“It is worthwhile, too, to warn the teacher that undue severity in correcting faults is liable at times to discourage a pupil’s mind from effort.” –Quintilian

We live in a society where we often draw this dichotomy between “our side,” which is always right, and “their side,” which is against us and, of course, always wrong. Yet we have more in common than you might think, and that’s something we can find so long as — as Tower of Power sings — we’re

Willing To Learn.

Yet that requires we approach problems with not only an open mind, but people with an open heart.

Image credit: screenshot from the LA Times at http://www.latimes.com/science/sciencenow/la-sci-sn-science-quiz-americans-pew-20150909-story.html.

Image credit: screenshot from the LA Times at http://www.latimes.com/science/sciencenow/la-sci-sn-science-quiz-americans-pew-20150909-story.html.

Last week, I went on Huffpo Live’s Nerds Forum, and the host said the following to me about a Pew study that came out:

And more than one in five test-takers was pretty sure that astronomy was actually astrology. [Laughter off-camera.] Somewhere, Bill Nye just got the heebie-jeebies.

Ethan, did you see what kind of questions they were asked? How dumb are we talking?

How would you have responded to this?

Image credit: Bill Watterson.

Image credit: Bill Watterson.

I don’t know that I did the best job possible, but here are my thoughts, and they’re something some of you might appreciate. (Or at least have opinions about!)

Comments

  1. #1 PJ
    Perth, west Oz
    September 20, 2015

    Here, here, well put.
    It’s a funny thing that most folk will accept something as being the ‘ truth ‘ when they have to pay for the result, yet, if one offers free advice, it is considered too cheap to be correct.

  2. #2 eric
    September 20, 2015

    I disagree with you saying you wish they wouldn’t even do it at all. PEW does a lot of surveys and most are useful or at least interesting. Is this a bad proxy measure of IQ? Absolutely. Is it a bad proxy of even science literacy? Maybe; you seem to think yes, but I don’t know if there’s a better way of measuring it out there. Is PEW playing gotcha games? I sincerely doubt it; whatever their purpose for conducting it, I’m sure they have a reasonable and high-minded one.

    I do agree with you that the “ha ha I’m smarter than them” response is both unhelpful and almost certainly unwarranted (i.e., you aren’t). I’m a pretty educated guy, but it would be trivially easy for someone to develop a test that I’d fail. Heck it would probably be relatively easy to make such a test even if you limited yourself to ‘reasonable’ questions (i.e. not trivia) about things people in our society do or should know. Every single one of us is ignorant about a lot.

    A member of my family traveled to Borneo many years ago, and had the opportunity to stay with a relatively primitive community. They invited her to go hunting with them, but sent her back after 20 minutes because she was scaring all the game away. Later that night they made jokes about how the stupid foreigner couldn’t even walk correctly. It was all in good fun and she took it as such, no offense intended or taken. But it illustrates the point: we are all ignorant about many things.

  3. #3 RD
    September 20, 2015

    Bravo, Ethan! I’m so very glad for how you responded. I found the statement of your host in reply, “A correct answer is better than having an incorrect answer,” so very sad. An ever increasing understanding of science and about science means much more than reducing scientific knowledge to simplistic statements, with or without artiface. This is what harms science education in the first place! Students who see science as laden with traps and pretense will never engage with it. This is the greatest problem facing science education in the US!

  4. #4 Candice H. Brown Elliott
    Silicon Valley
    September 20, 2015

    I think you missed the point of the survey. It wasn’t in any sense a “punching down”. It was an indictment of our schools, There should be no way that one could graduate from high school and not have learned ALL of these very simple questions. In fact, the fact that they were so simple and yet so many did not know them is frightening. We live in a society where everyone can vote… and eve more importantly, make daily decisions. in a world where technology and the science behind said technology is ever more important to our very survival. Yet, 50% didn’t know what property of sound is “loudness”?

  5. #5 PJ
    Perth, west Oz
    September 21, 2015

    Whatever we learned in academia is more than related to our own personal interests. That which is of no interest gets forgotten quite rapidly. Subjects we find are not used in later life are dropped as useless. How many people would think in terms of volume being a sine wave of given amplitude? Many audiophiles do not think that way, either. Their beef will relate to the quality of the sound – ie; percent distortion @ x db.
    We each have our own level of expertise in the subjects we are interested. I do not expect a chef to have very much knowledge in radio astronomy, unless they have a particular interest in the subject.
    Was it the survey, or more the way the results of it were used to belittle the participants? 🙂

  6. #6 Ragtag Media
    September 21, 2015

    99% (economist included) of the population doesn’t really understand how our modern monetary system functions.
    I am not sure if it is such a bad thing though.
    We could accomplish a lot, but moral hazards would be a challenge.

