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Monday, September 16, 2013

The short answer: not so much these days

A PhD candidate quits academia and explains how professional academics have ruined science:
(1) Academia: It’s Not Science, It’s Business
I’m going to start with the supposition that the goal of “science” is to search for truth, to improve our understanding of the universe around us, and to somehow use this understanding to move the world towards a better tomorrow. At least, this is the propaganda that we’ve often been fed while still young, and this is generally the propaganda that universities that do research use to put themselves on lofty moral ground, to decorate their websites, and to recruit naïve youngsters like myself.
I’m also going to suppose that in order to find truth, the basic prerequisite is that you, as a researcher, have to be brutally honest – first and foremost, with yourself and about the quality of your own work. Here one immediately encounters a contradiction, as such honesty appears to have a very minor role in many people’s agendas. Very quickly after your initiation in the academic world, you learn that being “too honest” about your work is a bad thing and that stating your research’s shortcomings “too openly” is a big faux pas. Instead, you are taught to “sell” your work, to worry about your “image”, and to be strategic in your vocabulary and where you use it. Preference is given to good presentation over good content – a priority that, though understandable at times, has now gone overboard. The “evil” kind of networking (see, e.g.,http://thoughtcatalog.com/2011/networking-good-vs-evil/) seems to be openly encouraged. With so many business-esque things to worry about, it’s actually surprising that *any* scientific research still gets done these days. Or perhaps not, since it’s precisely the naïve PhDs, still new to the ropes, who do almost all of it.
(2) Academia: Work Hard, Young Padawan, So That One Day You Too May Manage!
I sometimes find it both funny and frightening that the majority of the world’s academic research is actually being done by people like me, who don’t even have a PhD degree. Many advisors, whom you would expect to truly be pushing science forward with their decades of experience, do surprisingly little and only appear to manage the PhD students, who slave away on papers that their advisors then put their names on as a sort of “fee” for having taken the time to read the document (sometimes, in particularly desperate cases, they may even try to steal first authorship). Rarely do I hear of advisors who actually go through their students’ work in full rigor and detail, with many apparently having adopted the “if it looks fine, we can submit it for publication” approach.
Apart from feeling the gross unfairness of the whole thing – the students, who do the real work, are paid/rewarded amazingly little, while those who manage it, however superficially, are paid/rewarded amazingly much – the PhD student is often left wondering if they are only doing science now so that they may themselves manage later. The worst is when a PhD who wants to stay in academia accepts this and begins to play on the other side of the table. Every PhD student reading this will inevitably know someone unlucky enough to have fallen upon an advisor who has accepted this sort of management and is now inflicting it on their own students – forcing them to write paper after paper and to work ridiculous hours so that the advisor may advance his/her career or, as if often the case, obtain tenure. This is unacceptable and needs to stop....

(8) Academia: The Greatest Trick It Ever Pulled was Convincing the World That It was Necessary
Perhaps the most crucial, piercing question that the people in academia should ask themselves is this: “Are we really needed?” Year after year, the system takes in tons of money via all sorts of grants. Much of this money then goes to pay underpaid and underappreciated PhD students who, with or without the help of their advisors, produce some results. In many cases, these results are incomprehensible to all except a small circle, which makes their value difficult to evaluate in any sort of objective manner. In some rare cases, the incomprehensibility is actually justified – the result may be very powerful but may, for example, require a lot of mathematical development that you really do need a PhD to understand. In many cases, however, the result, though requiring a lot of very cool math, is close to useless in application.
This is fine, because real progress is slow. What’s bothersome, however, is how long a purely theoretical result can be milked for grants before the researchers decide to produce something practically useful. Worse yet, there often does not appear to be a strong urge for people in academia to go and apply their result, even when this becomes possible, which most likely stems from the fear of failure – you are morally comfortable researching your method as long as it works in theory, but nothing would hurt more than to try to apply it and to learn that it doesn’t work in reality.
This is written by a PhD candidate at a European university, but the problems he cites are, for the most part, imported from American universities, in which the problems are reportedly even more severe.  It is worth recalling that most of the great scientific discoveries throughout history were made by amateur scientists, not the professional academic guild that tries to claim ownership of a method and a knowledge base that long pre-dated it.

And it's not just sour grapes from a non-finisher either. One commenter adds: "I agree with everything the author said and more. I am just extremely disappointed at myself for not having seen it all this clearly earlier. It took a Master’s degree, a Ph.D degree and a post-doc at the best institutions in the world, until I started to see academia for what it is: a paper publishing business driven mostly by people who care nothing for the advancement of knowledge."

I think this is why it is helpful to think about science in the tripartite terms I labeled in TIA. One should never confuse scientage or scientody for scientistry.  "Science", as it exists today, is something of a bait-and-switch. What the PhD candidate is describing is scientistry, the practitioners of which have tried to elevate themselves on the basis of the public's high regard for scientage and scientody. This has led to observably absurd statements such as PZ Myers's claiming that "science is what scientists do".

The answer is simple. Defund scientistry. Get rid of the third-rate bureaucrats and managers that have increasingly replaced the first-rate minds that used to dominate science. Return science to the technicians and the amateurs of an earlier, more successful, age.

Another commenter adds an important observation: "Science is NOT a business, science is a charitable venture funded by government. And government is famously incompetent at getting ANYTHING done efficiently or sensibly, because government is also not a business, it lives off the taxpayer, few of whom even follow what their money is being spent on. So science is a big charade where bureaucrats hire committees of “respected” academics to make collective judgments on distributing the government funds, so all the conniving and deal-making and back-stabbing are a natural part of the process. It happens wherever government spends money, not just in science."

That also explains why so many scientists hate libertarians.  They know we see through their scam. 

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98 Comments:

Blogger LP 999/Eliza September 16, 2013 1:03 PM  

Ah, the scientific industrial complex is exposed as all it ever was business/grants, payola, and threats to defund it will be interesting. Something just didn't read properly there.

Blogger LP 999/Eliza September 16, 2013 1:15 PM  

EDIT: AGW exposed as fraud! Correction!

Anonymous Rollory September 16, 2013 1:21 PM  

Richard Feynman's article / talk on "Cargo Cult Science" (available in various places online) says everything that is needed about what science should be and especially in contrast to what it was even then becoming.

Anonymous Josh September 16, 2013 1:30 PM  

Taleb is similarly in favor of the tinkerers rather than the professional lab coat wearing secular priests.

Anonymous Ryan ATL September 16, 2013 1:38 PM  

I love that he linked to Thought Catalog. Basically, it's written by and for sluts in their young 20's. Good times.

Anonymous DrTorch September 16, 2013 1:38 PM  

Saw this earlier today as well.

"Defund scientistry. Get rid of the third-rate bureaucrats and managers that have increasingly replaced the first-rate minds that used to dominate science. Return science to the technicians and the amateurs of an earlier, more successful, age."

That's an interesting proposition. It's not w/o its issues. Big science won't get done. But, I've written many times to science fetishists who crave manned space exploration that there is plenty of science available on Earth, most of which is more interesting and more valuable than manned missions to Mars.

But of course that makes me anti-science.

Anonymous Orville September 16, 2013 1:40 PM  

Josh beat me to it. I'm about half way through Taleb's "Antifragility" and he has much to say on this.

I sometimes find it both funny and frightening that the majority of the world’s academic research is actually being done by people like me, who don’t even have a PhD degree. Following Taleb's approach, these people should bail out of academia, and attempt research on their own. I think it would be far more beneficial, and those many small groups or individuals without viable ideas will die quietly on the vine. Look to the past at Edison, Tesla, Westinghouse, Farnsworth, Zarnoff, Marconi, Wright Brothers, Goddard, etc.

