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Science and dogma

  1. Dec 10, 2007 #1
    Why are some people dogmatic about what they believe? Even some who are doing actual science, can become dogmatic about what they believe are the 'correct' ways to describe or define things. Some get quite emotional or upset about being told there are other, equally valid ways to 'see' what they are defining as the only 'correct' description or definition.

    Because we're group animals, dogma tends to collect in certain groups who get very religious, and start to think there is some canon to be constructed; that language must be 'tightened', and terminology restricted to certain 'well-understood' definitions; they will brook no discussion about what any terminology might mean, or why we, or they, think that's what it means.

    Anyone agree that scientists can be dogmatic, and believe (science isn't supposed to be about believing things) they are 'right', and anyone with a different view must be 'wrong'?

    Some 'Science Forums' can be a bit like this (I'm not actually talking about this forum, or any specific one). I've encoutered people who claim to be teachers tell me things like: "Heat isn't a thing" or "Heat isn't a property, it's a process"; after I posted something about entropy being change, or a change in heat content. Pointless quibbling? The thread was closed since Mods agreed it wasn't 'congruent' with their view (i.e. their dogma)... :rolleyes:
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 10, 2007 #2
    Historically science has been *dogmatic* for instance considering the phlogiston hypothesis or the rejection of plate tectonics. The most revent example is probably accepting the cause for the peptic ulcer to be bactereae instead of stress, way of live, etc. Traces of that battle can be seen in the 2005 press release for the Nobel Price:

    Men don't like to be wrong, that's why there are *dogmas*. Using the plate tectonics case, Thomas Kuhn has made a rather elaborate study of how that works in science, when men are wrong indeed.
     
  4. Dec 10, 2007 #3
    I think science can get dogmatic because the mainstream has to deal with so many crackpot ideas. After hearing theories on perpetual motion from uneducated loons for the billionth time, I wouldn't be surprised if scientist got tired of explaining it and just yelled "STFU".
     
  5. Dec 10, 2007 #4
    You cannot, by definition, be dogmatic if you can present evidence that justified your conclusion. If you can't back up your talk with data, then all you can do is assert that the "dogmatic scientists" are "suppressing the truth" in a "conspiracy". We see this all over the place, from ID creationists, mysticism, climate change deniers, relativity denier and miscellaneous groups either blaming it on materialists, politics or skeptics.

    One of the things that makes science so great is that it has a self-correction mechanism that no other field can rival.

    The Revolution That Didn't Happen

    It is all-and-well to name, as Kuhn does, events hundreds of years ago, but one might find that this is no longer the case in the mainstream scientific community. In science, you actually hear people saying that they looked at the data and admitted that their idea was wrong.
     
  6. Dec 10, 2007 #5

    SpaceTiger

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    I think this hits the nail on the head and explains why scientists (myself included) often appear dogmatic on forums like this. The trouble is that cranks and armchair scientists tend not to be very familiar with the evidence that already exists and the trained scientists have nowhere near enough time to present it in its entirety. To make matters worse, cranks will sometimes be familiar with evidence, but completely misunderstand it and refuse correction. The foot has to be put down at some point, or else it will be near impossible to communicate scientific results to the general public.

    This apparently dogmatic nature usually does not extend to the interactions of scientists amongst themselves. In those interactions, both parties are supposed to be familiar with the existing evidence, so they can feel free to talk about extensions/alternatives to mainstream science. If this were not the case, the whole scientific process would be somewhat absurd. Progress cannot be made on dogma alone.
     
  7. Dec 10, 2007 #6
    OK, don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to turn this into a creationism or AGW thing. My point is that Mods can be dogmatic, and seem to start seeing it as their duty to "shut down" any errant discussion, or you get people responding in the same, tautological way, or pasting links to Wikipedia, but not discussing. More or less saying "The answer is the answer, if you can't deal with it, that's your problem". I've had threads shut down because of this (completely pointless) arbitration. As if pulling a car over and stopping it (giving it a ticket), means you can't walk, or get in a taxi, say. No wod im sain?

    P.S. That last is a linguistic trick I tried to pull at the same site, by posting a Latin saying, that had the last letter missing, to illustrate the idea of a message and noise in some channel. Sure enough, some dude who thinks he knows Latin tells me "it doesn't make any sense", but then goes on to tell me I must not understand anything about Latin, therefore I must have an injunction against the B.Sc. I claim to have. This, of course, is not ad hominem, or anything, no-one even blinked.
    The thread got closed because (as I see it) I was probably getting close to the nerve, as it were. Closed for arbitrary reasons (like the mod didn't like me running his dogma over).

    Here we go: I just got this email from hypography.com

    I do no such thing, in fact. What he is referring to is my stating that scientists must have a worldview ('gasp'), which is defined as a belief system. Religion is, of course, a belief system, so posting those two words into a forum that declares itself "dedicated to Science", gets a big "slap".

    I am not arguing that Evolution has "an agent behind it" this is blatant equivocation. What I say is that I am trying to illustrate or show that Evolution, and Life (which are the 'same' thing) are an 'agent'. They are not something that is behind something, they are the something. Religion, and the theme of religion, is the problem with these people.
    They are being extremely religious themselves about trying to define religion (and keep it out of something they call "Science"). They simply refuse to see this. The only thing behind anything is them behind the brick wall they think they are building with bricks, but they're made out of dogma-doodoo.
     
