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E.O. Wilson, in his book Consilience, called for a continuation of the Enlightenment in science, an extension project where science reaches up into the humanities to put it on firmer footing. I think there's a reason many people don't become mathematically and scientifically educated. From a practical standpoint our educational system emphasizes mathematics that few people outside of science and engineering are in a position to use. I would much rather have people going into the humanities learn probability, statistics and discrete mathematics than calculus and continuous functions (well I'd rather people learn both but I'm being realistic).

The challenges in the humanities are such that we are going to need many more people who are broadly educated in the sciences and humanities to tackle them. From neuroscience to positive psychology to economics, breathtaking strides are being made by thinkers who bridge the divide between science and the humanities: Damasio, Hawkins, Taleb, Kahneman, Dawkins, Sam Harris, Richard Thaler etc. You can read plenty of these people by going to edge.org.

There are reasons Objectivists are loathe to tackle these areas. One of the reasons is kind of a diaphanous model of causation where there are deterministic entities whose behavior can be understood in terms of physical laws and then nondeterministic entities like animals that exhibit top-down causation. Well, this is a pretty good description of our middle level world. There has been an extraordinary amount of consternation in Objectivist circles over things like quantum mechanics, Einstein's relativity and other things that don't fit our middle world sense of how things should work. These are the easy cases, especially quantum mechanics because the uncertainty is Gaussian, it's predictable. The real difficulty comes in things that have wild amounts of uncertainty: financial markets, chaotic systems governed by mathematical expressions that include inherent unpredictability e.g. lyapunov instability, historical causation.

We have now come to the point where we have most of the answers in philosophy that can be answered without special tools. We now need studies of game theory, complexity theory, system dynamics, evolutionary psychology, studies of bounded rationality, neuroscience, positive psychology, probability theory, Monte Carlo simulation, statistics etc. We can no longer simply finesse these subjects as not being applicable to philosophy. The train has already left the station on these subjects and Objectivists and fellow travelers can either catch it or be content to be frozen in time. We can both learn from and inform a new renaissance of scientifically informed humanities.

Jim

Edited by James Heaps-Nelson
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Very interesting and I agree. Getting social "science" to be more scientific (mathematical) is of the utmost importance to mankind, IMO. This was the goal of Korzybski, beginning with the science of sanity, and for a while there was a fair bit of interest in general semantics but it seems to have been taken over by the "communications" faculties in the few places it was taught and so is getting away from it's scientific roots.

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E.O. Wilson, in his book Consilience, called for a continuation of the Enlightenment in science, an extension project where science reaches up into the humanities to put it on firmer footing. I think there's a reason many people don't become mathematically and scientifically educated. From a practical standpoint our educational system emphasizes mathematics that few people outside of science and engineering are in a position to use. I would much rather have people going into the humanities learn probability, statistics and discrete mathematics than calculus and continuous functions (well I'd rather people learn both but I'm being realistic).

The challenges in the humanities are such that we are going to need many more people who are broadly educated in the sciences and humanities to tackle them. From neuroscience to positive psychology to economics, breathtaking strides are being made by thinkers who bridge the divide between science and the humanities: Damasio, Hawkins, Taleb, Kahneman, Dawkins, Sam Harris, Richard Thaler etc. You can read plenty of these people by going to edge.org.

There are reasons Objectivists are loathe to tackle these areas. One of the reasons is kind of a diaphanous model of causation where there are deterministic entities whose behavior can be understood in terms of physical laws and then nondeterministic entities like animals that exhibit top-down causation. Well, this is a pretty good description of our middle level world. There has been an extraordinary amount of consternation in Objectivist circles over things like quantum mechanics, Einstein's relativity and other things that don't fit our middle world sense of how things should work. These are the easy cases, especially quantum mechanics because the uncertainty is Gaussian, it's predictable. The real difficulty comes in things that have wild amounts of uncertainty: financial markets, chaotic systems governed by mathematical expressions that include inherent unpredictability e.g. lyapunov instability, historical causation.

We have now come to the point where we have most of the answers in philosophy that can be answered without special tools. We now need studies of game theory, complexity theory, system dynamics, evolutionary psychology, studies of bounded rationality, neuroscience, positive psychology, probability theory, Monte Carlo simulation, statistics etc. We can no longer simply finesse these subjects as not being applicable to philosophy. The train has already left the station on these subjects and Objectivists and fellow travelers can either catch it or be content to be frozen in time. We can both learn from and inform a new renaissance of scientifically informed humanities.

Jim

I think it's probably more important to note the limits of this. Mathematization of the humanities is not new. It's been tried many times before. Why do you think current efforts are any better?