Really, where is the value in "peer review" anymore.

Anonymous Ryan ATL September 16, 2013 1:44 PM  

Hasn't Ted Kaczynski been saying all of this for decades?

Anonymous allyn71 September 16, 2013 1:49 PM  

"Science" and "Academia" as practiced today are two prime examples of systems that have risen up and been distorted by the debt bubble. They will not escape a significant debt contraction unscathed.

Anonymous Axe Head September 16, 2013 1:53 PM  

Bruce Charlton's "Not Even Trying" is a good write up of the dismal state of science:

http://corruption-of-science.blogspot.com/

Anonymous mistaben September 16, 2013 2:21 PM  

Yes. This was me. I bailed when I was ABD in a physics PhD. Beyond the problems of scientistry mentioned above, it was obvious to me that the costs to my character and my family life necessary for me to "succeed" in academia were not worth it. I taught for a couple of years and now happily work in industry.

Anonymous Scalzi's dog September 16, 2013 2:27 PM  

Really, where is the value in "peer review" anymore.

Good for confabs where one can be simultaneously subjected to etiquette rules by McRapey.

Anonymous rycamor September 16, 2013 2:35 PM  

It is worth recalling that most of the great scientific discoveries throughout history were made by amateur scientists, not the professional academic guild that tries to claim ownership of a method and a knowledge base that long pre-dated it.

Yes, my home-schooled daughter is doing a paper on Faraday and was gratified to see that this man who altered the course of modern physic and paved the way for just about all the conveniences we enjoy now had little formal schooling.

One wonders how we could return to that sort of era. The problem is intertwined: the amateur who might conceivably harbor a great scientific mind is so squeezed by work and taxes, and so inhibited by regulations, county ordinances, etc... that he finds it all but impossible to devote his resources to discovery--and I'm sure this is exactly how the elite want it.

Anonymous Boetain September 16, 2013 2:35 PM  

Engineering is where it's at kids. You get to practice science in the real world and actually get things done. Plus, you rarely need more than a BS degree to have a successful career in industry. If you like academia, you can get higher degrees and play the game similar to the science people while still feeling somewhat connected to the real world.

Anonymous civilServant September 16, 2013 2:50 PM  

Return science to the technicians and the amateurs of an earlier, more successful, age.

It is not easy to envision technicians and amateurs alone building the Large Hadron Collider. The ealier more successful age involved simpler concepts. Newton alone could never have built and launched a Hubble Telescope.

Anonymous civilServant September 16, 2013 2:56 PM  

One wonders how we could return to that sort of era.

It would be very easy. Simply reinstitute 18th century living.

Blogger Lud VanB September 16, 2013 2:59 PM  

"Engineering is where it's at kids."

yes...engineering...made possible by science

Anonymous Eric C September 16, 2013 3:00 PM  

yes...engineering...made possible by science

Oh good Lord, here we go...

Blogger Lud VanB September 16, 2013 3:01 PM  

"Really, where is the value in "peer review" anymore."

to be able to tell the Kent Honvinds and the Henry Morris of this world from real scientists?

Anonymous rycamor September 16, 2013 3:02 PM  

snivelServant makes the classic womanish hand-wringing argument we hear with every attempt to wrest back some freedom from the statist beast. "But... but... without the [existing order] the [product of the existing order] would be impossible!"

And we know this exactly... why?

This is a double question-begging, by the way. First, why do we *necessarily* need the product of the existing social order? secondly, even though we may not need it, but we might *want* it, who is to say such a thing would have been impossible if men actually had control over their own resources and freedom enough to pursue these things?

This is like the idiots who think there would be no money if we didn't have taxes, or no public utilities if we didn't have state-sponsored monopolies.

Blogger Lud VanB September 16, 2013 3:03 PM  

"Oh good Lord, here we go..."


well engineering is also called applied science...you have to have science in order to apply it don't you?

Anonymous DrTorch September 16, 2013 3:05 PM  

Oh good Lord, here we go...

Yes, can't wait for the arguments about whether applied science is science.

Blogger Lud VanB September 16, 2013 3:09 PM  

"Yes, can't wait for the arguments about whether applied science is science"


no...the argument is that before science can be applied, it sort of have to be acquired first.

Blogger swiftfoxmark2 September 16, 2013 3:12 PM  

Newton alone could never have built and launched a Hubble Telescope.

He couldn't have built a nuclear bomb either. And then whined about it after he built it.

Anonymous civilServant September 16, 2013 3:13 PM  

makes the classic womanish hand-wringing argument we hear with every attempt to wrest back some freedom from the statist beast.

I am sorry but is anyone making any such attempt to wrest back anything? Certainly no-one here. All I read here is hand-wringing.

Please. Feel free to wrest back science from the bureaucrats and return it to the technicians and amateurs. Your garage beckons. No-one is stopping you. Have at it.

Anonymous Jake September 16, 2013 3:15 PM  

"It is not easy to envision technicians and amateurs alone building the Large Hadron Collider"

That's kind of the point CS. Science would be more focused on things that benefit people and less focused on things that benefit bureaucrats, established scientists, and very-well-connected contractors.

Do you really think the LHC was the best, most important use of however many billions of dollars were spent building it?

Anonymous Jake September 16, 2013 3:19 PM  

Funny. Lud Van B is making precisely the bait-and-switch Vox talked about on in THIS VERY POST. I don't think it's intentional, he just can't make the distinction scientage and scientistry in his own mind.

Blogger JCclimber September 16, 2013 3:23 PM  

civilServant, you must believe that people living in the 18th century somehow just never could be happy, because they didn't have the hubble space telescope. And TV.

All reports and literature from the time period notwithstanding....where it is pretty evident that their happiness index was far higher than modern America's.

Anonymous DonReynolds September 16, 2013 3:24 PM  

In my opinion, the problems cited are the same in the Arts, as well as the Sciences. Defund it. Save a few trees. People who are actually interested in the Arts (and the Sciences) will still do the same work. (The American Thomas Edison was a particularly bright inventor, with three months of formal education, mostly homeschooled. The Serb Nikola Tesla made the modern electric world possible, without having graduated anywhere beyond high school.)

Anonymous Stickwick September 16, 2013 3:24 PM  

Big science won't get done.

I don't think that's necessarily true. One of the big projects based out of my institution is funded in large part by private donations from wealthy individuals; same goes for the colossal (and freely available) astronomical survey I use for my research. Without government funding, some of these projects won't happen, but the ones deemed the most worthwhile by private donors could still easily get funded. Instead of government bureaucrats and a handful of scientists on committees deciding who gets the money, it'll be decided by the private citizens who are potentially paying for this stuff. One benefit of this is that there will be a lot of pressure on scientists to court the public and stop making ludicrous and insulting philosophical statements extrapolated from their work.

In defense of my own field (astrophysics), we're still proud of the tradition of laymen contributing to the field. A number of important astronomical discoveries have been made by amateurs, lately in the area of supernova detections. Robert Evans, a Christian pastor, is currently the record-holder for most visual detections of supernovae. And electrical engineer, Grote Reber, will always be held in high regard as a pioneer in radio astronomy. This tradition will very likely continue into the future, for two reasons: anything to do with space tends to be popular, and currently a great deal of the data and codes used for research are freely available to the public to use for their own purposes. If anyone's interested in astronomy / cosmology, all they have to do is learn to navigate the surveys and run the codes. Meanwhile, experts in my field have adapted to the decrease in public funding by relying more and more on private funding and crowdsourcing. A more libertarian approach to science won't harm astrophysics.

