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    Back (finally) to reply to everyone's posts. Sorry about the delay... I was working on 4 hours of sleep and 12 hours of work when I logged on yesterday.

    Also, although I get very emotional about the subject matter, I'm really glad that it's coming up and that I can read everyone's views on it (even if we might disagree).

    Quote Originally Posted by gloomy-optimist View Post
    Teaching simplified science, although it may not do justice to the entire process, is about the best we can do at a level below university. There is too broad a spectrum to learn; even as it is, kids have to take at least a year of chemistry, biology, and physics, with an extra afterwards; naturally, one could not understand the precise details of a field in that time. It is simplified so that they can get a general view point that they can expand later if they want to follow up with it; if not, then it is enough education to get them through the world with enough understanding to function.
    Should they teach skepticism? Perhaps, but I'm not sure how useful it would be to the general public. Most people do not need to know the exact reason why the solution is green; the principle is usually as much they need. A non-scientist doesn't need to understand the major context behind an event; they need to know how to use it. That does not require as much skepticism.
    I understand that. My issue with teaching simplified science is that it is taught as "fact", as a narrative. That's the main problem, in my mind. I agree that as a practical matter we have to teach simple concepts and work our way up (similar to learning), but to teach the simple concepts as if they are "actual reality" is what is happening in schools. And the same goes for policy-makers who have only a rudimentary understanding of what is going on.

    As far as the general public not "needing" skepticism to understand science, I beg to disagree. This is the general public who believe that "mixing human DNA with animal/bacterial DNA" is "wrong". This is the general public that believes that working with ES cells violates Gods' will. This is the general public that believes that a university is discharging radioactive waste into lakes because they glow green (actually, the university was discharging a fluorescent organic molecule). This is also the general public that panics when the CERN particle accelerator is switched on.

    I may oppose ES cell research, but at least it's because I've worked in a mouse ES cell lab and have seen the things that are done to the animals. The problem with working with "pure" concepts that are "approximations" of reality, without any real understanding of context is that you think you know what's going on - but you don't really know. As opposed to admitting that you know nothing about it, and starting with a blank slate and allowing people who have the experience to make the decisions.

    Quote Originally Posted by gloomy-optimist View Post
    I'll agree that scientists do not have to understand all of the other fields they are collaborating with. However, they do have to have a basic understanding of what the other field does and how that ties into their own area of knowledge. And the scientific method, although it does not always progress science, does allow for a pattern of organization between these fields and across continents. Anymore, when scientists are trying to share their discoveries with others that speak different languages and have different customs, they need to have some sort of layout to follow, especially in a way that allows for recreation of experiments. If something can not be recreated and, therefore, proven or disproven, then it becomes very debatable about whether or not it is credible. Therefore, it gives method to the madness, and it is definitely arguable that in contemporary science it is necessary.
    Yes. Unfortunately, the basic understanding does not extend to limitations in technique and controls. I've already said that "the scientific method" does not apply to reality... Assumptions that scientists "use the scientific method" promotes faith in the findings, yes. But it doesn't cohere with reality.

    I'd say that when scientists share their findings with other scientists, the basis of comparison isn't so much "the scientific method", it's shared context. If the context isn't the same, it doesn't matter how many controls you do - the understanding on the other side of the telephone will be completely different.

    Quote Originally Posted by gloomy-optimist View Post
    That is not to say that it is necessary to science for the sake of science. If I am not mistaken, the scientific method wasn't even developed until Galileo's time, and there have been many progressive scientific discoveries before him.
    But the scientific method, now, helps people to understand the way science is proven/disproven in modern times, and it is a good start in understand what science itself encompasses.

    And I am aware that others were off topic; you just seemed rather forcefully so. But you're making some very good points now, and I respect your opinion
    Actually, definition of "the scientific method" only appeared with Robert Boyle, not Galileo. And historians of science have also shown, using prominent examples like the Copernican Revolution, that science does not "progress" via "the scientific method". That's why I'm opposed to limiting people's understanding of "science" to its supposed method. The actuality is different, and I can only think that the reason why people think that falsificationism plays such a large role in science is basically to build faith so that scientists can obtain funding. Perhaps that's the cynic in me speaking, but it seems to me like the labs that have the most funding aren't necessarily those doing the most crucial/achievable science. It's those who are best able to "sell" an idea.

    It's probably my idealism, but I hope that one day, people will be able to understand the connections between different science groups, corporations, politics and funding. From there, they will be able to make a well-reasoned personal judgment as to how their taxpayer money could be better spent.

    Quote Originally Posted by gloomy-optimist View Post
    Yeah; the issue is figuring out how. It's very easy to point out areas that have problems; the hard part is changing the makeup of society to fix it :/
    Skepticism is good when routed in the right direction; skepticism towards everything can lead to a lot of unhealthy consequences. I agree there should be more skepticism in science, but if skepticism is to be taught, it needs to be taught in a way that people can understand where and how to be properly skeptical...
    Yes, the problem is "how". My ideas involve a revamp of education, starting with primary school. Instead of teaching the scientific concepts based on "fact", as a nice narrative, I'd advocate teaching what the concepts are, their historical and scientific context and how they relate to other disciplines.

