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Archive for the ‘Logic’ Category

https://i2.wp.com/i126.photobucket.com/albums/p109/Arthur_Vandelay99/fallacy2.gifLogical fallacies are errors in reasoned thinking and they happen to appear a lot, these are simply the result of a method of argument that appears to work on the surface but which does not stand up when questioned. I tend to view fallacies not as bits of knowledge that have been created rather they are concepts direct from intelligence, so the more you learn about them the better you will be able to think. It also links with critical thinking which is something that I tried to do although don’t always succeed in and something that I hope will remove the ideas of religion and superstition. There are both informal and formal fallacies, the former describes mistakes in reasoning based on interferences and the latter arguments to which will always be wrong from the way they have been constructed, both are forms of deductive reasoning. See my earlier post on how science uses induction; it explains the difference between the two forms of reasoning. An example of an informal fallacy would include differing definitions and concepts, such as freedom must be preserved at all times, freedom is relative when dealing with freedom of religion since it also includes freedom to live without religion. This is why I don’t really like using the word freedom. Formal on the other hand might be; all men are born free therefore, all women are born free. Since the original statement only refers to men, it is illogical to conclude that women are born free based on the original statement. Both of these are present in the ideas of religion and these are some of the ones that I have come across during my travel of blogs and websites.

Ad Hominem – attack the person making the argument rather than the argument, this includes saying the person is a racists therefore, anything that person produces is the result of that. Atheists get accused of this; there unwillingness to believe in a God is more important than their arguments to why they should not believe. Even within this blog I have been accused of being an “atheist” so the things I say are implied to be less relevant still if I was a believer and made the same comments it is sort of suggested that they would be worth more. The arguments are the arguments deal with them rather than who I am. Of course people tend to seek justifications so they can place a comment or article within a larger perspective, this is normal still they should self ban involvement rather than encourage it, after all if you cannot deal with others that don’t think like you do then you are simply unable to understand the points that are being raised. There are two fallacies in this area; the first is that of abusive which Pat Condell if he was a weaker man would react to! The death threats or personal attacks force someone into defending themselves rather than discussing the arguments. The second is Circumstantial which is the attack of a position, as I said being an atheist of course I would not understand metaphysical feelings of God; this is often an assumption and allows the argument to be dropped. Overall it is a distraction of the topic!

Circularity – as the name suggests it is just an argument that goes around and around, if you believe something then you already know the reasons to why you believe it, if you don’t believe then nothing will be able to convince you that the argument is true. This is what a lot of arguments about the metaphysical are based upon, you have to believe that there is something if you don’t then you cannot just understand it so the implication is that you have to assume that it is true before it can be justifiable. This could include believing in something and then seeing the arrangement of life in accordance within that belief, in other words using evidence to support your conclusion rather than the correct way in looking at the evidence and then coming to a decision. The original argument is the purpose of any further argument for example; the bible is God’s word therefore God is real, the notion of God’s Word is required in order to show the God is real. God is required to be real in order for the bible to then be God’s word; this does not say or add anything. Likewise saying we do something since it makes us lucky is often based on this type of logic, a lucky rabbits foot is a useful thing since it brings me luck, is all based on the first assumption in the first part of the sentence of ‘lucky rabbits foot’. I have also heard that Reiki will only work if you give it a chance, this is a notion that should always be rejected, it only assumes that it will work if you have belief in it. We should always reject this if Reiki works then it will work regardless of the level of belief that is invested into it

Correlation not causation – my favourite saying is that religion is not born from poverty, it simply benefits from it. They are found together still it cannot be said that either one causes the other. Let’s go one further and argue that religion causes good things to happen; they might be found together in some cases still this does not promote the goodness of religion. If it is a causational relationship then religious people should only be the ones that commit good actions, this is not the case plus religion can cause really negative acts as well. People sometimes commit good acts while others sometimes commit bad acts, this is a far more honest statement. There might be many reasons behind good acts and to simply assume religion is the cause is to ignore a great deal of other factors. It is like saying the more music I listen to the more cavities I get in my teeth, since the older I get the more my teeth get damaged although it is also true the older I get the more music I have listened to, the two have nothing to do with each other. Likewise when people say they have had a metaphysical experience when they walk into a cathedral it does not necessarily have anything to do with the cathedral being a religious place. The authoritative aspect, the size, the colour, the music, the smell and many other factors could set off a reaction inside your head which you think has to do with God but to assume that it is, even if you strongly believe it so, does not add weight to those feelings.

