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Tom Mazanec
2017-Sep-23, 08:42 PM
I would think the scientific method is obvious for discovering things about the physical world. But 99% of human cultures and 99% of human history did not have it.
How obvious is it?

Strange
2017-Sep-23, 08:56 PM
It developed quite slowly over several centuries so I guess it is only obvious in hindsight. (Like many things!)

Swift
2017-Sep-23, 09:25 PM
Moved from OTB to S&T

The Backroad Astronomer
2017-Sep-23, 09:25 PM
The formal scientific method probably but people have experimenting since we were humans, Try strange plant or animal if you do not die that is food if someone dies afterwards do not eat. Round thing rolls better than flat thing that drags so use rolling round thing if we can.

WaxRubiks
2017-Sep-23, 09:32 PM
I have wondered how people first determined which plants were edible, and which were poisonous....did they use dogs maybe? If a dog ate it and survived, that would at least provide some evidence that the plant wasn't poisonous, although I know it wouldn't guarantee it.

Copernicus
2017-Sep-23, 11:09 PM
The scientific method is not obvious, neither is science. There are some things that are relatively easy to quantify, but everybody and their brother and sister think that science can offer real ways to make life better, where the real truth is that we can only study most phenomena very narrowly, which can help some, but more frequently makes things worse for most or increases instability over time. This was recognized a long time ago and was called pandora's box. This is why farmers, engineers and others keep making things more efficiently, for much less money and yet we all know and feel unease about the situation. This is why so many people do not like the assault on their cultural ways of doing things and do not like reductionism. This is probably why Ian talked about chaos theory in "Jurassic Park"
The real way science works is that things are invented and then cultures acquire these things over time, changes that are beneficial survive the test of time and situation and survive by the choices of billions of people with millions of times of choices. Everybody has limited information individually, but together, over time, culture evolves. No one, or no group, can have enough information at hand to decide at, any one time, what is best or even net positive.

swampyankee
2017-Sep-24, 01:23 AM
I have wondered how people first determined which plants were edible, and which were poisonous....did they use dogs maybe? If a dog ate it and survived, that would at least provide some evidence that the plant wasn't poisonous, although I know it wouldn't guarantee it.

People ate before they domesticated dogs. If I remember, field biologists found that many animals showed behavior that indicated that grazing, browsing, and hunting behaviors were being transmitted from parents to offspring.

WaxRubiks
2017-Sep-24, 01:39 AM
People ate before they domesticated dogs. If I remember, field biologists found that many animals showed behavior that indicated that grazing, browsing, and hunting behaviors were being transmitted from parents to offspring.

yes, but when humans moved to a new area of the world where there were different plants, they may have used animals/dogs to test the new foods on...maybe..

swampyankee
2017-Sep-24, 02:10 AM
yes, but when humans moved to a new area of the world where there were different plants, they may have used animals/dogs to test the new foods on...maybe..

They may have observed what animals ate, but they may also have eaten small samples, and suffered the occasional instances of severe pain or watched their more adventuresome friends and family succumb.

WaxRubiks
2017-Sep-24, 02:14 AM
They may have observed what animals ate, but they may also have eaten small samples, and suffered the occasional instances of severe pain or watched their more adventuresome friends and family succumb.

Maybe the first step to testing a new food, is to rub it on the skin...then rub it on the tongue...etc......or maybe just feed it to the unpopular guy that no one likes. :p

Noclevername
2017-Sep-24, 02:24 AM
The formal scientific method probably but people have experimenting since we were humans, Try strange plant or animal if you do not die that is food if someone dies afterwards do not eat. Round thing rolls better than flat thing that drags so use rolling round thing if we can.

Sleds and dragging poles were used for many thousands of years before the wheel was invented. Heck, Aztecs HAD the wheel, and yet didn't make the logical leap to using it for moving heavy things. Humans are not naturally logical or rational thinkers. We have to force our minds to work in such a way.

And random trial and error experiments are not, by nature, science.

The Backroad Astronomer
2017-Sep-24, 03:25 AM
Sleds and dragging poles were used for many thousands of years before the wheel was invented. Heck, Aztecs HAD the wheel, and yet didn't make the logical leap to using it for moving heavy things. Humans are not naturally logical or rational thinkers. We have to force our minds to work in such a way.

And random trial and error experiments are not, by nature, science.
It was the first step to science. Some one did not just wake up one morning and said I got and idea and I will call it science. If you wanted to taste if a catalyst helped a reaction you would come up with a list of possible catalyst( a lot of chemist overtime figured this out), do the reactions, test the product by various means such as different kinds of spectroscopy, figure out which made the most product you desired and conclude what is the best catalyst. Or if you have an astronomical observation you want to figure out, you use the current theories, either you or someone else writes a model for it you might have to change the parameters and see what result closely matches yours and make a conclusion. It is a refined version of what started out thousands of years ago. We started off knowing really nothing of the world at the beginning.

No, humans are not logical they might not adopt some technology for religious or cultural reasons. Sometimes a wheel might not be as useful as a sled the ground might be soft in areas and having something that spreads out the weight might be more useful.

WaxRubiks
2017-Sep-24, 03:30 AM
Also making a strong wheel is going to take some development.

Noclevername
2017-Sep-24, 04:38 AM
We started off knowing really nothing of the world at the beginning.

Bunkum. We knew plenty about the world. We just didn't know how or why the world worked the way that it does. So we just made up our own explanations out of whole cloth and pareidolia, enshrined them in faith and rationalized justifications for them. That's the opposite of science, it's magical thinking.

WaxRubiks
2017-Sep-24, 04:41 AM
Bunkum. We knew plenty about the world. We just didn't know how or why the world worked the way that it does. So we just made up our own explanations out of whole cloth and pareidolia, enshrined them in faith and rationalized justifications for them. That's the opposite of science, it's magical thinking.

as there wasn't much else option, wasn't it just 'thinking'?

Noclevername
2017-Sep-24, 04:57 AM
as there wasn't much else option, wasn't it just 'thinking'?

Well, whatever. The point was that it's not science.

Ken G
2017-Sep-24, 06:44 AM
I think the most non-obvious element of science is also it's most paradoxical element, the part of it that is actually practiced the least-- even by people who regard themselves as scientific thinkers! The most non-obvious element is skepticism. Sure, we all do experiments, starting as babies pushing objects off tables to see what will fall (everything, we are thrilled to discover), or watching with amazement as objects disappear behind our parents' hands, only to reappear later when the hands come down. So at some level it might seem obvious to observe things and try to make sense of them. But what is not so obvious is when to stop the process and claim victory-- when have we actually achieved understanding, and when are we simply deluding ourselves that we have plumbed the depths of some phenomenon that we actually understand quite poorly but we have simply run out of energy to continue the process of discovery?

I claim this problem is far more widespread than most people realize, because there is a kind of "Catch-22" involved: if you cease testing, you also cease finding out if you are wrong, and will hence live out your life blissfully thinking you are right. It happened all the time, to entire generations of people, it's completely routine even in a reasonably scientific culture. An example I like to use to demonstrate the principle is the cause of the phases of the Moon-- generally speaking, if you ask random people, at all ages and all levels of education, what causes the phases of the Moon, about half of them will say it is the shadow of the Earth. Since this is just as true for old people as for young ones, it means that many people are living out their entire lives fully confident that they understand the phases of the Moon, when obviously this explanation fails even the most rudimentary tests. The point being, when the tests are never done, there is never any apparent problem with the explanation, yet the longer someone holds to a wrong explanation that they have not discovered to be wrong, the more confident they will likely become that it must be correct. So what is not obvious is that we need to keep testing even the things we hold are most likely to be correct, else we can mistake the absence of a failed test for the simple absence of any test. Yet on the other hand, if we simply keep pushing objects off tables, it's hard to get much done in a day! Hence the paradox.

Of course Feynman said it better when he defined science as instructions for not fooling yourself, given that you are the easiest person to fool. It is not obvious that we are the easiest people for ourselves to fool. What makes it paradoxical is that we do have a desire to hold a concept of "scientific knowledge," and it is clear that some kind of scientific progress is occurring. Yet at the same time, to know science is to understand how impossible it is to know, and to be all right with that understanding. It requires a rather sophisticated understanding of the meaning of "scientific knowledge," that, quite frankly, is not obvious!

WaxRubiks
2017-Sep-24, 07:12 AM
Best to assume that we(well me...I also just assume other people exist) live in Alice's Wonderland...to some extent.

Science makes assumptions all the time....it's assumptions all the way down...right down to assuming those numbers a scientist writes in her notepad don't just dance around all night when she's at home asleep, and reform into different numbers on the page the next day.

The best people can do is at least acknowledge to themselves the assumptions they make.

WaxRubiks
2017-Sep-24, 08:18 AM
It requires a rather sophisticated understanding of the meaning of "scientific knowledge," that, quite frankly, is not obvious!

I think knowledge is defined something like a belief in something, which is also true. But what is scientifically true? Surely it can only be the belief in the scientific evidence...

grapes
2017-Sep-24, 09:16 AM
I'm impressed with Ken's statistic of half of all people saying the earth's shadow causes moon phases. I tried to look it up, and found a lot of planetarium websites (of course they would say it's a common misconception!), but no statistic. Now, I'm trying to visualize a survey question that would fairly elicit that info.

WaxRubiks
2017-Sep-24, 09:24 AM
I'm impressed with Ken's statistic of half of all people saying the earth's shadow causes moon phases. I tried to look it up, and found a lot of planetarium websites (of course they would say it's a common misconception!), but no statistic. Now, I'm trying to visualize a survey question that would fairly elicit that info.

Well you could just ask people to explain the crescent shape of the moon, longhand......

My dad told me of a woman with a physics degree, he met recently, who thought that the phases of the moon were produced by the shadow of the Earth...I'm not sure how someone could get a physics degree and still have that belief.

profloater
2017-Sep-24, 10:07 AM
trial and error is obvious and innate it seems. But the scientific method of hypothesis and deliberate test to try to falsify is a method that developed slowly. A lot of science is taught by demonstration, that's inevitable, but the idea that a new experiment can "fail" or challenge your hypothesis is more mature.

Jens
2017-Sep-24, 10:16 AM
I have wondered how people first determined which plants were edible, and which were poisonous....did they use dogs maybe? If a dog ate it and survived, that would at least provide some evidence that the plant wasn't poisonous, although I know it wouldn't guarantee it.

