Why Does No One Ever Discuss Science?

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This is an odd topic.

It seems as though we never discuss any questions of scientific or mathematical import. I mean, we discuss global warming, but the politics of it, not really the science. The science no one really understands. We can point to experts who do, but not get into it ourselves.

There are a few exceptions. Vika always has a science-y topic up her sleeve, but again, we aren’t there to provide her scientific commentary as much as a layman’s approach, again, for the politics or social scope of say, heat vision. I recall Darkbaron introduced a math thread once, something to do with Fibonacci, but it was a long time ago and, in any case, he was an ass about it.

This goes beyond the internet of course. I can only think of one time in college where I ever had an informal discussion about science, and it was more of a “topic for when you’re high” then anything substantial. Neither my friend nor I knew much about science, but we were discussing whether black holes could take ‘snapshots’ of whatever passes near its event horizon, like a million year-old UFO cruising by.

Is science that much more complicated than any other topic? I’ve seen philosophy discussed on here before, even though people who actually know something about it are rare. Maybe it’s harder to bullshit about science than social topics, or the arts. Or maybe there’s just nothing really to talk about. I mean, how would it work?

“Say, what do you think about gluons? All they’re cracked up to be?”
“Nah, quarks are where it’s at for me. That shit’s small!”

Thoughts?

 
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Originally posted by Jantonaitis:

This is an odd topic.

It seems as though we never discuss any questions of scientific or mathematical import. I mean, we discuss global warming, but the politics of it, not really the science. The science no one really understands. We can point to experts who do, but not get into it ourselves.

There are a few exceptions. Vika always has a science-y topic up her sleeve, but again, we aren’t there to provide her scientific commentary as much as a layman’s approach, again, for the politics or social scope of say, heat vision. I recall Darkbaron introduced a math thread once, something to do with Fibonacci, but it was a long time ago and, in any case, he was an ass about it.

This goes beyond the internet of course. I can only think of one time in college where I ever had an informal discussion about science, and it was more of a “topic for when you’re high” then anything substantial. Neither my friend nor I knew much about science, but we were discussing whether black holes could take ‘snapshots’ of whatever passes near its event horizon, like a million year-old UFO cruising by.

Is science that much more complicated than any other topic? I’ve seen philosophy discussed on here before, even though people who actually know something about it are rare. Maybe it’s harder to bullshit about science than social topics, or the arts. Or maybe there’s just nothing really to talk about. I mean, how would it work?

“Say, what do you think about gluons? All they’re cracked up to be?”
“Nah, quarks are where it’s at for me. That shit’s small!”

Thoughts?

You know I tired to talk science with vika and she got scared?
Beyond internet, me and me mates do talk bout science stuff, like Coriolis effect or the time when one of got acid burns in chemistry lab.
Or anything new we have heard of.
One of us is aeroplane nut, he will go blabbering about them and I will just be like “Aha, Aha, right”
Other loves to know all about drugs, al though he insists its just for “reasearch purposes”
So, tell janti, what do you want to discuss?

 
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Originally posted by thepunisher52:

You know I tired to talk science with vika and she got scared?

I wonder if that has anything to do with the tongue-in-cheek death threats you make.

 
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Originally posted by thepunisher52:
Originally posted by Twilight_Ninja:
Originally posted by thepunisher52:

You know I tired to talk science with vika and she got scared?

I wonder if that has anything to do with the tongue -in-cheek death threats you make.

Well you know what? fuck you all, how many times I will have to explain that?
Wait a sec, why am I giving a fuckabout a total stranger on internet?

Because Ninja is a human.

I would discuss science, but I wouldn’t trust any sources used on an internet forum.

 
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How can you debate a fact? You can debate and discuss the political side or social but what do you intend to do with a science thread?

 
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The answer is quite simple. People can say whatever they want about politics, philosophy, and religion and be as correct as the next person. It requires practically no education or understanding to participate in these discussions. Science, on the other hand, unless you have the knowledge you won’t even be able to recognize the question or problem presented, much less offer an answer or argument. Those who venture to enter without the proper prerequisites are laughed off because their suggestions and input are demonstrably stupid and easily proven as such.