  7. #7 Wow
    September 21, 2015

    “Subjects we find are not used in later life are dropped as useless. How many people would think in terms of volume being a sine wave of given amplitude? Many audiophiles do not think that way, either. ”

    1) Nope. Still do differentiation for S&G’s
    2) Most people I know.
    3) RMS is used ALL OVER the spec sheets of audio equipment. And THD (which an audiophile will KNOW means “Total HARMONIC Distortion”. Not to mention Class-A amplification (which is amplifying both positive and negative parts of the sine wave in the same circuit, rather than rectifying it and using a simpler amplifier to amplify each side separately).

  8. #8 Paul Dekous
    September 21, 2015

    IMO you are a hypocrite Ethan. You have a bully hanging around this forum that has insulted many people over time and time again and who has a OCD to keep on doing so. And than you go preaching at some other place how people should behave, while even don’t call him out over here. What’s the point of this kind of nonsense article … I preferred that you stick to the science which is au fond indifferent, and lets all move on. Because from what I understand the bully here helps you with keeping the idiots away and is functional for you.

  9. #9 Wow
    September 21, 2015

    Aaaaw, did the big meanie make you cry? Funny how you like to plop the aggro out but whine when you’re not allowed to have your special “safe place”.

  10. #10 Carl
    USA
    September 21, 2015

    Science is awesome and has helped humanity produce food, deal with disease, and protect us from the environment.

    Science is awful and has enabled us to manipulate, oppress, torture, and kill en masse with ever-greater efficiency.

    I’d have a hard time arguing against either statement. I’m a scientist, but I don’t worship Science.

    Fact: science cannot ever be complete. Godel’s theorem proved that there are truths in math that can never be proven. When the lowest foundation for science is shown to have blind spots, then the knowledge built upon that foundation will have voids that cannot be filled.

    I see so much extreme hatred for Faith and extreme glorifying of Science here that I couldn’t help wondering about this from Ethan’s ending paragraph:

    “If you find yourself in a position where you’re the one who’s more knowledgeable, more capable, or more informed on a topic, don’t keep that understanding to yourself, and definitely don’t lord it over others. The way you make the world better is to share not only what you know but your love of knowing it with everyone else.”

    This is why good people share their faith. We are all fallible mortals trying to share what we’ve learned before we die. I wish the anger shown by both sides would be reduced by that understanding.

  11. #11 Wow
    September 21, 2015

    “I see so much extreme hatred for Faith”

    Where?

    What you’re CONFUSING as hatred for faith is the hatred for those who eschew rational thought for the fake palliative of a human-centric fabricated god THEN GO ON SCIENCE BLOGS TO BULLSHIT ON ABOUT IT.

    Your faith is just bullshit. It is a faith of ONE: YOU.

    “Everyone” “agrees” that there’s a god, but when you ask what god it is, you suddenly have an answer that gets further and further away from any written description in an authoritative religious text. With a congretation that doesn’t ACTUALLY agree on the same god. Just that they demand there IS one.

    Worse, they demand that their ridiculous mythology be accepted or, even more ridiculously, treated with “respect”. For what? A comfort blanket for adults who don’t want to face a reality that really doesn’t care what happens to you?

    Feel free to think whatever the hell you like, but you’re no different from those people who proclaim they are Napoleon (or were one in a previous life).

    And what I REALLY hate is the indoctrination and brainwashing of your children so that they won’t think differently from you and will bolster your self-deception by the fallacious argument ad populum.

    It’s not hatred of faith, it’s a pushback against the strident godbotherers who really don’t give a shit about anyone else and will bring the damn stupid fantasy up on a site that isn’t for this sort of myth sharing.

    Ones coming on and whining about how mean people are to the deluded are no worse.

    And just as bad when they bring that claptrap up to try and shame people for not letting others have their say without comment.

  12. #12 Wow
    September 21, 2015

    “This is why good people share their faith.”

    No you don’t. You know, deep down, this is all BS, but you think if others believe the same crap, you must be more right. After all, that’s the “only difference” between your fantasies of being visited by a sky fairy and those loonies who say they were anal probed by aliens: the numbers who agree with you that sky fairies exist.

  13. #13 Denier
    United States
    September 21, 2015

    @Ethan

    The story on the tape right after the gotcha test also caught my attention. Be wary of increasing IQ scores in kids as an indication of increasing intelligence. It may not show what you think it does.

