Archive for November, 2011
Clasics can be found here: www.improbable.com/airchives/classical/
How to write a scientific paper: www.improbable.com/airchives/paperair/volume2/v2i5/howto.htm
Apples and Oranges — A Comparison: www.improbable.com/airchives/paperair/volume1/v1i3/air-1-3-apples.html
For som reeson i started reeding about peer review, and i ended up reeding a lot of interesting articles.
Two quotes stand out, copyd from the Criticism section:
“There seems to be no study too fragmented, no hypothesis too trivial, no literature too biased or too egotistical, no design too warped, no methodology too bungled, no presentation of results too inaccurate, too obscure, and too contradictory, no analysis too self-serving, no argument too circular, no conclusions too trifling or too unjustified, and no grammar and syntax too offensive for a paper to end up in print.”
“The mistake, of course, is to have thought that peer review was any more than a crude means of discovering the acceptability—not the validity—of a new finding. Editors and scientists alike insist on the pivotal importance of peer review. We portray peer review to the public as a quasi-sacred process that helps to make science our most objective truth teller. But we know that the system of peer review is biased, unjust, unaccountable, incomplete, easily fixed, often insulting, usually ignorant, occasionally foolish, and frequently wrong. “
Alternativs to standard practice and related topics:
The obvius paralel:
And, did u no that “gratis” is used in English? I certainly didnt, but it is nice to see that English ‘has lerned’ somthing from the other Germanic languajes :p
A very good series of videos that nicely demonstrate how creativ works/meems ar made from copys of parts of oldr creativ works/meems. Lots of exampls. Enjoy! :)
If u havnt red it, it is definitly worth reeding:
Altho i think that Dawkins is rong about th degree to wich sientific ideas show virus-like symtms. Surely, ther ar som sientific ideas that spred not primarily becus of their quality. I am thinking of: e.g.: exesiv focus on peer review, exesiv focus on p-valus. But certainly, sience in jenrl is a lot les virus-like than is relijion.
“In the “weak form,” it is a sound, harmless, and on occasion useful application of elementary logic: if x is a necessary condition for the existence of y, and y exists, then x exists. If consciousness depends on complex physical structures, and complex structures depend on large molecules composed of elements heavier than hydrogen and helium, then, since we are conscious, the world must contain such elements.
But notice that there is a loose cannon on the deck in the previous sentence: the wandering “must.” I have followed the common practice in ordinary English of couching a claim of necessity in a technically incorrect way. As any student in logic class soon learns, what I really should have written is:
It must be the case that: if consciousness depends … then, since we are conscious, the world contains such elements.
The conclusion that can be validly drawn is only that the world does contain such elements, not that it had to contain such elements. It has to contain such elements for us to exist, we may grant, but it might not have contained such elements, and if that had been the case, we wouldn’t be here to be dismayed. It’s as simple as that.
Some attempts to define and defend a “strong form” of the Anthropic Principle strive to justify the late location of the “must” as not casual expression but a conclusion about the way the universe necessarily is. I admit that I find it hard to believe that so much confusion and controversy are actually generated by a simple mistake of logic, but the evidence is really quite strong that this is often the case, and not just in discussions of the Anthropic Principle. Consider the related confusions that surround Darwinian deduction in general. Darwin deduces that human beings must have evolved from a common ancestor of the chimpanzee, or that all life must have arisen from a single beginning, and some people, unaccountably, take these deductions as claims that human beings are somehow a necessary product of evolution, or that life is a necessary feature of our planet, but nothing of the kind follows from Darwin’s deductions properly construed. What must be the case is not that we are here, but that since we are here, we evolved from primates. Suppose John is a bachelor. Then he must be single, right? (That’s a truth of logic.) Poor John—he can never get married! The fallacy is obvious in this example, and it is worth keeping it in the back of your mind as a template to compare other arguments with.” (p. 165-166, Darwin’s Dangerous Idea)
Stranj that he does not just mention it by name or go into mor detail, or eevn sujest mor litratur on it.
I hav beleevd for many years that th clarity of one’s languaj corelates (both ways) very much with how clearly one thinks, hence th name of my blogs. I hav howevr not spent so much time arguing th point. Th reesn is that i got th idea from taking part in a very larj numbr of debates/discusions both on th net and verbaly. I hav thot about som principls/guidelines that one cud folow to avoid making th mistakes that so many make. I havn’t been abl to com up with som strict guidelines, but i hav red a numbr of useful texts on th subject. In som of th texts, ther ar som proposd guidelines/rules for riting/thinking in a betr languaj. In som othr of th texts, ther ar no such guidelines but th text contains eethr discusion of th topic or just lots of exampls of bad languaj.
Th first text is by Richard Dawkins and is a book review:
It is a review of this book:
wich is ritn by (among othrs) th person who’s name this embarasmnt is named aftr:
I havn’t red th book yet (i want to), but it seems worthwile.
Somone clevr rote an algorithm that rites a new non-sens/meeningles esay every time one refreshs th paj. It is gramaticly corect and contains lots of refernces to similrly bad texts by prominnt authrs. Myt one actualy fool somone with such an esay? Yes! Sadly, i hav don it quite a few times. Peepl ar way too eesy to fool with texts with pretentius and bad languaj that contain nothing but sofistry.
Th next text is by George Orwell, th ritr famous for “1984”. It has som useful rules worth keeping in mind.
“(i) Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
(ii) Never us a long word where a short one will do.
(iii) If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
(iv) Never use the passive where you can use the active.
(v) Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
(vi) Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.“
Th next text is by Bertrand Russell, th famous british filosofr. It is mainly som descriptions of his thots about riting, but it does contain som useful guidelines worth thinking about.