And despite what people may think of themselves, the vast majority are not equipped to handle actual factual discussion.

 
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But what could you discuss? You would all agree on the same thing. Give an example of how it would become a discussion.

 
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But what could you discuss?

Research methods, potential applications, arguments on current proposed whatever. Nothing the average person would have anything to do with.

 
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Originally posted by Immortal7777:

But what could you discuss? You would all agree on the same thing. Give an example of how it would become a discussion.

Are SDers unable to understand what DISCUSSION means?
I doubt any of us have a Divinity Degree.
Yet, we all have some very strong opinions on religion.

Discussion can mean ENLIGHTENMENT in areas unfamiliar to you.
It can mean a different perspective than the one you currently have.
As YOU pointed out above (seemingly “hypocritical”?) to this post of yours, science DOES involve a higher level of information. But, this doesn’t mean that we “lay ppl” (vika excluded…lol) can’t have some meaningful discussion of it.

Take NFL football, fans aren’t playing the game—some of them haven’t even PLAYED the highly complex & competitive operation—they are wildly cheering on. But, this doesn’t keep them from having some very intense “discussions” about it.

If we don’t talk about it,,,
we don’t KNOW about it,,,
if we don’t know about it,,,
we’re very unlikely to understand much about it,,,
if we don’t understand it,,,
we aren’t able to embrace it to the extent it should be….negative or positive.
THEN, we are much more easily made “victims” of science via our own manufactured ignorance.

 
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Originally posted by Kasic:
But what could you discuss?

Research methods, potential applications, arguments on current proposed whatever. Nothing the average person would have anything to do with.

While research methods may be a little beyond us, potential applications certainly shouldn’t be. Many applications are dreamt up by small time inventors or just some manager saying to his research team “what if?” And it’s the public at large who often decide which applications are useful or desirable and which aren’t. If they don’t like it, they don’t buy it.

 
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Originally posted by beauval:
Originally posted by Kasic:
But what could you discuss?

Research methods, potential applications, arguments on current proposed whatever. Nothing the average person would have anything to do with.

While research methods may be a little beyond us, potential applications certainly shouldn’t be. Many applications are dreamt up by small time inventors or just some manager saying to his research team “what if?” And it’s the public at large who often decide which applications are useful or desirable and which aren’t. If they don’t like it, they don’t buy it.

Aha,,,, my point made much clearer.
People are the reason for science.
Not, science is the reason for people to exist.
Sure, we exist BETTER because of science,
but, we managed to survive long before science evolved.
This is not to say that we shouldn’t be a lot more “involved” in the actual R&D aspects of science.
Maybe if we were, we “lay” would be able to add more to it and to ourselves.
And, not all of “science” is all that sophisticated that we aren’t able to approach it in the ways beauval mentions above.
 
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When it comes to discussing science… unless we are talking about the philosophy of science or sociology of science, I fail to see any scenario other than people teaching the scientific consensus to the scientific-illiterate. Why? Because most of us are not scientists, and even those who are have different fields of expertise. So you won’t see discussions about punctuated equilibrium vs. gradualism (actually an ongoing debate between real evolutionary biologists), but rather evolution vs. creationism (i.e. skeptics vs. stupids).

 
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Originally posted by Kasic:
But what could you discuss?

Research methods, potential applications, arguments on current proposed whatever. Nothing the average person would have anything to do with.

On the one hand, I agree. I mean, the OP’s an honest question.

On the other hand, that’s bullshit. There’s plenty of head-spinning research methodologies in the arts and social sciences that never come up in common discussion because they’re irrelevant outside of academia. Likewise Holy’s (Edit, my bad) Slasher’s quip about ‘trusted sources’. None of that matters on the internet, it’s a free-for-all. And you would think, given how many pro-rationalist ‘free-thinkers’ are on the internet, that there’d be plenty of common knowledge about science to fill up a few threads.

There’s a disease in academia that has affected the arts and social sciences, but perhaps it’s had an even greater effect on the hard sciences: specialization of expertise. Or, sans bafflegab, it’s the idea that only experts can discuss their subject matter in any kind of productive manner. That as the torchbearers for their specializations, they and they alone can understand and discuss subject matter that is entirely alien to the layman; they can’t even teach it unless you’ve been initiated into the mysteries (ie. gone through formal training yourself).