    I'll give an example here, of Darwin's theory of evolution. Currently in a "normal" science class, it would be taught as: 7 steps leading to speciation, genetic drift, natural selection, formation of reproductive isolation mechanisms etc etc. My HS science teacher specified at the start of the class that she was not going to talk about its sociological context, or religious implications, because she was there to help us PASS AN EXAM, not teach us "truth".

    In my science class, I'd talk about what was taught to me, in addition to religious context, how religions are attempting to integrate their history and teachings with evolution in the context of intelligent design, previous ideas about how speciation arose, the WRONG examples in the textbooks (yes, there are, the peppered moth being a prominent example), the right examples in the textbooks, differences between micro/macroevolution and their individual contexts, reactions to the theory back in Darwin's time and now, and several other things. It probably wouldn't be very practical in terms of time spent in the classroom, but I think it's a whole lot more useful with regards to understanding the world.

    I also have issues with this attitude that "skepticism towards everything is bad" and there being a method of being "properly skeptical". I am a fan of being a skeptic, and deciding (even with skepticism) what you're going to believe. I don't think it's possible to live a life that's completely logical and well-reasoned, and that assuming that everyone is logical etc has reduced the potential for progress.

    Quote Originally Posted by ygolo View Post
    First off, I appologize if I offended you--I was a little surprized you only quoted just the last part of my post. For some reason, I got the impression that you were just a year or two out of college. It is not meant as an insult, but I knew people in technical fields who said similar things as RCGs but changed after working for many years. But that was not meant to change anybody's mind, and it is certainly possible people believe that long retrainings are a necessity even after seeing many others make career transitions without needing them.
    Oh no, you didn't offend me. It's just that I decided that you and gloomy-optimist were essentially bringing the same point there and I wanted to address similar points together. Then I um, slept for 16hrs last night and didn't get around to addressing the rest of your post. Sorry.

    You're completely right, I'm only two years out of college this Dec. I may change my mind later on, I reserve the right to do so. But right now I'm arguing from my perspective, which is based on observations of the people around me (and myself).

    Quote Originally Posted by ygolo View Post
    In response to the ideas that "simplifed" science is harmful, and the idea that even scientists don't know what is happening in science, there are a few points I wanted to make (hopefully, they are self-evident):

    1) First and most importantly, it is not an all-or-nothing matter. There are different levels of sumarization. One does not have to have run the experiments (or even similar experiments) to make sense of the results. Certainly, the more closely you've worked to a particular line of research and development the deeper your understanding will be.
    Yes, I'm aware of that. I am also aware that ego often plays a part in determining how much you "actually know" and how much you "think you know". My attitude is that it's a lot better to assume that you know absolutely nothing than to think that the simplified science is all that there is.

    Quote Originally Posted by ygolo View Post
    2) Second, there is a vast difference between an accurate "simplificaton" (sumarization) and misinformation.
    We will have to disagree here, because accuracy is a value judgment and so is "misinformation".

    Quote Originally Posted by ygolo View Post
    3) The general public ought to know general science, for the same reasons they ought to know how to read, and how to do basic calculations. Note, I am not saying people won't survive if not scientifically literate. But like general literacy, it will elevate the level and content of discourse when scientific literacy is nearly universal.
    I disagree. There is no "ought". The same argument could be made about religion, or literature, or art.

    Quote Originally Posted by ygolo View Post
    4) There may be no "scientific cannon" and no real "scientific method" to learn. But skepticism alone does not make someone scientifically literate. There are still rather well established concepts in science (which are of course apporximate) that a sceintifically educated people knows. You can call it "faith" if you want, but I would prefer that the general public have faith in these approxomate truths to nonsense or magical thiking, or simply held onto their myths while being irrationally skeptical of science.
    Again, I disagree. And it comes down to what is "true understanding" and "approximate truths" and "lies", doesn't it? I've never said that skepticism makes someone scientifically literate. But I believe that self-awareness and skepticism bring people closer to truth. If you know what you believe, why you believe what you believe (in spite of the assumptions) and you know why you disbelieve what you disbelieve (in spite of the assumptions), I think you'll have a pretty good understanding of both yourself and "truth".

    (which follows with the next part)
    Quote Originally Posted by ygolo View Post
    I am purposely gong to pick gross approximations.

    The Earth is kind of a sphere. Opposite poles of a magnet attract. F=ma. Atoms make up the matter around us. Germs can make us sick. We can control the features of animals through breeding.

    These are all "general science" concepts that lay-people learn. But if they were not taught, what would people go around thinking?

    The earth is flat, just look at it.
    There are "magic" attraction forces, I don't believe in your poles.
    Force just imparts a bit of movement, it is not proportional to acceleration-look *pushes object*.
    There is no proof that atoms exist--look at this table--it is solid.
    Hand-washing does nothing for health (not even for doctors)--I mean c'mon, invisible things that float around and make us sick?

    This is an exageration, but people held these sorts of beliefs at one point and you will still find uneducated people who believe things like this.
    I think that there is plenty of reason to be skeptical about some of the theories that get classified as "science", and that science, as it exists, is not wholly rational. I.e. skepticism w.r.t. science is not irrational. You're seeing this as a black/white picture, complete with prejudices about the "general public" (term was never defined, by the way).

    I love this saying "Assuming that the orthodox is always the orthodox orthodoxy and that the unorthodox is always the orthodox unorthodoxy is a true mark of a dogmatic". I personally believe that while there undoubtedly are people who hang on to myths and are completely silly/irrational, most people are more sophisticated than that, and have other personal "reasons" (therefore not irrational) for believing what they believe.

