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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Online scientific discourse is broken and it can be fixed

Unread postby pln2bz » Thu Oct 24, 2013 1:50 pm

Hi, my name is Chris Reeve and it's been a number of years since I've visited the forum. While I've been away, I've spent a lot of time contemplating the various predicaments of the EU relative to conventional science by observing and interacting with online science culture. My overriding intention while I've been away has been to create a better system for scientific discourse. I feel that I've actually made some important progress towards conceiving an effective scientific social network, and now that I see more-or-less what I feel needs to be done, I'd like to make my case here on the forum to see if networking might in some manner facilitate a turn towards execution. In other words, I feel confident that I now know what needs to be done and even to some extent how to do this, but I'm also realizing that the solution is so large that I cannot really do it all by myself.

I'd like to spread out the process of making my case here over a number of weeks, as I only have a limited time per day. I will start by identifying the problems of online discourse and science education, and then progress by linking directly from those problems to a general framework for a fix which addresses most, if not all, of those needs. Please feel free to chime in at any point; I very much want this to be a two-way dialogue.

The Problem As I See It Today

In the same way that body language can influence communication, the technical arguments we use to support a claim are not the sole determinant in the effectiveness of those arguments.

The ways in which we learn and discuss science have an important influence upon our beliefs in the models we are discussing. Although there may exist a widespread belief that our minds exclusively formulate belief in science according to constructs like evidence and logic, as well as the values we ascribe to "thinking like a scientist", there is a good case to be made that the infrastructures we use for sharing knowledge -- like textbooks, lectures, forums and comments attached to scientific press releases -- also exhibit a profound influence upon the beliefs and worldviews that result.

I should be clear that I am not speaking here about the content of those infrastructures -- the arguments and logic which people use to convince one another to consider a particular idea. I am speaking about the media infrastructure itself. The decision within textbooks to teach science mostly through problem sets … The unidirectional nature of the lecture format … The decision to place an empty text box at the end of a press release … All of these decisions about the medium over which we communicate about science can ultimately play a role in an individual's adherence to a particular theory which is just as important as the evidence and logic deployed on top of them.

My thesis is that since our current system of scientific discourse lacks features which actually support conceptual or paradigm changes, that we should generally think of the existing communication infrastructure as supporting conventional theory itself. And the case I'd like to make is for a new system of scientific discourse which supports the emergence of new ideas in science that can be shown to more accurately adhere to the values that have traditionally been associated with "thinking like a scientist". It's an infrastructure which I've attempted to design as an antidote to the problems that many of us have painfully witnessed undermining healthy discussion of the Electric Universe.

What I'd like to suggest to the forum is that our unique perspective as outsiders struggling to make a case for a paradigm that competes with conventional wisdom lends us a unique knowledge about the kinds of obstacles that new ideas face in our modern world. No recourse to historical cases nor hypothetical thought experiments can completely replace the firsthand experiences gained from going onto a modern-day science forum and attempting to convince others of a largely unpopular scientific idea. And this simple observation hints that authentic reform in science education and discourse will quite possibly originate amongst people of like minds -- if not by somebody we actually know, then at least by somebody who has developed a similar understanding through a likeminded approach to reform.

This is the realization I had about three years ago. And it inspired me to slightly switch gears from digesting as much as I could about the EU, to learning about other domains which might help me to conjure a fix on this very specific problem -- domains like physics education research, online education, information visualization, database encoding methodologies, trends in machine learning, the science PhD program (and its numerous critics), philosophy of science, and creative and critical thinking in science -- amongst many others.

And this is why I've had to take a lengthy vacation from the forum. But, if you guys don't mind, I'd like to now report on what I've discovered.
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Re: Online scientific discourse is broken and it can be fixe

Unread postby pln2bz » Fri Oct 25, 2013 3:18 pm

Change is Very, Very Hard. Here is Why.

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[M]any, if not most, of the change challenges you face today and will face tomorrow require something more than incorporating new technical skills into your current mindset. These are the 'adaptive challenges,' and they can only be met by transforming your mindset, by advancing to a more sophisticated stage of mental development … Heifetz says the biggest error leaders make is when they apply technical means to solve adaptive challenges.

-- Immunity to Change: How to Overcome It
And Unlock the Potential In Yourself and Your Organization
,
Robert Kegan and Lisa Laskow Lahey


Since immunity to change is an actual field of study, some helpful clues can be learned from simply scanning their findings …

Successful people … develop anxiety-management systems that are very robust and self-sustaining, and they permit us to function in a wide variety of situations.

But, we run these systems -- even highly successful anxiety-management systems -- at a cost. Inevitably, they create blind spots, prevent new learning, and constantly constrain action in some aspects of our living. These costs show up when we are unable to deliver on some genuinely desired change, the realization of which would bring us to a new, higher level of functioning in ways we truly want to attain.

Most self-improvement efforts take place in too constricted a psychological space, blind to these bigger dynamics at play. (p48)


The tendency to resist change is so strong that awareness of its existence is insufficient to overcome it; that's because it exists at the level of feelings rather than cognitive thought. Although our minds do not construct these immune systems in order to protect us from some new scientific theory, the worldview we look to for justifying our actions is nevertheless tied to our beliefs about how the universe works. This is why questioning certain models within online science forums can elicit such emotional responses.

