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  1. #21
    insert random title here Randomnity's Avatar
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    Yes, exactly what the "rebuttal" (more of an explanation really) said. It can be summarized by the last paragraph:
    Although Lehrer makes some good points, where he stumbles, from my perspective, is when he appears to conflate "truth" with science or, more properly, accept the idea that there are scientific "truths," even going so far as to use the word in the title of his article. That is a profound misrepresentation of the nature of science, in which all "truths" are provisional and all "truths" are subject to revision based on evidence and experimentation. The decline effect--or, as Lehrer describes it the title of his article, the "truth wearing off"--is nothing more than science doing what science does so well: Correcting itself in its usual messy and glorious way.
    The original article seems to be saying "oh noez, many science truths (i.e. theories) have been disproven" when this isn't exactly news, and the point of science isn't to start out 100% right and then never need correcting. In most cases even theories that end up being wrong can improve the knowledge base, leading to concrete applications as well as leading the way for the next "more correct" theory. It's not like we revert back to stone-age knowledge levels every time a theory is proven wrong.

    And it bugged me when the original article was taking about "proven" theories being "disproven". If the theories are being "proven" it's not by the scientific method.
    -end of thread-

  2. #22
    The Eighth Colour Octarine's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by erm View Post
    Not through observation nor induction, but through deduction.
    What do you think motivates and guides us through such processes? (or more specifically, why would we pick such axioms in the first place?)

  3. #23
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    A computer, with no observational capabilities, using deductions to discover new truths. The old classics, like when the number zero was first thought up, negative numbers, or someone had to point out that A = A, and then used such concepts to build larger, more complex truths.

    Empiricism does not enter the picture any more than food does. Sure our deductions are both motivated and sustained by food, just as they are by empiricism and a variety of other things. Formal logic motivates and guides empiricism and our behaviour around food as well. Trying to prove the primacy of one over the other won't work.

    No truths deduced through formal logic need to be proven through empiricism, and formal logic does not need to be "trimmed" (made more efficient) by empiricism in order to discover truth. No matter how varied or inefficient the system is. Empirical testing is just one method ("meta"-deduction, trial and error and such also work) of trimming them down, which is useful for saving time and energy, but not necessary.

    The counterbalance to all this (and the inherent greater reliability of deduced truths), is that for a lot, if not most truths, formal logic alone is not enough to discover them. Some truths seem only able to be discovered through empiricism (how would we have learned of the stars if we weren't able to see them?). This is where science steps in, a method essentially there to reduce some of the inherent unreliabilities found in empiricism and induction. A good one, but far from perfect.

  4. #24
    The Eighth Colour Octarine's Avatar
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    I think you are underestimating the importance of recursion in reasoning. I'm not trying to prove primacy of empiricism, simply that empiricism is inherently a part of the system.

    The computer experiment is an excellent example. A computer with "no observational capabilities" is just an unprogrammed bunch of transistors. Clearly no truths are going to be derived at all.
    For any interesting output to be determined, the computer must either have an observational capacity to learn, or alternatively be programmed by a human. Programming a computer places the computer into such an recursive loop. The rules by which the computer is programmed are determined through experience of the programmer. Secondly, the programmer may (will) modify the output until the desired result is obtained.

    Formal truths are impotent, because they are reliant on the truths of the underlying axioms. For either the axioms or the derived truths to be considered universal requires outward examination.

    By the way, have you examined any alternative formal systems (fuzzy logic, Bayesian logic or more recent ideas)?

  5. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by Architectonic View Post
    The computer experiment is an excellent example. A computer with "no observational capabilities" is just an unprogrammed bunch of transistors. Clearly no truths are going to be derived at all.
    For any interesting output to be determined, the computer must either have an observational capacity to learn, or alternatively be programmed by a human. Programming a computer places the computer into such an recursive loop. The rules by which the computer is programmed are determined through experience of the programmer. Secondly, the programmer may (will) modify the output until the desired result is obtained.
    Empiricism is inherently part of what system? Of course it is inherent to the whole system, but again, taking the first Euler problem:-

    Find the sum of all the multiples of 3 or 5 below 1000. Using a computer and a human together, when will empiricism be used to find the truth? When have they observed the result? When I solved it, I don't recall observing data of any kind. I sat in a room, some stuff went on in my mind, typed a few lines of code, compiled and ran, and a number came out.

    Do you agree that that is the relevant entirety of the process? If yes, what part is empirical?