    It may be everywhere in the US, but I know all second graders in California are given IQ tests. You mentioned a question about how a fox relates to a dog, but that kind of question hasn’t been asked in a decade. It is too biased. Inner city kids aren’t exposed to foxes and Spanish speaking kids may get confused in reading the sentence, etc. The IQ test is all pattern and sequence recognition now.

    By narrowing how the questions are presented, it is now easier to study for the IQ test. In our test-focus society, doing well on that IQ test can mean a kid gets into an advanced class with a better student-to-teacher ratio, with better funding, and sit among more intelligent peers. Being that IQ scores are used for sorting kids, many parents drill their kids on these tests.

    Until this year, our local elementary schools were using the Raven test. Parents can buy all variants of that year’s test direct from the publisher for about $1000. There are many online and in-person services that will prep your second grader for the test. For those parents who don’t want to fork out that kind of money, all the problems are worked out on YouTube for free.

    Our local district just changed from the Raven test to the CogAT test because 10 times as many kids were testing as “gifted” on the Raven test than should be testing at that level. The CogAT publisher doesn’t sell direct to parents, but I’m sure they’ll figure out how to get hands on the tests, and there are still the services, and the YouTube videos for CogAT.

    When you incentivize the test, the scores are going to go up. That doesn’t mean the kids are getting smarter. Knowing what I know about parent motivations, I’m also highly skeptical of any kid testing as “smarter than Einstein”. Any such kid is likely smart, but is more likely well preped to take the test.

  14. #14 dean
    September 21, 2015

    Since IQ tests really measure test taking skills and level of acclimation to society, and nothing else, we shouldn’t be using IQ test and intelligence in the same discussion anyway.

  15. #15 eric
    September 21, 2015

    Carl @10:

    Godel’s theorem proved that there are truths in math that can never be proven. When the lowest foundation for science is shown to have blind spots, then the knowledge built upon that foundation will have voids that cannot be filled.

    Nah, Godel says there are going to be some things you can’t deductively prove. This is not a critical limit on the physical sciences because very little of it depends on deductive proofs anyway. AFAIK Godel’s incompleteness theorems say nothing whatsoever about induction, so induction-based knowledge isn’t necessarily limited by it. Worst case scenario, we end up with multiple mathematical models of reality which seem to make consistent predictions but which we can’t prove will always make consistent predictions. And if we reach that situation….really, so what? Two models that model the same phenomenon is better than one. Let the philosophers worry about which one is “really” true or whether they are ultimately identical. Scientists will use both.

    Dean @14:

    Since IQ tests really measure test taking skills and level of acclimation to society, and nothing else, we shouldn’t be using IQ test and intelligence in the same discussion anyway.

    I think if Binet were still alive, he’d heartily agree with you. Not only should they not be equated, but they were never intended to be equated. The inventor was looking for a test that would help identify students who might need more help in school. Nothing more, just that. Could be due to poor test-taking skills, poor acculturation, inherent smarts, dyslexia, whatever, he didn’t care, he was just looking for a tool to help him figure out which students to help and (AFAIK) he made no judgment about why they needed help.

  16. #16 Michael Kelsey
    SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory
    September 21, 2015

    @eric #15: “The inventor [Binet] was looking for a test that would help identify students who might need more help in school. Nothing more, just that.” Quite so! It was Terman at Stanford who converted it into a “measurement” (so-called) of “innate intelligence”, and then made use of it to promote and to enforce the racial and immigration policies popular in the U.S. at the time (1920’s).

    If you can suffer through the pomposity, Gould’s _Mismeasure_of_Man_ includes a very good history of this development, and the misuse of “intelligence testing” throughout the 20th Century.

  17. #17 Carl
    USA
    September 22, 2015

    eric @15:

    I don’t disagree with you when talking about a smaller scope of knowledge, That would involve observing what-is-here and learning enough to reasonably predict (using math) what will happen in a similar situation. That’s where most science operates at the moment.

    The largest scale of knowledge derives what-is-here from fundamentals. The hope is that some grand unified theory will be found, and we’ll be smart enough to tease emergent properties from that GUT to eventually predict why Jenny doesn’t love Johnny, or what happens when Timmy dies. You know, the “important” questions.

    We’ve currently broken that knowledge up into many sciences (from particle physics to psychology/sociology), each one incomplete and with very poor connections between them. The likelihood that we will ever answer the “important” questions without making many enormous assumptions is zero.

    So we have to have faith in our assumptions. To have no faith means you cannot act on your predictions. The nice thing about science is it identifies what you must have faith in, and allows for improvements as we learn not to trust what we believed yesterday.