Change does not fail to occur because of insincerity. The heart patient is not insincere about his wish to keep living, even as he reaches for another cigarette. Change fails to occur because we mean both things. It fails to occur because we are a living contradiction. (p38)


The unwanted behaviors
are not some weak failings arising from some insufficiently developed moral muscle. They are brilliant, highly effective behaviors serving exactly the purpose another part of him intends! (p38)


When we make a New Year's resolution, we look at the behaviors we seek to extinguish as bad; we look at the behaviors we want to amplify as good. But until we understand the commitments that make the obstructive behaviors at the same time brilliantly effective, we haven't correctly formulated the problem. Einstein said the formulation of the problem is as important as the solution. (p39)


Take a close look at the following chart, graph and table. They are all telling us the same thing, and they will prove to be incredibly important for diagnosing the challenge we face in our attempts to change peoples' worldviews in science ...

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From the same graphic ...

The Three Adult Plateaus Described

The socialized mind
• We are shaped by the definitions and expectations of our personal environment.
• Our self coheres by its alignment with, and loyalty to, that with which it identifies.
• This can express itself primarily in our relationships with people, with "schools of thought" (our ideas and beliefs) or both.

The self-authoring mind
• We are able to step back enough from the social environment to generate an internal "seat of judgment" or personal authority that evaluates and makes choices about external expectations.
• Our self coheres by its alignment with its own belief system/ideology/personal code; by its ability to self-direct, take stands, set limits, and create and regulate its boundaries on behalf of its own voice.

The self-transforming mind
• We can step back from and reflect on the limits of our own ideology or personal authority; see that any one system or self-organization is in some way partial or incomplete; be friendlier toward contradiction and opposites; seek to hold on to multiple systems rather than projecting all but one onto the other.
• Our self coheres through its ability not to confuse internal consistency with wholeness or completeness, and through its alignment with the dialectic rather than either pole.


Kegan and Lahey note that less than 1% of the population actually achieves the self-transforming mindset (sources: Study A: R Kegan, In Over Our Heads (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1994). Study B: W Torbert, Managing the Corporate Dream (Homewood, IL: Dow-Jones, 1987)

What I'd like to suggest is that the challenge of adaptive change is very, very fundamental to what it means to live in a modern society -- which makes this a useful construct for understanding the difficulty of not just personal changes like stopping smoking or learning to listen better to others (etc), but also changes to a person's scientific worldview like the transformation from a conventional gravitational worldview to one that more intentionally considers electrical forces as a primary mover and shaker.

Another interesting observation which we can make from these claims is that most social networking and news aggregator sites today at best strive to appeal to the socialized mindset. And this leads us to the most important question I'd like to leave you with in this brief review of immunity-to-change theory: Is it possible to build websites which support the emergence of self-authoring and even self-transforming mindsets? If today's websites lack any specific features which actually support these difficult -- and in practice rare -- transitions, then why should we ever expect that such adaptive transformations would just accidentally transpire as a result of purely technical arguments?
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Re: Online scientific discourse is broken and it can be fixe

Unread postby pln2bz » Tue Oct 29, 2013 6:14 pm

"I've always said that the cause of the trouble is the American graduate school …"
(Fred Hoyle)


Even if they can't quite define the problem, Americans generally realize that something isn't quite right about the way in which we teach science in the United States. Yet, Americans simultaneously express a great amount of faith in the scientific theories which eventually follow from these same educational programs.

Even in our most speculative scientific endeavors like cosmology and astrophysics, where skepticism would seem to be a logical response to the challenges of making observations and running experiments, we paradoxically observe strong scientific and public consensus on a great number of speculative and even fantastical claims. Professional scientists routinely claim to solve longstanding cosmic mysteries even as they admit they can apparently only identify 4% of the universe. And there has been a rush to certainty about our climate models even though scientists still ask fundamental questions about the Sun.

It's important to realize that our senses have been tuned to the environment in which they have evolved. Thus, as we contemplate environments which wildly diverge from what we experienced while hunting and gathering -- such as interstellar or intergalactic space -- we'd be wise to adopt a skeptical stance towards our natural inductive preferences. Testament to the need for caution are the historical scientific breakthroughs which followed the introduction to theory of some new quality dimension or domain which was formerly invisible to human perception because it was not vital to our survival.

The distinction between temperature and heat in thermodynamics, as well as Newton's distinction between weight and mass, are both prime examples (reference: Conceptual Spaces, Peter Gardenfors, pages 82 - 83). There would similarly seem to be a rather logical case to make that electricity & magnetism have been traditionally undervalued in astrophysics and cosmology for the simple evolutionary reason that we generally seem to do just fine here at home without exceptional human faculties for perceiving them.

This pattern of strong beliefs amongst scientists in the face of great uncertainty, and where skepticism might be a more valid approach, begs us to pay closer attention to the origins of this scientific consensus. The meaning of consensus in science -- and even whether or not we should permit it to influence our own beliefs -- would seem to depend largely upon the underlying process which generates it. And to understand that, we must foremost take a closer look at the process within our American graduate schools which generates these professional scientists.

The Largest American Physics Freedom-of-Expression Case that Nobody Ever Talks About

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In May of 2000, one of Physics Today's best editors -- a 19-year veteran of the magazine -- published an inflammatory critique of the physics graduate program. The book was titled, Disciplined Minds: A Critical Look at Salaried Professionals and the Soul-battering System That Shapes Their Lives, and its publication promptly led to Schmidt's firing by Physics Today's parent company, the American Institute of Physics (AIP). The court case which followed inspired 1000 scientists and activists from 35 countries to demand that the AIP support Jeff's right to publish the critique free of repercussions. Jeff would ultimately win a settlement six years later, but the difficult questions raised by the book linger on largely unnoticed by the public.

