Online reading group and book discussion forum
  HOME ENTER FORUMS OUR BOOKS LINKS DONATE ADVERTISE CONTACT  
View unanswered posts | View active topics It is currently Sun Jun 20, 2021 5:36 am





Post new topic Reply to topic  [ 65 posts ] • Topic evaluate: Evaluations: 0, 0.00 on the average.Evaluations: 0, 0.00 on the average.Evaluations: 0, 0.00 on the average.Evaluations: 0, 0.00 on the average.Evaluations: 0, 0.00 on the average.  Go to page Previous  1, 2, 3, 4, 5  Next
I: Tools of the Trades: Writing Science (Neil deGrasse Tyson) 
Author Message
User avatar
Years of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membership
BookTalk.org Hall of Fame

Platinum Contributor
Book Discussion Leader

Joined: Jan 2008
Posts: 6897
Location: Luray, Virginia
Thanks: 2239
Thanked: 2437 times in 1837 posts
Gender: Male
Country: United States (us)

Post Re: I: Tools of the Trades: Writing Science (Neil deGrasse Tyson)
Mr. P isn't a scientist, but I think what he's been saying leads to the supposition that the learn'd astronomer, too, might experience the sensual beauty of the night sky, perhaps more intensely from having understood it as a physical phenomenon. I mean, certainly we've all seen scientists just oozing with wonder and love for what they've studied. Jane Goodall, David Attenborough, and Neil Shubin (Your Inner Fish) come to mind, and there are numerous others. These scientists have properly used reductive tools to break their subjects into parts, but they've kept and maybe enhanced their ability to see it whole.

I'm thinking also of the vast majority of scientists being workaday types, whose emotional lives are bound to be pretty much like everyone else's. That's my conclusion from knowing my two scientist brothers. I'm deficient in science, which might be expected to jack up my right-brain prowess, but I don't think it worked out that way.



The following user would like to thank DWill for this post:
Harry Marks
Fri May 28, 2021 6:29 am
Profile
User avatar
Years of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membership
BookTalk.org Hall of Fame

Gold Contributor

Joined: Oct 2005
Posts: 6127
Location: Canberra
Thanks: 2544
Thanked: 2509 times in 1878 posts
Gender: Male
Country: Australia (au)

Post Re: I: Tools of the Trades: Writing Science (Neil deGrasse Tyson)
In The Timeless and the Topical, Dawkins decries the “general mood of protective affection for ignorance.” I encountered this problem last week as I decided to attend a sermon by a fundamentalist preacher. Her theme was the saving blood of Jesus Christ, an idea that I regard as pure ignorant emotional fantasy. She explained how her conversion to absolute belief in conventional simple Christianity had transformed her life.

The difficulty is that many people do experience a psychological soothing and moral clarity in this language, which serves as an anchor for their moral universe. Such people can be motivated to be kind and helpful by this imaginative fiction. Many people who have suffered trauma and abuse and addiction find the framework of absolute simple faith a comfort and shield. As a result, believers feel highly protective toward their dogma, and resentful or hostile toward any challenge to it. As a result the meme of the saving blood has an intractable power within believing sects, spilling across into broad social influence.

Dawkins proposes sympathy for the ignorant, but always looking for a practical way to draw them out of their ignorance. This is immensely difficult, because there are always people who are too happy to reinforce error in religion when it has strong emotive resonance and capacity to bring people together. The adaptive power of the meme is like a virus, finding a niche where it can readily replicate and endure in stable form. My approach is to say that a meme like the saving blood must in some way symbolise something true and natural and good if it is to be redeemable, and this is the only way such language should be ethically acceptable. There needs to be a path of connection between the parable and a coherent moral story.

My view is that the ‘protective affection for ignorance’ encountered within religion is actually on balance highly dangerous, despite its local benefits for believing individuals who should be viewed with compassion. The danger is seen from Voltaire’s principle that believing absurdity permits atrocity, which means that when a large social cohort accepts that false propositions are in fact true, the moral compass of the society is seriously disrupted, and evidence-free policies can be readily implemented.

The fantasy mentality resorts to rationalisations and delusions to justify its coherence, and this delusion metastasises, spreading like cancer through the society, in ways that have harmful effects. Religious fantasy is therefore like a cancer, wrapping itself around ignorant instincts and causing them to explode in influence by convincing believers that lies are truth.

Dawkins notes in this essay that the USA is at once the world science leader and a nation where 45% believe the false theory of young earth creationism. I am particularly concerned about the effects of this process in relation to climate change. Once people hold such a ‘flat earth’ type of mythology, they can only rationalise it through a cascading suite of absurd conspiracy myths, which have a toxic dumbing effect on public debate, with powerful emotional ideas crowding out the truth.

A consequence of such beliefs is that even while creationists may deny for example that they believe 'Mother Earth is evil', when a proposition like that is a logical implication of some of their beliefs, they will be less receptive to scientific morality that assumes the goodness and comprehensibility of the natural world.

George Orwell had a similar analysis of protective affection for ignorance, calling it "crimestop", the ability of the stupid to stop short of heretical and critical thinking through the instinctive intuition that scientific ideas are incompatible with prevailing social convention.


