But now, the pseudoscience isn’t as much of a taboo as it used to be. It’s been embraced by young people, who jokingly ascribe the inconveniences of life — a delayed train, a broken laptop — to Mercury’s retrograde. They know that Pisces are sensitive and Leos are self-involved and Geminis are kind of the worst. They follow astrology podcasts such as “Stars Like Us,” buy zodiac-themed candles and fragrances and crystals, and share astrology memes from Instagram accounts such as Drunk Astrology and Not All Geminis.
“There’s a tendency that if there’s an app for it, it somehow gives it more credibility,” Alcock said.
But the app horoscopes are just like the wrappers: momentarily poignant, but disposable. When you look at your natal chart, you’re the center of the universe. But everyone else is the center of theirs.
There are many questions to which we do not have scientific answers, not because they are deep, impenetrable mysteries, but simply because they are not scientific questions. These include questions about love, art, history, culture, music-all questions, in fact, that relate to the attempt to understand ourselves better. There is a widespread feeling today that the great scandal of our times is that we lack a scientific theory of consciousness. And so there is a great interdisciplinary effort, involving physicists, computer scientists, cognitive psychologists and philosophers, to come up with tenable scientific answers to the questions: what is consciousness? What is the self?
Another article in a long line that discusses the challenges of producing knowledge about human health. Despite scientific methods, producing knowledge is extremely challenging.
“High-quality trials are hard to do because diets, and the behavior of humans who consume them, are so complicated. A single meal might have dozens of nutrients and hundreds of other bioactive substances that interact in unknown ways. Furthermore, if the diet being studied increases intake from one food category, people may eat less from other food categories, making it difficult to attribute results to any specific dietary component.”
Longer read but really thoughtful discussion of the scientific method and its limits but also reflects on the extent to which we can know about things the closer we get to them and the more information we can gather. Some interesting passages quoted below.
“The closer we get to our subject and the more we know, however, the more the scientific method breaks down. An astronomer can feel comfortable calling a faraway star’s path a line, even though it may curve out there at the edge of the universe; he can assume the scientific method has revealed the truth, and it will likely never be disproven. But as a doctor, I can’t focus on a few facts to the exclusion of others, for life is the level on which I work. In the operating room, I see people react differently to anesthesia all the time; I see lines become curves. I see a patient’s facial expression convey more than a supposedly objective measurement. I see the chaos of a dappled skin pattern convey more accurate information than what the scientific method has built out of carefully isolated details.
“And though there is a great deal of variety in how human bodies react, it is nothing compared to the variety and unpredictability of human behavior. This is the level on which social scientists, human scientists, and psychologists work, and, unlike faraway stars, human life is something that we know Continue reading ““The Limits of Science” About the scientific method and its impact, applying it to the human sciences”
This is another in a long line of medical reversals (salt, fat, sugar…). These cases raise a lot of good questions about the nature of scientific knowledge and its production. It also raises good questions about how scientific process can lead to conclusions that ultimately prove to be false.
The evidence is too weak to justify telling individuals to eat less beef and pork, according to new research. The findings “erode public trust,” critics said.
But on Monday, in a remarkable turnabout, an international collaboration of researchers produced a series of analyses concluding that the advice, a bedrock of almost all dietary guidelines, is not backed by good scientific evidence.
“I’m enough of an artist to draw freely on my imagination, which I think is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.” -Albert Einstein
“It doesn’t matter how beautiful your theory is, it doesn’t matter how smart you are. If it doesn’t agree with experiment, it’s wrong.”
There’s a deeper reason to valorize Einstein’s claim about imagination in physics. What I feel he is really saying is that imagination precedes knowledge, and indeed establishes the precondition for it. You might say that when the shape of imagination sufficiently fits the world, knowledge results.
The real point is that imagination in physics is what the paths to the future, to new knowledge, are built from. Actual knowledge – things we can accept as “true”, in the sense that they offer tried and tested ways of predicting how the world behaves – has been assembled into an edifice as wonderful and as robust as the Gothic cathedrals of stone, the medieval representations of the physical and spiritual universe. But at the point where knowledge runs out, only imagination can take us further. I think this is what Einstein was driving at.
Interesting article connecting the issue of language and climate change. This also gets at the fact that we don’t always communicate what we think we are and that different groups of people communicate differently. Frank Luntz, discussed below, often uses the adage: It’s not what you say, it’s what people hear.
The science community is supposed to interpret for the rest of us, but its dialect does not always pack rhetorical oomph. “I didn’t realize that pointing to a climate graph I think is the Rosetta stone — people don’t see it the way I see it,” says Brenda Ekwurzel, director of climate science for the Union of Concerned Scientists. “We as humans don’t experience an exponential curve viscerally, in our gut.”
More on Luntz
Frank Luntz is a popular American pollster but also famous for helping the Republican Party hone its messaging and use of language in the 1990s and 2000s. He authored a famous memo on messaging the “War on Terror.” One can argue with the ethics of what he did (intentionally tying 9/11 and Iraq in people’s minds without ever explicitly making the connection for example) but his work was devastatingly effective. This memo made for much better discussion teaching TOK 10 years ago but I think is very interesting to still study.
Here is Luntz being challenged about another famous memo he wrote on climate change. He has since changed his mind.
Image of Luntz now discussing messaging on discussing climate change.