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Thread: What does science need to survive?

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    What does science need to survive?

    I'm thinking of doing a video on the Islamic Golden Age and the parallels with the current situation in modern science. I've pondered what things a scientific society requires to persevere, and I've thought of four things:

    1. Infrastructure (both intellectual and physical)

    2. Intellectual freedom (from both political and economic pressure)

    3. Secularism

    4. Tolerance

    Are there any I've missed?
    "Occam" is the name of the alien race that will enslave us all eventually. And they've got razors for hands. I don't know if that's true but it seems like the simplest answer."

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    Widespread communication to share information.
    Training in the scientific method and critical thinking.
    Enough education, both broad based and narrowly focussed, to accurately interpret the data you collect. Including experience as well as book knowledge.
    And the most important item, minds open to results that contradicts one's expectations.
    "I'm planning to live forever. So far, that's working perfectly." Steven Wright

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    Quote Originally Posted by parallaxicality View Post
    I've pondered what things a scientific society requires to persevere, and I've thought of four things:
    I'm not sure what you mean by a "scientific society" and whether that is the same thing as "science" (and therefore what things which needs to survive).
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    I am not sure about this one. A person can do good science alone, (Galileo) but a scientific society just tolerates scientists? Is that it? I am unsure about the compare and contrast nature of the Islamic Golden Age in this. It kind of begs the question about that. Is that when Omar Khayyam wrote his 13th C atheistic masterpiece?
    sicut vis videre esto
    When we realize that patterns don't exist in the universe, they are a template that we hold to the universe to make sense of it, it all makes a lot more sense.
    Originally Posted by Ken G

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    1. A environment of plenty for which play and experimentation can take place. Less time spent obtaining food and putting a roof over your head and more time taking time to pause and look around your environment. You can't do this much if your running down an antelope for hours on end, skinning, cutting and then cooking the antelope and then tanning the skin, breaking the bone down to make needles so you can sew the skin into cloth. Then you have to spend the next day or two finding your next antelope. Doesn't leave a lot of time for play and experimentation.

    2. A medium for recording the results of experiments. Sometimes brains are not enough, especially if we need to see if the experiments vary by location.

    3. Political stability to permit the cross-checking and validation between experiments conducted separately. Two warring tribes are not likely to share much. Tribes warring against other tribes who are at war with others means experiments don't get validated much.

    4. Political direction to allocate resources towards experimentation must happen. Bounties are not enough, mediums are not enough, and stability is not enough. The desire for verifiable results must exist. This can be for several reasons including the pursuit of advantage over others. This can mean that stability can be not especially stable, just stable enough.

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    5. Funding.
    There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact.
    Mark Twain, Life on the Mississippi (1883)

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    A breakthrough. We have never invested so much as in recent times, yet not much to show for it. Promising candidates like M theory have not delivered. Technology yes, but understanding of the universe, not much.

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    Quote Originally Posted by gzhpcu View Post
    A breakthrough. We have never invested so much as in recent times, yet not much to show for it. Promising candidates like M theory have not delivered. Technology yes, but understanding of the universe, not much.
    Maybe not in subatomic physics, but that's hardly all of Science.

    Biology, for one, has recently had the CRISPR/Cas9 breakthrough.

    Astronomers are discovering new, weird planets all the time. Worlds that are right out of sci-fi.
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    Maybe Hossenfelder’s book “Lost im Math” points the way: obsession with beautiful equations...

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    Quote Originally Posted by parallaxicality View Post
    I'm thinking of doing a video on the Islamic Golden Age and the parallels with the current situation in modern science. I've pondered what things a scientific society requires to persevere, and I've thought of four things:

    1. Infrastructure (both intellectual and physical)

    2. Intellectual freedom (from both political and economic pressure)

    3. Secularism

    4. Tolerance

    Are there any I've missed?
    One curious mind is the only thing I can come up with and it is not reliant on anything else.
    Solfe

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    Critical thinking.

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    Quote Originally Posted by gzhpcu View Post
    A breakthrough. We have never invested so much as in recent times, yet not much to show for it. Promising candidates like M theory have not delivered. Technology yes, but understanding of the universe, not much.
    This is perhaps a bit cliche, but I think there is some truth to it, and because there is to some extent (I believe, though many do not) a law of diminishing returns. The first million dollars you invest will give you much more than the last million dollars in a trillion dollars of funding. It's also because a lot of the things that could be discovered without lots of money have already been discovered. Finding out that two things of different weight dropped from a tower will hit the ground at the same time is a fundamental experiment that can be done with a tower and two heavy balls and some observers. Trying to find the Higgs boson cannot be done with that kind of equipment.
    As above, so below

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    Apart from the Higgs particle, what has CERN achieved?

