Author Topic: How do talk sense to someone who rejects everything but hard sciences?  (Read 619 times)

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Offline Quetzalcoatl

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I know a person who is not anti-science, at least not deliberately so. In fact, I think this person considers himself to be very pro-science (he is also a staunch atheist). But it is in a rather weird view.

All of the social sciences are dismissed as nonsense, and/or pseudosciences. Psychology, also bullshit. The only acceptable parts related to this are apparently the parts of neurology about the physical movements of the neurons and similar things. But anything than goes into psychology, as I wrote, is dismissed. Pretty much only the hard sciences are accepted as proper sciences to this person.

History gets the least bad treatment. It is dismissed with a "Meh...".

At the same time, this person is also into organic food, avoiding chemicals, and similar things.

How would you, well, talk some sense to a person with such an overly reductionistic worldview, if that's the correct term? Is this thing common? Does it have a name?

Online Harry Black

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Re: How do talk sense to someone who rejects everything but hard sciences?
« Reply #1 on: January 16, 2019, 05:41:14 PM »
I have tried and failed many times to have this discussion. Would be interested in some new ideas.

Online Ah.hell

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Re: How do talk sense to someone who rejects everything but hard sciences?
« Reply #2 on: January 16, 2019, 05:48:38 PM »
Versions of that are pretty common.  I'd bet this person is an engineer, doctor, or other related profession.  The typical reason people take this attitude in my experience is that they do not like the uncertainty inherent in most of the so called soft sciences.  Hard sciences appear to have much more definitive results while only actually being the best current model just like soft sciences.  Its just the problems with the current models in psychology, economics and what not are a lot easier for lay persons to see. 

As with most things, start by asking what would convince him that soft sciences are actually science.  Try and figure out where he draws the line between not science and science. 

Science is a method, I'd find examples of studies that are clearly using the scientific method in soft sciences.  Observation, hypothesis, experiment, conclusion, repeat.  Its not the results that matter, its the method.

In short, figure out what his definition of science is, if that definition is reasonable demonstrate that soft scientists use that method.  If his definition is unreasonable try and show him why that is.   


Also, history is not science and is very subjective, that doesn't mean it is with out merit. 

Granted, I've never really succeed convincing anyone either but at least this way you can quickly figure out if its possible.
« Last Edit: January 16, 2019, 05:51:08 PM by Ah.hell »

Online arthwollipot

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Re: How do talk sense to someone who rejects everything but hard sciences?
« Reply #3 on: January 16, 2019, 05:49:42 PM »
Ask them how they know that science describes real phenomena.
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Offline Billzbub

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Re: How do talk sense to someone who rejects everything but hard sciences?
« Reply #4 on: January 16, 2019, 06:00:32 PM »
Ask them how they know that science describes real phenomena.

Find common ground to agree with him about, and then tell him there's this book he would really love.  Give him the SGU book, and see if a dose of critical thinking will help him.
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Offline Soldier of FORTRAN

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Re: How do talk sense to someone who rejects everything but hard sciences?
« Reply #5 on: January 16, 2019, 09:00:43 PM »
How would you, well, talk some sense to a person with such an overly reductionistic worldview, if that's the correct term? Is this thing common? Does it have a name?

Denialism. 

The dirty little secret of models is that all models are wrong. But they're useful so we keep them around.

This is the case in both hard science and soft science.

For example, when I took Developmental Psychology, we went from infants to elders, jumping from model to model. 

For infancy, this psychologist's model of development is the most useful.  Here's why.  Here's why it sucks elsewhere.
For toddlers, this psychologist's model of development is the most useful.  Here's why, and so on.

For every stage of life, it was a different model.

The point here being that the soft sciences are self-aware.
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Offline Quetzalcoatl

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Re: How do talk sense to someone who rejects everything but hard sciences?
« Reply #6 on: January 17, 2019, 02:54:28 PM »
I'd bet this person is an engineer, doctor, or other related profession.