It’s not a new idea; Jacques Barzun, a french-american social theorist noticed the problem over 50 years ago and named it one of the three enemies of intellect. You’ll note the idea has a priest-like quality to it, that science-y people know things about the cosmos that they are forbidden to discuss in any but the most simplistic manner, that there’s something special about scientific knowledge as opposed to any other (which is not unlike the view of philosophy prior to the modern age) that prevents casual discussion. Incidentally, the term ‘layman’ comes from the religious laity.

Anyway, I didn’t make the thread to bash science-y people, tempting as it often is. After I made it I went to bed thinking about various science topics that don’t require a rigorous understanding of the underlying principles to have a good discussion about. Then this morning I looked over some of the older threads and found there are indeed science threads buried in SD that got plenty of attention before sputtering out. Stuff like

  • Space exploration and planet colonization post-NASA
  • The information singularity; when will it come and what will it entail
  • uploaded consciousness and post-humanism
  • Futurism
  • Time-Travel; is it possible in theory and where would you go?
  • Quantum Mechanics and Parallel Universes; separating truth from fiction

Many of the topics are obviously speculative and possibly more sci-fi than hard sci in nature. But it does give a good place to start. Anyone have more ideas? Ideally it would be nice if someone with a science background could take one of these ideas, or one of their own, and make a thread about it; better to have someone with some knowledge about it build the foundation for an argument than someone with no background (ie. me).

 
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Originally posted by Jantonaitis:

Many of the topics are obviously speculative and possibly more sci-fi than hard sci in nature. But it does give a good place to start. Anyone have more ideas? Ideally it would be nice if someone with a science background could take one of these ideas, or one of their own, and make a thread about it; better to have someone with some knowledge about it build the foundation for an argument than someone with no background (ie. me).

On the topic of more ideas, I’d be interested in exploring a thread on RFID chips and their implications. Use in pets….I think is great. A pet is lost, reunite it with it’s owner. Same may go in certain instances with property, although this gets a little dicier because of the privacy issues (someone else would also be monitoring that property). It gets incredibly dicey, and even Biblical, when it comes to inputting these in humans.

Vika should start a thread; she seems to have a lot of education in the sciences, as well as being something of an autodidact.

 
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It gets incredibly dicey, and even Biblical, when it comes to inputting these in humans.

Vika should start a thread; she seems to have a lot of education in the sciences, as well as being something of an autodidact.

Aha, like Revelations dicey? Yeah, good idea.

I should also mention here that it is probably unavoidable that science topics will involve some degree of politics or religious stuff. As the science-y people have pointed out, the fact is that a lot of the regs aren’t well-versed at science, so their contributions would be based on their own knowledge plus whatever links were provided (assuming people actually read those). I don’t see the problem.

The term ‘scientific illiteracy’ has always struck me as a permanent designation, as though until you study science from start to finish, basic principles up to specialized disciplines, you can’t possibly say anything of value. But why would that be specific to science? How can you possibly say anything valuable about religion or politics without some knowledge in those areas? Because one is facts and one is opinions? That makes no difference in context. It’s still knowledge you have to absorb in order to discuss.

For some reason the fact that we have access to websites rigorous enough to satisfy a knowledge prereq for a gaming forum thread never seems to occur to those people. We literally do it all the time. Science only gets a special treatment because with small exception (vika), those who know enough to discuss it cogently are too pessimistic to believe linking to a website or two can provide enough detail to open up a convo. Well, I have two degrees in poli sci and wikipedia-level knowledge will give you the majority of what I know. I would politely suggest that the science-y folks get off their high horses, because I’ve eaten more humble pie than they’re ever likely to.

 
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You can only have valid opinions if you are well-versed with the subject and the evidence. Would you trust the opinion of a medic who does not, and has not, read any medical papers? Or the opinion of a boy who was only read Atlas Shrugged in his entire life?

