Small s skeptic

h/t, Newscut  http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/cross-check/dear-skeptics-bash-homeopathy-and-bigfoot-less-mammograms-and-war-more/

I have thoughts:

I like this quote – “When people like this get together, they become tribal. They pat each other on the back and tell each other how smart they are compared to those outside the tribe. But belonging to a tribe often makes you dumber.”

I like this quote – “The Science Delusion” is common among Capital-S Skeptics. You don’t apply your skepticism equally. You are extremely critical of belief in God, ghosts, heavenESP, astrology, homeopathy and Bigfoot. You also attack disbelief in global warming, vaccines and genetically modified food.”

“I’m a science journalist. I don’t celebrate science, I criticize it, because science needs critics more than cheerleaders. I point out gaps between scientific hype and reality. That keeps me busy, because, as you know, most peer-reviewed scientific claims are wrong.”  Except for global warming, those ones are unimpeachable eh…

Misanthropic atheisim is a thing…. “Just to be clear: Dawkins is comparing Lawrence Krauss to Charles Darwin. Why would Dawkins say something so foolish? Because he hates religion so much that it impairs his scientific judgment. He succumbs to what you might call “The Science Delusion.” Krauss and Dawkins are the biggest ones.

Singularity – “So is the Singularity, the idea that we’re on the verge of digitizing our psyches and uploading them into computers, where we can live forever.Some powerful people are believers, including Google’s director of engineering, Ray Kurzweil. But the Singularity is an apocalyptic cult, with science substituted for God.”  The singularity is a fanciful topic the kids are all hip on these days, along with things like the ‘illuminati’.  My kids asked me the other day if AI and the singularity were coming.  I said no, that shit ain’t consciousness and never will be, it’s still all just instruction lines going into a processor.  Ya know, I’m a smart rube right, and I don’t need a Stanford doctorate to know that with proper certitude when credentialed people will tell otherwise.

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3 thoughts on “Small s skeptic

  1. pm1956

    I think that it is generally a good article. It is right to be skeptical of science. If you are interested in this topic, i would strongly urge you to read the following wonderful, great book: the Structure of Scientific revolutions; by Thomas Kuhn. this is one of the most cited books in all academic research. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Structure_of_Scientific_Revolutions ) (Kuhn sort of invented the modern meaning of the word “paradigm” in this book!).

    Basically, Kuhn examines the actual history of progress in science and discovers that the story that we learn in high school is bunk. There really is no particular logic to the progression of science. Science advances in fits and starts. Paradigms (Copernican paradigm of the earth revolving around the sun) replace paradigms (the old Ptolemaic paradigm of the sun revolving around the Earth) not when evidence accumulates to the point where belief in the old becomes impossible, ,but rather when the new paradigm better suits the aims and goals of scientific practitioners than the old one. Eventually, old paradigms no longer offer research opportunities to scientists, so they switch paradigms. According to Kuhn, science exists to serve scientists, not the other way around. And, of course, most scientists hate to admit this.

    Now, of course, this does not mean that there is not progress in science, or that scientists have not made advances over the years. But it does mean that those advances have at least as much to do with the sociology and psychology of scientists as they do with science itself.

    I fully expect that important aspects of global warming theory will be overturned in the future. But that does not mean that global climate change is not happening right now.

    As to atheism, you simply have to remember that it is almost impossible to prove a negative. Thus, it is really easy to disprove the existence of those gods who feature prominently in religions. After all, there are truth claims about those gods (miracles), and, frankly, all of those have been disproved. But you simply can not prove that there are no gods at all.

    As for the singularity, AI, etc., well, maybe. But no scientist has successfully explained consciousness as yet, and until they do, I find the rest of this rather difficult to stomach. If you want a good, short explanation of this, read Thomas Nagel on “what is it llike to be a bat?” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/What_Is_it_Like_to_Be_a_Bat%3F ). Also, read Richard Searle’s Chinese Room refutation of the AI thesis: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_room .

    I think you’ll appreciate both Searle and Nagel.

    (yes, once upon a time I spent a lot of time reading up about brain science and philosophy…..)

    Reply
  2. pm1956

    If you really want to be a small s skeptic, however, then you really need to apply your hoped for skepticism towards yourself.

    For example, it is fine to note the tribalism of academia and liberalism as a reason to be skeptical of some of mthe claims (and the unity around) global warming theory. However, there is certainly also tribalism on the right–and it is as least as strong around global warming theory. You will need to examine yourself and decide just how much of your opinion and deeply held belief is due to tribalism….and, if it is, then you really are not being a small s skeptic.

    Reply
    1. W.E. Peterson Post author

      True, and I do this more than I’ve had occasion to note here. I do show some tribal inclinations towards conservatism right…. But the world of people I have to navigate is nominally D / liberal. These are generally smart people who I like… and I ask myself to see what they see for whatever wisdom is there.

      I don’t actually know anyone right now for whom conservatism is all that important in life.

      Reply

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