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« Mao and Confucius | Main | How to lose a culture war »

December 30, 2011


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Yesterday's & today's posts were outstanding . . . you're on a roll, Prof. Crane. Happy New Year.

Many thanks for your article.

Very good. I like to follow the fringes of science occasionally just to remind myself that they're far far far and away from their goals, no matter how confident they sound.

True indeed that we do not need the science OR god conundrum when the idea of an emerging timeless Tao is just magical enough to match the magic we see in every moment.

Happy new moment by the way.

if a mystic cannot confirm it, the science isn't true.

Thanks for a wonderful post again. It kind of reminded me of the article "Chuangtse - the happy fish" in Victor Mair's "Experimental Essays on Zhuangzi". As the title indicates, the story picks up the same Zhuangzi passage as cited in the article. In addition, the author Hideki Yukawa is also a physicist and draws very much from his scientific insights. In this article, the author proposes something quite similar as here in this blogpost. He comes to a similar conclusion by analyzing the dichotomy between rationalism and empiricism in science. He is arguing that Huizi's logic is closer to our understanding of science. But Yukawa sees himself on the side of Zhuangzi, proposing a science in between the non-believe of non-proven facts and the idea to accept something that cannot be disproven. The notion that accepts nothing without a proof is too stringent. The notion that excludes nothing, which cannot be disproven is too naive.
So for anyone interested in this topic, this surely makes a good read and probably can give some more insights on this topic.


I was watching a BBC program about the Drake equation and the Fermi paradox recently... and it offered me a chance to reflect deeply on the course that science has taken in this one area over the course of my lifetime. I was very swayed by Carl Sagan's Cosmos television programs when I was a teenager.

However, in retrospect, I can look back and see that there's something really askew, here - when mathematical equations somehow become used to try to prove scientific theory. Equations, as I see it, are tools for persuasion. The Drake Equation, for example, was very important in bringing academics to the table in an era where the idea of extraterrestrials was considered entirely ludicrous, and more the domain of people who were religious or spiritual. The doesn't, IMHO, mean that it gives us a firm scientific proof.

As I see it, Charles Darwin is a paragon of scientific thinking. He observed a thousand times, and then drew up models - using induction and deduction - to try to understand the patterns he saw. In this way, his science was thoroughly grounded in the facts that are on the ground.

The Drake equation, and other vast philosophical models which you mention in your blog post, are most often entirely divorced from any facts on the ground. Their logical consistency, at least in my book, shouldn't cause us to give them any more credence. As you point out, scientists need to humble themselves and admit that sometimes there just isn't enough data to draw any conclusions, or to describe the systems that we are curious about. Data first, and models later is what I say.

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