    Additionally, while science undoubtedly has brought us progress, I don't think the world would end with a few flat-earthists around (and if you look at the conspiracy theorists' "evidence" for flat earth, they are not irrational at all! If anything, they are hyperrational and skeptical of all evidence!). I guess my point is - it doesn't matter if people learn the "gross approximations" or not. It doesn't count as "true understanding", they're not working on the subject material, and it's not going to change anything in the big picture.

    Quote Originally Posted by ygolo View Post
    Imagine, in addition, if they voted against reseach on germs because they thought it similar to believing in fairies?
    HAH. Funny that you should say that, because I have a story told to me by my 2nd year chem lecturer. Basically, the Aussie govt provided a huge amount of funding for this research program to purify some metal (can't remember what it is) by coupling it electrolytically to another metal... Which, any 2nd year chem student would be able to tell, is impossible because of the difference in oxidative potential. This illustrates how govt understood the principle in general, but lacked understanding of the subtleties behind the chemistry... and gave money to an endeavor that 100% would fail.

    Additionally, Nobel prize laureate Kary Mullis, who (arguably) invented PCR doesn't believe that HIV causes AIDS and that CFCs cause ozone depletion. So... Orthodox orthodoxy and orthodox unorthodoxy etc. "Common sense" is not a part of rationalism.

    Quote Originally Posted by ygolo View Post
    It's good that we have a concrete example that you know well. Because I belive my reasoning is general enough to work on any example, and as long as you are honest, I think I can persuade you that it works on your own example, too.

    To illustrate different levels of accurate simplification.... Despite saying that chemists know nothing about proteins, I think you will have to admit that they know enough about them to be working on the project. Also, despite not being a protein scientist I and also many science enthusiasts who read nature, lifescientist, or other science magazines know that quantum dots can be used to mark proteins as a means locate or identify molecules that contain that protein. I don't know what you mean by "linking" but I have some base-line for trying to understand what you are doing. What are you doing , BTW?
    I would say that the chemists don't care about the protein that we're trying to link to the QD. They just want a "proof of concept" that it can be done chemically, with reasonably high yield. Just for background, QDs are a mix of heavy metal nanoparticles that fluoresce stably and can't be photobleached. QDs can only be used to "mark" proteins fluorescently if they have been "linked" covalently to an antibody that can recognise the protein of interest. Otherwise, QDs are a fucking bitch (excuse the language) to work with, unstable in even the most common solutions, and don't do anything beyond fluorescing. I've also shown that the fluorescence can definitely be quenched. That, of course, wouldn't be documented in any magazine (hence the lies to children in popular science publications) because it's not in our interests to actually say such things.

    I have been working on trying to form a specific covalent bond between QDs and an amyloid-forming protein via a maleimide cross-linker. I have shown over the last few months that the QDs aren't stable in the solution environment that the proteins like, the proteins don't cooperate in the solutions that the QDs are stable in, and that when I've finally found a happy medium, the bonds are not specific and the protein basically binds everywhere on the QD, and washes off the organic molecules that keep it stable in solution.

    My biochemist supervisor says that I'm concentrating too much on the chemistry part, that I should remember my focus remains on the protein. The chemist supervisor isn't interested in anything else beyond making the QDs stable and colourful, proteins are secondary. The nanoparticle supervisor wants me to embark on a whole different project with the QDs and proteins that would take years. It is annoying and counter-productive because there is no central vision for the project.

    Quote Originally Posted by ygolo View Post
    I find your blanket statement that "people don't know about other fields" to be false. The people working together have to know enough about what the other is doing to interface with each-other. In arenas of scientific collaboration, the base-line knowledge of someone scientifically trained (espeacially in a similar feild) will be vastly superior to a layperson. Do you believe this to be false in your own team? If it is false, has it been detrimental?

    Also, who is going to read your publications? Your own team? What is the point of that? Don't you have people who are interested in your results? Who is funding you? What "field" does your money source have to be from to "understand" your results?
    Ref. earlier explanation about the situation. They do know about what is happening at the interface, but tend to think that certain problems specific to the situation could be solved using typical blanket solutions (that you can't use because of controls in the other field). So that is what I meant. It is very detrimental, definitely. It also means that the project doesn't move forward.

    Yes, the base-line knowledge of professionals are definitely higher than a layperson. But I think that it gets in the way of progress because at least the layperson would admit that they don't know anything. Many professionals think that because they know something and it's worked for them, it would work everywhere else. I guess it comes back to "better to think that you know nothing and be open-minded than to think that you know everything and be close-minded".

    Honestly I don't know who would care enough read my paper (if a paper does eventually come of this). I personally don't see the significance of it, and many of my biochemist colleagues agree that it would have zero physiological relevance, so byebye funding. It's proof-of-concept and nothing more. I'm only doing it because I'm being paid for it, as a side-project to my other projects that definitely have a LOT more clinical relevance. And my supervisor is only paying me for it because he's a cheapskate (this is funded by an inter-departmental grant) and wants to keep me on to work on my other projects.

    Wow. This is a lot longer than I thought it would be.