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It stands to reason that any attempt to reform science dialog or education must deal with the big question of what we train scientists for in our society: Do we train them to become independent, critical thinkers who can single-handedly run their own experiments, like a modern version of Nikola Tesla? Or, do we train them to be professional specialists who will inevitably need to fit into a larger group in either academia or the corporate world?

My thesis is that the criteria by which individuals are deemed qualified or unqualified to become professionals involve not just technical knowledge as is generally assumed, but also attitude – in particular, attitude toward working within an assigned political and ideological framework ...

The qualifying attitude, I find, is an uncritical subordinate one, which allows professionals to take their ideological lead from their employers, and appropriately fine-tune the outlook that they bring to their work. The resulting professional is an obedient thinker, an intellectual property whom employers can trust to experiment, theorize, innovate and create safely within the confines of an assigned ideology. … (p15-19)


What Schmidt is suggesting is that universities today tend to train scientists to become specialist professionals -- not mavericks. That's because scientists have a place within modern hierarchical organizations which tends to not be at the top. And since most organizations are not actually looking for "lone wolves" who will get all "mavericky" on management, the universities generate large numbers of professionals instead, who will dutifully work on problems that are assigned to them by managers ...

This book's analysis finds the supposed political neutrality of the process of professional qualification a myth: Neither weeding out nor adjustment to the training institution's values are politically neutral processes. Even the qualifying examination -- its cold, tough, technical questions supposedly testimony to the objectivity and integrity of the system of professional qualification and to the purity of the moment of personal triumph in every professional's training -- does not act neutrally. The ideological obedience that the qualification system requires for success turns out to be identical to the ideological obedience that characterizes the work of the salaried professional. (p26)


Schmidt points to the concept of ideology as crucial to understanding the nature of professionalism …

For understanding the professional, the concept of "ideology" will emerge as much more useful than that of "skill." But what is ideology, exactly? Ideology is thought that justifies action, including routine day-to-day activity ... your ideology justifies your own actions to yourself. Economics may bring you back to your employer day after day, but it is ideology that makes that activity feel like a reasonable or unreasonable way to spend your life ... Work in general is becoming more and more ideological, and so is the workforce that does it. (p15)


Within that context, "getting political" is to stray from the assigned ideology. Simply put, professionals don't get political.

Put another way, if we view our system of education as largely serving the needs of industry, it becomes apparent that the success or failure of this larger system will to some extent depend upon our ability to generate highly disciplined thinkers who can effectively serve those organizations without creating distractions. But, the looming problem here is that there are already specific values which are traditionally associated with "thinking like a scientist". So, a question naturally arises when we combine these two different concepts together: How do the values of the professional compare to that of the scientist? We'd be wise to ask if they ever clash.

Pravin Singh does an excellent job of summarizing the values of a scientist in his short paper titled, "Science Education and Scientific Attitudes" …

The current set of scientific attitudes of objectivity, open-mindedness, unbiassedness, curiosity, suspended judgement, critical mindedness, and rationality has evolved from a systematic identification of scientific norms and values. The earliest papers of any importance in the field of scientific attitudes are those of R.K. Merton (1957). He conceptualized the norms or institutional imperatives on the basis of evidence taken mainly from statements by scientists about science and their scientific activity. He then identified four norms. These are universalism, communality, disinterestedness and organized skepticism.

Universalism requires that information presented to the scientific community be assessed independently of the character of the scientist who presents the information. The norm of communality requires that scientific knowledge be held in common, in other words, the researcher is expected to share his findings with other scientists freely and without favour. The norm of disinterestedness requires scientists to pursue scientific knowledge without considering their career or their reputation. Scientists are exhorted by the norm of organized skepticism never to take results on trust. They are expected to be consistently critical of knowledge.

To this list of institutional imperatives Barber (1962: 122-142) later added two more — rationality and emotional neutrality. Rationality relates essentially to having faith in reason and depending on empirical tests rather than on tradition when substantiating hypotheses. Scientists are encouraged also to conform to the norm of emotional neutrality i.e. to avoid emotional involvement which may colour their judgement.

[…]

Is it not possible that these scientific attitudes have been popularised and then reified as a set of ideal attitudes but in reality is not often found in actual scientific practices? The following studies raise serious doubts about the scientists' adherence to institutional imperatives ...


What a great question! In fact, we should keep this set of values handy as we further review Jeff's claims. And within this context, we can ask more specific questions: Is it possible that the way we train physicists and other professionals today undermines the set of core values that the public traditionally associates with thinking like a scientist? And if so, in what ways might our scientific theory-making process be affected?

What I would like to propose is that we cannot fully reform our scientific discourse and education through any other path, because whatever system we eventually build is ultimately tasked with guiding people to think like a scientist. If our system for creating professionals appears to interfere with that more fundamental goal of creating scientists, then we have some very important decisions to make about the design of this new system.

From http://www.julesnyquist.com/articles/ar ... /16489.htm

MR: When you first thought of writing this book, you were in graduate school, right?