_________________
http://rtulip.net


The following user would like to thank Robert Tulip for this post:
geo, Harry Marks, LanDroid
Fri May 28, 2021 9:19 am
Profile Email WWW
User avatar
Years of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membership
Master of Posting

Silver Contributor

Joined: Jun 2004
Posts: 3710
Location: NJ
Thanks: 3
Thanked: 93 times in 71 posts
Gender: Male
Country: United States (us)

Post Re: I: Tools of the Trades: Writing Science (Neil deGrasse Tyson)
LanDroid wrote:
Well perhaps I'm wrong in equating timeless with eternal in this context, but so far I doubt it. (See how that works?)
Sir Pessimistic wrote:
Whether we can understand and explain every mechanism and process or not, the science is timeless. Our knowledge of it is just continually catching up.

I'm not a linguist, but we should to be careful with terms. With the assertion in bold above, I think you are attempting to say the actual fundamental Truths about the physical operations of the universe are eternal. OK but science, the iterative process that humans use to understand those background Truths produces results that certainly are not eternal. We may believe we're sneaking up on the Ultimate Truths, but the science (the hypotheses, predictions, theories, principles, and even laws that we constantly test and revise) is NOT timeless. I expect you may be in agreement with that in stating "Our knowledge of it is just continually catching up." But again the statement in bold is a problem, perhaps one Dawkins slipped on?


I was using it as a term for the workings of physical reality yes. No matter how you do the math.


_________________
When you refuse to learn, you become a disease.


Fri May 28, 2021 5:51 pm
Profile
User avatar
Years of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membership
I dumpster dive for books!


Joined: May 2011
Posts: 1796
Thanks: 2171
Thanked: 960 times in 763 posts
Gender: None specified

Post Re: I: Tools of the Trades: Writing Science (Neil deGrasse Tyson)
DWill wrote:
the supposition that the learn'd astronomer, too, might experience the sensual beauty of the night sky, perhaps more intensely from having understood it as a physical phenomenon.
Provisionally, I think the argument is that understanding how the components fit together, and how to use the process, tends to interfere with a certain quality of attention which is capable of linking esthetic values to the raw data, the thing one perceives directly. A statement like "ephemeral as the rainbow" simply sounds different to someone who regards it as an intrusion from a mysterious set of other-worldly processes, and therefore capable of signifying a whole range of possible meanings that might strike one as "the" meaning of this particular rainbow. If I understand correctly, viewing the rainbow as something with a pot of gold at the end will kill the poetic associations just as effectively as understanding light spectra and refraction by water droplets.

One might argue that we are better off without those possible meanings of a rainbow's appearance, and that may be correct. But I think it is undeniable that a certain kind of relationship to such phenomena has been lost. And that ignorant folk, who have never been taught the science even in a rough form, may very well still have access to those relationships.

DWill wrote:
I mean, certainly we've all seen scientists just oozing with wonder and love for what they've studied. Jane Goodall, David Attenborough, and Neil Shubin (Your Inner Fish) come to mind, and there are numerous others. These scientists have properly used reductive tools to break their subjects into parts, but they've kept and maybe enhanced their ability to see it whole.
Jane Goodall and David Attenborough are right-brain observers. I am not sure she ever did use much analytical processing to understand gorillas, but even if she did, the ability to integrate the results of left-brain analytical work into life and its ways is a right-brain process. The right brain takes in a phenomenon whole, and when some work needs to be done on information within the phenomenon it turns it over to the left brain, [the example of the guy in the gorilla suit wandering through a basketball game, and many people's failure to notice him because they are counting the bouncing of the ball, is a perfect illustration of having turned the attention process over to the left brain] but then it comes back for re-integration. Goodall was very functional in that integration process.

DWill wrote:
I'm thinking also of the vast majority of scientists being workaday types, whose emotional lives are bound to be pretty much like everyone else's. That's my conclusion from knowing my two scientist brothers.
I accept this similarity at face value - I have known many working scientists, especially physicists because I lived in Geneva and knew CERN people. However, I think it is possible that a subtle tilt to the mental "lay of the land" has been imparted by an analytical world view, and by the deconstruction of mystery that science brings about. In general I think the specialization in the modern economy is more likely to have crimped our right-brain capacities than the worldview of science is, whatever tilt the science may have caused.



The following user would like to thank Harry Marks for this post:
DWill
Fri May 28, 2021 10:52 pm
Profile Email
User avatar
Years of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membership
pets endangered by possible book avalanche

BookTalk.org Moderator
Platinum Contributor

Joined: Aug 2008
Posts: 4643
Location: NC
Thanks: 2123
Thanked: 2140 times in 1588 posts
Gender: Male

Post Re: I: Tools of the Trades: Writing Science (Neil deGrasse Tyson)
Harry Marks wrote:
. . . the real problem was the perception that a researcher was taking "visions" seriously, and not immediately putting a politically convenient label on them to dismiss them, as she ought to do. This involved taking sides, with science on one side and religion on the other, and insisting that others must take sides in the same way - for the sake of politically backing science. The fact that it involved denying scientific methodology was lost on these scientistical people.

I must have a mental block of the term "scientism" because in these kinds of examples it seems to me that other, more obvious answers are staring us in the face. The word “scientism” seems only a vague pejorative used in the religion-vs.-science war.