Anonymous Stickwick September 16, 2013 3:29 PM  

Newton alone could never have built and launched a Hubble Telescope.

So? Newton did far more for science than projects like the Hubble and the LHC combined. Einstein likewise made enormous contributions to science without the benefit of a prestigious position and generous government grants.

Anonymous Jake September 16, 2013 3:35 PM  

Nor do I think that the flow of knowledge into applied engineering from "scientist" is as direct or universal as is widely assumed. It happens no doubt, but an awful lot of engineering know-how has never required a certified Ph.D scientist and was developed in garages and small offices with "labs" that might be confused for a storage closet but for the pizza boxes and coffee cups strewn about.

And certainly the vast majority of what goes on inside a university lab has virtually zero chance of showing benefit in the real world (speaking from personal experience as someone who's been hired to create marketable products from university-lab developments 3-4 times over the past 10 years.) Even when such places develop good technology there are massive challenges to commercializing it. Half the time the "experts" aren't entirely sure why it works, and even when they are they have no concept of things like documenting their technology, building it consistently, or meeting a budget/schedule.

Anonymous Johnny Caustic September 16, 2013 3:38 PM  

Another point Charlton has gone over multiple times is the fact that modern academia selects for personalities that are agreeable, conscientious, and having low "psychoticism"--exactly the opposite of those traits found in creative geniuses.

See also this post.

Anonymous rycamor September 16, 2013 3:40 PM  

civilServant September 16, 2013 3:13 PM

makes the classic womanish hand-wringing argument we hear with every attempt to wrest back some freedom from the statist beast.

I am sorry but is anyone making any such attempt to wrest back anything? Certainly no-one here. All I read here is hand-wringing.

Please. Feel free to wrest back science from the bureaucrats and return it to the technicians and amateurs. Your garage beckons. No-one is stopping you. Have at it.


There certainly is someone stopping me. for one thing, 40% of my income goes directly to taxes, and a good part of the rest of my income goes to indirect taxes (in the form of inflation, taxes on everything I consume, inefficiency, bureaucracy, etc...). Then there is the inevitable problem with county ordinances and what-all that I mentioned above.

And there is the added constant insecurity of living with an unpredictable government who could at any point change the rules on me without my having the least say in it.

Now, even given all of the above, if I didn't have a family to support, I probably would be doing a fair amount of tinkering in my garage lab. However, it is pretty much impossible to have a family and be an amateur researcher in this day and age without an independent wealth stream. Keeping the (now and future) wolf from the door becomes an all-consuming problem for too many of us. And the wolf is not only financial. It is interested in our personal life, our children, what we eat, what we think, what we choose to trade with friends... everything. Step out of line in any direction too far and you become subject to intervention.

Anonymous DrTorch September 16, 2013 3:58 PM  

I don't think that's necessarily true. One of the big projects based out of my institution is funded in large part by private donations from wealthy individuals; same goes for the colossal (and freely available) astronomical survey I use for my research.

You're right, it's not necessarily true...but very little big science gets done, b/c it takes a big management system.

I don't know about your astronomical survey, but it's likely VLBA doesn't get built, and many observatories are much smaller or aren't built (VLT, ALMA, Arecibo, etc).

We're also left w/ the question of whether the internet exists w/o gov't science. (And how much would VD hate it if Jobs had created the internet specs).

And there are examples of broad benefits of gov't science: does Townes invent the MASER w/o a good database of microwave frequencies?

I think even a libertarian can believe an argument for some gov't funded science. Doesn't mean everyone will accept it, but a sound one can be made.

Anonymous Orville September 16, 2013 4:09 PM  

Civil Servant says It is not easy to envision technicians and amateurs alone building the Large Hadron Collider. The ealier more successful age involved simpler concepts. Newton alone could never have built and launched a Hubble Telescope.

First those are extreme examples and not the norm.Polywell for one is doing Fusion research on a vastly smaller budget and staff, though they are now getting some Navy funding.

The Hadron may be needed to test out those obscure physics theories, but I did read recently where they now have table top colliders for research purposes. Maybe not suitable for finding the Higgs Boson, but still doable for the small scale folks.

As for the other extreme example, the Hubble and Webb telescopes. Once the Space-X Falcon heavy gets a few successful launches, if there is a demand for placing such a large high-tech piece of equipment in space, there will be a much cheaper and less bureaucratic delivery system available.

Blogger Lawrence September 16, 2013 4:55 PM  

It is not easy to envision technicians and amateurs alone building the Large Hadron Collider. The ealier more successful age involved simpler concepts. Newton alone could never have built and launched a Hubble Telescope.

There's an important message buried in this, but not the one the author intended, I suspect. What is the practical use of the Hadron Collider? What is the practical use of the Hubble Telescope (which was launched half-broken, in any event)?

In a way, these things came before their time. Government(s) subsidize research and programs before they are fully matured and ready for public consumption. The moon landings were spectacular successes, and the space program as a whole had amazing achievements, but they cost immense amounts of time and energy to achieve.

Today private companies and individuals are able to fly into space (relatively) inexpensively. The technology behind space travel has matured considerably and the barrier to entry is lower. Supposing the entire economy doesn't crash -- a very brave assumption -- the cost of space travel should continue to decrease until eventually launching a Hubble Telescope would be no big deal. That is when a private group of amateurs and technicians could launch their space telescope and learn about the universe on the cheap. Has Hubble granted us some special practical knowledge that was worth the vast price tag associated with it?

In other words, were the billions of dollars expended on these white elephant projects worth the return? Even if we were to accept government sponsorship of scientific research, the relatively cheap Voyager and Pioneer programs offered far more bang for the buck in terms of knowledge gained.

Blogger Eric September 16, 2013 5:53 PM  

yes...engineering...made possible by science

The distinction between the two is artificial.

Blogger Phoenician September 16, 2013 6:02 PM  

Another commenter adds an important observation: "Science is NOT a business, science is a charitable venture funded by government. And government is famously incompetent at getting ANYTHING done efficiently or sensibly, because government is also not a business, it lives off the taxpayer, few of whom even follow what their money is being spent on.

Uh-huh.

Dipshit.

Anonymous civilServant September 16, 2013 6:09 PM  

Science would be more focused on things that benefit people and less focused on things that benefit bureaucrats, established scientists, and very-well-connected contractors.

When it comes to spending money most people want it spent on themselves for the here-and-now. Few want to see money spent on vague research investment that may or may not benefit them in the future. Investment simply is not capitalistically sound. Much better to let others pay for the research. If there are any benefits to be had then those can be harvested later. This is capitalism. Yes?

Libertarians are especially prone to this kind of thinking. "Why is the rest of the country not fighting to maintain my rights?"

Do you really think the LHC was the best, most important use of however many billions of dollars were spent building it?

I would not know. We shall see.

Newton did far more for science than projects like the Hubble and the LHC combined. Einstein likewise made enormous contributions to science without the benefit of a prestigious position and generous government grants.

One may so stipulate. Feel free to continue in their fine tradition. No-one is stopping you.

There certainly is someone stopping me. for one thing, 40% of my income goes directly to taxes, and a good part of the rest of my income goes to indirect taxes (in the form of inflation, taxes on everything I consume, inefficiency, bureaucracy, etc...). Then there is the inevitable problem with county ordinances and what-all that I mentioned above.