One problem with the theory: humans were eating plants long before they domesticated dogs. Maybe by looking at what other animals liked and didn't like? Also I think that a lot of poisonous plants will not kill you, but make you ill, creating a strong deterrent.

Jens
2017-Sep-24, 10:36 AM
About the scientific method, this is just my personal view, but I think our brains are hard wired in some way to make hypotheses and experiment. I think the crucial thing was the codification of the scientific method, because then it became something that could be described and refined.

parallaxicality
2017-Sep-24, 11:02 AM
The scientific method requires that a certain number of assumptions be taken, which many, even today, are not willing to do. The first and most obvious is naturalism; it is necessity, not divine will, that orders the world. Things happen because there are underlying rules to the world that demand they happen. That was the big contribution of the ancient Greeks.

The next step is experimentation, which was the bit delivered by the Arabs. After the package was delivered to Europe in the Middle Ages, Roger Bacon introduced the idea of empiricism over rationalism, and the resultant arguments between people like David Hume and Immanuel Kant over the implications of this are still being waged to this day. So no, in answer, the scientific method is not obvious.

WaxRubiks
2017-Sep-24, 11:18 AM
The scientific method requires that a certain number of assumptions be taken, which many, even today, are not willing to do. The first and most obvious is naturalism; it is necessity, not divine will, that orders the world. Things happen because there are underlying rules to the world that demand they happen. That was the big contribution of the ancient Greeks.

.

How can you be sure that divine will doesn't play a part in the order of the world. Take a chess championship, the rules are agreed before the game, and the players abide by them. A player could make any move he/she wanted but if it goes counter to the agreed rules, then there could be no game, or the person making the illegal move would forfeit the game.

profloater
2017-Sep-24, 01:46 PM
How can you be sure that divine will doesn't play a part in the order of the world. Take a chess championship, the rules are agreed before the game, and the players abide by them. A player could make any move he/she wanted but if it goes counter to the agreed rules, then there could be no game, or the person making the illegal move would forfeit the game.
Untestable. then I cannot see the chess example relevance to the first question. Untestable makes me agnostic, can't know.

grant hutchison
2017-Sep-24, 02:19 PM
The concept of the scientific method is obvious - "try not to fool yourself" is something anyone with a moderate degree of self-insight tries to do (at least from time to time), even if unconsciously.
The practice of the scientific method is not at all obvious - new bits of it are still being invented, and many scientists are impressively bad at it.

Grant Hutchison

DonM435
2017-Sep-24, 02:20 PM
Perhaps it's only obvious to some people, say, people like us.

grapes
2017-Sep-24, 02:43 PM
Perhaps it's only obvious to some people, say, people like us.
You mean, people who have already fooled themselves? :)

Strange
2017-Sep-24, 02:59 PM
About the scientific method, this is just my personal view, but I think our brains are hard wired in some way to make hypotheses and experiment.

Perhaps because of the need to find edible plants/animals and avoid dangerous ones, mentioned above. I suppose most animals have such an instinct to some extent (apart from those which rely exclusively on a single food source).

DonM435
2017-Sep-24, 03:21 PM
You mean, people who have already fooled themselves? :)

Yes, but we can have the last laugh when everyone else finds that their explanation was wrong, even if "obvious"!

The Backroad Astronomer
2017-Sep-24, 03:40 PM
Well you could just ask people to explain the crescent shape of the moon, longhand......

My dad told me of a woman with a physics degree, he met recently, who thought that the phases of the moon were produced by the shadow of the Earth...I'm not sure how someone could get a physics degree and still have that belief.
I can see that as somewhat possible. Some people who go into physics are not there for astronomy but stuff like bio-physics so there exposure to astronomy can be somewhat limited if they choose to be like that. When I was an undergrad there was a conference called the Atlantic undergrad physics and astronomy conference and one person was just shocked at how talks were about astronomy. (She was in crabby mood because she get her way on a lot of things during the conference.)

The Backroad Astronomer
2017-Sep-24, 04:01 PM
Bunkum. We knew plenty about the world. We just didn't know how or why the world worked the way that it does. So we just made up our own explanations out of whole cloth and pareidolia, enshrined them in faith and rationalized justifications for them. That's the opposite of science, it's magical thinking.
So when the species started we know plenty. It happened in steps, the first step was more observation like I leave rock in fire and fire is hot enough, something is bottom of fire pit in the morning. This shinny hard stuff can be sharper than rock so thi could be useful. It did take a long time figure why this happened but that was another step. Yes we did lose some time for silly reasons but humans have been curious since day one.

WaxRubiks
2017-Sep-24, 04:15 PM
So when the species started we know plenty. It happened in steps, the first step was more observation like I leave rock in fire and fire is hot enough, something is bottom of fire pit in the morning. This shinny hard stuff can be sharper than rock so thi could be useful. It did take a long time figure why this happened but that was another step. Yes we did lose some time for silly reasons but humans have been curious since day one.

since the Monolith? :p

Ken G
2017-Sep-24, 09:18 PM
I think knowledge is defined something like a belief in something, which is also true. But what is scientifically true? Surely it can only be the belief in the scientific evidence...To me, "belief" plays precisely zero role in scientific knowledge, if you define belief as "holding something to be true". Assumptions also play zero role, if you use the word in the sense of "assuming something to be true". There is never any need to assume anything, nor believe anything, to be a practitioner of scientific knowledge. In fact, I view both believe-is-true and assume-is-true as errors that deviate quite clearly from the scientific method; the pure scientific thinker never believes anything is true, nor ever assumes anything is true, in any sense beyond the scientific meaning of truth: the current best result presented by applying the scientific method up to this very point.

Now, I realize this can create confusion, because don't I have to believe that science works? No, I don't have to believe that science works to do science. Don't I have to assume that natural laws rule the world? No, in fact not only do I not assume that, I actively doubt it, yet it has no effect at all on my ability to do science. There is never any part of the scientific method that says "assume something is true," all an assumption is to a scientific thinker is a choice not to put one's effort into testing that element of a theory, because it has been decided it is more important to test some other element. We can actively doubt all our assumptions, we simply make them because we need to when we address the practical tradeoffs involved in getting out of bed in the morning. So the true scientific thinker does not assume something is true, they merely recognize they have placed that issue on the "back burner" of what they are currently interested in testing, so will proceed as if they thought it was true, even though they don't need to (and shouldn't) actually think it's true.

Let me explain with a simple example. Let's say I am diagnosed with cancer, and I don't want to die, so I choose to apply the scientific method to my treatment. I look at scientific evidence about what has worked on similar cancers in the past, and I make choices about my treatment that might be motivated by a given theory about my cancer that helps organize and predict outcomes related to that body of evidence. That's scientific thinking. But that's all that scientific thinking is, there is no part of it that requires I "believe in" that theory of cancer, I can easily hold that it might be pure coincidence that the theory has been successful in the past-- it could be totally wrong, but for some reason it helped understand and organize the data. It's not like this doesn't happen all the time people, just look at history! There is no part of science that says "believe that the current best theory is correct," or "assume that something that has happened in the past will happen again." Instead, one is simply choosing to bet on the past data, and bet on the current best theory, not because you believe it's correct, and not because you assume it will give you the best chance, but because that's just what using evidence looks like-- that's just what doing science looks like. You make a choice to use science because you think, for whatever reason, that it will give you the best chance to survive. You don't have to choose to believe it will give you the best chance, indeed you don't even need to believe there is any such thing as "the best chance" (you can easily believe everything that happens is already determined in advance, yet still do science). To do science, all you have to do is do science, and anything else is pure hindrance to that. You don't do it because you believe the science is true, and not because you believe the universe obeys laws that science has discovered, but simply because you are taking the scientific strategy because you judge that it will give you the best chance, since that is the judgement to use science. No belief, no assumption, you can assume you are probably wrong, you can believe you are likely going to die, or you can believe it is divine will that you will live, but what you believe never matters at all, only that you are, or are not, thinking scientifically-- that's all that ever matters.

The choice is personal, and rhetoric plays no role in science. Someone else might not choose science, and they can do that based on some beliefs they have, or for any reason they want, and all you can say is that time will tell who is making the better choice. That's all you can ever say, it has nothing to do with beliefs or assumptions, it's just the choice to do science because it seems to you the best strategy given the alternatives, even if you are dubious it will work or even if you are skeptical you are making the right choice. But the instant you go past that choice of strategy, the instant you adopt a belief or make an assumption that you hold to be true without evidence, you have at that very moment ceased to think scientifically. For example, there is no scientific principle that says "what happened before will happen again," which is clear because we could need a theory tomorrow that discusses how we should expect outcomes to change with time, or how we should expect our own outcomes to differ from those of others in the past. That we have no such theory now is simply because that's what doing science has so far given us-- it is our best current theory to expect what has worked for others to work for us, if we have no way of knowing we are different.

I told you it was a non-obvious Catch-22, but there you have it, it all follows directly from the rules of science, and I have made no assumptions, nor adopted any beliefs, to assert these facts. I don't assume science is true, and I don't believe science is true, I simply define what I mean by "scientific truth" as that which comes from science, and I bet on it when I make choices about outcomes because that is the strategy I am convinced gives me the best chances. When others are not convinced, they use other strategies, and time will tell-- that's all you can ever say, if you are a scientific thinker.

Tom Mazanec
2017-Sep-24, 09:26 PM
My father was the smartest person I knew. He was an engineer, the first in our family to graduate college (Fenn College, now CWRU).
He thought the phases of the Moon were eclipses (ie the Earth's shadow).

WaxRubiks
2017-Sep-24, 09:45 PM
To me, "belief" plays precisely zero role in scientific knowledge, if you define belief as "holding something to be true". Assumptions also play zero role, if you use the word in the sense of "assuming something to be true". There is never any need to assume anything, nor believe anything, to be a practitioner of scientific knowledge. In fact, I view both believe-is-true and assume-is-true as errors that deviate quite clearly from the scientific method; the pure scientific thinker never believes anything is true, nor ever assumes anything is true, in any sense beyond the scientific meaning of truth: the current best result presented by applying the scientific method up to this very point.

Now, I realize this can create confusion, because don't I have to believe that science works? No, I don't have to believe that science works to do science. Don't I have to assume that natural laws rule the world? No, in fact not only do I not assume that, I actively doubt it, yet it has no effect at all on my ability to do science. There is never any part of the scientific method that says "assume something is true," all an assumption is to a scientific thinker is a choice not to put one's effort into testing that element of a theory, because it has been decided it is more important to test some other element. We can actively doubt all our assumptions, we simply make them because we need to when we address the practical tradeoffs involved in getting out of bed in the morning. So the true scientific thinker does not assume something is true, they merely recognize they have placed that issue on the "back burner" of what they are currently interested in testing, so will proceed as if they thought it was true, even though they don't need to (and shouldn't) actually think it's true.