Generalisations – we take the small cases and apply them to the whole situation, this is something that I am at times guilty of. It differs in some situations, still normally when the particular cases are somehow very different to the normal process. Someone pointed out to me that I was using a small number of occasions where Islam mistreated women causing me the formation of opinion and I have to reject their arguments on this one. What I always am referring to is the scope of things that is allowed for under a set of believes still I use statistics to show the general trend of things. Of course it is always wrong of anyone to say Islam is bad because something happened, that was not my point rather it was to show that the core belief is different from my own and perhaps under the banner of human rights certain things are wrong. It does bring us to the question though of how to deal with religious people since they are meant to believe the same things but often don’t. Still generalisations are conclusions only based on a small number of cases so if you can include a larger base then you will never be guilty of this although it is sometimes justifiable to look at small numbers.

Straw Man – is a misrepresentation of a position in order to reject it, although it leaves the position alone and does not address the necessary issues. The misrepresentation does that, it shows the real situation in a different light and thus ignores the original factors or effects the caused the situation in the first place. This differs from Ad Hominem since rather than attacking the person making a statement, the statement is taken out of context or further along than it was meant to. Conclusions are made from the first statement to which nothing ever referred to them and then these conclusions are rejected on perhaps better grounds than could be achieved on the first statement. The line of reasoning would first start off with a particular statement about Jesus being able to forgive your sins then making further reasoning on the matter by saying it does not matter what you do since Jesus will forgive your sins anyway. It is a lot easier to see why we should reject Christianity based on the further reasoning even though the original statement never said this.

These are just a few of the ones that I liked still there are many more, watch out for them since we are all guilty of making logical errors.

A little more on this matter…

The amazing atheist did a video about this and he goes through a lot of other logical fallacies in his usual manner. It is interesting to watch…

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When you first enter the discussion of the concepts of induction and deduction there is a confusing analogy that has to do with swans, I will try my best to steer away from this since it never really makes it clear at all. Still this is my case to why Ghost Hunters the TV show, something which claims to promote the idea of scientific investigation, never uses the same model as science at all. It thus can be taken that ghost hunters should never be given the weight of objective knowledge which science hopes to produce. You might have never watch the show, in which case you can apply this to many other areas, since the idea is what constitutes science and what does not, you can see how other things that claim to be scientifically valid might not be. Ghost hunters, you might be saying, why did I pick this? Well, you might not know the show still you know the notion of ghosts, you understand more than you think. You know science can’t prove it, you know they are scary, and you most likely know what the movie white noise is about, or any other movie where ghosts appear or move things. With knowing all these things I can use it to highlight how science is different, it is perhaps one of the most stable concepts I could use! Science is seen as providing a useful set of knowledge that is not only helpful it also relates closely with the true reflection of how things are. So for something or someone to claim that something is scientific they are saying that it is true and valuable, these are big claims to make. It also makes real scientific findings less useful since making such claims that don’t turn out to be true chips away at the real objective knowledge that has been created. I won’t be arguing about the evidence since at a certain level it does not really make a difference on this topic.

scifipedia.scifi.com

Science is not just induction, a process of logic, it means much more than that and it includes a series of reasoned thinking and methods. From this reasoned process, facts are produced such as under specific condition an event is likely to happen, under the label of reliability the event must happen again and again within these conditions before it then can be taken to be fact. This is one of the reasons why the method of experiments are published with the results and conclusions, so you can see this reasoned process and make judgements to how reasoned it actually is. Still the problem is how to we get from these facts and make them useful, this process is called induction. From the facts of reliable experiments we can apply them into the useful, valid and well known benefits of science which I am sure you are aware of! Let’s go to ghost hunters and deduction before we carry on. In ghost hunters they try to prove that ghost exist and are real, they used technology in an attempt to capture ‘ghosts’ and then they use this as evidence. The type of evidence they use which I like the most is EVPs, electronic voice phenomenon, whereby they place a voice recorder down either letting it run or asking questions where the answers are recorded, not heard out loud. Once these responses are heard via playing back the voice recorder it is taken that the place they are investigating is haunted or has paranormal events going on. Let’s take the assumption of the leap between voices heard and ghosts/paranormal events as a true and reasonable jump to make. This leads us all to the statement that a positive EVP event n means a result ghost/paranormal n, where n can be any number of experiences. This is an incorrect logical statement to make, since an EVP event does not necessarily ever mean that there are ghosts around answering or talking. EVPs by themselves can never prove anything, they might be the result of interference by radio signals and if EVPs are dismissed on these bases then this is a value judgment based on other things. You can’t get from EVP event n to statement to make a general statement that EVP must denote ghosts.