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    Quote Originally Posted by gzhpcu View Post
    Apart from the Higgs particle, what has CERN achieved?
    I think you have to be careful with that question, because I think it is based on a misunderstanding. Do you mean CERN the organization, or the LHC? I suspect that you mean the LHC, because if you are going to talk about CERN during its whole history, there is, for example... The WWW, which was developed there?

    If you restate it to say "the LHC," then yes there is that argument. I have heard people say that the LHC was a machine built to discover the Higgs. I don't know how true the statement is, however. I would suspect that it's partly true but not fully true.
    As above, so below

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    Sure, I meant the Large Hadron Collider... supersymmetry and string theory are mathematically beautiful, but still undetected.

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    Quote Originally Posted by gzhpcu View Post
    Sure, I meant the Large Hadron Collider... supersymmetry and string theory are mathematically beautiful, but still undetected.
    Article from September 2018
    I am often asked, why do we continue to run experiments, smashing together protons, if we’ve already discovered the Higgs boson? Aren’t we done? Well, there is still lots to be understood. There are a number of questions that the standard model does not answer. For example, studies of galaxies and other large-scale structures in the universe indicate that there is a lot more matter out there than we observe. We call this dark matter since we can’t see it. The most common explanation to date is that dark matter is made of an unknown particle. Physicists hope that the LHC may be able to produce this mystery particle and study it. That would be an amazing discovery.

    Just last week, the ATLAS and Compact Muon Solenoid collaborations announced the first observation of the Higgs boson decaying, or breaking apart, into bottom quarks. The Higgs boson decays in many different ways – some rare, some common. The standard model makes predictions about how often each type of decay happens. To fully test the model, we need to observe all of the predicted decays. Our recent observation is in agreement with the standard model – another success.

    More questions, more answers to come
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    Quote Originally Posted by Swift View Post
    Originally Posted by parallaxicality
    I've pondered what things a scientific society requires to persevere, and I've thought of four things:
    I'm not sure what you mean by a "scientific society" and whether that is the same thing as "science" (and therefore what things which needs to survive).
    I'm still interested in an answer, because when I think of this, I think of two very different things: what science (or the enterprise of science) needs and what a larger human society based on science needs. And I note that people have been addressing both of these in thread.
    Last edited by Swift; 2019-Jan-07 at 01:40 PM. Reason: typo
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    Quote Originally Posted by gzhpcu View Post
    A breakthrough. We have never invested so much as in recent times, yet not much to show for it. Promising candidates like M theory have not delivered. Technology yes, but understanding of the universe, not much.
    I disagree very strongly with this statement. Arguably the recognition of plate tectonics completed the conversion of geology from a descriptive/observational science to one with solid theoretical foundations and predicitive capabilities. In the half century since that occurred our understanding of the evolution of the Earth has undergone a radical transformation, one that has increasingly been expanded to include other planets. We are now at a point where we are constructing more general concepts that will allow us to characterise the nature and development of diverse planetary bodies and systems. To suggest that our investment in this field has "not much to show for it" is ill informed.

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    Applogize, Iwas ferring t particle
    Quote Originally Posted by Eclogite View Post
    I disagree very strongly with this statement. Arguably the recognition of plate tectonics completed the conversion of geology from a descriptive/observational science to one with solid theoretical foundations and predicitive capabilities. In the half century since that occurred our understanding of the evolution of the Earth has undergone a radical transformation, one that has increasingly been expanded to include other planets. We are now at a point where we are constructing more general concepts that will allow us to characterise the nature and development of diverse planetary bodies and systems. To suggest that our investment in this field has "not much to show for it" is ill informed.
    apologize, was referring to particle physics,

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    Quote Originally Posted by gzhpcu View Post
    apologize, was referring to particle physics,
    No apology necessary. I can see that your remarks might well be applicable to that field. I had taken it as a more general reference to all scientific results. Thank you for your gracious reply.

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    I'd still go with a need for money.
    There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact.
    Mark Twain, Life on the Mississippi (1883)

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    Quote Originally Posted by Swift View Post
    I'm still interested in an answer, because when I think of this, I think of two very different things: what science (or the enterprise of science) needs and what a larger human society based on science needs. And I note that people have been addressing both of these in thread.
    I suggest society does not really need science, by which I mean technology can progress empirically with no scientific understanding and societies can manage quite well with basic technologies. However science needs the enquiring mind with no necessary application in that mind. The applications will follow as less scientific types match up needs with the science. Historically the enquiring minds were self funded but now we have society adding loads of cash but expecting practical results. Society cash is handled by representatives who might be guilty of vanity projects, but often science has to be blue sky, as they say. We might hope that scientists themselves can choose useful projects but this is not necessarily so.