  2. #32
    Senior Member gloomy-optimist's Avatar
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    Okay, I'll let ygolo argue his half

    Quote Originally Posted by nonsequitur View Post
    1)I understand that. My issue with teaching simplified science is that it is taught as "fact", as a narrative. That's the main problem, in my mind. I agree that as a practical matter we have to teach simple concepts and work our way up (similar to learning), but to teach the simple concepts as if they are "actual reality" is what is happening in schools. And the same goes for policy-makers who have only a rudimentary understanding of what is going on.

    As far as the general public not "needing" skepticism to understand science, I beg to disagree. This is the general public who believe that "mixing human DNA with animal/bacterial DNA" is "wrong". This is the general public that believes that working with ES cells violates Gods' will. This is the general public that believes that a university is discharging radioactive waste into lakes because they glow green (actually, the university was discharging a fluorescent organic molecule). This is also the general public that panics when the CERN particle accelerator is switched on.

    I may oppose ES cell research, but at least it's because I've worked in a mouse ES cell lab and have seen the things that are done to the animals. The problem with working with "pure" concepts that are "approximations" of reality, without any real understanding of context is that you think you know what's going on - but you don't really know. As opposed to admitting that you know nothing about it, and starting with a blank slate and allowing people who have the experience to make the decisions.


    2)Yes. Unfortunately, the basic understanding does not extend to limitations in technique and controls. I've already said that "the scientific method" does not apply to reality... Assumptions that scientists "use the scientific method" promotes faith in the findings, yes. But it doesn't cohere with reality.

    I'd say that when scientists share their findings with other scientists, the basis of comparison isn't so much "the scientific method", it's shared context. If the context isn't the same, it doesn't matter how many controls you do - the understanding on the other side of the telephone will be completely different.


    3)Actually, definition of "the scientific method" only appeared with Robert Boyle, not Galileo. And historians of science have also shown, using prominent examples like the Copernican Revolution, that science does not "progress" via "the scientific method". That's why I'm opposed to limiting people's understanding of "science" to its supposed method. The actuality is different, and I can only think that the reason why people think that falsificationism plays such a large role in science is basically to build faith so that scientists can obtain funding. Perhaps that's the cynic in me speaking, but it seems to me like the labs that have the most funding aren't necessarily those doing the most crucial/achievable science. It's those who are best able to "sell" an idea.

    It's probably my idealism, but I hope that one day, people will be able to understand the connections between different science groups, corporations, politics and funding. From there, they will be able to make a well-reasoned personal judgment as to how their taxpayer money could be better spent.


    4)Yes, the problem is "how". My ideas involve a revamp of education, starting with primary school. Instead of teaching the scientific concepts based on "fact", as a nice narrative, I'd advocate teaching what the concepts are, their historical and scientific context and how they relate to other disciplines.

    I'll give an example here, of Darwin's theory of evolution. Currently in a "normal" science class, it would be taught as: 7 steps leading to speciation, genetic drift, natural selection, formation of reproductive isolation mechanisms etc etc. My HS science teacher specified at the start of the class that she was not going to talk about its sociological context, or religious implications, because she was there to help us PASS AN EXAM, not teach us "truth".

    In my science class, I'd talk about what was taught to me, in addition to religious context, how religions are attempting to integrate their history and teachings with evolution in the context of intelligent design, previous ideas about how speciation arose, the WRONG examples in the textbooks (yes, there are, the peppered moth being a prominent example), the right examples in the textbooks, differences between micro/macroevolution and their individual contexts, reactions to the theory back in Darwin's time and now, and several other things. It probably wouldn't be very practical in terms of time spent in the classroom, but I think it's a whole lot more useful with regards to understanding the world.

    I also have issues with this attitude that "skepticism towards everything is bad" and there being a method of being "properly skeptical". I am a fan of being a skeptic, and deciding (even with skepticism) what you're going to believe. I don't think it's possible to live a life that's completely logical and well-reasoned, and that assuming that everyone is logical etc has reduced the potential for progress.
    1)I agree that science should be taught in a more exploratory sense, rather than "this is what happens, this is why, no questions asked." I think that concept might actually just be forgotten; people concentrate so much on learning all the different material they can cover in one class that it doesn't come to mind that they are only skimming the surface. Thus, it's only when they reach higher levels of science that they begin truly realizing the significance of that.
    However, I maintain that, while skepticism should be taught and it would be helpful, it's not necessarily "needed." A scientist needs skepticism to discover, to explore, to make, and usually the product of that skepticism is presented to the general public. Most of the details are already packaged for them; while it would be beneficial to them, they could go without it. And although they may have misinformed views on the conquests of the scientific community, the scientists themselves are not usually directly affected by this; indirectly maybe, but (as far as I know; I'm not in that area) it would not affect them much.
    Also, skepticism may help the general public start with a blank slate on an issue, but that does not necessarily mean they will come to a valid conclusion regardless; there is only very limited information available to them. However, there is not much one can really do about that...

    2) I think I'll stop here with that argument; I don't believe my understanding is quite up to par. I know more than many where I am, but I'll admit that I'm not an expert there.