Many people can have a worthwhile debate about evolution, not because they are or are not officially trained in evolutionary biology, but because they are well-versed with the evidence, the scientific consensus, and some on-going debates among the elite evolutionary biologists.

A creationists is certainly not well-versed with the evidence: this is the part where we teach him (the scientific illiterate) the facts – it’s not a debate, it’s a lecture. However, if someone has a reasonable level of acquaintance with the subject, we might as well discuss different possible mechanisms of natural selections and their weight on species-production, based on the evidence that is out there – which is not 100% conclusive, and there’s no major consensus, so it’s not a lecture, but a debate. This is the discussion that happens between people such as the late Stephen J. Gould and Richard Dawkins – though on a less-sophisticated level (for we are no biologists).

The same is true with political science (or anything else, except theology). It’s meaningless to discuss it with someone who knows jack shit about the world, the different philosophical systems, the dissimilar schools of economics, and so forth. The difference is that, in the softer sciences, there is hardly a consensus and 100% conclusive evidence – so debates rarely become lectures, and tend to stay as debates.

 
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You can only have valid opinions if you are well-versed with the subject and the evidence. Would you trust the opinion of a medic who does not, and has not, read any medical papers?

So the only people who can have valid opinions on the ethics of cloning are those who have a degree in genetics? I don’t know hardly anything about genetics outside of chromosome pairs yet I’ve had some fascinating conversations about the ethical impact with microbiology majors who knew far more than me. My differing viewpoint wasn’t simply ignored as you are suggesting because they know more (in this instance, substantially more) than me.

That’s where the debate lies with science – it’s impact on people/living things and whether or not those negatives are worth the positives. Any other debate, like evolution/creationism is just discarded by the sciencers as having to talk with trogladites. In essence, science people on internet forums put themselves on the pedestal that Jan mentioned. Even science as dicey as climate I’m pretty routinely just called a moron and ignored even though I have the gull to question ‘accurate science’ that is routinely wrong. We don’t discuss science because the science people are so dogmatic in their own views that the chance they could be wrong is too upsetting. Science people, like yourself, are no better than a religious fundamentalist or an ideologue in that respect.

A creationists is certainly not well-versed with the evidence: this is the part where we teach him (the scientific illiterate) the facts – it’s not a debate, it’s a lecture.

This is wildly untrue. There a good deal of creationists who are well aware of the evidence for evolution; they just find the creationist argument more compelling. There are people who disagree that evolution exists and you can think that they are idiots, but it isn’t because they’re unaware of the other side.

 
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There a good deal of creationists who are well aware of the evidence for evolution; they just find the creationist argument more compelling.

There is no creationist argument – it is in absolute dissonance with all actual scientific evidence. If someone has read what all biologists are saying – and read about the evidence -, but still keeps talking about a so-called irreducible complexity, the Bombardier Beetle, and the Second Law of Thermodynamics, then they are not in a mentally-sane state and cannot participate in a honest debate. It’s like talking to a Flat Earthist – do you think they have not heard about the evidence?

Perhaps I should have express myself better. I was setting the basic requirements for a worthwhile scientific debates – the participants should be both scientific literate AND rational persons.

it’s impact on people/living things and whether or not those negatives are worth the positives

That’s sociology of science. Which is not what I’m talking about, like I clearly stated.

So the only people who can have valid opinions on the ethics of cloning are those who have a degree in genetics?

No. I stated that someone does NOT need formal training in a subject to have a valid opinion on it. Not only that, as the ethics of cloning are NOT a matter of genetics. Science does not deal with ethics, you dimwit.

 
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EDIT: I may not have done a good job of this myself, but let’s avoid deliberately bashing each other, eh?

A few points.

1) As I’ve pointed out, linking to a website or two isn’t hard; we do it all the time. As a science-y person (give me a better label and I’ll use it), you’re in a better position than most to know what would be a good link, and what would be junk. Protip: hour-long youtube vids would fall under the ‘junk’ category.

2) No one here is a creationist. Not among the regs anyway, I’ve checked. Meaning no one here is per se opposed to learning something about science, if presented simply and shortly, and given opportunity to respond. In fact, many people here seem to want to be educated, to a point, provided their ‘teacher’ doesn’t deliberately turn the thread into a lecture. Protip: Pretending your knowledge-base makes you better than everyone wouldn’t be the way to go.

