Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Cholesterol, Connections, Causality

Big Fat Surprise

I got to hear the linked story on MPR yesterday and the host, Kerry Miller -- if you go out and listen to it, it is at about 4min that Kerry gets worried about "science denialism" because it seems that although "science" told us that they KNEW what we ought to eat, it turns out that they were WRONG!

The attempted response of dietary science being "fragile science" with some prevarication about "prestigious schools like Harvard" is kind of fun to listen to. "It is hard to find causality" -- yes, now there is something we can agree on!

Say your computer crashes "some of the time" when you are browsing the web -- or just "randomly". You can meticulously keep track of when it does it, what you are doing, keep charts, etc, etc. You (unless you are a programmer / maintenance person) build up a lot of information ABOUT the  problem, but it takes someone that can "look behind the curtain" to find the causality and FIX IT. Causality is HARD -- and that is in domain where we KNOW everything in your computer was designed and constructed by human minds / hands.

For the human body, most food, and the climate, NOTHING was constructed by human hands -- we can only postulate an ultimate causality of "God" or "random chance", and if we want it to be somehow "predictable", we better lean pretty hard to the side of "something with "order" created a reliable order around us that we can count on and find rules / patterns / etc.

Unsurprisingly -- for those that have some contact with what thought means , Kerry has stumbled into an epistemological problem -- what can/do we know and how do we know it? (a link to some cliff notes on that).

Hmm, and another link that might help on the issue.

Kerry seeks to BELIEVE in science -- so she is very concerned that what she sees as an "error" in science will spread and encourage "science deniers". But science is a PROCESS, and in fact an inductive process which  means that no matter how many times your experiment was repeated, that is NOT "proof" that it will not fail the next time.

 I call the induction problem the Thanksgiving turkey problem -- the little turkey develops a hypothesis that humans are benevolent creatures that feed and take care of turkeys. Each day of it's life this theory is "inductively proven". On the day the turkey has the greatest certainly of the correctness of it's theory, (having had the most successful tests), it is Thanksgiving. The turkey has discovered induction -- and epistemology.

We don't know what we don't know. The set of what we don't know is INFINITE!

"Progressives" believe in the whig theory of history -- the latest knowledge is better, and generally believe in "logical atomism" -- each event can be studied in isolation to gain meaningful knowledge.

Another  mistake Kerry made is to drift toward a holistic view -- that things are related. For a moment the SHOCKING thought crossed her mind that if one kind of science could have an error, then how could she know in her heart that other science was not less than holy and true?

Progressive thought is founded on "the latest is greatest" and "believe the experts, not your own stupid mind". Plato, Christianity, Burke essentially claim the opposite -- there is a transcendent grand plan and everything is related to that plan.

Kerry is a transcendent, purposeful, related universe "denier" -- intellectually. She wants to isolate nutrition science from climate science. She wants to raise cigarette taxes to curtail smoking, but doesn't see raising income taxes as reducing income.

To put it in the words of Mannheim:
"One must make one's choice between two views: on the one hand that there is a reason working in and through men's minds which can lay hold of a timeless structure of things: on the other, that thinking is a series of temporal events determined, like all other events, non-rationally"
'via Blog this'

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