    3) I knew the method was developed sometime around then And I agree that science is not defined by that method. I was taught that the scientific method in a research sense in school, and according to what I was taught, it was the general layout to how the scientific community presents their observations, so that they may be accurately recreated and retested. I realize that what I've been taught and what might be reality are two different things; once again, I'm not sure my understanding of the topic is quite extensive enough to present a good argument beyond this point. Not being a scientist myself, I have only a third person view on what happens in that community.
    However, it is a sad truth that what matters is not always what sells. In order to be widely successful in any field, one must be able to sell their work and themselves; that's why charismatic people sometimes do even better than some more talented peers. That goes beyond even science; the money goes to who can best present their ideas, not who has the best ideas alone.

    4) The education systems need to be revamped in a lot of areas. Similarly to what you described in science, there are a lot of other subjects that are rather falsely presented. But once again, to do is always hard than to say. Depending on where you are in the world, revamping the education system will be more or less difficult. In the US, it would be quite an endeavor. The system is extremely widescale; the country is massive. That makes change more difficult than it would be in a small country. Further, each state has their own sets of standards, which makes the reform less uniform. And then there is the community; I know that many Americans oppose radical reforms in areas such as education. They don't want their kids to learn certain things, etc. And many of them just don't have the resources to tell them that the system is teaching things that are "wrong."
    While it looks great in writing, the reform itself would have to require massive amounts of funding, time, and cooperation; just getting the idea to pass through congress would be a major pain. Actually, congress might well be the biggest obstacle; unless benefits are obvious, they probably won't go for it.
    The best we could do is better educate teachers about the issues, but even then, there are already set standards on what must be taught.

    Also, I would like to say that there certainly is a way to be properly skeptical. There's a balance; being overly skeptical is just as destructive as being too passively skeptical. And sometimes simply being skeptical can lead to the wrong conclusions, especially when we consider how much information (or lack thereof) is actually being presented to the public. Skepticism in the regards of having to choose the best fit for information is great; requiring proof for every last detail is a little inhibiting. And there's also a way to choose which areas one should be skeptical towards. For instance, it would be good to be skeptical towards scientific findings in a way that would prompt you to further research and topic and deduct whether it is true or not. But one could also be skeptical towards science in a way that says "seeing is believing;" in other words, some skeptics might find it hard to believe anything involving atoms because they cannot see them and no one can present solid visual proof directly to them without a lot of difficulty. Also, skepticism involving people and relationships can create an unhealthy mental balance; if one cannot trust anyone, it could go so far as to lead to actual mental disorders, in the most extreme cases. Either way, someone who can limit their skepticism in relationships is more likely to be happier with those relationships, although a bit of skepticism is healthy even there.
    Thus, I maintain that there's a proper way and direction to skepticism.

  3. #33
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    Quote Originally Posted by gloomy-optimist View Post
    1)I agree that science should be taught in a more exploratory sense, rather than "this is what happens, this is why, no questions asked." I think that concept might actually just be forgotten; people concentrate so much on learning all the different material they can cover in one class that it doesn't come to mind that they are only skimming the surface. Thus, it's only when they reach higher levels of science that they begin truly realizing the significance of that.
    However, I maintain that, while skepticism should be taught and it would be helpful, it's not necessarily "needed." A scientist needs skepticism to discover, to explore, to make, and usually the product of that skepticism is presented to the general public. Most of the details are already packaged for them; while it would be beneficial to them, they could go without it. And although they may have misinformed views on the conquests of the scientific community, the scientists themselves are not usually directly affected by this; indirectly maybe, but (as far as I know; I'm not in that area) it would not affect them much.
    I disagree that the concept is "just forgotten". My perspective is that where there are short-cuts, people will take short cuts. Same thing with having the details packaged for the laymen in an oversimplified version. There are a few examples that I can think of w.r.t. misinformed views of science affecting both scientists and general society... In these cases, skepticism is definitely "needed".

    One of the most prominent examples is the "CSI effect". Increasingly, laymen juries are asking for DNA as evidence of the crime being beyond reasonable doubt. TV shows make it seem as if collecting forensic DNA is easy, that you can simply throw a few carpet hairs in the MS and it'll identify the material for you. Obviously, it's not that simple, and I've given up on watching crime procedurals because I know that (although the principle is right) in practice, it's just not possible to do what they're doing on the show. I've been known to throw cushions at the TV during CSI, and turn off the TV after screaming "that's a lie!" during NCIS.

    Another example is with regards to funding. I hate to say this, but the "donate to find a cure for cancer/AIDS!" programs are lies. There is a consensus in the biological science community that neither will have a magic silver bullet. There may be treatments that, tailored to the individual, will cure them. But "a cure" for cancer/AIDS is simply not possible given the nature of the diseases. I feel like these people are lying to the general public with pictures of cute kids and people to fund their labs' research.

    Quote Originally Posted by gloomy-optimist View Post
    Also, skepticism may help the general public start with a blank slate on an issue, but that does not necessarily mean they will come to a valid conclusion regardless; there is only very limited information available to them. However, there is not much one can really do about that...
    I agree. It does not mean that the laymen will come to a valid conclusion. But it does mean that they will receive information with an open mind.