"Taking sides" is a very common phenomenon and permeates throughout our culture. People will take sides on just about any subject you can imagine. We are polarized on many issues. But because this particular conversation involves a scientific subject, the culprits are “scientistical?”

In an earlier post you mentioned the Higg’s boson, sometimes called the “God particle” by some media sources. I can point to numerous examples of shoddy and sensationalistic journalism, so why is it a surprise that the state of science reporting is also (to borrow from George Orwell) in a “bad way.” The term “God particle” is generally not endorsed by physicists. So I think you’re only making a case that mass media is superficial and sensationalist. The right likes to blame the “liberal media” for similar reasons. But the real reason many mainstream media sources suck is because they are motivated by profit.

If “scientism” means an excessive belief in the power of scientific knowledge, then an opposite term with equal descriptive power might be “science nincompoopery.” I saw a clip on the news recently where Sen. Rand Paul said he does not need to be vaccinated against Covid-19 since he already caught the virus. Never mind that the evidence (so far!) suggests the vaccine provides a much more robust response. And that’s why the CDC recommends that all adults be vaccinated, whether they’ve had COVID or not. The Senator is either misinformed or attempting to score political points (probably both). Either way about half the country refuses to get vaccinated because they’re taking sides or because they don’t trust the government or they think Bill Gates has hatched some nefarious evil plan. If “scientism” is such a pervasive force, it seems to be bouncing off of most people. My point is there’s an appalling level of scientific illiteracy in our society and this seems to me a much more pressing issue than the horrible sin of excessive belief in the power of science.

Again, I suspect I may be a little biased here. It probably doesn’t help my case to quote Dawkins, who surely is as “scientistic” as they come, right?

Dawkins wrote:
‘Scientism’ is as dirty a word as any in today’s intellectual lexicon. Scientific explanations that have the virtue of simplicity are derided as ‘simplistic’. Obscurity is often mistaken for profundity; simple clarity can be taken for arrogance. Analytical minds are denigrated as ‘reductionist’ – as with ‘sin’, we may not know what it means, but we do know that we are against it. The Nobel Prize-winning immunologist and polymath Peter Medawar, not a man to suffer fools gladly, remarked that ‘reductive analysis is the most successful research stratagem ever devised’, and continued: ‘Some resent the whole idea of elucidating any entity or state of affairs that would otherwise have continued to languish in a familiar and nonthreatening squalor of incomprehension.’

Non-scientific ways of thinking – intuitive, sensitive, imaginative (as if science were not imaginative!) – are thought by some to have a built-in superiority over cold, austere, scientific ‘reason’.


_________________
-Geo
Question everything


The following user would like to thank geo for this post:
Harry Marks
Sat May 29, 2021 10:07 am
Profile
User avatar
Years of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membership
BookTalk.org Hall of Fame

Platinum Contributor
Book Discussion Leader

Joined: Jan 2008
Posts: 6897
Location: Luray, Virginia
Thanks: 2239
Thanked: 2437 times in 1837 posts
Gender: Male
Country: United States (us)

Post Re: I: Tools of the Trades: Writing Science (Neil deGrasse Tyson)
geo wrote:
I saw a clip on the news recently where Sen. Rand Paul said he does not need to be vaccinated against Covid-19 since he already caught the virus. Never mind that the evidence (so far!) suggests the vaccine provides a much more robust response. And thatt’s why the CDC recommends that all adults be vaccinated, whether they’ve had COVID or not. The Senator is either misinformed or attempting to score political points (probably both). Either way about half the country refuses to get vaccinated because they’re taking sides or because they don’t trust the government or they think Bill Gates has hatched some nefarious evil plan. If “scientism” is such a pervasive force, it seems to be bouncing off of most people. My point is there’s an appalling level of scientific illiteracy in our society and this seems to me a much more pressing issue than the horrible sin of excessive belief in the power of science.

That's Dr. Rand Paul, ophthalmologist. Scientific training did no good whatsoever for him.



The following user would like to thank DWill for this post:
Harry Marks
Sat May 29, 2021 11:29 am
Profile
User avatar
Years of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membership
BookTalk.org Hall of Fame

Platinum Contributor
Book Discussion Leader

Joined: Jan 2008
Posts: 6897
Location: Luray, Virginia
Thanks: 2239
Thanked: 2437 times in 1837 posts
Gender: Male
Country: United States (us)

Post Re: I: Tools of the Trades: Writing Science (Neil deGrasse Tyson)
Robert Tulip wrote:
In The Timeless and the Topical, Dawkins decries the “general mood of protective affection for ignorance.” I encountered this problem last week as I decided to attend a sermon by a fundamentalist preacher. Her theme was the saving blood of Jesus Christ, an idea that I regard as pure ignorant emotional fantasy. She explained how her conversion to absolute belief in conventional simple Christianity had transformed her life.

The difficulty is that many people do experience a psychological soothing and moral clarity in this language, which serves as an anchor for their moral universe. Such people can be motivated to be kind and helpful by this imaginative fiction. Many people who have suffered trauma and abuse and addiction find the framework of absolute simple faith a comfort and shield. As a result, believers feel highly protective toward their dogma, and resentful or hostile toward any challenge to it. As a result the meme of the saving blood has an intractable power within believing sects, spilling across into broad social influence.