3)

(…)we might as well discuss different possible mechanisms of natural selections and their weight on species-production, based on the evidence that is out there – which is not 100% conclusive, and there’s no major consensus, so it’s not a lecture, but a debate.

There’s a reason I don’t make threads like, who had the greater effect on the formation of critical theory, Gramsci or Deleuze? Or, Are we living through the end of third-wave feminism or the beginning of fourth-wave feminism? That shit’s boring. Now, I may have discussed it in the classroom but sure as hell didn’t talk about it with the other philosophy sycophants at the campus pub. They are topics that appeal to only a tiny subset of the population, even within the discipline itself. I don’t need to be a scientist to know that my counterparts in the hard sciences sure as hell weren’t discussing that stuff at the next table. Those guys you mentioned: Gould and Dawkins? People only know their names because they made the material accessible to the general public.

4)


so debates rarely become lectures, and tend to stay as debates.

I don’t deny that some of us will have to play catch-up at first. But there is plenty about science (I just gave half a dozen topics) that is debatable, that is interesting, and that does not require a head packed full of mostly irrelevant knowledge to grasp.

5) As an aside, theology probably contains more knowledge than I would care to digest to have a meaningful discussion with someone who knows their shit. Just because casual conversation focuses on the most simplistic, surface-topics, doesn’t mean that’s all there is to it. It’s comparable to saying science is just remembering a catalog of empirical data.

 
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There is no creationist argument

Maybe argument was the wrong word. However, you’re really only talking about young-earthers (people who think the Earth is ~6K years old) where the arguments are beyond flimsy (essentially: The Bible says so is the extent). However, creationism is broader than that and just a brief, Google search shows me that the notion of “there is no creationist argument” is wrong.

It’s like talking to a Flat Earthist – do you think they have not heard about the evidence?

I’ve never met a flat earther so I can’t say for sure, but I find it hard to believe that they haven’t encountered the evidence at one point or another.

That’s sociology of science. Which is not what I’m talking about, like I clearly stated.

I missed your earlier post when you touched on that – no need to be quite so sassy.

No. I stated that someone does NOT need formal training in a subject to have a valid opinion on it.

No, you didn’t. You said, “You can only have valid opinions if you are well-versed with the subject and the evidence.” Nowhere did you mention you don’t need formal training; your point was you have to have background knowledge in order to have a respectable opinion.

Science does not deal with ethics, you dimwit.

This is what I was talking about – science peeps being dogmatic. Thanks for the example to prove my point.

And that really wasn’t what I was saying. My point was that sciences, specifically life sciences, create new moral/ethical questions. Science isn’t involved in the ethical question of the use of embryonic stem cells, but they created that question. Likewise, new scientific discoveries into the use of embryonic stem cells (or the advancement in the use of adult stem cells) shifts the ethical conversation.

 
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I would prefer to avoid a creationist debate (or to start another thread about it, alternatively) if for no other reason then we’ve all had our say about it several times over.

 
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2)

I gave the creationist example to explain my point of how science debates can quickly (and rightfully so) become science lectures, unless both parties involved are rational and well-versed in the theme. What’s the point of discussing global warming if the other guy doesn’t have the slightest clue of how scientists actually got to the conclusion that the Earth is warming mostly because of us? The only thing that can be done is show him the data and the scientific consensus. From that point on, we can discuss details that haven’t been sorted about by clear-cut evidence and the scientific community.

People only know their names because they made the material accessible to the general public.

That is the truth – but what is your point?

[T]here is plenty about science (…) that is debatable

That’s great! I was just making the point that science debates are usually lectures, because most of the time both parties are not acquainted enough with the subject to have a meaningful and worthwhile discussion. Some topics require less acquaintance, so even our average Joe at SD will most likely fulfill it (or at least be able to catch-up with just a few hours of reading). Those are the ones we can create topics about – it’s just that I did not manage to think of a single example. It’s nice that you did, you are right, and my point is not invalidated by it. =]