Online scientific discourse is broken and it can be fixed

Has science taken a wrong turn? If so, what corrections are needed? Chronicles of scientific misbehavior. The role of heretic-pioneers and forbidden questions in the sciences. Is peer review working? The perverse "consensus of leading scientists." Good public relations versus good science.

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Re: Online scientific discourse is broken and it can be fixe

Unread postby pln2bz » Fri Jan 03, 2014 12:05 pm

The Electric Universe is Like a Neat Stack of Papers
In a Frighteningly Messy Apartment


The fact is that the mind is always establishing properties and categories for concepts. You cannot stop it. It happens without your involvement. We can see that this is happening because there exists typicality associated with concepts.

The EU is for each person positioned relative to the other ideas which "surround" it within the various categories that people put it into, based upon the person's pre-existing knowledge. What this means is that the qualities of those other ideas are necessarily associated with the EU, and the general order of the whole house necessarily affects a person's perception of the EU itself. Market researchers describe this in terms of "mindset" and "associationism" (both features of the subconscious mind which operate on the basis of feelings/emotions).

The implication is that there is one surefire way to elevate the impression of the EU to a level which is more appropriate for its actual standing amongst all of these ideas: To bring order to the house itself. The fact that there are wacky ideas out there is not threatening to people who walk through libraries.
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Re: Online scientific discourse is broken and it can be fixe

Unread postby bdw000 » Fri Jan 03, 2014 10:12 pm

Hello again.
Most people today are not using their rational minds to navigate this sea of models.


You are so right! In fact, I don't think you even realize how right you are: to try and change that would be a revolution far beyond anything I see happening in my lifetime (just my opinion of course).

I would suggest that you are underestimating the power of "socialization," AKA "being propagandized." Someone once said something like:

"It is very easy to deceive someone about religion, but it is almost impossible to UNdeceive them about religion."

This also applies to the general approach to using our minds, whether regarding science or politics. Once someone has been trained NOT to think, it is very rare that the person will ever again be convinced to think (just by someone else saying so). My opinion again.

Even though I still think that there is severe suppression of certain scientific ideas "from above," I think your plans possibly might succeed to some extent, just very unlikely. Good luck to you.

Here's something I randomly found today that seems to support your (sociological) view to some extent:


I recently came across an interesting paper by:

Martín López Corredoira & Carlos Castro Perelman, the title of which is:

AGAINST THE TIDE A Critical Review by Scientists of How Physics and Astronomy Get Done

Below is an interesting quote from that paper:

"Tom Van Flandern commented to us:

I have taken aside several colleagues whose pet theories are now mainstream doctrine, and asked
quizzically what it would mean to them personally if an alternative idea ultimately prevailed. To my
initial shock (I was naïve enough that I did not see this coming), to a person, the individuals I asked said
they would leave the field and do something else for a living. Their egos, the adulation they enjoy, and
the satisfaction that they were doing something important with their lives, would be threatened by such a
development. As I pondered this, it struck me that their vested interests ran even deeper than if they just
had a financial stake in the outcome (which, of course, they do because of grants and promotions). So a
challenger with a replacement idea would be naïve to see the process as anything less than threatening
the careers of some now-very-important people, who cannot be expected to welcome that development
regardless of its merit." (1 August 2002)


Of course, this supports my view also. Human nature! What are we to do about it?
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Re: Online scientific discourse is broken and it can be fixe

Unread postby Zyxzevn » Sat Jan 04, 2014 6:24 am

The science today seems more like weavers in the clothes of the king.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Emperor's_New_Clothes
"The weavers promise him the finest, best suit of clothes from a
fabric invisible to anyone who is unfit for his position or "hopelessly stupid"

Science does exactly that: if you do not accept the today's science,
you are considered "unfit for it or hopelessly stupid".
More ** from zyxzevn at: Paradigm change and C@
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Re: Online scientific discourse is broken and it can be fixe

Unread postby pln2bz » Sun Jan 05, 2014 2:12 pm

"Tom Van Flandern commented to us:

I have taken aside several colleagues whose pet theories are now mainstream doctrine, and asked
quizzically what it would mean to them personally if an alternative idea ultimately prevailed. To my
initial shock (I was naïve enough that I did not see this coming), to a person, the individuals I asked said
they would leave the field and do something else for a living. Their egos, the adulation they enjoy, and
the satisfaction that they were doing something important with their lives, would be threatened by such a
development. As I pondered this, it struck me that their vested interests ran even deeper than if they just
had a financial stake in the outcome (which, of course, they do because of grants and promotions). So a
challenger with a replacement idea would be naïve to see the process as anything less than threatening
the careers of some now-very-important people, who cannot be expected to welcome that development
regardless of its merit." (1 August 2002)


What a find! This is exactly the type of stuff we need to be collecting in this thread. The pieces to this puzzle are mostly already out there. They are simply spread out, and we oftentimes have to use analogy or metaphor to "see" them. But, in this case, we are given a window into the psyche of the professional scientist, and what we see reveals a divergence between thinking like a scientist and the culture which dominates professional science today. I don't want to suggest that Jeff Schmidt's work is the only rubric available for deconstructing scientific culture, but his book, Disciplined Minds, suggests an explanation: The decision to train scientists to fit into large organizations involves creating a culture which refuses to question assumptions. By having students memorize stacks of problem sets littered with algebraic tricks, the point is to train graduate students to avoid questioning the assumptions inherent to their parent organization. This parent organization starts out as the physics discipline itself, and then, if they happen to go into industry, that mindset is redirected towards inviting them to adopt the framework of whatever organization they end up in.

So, as far as I can tell, Schmidt's model works here as an explanation for what Van Flandern observes, as the graduate students have not been trained with a growth mindset (which necessarily involves trying out new ideas and questioning old ones), and they have constructed this huge knowledge structure which depends upon certain questions never being asked. Thus, when these "troubling" (for them) questions are asked, they exhibit an emotional response. What I think is happening is that their mindset has been rooted within the desires of established physicists to keep their theories alive. What I'm trying to suggest is that this is very valuable knowledge for formulating a better vision. With Jeff Schmidt's help, we have identified a hypothesis here which infers thoughts that professionals generally keep hidden from the public. These are the types of thoughts we need to uncover if our goal is to disrupt their current vision for where conventional science is taking all of us, as we can guess that they will be susceptible to narratives which deal specifically with this situation. But, part of the task is to design that narrative such that it starts from their current worldview, and works them to this contradiction. The human mind is prone to spending a lot of time thinking about the past and future. We can actually change the future by forcing these very specific target audiences -- in this case, professional scientists -- to deeply contemplate the ramifications of their actions and beliefs, without any of us actually having to live that future. It's very powerful stuff, but notice that it's completely "top-down" thinking. We would never get to this point if our approach was to simply accumulate skills, one at a time. The vision drives the investigation.