  18. #18 Carl
    USA
    September 22, 2015

    wow @11, 12:

    It’s entertaining to read your over-the-top rants and straw men arguments. Assuming you are as you post and not just trolling, it seems that some Christians (maybe others) have really gotten under your skin.

    Your rage might be hurting you and those around you – please take care of yourself and try to be a net positive to the lives of those around you.

  19. #19 eric
    September 22, 2015

    @17: I’m not sure there’s ‘a lot of’ assumptions in science. There’s a lot of induction, which rests on the assumption that induction is valid. But I find most of what theological objectors to science call ‘assumptions’ are really conclusions inductively derived from observation. If you want to give me an example of these enormous assumptions (beyond the one I’ve conceded: ‘induction works’), maybe we can discuss them in more detail.

  20. #20 Wow
    September 22, 2015

    “To have no faith means you cannot act on your predictions. ”

    No it doesn’t.

    You can have no faith in your predictions but act on them to see what will happen.

  21. #21 Wow
    September 22, 2015

    “It’s entertaining to read your over-the-top rants”

    IOW passive agressive BS.

    “and straw men arguments.”

    IOW you don’t know what strawman is, but you’ve heard it used before.

    “it seems that some Christians (maybe others) have really gotten under your skin. ”

    Yes. So what? Maybe you fuckers should stop being so annoyingly stupid, hmm?

    “Your rage might be hurting you and those around you”

    IOW more passive-aggressive fake concern.

    No, it isn’t. It’s not even rage. It’s annoyance.

    You know, the same thing that got under YOUR skin when you posted “…I see so much extreme hatred for Faith…”.

    “and try to be a net positive to the lives of those around you.”

    I am.

    Now try not being a credulous moron and throw off the fear-loaded shackles of mythology and use your brain.

    You may be of some use then.

  22. #22 Wow
    September 22, 2015

    “The likelihood that we will ever answer the “important” questions without making many enormous assumptions is zero. ”

    Only if you post-hoc change what “important” means.

    Tell you what, when you have a scientific test for god and find it, write the paper and get it reviewed and then come to a science blog to talk about it.

    (you aren’t a scientist, though, you just pretend to be one on the internet)

    Until then, leave the mythology to the relevant Arts discussion.

  23. #23 Carl
    USA
    September 22, 2015

    eric @19:

    Observations are single instances of what-is-here. Science tries to develop a deeper understanding from observations that allows us to predict future responses. (Just trying to be clear, not patronizing)

    If we had enough observations, we could predict easily – Johnny meets Sue exactly the same way 10,000 times and proceeds to date her 9,000 times. It works for particles, but larger systems are unreproducible.

    Chaos results from imperfect knowledge of initial conditions.

    States required by our models are hidden, unobservable.

    We’ll never get all the data (infinite # of observations), so we do what we can with what we have. Assume things work the same way when we aren’t looking. Assume the rules don’t change. We use math to describe systems, assuming types of behavior that are easy to manipulate (linearity, 2nd order effects can be neglected, ODE, etc.).

    It can work really well when the assumptions are close to reality. Our TV sets work! We might have a TV that’s a lemon occasionally; we disregard that one. There was something wrong with its manufacture. Sure, but we are using science all over the place to optimize manufacturing. It’s just too complex for us to handle. We accept a failure rate.

    Another typical example is our inability to predict the weather. Will it rain on 3/21/5508? It’s not that we just haven’t figured it all out yet, it’s that we can not ever figure it out.

    Where it gets even more shaky is when intelligence is involved. Now the system under investigation has free will and can respond to thwart understanding. If the intelligence is cleverer than the scientist, all is lost. Imagine a gullible investigator being convinced of a fraud by a stage magician.

    Or ask a scientist what’s the chance of all the air molecules in a 1′ cube all moving over to a single corner of the cube. After some math, the answer is “pretty dang low”. Then wait a while, and some joker will build the cube with a cold trap and make it happen. That intelligent being is part of this universe too – an emergent property of the fundamental forces and particles we study so thoroughly.

    We want to understand why things happen. Science is a great tool. It can’t answer all questions today, and I don’t believe it is ever capable of doing so. In the Venn diagram of “All Truths”, the circle for Science is not complete.

    I’m ok with that; I think it’s cool that there is room for mystery.

    If you want to know more about assumptions, ask “wow”. He(?) makes a lot of them.

  24. #24 Ragtag Media
    September 23, 2015

    “Now try not being a credulous moron and throw off the fear-loaded shackles of mythology and use your brain.”