    The question is rather open in two ways, i.e. which science and what is survival? Then the OP brings in the Islamic golden age which is a side swipe that begs the question. Viz. The question assumes that the Islamic golden age was an age of science. I am not sure about that. It was an age of collecting and storing knowledge from around the known world, as I understand it, but my idea of science started with the age of enlightenment. Perhaps Parallaxicality can illuminate this?
    sicut vis videre esto
    When we realize that patterns don't exist in the universe, they are a template that we hold to the universe to make sense of it, it all makes a lot more sense.
    Originally Posted by Ken G

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    Quote Originally Posted by profloater View Post
    I suggest society does not really need science, by which I mean technology can progress empirically with no scientific understanding and societies can manage quite well with basic technologies.
    I disagree with that in multiple ways.

    First, I don't consider an empirical method not to be science. If you are doing an empirical experimentation, even without a theoretical underpinning, you are doing science. Ultimately, science requires both the theory and the experiment. But those two prongs of science often advance at different rates, with one or the other leading, and not always "hand in hand".

    Second, the advance of technology is going to severely limited (if not impossible) without science, at least how I am defining science (which includes empirical methods and engineering). You seem to be defining science as just theoretical. Even then, at some point the technological advances will stop without the theory.

    Third, you say "societies can manage quite well with basic technologies". I am not sure what that means. Yes, I guess a stone age society can survive with only "basic" (stone age) technology (I guess it is another argument as to whether the invention of those technologies involved 'science'). But we are not living in those societies any longer. I struggle to think how our modern society can survive without science.

    And survival for our society isn't just inventing new technologies. It is also dealing with all the problems of the modern world. I don't know how a society will deal with pollution, overpopulation, climate change, disease, maintaining infrastructure, etc., etc. without science and a scientific mindset.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Swift View Post
    I disagree with that in multiple ways.

    First, I don't consider an empirical method not to be science. If you are doing an empirical experimentation, even without a theoretical underpinning, you are doing science. Ultimately, science requires both the theory and the experiment. But those two prongs of science often advance at different rates, with one or the other leading, and not always "hand in hand".

    Second, the advance of technology is going to severely limited (if not impossible) without science, at least how I am defining science (which includes empirical methods and engineering). You seem to be defining science as just theoretical. Even then, at some point the technological advances will stop without the theory.

    Third, you say "societies can manage quite well with basic technologies". I am not sure what that means. Yes, I guess a stone age society can survive with only "basic" (stone age) technology (I guess it is another argument as to whether the invention of those technologies involved 'science'). But we are not living in those societies any longer. I struggle to think how our modern society can survive without science.

    And survival for our society isn't just inventing new technologies. It is also dealing with all the problems of the modern world. I don't know how a society will deal with pollution, overpopulation, climate change, disease, maintaining infrastructure, etc., etc. without science and a scientific mindset.
    Fair enough if we count empirical experiments as science without theory, then science goes back a long way, like the Saratoga axle bearing, or the wick lamp or the bow and arrow and so on. I am using a definition of science as working toward a theory and testing hypotheses in a fundamental way. My favourite example is Hadfield steel which work hardens and made railways possible. Hadfield used a crucible and intuition with no atomic or chemical theory and invented that high manganese steel. I would call Hadfield (one of my heroes) an engineer and metallurgist in the alchemic tradition but not a scientist. But if we call him a scientist too then you are absolutely right. Aristotle thought flies spontaneously popped into existence from his observations, was he scientific or just a good observer?
    sicut vis videre esto
    When we realize that patterns don't exist in the universe, they are a template that we hold to the universe to make sense of it, it all makes a lot more sense.
    Originally Posted by Ken G

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    Quote Originally Posted by profloater View Post
    Fair enough if we count empirical experiments as science without theory, then science goes back a long way, like the Saratoga axle bearing, or the wick lamp or the bow and arrow and so on. I am using a definition of science as working toward a theory and testing hypotheses in a fundamental way. My favourite example is Hadfield steel which work hardens and made railways possible. Hadfield used a crucible and intuition with no atomic or chemical theory and invented that high manganese steel. I would call Hadfield (one of my heroes) an engineer and metallurgist in the alchemic tradition but not a scientist. But if we call him a scientist too then you are absolutely right. Aristotle thought flies spontaneously popped into existence from his observations, was he scientific or just a good observer?
    I don't know (to your last question). I don't think it is a black and white thing. I think part of it is whether one changes ones ideas (whether or not they qualify as a Hypothesis) as one gathers new observations, or whether you have a preconceived idea to which you try to force your observations to fit your idea, no matter what.