For anybody here who does not yet believe the importance of vision to action and belief, what I would suggest is to go out to the forums and play it out, and observe the responses for yourself. When you question the underlying vision of conventional science, you will occasionally observe that a raw nerve has been exposed. The responses oftentimes exhibit a very different feel than you'd get from just engaging the science itself. They cannot help but to question their own motive, in light of the new information (like a new metric for success) you've exposed them to.

But, this is just a means of probing people. The real action is further down the line, after a bit of effort has gone into collecting these investigative leads on the various personas. That is the point where there could be real value to experimenting with video production.

The way I think about this problem is in two stages, and the first stage necessarily involves defining the problem. That includes thinking about possible vision statements, and prodding people to see which ones elicit interesting or unexpected responses. It also includes collecting these little windows into the site personas (like what you've found here). And a lot of investigation needs to be done, in order to get a handle on what is possible with the technology itself. At some point along this path, of everything which is possible, one or more desirable strategies becomes visible, each involving the solving of a particular problem for some important segment of the target audience. And although each is designed to service one particular target, it is preferably chosen such that many other targets benefit. It has to be a service which, once offered, the target audience cannot imagine living without it. This is why they will be willing to pay for it.

It's going to take a bit of time to work through it, but I see this is as a solvable problem. It's not really necessary to converge to any particular solution until a bunch of divergence has occurred. If convergence occurs early on, then the problem has not been sufficiently defined, and the quality of the solution suffers.
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Re: Online scientific discourse is broken and it can be fixe

Unread postby bdw000 » Mon Jan 06, 2014 9:30 pm

You have got to get the book THE HIGGS FAKE by Alexander Unzicker (a physicist who apparently is very critical of particle physics). Pages 55-56-57 are pretty amazing (as is most of the book). A very few bits from the book follow.

He points out how dissenting opinions in particle physics are NEVER published, not even concerning tiny details about "calibrating detectors" and such, pointing out how that is absurd, the situation should not even be called science.

A newspaper that published an interview with Unzicker got a 4 page letter from a particle physicist who claimed that he and his colleagues would cancel their subscriptions if another Unzicker interview were published again. Now that's what I call SCIENCE!!!!!

"From the beginning, big science has been the home of obedience and authority, profound enemies of science."

Mandatory reading. Reading this stuff only convinces me that nothing can be done within mainstream physics, though I am sure you and Unzicker feel differently looking at the same evidence.

He quotes Upton Sinclair on p. 58:

"It is hard to make somebody understand something when his income is based on not understanding it." BINGO.
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Re: Online scientific discourse is broken and it can be fixe

Unread postby pln2bz » Wed Jan 08, 2014 9:58 am

Another good lead, which associates with a handful of other books through Amazon's recommendation engine. Also, there is a blog which contains some additional commentary further demonstrating a failure to appreciate the role of innovation in science ...

Keeping in mind that we do not actually know who these people are, but the topic of conversation suggests they are possibly particle physicists. From user CentralCharge15 ...

The "reasons" given in the amatzon summary of the book are obvious crackpot labels:

1) the so-called standard model has grown unbelievably complicated,
The way he says it makes him sound like a whining student.

2) none of the great riddles of physics that have persisted for a century have been solved,
So?....... : )

3) history suggests that the current model is a dead end
Meaning? If Alexander the Great (... : ) ... ) is trying to tell us that the Standard Model is wrong, (even in the field theory limit, etc. etc.) then that's another crackpot label. If he's telling us that it doesn't describe gravity, that's like telling us that he can count (hopefully he can), as that is totally irrelevant obvious ness.

4) with their ever-more intricate experimental techniques, particle physicists are fooling themselves with alleged results,
Was this the conclusion or the argument again?

5) scientific convictions in the community are established by blind faith in expert opinions, group-think and parroting,
And how is that relevant?


and 6) the data analysis in its complexity cannot be overseen by anybody.
Again, was this the conclusion or the argument> ?

I think Alexander Unickzer the Great has just shown himslef to be a crackpot.


Then, further down (from Dilaton) …

-1: You are completely wrong. Conversely to soft fields such as philosophy, arts, etc what is right and what is wrong in physics is not decided by "opinion", personal preferences, what one likes or dislikes etc, but by (experimental) facts and correct mathematical and physical reasoning.

Slogans like "the more diverse the better" are completely inappropriate in physics.


User Vladimir Kalitvianski responds:

It's not a slogan, it's a necessity to progressive development of any field, especially development of physics. Try to understand that the physical description is not unique and unambiguous.


The view that groupthink is not a relevant concern introduces perspective (presumably from somebody who is in some fashion invested in mainstream theory) which deviates from the public interest. The idea that a meaningful conversation can be had about big picture questions like the Higgs purely on technical grounds, and without any discussion of the sociological dangers of groupthink, is to me both incoherent and insightful.

I am attempting to contact Vladimir.
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Re: Online scientific discourse is broken and it can be fixe

Unread postby pln2bz » Wed Jan 08, 2014 11:34 am

One of the things I try to do -- which is hard, as there is just so much to read on the subject -- is to keep close tabs on the climate change debate. The reason I do that is because there is a reasonable chance that the issue could segue into a conversation about interplanetary and interstellar plasmas. In the event that something like that transpires, the public's perception about climate science and scientific modeling at that moment will largely determine the mindset with which they consider EU arguments. Somebody who might be interested in trying to pitch the EU at that point would want to already be extremely fluent in the climate science history and critique.

And this issue frequently ties into matters related to scientific social networking, as evidenced by this article:

The public rollout of the “alarmist” case, he notes, “was immediately accompanied by an issue of Newsweek declaring all scientists agreed. And that was the beginning of a ‘consensus’ argument. Already by ’88 the New York Times had literally a global warming beat.