JS: Yes, that’s right. I got interested [in the] topic when I was going to professional training myself, getting a PhD in physics at the University of California, Irvine. It seemed like the best of my fellow graduate students were either dropping out or being kicked out. And by ‘best,’ those were the most concerned about other people and seemed less self-centered, less narrowly-focused, most friendly people...they seemed to be handicapped in the competition. They seemed to be at a disadvantage not only because their attention was divided, but because their concerns about big picture issues like justice and the social role of the profession and so on, caused them to stop and think and question, whereas their unquestioning gung-ho classmates just plowed right through with nothing to hold them back. As I mentioned, there’s about a 50% drop-out rate for students entering University programs in all fields; and what I found was that this weeding out is not politically neutral. To put it bluntly, the programs favor ass-kissers.


Professionals generally avoid the risk inherent in real critical thinking and cannot properly be called critical thinkers. They are simply ideologically disciplined thinkers. Real critical thinking means uncovering and questioning social, political and moral assumptions; applying and refining a personally developed worldview; and calling for action that advances a personally created agenda. An approach that backs away from any of these three components lacks the critical spirit ... Ideologically disciplined thinkers, especially the more gung-ho ones, often give the appearance of being critical thinkers as they go around deftly applying the official ideology and confidently reporting their judgments. The fact that professionals are usually more well-informed than nonprofessionals contributes to the illusion that they are critical thinkers. (p41)


Although Jeff brings up a number of important points, for our purpose of redesigning scientific discourse, his comments on the role of memorization in the graduate program are particularly important:

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Beginning physics graduate students must devote an entire year or two of their lives to homework. Indeed, the first part of physics graduate school is well described as a boot camp based on homework. One characteristic of any boot camp is that the subject matter the instructors present in their day-to-day work is not really the main thing they are teaching. Teaching the subject matter is certainly one goal, but it is not the main one. In military boot camp, for example, drill instructors make recruits spend large amounts of time learning to dress to regulation, march in precise formation, chant ditties, disassemble and reassemble rifles, carry heavy backpacks, and so on, yet the main goal of all this is something much more profound: to create soldiers who will follow orders, even to their deaths. Similarly, the most apparent goal of graduate physics courses is to indoctrinate the students into the dominant paradigms, or theoretical frameworks, of physics. But the primary goal is to train physicists who will maintain tremendous discipline on assigned problems. (p129)


At the end of the [qualifying examination] week the entire physics faculty gathers in a closed meeting to decide the fate of the students. Strange as it may seem, in most physics departments a student's score on the test is only one factor in the faculty's decision as to whether or not that student has passed the test. Students are not usually told their scores: this gives faculty members the option of deciding that a student has failed the test even if that student has outscored someone they are going to pass. In arriving at their personal opinions on whether to pass or fail a student, individual faculty members consider anything and everything carried away from informal discussions with the student and with others around the department.

A faculty member who talks informally with a student in the hallway or at the weekly after-colloquium reception inevitably comes away with a feeling about whether or not that student 'thinks like a physicist.' The student's political outlook can easily make a difference in the faculty member's assessment. For example, in the usual informal discussion of an issue in the news, the student who rails against technical incompetence and confines his thoughts to the search for technical solutions within the given political framework builds a much more credible image as a professional physicist than does the student who emphasizes the need to alter the political framework as part of the solution. Indeed, the latter approach falls outside the work assignments given to professional physicists in industry and academe and so represents thinking unlike a physicist's. (p134)


The problem here for the AIP is that if the university system is perceived by the public as simply acting as a filter that basically weeds out critics of conventional theory before they have a chance to get their PhD's, then that would possibly radically alter the public's conception of the meaning for consensus. Rather than the traditional view of independent thinkers who arrive at the same conclusion in the absence of any pressure to do so, Jeff's analysis points to a system which manufactures the consensus through an over-emphasis upon memorization, and the creation of a system of identifying and casting away students who might ask questions which are "political" or unbecoming of a professional.

Notice, however, that at the same time, by doing its best to keep this controversial discussion out of the national consciousness, the AIP simultaneously threw away a pivotal conversation which absolutely needed to occur in order to facilitate effective reform in scientific education and discourse. The AIP is ultimately a corporation which must support the credibility of the scientists they service, and so I would suggest that we shouldn't exactly be surprised by their decision. But, we also shouldn't blindly follow along, as if their interests are aligned with the public interest.

After all, I will next show that Jeff Schmidt is hardly the only person making these claims ...
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Re: Online scientific discourse is broken and it can be fixe

Unread postby Plasmatic » Thu Oct 31, 2013 7:47 am

Chris's graph claimed:

The "self transforming mind"... "Holds contradictions"...

I"m interested in hearing what your justification is for the use, benefit or otherwise rationale behind why one would attribute this to the above category.
"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 pln2bz » Thu Oct 31, 2013 6:13 pm

That's actually a great question, and I think the answer speaks directly to the difficulty of convincing people to entertain the notion of the Electric Universe.

I was unable to find a satisfactory answer to the question in Kegan and Lahey's book, Immunity to Change. But, the article from which the Five Stages of Development subject-object table was taken, does include an explanation which is in line with my expectations:

The Self-Transforming Mind is the highest level of consciousness in Kegan’s model. The Self-Transforming Mind is able to take a step back from the act of self-authoring and hold it as object. From this point of view, one is able to regard multiple ideologies simultaneously and compare them, being wary of any single one. Driving questions would include, “What am I missing?”, “How can my outlook be more inclusive?” As Susanne Cook-Greuter likes to say, such a person tends to move away from “either/or” thinking towards thinking that is more “both/and”. This mindset is problem-seeking. This multi-frame perspective is able to hold the contradictions between competing belief systems and is therefore subject to the dialectic between systems of thought. Underlying this perpetual quest is an acceptance of the incompletion of wholeness.

