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lainchan archive - /sci/ - 215

File: 1477833895538.png (174.02 KB, 300x194, science_by_madcassowary-d5nzc6s.png)


HI guys, I am wondering, what are some of the issues that modern science faces that slow it down?

I am wondering about both internal and external slow downs.


Regressive religious ideologies masquerading as "ethics". To my mind, stem cell research is a big example of this; as far as I'm aware, every populous branch of modern Christianity outright opposes stem cell research, and it would be a hell of a lot further along if it hadn't been tripped up by the red tape wrapped around its ankles by conservative, God-inspired "politics".

It applies to much more than stem cell research, though; almost any forward-thinking, potentially game-changing scientific research, ideas, or theories have major religious opposition in one way or another. Transhumanism faces this quite heavily as well; most are content, albeit somewhat uncomfortable, with better-than-human limbs or organs being given to those who don't have them, or have lost them (war vets, congenital organ failures, etc.) but scream bloody havoc at the slightest inclination of a person to hypothetically replace organic parts of themselves with artificial ones.

tl;dr: Ignorance, fear, conservatism.


The medias portail of science as an unfathomable monolith, one that doesn't make sense and is a rolling temperamental fad ("they're all just theories and sometimes they change, therefore we can just make it up or just ignore it and/or dumb it down": look up such delights as the formula for the happiest day of the year) as they themselves can't understand it.

This means real science oft takes a backseat for public eyes and the need for eye-catching headlines and appealing to the lowest common denominator, and we are left with a huge portion of the population who share these destructive views on science.


>The medias portail of science as an unfathomable monolith, one that doesn't make sense and is a rolling temperamental fad
I have no idea what media you're reading. When I check the science section of mainstream media outlets it's mostly a lot of gee-thats-real-neato discovery stories and then the rest is about climate change, urban air pollution, etc. The real problem with media coverage of science is that it's often wrong. Someone who isn't a scientist covers a story, then it goes through editorial staff who also aren't scientists, and we get stuck with cute soundbites within "neato" stories under 300 words in total. People read that and think ZOMG SCIENCE but by that point the story has been completely gutted.

Have you read about the previous prime minister of Canada and his muzzle orders on scientists? The guy was a closet creationist. Progressive, secular Canada is not as advanced as people here like to believe.


Knowledge paywalls.


I don't think any actual scientists aren't inhibited by that, their institutions should pay the subscription fees.


Well, there is a good reason gen.lib exists. Funding get ridiculous when half of it goes to access other studies instead of more practical aspects or research.


they also have the "studies show bla-bla-lba"


like this (try to ignore the guy foucus on what hes saying)


Funding problems. It's not as bad as it could be, but still, what you can get funding for severely limits what you can research.


A lack of understanding of the philosophy of science, among both scientists and those funding them. Weirdly I think it causes more harm in the people funding it rather than the scientists themselves. There's plenty of professors writing shit that would have Popper turning in his grave but that's not really that damaging. That the people funding things are too busy asking questions like "does this have any defence applications?" to worry about things like repeating experiments is far more harmful.

Richard Dawkins is a great example of this in action. No, Dawkins, science has nothing to say on the subject of religion and your crap is a thinly veiled political agenda that tries to lean on science to give it some sense of epistemological legitimacy. If you want to go and make political arguments about religion and the damage it's caused over the years fair enough. If you genuinely believe that science allows you to discount religion from an epistemological perspective you need to go and study the philosophy of science.

So please, the next time you hear someone say "It's all just theories." Keep listening, for every 99 idiots who use it as a soundbite there's one person who actually understands it and this dismissal does cause problems. There's a decent argument that I and the people like me are "slowing science down" and we are. What's wonderful about science is that it's epistemologically very rigorous. Done correctly, it's very unlikely you will make a mistake but doing it correctly takes time and it requires that you are willing to question everything but that which you see with your own eyes.

Somewhat because of this liars cause massive problems as well. I shudder to think how many people, with continued funding on their minds, have fudged their results a little. It's happened before and most of the time we just don't check.

>The real problem with media coverage of science is that it's often wrong.
This is true but it seems almost remiss to focus on the scientific aspect. They're wrong about bloody everything and it's very hard to take them to task over it because they just lie and claim it's the scientists fault for writing the paper they butchered and it's not like the scientist can state their case to the public.

It still really slows us down. There's not exactly a hard line between scientists and non-scientists and tomorrows greatest scientists could be sat today thinking about just packing it in and going to work in the private sector because they just can't afford to be knowledgeable.


So some nerd on an anime imageboard knows more than actual scientists, this is pretty much what you're saying.


What is your guys opinion on the eternal battle against pseudo-science?


That's a pointlessly vague question.