[…]

Lindzen also disputes the accuracy of the computer models that climate scientists rely on to project future temperatures. He contends that they oversimplify the vast complexity of the Earth’s climate and, moreover, that it’s impossible to untangle man’s effect on the climate from natural variability. The models also rely on what Lindzen calls “fudge factors.” Take aerosols. These are tiny specks of matter, both liquid and solid (think dust), that are present throughout the atmosphere. Their effect on the climate—even whether they have an overall cooling or warming effect—is still a matter of debate. Lindzen charges that when actual temperatures fail to conform to the models’ predictions, climate scientists purposely overstate the cooling effect of aerosols to give the models the appearance of having been accurate. But no amount of fudging can obscure the most glaring failure of the models: their inability to predict the 15-year-long (and counting) pause in warming—a pause that would seem to place the burden of proof squarely on the defenders of the models.

[…]

If Lindzen is right about this and global warming is nothing to worry about, why do so many climate scientists, many with résumés just as impressive as his, preach imminent doom? He says it mostly comes down to the money—to the incentive structure of academic research funded by government grants. Almost all funding for climate research comes from the government, which, he says, makes scientists essentially vassals of the state. And generating fear, Lindzen contends, is now the best way to ensure that policymakers keep the spigot open.

Lindzen contrasts this with the immediate aftermath of World War II, when American science was at something of a peak. “Science had established its relevance with the A-bomb, with radar, for that matter the proximity fuse,” he notes. Americans and their political leadership were profoundly grateful to the science community; scientists, unlike today, didn’t have to abase themselves by approaching the government hat in hand. Science funding was all but assured.

But with the cuts to basic science funding that occurred around the time of the Vietnam war, taxpayer support for research was no longer a political no-brainer. “It was recognized that gratitude only went so far,” Lindzen says, “and fear was going to be a much greater motivator. And so that’s when people began thinking about .  .  . how to perpetuate fear that would motivate the support of science.”

A need to generate fear, in Lindzen’s telling, is what’s driving the apocalyptic rhetoric heard from many climate scientists and their media allies. “The idea was, to engage the public you needed an event .  .  . not just a Sputnik—a drought, a storm, a sand demon. You know, something you could latch onto. [Climate scientists] carefully arranged a congressional hearing. And they arranged for [James] Hansen [author of Storms of My Grandchildren, and one of the leading global warming “alarmists”] to come and say something vague that would somehow relate a heat wave or a drought to global warming.” (This theme, by the way, is developed to characteristic extremes in the late Michael Crichton’s entertaining 2004 novel State of Fear, in which environmental activists engineer a series of fake “natural” disasters to sow fear over global warming.)

Lindzen also says that the “consensus”—the oft-heard contention that “virtually all” climate scientists believe in catastrophic, anthropogenic global warming—is overblown, primarily for structural reasons. “When you have an issue that is somewhat bogus, the opposition is always scattered and without resources,” he explains. “But the environmental movement is highly organized. There are hundreds of NGOs. To coordinate these hundreds, they quickly organized the Climate Action Network, the central body on climate. There would be, I think, actual meetings to tell them what the party line is for the year, and so on.” Skeptics, on the other hand, are more scattered across disciplines and continents. As such, they have a much harder time getting their message across.

Because CO2 is invisible and the climate is so complex (your local weatherman doesn’t know for sure whether it will rain tomorrow, let alone conditions in 2100), expertise is particularly important. Lindzen sees a danger here. “I think the example, the paradigm of this, was medical practice.” He says that in the past, “one went to a physician because something hurt or bothered you, and you tended to judge him or her according to whether you felt better. That may not always have been accurate, but at least it had some operational content. .  .  . [Now, you] go to an annual checkup, get a blood test. And the physician tells you if you’re better or not and it’s out of your hands.” Because climate change is invisible, only the experts can tell us whether the planet is sick or not. And because of the way funds are granted, they have an incentive to say that the Earth belongs in intensive care.

[…]

In a 2012 public letter, Lindzen noted, “Critics accuse me of doing a disservice to the scientific method. I would suggest that in questioning the views of the critics and subjecting them to specific tests, I am holding to the scientific method.” Whoever is right about computer models, climate sensitivity, aerosols, and water vapor, Lindzen is certainly right about that. Skepticism is essential to science.

In a 2007 debate with Lindzen in New York City, climate scientist Richard C. J. Somerville, who is firmly in the “alarmist” camp, likened climate skeptics to “some eminent earth scientists [who] couldn’t be persuaded that plate tectonics were real .  .  . when the revolution of continental drift was sweeping through geology and geophysics.”

“Most people who think they’re a Galileo are just wrong,” he said, much to the delight of a friendly audience of Manhattanites.

But Somerville botched the analogy. The story of plate tectonics is the story of how one man, Alfred Wegener, came up with the theory of continental drift, only to be widely opposed and mocked. Wegener challenged the earth science “consensus” of his day. And in the end, his view prevailed.


Again, in light of the apparent coordination of climate change organizations, I ask: Why do people pretend as though scientific models are not marketed? Is it simply because they have put so much effort into not learning what marketing is, that they fail to identify it when they run into it?

I also think this article invites us to contemplate ways that a scientific social network might be used as a vehicle for organizing and funding skepticism of conventional theory, such as …

Vision: Knowledgeable critics of scientific models organizing to oppose scientific consensus on scientific grounds can in the long run lead to better overall comprehension of the science itself. We need a scientific social network which gives unconventional thinkers the tools they need to efficiently organize their own consensus. When belief in scientific models becomes the goal of organizational funding, rather than the consequence of informed, rational scientific debate, then scientific belief can become disconnected from the data.
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Re: Online scientific discourse is broken and it can be fixe

Unread postby bdw000 » Wed Jan 08, 2014 10:01 pm

Again, in light of the apparent coordination of climate change organizations, I ask: Why do people pretend as though scientific models are not marketed? Is it simply because they have put so much effort into not learning what marketing is, that they fail to identify it when they run into it?


To respond as if "people" refers to the scientific community ("the propagandizers"):

Why? Why, you ask? They "pretend" because that is demanded by any propaganda operation :!:

To admit to the marketing is the same as admitting to the propaganda operation.

Isaac Newton did not have to "market" his ideas. Everyone (capable of) examining them saw that they were correct. They were CONVINCED by the science. No one had to MAKE SURE that they were convinced. They just were convinced by THE SCIENCE. Same goes for Maxwell, etc.