Let me explain with a simple example. Let's say I am diagnosed with cancer, and I don't want to die, so I choose to apply the scientific method to my treatment. I look at scientific evidence about what has worked on similar cancers in the past, and I make choices about my treatment that might be motivated by a given theory about my cancer that helps organize and predict outcomes related to that body of evidence. That's scientific thinking. But that's all that scientific thinking is, there is no part of it that requires I "believe in" that theory of cancer, I can easily hold that it might be pure coincidence that the theory has been successful in the past-- it could be totally wrong, but for some reason it helped understand and organize the data. It's not like this doesn't happen all the time people, just look at history! There is no part of science that says "believe that the current best theory is correct," or "assume that something that has happened in the past will happen again." Instead, one is simply choosing to bet on the past data, and bet on the current best theory, not because you believe it's correct, and not because you assume it will give you the best chance, but because that's just what using evidence looks like-- that's just what doing science looks like. You make a choice to use science because you think, for whatever reason, that it will give you the best chance to survive. You don't have to choose to believe it will give you the best chance, indeed you don't even need to believe there is any such thing as "the best chance" (you can easily believe everything that happens is already determined in advance, yet still do science). To do science, all you have to do is do science, and anything else is pure hindrance to that. You don't do it because you believe the science is true, and not because you believe the universe obeys laws that science has discovered, but simply because you are taking the scientific strategy because you judge that it will give you the best chance, since that is the judgement to use science. No belief, no assumption, you can assume you are probably wrong, you can believe you are likely going to die, or you can believe it is divine will that you will live, but what you believe never matters at all, only that you are, or are not, thinking scientifically-- that's all that ever matters.

The choice is personal, and rhetoric plays no role in science. Someone else might not choose science, and they can do that based on some beliefs they have, or for any reason they want, and all you can say is that time will tell who is making the better choice. That's all you can ever say, it has nothing to do with beliefs or assumptions, it's just the choice to do science because it seems to you the best strategy given the alternatives, even if you are dubious it will work or even if you are skeptical you are making the right choice. But the instant you go past that choice of strategy, the instant you adopt a belief or make an assumption that you hold to be true without evidence, you have at that very moment ceased to think scientifically. For example, there is no scientific principle that says "what happened before will happen again," which is clear because we could need a theory tomorrow that discusses how we should expect outcomes to change with time, or how we should expect our own outcomes to differ from those of others in the past. That we have no such theory now is simply because that's what doing science has so far given us-- it is our best current theory to expect what has worked for others to work for us, if we have no way of knowing we are different.

I told you it was a non-obvious Catch-22, but there you have it, it all follows directly from the rules of science, and I have made no assumptions, nor adopted any beliefs, to assert these facts. I don't assume science is true, and I don't believe science is true, I simply define what I mean by "scientific truth" as that which comes from science, and I bet on it when I make choices about outcomes because that is the strategy I am convinced gives me the best chances. When others are not convinced, they use other strategies, and time will tell-- that's all you can ever say, if you are a scientific thinker.

yes. Ever since my maths teacher wrote the proof that 1=2 on the black board, I have had a stange(it seems) idea of the word 'assume'. :)

Assume 1=2 etc....

I don't mean in any way that what I assume is true.

Like 'assume the moon is made of cheese', and then see what follows from that, and what predictions the hypothisis that the moon is made of cheese might make, and test for those...

As for belief, I'm trying to adopt the philosophical position that all Know, or believe I know is what I experience, or appear to remember to have experienced.......I don't know anything other than that....for all I know, I've been in a coma all my life...it's all a bit muddled in my mind at the moment. For example, I don't know that g=9.81m/s/s, all I know is that I have read it in a book....if that makes sense..?

Hornblower
2017-Sep-24, 09:48 PM
My father was the smartest person I knew. He was an engineer, the first in our family to graduate college (Fenn College, now CWRU).
He thought the phases of the Moon were eclipses (ie the Earth's shadow).

Anyone, even a brilliant expert in specialized components of the engineering profession, can have blind spots. I can imagine that fields such as mechanical and electrical engineering would not require any familiarity with the geometry of orbits and shadows. Your father may have heard that mistaken opinion as a youngster and then never had any motive to question it, and if the prerequisites for his engineering courses did not include astronomy, he could easily have gone on to being a fully qualified practitioner in whatever specialty he chose without ever encountering a problem involving the phases of the Moon.

Tom Mazanec
2017-Sep-24, 10:47 PM
He was also a deer hunter. When I read "Bambi" as a child, I went into a deer reading frenzy (aspie). I mentioned to him that bucks shed their antlers once a year. "ARE YOU CRAZY!? A DEER CAN'T GROW A HUGE RACK LIKE THAT IN A YEAR!".
He later apologized to me.

Ken G
2017-Sep-25, 12:29 AM
My father was the smartest person I knew. He was an engineer, the first in our family to graduate college (Fenn College, now CWRU).
He thought the phases of the Moon were eclipses (ie the Earth's shadow).
Yes, it's like I said-- not making the effort to test. He could have very easily tested that model, but he never did, it served him well enough as far as he knew. How many of the things we think are true are just like that? How many for people 100, or 200, years ago?

Ken G
2017-Sep-25, 12:31 AM
yes. Ever since my maths teacher wrote the proof that 1=2 on the black board, I have had a stange(it seems) idea of the word 'assume'. :)

Assume 1=2 etc....

I don't mean in any way that what I assume is true.

Like 'assume the moon is made of cheese', and then see what follows from that, and what predictions the hypothisis that the moon is made of cheese might make, and test for those...

As for belief, I'm trying to adopt the philosophical position that all Know, or believe I know is what I experience, or appear to remember to have experienced.......I don't know anything other than that....for all I know, I've been in a coma all my life...it's all a bit muddled in my mind at the moment. For example, I don't know that g=9.81m/s/s, all I know is that I have read it in a book....if that makes sense..?There's certainly a lot of semantics here, and we all use the same words as workhorses for thousands of different shades of meaning. But from where I'm sitting, you just described a tested model, not a belief. Science uses tested models all the time-- what it doesn't need is beliefs.

Hornblower
2017-Sep-25, 03:49 PM
Yes, it's like I said-- not making the effort to test. He could have very easily tested that model, but he never did, it served him well enough as far as he knew. How many of the things we think are true are just like that? How many for people 100, or 200, years ago?

My bold. I hope other readers don't infer that you think Tom's father was remiss in not testing it. I once thought, "How could anyone make that mistake? It is easy to demonstrate how it works." In the meantime I have seen lots of eye-openers about things that are second nature to me but are not at all obvious to everyone. If someone only notices the Moon at night, he may or may not have any idea where the Sun is or how Earth's shadow would be oriented. He may or may not be able to visualize an illuminated sphere from the typical textbook sketches. I figured out the perspective of shadows for artwork purposes as a 3rd grader, but I was scoring in the 99th percentile on space/position relationship aptitude tests. Someone in the bottom percentile could have been stumped by that.

Let me remind everyone that before about 1957, when the Soviets startled us with Sputnik, astronomy was absent from many public schools as a result of recommendations from a misbegotten but influential "Committee of 10" about 1890. This was written up in Sky and Telescope a couple of decades ago. I was learning these topics on my own from borrowed books. Within a few years astronomy was making a comeback in the school curriculum here in Fairfax County, Virginia.

George
2017-Sep-25, 06:07 PM
Like 'assume the moon is made of cheese', and then see what follows from that, and what predictions the hypothisis that the moon is made of cheese might make, and test for those... That is a legitimate hypothesis, but it's not a scientific one because one must have some sort of objective evidence to support a scientific claim. Objective evidence to establish an hypothesis, as well as objective tests thereafter, are essential to science. Philosophy and religion can ignore it or expand upon it in more subjective ways.


As for belief, I'm trying to adopt the philosophical position that all Know, or believe I know is what I experience, or appear to remember to have experienced... This is the basis to objective evidence, though astronomy is constrained mainly to the experience of sight (visible and otherwise)


For example, I don't know that g=9.81m/s/s, all I know is that I have read it in a book....if that makes sense..? Yet you have probably jumped off a chair, table, roof or something. What did you experience and can you speak of it in an objective manner? The fall was more than just a direction but a rate as well. It took a long time for mankind to get past a fall rate proportional to its size (mass), but Galileo did and he properly showed it as an acceleration varying as the square of time.

WaxRubiks
2017-Sep-26, 11:10 AM
That is a legitimate hypothesis, but it's not a scientific one because one must have some sort of objective evidence to support a scientific claim. Objective evidence to establish an hypothesis, as well as objective tests thereafter, are essential to science. Philosophy and religion can ignore it or expand upon it in more subjective ways.


I don't see why one would need any evidence to come up with a hypothesis, necessarily. I had a little debate with Dr.Nigel, on here, about trying to think of ways that one could detect aliens. He said that you need some evidence that there are aliens before you think of how to detect them. I really can't understand this position.

Surely you can hypothesis anything you want, like the infamous invisible pink unicorn. Well we can start off with it must appear pink for someone to have that name, then we can progress to try to see how we could detect it. It might be invisible, but does it leave evidence of its presence like hoof prints...etc..etc...

George
2017-Sep-26, 01:54 PM
I don't see why one would need any evidence to come up with a hypothesis, necessarily. Yes, and I mentioned that, but you likely mean "scientific hypothesis", which is different.


I had a little debate with Dr.Nigel, on here, about trying to think of ways that one could detect aliens. He said that you need some evidence that there are aliens before you think of how to detect them. I really can't understand this position. I am surprised he would put it that way, assuming he did. Is he opposed to SETI and astrobiology? The number of exoplanets, including those in habitable zones, is objective evidence to present a hypothesis for the idea of aliens. Some of these exoplanets have atmospheres that allow some composition analysis. There is a hypothesis that oxygen in the atmosphere in these would represent a likelihood for life.


Surely you can hypothesis anything you want, like the infamous invisible pink unicorn. Well we can start off with it must appear pink for someone to have that name, then we can progress to try to see how we could detect it. It might be invisible, but does it leave evidence of its presence like hoof prints...etc..etc...The better word for this is supposition. I think even conjecture requires some level of objective evidence if we are in the scientific realm.

