Steven Pinker's article on "Scientism"

Discussion in 'Game Design' started by keithburgun, Aug 13, 2013.

  1. keithburgun

    keithburgun Administrator, Lead Designer Staff Member

    @Lemon you're wrong, but if you wanna go on a tirade against feminists probably do it on another thread. Anyway, this argument "OT: people using a word in a derogatory sense is not the cause of their poor reputation, it's a symptom." is so wrong. So is there something actually wrong with atheists then? With liberals? With environmentalists?

    That's ridiculous! Who thinks anything with 100% certainty? This is an awesome example of the irrationality surrounding people's usage (or concern about using) the word. Like if someone says they are a theist, do you automatically assume that they believe that there's a god with 100% certainty? Actually, even if someone TOLD ME "I believe Claim X with 100% certainty", I still wouldn't believe them, because 100% certainty about anything is just such a ridiculous concept.

    "Deist" might be the label for you, then, actually.
     
  2. Lemon

    Lemon Well-Known Member

    I don't mean to imply that good things haven't been done in the name of feminism, but it's very silly to claim that they haven't also done a lot of damage (especially to men's issues).

    Groups of people advocating all those philosophies have indeed done unpopular things.
     
  3. Erenan

    Erenan Well-Known Member

    No, I don't automatically assume that because I understand why it's a mistake. But people do make that mistake (or mistakes like it), and I don't want to help them make it. I don't know if you were ever a member of a nondenominational Christian community, so I don't want to presume that you do or don't know (from experience) what I'm talking about, but I spent the first two decades of my life immersed in Christian schools and church communities, and I remember thinking about knowledge and belief in very naive terms. I was often encouraged to develop the idea that I could "know that I know that I know" that my beliefs were true beyond a shadow of a doubt. And so I naively thought that people generally held that strong of a conviction about their beliefs.

    No, I'm not a deist because I don't assert that any deity exists nor claim knowledge about any details about any such deity. I'm a weak atheist because I don't make any such assertions.

    Anyway, this is a good place to explain myself further. I'm not afraid to use the word. I just prefer to explain myself in terms that will more clearly communicate what I mean. I like to choose my words carefully in the interest of guiding conversations in useful directions instead of towards shouting matches and antagonistic belief duels.

    For example, I try not to say things like "that's ridiculous!" because it's likely to incite anger and frustration.
     
    Last edited: Jul 7, 2014
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  4. deluks917

    deluks917 Well-Known Member

    In my opinion the dividing line between true science and other fields of inquiry is the ability to make predictions and run experiments. I am very pro science when it is defined this way. What I am not in favor of is people using "science" to refer to areas where you cannot use a methodology based primarily on experiments.

    I think empirical economics and such are very obviously useful. But they do not and should get the same level of deference given to fields based on the actual scientific method.

    If you cannot run experiments you really have no reliable way to determine whether some trend in the data will continue or not. (ex: The Phillips curve had quite alot of evidence showing that the inverse relationship between inflation and unemployment was stable. Turns out it does not always hold, and anyone banking on the "Science" of the phillips curve to work made a big mistake.)
     
    Last edited: Jul 7, 2014
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  5. keithburgun

    keithburgun Administrator, Lead Designer Staff Member

    Unpopular != Wrong, @Lemon. Also, I'll start a thread about it because it's a good topic, and I don't think it's "silly" to claim that feminists *have not* done a "lot of damage" to "men's issues".

    Sorry about saying something said was ridiculous, @Erenan . Should have worded that differently.
     
  6. Erenan

    Erenan Well-Known Member

    No worries, I was toying with whether or not I should even mention that as I wasn't really sure that it would be received positively. It didn't bother me, it just seemed a good example for what I was talking about.
     
  7. keithburgun

    keithburgun Administrator, Lead Designer Staff Member

  8. Lemon

    Lemon Well-Known Member

    A group doesnt have to be wrong to have a poor reputation, and bad things can be done in the name of a good cause.

    As an example, personally I believe the biggest ethical issue ever caused by humans is animal exploitation. 60 billion land animals are slaughtered (and typically live appallingly awful lives before that) just because we enjoy eating them. Theres no financial or health reason to eat animals except in perhaps the most extreme cases eg. eskimos. I'm vegan and identify with the vegan movement and believe that everybody needs to (and will) become vegan in the future.

    That being said, I understand and appreciate that there is some truth in the negative vegan stereotypes, and I'm also aware that a lot of harm has been done by prominent vegan organizations (especially PETA which has done things like give awards to Burger King for "humane slaughter", and have run some very questionable ad campaigns). These unpopular actions have let to many people having a poor opinion of the movement - not the other way around.
     
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  9. Zirk

    Zirk Member

    Really? "Scientism" seems like a pretty good word to describe what is essentially scientific chauvinism. A number of -ism words function in the same way, and thinking back it seems like this particular definition is consistent with every use of the word that I've seen, save for Pinker's essay where he deliberately makes up his own definition. It's consistent with instances where the term is inappropriately leveled against someone and also when it's used appropriately.

    Just out of curiosity, do you object to the term "scientific racism" to describe things like the eugenics movement, mandatory sterilization, and The Bell Curve? I mean, those things aren't really scientific. Should we not use the term "scientific racism" because people might hear it and think that scientists are all racists? That's not good for science or for anti-racism.
     
  10. vivafringe

    vivafringe Well-Known Member Staff Member

    Most of the time "ists" are people that believe in "isms."

    Racists believe in racism.
    Feminists believe in feminism.

    And so on. My objection to "scientism" is the implication that scientists believe in it.
     
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  11. Erenan

    Erenan Well-Known Member

    I take this back. Keith hates this word, so I am honor bound to approve of using it and to use it as often as possible.
     
  12. keithburgun

    keithburgun Administrator, Lead Designer Staff Member

    Hey Erenan! Good to see you. Your criteria there seems strange (and maybe not great) so maybe you are joking but maybe you're a little bit not joking, too. Actually this thread itself is a good example of why you might not want to base your beliefs on the reverse of what someone else believes, though. There's a lot of reasons why that's bad, but here's a really clear example: my view on "scientism" has completely changed since 2013. I actually have pretty much the reverse view of what I posted about in that original post now.

    The value of science and reason are undeniable and so ubiquitous and obvious that to suggest otherwise at all is a complete non-starter position. However, the issue is that we tend to think that our science - the science we practice - is "the" science. We tend to think, I think erroneously, that we haven't baked-in a lot of our biases and stuff into the methodologies and institutions, when actually, we have. Not because of any big conspiracy or anything, but just because we're human and we're fallible. And the mission of science, to reduce human error, is noble, and it has brought many benefits. But one of the dangers of this as a mission is that we can lose touch with our fallibility, and I think that this is kinda what scientism is. It's this arrogance, as well as a tendency to try to quantify everything in narrow ways that often leaves people missing the larger picture.

    Anyway we can argue about that (I'm not sure what your current view is), but the point is that if you try to match your view to the reverse of Keith Burgun's view, you might find yourself having to update once in awhile.
     
  13. Erenan

    Erenan Well-Known Member

    I'm always joking, except when I'm not. Hope that clears things up for you.
     
  14. keithburgun

    keithburgun Administrator, Lead Designer Staff Member

    Oh, okay. Well I'd like to hear your sincere thoughts on the issue sometime if you get a chance.
     
  15. Erenan

    Erenan Well-Known Member

    Don't hold your breath. I'm very busy these days. Plus, you'll die if you don't breathe.
     

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