Dawkins proposes sympathy for the ignorant, but always looking for a practical way to draw them out of their ignorance. This is immensely difficult, because there are always people who are too happy to reinforce error in religion when it has strong emotive resonance and capacity to bring people together. The adaptive power of the meme is like a virus, finding a niche where it can readily replicate and endure in stable form. My approach is to say that a meme like the saving blood must in some way symbolise something true and natural and good if it is to be redeemable, and this is the only way such language should be ethically acceptable. There needs to be a path of connection between the parable and a coherent moral story.

Since you've given such a good description, Robert, of the power that the blood-of-Christ doctrine has for this woman and other people, the question I have is, what else would substitute? If there was something of comparable force, wouldn't she have gone to it? I get a little nervous when I hear someone's religious 'error' proclaimed. Haven't we had centuries of wars over religious 'errors'?
Quote:
My view is that the ‘protective affection for ignorance’ encountered within religion is actually on balance highly dangerous, despite its local benefits for believing individuals who should be viewed with compassion. The danger is seen from Voltaire’s principle that believing absurdity permits atrocity, which means that when a large social cohort accepts that false propositions are in fact true, the moral compass of the society is seriously disrupted, and evidence-free policies can be readily implemented.

I think you're putting too much blame on on a religious belief with which you disagree. Believing in salvation from Christ's blood, although an unimaginable thought for me, isn't the same 'ignorance' as believing the world is flat, or, to site ignorance that is demonstrably harmful, that the last U.S. presidential election was stolen. That is an instance of absurdity leading to atrocity. Such direct links often aren't identifiable when considering religious beliefs.
Quote:
The fantasy mentality resorts to rationalisations and delusions to justify its coherence, and this delusion metastasises, spreading like cancer through the society, in ways that have harmful effects. Religious fantasy is therefore like a cancer, wrapping itself around ignorant instincts and causing them to explode in influence by convincing believers that lies are truth.

There is a similarity between this process and the QAnon conspiracy movement, but there's a problem, in that QAnon, if it could be called religiously based, is like an escaped-from-the-lab virus. Other religions, be they fantasy-based in our view or not, actually keep a lid on craziness, although exceptions could be sited.
Quote:
Dawkins notes in this essay that the USA is at once the world science leader and a nation where 45% believe the false theory of young earth creationism. I am particularly concerned about the effects of this process in relation to climate change. Once people hold such a ‘flat earth’ type of mythology, they can only rationalise it through a cascading suite of absurd conspiracy myths, which have a toxic dumbing effect on public debate, with powerful emotional ideas crowding out the truth.

That's one anomaly that Dawkins sites. Another that he and Tyson discussed is the robustness of religion in the U.S., a country without an established church, compared to the anemia of religion in European countries with state churches. I just wonder whether in each case something hidden from view, perhaps a dynamism, could be producing qualities that appear incompatible. I'm as concerned as anyone about more of the population seeming to believe any damn thing it wants, regardless of facts, but I don't think we can say yet that science has been dealt a serious blow (Biden has helped a lot), and I don't think that belief in creationism poses the most severe threat. I see more an insolence, a stick-it-to-them anger, making people defend absurdities.



The following user would like to thank DWill for this post:
Harry Marks, Robert Tulip
Sat May 29, 2021 12:28 pm
Profile
User avatar
Years of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membership
BookTalk.org Hall of Fame

Gold Contributor

Joined: Oct 2005
Posts: 6127
Location: Canberra
Thanks: 2544
Thanked: 2509 times in 1878 posts
Gender: Male
Country: Australia (au)

Post Re: I: Tools of the Trades: Writing Science (Neil deGrasse Tyson)
Harry Marks wrote:
understanding how the components fit together, and how to use the process, tends to interfere with a certain quality of attention which is capable of linking esthetic values to the raw data, the thing one perceives directly.
This reminds me of my two favourite philosophers, Martin Heidegger and Carlos Castaneda, who are both reviled by the analytic community precisely because of their views on this epistemological problem.

Epistemology, the theory of knowledge, is seen by Dawkins & co. as entirely a reductive problem, understanding the task of explaining what something is purely by describing it accurately. With accurate description, on the scientific epistemology, we know exactly what something really is, while recognising in theory that all knowledge is provisional.

But for both Heidegger (the founder of existentialism) and Castaneda (student of Mexican shamanism), accurate description is only one aspect of epistemic truth, and the belief that description is all there is to truth is a source of pervasive error. They both emphasise another way of knowledge, a way that connects us to what we perceive.

For Heidegger, existential reality is defined at the human level, seeing things in the world as both stuff for use, whose meaning is defined by human construction, and in aesthetic terms of beauty. For Castaneda, the shamanic vision defines epistemology in terms of the tonal, as the world of ordinary practical rationality, encompassed by the nagual, a deeper mystery of the unknowable energy of the universe.