WaxRubiks
2017-Sep-26, 03:35 PM
I am surprised he would put it that way, assuming he did. Is he opposed to SETI and astrobiology? The number of exoplanets, including those in habitable zones, is objective evidence to present a hypothesis for the idea of aliens. Some of these exoplanets have atmospheres that allow some composition analysis. There is a hypothesis that oxygen in the atmosphere in these would represent a likelihood for life.


Well it was probably over ten years since we had that discussion, but I think, yes, it was more focussed on aliens visiting Earth, and I was putting forwards ideas about predicting what they might do, or what evidence the 'might' leave....

I decided it may be because he was a GP, and problems come to him, rather than him going out to find ill people..that may have put him in that mindset.

George
2017-Sep-26, 03:46 PM
Well it was probably over ten years since we had that discussion, but I think, yes, it was more focussed on aliens visiting Earth, and I was putting forwards ideas about predicting what they might do, or what evidence the 'might' leave.... Ah, that helps. Aliens here would be a bigger claim. Given all the UFO hype of the previous decades, it is not uncommon for many to ignore any thoughts of circumstantial and indirect evidence, but requiring direct evidence of their presence. "Seeing is believing." I had a neighbor back in the early 60's that could create fireballs in the sky. I was with him once when he did one and we heard the radio reporting of a UFO sighting on our part of town. :)

Ken G
2017-Sep-27, 12:35 PM
I hope other readers don't infer that you think Tom's father was remiss in not testing it. What they want to read is on them, but "remiss" is a value judgement, I merely stated a fact. Perhaps we can add that one of the non-obvious things about science is that it is devoid of value judgements, what we "should" or "should not" do is not part of science. If you do the simple tests, you are thinking scientifically, if you do not, you are not. There's no "remiss" in that remark.

If someone only notices the Moon at night, he may or may not have any idea where the Sun is or how Earth's shadow would be oriented.Yes, and that is precisely what I mean about not doing the simple tests required.

profloater
2017-Sep-27, 01:31 PM
I don't see why one would need any evidence to come up with a hypothesis, necessarily. I had a little debate with Dr.Nigel, on here, about trying to think of ways that one could detect aliens. He said that you need some evidence that there are aliens before you think of how to detect them. I really can't understand this position.

Surely you can hypothesis anything you want, like the infamous invisible pink unicorn. Well we can start off with it must appear pink for someone to have that name, then we can progress to try to see how we could detect it. It might be invisible, but does it leave evidence of its presence like hoof prints...etc..etc...

The thing about a hypothesis is not so much where it comes form but what tests it offers. One that is untestable will not progress far in science. Some tests are easy and some are very hard but by trying disprove we make progress towards a theory. ie well tested ideas that have not yet been falsified.

Ken G
2017-Sep-27, 03:05 PM
Given all the UFO hype of the previous decades, it is not uncommon for many to ignore any thoughts of circumstantial and indirect evidence, but requiring direct evidence of their presence. "Seeing is believing." Yes, there's a lot of confusion about the quality of "direct" evidence, one place where that comes up a lot is in a courtroom. To get a conviction, you often need a witness to point to someone in court and say, "that's the one, I'm sure." This can happen a year or more after the actual crime! Certainly they are no longer acting on any "direct" memory of the event by that point, they are going on all the events that have occurred over the course of preparing the case. As such, it's an extremely unreliable form of evidence, given all the other things that could influence that testimony. I knew someone once who believed that it was easier to balance an egg on the equinox, and he believed it because he tried it out himself and found it to be true! What could be more convincing than personal experience? (Well controlled experiments?)

WaxRubiks
2017-Sep-27, 03:29 PM
Yes, there's a lot of confusion about the quality of "direct" evidence, one place where that comes up a lot is in a courtroom. To get a conviction, you often need a witness to point to someone in court and say, "that's the one, I'm sure." This can happen a year or more after the actual crime! Certainly they are no longer acting on any "direct" memory of the event by that point, they are going on all the events that have occurred over the course of preparing the case. As such, it's an extremely unreliable form of evidence, given all the other things that could influence that testimony. I knew someone once who believed that it was easier to balance an egg on the equinox, and he believed it because he tried it out himself and found it to be true! What could be more convincing than personal experience? (Well controlled experiments?)

memory is a funny thing. I have a memory from when I must have been a few months old, of being on a plane, but I've remembered it so many times in the last 40 or so years that is it really a direct memory, or is it a memory of a memory of a memory etc...?

grant hutchison
2017-Sep-27, 03:49 PM
memory is a funny thing. I have a memory from when I must have been a few months old, of being on a plane, but I've remembered it so many times in the last 40 or so years that is it really a direct memory, or is it a memory of a memory of a memory etc...?Worse, it's almost certainly a false memory. Childhood amnesia lasts until about age 2-3 years. If we seem to have memories from before that age, they're generally implanted.

Grant Hutchison

profloater
2017-Sep-27, 04:01 PM
It's remarkably easy to have implanted memories. I know an example where my wife as a young girl tried to stop a car rolling and it became a family story to the point where her sister firmly believes that it was she in the drama. Several witnesses are clear that she was inside the house at the time but having heard this story regularly we can now not persuade her that she has the memory implanted.

WaxRubiks
2017-Sep-27, 04:44 PM
oh I definitely believe in false memories, but I think this wasn't.....I was an adherent to Arthur Janov's primal therapy stuff for years, but I am very doubtful of it now, but a lot of the theory still makes sense to me.....that childhood memories are all still there but buried in the emotional stress, of the age, which must be blocked from awareness. That's why some people remember more of their childhood than others...less stressful childhood means more access to memories, and feelings etc.

George
2017-Sep-27, 08:00 PM
Yes, there's a lot of confusion about the quality of "direct" evidence, one place where that comes up a lot is in a courtroom. To get a conviction, you often need a witness to point to someone in court and say, "that's the one, I'm sure." This can happen a year or more after the actual crime! Certainly they are no longer acting on any "direct" memory of the event by that point, they are going on all the events that have occurred over the course of preparing the case. As such, it's an extremely unreliable form of evidence, given all the other things that could influence that testimony. I would be surprised if most court cases aren't often delayed for this very reason. I think the statute of limitation is two years for certain types of legal cases.


I knew someone once who believed that it was easier to balance an egg on the equinox, and he believed it because he tried it out himself and found it to be true! An old BA debunked claim, no doubt you're alluding to. :)


What could be more convincing than personal experience? (Well controlled experiments?) Yep, and for criminal court cases, DNA is the way! Science comes to the rescue for "truth and justice", perhaps a bit ironically yet for the greater good though it's not good (or bad)....ramble, ramble..

plant
2017-Sep-28, 02:37 PM
Greeks-> Romans take on Greek Culture-> dark age texts copied by Muslim Scholars->The Reformation (Germany) -> The Renaissance (Italy): $$$ talks> American/French Revolution->The Enlightenment (France & Britain)-> The industrial Revolution (Britain) due to lots of coal underground.
I think the issues are:
1) an uneducated serf chatting to 3 other serfs in a field covered with horse-sh@t is not going to have a gedanken experiment.
2) you need a population of literate people living in cities
3) you need to stop believing your religion has all the answers e.g. when all the priests die of plague. You also need to stop believing in Aristotle.
4) you need to have an environment where free thinking is not rewarded by burning at the stake (lookin' at you catholic church / giordano bruno)
5) you need to believe in the idea of progress itself, rather than an incipient end-time/ judgement day or cyclical time.
6) you need to be able to be rewarded for your ideas and inventions. Trade secrets before patents were invented.
7) you need to live in a time of constant war so that your ideas can be paid for and exploited by the military.

Tom Mazanec
2017-Sep-28, 05:31 PM
plant:
re: 7)
So war is good for progress? I take it that that only works to a point (if Stanislav Petrov had alerted the Soviet High Command of an apparent American nuclear strike in 1984, I think our tech level now would be somewhat lower than it actually is)?

Hornblower
2017-Sep-28, 05:51 PM
Yes, it's like I said-- not making the effort to test. He could have very easily tested that model, but he never did, it served him well enough as far as he knew. How many of the things we think are true are just like that? How many for people 100, or 200, years ago?

My bold. I hope other readers don't infer that you think Tom's father was remiss in not testing it.

What they want to read is on them, but "remiss" is a value judgement, I merely stated a fact. Perhaps we can add that one of the non-obvious things about science is that it is devoid of value judgements, what we "should" or "should not" do is not part of science. If you do the simple tests, you are thinking scientifically, if you do not, you are not. There's no "remiss" in that remark.

If someone only notices the Moon at night, he may or may not have any idea where the Sun is or how Earth's shadow would be oriented.

Yes, and that is precisely what I mean about not doing the simple tests required.
You say you merely stated a fact, but we do not know for sure what he did or did not do in the way of testing. All we have are his son's statement about his belief that the Earth's shadow caused the phases. We can only guess at his line of thought behind that belief.

Many readers here are not as well informed as you in the fine points of scientific method. I stand by my opinion that your first sentence about "not making the effort to test" is a loaded phrase from which some readers may infer that he was lazy or otherwise remiss. I would have preferred to say something like, "A simple test and/or demonstration would have shown Mr. Manazec his error, but for whatever reason it never came up, even in college."

Hornblower
2017-Sep-28, 10:23 PM
Addendum:


....We can only guess at his line of thought behind that belief....Let me add that we can also only guess at what he experienced at the time he encountered this misconception. From Tom's statement of his own age in another thread somewhere back, I can infer that his father is a good bit older than I, and could have gone through high school with no astronomy formally included in his curriculum. For all we know he could have been misinformed by a school teacher and had no reason to doubt an authority figure.

Chuck
2017-Sep-28, 10:30 PM
Maybe he didn't really care about the phases of the moon and had no reason to think about it.

grant hutchison
2017-Sep-28, 10:40 PM
oh I definitely believe in false memories, but I think this wasn't.....I was an adherent to Arthur Janov's primal therapy stuff for years, but I am very doubtful of it now, but a lot of the theory still makes sense to me.....that childhood memories are all still there but buried in the emotional stress, of the age, which must be blocked from awareness. That's why some people remember more of their childhood than others...less stressful childhood means more access to memories, and feelings etc.Of course, one of the features of false memories is that people think they're not false memories.
Neuroscience (surprise!), says that Janov (and Freud before him) were just making stuff up. It seems we forget our early childhood because of the rapid turnover in hippocampal neurogenesis at an early age (http://www.josselynlab.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/Hippocampal-Neurogenesis-Regulates-Forgetting-During-Adulthood-and-Infancy.pdf) (2MB pdf).