This sounds so impotent. I have read that the speed of light initially was calculated using a bright light and a rotating mirror on a mountain twenty-three miles distant. I have read that the gravitic constant initially was measured using two large lead balls and a candle flame and a thread. The scientific heros cited above performed most of their work using mathematics. And so on. None of this seems particularly money or labor or law intensive. So get on the ball and show us all how it is done. May I suggest John Galt's secret lab as an inspiration.

It is not easy to envision technicians and amateurs alone building the Large Hadron Collider. The ealier more successful age involved simpler concepts. Newton alone could never have built and launched a Hubble Telescope.

First those are extreme examples and not the norm.


Actually my point is that in many cases these large-scale projects are in fact the norm for "cutting-edge" work and thus these projects are not accessible to individuals short of Tony Stark and thus there will be other people's money involved and thus we are where we are. If anyone has a better way then feel free.

Anonymous VD September 16, 2013 6:24 PM  

well engineering is also called applied science...you have to have science in order to apply it don't you?

Theology is also called the queen of sciences. And for a science fetishist, you're woefully ignorant about science. Engineering doesn't come from science, science comes from engineering. In most cases, the tools get built and then someone figures out how they can be used for research. Not the other way around.

Taleb's Antifragile has some good bits on this.

Anonymous VD September 16, 2013 6:26 PM  

to be able to tell the Kent Honvinds and the Henry Morris of this world from real scientists?

It's irrelevant. The Kent Hovinds and Henry Morrisses are producing as much relevant science as the average professional academic scientist. And they do it a lot less expensively.

Anonymous VD September 16, 2013 6:32 PM  

Uh-huh. Dipshit.

You are almost SPECTACULARLY stupid, Phoenician. You're arguing for the efficiency of government spending by linking to someone else citing MEDICARE, STUDENT LOANS, and THE MILITARY!

Bankrupt, bankrupt, and non-productive.

Now, I'm not into credentialism, but apparently this is what happens when a cognitively-challenged librarian attempts to critique a discussion that is taking place between PhDs and PhD candidates at one of the top technical universities in the world.

Stick to trying to sort out the alphabet, Phony.

Anonymous Stickwick September 16, 2013 6:44 PM  

One may so stipulate.

One may so stipulate, because it's effectively beyond debate. We are not, contra your assertion, past a time when extremely meaningful science can be done without enormous, very expensive public projects. Have you noticed that, in spite of all of the wonderful enormous, very expensive public projects*, there haven't been any big paradigm-shattering discoveries in physics since the quantum revolution?

* NB: A lot of very good science has been done with these projects, so I'm not dissing them. Not to mention that my own work would not be possible without them. However, it remains to be seen if any of the work done leads to major shifts in thinking.

Blogger Lud VanB September 16, 2013 7:18 PM  

"Theology is also called the queen of sciences. And for a science fetishist, you're woefully ignorant about science. Engineering doesn't come from science, science comes from engineering. In most cases, the tools get built and then someone figures out how they can be used for research. Not the other way around."


I see...so basically what you re saying is that you don't need to understand metallurgy, electricity or the laws of aerodynamics in order to build a plane...got it.

Blogger Lud VanB September 16, 2013 7:19 PM  

"It's irrelevant. The Kent Hovinds and Henry Morrisses are producing as much relevant science as the average professional academic scientist. And they do it a lot less expensively."

can you name one piece of relevant science ever produced by Kent Hovind or Henry Morris?

Blogger Lud VanB September 16, 2013 7:21 PM  

"The distinction between the two is artificial."


no they are not. science is knowledge. engineering is a way to apply this knowledge to practical purposes.

Blogger Lawrence September 16, 2013 7:26 PM  

"no they are not. science is knowledge. engineering is a way to apply this knowledge to practical purposes."

Flat out wrong. Science is a method, not knowledge in itself. Scientists have been wrong many times before, but the Scientific Method is very applicable for certain things.

Often, as Vox has stated, discoveries are made in a practical fashion first and only later is the underlying science discovered. Consider that the Romans built structures out of cement without any knowledge of modern chemistry. They simply found out (possibly through trial and error) that when you mix certain things together, you get a useful compound for building structures.

There is this misconception that the theory must predate the practice, when more often than not it's the reverse process.

Blogger Lawrence September 16, 2013 7:30 PM  

I see...so basically what you re saying is that you don't need to understand metallurgy, electricity or the laws of aerodynamics in order to build a plane...got it.

This is a terrible example. The Wright brothers were basically glorified bicycle mechanics, and they managed to work the thing out. This actually SUPPORTS, not refutes, Vox's assertion that amateurs and technicians do the thing better often times.

Blogger Lud VanB September 16, 2013 7:34 PM  

"Flat out wrong. Science is a method, not knowledge in itself. Scientists have been wrong many times before, but the Scientific Method is very applicable for certain things."


Science comes from the latin word scientia which literally means knowledge. the scientific method is a method. science is the knowledge that is acquired though this and other methods.

"Often, as Vox has stated, discoveries are made in a practical fashion first and only later is the underlying science discovered. Consider that the Romans built structures out of cement without any knowledge of modern chemistry. They simply found out (possibly through trial and error) that when you mix certain things together, you get a useful compound for building structures."


thanks for making my case for me by admitting that the romans had to understand how cement works before they could make cement structures but I m capable of making my own case.

"There is this misconception that the theory must predate the practice, when more often than not it's the reverse process."

forgive me for asking but do you know what the word theory means?

Anonymous VD September 16, 2013 7:35 PM  

I see...so basically what you re saying is that you don't need to understand metallurgy, electricity or the laws of aerodynamics in order to build a plane...got it.

Correct. The first people to build ever planes didn't. Neither did the man to build the first jet engine. You simply don't need to understand how things work in order to make them work.

can you name one piece of relevant science ever produced by Kent Hovind or Henry Morris?,

No, they haven't produced any, that's the whole point. But they don't produce relevant science a lot cheaper than most professional scientists don't produce relevant science.

Anonymous VD September 16, 2013 7:38 PM  

Science comes from the latin word scientia which literally means knowledge. the scientific method is a method. science is the knowledge that is acquired though this and other methods.

And you're back to the bait-and-switch. Scientody is the method. Scientage is the knowledge. Scientistry is the profession. The profession has increasingly little to do with either the method or the knowledge. That's what the young PhD candidates in the sciences are complaining about.

They want to do scientody and increase scientage. They are being forced to do scientistry BS instead. That is why they are very unhappy.

Blogger Lud VanB September 16, 2013 7:38 PM  

"This is a terrible example. The Wright brothers were basically glorified bicycle mechanics, and they managed to work the thing out. This actually SUPPORTS, not refutes, Vox's assertion that amateurs and technicians do the thing better often times."

its a very good exemple in the case of modern planes but if were going with the first plane built by the wright brothers, they still required a basic understanding of which material they would use to build it as well as the laws of aerodynamics so the thing could actually fly

Blogger Lud VanB September 16, 2013 7:40 PM  

"Correct. The first people to build ever planes didn't. Neither did the man to build the first jet engine. You simply don't need to understand how things work in order to make them work."


the first people to build a plane didn't understand aerodynamics? are you joking?

Blogger Lud VanB September 16, 2013 7:42 PM  

"And you're back to the bait-and-switch. Scientody is the method. Scientage is the knowledge. Scientistry is the profession. The profession has increasingly little to do with either the method or the knowledge. That's what the young PhD candidates in the sciences are complaining about."


I m sorry...I missed the part where you explained to me that you don't know to have knowledge in order to apply this knowledge to practical purposes.

Blogger Lawrence September 16, 2013 7:42 PM  

Science comes from the latin word scientia which literally means knowledge. the scientific method is a method. science is the knowledge that is acquired though this and other methods.

