Politics, God and Religion vs. Science

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Messages 17801 - 17820 of total 23481 in this topic << First  |  < Previous  |  Show All  |  Next >  |  Last >>
MH2

climber
Oct 21, 2013 - 11:51am PT
As for morality, whatever that is, it appears to be big and vague--far too academic / theoretical and impersonal for anyone to take to their hearts or guts.


I'd never heard morality called academic or theoretical, before. Compassion, however, which I believe is important for moral behavior, is the subject which Paul Piff claims to study.


A sample from the interview I heard on the radio:

A person starts to enter a crosswalk as a car approaches. Another person records whether the car yields to the pedestrian. Repeat. Good news - about half the Mercedes Benz's did yield. Better news - every old or inexpensive car stopped for the pedestrian.

That very evening I was stepping into a crosswalk. Sure enough, a Mercedes sped through, and through the red light at the adjacent intersection.

Piff's contention is that as a group wealthy people show less compassion than people with less money. And perhaps the rich have more DIY ethics.
Jan

Mountain climber
Okinawa, Japan
Oct 21, 2013 - 12:23pm PT
Very interesting article, MikeL.

I would point out however, that not all social sciences are theory directed.This has long been a point of contention between sociology and anthropology for example. Sociologists, like economists, have thought that theory was necessary to be considered scientific, with Marxist interpretations dominating everywhere but the U.S.

Anthropologists have always thought that data gathering should come first, and then theory. Various attempts at theory have been made under the influence of other social science models (Marxist, Freudian, etc.) and all were found lacking. This in turn brought other problems. Today there is a whole school of cultural anthropology that says we shouldn't do it at all, that cultural research in other societies is inherently biased and exploitive. This has caused some academic departments to split into separate cultural and biological departments.

Meanwhile, the data of cultural anthropology becomes more and more historical and history is considered a humanities subject for the most part. Some argue that social "science" is in fact, a misnomer. In 150 years, cultural anthro has only come up with two indisputable theories - that every society has an incest taboo (although this seems to have a biological source commmon to almost all primates regardless of the many social explanations developed), and the fact that all human societies fall under one of six subsistence modes.

We like to think we are ahead of the other social sciences in recognizing our shortcomings and adopting the appropriate humility. Other social sciences have responded by collecting more data and doing more statistical analysis of that data. Personally, I think all of the social sciences not based on biology will become historical artifacts in due time, including economics, as the next stage of human development will be biology and ecology based and involve the planetary cooperation of our species or its extinction.

In any case, jgill is right, there is a fundamental difference in outlook between the social and physical sciences. The very fact that physical science had/have so much power and prestige that social observations tried to sell themselves as science is indicative of the times.
FortMentäl

Social climber
Albuquerque, NM
Oct 21, 2013 - 01:06pm PT
A friend of mine is getting a PhD in Classical Studies. I asked him once about his "data" and the rigor involved in it's collection, since so much of it is based on "he said, she said" variety. Specifically, I asked if his field had a way of establishing and rating the veracity of a statement's origin, something I'd want to know if I were going to spend years on such things. He got extremely defensive and argued that scientific approaches in the humanities are nothing but destructive.
Jan

Mountain climber
Okinawa, Japan
Oct 21, 2013 - 01:26pm PT
Well I think cultural anthropologists are a little more sophisticated in their analysis than that. True we record what everyone says, without passing judgement as to veracity. However, we are concerned as to motive. We try to place the views of the various informants into familial, clan, village, cultural, and sometimes national or class structures and their "self interests". We are also under no illusion that humans act rationally at all times, even accounting for cultural differences.

I think we have made a virtue of necessity as well. For the most part, we have no documentary evidence to evaluate so we deal with oral traditions almost exclusively, and are concerned with what these accounts reveal about the individual and the culture, not whether they are "correct" or not.
Jan

Mountain climber
Okinawa, Japan
Oct 21, 2013 - 01:42pm PT
And one more thought before I have to hit the road for four hours of driving. The contrast between science and social science was brought home to me most vividly when I worked on a development project in Nepal for the Swiss government. The foresters, agronomists, and engineers on the project never trusted my case histories, writing them off as my personal opinions and "anecdotes". What they trusted were numbers. Of course these numbers and the statistical analysis of them were all based on questionaires done of illiterate people by census takers with an 8th grade to high school education, complete with inter ethnic and inter caste tensions between the two groups. Yet one was regarded as "anecdote" and the other as "fact".

I of course, never trusted the numbers much until I saw that they agreed with my own interviews and observations. That they did, is a measure of some sort of scientific validity to both endeavors.