Grant Hutchison

WaxRubiks
2017-Sep-29, 01:27 AM
Yea, John Lennon who went to have primal therapy directly with Janov later said it didn't work, but I still wonder if it works with some people. Janov always talked about hard-drug addicts having success with it, and I wonder if maybe they are the only people that might have success with it, and other people that go to have it, he just milks for their money. He always talks about abreactions, ie false 'primals', and anyone who claims it didn't work, he says just weren't suitable for the therapy.
I sort of wish I had never read his books, as I find the ideas damaging, yet hard to shake.

ngc3314
2017-Sep-29, 07:58 PM
I'm impressed with Ken's statistic of half of all people saying the earth's shadow causes moon phases. I tried to look it up, and found a lot of planetarium websites (of course they would say it's a common misconception!), but no statistic. Now, I'm trying to visualize a survey question that would fairly elicit that info.

This is something we include in our pre-tests for intro astronomy classes (part of the process to document that students are learning something). Way over half of incoming college students will give some version of this answer relating the Earth's shadow to lunar phases. This does not seem like a very obvious (mis)interpretation to me, so I've mused about a widespread cabal of rogue 4th-grade teachers implanting the idea. What bothers me about it is how easy it is to see evidence that it's not true, once the question has been asked.

WaxRubiks
2017-Sep-29, 08:18 PM
the simple rebuttal of the Earth shadow on the moon idea is to ask people what the moon looks like at half-moon...

George
2017-Sep-29, 08:58 PM
This is something we include in our pre-tests for intro astronomy classes (part of the process to document that students are learning something). Way over half of incoming college students will give some version of this answer relating the Earth's shadow to lunar phases. This does not seem like a very obvious (mis)interpretation to me, so I've mused about a widespread cabal of rogue 4th-grade teachers implanting the idea. What bothers me about it is how easy it is to see evidence that it's not true, once the question has been asked. I must say things aren't lookin' up (sorry), though they would do well to take Yogi's advice..."You can observe a lot by just watching." :)

Also, I'd like to see any hard evidence on this. I got an email today to met in a few weeks the new education person with McDonald and this evidence might be an interesting addition.

Ken G
2017-Sep-30, 12:01 AM
I'd say that the whole issue stems from the two very separate ways that people use theories. First there are the theories we need (consider your own list), these are the theories that constantly make predictions for us because that's why we have them, and we are constantly checking these theories because that's why we need them-- to make predictions we can use to better our lives when they work.

Then there is the other type of theory, one that we don't need to make predictions. Instead, we need this type to give us a "warm fuzzy feeling" of understanding something. Since the theory makes no predictions for us, we don't test it, and worse, to test it would be to spoil the whole purpose-- if the purpose is to create the illusion of understanding, why mess with the illusion? Testing can only ruin the purpose of theories like this. Consider your own list of this type of theory-- we see it everywhere, particularly in the realm of "ideology". And of course, for most people, theories that explain the phases of the Moon are clearly of this second type-- we don't need it to make predictions, because the Moon will go about its phases either way and we really don't need to know what the phase will be or why it will be that, we only want to have a sense of knowing. It might be a little sobering for us to tally how much of what we think we know falls into this latter category.

By the way, the utter failure of the idea that phases are caused by the shadow of the Earth was demonstrated to me with crystal clarity at the recent total eclipse of the Sun. An hour before the beginning of the eclipse, an old timer at the hotel I was at said "there must be some kind of mistake, how can the Moon eclipse the Sun today? The Moon isn't there." The sheer brilliance of that observation stands in marked contrast against how utterly wrong it is.

WaxRubiks
2017-Sep-30, 01:15 AM
If anyone sees the moon and the sun in the sky, at the same time, if they put two and two together, they should realise............

Ken G
2017-Sep-30, 04:29 AM
If anyone sees the moon and the sun in the sky, at the same time, if they put two and two together, they should realise............

Yet how many times have you heard hit said that "the Moon rises as the Sun sets..." ? Or, "the Sun rules the daytime and the Moon the nighttime," etc. Pick up pretty much any informal popularized account of the Sun and Moon, and that's what you see, over and over. So many people don't even realize it is possible to see the two at the same time! Sometimes the things we don't test are literally right in front of our eyes. What more subtle things that are right in front of our eyes are we not testing?

Gigabyte
2017-Sep-30, 02:31 PM
Plenty

Hornblower
2017-Oct-01, 12:36 AM
I'd say that the whole issue stems from the two very separate ways that people use theories. First there are the theories we need (consider your own list), these are the theories that constantly make predictions for us because that's why we have them, and we are constantly checking these theories because that's why we need them-- to make predictions we can use to better our lives when they work.

Then there is the other type of theory, one that we don't need to make predictions. Instead, we need this type to give us a "warm fuzzy feeling" of understanding something. Since the theory makes no predictions for us, we don't test it, and worse, to test it would be to spoil the whole purpose-- if the purpose is to create the illusion of understanding, why mess with the illusion? Testing can only ruin the purpose of theories like this. Consider your own list of this type of theory-- we see it everywhere, particularly in the realm of "ideology". And of course, for most people, theories that explain the phases of the Moon are clearly of this second type-- we don't need it to make predictions, because the Moon will go about its phases either way and we really don't need to know what the phase will be or why it will be that, we only want to have a sense of knowing. It might be a little sobering for us to tally how much of what we think we know falls into this latter category.

By the way, the utter failure of the idea that phases are caused by the shadow of the Earth was demonstrated to me with crystal clarity at the recent total eclipse of the Sun. An hour before the beginning of the eclipse, an old timer at the hotel I was at said "there must be some kind of mistake, how can the Moon eclipse the Sun today? The Moon isn't there." The sheer brilliance of that observation stands in marked contrast against how utterly wrong it is.

Ken, I am sorry but you have lost me here, and my hunch is that you are overthinking something. Let me repeat that this is only a hunch, not a logical inference from analysis of any sort of data.

My dad was a brilliant electronics and radar engineer whose work was in radar as an aid to navigation. As an adjunct to his electronics work he did continual updating of the orbital elements of U.S. Navy beacon satellites as they were perturbed by Earth's lumpy gravitational field. He showed great skill in the mathematical techniques for fitting curves to messy data, and made reliable and useful predictions that enabled the satellites to be reliable navigation references. At the same time he thought the figure 8 shape of the analemma was due purely to orbital eccentricity and that with a circular orbit the noon Sun's annual line of position would have been an oscillation along some sort of slanted line. I told him, "No, it would be a symmetrical figure 8. I can demonstrate it on a globe or on my Norton's Star Atlas charts." This is somewhat more complicated than the lunar phase issue, but I see it as analogous. I don't know whether he inferred that on his own or was misinformed by someone. For all I know he could have tried to work it out in his head and muffed it in the process. In any case, whatever error he made was not on something that occurred in his satellite orbital element work and thus was of no professional consequence. I have no way of knowing whether or not he had a warm and fuzzy feeling about his mental picture of the analemma geometry. For all I know he could have had such a feeling about his success in tracking the satellites and none at all about the analemma. I can imagine that he may have been chagrined by my rebuttal.

malaidas
2017-Oct-01, 12:54 AM
The answer to this lies in the history that led up to it, and understanding the differences

Ken G
2017-Oct-01, 01:09 AM
I told him, "No, it would be a symmetrical figure 8. I can demonstrate it on a globe or on my Norton's Star Atlas charts." This is somewhat more complicated than the lunar phase issue, but I see it as analogous. I don't know whether he inferred that on his own or was misinformed by someone. For all I know he could have tried to work it out in his head and muffed it in the process. But that's exactly why it is not analogous to the phases of the Moon-- there's no way anyone can see a crescent Moon, with the Sun nearby, and possibly think that the effect is being caused by the shadow of the Earth. That's not a "muff" that is at all possible. Ergo, the only other possibility is that he never noticed the situation I just described. But anyone who wanted to test their theory of the phases of the Moon would of course notice that situation, in the course of testing their theory, it's a prime opportunity for such a test if that were their goal. Ergo, it wasn't their goal-- it served their purpose without being tested, so it was never the purpose of the theory to pass tests, it was always the purpose of the theory to give a feeling of understanding, period. That's my whole point, he sounds like an absolutely classic example of what I'm talking about, because he would have been way too smart to hold to that theory for any other reason. In fact, I would argue that smart people tend to be even more susceptible to holding to theories just to get a sense of knowing-- such people are used to knowing, so they are uncomfortable not knowing, and may thus be susceptible to drawing premature conclusions. Being smart, and being confident in one's smarts, does not mean you tend to test more-- it may mean you tend to test less.

7cscb
2017-Oct-01, 12:03 PM
I believe the scientific method is a proceduralization of fact based inquiry and it is not obvious. It probably took many leaps in thinking to get to it.

Without it, we still achieved much because we are intelligent. But even animals ( la Pavlov) exhibit the ability to do basic observing and concluding.

profloater
2017-Oct-01, 12:40 PM
But that's exactly why it is not analogous to the phases of the Moon-- there's no way anyone can see a crescent Moon, with the Sun nearby, and possibly think that the effect is being caused by the shadow of the Earth. That's not a "muff" that is at all possible. Ergo, the only other possibility is that he never noticed the situation I just described. But anyone who wanted to test their theory of the phases of the Moon would of course notice that situation, in the course of testing their theory, it's a prime opportunity for such a test if that were their goal. Ergo, it wasn't their goal-- it served their purpose without being tested, so it was never the purpose of the theory to pass tests, it was always the purpose of the theory to give a feeling of understanding, period. That's my whole point, he sounds like an absolutely classic example of what I'm talking about, because he would have been way too smart to hold to that theory for any other reason. In fact, I would argue that smart people tend to be even more susceptible to holding to theories just to get a sense of knowing-- such people are used to knowing, so they are uncomfortable not knowing, and may thus be susceptible to drawing premature conclusions. Being smart, and being confident in one's smarts, does not mean you tend to test more-- it may mean you tend to test less.

