pw201 + science   153

Quine's Naturalism - 3:AM Magazine
"Sense data, Quine came to realize, are just as much theoretical posits as the electrons, bacteria, and chromosomes we supposedly construct from them. We do not see ‘patches of green, brown, and grey’ when we are walking through a forest; we see trees, logs, and squirrels. This is why it requires severe training to teach amateur painters to reproduce their everyday three-dimensional view of the world on a two-dimensional canvas."
quine  philosophy  naturalism  science  epistemology 
january 2019 by pw201
What I learned as a hired consultant to autodidact physicists | Aeon Ideas
"A typical problem is that, in the absence of equations, they project literal meanings onto words such as ‘grains’ of space-time or particles ‘popping’ in and out of existence. Science writers should be more careful to point out when we are using metaphors. My clients read way too much into pictures, measuring every angle, scrutinising every colour, counting every dash. Illustrators should be more careful to point out what is relevant information and what is artistic freedom. But the most important lesson I’ve learned is that journalists are so successful at making physics seem not so complicated that many readers come away with the impression that they can easily do it themselves. How can we blame them for not knowing what it takes if we never tell them?"
science  physics  culture  pseudoscience 
august 2016 by pw201
Surprises of the Faraday Cage
Something Feynman got wrong, apparently (and which was repeated in the electro-magnetism lectures at university, as I recall).
physics  science  feynman  electromagnetism 
august 2016 by pw201
Doing Mathematics Differently | Articles | Inference: International Review of Science
"Explanation is a form of compression. If a theory is smaller than the data, then in that case, as in so many others, less is more. A successful explanation is a matter of covering a large debt with a much smaller one."
mathematics  philosophy  science  computation 
february 2016 by pw201
Our quantum reality problem – Adrian Kent – Aeon
An article about quantum theory and the philosophy of science.
physics  quantum  research  philosophy  science  everrett 
february 2014 by pw201
Bill Nye tests the benefits of swing dancing - latimes.com
Bill Nye the Science Guy is a swing dancer. He extols the virtues of dancing in a short interview.
bill-nye  science  lindy  lindyhop  dancing  swing  fitness 
january 2014 by pw201
liv | Against Dawkins
Is the gene centred view (of which Dawkins is a major proponent) the best one?
genetics  genes  richard-dawkins  selfish-gene  biology  science  genotype  phenotype 
december 2013 by pw201
The Right Match: A Short Documentary - YouTube
"Drs. Dorry Segev and Sommer Gentry are innovative researchers who connect the complexities of mathematics with the intricacies of organ transplantation." They came up with using graph theory and integer programming to match up reciprocal kidney donors (that is, where someone wants to donate to their family member but they aren't compatible, so they swap with another incompatible pair). These guys are also swing dancers, so this came via /r/SwingDancing.
transplant  graph  lindyhop  swing  medicine  kidney  mathematics  science 
november 2013 by pw201
Unreliable research: Trouble at the lab | The Economist
"Scientists like to think of science as self-correcting. To an alarming degree, it is not." Talks about the problems with reproducing research.
economist  journals  research  statistics  science 
october 2013 by pw201
The Core of ‘Mind and Cosmos’
Thomas Nagel wrote a short outline of his book "Mind and Cosmos" for the New York Times. He attributes a lot of the criticism he's been getting to people worried that he's giving comfort to theism. If so, that reflects badly on the critics, because arguments are not soldiers, etc. etc. Via Massimo Pigliucci.
nagel  philosophy  consciousness  thomas-nagel  science 
august 2013 by pw201
Web of Beliefs 2012: Complete Edition - Greatplay.net
Peter Hurford's summary of his beliefs, which links to a lot of his interesting essays. I should do myself one of these, I reckon.
religion  belief  philosophy  epistemology  science 
february 2013 by pw201
Power of Suggestion - The Chronicle Review - The Chronicle of Higher Education
"The amazing influence of unconscious cues is among the most fascinating discoveries of our time­—that is, if it's true." Attempts to replicate some of the classic experiments in psychological priming have failed. Interesting article about the role of reputations in science (as well as about priming).