The debunking thing is also a really big issue on Ghost Hunters, where if people tell the team about events they think are the result of ghost the team see if anything else could have caused them. This was the case when the team recorded a door opening and closing of its own will, they went back to the door to see if a breeze could have caused it or perhaps the level of humidity expanded the wood. In the true fashion of Sherlock Holmes this is deduction, since we can deduct from the door event that if a known set of factors are not present & causing the door to open and close by itself, then we must deduce that ghosts are responsible for this. This does however, have some serious faults even though it can seem like a reasonable step of logic, the main fault is that it makes the assumption that the ghost hunting team know all possible reasons behind non-ghost door opening and closing. Let me make that a little clearer using the example of Bertrand Russell; if a turkey is fed everyday at 9am for weeks on end the turkey might deduce that ‘I get fed everyday at 9am’, that is if turkeys could speak and deduce! This is a wrong deduction since a couple of days before Christmas the turkey was killed and then later eaten. My argument is that both Ghost Hunters and the turkey were/are wrong since they might be missing one piece of information that later proves false the deduction, this weakens the whole argument that is presented by ghost hunters. The problem is not with deduction as a method of logic; it is a problem with the method to which deduction is applied to known bodies of knowledge. The mode of deduction is well known, so now let’s move to the idea of induction, something which is what science uses as its main source of applying known facts to the general.

www.biografiasyvidas.com - Aristoteles father of LogicInduction in science is the reverse of deduction, rather than starting with what we know, what happens is that we learn from a series of events happening within a certain set of conditions and it goes towards the top level of knowledge. Of course, it is not that simple and there are three conditions to which must be applied in order for particular events to achieve status at the top level of knowledge or create a general theory. The first is that the number of events occurring within the condition must be extensive, the second that this event must occur within a slightly different set of conditions (to test the boundaries) and last of all no observation must produce a different event. Let me put this into a context, if I wanted to know what would make people punch me or attack me physically in some manner not really depending on who that person is, I would first have to have some inspiration about the topic. I might go read some books that are roughly relevant to the topic, from this I would get a general idea to how I would go about experimenting and finding the information I need in order to create a general law. Perhaps this information would be something like I must attack first and then just stand in front of that person. What I need to do is then go around doing this and even if it works 100% of the time, this is still not enough. I need other people to do the same thing and many times, once all the results are in & we can see that it works 100% of the time we can create the general law, as long as there any event where my theory is not falsified and is untrue in a set of conditions. If it is, then I must adapt or drop my theory, still if it holds true then we can thank induction for this. Of course, this is not true I just made it up. Still what happens once we get the general laws, we can then do something clever and use deduction in order to make them useful.

You might at this moment think that both Ghost Hunters and science results from the same form of deduction in the end, even if the information is form another way should this really be considered to be so different? The answer is yes, even though science uses deduction in the end to get from the general laws to predicting particular events, the information that has been created is so different it changes the nature of deduction. Scientific induction creates the knowledge in such a way, very unlike the deduction of ghost hunters, that things can be proven to be wrong, this creates accountability within the method of using deduction from scientific induction. I will illustrate this; when the door opened and closed in ghost hunters the type of deduction used meant that once all known things are removed from the situation then the ending result means it is ghost activity. There are no balances or checks involved within this and it can mean that the ending conclusion has no real meaning or truth behind it; this means it is easy to disagree on the grounds of bad logic. Let’s now turn to science and the deductive statement that aspirin can remove a headache, this came from a body of inductive knowledge, it was independently checked and if an event was found to be in violation of the particular body of knowledge that it came from then this will be related back to that knowledge changing it in the process. The body of knowledge that the ghost hunters use is common experience, the things that they know from what has happened to them, each other and the things that they can think of. Ghost Hunters might claim that they are doing their investigations from a scientific approach; still this idea has to be rejected.