    Last edited: Dec 10, 2007
  8. Dec 10, 2007 #7

    ZapperZ

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    Then you have more of a problem with this person's "dogma" than you have about science. Yet, here, it is science (and scientists) that you are dissing. What gives?

    Zz.
     
  9. Dec 10, 2007 #8
    Are you a scientist? Am I dissing you? I diss people who try to make me think I'm wrong, when they clearly don't know what is right themselves. Are you a dogmatic scientist? Dogma shouldn't have a place in Science, should it? I thought it was a religious concept.
     
  10. Dec 10, 2007 #9

    ZapperZ

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    You missed my point.

    It seems that the impetus for you to create this thread appears to be your "unhappiness" with how you were treated elsewhere. Yet, instead of discussing how such-and-such a person seems to have his/her own dogma that no one can challenge, you instead turned this into a "science and dogma" issue. The "cause" somehow doesn't fit the "effect".

    Zz.
     
  11. Dec 10, 2007 #10

    chroot

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    Scientists are humans, and humans champion their ideas. Arno Penzias once said that if scientists didn't champion their ideas, they wouldn't have much motivation to go to work in the morning.

    Of course, when any person or group of people champion an idea a little too long, it may as well be called dogma. History provides thousands of examples of individuals and even entire communities of scientists clinging to outdated ideas even after they have been proven wrong -- it's clear that dogma exists in science as it does in every other human endeavor.

    So what?

    Science continues to make progress, sometimes startlingly quickly. Dogma may slow progress down in some cases, but maybe that's actually beneficial. It wouldn't be very sensible for the entire scientific community to leap from one fad theory to another. We must assimilate each new discovery and model tentatively, fully understanding its relationships to thousands of years of existing knowledge, before accepting it as valid.

    - Warren
     
  12. Dec 10, 2007 #11

    russ_watters

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    As far as this forum goes, most of us have been moderating it for several years and there aren't a whole lot of questions that we haven't seen before. Yes, sometimes we need to resist the temptation to jump ahead of a discussion when we think we know where it is going, but at the same time, we can generally recognize an incorrect line of thought or an outright crackpot the second they step in the door.
     
  13. Dec 10, 2007 #12
    Is that what you think we should be doing, do you mean?
    Why is it important (to you, for instance), that I "appear to be unhappy" with "the way I was treated"?
    I honestly don't give it much thought (It makes me laugh a little, though) -except I thought I'd ask about it.

    If that's a problem, or you believe, for whatever reason, that I shouldn't do this, can you offer a reason? Or do you think this thread is perhaps some pointless, or equivocal argument that won't go anywhere?

    Should I point out to anyone (or just keep my opinion to myself, you know, like everyone on this forum and the one I got kicked off of for being a "troll", does) that some group that claims they are "dedicated to Science" is apparently dedicated to their own ideas of dogma and canon?

    It doesn't really matter, right? Eventually those who have mistaken ideas will be left behind in the rush for knowledge. I'm just a little bit saddened, I guess (apart from all the jollies I get from the ludicrous arguments I spot), by the irony. When you have studied, and appreciated, scientific endeavour, you can get somewhat miffed by the kiddies who jump to all sorts of immature and irrational conclusions, but want to be scientists.
     
    Last edited: Dec 10, 2007
  14. Dec 10, 2007 #13

    ZapperZ

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    Oy vey! I'm beginning to think that maybe the other forum that you have dissed may have grounds in taking its actions against you. If this is how you actually comprehend what has been said to you, I can easily see the other side of the coin.

    Zz.
     
  15. Dec 10, 2007 #14
    The other side of which coin, are you prepared to explain this, or are you just going to duck behind some wall?
    (don't jump to conclusions like that)
     
  16. Dec 10, 2007 #15

    Moonbear

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    If this thread is any indicator of how you conducted discussions there, it's no surprise.
     
  17. Dec 10, 2007 #16
    I would say this thread has every indication of being conducted, indeed.
    But who is the conductor? Are you all just responding with ideas that have been put there out of some book, or that you heard someone say?
     
  18. Dec 10, 2007 #17
    What do you reckon?
     
  19. Dec 10, 2007 #18

    siddharth

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    Who cares what people reckon? What does the scientific evidence say?
     
    Last edited: Dec 10, 2007
  20. Dec 10, 2007 #19

    chroot

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    It almost pains me to have to explain this to you, but many of our staff (including Moonbear) are professional scientists, who work every single day to advance mankind's knowledge of the world.

    In analogy, you're arguing with Henry Ford about how to manufacture automobiles.

    - Warren
     
  21. Dec 11, 2007 #20
    As much as it pains me to tell you this, you could all be guys who work at Wal-mart, or the local gas-station; I could be a behavioural scientist with several degrees, including Anthropological studies, advanced math papers, an interest in QM and a PhD in Literature (I also play classical music on a concert piano, currently I'm practising Rachmaninoff, do you know his 2nd piano concerto?).
    So none of you think dogma is consequential, especially to this site (or any other). This is, in fact, what I myself believe.
     
    Last edited: Dec 11, 2007
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