Shamanism requires a quality of attention that is open to the presence of the nagual, just as existentialism involves a quality of attention to the meaning of being in the world as care. Both these perspectives are entirely logical, but challenge the scientism that Dawkins celebrates.
Harry Marks wrote:
A statement like "ephemeral as the rainbow" simply sounds different to someone who regards it as an intrusion from a mysterious set of other-worldly processes, and therefore capable of signifying a whole range of possible meanings that might strike one as "the" meaning of this particular rainbow. If I understand correctly, viewing the rainbow as something with a pot of gold at the end will kill the poetic associations just as effectively as understanding light spectra and refraction by water droplets.
The pot of gold idea is a metaphor that is entirely poetic, and the poetry is only killed by taking the old lore literally. One account of its origins is at https://steemit.com/rwanda/@jackarphill ... w-end-myth

The seanchaí of old Ireland would recite from memory long lyric poems for the king, an oral tradition formerly celebrated as holding the knowledge of power among the initiated elders, but in large part destroyed and degraded by the English invasion. I was told the pot of gold meant of old one could never hold the rainbow’s end. While it is possible to see the end of a rainbow, it will disappear like a mirage when you try to go to it. The trick of the leprechauns is to show that the greedy desire for lucre deceives and corrupts, as the moral of the story.


_________________
http://rtulip.net


The following user would like to thank Robert Tulip for this post:
DWill, Harry Marks
Sat May 29, 2021 5:41 pm
Profile Email WWW
User avatar
Years of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membership
To read, or not to read...

BookTalk.org Moderator
Book Discussion Leader
Silver Contributor

Joined: Jul 2002
Posts: 2382
Location: Cincinnati, OH
Thanks: 129
Thanked: 978 times in 752 posts
Gender: Male
Country: United States (us)

Post Re: I: Tools of the Trades: Writing Science (Neil deGrasse Tyson)
DWill wrote:
I'm as concerned as anyone about more of the population seeming to believe any damn thing it wants...

Dawkins has a cutting phrase about that.
Quote:
The knowledge that we are cousins to apes, kangaroos, and bacteria is beyond all educated doubt...

And of course this stinger we have discussed.
Quote:
It is bafflingly paradoxical that the United States is by far the world’s leading scientific nation while simultaneously housing the most scientifically illiterate populace outside the Third World.
P 51


Mr. Tulip wrote:
The trick of the leprechauns is to show that the greedy desire for lucre deceives and corrupts, as the moral of the story.

:appl: This may be lost when unweaving the rainbow.



The following user would like to thank LanDroid for this post:
Harry Marks
Sat May 29, 2021 8:45 pm
Profile
User avatar
Years of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membership
BookTalk.org Hall of Fame

Platinum Contributor
Book Discussion Leader

Joined: Jan 2008
Posts: 6897
Location: Luray, Virginia
Thanks: 2239
Thanked: 2437 times in 1837 posts
Gender: Male
Country: United States (us)

Post Re: I: Tools of the Trades: Writing Science (Neil deGrasse Tyson)
LanDroid wrote:
DWill wrote:
I'm as concerned as anyone about more of the population seeming to believe any damn thing it wants...

Dawkins has a cutting phrase about that.
Quote:
The knowledge that we are cousins to apes, kangaroos, and bacteria is beyond all educated doubt...

And of course this stinger we have discussed.
Quote:
It is bafflingly paradoxical that the United States is by far the world’s leading scientific nation while simultaneously housing the most scientifically illiterate populace outside the Third World.
P 51

If this resistance to science information could exist in a bubble, isolated from much real-world consequence, I wouldn't be alarmed. But since in all likelihood denying facts about evolution makes denying more immediate facts, such as who won the election and climate change, more likely to happen, the backwardness RD laments is of great concern.



The following user would like to thank DWill for this post:
Harry Marks, Robert Tulip
Sun May 30, 2021 9:11 am
Profile
User avatar
Years of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membership
I dumpster dive for books!


Joined: May 2011
Posts: 1796
Thanks: 2171
Thanked: 960 times in 763 posts
Gender: None specified

Post Re: I: Tools of the Trades: Writing Science (Neil deGrasse Tyson)
geo wrote:
I must have a mental block of the term "scientism" because in these kinds of examples it seems to me that other, more obvious answers are staring us in the face. The word “scientism” seems only a vague pejorative used in the religion-vs.-science war.
Well, I think it often is, though it is hardly religion alone that criticizes "scientism". I first ran into the term from post-modernist critical academic types. I don't think there is a well-defined phenomenon of scientism, just a vaguely related set of behaviors that try to borrow legitimacy from what science does well, for use in some -ism thing: criticizing people someone doesn't like, enforcing conformity within political groups, trying to get offenders de-platformed, etc. It isn't always something problematic being done in the name of science, but it isn't science itself.