My view is that "marketing" in science began with Einstein (or perhaps a few decades before). And since then it has never stopped . . . . .

The bottom line is that marketing in science is almost (well, for me it is) proof of the propaganda operation.

If the science alone were good enough, no "marketing" would be necessary. That assumes, of course, a 100% sincere and open scientific community and society, where everyone involved was actually interested in "the truth." When fighting a corrupt establishment, perhaps a little marketing should be allowed?

imho.

To respond as if "people" refers to the general public ("the propagandized"):

In the US at least: the people pretend, because that is what they have been trained to do!

"Oh yes, anyone could be lying to you: priests, politicians, crooks, your next door neighbor, but those SCIENTISTS, oh those good people would NEVER lie to you, because . . . they are SCIENTISTS."

That is what every school child is taught in the US, probably (I cannot speak from experience) in any country with public education.

Socialization is a powerful thing. Children simply must accept what adults tell them. Most children are not even capable of contemplating the possibility that adults might be lying to them. And once they've been programmed as children, few ever break that programming.

BTW pin, have you ever listened to David Harriman's 5 hr lecture series called THE PHILOSOPHIC CORRUPTION OF PHYSICS? It is really a HISTORY lesson. Don't let those who hate Ayn Rand (I don't even know what her philosophy of Objectivisim is) deter you: Harriman's lectures are just history, pure and simple. Fascinating stuff imho. An mp3 download now only costs about $5 (US) from the Ayn Rand Institute.
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Re: Online scientific discourse is broken and it can be fixe

Unread postby bdw000 » Wed Jan 08, 2014 10:17 pm

Almost all funding for climate research comes from the government, which, he says, makes scientists essentially vassals of the state.


Pretty much explains everything . . . . . beautifully put.

And it brings into focus the problem here: you are fighting against the propaganda machine of the US GOVERNMENT (and a bunch of other powerful governments as well). This is a propaganda machine that automatically brands any and all dissenters as crackpots (without evidence, I might add). If the mainstream media ever talks about EU, it will only be to brand it as pseudoscience, and its promoters as crackpots.

Do you really expect to win this fight? I would prefer if you won :)

Good luck. I would like nothing more than to be completely wrong about this. But I call 'em as I see 'em.

You know, (and I don't hold much hope for this), but Russia Today is the only "official" media outlet that might, just might, give EU a fair hearing. I find it difficult to consider that any powerful government might be "the good guy," but I am impressed by Russia Today. My guess is that in matters of science, they will tow the party line (can't remember if they support AGW or not . . .).
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Re: Online scientific discourse is broken and it can be fixe

Unread postby bdw000 » Wed Jan 08, 2014 10:33 pm

Here's a quote from THE HIGGS FAKE:

A nice trick, by the way: start from a naive, unjustified belief, such as that electrons are hard and protons are soft, and if your assumption turns out to be faulty, then deduce anything you want.


(emphasis mine)

This book is a MUST read.
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Re: Online scientific discourse is broken and it can be fixe

Unread postby pln2bz » Thu Jan 09, 2014 1:04 pm

Words are Not Self-Contained Units of Meaning

It seems that part of what it means to be a Westerner in this world is to be raised with a fragmented view of the world. I don't really know where this actually comes from in the process of our learning, but it has to be part of the reason that words appear to us to exhibit "hidden meaning". The fact is that concepts cannot exist in isolation; they owe their meaning to their relations with one another. So, when you bring up a concept, you are situating your focus in a conceptual graph. And the scope and nature of that extended meaning will depend upon the context that is inherent to the discourse. Adding to the complexity is the fact that different people have constructed their knowledge in unique ways, and although we may refer to the same conceptual label, the subjective meaning will tend to differ from person to person, occasionally in more-than-subtle ways.

Part of what makes knowledge difficult to extend on a computer is that this context is inherently dynamic. Our cognitive representation can change on the fly, and in more than one way. I've not seen this discussed often, but I will point to the description I've seen (below) in West & Pines' Cognitive Structure and Conceptual Change as an example of how the context can change in scope on the fly. Note that web of meaning can also shift dramatically across domains of knowledge as well -- a problem which tends to occur in discussions of consciousness, like when a person who is fluent in Eastern philosophy/religion, Vedanta, speaks to a cognitive scientist. They will exhibit dramatically different conceptual encodings for the word consciousness.

But, check this out. It's very important:

Cognitive structure is extensive and n-dimensional.


What I believe they mean by that is that each concept exhibits n numbers of properties, each of which exhibit observable typicality (an office chair is more of a chair than a bean bag, for instance). Gardenfors does a decent job of explaining this in his book, Conceptual Spaces, but I'm sure there are other good explanations out there.

Any attempt at description can only hope to illuminate part of this whole. The n-dimensionality inevitably leads to a trade-off between the extent and the detail of the description. If the major interest is in detail, then extent must be sacrificed -- only a small portion of cognitive structure can be described. If extent is important then detail must be reduced. Our balance of these two lies somewhere between the associative network descriptions of people like Lindsay and Norman (1977) and the concept maps of people like Novak (1980) and Rowell (1978). We have limited our extent [they mean in this particular paper] to a small segment of a student's regular learning, and we have not searched for the detail that the Lindsay and Norman representations require. To some extent we overcome some of this trade-off using a notion that we have called 'node compression.' This notion will be described below.


Pay very close attention to this concept of node compression, for this is an incredibly important and under-appreciated feature of thought and language which must be represented by any system for visualizing knowledge or debate if the system is to naturally extend human thought ...

We are also very aware that to focus on one segment of cognitive structure distorts the description. We are taking a 'slice' (and a non-planar one) through a learner's n-dimensional cognitive structure. This slice is then presented in isolation. This may produce many distortions. For example, certain knowledge may be stored hierarchically under more general ideas (or subsumes if we use Ausubel's language), but this structure may be excluded in the particular slice that we take.

Cognitive structure has two components -- the knowledge bits it contains, and how that knowledge is organized. Knowledge bits can be quite different in size and nature. Since we wanted to represent cognitive structure as a diagram with nodes representing knowledge bits joined to other nodes, we needed to make some decisions about what should be used as nodes. In Lindsay, Norman, and Rumelhart (LNR) representations, the proposition 'A is a B' is represented with two nodes A and B connected by a line labelled 'isa.' Such a system, derived from each proposition, is not practical in teaching components of 6-8 lectures which will contain hundreds of propositions.