Yes, engineer.

Also, history is not science and is very subjective, that doesn't mean it is with out merit.

I don't think that history is subjective. It is objectively true that Braveheart is not a historically accurate movie.

We have incredibly strong reasons to think some things, like the Roman Empire existed, or that the Norse briefly had a settlement in Newfoundland.  The claim that the Phoenicians reached the Americas remain is very speculative, there is no supporting evidence for it, and no reason to believe so. We can be reasonably sure that the ancient Romans and the ancient Chinese knew of each others' existence.

While we know that the Hunnic expansion in Europe was halted at Battle of the Catalaunian Plains, the historical importance of the outcome of the battle, and what would have happened if the Huns had won, is more speculative. Earlier historians tend to think that it was of major importance for the history of Europe, whereas later historians don't think history would have unfolded substantially differently had the Huns and their allies won.

So I don't view history as very different from science. We have different degrees of certainty for various claims. It's not different in nature from speculations about the lifestyles of various dinosaur species. Did the live solitarily, or in packs, for example?
« Last Edit: January 17, 2019, 03:18:51 PM by Quetzalcoatl »

Offline Quetzalcoatl

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Re: How do talk sense to someone who rejects everything but hard sciences?
« Reply #7 on: January 17, 2019, 03:08:16 PM »
Ask them how they know that science describes real phenomena.

Find common ground to agree with him about, and then tell him there's this book he would really love.  Give him the SGU book, and see if a dose of critical thinking will help him.

I've thought of that. Though I think this person would see "science" and feel vindicated, at least at first. It takes a little more reading to see that the SGU and skeptics generally are a lot more nuanced, and many skeptics don't have science backgrounds. Just on the SGU, I think only Steve and Cara have science backgrounds. Which is another part, because this person seem to think that people who don't have degrees in science or engineering or similar (I'm not exactly sure where the line goes) can't really be interested in science or understand it.

Offline Soldier of FORTRAN

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Re: How do talk sense to someone who rejects everything but hard sciences?
« Reply #8 on: January 17, 2019, 03:11:14 PM »
It's starting to sound like a basic ego/conceit thing. 
If global warming is real then how come I just felt this chill down my spine?

Offline Billzbub

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Re: How do talk sense to someone who rejects everything but hard sciences?
« Reply #9 on: January 17, 2019, 03:23:40 PM »
Ask them how they know that science describes real phenomena.

Find common ground to agree with him about, and then tell him there's this book he would really love.  Give him the SGU book, and see if a dose of critical thinking will help him.

I've thought of that. Though I think this person would see "science" and feel vindicated, at least at first.

Yes, that is okay as long as he gets some exposure to what real scientific skepticism is.  Over time, maybe he will figure it out, especially if he original felt vindicated by the rogues and starts trusting them.
Quote from: Steven Novella
gleefully altering one’s beliefs to accommodate new information should be a badge of honor

Offline fuzzyMarmot

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Re: How do talk sense to someone who rejects everything but hard sciences?
« Reply #10 on: January 17, 2019, 03:35:55 PM »
One strategy is helping them see that the dividing line between the "hard sciences" and other sciences is fuzzy and constantly changing. I think a lot of people equate "hard science" with the use of relatively precise and accurate mathematical models. Astronomy and physics were the first of the hard sciences, because these were the most amenable to quantitative methods. As our scientific knowledge and mathematical tools have advanced, more fields have come under the umbrella of hard science. 100 years ago, there were very few aspects of biology that could be termed hard science; now, I'd say almost all of biology falls into that category. In the future, more and more fields will become hard sciences. Some fields (psychology, sociology, etc.) are dealing with much more complicated phenomena than physics and astronomy, so it is understandable that they have taken longer to develop precise and accurate quantitative models.