Many scientists are never taught the philosophy of science. It all gets boiled down to "best pracices", and while they are pretty good the fact that it's treated as tradition means that people are willing to cut corners if they think their results are important. I would never had heard of Popper or epistemology if I hadn't taken a philosophy class as an elective.


Yes. Exactly. I even said it just like that so that it could so easily be dismissed without a real argument.

"Actual scientists" is just an argument to authority. If you can point out real problems with what I've said please go ahead.

Pseudo-science is an interesting thing. Most of science for most of history would be considered pseudo-science by today's standards. It wasn't until Popper (not even a century ago) revolutionised the philosophy of science, coining the term pseudo-science in the process, that we started to notice there was something wrong with this way of doing things and, frankly, the zeitgeist hasn't quite caught up with this. Most people still think that "scientifically proven" is a legitimate phrase (it's pseudo-science every time) and this is not limited to those outside of scientific professions.

Popper had a very specific meaning when he used the term pseudo-science. I once heard it put eloquently as "the theory that explains everything explains nothing." If there's no evidence that could prove your theory wrong then it's not valuable scientifically but that's not how we tend to use the term pseudo-science these days. Homeopathy isn't really pseudo-science, it's just discredited science or even not science at all.

So, yeah, teaching more about Poppers work could go a long way towards keeping the scientific community right but stopping the guys talking about homeopathy or whatever is just not something you can really do with science. They aren't paying attention to science in the first place. Do a million experiments that scientifically disprove homeopathy and it won't make a difference.


Well, certain things are basically scientifically proven, because the standards for disproof are so high. For example, conservation of energy and Relativity. You'd need one helluva experiment to disprove either.


>If you can point out real problems with what I've said please go ahead.

You said scientists don't understand the philosophy of science (unlike you), then name dropped one rock star scientist who made some documentaries (Dawkins) to prove your case. You haven't convinced me of anything.


>You'd need one helluva experiment to disprove either.
On the contrary, building a free energy machine would disprove one and the fact that Einstein came up with experiments that could have disproven relativity if they'd given different results is part of what inspired Popper to do his work. Note that, of course, you don't actually have to get the results to disprove something for it to be scientifically valid you just have to come up with an experiment and results for that experiment that could potentially disprove it. For instance, I can say a very simple conception of gravity is a valid theory because I could do an experiment where I dropped a rock and if that rock were to float gravity would be disproven.

The problem is going the other way. That we have not yet managed to disprove something doesn't mean it's true and taking the, now heavily discredited, inductivist approach opens you up to making mistakes. The black swan theory is the example that Popper used to highlight this. For the longest time it was thought that there were no black swans, turns out there are. How should scientists before the discovery of black swans have considered a theory on black swans? To take the inductivist approach and say "there are no black swans" is, in hindsight, clearly a mistake, there are black swans. Taking the empirical falsification route that Popper proposed we'd say "there are no black swans" is a theory that we cannot actually prove but that we can test and potentially disprove.

The same goes for ideas like "there are no free energy machines." It's disprovable, it has to be disprovable in order to be scientifically valid, but no amount of trying to build a free energy machine will ever show that it's impossible. Similarly, no amount of experiments on relativity will ever show that it's not just a close approximation of the truth that's only accurate within our capacity to measure as Newtonian physics was for most of history.

So yeah, these things are really solid, but they're not proven in the strict beyond a shadow of a doubt sense.


Yes, and building a free energy machine or finding a way to transmit information faster than the speed of light in a local reference frame is very very difficult, and if it did happen you'd be under immense scrutiny to make sure your claims are actually true. That's why they're essentially proven.


How difficult it would be has no bearing on if it's possible. Same goes for the scrutiny you'd receive. It says nothing about if these theories are actually true. "Essentially proven" is a gulf away from actually proven and that's not a gulf you can ever cross.


Of course.


>that's not a gulf you can ever cross.
can't you cross it by proving your assertation?


You can only ever actually "prove" things in a mathematical/logical sense, in which you can derive something to be valid alongside the assumptions of some given axioms.
For instance, I can "prove" that 1+1=2, based upon definitions of 1, 2, + and =. But I can't "prove" +, it's just *defined* (and "assumed" to be "true").
Unfortunately we aren't god, so we can't define the properties of our reality.


>Unfortunately we aren't god
that depends upon your definition of "god"

>we can't define the properties of our reality.

why not?


well it's empirical science not deductive study like mathematics or predicate calculus.

All you can show is your theory is sound in a sense that it explains all the experiments ever existed and produced speculations which were experimentally observed.

You can always disapprove physics theory by finding counter example but you cannot ultimately prove one.




File: 1478241825348.png (10.56 MB, 200x200, The Tao Of Physics.pdf)

The Tao Of Physics makes a case for some of the limitations of the reductive approach, the mechanistic paradigm, and the Cartesian schism of body and mind, observer and observed, and how that kind of hobbled scientists trying to get a grip on quantum physics.


protip: body/mind dualism has absolutely nothing to do with QM.


