Alarming News: I like Morgan Freeberg. A lot.
Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler: We were following a trackback and thinking "hmmm... this is a bloody excellent post!", and then we realized that it was just part III of, well, three...Damn. I wish I'd written those.
Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler: ...I just remembered that I found a new blog a short while ago, House of Eratosthenes, that I really like. I like his common sense approach and his curiosity when it comes to why people believe what they believe rather than just what they believe.
Brutally Honest: Morgan Freeberg is an intriguing guy...[he] asks great questions and answers others with style, flair, reason and wit. On the blogroll he goes. Make him a part of your regular blogospheric reading. I certainly will.
Brutally Honest: Morgan Freeberg is brilliant.
Common Sense Junction: Misha @ Anti-Idiotarian never ceases to amaze me. He keeps finding other good blogs. I went over to A.I. this morning for my daily Misha fix and he had found this guy named Morgan Freeberg in Fair Oaks, California, that has a blog, House of Eratosthenes. Freeberg says its "The Blog That Nobody Reads" but it may now become the blog that everybody reads.
Jaded Haven: Good God, Morgan, you cover a topic from front to back with a screwy thoroughness I find mind boggling. I'm in awe of your thought proccesses, my friend, you're an exceptional talent. You start by throwing in the kitchen sink, tie in someone's syphilitic uncle, bend around a rip tide of brilliance and bring it all home in a neat, diamond dripping package of an exceptionally readable moment of damn fine wordsmithing. I love reading you.
Mein Blogovault: Make "the Blog that No One Reads" one of your daily reads.
Philmon: When Morgan meanders, stick with him - he's got a point and it'll be worth it in the end. He's not a hit-and-run snarky quip kind of guy. The pieces all fall into place like tumblers in a lock and bang! He's opened a cognative door for you.
Rightlinx: Morgan at House of Eratosthenes is one of the best writers out there. I read him nearly every day because he manages to provide an interesting perspective, even though I don't always agree.
Poetic Justice: Cletus! Ah gots a laiv one fer yew...
They do have a good point to make: You take your car in to a mechanic to find out why it won’t start, the mechanic will come up with some theories. Then, with a look-see and some deductive reasoning, some of these will be ruled out. It would then be silly, as well as sneaky and unfair, to say “What a bad mechanic he is, he was wrong when he said my fuel system wasn’t delivering.”
Both pages point out that such an argument “shows ignorance of how science works.” That’s a valid observation — certainly it’s true in the example of the mechanic — but it strikes me as exceedingly reckless to make a logical fallacy out of this. It strikes a blow with a sledgehammer when a jewelers’ screwdriver would be more appropriate. Which is particularly hazardous here, since the presumption they’re forming about the conversation in which the “fallacy” would be deployed, is far from guaranteed. In fact, I would say it’s almost certain to be wrong.
Their presumption is that the guy pointing out “science has been wrong before,” is the first one in the dialogue to “[misrepresent] how science actually works by forcing it into a binary conception of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’.” Now, this has not been my experience at all, especially in the case of global warming. From all I’ve seen in the conversations in which I participate — and also in the much larger collective of conversations, in which I do not — it is the alwarmist who incorrectly sees “science” as sort of a catalog of blessed beliefs, almost like scripture being blessed by a high priest in some religious order. The skeptic or denier who then takes the “yeah but science has been wrong before” angle, therefore, is engaging in a bit of flair to remind his antagonist that the scientific process is being misrepresented.
After all, these conversations are very often more about how sure we should be, than about what is to be concluded. Isn’t that just obvious? Aren’t they almost all about “the science is in” or “the debate is settled” or “all the scientists agree”?
Are they not almost all about how the virtue of skepticism, which is the backbone of science itself in all other pursuits and disciplines, in just this one should be suspended because gosh, they’re just so darn sure about this, and the fate of life on the planet depends on it. Doesn’t that previous sentence sum up just about all the arguing that’s ever being done, especially out here on the Internet.