In the Ghost Hunting episode ‘child Haunting & Sutcliff House’ one of the main men said that there are degrees of being scientific, this is not the case. Either something follows the rules of science so it should be considered scientific or it does not, there are no degrees about it. There is something else about scientific induction which is also ignored, the idea that predictions must be present in order to validate the conclusions that are made. If these predictions are made and then proven false this should create feedback, if this feedback is denied then it should never be considered as science. The only conclusion I make about the ghost hunters team is they are professional, they are allowed to present themselves as so, although when it comes to scientific this comes with responsibility. This claim is unfounded and they should never make it! Having said that science is not perfect, I am referring to real science now, if you have ever read about falsificationism then you are well aware of these problems. There are also arguments against the idea of induction, since they are more complex I won’t really go into them here, although be aware they are there.

www.akademika.noA little more on this matter…

If you are interested in this area then I suggest a great book called “what is this thing called science?” (ISBN 0-335-20109-1) which covers all the issues I’ve discussed here and a lot more, so if you ever wanted to actually know what science is then this is the book for you.

 

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Humans by our very nature really don’t understand what random chance means, still let me provide an introduction to the topic. What set of numbers are more likely to win the lottery you can pick either 7 13 17 23 32 41 or 1 2 3 4 5 6? Ok you might try to catch me out here, but be honest the first set of numbers, at least to most people, would be considered to more likely be the winning lottery numbers even though both sets have an equal chance of winning. They are statistically equal in their likeliness although most people would pick the first set as a less risky and more likely to win than the second set of numbers. I was introduced to randomness by a lecturer who got the whole room to put 20 random dots on a blank piece of paper, being of course a lecturer in psychology the results were rather predictable, either the dots where all in one corner of the paper or pretty much equally spaced throughout the page. No one decided that randomness would result in all 20 dots being in the same position or that they could be clusters. In all humans have a hard time understanding what random really means, this is much like evolution in many ways.

evolution vs creationI recently got hold of a magazine named “Creation or Evolution” produced by the United Church of God, which has members across the world [EV/0511/1.1], although there are a lot of things which I object too I will pick the one I am most confused by. Overall the whole thing directs you to either the acceptance of either creation or the blind chance of lucky accidents which is cheerfully named ‘evolution’. I‘m sure I will talk about some of the other issues that came to me while reading this magazine at another time, still statements like Blind chance and this, which I will quote confused me greatly: “..upon thousands of lucky chance mutations happened coincidentally so that the lens [and the eye could work]..” Now I understand that it has been argued that the eye could have only come to existence if the whole thing came about at the same time, this is not the issue that I want to focus on really and since many scientists have already discussed this I will settle with talking about blind chance of evolution and natural selection. Natural selection has never been the same as blind chance. Chance is the idea that you gain something positive from random events or possible events that could occur; it is in effect the end result of randomness. Blind is also a puzzling word in this sense it is the unguided and unthought-of process that we happen to follow, there are no rules and whatever happens just happens. So according to the United Church of God evolution is the result of an unguided random process that just happened to produce the living things that we can see today, is that a true reflection of evolution?

Well the answer is a little no here – around half of all pregnancies in humans result in the natural abortion of the embryo or fetus which is the consequence of abnormalities, where maladaptive combinations or growth results in it simply not working. Extra or missing genetic material can also lead to natural abortion. The human body and indeed most other living things will not bare or produce young if there is not a strict following of the rules which allow for the normal growth of the embryo or fetus. Only smaller variations will result in successful birth of young, if there is something really wrong with the genetics then it will never end in successful reproduction. In this way the occurred changes must be more gradual and build up over time. Darwin never really discussed this quite like that, still this is not an unguided process, and the laws of nature provide the rules in which adaption must take place. This also means that randomness is excluded since abnormalities of genetic combination have to take place within this process. The conclusion here is that natural selection is not an unguided or random process.