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Very interesting and I agree. Getting social "science" to be more scientific (mathematical) is of the utmost importance to mankind, IMO. This was the goal of Korzybski, beginning with the science of sanity, and for a while there was a fair bit of interest in general semantics but it seems to have been taken over by the "communications" faculties in the few places it was taught and so is getting away from it's scientific roots.

Looking at mathematization in the field of economics should give pause here, don't you think? They build elaborate mathematical models and pump in loads of real world data and yet they didn't see the 2008 crash coming (not to mention almost all of the previous ones).

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I think it's probably more important to note the limits of this. Mathematization of the humanities is not new. It's been tried many times before. Why do you think current efforts are any better?

There is indeed the danger of the creation of a cargo cult science: humanities trying to emulate the success of the physical sciences by imitating the jargon, as if the mathematical jargon will make it real science. Stanislav Andreski's Social Sciences as Sorcery (an oldie, but a classic) gives many hilarious examples of this. A modern example is Dembski's attempt to make ID a respectable science by hiding it in a cloud of mathematical formulas that most people don't understand, illustrating once more the "garbage in, garbage out" rule.

On the other hand some sciences (psychology is an example) can improve and are improving by adapting the methods of the exact sciences.

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Jim,

Big project.

I think bringing more math to the humanities includes:

(1) Better education in probability, statistics, and discrete math.

(2) Pushing developments in nonlinear math (linear models are still the biggest chunk of statistics).

(3) Continual checking for the fruitfulness of the mathematical techniques being applied, and for their appropriateness to the subject matter.

Robert Campbell

PS. I still recommend Andreski's book Social Sciences as Sorcery. The cautionary tales haven't stopped being needed.

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I think it's probably more important to note the limits of this. Mathematization of the humanities is not new. It's been tried many times before. Why do you think current efforts are any better?

There is indeed the danger of the creation of a cargo cult science: humanities trying to emulate the success of the physical sciences by imitating the jargon, as if the mathematical jargon will make it real science. Stanislav Andreski's Social Sciences as Sorcery (an oldie, but a classic) gives many hilarious examples of this. A modern example is Dembski's attempt to make ID a respectable science by hiding it in a cloud of mathematical formulas that most people don't understand, illustrating once more the "garbage in, garbage out" rule.

On the other hand some sciences (psychology is an example) can improve and are improving by adapting the methods of the exact sciences.

Recall, too, the supposed Diderot-Euler thing -- where Euler allegedly presented a mathematical equation Diderot didn't understand as proof of God's existence. I think some people might be taken in by a mathematical approach to such a degree that they stop thinking critically.

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I wonder if the case can be made that eugenics and AGW qualify as scientists "doing" humanities.

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JHN: E.O. Wilson, in his book Consilience, called for a continuation of the Enlightenment in science, an extension project where science reaches up into the humanities to put it on firmer footing.

Jim, the opposite is true as well: Scientists (and let's broaden it - technical professionals and businessmen) need a better grounding in the content and methods of the humanities - history, literature, philosophy, the arts.

But in each case, in an often epistemologically corrupt time, the danger is very great of misapplying, using the wrong methods from math and 'hard' sciences -- as in the attempt to mathematize all of economics (econometrics and equations as too-exclusive a model with suspicion of the 'literary' style of the Austrians trying to get published), the quantifiability, laboratory reproducibility, and anti-introspection schools in the history of psych.

And using bad methods from the humanities -- as in everything is relative, subjectivism, logical positivism.

You can have consilience, but bad consilience [or integration] can be even worse than separation.

Edited by Philip Coates
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I wonder if the case can be made that eugenics and AGW qualify as scientists "doing" humanities.

Yes, there have been some pretty sick examples of science into humanities. It depends what we mean by science as well. Logical deduction and integration between data is what is required for successful research. Successful research advances fields like psychology and sociology.

Quantum mechanics was also mentioned in context of Objectivism. I think it's silly for philosophy to try to independently explain epistemology and ontology. That's the epitome of being unscientific. Objectivist Epistemology is a brilliant work, it's good rationalization from limited facts. And it's not actually true in many respects based on observations over the last half-century. So do we follow the Bible (OE), or do we follow what we observe?

* I'd like to add: philosophy is liberal arts, and damn straight it could use science to improve

Edited by Christopher
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ND: I wonder if the case can be made that eugenics and AGW qualify as scientists "doing" humanities.

Actual Gold Weight? Alt.Games.Warbirds? Automatic Girth Welder? Accident Generated Water?

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Actual Gold Weight? Alt.Games.Warbirds? Automatic Girth Welder? Accident Generated Water?

Anthropogenic global warming. clubhead.gif

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Guess you thought every possible reader knew that, huh?