I'd ask your friend to try to demarcate what they think the boundary is between "legit science" and the things they reject. Where do things like epidemiology, demography, and political science (see 538's models) fall? These fields all use "hard science" models, but also include the "soft" aspects of human behavior. This could help them see that there is no distinct dividing line between hard and soft.

Online Ah.hell

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Re: How do talk sense to someone who rejects everything but hard sciences?
« Reply #11 on: January 17, 2019, 04:05:15 PM »
I'd bet this person is an engineer, doctor, or other related profession.

Yes, engineer.

Also, history is not science and is very subjective, that doesn't mean it is with out merit.

I don't think that history is subjective. It is objectively true that Braveheart is not a historically accurate movie.

We have incredibly strong reasons to think some things, like the Roman Empire existed, or that the Norse briefly had a settlement in Newfoundland.  The claim that the Phoenicians reached the Americas remain is very speculative, there is no supporting evidence for it, and no reason to believe so. We can be reasonably sure that the ancient Romans and the ancient Chinese knew of each others' existence.

While we know that the Hunnic expansion in Europe was halted at Battle of the Catalaunian Plains, the historical importance of the outcome of the battle, and what would have happened if the Huns had won, is more speculative. Earlier historians tend to think that it was of major importance for the history of Europe, whereas later historians don't think history would have unfolded substantially differently had the Huns and their allies won.

So I don't view history as very different from science. We have different degrees of certainty for various claims. It's not different in nature from speculations about the lifestyles of various dinosaur species. Did the live solitarily, or in packs, for example?
Where's the science in that though?  Can you test your hypothesis for what would have happened had the Huns won?

Still, I say try and pin him down on what he thinks science is, then either show him how that is wrong or show him how psychology is actually a science.  Psychology particularly an interesting case.  There is a science of psychology and a practice of psychology.  The second is more like the engineering of psychology only its at about the point of development as civil engineering was in say, 1850.  There was some science an math being done but it was still mostly, "this worked on the last bridge".

Offline Billzbub

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Re: How do talk sense to someone who rejects everything but hard sciences?
« Reply #12 on: January 18, 2019, 02:44:49 PM »
You should probably just take him to the Church of Scientology and get him audited.
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Offline Quetzalcoatl

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Re: How do talk sense to someone who rejects everything but hard sciences?
« Reply #13 on: January 27, 2019, 05:25:46 PM »
Where's the science in that though?  Can you test your hypothesis for what would have happened had the Huns won?

Sure, bad example.

But take something like the Roman conquest of Gaul. It is not a matter of subjective opinion if it happened or not. And of course, there is a massive amount of evidence that it in fact happened.

Consider how researchers try to determine, for example, the way of life of Tyrannosaurus rex. For example, did they live in packs, or solitary, or in couples? Were they hunters or scavengers, or both? It is of course very challenging to determine that for a species that has been extinct for 65 million years. Yet progress can be made.

I don't consider history different in nature from this. We are in both cases dealing with things i the past that we can't observe directly. In some cases, the historical cultures we study wrote stuff, so we can go on that, as well as on archeology. Some cultures did not write anything, so in that case we have to go on archeology, as well as what others wrote about them.

Still, I say try and pin him down on what he thinks science is, then either show him how that is wrong or show him how psychology is actually a science.  Psychology particularly an interesting case.  There is a science of psychology and a practice of psychology.  The second is more like the engineering of psychology only its at about the point of development as civil engineering was in say, 1850.  There was some science an math being done but it was still mostly, "this worked on the last bridge".

I will try to make this person give his definition of science, thanks for the idea. Though I guess that his definition is "natural science", thereby defining away the rest.

Online Ah.hell

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Re: How do talk sense to someone who rejects everything but hard sciences?
« Reply #14 on: January 28, 2019, 09:39:20 AM »
I will try to make this person give his definition of science, thanks for the idea. Though I guess that his definition is "natural science", thereby defining away the rest.
Then try and convince him that his definition of science is different than just about everyone else. 


 

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