Well the answer is a big no here – there is one big condition that exists within the theory of evolution, that is environment is the most important factor in the development of species, living things must be able to live and survive in the environment that they are born into otherwise they will not bare young and the species will die. Darwin called this process adaptive, this implies that there is some intelligence to the change which there is not; its more like the environment is changing & developing and the resulting effect are successful changes within a line of ancestors resulting in successful reproduction. This is how we got to the level of many species on earth; it’s the changing environment which includes things like the temperature, oxygen level and also the level of food available. The slow change is the creator of species and anything that counteracts successful living in a particular the environments means the likelihood of a successful survival is diminished. Since the environment governs natural selection, natural selection is therefore, not a random and unguided process. It has specific rules.

Let’s now turn to the building up process, I said before I don’t really want to discuss the eye so I will just give you an outline to how such things as eyes or anything else can build up over time. This from Richard Dawkins book the blind watchmaker, he provides an interesting and powerful analogy; let us take the case of a monkey through random chance being able to type the sentence ‘Methinks it is like a Weasel’, the odds of the monkey being able to do that successfully are so unlikely I can’t even count the zeros. Needless to say it is very unlikely to happen within 100 years of non-stop monkey typing. This is effectively what the United Church of God is suggesting and thus the argument of natural selection having odds for success which is far past me being able to write all the zeros down in my life time. Now let’s use the true non-random and guided process of evolution to suggest that every time the monkey gets a letter right, it works and therefore, it stays. So the first letter of ‘Methinks it is like a Weasel’ is M – since it’s a successful letter, it works in the sentence and the M stays; this is a 1in27 chance of the monkey hitting the M key (26 letters and the space bar). At some point the monkey will hit the second letter E since this is again successful it will also stay, the odds of that happening is 1in27 by 1in27. Each time the monkey gets a letter right it stays and the odds & necessary time for the whole sentence to be completed is reduced significantly, rather than millions of years perhaps a few weeks of non-stop monkey typing. This is how natural selection works by each successful change adding up over time to create an overall successful difference, each change being governed by rules of success.

www.extremefunnyhumor.com

So when creationists argue that Coelacanth fish which was found recently although thought to be extinct 70 million years ago thus proving evolution is therefore wrong, we can simply argue that the main condition of evolution, being that of environmental change being the driving force, was not present for these populations of fish. Crocodiles are thought to be around 200 million years old overlapping with the dinosaurs that became extinct 65 million years ago. Why did the Coelacanth and Crocodiles survive all this time? The answer is once again this was not random chance. Both are suited for their environments, they are so well adapted that they have not changed, any change would be of negative effect and such variations are less suited so they have pretty much stayed the same. Random chance plays very little in the particulars of evolution and natural selection, so the conclusion that random or blind chance has anything to do with it is always a wrong assumption. We must reject this notion of blind chance!

A little more on this matter…

I’ve found a blog post that deals with some of the other issues that tends to pop up in regards to evolution, in particular the writer addressed some of the common anti-evolution ideas that are around. I like the idea that the blogger suggests that most creationists that become critics of evolution have never actually studied biology in any form. Great blog post read it here:

http://naontiotami.wordpress.com/2008/05/17/revolution-against-evolution-the-limits-of-microevolution/

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http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/EarthI was listening to a recently filmed debate and the idea came across that the earth was designed; this was presented by Rabbi Shmuley Boteach. These are the things he mentions, which I have heard before, I would like to summarize them; if the earth were a little closer or further away, then the earth would freeze or boil. If the earth was not tilted then massive ice mountains would build up, drawing the water away from large parts of the world creating deserts. If the earth did not rotate at the 1000mph, rather at a slower 100mph then the days would burn everything alive and the night would freeze the same life. If the moon was a little closer then the tides would flood all the land. If the oceans where deeper it would absorb all the carbon dioxide making plant life impossible. If the atmosphere was a little thinner then meteors would fall to earth and cause vast devastation and if water did not expand when it freezes the fish in the seas would die. I agree with all of this, however, I disagree that this should be used in the case to support the idea of the Earth being designed for the life. This is not a religious debate, rather a reasoned one. The designed Earth statement means that it would be the result of a designer that knew what life required and then created the Earth for the purpose, even if the designer was nature.