Because of its interdependent meaning-making, the underlying structure of the Self-Transforming Mind can be thought of as operating at the level of a system of systems. Fears of this order of mind would be having a sense of complacency regarding ones own identity or the sense that one has finally “learned it all”.

Less than 1% of the adult population is at this level of development.


What they seem to be saying is that this mindset facilitates large, complex changes in worldview which we can expect will generally arrive in a piecemeal fashion. And I think that this accurately reflects the process of learning the Electric Universe for those who are already fluent in conventional theory: If we stick with the either/or approach, then our tendency will be to reject the EU at the first sight of an apparent contradiction, based upon our pre-existing conceptions. But, if we are able to adopt a both/and approach long enough to learn the EU, then the reward is that we can learn enough of the new paradigm to generally resolve the apparent contradiction(s).

The either/or approach is actually quite visible in people online who reject the Electric Universe. Interestingly, some of these either/or thinkers will quickly admit to only having read a very minimal amount of the EU literature. From just yesterday in physorg comments …

Hey, guys, could we maybe, just maybe, talk science instead of anti-scientific, mind numbing, logic failures? It's obvious to anyone that has spent more than five minutes looking into the electric universe, plasma universe, AWT, or any of the others still retaining a fully functional brain these theories are in complete mockery of any legitimate scientific method.


Sites that teach people to see the world through multiple sets of glasses, in my view, are the future of online scientific discourse. The site designer's goal is to figure out ways of valuing beneficial discourse while de-valuing the patterns which are unlike thinking like a scientist. The only way to get to that point is to facilitate change.
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Re: Online scientific discourse is broken and it can be fixe

Unread postby Plasmatic » Thu Oct 31, 2013 8:29 pm

"Both/and"....

I don't want to start a lecture on how that quote is packaging two completely different concepts together, in order to smuggle anti-reason irrationalism into a discussion about active-mindedness, but, to someone who's familiar with that philosophical premise:

You mean, like 2+2= both 4 AND 6 ? .......

If your gonna go forward with the interesting idea that is the topic of this thread, I'd reconsider this bit....


Check your premises... And the premises of those who's philosophy your pasting 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 pln2bz » Fri Nov 01, 2013 1:53 pm

I have recently read a little bit about how the mind encodes concepts, at least according to Peter Gardenfors, in the book titled Conceptual Spaces. This subject of cognitive representation of concepts is of vital importance to the domain of Artificial Intelligence, and the implications are more than simply phenomenological (explanatory of cognition) or epistemological (how we know what we know), for this topic you've brought up is vital for constructing machines which can manipulate concepts, and most importantly, learn in ways that approximate human learning.

That book points to some rather concrete experimental results which seem to demonstrate that the cognitive "borders" which delineate conceptual representation within the mind are highly malleable depending upon the domain (context) of discourse. I will be getting to this later, as it represents a huge challenge for visualizing concepts onto a computer screen ...

But, the point I'd like to make is that if we hold to rigid expectations & definitions regardless of the domain we are discussing -- be it education or philosophy -- then we have arguably switched to entertaining the construction of some ideal philosophical reasoning machine which diverges from human cognition. That is indeed a fascinating construct, but unfortunately not one which will help me with this project.

For the domain of changing worldviews in humans, the both/and approach currently seems to me vital to this educational process. I don't claim that holding contradictions is useful under any other domain whatsoever, and we might express some caution at suggesting that the philosophy domain is more fundamental than the educational domain, if the implication of that is that we basically exacerbate (or even eliminate the possibility of) the already-challenging problem of worldview change. After all, there are elements of learning which are clearly sub-conceptual (like the representations which occur in children in the formation of concepts), and it perhaps remains open to debate if these particular systems must obey philosophy … If you look at the AI literature, you will observe that they break thinking into sub-conceptual (associationist), conceptual and of course symbolic components -- which suggests that the mind is concurrently thinking on numerous levels using different means. And this sub-conceptual level of "thinking" is typically modeled with neural networks. So, if those neural networks can indeed accurately represent pattern-matching (association), then it's not clear how philosophy fits into this sub-conceptual process for learning.

I respect and recognize that there is a longstanding philosophical debate over this kind of issue (which also apparently applies to the constructivist educational philosophy), but my intent is not to resolve that debate. Once I present my idea, what might be fascinating is to then see if the idea might have a more objectivist incarnation. I think there could actually be value to revisiting this topic then.
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Re: Online scientific discourse is broken and it can be fixe

Unread postby Plasmatic » Fri Nov 01, 2013 6:32 pm

Chris said:
But, the point I'd like to make is that if we hold to rigid expectations & definitions regardless of the domain we are discussing -- be it education or philosophy -- then we have arguably switched to entertaining the construction of some ideal philosophical reasoning machine which diverges from human cognition. That is indeed a fascinating construct, but unfortunately not one which will help me with this project.


The laws of logic, law of identity, the law of excluded middle, and the law of non contradiction, are all human cognitive tools of preserving and transferring meaning. One cannot even formulate a rejection of them without using them.

Chris said:
If you look at the AI literature, you will observe that they break thinking into sub-conceptual (associationist), conceptual and of course symbolic components -- which suggests that the mind is concurrently thinking on numerous levels using different means. And this sub-conceptual level of "thinking" is typically modeled with neural networks. So, if those neural networks can indeed accurately represent pattern-matching (association), then it's not clear how philosophy fits into this sub-conceptual process for learning.