Science =/= to knowledge (regardless of its Latin root word), otherwise my knowledge that Constantinople fell to the Ottoman Turks would be considered science, which it quite obviously is not.

thanks for making my case for me by admitting that the romans had to understand how cement works before they could make cement structures but I m capable of making my own case.

Your sarcasm and poor grammar aside, you missed the point entirely. The Romans learned how to make use of cement without necessarily understanding the underlying chemical processes that made it work. Your assertion is the functional equivalent of a man falling on a sharp stick, dying by being impaled, and then his buddy saying "science" when he suddenly understands sharp sticks kill things.

forgive me for asking but do you know what the word theory means?

Do you? In the example above, a man witnessing someone else fall on a sharp stick has made no theories about sticks. He merely knows the practical application: sharp sticks impaling people can kill them. Consider that the Greeks used various fungi as healing agents long before antibiotics were "discovered" by science in the 1920s. The Greeks did not know of bacteria or the chemical receptors that enabled penicillin to kill those bacteria... but some of them DID understand that certain fungi, when ingested, lessened sickness.

Blogger James Dixon September 16, 2013 7:43 PM  

> When it comes to spending money most people want it spent on themselves for the here-and-now. Few want to see money spent on vague research investment that may or may not benefit them in the future. Investment simply is not capitalistically sound. Much better to let others pay for the research. If there are any benefits to be had then those can be harvested later. This is capitalism. Yes?

No, it's not. Your understanding of capitalism is somewhat lacking.

> I see...so basically what you re saying is that you don't need to understand metallurgy, electricity or the laws of aerodynamics in order to build a plane...got it.

How much of those did the Wright brothers understand?

Anonymous MrGreenMan September 16, 2013 7:43 PM  

@Lud Van B

Science comes from the latin word scientia which literally means knowledge. the scientific method is a method. science is the knowledge that is acquired though this and other methods.

Called so much in advance...

You have clung to the weakest but most self-serving definition of the language. The grammatical structure of languages, how to bake a cake, or how to make a fast compiler would never be called "science", except by appealing to the most powerless but self-serving definition, holding it as your secret definition, then eventually being forced to divulge that all things - including theology - are science, by your operational definition, to say - science is everything, science is nothing, all hail the false and empty idol.

PZ Myers was more accurate and truthful in describing science as "that which people who have the job title scientist or researcher do." That's an actual definition that can discriminate between what is and is not science better than your twaddle.

Why do people point to Newton and Bacon and others as having invented science? Why do so many angry atheists claim science was invented to escape from Christianity ... if this toothless word, science, just means the collected wisdom of humanity?

And it's not like this tactic is new, either; it's always this retreat and deception on definitions. This should get a name, like Godwin's Rule -- I'm sure Vox has named it some sort of scoundrel's rule in the Voxicon -- because, although I was hoping for some entertainment - oh, to be presented someone of worth to listen to an alternate perspective from! - but, not you; you play a predictable and tired old game. Just hang it up.

Anonymous mistaben September 16, 2013 7:54 PM  

Lee Smolin's "The Trouble with Physics" is a fun survey of scientific revolutions and a fascinating exploration of the social problems among practitioners of scientistry. It is horrifying seeing the ways they have been stunting (if not preventing outright) the next revolutionaries from ever sticking to physics long enough to come up with their great ideas.

Anonymous Anonymous September 16, 2013 7:56 PM  

I see...so basically what you re saying is that you don't need to understand metallurgy, electricity or the laws of aerodynamics in order to build a plane...got it. - Lud VanB

Metallurgy, electricity, and aerodynamics can be developed in industry. Ohm's law doesn't stop working because a scientist forgot, this year, to renew its peer reviewed status.

Lud VanB is an example of the Dennett's bait and switch: Digging around the pre-Cambrian is valid use of tax payers money, because aeroplanes fly.

Anonymous Augustina September 16, 2013 8:41 PM  

Tenured PhD's do so little lab work because they spend most of their time holed up in their offices begging for money. The whole grant writing process is designed to weed out off the wall insights. Instead, it encourages conventional thinking and scientific fads.

And graduate students are no longer the lab workhorses. They are precious commodities. Most of the work now gets done by low paid lab techs like myself and undergraduate students.

Anything government funded results in vast mismanagement of resources. I dropped out of my PhD program because I decided I didn't want to write government grants for a living.

And it is true that the modern PhD scientist is a compliant and conventional thinker. I have seen them cower before the bureaucrats who can shut them down over small discrepancies in compliance. Compliance. They must be compliant first and foremost.

Blogger Lud VanB September 16, 2013 9:14 PM  

"Science =/= to knowledge (regardless of its Latin root word), otherwise my knowledge that Constantinople fell to the Ottoman Turks would be considered science, which it quite obviously is not."

and why not exactly? understanding how Constantinople fell to the Ottoman turks is knowledge that could one day be put to practical application, could it not? you imply a difference where none actually exists.


"Your sarcasm and poor grammar aside, you missed the point entirely. The Romans learned how to make use of cement without necessarily understanding the underlying chemical processes that made it work. Your assertion is the functional equivalent of a man falling on a sharp stick, dying by being impaled, and then his buddy saying "science" when he suddenly understands sharp sticks kill things."


and just what is the fundamental difference between knowing that mixing certain components will produce cement and knowing the underlying chemistry of the whole process which then allows you to make specific formulas of cement that can be tailored to specific uses besides of course the level of understanding. you still have to know how to make cement before you can make cement.

Blogger Lud VanB September 16, 2013 9:23 PM  

"You have clung to the weakest but most self-serving definition of the language. The grammatical structure of languages, how to bake a cake, or how to make a fast compiler would never be called "science", except by appealing to the most powerless but self-serving definition, holding it as your secret definition, then eventually being forced to divulge that all things - including theology - are science, by your operational definition, to say - science is everything, science is nothing, all hail the false and empty idol."

I didn't say that science is everything and nothing. I said science is knowledge. Science is understanding how things work. why phenomena occur the way they do. it is true from the simplest level of understanding to the most advanced. and every single feat of engineering ever accomplished by man has required a minimum level of understanding to be acquired BEFORE said feat could be undertaken in the first place. hipso facto; science precedes the practical application of science.

Blogger Lud VanB September 16, 2013 9:29 PM  

"How much of those did the Wright brothers understand?"

I m not sure if electricity was involved in the working of the engine they used for the propeller but they still needed enough knowledge of the resistance of the material they used so the device would not fly apart the moment it lifted of and a basic understanding of aerodynamics so the device would actually lifts itself off the ground.

Anonymous A Visitor September 16, 2013 9:32 PM  

It reminds me of some of the professors I had a second hand knowledge of in grad school. When I heard their research areas, I thought to myself, "You have to be kidding?!?" What was truly frightening is the first years (I was a second year at this point, our program was two years) were not getting solid grounding in the basics that are needed to succeed in our field. Truly shameful.

How much of those did the Wright brothers understand? I don't know but I do know my dad personally knew the doctor that pronounced Orville dead. If you like morbid humor, let me know and I would be happy to tell the story.

Anonymous Idle Spectator September 16, 2013 9:36 PM  

Tenured PhD's do so little lab work because they spend most of their time holed up in their offices begging for money. The whole grant writing process is designed to weed out off the wall insights. Instead, it encourages conventional thinking and scientific fads.

And graduate students are no longer the lab workhorses. They are precious commodities. Most of the work now gets done by low paid lab techs like myself and undergraduate students.