What is to say that if one of these things changed that there would be no life on earth? Of course, there would be differences between the life that we know and the life that would have existed, that is a given in these new set of circumstances. The earth as we know is a perfect place for life and that life can be found almost anywhere on the planet. If we take the statement the earth is designed for life, let’s put that into a deductive model so we can see what we have:

The Earth was designed for Life.
Only Earth (or Earth like planets) has the ability to support life.
Life can only exist on the Earth or Earth like planets.

All we need is to find life that does not exist on earth, to show that environments unlike Earth’s can support living things and from that we can take the earth was not designed for life, since other places that are not like the earth has life on them. As soon as life not from earth exists then we either have to reject the idea of a designed earth or we have to consider that other planets or places in the universe are also designed. It just happens that the ‘unique’ set of circumstances makes the earth a successful place for life , being successful is different from the notion of a designed earth. Carolyn Porco discusses the idea that one of Saturn’s moons Enceladus has the three building blocks of creation; liquid water, organic materials and heat. This was discovered via the last probe that went passed the moon and in theory it is possible that life on Enceladus is completely achievable. This moon has the right environment for the life as we know it to exist. If it is later discovered that there is life on Enceladus, which would most likely be in the form of micro organisms, then that would prove false the statement the Earth is designed for life and we would have to rethink the statement to produce something like the earth and other places are designed for life. Or it would be equally likely that the statement some places in the universe have a greater likelihood of life depending on certain factors, would be an acceptable replacement. This is not design but rather chance and a certain possibility considering the size of the galaxy.

It is interesting that if life on Enceladus is found, where would this leave the idea of evolution as a scientific theory? I think that it would support the idea strongly, once we have removed the idea of the Earth being designed for life we are left with the notion that life is designed for the earth, even if we assume that the Earth is such a great place for life, then nothing better than evolution explains both this life in two places in our solar system.

I cannot wait until the next mission to Enceladus!

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Image taken from - www.d.umn.edu One thing that amazes me is that science tends to work quite often; I don’t need to tell you that you already know. The point here is that it tends to work, still there are places where the misunderstanding of science comes in, these are my thoughts on how science sometimes is not based upon real knowledge rather agenda based needs. The aim of the positivists who had its home in part in Vienna, one of the most liberal places in the world at the turn of the last century, was to create an independent body of knowledge that in affect was a real reflection of the world as it exists. In truth as the result of the Vienna circle and those the preceded & came after the circle created three types of worlds, the members are most likely known to you such as Comte, Ayer and Carnap. Ok you have only heard of Comte, that’s ok the names are not that important here. The first world they created was that of Faith and habit, this world was seen as those unimportant things each generation picked up and their children adopted this meant very little because they could not be seen as true and were different from person to person. The second world was that of the metaphysical, in other words religion and its use of explaining the events that where happening. Since this again can’t be observed and tends to differ, this world was also dismissed. The third world was created by the rational and logical person, with the assumption of the scientific method; there are many assumptions in this method. The idea was not that these three worlds could survive side-by-side rather, the second world had replaced the first and the third would replace the second.

 Science as the key to Understanding the world – Science can get it very wrong – In the 19th Century there was a strong organic model that was adopted from the field of biology and was used on one group of people, the poor. This I could describe as the first type of eugenics formed by science, it saw those suffering from poverty not as the result of the society being unfair as it was at the time rather a different and dangerous race of people. At the time of the research there was a great worry about the conditions people were living in and the diseases that were being created by the support of the industrial revolution that were forming tightly packed cities. The poor were seen has having a choice about how they lived when clearly the choice was never given to them, there was no welfare state and if you did not work then you did not eat. Science got this approach wrong and was later dismissed as working and living conditions improved. Still this idea of the race of the poor came about because the scientists involved used their personal experience to understand a social problem and they were not objective.

