Comment rescue

I wanted to make the following comment on this post at gnxp ((Its a good post that I was going to find an excuse to link to anyway. So, yeah, read the whole thing.)) , but something’s broken:

Isn’t the original author just pointing out that there’s different normative dimensions to evaluate the worth of a field of study? Its easy to find dimensions that favor science and its easy to find dimensions that favor non-science. Thus, both fields can be “good”, “useful”, or whatever.

Personally, I think the normative dimensions that judge science above non-science are better, but those are my aesthetic judgments. That said, if I have an open-minded person in front of me, I can get close to convincing him I’m right.

What do you think razib, is the beauty of science in our genes and is this why religious folk have to spend so much more time than scientists at evangelism?

Blogging isn’t about conversation, its about showing the world how smart you are… and how can I do that if the comments are broken!

12 thoughts on “Comment rescue”

  1. i closed comments on that thread.

    What do you think razib, is the beauty of science in our genes and is this why religious folk have to spend so much more time than scientists at evangelism?

    i think you’re empirically wrong. the beauty of science isn’t in our genes, and science is hard and unnatural, and that’s why there has only been one full-blown scientific culture. the only reason religious folk have to evangelize is that they’re arguing over dumb details; they basically agree on the “big issues” but they need to increase market share on the margins with these differences. think coke vs. pepsi.

    as for the different dimensions….

    1) the original author isn’t too clear, he could be saying this

    2) but his description of the atom strong implies that he is hinting that “science is just another superstition” schtick so beloved by cultural anthropologists

    3) since the due is a cultural anthropologist, shift your priors in terms of how reasonable you think he might be

  2. Regarding 1) and 3), I tend to give folks the benefit of the doubt. Of course, if someone’s a crank, I ignore him unless there’s potential for interesting conversation even if that means shaping what he said into something coherent.

    The thing with coke v pepsi is that people have to be convinced not to just drink water. In any case, doing science is hard and unnatural but appreciating its beauty, not so much. I defy you to find a hard core religious type that wouldn’t be awed by the pictures in Pale Blue Dot, for example.

  3. Is that appreciation of science or appreciation of what science has found? The scientific method is a discipline designed to 1) Compensate for inherent flaws in our observation skills and 2) Spread those compensated findings to other scientists in a way that allows those observations to be repeated.

    An awe inspiring picture of a nebula is not science, but it might be produced as a byproduct of an astronomer’s work. Appreciating that picture is no more science than reciting digits of pi is math. If a person recites scientifically derived facts as absolute, inviolate truths, without any regard for or understanding of the method that generated those facts, are they really any different from a religious person?

  4. The point is if you think science is beautiful you’re liable to believe the most important dimensions to evaluate a field are those that show science to be “good” (or “useful” or whatever).

    In other words, if you want to sell science, remind people of how beautiful it is. This will get them to evaluate the field in ways that cast in a positive light. I learned this in marketing class.

    Norms are under-determined in physics. Its up to the individual to decide what is right and wrong. We each determine what is right and what is wrong using criteria we find aesthetically pleasing. What we find to be aesthetically pleasing are socially constructed but they are determined by processes out of the control of individuals. I know this because I can’t change what I think is aesthetically pleasing, but at the same time I know these things aren’t facts about physics. In any case, I suspect society and genes interacted in a long process to form my aesthetic sense.

    Anthropologists were early to realize the under-determinedness of norms. Their problem, though, is their scientism caused them to think that if something wasn’t a physical fact then it wasn’t a fact at all.

  5. The thing with coke v pepsi is that people have to be convinced not to just drink water.

    i don’t think this is true. people need to be convinced that the extra subtle flavor and carbonation is worth the cost beyond what you could just get in sugar water. you don’t have to convince people, especially kids, to drink water vs. sugar water.

  6. In any case, I suspect society and genes interacted in a long process to form my aesthetic sense.

    i think there’s pretty strong constraints in some fields. “experimental” fictional techniques come and go.

  7. Regarding 1) and 3), I tend to give folks the benefit of the doubt. Of course, if someone’s a crank, I ignore him unless there’s potential for interesting conversation even if that means shaping what he said into something coherent.

    i have a N = 3 of his posts. i would probably have let this go if he hadn’t CAFRed out multiple times.

  8. Acquired tastes. Bitter, spicy, and sour foods (tastes which, in nature, usually indicate that a food is bad to eat).

    I guess you can make a case that the brain of a spicy food lover had pre-existing proto-preferences, and developing their taste for hot chili was just a matter of expressing these preferences, so it becomes a chicken vs. egg argument.

    It’s difficult to make this argument with a common framework of terms, so comment withdrawn.

  9. I was thinking of acquired tastes as a counter-examples, too. The thing is, though, at any moment even those are fixed. In my adult lifetime, I’ve acquired a taste for coffee, buts its not like I will wake up one morning and decide to not like coffee. (Maybe coffee’s a bad example because its addicting, but you get the idea.)

    Also, its hard to change ones tastes for different kinds of food, but its even harder to change tastes in more substantial categories. I just don’t think I could consciously change my disgust of the practice of abortion, for example. In any case, it would take a lot of reprogramming. So some categories of aesthetics are even more grounded in social/genetic hysteresis (if that’s the right word).

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