Aristotle was undoubtedly smart but made some basic mistakes both in observations and introspection, which survived as dogma for more than a thousand years. I have to admire those who Challenged dogma and were ridiculed for it. Some you have to wonder about. Marconi believed he could send radio across the Atlantic but he was right for the wrong reasons. The shift from philosophical reasoning to really testing was an intellectual leap, part of the enlightenment when dogma about what God wanted was challenged. The formulation of method as in Popper, was a slow jump that has not really become public yet. People are ignorant and superstitious and still wary of science. So no, it's not obvious at all.

grant hutchison
2017-Oct-01, 12:41 PM
He was also a deer hunter. When I read "Bambi" as a child, I went into a deer reading frenzy (aspie). I mentioned to him that bucks shed their antlers once a year. "ARE YOU CRAZY!? A DEER CAN'T GROW A HUGE RACK LIKE THAT IN A YEAR!".
He later apologized to me.I think this is an example of one of those unexamined assumptions that we all keep turning up in our lives.
Many hunters only ever see a deer in the hunting season, when it has fully formed antlers. So they miss out on the spring cycle of shedding and regrowth in velvet. And of course many animals we see all year round don't shed horns - cows and sheep, for example. So there's a sampling error that leads to the default assumption that deer antlers work like cow horns.
There are observations that might lead to questions - shed antlers on the ground, for one, and the fact that older deer have more tines on their antlers than younger deer. Once these are pointed out, they create a puzzle that might make you want to go out to look at deer in other seasons.

But it's amazing how difficult it is to notice things that conflict with unexamined assumptions. So maybe another component of the scientific method is cultivating a disposition to poke at everything, to consider what it implies and what it doesn't imply. We have pretty good mechanisms now (although patchily used) to ensure we don't fool ourselves with badly designed tests. But we don't have so many mechanisms that help us reliably spot our invisible assumptions.

Grant Hutchison

Ken G
2017-Oct-01, 02:32 PM
Aristotle was undoubtedly smart but made some basic mistakes both in observations and introspection, which survived as dogma for more than a thousand years. I have to admire those who Challenged dogma and were ridiculed for it. Some you have to wonder about. Marconi believed he could send radio across the Atlantic but he was right for the wrong reasons. The shift from philosophical reasoning to really testing was an intellectual leap, part of the enlightenment when dogma about what God wanted was challenged. The formulation of method as in Popper, was a slow jump that has not really become public yet. People are ignorant and superstitious and still wary of science.Ah yes, good point about Popper-- he tells a story of how he came to understand the pitfalls in semi-scientific thinking (not his word, but it seems to fit). He had a colleague who had a theory of psychology that he claimed was quite general. At first Popper was impressed by the theory, but then he read of a case that seemed to go completely opposite the predictions of the theory. When he told his friend about the case, he expected his friend to say something like, there might be exceptions that require further scrutiny, etc. But instead, his friend just reinterpreted the case, via hindsight, to make it sound like it fit the theory! Popper realized that the theory was not about making successful predictions at all, it was about providing an illusion of understanding. This insight was seminal to his reformulation of the key elements of scientific thinking.

Ken G
2017-Oct-01, 02:42 PM
But it's amazing how difficult it is to notice things that conflict with unexamined assumptions. So maybe another component of the scientific method is cultivating a disposition to poke at everything, to consider what it implies and what it doesn't imply. We have pretty good mechanisms now (although patchily used) to ensure we don't fool ourselves with badly designed tests. But we don't have so many mechanisms that help us reliably spot our invisible assumptions.Exactly, which is why I so often point out the pitfalls in the whole concept of an "assumption" in science. Many people seem to think an assumption is like a mathematical axiom-- something that you regard as true because it really seems like it should be, and even though you know there could be situations where it isn't true, you simply aren't interested in those situations. But assumptions in science shouldn't be thought of like that at all-- they should be tended like gardens, constantly remembered that they are in the background of all our conclusions. All they are is a kind of prioritization of what we are choosing to spend our time and energy to test-- the "assumption" is simply the thing we are less concerned about testing because we think it is more important to test something else. The fallacy, of course, is when we never go down the list-- we test the thing we were most concerned about, get a satisfactory result, and then commit the cardinal sin of science-- we stop! That's because we forgot the difference between an assumption in science and an axiom in mathematics.

The classic example of this phenomenon was Copernicus and Ptolemy. The Greeks were not interested in testing the "assumption" that stars could not be a million times farther than the Sun, so they were not interested in the possibility that stars were suns. Stars not being suns was the centerpiece of the geocentric model, but it was never an axiom, it was always just something that was hard to test and seemed unlikely, somehow. So when it got turned from a lower priority test to an axiom, the Earth went from being "the stationary center of the universe unless stars are suns" into "the stationary center of the universe, period." That's how assumptions should not be used in science.

BigDon
2017-Oct-01, 05:01 PM
Maybe he didn't really care about the phases of the moon and had no reason to think about it.

Exactly. Unless you're an astronomer the whole issue of the origin of the Moon's phases is trivia. (And judging people by how much trivia they know seems to be a bad thing to me.)

I recall a Dilbert cartoon where the cartoonist was decrying that "extensive knowledge of trivia, combined with arrogance" is often mistaken for intelligence.

profloater
2017-Oct-01, 05:55 PM
I meet people regularly who do not know about the 28 day cycle, they just never thought about it and if they were ever taught it slipped away as irrelevant stuff. City dwellers do not catch sight of the moon often. For them indeed it is trivia, like which side was (pick a country) on during WW2. And to understand scientific method, ? Just another irrelevance. Something somebody else does when they don't have to work. Am I getting bitter? I now have to explain to professional electricians what a relay is and why inductive loads trip RCDs (GFCIs) not just science but technology is getting remote from the majority, it'S not good. Is it?

Strange
2017-Oct-01, 06:57 PM
Greeks-> Romans take on Greek Culture-> dark age texts copied by Muslim Scholars->The Reformation (Germany) -> The Renaissance (Italy): $$$ talks> American/French Revolution->The Enlightenment (France & Britain)-> The industrial Revolution (Britain) due to lots of coal underground.
I think the issues are:
1) an uneducated serf chatting to 3 other serfs in a field covered with horse-sh@t is not going to have a gedanken experiment.
2) you need a population of literate people living in cities

The development of agriculture (1) can be considered a scientific process (noting that selecting certain plants can lead to better crops) preceded the development of cities (2).

I think most of the other items in your list are equally wrong and/or irrelevant.

Strange
2017-Oct-01, 07:00 PM
If anyone sees the moon and the sun in the sky, at the same time, if they put two and two together, they should realise............

There was an entire thread recently about whether the relationship between the positions of the Sun and Moon, and the phase of the Moon was "obvious" ... it was quite heated, as I remember.

grant hutchison
2017-Oct-01, 07:08 PM
There was an entire thread recently about whether the relationship between the positions of the Sun and Moon, and the phase of the Moon was "obvious" ... it was quite heated, as I remember.Oh, yeah. That was a great one.
And then there was the one about whether the gibbous moon is "obviously" not aligned with the sun when they're both in the sky at the same time.

Maybe we should have infraction points for anyone who advances an argument involving the phrase "it is obvious that ..."

Grant Hutchison

WaxRubiks
2017-Oct-01, 07:46 PM
Perhaps it is obvious to some 3 year-old aliens that e=mc^2.

George
2017-Oct-01, 08:59 PM
Exactly, which is why I so often point out the pitfalls in the whole concept of an "assumption" in science. Many people seem to think an assumption is like a mathematical axiom-- something that you regard as true because it really seems like it should be, and even though you know there could be situations where it isn't true, you simply aren't interested in those situations. But assumptions in science shouldn't be thought of like that at all-- they should be tended like gardens, constantly remembered that they are in the background of all our conclusions. All they are is a kind of prioritization of what we are choosing to spend our time and energy to test-- the "assumption" is simply the thing we are less concerned about testing because we think it is more important to test something else. The fallacy, of course, is when we never go down the list-- we test the thing we were most concerned about, get a satisfactory result, and then commit the cardinal sin of science-- we stop! That's because we forgot the difference between an assumption in science and an axiom in mathematics. Nicely stated! It is harder to excuse untested assumptions in the realm of science vs. other realms, though some comments are only meant to sound objective-based when they are just social comments stated for various reasons. When I was little I noticed the strange, thin black cloth stapled underneath our couch and asked my mother if it was fire-proof, thinking it may be there as fire protection. She casually said yes. I was amazed that I had guessed right so that night, after all were asleep, I decided to test her claim. She was surprisingly wrong! In panic, I grabbed only a small glass to shuffle back and forth with water. I don't recall if the fire department came on this particular occasion but it was quite a scene. It puzzled me why Mom was so tolerant of my bad behavior, calming Dad as well. I do know she really liked her new couch. :)

I think it's easier to make careless comments with more abstract things, which includes anyone who doesn't take certain sciences very serious due simply to lack of interest. With Mom, she was just more interested in something else and perhaps thought it wise to not say, "I don't know". Maybe she feared I would test the cloth to find the answer.


The classic example of this phenomenon was Copernicus and Ptolemy. The Greeks were not interested in testing the "assumption" that stars could not be a million times farther than the Sun, so they were not interested in the possibility that stars were suns.Is this not an assumption? Hipparchus used parallax to accurately determine the distance to the Moon. Perhaps they had already tried this with the stars, which would have been evidence that they were fixed. Am I forgetting something?


Stars not being suns was the centerpiece of the geocentric model, but it was never an axiom, it was always just something that was hard to test and seemed unlikely, somehow. So when it got turned from a lower priority test to an axiom, the Earth went from being "the stationary center of the universe unless stars are suns" into "the stationary center of the universe, period." Hmmm. I don't see why the Earth-center model condition that stars are not suns was the key to the model. Back then, little bitty suns would be as valid a claim as stars about the same size of the Sun, and the inverse square law for light might not have be around, though I'm too rushed to check this idea out.

Ken G
2017-Oct-02, 12:32 AM
NI don't recall if the fire department came on this particular occasion but it was quite a scene. It puzzled me why Mom was so tolerant of my bad behavior, calming Dad as well. I do know she really liked her new couch.Perhaps she had a guilty conscience-- thinking the couch was fire retardant when in fact it was a fire hazard!

With Mom, she was just more interested in something else and perhaps thought it wise to not say, "I don't know". Maybe she feared I would test the cloth to find the answer. Apparently your desire to test was activated all the same. Science does have a place for those who test what is commonly known, not just what is "on the frontier"!


