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Location: UFOUpDatesList.Com > 2007 > Mar > Mar 16

Re: Defending The Indefensible - Shough

From: Martin Shough <parcellular.nul>
Date: Thu, 15 Mar 2007 14:57:58 -0000
Fwd Date: Fri, 16 Mar 2007 06:57:21 -0400
Subject: Re: Defending The Indefensible - Shough

>From: Mike Good <boneheadart.nul>
>Date: Wed, 14 Mar 2007 10:05:55 -0700 (PDT)
>To: UFO UpDates - Toronto <ufoupdates.nul>
>Subject: Re: Defending The Indefensible [was: UFO Photos The Future]

>>From: Martin Shough <parcellular.nul>
>>To: <ufoupdates.nul>
>>Date: Mon, 12 Mar 2007 14:52:21 -0000
>>Subject: Re: UFO Photos The Future

>>>When a scientist submits a proof to a scientific journal, it is
>>>taken for granted that the scientist has done his homework and
>>>actually performed all of the experiments he says he has. Well
>>>we just accept that it is so. Maybe he did it, maybe he didn't.
>>>So the empirical evidence, most often, is subjective too.

>>The situation you describe would be an anarchic one, a
>>structureless free-for-all, possibly one that some members of
>>the internet generations - happy with the sheer "fun" of
>>believing in ET - might thoughtlessly cheer for, but one
>>guaranteed to be, in the long run, a destructive recipe for
>>misery and calamity. But your charge that science is no
>>different from beliefs in religions or the tooth fairy is,
>>fortunately for all of us, not only a bit silly but also
>>factually in error.

>Thanks Martin, of course, you are correct! I am engaging in a
>little exageration to make a poi

But, Mike, I beg to differ. Saying that scientific journals are
filled with unsubstantiated claims accepted purely on the
author's say-so, that empirical evidence in science is merely
subjective and casual, that science as a whole is just one dish
in a buffet of loopy belief systems that we are free to pick and
choose from, is not "a little exaggeration", or even a wild
caricature, but utter intellectual carnage.

The point you then appeared to make was that because scientists
with their "prejudices" and "preconceived notions" were no use
and no "fun", what was needed was "a major change in the
consciousness of those making the rules".

Now if by that you had intended merely to echo the familiar idea
that, given some non-zero probability of ETH or an ETH-
equivalent, then ufology would have some characteristics of an
intelligence problem rather than a pure science problem, and/or
that scientists need to reach some sort of special accommodation
with ufo reports by adapting customary rules of evidence etc. to
a unique situation, then this would at least be debateable. But
in the context of your traducement of the scientific enterprise
as "just another belief system, no different than religion or
the tooth fairy" you obviously meant something much more radical
by a "major change of consciousness".

>So, my point is this: with the knowledge of subjectivity of
>much scientific evidence

Subtracting your exaggerations this amounts to no more than the
knowledge that science evolves and has a future state that we
can't predict.

>and if we factor in the implications of
>quantum mechanics, we must come to the conclusion that our
>science (as we understand it) while not erroneous, certainly
>has some aspects open to question.

Well of course. But question by whom and in what fashion? By
sticking a pin in some map of fanciful notions? No, by more
science, not less; by more critical thought, not less. You speak
as though science were some ancient ossified thing that needs
outside help to revivify. This couldn't be further from the
truth. Science is _the_ absolutely pre-eminent dynamic
transforming revolutionary process in the human world. It is made
of questions. Every amazing thing that you "know" - including all
those "implications of quantum mechanics" - and just about
everything around you from your toaster to the PC in front of you
is a result of that process.

>I think we take too literal a
>view of our material universe and forget that our observations
>of that universe are subject to our conscious interpretations
>and prejudices.

Who forgets this? You might, but epistemologists don't,
professors and students of the history and philosophy of science
don't, cognitive scientists don't, experimental psychologists
don't, quantum theorists don't. The scientific world view
incorporates an enormous amount of critical analysis of its own
methods and a deep scepticism about the face-value
interpretations of human beliefs and observations (something that
doesn't always endear it to ufologists!).

