In Defense of Scientism

In science, the jury is always out. This is because science is a methodological approach to the world, not a set of inflexible principles or a catalog of indisputable facts. Truth is always provisional. Science does not hold something to be incontrovertibly true. It says, “This appears to be true according to the best available theory and evidence.” On science, the jury long ago returned a verdict: it is awesome. It has conquered deadly diseases and eradicated oppressive superstitions. It has increased human flourishing and extended life expectancies. It has put humans on the moon and many fathoms under the ocean’s surface. It has uncovered the forces that guide the crudest motions of matter and those that govern the most exquisite processes of life. In short, it has vastly improved human existence while dramatically increasing our knowledge of the universe.

Despite all this, skeptical philosophers and pundits continue to forward arguments against scientific “arrogance”—or against what they see as science’s hubristic attempt to crowd out other forms of understanding and discourse. In recent years, these arguments have focused on what is called “scientism,”

The version of scientism we will be defending here is the version advocated by Pinker, Harris, Dawkins, and Tyson; the simple contention that we, as a society, should use the principles of science—skepticism, experimentation, falsification, and the search for basic explanatory principles—to determine, however clumsily and slowly, how the world works and what the best and most effective social policies are. If we want to determine the best marginal tax rates, we shouldn’t dredge up some dogma or other or cite the authority of a dead economist. Instead, we should examine and weigh the evidence, compare the merits of competing theories, and then aim for the most reasonable rates.

Why people believe the Earth is flat and we should listen to anti-vaxxers

Science communication has lost its sense of empathy and misunderstands how fear can alter a person’s belief system.

When we feel so fundamentally disenfranchised, it’s comforting to concoct a fictional universe that systemically denies you the right cards. It gives you something to fight against and makes you self-deterministic.

It provides an “us and them” narrative that allows you to conceive of yourself as a little David raging against a rather haughty, intellectual establishment Goliath.

Is the Immediate Playback of Events Changing Children’s Memories?

Looking at a video right after an event can overlay and alter the actual memory of the experience, experts say.

What would have happened if I let my daughter watch the video right after her experience? According to Dr. Siegel she would have quickly moved from being a participant to being a more distant observer.

“A half-hour after the show, instead of being able to languish and enjoy the rich bodily sensations and emotions that accompany autobiographical experience and memory and narrative, she’s now being thrust into the observer autobiographical experience because she’s watching herself on the screen,” he said.

Mental Models: The Best Way to Make Intelligent Decisions (109 Models Explained)

Screen Shot 2019-06-01 at 11.50.02 PM.pngMental models are how we understand the world. Not only do they shape what we think and how we understand but they shape the connections and opportunities that we see. Mental models are how we simplify complexity, why we consider some things more relevant than others, and how we reason.

A mental model is simply a representation of how something works. We cannot keep all of the details of the world in our brains, so we use models to simplify the complex into understandable and organizable chunks.


“This is not a pipe” because the map is not the territory

Screen Shot 2019-06-01 at 11.35.49 PM.pngThe initiator of these observations was the Polish-American scholar Alfred Korybski. He most likely influenced Magritte’s art. Korzybski said “The Map is Not the Territory”. What he means is that the territory is the world and the map a generalization we use to make sense of it. It also proposes that we don’t have unmediated contact with the external world/reality (Expand your World). Korybski saw that language was at the same time the thing that made possible cultural development of the human race and at the same time the one that harmed it’s perception (Expand your World). When we communicate an experience, we often use generalizations in our words, and those generalizations leave out the things that made that event unique; they leave out the concrete experience, which results in a small abstraction of things out of a whole.

For more on the concept, “the map is not the territory”

The Map Is Not the Territory

Celebrating the Eclipse That Let Einstein Shine

On that day in May, two scientific expeditions were finally putting his theory of general relativity to the test. In Sobral, Brazil, and on Príncipe Island, off the western coast of Africa, two teams were viewing a total solar eclipse; in measuring the deflection of starlight by the sun’s gravitational field, they proved Einstein right.

“His equations allowed cosmology to become a science,” John Barrow, the cosmologist, wrote in an email. “Before him, cosmology was like a branch of art history. You could imagine any type, shape or form of universe you liked.”

But Einstein’s equations, he added, “are more sophisticated than any others in science. They describe whole universes. Every solution of Einstein’s equations describes an entire possible universe that is consistent with the laws of physics.” Since 1916, Dr. Barrow noted, Einstein’s equations — matched to astronomical observations — have revealed static universes, expanding universes, accelerating universes, and universes that are rotating, oscillating, cyclic, distorted, irregular, chaotic, inflationary, and eternal.