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/ Science, Rationalism, and Critical Thinking /



/ Skepticism / Logic / Rationalism / Materialism / Empiricism /

What formal procedures should we use to determine what is real?


.

"...most individuals believe in things that are untrue or unjustified or both: 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 )



A person who will not reason is a bigot;
one who cannot reason is a fool;
and one who dares not reason is a slave.

attributed to William Drummon



Although education may furnish, and, as it were, engraft upon a limited understanding,
rules borrowed from other minds, yet the power of employing these rules correctly
must belong to the pupil himself; and no rule which we can prescribe to him with this purpose is,
in the absence or deficiency of this gift of nature, secure from misuse.

Deficiency in judgement is properly that which is called stupidity;
and for such a failing we know no remedy.

Immanuel Kant
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.)



"On every societal front, nonsense is replacing good sense in our once-pragmatic nation.
It is accompanied by a distortion of thought that weakens our ability to distinguish truth from falsity,
the basic skill of a civilized society."

The End of Sanity: Social and Cultural Madness in America
by Martin L. Gross
Quoted at Plato's Contemporary Relevance



. . . .

"I define "rational" as the ability to carefully weigh the important, known variables
and make that decision which is most likely to achieve the desired end."

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
Quoted here.



"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."

I, Asimov
ch. 144



"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.
quoted here



It is treason to sacrifice love of truth, intellectual honesty, loyalty to the laws and methods of the mind,
to any other interests, including those of one's country.

Hermann Hesse, Magister Ludi
Quoted here



"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
Page 13



" 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. "

P.J. O'Rourke, "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."

QED by Richard Feynman
Page 10




" 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



So how do you not fool yourself, or get fooled by someone else?









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.





/ Science, Rationalism, and Critical Thinking (Page 2) /






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