They are talking about traditional concept maps here, like this one I made …

Image


We needed to find some way of reducing the number of nodes (and as a consequence, increasing the amount of implied knowledge associated with a node), and at the same time retaining the flexibility to represent the extent of that implied knowledge when that was desirable. This problem of bit size was resolved through the node compression notion mentioned previously.


Image

Image


[…]

The term 'node' describes a knowledge bit of indefinite size in memory. When we concentrate on a specific node in order to use it for interpreting an input, for example, we have 'compressed' under it all of the complex cognitive structure that we have linked with that bit in our memory. That 'compressed' knowledge will only be called upon when it is needed for inference -- and only to the extent that it is needed. Thus, we can have available all of the richness that we have stored as part of our knowledge of 'bathrooms,' but we do not need to consciously 'bring to mind' any of that richness that is not needed.

It is important to recognize that the compressed node, no matter what or how much it has compressed under it, is the label that is used in communication -- and that the listener infers meaning about the communication from his cognitive structure compressed under the node and not that of the speaker. Though our labels, or compressed nodes, are shared, our meanings for them are idiosyncratic.

This whole notion of node compression is derived from the 'frame' idea of Winograd (1975), among others. It is really saying nothing more than that although we may have an elaborate sub-network associated with specific nodes in our cognitive structure, we are able to compress that network into a single node when this is convenient. However, this idea is very powerful in dealing with the question of node size, and in resolving some difficult aspects of representation.


So, is it Propaganda?

The word propaganda comes with a very thick web of historical meaning which associates with the domains of military, government and politics. If you decide to use it within the context of academia or science -- which is your choice to make -- it's important that you realize that this word choice will predictably evoke an emotion which will implicitly affect your audience's perception of you.

That's not to say that you aren't, technically speaking, correct. But, I have a big problem with this word myself, because it places the locus of activity within the person crafting the message. I think anybody who deeply engages this subject can clearly see that it is the subconscious mind which is the locus of the irrational behavior. So, what is a propagandist or marketer doing other than pushing the levers to the machine which already exists? Why are those levers there, to begin with? Well, by all appearances, the subconscious' decisions seem geared towards protecting our safety. It's focused upon keeping us alive, and out of harm's way. So, when we try to think like a scientist, we'd be wise to simply consider the possibility that this type of thinking is not always perfectly aligned with our psychological need for survival. This is in fact clearly the case when we consider the situation of scientists questioning assumptions which might undermine their entire knowledge base. What we see is that the subconscious predictably steps in in such situations. And although scientists can point to all sorts of models to post-rationalize any bias that may be at play, the subconscious in those instances of bias is what is driving the conclusion within each individual.

It's perhaps important to note that the same system which induces professional scientists to bias is present in every single one of us. And we cannot simply blame them for doing that which comes naturally. I'm not even sure that we can blame the people who crafted America's educational system for the problems that the EU faces, because even if the economy is not so great today, we'd be in much worse shape had they not done it. To me, there is no simple way to blame somebody for the mess that the EU finds itself in, without running into contradictions. We'd be wise to simply deconstruct the system, and build a new future from the pieces which are available.

This subject of propaganda is probably best explained by Adam Curtis' Century of the Self documentary, which probably a number of people here are already familiar with:

Century of the Self Transcript - Part 1 - Happiness Machines

A hundred years ago a new theory about human nature was put forth by Sigmund Freud. He had discovered he said, primitive and sexual and aggressive forces hidden deep inside the minds of all human beings. Forces which if not controlled led individuals and societies to chaos and destruction.

This series is about how those in power have used Freud's theories to try and control the dangerous crowd in an age of mass democracy.

But the heart of the series is not just Sigmund Freud but other members of the Freud family.

This episode is about Freud's American nephew Edward Bernays.

Bernays is almost completely unknown today but his influence on the 20th century was nearly as great as his uncles. Because Bernays was the first person to take Freud's ideas about human beings and use them to manipulate the masses. He showed American corporations for the first time how to they could make people want things they didn't need by linking mass produced goods to their unconscious desires.

Out of this would come a new political idea of how to control the masses. By satisfying people's inner selfish desires one made them happy and thus docile. It was the start of the all-consuming self which has come to dominate our world today.

Part One

Happiness Machines

Freud's ideas about how the human mind works have now become an accepted part of society. As have psychoanalysts.

Every year the psychotherapists ball is held in a grand place in Vienna.

"This is the psychotherapy ball. Psychotherapists come, some advanced patients come, former patients come, and many other people - friends as well as people from the Viennese society who like to come to a nice elegant comfortable ball. " - Dr. Alfred Fritz, President World Council for Psychotherapy

But it was not always so. A hundred years ago Freud's ideas were hated by Viennese society. At that time Vienna was the center of a vast empire leading central Europe. And to the powerful nobility of the Hoffman accord Freud's ideas were not only embarrassing, but the very idea of examining and analyzing ones inner feelings was a threat to their absolute control.

Countess Erzie Karolyi - Budapest: You see at that time these people had the power and of course you just weren't allowed to show your bloody feelings, I mean you just couldn't. You know if you were unhappy, can you imagine for instance you see someone in the country in a castle you are deeply unhappy you are a woman; you couldn't go to your mate and cry on her shoulders, you couldn't go into the village and complain about your feelings, it was assailing yourself to someone you just couldn't. You know. Because they had to respect you. Now of course Freud put that very much into question - you see to examine yourself you would have to put other things into question - society, everything that surrounds you and that was not a good thing at that time. Why? Because your self-created empire to a certain extent would have fallen to bits much earlier already.

But what frightened the rulers of the empire even more was Freud's idea hidden inside all human beings were dangerous instinctual drives. Freud had devised a method he called psychoanalysis. By analyzing dreams and free association he had unearthed he said powerful sexual and aggressive forces which were the remnants of our animal past. Feelings we repressed because they were too dangerous.

Dr. Earnest Jones - Colleague of Freud: Freud devised a method for exploring the hidden part of the mind which we nowadays call the unconscious this the part is totally unknown to our consciousness. That there exists a barrier in all our minds which prevents these hidden and welcome impulses from the unconscious from emerging.