Science as the progress of society – Newton published in “The Opticks” 1704 the results of how light when it goes through a prism Image from www.wikimedia.orgseparates into the colour spectrum, removing the idea that white light itself cannot be broken down and is only made up of one element. Why did this even matter to Newton? He could have not understood the benefits that would later be developed from this idea; in part we can thank him for the ability to understand radiation and infrared light which are also based on the same spectrum. Perhaps the drive to understanding the world was his greatest force. Newton did provide something much more useful, the idea of induction. I won’t go into induction that deeply here but it is the idea that first you can close the world off and take out the things you want to test putting them in an artificial environment in the process. In other words putting the objects of study into an experiment to see their nature & relationship and this is where science can also go wrong. Taking the objects of study outside of the real world so we can test them, means something more – it means that we are unable to test them in the world, so effectively science never deals with the reflection of the world. Just a controlled version of it! Most science is pushed into explanations of real world things, it is important to remember that science is simply a theoretical model and theories sometimes go wrong.

So why does Science appear to be a contradiction and wrong at times, it’s first that scientist belong to a society and being part of the society with values & social identities, those can get in the way of a rational and logical person. Although the aim is to remove the first and second worlds, they do exist and what we take from them affects who & what is studied and with what aims. This is still happening and if you don’t believe me maybe you would like to visit the Creationist museum in Kentucky. Even if the creationist museum is right, not that I believe it is, then there are still others to provide the contradiction. The second is the misunderstanding of science, it is in essence a working model of the world which does not mean that it will predict or be able to control events in real life from those working models. This is not to say there should be an abandonment of science, it is very useful. Things have come from science that are valuable and people rely on it every single day, so although it can be powerful that does not mean that science is 100% a true reflection of the world, rather it is closer to the true reflection than any other body of knowledge. Evidence that refutes current belief changes that belief and this is why the model of science keeps on growing. The ability to explain and provide is not enough, the ability to change and stand up against evidence is its greatest strength even if it can only be 95% effective at best.

We come to why science happened and took hold in Europe, this is not a simple question to answer because during the dark ages Europe dismissed science and others in the world had a much greater use of it. There came about a new set of social and historical conditions, this was a move away from the divine and the rejection of God as the one in control of the world. Human knowledge took control and this came about through four sets of general changes. With the development of the nation states across Europe it developed the idea of liberalization and social reform. The idea of making your country better and dealing with social problems was at least on the table and the solutions to the problems could be allowed to grow. There was also a change in attitude; people started to think that reason could hold the key to the ability of changing the world. If there was ever going to be a method of making life better science was seen as the most effective one to meet that aim. The old methods of the divine had its chance and it fail to make the necessary improvements. Religion itself caused the place where science could slowly form; it was because of differing religions that caused so many wars and conflicts that resulted in the social development of an understanding for the tolerance of new concepts and ideas. Once people got fed up with conflict they allowed others to think what they would like to and this opened the door for the scientific method. Last of all there was a change in the model of business; once the industrial revolution happened there was a value change in people and by this I mean how much they were worth to a society. With the development of the capitalist market just because someone was a lord it did not matter, money really did make the world go around. This rejection of the old ways allowed the successful and intelligent a place to do their work, rather than a presubscribed position being allocated.

The power of the new idea of humans and their role to play started the shift away from the traditional towards the new methods. The needs of humans became the force of the aims of science. They were able to work together to produce a new set of knowledge and the more success supplied, the higher the role and importance of science. This is of course is a very short history but it is the general direction that happened. I would like to put the reference links in here but that seems too lengthy a process however, if you are interested in the reference books please let me know and I will give them to you. I would recommend Smith’s Social Science in question, ISBN 0-7619-6041-4 if you are interested in learning more.

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www.Ted.com – Interesting talks and discussions on many things, mostly around science, cultural and social problems.

www.richarddawkins.net  – The Man that started my belief of in non-religion.

www.patcondell.net  – this guy funny and against religion, although sometimes the logic is not there he certainly makes me laugh.

www.hitchensweb.com  – insulting and rude, still he always makes a good point!

http://www.thesciencenetwork.org  – Interesting and thought provoking

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Donnelly is a statistician, please keep reading it’s more interesting than it sounds, in his talk discussing errors that people use when they apply statistics it shows a real example of rational understanding. He goes onto talk about disease tests being right 99%, why this does not mean the chance of the test being right being 99% and then about how statistics can be used to fool juries. The example that I want to present is the part about coin tossing, watch the video for this wonderful talk. It is important to understand what he is saying because we must in order to judge the things we come across in life that we think to be logical and reasonable. The coin tossing is a random event, it can either be presented with a head (H) or a tails (T) and is generally agreed that it is a fair representation of random.

