Adventures in Ethics and Science

Getting down to basics.

Chad and Tara have spilled the beans on a highly classified backchannel discussion we ScienceBloggers have been having. Since the cat is already out of the bag (presumably a bag of beans), I suppose I’ll chime in.

What basic concepts would you like me to explain here?

The idea, of course, would be for me to take a basic concept from my area of expertise and explain it in such a way that an intelligent non-expert would be able to grasp the important bits. As well, I’d want to explain why it matters to get clear on the concept, what it’s good for, etc.

I’d be happy to entertain requests pertaining to concepts in ethics, philosophy of science, and chemistry.

What would you like to know?

Comments

  1. #1 Opiwan
    January 12, 2007

    What we really need is someone who knows a lot about birds and aerodynamics/aeronautics so that we can answer the most basic question of them all:

    What is the air-speed velocity of an unladen swallow?

  2. #2 Janet D. Stemwedel
    January 12, 2007

    African or European?

  3. #3 kevinC
    January 12, 2007
  4. #4 Winawer
    January 12, 2007

    Okay, here’s one I’ve been wondering about but haven’t had the time to go read on: falsifiability (Popper-style). I can’t be the only one who uses it as a guiding principle when I think about and do science, but I’m dimly aware that it’s been criticized, and I’m unsure as to what the current consensus (or rough majority, squabbling horde, out-and-out-brawl-in-the-street, etc) might have to say about this issue?

  5. #5 dogscratcher
    January 12, 2007

    Expalin the difference between morality and ethics.

  6. #6 chezjake
    January 12, 2007

    What are the essential components of critical thinking?

    And, if you’d care to expand, how should/could they be incorporated into basic education in the public schools?

  7. #7 Matt Platte
    January 12, 2007

    +1 for falsifiability, explained using words a creationist might understand. For example, Dick and Jane and their dog Spot are in the lab….

  8. #8 SMC
    January 12, 2007

    Additionally, a description of hypotheses, theories, and assumptions, and how a good experiment (in a general sense) is designed to address them.

  9. #9 pioneer1
    January 12, 2007

    I think more one becomes an expert on something the more things should get simpler. How come this works the other way around in the academia?

    If it needs to be demystified it is mysticism. If it needs to be popularized it is scholasticism (think physics). If it needs to be simplified it is not simple.

    I would like to know how culture of academicism influence science.

    For instance, if science and education were to be independent of each other scientific output of humanity would increase. Teaching and science are as related as football and science. There is no reason for football to exist in a research institution and there is no reason for teaching to exist in a research institution. Culture of academicism therefore influences science. If all these scientists who must teach and waste their time with administrative chores were to be liberated human science would advance as never known before.

    Sorry for answering my own question!

  10. #10 JP Stormcrow
    January 13, 2007

    I found my way over here as part of the BĂ©rubic diaspora, so apologies if you have covered these earlier. (I did do a quick scan of the archives.)

    1) If you discuss falsifiability, I would be interested in how you see it differing in application to “historical” vs. experimental sciences.

    2) If you are going to basics, what might be a good Primum non nocere for science in general. Am thinking you won’t choose “In science there is only physics; all the rest is stamp collecting.”
    My candidate would be Occam’s Razor.

  11. #11 Tomteboda
    January 14, 2007

    How do you teach students to identify “real” versus pseudoscience? We’re innundated with the latter, but it seems a majority of people (consumers) remain unaware.

  12. #12 tomteboda
    January 14, 2007

    And before I look like an idiot,, I’ve read your very excellent entries on pseudoscience already. I guess I was looking for something even more basic. I took it literally :)

  13. #13 Lab Lemming
    January 15, 2007

    Occam’s razor is crap. Picking the possibility with the complexity closest to the predicted complexity is way more useful than picking the simple answer.

  14. #14 JP Stormcrow
    January 15, 2007

    Picking the possibility with the complexity closest to the predicted complexity is way more useful than picking the simple answer.

    A bit of an unfair shot at: Entities should not be multiplied beyond necessity.

    My unfair rejoinder:

    I also have a full-size map of the world. I hardly ever unroll it.
    – Stephen Wright

  15. #15 Lab Lemming
    January 16, 2007

    Are we allowed to post scientific ethical delimmas that we (or “people we know”) may have occasion to observe?

  16. #16 bill lama
    January 17, 2007

    Hi Janet,
    I found my way here from Jackie Floyd at ElementList. I am a retired physicist but do not believe that “In science there is only physics; all the rest is stamp collecting.”
    The more I learn about other sciences the more interested I become.

    Francis Collins shocked the science world by his proclamation that science had brought him to believe in God. It was quite remarkable for a geneticist. I wonder what your take is on science and faith (not religion).

    I am a believer.

    Thank you,
    Bill

  17. #17 Scott Belyea
    January 18, 2007

    Occam’s razor is crap. Picking the possibility with the complexity closest to the predicted complexity is way more useful than picking the simple answer.

    Well … if that’s what it said, you might be right.

    Since it isn’t, you aren’t.

  18. #18 Enigman
    January 23, 2007

    What is the primary ethical concern of science? Is it the pursuit of the truth about the world, for its own sake (for all that such an aim might also be justified pragmatically, if we take the long view)? If so, why?

The site is undergoing maintenance presently. Commenting has been disabled. Please check back later!