    Well dipshit, how about you and your pathetic little minions of FEAR MONGERS cease with your humanistic demagogic GloBULL Warming Fearmongering??

    So this what a society comes to when God/ faith etc is removed by your terms. The State becomes the ultimate authority, giver and taker of rights and decider of what we shall fear.. climate change were all gonna die get out sky is falling let me control you BECAUSE I KNOW BEST blah,blah You Hypocrite

  25. #25 Wow
    September 23, 2015

    “Now the system under investigation has free will ”

    Proof plz.

    Proof there IS such a thing as free will and that intelligence has it whereas unintelligence doesn’t. Which requires defining intelligence for the case of having free will.

  26. #26 Wow
    September 23, 2015

    “f FEAR MONGERS cease with your humanistic demagogic GloBULL Warming Fearmongering??”

    It’s not fearmongering, it’s truth, retard.

    And AGW isn’t isn’t humanistic. And talking of it isn’t demagoguery, though your tirade there is entirely that.

    Tell you what, when you work out a hypothesis that doesn’t need CO2 to make the climatic changes seen in the history records that works, THEN come back with your alternative theory.

    Until then, as a christian, you should be 100% behind the effort to combat AGW since according to your mythology, you are STEWARDS of this planet, not its owners.

  27. #27 Wow
    September 23, 2015

    So this what a society comes to when God/ faith etc is removed by your terms.

    One where there isn’t wholesale state sanctioned murder for believing in the wrong sky fairy?

    Why are you so mad? After all, ISIS want; to create a state where there is god at the centre of their society, and you whine about them being dangerous. Secularism keeps you safe from their kind.

    The State becomes the ultimate authority, giver and taker of rights and decider of what we shall fear.

    Why your whining? You want an old decrepit book written by a stone age tribe to become just that and get REALLY pissed off when you’re told “No”.

    And look at this fearmongering! WHERE is that claim supported? PEOPLE decide what to be afraid of BASED ON EVIDENCE.

    Hypocrite.

  28. #28 Ragtag Media
    September 23, 2015

    Carl, Al Gore is Wowzers God, just so ya know….

  29. #29 Ragtag Media
    September 23, 2015

    YEP, Let’s prostrate before the Al Gore Idol and have his carbon credits rammed down our throats.
    http://ctxglobal.com/

  30. #30 Wow
    September 23, 2015

    “Carl, Al Gore is Wowzers God,”

    No, Teabag, I don’t have a god.

  31. #31 Wow
    September 23, 2015

    Teabagger, if you weren’t so much of a cocksucker that you just wanted to scream “NO SUCH THING!!!!” then you can’t whine about the methods of fixing it.

    Want better ones? Admit to reality and come up with one.

  32. #32 Wow
    September 23, 2015

    Teabagger, go through this list:

    https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL82yk73N8eoX-Xobr_TfHsWPfAIyI7VAP

    and learn something. Then come back with comments on it.

  33. #33 Ragtag Media
    September 23, 2015

    “Tell you what, when you work out a hypothesis that doesn’t need CO2 to make the climatic changes seen in the history records that works, THEN come back with your alternative theory.”

    IGMO, it’s all around. Hell Joe Bastardi just sent this message with charts to the Brain Washed Pope:
    http://patriotpost.us/opinion/37721

    “There is no apparent linkage, so why is CO2 suddenly the climate control knob when there were years with higher CO2 and lower temperatures?”

  34. #34 Ragtag Media
    September 23, 2015

    “And what I REALLY hate is the indoctrination and brainwashing of your children”
    Yea Like Hell, just shows you have never raised any kids (thank God). So, parents shouldn’t force their kids to brush their teeth and bathe themselves, eat their veggies, practice their music lessons, be respectful of others.
    All just indoctrination and brain washing I suppose according to your WARPED mind.

    Ahhh, but it’s A’OK to tell the “Our Planet Has A Fever”.
    RUBBISH.

  35. #35 dean
    September 23, 2015

    “our planet has a fever”

    Dismissive remark written by someone with no understanding of science or statistics. Amazing.

  36. #36 Ragtag Media
    September 23, 2015

    “Dismissive remark written by someone with no understanding of science or statistics. Amazing.”

    Amazing it is Deano, Amazing that you finally see reason and agree with me that a mass part of society has been duped (no less) by a politician once again. Al Goracle the fraudster of science statistics laughing his ass off at the stupid all the way to the bank.

    Thanks Dean, I knew you had a sliver of common sense.

  37. #37 Carl
    USA
    September 23, 2015

    wow @25:

    “Free will” is shorthand for “we can’t figure out why that guy did X” and “I have no idea what that guy is going to do”.