priming  psychology  science 
february 2013 by pw201
Interview: Russell Blackford on Atheism, Philosophy and Morality – Rational Hub Blogs
Longish (written) interview with the philosopher Russell Blackford. I enjoyed the bits about the supposed incompatibility between science and religion, and the stuff about moral error theory.
scientism  science  scie  error-theory  religion  morality  ethics  philosophy  russell-blackford 
october 2012 by pw201
What Thomas Kuhn Really Thought about Scientific “Truth” | Cross-Check, Scientific American Blog Network
"To commemorate the 50th anniversary of Structure, I’m posting an edited version of my write-up of Kuhn in The End of Science (Addison Wesley, 1996), which draws heavily on my meeting with him. I hope that this profile—which is longer and more critical of Kuhn than “Reluctant Revolutionary,” my May 1991 profile for Scientific American—provides insights into the complicated views of this complicated man."
epistemology  paradigm  science  Kuhn  philosophy 
june 2012 by pw201
Spitzer Retracts his 2001 Paper – Kind Of… | An Exercise in the Fundamentals of Orthodoxy
Peter Ould again, this time on the retraction of the main paper people quote as evidence that homosexuals can change orientation.
science  ex-gay  psychology  homosexuality  peter-ould 
april 2012 by pw201
‘A Universe From Nothing,’ by Lawrence M. Krauss - NYTimes.com
David Albert, a professor of philosophy at Columbia who also has a physics PhD, points out that Krauss hasn't really explained why there's something rather than nothing by . Via Jerry Coyne.
theology  philosophy  religion  krauss  science  quantum  universe 
april 2012 by pw201
The case of the disappearing teaspoons: longitudinal cohort study of the displacement of teaspoons in an Australian research institute | BMJ
"Objectives To determine the overall rate of loss of workplace teaspoons and whether attrition and displacement are correlated with the relative value of the teaspoons or type of tearoom."
humour  science  journal  research  teaspoons  funny  bmj 
march 2012 by pw201
What Nonbelievers Believe | Psychology Today
"Common sense, not complex philosophy, often drives religious skepticism."
belief  psychology  atheism  science  humanism  religion 
march 2012 by pw201
24/192 Music Downloads are Very Silly Indeed
"there is no point to distributing music in 24-bit/192kHz format. Its playback fidelity is slightly inferior to 16/44.1 or 16/48, and it takes up 6 times the space." Includes good stuff about how ears work. Via andrewducker.
Nyquist  sound  sampling  mp3  science  music  audio 
march 2012 by pw201
How not to attack Intelligent Design Creationism: Philosophical misconceptions about Methodological Naturalism - Maarten Boudry
"In recent controversies about Intelligent Design Creationism (IDC), the principle of methodological naturalism (MN) has played an important role. In this paper, an often neglected distinction is made between two different conceptions of MN, each with its respective rationale and with a different view on the proper role of MN in science. According to one popular conception, MN is a self-imposed or intrinsic limitation of science, which means that science is simply not equipped to deal with claims of the supernatural (Intrinsic MN or IMN). Alternatively, we will defend MN as a provisory and empirically grounded attitude of scientists, which is justified in virtue of the consistent success of naturalistic explanations and the lack of success of supernatural explanations in the history of science. (Provisory MN or PMN). Science does have a bearing on supernatural hypotheses, and its verdict is uniformly negative."
creationism  intelligent-design  religion  science  naturalism  philosophy 
february 2012 by pw201
Cancer is just as deadly as it was 50 years ago. Here's why that's about to change.
"We spoke to cancer experts to find out why the death rate from cancer hasn't changed in the past 50 years — and we learned how genetic therapies could transform cancer treatments tomorrow."
medicine  biology  science  genetics  cancer 
february 2012 by pw201
The Americanization of Mental Illness - NYTimes.com
The expression of mental illness is cultural: anorexia was more or less introduced to Hong Kong by newspaper articles. A view in which mental illness is caused by brain problems rather than childhood experiences or demons actually makes people less sympathetic to those with mental illness, because they're perceived as being unfixable.
anorexia  schizophrenia  culture  science  psychiatry  psychology 
january 2012 by pw201
Talking Philosophy | Religion and science: the issue that won't go away
This is great, and has productive discussion in the comments too. Subscribed!

