Pat Gunn (dachte) wrote,
Pat Gunn

Temporal Guidance

I was just at Coffee Tree, and overheard a conversation that had me biting my tongue, figuratively speaking, not to jump in. Two guys were talking about science rather enthusiastically. "I think science is really great! Yeah, me too, I love the scientific method". I began to get suspicious at this point -- I've never yet heard a clued person talk that way. One of the guys then proceeded to misdescribe the scientific method and what it's used for. At this point, I just chalked it up to bad philosophy -- a lot of people, including some really sciency folk, don't really understand science, especially in the fields like applied computer science which are half-engineering. Some other people cling to a very narrow, naive perception of science that's often ill-specified, and consider the philosophy underneath it to be a waste of time, or outright false. To them, science fell, ahistorically, out of the blue into our modern hands -- there is only one scientific method, nothing before it produced results, and now that it's here, it's immutable, perfect, and our only means to understanding. Anyhow, these guys then proceeded to discuss astrology, how numerology offers us insight into the universe, and other stupidity. Frustrating.

I am happy how a lot of people at Coffee Tree know my name now. It feels good to have a place like that.

It strikes me that I ought to examine the claims that a lot of people make about psychology as a science. Two ex-girlfriends and at least a handful of other people have criticized it as being unscientific, at least in its social sciences incarnation. Earlier on, I believe I agreed with them, but now I'm starting to wonder if my judgement was premature. The claims break down into two primary lines -- first, that the topic of social science is unscientific, and second, that the methods used in social science are unscientific. I will reject the first immediately -- there is no such thing as an unscientific field of study for something real. Some of them may not give the most effective value for money, but that's an entirely different argument (I'm more of a science for science's sake guy anyhow). Are the methods used in social science unscientific? I can't think why this would be the case. Some people object that statistics are used, and that statistics are a key to bad science. Bad statistics is certainly a challenge to overcome, and the presentation of statistical results can be quite challenging. Nontheless, it is used in hard sciences as well as soft ones, and is in fact (presently) necessary for models of things like fluid dynamics and quantum physics. Hmm.

Tags: science

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