that “the mind” — you did not define it, but here I simply mean the activity of the brain — can have a profound influence on health.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

One thought on “Discussion: The ultimate pseudoscience”

  1. Abd – “I would not go there, because I see no evidence. But I do not claim that anything is “impossible.”

    Practically, some things are taken to be impossible since no-one has managed to do them and we can’t think of a way that it could be done. Such ideas tend to get baked in to basic assumptions, too. If I tell you I have used gearing between a motor and a generator such that I get a perpetual motion system that will power itself and a load indefinitely, you’d quote Conservation of Energy (CoE) at me and say it’s not going to work. Such methods have been tried so many times, after all, and this is one of the reasons we say that CoE is an unbreakable Law of Physics. As it happens, there seems to be a loophole when you go into the details of derivation of Conservation of Momentum (CoM)that implies that energy is not necessarily conserved, but that needs experimental proof. However, most people will consider violation of CoE and CoM to be impossible. The problem with considering nothing impossible is that you’re likely to waste time trying to do them, so while that’s a good philosophical position it’s not necessarily productive in practical terms.

    “To be clear, there is no universal “pseudoskeptic.” All of us are, to one degree or another, believers or skeptics, or pseudo-either. If you can find an example of a skeptic or pseudoskeptic who declared that a correlated ash would convince them, I’d appreciate a citation.”

    Here I’d suggest Huizenga as a candidate for that position. However, I’d agree that it’s likely all of us have bits of belief and bits of pseudosceptic in some areas, and make some wrong decisions based on hidden assumptions.

    “So, next step was replication with increased precision. That was only weakly done, two experiments, two cells only. Not enough. Hence my proposal for what was accepted and funded in Texas. And I have not heard from them in a long time. I need to get on it and do some more cage-rattling. They are long overdue from the original schedule, apparently.”

    Yep, I’d like to know what they’ve found. Hopefully the delay is because they’re working on the patents before they tell anyone….

    “If anyone believes that science is complete, it is well known that belief can generate endless rationalizations to avoid facing contradictory fact. It is a fundamental error to reject experimental results, if that is being done. Doing that is departing from the standard politics of science. Dispute interpretations, fine! Disputing results is an intense insult to the scientist, to scientific progress, and a demonstration that science has been abandoned, unless one is prepared to charge fraud. ”

    I do see a lot of such rationalisations in big/public science. The idea of Dark Matter still gets a lot of research funding despite a big fat zero in finding any. ITER continues although it seems to me that that way of doing things is not practical unless we’re happy to pay a lot more for our power and are also happy with a few massive installations per country and the single-point failures that implies. Climate change (which historically has always happened) is blamed solely on CO2 concentration and the burning of fossil fuels, and other important human contributions (land-use changes) are not considered, and neither are important variations of total energy input from the Sun. See https://youtu.be/NYoOcaqCzxo for evidence that the other previously-missed energy inputs from the Sun can have an effect as well. You may find that somewhat interesting, but it’s a 40-minute lecture and time is always short.

    Underlying these is a reluctance to discard a theory that’s past it’s sell-by date, and to look anew at the data we now have.

    “An anomaly does not show, in fact, that the theory is incomplete or wrong, it shows that we don’t understand something, and that is all. Cold fusion did not actually contradict any clear theory; in order to conclude that it did, one had to imagine what cold fusion was and then apply theory to the imagination, concluding then that, by the well-established theory, it was impossible, and that process is so flawed that I’d think it obvious, but it wasn’t.”

    Yep…. Better-stated than my wording. For CF, the experimental evidence is that it works, so the problem is to find out why, and not to say that it’s theoretically impossible and stick at that.

    “I invent “plausible reasons” all the time, but I do not pretend that they are anything more than inventions, and the standard I apply is not “truth” but whether or not they are empowering or inspiring. I find it is not necessary to believe in these explanations for these to have high function. It may be much better to not “believe,” as long as we takes action of some kind and keep our eyes open. The kind of faith I suggest is not blind, it seeks to see as clearly as possible. Not necessarily to “understand,” which is a slippery slope. ”

    Not really a lot different than the way I try to approach things, where I’m more interested in whether the idea works experimentally than whether it’s believable. Belief blinds us to some possibilities, so I see if it logically hangs together with what we know experimentally.