I'm happy to state that of many types of -isms out there, scientism is nowhere near the most dangerous or even problematic. Fundamentalist religion, for example, has a much worse track record. That doesn't mean there is no reason to worry about scientism, or that it should be a label worn proudly.

geo wrote:
"Taking sides" is a very common phenomenon and permeates throughout our culture. People will take sides on just about any subject you can imagine. We are polarized on many issues. But because this particular conversation involves a scientific subject, the culprits are “scientistical?”
Maybe not, but that particular crowd fancied themselves anti-religion and anti-intellectual, and would have gladly claimed that they were being "pro-science" in attacking Luhrmann. Accusing people of being "apologists" for religion is a very common tactic of the scientisticals. I certainly agree with you that polarization brings up nasty behavior that may have nothing to do with confusion between science and scientism.

geo wrote:
In an earlier post you mentioned the Higg’s boson, sometimes called the “God particle” by some media sources. I can point to numerous examples of shoddy and sensationalistic journalism, so why is it a surprise that the state of science reporting is also (to borrow from George Orwell) in a “bad way.” The term “God particle” is generally not endorsed by physicists. So I think you’re only making a case that mass media is superficial and sensationalist. The right likes to blame the “liberal media” for similar reasons. But the real reason many mainstream media sources suck is because they are motivated by profit.
I wholeheartedly agree. Scientism, if one accepts that such a thing exists, takes many shapes and happens for many reasons. Sensationalism is one of them. The press loves to feed controversy. More than a few science writers have aslo deliberately sought to sell books by being controversial.

geo wrote:
My point is there’s an appalling level of scientific illiteracy in our society and this seems to me a much more pressing issue than the horrible sin of excessive belief in the power of science.
Yes, I suppose there is, although levels of illiteracy are comparable on other subjects, including history and geography. And ignorance is clearly more remediable than, say, arrogance, although I think a case could be made that arrogance is as bad. Excessive belief in the power of science is hard to find, in the days after Three Mile Island and the Terminator. Excessive enthusiasm for science as symbol is still alive and well, however.

Dawkins wrote:
Non-scientific ways of thinking – intuitive, sensitive, imaginative (as if science were not imaginative!) – are thought by some to have a built-in superiority over cold, austere, scientific ‘reason’.


I like the Dawkins quote about simplicity and the power of reductive thinking. It is surely on target. But the problem, at least to my lights, is not a superiority of intuitive and holistic thought, as if one needs to choose between the two. No, it is a neglect of intuitive and holistic thought - a lack of interest in it by the general public ("don't bother me, I have a good Roblox game going") and the small scale of investment in it by the powers and purse strings.

We have left understanding to experts and specialists, and the integration of scientific understanding with thought about how to live life well has been sorely neglected as if it does not matter. The official ideology is that everybody is therefore able to do their own holistic integration, with no "established religion," so to speak, telling them what to think. And there is certainly a lot to be said for having no established religion. But if we leave cultivation of meaning to David Brooks and Jimmy Kimmel (or, God forbid, Microsoft news), we should expect to see things like the surge in mental health problems among young people (apparently caused almost entirely by inability to deal with the intensity of social comparison fostered by social media).



Sun May 30, 2021 10:25 pm
Profile Email
User avatar
Years of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membership
I dumpster dive for books!


Joined: May 2011
Posts: 1796
Thanks: 2171
Thanked: 960 times in 763 posts
Gender: None specified

Post Re: I: Tools of the Trades: Writing Science (Neil deGrasse Tyson)
Robert Tulip wrote:
Epistemology, the theory of knowledge, is seen by Dawkins & co. as entirely a reductive problem, understanding the task of explaining what something is purely by describing it accurately. With accurate description, on the scientific epistemology, we know exactly what something really is, while recognising in theory that all knowledge is provisional.

But for both Heidegger (the founder of existentialism) and Castaneda (student of Mexican shamanism), accurate description is only one aspect of epistemic truth, and the belief that description is all there is to truth is a source of pervasive error. They both emphasise another way of knowledge, a way that connects us to what we perceive.

For Heidegger, existential reality is defined at the human level, seeing things in the world as both stuff for use, whose meaning is defined by human construction, and in aesthetic terms of beauty. For Castaneda, the shamanic vision defines epistemology in terms of the tonal, as the world of ordinary practical rationality, encompassed by the nagual, a deeper mystery of the unknowable energy of the universe.


That's an interesting set of problems, and I am all for elucidating the resulting issues well. Such progress is likely to clean up a lot of our errors and help avoid making our situation worse with new errors. I am aiming in a slightly different direction, at the cultivation of skills like gratitude and ability to have difficult conversations, both of which have featured in the New York Times in this annus horribilis. We are not, most of us, going to be out experimenting with peyote or trying to nail down the relationship between being and nothingness. Aristotle understood the basic issue about telos, that it must be cultivated.

I have been arguing for about 40 years now that there should be classes that teach skills and orientation for raising children well. Knowledge on the subject is woefully inadequate, and most woeful among those who are poorest. In the same way there should be education in things like selecting career goals and strategies, work-life balance, how to deal with obnoxious people, and how to find fulfillment with other people. I don't think this is held back by lack of agreement about curriculum. I think it is held back by a truly stupid notion that it has insufficient return on investment.

Quote:
The pot of gold idea is a metaphor that is entirely poetic, and the poetry is only killed by taking the old lore literally.

The trick of the leprechauns is to show that the greedy desire for lucre deceives and corrupts, as the moral of the story.

Now that you mention it, I think I was told the same thing about the deception the rainbow offers for those who are greedy. A charming bit of lore, really. But yes, I was referring to the destructive effect of taking the old notion literally.