In 1914 the Austria Hungarian Empire led Europe into war. As the horror mounted Freud saw it as terrible evidence of the truth of his findings. The saddest thing he wrote, that this is exactly the way we should expect people to behave from our knowledge of psychoanalysis. Governments had unleashed the primitive forces in humans beings and no one seemed to know how to stop them.

At that time, Freud's young nephew Edward Bernays was working as a press agent in America. His main client was the world famous opera singer Caruso who was touring the United States. Bernays' parents had emigrated to America 20 years before, but he kept in touch with his Uncle who joined him for Holidays in the Alps. But Bernays was now about to return to Europe for a very different reason. On the night that Caruso opened in Toledo Ohio America announced that it was entering the war against Germany and Austria. As part of the war effort the US government set up a committee on public information and Bernays was employed to promote America's war aims in the press. The president Woodrow Wilson had announced that the United States would fight not to restore the old empires but to bring democracy to all of Europe. Bernays proved extremely skillful at promoting this idea both at home and abroad and at the end of the war was asked to accompany the President to the Paris Peace Conference.

Edward Bernays - 1991: Then to my surprise they asked me to go with Woodrow Wilson to the peace conference. And at the age of 26 I was in Paris for the entire time of the peace conference that was held in the suburb of Paris and we and worked to make the world safe for democracy. That was the big slogan.

Wilson's reception in Paris astounded Bernays and the other American propagandists. They had portrayed Wilson as a liberator of the people. The man who would create a new world in which the individual would be free. They had made him a hero of the masses. And as he watched the crowd surge around Wilson, Bernays began to wonder if it would be possible to do the same type of mass persuasion but in peace time.

Edward Bernays - 1991: When I came back to the United States I decided that if you could use propaganda for war you could certainly use it for peace. And propaganda got to be a bad word because of the Germans using it. So what I did is try to find some other words so we found the word Council on Public Relations.

Bernays returned to New York and set up as a Public Relations Councilman in small office off Broadway. Which was the first time the term had even been used. Since the end of the 19th century, America had become a mass industrial society with millions clustered together in the cities. Bernays was determined to find a way to manage and alter the way these new crowds thought and felt. To do this he turned to the writings of his Uncle Sigmund. While in Paris Bernays had sent his Uncle a gift of some Havana cigars. In return Freud had sent him a copy of his General Introduction to Psychoanalysis. Bernays read it and the picture of hidden irrational forces inside human beings fascinated him. He wondered whether he might be able to make money manipulating the unconscious.

Pat Jackson - Public Relations Adviser and Colleague of Bernays: What Eddie got from Freud was indeed this idea that there is a lot more going on in human decision making. Not only among individuals but even more importantly among groups that this idea that information drives behavior. So Eddie began to formulate this idea that you had to look at things that will play to people's irrational emotions. You see that immediately moved Eddie into a different category from other people in his field and most government officials and managers of the day who thought if you just hit people with all this factual information they would look at that say go "of course" and Eddie knew that was not the way the world worked.

Bernays set out to experiment with the minds of the popular classes. His most dramatic experiment was to persuade women to smoke. At that time there was a taboo against women smoking and one of his early clients George Hill, the President of the American Tobacco corporation asked Bernays to find a way to break it.

Edward Bernays - 1991: He says we're losing half of our market. Because men have invoked a taboo against women smoking in public. Can you do anything about that. I said let me think about it. If I may have permission to see psychoanalyst to see what cigarettes mean to women. He said what'll cost? So I called up Dr Brille, AA Brille who was the leading psychoanalyst in New York at the time.

AA Brille was one of the first psychoanalysts in America. And for a large fee he told Bernays that cigarettes were a symbol of the penis and of male sexual power. He told Bernays that if he could find a way to connect cigarettes with the idea of challenging male power then women would smoke because then they would have their own penises.

Every year New York held an Easter day parade to which thousands came. Bernays decided to stage an event there . He persuaded a group of rich debutants to hide cigarettes under their clothes. Then they should join the parade and at a given signal from him they were to light up the cigarettes dramatically. Bernays then informed the press that he had heard that a group of suffragettes were preparing to protest by lighting up what they called torches of freedom.

Pat Jackson - Public Relations Adviser and Colleague of Bernays: He knew this would be an outcry, and he knew that all of the photographers would be there to capture this moment so he was ready with a phrase which was torches of freedom. So here you have a symbol, women, young women, debutantes, smoking a cigarette in public with a phrase that means anybody who believes in this kind of equality pretty much has to support them in the ensuing debate about this, because I mean torches of freedom. What's our American point, it's liberty, she's holding up the torch, you see and so all this there together, there's emotion there's memory and there's a rational phrase, all of this is in there together. So the next day this was not just in all the New York papers it was across the United States and around the world. And from that point forward the sale of cigarettes to woman began to rise. He had made them socially acceptable with a single symbolic ad.

What Bernays had created was the idea that if a women smoked it made her more powerful and independent. An idea that still persists today. It made him realize that it was possible to persuade people to behave irrationally if you link products to their emotional desires and feelings. The idea that smoking actually made women freer, was completely irrational. But it made them feel more independent. It meant that irrelevant objects could become powerful emotional symbols of how you want to be seen by others.

Peter Strauss - Employee of Bernays 1948-1952: Eddie Bernays saw a way to sell product was not to sell it to your intellect, that you ought to buy an automobile, but that you will feel better about it if you have this automobile. I think he originated that idea that they weren't just purchasing something that they were engaging themselves emotionally or personally in a product or service. It's not that you think you need a piece of clothing but that you will feel better if you have a piece of clothing. That was his contribution in a very real sense. We see it all over the place today but I think he originated the idea, the emotional connect to a product or service.

What Bernays was doing fascinated Americas corporations. They had come out of the war rich and powerful, but they had a growing worry. The system of mass production had flourished during the war and now millions of goods were pouring off production lines. What they were frightened of was the danger of overproduction, that there would come a point when people had enough goods and would simply stop buying. Up until that point the majority of products were still sold to the masses on the basis of need. While the rich had long been used to luxury goods for the millions of working class Americans most products were still advertised as necessities. Goods like shoes stockings even cars were promoted in functional terms for their durability. The aim of the advertisements were simply to show people the products practical virtues, nothing more.