Is this not an assumption? Hipparchus used parallax to accurately determine the distance to the Moon. Perhaps they had already tried this with the stars, which would have been evidence that they were fixed. Am I forgetting something?The problem with parallax is that it deals in apparent motions, so it only tells you ratios of distances. So you can put an upper limit on the movement of something only if you have an upper limit on the distance. Which was their problem in the first place! The Greeks knew they were only getting ratios, but they mistook an assumption for an axiom, so they thought they were safe in concluding that the Earth was stationary.


Hmmm. I don't see why the Earth-center model condition that stars are not suns was the key to the model. Back then, little bitty suns would be as valid a claim as stars about the same size of the Sun, and the inverse square law for light might not have be around, though I'm too rushed to check this idea out.What I mean by "stars are suns" is that they are similar objects. That requires they be something like a million times farther away. Since the Greeks geocentrism was anchored on the absence of stellar parallax, they would have known their anchor was dragging if they had allowed themselves to imagine that stars are suns.

George
2017-Oct-02, 02:23 PM
The problem with parallax is that it deals in apparent motions, so it only tells you ratios of distances. So you can put an upper limit on the movement of something only if you have an upper limit on the distance. Which was their problem in the first place! The Greeks knew they were only getting ratios, but they mistook an assumption for an axiom, so they thought they were safe in concluding that the Earth was stationary. Yes, I was too quick on the trigger with this. The lack of parallax was the one big problem for Copernicus. While searching for parallax, it is interesting (serendipity) that stellar aberration was discovered before parallax.


What I mean by "stars are suns" is that they are similar objects. That requires they be something like a million times farther away. Since the Greeks geocentrism was anchored on the absence of stellar parallax, they would have known their anchor was dragging if they had allowed themselves to imagine that stars are suns.Yes, but I don't expect this to have been a real concern. Glowing orbs of various sizes might have been easy for them to imagine, but vast distances were not. Ptolemy chose to put Venus between us and the Sun rather than beyond the Sun because he reasoned that God would not waste all that empty space. Such teleological reasoning likely existed for the earlier Greeks. Parallax, no doubt, would have made a difference, but I suspect it might have resolved itself with an early Tychonic model to "save the appearance".

Aristotle's principles that elements go to their natural spot seems to me to be the key to their geocentric model. This explains all that was observed, though retrograde added some quirkiness. This model also favored a spherical Earth. His "first element" (aether) would be whatever they wanted to dream-up, no doubt, since the idea of getting samples would have made for some fun jokes.

Hornblower
2017-Oct-02, 02:40 PM
I would not call the stars not being suns the centerpiece of the geocentric model. I would call Earth the centerpiece, with the idea that it is stationary being a reasonable common sense default at the time. The fixed stars were peripheral, and their lack of observable parallax reinforced the geocentric line of thought.

The idea that God would not have wasted the space needed to place the stars far enough away to make the parallax from a moving Earth unobservable was a belief that was not supported by observational testing, and thus was not scientific by our present standard of scientific method. However, some critics of the moving Earth model thought they had a valid test. They thought a Sun-like body would be invisible if that far away. They did not yet understand that a sufficiently luminous body could be visible against a dark background in spite of being too small to be seen without that luminance. That would be hard to test with scaled down lights in those days because they probably could not make a torch that would be anywhere near as intense as the Sun.

George
2017-Oct-02, 03:46 PM
The idea that God would not have wasted the space needed to place the stars far enough away to make the parallax from a moving Earth unobservable was a belief that was not supported by observational testing, and thus was not scientific by our present standard of scientific method. Agreed, they did enjoy reasoning such things. I'm finally reading Huygen's work about inhabitants on other planets and it's rich in subjective reasoning especially coming from someone of his intellect. His advocacy reminds me of some of Galileo's style.


However, some critics of the moving Earth model thought they had a valid test. They thought a Sun-like body would be invisible if that far away. They did not yet understand that a sufficiently luminous body could be visible against a dark background in spite of being too small to be seen without that luminance. That would be hard to test with scaled down lights in those days because they probably could not make a torch that would be anywhere near as intense as the Sun. That's a great point. This reasoning, though erroneous, would indeed reinforce their Geocentric model. They could have imagined, alternatively, that stars were even bigger than the Sun to suggest their possible vast distances but at the risk of being mocked, no doubt.

ngc3314
2017-Oct-02, 05:43 PM
An issue that I only recently was brought to appreciate about the geocentric-heliocentric debate was that some people were trying to measure the apparent sizes of stars (not yet having the optics to understand that the naked-eye, or for that matter telescopic, disks of stars are optical rather than physical) and pointed out that stars far enough away to not show obvious parallax would have had to be so large as to be nothing at all like the Sun. I may have linked it before, but a very detailed historical discussion, by a historian of science, provided in The Great Ptolemaic Smackdown (http://tofspot.blogspot.com/2013/08/the-great-ptolemaic-smackdown.html) (stay for all 9 parts, it's worth it). Short form: it was way more complicated, more people were important at the time, and what we like to present as the Cartoon Network thread of discovery wasn't at all so obvious at the time.

George
2017-Oct-02, 07:37 PM
An issue that I only recently was brought to appreciate about the geocentric-heliocentric debate was that some people were trying to measure the apparent sizes of stars (not yet having the optics to understand that the naked-eye, or for that matter telescopic, disks of stars are optical rather than physical) and pointed out that stars far enough away to not show obvious parallax would have had to be so large as to be nothing at all like the Sun. I may have linked it before, but a very detailed historical discussion, by a historian of science, provided in The Great Ptolemaic Smackdown (http://tofspot.blogspot.com/2013/08/the-great-ptolemaic-smackdown.html) (stay for all 9 parts, it's worth it). Short form: it was way more complicated, more people were important at the time, and what we like to present as the Cartoon Network thread of discovery wasn't at all so obvious at the time. Another great point!

But this would not be something the early Greeks would have considered, right? We are jumping back and forth between Aristotle and Copernicus/Galileo.

[The link does explain it nicely, btw, but I think they are selling Tycho a bit short (pun intended) on his resolution. It states he could achieve "errors as small as the width of a quarter seen from a football field away." That quarter represents about 1 arcminute (typical resolution of the eye), but Tycho, for some key stars cut that in half -- hence 1 bit; 1/2 a quarter; 12-1/2 cents, a better than average pun, at least for me. ;) He did this by using multiple observers and averaging(?) their data.]

Ken G
2017-Oct-02, 10:29 PM
I would not call the stars not being suns the centerpiece of the geocentric model. I would call Earth the centerpiece, with the idea that it is stationary being a reasonable common sense default at the time. The fixed stars were peripheral, and their lack of observable parallax reinforced the geocentric line of thought.
I can't agree. Aristarchus had already laid out a perfectly plausible heliocentric model. It was the stars that defeated him, not the Earth.


The idea that God would not have wasted the space needed to place the stars far enough away to make the parallax from a moving Earth unobservable was a belief that was not supported by observational testing, and thus was not scientific by our present standard of scientific method. However, some critics of the moving Earth model thought they had a valid test. Yes, it is positively mind blowing how far away the stars need to be if they are suns. I can easily see how many people would have taken it as a good "assumption" that stars can't be that far away. But as I say, that's the wrong way to use assumptions in science, and its track record shows that clearly.

Ken G
2017-Oct-02, 10:32 PM
An issue that I only recently was brought to appreciate about the geocentric-heliocentric debate was that some people were trying to measure the apparent sizes of stars (not yet having the optics to understand that the naked-eye, or for that matter telescopic, disks of stars are optical rather than physical) and pointed out that stars far enough away to not show obvious parallax would have had to be so large as to be nothing at all like the Sun. I may have linked it before, but a very detailed historical discussion, by a historian of science, provided in The Great Ptolemaic Smackdown (http://tofspot.blogspot.com/2013/08/the-great-ptolemaic-smackdown.html) (stay for all 9 parts, it's worth it). Short form: it was way more complicated, more people were important at the time, and what we like to present as the Cartoon Network thread of discovery wasn't at all so obvious at the time.
You mean the debate of the 1600s, not the debate in Aristarchus' time, correct? But yes, we always tend to oversimplify the historical perspective, such as when we say Einstein's photoelectric effect experiment showed that light was made of photons, when in fact it only showed that light exchanged energy with electrons as quanta (which could have happened in a wave model of light if the electron energies were quantized, which they are!). The actual historical debate is usually much more nuanced, so it's nice to hear the full story when we can!

Hornblower
2017-Oct-02, 11:19 PM
I can't agree. Aristarchus had already laid out a perfectly plausible heliocentric model. It was the stars that defeated him, not the Earth.I am confused by this. I stated that the stars provided arguments against a heliocentric model, and you appear to be concurring with that. What did I say that you disagree with?

Ken G
2017-Oct-02, 11:36 PM
I am confused by this. I stated that the stars provided arguments against a heliocentric model, and you appear to be concurring with that. What did I say that you disagree with?
I disagreed with how you downplayed the importance of the stars, calling them "peripheral." I think had there been no visible stars in the night sky, retrograde motion of the planets would have made the heliocentric model seem inevitable. But when Aristarchus suggested just that, the stars were there to shout him down. Only it turned out to be a whisper-- coming from as far away as it did!

The example stemmed from the importance of understanding how to use, and how not to use, assumptions in science, which is one of the "not obvious" aspects of the scientific method-- given how often it is violated. Assumptions, like that the stars cannot be incredibly far away, are not to be used as things we hold to be true, the way we hold axioms to be true in mathematics. Instead, they are to be remembered, and tested when it becomes technologically possible, they are just not the top priority to test at the moment. In particular, all assumptions should be explicit, like "if the stars are not incredibly far away...." or "if the universe is not fundamentally dynamical..." or "if there is no source of energy in the Sun nor process to assist heat transport within the Earth..." etc. Think how much less egg-in-face individual scientists, or generations of scientists, would have had if they had been willing to use a few essential extra words, words that are crucial elements of the scientific method done right. The question then is, where is this not happening today, which will result in egg in the face of our generation?

Hornblower
2017-Oct-03, 06:07 PM
I stand by my previous remarks in which I consider the lunar phase and analemma issues to be analogous, because as I see it they both involve misunderstanding or lack of understanding of the geometry in question. The only fundamental difference I see is the degree of difficulty in demonstrating a suitable test. The lunar phase case is far and away the easier one, but I have seen enough people of at least average overall intelligence have trouble with space/position relationships that I would not conclude that it should be obvious to someone in that category who has no occupational motive to test it.

