is science "socially neutral"?

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jura
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May 26 2012 18:58

I don't think anyone is defending "objective" in the sense of "completely independent of humans" and "outside of society". I view scientific objectivity as an attribute which has two aspects:

- realism: the object of any science exists independently of the consciousness of individual researcher as the object of sensuous and theoretical activity of humans (i.e. always a "social object" and "socially mediated" objectivity: it is not "reality" as such or "reality" in itself which is the object of science; only those "slices" of reality which historically become the objects of conscious human practice, i.e. "humanized" nature). As Marx put it in 1844: "But nature too, taken abstractly, for itself – nature fixed in isolation from man – is nothing for man."

- intersubjectivity: the results of scientific inquiry should be intersubjectively verifiable, i.e. independent of the conscioussnes of individual researchers, in principle repeatable and open to public access and criticism.

jolasmo
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May 26 2012 19:41
L Bird wrote:
'being right' and 'objectively true'

are statements that are contradicted by

'a more or less accurate set of rules'

If something is 'right' or 'objective', it can't be 'more or less', can it?

Yes, of course it can. What an odd question. Being objective is different from being exact.

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Maintaining that 'we can't be completely sure' or that 'humans can't know objectively the external world' (in the sense that the positivists meant it), doesn't mean that 'any old intuitive guesswork will do'.

Well, saying that you can't know objectively the "external" world is a different thing than saying "we can't be completely sure". You're once again confusing objectivity with exactness.

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These are philosophical arguments, and should be treated with care.

I don't think you're clear on the philosophical arguments you are making. You're saying science isn't objective, and I'm saying it depends what you mean by science - science involves both subjective and objective reality. The statistical probability of any given experimental outcome (assuming any given theory) is an objective fact. The significance the scientist attaches to that probability is deeply subjective.

~J.

yourmum
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May 26 2012 20:16
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While all scientific activity is necessarily aimed at satisfying the needs of the ruling class

Marx would like to have a word with you.

on topic: science is about truth and therefor it is already proletarian. this thread seems like: the bourgeois talk aweful loads of bullshit and call it science so we need a new affix to science to distinguish. no, we need to turn this around and call out bullshit as non-science. Marx isnt scary for the bourgeoisie because he is proletarian, he is scary because he is scientific and proving (!) that the worker is exploted! the labor theory of value is the science/knowledge he found/used to battle the bourgeois by attackng their holy trinity of value and explaining how the capitalist exploitation works.

Angelus Novus
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May 26 2012 21:25

Fucking hell, how did we end up on a 1980s North American university campus?

I'm just waiting for somebody to call Newton's Principia Mathematica a rape manual...

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fabian
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May 26 2012 21:44

Modern official science is to the modern ages the same what Christianity was to the medieval Europe. It is based on unprovable and illogical ideas and is promoted as the absolute truth by the establishment.

Two guys that make some mind blowing points:

Paul Feyerabend

Thomas Kuhn

Also, one should read about core differences between classical philosophy, analitic philosophy, and continental philosophy, it's a connected topic.

Angelus Novus
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May 26 2012 22:06

I call bullshit.

Sorry, but if you claim that Thomas Kuhn argues that there is no validity to scientific claims, or that modern science is merely equal to medieval religions, then you haven't fucking read Thomas Kuhn.

Be honest: you just heard the name "Thomas Kuhn" in your comparative literature class.

LBird
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May 27 2012 05:38
jura wrote:
...always a "social object" and "socially mediated" objectivity: it is not "reality" as such or "reality" in itself which is the object of science; only those "slices" of reality which historically become the objects of conscious human practice, i.e. "humanized" nature...

I agree with jura here. 'Scientific' knowledge is 'human' knowledge, not an identical copy of 'reality'.

So, in reply to some earlier posters:

andy g, post #6, wrote:
Is this not a question about the institutional organisation of science rather than its epistemological status?