It was also with a great deal of satisfaction that I read in the followup study of the project. It turned out that 20 years after the fact, statistical analysis done by different short term consultants was much less useful than interviews, case histories, and even comparative photographs.
Largo

Sport climber
The Big Wide Open Face
Oct 21, 2013 - 01:45pm PT
Specifically, I asked if his field had a way of establishing and rating the veracity of a statement's origin, something I'd want to know if I were going to spend years on such things. He got extremely defensive and argued that scientific approaches in the humanities are nothing but destructive.


A common and fatal mistake is to equate intellectual rigor entirely with quantifying, meaning that all other areas of study are "soft" and speculative compared to the more disciplined and exacting scientific investigations. This is, in fact, a quantifying mind set viewing another field. From this POV that other field will feel very nebulous, but that's mostly because you are using the wrong tool for the job.

JL
Marlow

Sport climber
OSLO
Oct 21, 2013 - 01:53pm PT
Mats Alvesson. The Triumph of Emptiness: Consumption, Higher Education, and Work Organization

In this book, Mats Alvesson aims to demystify some popular and upbeat claims about a range of phenomena, including the knowledge society, consumption, branding, higher education, organizational change, professionalization, and leadership. He contends that a culture of grandiosity is leading to numerous inflated claims. We no longer talk about plans but 'strategies'. Supervisors have been replaced by 'managers', managers are referred to as executives. Management is about 'leadership'. Giving advice is 'coaching'. Companies become 'knowledge-intensive firms'. The book views the contemporary economy as an economy of persuasion, where firms and other institutions increasingly assign talent, energy, and resources to rhetoric, image, branding, reputation, and visibility.

Using a wide range of empirical examples to illuminate the realms of consumption, higher education, organization, and leadership, this provocative and engaging book challenges established assumptions and contributes to a critical understanding of society as a whole.


http://www.amazon.com/The-Triumph-Emptiness-Consumption-Organization/dp/0199660948/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1382377723&sr=8-2&keywords=mats+alvesson
jgill

Boulder climber
Colorado
Oct 21, 2013 - 03:25pm PT
A common and fatal mistake is to equate intellectual rigor entirely with quantifying (JL)

I agree, John. But "intellectual rigor" does seem to require adherence to the rules of logic, whether quantified or not.
MikeL

climber
SANTA CLARA, CA
Oct 21, 2013 - 08:29pm PT
Calling BS on Wikipedia, an open source organization of many authors who know enough about a subject to be recognized consensually by other writers, is bold.

So-called revolutions in science reinterpret data (views, perspectives, ideas, sensations, measurements) in new ways, but not hardly all that much unless you're an expert. Kuhn's introduction of the idea of paradigm has been vastly overused. Supposedly the iPad by Apple brought forward a new paradigm.

Kuhn was no friend to naive realism in science. I don't think he had great regard for theories as showing us the truth. I don't think he had that kind of heroic and noble view of science. I think he said science operates--even progresses--politically and incrementally most of the time. My professional experience concurs. There always appear to be alternative explanations to everything, and those explanations appear to rely upon what people believe, not what they see. (As I said to jgill, there is no one in science that everyone agrees with.)

Kuhn's work is entirely consonant with theoretical and empirical work in institutionalization. There is no reason to believe that somehow science has insulated itself from what the rest of the world suffers from with regard to stultifying consensual views of reality. One cannot work in science practically unless one respects and works with what a current community believes in and honors. One can do work, but one cannot get it published without an arduous, heroic battle that is primarily political in nature. If you can't publish, you can't stay in academia.

Science is not nearly as noble or pure as folks make it out to be. Science has its fingerprints all over every significant problem that we face as human beings, and so does everyone else. Science is not immune to social criticism.


There was a "Twilight Zone" episode where beneficent aliens visit earth with a big book, the title of which is initially translated as, "To Serve Man." In the last moments of the story, when the aliens are about to take people to the alien's world of wonder and friendship, a translator rushes in to announce that the book is a cook book.
Ward Trotter

Trad climber
Oct 21, 2013 - 10:25pm PT
There was a "Twilight Zone" episode where beneficent aliens visit earth with a big book, the title of which is initially translated as, "To Serve Man." In the last moments of the story, when the aliens are about to take people to the alien's world of wonder and friendship, a translator rushes in to announce that the book is a cook book.

One of my favorite episodes. When I first saw this episode I immediately discerned that the alien Kanamints were allegorical representations of the all- encompassing bureaucratic Socialist state presided over by nominally and deceptively altruistic elites.
The cookbook was nothing less than a Marxian communist manifesto intended to lull the cattle-like masses into a dream-like acceptance of their tragic epicurean fate as unsuspecting inductees into the Potemkin village of totalitarianism and state control.

When I later saw somewhere that the writer of the 1950 short story ,from which this script was adapted, Damon Knight ,was a hearty admirer of George Orwell , the deal was sealed.

