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  1. #1

    Default This Unscientific age

    I watched a clip of the Today Show where an economics professor was making medal predictions. A few things annoyed me.

    1) He wasn't allowed to finish even the basic explanation, before interupted by blabbering of how confusing it was.

    2) Then there was a joke about "decoding" this rather simple formula.

    And to top it off, the graphic included used the U.S. flag for Germany.

    This reminded me of a chapter in one of Richard Feynman's Books.

    So what do you think?

    How scientific is our age?

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  2. #2
    ^He pronks, too! Magic Poriferan's Avatar
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    Ermmm... I don't know how I would exactly measure how scientific it is, as oppose to any other age.

    I don know that the twentieth century's explosion in Epistemological and Moral subjectivism really pisses me off, and could probably could partly explain any sudden deficiencies in logical or factual comprehension.

    But, the kind of unscientific behavior you're talking about has more to do with mass media, I think. It's that most people can't be bothered to understand all of this stuff, and that's always been the case, but now everything has to appeal more and more to the tastes of the general masses, so anything slightly complicated or esoteric is thrown out.
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  3. #3
    Glowy Goopy Goodness The_Liquid_Laser's Avatar
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    The Today Show is not the best medium for science. If the Discovery Channel turns into that though, then we're in trouble.
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    Quote Originally Posted by The_Liquid_Laser View Post
    The Today Show is not the best medium for science. If the Discovery Channel turns into that though, then we're in trouble.
    Discovery blew it about ten years ago. Monster Garage and American Chopper taking care of your science needs? I used to be able to sit down to an afternoon of Wings, Firepower, and Wild Discovery before dinner. Now all I have is this computer.

  5. #5

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    Quote Originally Posted by Magic Poriferan View Post
    Ermmm... I don't know how I would exactly measure how scientific it is, as oppose to any other age.

    I don know that the twentieth century's explosion in Epistemological and Moral subjectivism really pisses me off, and could probably could partly explain any sudden deficiencies in logical or factual comprehension.

    But, the kind of unscientific behavior you're talking about has more to do with mass media, I think. It's that most people can't be bothered to understand all of this stuff, and that's always been the case, but now everything has to appeal more and more to the tastes of the general masses, so anything slightly complicated or esoteric is thrown out.
    Well the thing about it is that it shouldn't be "esoteric." How many times has the Today Show brought on guest who make dishes that only few people will actually make? How often have they shown off little gagets the few people will actuall use? But when they do these things, they actually let the guests finish their little demo or explanation. Their set and other things are prepared properly for them to do this.

    The spot with Andrew Bernard looked like it was thrown together last minute, and the speaker was barely even allowed to talk. He didn't seem annoyed, but actually fed into it. It's a strange phenomenon.

    Quote Originally Posted by The_Liquid_Laser View Post
    The Today Show is not the best medium for science. If the Discovery Channel turns into that though, then we're in trouble.
    It is a medium for public discourse, however. They cover (in its usual fluffy yet informative manner) current events, some handy gagets, new trends in music (I first saw Rihana on a similar show--maybe even the Today Show itself), new recipies, etc.

    The journalists may not be geniuses, but they are supposed to be reasonably educated people. But I don't doubt some smart forth graders (with a little explanation on logarithms) could have understood the formula presented.

    A quote from the linked chapter put it best.

    Newspaper reporters and commentators-there is a large number of them who assume that the public is stupider than they are, that the public cannot understand things that they [the reporters and the commentators] cannot understand. Now that is ridiculous. I'm not trying to say they're dumber than the average man, but they're dumber in some way than somebody else. If I ever have to explain something scientific to a reporter, and he says what is the idea? Well, I explain it in words of one syllable, as I would explain it to my neighbor. He doesn't understand it, which is possible, because he's brought up differently-he doesn't fix washing machines, he doesn't know what a motor is, or something. In other words, he has no technical experience. There are lots of engineers in the world. There are lots of mechanically minded people. There are lots of people who are smarter than the reporter, say, in science, for example. It is, therefore, his duty to report the thing, whether he understands it or not, accurately and in the way it's been given. The same goes in economics and other situations. The reporters appreciate the fact that they don't understand the complicated business about international trade, but they report, more or less, what somebody says, pretty closely. But When it comes to science, for some reason or another, they will pat me on the head and explain to dopey me that the dopey people aren't going to understand it because he, dope, can't understand it. But I know that some people can understand it. Not everybody who reads the newspaper has to understand every article in the newspaper. Some people aren't interested in science. Some are. At least they could find out what it's all about instead of discovering that an atomic bullet was used that came out of a machine that weighed seven tons. I can't read the articles in the paper. I don't know what they mean. I don't know what kind of a machine it was just because it weighed seven tons. And there are now sixty-two kinds of particles, and I would like to know what atomic bullet he is referring to.

    Accept the past. Live for the present. Look forward to the future.
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    "As our island of knowledge grows, so does the shore of our ignorance." John Wheeler
    "[A] scientist looking at nonscientific problems is just as dumb as the next guy." Richard Feynman
    "[P]etabytes of [] data is not the same thing as understanding emergent mechanisms and structures." Jim Crutchfield

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    Queen hunter Virtual ghost's Avatar
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    Our age is very scientific. But general public is not.

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    Senior Member substitute's Avatar
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    are you surprised when things have to be so dumbed down over there that they rename a Harry Potter story because they don't think the American audience can handle the use of the word 'philosopher'?

    Watch beauty product commercials and see the middle ages come back to life as we're convinced that pearls and honey in shampoo will make your hair shiny and blonde

    What's next - bayleaf under the pillow wrapped in iron to prevent the little folk from stealing one's spouse in the night?
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