Yes. Modern science blows.


When I heard their research areas, I thought to myself, "You have to be kidding?!?"

We really need to scale back some of this specialization.


Finish the fucking story, Visitor.

Anonymous A Visitor September 16, 2013 10:27 PM  

So, my dad knew this doctor back in the '80s (my dad, for those that remember is a doctor) when he was in residency. They get to talking one time and he tells my dad he pronounced Orville Wright dead. The doctor (who is according to my dad most likely deceased now) said he got called in and there on a slab was Orville Wright. He's asked to pronounce him officially dead and does it like any other corpse. I guess one of the nurses or another doctor had a hissy fit and asked, "Do you know who that is? That's Orville Wright!" The doctor said, "Correction, that WAS Orville Wright."

Anonymous Orville September 16, 2013 10:30 PM  

Lud VanB, not only are you deaf to music, you are deaf to logic. you still have to know how to make cement before you can make cement I was told how to make cement as a teenager 1 bucket of cement, 2 buckets of sand, 3 buckets of gravel, or something like that age has dulled the memory, but I didn't know squat about the chemistry. You prattle on about how the Wright Brothers obviously knew all the aerodynamic theories and formulas, else their little plane would come apart, but you fail to consider the trial and error nature of all their models before that successful flight. The same trial and error that led to cement formulations.

You are a brainwashed science cult zombie.

Anonymous Dr. Idle Spectator, MIT Materials Science September 16, 2013 10:41 PM  

I was told how to make cement as a teenager 1 bucket of cement, 2 buckets of sand, 3 buckets of gravel, or something like that age has dulled the memory, but I didn't know squat about the chemistry.

Do you hear about them finally rediscovering Roman Cement in July? Add lyme and volcanic ash. Apparently it is even better than what we are using currently. They are going to try to reintroduce it to market.

Surely the Romans did not know anything about modern chemistry (no Periodic Table until Boyle and Lavoisier), and they still bested us.

You prattle on about how the Wright Brothers obviously knew all the aerodynamic theories and formulas,

They still don't perfectly understand turbulence in 2013. And yet, planes still fly.

They have not proven the Navier-Stokes Equations for fluid mechanics completely. And yet, water still flows out of the faucet.

Anonymous Jake September 16, 2013 10:59 PM  

Lud VanB doesn't even understand what is being attacked and what he is defending. He's so invested in his distorted vocabulary he can't keep it straight for himself, much less argue with people here.

We have a post about the failings of modern academia to practice sound and useful science. They do not contribute significantly to our wealth of knowledge, yet they suck vast sums of resources away from better uses. Modern scientistry (what is what is under attack by this post) is accused of, just like any government activity, being a useless, bureaucratic, parasitic machine designed to leech money from the public while hiding behind the prestige of REAL science.

How does Lud respond? By pointing to airplanes, metallurgy, cement, aerodynamics. And in every case we see SCIENCE practiced by lay people, in garages, businesses, steel mills, or lost in the depths of history. Somehow in Lud's mind the Wright brothers (who I loathe, dirty patent trolls, but smart guys still) are proof that it's good that we have academic bureaucrats who call themselves "scientists" living on the public teet and contributing nothing.

In Lud's mind, an attack on academia is an attack on SCIENCE. It the same as the people who hear "we shouldn't have government schools" and respond "HOW CAN YOU BE OPPOSED TO CHILDREN GETTING EDUCATED!!! THINK OF THE CHILDREN!!!!" Most truly intelligent people know you don't go to a public school to be educated (many know all too well), similarly, you don't look to a government-sponsored bureaucracy for innovative, beneficial, ground-breaking, paradigm-changing research. But in the minds of a sheeple, government schools = education, and academia = science.

Blogger Lud VanB September 16, 2013 11:18 PM  

"Lud VanB, not only are you deaf to music, you are deaf to logic. you still have to know how to make cement before you can make cement I was told how to make cement as a teenager 1 bucket of cement, 2 buckets of sand, 3 buckets of gravel, or something like that age has dulled the memory, but I didn't know squat about the chemistry."

could you make cement BEFORE someone explained to you how to make cement? why are you arguing against the logical statement I made, which is to say that acquisition of knowledge comes BEFORE the practical application of knowledge?

"You prattle on about how the Wright Brothers obviously knew all the aerodynamic theories and formulas, else their little plane would come apart, but you fail to consider the trial and error nature of all their models before that successful flight. The same trial and error that led to cement formulations."


I will thank you to stop lying about me. I said that the Wright brothers needed to have a basic understanding of the laws of aerodynamics before they could design an aerodynamic device and a working understanding of the strength and weaknesses of the material they were using to build their device so it would be light enough to lift itself off the ground while bring sturdy enough not to fly apart the moment it did. and what is research if not a process of attempting to discover through trials and errors?

Blogger Lud VanB September 16, 2013 11:26 PM  

"Lud VanB doesn't even understand what is being attacked and what he is defending."


I am defending my earlier statement that acquisition of knowledge precedes ALL practical application of that knowledge and I couldn't care less about your pet peeves concerning academia.

Blogger Jake September 17, 2013 12:56 AM  

acquisition of knowledge precedes ALL practical application of that knowledge

That's obvious and needs neither be stated nor defended. It is also totally beside the point. It does nothing to defend scientistry or to refute Vox's statements. What is at issue is not that one must acquire knowledge to apply it (doh) but how that knowledge is acquired, verified, and communicated. The modern concept of "science" as the work of credentialed, peer-reviewed, PhD's working for government grants in virtually total isolation from the needs/desires of the market is what is under attack here. This academia scientistry != science. It is fraud and bureaucracy exploiting the legitimacy of the true science for it's own ends.

Anonymous VD September 17, 2013 3:17 AM  

I am defending my earlier statement that acquisition of knowledge precedes ALL practical application of that knowledge and I couldn't care less about your pet peeves concerning academia.

And that is obviously false. You have repeatedly failed to understand the difference between knowledge concerning how and why something works and knowledge required to make something work.

You don't seem to grasp that knowledge is very often acquired FROM practical application in the form of trial-and-error, therefore the practical application logically HAS to precede the acquisition of the knowledge.

Anonymous map September 17, 2013 4:02 AM  

I don't understand this conversation. The Wright brothers did not have any basic understanding of metallurgy and aerodynamics. They observed birds flying or read Da Vinci's work and then cobbled together airplanes through trial and error.

The Romans developed cement through trial and error. They had no understanding of modern chemistry.

The reason why trial and error works is the reason why there is a difference between knowing "how" and knowing "that." I can know "that" something works without knowing "how" something works.

Anonymous Sigyn September 17, 2013 7:36 AM  

Lud, I happened to "know" that if you don't sear a roast before putting it in the oven, it's going to dry out. So I was told by my "ancestors" in cooking. This is common knowledge.

It's also false.

How do I know? By using the ACTUAL scientific process. I controlled as much as I could for all possible variables and roasted several roasts, some with searing and some without. Guess what? No difference, except in flavor (that seared crust is tasty).

All acquired knowledge is not science. You can only apply the label "scientific knowledge" to those things that have been rigidly tested and confirmed; that's why one of its key components is "can be replicated under the same conditions".

In fact, isn't that the standard atheistic complaint about theism? "It's not scientific because you can't replicate it"? Haven't you said that yourself at some point? Or are you willing to admit, at last, that religious IS science?

Blogger Lawrence September 17, 2013 9:52 AM  

I am defending my earlier statement that acquisition of knowledge precedes ALL practical application of that knowledge and I couldn't care less about your pet peeves concerning academia.