What the corporations realized they had to do was transform the way the majority of Americans thought about products. One leading Wall Street banker, Paul Mazer of Leahman Brothers was clear about what was necessary. We must shift America, he wrote, from a needs to a desires culture. People must be trained to desire, to want new things even before the old had been entirely consumed. We must shape a new mentality in America. Man's desires must overshadow his needs.

Peter Solomon - Investment Banker - Leahman Brothers: Prior to that time there was no American consumer, there was the American worker. And there was the American owner. And they manufactured, and they saved and they ate what they had to and the people shopped for what they needed. And while the very rich may have bought things they didn't need, most people did not. And Mazer envisioned a break with that where you would have things that you didn't actually need, but you wanted as opposed to needed.

And the man who would be at the center of changing that mentality for the corporations was Edward Bernays.

Stuart Ewen - Historian of Public Relations: Bernays really is the guy within the United States more than anybody else who sort of brings to the table psychological theory as something that is an essential part of how, from the corporate side, of how we are going to appeal to the masses effectively and the whole sort of merchandising establishment and the sales establishment is ready for Sigmund Freud. I mean they are ready for understanding what motivates the human mind. And so there's this real openness to Bernays techniques being used to sell products to the masses.

Beginning in the early 20's the New York banks funded the creation of chains of department stores across America. They were to be the outlets for the mass produced goods. And Bernays' job was to produce the new type of customer. Bernays began to create many of the techniques of mass consumer persuasion that we now live with. He was employed by William Randolph Hurst to promote his new women's magazines, and Bernays glamorized them by placing articles and advertisements that linked products made by others of his clients to famous film stars like Clara Bow, who was also his client. Bernays also began the practice of product placement in movies, and he dressed the stars at the films premieres with clothes and jewelry from other firms he represented.

He was, he claimed, the first person to tell car companies they could sell cars as symbols of male sexuality. He employed psychologists to issue reports that said products were good for you and then pretended they were independent studies. He organized fashion shows in department stores and paid celebrities to repeat the new and essential message, you bought things not just for need but to express your inner sense of your self to others.

[…]


So, yes, you are technically right that propaganda is, technically speaking, the same thing as public relations, which I believe is really pretty much the same thing as marketing (even if they represent different job descriptions today …). However, I'll be using the word marketing, because not only do people create marketing, but it's also understood that marketing is something which happens within the minds of people. Propaganda, to me, seems to appeal to our rational conceptions of ourselves -- which, of course, is part of the bias that the subconscious introduces. It suggests to many people implicitly that THEY are controlling US, when in fact, we can pretty clearly see from science of mind that we are going along with this because there's something in it for us.

That distinction is a necessary realization in order to build a functional scientific social network, for if the site is to be effective at achieving goals, it must strive to expose peoples' irrational biases. Honestly, I find this topic to be incredibly exciting, and really wide open for serious entrepreneurs to step in and change the world. We're hot on the trail here to a completely new avenue of investigation, for we can see that there is no modern-day equivalent of Edward Bernays that is focused specifically upon scientific discourse. And that offers a way to alter the trajectory of conventional science itself. If the case can be made that people don't always use their rational minds to choose scientific models -- which I think it can -- then this leads to the question of how to build systems which elicit the rational mind in scientific decision-making.
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Re: Online scientific discourse is broken and it can be fixe

Unread postby bdw000 » Thu Jan 09, 2014 11:08 pm

I was not suggesting that YOU use the word "propaganda." I was just pointing out what I thought you were missing: that your plan was aimed against a very powerful propaganda machine (whoever, or whatever, was behind it), and that you were underestimating the difficulty of your chosen task. That is just opinion of course.

. . . it must strive to expose peoples' irrational biases.


This is just another opinion again, but that has never really done much good, has it? Take religion. Pointing out to people that their belief in religion is "irrational" rarely has any affect, right? It pretty much ends the discussion. The evidence is clear: scientists behave the same way (as almost all of humanity). Almost everyone simply believes that whatever they believe, MUST be true (because no one would willingly believe something that wasn't true, right?). Therefore, any argument against what someone believes faces tremendous resistance. And one of the most common beliefs in academia/science is that if you aren't one of the acknowledged experts, and you argue against the experts, then you are a crackpot. Period. That is a belief that you have to get through with your program, and I would bet that "exposing the irrationality" of that belief won't get you anywhere. Again, this is just suggestion and opinion.

then this leads to the question of how to build systems which elicit the rational mind in scientific decision-making.


If you can do that, more power to you. That will be a great achievement. But I'm not sure how much good that will do as long as scientists cannot keep a job if they openly support forbidden ideas. Most, if not all, of my "dissident physics" books were written by retirees or engineers (who did not work in the field of physics, but had the math know-how to critique it).

I've made my point. I will not bother you anymore. I sincerely wish you the best of luck.
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Re: Online scientific discourse is broken and it can be fixe

Unread postby pln2bz » Fri Jan 10, 2014 12:25 am

You're not bothering me. It's worth thinking about. I have some partial thoughts on these sorts of things, but it's something that I'd prefer to think much more about before commenting.
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Re: Online scientific discourse is broken and it can be fixe

Unread postby Plasmatic » Fri Jan 10, 2014 11:28 pm

Been away for a while dealing with some other things.

Bdw000, Its good to see you. I came here from a reading a conversation Chris was involved in elsewhere to find a post of mine that was relevant to something he is now saying. It was interesting to me because it was a departure from his previous posts and in accordance with something I have endeavored to point out. I started reading the most recent posts and found this almost verbatim post:

The evidence is clear: scientists behave the same way (as almost all of humanity). Almost everyone simply believes that whatever they believe, MUST be true (because no one would willingly believe something that wasn't true, right?).


and said to myself "oh he is saying the same thing here too", only to realize it was not his post, but yours. So I would not assume you are "bothering" him.

