"...most individuals believe in things that are untrue or unjustified
most people possess a lot of unreliable knowledge and,
what's worse, they act on that knowledge!
Other ways of
knowing, and there are many in addition to science,
are not reliable because their discovered knowledge is not justified.
Science is a method that allows a person to possess,
with the highest degree of certainty possible, reliable knowledge
(justified true belief) about nature.
The method used to justify scientific knowledge,
and thus make it reliable, is called the scientific method."
-- From the superb
An Introduction to Science : Scientific Thinking and the Scientific Method
by Steven Schafersman
( or here, here, here, or here )
attributed to William Drummon
Critique of Pure Reason
translated by J. M. D. Meiklejohn
Analytic of Principles.
INTRODUCTION: Of the Transcendental Faculty of judgement in General.
(The second sentence quoted is a note amplifying upon the first.)
The End of Sanity:
Social and Cultural Madness in America
by Martin L. Gross
Quoted at Plato's Contemporary Relevance
. . . .
from "a kind of Pontius Pilate feeling"
by Jay Hanson (04/01/97)
"Enlightenment is man's (sic) emergence from his self-imposed nonage. Nonage is the inability to use one's understanding without another's guidance. This nonage is self-imposed if its cause lies not in lack of understanding but in indecision and lack of courage to use one's mind without another's guidance.
"Sapere Aude!" -- "Dare to Know!"
Have the courage to use your own understanding
is therefore the motto of the Enlightenment."
Immanuel Kant, Was ist Äufklarung?, 1784
"There will come the time when attentive researches conducted through long eras will bring out to the surface what now lays hidden. ... the time when our descendents will be amazed that we didn't know things that are completely clear to them. Many discoveries are kept for times that are yet to come, when memories of us have already faded. Our world would be a pitiful place if there wouldn't be enough to offer for research in each epoch. Nature doesn't reveal her secrets all at once and to everybody."
Seneca, circa 50 CE.
Quoted at the Web site of Marko Horvat
(my ellipsis -- ed.)
" 'Mercy!' cried Gandalf. 'If the giving of information is to be the cure of your inquisitiveness, I shall spend the rest of my days in answering you. What more do you want to know?'
'The names of all the stars, and of all living things, and the whole history of Middle-earth and Over-heaven and of the Sundering Seas,' laughed Pippin. 'Of course! What less?..."
The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien.
The Two Towers III 11
Quoted at The Encyclopedia of Arda
Isaac Asimov, on the limitlessness of knowledge --
"... Heinz (Pagels) posed the following question one day at a meeting of the Reality Club:
"Can science ever explain everything? And can we decide whether it can or not?"
I spoke up at once and said,
"I'm sure that science can't ever explain everything and I can give you my reasons for that decision. ...
I believe that scientific knowledge has fractal properties; that no matter how much we learn, whatever is left, however small it may seem, is just as infinitely complex as the whole was to start with. That, I think, is the secret of the Universe."
"Science aims at nothing but making true and adequate statements about its object. The scientist only imposes two things, namely truth and sincerity, imposes them upon himself (sic) and upon other scientists."
Erwin Schrodinger, "the Principle of Objectification",
in What Is Life? : The Physical Aspect of the Living Cell
With Mind and Matter & Autobiographical Sketches page117
"The propagandist tries to "put something across," good or bad. The scientist does not try to put anything across; he (sic) devotes his life to the discovery of new facts and principles. The propagandist seldom wants careful scrutiny and criticism; his object is to bring about a specific action. The scientist, on the other hand, is always prepared for and wants the most careful scrutiny and criticism of his facts and ideas. Science flourishes on criticism. Dangerous propaganda crumbles before it."
Alfred McLung Lee & Elizabeth Bryant Lee,
The Fine Art of Propaganda, 1939.
Hermann Hesse, Magister Ludi
"I believe that everything admirable in the modern world results from the use of Argument by Experiment together with Argument by Logic (without making an Idol of either), whereas everything heinous and terrible results from the persistence of the older habits of Arguments by Authority, Intimidation, Self Interest, and Legal Precedent ..."