Considering the vast number of historical examples (see the discover of penicillin for a great example) of people making major discoveries entirely by accident, I would say this is completely false. Sometimes practical application doesn't even come first.

You know this is true, however. This is why you retreated from Science as an academic topic to Science as "all knowledge." Yesterday I ate a Taco Bell burrito. Later on, I farted. This is not science. Tonight one of my favorite comedians is in town. This is not science either. If you want a word that encompasses a body of knowledge... you use "knowledge." Philosophy might count as a relevant word as well. But if science were all knowledge, we would have to concede that Paris Hilton is a scientist, because minimal though it might be, she still possesses some knowledge, and practices it.

Which means even if we were to use your definition, an admission no one here is willing to make, you would STILL be conceding Vox's fundamental point that amateurs and technicians do a better job of it than academia.

Blogger Lawrence September 17, 2013 10:01 AM  

Do you hear about them finally rediscovering Roman Cement in July? Add lyme and volcanic ash. Apparently it is even better than what we are using currently. They are going to try to reintroduce it to market.

I was reading that article earlier -- it's why I used the example. The Romans were amazing engineers. The Pantheon dome is still the largest non-reinforced concrete dome in existence. Hopefully this will come to market soon.

We will never know how the Romans came up with their formula, most likely, but it does do a great job of demonstrating that one doesn't need to be a chemist to make a useful compound.

Anonymous Anonymous September 17, 2013 10:19 AM  

Upon actual experiment, my data doesn't fit my thesis.
Oh, wait. Lest significant digit.

Ahhhh, THERE we go!

CaptDMO

Blogger James Dixon September 17, 2013 12:04 PM  

> ...but they still needed enough knowledge of the resistance of the material they used so the device would not fly apart the moment it lifted of and a basic understanding of aerodynamics so the device would actually lifts itself off the ground.

Knowledge which they gained by experimentation. They had no knowledge of those things before they started. They only knew that flight was possible.

Anonymous E. PERLINE September 17, 2013 2:01 PM  

I think we realize what may work after seeing what others around us have tried and been unsuccessful at--we build on the failures of others. That, with some head scratching, and dead ending, and an occasional flash of enlightenment, is how science advances for all of us. The others deserve some credit too because their failures have contributed to the whole process.

Anonymous E. PERLINE September 17, 2013 2:25 PM  

Planet Earth uses its time to try new species, and governments uses its money to develop new models, but governments seem to have reached their limit.

What makes me shake my head is that news item about the shootout in D.C. The building, only a 3-story place, has 3.000 people working inside. And there are many Navy Dept. buildings throughout the world.

Anonymous Anonymous September 18, 2013 12:51 AM  

Jake wrote: **Half the time the "experts" aren't entirely sure why it works, and even when they are they have no concept of things like documenting their technology, building it consistently, or meeting a budget/schedule**

Jake, point here, it may not, strictly speaking, be necessary to know WHY something works, in order to use it (if it is useful). Provided you know what to do to make it work, you can still use it.

Anonymous Anonymous September 18, 2013 12:57 AM  

VD wrote: **You don't seem to grasp that knowledge is very often acquired FROM practical application in the form of trial-and-error, therefore the practical application logically HAS to precede the acquisition of the knowledge.**

Not all the time, I heard that radio waves were predicted mathematically, before people were able to make radio broadcasters and recievers.

Anonymous Anonymous September 18, 2013 12:58 AM  

VD wrote: **You don't seem to grasp that knowledge is very often acquired FROM practical application in the form of trial-and-error, therefore the practical application logically HAS to precede the acquisition of the knowledge.**

Not all the time, I heard that radio waves were predicted mathematically, before people were able to make radio broadcasters and recievers.

Blogger Lud VanB September 18, 2013 7:40 AM  

"Knowledge which they gained by experimentation. They had no knowledge of those things before they started. They only knew that flight was possible."


yes...knowledge acquired through experimentation and THEN put to practical application

Blogger Lud VanB September 18, 2013 7:42 AM  

VD wrote: **You don't seem to grasp that knowledge is very often acquired FROM practical application in the form of trial-and-error, therefore the practical application logically HAS to precede the acquisition of the knowledge.**

so then the practical application of cutting metal with a blowtorch precedes the discovery of how to channel flames through a metal tube using pressurized gas?

Blogger Lud VanB September 18, 2013 7:59 AM  

This comment has been removed by the author.

Blogger Lud VanB September 18, 2013 8:06 AM  

"Considering the vast number of historical examples (see the discover of penicillin for a great example) of people making major discoveries entirely by accident, I would say this is completely false. Sometimes practical application doesn't even come first."

how does the means of discovery of a given piece of knowledge makes it possible to put that specific knowledge to engineer a practical application for it BEFORE its actual discovery? because that's essentially what you just said here.

"You know this is true, however. This is why you retreated from Science as an academic topic to Science as "all knowledge." Yesterday I ate a Taco Bell burrito. Later on, I farted. This is not science. Tonight one of my favorite comedians is in town. This is not science either. If you want a word that encompasses a body of knowledge... you use "knowledge." Philosophy might count as a relevant word as well. But if science were all knowledge, we would have to concede that Paris Hilton is a scientist, because minimal though it might be, she still possesses some knowledge, and practices it."

first off I never retreated from anything since the first comment where I used the word academia is this very one. I m not nor have I ever been interested in discussing the merits and flaws of academia as a whole with christian religionists because the primary reason why you dismiss its potential uses as a matter of course is because you already have all the knowledge you believe you will need to carry out your christian duties...namely to preach the word of your god Christ and await his supposed return here on earth. If I believed as you did, I probably wouldn't see the point of academia either. Philosophy isent knowledge. its a way to approach knowledge and decide what to do with it. And the difference between you observing you can light your own fart and someone else observing they can light other natural gases and figure out a way to use that knowledge towards practical purposes is the difference between walking a yard and walking 10 miles...namely the difference is breadth.

Anonymous Toby Temple September 18, 2013 8:54 AM  

so then the practical application of cutting metal with a blowtorch precedes the discovery of how to channel flames through a metal tube using pressurized gas?

Are so saying that cavemen learned how to make paint prior to making those cave paintings?

Blogger Lawrence September 18, 2013 12:10 PM  

how does the means of discovery of a given piece of knowledge makes it possible to put that specific knowledge to engineer a practical application for it BEFORE its actual discovery? because that's essentially what you just said here.

Because it is possible to do things by accident. Trial-and-error is, in its essence, attempting to create accidents until a desired result is achieved. This is fundamentally different than the Scientific Method, which posits that one should pursue the theoretical knowledge, and then test it.

Also, you are conflating discovery of "how" with discovery of "why." It is possible to know the "how" without knowing the "why" and vice-versa.

I m not nor have I ever been interested in discussing the merits and flaws of academia as a whole with christian religionists because the primary reason why you dismiss its potential uses as a matter of course is because you already have all the knowledge you believe you will need to carry out your christian duties...namely to preach the word of your god Christ and await his supposed return here on earth.

This is so amazingly unintelligent and trollish that I almost declined to reply. For one, if you aren't interested in discussing the merits and flaws of academia with Christians, why are you doing it now? You claim that Christians dismiss all knowledge because they think they already know everything of value. I suppose it would be news to you, then, that Copernicus, Galileo, Da Vinci, Newton and many other intellectual giants were, in fact, Christians. The only way your assertion could be true is if all scientists were Atheists, which is obviously false.

On a side note, please learn proper grammar. Grammar need not be perfect, for most of us make mistakes from time-to-time, but yours is so atrocious that it must be pointed out. If you wish to defend an intellectual position, it would behoove you to do so intelligently.

