Category: Science


Start watching at 17 seconds…

Precisely so Masuka. Precisely so. Science does not care about your feelings. Science does not care about your beliefs. Science does not care about your hopes and dreams. Science only cares about the truth, about what is fact, and what is. Feelings, beliefs, hopes and dreams be damned.

The chief cause of poverty in science is imaginary wealth. The chief aim of science is not to open a door to infinite wisdom, but to set a limit to infinite error

- Bertolt Brecht, Life of Galileo

I can’t think of a better way to put that.

I’ve spent a significant percentage of my life, firm in the understanding that: a supposition is a guess, perhaps an educated one which one thinks might be true; an hypothesis roughly equals a proposal, idea or a guess which you don’t yet believe to be true and a theory is an established, proven principle or body of principles that explain some natural phenomenon. I’ve been under the impression that testing a hypothesis – several times – and proving it to be correct, results in a theory. Which is to say, a supposition is something without evidence that one might believe anyway, a hypothesis is an idea which isn’t believed that is to be tested and a theory is empirically tested truth; facts.

Now, I have to tell you, I seriously hope I’m not wrong about this and haven’t been wrong about this for what essentially amounts to my entire life. I have never considered those three words to mean the same thing or even similar things. They are explicitly not the same thing.

And if that is true, then will somebody please explain to me what the actual fuck is going on here:

Supposition

Google definition: Supposition

sup·po·si·tion: noun: “an uncertain belief.” | Synonyms: …theory, hypothesis…

Hypothesis

Google definition: Hypothesis

hy·poth·e·sis: noun: “a supposition or proposed explanation made on the basis of limited evidence as a starting point for further investigation.” | Synonyms: …theory, supposition…

Theory

Google definition: Theory

the·o·ry: noun: “a supposition or a system of ideas intended to explain something, esp. one based on general principles independent of the thing to be explained.” | Synonyms: …hypothesis, supposition…

Synonym

syn·o·nym: noun: "a word or phrase that means exactly or nearly the same as another word or phrase in the same language, for example shut is a synonym of close."

syn·o·nym: noun: “a word or phrase that means exactly or nearly the same as another word or phrase in the same language, for example shut is a synonym of close.”

I’ve used Google’s Search with a “define” many thousands of times to get the definition of words. And now I wonder…

Surely, supposition, hypothesis and theory are not synonyms. Surely they are not “exactly” nor “nearly” the same thing. Surely they are not interchangeable? Surely?

How do you explain to your average religionut that a theory is empirically supported fact, not a guess nor a supposition nor an idea without evidence when that same religionut can go and do a Google search and prove to you that a theory, hypothesis and supposition are, in fact, synonyms. Interchangeable. Nearly or exactly the same.

It’s either a disgrace or I am sadly mistaken. I hope I’m not sadly mistaken.

“Science’s only sacred truth is that there are no sacred truths. All assumptions must be critically examined. Arguments from authority are worthless. Whatever is inconsistent with the facts – no matter how fond of it we are – must be discarded or revised.” — Carl Sagan

And that is all I have to say about that.

It is literally impossible to overstate how much I love the experiment in this video. It’s so simple and yet shows so magnificently the existence of things almost impossible to believe. It’s beautiful in every way.

The point of the episode the experiment is conducted for is to explain the evolution of life, one of the mechanisms for mutation to be precise. Brilliant in it’s simplicity.

The religious often ask what an atheist has to live for (as if pretending to know something you do not is a reason to live) since we “believe in nothing”. I can honestly say that seeing an experiment like this, understanding what it means, seeing the results – you can freaking see cosmic rays for god’s sake! – is my religious experience. It’s learning things like this, about the world, that is my religious experience. Acquiring knowledge about the world, the universe we exist in, that is my reason to live. It makes me happy.

You could almost say that this phrase errs on the side of being true:

The universe is my god, science is my religion and Carl Sagan is my personal Jesus fucking Christ.

Or Brian Cox as it were.

Blam! FEEL THE AWESOME!