As you know, I'm familiar with the above ideas from the video I sent you on Jeff hawking. Interestingly, he is having great success using a model that mirrors my own epistemology. What your forgetting is, those machines are programmed by conceptual beings, to mimic conceptual beings. Besides, to a non eliminative materialist, the above is not a surprise.....

I respect and recognize that there is a longstanding philosophical debate over this kind of issue (which also apparently applies to the constructivist educational philosophy), but my intent is not to resolve that debate. Once I present my idea, what might be fascinating is to then see if the idea might have a more objectivist incarnation. I think there could actually be value to revisiting this topic then.


Yeah, I don't intend to try to dismantle what I think is really confused, and actually non essential, to what your trying to accomplish. Though, I do think you will carry this stuff as baggage limiting the potential of what your actual goal is.

So lets get to what I think is really what you ought to be spending your time working out-making your case for...

: Is it possible to build websites which support the emergence of self-authoring and even self-transforming mindsets? If today's websites lack any specific features which actually support these difficult -- and in practice rare -- transitions, then why should we ever expect that such adaptive transformations would just accidentally transpire as a result of purely technical arguments?


Your goal of developing a website as a tool to facilitate what you like to call, "adaptive transformations" is a great idea.(and I have no interest in developing an Oist incarnation thereof..) :)
What I don't see, is how you think you could have achieved the transformative mindset that recognized the benefit of such a tool, if one needs the tool that you want to develop to do so?

I submit to you that you risk being seen as over inflating your case for the benefit of such a site, by this type of rhetoric. Lets assume I don't see something, and it could be true that such a tool would of necessity precede the type of transformation that you accept 1% of people have obtained... It would be helpful to your cause to spend more time elaborating on why you think this is the case. This other stuff, I think is quite peripheral to and a distraction from the need to develop your case for statements such as:

The ways in which we learn and discuss science have an important influence upon our beliefs in the models we are discussing. Although there may exist a widespread belief that our minds exclusively formulate belief in science according to constructs like evidence and logic, as well as the values we ascribe to "thinking like a scientist", there is a good case to be made that the infrastructures we use for sharing knowledge -- like textbooks, lectures, forums and comments attached to scientific press releases -- also exhibit a profound influence upon the beliefs and worldviews that result.
[/quote]

Could you maybe give some examples of how the "infrastructures we use" to acquire beliefs, could "influence" said beliefs. And more generally, what that would actually mean. Because its not even clear to me that such a dichotomy has meaning.( evidence and logic as against the medium used to express such as relates to persuasion and belief)

To be clear, I am pressing you here because I think your goal has value, but its not clear that the above is essential to it.
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Re: Online scientific discourse is broken and it can be fixe

Unread postby pln2bz » Sat Nov 02, 2013 9:59 am

Could you maybe give some examples of how the "infrastructures we use" to acquire beliefs, could "influence" said beliefs.


I will give one example ...

Jeff Schmidt suggests that a common approach to teaching physics in the graduate programs is to have students memorize stacks of problem set recipes in preparation for a qualifying examination at the end of the program … (Emphasis is mine, and added to facilitate skimming) ...

TURNING TRICKS

Questions on qualifying examinations often penalize the creative student while rewarding the student who mindlessly applies memorized “tricks.” To solve a typical math or science problem, you manipulate symbols in a sequence of steps, each of which takes you closer to the solution in a way that is apparent. However, it is possible to contrive problems whose solutions require a step that appears to be arbitrary or even counterproductive, the logic of that step becoming clear only later in the problem. This crucial step is the trick. The student who doesn’t know in advance the trick required to solve a test problem is extremely unlikely to discover it while working on the problem, especially if no time is allotted for that purpose, and so problems based on tricks favor the memorizer over even the creative individual who has a good overall understanding of the subject.

Some problems that can be solved without tricks are nevertheless made easier by tricks, as two examples from mathematics will illustrate. Because tricks often seem simple and obvious after they are explained, readers will better appreciate their nature by attempting the two problems now, before reading the discussion below:

1. Multiply 503 by 497.

2. The cube root of 64 is 4, because 4 x 4 x 4 is 64. What is the cube root of 1,728?

Problems that are made easier by tricks can be put into two groups. The first, represented by problem 1, are problems simplified by tricks that are useful in many situations. To multiply 503 by 497 quickly and with little chance of error, you can write the factors as (500 + 3) and (500 - 3), whose product is 250,000 - 9, or 249,991. This trick is based on the algebraic equation (a + b)(a - b) - a2 - b2 and is useful for multiplying any numbers that are equally spaced around a number whose square is easy to compute. The second group, exemplified by problem 2, are problems made easier by tricks that are useful in essentially just one problem. For example, to solve the cube root problem above, you can simply recognize 1,728 as the number of cubic inches in a cubic foot, which is 12 inches by 12 inches by 12 inches, and so the answer is 12.

In either case the tricks are optional — you can do the multiplication the long way and the cube root by trial and error. However, with a slight change — say, a stringent time limit on the problems — the tricks become mandatory. Under this condition the questions would still look like tests of arithmetic skills, but they would really be disguised tests of memory and of the ability to “psych out” the questions.