The brilliant use of the dual meaning of " serve" is the central causality of the story and its inescapable theme.
Largo

Sport climber
The Big Wide Open Face
Oct 21, 2013 - 10:34pm PT
I agree, John. But "intellectual rigor" does seem to require adherence to the rules of logic, whether quantified or not.


I agree with this. The tricky part is when the subject is not especially logic based, like poetry. I remember going to my first course in poetry when I was a freshman in college and wondering how any one could ever be an expert on such a seemingly fluid subject. Fact is a lot of talented people have been studying poetry for many centuries and there is a crushing and erudite body of scholarship on the art. Through some kind of strange mojo, the teachers who have internalized and got their heads and souls around the material can make it come alive in the most amazing and exciting ways, ways that made even engineering students (who took the class as an elective) get up and cheer. There are things in those great lines that capture profound truths about being human. What's more, there is a wonderful mathematical symmetry to some of the work in terms of form. Plus you find your taste getting increasingly refined as you stay with the material but I couldn't tell you quite how that happens.

JL
Ward Trotter

Trad climber
Oct 21, 2013 - 10:40pm PT
Plus you find your taste getting increasingly refined as you stay with the material but I couldn't tell you quite how that happens.

So true. When I got to the end of my first collected works of Shakespeare I was never quite the same .
FortMentäl

Social climber
Albuquerque, NM
Oct 22, 2013 - 12:33am PT
A common and fatal mistake is to equate intellectual rigor entirely with quantifying, meaning that all other areas of study are "soft" and speculative compared to the more disciplined and exacting scientific investigations.

Nobody equates intellectual rigor with quantification. But the level of speculation of some of these "soft" fields is staggering. Recall that until the middle of the 20th century, all European culture was thought to have derived from the ancient Greeks. Carbon dating then came along and flushed a thousand years worth of "understanding" down the toilet.
MikeL

climber
SANTA CLARA, CA
Oct 22, 2013 - 11:17am PT
. . . teachers who have internalized and got their heads and souls around the material [poetry] can make it come alive in the most amazing and exciting ways, . . . .

Agree, totally, John! I've seen it in classes, and it's mesmerizing.

Ward and I agree also about Shakespeare. Whew. Once you get that guy, how you see the world is never quite the same. Remarkable insights.

Ward I've been thinking about Alvin Toffler and your question why it's been so long for distributed workplaces to start to take hold in our world. Now that I'm using some of those technologies in my course with UGs and MBAs, I can see a difference between my generation (most here, I should suppose) and the generations (X, and Millennials) of my students.

My students are (i) much more collaborative; (ii) they care much more about what their peers are saying (rather than supposed wise old guys like me); (iii) they are more socially adept in their expressions (emotionally cautious, witty, humorous, friendly, light-hearted); and (iv) they appear to be more open (creative, innovative, challenging of accepted practices). With all due respect to folks here on ST, that is not the kind of conversations that I see among posters. I suspect that if we were face-to-face, few of us would be quite so adversarial and unkind. I don't think the older generation had the skills sets or the attitudes needed to collaborate or WANT to collaborate. We have tended to be strident individualists; my students, on the other hand, require / demand to be members of teams and communities.
MikeL

climber
SANTA CLARA, CA
Oct 22, 2013 - 11:19am PT
Nobody equates intellectual rigor with quantification.


Huh?

(You and I are in different worlds.)
FortMentäl

Social climber
Albuquerque, NM
Oct 22, 2013 - 11:38am PT
Intellectual rigor requires, among other things, precise definitions, something sorely missing in this thread. From your favorite source:

Quantification has several distinct senses. In mathematics and empirical science, it is the act of counting and measuring that maps human sense observations and experiences into members of some set of numbers. Quantification in this sense is fundamental to the scientific method.
In logic, quantification is the binding of a variable ranging over a domain of discourse. The variable thereby becomes bound by an operator called a quantifier. Academic discussion of quantification refers more often to this meaning of the term than the preceding one.
In grammar, a quantifier is a type of determiner, such as all or many, that indicates quantity. These items have been argued to correspond to logical quantifiers at the semantic level.


I guess you're right. We are from different worlds.
WBraun

climber
Oct 22, 2013 - 01:27pm PT
Intellectual rigor will fail without the higher source.

Mundane mankind is just plain stupid by themselves .....
MikeL

climber
SANTA CLARA, CA
Oct 22, 2013 - 01:44pm PT
Ha-ha.

(My favorite source would be experience.)
Marlow

Sport climber
OSLO
Oct 22, 2013 - 01:48pm PT
WBraun has stupid on his mind... I guess stupid is the higher source of the smoking duck...
Marlow

Sport climber
OSLO
Oct 22, 2013 - 01:51pm PT
Why is no-stupid seldom mentioned?
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