Sun May 30, 2021 10:45 pm
Profile Email
User avatar
Years of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membership
BookTalk.org Hall of Fame

Platinum Contributor
Book Discussion Leader

Joined: Jan 2008
Posts: 6897
Location: Luray, Virginia
Thanks: 2239
Thanked: 2437 times in 1837 posts
Gender: Male
Country: United States (us)

Post Re: I: Tools of the Trades: Writing Science (Neil deGrasse Tyson)
Robert Tulip wrote:
Epistemology, the theory of knowledge, is seen by Dawkins & co. as entirely a reductive problem, understanding the task of explaining what something is purely by describing it accurately. With accurate description, on the scientific epistemology, we know exactly what something really is, while recognising in theory that all knowledge is provisional.

But for both Heidegger (the founder of existentialism) and Castaneda (student of Mexican shamanism), accurate description is only one aspect of epistemic truth, and the belief that description is all there is to truth is a source of pervasive error. They both emphasise another way of knowledge, a way that connects us to what we perceive.

For Heidegger, existential reality is defined at the human level, seeing things in the world as both stuff for use, whose meaning is defined by human construction, and in aesthetic terms of beauty. For Castaneda, the shamanic vision defines epistemology in terms of the tonal, as the world of ordinary practical rationality, encompassed by the nagual, a deeper mystery of the unknowable energy of the universe.

Shamanism requires a quality of attention that is open to the presence of the nagual, just as existentialism involves a quality of attention to the meaning of being in the world as care. Both these perspectives are entirely logical, but challenge the scientism that Dawkins celebrates.

It would surprise me if Dawkins has even talked about epistemology, and so I think when you say he has some position on how knowledge is to be classified, you're bringing out what you think is implicit in his thinking. Dawkins is openly dismissive of philosophers, don't you think? He gives thumbs-down to Heidegger in his review entitled "Pornophilosophy." He doesn't see philosophy as an important field, would certainly agree that we'd be able to get along without it, but not without science.

His dismissal of philosophy might be shortsighted, though I'd agree with him about which field is the more important. Yet I surmise that Neil Degrasse Tyson doesn't give much thought to philosophy, either, but he is much more forgiving of the illogicality to which human brains are subject, and in that way to my mind at least, more "philosophical" than Dawkins. Harry a while back talked about the lack of "holism" in the views of the Four Horsemen atheists. He can elaborate that in terms receptivity to right-brain thinking, but I view it simply as less tolerance for difference.

Dawkins insists that doing science right, using it to continue to advance our welfare, has no downside. Science doesn't either implicitly or explicitly dictate views about meaning, value, or the emotional side of living. Here's how he responds, in the Selfish Gene introduction, to criticism that his book induces hopelessness:
"Presumably there is indeed no purpose in the ultimate fate of the cosmos, but do any of us really tie our life's hopes to the ultimate fate of the cosmos anyway? Of course we don't; not if we are sane. Our lives are ruled by all sorts of closer, warmer, human ambitions and perceptions. To accuse science of robbing life of the warmth that makes it worth living is so preposterously mistaken, so diametrically opposite to my own feelings and those of most working scientists, I am almost driven to the despair of which I am wrongly suspected."



The following user would like to thank DWill for this post:
geo, Harry Marks
Tue Jun 01, 2021 3:23 pm
Profile
User avatar
Years of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membership
BookTalk.org Hall of Fame

Gold Contributor

Joined: Oct 2005
Posts: 6127
Location: Canberra
Thanks: 2544
Thanked: 2509 times in 1878 posts
Gender: Male
Country: Australia (au)

Post Re: I: Tools of the Trades: Writing Science (Neil deGrasse Tyson)
DWill wrote:
It would surprise me if Dawkins has even talked about epistemology, and so I think when you say he has some position on how knowledge is to be classified, you're bringing out what you think is implicit in his thinking.


An article today in Salon accuses Dawkins of epistemic and moral turpitude, building on previous Salon criticism, so his relation to epistemology is of interest.

Theory of knowledge is a primary concern running through Dawkins’ role as Professor for Public Understanding of Science. The problem in public understanding is that people are misinformed about what we know. That means people are confused about epistemology. It is not so much that Dawkins has a “position on how knowledge is to be classified”, as you put it, but rather that he considers many people do not know what knowledge is and why it is valuable.

The excellent Wikipedia page at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epistemology explains why epistemology is such a major field in philosophy. It notes that in French epistemology just means ‘philosophy of science’, whereas the English term is broader, encompassing the whole theory of knowledge. Either way, epistemology includes Dawkins’ efforts to explain why science is important and how it proceeds.

Dawkins has strongly imbibed the English empirical philosophy propounded by Locke and Hume, flowing through into the modern analytical method of writers such as AJ Ayer who I quoted earlier, or Bertrand Russell and many others who tend to assume there is no meaning outside science. The disputes between empiricist philosophy and the European rationalist tradition hover strongly in the background of Dawkins’ assumptions about what is real and what methods of enquiry and analysis are legitimate.


_________________
http://rtulip.net


The following user would like to thank Robert Tulip for this post:
DWill, Harry Marks
Sun Jun 06, 2021 6:24 am
Profile Email WWW
User avatar
Years of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membershipYears of membership
To read, or not to read...