Is this worth reading?

My current understanding is that:

-Reductionism means we expect to find ways to reduce everything down to calculations that will perfectly predict everything that happens.
-QM fucks this up. We absolutely cannot predict where every itty bitty particle will go. The best we can do is calculate probability and make jokes about dead cats.
-This opens up cool thought experiments but doesn't actually stop physicists themselves from trying to accomplish the ultimate reduction by means of string theory and oh god extra dimensions make my head hurt.


the fact that it is science and not alchemy or some other historically inspired movement (shamanism) - it is quite literally parallel with religion which is only applicable to a percentage of humanity (those within the appropriate context). Modern shamanism would have more practical application than slowly upgrading dissection tools over 100 years and calling it "modern"


The scientific process limits creativity, especially in Computer Science.
CS isn't a real science anyway (if we take away theoretical CS), and I don't think they really belong together.
Or rather I think that anything which is fundamentally creative, is limited by modern academics and the scientific process.
To state it less harshly, you are limited by it when you are doing CS in its frame.

I think it's actually quite similar to music in a way.
Creating Music, and the theoretical academic analysis of it are completely different things. Most people will immediately grasp why.
Knowing theory is essential to becoming a good musician, but analyzing every single piece you write to the fullest is not something you want to do, nor is it productive.


Theoretical CS isn't a science either, it's a branch of maths. "Computer Science" is a terrible name - it's not a science and it's not about computers. The only parts of CS which are arguably science are HCI and AI, where experiments are actually performed. All the rest of CS is concerned with objective truth, not mere statistical certainty.


well, basically, you're saying that two epistemologically unsound knowledge systems -- alchemy and shamanism -- are equivalent to the epistemologically sound system of science. Which is very odd.


File: 1478834594953.png (553.56 KB, 200x200, Motivated Numeracy.pdf)

Unintentional bias and emotional decision making can be an issue even for those claiming to be rationally minded according to this study attached.


>expecting us to read the whole thing


Issues with modern science? None, except pay walls for articles (Nature, JSTOR, etc), the funding and privatization of science, the list is endless.

I suspect science in popular culture, and by extension science popularizers or commenters as we call them now do slow down the progression of science quite heavily. Tyson's pushing of string theory as the best solution, without covering its criticisms is disingenuous, and breeds ignorance.

I think all of this converges on a single point, stupidity of the people.


The new president of Merka thinks global temperatures are getting colder and has hinted that vaccines are linked to autism.


Some dark days ahead for science.


You're arguing in bad faith. Nobody cares enough to argue with you.


Apparently you do. You couldn't beat his argument so you just write it off as "bad faith". That means he wins.


You can't verify a theory via data, only falsify. It's a problem of unknown unknowns. There could always be something about your experiment that you overlooked which means your theory is only good in this special case (i.e. wrong).

Science grew out of alchemy. Go back more than about 500 years and they're one and the same. Ultimately, all of it is the same process of people trying to understand the world using the best methods they have and fitting what they learn in with everything else they know. Speaking poetically there was no way we'd get to the periodic table without first having the four elements.

>I suspect science in popular culture, and by extension science popularizers or commenters as we call them now do slow down the progression of science quite heavily.
I'd say quite the opposite. Sure, they often give people a misrepresentative view of things due to dumbing it down to fit into their timeslot but for most of these people they were never going to sit down with a physics textbook and get the real deal anyway and their more entertaining presentation leads people towards scientific education and professions. The kids science people have done much more to help than anyone.

>Tyson's pushing of string theory as the best solution

That's not great. I think they, more than anyone, should do their best to be detached and present the consensus or lack thereof. Normally they do seem to be held to a higher standard though. I don't know Tyson but there's an English presenter called Brian Cox. He said something along the lines of, "The Pauli exclusion principle means everything is connected" and people lost their soykaf.

I don't think that's fair. I'm the lain they were responding to and they have a point. I didn't continue the conversation because there's not much more to say. I made an argument, they were unconvinced. Neither of us can really be bothered to go and try to find evidence supporting us so that's where it has to end. I don't think the point was made well. It's not wrong to state what your arguing for or give examples using famous people but the basic idea that my claims alone aren't enough evidence isn't in bad faith.


Not just paywalls, but not making data and tools available. Research should be repeatable, but it rarely is.


File: 1479132272283.png (1.3 MB, 200x113, Brian Cox.png)

I actually like Cox (read that out loud) but your assessment of people in that line being more like entertainers is pretty accurate. When I was a little kid I was reading Asimov's non-fiction books and they served the same function. It's not college level stuff but not everyone is old enough for college yet, or wants to go to college, or wants to go there to learn physics and math. Asimov could be quite funny at times as well.