    Quote Originally Posted by gloomy-optimist View Post
    3) I knew the method was developed sometime around then And I agree that science is not defined by that method. I was taught that the scientific method in a research sense in school, and according to what I was taught, it was the general layout to how the scientific community presents their observations, so that they may be accurately recreated and retested. I realize that what I've been taught and what might be reality are two different things; once again, I'm not sure my understanding of the topic is quite extensive enough to present a good argument beyond this point. Not being a scientist myself, I have only a third person view on what happens in that community.
    However, it is a sad truth that what matters is not always what sells. In order to be widely successful in any field, one must be able to sell their work and themselves; that's why charismatic people sometimes do even better than some more talented peers. That goes beyond even science; the money goes to who can best present their ideas, not who has the best ideas alone.
    Precisely. What I'm saying is that your understanding of science is the general population's understanding of science. And that in general, people give faith to something that doesn't follow this "rational" process. I agree that those who best present the ideas sell, and those are not necessarily the best ideas. My issue is more with the people involved in the funding management and their lack of understanding than the people selling the ideas. Funding is hugely political, and I believe that a lot of money is being wasted being channeled into research that won't work but sounds pretty and elegant (Cure for AIDS).

    Quote Originally Posted by gloomy-optimist View Post
    4) The education systems need to be revamped in a lot of areas. Similarly to what you described in science, there are a lot of other subjects that are rather falsely presented. But once again, to do is always hard than to say. Depending on where you are in the world, revamping the education system will be more or less difficult. In the US, it would be quite an endeavor. The system is extremely widescale; the country is massive. That makes change more difficult than it would be in a small country. Further, each state has their own sets of standards, which makes the reform less uniform. And then there is the community; I know that many Americans oppose radical reforms in areas such as education. They don't want their kids to learn certain things, etc. And many of them just don't have the resources to tell them that the system is teaching things that are "wrong."
    While it looks great in writing, the reform itself would have to require massive amounts of funding, time, and cooperation; just getting the idea to pass through congress would be a major pain. Actually, congress might well be the biggest obstacle; unless benefits are obvious, they probably won't go for it.
    The best we could do is better educate teachers about the issues, but even then, there are already set standards on what must be taught.
    Yeah. I'm aware of the very obstacles of implementing my rather radical vision. I'm also being idealistic, not realistic, here. Whether in America, or in Singapore (where I grew up) or in Australia (where I am now) - it's going to be a big ask trying to revamp the entire system. I'm also aware that most teachers simply won't have the necessary background to teach in such a manner - and most education trainers also don't have the background to train the teachers - so it's a pipe dream. But one can dream, right?

    Quote Originally Posted by gloomy-optimist View Post
    Also, I would like to say that there certainly is a way to be properly skeptical. There's a balance; being overly skeptical is just as destructive as being too passively skeptical. And sometimes simply being skeptical can lead to the wrong conclusions, especially when we consider how much information (or lack thereof) is actually being presented to the public. Skepticism in the regards of having to choose the best fit for information is great; requiring proof for every last detail is a little inhibiting. And there's also a way to choose which areas one should be skeptical towards. For instance, it would be good to be skeptical towards scientific findings in a way that would prompt you to further research and topic and deduct whether it is true or not. But one could also be skeptical towards science in a way that says "seeing is believing;" in other words, some skeptics might find it hard to believe anything involving atoms because they cannot see them and no one can present solid visual proof directly to them without a lot of difficulty. Also, skepticism involving people and relationships can create an unhealthy mental balance; if one cannot trust anyone, it could go so far as to lead to actual mental disorders, in the most extreme cases. Either way, someone who can limit their skepticism in relationships is more likely to be happier with those relationships, although a bit of skepticism is healthy even there.
    Thus, I maintain that there's a proper way and direction to skepticism.
    Actually, proving the existence of atoms is relatively simple, gold atoms are visible under an electron microscope. But that's just nit-picking.

    I would say that skepticism is founded until something has been proven, even with people, and even with the possibility of mental disorders. But that's a difference in values, I guess. Not much point arguing about that.

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    Here is one more example of the point I am arguing.

    Actually, proving the existence of atoms is relatively simple, gold atoms are visible under an electron microscope.
    How big portion of public actually knows what is electron microscope?

    In the case they don't it is easy to convince them that scientists are fantasizing.

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    Quote Originally Posted by nonsequitur View Post
    Yes, I'm aware of that. I am also aware that ego often plays a part in determining how much you "actually know" and how much you "think you know". My attitude is that it's a lot better to assume that you know absolutely nothing than to think that the simplified science is all that there is.
    We clearly have different conceptions of how things work. There are few assumptions of your I would like to see if you can be skeptical of.

    It is not worth arguing the other points till we come to some mutual understanding over a couple of even more fundamental beliefs.

    1) Knowing "absolutely nothing" looks impossible. I'm skeptical of it. Show me an example. Till then, I'll believe it is impossible.

    2) "Actually knowing" something also seems impossible. Again, show me an example where this has been done.

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    Senior Member gloomy-optimist's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by nonsequitur View Post
    1)I disagree that the concept is "just forgotten". My perspective is that where there are short-cuts, people will take short cuts. Same thing with having the details packaged for the laymen in an oversimplified version. There are a few examples that I can think of w.r.t. misinformed views of science affecting both scientists and general society... In these cases, skepticism is definitely "needed".

    One of the most prominent examples is the "CSI effect". Increasingly, laymen juries are asking for DNA as evidence of the crime being beyond reasonable doubt. TV shows make it seem as if collecting forensic DNA is easy, that you can simply throw a few carpet hairs in the MS and it'll identify the material for you. Obviously, it's not that simple, and I've given up on watching crime procedurals because I know that (although the principle is right) in practice, it's just not possible to do what they're doing on the show. I've been known to throw cushions at the TV during CSI, and turn off the TV after screaming "that's a lie!" during NCIS.