"Recall that the rise of science did not subtract from our pre-existing resources for investigating the world. Rather, it added to them; and the old pragmatic and scholarly methods and the new, distinctively scientific, ones can always be used together in any given case. We need to know whether such claims as that Jesus rose from the dead and that the universe was created by God are plausible when set against what we know overall about how the world works, both through methods that we could have employed anyway and through the distinctive methods developed by science.

When the question is framed like that, surely we don't think that these claims come under no pressure at all from our best empirical investigations of the world?"
resurrection  russell-blackford  philosophy  science  religion 
december 2011 by pw201
Scientific presuppositions and the supernatural « Just Another Deisidaimon
Konrad Talmont-Kaminski on the metaphysical/methodological naturalism distinction, which he thinks is a distortion of actual naturalist views: "it effectively assumes the primacy of ontology over epistemology... assumes that to understand science one must begin with the ontology of science. This is very much understandable from the point of view of someone who was brought up on a Christian religion that is presented as having its basis in a number of ontological claims that must be taken as true. It is also a profound misunderstanding of what science is. It would be better to think of science in terms of various methods that are used to investigate the world. The scientific ontology is an a posteriori result of the application of those methods to the world. To put it in other terms again, ontological naturalism is the a posteriori result of accepting epistemic naturalism. Yet, even that is not quite right as it suggests that science can be identified in terms of some set of methods."
philosophy  science  religion  epistemology  naturalism 
december 2011 by pw201
Infant male circumcision is genital mutilation | Martin Robbins | Science | guardian.co.uk
"Men should have the right to choose circumcision, not have the choice forced upon them. Infant circumcision without consent or immediate medical justification is an unjustified violation of basic human rights, that shares more in common with ancient coming-of-age rituals than responsible medical practice." Seems fair enough to me: the only reason we permit this is because of the common error of "respecting" religious opinions.
circumcision  medicine  surgery  genital-mutilation  religion  science 
december 2011 by pw201
Optical Effects of Special Relativity - YouTube
What the world would look like if you went very fast (or lowered the speed of light).
physics  relativity  simulation  animation  video  youtube  science 
october 2011 by pw201
CPBD 089: John Shook – Dewey, Quine, and Some Varieties of Naturalism
John Shook talks to Luke Muehlhauser about philosophical naturalism (with a transcript, for those of you who hate podcasts). Interesting to find about the various naturalistic philosophies, and to see the responses to the supernaturalist "you naturalists think everything is just atoms" argument.
philosophy  naturalism  science  physics  materialism 
september 2011 by pw201
A field guide to bullshit - opinion - 13 June 2011 - New Scientist
"How do people defend their beliefs in bizarre conspiracy theories or the power of crystals? Philosopher Stephen Law has tips for spotting their strategies." A bit similar to my Bad Arguments stuff: Law has "everything is based on faith" as the so-called "nuclear option". An interesting article, might buy the book he's plugging.
religion  science  empiricism  sceptism  philosophy  new-age 
june 2011 by pw201
YouTube - Tim Minchin's Storm the Animated Movie
Tim Minchin's beat poem about New Age bullshit has an official animation to accompany it. I'd not seen it before: thanks to gjm11 for linking to it.
funny  religion  new-age  science 
may 2011 by pw201
The Reason We Reason | Wired Science | Wired.com
"new theory of reasoning put forth by Hugo Mercier and Dan Sperber. In essence, they argue that human reason has nothing to do with finding the truth, or locating the best alternative. Instead, it’s all about being able to argue with others" And that's why we have confirmation bias. There's some dialogue in the comments about how it's not as hopeless as it may sound.
science  psychology  research  cognition  rationality  brain  bias 
may 2011 by pw201
What Do Women Want? - Discovering What Ignites Female Desire - NYTimes.com
Interesting stuff on the differences between male and female sexual responses.
sex  psychology  women  science 
april 2011 by pw201
The Science of Why We Don't Believe Science | Mother Jones
"How our brains fool us on climate, creationism, and the vaccine-autism link." Amusing for the number of comments which say "But vaccines really do cause autism" etc. etc.
science  psychology  belief  neuroscience  rationality  bias 
april 2011 by pw201
Scientism « Why Evolution Is True
Jerry Coyne: "when used as a derogatory adjective, “scientism” means this:

the practice of applying rationality and standards of evidence to faith.