    In situations where you CAN predict – with certainty – what they will do, they don’t have free will. Such situations exist under extreme circumstances. All those circumstances are truly horrible, as far as I know.

    Things without intelligence (e.g. a rock) aren’t hard to figure out. It may be that free will is an emergent property of complex feedback systems. In any event, I suspect no level of intelligence is able to accurately predict the behavior of the same level of intelligence. The box cannot hold itself.

  38. #38 Ragtag Media
    September 23, 2015

    “Things without intelligence (e.g. a rock) aren’t hard to figure out.”
    Carl, tell us when the next brainless earthquake will happen along the San Andreas please..?

    ” It may be that free will is an emergent property of complex feedback systems.”

    Ya mean like Dammit That fire burnt my hand as ya yanked it back feedbak?

    ” I suspect no level of intelligence is able to accurately predict the behavior of the same level of intelligence.”

    Nope, your wrong there Carl, intelligent people everyday will do and say stupid stuff even when presented with facts right in front of their face.

  39. #39 Ragtag Media
    September 23, 2015

    Ethan You can delete the double link post # 38 I will correct it here, Thanks.

    Ragtag Media

    September 23, 2015
    Your comment is awaiting moderation.

    “Teabagger, go through this list:

    Youtube Video
    and learn something. Then come back with comments on it.”

    It’s PROPAGANDA YOU FUCKING BLOCK HEAD.

    Starting at the first damn clip 3:49 he say the 1980’s was the Hottest decade on record.

    For Fuck Sake, no wonder your a two bit worthless fucking astro ass wipe of a scientist with out a Job. Hell you can’t even deduce jack squat from jack shit cock-n-bull PUBLISHED RECORDS.
    http://realclimatescience.com/2015/09/hottest-year-ever-update-2/

  40. #40 Wow
    September 23, 2015

    “IGMO, it’s all around. ”

    Nope. All that proves is that what is around you exists.

    Where’s god?

  41. #41 Wow
    September 23, 2015

    “So, parents shouldn’t force their kids to brush their teeth and bathe themselves, eat their veggies, practice their music lessons, be respectful of others.”

    So where are those in those ten commandments?

    NOWHERE.

    Why the hell bring it up?

    Because you’re a retard.

  42. #42 Wow
    September 23, 2015

    ““Free will” is shorthand for “we can’t figure out why that guy did X” and “I have no idea what that guy is going to do”. ”

    Then the planets have free will.

    Pretty useless sign of intelligence if inert matter has it.

  43. #43 Wow
    September 23, 2015

    “It’s PROPAGANDA YOU FUCKING BLOCK HEAD.”

    No it isn’t you moronic shithead.

  44. #44 Wow
    September 23, 2015

    “Starting at the first damn clip 3:49 he say the 1980’s was the Hottest decade on record.”

    Retard.

    Talking about the 1970’s when SOME papers thought there may be global dimming, it was resolved in the 1980s which turned out to be the hottest decade on record.

    Which it was.

  45. #45 Wow
    September 23, 2015

    “Nope, your wrong there Carl, intelligent people everyday will do and say stupid stuff even when presented with facts right in front of their face”

    See raggie for a fairly reliable exhibition of this.

  46. #46 Wow
    September 23, 2015

    “There is no apparent linkage, so why is CO2 suddenly the climate control knob when there were years with higher CO2 and lower temperatures?”

    It’s been answered THOUSANDS of times before, but retards keep “forgetting” it.

    The sun gets hotter over its lifetime, so when it was much younger it was much cooler.

    You see, unlike denier retards like yourself, ACTUAL THINKING HUMAN BEINGS understand that the SUN has a role in the temperature of the Earth.

    You see, we can handle more than one reason for anything. Hence we don’t need “god”. We understand that god isn’t an answer and doesn’t do anything (since it doesn’t exist) to get an answer.

    We understand that many things affect the earth’s temperature. most of which is the sun, without which we would be about -255K. Then the greenhouse effect keeps us about 33K warmer than that. And increasing the major available one (CO2) by 40% will make a very large change in the temperature of the Earth.

  47. #47 eric
    September 23, 2015

    Carl @23:

    Assume things work the same way when we aren’t looking. Assume the rules don’t change.

    Nope, and nope. We conclude based on observation that things work the same way when we aren’t looking because we’ve tested that proposition. Every time we look at something we haven’t looked at before and find that it’s state is consistent with ‘working the way things work when we look at them’, we test that claim.