Wilhelm Reich in Hell
by Robert Anton Wilson
" I believe things that can be proven by reason and by experiment, and, believe you me, I want to see the logic and the lab equipment. I believe that Western civilization, after some disgusting glitches, has become almost civilized. I believe it is our first duty to protect that civilization. I belive it is our second duty to improve it. I believe it is our third duty to extend it if we can. "
"Second Thoughts About the Sixties"
"originally a speech given in October 1987 at the Second Thoughts conference in Washington, DC"
and included in Give War a Chance
page 94 (cite info from page x)
"... there is this possibility:
after I tell you something, you just can't believe it. You can't accept it. You don't like it. ...
It's a problem that physicists have learned to deal with: They've learned to realize that whether they like a theory or they don't like a theory is not the essential question. Rather, it is whether or not the theory gives predictions that agree with experiment.
It is not a question of whether a theory is philosophically delightful, or easy to understand, or perfectly reasonable from the point of view of common sense."
" Most people wish to be consoled, confirmed. They want their prejudices reinforced and their structured belief systems validated. After all, it hurts to think, and it's absolute agony to think twice. "
Jennifer Stone, quoted in
Talking About People : A Guide to Fair and Accurate Language
by Rosalie Maggio, page 383
Hey; no pain, no gain
The first principle is that you must not fool yourself -- and you are the easiest person to fool. So you have to be very careful about that. After you've not fooled yourself, it's easy not to fool other scientists. You just have to be honest in a conventional way after that.
"Cargo Cult Science", by Richard Feynman
included in 'Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!' :
Adventures of a Curious Character, page 308
"Scientific theories explain nature by unifying many once-unrelated facts or corroborated hypotheses; they are the strongest and most truthful explanations of how the universe, nature, and life came to be, how they work, what they are made of, and what will become of them. ... These scientific theories-- such as the theories of relativity, quantum mechanics, thermodynamics, evolution, genetics, plate tectonics, and big bang cosmology-- are the most reliable, most rigorous, and most comprehensive form of knowledge that humans possess. Thus, it is important for every educated person to understand where scientific knowledge comes from, and how to emulate this method of gaining knowledge."
And, I think worthy of enough emphasis to constitute a separate Fourth Pillar of the Scientific Method, is the vigorously self-corrective nature of science. The practitioners of what other body of knowledge are so encouraged to question, even to attack, existing beliefs, and what other system of knowledge stands so instantly ready to abandon its existing beliefs whenever they may be proven untenable? (We'll stipulate that "instantly", in such a historical context, may be up to about twenty years or one generation.)
This aspect of Science is frequently misunderstood by non-scientists and pseudoscientists, who accuse Science of constituting a closed, self-protective "priesthood". In reality, nothing could be further from the truth. Other belief systems have gone so far as to torture and execute those who disagreed with orthodoxy. Whosoever may suceed in truly disproving, for example, Einstein (I do not say that I expect this), will receive, not condemnation, but the Nobel Prize.
-- Update: 21 March 2001. Spun off a separate page on / Science as A Self-Correcting Enterprise / --
And see a page on this site on David Brin's thoughts on / "The New Meme" /
"...a scientific theory is one which can in principle be falsified. The theory has to make strong statements about evidence. If the statements aren't strong, then the theory fits any evidence, and is unfalsifiable. That's bad.
It's bad for three very practical reasons. First, a theory which can't make predictions is a dead end. Second, it would be useless.... And third, if we have two rival theories, we want to use evidence to choose between them. If they are unfalsifiable, then evidence doesn't do that for us."
"Modern evolution theory agrees with Hume. It finds that the human brain is, in large part, a machine for winning arguments, a machine for convincing its owner and others that its owner is right. The brain is like a good lawyer: it defends the passions of its owner— no matter how odious—by trying to convince the world with moral claims and logic. Like a lawyer, the human brain wants victory—not truth—and like a lawyer, it is sometimes more admirable for skill than for virtue. Thus, people are NOT rational"
"Michael Gazzaniga, who conducted some of the split-brain experiments, has said that language is merely the "press agent" for other parts of the mind; it justifies whatever acts they induce, convincing the world that the actor is a reasonable, rational, upstanding person. It may be that the realm of consciousness itself is in large part such a press agent--the place where our unconsciously written press releases are infused with the conviction that gives them force. Consciousness cloaks the cold and self-serving logic of the genes in a variety of innocent guises. The Darwinian anthropologist Jerome Barkow has written, "It is possible to argue that the primary evolutionary function of the self is to be the organ of impression management (rather than, as our folk psychology would have it, a decision-maker)."...
