: After seeing that last question reference your interest in philosophy I wondered what you thought about Khun's thesis on the paridigmatic nature of science, he seemed to think that too the extent that science is a conceptual schema it shapes the way we think the world really is but this is not based in how the world really is, rather it is based in something less rational like a widely held view which is held until the vanguard of the view die off. Do you believe in scientific/objective reality?
Kuhn thought science progresses through revolutions: a certain central paradigm of science is substitute by another when the second shows it can explain more about reality and that it can solve problems the predecessor can’t.
I think that with his thesis of scientific progress through revolutions Kuhn tried to better explain that science is not an uniform and linear process of accumulation of knowledge about the world. I think his description of scientific progress was quite accurate in 1962 (The year ‘The Structure of Scientific Revolutions’ was published). I don’t think it’s an accurate picture of what science is today.
But to answer your question: I think science is the better way we have to get progressively closer to what the world really is, I think that a certain scientific paradigm is not just a widely accepted description of the reality, it’s the better description of reality. However I doubt there will be a day in which we will say: “That’s it. That’s definitely it. That’s how Nature works. Our job is done”.
I’m also aware that science is not an all logical, all rational machine that produces pure knowledge. Science is a human enterprise, and this means that it can be affected by human flaws and limitations. But it has good antibodies against them.
Sorry, but “thinking deeply” doesn’t cut it. People are not especially logical creatures, and we’re just not smart enough to gain true knowledge about the world by the power of reason alone. That’s why empiricism was invented in the first place, and why it’s been so spectacularly successful over the last few centuries.
Tracking Debris from the Tohoku Tsunami
The Japanese government estimated that 5 million tons of debris was swept up by the monstrous tsunami of March 2011.
The map above shows the output of the Surface Currents from Diagnostic (SCUD) model, an attempt to simulate where and how that debris would disperse. Orange and red shaded areas represent parcels of water with a high probably of containing floating debris. The deeper the red color, the higher the likely concentration. The debris field stretches roughly 5,000 kilometers by 2,000 kilometers across the North Pacific. […]
As human beings, we have an innate ability to make something out of nothing. We see shapes in the clouds, and a man in the moon; gamblers are convinced that they have ‘runs of luck’; we take a perfectly cheerful heavy-metal record, play it backwards, and hear hidden messages about Satan. Our ability to spot patterns is what allows us to make sense of the world; but sometimes, in our eagerness, we are oversensitive, trigger-happy, and mistakenly spot patterns where none exist.
In science, if you want to study a phenomenon, it is sometimes useful to reduce it to its simplest and most controlled form. There is a prevalent belief among sporting types that sportsmen, like gamblers (except more plausibly), have ‘runs of luck’. People ascribe this to confidence, ‘getting your eye in’, ‘warming up’, or more, and while it might exist in some games, statisticians have looked in various places where people have claimed it to exist and found no relationship between, say, hitting a home run in one inning, then hitting a home run in the next.
Because the ‘winning streak’ is such a prevalent belief, it is an excellent model for looking at how we perceive random sequences of events. This was used by an American social psychologist called Thomas Gilovich in a classic experiment. He took basketball fans and showed them a random sequence of X’s and O’s, explaining that they represented a player’s hits and misses, and then asked them if they thought the sequences demonstrated ‘streak shooting’.
Here is a random sequence of figures from that experiment. You might think of it as being generated by a series of coin tosses.
The subjects in the experiment were convinced that this sequence exemplified ‘streak shooting’ or ‘runs of luck’, and it’s easy to see why, if you look again: six of the first eight shots were hits. No, wait: eight of the first eleven shots were hits. No way is that random …
What this ingenious experiment shows is how bad we are at correctly identifying random sequences. We are wrong about what they should look like: we expect too much alternation, so truly random sequences seem somehow too lumpy and ordered. Our intuitions about the most basic observation of all – distinguishing a pattern from mere random background noise – are deeply flawed.
This is our first lesson in the importance of using statistics instead of intuition. It’s also an excellent demonstration of how strong the parallels are between these cognitive illusions and the perceptual illusions with which we are more familiar. You can stare at a visual illusion all you like, talk or think about it, but it will still look ‘wrong’. Similarly, you can look at that random sequence above as hard as you like: it will still look lumpy and ordered, in defiance of what you now know.”
by Ben Goldacre - ‘Bad Science’.
Science is occasionally accused of being a closed- minded or stubborn enterprise. Often people make such accusations when they see scientists swiftly discount astrology, the paranormal, Sasquatch sightings, and other areas of human interest that routinely fail double-blind tests or that possess a dearth of reliable evidence. But don’t be offended. Scientists apply this same level of skepticism to ordinary claims in the professional research journals. The standards are identical. […]
With scientists exhibiting such strong levels of skepticism, some people may be surprised to learn that scientists heap their largest rewards and praises upon those who do, in fact, discover flaws in established paradigms. These same rewards also go to those who create new ways to understand the universe. Nearly all famous scientists, pick your favorite one, have been so praised in their own lifetimes. This path to success in one’s professional career is antithetical to almost every other human establishment
Neil deGrasse Tyson - Death by Black Hole and other cosmic quandaries.
In fact, the more what I’m reading is closer to my field of expertise, the more my skepticism grows.
Images produced with Diffusion spectrum magnetic resonance imaging (DSI) a new tool developed by Van J Wedeen. Here’s an interview, and here’s a slide show.
1. Exploration is about observation, the first step of the scientific process. Without exploration we do not have the intellectual fodder for scientific discovery.
2. Exploration is about knowledge, about expanding our horizons and answering questions that we haven’t even thought of asking yet.
3. Through exploration we can gain knowledge about earth, life, and potentially other planets.
4. Exploration leads to technological and engineering innovation as we strive to meet new challenges.
5. To explore the unknown means discovery with ramifications unseen.
6. Through exploration, nations become great.
7. A humans we are a naturally curious species, we deny our humanity if we do not explore the unknown world around us.
8. Exploration allows for the unification of humanity around great achievement.
9. Exploration allows us to inspire others to be explorers and scientists.
10. We should explore because it’s cool, awesome, and amazing.
In science, every new discovery raises 10 new questions
What Science Wants to Know by Stuart Firestein
By this calculus, ignorance will always grow faster than knowledge. […] for all we have come to know, there is far more we don’t know. More important, everyday there is far more we know we don’t know. One crucial outcome of scientific knowledge is to generate new and better ways of being ignorant: not the kind of ignorance that is associated with a lack of curiosity or education but rather a cultivated, high-quality ignorance. […]
Science is about questions.
In 2008, at a conference of American science educators in Atlanta, Georgia, one teacher reported that students “burst into tears” when told they would be studying evolution. Another teacher described how students repeatedly screamed, “No!” when he began talking about evolution in class.