No, it's about 'epistemological status'.

the croydonian, post #33, wrote:
Not only does objectiveness being relative defeat the whole point/meaning of the word objective, the whole proletariat objectivity over bourgeoisie objectivity stinks a bit to me.

No, if we agree with jura both about the human centredness of 'knowledge' and the 'independent existence' of reality...

jura, post #62, wrote:
...realism: the object of any science exists independently of the consciousness of individual researcher as the object of sensuous and theoretical activity of humans...

...then we have a third position: neither 'objectivity' ('true knowledge' in the postivist sense) nor 'subjectivity' (in the 'anything goes' sense).

If we accept this 'third' position of a 'socially relative objectivity', in which human society plays a part (of some size or other), doesn't it seem likely that 'class' considerations will play some part in the generation of this human social knowledge of an independently existing reality?

andy g
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May 27 2012 07:51

LBird

can't see how knowledge possessed by humans can be anything but human knowledge

the thread has moved on significantly since the post you cite. IIRC it was a response to point you were making that were precisely about the institutional organisation of science. in all your posts you have never coherently put a philosophical argument to defend your view, despite somewhat sanctimoniously advising others to "take care in framing theirs".

i'm off to enjoy the sun - taking care to avoid falling into the positivist belief that my knowledge of it isn't class conditioned, of course

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May 27 2012 09:24
Angelus Novus wrote:
Sorry, but if you claim that Thomas Kuhn argues that there is no validity to scientific claims or that modern science is merely equal to medieval religions, then you haven't fucking read Thomas Kuhn.

Which I didn't.

jolasmo
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May 27 2012 09:48
fabian wrote:
Modern official science is to the modern ages the same what Christianity was to the medieval Europe. It is based on unprovable and illogical ideas and is promoted as the absolute truth by the establishment.

I don't think the ideas modern science is based on (official or otherwise) are generally unprovable or illogical. Without me having to go find a library, read the collected works of the authors you mention, and then come back to this discussion, could you maybe spell out your arguments for this rather bold claim in your own words?

~J.

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May 27 2012 10:05
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I don't think the ideas modern science is based on (official or otherwise) are generally unprovable or illogical.

Time having a beggining, space having limits and structure, both being relative, quantum superposition- all illogical; black holes, wormholes, dark matter, dark energy- all by definition unfalsifiable.

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Without me having to go find a library, read the collected works of the authors you mention

The previous is my opinion, not a stated opinion of these two philosophers. If they would say something like this, they could have never publish their ideas in academia journals, or get heard at pretty much any university in the western world, they would be labbeled "pseudo-scientists", and ostracised by the official scientific community (which happened to many scientists), similar to medieval church excommunicating someone.

Anyways, you can read this here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Feyerabend

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Kuhn

And maybe some works by them could be found online.

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May 27 2012 10:21
fabian wrote:
Time having a beggining, space having limits and structure, both being relative, quantum superposition- all illogical;

"Illogical" in the sense of "in conflict with my intuitive understanding of time, space and particles"?

Relativity is actually well corroborated. There is evidence in support of black holes, though not completely decisive.

"Wormholes" are a high-level hypothesis, not some dogma. Similarly with dark matter and dark energy. Heliocentrism and the phlogiston theory were once such hypotheses; the former was confirmed, the latter rejected. That is how science works. It seems like you're the church-like figure here. I guess in the 17th century you'd be burning heretics for putting forward "illogical" hypotheses.

fabian wrote:
If they would say something like this, they could have never publish their ideas in academia journals,

Perhaps in Social Text they could.

fabian wrote:
And maybe some works by them could be found online.

But none of them, not even Feyerabend's, support your anti-science views.

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May 27 2012 10:47
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"Illogical" in the sense of "in conflict with my intuitive understanding of time, space and particles"?

Illogical as in in contradiction with logic defined as systematization of correct reasoning, also called "classical logic".

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Relativity is actually well corroborated. There is evidence in support of black holes, though not completely decisive.