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Guess you thought every possible reader knew that, huh?

I love it when you try to make funnies, because it is fun to watch.

rde

"You're really reaching here, Kyle." --South Park

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Guess you thought every possible reader knew that, huh?

We have people from New Zealand, Germany, the Netherlands, and South Africa posting here regularly. If the standard was “every possible reader” then I couldn’t even use the acronym IRS for Internal Revenue Service, in fact, spelling it out wouldn’t be enough, I’d need to add some further description like: the United States Federal Government’s tax collection arm. But I don’t, you know why? Try typing AGW, then IRS as a Google search. Then try Wikipedia. Assume that all readers of this forum (rather than “every possible reader”, which logically would have to include 7 year olds) can and will do the same.

Now Phil, should we infer that you didn’t know what AGW meant, or that you were trying to score a point as a forum style authoritah?

<embed src="http://media.mtvnservices.com/mgid:cms:item:southparkstudios.com:150368" width="480" height="400" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" wmode="window" flashVars="autoPlay=false&dist=www.southparkstudios.com&orig=" allowFullScreen="true" allowScriptAccess="always" allownetworking="all" bgcolor="#000000"></embed>

Edited by Ninth Doctor
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I didn't until I googled it and found many things with that acronym. My reading up on global warming and the arguments for and against is not recent, and at that time I don't recall encountering it.

My point is that many acronyms are commonly known (IBM doesn't need to be spelled out), but AGW might not be known to those who don't follow this issue on an ongoing basis.

IRS probably should be spelled out for readers not from the U.S. If you're going to be discussing strategic or nuclear arms reduction talks and treaties, START and SALT should be spelled out.

Edited by Philip Coates
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I think it's probably more important to note the limits of this. Mathematization of the humanities is not new. It's been tried many times before. Why do you think current efforts are any better?

Not if the mathematics is used to decorate and beautify the same bad old ideas we have been given over the last three thousand years. Mathematics cannot make a false thing true or a true thing false. Mathematics is abstraction in action. It cannot produce facts out of Nothing.

Ba'al Chatzaf

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1. On English as the universal second language --

My last gig as a technical writer, I translated a sales brochure from British English into American English. When Gulf War I broke out, I got my news from websites in India. I was puzzled by a Kolkota newspaper's headline:

"Bush Ploy Foxes Pundits."

It took me a good fraction of a minute to think that through.

2. On the scientific nature of the humanities --

My BS (2008-summa cum laude) is in criminology, which purports to be a science. My MA (2010) is in "Social Science" which for me included economics and geography as well as Tom Lehrer's sociology and a core in criminology. So, I have current knowledge here, relevant to the topic.

Human beings are not billiard balls.

The latest national survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, conducted Sept. 30-Oct. 4 among 1,500 adults reached on cell phones and landlines, finds that 57% think there is solid evidence that the average temperature on earth has been getting warmer over the past few decades. In April 2008, 71% said there was solid evidence of rising global temperatures.

Over the same period, there has been a comparable decline in the proportion of Americans who say global temperatures are rising as a result of human activity, such as burning fossil fuels. Just 36% say that currently, down from 47% last year.

(Pew Research Center Poll from October 22, 2009 here.)

Libertarian science fiction writer Neil Smith would characterize this as an example of what he calls "Asimov's Paradox." Social planners dream of some psychohistory mathematics that will let them predict -- and thereby control -- large populations. But populations are comprised of individuals with free will. The numbers do not say that you or I are 36% likely to accept Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW). Neither can those numbers show that any one of us or any aggregate of us accept 36% of the claims from the theory or its data. The only claim is that if you get 1500 random Americans, then 540 of them "accept" AGW. But, again, the question does not ask how much of what aspects these people "accept."

Moreover, it is known from history that once you reveal the trick, you cannot play it: you cannot fool all of the people all of the time. Once you tell someone that they are being watched, their behavior changes. However, as we know, simply telling someone the "truth" will not persuade them of its validity or change their behavior.

Consider Objectivism. How could we so acrimoniously disagree about the causes and meanings of so many current events? How could the theoreticians of the USSR be torn between rightwing revisionism and leftwing deviationism? Why was there a Protestant Reformation? How did Christianity develop from Judeaism. Whence the schools of Buddhism? How could mathematicians ever have a debate?

We Objectivists enjoy Richard Dawkins -- except when he talks about politics... well, that, and metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, and aesthetics. I think we're clear on his brand of atheism.

Scientists doing humanities? I think the problem is that too few humanists do science. "Let's build an atomic bomb before they do!" What were they thinking?? Did they expect that the Nazi Germans actually could build a complicated device and deliver it?? Their V-Rockets were Jules Verne contraptions, the key component of which was a pump from firefighting equipment. To fuel it, they turned potatoes into alcohol. V for Vodka, I suppose... and it left the German people with that much less food. To think they were powerful is to fall into a chasm of assumptions about the efficacy of brute force.