I have tried to point out that the problems he is trying to deal with extend beyond "online scientific discourse" and that the problem is fundamental to all categories of knowledge. A good example of how folks tend to respond to some folks and not others on the same points. There's probably a cognitive science book on that somewhere to be quoted extensively from....... ;)
"Logic is the art of non-contradictory identification"......" I am therefore Ill think"
Ayn Rand
"It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it."
Aristotle
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Re: Online scientific discourse is broken and it can be fixe

Unread postby Plasmatic » Sat Jan 11, 2014 12:41 am

Chris said:

Plasmatic, I get the sense that you might be making a mistake when you fashion the problem of creating a website which can improve scientific discourse in the tangled, longstanding debates of epistemology. Many of these debates will turn out to not have any actual solution, but that does not mean that we cannot improve scientific discourse online


in response to my post:

Your arbitrary dichotomies of worldview, model, proposition, conceptual, etc., are incoherent, ignore implicit hierarchy errors, (while extolling some as superordinate), and little attempt is made to give instances that would help others differentiate them. (Even upon explicit request in the form of questions)

If all the categories of knowledge are conceptually expressed, then how can the "higher levels" ( such as the alleged separate category of world views) not involve, consist of, and depend on, the validity of ones concepts?[/


The above statement of mine was directly in response to your own premises. Which of your premises are related to "the tangled, longstanding debates of epistemology" that you believe are probably unsolvable, and why are you assuming premises that pertain to a subject you count as unsolvable, and how is that rationally imputed to me?


Chris said:

The point of separating out the various "levels" of scientific discourse is most fundamentally a recognition that people naturally take different perspectives, based upon their intent, when thinking about science. If, for example, a person wants to pick apart a press release, then they would necessarily need to be talking at the worldview level of discourse, because the intent is to try to narrow the field of competing worldviews. There exists inherent value to the Electric Universe and other unconventional models to having a level of discourse which pre-supposes that there are competing worldviews in science. Imposing this structure upon the dialogue can have a long-term impact upon the way in which people think about science, because it directly confronts the widespread perception that there are no competing worldviews in science (aka scientism).



First, scientism is not the "perception that there are no competing worldviews in science", it is an attempt by irrationalist/emotionalist to make reason sound like mysticism.

In this case the Wiki has a good description:

to describe the dogmatic endorsement of scientific methodology and the reduction of all knowledge to only that which is measurable.[14] 'Scientism' has also been taken over as a name for the view that science is the only reliable source of knowledge by philosophers such as Alexander Rosenberg


Second, it does not follow from the fact that people have different perspectives that your incoherent "levels" are necessary or even meaningful. I have asked for specific clarifications which I am still awaiting. Third, a tool which acknowledges the truth that there are alternative views on the same question does not require or depend on any such levels.


If, instead, a person is trying to focus on the answering of a particular focus question, then they are engaging science at the propositional level of discourse. Yes, worldviews are still involved. And so are models and concepts. Each of the layers interacts with the others. But, notice that we care about different things on the worldview and propositional layers: At the worldview layer, we are approaching engagement with others from the mindset of a particular worldview, and we are oftentimes forced to look to philosophy of science in an attempt to adjudicate arguments which may, in truth, have no firm answer. At the propositional layer, by contrast, people would be asking open-ended questions, and the intent should be to consider the answers which are provided by all worldviews. It's a very important distinction which is not made in conventional scientific discourse -- the consequence being that conventional thinkers simply look to their own worldviews when they should be broadening their scope (like at the inferential step).


It cannot be a matter of "separate layers interacting" because concepts are "atomic" to language. There are no non-conceptual languages or non-linguistic concepts and that includes mathematical concepts (another of your false dichotomies) In fact abstraction itself is a form of measurement.....

Notice my process: There is a problem observed in the process for how people think, and having the added functionality of layers of discourse permits the possibility of creating "levers" to shift the discourse back into the right direction using the values embedded into the site's infrastructure (as opposed to the far more laborious process of one-on-one, case-by-case moderation).



Again this doesn't bolster any such "levels" but I do think a site that accomplished this would be a good tool for learning in general.

So, why should we bother with separating the layers of discourse? Because the different layers exhibit different systems of sometimes competing sets of values. At the propositional level, we should value an open-minded consideration of all worldviews. At the worldview level, where we are comparing and contrasting models which originate from competing worldviews, our goal should be to try to constrain the possibilities by valuing models which can be argued to better fit the observations.


This is more arbitrary assertion that only presupposes your "levels" are coherent categories that presuppose valid differentiations.

If you think carefully about what it takes to facilitate good debate and to ask good questions, you should observe that in practice the two sets of values can interfere with one another: Asking good questions is not possible without an open mind and values oriented towards creative problem-solving, whereas contemplating worldviews is more of a critical process which is more oriented towards attention to detail.


More undefended/unjustified "creative vs critical mind" assertion.

Now, if you look at the way in which the old Bad Astronomy and Universe Today site (now renamed to CosmoQuest) dealt with the Electric Universe, you'll see what happens when these two sets of values are left to conflict: The creative aspects of problem-solving are basically critiqued away, until the creatives eventually realize that the experts there are simply destroying all competing ideas. Eventually, the "explorers" simply leave that community in search of a more hospitable environment; but notice what this does: It splits the "experts" from the creatives. A more effective community is one which is based upon both cooperation and competition. The BAUTForum made the mistake of only valuing competition between ideas. This naturally kills off innovative ideas, which always necessarily start out as a very delicate process of imagining possibilities. The ecosystem which supports dialogue exerts an inordinate influence upon whether or not the adjacent possibility turns into a scientific model. As site designers, we should be asking: Was the site designed to support that activity? Some would argue that the Thunderbolts forum makes the exact opposite mistake -- of not being sufficiently critical of itself, and eventually, we should talk about this


The above is predicated on the idea that "creative" thinking is somehow irrational or "emotional (more "Kirk vs spock"), which I do not accept and you have not argued for. (quoting books that assume this usage is not an argument). You want to make an argument for such a dichotomy? (the onus is on you) Its been several posts and no clarification or answers to my questions.

. Either way, my suggestion is that the general solution to both problems involves identifying the underlying processes involved in practicing good scientific discourse, and creating weakly-interacting communications channels which strive to improve those processes. And the reason I argue this is because I feel that this notion that we can just put a creative and an expert into a room and let them duke it out, without first establishing that each persona comes at science from a valued position, has already been tried before. I would argue that we know how that ends up, at this point.


The solution to improving the thinking process and discourse of any person, scientist or not, creative or reiterative, online or off, is a valid epistemology; the science that studies knowledge in general.
"Logic is the art of non-contradictory identification"......" I am therefore Ill think"
Ayn Rand
"It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it."
Aristotle
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