Blogger Lud VanB September 18, 2013 1:53 PM  

"Are so saying that cavemen learned how to make paint prior to making those cave paintings?"


yes...how could it have been otherwise?

Blogger Lawrence September 18, 2013 2:56 PM  

yes...how could it have been otherwise?

I don't think cavemen would have been standing around discussing theories on how to make paint, something they would have had no conception of. More likely, some idiot cut himself on a rock, and the bloodstain looked vaguely familiar, like looking at a cloud and saying it looks like an antelope. Perhaps another caveman had the brilliant idea that other creatures had blood too, so they didn't have to hurt themselves whenever they wanted to draw pictures on rocks.

The first caveman would be the trial-and-error, and the second caveman the engineer. None of them would have had any clue on the subject of biology or chemistry. Perhaps other cavemen stumbled upon better things to paint caves with, eventually, in similarly random accidents.

Anonymous Anonymous September 18, 2013 11:59 PM  

Lawrence wrote: **You claim that Christians dismiss all knowledge because they think they already know everything of value.**

I would say it would be accurate to say that a great many Christians will dismiss a lot of knowledge if it happens to contradict what they would prefer to believe regarding their religion. Which I find incredibly arrogant, because if God exists, presumably he is either the source of (or in complete compliance with) all truth and knowledge, so to deny knowledge is ultimately to deny God.

** I suppose it would be news to you, then, that Copernicus, Galileo, Da Vinci, Newton and many other intellectual giants were, in fact, Christians.**

I'd be a bit careful with that. Galileo was persecuted by the church and Isaac Newton was an alchemist. I'm not sure that alchemy is exactly approved of by the Christian religion.

Anonymous Anonymous September 19, 2013 12:06 AM  

Regarding knowing the 'why' of things. Knowledge is regressive to finer and finer levels. The first farmer probably operated on no more knowledge than if he threw some seeds around in random spots, some of them would sprout the following year. Later farmers probably learned that soil that had been cleared (by fire or plow) and certain types of soil, and certain amounts of water meant a better yield for the crops. Later, some early botanists figured out that saving the best seeds and replanting them would mean better plants the next year. A long time after that, Gregor Mendel came up with the idea of genetic inheritance, and we are still not completely done arguing about that one. Behind genetic inheritance is still other knowledge, such as chemistry, physics, quantum mechanics and who knows what else. It will be a very long time, if ever, before the human race has answered all the 'why's' of everything.

Still, the first farmers didn't need to know any of that, all they needed to know was that if they threw seeds around near their cave, they would usually get at least SOME plants coming up the next year, to increase their food supply and save them some walking.

Anonymous Anonymous September 19, 2013 12:06 AM  

Regarding knowing the 'why' of things. Knowledge is regressive to finer and finer levels. The first farmer probably operated on no more knowledge than if he threw some seeds around in random spots, some of them would sprout the following year. Later farmers probably learned that soil that had been cleared (by fire or plow) and certain types of soil, and certain amounts of water meant a better yield for the crops. Later, some early botanists figured out that saving the best seeds and replanting them would mean better plants the next year. A long time after that, Gregor Mendel came up with the idea of genetic inheritance, and we are still not completely done arguing about that one. Behind genetic inheritance is still other knowledge, such as chemistry, physics, quantum mechanics and who knows what else. It will be a very long time, if ever, before the human race has answered all the 'why's' of everything.

Still, the first farmers didn't need to know any of that, all they needed to know was that if they threw seeds around near their cave, they would usually get at least SOME plants coming up the next year, to increase their food supply and save them some walking.

Anonymous Anonymous September 19, 2013 12:06 AM  

Lawrence wrote: **You claim that Christians dismiss all knowledge because they think they already know everything of value.**

I would say it would be accurate to say that a great many Christians will dismiss a lot of knowledge if it happens to contradict what they would prefer to believe regarding their religion. Which I find incredibly arrogant, because if God exists, presumably he is either the source of (or in complete compliance with) all truth and knowledge, so to deny knowledge is ultimately to deny God.

** I suppose it would be news to you, then, that Copernicus, Galileo, Da Vinci, Newton and many other intellectual giants were, in fact, Christians.**

I'd be a bit careful with that. Galileo was persecuted by the church and Isaac Newton was an alchemist. I'm not sure that alchemy is exactly approved of by the Christian religion.

Anonymous Eric Otness August 03, 2014 10:44 AM  

"This is so amazingly unintelligent and trollish that I almost declined to reply. For one, if you aren't interested in discussing the merits and flaws of academia with Christians, why are you doing it now? You claim that Christians dismiss all knowledge because they think they already know everything of value. I suppose it would be news to you, then, that Copernicus, Galileo, Da Vinci, Newton and many other intellectual giants were, in fact, Christians. The only way your assertion could be true is if all scientists were Atheists, which is obviously false."

Yeah, I agree. In fact the Scientific Method and to some degree Science itself was even founded, or at least heavily improved upon by the Christians, and the Christians are probably the first group to actually have it actually work with little problem with everyone (while the Middle East, China, and the Ancient Greeks and Romans did to some degree have science-like principles, a lot of them also feuded with philosophers, priests, and the like). Actually, a lot of the scientists who were atheists (eg, Voltaire) weren't actually scientists at all, but just cheerleaders who don't actually have any experience at all in actually conducting science. I really hated the Enlightenment because of it trying to destroy Christianity.

"On a side note, please learn proper grammar. Grammar need not be perfect, for most of us make mistakes from time-to-time, but yours is so atrocious that it must be pointed out. If you wish to defend an intellectual position, it would behoove you to do so intelligently."

Yes, though one must keep in mind that not even the use of proper grammar is a guarantee that someone is intelligent. After all, a lot of recent philosophers such as Sartre, Foucault, Baudrillard, and the like used quite astute and sophisticated grammar (not to mention a lot of big words), yet their teachings were quite frankly very stupid. You can even get an example of how people with proper grammar are talking stupid things with these quotes from the video game Earthbound regarding the Stoic Club:

*Normal guy: Didactically speaking, seminal evidence seems to explicate the fact that your repudiation of enthropy supports my theory of space-time synthesis. Of this, I am irrefutably confident.

*Blond man: You guys can't envision the final collapse of capitalism? Incredible!

*Sailor's wife: I've finally awakened the inner me, the true self. The patrons of this club are able to stare into their own soul hard enough to burn a hole in their psyche. I'm now comfortable enough to stare at the real me, the true self, and burn the impression into my super-ego. I want to be in this comfort zone at any time, all the time or at no time. My id is telling me... What? What? Magic cake? You came all this way just to eat my Magic cake?
>>Yes
>>No

Yeah, you can probably see how, despite the astute grammar, their teachings were frankly stupid (the guy preaching the final collapse of capitalism [implying he was a communist or at least a socialist] is the worst of the bunch as the game Earthbound was released AFTER the USSR and most of Eastern Europe fell).

"I'd be a bit careful with that. Galileo was persecuted by the church and Isaac Newton was an alchemist. I'm not sure that alchemy is exactly approved of by the Christian religion."

First of all, Galileo was not actually persecuted by the Church simply for claiming heliocentrism. He was criticized because he was pushing an agenda when it wasn't even proven. And he didn't even get that serious of a punishment. Just placed under house arrest, and even then he was still allowed to see his niece. It's a common misconception that Galileo was punished for not thinking the same as them. That actually conflicts with Christianity creating science in the first place. I can't comment on Newton, though.

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