    Quote Originally Posted by Architectonic View Post
    Formal truths are impotent, because they are reliant on the truths of the underlying axioms. For either the axioms or the derived truths to be considered universal requires outward examination.
    Why must axioms be proved empirically? Some premises must be, but axioms are tautological. It can even be said that they need not be proven nor disproven at all.

    Quote Originally Posted by Architectonic View Post
    By the way, have you examined any alternative formal systems (fuzzy logic, Bayesian logic or more recent ideas)?
    Yes. Fuzzy logic, and any system that denies the Law of Excluded Middle I would dismiss, but the details of such don't seem relevant tot he topic.

  6. #26
    The Eighth Colour Octarine's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by erm View Post
    Of course it is inherent to the whole system
    So you do agree then. A formal system may prove formal truths, but the rules that go into inventing/choosing such a formal system in the first place are derived empirically - through experience.

    An infinite number of formal systems can be constructed and therefore an infinite number of truths can be proven with such systems. Why did you pick the example that you did? Given the many possible example, the reality is you were only able to suggest a problem that you were familiar with.

    I would suggest that mathematics cannot exist without a mathematician.

  7. #27
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    Quote Originally Posted by Architectonic View Post
    So you do agree then. A formal system may prove formal truths, but the rules that go into inventing/choosing such a formal system in the first place are derived empirically - through experience.
    The details of the system are chosen through practice/empiricism and deduction. That does not effect the truths derived from such a system, nor how they are derived. It's merely a matter of efficiency.

    Quote Originally Posted by Architectonic View Post
    An infinite number of formal systems can be constructed and therefore an infinite number of truths can be proven with such systems. Why did you pick the example that you did? Given the many possible example, the reality is you were only able to suggest a problem that you were familiar with.
    How can an infinite number of truths be derived from infinite systems? Infinite systems for arriving at the same truths as each other. Just as the different empirical methods discover the same truths, the different deductive methods discover the same truths. Truth does not change according to your method of discovering it. It's the falsities that change according to the method.

    Quote Originally Posted by Architectonic View Post
    I would suggest that mathematics cannot exist without a mathematician.
    Of course. All the methods we've discussed cannot exist without the practitioners of them.

  8. #28
    The Eighth Colour Octarine's Avatar
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    Sorry, I didn't clarify that point as I thought it would be obvious what the implications were. The infinite number of systems includes infinite combinations of axioms. (it is also merely a technicality that not all truths will be able to be proven at the same time with a given system and different systems may produce contradictory truths).

    This discussion isn't really going anywhere, so I'd like to get back to the original topic. Is there something wrong with how science is practised today?

  9. #29
    almost half a doctor phoenix13's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by LeafAndSky View Post
    Interesting article here:

    http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2...urrentPage=all

    "The decline effect is troubling because it reminds us how difficult it is to prove anything. We like to pretend that our experiments define the truth for us. But that’s often not the case. Just because an idea is true doesn’t mean it can be proved. And just because an idea can be proved doesn’t mean it’s true. When the experiments are done, we still have to choose what to believe."
    This article was mind-blowing for me. Having been a lab rat for 4 years, I knew research was imperfect, but I believed the p-value was a legitimate indicator of a real effect. Now, my faith in p<0.05 is utterly shattered. If randomized clinical trials with statistically significant p-values are so frequently inaccurate, what the hell can we be sure of?!

    I aggree that null results need more exposure (maybe on an online database). I've seen null results go unreported many times, and no one even thinks of turning it into a paper, so it isn't completely a bias on the part of the journal. Nevertheless, this imbalance is something we need to correct, considering pooled data from clinical studies are the basis for clinical guidelines, and ultimately, the health of the nations (oooo, dramatic).

    I thought of the decline effect article as I was reading this: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/06/sc...=1&ref=science

    "OMG I FEEEEEEEEEL SO INTENSELY ABOUT EVERYTHING OMG OMG OMG GET ME A XANAX" -Priam (ENFP impersonation)

  10. #30
    insert random title here Randomnity's Avatar
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    I think stats courses should be mandatory when you start research. The p-value is completely arbitrary, and by definition it means the results seen will be due to random variation 5% of the time (at p=0.05), which can add up when thousands of studies are published yearly. It's only "magic" because the top journals decided to set that as a standard. They could easily have chosen 10% (p=0.1), or 1% (p=0.001) instead.

    It isn't a flaw of science that the p-value isn't absolute, though. The popularity of "the cult of the p-value" signals a flaw with the teaching system and perhaps even our general understanding. Knowing that "statistical significance" isn't everything and being aware of bias just means you actually have to use your brain to interpret results, be objective and look at more than one study. Shouldn't be that hard for a scientist
    -end of thread-

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