    Another example is with regards to funding. I hate to say this, but the "donate to find a cure for cancer/AIDS!" programs are lies. There is a consensus in the biological science community that neither will have a magic silver bullet. There may be treatments that, tailored to the individual, will cure them. But "a cure" for cancer/AIDS is simply not possible given the nature of the diseases. I feel like these people are lying to the general public with pictures of cute kids and people to fund their labs' research.


    2)I agree. It does not mean that the laymen will come to a valid conclusion. But it does mean that they will receive information with an open mind.


    3)Precisely. What I'm saying is that your understanding of science is the general population's understanding of science. And that in general, people give faith to something that doesn't follow this "rational" process. I agree that those who best present the ideas sell, and those are not necessarily the best ideas. My issue is more with the people involved in the funding management and their lack of understanding than the people selling the ideas. Funding is hugely political, and I believe that a lot of money is being wasted being channeled into research that won't work but sounds pretty and elegant (Cure for AIDS).


    4)Yeah. I'm aware of the very obstacles of implementing my rather radical vision. I'm also being idealistic, not realistic, here. Whether in America, or in Singapore (where I grew up) or in Australia (where I am now) - it's going to be a big ask trying to revamp the entire system. I'm also aware that most teachers simply won't have the necessary background to teach in such a manner - and most education trainers also don't have the background to train the teachers - so it's a pipe dream. But one can dream, right?


    5)Actually, proving the existence of atoms is relatively simple, gold atoms are visible under an electron microscope. But that's just nit-picking.

    I would say that skepticism is founded until something has been proven, even with people, and even with the possibility of mental disorders. But that's a difference in values, I guess. Not much point arguing about that.
    1) People do take shortcuts, but I still maintain that it's because they don't fully grasp the importance of the topic; many people do have values, and I believe that many would not take the shortcut just for the sake of it if they knew it was an important issue.

    Well, to condense the point of my argument, how many people will actually search for DNA evidence in a CSI case? You need a degree for that, and anyone that does it professionally will know how to do it properly. In order for the public to understand how to do it right, they will need that skepticism; in any other case, tv shows such as that are mostly for entertainment purposes, so it's not quite as crucial. Likewise, many products already have most of the testing and whatnot put in towards how to best use them; the public needs only know how to use it, not necessarily why it works. Thus I maintain that, while it would be beneficial to teach and know skepticism on a broader, public level, it is not "needed" at the same level as it is with scientists.

    And yeah, I'm aware that a lot of the funding programs you see on commercials are really too good to be true; it goes beyond just cures for said diseases, but also in a lot of issues with poverty and all that...although they often are born out of good intentions. That's a bit more of a sensitive topic, though; with an issue like that, the public would often rather be lied to. They want to feel as if something is getting done...
    It breaks my heart sometimes, thinking about how some problems just turn around in circles; I've always thought of what might be best for humanity, and you know, it's never an easy answer. It's never a quick fix, and it is sometimes hard and painful to admit that things sometimes have to get worse before they can get better; there are times where people have to suffer because there's really nothing else we can do at the moment...People just don't want to hear that...
    But yeah; that's a discussion for a different time >.>

    2) Skepticism can allow for an open mind, but I've also noticed that in some people, it can allow for a hesitancy to believe anything; sometimes it even reverses to a walled-in attitude. I've known some very stubborn skeptics.

    3) You know, the real scary thing is that I usually have a better understand of science than the general public
    But yeah; everything's a political endeavor anymore. If it's a matter of the government not throwing money out the window on stupid projects, then we're all doomed.
    The only thing I could really think of to help a situation like this is governmental reform to replace importance back on sincerity, open-mindedness, and selflessness, but that's not exactly an easy situation to deal with.
    I'm really in the mood for a revolution; there's a lot of issues that factor in with these same things. It's time we addressed the core to them.

    4) Lol, talk about idealism all you want; I was born into it If I had some free time I'd be rewriting constitutions and sending political theories to all areas of political power...but hey, we have the rest of our lives, right? Anyone who said dreams couldn't happen obviously wasn't stubborn enough.

    5) If you can haul an average citizen to an electron microscope, then you might actually be able to make that point....if you can prove they're not magnified dust specks

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    Sorry I've been a bit tardy with keeping up with this topic, I've been pretty busy.
    Quote Originally Posted by gloomy-optimist View Post
    1) People do take shortcuts, but I still maintain that it's because they don't fully grasp the importance of the topic; many people do have values, and I believe that many would not take the shortcut just for the sake of it if they knew it was an important issue.

    Well, to condense the point of my argument, how many people will actually search for DNA evidence in a CSI case? You need a degree for that, and anyone that does it professionally will know how to do it properly. In order for the public to understand how to do it right, they will need that skepticism; in any other case, tv shows such as that are mostly for entertainment purposes, so it's not quite as crucial. Likewise, many products already have most of the testing and whatnot put in towards how to best use them; the public needs only know how to use it, not necessarily why it works. Thus I maintain that, while it would be beneficial to teach and know skepticism on a broader, public level, it is not "needed" at the same level as it is with scientists.
    How do you decide what is "important"? That's my first question. Most people I know take every available shortcut.