There are no easy answers, and all of the tough ones are yours and mine and his and hers alone.

Alone.

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Scientists doing humanities? I think the problem is that too few humanists do science. "Let's build an atomic bomb before they do!" What were they thinking?? Did they expect that the Nazi Germans actually could build a complicated device and deliver it?? Their V-Rockets were Jules Verne contraptions, the key component of which was a pump from firefighting equipment. To fuel it, they turned potatoes into alcohol. V for Vodka, I suppose... and it left the German people with that much less food. To think they were powerful is to fall into a chasm of assumptions about the efficacy of brute force.

There are no easy answers, and all of the tough ones are yours and mine and his and hers alone.

Alone.

The German rocket program was version 1.0 of our manned space program. The Apollo vehicle was Von Braun's V1 on steroids. The fundamental problem of thrust vectoring and alignment of the rocket thrust vector with the center of gravity of the vehicle was the basic matter of rocket transport. Von Braun and his team solved that problem. All the further developments in rocketry were incremental in nature.

All beginning are hard. Robert Goddard (American) and Von Braun (German) were the true fathers of modern rocketry.

By the way, the Germans developed the first radio controlled man guided air to ground missiles and even sunk an Italian war ship with a man controlled (by a joy stick no less) missile launched from a Heinkel bomber. They also deployed the first successful cruise missiles (the V2) and killed people with it. The Germans had a jet fighter ready to go in 1939, but it was quashed by Hitler and others in the Nazi establishment. If Der Fuhrer had not interfered with engineering and scientific developments in Germany the Second World War might have had a different outcome.

Ba'al Chatzaf

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IRS probably should be spelled out for readers not from the U.S.

No. It's as well known as the CIA, the FBI or the FDA.

If you're going to be discussing strategic or nuclear arms reduction talks and treaties, START and SALT should be spelled out.

I did know what SALT means, from START I only knew that it was something related, but didn't know what the letters stood for.

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If Der Fuhrer had not interfered with engineering and scientific developments in Germany the Second World War might have had a different outcome.

Indeed. For the same reason the Germans did not make great progress with the atomic bomb as it had no priority for Hitler, there was nothing like the Manhattan Project, but it's possible that they could have made it when they'd made a similar effort from the beginning. And the V2 (A4) would have been a formidable threat if it had been developed sooner, it was also the forerunner of the ICBM's. Germany also made the first operational jet fighter.

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We have now come to the point where we have most of the answers in philosophy that can be answered without special tools. We now need studies of game theory, complexity theory, system dynamics, evolutionary psychology, studies of bounded rationality, neuroscience, positive psychology, probability theory, Monte Carlo simulation, statistics etc.

"Karl Popper, the great philosopher of science, once divided the world into two categories: clocks and clouds. Clocks are neat, orderly systems that can be solved through reduction; clouds are an epistemic mess, “highly irregular, disorderly, and more or less unpredictable.” The mistake of modern science is to pretend that everything is a clock, which is why we get seduced again and again by the false promises of brain scanners and gene sequencers. We want to believe we will understand nature if we find the exact right tool to cut its joints. But that approach is doomed to failure. We live in a universe not of clocks but of clouds."

http://www.wired.com/magazine/2010/04/st_essay_particles/

Recommended on "Organizations and Markets" blog by Peter Klein

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We have now come to the point where we have most of the answers in philosophy that can be answered without special tools. We now need studies of game theory, complexity theory, system dynamics, evolutionary psychology, studies of bounded rationality, neuroscience, positive psychology, probability theory, Monte Carlo simulation, statistics etc.

"Karl Popper, the great philosopher of science, once divided the world into two categories: clocks and clouds. Clocks are neat, orderly systems that can be solved through reduction; clouds are an epistemic mess, “highly irregular, disorderly, and more or less unpredictable.” The mistake of modern science is to pretend that everything is a clock, which is why we get seduced again and again by the false promises of brain scanners and gene sequencers. We want to believe we will understand nature if we find the exact right tool to cut its joints. But that approach is doomed to failure. We live in a universe not of clocks but of clouds."

http://www.wired.com/magazine/2010/04/st_essay_particles/

Recommended on "Organizations and Markets" blog by Peter Klein

Michael,

Thanks for the article link. Much of what I described above is an attempt to describe complex systems, not predict them. Even if we can't predict a complex system like financial markets, we can often describe its distribution of outcomes and determine whether a given market instrument is fairly priced given that distribution.

Jim

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