One often finds that a qualifying examination problem is impossible to solve without a special trick that is good for only that one problem. This kind of problem is usually constructed by starting with the trick and working backwards. The student who attacks such a problem with creativity, with an understanding of the subject, with insight and with the standard tricks of the trade gets absolutely nowhere. The special trick is the only approach to the problem that works. The unwitting student who uses the “wrong” approach, as logical as that approach may be and as effective as that approach may be in general, sinks deeper and deeper into increasingly complicated calculations — a frustrating “mess,” as it is often called — in an ultimately futile effort to get an answer. Because only the special trick works, only the student who has seen the problem before — and memorized it — can solve it. And because the student’s creativity; understanding, insight and experience do not lead to the trick, they contribute nothing to the student’s score.

Students are eager to learn the standard tricks of the trade for the field they are preparing to enter. A symbol-manipulation routine that is good for only one problem will be part of this standard bag of tricks only if the problem is particularly important in the field. Otherwise the routine will remain just another obscure entry in the reference books. Qualifying examination problems that require special tricks are not likely to be particularly important problems in the field, because, like the cube root problem above, they are typically written around the tricks rather than around something important in the field. Hence even the student who knows the standard tricks used by people working in the field cannot necessarily solve the qualifying examination problems that are based on obscure tricks.

What is the aim of examination problems that reward the memorization, quick recall and mechanical application of obscure symbol-manipulation routines? Problems that are disguised requests to give performances of memorized obscure routines clearly do not test the student’s creativity, understanding, insight or knowledge of the standard tricks of the trade. However, they do an excellent job of revealing whether the student is willing and able to do disciplined, alienated work on assigned problems — the assigned problems in this case being the test preparation problems, which include problems based on obscure tricks.


The idea that I'll be putting forward is based, in part, upon learning from this lesson -- which I do feel is an under-appreciated point. If our system for training physicists favors those who can perform "brain tricks" over conceptual comprehension and critical thinking, then we should not be surprised if the theories which emerge from this community exhibit similar features. By contrast, a focus which is more geared towards comprehension and philosophy would better facilitate critical and creative processes, as well as changes in conceptual relationships.

I don't want to discourage discussion, but I'm also cognizant of burying people in the dialog over the idea before they even know what the idea actually is. I am only about 15% of the way through this explanation. There is a lot more to go, and I'm trying my hardest to avoid shedding interest by overloading people with footnotes in the middle ...
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Re: Online scientific discourse is broken and it can be fixe

Unread postby Plasmatic » Sat Nov 02, 2013 11:55 am

Chris said:

I will give one example ...


Ok, while I can see plenty points to be made in that quote, it isn't clear at all what you would count as "infrastructure", and what would be "belief" in that scenario.

The idea that I'll be putting forward is based, in part, upon learning from this lesson


I take it then that you plan on clearing up the ambiguity in the future.

I don't want to discourage discussion, but I'm also cognizant of burying people in the dialog over the idea before they even know what the idea actually is. I am only about 15% of the way through this explanation. There is a lot more to go, and I'm trying my hardest to avoid shedding interest by overloading people with footnotes in the middle ...


Ok then, let us know when you want this thread to resume discussion.
"Logic is the art of non-contradictory identification"......" I am therefore Ill think"
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Re: Online scientific discourse is broken and it can be fixe

Unread postby pln2bz » Sat Nov 02, 2013 12:10 pm

I'm defining infrastructure as an overly-inclusive, ambiguous construct which refers to any communication medium that people use to learn about or discuss science. I chose that particular word, compared to many other possible labels, because I am building a scientific social network.

When I say belief, I am simply referring to a person's preference for a particular worldview or theory.

Please give me a couple of days to resume. I'm not in complete control of my schedule right now …
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Re: Online scientific discourse is broken and it can be fixe

Unread postby Plasmatic » Sat Nov 02, 2013 12:20 pm

Chris, to be clear, I wasn't asking you for your definition of infrastructure or belief. My question is regarding what in the quote was an instance of a non technical, non evidentiary, alogical infrastructure, influencing a belief.

Take your time. If you have that laid out in your future presentation don't worry about answering my question now.
"Logic is the art of non-contradictory identification"......" I am therefore Ill think"
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Re: Online scientific discourse is broken and it can be fixe

Unread postby JeffreyW » Sat Nov 02, 2013 4:26 pm

I think the heart of scientific discourse is probably an unheard of concept, a type of thinking we need to teach students. It is the same type of thinking that I do:

Lateral thinking.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lateral_thinking

According to de Bono, lateral thinking deliberately distances itself from standard perceptions of creativity as either "vertical" logic (the classic method for problem solving: working out the solution step-by-step from the given data) or "horizontal" imagination (having a thousand ideas but being unconcerned with the detailed implementation of them).

It is also HOW students are taught to THINK. Being aware of the political structure of establishment is one thing. Being aware of what actually HAPPENS in the classroom is another thing entirely. I'm not talking about presenting a system to just upset the status quo for the sake of rocking the boat, but for giving students the tools they need to be AWARE of the fact that there is MORE THAN ONE SOLUTION TO ANY PROBLEM.

I have learned though my experience with people in the development of new theory that I CONSTANTLY run into two types of people:

1. The step by step vertical people who say math is the only way via data. (these people are the mathematical physicists who lack the ability to see outside of their equations). They tend to be incredibly close minded, who only do as they are told and believe what they are told to believe. In math 1 + 1 is ALWAYS 2. In reality though, there is rare any instance in which you add two objects to get what those two objects are in addition.

For instance if you have the load on a 2x4 as being able to sustain 440lbs and you stack another 2x4 on top of it the total weight that it can hold won't be 880 lbs! It will be 1200lbs!