“There are some simple maxims-not perhaps quite so simple as those which my brother-in-law Logan Pearsall Smith offered me-which I think might be commanded to writers of expository prose. First: never use a long word if a short word will do. Second: if you want to make a statement with a great many qualifications, put some of the qualifications in separate sentences. Third: do not let the beginning of your sentence lead the reader to an expectation which is contradicted by the end. Take, say, such a sentence as the following, which might occur in a work on sociology: “Human beings are completely exempt from undesirable behaviour-patterns only when certain prerequisites, not satisfied except in a small percentage of actual cases, have, through some fortuitous concourse of favourable circumstances, whether congenital or environmental, chanced to combine in producing an individual in whom many factors deviate from the norm in a socially advantageous manner”. Let us see if we can translate this sentence into English. I suggest the following: “All men are scoundrels, or at any rate almost all. The men who are not must have had unusual luck, both in their birth and in their upbringing.” This is shorter and more intelligible, and says just the same thing. But I am afraid any professor who used the second sentence instead of the first would get the sack.”
Th next text is by David Stove, a rathr stranj filosofr. It is a part of a book he rote wich i havn’t red, but is considring reeding. Th text is rathr long and rant-ish, but does contain a lot of exampls of bad languaj use/filosofy.
And his book:
Th next text is a critiq of filosofy in jenrl. It contains som useful insyts.
Th last text is about how to fix th situation. It is a method to avoid pointles languaj confusion or useles semantic discusions.
Som words that one may considr stoping to use and replacing with othr words:
- Free will
Exerpt from Possible Worlds. It is a pees of very useful information.
The method of possible-worlds testing is not only an invaluable aid towards resolving ambiguity; it is also an effective weapon against a particular form of-linguistic sophistry. Thinkers often deceive themselves and others into supposing that they have discovered a profound truth about the universe when all they have done is utter what we shall call a “Janus-faced sentence”. Janus, according to Roman mythology, was a god with two faces who was therefore able to ‘face’ in two directions at once. Thus, by a “Janus-faced sentence” we mean a sentence which, like “In the evolutionary struggle for existence just the fittest species survive”, faces in two directions. It is ambiguous insofar as it may be used to express a noncontingent proposition, e.g., that in the struggle for existence just the surviving species survive, and may also be used to express a contingent proposition, e.g., the generalization that just the physically strongest species survive.
If a token of such a sentence-type is used to express a noncontingently true proposition then, of course, the truth of that proposition is indisputable; but since, in that case, it is true in all possible worlds, it does not tell us anything distinctive about the actual world. If, on the other hand, a token of such a sentence-type is used to express a contingent proposition, then of course that proposition does tell us something quite distinctive about the actual world; but in that case its truth is far from indisputable. The sophistry lies in supposing that the indisputable credentials of the one proposition can be transferred to the other just by virtue of the fact that one sentence-token might be used to express one of these propositions and a different sentence-token of one and the same sentence-type might be used to express the other of these propositions. For by virtue of the necessary truth of one of these propositions, the truth of the other — the contingent one — can be made to seem indisputable, can be made to seem, that is, as if it “stands to reason” that it should be true. Among the more common examples of sentences which are often used in a Janus-faced manner is the sentence
(2.24) “Everyone acts selfishly all the time.”
It may be used to express the proposition
(2.25) No one’s acts are ever altruistic
in which case — on any ordinary understanding of what “altruistic” means — the claim being made is contingent but false. Or it may be used to express the proposition
(2.26) Every person’s acts are always performed by those persons themselves
in which case the proposition is undoubtedly true — because necessarily true — but is no longer an interesting topic for debate. The trouble is, of course, that someone may utter (2.24) with the intent of making a significant psychological claim about the sources and motives of human action — as in the manner of (2.25) — but, when challenged, try to save face by taking refuge in a tautology — such as (2.26). Not only is such a move on a par with crasser forms of prevarication; it may tempt us, if we do not keep our wits about us, to attribute to the contingent psychological claim the kind of indisputability which belongs only to necessary truths.
It should be evident how the method of possible-worlds testing can guard against sophistries of this kind. We need only ask the utterer of a token of a Janus-faced sentence-type whether there is any possible state of affairs in which the proposition being asserted is false. If the answer is “No” , then the proposition being asserted will undoubtedly be true, even though it may not strike us as very informative. But if the answer is “Yes”, then we shall want to enquire as to whether the set of circumstances in which it is false happens to include the actual world. All too often the contingent propositions which Janus-faced sentences may be used to express turn out not only to be possibly false but to be actually false as well.
Utterers of tokens of Janus-faced sentence-types may, of course, be quite unclear as to which kind of propositions they intend to express. Janus-faced sentences can beguile us all, speakers as well as hearers. But this much is clear: we cannot have it both ways; we cannot, that is, on one and the same occasion of the utterance of a token of a Janus-faced sentence-type claim both that it expresses a proposition possessing the indisputable credentials of a necessary truth and that it expresses a proposition which is distinctively true of the world in which we live. For no proposition is both contingent and noncontingent even though one and the same sentence-type may be instanced sometimes by tokens used to express a contingent proposition and sometimes by tokens used to express a noncontingent one.
For each of the following Janus-faced sentences explain how, on one interpretation, it may be used to express something indisputable (perhaps necessarily true), while, on another interpretation, it may be used to express something dubious (perhaps contingent and false).
1. “One cannot be certain of the truth of any contingent proposition.”
2. “Sounds exist only when they are heard.”
3. “All persons are born equal.”
4. “I can never have your thoughts.”
5. “The future must be what it is going to be.”
6. “Everyone is entitled to his/her own beliefs.”
7. “Tomorrow never comes.