For religious people and accommodationists, that practice is a no-no. That’s why the adjective is pejorative."

I think there is something which we could validly call "scientism", namely the belief that science can answer all our questions, or that all questions reduce to scientific ones, or something. However, Coyne's point stands: "scientism" is often code for "how dare you ask us for evidence?"
scientism  science  religion  jerry-coyne 
april 2011 by pw201
Sean Carroll: Does the Universe Need God?
Top theoretical cosmologist Sean Carroll wrote a chapter for the Blackwell Companion to Science and Christianity, and this is it. Interesting to compare Carroll's stuff with other popular science about the Big Bang.
philosophy  god  science  bigbang  big-bang  sean-carroll  physics  cosmology 
march 2011 by pw201
Form Constants and the Visual Cortex | countyourculture
"There are common visual concepts which cut across boundaries of culture and time and reflect what it truly means to be human. Near death experiences are often associated with seeing a “light at the end of a tunnel”. In the Bible, God appeared to Ezekiel as a “wheel within a wheel”. Spirals and concentric circles are commonly found in petrogylphs carved by cultures long dead. Similar visual effects are reported during extreme psychological stress, fever delirium, psychotic episodes, sensory deprivation, and are reliably induced by psychedelic drugs."
science  consciousness  brain  religion 
march 2011 by pw201
Fukushima is a triumph for nuke power: Build more reactors now! • The Register
"Japan's nuclear powerplants have performed magnificently in the face of a disaster hugely greater than they were designed to withstand, remaining entirely safe throughout and sustaining only minor damage. The unfolding Fukushima story has enormously strengthened the case for advanced nations – including Japan – to build more nuclear powerplants, in the knowledge that no imaginable disaster can result in serious problems."
science  nuclear  safety  physics  japan  earthquake 
march 2011 by pw201
Gender Differences and Casual Sex: The New Research «
Revisiting that "I've noticed you around, will you go to bed with me?" study (as popularised by popular beat combo "Touch and Go") and disputing the conclusion that women just don't like sex: "the only consistently significant predictor of acceptance of the sexual proposal, both for women and for men, was the perception that the proposer is sexually capable".

It being a feminist blog, they then go against the science the other way and say that perception of risk is a much higher factor than the study suggested (the study thought it was an effect, but not the primary one).
science  sex  feminism  gender 
march 2011 by pw201
Metamagician and the Hellfire Club: Gnus can be nice
Blackford writes good stuff: "What we do say is that it's hopelessly misleading to go around saying "Science and religion are compatible." It would be more true to say that science tends to undermine all or most traditional forms of religion, making them less plausible, putting pressure on the religious to thin out their supernaturalist, providentialist views of the world, and so on. The result is that much in the way of actual religion really is threatened by the advance of science. Claiming otherwise is, we say, likely to be disingenuous (or, to be fair, simply mistaken)."
science  religion  atheism  accomodationism  russell-blackford 
february 2011 by pw201
The Last Psychiatrist: Wakefield And The Autism Fraud-- The Other Part Of The Story
Wakefield's a fraud, but that's not the end of the story: why did it take so long to spot it?
science  peer-review  journalism  autism  mmr  wakefield  vaccine  vaccination  medicine 
january 2011 by pw201
YouTube - BBC Newsnight: UK Homeopathy Update 2011
Society of Homeopaths gets spanked on Newsnight, with a well deserved opportunity for revenge by Simon Singh.
homeopathy  quackery  medicine  science  simon-singh  Newsnight 
january 2011 by pw201
Inside the Battle to Define Mental Illness | Magazine
The controversy surrounding the proposed new edition of the DSM.
psychology  science  criticism  dsm 
january 2011 by pw201
Epiphenom: The cult of Theoi: sacrificing to the god of uncertainty
"What this study shows is that these students seem inherently resistant to learning that the forces at work are random. They started off with the assumption that Theoi would reward sacrifices, and they just didn't seem able to shake that assumption, despite all the evidence."
randomness  religion  science  psychology 
december 2010 by pw201
TTA Press - Interzone: Science Fiction & Fantasy - Crystal Nights by Greg Egan
An Egan short story I'd not seen before. "You know what they say the modern version of Pascal’s Wager is? Sucking up to as many Transhumanists as possible, just in case one of them turns into God". Nice.
sci-fi  ai  sf  science  scifi  fiction  egan  artificial-intelligence  greg-egan 
august 2010 by pw201
Kill or cure?