    But it all goes back to my question about the question - the answer depends a lot on how one defines the terms.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Swift View Post
    I don't know (to your last question). I don't think it is a black and white thing. I think part of it is whether one changes ones ideas (whether or not they qualify as a Hypothesis) as one gathers new observations, or whether you have a preconceived idea to which you try to force your observations to fit your idea, no matter what.

    But it all goes back to my question about the question - the answer depends a lot on how one defines the terms.
    I agree and i would like to know more about that Golden Age reference. Looking at what you said about the big problems of living today, then that is perhaps another question for science. It seems the science of global warming, over population and huge bombs is pretty clear. Even if everybody agreed about the science, the problem of improving those issues is more to do with human behaviour.
    sicut vis videre esto
    When we realize that patterns don't exist in the universe, they are a template that we hold to the universe to make sense of it, it all makes a lot more sense.
    Originally Posted by Ken G

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    What has helped me as a non-professional is to separate the objective (empirical) elements from the subjective (e.g. opinions) elements. Science is objective-based but conclusions are normally subjective. The ability to test the claims made by any hypotheses or theory is not an option, it's a requirement. This gives science the strength of self-correction and praise is given to those who do it, though it is said that it is easier once the original scientists have died.

    Some science comes with degrees of confidence and for topics like climate change these are important terms to help guide public actions, though epistemic overconfidence can be a stealthy problem. So it can be, as Swift notes, not a black and white thing.

    I once tried to qualify the important aspects of objective and subjective claims with the Green Rules. I suggest you will appreciate these only to serve as an example of epsitemic overconfidence.

    1a) The objective elements of any subjective claim are open to scientific scrutiny.

    1b) The subjective claim is also affected by the manner in which the subjective claim uses the objective claim for basis/support/justification.

    2) Science has influence upon subjective claims in proportion to the weight science can bear upon the objective elements within them. This weight is a product of the strength that science has in that area of knowledge and the amount of exposure provided by the objective elements within the subjective claim.

    3) Subjective claims have no direct influence on science.
    We know time flies, we just can't see its wings.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Swift View Post
    I don't know (to your last question). I don't think it is a black and white thing. I think part of it is whether one changes ones ideas (whether or not they qualify as a Hypothesis) as one gathers new observations, or whether you have a preconceived idea to which you try to force your observations to fit your idea, no matter what.

    But it all goes back to my question about the question - the answer depends a lot on how one defines the terms.
    Science's produce is also a body of highly cohesive knowledge.

    It is built on operational and theoretical definitions, some of which have been tested to a depth easily forgotten by any given individual mind.

    The weight of the accumulated test evidence underpinning definitions, needs to be taken into due consideration when contemplating changing (or interpreting) them, otherwise the cohesion between the bulk components weakens, which leads toward pathological science, or pseudoscience. This aspect is arguably even more important when it comes to theoretical definitions and acceptance of the theories upon which they frequently depend.

    Science's definitions can't be said as being up to any given individual's opinions .. they are all testable .. and are as close to being 'truth' as the scientific process admits.

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    Quote Originally Posted by George View Post
    ... So it can be, as Swift notes, not a black and white thing.
    One needs to consider carefully what is meant 'black and white thing'. Is this, in itself, a subjective measure? Even, perhaps, a straw-man having philosophically held assumptions behind it?

    Quote Originally Posted by George
    2) Science has influence upon subjective claims in proportion to the weight science can bear upon the objective elements within them. This weight is a product of the strength that science has in that area of knowledge and the amount of exposure provided by the objective elements within the subjective claim.
    Perhaps .. irrespective of it 'green-ness' .. (or not).
    Sometimes, the strength of the science comes from other seemingly unrelated areas .. (ie: the cohesion' analogy in my previous post). Abductive logical arguments also contribute to the weight under consideration.



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    Quote Originally Posted by Selfsim View Post
    <snip>

    Science's definitions can't be said as being up to any given individual's opinions .. they are all testable .. and are as close to being 'truth' as the scientific process admits.
    I wasn't talking about how science defines a particular term. I was talking about the OP's original question (such as his use of the term "scientific society" and the fact that I still don't know what he means by that) and I was talking about how profloater and I were differently defining what is "science"; for example, I was including engineering and he was not.
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