    We conclude based on observation that the rules don’t change because we test whether they change, and they don’t. Or maybe a better reply is: when we observe that they change (because sometimes we do), we tentatively conclude that the rule in question is either just an approximation or doesn’t hold under certain conditions. OTOH when we observe some rule never changing under a wide variety of conditions, we tentatively conclude that it will hold for future experiments too. I myself have personally been involved in testing ‘rule changing,’ so I know from personal experience that this is not an assumption science makes, its a conclusion based on observation. My old lab got a strange request to test the stability of half-lives. But it was a friend, so we did it as a favor, and nope, they didn’t change over time.

    So no, neither of the two claims you brought up are assumptions of science. If you have others you think science makes, lay them out and we can discuss them in turn.

  48. #48 Carl
    USA
    September 23, 2015

    Ragtag Media @38:

    You make the point that unthinking systems CAN be hard to understand, and you’re right. E.g. the Earth is a pretty large system with a lot of states that are currently unknown. Predicting an earthquake is indeed difficult, and might not be possible by science within some given accuracy.

    Still, we can do a lot better modeling unthinking physical processes than we can with thinking processes. Pick a timescale and make a prediction on both, e.g. where will the rock or person be in a week? We can do a lot better with the rock.

    I think you ask what I meant by complex feedback, with an example of a reflex. People are complex feedback systems. We sense our environment and act based on those inputs. Reflexes are among the simplest of our many, many feedbacks. A complex feedback response might result from some long-ago fear associated with clowns, resulting in avoidance of trains (people ARE complex). We adapt and change over time and have a lot of hidden internal states.

    You disagree with my speculation that it may not be possible for a smart animal to accurately model and predict the actions of another smart animal. If one could, then it could modify its behavior to get a desired response from the other (e.g. get a date). But the other could do the same, and then modify its behavior to avoid an undesired result (no date). The situation gets recursive then, with infinite complexity. So it’s probably not possible at all in the first place.

  49. #49 Wow
    September 23, 2015

    “Still, we can do a lot better modeling unthinking physical processes than we can with thinking processes. ”

    So “free will” is an finitely variable quantity that everything holds, being, now (at your latest reimagination of it) merely how hard it is to predict what something will do in the future.

    This is not free will as ANYONE ON THE PLANET understands it.

    Moreover, it’s not something intelligences have, which if we go back to your earlier claim on it:

    Where it gets even more shaky is when intelligence is involved. Now the system under investigation has free will …

    Your entire post is now rendered obsolete, since “free will” is ALWAYS in effect, just to varying degrees, and therefore nothing new for science.

    You did kid on you were a scientist. You’re not, though, are you.

    Why did you claim it, though?

  50. #50 Carl
    USA
    September 23, 2015

    Wow @42 & 49:

    Here are definitions of “free will” from more authoritative sources, as I’ve used the term.

    – The power of acting without the constraint of necessity or fate; the ability to act at one’s own discretion.

    – Freedom of humans to make choices that are not determined by prior causes or by divine intervention.

    On a personal note, it seems you are fighting with everyone here. If you act the same in person and if you have a job, I feel sad for your coworkers. Hopefully, you are just having fun online and are not so abrasive in real life. If not, you need to work on your social hygiene.

    As for me, your posts are kind of funny in a dark sort of way.

  51. #51 Carl
    USA
    September 23, 2015

    eric @47:

    Of course you’re right that we check that our hypotheses are supported in multiple locations and times. That’s especially true for the fundamental forces and process like gravity and nuclear reactions (e.g. via spectroscopy). When we find evidence that doesn’t fit, we check again & again to make sure we believe it. Then we modify our hypotheses to fit.

    I suspect you are thinking of the best of science (e.g. physics, peer review, repeated studies) and of the best of scientists, and in the size & scope of modern science.

    I’m speaking more philosophically, imagining what might be achieved in the next 10 billion years by intelligences far past our own. I’m considering the whole of the universe, which includes surprising emergent properties like intelligence. I’m contemplating the theoretical limits of science, which are impressive but not infinite IMO. I.e. science is theoretically incomplete.

    Since I seem to be the only one talking about that, I’m just adding noise to the conversation. And such a discussion can’t be settled; one’s view is based on faith. Will science win out and explain all of existence, or will there be eddies and deep pools of mystery that remain after all measurements are taken and considered?

    I respect your comments and opinion, eric. I’ve had my fun, sharing my thoughts on questions that interest me. I’m sure we’ll chat more on another of Ethan’s topics!