George
2017-Oct-03, 06:59 PM
I disagreed with how you downplayed the importance of the stars, calling them "peripheral." I think had there been no visible stars in the night sky, retrograde motion of the planets would have made the heliocentric model seem inevitable. But stars' distances were less important of the false assumptions. The biggest false assumption I think would be Aristotle's four elements of earth, water, air, fire (aether came later I think). This model argues for the center of the Earth to physically be the center of the universe, where all substance falls toward this center and finds its natural place in the order stated. So the stars are but specs in the ointment (peripheral). Ptolemy addressed retrograde adequately, though the heliocentric model was simpler, yet only on paper. The elemental model, things flying off a rotating earth, etc. would add complexity to any accurate model until the false assumptions were addressed, which I think is your appropriate point.


But when Aristarchus suggested just that, the stars were there to shout him down. Only it turned out to be a whisper-- coming from as far away as it did! But the weight of Aristotle likely pressed hard against opponents. The elements, again, playing a key role. No object is found to fall toward the Sun since the Sun, per Aristotle and others, is not the center. And other assumptions would need debunked as well. The lack of parallax was a quick debunk of an interesting model (heliocentric) but not one that explained all the consequences of moving the center from Earth's core to anywhere else.

Ken G
2017-Oct-03, 09:26 PM
I stand by my previous remarks in which I consider the lunar phase and analemma issues to be analogous, because as I see it they both involve misunderstanding or lack of understanding of the geometry in question. I'm sorry, I just don't see how you can possibly equate something as subtle and difficult to picture as the analemma on the same terms as something as obvious and easy to see as the fact that the shadow of the Earth does not fall on a crescent Moon seen close to the Sun. That's like saying that understanding 2+2=4 is analogous to understanding that the derivative of x2 is 2x!


The only fundamental difference I see is the degree of difficulty in demonstrating a suitable test.Yes, quite.

Ken G
2017-Oct-03, 09:29 PM
But stars' distances were less important of the false assumptions. The biggest false assumption I think would be Aristotle's four elements of earth, water, air, fire (aether came later I think). This model argues for the center of the Earth to physically be the center of the universe, where all substance falls toward this center and finds its natural place in the order stated. So the stars are but specs in the ointment (peripheral).That wasn't an assumption, it was a model, and no doubt it was part of their thinking-- but Aristarchus could still design a heliocentric model, so it's not like the Greek mind simply couldn't get outside that box.


Ptolemy addressed retrograde adequately, though the heliocentric model was simpler, yet only on paper.Yet the Greeks looked for stellar parallax, and had they seen it, they would not have put the stars on little epicycles-- that's the whole reason they were looking for it. The need for epicycles was the contrast between the complex motion of the planets, and the simple motion of the stars. If not for that contrast, which is only a surprise if one thinks the stars are not vastly farther than the planets, Ptolemy's model doesn't fly.

Hornblower
2017-Oct-04, 04:33 PM
I disagreed with how you downplayed the importance of the stars, calling them "peripheral." I think had there been no visible stars in the night sky, retrograde motion of the planets would have made the heliocentric model seem inevitable. But when Aristarchus suggested just that, the stars were there to shout him down. Only it turned out to be a whisper-- coming from as far away as it did!

The example stemmed from the importance of understanding how to use, and how not to use, assumptions in science, which is one of the "not obvious" aspects of the scientific method-- given how often it is violated. Assumptions, like that the stars cannot be incredibly far away, are not to be used as things we hold to be true, the way we hold axioms to be true in mathematics. Instead, they are to be remembered, and tested when it becomes technologically possible, they are just not the top priority to test at the moment. In particular, all assumptions should be explicit, like "if the stars are not incredibly far away...." or "if the universe is not fundamentally dynamical..." or "if there is no source of energy in the Sun nor process to assist heat transport within the Earth..." etc. Think how much less egg-in-face individual scientists, or generations of scientists, would have had if they had been willing to use a few essential extra words, words that are crucial elements of the scientific method done right. The question then is, where is this not happening today, which will result in egg in the face of our generation?

It appears to me that your view of the history of this topic is rather different from mine. For as long as I can remember it has been my understanding that the classical Greek thinkers had what they thought were compelling arguments against a moving Earth model, and that the lack of observable stellar parallax was just another argument against it, along with more down-to-Earth arguments. By this I mean lack of any sensation of rapid motion or violent wind, or the way dropped objects were not left behind. Apparently Aristarchus did not have these objections, but plenty of others did, and I would not jump to any conclusion that an absence of fixed stars would necessarily have made a quick difference in how long it would have taken for a Sun-centered model to gain acceptance in that environment.

George
2017-Oct-04, 05:23 PM
That wasn't an assumption, it was a model, and no doubt it was part of their thinking-- Fair enough, the model did have objective evidence but it was heavily laced with assumption, which I think is the crux of your points about assumptions.


but Aristarchus could still design a heliocentric model, so it's not like the Greek mind simply couldn't get outside that box. Aristarchus stands apart in both thought and location. I suspect that the Ionians had a distinct advantage of being located between two cultures, especially given the religious implications. There was mutual exclusivity between the Persian gods and the Greek gods, so perhaps this allowed greater freedom of thought.

The importance of parallax (its lack) for Aristarchus should be in agreement with your argument, and perhaps this became true for Archimedes. I think, however, Hornblower and I are considering all the Greek thinking that has other, more earthly arguments against it. So we are all correct if we parse the characters.


Yet the Greeks looked for stellar parallax, and had they seen it, they would not have put the stars on little epicycles-- that's the whole reason they were looking for it. The need for epicycles was the contrast between the complex motion of the planets, and the simple motion of the stars. If not for that contrast, which is only a surprise if one thinks the stars are not vastly farther than the planets, Ptolemy's model doesn't fly.But don't forget the Tychonic model. Stellar parallax, had they seen it, would be a nice fit with the Tychonic model leaving Dante to write as he did.

When Galileo debunked the Aristotle/Ptolemy/Thomist model with Venus, the Jesuits were surprisingly quick to agree but they had Tycho's model on their only slightly dusty shelf to replace Ptolemy.

BigDon
2017-Oct-04, 08:09 PM
I meet people regularly who do not know about the 28 day cycle, they just never thought about it and if they were ever taught it slipped away as irrelevant stuff. City dwellers do not catch sight of the moon often. For them indeed it is trivia, like which side was (pick a country) on during WW2. And to understand scientific method, ? Just another irrelevance. Something somebody else does when they don't have to work. Am I getting bitter? I now have to explain to professional electricians what a relay is and why inductive loads trip RCDs (GFCIs) not just science but technology is getting remote from the majority, it'S not good. Is it?

My brother works for NASA/Ames. Server cluster expert. He was stunned to see professional electricians who couldn't quote Ohm's Law!

How the heck did we get here?

Ken G
2017-Oct-04, 10:11 PM
It appears to me that your view of the history of this topic is rather different from mine. For as long as I can remember it has been my understanding that the classical Greek thinkers had what they thought were compelling arguments against a moving Earth model, and that the lack of observable stellar parallax was just another argument against it, along with more down-to-Earth arguments.My point was that Aristarchus was a "classical Greek thinker", and he suggested the heliocentric model to explain retrograde motion. Had there been retrograde motion in stars (if they were closer), that would have been the end of it, Aristarchus would certainly have prevailed. Had there been no stars to see, the issue is less clear, but it certainly seems to me his description of retrograde motion would have been compelling, as it was to Copernicus so many years later. But when there were observations of stars, and they did not show parallax, that was the killing blow to Aristarchus' model. He really had no answer, except that the stars must be absurdly far away. The Greeks had made the key assumption that this was not plausible, but had they simply said "assuming the stars cannot be that far away, we must favor the geocentric model until we have the capacity to test the distance to the stars or the other differences between the geocentric and heliocentric predictions", then they would have been doing good science and would not have been considered wrong-- because they would not have been wrong. That's my whole point-- the way to do science without being wrong.


By this I mean lack of any sensation of rapid motion or violent wind, or the way dropped objects were not left behind. The Greeks had a view where the atmosphere would not cling to the Earth if the Earth were moving, but they were not idiots-- they knew that if you jump up in a chariot, you come down in the chariot. So their issue was more with a picture that air sat atop water and earth, and it was a model that did not sit well with a moving Earth but also could not point to much in the way of predictive power. Really it was more philosophy than science, and science was still coming of age back then, so perhaps it's unfair for me to hold them to a strictly scientific standard.


Apparently Aristarchus did not have these objections, but plenty of others did, and I would not jump to any conclusion that an absence of fixed stars would necessarily have made a quick difference in how long it would have taken for a Sun-centered model to gain acceptance in that environment.I agree that we do not know what they would have concluded in a hypothetical scenario where there were no stars to see, but it certainly would have removed Aristarchus' key problem, though there still would have been the failure to recognize the difference between air resistance and no air resistance. Still, my point here is that the Greeks did make the key assumption that the stars were not very far away, and had they explicitly stated that assumption, they would not have been wrong, they would have merely been prioritizing their test items.

Ken G
2017-Oct-04, 10:23 PM
Aristarchus stands apart in both thought and location. I suspect that the Ionians had a distinct advantage of being located between two cultures, especially given the religious implications. There was mutual exclusivity between the Persian gods and the Greek gods, so perhaps this allowed greater freedom of thought.That's an interesting point, and speaks to the overlap between science, religion, and philosophy that was still widespread in that age. It has taken science a long time to fully emerge as a separate mode of inquiry from those others.


The importance of parallax (its lack) for Aristarchus should be in agreement with your argument, and perhaps this became true for Archimedes. I think, however, Hornblower and I are considering all the Greek thinking that has other, more earthly arguments against it. So we are all correct if we parse the characters.It almost requires an exhaustive historical search to properly weight the factors, and no doubt it depends on the individual Greeks and how influenced they were by various philosophies and religions of the day.


But don't forget the Tychonic model. Stellar parallax, had they seen it, would be a nice fit with the Tychonic model leaving Dante to write as he did. Actually, I don't bother to distinguish the Tychonic model from the Copernican one, because to me it makes no difference at all if the Earth is regarded as moving-- that was never the issue. Indeed, today we can see it is purely a question of coordinate system! But what did matter then, and matters now, is the revolutionary difference between imagining that Earth and the Sun are vastly different from the other planets and the stars, versus imagining that the Earth is a planet, and the Sun is a star. Those were always the real stakes in that debate! Eppur si muove was a red herring from the start.