"Evidence in support of" is nowhere near "evidence of", because it's not evidence at all, only "a possible interpretation of facts that supports a theory".

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"Wormholes" are a high-level hypothesis, not some dogma. Similarly with dark matter and dark energy.

Same thing in this case.

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your anti-science views.

Not anti-science, but anti- "modern cosmological synthesis" or whatever they call it, anti- modern official science.

jolasmo
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May 27 2012 10:47
fabian wrote:
Time having a beggining, space having limits and structure, both being relative, quantum superposition- all illogical

As Jura said, if you mean "illogical" in the sense of not being in line with generally accepted "common sense" then you're quite right, but that's not a strong argument against science being true. If you mean illogical in the sense of not logically defensible, then you're wrong.

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black holes, wormholes, dark matter, dark energy- all by definition unfalsifiable.

These ideas have nothing to do with the basis of modern science.

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The previous is my opinion, not a stated opinion of these two philosophers.

But presumably their work in some way supports your claim that science is unprovable, illogical nonsense? Because otherwise I'm scratching my head to understand why you brought them up. The wikipedia articles on them, which I have read before, certainly don't offer much of a clue.

Quote:
If they would say something like this, they could have never publish their ideas in academia journals,

I agree. If they just stated a position (such as "all science is unprovable and illogical, and essentially no better than superstition") without providing any evidence to back it up or any coherent argument for their position, they would indeed struggle to get published in a reputable academic journal.

Quote:
or get heard at pretty much any university in the western world, they would be labbeled "pseudo-scientists", and ostracised by the official scientific community (which happened to many scientists), similar to medieval church excommunicating someone.

I don't think you have any idea what academia is actually like.

~J.

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May 27 2012 10:55
fabian wrote:
Illogical as in in contradiction with logic defined as systematization of correct reasoning, also called "classical logic".

I call bullshit. Logic is concerned with valid forms of arguments, not with states of affairs in the world.

There is nothing "illogical" about the conclusion that time has a beginning or that time is a four-legged bird:

All birds have four legs.
Time is a bird.
Therefore, time is a four-legged bird.

Valid argument shocker!

fabian wrote:
"Evidence in support of" is nowhere near "evidence of".

Excellent! But it is even farther from "by definition unfalsifiable", which is what you assert.

fabian wrote:
Not anti-science, but anti- "modern cosmological synthesis" or whatever they call it, anti- modern official science.

Neither Kuhn nor Feyerabend provide arguments for an "anti-modern offical science" position. I'd suggest you read their works or at least a philosophy of science textbook.

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May 27 2012 11:15
jolasmo wrote:
If you mean illogical in the sense of not logically defensible, then you're wrong.

I like to proved, not claimed wrong, but I undestand that here it is impossible, because when something is illogical, it's not that is "not proved", but "not provable".

Time itself having a beggining is contradiction in terms, because time is by definition indefinite.

Space itself curving is too a contradition in terms because curving implys structure, and space by definition doesn't have one.

Quote:
But presumably their work in some way supports your claim that science is unprovable, illogical nonsense?

They give a basis for healthy reasoning, they reveal the non sequiturs of modern official science and the existence of paradigms, leading one to see the importance of first principles as benchmarks of correctness and truth.

Quote:
I don't think you have any idea what academia is actually like.

I'd say it's more likely the other way around- that you have accepted the lie of the near infallibility and incorruptibility of official science, exactly as the medieval people accepting "the truth" of christianity and putting trust in the official church.

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May 27 2012 11:15
jura wrote:
Logic is concerned with valid forms of arguments, not with states of affairs in the world.

Wrong. Logic is not only validity, but also soundness.

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There is nothing "illogical" about the conclusion that time has a beginning or that time is a four-legged bird:

All birds have four legs.
Time is a bird.
Therefore, time is a four-legged bird.

Valid argument shocker!