In one experiment (name of experimenter not given in the on-line text - ed.) , people with strongly held positions on a social issue were exposed to four arguments, two pro and two con. On each side of the issue, the arguments were of two sorts: (a) quite plausible and (b) implausible to the point of absurdity. People tended to remember the plausible arguments that supported their views and the implausible arguments that didn't, the net effect being to drive home the correctness of their position and the silliness of the alternative. "
"Like the rest of biological evolution, the human mind is a collage of adaptations (the propensity to do the right thing) to different situations. Our thought is a pack of fixed routines—simpletons. We need them. It is vital to find the right food at the right time, to mate well, to generate children, to avoid marauders, to respond to emergency quickly....
The mind evolved great breadth, but it is shallow, for it performs quick and dirty sketches of the world. This rough-and-ready perception of reality enabled our ancestors to survive better. The mind did not evolve to know the world or to know ourselves. Simply speaking, there has never been, nor will there ever be, enough time to be truly rational. "
"Our basic concept of critical thinking is, at root, simple.
We could define it as the art of taking charge of your own mind."
I teach the students very little about anthropological theories and even less about anthropological terminology. Instead, I try to communicate the essence of the anthropological perspective, by teaching them, indirectly, what the scientific method is all about. I do so by teaching them how to evaluate evidence. I give them six simple rules to follow when considering any claim, and then show them how to apply those six rules to the examination of any paranormal claim.
The six rules of evidential reasoning are my own distillation and simplification of the scientific method. To make it easier for students to remember these half-dozen guidelines, I've coined an acronym for them: Ignoring the vowels, the letters in the word "FiLCHeRS" stand for the rules of Falsifiability, Logic, Comprehensiveness, Honesty, Replicability, and Sufficiency. Apply these six rules to the evidence offered for any claim, I tell my students, and no one will ever be able to sneak up on you and steal your belief. You'll be filch-proof."
"...the scientific revolution was, in reality, a series of changes in the structure of European thought itself: systematic doubt, empirical and sensory verification, the abstraction of human knowledge into separate sciences, and the view that the world functions like a machine."
"...scientists, more than others, impress their peers by admitting their mistakes.
A formative influence on my undergraduate self was the response of a respected elder statesmen of the Oxford Zoology Department when an American visitor had just publicly disproved his favourite theory. The old man strode to the front of the lecture hall, shook the American warmly by the hand and declared in ringing, emotional tones: "My dear fellow, I wish to thank you. I have been wrong these fifteen years."
And we clapped our hands red."
" The book defends an objective theory of knowledge against the tradition, traceable back to Aristotle, of seeing knowledge as a subjective state of a human being, and scientific knowledge as a specially secure sort of belief. Scientific knowledge, Popper argues, is an abstract product of our minds that is detachable from and criticizable independently of its creator. My favourite metaphor for objective knowledge is a new SAAB car engine. A theory embodying scientific knowledge is like a new engine placed on the table for other SAAB designers and technicians to criticise, tweak and adjust. Once created, it can be worked on, improved or rejected, even if the designer is unknown or is no longer with us. (N.B. a scientific theory, Popper would insist, is not only an instrument, but is also either true or false.) "
"Science has a set of public methods for investigating, debating, arguing, and resolving empirical disputes. These disputes are best dealt with by scientists in the scientific arena. I don't attack pseudoscience or quackery simply because I disagree with their claims. I disagree with their unscientific and antiscientific methodologies and their inability to resolve empirical issues because much of what they claim is metaphysical, not empirical. I disagree with their asserting they have cures for anything which ails you when their only proof is self-validation, insight, intuition, or testimonials of satisfied customers."
"RATIONALISM is a general term applied to a system of opinions deduced from reason as distinct from supernatural revelation....
The word "agnostic" (derived from the Greek agnostos, unknown, or not knowing) was coined by the late Professor T.H. Huxley... "Agnosticism is not a creed, but a method, having a single principle of great antiquity. It simply means that a man (sic) shall not say that he knows or believes that which he has no scientific grounds for professing to know or believe ... Agnosticism says that we know nothing of what may be beyond phenomena." "
One of the things I love about the great book Red Mars, by Kim Stanley Robinson,
is that all the characters (all the characters are scientists), when they are in an argument
with someone over something important, when reasoned appeal has failed
and they are reduced to screaming rage, shout,
"What you are proposing - it's not science!"
These are people in whom the passion, the fire, of Our Lady Science burns hot and deep.
You gotta love people like that.