I am a nerd. I love Symphony of Science. That is all.

(Pity Stephen Hawking didn’t make it into the video though)

The irony of the statement “Just Thinking about Science Triggers Moral Behavior” is not lost on me.  Every religion tries to claim morality for themselves. If I had a penny for every time I’ve heard or read “how can you be moral without god”…

So here it is. Read the paper by Christine Ma-Kellams and Jim Blascovich here:

Does “Science” Make You Moral? The Effects of Priming Science on Moral Judgments and Behavior published in the Plos One journal.

Abstract: Background

Previous work has noted that science stands as an ideological force insofar as the answers it offers to a variety of fundamental questions and concerns; as such, those who pursue scientific inquiry have been shown to be concerned with the moral and social ramifications of their scientific endeavors. No studies to date have directly investigated the links between exposure to science and moral or prosocial behaviors.

Abstract: Conclusions/Significance

These studies demonstrated the morally normative effects of lay notions of science. Thinking about science leads individuals to endorse more stringent moral norms and exhibit more morally normative behavior. These studies are the first of their kind to systematically and empirically test the relationship between science and morality. The present findings speak to this question and elucidate the value-laden outcomes of the notion of science

Scientific American wrote an article about the study here:

Just Thinking about Science Triggers Moral Behavior

Public opinion towards science has made headlines over the past several years for a variety of reasons — mostly negative. High profile cases of academic dishonesty and disputes over funding have left many questioning the integrity and societal value of basic science, while accusations of politically motivated research fly from left and right. There is little doubt that science is value-laden. Allegiances to theories and ideologies can skew the kinds of hypotheses tested and the methods used to test them. These, however, are errors in the application of the method, not the method itself. In other words, it’s possible that public opinion towards science more generally might be relatively unaffected by the misdeeds and biases of individual scientists. In fact, given the undeniable benefits scientific progress yielded, associations with the process of scientific inquiry may be quite positive.

Science bitches! Not only does it work, it makes you want to be a better person too.

To quote one of my favourite people, Sam Harris:

“I would challenge anyone here to think of a question upon which we once had a scientific answer, however inadequate, but for which now the best answer is a religious one.”

And it’s as simple as that. Science has a better answer than religion for every question ever asked. The opposite has never happened. I find that fascinating since there are four billion people on the planet that claim to have a direct line to the almighty creator of the universe who has all knowledge. I know so many Christians who have ‘a personal relationship with Jesus Christ’ that I could start my own mega-church, were I that way inclined. And yet somehow science progresses every day of every week steadily making our lives better; making our lives longer, making us more healthy, helping amputees, curing diseases, exploring other planets, expanding our knowledge of everything from subatomic particles to galaxy superclusters.

Creationism? Religion? World wide floods, 600 year old men building wooden boats to save ten million species of animal, talking snakes, witch burning and human sacrifice. It’s laughable.

Science. It works, bitches.

I watched this video last night and as surprising as it may be, I love it. It’s unlikely to be everybody’s cup of tea but there is something fundamentally awesome about the brilliance and effort that went into solving the famous Fermat’s Last Theorem.

In number theory, Fermat’s Last Theorem (sometimes called Fermat’s conjecture, especially in older texts) states that no three positive integers a, b, and c can satisfy the equation an + bn = cn for any integer value of n greater than two.

On the surface it’s a pretty straightforward proposition… I’ll let Simon Singh tell the story of Andrew Wiles and Fermat’s Last Theorem:

Not every person has the opportunity to have such a seminal moment in their career. To be fair, it took years and years of effort, brilliance, insight and work for that seminal moment to occur for Andrew Wiles.

I try to imagine what it must be like to arrive at the proof, to know that you are the only person in hundreds of years – possibly ever – to know what you know. I try to imagine what it would be like to know that nothing you do for the rest of your life will compare to the perfection you had just accomplished.

It makes me a little sad that I do not and most likely will never understand most of what the video talks about.

Congratulations Andrew Wiles. I stand in awe.

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