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Linkage

In Linkage on June 21, 2010 by thesignalinthenoise

1.  From the Financial Post, its 12th annual Rubber Duck awards are given as the culmination of Junk Science Week.

2.  Chris Schoen at underverse:

Which raises the question of whether a religion that is made up “only” of stories is really all that watered down, and whether these stories would be any more full-strength delivered as facts. Stories are (among other things) the vehicles that connect facts to our experience, which is why Plato considered learning as a form of remembering (Anamnesis). We know what we have observed and felt and seen, but this knowledge only takes on meaning when it is formalized, ordered, or re-membered. Logic is the rarefied form of this reassembly, abstract and generalized, but without incarnation in story it is sterile and without life, and because the truth is a living thing, a logical fact can never be really true. To become true, a fact needs depiction.

And yet such depictions are not themselves irrational. A story well told has nothing extraneous in it, and neither does a piece of music well played or a dance well choreographed. It takes a bit of training to see why Lear, or Endgame, or the Moonlight Sonata are “true” (or, to return to an earlier dispute with John Wilkins, why the parable of the talents is true.) Just as it takes training to see why Einstein’s field equations or Fermat’s last theorum are true (so I hear.) There is no shame in pointing out that to deny the truth value of great art is to deny reason itself, but such is the tenor of the age, that prefers the flat certainties of objectivity, to any real shot at depth.

Throwing Out The Bible With the Bathwater

3.  From Julia Galef at Rationally Speaking:

But why would we expect literature to be a reliable source of knowledge about “the way things are”? After all, the narratives which are the most gripping and satisfying to read are not the most representative of how the world actually works. They have dramatic resolutions, foreshadowing, conflict, climax, and surprise. People tend to get their comeuppance after they misbehave. People who pursue their dream passionately tend to succeed. Disaster tends to strike when you least expect it. These narratives are over-represented in literature because they’re more gratifying to read; why would we expect to learn from them about “the way things are”?

Truth from fiction: truth or fiction?

4.  Via John Wilkins at Evolving Thoughts:

I do not believe that science can disprove the existence of God; I think that is impossible. And if it is impossible, is not a belief in science and in a God – an ordinary God of religion — a consistent possibility?

Evolution Quotes: Feyman on religion and science

5.  From John Pieret at Thoughts in a Haystack in Back Toiling in the Philosophy Mines:

Similarly, not all of us in the “accommdationist” camp view it as simply a public relations ploy to suck “traditionally religious people” into accepting science … a rather unnuanced view of accommodationism. Some of us view it as a reasoned attempt to understand what science is and whether people of good will who value science, both theist and non-theist, can reach some understanding on that issue that both sides can live with.

6.  From The Boston Globe, what science can tell us about how to spend our time off:

“How do we optimize our vacation?” asks Dan Ariely, a behavioral economist at Duke University and the author of the new book “The Upside of Irrationality.” “There are three elements to it — anticipating, experiencing, and remembering. They’re not the same, and there are different ways to change each.”

The best vacation ever

7.  From Nature:

President Barack Obama says it. Francis Collins, director of the US National Institutes of Health (NIH), says it. University and research leaders elsewhere are saying it, too. The number one current rationale for extra research investment is that it will generate badly needed economic growth.

… Beneath the rhetoric, however, there is considerable unease that the economic benefits of science spending are being oversold.

Science economics: What science is really worth

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2 Responses to “Linkage”

  1. Hmm anti-scientific I guess.

    Ponder this, which method has brought about most of the quality of live improvements since 1850? Which method has brought about improvement in health and live-span? Which branches have driven economic growth and how were they started?

    Now tell me one thing that brought about economic growth that does not rely on science.

    Not pondering questions but featuring unfounded points and suggestions like “Beneath the rhetoric, however, there is considerable unease that the economic benefits of science spending are being oversold.” Is the core of rather dangerous demagoguery.

    Differential geometry was considered useless until Einstein.

    Until that point funding differential geometry sure seemed like a waste of money.

    Now it is used in anything from aerodynamics of airplanes to geodesy to improving cars.

    But it’s easy to claim that we don’t know if science funding is worth it, because frankly that is the point of exploration. Not exploring, however you are guaranteeing that the process of finding new “land” is slowed.

    By the same argument perhaps we should do less venture funding to spur the economy too, because some companies may not return on the investment.

    The whole point of science is not economic growth but discover new things that when applied improve our lives. Doing math per se doesn’t look very useful. But if it computes how epidemics spread and how we can prevent massive deaths, it suddenly becomes worth it. Will the scientist who invented the abstract math get credit when decades later his method finds this application? Hardly. This is why we cannot look for immediate return on science funding.

    But our culture is so superficially anti-Science, just to say that science may be a waste of time gets one some cheers right?

    Good catch on Dan Ariely though. I highly recommend people read him. And yes we should fund scientists like him!

    • Not pondering questions but featuring unfounded points and suggestions like “Beneath the rhetoric, however, there is considerable unease that the economic benefits of science spending are being oversold.” Is the core of rather dangerous demagoguery.

      Since I think science is important for its own sake, I also think it’s important not to oversell its economic benefits, especially in the near-term.

      But it’s easy to claim that we don’t know if science funding is worth it, because frankly that is the point of exploration. Not exploring, however you are guaranteeing that the process of finding new “land” is slowed.

      Sure, but we still have to decide what to fund in a world of scarce resources. We can’t fund everything. “Return on investment” needn’t be economic, but economic benefit is an important factor to be considered. Good science costs good money — money that needs to come from somewhere.

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