In another thread, reference was made to some people's criticism of a position known as "scientism," and the statement was made that scientists aren't believers in scientism and, further, that nobody is.

I'm not so sure. What, exactly, is wrong with scientism?

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For some reason the forum doesn't allow me to reply to all the posts in-line, only to some of them. So here's my answer to this:

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Peter, you seem to have strong feelings on the subject, but I'm really having a hard time understanding where you're coming from. You seem to be irritated by my statements, yet we seem to be in agreement. Am I just misreading you?
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You're not misreading me, I'm not communicating well! Yes, I do have strong feelings about this, and other things, but I'm not irritated by your statements, only wanting to make emphatic points about them.

People are seduced into a lot of things, for all sorts of reasons, PoMo amongst them. Sometimes it matters, sometimes it doesn't - I don't think there's much of a problem with artists, for example, espousing post-modernism, it doesn't make their art any worse than it would otherwise be. There is more of a problem in other areas that affect people more, like, for example, architecture.

I agree completely that post-modernism is self-refuting, but it is possible to argue the same for many things, not quite so obviously, perhaps, but Wittgenstein's 'Tractatus', and other philosophical works, let along the irrefutable position of solipsism, do cast doubt on rationality, logic and science. This doubt isn't anything to take seriously, of course, but, if you simply dismiss PoMo as self-refuting, then you're inviting others to bring up these arguments, which isn't helpful.

You don't catch flies with vinegar, as they say, so I think an argument that refutes PoMo from a more positive perspective, that is, accepting it on its own grounds, showing it to be arid, misleading and so forth, is more likely to convince those suffering the PoMo infection than simply pointing out that it's self-refuting.

Remember that Logic and Maths are tautological. That, from one perpective, is as damaging as being self-refuting.
Ah. Thanks for expanding on your views, Peter. That makes a fair amount of sense.
To say that mathematics is tautological is to adopt an axiomatic view of mathematics. But set-theoretic axioms are specifically adopted to give a structure that mimics our ordinary understanding of arithmetic. And our ordinary understanding of arithmetic comes from observation of the world around us. Take a two-ish pile of some discrete objects, put it together with another two-ish pile of discrete objects, and count: Four discrete objects. ("Four" may be considered to be just the *name* for how many discrete objects one ends up with--i.e., the resulting pile is simply characterized as four-ish.) Our understanding of mathematics has empirical roots, so the tautological nature of its theorems is benign.

Similarly, we understand the this/that distinction--i.e., the this/not-this distinction--which gives us the notion of negation. (In fact, we have the this/that/something else again distinction, i.e., the this/that/neither this nor that distinction, and while it is convenient to use negation, disjunction, and conjunction in building up a logical system, one can do it with only "neither this nor that.") We understand disjunction and conjunction easily. Again, we have the notion of there being at least one of something that has a feature, and the notion of all of something having some feature, so we can understand quantification. Since a proof is simply a valid conditional (i.e., a conditional whose consequent is true whenever its antecedent is true), which can be rewritten in terms of negation and disjunction, we have the notion of deduction. So, unless one wants to call into question the basic notions underlying logic--basic notions that it's awfully hard to see how to question--the tautological nature of logic also seems benign. So, I'm not sure from what perspective the tautological nature of logic and mathematics is damaging, unless one seriously questions some rather basic notions. They're not just games we play for no reason; we have good reasons for accepting their foundations, after which the analyticity of logical and mathematical proofs harms nothing.
Intuitive mathematics, yes, nice idea, but it excludes many really important parts of it - induction, for example.

Well the question is whether reality is platonic or not. If mathematics exists without minds to see it then it is, perforce, tautological. Our understanding may not be, but that doesn't alter what it is. if mathematics, on the other hand, is invented, then how could it be that e^ipi -1 =0?

Philosphers, of course, have no time for platonism, but then they're not mathematicians who, pretty well to a man, can come to no other conclusion.

Logic can be questioned - there are, after all, many different logics. Were there only one, then there would, I agree, be no question.

I don't think that there's anything damaging about the tautological nature of maths and logic. I was simply pointing out that it can (falsely, I believe, but convincingly) be argued that it renders it as open to doubt as anything else. Which is why I suggest that it's a bad counter argument to post-modernism. It's a correct counter argument, no doubt about that, but tactically, in talking to real people with a post-modernist infection, it's not the ideal place to start.

I think it makes more sense to point out that Hamlet is not a play about omelettes. Even a pretty bad sufferer from PoMo will tend to agree with that. Once that thin edge of the wedge is inserted, the rest of pomo dissolves.
Your finger slipped--you meant to type "e^ipi + 1 = 0."

I agree that people with the PostModern "infection" will not be impressed by abstract arguments about logic. They're too busy denying its force, after all. So, maybe you're right that one has to build up to an acceptance of logic via concrete examples (accepting Hamlet as concrete!).

It's true that there are a variety of logics, but very few people will deny the Law of Non-Contradiction. I honestly don't know how to talk to those who do.

Mathematics is Platonic in this way: Anyone who understands it will arrive at the same results, whether now or a hundred years from now, whether here or on Mars. I don't take it to be Platonic in the sense of there being numbers in the sense of Ideal Forms. I think the question, "What are numbers," is misguided--I think numbers aren't objects, except in a linguistic sense. We say, "There exists a prime number between two and five," but we don't literally mean that the number three metaphysically exists; we just mean that in the universe of discourse of the natural numbers, the number three (linguistically) exists.
That's the sense in which I'm meaning platonic - not the ideal forms one.