Validness isn't the only thing that constitutes logic. If one premise is not sound, the conclusion is not logical, even if it's valid.

jolasmo
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May 27 2012 11:31
fabian wrote:
I like to proved, not claimed wrong, but I undestand that here it is impossible, because when something is illogical, it's not that is "not proved", but "not provable".

I don't understand what you're asking me to do. You haven't said what the logical inconsistencies in these theories are, so I can't refute them and prove you wrong. I can't argue against you if you don't present an argument.

And as Jura says, if your definition of illogical is "not provable" then that's a radical departure from the normal use of the term "logic".

Quote:
Time itself having a beggining is contradiction in terms, because time is by definition indefinite.

Space itself curving is too a contradition in terms because curving implys structure, and space by definition doesn't have one.

It's certainly not the case that the only possible definition of time is that it's beginningless, or that the only possible definition of space is that it's structureless. Space and time as defined in modern physics do not have these properties.

If you choose to define these things in ways that are at odds with modern scientific ideas, that's fine, but it's not an argument against science, any more than saying "the Earth is by definition a flat disc" or "man by definition was made in God's image".

Quote:
They give a basis for a healthy reasoning, they reveal the non sequiturs of modern official science and the existence of paradigms, leading one to see the importance of first principles as benchmarks of correctness.

But, just to be clear, they provide no evidence or arguments whatever for the claims you are making, correct?

Quote:
I'd say it's more likely the other way around- that you have accepted the lie of the near infallibility and incorruptibility of official science, exactly as the medieval people accepting "the truth" of christianity and putting trust in the official church.

Where are you getting that from? I question your narrative of the way the scientific community behaves, and therefore I believe science is near-infallible and incorruptible? I certainly don't believe anything of the sort.

~J.

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May 27 2012 11:31
fabian wrote:
Time itself having a beggining is contradiction in terms, because time is by definition indefinite.
[...]
and space by definition doesn't have one.

You see, this is the problem. You have certain (intuitive) "definitions" of time and space and then shout "illogical" at science which works with different definitions of the terms.

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May 27 2012 11:38
fabian wrote:
Wrong. Logic is not only validity, but also soundness.

Logic is "about" valid inferences. It does not concern itself with the truth or falsity of premises and conclusions. It is not an empirical science, at least on the consensus prevailing in "modern official science". You can say that does not mean much to you, but then any debate on this with you is basically meaningless, Humpty Dumpty.

fabian wrote:
Valid argument shocker!
Validness isn't the only thing that constitutes logic. If one premise is not sound, the conclusion is not logical, even if it's valid.

Wrong again. An argument is sound iff all of its premises are true AND the argument is valid. Thus, an argument cannot be sound without being valid. It can be valid but unsound, though.

Moreover, premises cannot be "sound". Soundness is a property of arguments and systems. Seriously, go read a fucking textbook.

yourmum
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May 27 2012 12:08

unfortunately not available in english:

Einführung in die Formale Logik

Wissenschaftliche Bemühungen um den Ersatz des Denkens

http://www.gegenstandpunkt.com/vlg/wiss/mphil/mp_3_2.htm

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May 27 2012 12:10

Whats that quote ? What appears like a difference in ideas is often just difference in definitions. It also seems to me like there are a whole lot of words just being chucked around and we are descending into semantics, sound vs valid etc etc

And LBird, I think I can agree with that third way of yours.

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May 27 2012 12:41
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It's certainly not the case that the only possible definition of time is that it's beginningless, or that the only possible definition of space is that it's structureless

But the possible definitions of time and space must not cotradict those properties of time and space.

Time cannot be defined as it have had a beginning, no more that it can be defined as a bird.

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You have certain (intuitive) "definitions" of time and space

Or you have a bias toward the official science (just as an average medieval european did towards christianity) and call rationalistic definitions of time and space "intuitive".

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It does not concern itself with the truth or falsity of premises and conclusions.

It does. No conclusion is logical unless it is sound, and no conclusion is sound unless all premises are true.

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premises cannot be "sound". Soundness is a property of arguments and systems

Lapsus, I meant to say that premises must be true.