And science does not take "a literal view of a material
universe". This harks back to an archaic philosophical
distinction between materialism and spiritualism, arising from a
classical Newtonian notion of matter as inert stuff. Prior to
relativity, quantum theory, critical-point phenomena, far-from-
equilibrium self-organisation etc it wasn't clearly understood
how complex systems, and organic systrems in particular, could
arise without some superadded patterning or driving force, hence
vitalism, spiritualism etc in contradistinction to the billiard-
ball determinism that reached a nadir in the "medical
materialism" of Buchner and Vogt who claimed that the brain
merely secretes thought "as the liver secretes bile". Each
viewpoint depended for its meaning on the other, but that crude
disjunction lost its validity long ago. To speak of materialism
in science today (other than in historical terms) is no more
sensible than to speak of spiritualism in science, and is what
philosophers would call a category mistake. A few individual
scientists may still choose to make that mistake, as you and
some anti-scientists do also. But they are unrepresentative

>If (as quantum thinking suggests) our thinking
>influences material outcomes, then there is an implicit
>fuzziness to scientific theory that we have failed to

Who has failed? Surely not the physicists who have struggled for
a century with the fantastically difficult job of creating the
"quantum thinking" you claim as your authority? What previously
unacknowledged fuzziness are you talking about? I don't believe
you are you arguing by analogy that individual theories should
be considered as phonon particles of a quantised "theory field",
or "theorons", with associated position-momentum uncertainties
in theory space - now that _would_ be something that we could
have fun with! No, it seems to me you are alluding to some
quantum quasi-solipsism of the sort popularised by the theories
of Everett, De Witt and co., by means of which science's
theories are analogous to collective acts of measurement that
decohere an indeterminate system of superposed probable states
and thus elicit the state of the world they measure. Assuming
that you can make this proposition fully coherent, my question
to you would be: Do you truly believe, as you say, that it is
authorised by reliable interpretations of quantum theory? Think
carefully about the implications of your answer.

>This, to my mind, means that we must factor consciousness into
>our scientific theories to develop a better understanding of
>the universe, as opposed to a model which comes from a strictly
>materialist point of view.

Again, there is no such thing in modern physics as a "strictly
materialist point of view" and your talk of "factoring in
consciousness", far from being some fresh insight that those
stuffy old scientists would never think of on their own, comes
directly from your reading of books and articles about difficult
issues in the interpretation of quantum mechanics that were
being chewed over by physicists decades before Capra et al.
Don't make the mistake of putting the popular-science cart
before the scientific horse.

>So, I agree, science is not to be
>thrown out as the baby in the bathwater. But I do think that
>belief in a strictly materialist paradigm is a bit myopic. The
>universe is much greater than our materialist prejudices would
>have us believe.

Physics is already much greater and stranger than the quaint
materialism your prejudices would have you believe it is.

>And belief itself is the fly in the ointment here! Belief in a
>strictly materialist model of the universe wilts under the
>light of quantum understanding.

I would be interested to know in what sense the decades of
brilliant and tremendously difficult world-changing work on QM
described in books such as Schweber's "QED and the Men Who Made
It" is "a bit myopic", or how for instance the subtle dissection
of quantum logic, decoherence, measurement theory etc in "The
Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics" by Roland Omnes "wilts
under the glare" of your "quantum understanding".

>The universe is not strictly
>mechanistic, but kind of spacey and wierd. It is an integrated,
>malleable (within certain parameters) fabric that is subject to
>influence by application of consciousness.
>How cool for us. And, how interesting for science.

"Kind of spacey and weird." An eloquent summary of many pop
science cover-blurbs I suppose. But I'm amused that you seem to
think that "the decline of mechanism" would be news to those
whose original work has subsequently been popularised.

Just for clarity, let me remind Listers that this all arises
from your critique of science as a system of thought,
equivalent, you averred, to fairy tales and religions and of no
more use in relation to the UFO problem than they. You have now
somewhat toned this down and conceded that the baby of science
should not be entirely thrown out with his bathwater, but still
maintain, it appears, that he is some sort of shrivelled
changeling who needs feeding up and emergency medication if he
is to prove worth keeping. But the hints you give us as to your
reasons for this all appear to come from ideas developed by
science itself, not from religions or fairy tales, and so as a
critic of the method of science it seems to me you make a poor

Martin Shough

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