    The point about the "CSI effect" wasn't so much about the people actually needing to go into a crime scene and collect evidence. It's that the media and TV have skewed expectations dramatically, and people are less likely to believe that a person is guilty if DNA evidence is "inconclusive". I'm not advocating that the layman learn to collect DNA evidence and perform PCR and run a gel of the STR products. I'm just hoping that TV will stop miseducating people, and show a more realistic picture (i.e. maybe ocassionally say that the DNA evidence was inconclusive because it had degraded after time, but still prove guilt through other means).

    Quote Originally Posted by gloomy-optimist View Post
    2) Skepticism can allow for an open mind, but I've also noticed that in some people, it can allow for a hesitancy to believe anything; sometimes it even reverses to a walled-in attitude. I've known some very stubborn skeptics.
    True. But I think it's less because of skepticism and more because of temperament. I'm one of those very stubborn skeptics. I know what I have faith in, and accept that not everything can be explained by reason (but a lot can).

    Quote Originally Posted by gloomy-optimist View Post
    3) You know, the real scary thing is that I usually have a better understand of science than the general public
    But yeah; everything's a political endeavor anymore. If it's a matter of the government not throwing money out the window on stupid projects, then we're all doomed.
    The only thing I could really think of to help a situation like this is governmental reform to replace importance back on sincerity, open-mindedness, and selflessness, but that's not exactly an easy situation to deal with.
    I'm really in the mood for a revolution; there's a lot of issues that factor in with these same things. It's time we addressed the core to them.
    Heh. Um, I didn't really mean it that way. I meant it strictly in the "historical view of science/philosophy of science" sense.

    I agree that we need more sincerity, open-mindedness and selflessness, but I doubt the government could "reform" people to be all of the above. If anything, bureaucracy breaks that down completely. Maybe that's why I love music, literature and the arts - it inspires us to be "better", to try to transcend.

    Quote Originally Posted by gloomy-optimist View Post
    4) Lol, talk about idealism all you want; I was born into it If I had some free time I'd be rewriting constitutions and sending political theories to all areas of political power...but hey, we have the rest of our lives, right? Anyone who said dreams couldn't happen obviously wasn't stubborn enough.
    We can be idealistic together then. You'll work from the top-down with the politicians, I'll work on trying to educate the next generation to see the bigger picture.

    Quote Originally Posted by gloomy-optimist View Post
    5) If you can haul an average citizen to an electron microscope, then you might actually be able to make that point....if you can prove they're not magnified dust specks
    Quote Originally Posted by Antisocial one View Post
    Here is one more example of the point I am arguing.

    How big portion of public actually knows what is electron microscope?

    In the case they don't it is easy to convince them that scientists are fantasizing.
    I would be able to prove that they aren't dust specks easily enough. They just aren't on the same order of magnitude in size, and look completely different.

    And I would say that not believing in the existence of atoms won't kill you. It's not like being skeptical about the existence of cars on the road.

    Quote Originally Posted by ygolo View Post
    We clearly have different conceptions of how things work. There are few assumptions of your I would like to see if you can be skeptical of.

    It is not worth arguing the other points till we come to some mutual understanding over a couple of even more fundamental beliefs.

    1) Knowing "absolutely nothing" looks impossible. I'm skeptical of it. Show me an example. Till then, I'll believe it is impossible.

    2) "Actually knowing" something also seems impossible. Again, show me an example where this has been done.
    I'm always up for identifying assumptions.
    1) I've never said that knowing "absolutely nothing" is possible. I maintain, however, that it is better to assume that you know absolutely nothing, rather than assume that you know absolutely everything.

    2) You're taking that out of context. The reason why I used quotation marks around the term "actually know" is because I wanted to form a comparison between it and how much "you think you know". i.e. it wasn't so much an epistemological assertion as a relative depth of understanding comment (you do agree that understanding exists on a scale that ranges between the theoretical "nothing" and theoretical "knowing", don't you?).

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    we have bill nye, so yes.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Grayscale View Post
    we have bill nye, so yes.
    That show is still running or are they just re-runs now?
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    Quote Originally Posted by nonsequitur View Post
    I'm always up for identifying assumptions.
    1) I've never said that knowing "absolutely nothing" is possible. I maintain, however, that it is better to assume that you know absolutely nothing, rather than assume that you know absolutely everything.
    Well, that level of indirection is still not enough. Show me an example of how one can "assume absolutely nothing."

    Quote Originally Posted by nonsequitur View Post
    2) You're taking that out of context. The reason why I used quotation marks around the term "actually know" is because I wanted to form a comparison between it and how much "you think you know". i.e. it wasn't so much an epistemological assertion as a relative depth of understanding comment (you do agree that understanding exists on a scale that ranges between the theoretical "nothing" and theoretical "knowing", don't you?).
    I guess I didn't understand what context you intended, then.

    I do agree there are varrying levels of understanding, but not necessarily that we can put them on on a linear scale from shollow to deep (I know, you didn't say that-- I was just clarifying). I also beleive that scale would have nothing resembling "nothing" or "theoretical knowing." To remove the double-negative. Knowing (or assuming that we know) nothing is impossible. Knowing (or assuming we know) "truly" is also impossible. I'll change my mind on either of these counts if you show me an example.

    With that said, would it not be better to go deeper than whatever one knows already (whatever the current situation)?

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