"Help to make sense of the Daily Mail’s ongoing effort to classify every inanimate object into those that cause cancer and those that prevent it." Marvellous. Now there's no need to read the Heil.
cancer  science  health  funny  daily-mail  journalism 
august 2010 by pw201
On Self-Delusion and Bounded Rationality
or "Flowers for Carl Sagan", or something. A short story on whether it's always a good idea to know the truth.
psychology  rationalism  rationality  philosophy  reason  science  fiction  humour 
july 2010 by pw201
Out with pink and blue: Don't foster the gender divide - opinion - 19 July 2010 - New Scientist
Neurologist Lise Eliot argues that, while there are some differences innate differences between males and females, there's also a lot of plasticity in human brains.
gender  science  neuroscience  brains  psychology 
july 2010 by pw201
YouTube - Top 10 quirky science tricks for parties
I like the one about pouring CO2 onto candles to extinguish them.
science  youtube  magic  video  tricks  physics  chemistry 
july 2010 by pw201
YouTube - Carl Sagan: A Universe Not Made For Us
"Excerpts from Carl Sagan's Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space. More specifically, from the chapter titled A Universe Not Made For Us. I edited together the audio from the audio-book, and added the video from Stephen Hawking's Into the Universe and Brian Cox's Wonders of the Solar System. The music is Jack's Theme from the Lost soundtrack."
cosmology  astronomy  sagan  science  evolution  universe  video  youtube  religion  creationism 
july 2010 by pw201
What I think about global warming : Stoat
What Dr Connolley thinks of global warming: the science is well established, the sceptics want to argue it isn't because they don't like many of the suggestions for what we should do about it.
science  global-warming  climate 
july 2010 by pw201
Preventing Lesbianism and "Uppity Women" in the Womb? No. | Focal Point | Big Think
That story that's been doing the rounds about about a pill to prevent your kid being a lesbian turns out to be bullshit.
homosexuality  medicine  science 
july 2010 by pw201
Reluctance to Let Go | Cosmic Variance | Discover Magazine
Sean Carroll's last post before taking a break from blogging: "Instead of taking the natural world seriously, we have discussions about “Faith.” We pretend that questions of meaning and purpose and value must be the domain of religion. We are saddled with bizarre, antiquated attitudes toward sex and love, which have terrible consequences for real human beings.

I understand the reluctance to let go of religion as the lens through which we view questions of meaning and morality. For thousands of years it was the best we could do; it provided social structures and a framework for thinking about our place in the world. But that framework turns out not to be right, and it’s time to move on."
science  religion  accomodationism  atheism 
june 2010 by pw201
You Are Not So Smart
Blog recommendation. Journalist David McRaney writes about cognitive biases and whatnot in a straightforward and funny way.
psychology  science  blog  cognition  cognitive-bias  rationality 
june 2010 by pw201
Metamagician and the Hellfire Club: Science/religion compatibility yet again
Another round of the accommodationism debates: "Viewed historically, religion needs to thin out its epistemic content, or to introduce notions of the capricious way supernatural beings act, or to adopt intellectually unacceptable ad hoc tactics of various kinds, in order to maintain a formal compatibility with the scientific picture of the world; the advance of science pushes God into smaller gaps; and some religious views are plainly inconsistent with robust scientific findings. All this reflects a general mismatch between the scientific approach to the world and the religious approach, which follows from (1) the fact that they use different methods for discovering the truth and (2) the methods of science do not, historically and contingently, reach the same conclusions as previously reached by religion."
religion  science  russell-blackford  philosophy 
june 2010 by pw201
God, Science and Philanthropy | The Nation
An interesting article on the history of the Templeton Foundation, the controversial foundation which provides grants to scientists interested in "the Big Questions".