BookTalk.org Moderator
Book Discussion Leader
Silver Contributor

Joined: Jul 2002
Posts: 2382
Location: Cincinnati, OH
Thanks: 129
Thanked: 978 times in 752 posts
Gender: Male
Country: United States (us)

Post Re: I: Tools of the Trades: Writing Science (Neil deGrasse Tyson)
Fighting on Two Fronts

Quote:
Napoleon Chagnon came along at just the right time for the Yanomamö and for scientific anthropology. Encroaching civilization was about to close the last window on a tribal world that embodied vanishing clues to our own prehistory: a world of forest ‘gardens’, of kin groups fissioning into genetically salient sub-groups, of male combat over women and transgenerational revenge, complex alliances and enmities; webs of calculated obligation, debt, grudge and gratitude that might underlie much of our social psychology and even law, ethics and economics. Chagnon’s extraordinary body of work will long be mined, not just by anthropologists but by psychologists, humanists, litterateurs, scientists of all kinds: mined for … who knows what insights into the deep roots of our humanity?
P. 55

This does sound like a fascinating book, perhaps indicating what pre-historic humans were like. Although not sure I really want to read about fights between anthropologists. Perhaps this one would be better, Yanomamo - The Last Days Of Eden.



The following user would like to thank LanDroid for this post:
Harry Marks
Sun Jun 13, 2021 6:12 pm
Profile
Display posts from previous:  Sort by  
Post new topic Reply to topic  [ 65 posts ] • Topic evaluate: Evaluations: 0, 0.00 on the average.Evaluations: 0, 0.00 on the average.Evaluations: 0, 0.00 on the average.Evaluations: 0, 0.00 on the average.Evaluations: 0, 0.00 on the average.  Go to page Previous  1, 2, 3, 4, 5  Next



Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest


You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot post attachments in this forum

Search for:


Recent Posts 
• II: Worlds Beyond Words (Adam Hart-Davis)

Sat Jun 19, 2021 10:50 pm

DWill

• Rationality - Steven Pinker - Release in Sept 2021

Sat Jun 19, 2021 10:31 pm

Mr. P

• Please "Check In" here to the discussion of "Books do Furnish a Life" by Richard Dawkins

Sat Jun 19, 2021 5:15 pm

geo

• The Fall From Grace

Fri Jun 18, 2021 10:07 pm

Harry Marks

• The Boys of the Breach - Mutliverse, military scifi adventures!

Fri Jun 18, 2021 4:35 pm

David Welch

• Tales of the Far Wanderers - Pulp adventure tales in a medieval, dystopian future

Thu Jun 17, 2021 3:58 pm

David Welch

• Steampunk / Historical Romance - ARC Reviewers Needed - Dead Dukes Tell No Tales

Thu Jun 17, 2021 11:46 am

BookBuzz

• I: Tools of the Trades: Writing Science (Neil deGrasse Tyson)

Wed Jun 16, 2021 9:30 pm

Mr. P

• Chaos Quarter: Wrath of the Hegemons

Wed Jun 16, 2021 4:20 pm

David Welch

• Reviewers Wanted - Historical Novel - Shadows of Saigon

Wed Jun 16, 2021 12:28 pm

BookBuzz

• Reviewers Needed - New Military / Action Thriller - Setareh Doctrine By Mark Downer

Wed Jun 16, 2021 12:10 pm

BookBuzz

• Clean Mystery - REVIEWERS WANTED - Circumvent By S.K. Derban

Wed Jun 16, 2021 11:41 am

BookBuzz

• Chaos Quarter: Horde - A princess, a motley crew, and a space horde collide...

Tue Jun 15, 2021 3:51 pm

David Welch

• Reviewers Needed - FREE Review Copies - Historical / Military Fiction - American Valor

Tue Jun 15, 2021 1:50 pm

BookBuzz

• Reviewers Wanted - FREE Review Copies - Mystery / Suspense - He Goes Out Weeping

Tue Jun 15, 2021 12:46 pm

BookBuzz


Site Resources 
HELPFUL INFO:
Community Rules & Tips
Frequently Asked Questions
BBCode Explained
Author Interview Transcripts
Book Discussion Leaders

IDEAS FOR WHAT TO READ:
Bestsellers
Book Awards
Banned Books
• Book Reviews
• Online Books
• Team Picks
Newspaper Book Sections

WHERE TO BUY BOOKS:
• Coming Soon!

BEHIND THE BOOKS:
• Coming Soon!

PROMOTE YOUR BOOK!
Advertise on BookTalk.org
Promote your FICTION book
Promote your NON-FICTION book





BookTalk.org is a thriving book discussion forum, online reading group or book club. We read and talk about both fiction and non-fiction books as a community. Our forums are open to anyone in the world. While discussing books is our passion we also have active forums for talking about poetry, short stories, writing and authors. Our general discussion forum section includes forums for discussing science, religion, philosophy, politics, history, current events, arts, entertainment and more. We hope you join us!


Navigation 
MAIN NAVIGATION

HOMEFORUMSOUR BOOKSAUTHOR INTERVIEWSADVERTISELINKSFAQDONATETERMS OF USEPRIVACY POLICYSITEMAP

OTHER PAGES WORTH EXPLORING
Banned Book ListOnline Reading GroupTop 10 Atheism Books

Copyright © BookTalk.org 2002-2021. All rights reserved.

Display Pagerank