I think three exists in a more than linquistic, but less than concrete sense. One problem that the logical positivists had in throwing out metaphysics was that maths goes along with it.
Again, I can't seem to reply in-line:

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In any case, the pile of independent confirmations behind anthropogenic global warming is immense and growing rapidly. It isn't the case that climate scientists are circling the wagons around a provisional result or two that could be wrong. They're defending an enormous body of cross-supporting work that is being attacked for political and economic reasons.
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Well the matter is, as all would agree, extremely complex. The results may well not be wrong - though there is always some doubt about that. It's more the conclusions that are difficult to be clear about. The predictions identify trends and project them into the future. If this was a reliable and exact science, then we'd have accurate weather predictions until Easter, at least; the stock exchange would no longer be viable because those with the prediction software would always win. There'd be other consequences.

So, even if all the original data are correct, and the research findings too, and the trends identified are, in fact dominant trends and likely to continue, then that would still not be conclusive. It's just not an area where it is possible to be conclusive.

I'm all for limiting carbon emissions, because I think we'd be foolish not to. My view is a considerable expansion on nuclear power makes the most sense. I'd love it if Toshiba's mini-nukes became cheap and ubiquitous:

http://www.nextenergynews.com/news1/next-energy-news-toshiba-micro-...

There's an aesthetic advantage too, all those electricity pylons that uglify the countryside could be disposed of and recycled as something useful, like cutlery or bicycles - or, given the population dynamics, zimmer frames.
Well, this isn't really about scientism, so we're off-topic, but it's not correct to say that climate prediction is like weather prediction. Climate is much more straightforward, and warming is even more so, because there are fewer variables involved. With warming, the physics are simple: More heat in than heat out leads to warming. CO2 is an insulator, which we are adding in great quantities. There aren't any countervailing cooling effects, so the Earth must warm up. Warming leads to ice melting, and that leads to sea-level rise. Warming means more energy in the atmosphere available to fuel stronger storms. In the big picture, this is very simple thermodynamics, plus a little well-understood chemistry. What's going to happen in your area is much harder to predict, but that's not really important to whether and how global warming is happening or what to do about it.

Personally, I kind of like the aesthetic of wind turbines, and I don't like the fact that nuclear waste outlives our accounting systems by orders of magnitude. I'm not totally opposed to nuclear power, but there are much better options when all costs are fully accounted for.
>Well, this isn't really about scientism, so we're off-topic, but it's not correct to say that climate prediction is like weather prediction. Climate is much more straightforward, and warming is even more so, because there are fewer variables involved.
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Well, no, actually.
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> With warming, the physics are simple: More heat in than heat out leads to warming. CO2 is an insulator, which we are adding in great quantities. There aren't any countervailing cooling effects, so the Earth must warm up. Warming leads to ice melting, and that leads to sea-level rise. Warming means more energy in the atmosphere available to fuel stronger storms. In the big picture, this is very simple thermodynamics, plus a little well-understood chemistry. What's going to happen in your area is much harder to predict, but that's not really important to whether and how global warming is happening or what to do about it.
>
Thermodynamics is based on some very simple assumptions, particularly statistical thermodynamics. If these assumptions are not met, then the results are not going to be valid. Boltzmann did a magnificent job of reducing things like Boyle's Law to a set of consistent equations based on these assumptions. I'm afraid, though, applying them to climate is a category mistake - an easy one to make, certainly. The biosphere is as it is, largely as a result of the activity of bacteria - mitigated, of course, by volcanoes, the oceans, as heat-sinks, and the land, as heat-sources, this is before you consider things like the gulf-stream and deep ocean currents. To include all these in a general model, without making mistakes about the assumptions is incredibly complex. Long term climate is only an integration of short-term weather, and the complexity is more subtle. To take simplistic macro trends, without this understanding, and then project them is a foolish category mistake, as I say. It's certainly the best we've got, but to try to pretend that it is a valid predictor is simply nonsense. At the very least, it's a major misunderstanding of the complexities involved. Simply involving chaos and catastrophe theory (which, as a minimum should be involved) shows just how simplistic it is. Linear assumptions are almost certainly false. Even sophisticated non-linear assumptions are likely to be false unless we have good reasons to suppose that we understand all the manifold spaces through which the various parameters move. Look at a bit of catastrophy theory and see the difference between whether your 2D curve is actually a mapping from a 3D saddle - or even different parts of the saddle. Then consider chaos theory and despair. Anybody claiming certainty, or even likelyhood, for the predictions is simply a naive fool.
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>Personally, I kind of like the aesthetic of wind turbines, and I don't like the fact that nuclear waste outlives our accounting systems by orders of magnitude. I'm not totally opposed to nuclear power, but there are much better options when all costs are fully accounted for.
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Bats don't fare well with wind turbines, nor do birds, both are important to our environment.

Let the future look after nuclear waste. They might even find it really handy for making nice mini-nuke power-stations.Just like the mine dumps that were seen as waste, but now are re-mined for the riches they hold, so might it be with nuclear waste.
Peter, you're overcomplicating the picture. The Earth absorbs and radiates energy. Anything the oceans do is a temporary effect. At any rate, like I say, this is way off topic.
Way off topic? Is topic drift criminal? I'd think it almost inevitable.

But, Ok, I'll create a new topic.
Topic drift is not criminal, and I agree it's pretty much inevitable, but it is frowned upon if it gets out of hand. It's generally regarded around here as kind of sloppy, like misfiling something. No biggie, but more of a courtesy kind of thing.

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