pondělí 27. září 2010

Should journalists second guess the scientific truth?

This post is a reaction to recent article of Lubos Motl of the same name. It's not surprising, Motl supports his restrictive stance, regarding the rights to expression of private opinion from the side of journalists. But we shouldn't neglect the fact, with respect to climatic science Lubos is just an educated journalist like everyone else and he violates his own rules flagrantly, because he is trying to influent public meaning massively all the time. He is just trying to dispute rights of journalists to the same activity, which he dedicated most of his time - and because he uses Google Adsense on his blog, he's even earning some money for it like professional journalists.


In general, opinion of experts matters from intrinsic perspective only. But just because experts are specialized to narrow area of their private interest, they're not overmuch qualified in judging of their opinions in wider context - on the contrary, they tend to occupy their stances rather blindly - the more, the more they feel being an experts in given area. In this context the reading of articles The era of expert failure by Arnold Kling,  Why experts are usually wrong by David H. Freeman and Why the experts missed the crash by Phill Tetlock (in Czech) may be useful not only for Lubos Motl.

Niels Bohr: "An expert is a man who has made all the mistakes which can be made in a very narrow field".

17 komentářů:

  1. Actually it's not so surprising, because people, who are thinking intuitively (and actually inventing stuffs) are rather bad in formalization or realization of their ideas - so they're not presenting their finding in a way, which is accepted by mainstream science, at least in the time, when this idea was originally proposed.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_examples_of_Stigler%27s_law

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  2. There is an old paper by Luigi Foschini about the problem of interpretation of quantum physics which has raised a discussion about the effectiveness of science and its limits:

    Is Science going through a critical stage? (PDF)

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  3. Trolls are like longitudinal underwater waves, forming annoying noise at the water surface, whereas the strictly formally thinking experts are like transverse waves spreading along water surface. At the distance these waves converge mutually, so that the every sufficiently farseeing genius is indistinguishable from cretin.

    Frank Poe's law: "Any sufficiently fundamentalistic stance becomes indistinguishable from its parody" (examples)
    Arthur E. Clarke's law: "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from medieval magic"

    The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.

    The Poe's law (in which every sufficiently fundamentalistic stance becomes indistinguishable from its parody) and/or Asimov's law (in which every sufficiently advanced theory or technology is indistinguishable from ancient medieval magic) are not accidental at all - but a theorems of AWT model.

    For example, with increasing level of formalism the advanced theories of string theorists are becoming as fuzzy and untestable, like the incomprehensible implications of modern philosophers (Martin Heidegger). AWT just explains, why is it so and why both group of thinkers converge to the same outcome undeniably, although they're using completely different tools for it.

    At the water surface the strictly causal background independent transverse waves (which are representing strictly formal approach here) are gradually becoming as fuzzy, as the underwater longitudinal waves (which are representing holistic approach of philosophers) and their spreading converges into fuzzy noise from sufficient distance from observer. This can serve as an illustrative physical model of the dichotomy in evolution of human understanding.

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  4. Why anthropology is ‘true’ even if it is not ‘science’.

    "The opposite of ‘science’ is not ‘nihilistic postmodernism’, it’s ‘an enormously huge range of forms of scholarship, many of which are completely and totally committed to accuracy and impartiality in the knowledge claims they make, thank you very much’."

    The same applies to another area of science, for example physics, which is very dogmatic too, because of the lack of reliable data for verification. The symptomatic aspect of this intellectual crisis is, young scientists are becoming more conservative, then these elderly ones, because their conformist thinking is carrier driven.

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  5. Albert Einstein: "The bigotry of the nonbeliever is for me nearly as funny as the bigotry of the believer".

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  6. In praise of scientific error
    Excessive caution more damaging to science than mistakes

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  7. The disposable academic: Why doing a PhD is often a waste of time.
    Research at one American university found that those who finish are no cleverer than those who do not. Poor supervision, bad job prospects or lack of money cause them to run out of steam.

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  8. John Allen Paulos - The Decline Effect and Why Scientific 'Truth' So Often Turns Out Wrong.

    In AWT (dense aether theory) this phenomena can be real emergent nature and it manifests like switching into dual opinion, when the density of facts increases certain level. It's analogous to dispersive spreading of waves at the water surface, which is switching its character with distance from longitudinal into transverse waves and back into longitudinal waves again. It corresponds the layered fractally nested character of Universe and observable reality.

    For example, from terrestrial perspective the epicycle model of solar system appears relevant. With increasing scope this model has been replaced with heliocentric model but now the evolution of galactic arms can be described with epicycle model again. It's just the number of observable objects, which makes epicycle or heliocentric model more relevant.

    After all, the acceptation/refusal of aether model is of the same emergent evolution. Before some time old Greeks believed in Aether, later (Newton) this concept has been replaced with concept of absolute space. In 19th century the aether based models were quite popular again, but they're were replaced later with relativity model of space-time. Now the aether model is returning into physics again with model of Higgs field, which is responsible for particle mass.

    http://aetherwavetheory.blogspot.com/2008/11/how-ancient-physics-was-reborn.html

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  9. Maybe journalists cannot guess the scientific truth, but you can!

    arXiv vs. snarXiv game

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