Re: FW: MD Dawkins on quantum/mysticism convergence

Date: Sun Mar 24 2002 - 18:36:57 GMT

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    Subject: Re: FW: MD Dawkins on quantum/mysticism convergence
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    In a message dated 3/24/2002 11:02:34 AM Central Standard
    Time, Steve Drew <> writes:

    > > Hi Steve.
    > >
    > > The frequent use of qualifiers is a problem not only to the public,
    > > but also to editors, who call it "weak prose." So qualifiers often
    > > must be concentrated into a few very general statements
    > > referring to an entire line of work, for instance. These are
    > > mainly stylistic considerations, rather than matters of selling
    > > out to something that a scientist privately considers to be
    > > rubbish but may support anyway for the sake of profit, fame,
    > > power, etc.
    > No Aaron, they may appear to be stylistic to an editor, but to a scientist
    > the qualifier can be as important as the statement, as few scientific
    > statements today fall in to the realm of absolutes. Most experiments are of
    > the isolated variables kind, and are a model of the real world. When the
    > scientist moves to describe the real world the model becomes an
    > approximation, which leaves it open to attack.

    I'm not sure we have any substantive differences on this matter.
    All I am saying is that when writing for the public and editors, a
    scientist who wants to put qualifiers in nearly every statement
    may have to consolidate them into a few meta-statements that
    serve as qualifiers to an entire article or book. (The same
    scientist may have few or no problems putting qualifiers in her
    peer-reviewed journal articles, however.) For instance,
    hypotheses about evolutionary psychology are for the most part
    just that: hypotheses. Few of the proposed genetic factors have
    been identified, much less shown to have a fitness that is linked
    to their psychological effects. Now if a work simply drops all
    qualifiers entirely, and presents hypotheses as if they were all
    empirically confirmed, that can leave the work open to more
    serious attack, even if it is written for popular or semi-popular

    > > You can't always tell who has knowingly sold out
    > > and who has merely become confused or converted to some
    > > movement. We are, after all, only directly aware of our own
    > > beliefs, and must admit to uncertainty about everyone else's
    > > beliefs.
    > > But it strikes me as quite reasonable to suppose that
    > > among works of mystical pseudoscience, there profit, power,
    > > and fame driven fabrications mixed in with serious lapses in
    > > scientific reasoning by people who do not know that they
    > > have made such mistakes.
    > True. One thing. Why do i feel more comfortable with the idea of someone
    > is a charlatan after the cash, than the one who believes the BS?

    I'm not really sure I share your preference for the charlatan
    over the errant believer. With the believer, there is some hope
    of convincing him of his errors. There is also some hope of
    correcting the mistakes he may have transmitted to others.
    With the charlatan, you can expect that no matter how
    thoroughly you refute his message, he is apt to find new
    ways of expressing it and new audiences who will listen.
    Challenge his business and power interests too much, and he
    may even sue you, run you into exile, or both. (Who would
    EVER do a thing like that?) Then again, either a true
    believer or a cash and power-driven charlatan may kill you
    in extreme cases.

    --Aaron Lynch

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