2. The horizontal thousand ideas person, without actual detailed implementation. (these people get called the "pseudoscientists".) These people don't do so well when it comes to piecing together puzzles step by step. They just take one idea, and go overboard with it, ignoring all the other aspects to that which they are trying to answer. This attitude is sort of reverse of the mathematical physicists. To them, it does not matter having any sort of structure to theory development, because they only have ideas that they agree with. Many of them seem plausible, but most are unsubstantiated and are rooted in gut feelings (I have this happen to me all the time) They don't care about data or observation or "fitting it into the puzzle".

For instance we can have Earth expanding theory sure! But we have to try to include it with everything we are seeing. Is the moon expanding? Is Pluto expanding? Is Mars expanding? Is Ganymede expanding? Where is all this extra matter coming from on the inside of the object? The horizontal people just say, look! The continents fit together! So they have gut feelings, but no implementation or trying to fit the puzzle pieces together! how are we supposed to develop theory based on gut feelings alone?

There has to be a balance between implementation and intuition. I am afraid the majority of scientists are not only conditioned into being subservient towards their higher-ups for the sake of established careers, but that they are mostly taught to be rigid! It is this way and this way only! The reality is that there are multiple solutions to mysteries, but they are not made aware of this fact. Graduate school would serve our future scientists better if they could teach how to think with a combination of vertical and horizontal thought patterns.

The essence of creative problem solving is stamped out of young minds in graduate school because they are taught to think vertically about all problems. Thus it does not matter how much money is doled out, especially when those minds are not taught to think on their own terms! It doesn't matter how much "data" they receive. They are not taught that there are multiple solutions! There is more than one way to skin a cat!
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Re: Online scientific discourse is broken and it can be fixe

Unread postby pln2bz » Sun Nov 03, 2013 11:04 am

Jeff Schmidt's "turning tricks" analysis matches some observations made last Friday in the New York times on the role organic chemistry plays in Harvard pre-med programs. This is included mostly to demonstrate a larger pattern of the professionalization of the sciences. A question which we might ask, as we read the note on learning symbolic induction below, is what sort of approach in physics would be required to teach the tacit skill of induction for the physics domain?

How to Get an A- in Organic Chemistry

[…]

When I wasn’t hopelessly confused, I spent my time wondering what the class was actually about. Because I’m pretty sure it wasn’t just about organic chemistry. For me, the overriding question was not “Is this on the test?” but rather “What are they really testing?”

Orgo has been haunting pre-meds since 1910, when the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching released a landmark report calling for tougher admission standards to medical school and for medical training based on science. Hence emerged science prerequisites that have remained virtually unchanged: two semesters each of biology, physics and general and organic chemistry.

The report was meant to professionalize medicine but led to generations of doctors more grounded in science than in the humanities. This is not necessarily bad, but lately a sense has emerged that the pendulum has swung too far. Medical schools are tweaking admission protocols, looking beyond an A in orgo for future doctors who are less Spock and more Kirk.

I asked two medical school deans — Dr. Robert Witzburg at Boston University and Dr. Lee Goldman at Columbia University — about admission philosophies. Both are proponents of holistic review, the newish idea that medical schools look beyond grades and test scores to evaluate the whole applicant. “We have to find people who can do both the personal and the scientific,” Dr. Goldman said. But both also emphasized the continued importance of orgo, not because doctors actually use it but because it lays the groundwork for biochemistry and pharmacology.

In 2015, the Medical College Admission Test will change, with added sections on social science, psychology and ethics, but sorry, orgo will remain prominent. “The organic chemistry on the MCAT is chemistry that students need to know to succeed in medical school,” said Karen Mitchell, senior director of the MCAT Program.

So what is organic chemistry, anyway? And why is it so difficult? Basically, orgo examines how molecules containing carbon interact, but it doesn’t require equations or math, as in physics. Instead, you learn how electrons flow around and between molecules, and you draw little curved arrows showing where they go. This “arrow pushing” is the heart and soul of orgo.

[…]

But the rules have many, many exceptions, which students find maddening. The same molecule will behave differently in acid or base, in dark or sunlight, in heat or cold, or if you sprinkle magic orgo dust on it and turn around three times. You can’t memorize all the possible answers — you have to rely on intuition, generalizing from specific examples. This skill, far more than the details of every reaction, may actually be useful for medicine.

“It seems a lot like diagnosis,” said Logan McCarty, Harvard’s director of physical sciences education, who taught the second semester. “That cognitive skill — inductive generalization from specific cases to something you’ve never seen before — that’s something you learn in orgo.”

To develop orgo intuition, you solve problems and draw arrow-pushing mechanisms again and again, until they become instinctive. This takes a huge amount of time, for me 20 to 30 hours a week. The class turned me into a bore, a sleep-deprived, orgo-obsessed grind who saw the shapes of molecules in every sidewalk crack and snack cracker.

[…]

This is one thing that orgo is testing: whether you have the time and desire to do the work. “Sometimes, if a student has really good math skills, they can slide through physics, but you can’t do that in orgo,” Mr. McCarty told me, adding, “You can’t slide through medical school, either.”

[…]

That’s what orgo is testing, I think: resilience. And humility.
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Re: Online scientific discourse is broken and it can be fixe

Unread postby Plasmatic » Sun Nov 03, 2013 2:59 pm

Chris's quote said:

less Spock and more Kirk.


I knew this was coming. When your finished I'll prove why this is a false dichotomy used to promote neo mysticism/ irrationalism...
"Logic is the art of non-contradictory identification"......" I am therefore Ill think"
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