And once the alwarmist commits this error and shows this ignorance of how science works, I personally don’t know of too many more succinct or diplomatic ways to correct him about it. Maybe it would be more direct, and perhaps in some cases a good idea, to go with the alternative rebuttal of “that isn’t how science works.” But since the discussion is often about whether it’s okay to still be asking questions, it hardly seems fair to make a logical fallacy out of what is likely just an attempt, perhaps a clumsy one, to show some tact. And it’s certainly dishonest to play make-believe that it’s the one side that has shown this ignorance about science, when it’s very likely to be the other.
Also, the authors make a second reckless presumption, also unlikely to be true: That there is no good point to be made here. I see someone compiled a short list of occasions on which one might say “science was wrong” and, once again, one sees one’s understanding is increased when one takes the time to define some specifics. In this case, the author of the list went the extra mile by annotating these events where the thing being “proven wrong” wasn’t exactly science, but “DOGMA.” Everybody knew it to be true. The scientific method had not been used to validate these “wrong” things so it is entirely inaccurate to say the-science-was-wrong. But, again: Tell the alwarmists that, for in a lot of cases this “settled science” is not science at all.
This list doesn’t take such care, using phrases like “for thousands of years, it was believed that.” But it’s still relevant and educational to read through it.
This article makes the point that all knowledge has an expiration date. Not sure I’d take it that far. Still, it’s an interesting read.
“King of the Woad” came up with a great example over here about repressed memories of child abuse. He, too, is careful to disclaim:
So there’s an example of science getting it wrong, the public knowing better, and the experts themselves having to backtrack. But the crisis blew up in the first place because the “self-correction” mechanism you refer to wasn’t allowed to function properly.
Let us ponder that “but”: The experts developed their theory in a vacuum, without the benefit of peer review. And so a question confronts us: Perhaps this example should not count?
It is entirely legitimate to say it should not, in every single way, if — and only if — an implied rule arises, and is given the respect it deserves, the word “science” should be tapered down in terms of the situations to which it is applied. If the alwarmist should be given license to counter that the Cleveland repressed-memory crisis is a pointedly different thing from what he’s trying to discuss when he says “the science is settled,” then he should be confined to using that science-is-settled thing to suppositions in which science has been followed. Is that not just common sense? Also, this has to work at the micro- level, not the macro-. You can’t go leapfrogging from “the science is settled that the lower troposphere has been warming and there is a greenhouse effect,” to “the science is settled that human activity is the primary cause” to “the science is settled that legislative initiatives will curb this warming” to “the science is settled that if those initiatives are not implemented post haste, we’re all gonna die.”
That, I think, is just common sense too. But a lot of people are not following it.
The problem, here, is drama and emotion. Everyone is bored to tears watching the scientist do real science. Everyone likes to watch the scene where the scientist, pondering the meaning of what he just saw, tears himself away from his telescope or microscope or computer workstation and leaps into his jeep to drive all night to the capitol building to tell the wise leaders that IMMEDIATE ACTION is required or we’re all DOOMED!! But it bears repeating, science has nothing to do at all with what we “must” do. Science is all about what is. One steps outside of the domain of science, usually slamming the door behind him, and forgetting the key, the minute one starts pondering the thing-to-do. With the climate change deal, a lot of people tend to forget that.
Another problem, already briefly discussed above, is the use of the word. I called this out years ago, that in classical times “science” was used to describe a process, and in more recent times it is used to describe an orthodoxy of institutionalized beliefs, and a coterie of elites maintaining them. When I review the list with the annotations about dogma-not-science, I notice an interesting pattern in history: This piece of knowledge, which is ultimately falsified, is “science” before the falsification occurs but after that event — is not science anymore. This wasn’t done, that wasn’t done, peer review wasn’t done…it was accepted by these guys over here, but not those guys over there…it was a hypothesis and not a theory.
So there is a subtle but meaningful two-step going on here: The science is never wrong, because once it is proven wrong it stops being science. Almost like the “none dare call it treason” thing. But before it’s proven wrong…we show our ignorance if we fail to accept it uncritically, since “it’s science.” Seems to me, you can insist on one or the other of those things, but not both, for if both these rules are to prevail, what you have is little more than a set of procedure-driven steps for mass-producing mistakes, and then placing unlimited weight on them.
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