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May 27 2012 12:53
fabian wrote:
Quote:
You have certain (intuitive) "definitions" of time and space

Or you have a bias toward the official science (just as an average medieval european did towards christianity)

Well by that 'logic' any bias is akin to any other bias, your pet bias being medieval European's to Christianity.

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May 27 2012 12:59
fabian wrote:
But the possible definitions of time and space must not cotradict those properties of time and space.

This is a vicious circle: You first presuppose that "by definition" time and space have certain properties, and then require that any definition expresses these properties. For this to work at all, you would have to provide empirical evidence that time is indeed infinite and space has "no structure".

Quote:
Or you have a bias toward the official science (just as an average medieval european did towards christianity) and call rationalistic definitions of time and space "intuitive".

They are intiuitive because they conform to experience in everyday life but contradict empirical evidence from other domains. The expansion of universe, for example, is empirically corroborated by phenomena like redshift.

Quote:
It does. No conclusion is logical unless it is sound, and no conclusion is sound unless all premises are true.

Logic does not investigate the truth or falsity of premises. Give me a break ffs, I teach an undergrad course in logic.

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May 27 2012 13:23
fabian wrote:
It does. No conclusion is logical unless it is sound, and no conclusion is sound unless all premises are true.

Again, conclusions cannot be "sound", because that's a property of arguments and systems.

A conclusion is a "logical consequence" of the premises iff the argument is valid. (It's actually not common in logic to call an argument or its conclusion "logical" and I've yet to see a treatise in logic which defines a logical argument as valid and sound. Let me know if you've seen one.) This has nothing to do with the question whether the premises and the conclusion are factually true, i.e. whether the argument is sound.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Entailment

Coming back to the topic, there is nothing "illogical" about the generally accepted ideas in contemporary astrophysics or modern science in general. Of course they may prove to be true or false on empirical grounds, but that's something which happens all the time in science.

jolasmo
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May 27 2012 17:47
Quote:
But the possible definitions of time and space must not cotradict those properties of time and space.

Why not?

Quote:
Time cannot be defined as it have had a beginning

Why not?

~J.

LBird
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May 27 2012 18:25
andy g, post #23, wrote:
I do believe in the possibility of objective knowledge of nature...
andy g, post # 69 wrote:
LBird

can't see how knowledge possessed by humans can be anything but human knowledge

Well, it's either 'objective' or it's 'human', andy.

andy g wrote:
in all your posts you have never coherently put a philosophical argument to defend your view,...

!

andy g wrote:
...despite somewhat sanctimoniously advising others to "take care in framing theirs".

So, now I'm 'sanctimonious', in addition to 'childish'?

What's your problem, mate? I've not said anything insulting to you.

LBird
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May 27 2012 18:44
the croydonian wrote:
And LBird, I think I can agree with that third way of yours.

yeah I think it's a better way of approaching the problem of objectivity versus subjectivity.

For example, it allows us to modify this model of scientific method, given by gurrier on the thread that choccy provided:

Quote:
hypothesis -> test -> refinement of hypothesis -> validation -> reproducibility

Since 'hypothesis' comes from humans, if we 'slot' in before that a step called 'human society' (or another phrase that someone thinks is better), we have:

human society -> hypothesis -> test -> refinement of hypothesis -> validation -> reproducibility

This model of the scientific method allows us to understand that human ideology, ethics, politics, invention, intuition, etc., etc. all play an inescapable part in 'science'.

After all, if 'hypotheses' don't come from humans, where do they come from?

This allows us to escape the Stalinist nonsense about 'nature presenting itself to humans' without human mediation. Remember the 'dialectics' thread and mistaken advice to read Stalin's work?

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May 27 2012 19:04

LBird, that's all agreeable, but seems kind of like reinventing the wheel. Even bourgeois philosophy of science realizes these things today. The two aspects of objectivity I was talking about are straight from a text by Raimo Tuomela (minus the Marx quote).