Cox's BBC podcast The Infinite Monkey Cage was pretty good and is still available. A lot of the emails they read out were from quite young people and some of the guest hosts were pretty unlikely selections, and usually interesting at that.


File: 1479183430246.png (224.42 KB, 200x76, patchcords.png)

The Internet ought to have resolved the problem in this (oc) picture for example. So far, especially since 2009, it seems to be becoming another sphere of commerce.


Total ignorance on a topic is better than misguided information. Before you blow a gasket, let me explain what I mean, because I do in fact think some science commentators can do good. (Sparking a child's interest in science is a good deed in my book.)

Dawkins, a name already mentioned here has proliferated a perspective that now many young scientists accept such that it is the word of God. The perspective that evolution is gene centered. While this is contingent for many biologists, there is not specific scientific consensus, and many theories incorporate gene centered viewpoints with other newer areas of research.

Honestly, not a big deal to me, as other scientists oft rebuttal or make remarks on science commenters; however, when policy is formed based on misguided information it is irritating.

An example is physics research, if it is not in string theory good luck trying to find good funding. Science commenters impact a lot, and sometimes I reason they are trying to promote a perspective of their own, rather than science in general.

Mhm, at my university they wanted to due research on GMO foods, but they could not without signing legal documents that Monsanto provided to do research.

Corporations are a pain to do research with.


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Forget ethical and philosophical debates, forget the public image of science among the uneducated proles.
Science, worldwide, lacks funding!
Particularly in, what I would translate as, mid-tier of academia: Not students (bottom-tier) nor professors (high-tier) but phd students and postdocs.

It used to be that the PhD was the final "proof" that you were a fully qualified scientist. Anyone with a Dr. in front of his name would get his team and maybe even his lab and a lot of freedom to research wahtever they wanted.
Nowadays not only are you expected to do a dozen postdocs and hope you win the lottery for a tenure position, you also have to write grant application after grant application and basically have to know what the result of your research will be to get it funded.

Oh and it has to be hype-ish such as Cancer, global warming, wahtever...

This problem is not limited to one country, its all over the world.
I blame the end of the cold war. Back then we could always say "But look, the russians are doing X, we better do Y otherwise we would fall behind" and they would let it rain money.
Supposedly it was even better during WWII.

If only we would have some politicians that understood that research for researchs sake is the best way to advance science.

Oh and of course science reporting could be better, pic related.


that isn't a cycle though...


Thats just what your grandma believes.


I look at science as a medium-good attempt at pyrrhonism. People often dislike this view because after I explain what that is and what I mean by it, they find that it is not rational enough, and it may hinder or halt any progress. Many seem to associate this progress with speed, but since when does science give a fuarrrk about "delivering progress quickly"?
For all I know, science is about getting closer to some sort of truth, although truth is too huge to ever reach. A scientist has all the time in the world, and no reason to ever miss out on lunch.
I suspect that old people, and those stiffed by wounds and "life experiences" came up with this image of science: a bleeding edge, rolling beast. To them, it is defined by going so fast that "normal people" like them cannot follow. Weird gadgets, crazy talk, profound claims. To them, an image defines science, instead of science defining its image.

I'm not sure if anyone agrees on this, but it seems to me that science rolls best when there's 4 or 3 out of 5 well-being in a society. There's enough to get by, and those who have the brains and curiosity can focus on their research without going hungry; but there's still lots of improvements to be made. Make it any better and they will drift off into philosophy, like ancient greeks did with slaves doing all the nasty work. Make it any less and things get very political with all those raw emotions stemming from need flying around. Science needs a sort of middle ground where people still have fires in their bellies for some purpose, but they don't need to find an outlet for it right now, and can put it to long-term and possibly fruitless work.


>There's enough to get by, and those who have the brains and curiosity can focus on their research without going hungry; but there's still lots of improvements to be made.

ech, I don't so much agree with that. Scientists, especially in the basic sciences, are typically the types that do science because they're allowed to, not because they're forced to. If society is a 5/5 on the well-being scale, then they have essentially infinite freedom to do what they will, and I think scientists would be all the more motivated.


I always felt a huge setback for science was a lack of interest among individuals with potential.
Its a shame that there are lots of incredibly smart people who get regular, comfy jobs because they don't feel they owe society their effort and would rather wait for progress to happen around them


>they don't feel they owe society their effort and would rather wait
you see, this is what makes such individuals one step smarter than those who get into science just because they ought to. with the funding problems well detailed above, it takes the right combination of smartness and stupidity for a person to go all the way science. not to mention that for many, the interest for science stems from a belief that things can be figured out eventually.



The main thing holding back science is sources of funding. All money sources have some sort of agenda and this pushes researchers to modify their results to match what the cash sources want, whether or not its true. Also, since cash sources want to be the ones that fund big, new ideas in science, barely any experiment is reproduced, meaning most papers are questionable at best.