RE: The story-telling ape (was virus: Logic)

chardin (
Fri, 17 Oct 1997 14:05:23 CST+6CDT

> Date: Fri, 17 Oct 1997 11:51:37 -0600
> To:,,
> From: David McFadzean <>
> Subject: RE: The story-telling ape (was virus: Logic)
> Reply-to:

> At 09:13 AM 10/17/97 CST+6CDT, chardin wrote:
> > Glad you asked. In fact, it was Dawkins who asserted in his
> >paper that people who believe in religion are "infected with a
> >virus" whereas the man of science is a rational creature who put
> >that ridiculous non-rational disease aiside.
> He said that because religions are typically packaged with
> a "faith" meme that actively discourages adherents from
> looking for evidence. Can you see why that might be a
> bad thing?
> >My point, and that of the authors of "Betrayers of the Truth", is
> >that all disciplines are made up of people and subject to the same
> >sorts of fallacies that people as humans bring to their trade.
> >Dawkings goes no further than the church house door in his
> >criticisms, which is what I was attempting to take him to task for.
> Are you claiming that all disciplines are equally susceptible
> to those fallacies?

Yes, I am. They are human enterprises.
> >Ideal #1: When scientists make an assertion, you pretty much
> >believe it is true because you have this notion of peer-review,
> >replication, and the structure of science keeping it all neat and
> >clean (i.e., did he not follow the Scientific Method?)
> That is not an ideal of science. You are never to take a scientist's
> word on anything unless she can back it up with evidence and
> reasoning.

This is my point. The authors were showing that almost no, zip,
zilch, nada experiments are ever validated by replication. It is a
myth an ideal. It could happen, of course, but the chances are so
slim that it would almost pay to cheat--you are very likely to get
away with it.

> >Ideal#2: Science is an objective enterprise, devoid of human
> >emotion, greed, etc. and the Scientist is in it for the love of
> >the truth:
> I agree that anyone that believes this is true must be naive.
> But who are we talking about here? Anyone on this list?
> >I am just saying that the ideals are extremely hard to meet and
> >sometimes impossible given the constraints placed on scientists who
> > are human beings. Therefore, realize that most scientific data
> >cannot be objective.
> OK, say we realize it. Now what?
> >Realize also, as the authors point out, that this field is not the
> >keeper of the keys of rationality. There are other fields and
> >other desciplines in which the truth is being pursued. They, too,
> >use rationality in their search.
> I like to think we are doing that right here.
> >Realize that "science" is an ideal and that we need to rethink how
> >well it's so-called built in safeguards actually work. If we do
> >that, I think we can approach Science with a healthy skepticism and
> > not become infected with the virus that leads us to believe that
> >the descipline of science is somehow above the rest of intellectual
> > enterprises. It is not.
> I agree (I think), we need more skepticism, more critical thinking,
> more rationality.
Well, I don't think Dawkins would agree with you. He thinks those
skills are only lacking in the other camp. He is, in other words,
infected with his own virus.

Let us determine what we can agree on:

1) Science is an enterprise undertaken by human beings therefore
there is room for fallacy.
2) As an ideal, a scientist would have his work reviewed by other
scientists who could pass judgement on the merits of the idea itself,
rather than forming an ole boy network to keep competing ideas out and protecting the status quo.
However, since scientists are humans, they too give in to these
weaknesses. The peer-review process behaves as
a "closed club" network and while this may not be intentional, the
current system is set up that way--thus peer review is not so hot a
system for placing "faith" in science.
3) Most scientific studies and experiements are never validated by
replication, thus to depend on this as a safe-check method is not a
good idea. That is, to assume that it has been replicated or proven
could be a fatal mistake (in finding the truth).
4) A good healthy dose of skepticism should be used when looking at
scientific assertions. We should want to at least see some proof for
the claim, including any information which shows that the experiments
or findings have been successfully repeated or, which is just as
important, that they could not be repeated. At this present time, this almost
never happens.

I still insist the book "Betrayers of the Truth" is a pretty good
read. Believe it or not, there is much I did not quote--good stuff.

> --
> David McFadzean
> Memetic Engineer
> Church of Virus