templeton  dawkins  richard-dawkins  science  religion  intelligent-design 
june 2010 by pw201
Living in denial: Why sensible people reject the truth - opinion - 19 May 2010 - New Scientist
"...denialism, the systematic rejection of a body of science in favour of make-believe. There's a lot of it about, attacking evolution, global warming, tobacco research, HIV, vaccines - and now, it seems, flu. But why does it happen? What motivates people to retreat from the real world into denial?"
climate  conspiracy  creationism  epistemology  politics  psychology  religion  science  denialism  denial 
june 2010 by pw201
Why We Haven’t Met Any Aliens § SEEDMAGAZINE.COM
They're too busy playing computer games. Wasn't that the explanation in Charles Stross's "Accelerando", too?
evolution  aliens  alien  fermi  science  psychology  space  future 
april 2010 by pw201
On knowledge and consistency « Evolving Thoughts
John Wilkins talks about the on-going debate on whether religion and science are compatible.
religion  science  jerry-coyne  knowledge  epistemology  philosophy 
march 2010 by pw201
Odds Are, It's Wrong - Science News
What goes wrong with the 5% significance level in scientific papers.
science  mathematics  maths  statistics  biology  medicine  bayes  bayesian 
march 2010 by pw201
Furious backlash from Simon Singh libel case puts chiropractors on ropes | Martin Robbins | Science | guardian.co.uk
"A staggering one in four chiropractors in Britain are now under investigation for allegedly making misleading claims in advertisements, according to figures from the General Chiropractic Council." Couldn't happen to a nicer bunch.
science  simon-singh  chiropractor  guardian  health  pseudoscience  quackery  woo-woo  libel  legal  law 
march 2010 by pw201
Open Mic: What Have We Wrought? | internetmonk.com
iMonk links to a short video of Os Guinness on the Biologos site (can anything good come from there?) Guinness says, “In many ways, the new atheists are partly created by the Religious Right. You can see that in America there is no vehement repudiation of religion until recently. In Europe, the atheism is a reaction to corrupt state churches. Here, you’ve never had that until the rise of the Religious Right.” Part of the reaction against religion, he argues, stems from the poor ways people of faith think about science.

The commenters almost immediately tell us that it's not that atheists are annoyed about the corruption of science, it's that we're in league with Satan (though other, more, sensible Christians also disagree with them). I've commented and linked to Suber's logical rudeness paper.
religion  atheism  new-atheism  christianity  science  culture  culture-war 
february 2010 by pw201
Is there anything wrong with “God of the gaps” reasoning? by Robert Larmer
Larmer argues that both theists and atheists shouldn't be so hard on "God of the Gaps" explanations (the phrase originated as a criticism of Christians by Christians). While it's certainly true that it's not a formal fallacy, I think what makes me uneasy about such explanations is the ease with which "the thing which explains X" is identified with "the Christian God" (say). But I'll have to think about it some more.
theology  philosophy  naturalism  science  religion  god  gaps  larmer  robert-larmer 
february 2010 by pw201
A review of 'The language of God' (Francis Collins)
Gert Korthof likes Collins's stuff on evolution, but thinks the Moral Law argument (which Collins acknowledges he got from C.S. Lewis) is terrible: "Collins fails to demonstrate

a. the failure of Darwinism to explain the Moral Law (true altruism)
b. the divine origin of the Moral Law
c. b follows from a "
creation  evolution  morality  religion  science  francis-collins  c.s.-lewis  altruism 
february 2010 by pw201
Signature in the Cell | The BioLogos Foundation
Darrel Falk, a Christian and a professor of biology, finds problems with the science in Stephen Mayer's "The Signature in the Cell". Via Jerry Coyne.
evolution  intelligent-design  science  religion  creationism  dna  rna  stephen-meyer  darrel-falk  biology  discovery-institute 
january 2010 by pw201
Know Your Godless Heathen Positions
"It has become common, especially for the critics of atheism, to conflate atheism, materialism, naturalism, evolution, and natural selection. Then, an objection to one of these positions is taken to undermine all of them. This would be a mistake since there are several distinct positions here that the atheist may or may not also accept. And much of the energy that has been expended to knock them down is wasted because several of them turn out to be compatible with theism. Let’s clarify:"
science  philosophy  atheism  matt-mccormick  materialism  naturalism  evolution 
january 2010 by pw201
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