  52. #52 eric
    September 23, 2015

    I’m speaking more philosophically, imagining what might be achieved in the next 10 billion years by intelligences far past our own. I’m considering the whole of the universe, which includes surprising emergent properties like intelligence. I’m contemplating the theoretical limits of science, which are impressive but not infinite IMO. I.e. science is theoretically incomplete.

    Saying its incomplete is fine. Saying it has methodological limitations and so must remain incomplete even in theory is a bit hairier but I could deal with it. But that is not what you said. What you said was: “we have to have faith in our assumptions”, evoking a post-modernist ‘science is like anything else’ sentiment. I reject that implication. I stand by what I wrote in @19: when science objectors claim scientists ‘have faith in our assumptions,’ they are either (innocently) not understanding or (not so innocently) misrepresenting science, because there is neither much faith in it nor many assumptions in it.

    The last comment I will leave you with is that “X can’t answer my question” is not a demonstration that “Y can.” Science’s putative limitations provide no support whatsoever for the credibility of any theological or philosophical ‘other way of knowing.’ There don’t seem to be any other credible ones at all. To borrow Churchill: science looks like it may be the very worst way of knowing…except for all the others.

  53. #53 Wow
    September 23, 2015

    The last comment I will leave you with is that “X can’t answer my question” is not a demonstration that “Y can.”

    Indeed!

    A common palliative for the religious is something like “Science tells us how something happens, religions tell us why”. Except it DOESN’T. And many why questions ARE answered by science.

    For example: Altruism can be deduced with only scientific principles based on mutual support leading to greater chances of survival.

    And “Why are we here?” doesn’t actually have to have an answer. Why must there be a reason? And if your life demands one, what’s god’s reason for existence? If it doesn’t need a reason, then why do you?

    Religions are solely a repository of a set of memes and ideas of how to make a society, whose tenets are widely ignored and picked at like an unwanted meal to take whatever ideas suit your tastes.

    There’s no other validity to them. They are just past exercises on “make a society”.

    “God” is just a cheap way of making people obey you when you’re not looking. But it’s also used by those doing immoral things to “get out of jail free” by just SAYING that “God has forgiven me!”.

  54. #54 Wow
    September 23, 2015

    Here are definitions of “free will” from more authoritative sources, as I’ve used the term.

    – The power of acting without the constraint of necessity or fate; the ability to act at one’s own discretion.

    – Freedom of humans to make choices that are not determined by prior causes or by divine intervention.

    Where on earth do you take those definitions from?

    And aren’t they both begging the question? After all, since we can’t go back in time and observe it over again, how do we know that there is no prior cause making their actions inevitable?

    You even touched on the problem with your “hidden variables” get out.

    After all, if you don’t learn from experience, then your actions are unintelligent. If you DO learn from experience, then your actions are determined by prior causes.

    And both the divinity and fate require some ontic dumping of a shedload of baggage into something you haven’t been able to show exists.

    All we know about free will is what it feels like when making our decisions .

    But this is yet another definition.

    The whooshing of goalposts here is deafening a small continent.

  55. #55 Wow
    September 23, 2015

    “On a personal note, it seems you are fighting with everyone here.”

    No, religiotards are fighting with me because I won’t let their ridiculous myths stand or give them unearned respect.

    It seems like YOU are fighting with me and trying to make it my fault.

    YOU were the one going on about how bad everyone else was, and calling out “hate” on your faith.

    YOU started attacking. And now defending against your slanders is taken as “fighting everyone” to dodge your culpability.

    Not gonna wash, kid.

  56. #56 Chryses
    Baltimre, MD
    September 23, 2015

    Wow,

    Please stop being discourteous to other posters. Your coarse language and bellicosity serves only to damage the conversation.

  57. #57 Abolitionist
    September 23, 2015

    Chryses – While working for IBM, Dr. Mandelbrot showed that it is impossible to segregate all the noise from the signal. We see here another example.

    You can also look at it from the perspective that the noise is acting out what Ethan castigated in his reply to Mr. Zepps.

  58. #58 Ragtag Media
    September 23, 2015

    Chryses,
    Very well said, perhaps we should help wow with her anger issues.
    wow, here is a link to some anger counseling resources that might help you get your issues under control:
    http://www.counselling-directory.org.uk/anger.html
    Cheers

  59. #59 Wow
    September 24, 2015

    “Please stop being discourteous to other posters.”

    No.

  60. #60 Wow
    September 24, 2015

    “Very well said, perhaps we should help wow with her anger issues.”

    HAH!

    Yeah, right, and YOU have none.Of course not. In THOSE cases, I said something really mean and it upset you. Totally different.

    Moron.

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