The experiment is to toss a coin until we can see a pattern of HTH, for example HTTTHTTHTH or the pattern HTT such as THTHTHTHTT. We do this 100 times for HTH and another 100 times for HTT writing down the results each time so you can create the mean (average) number of toss before each pattern occurs. If you understand the process then pick a following statement based on what you think is true.

A. It will take longer (more tosses) for HTH to occur in random coin tosses than for HTT to occur.
B. They will take the same number of tosses for either HTH or HTT to occur.
C. It will be sooner (less tosses) for HTH to occur in a random coin tosses than for HTT to occur.

Come up with your answer before you read on!

We assume that because the coin toss is random that everything that comes from it is also random. This ignores the fact that both HTT and HTH are not random; they are non-random patterns that have been created. Most people think that B is the correct answer, although it is actually A which is correct. The average number of tosses for HTH is 10 before the pattern occurs and 8 tosses before the pattern HTT occurs. To explain why A is correct; it has to do with the third toss in the patterns. When we are looking for the pattern HTH, and we have the HT the next toss could result in H in which case we complete the pattern or T where we have to start over again. When we are looking for the pattern HTT, and we have HT the next toss could result in a T in which case we complete the pattern or a H which would not complete the pattern but it is then possible to use that H in the start of the next HTT. It’s weighted for the benefit of HTT and that is why we need fewer coin tosses to get the pattern HTT. If you still don’t understand please watch the video.

Why does this matter? Well a lot of people make decisions and accept things on the bases that they seem to be logical and rational, see my earlier post about the event in ghost hunters, when they are in fact not logical or rational at all. If we can explain to people why they are wrong with such powerful logic, perhaps we could start to break down irrational belief. How much time, money and control is given over to things that don’t stand up to logic, how many laws or social no go areas exist because they are seen as right. The logic in the real world is of course much larger, the simple example by Peter Donnelly is wonderful and compact which can be applied to it.

We and our minds are not very good at understanding statistics, since we never really live in a statistical world and our minds are programmed to understand just a few objects rather than thousands. Statistically very few people have ever died in an elevator still this does not remove the notion that a lot of people feel really scared and trapped in one. Statistically you are more likely to die in a car accident than a plane accident still a lot more people are scared of flying than driving. Even if we understand that we are 99.99% safe while travelling in an elevator or plane, we tend to focus on the 0.01% chance of what could happen. The possibility is that even with 99.99% chance of a positive event it is as likely to occur as the negative; somehow they are equally liable to happen in our minds. The perception of the mind is why this tends to happen, since the confines of our brain is set at a certain limit in our thinking. We cannot remember thousands of names just 30 or so; we cannot attend to everything that comes through our senses so we ignore most and only focus on a few. With these limits when we prepare to get onto a plane the imagination of possible outcomes is limited to just a few, we cannot imagine millions of successful journeys so then more weight is given to the negative ones, perhaps one successful journey and one unsuccessful one. This is of course only part of the process; needless to say that the imaginational crash presents a much more dramatic picture so we attend to them with greater detail.

Ok right now you are possibly thinking that I am just making stuff up, so let me put it in another way! Around 20,000 Americans join the Muslim religion each year, that seems quite a lot and if you have read some of my blog then most likely this seems like a worrying trend that is going on. Will America soon be overrun with Muslims? Well, no! The 20,000 is only about half a percent and is nothing compared to the 3% or so that become atheists each year in America. Living in middle earth with relative few world objects limits our understanding of statistics. There is another problem, a much greater hitch with statistics they are often collected for a certain reason. It is only when someone or groups want to show something do they go out and find the information. Going back to the religion statistics, is could be argued that at certain times in history perhaps the turn of either the atheist or Muslim right now, people tend not to want to tell the truth when people ask them questions. I am not saying everyone is a liar but it is easy to do when you don’t want to enter the discussion. Statistics are not often true reflections of what is going on rather perhaps a loose indication of the truth.

Always use statistics with a pinch of salt!

 

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