Monday, July 13, 2009

Public and Scientists View On Science

In case you may have missed this, the latest Pew Research Center survey related to science has just been published. It is very much in synch with the last Science and Engineering Indicator as far as public opinion and understanding of science goes.

It is also of no surprise that the public like science and regard it as important. However, as I've mentioned earlier, they really don't quite know what science is, why it is important, and how it operates. So the support is based on not on an understanding of science, but rather on its perceived importance. It also means that they can't distinguish between what is a scientifically valid idea versus something that isn't. Look at the glaring discrepancies in the survey on "Differences Between Scientists and Public Go Beyond Evolution".

There's very little that isn't unexpected in the result of this survey. It simply reinforces what I have mentioned all along, and that the "battle" is ongoing and far from being anywhere we can be happy with.



OilIsMastery said...

Since scientists have abandoned observation and experiment and replaced it with imagination and mathematics, I'm not sure anyone knows what science is anymore.

ZapperZ said...

How would you know?

This is a load of crock. I'm an experimentalist, and as far as I can tell, experiment and empirical observation is STILL the final word on the validity of anything in science. The criticism of string theory by many IS due to its lack of empirical verification.

So where do you get off on making such nonsensical statement?


Cantium said...

There you go guys, both overstating your case so detente ends up as trench warfare! Look at the common ground.
Oills has a very good basic point Zz which is crucial for the future of physics to recognise. I'm sure YOU haven't abandoned induction but it's 'head in the sand' to think it's only string theory that's the problem.
Imagination is fine when backed up with evidence. That inconvenience seems to often to have been dropped. Math is also fine as a tool in Physics, but not a repacement! Or do you think that's a load of old crock?

ZapperZ said...

You have made a bunch of superficial statement. Where exactly did I "overstated" my case?

I find it strange that no one here saw the irony in OillsMastery post. He claimed that "scientists have abandoned observation and experiment". Yet, that statement ITSELF has no "observation and experiment"! Is this based on explicit, proper study of "scientists" and what they do?

That is why I questioned on what he knows to be able to make such a statement. It seems that it is OK if he is questioning scientists doing something based on a set of rules, but somehow, those rules do not apply to HIM!

Again, what a load of crock! You can't use something and argue that it is "crucial" to the future of science when it is based on some superficial observation! If you think it is THAT crucial, then it is imperative that it is based on solid evidence, not some guess work! So people, apply the SAME RULE to your own set of conclusion, why don't you?


Canticle said...

A 'load of crock' is overstating Zz. Oills did of course overstate HIS point, but he still had a point worthy of debate.

You come over very tetchy and agressive. I'm sure you don't mean to so maybe it will help to be aware.

My take on Oills point is that many Scientists are now happy just to be 'deductive'. Fine you may say, but this can have big issues compared to the pure 'inductive' method. The problems are all philosophically well known, social, language, all prejudices.

We're also dealing with theoretical physics not your own area. So I could do a 10 page list of things with no real conclusive evidence yet, starting with Black Holes and singularities!

You said yourself we're not yet somewhere it's comfortable to be. I don't believe we'll GET anywhere more comfortable, or move on, till theoretical physicists start doing the hard work and testing their ideas inductively.

I think Penrose was right in 'Road to reality', (have your read it?) we've been fooling ourselves for too long now and need to get back closer to the scientific method.

Or do you really think it's worth while to put so much time and effort into P branes, multiverses and double figure dimensions when there's real work to be done?

ZapperZ said...

First of all, read the recent Helen Quinn's article in Physics Today on what a "scientific method" is. You state it as if this is something well-defined.

Secondly, I stand by my claim that what Oills has stated is a load of crock. Why? It appears that he thinks he is able to make a statement without any valid evidence. What does he thinks this is? Politics, where one can simply say something and that's that? Would you like to look at his other comments on this blog that are equally ridiculous? In other words, there's a pattern and a motive here!

Your example of blackholes doesn't wash. While we may not have any "direct" evidence for them (as if there is such a thing as a "direct" observation"), there are plenty of observations that are CONSISTENT with their presence. In other words, people simply aren't making things up without any physical impetus. The same can be said about Dark Energy and Dark Matter. But even then, we will not accept them without more valid and convincing evidence. That's why we continue to study them! That's the whole point of doing science, and why we continue to expand the boundaries of our knowledge!

To simply claim that "scientists have abandoned observation and experiment" is a blatant lie! Considering that the LARGEST division of the APS is the condensed matter/material science division, made up of people who study things that are based on experiments that we can perform, such claim is not even close to being true! He made it sound as if the majority of scientists do string theory and other esoteric areas of science. This is blatantly false and based on total ignorance.

So this is what you are defending?


Canticle said...

Fair point Zz, but I feel I am quite clear about the scientific method, which is more rigorous than most seem happy with these days. It's been discussed to death philosophically since Bacon. But that doesn't mean excluding intuition and imagination, the ARE the quantum physics of our brains. and I agree with Poppers view that not to be able to challenge old ruling paradigms " dangerous for physics, and indeed for mankind". Indeed we know much ruling paradigm has problems to be resolved. But the present culture calls too many people crackpots before even bothering to check the existence let alone quality of actual evidence!
So, and I agree in many areas but not all (yet!), the biggest danger to our future will come from being too self satisfied and 'head in the sand' about use of the 'scientific method'. (To paraphrase AE, ..the only thing infinate is our capacity for self delusion). We need to stop trying to convince ourselves and others how clever we are, be clearer about the pitfalls and teach it better.

ZapperZ said...

As an experimentalist, my automatic response would be "Show me a better methodology!"

Unless you have some secret technique that you are not telling the rest of the world, as far as I know, a verification by science has the highest degree of certainty than a verification by any other methodology. Did I just say something that is FALSE here?

Now don't get me wrong. I'm not claiming that ALL of science has the SAME highest degree of certainty. Phenomena in condensed matter, for example, has some of the highest, if not THE highest, degree of certainty, due to our ability to manipulate many parameters, often one at a time, to allow such clear and unambiguous study of the physics. That's why if you look at "h" and "e" and see how CODATA defines those values, you'll see that they came out of condensed matter experiment. No, what I'm saying is that until something is considered to be a scientific evidence, and science has a clear set of description for it, it doesn't have the same high degree of certainty. It is why many of the pseudoscience nonsense such as "The Secret" and many psychics try to use science as the "explanation" for many of the things they believe it.

I also don't know how this somehow translates to having my "head in the sand". As scientists, we ALWAYS looking for other BETTER things! That's the nature of the JOB! To state that we are simply happy with what it is and toe the party line is exhibiting one of the "ignorant" statement that I've listed in one of my "Imagination Without Knowledge is Ignorance Waiting To Happen" characteristics! I've said all I need to say about that already.


Anonymous said...

Oftentimes things are not what they appear, so empirical observation really isn't terribly valid. On the other hand most "scientists" blissfully believe what they were taught by intellectual organizations with the money to do so, so they must be right. Never mind that theories are just theories.

Anonymous said...

Not entirely sure the last time anyone was able to do actual experiment and empirical observation related to anything to do with string theory. String cheese yes, string theory, nope. So-called science is chock full of it must be so by process of elimination, not illumination. A multi-billion dollar CERN accelerator will determine if a hunch is accurate for a theory, otherwise they have to alter the theory with another hunch and another experiment. While sure it can be exciting if we believe hard enough, it is also not the method my bank will give me a loan on my house.