    “Well, my training suggests dumping “right” and “wrong,” at least as anything more than shorthand. It is generally more powerful to declare that “it’s all good,” as long as we don’t fall into believing that “good” is something specific. In science, I suggest reporting data and being very careful to distinguish interpretation of data. When I see a paper that begins with “We set out to prove . . .” — and what they say is what they believe, I wince. Something got wired exactly backwards. I am much more interested in papers that are more like “We set out to measure what happens if . . .” or, at a more advanced stage in research, “We set out to show that the predictions of the theory fail, to measure the deviation between predictions and actual results.”

    And they they can say, “This is what we found,” or even, sometimes, “We found the theory accurate within experimental error.””

    Nicely put. I do however drop into the shorthand of right and wrong, but more in the way of practically useful or not useful.

    “It is the nature of language to be a bit sloppy. I encourage paying attention to precision of expression, though, it can be a great way to learn, to hone and develop our understandings. Yes, we also all fail, it is part of the process. Failure is a stepping stone on the path to success.”

    Language definitions are circular, and thus there can be a gap in understanding of the words themselves. This gets pretty hard down at the foundations of physics, where even defining what mass/energy actually is can’t be done. We can talk about waves, of course, and give equations, but that misses the point of what those waves are moving and how the restitution-force that is necessary for a wave to exist is produced. I can see why people like the idea of a physical Aether with the equivalent of masses and springs between them, but that simply moves the problem up a layer of abstraction and doesn’t actually explain things except by saying “that’s a property of the Aether”. String theory (as far as I understand it, anyway) also relies on waves but again ignores the substance that’s being waved, and implies a sub-structure that’s even smaller than the strings themselves which are themselves way smaller than fundamental particles. Since this problem, of a wave theory needing something to support the wave motion, is essentially not soluble at the moment then our theories at this level can only work as predictions of what we will measure rather than saying what is actually happening. It’s better to not believe in one or the other, but just to use the simplest one that gives the right answers in the situation we encounter.

    “Nonsense. It’s routine and quite abnormal not to be able to do it with two. You are referring to a particular kind of point of view called an “opinion.” There is, however, the old story of “two Jews, three opinions.”

    And then a bit of talk about Sudoku where you’re not really having two points of view at the same time, but two or more alternative solutions (using the same theory base) at the same time and seeing which one fits. Not quite the same as holding two opinions/theories at the same time and seeing which one gives a better answer. Maybe therefore we’re at cross-purposes about opinions. I was considering using theories that are often mutually-exclusive to consider a problem, where for each theory we’d need to step through the logic and see what it would predict, and then compare the experimental results to what each opinion/theory would lead us to expect to happen. Here, several routes may lead to the same prediction that also matches the measurements, and thus we can’t choose which theory is more right than another. Choose the easiest one that works, but don’t necessarily believe it’s the truth.

    “Turns out that some people, for whatever reason, don’t want clear process that empowers the community rather than some subset. That was mind-blowing, for me. So when I came across the Iron Law of Oligarchy, I understood it much better. There is a way around the Iron Law, but I don’t see that society yet recognizes the problem, much less possible solutions. Instead, we fall into an ancient story: the problem is Bad People. If we can just get rid of the Bad People, everything will be fine!”

    https://www.jerrypournelle.com/reports/jerryp/iron.html is another Iron Law you may find both amusing and accurate. Similar to the Iron Law of Oligarchy that’s in the Wiki. From my experience, the maximum size group that will work is around 15, and above that you’ll need to split the group size and give the new groups different problems to solve. Obviously you can’t guarantee it at 15 either, but chances are that it will work for a while before deteriorating. The natural organisation is a leader and around 10 people who trust that leader, with a slight problem being that around 1 in 20 people are such leaders. Group dynamics is however pretty tricky, and predicting what will work is not, as far as I know, an exact science.

    “And dangerous. After all, they condemned Socrates to death. When I’m running a Socrates game, I hope to remember to obtain consent. People can go ballistic when their basic assumptions are questioned without their consent.”

    Yep…. I can afford to question basic assumptions since I’m on a pension and get paid whether I work or not, and whether people agree with my thinking or not. Doesn’t mean people are going to like it, though. It’s however something that needs to be done by somebody, since some of those assumptions are demonstrably wrong (in my opinion, of course, but I’m working on experimental proofs).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

WordPress Anti Spam by WP-SpamShield