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About Godot

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    Jaded Idealist
  • Birthday 02/28/1976

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  • Gender: Male
  • Location: Calgary
  • Real name: Steve

Godot's Activity

  1. Godot added a post in a topic The Demarcation Problem for Illiterates   

    Hugo, I'm surprised that you didn't point out that I neglected to provide any refutation of Lakatos or Feyerabend! I think that your point can be expanded to describe each of the criterion that I discussed: none of them adequately describe how science is actually done. PKF probably comes closest to reality, but even he is off the mark. Each area of science has its own culture and subculture(s) that describe their real and imagined histories and the methods and methodologies that have fallen in and out of favour over time and work in different fashions according to the prevailing trend (I deliberately chose not to use paradigm). What is considered to be the ultimate methodological standard in one field may be the pseudoscience of another and vice versa. No grand unified theory encompassing the disparities and discrepancies of the tendrils of science will ever or can ever eventuate. I think the only safe things we can conclude (with appropriate caveats in place, of course) is that scientists (as the practitioners of their art, however else defined) are honest and inquisitive and seek to learn more about whatever their particular field may be. The physical, intellectual and philosophical tools will differ considerably, but will be applied towards increased knowledge or understanding.

    I tried to hint at the political impact of demarcation when alluding to Scopes & Dover. Realistically, I could spend just as much time discussing the funding criterion of granting organisations wishing to see fully fleshed out research programmes with a proven track record in exploratory proposals, or their timidity to fund anything outside of incremental steps (a la Kuhn). Equally interesting to explore would be how through the popularisation of science via Sagan et al. that the general public sees double-blinded randomised crossover studies as the only acceptable gold-standard in science (particularly in medical research).
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  2. Godot added a post in a topic The Demarcation Problem for Illiterates   

    I appreciate the feedback, Peter. My apologies for going walkabout for a week.
    That may just be a failure on my part to write clearly enough. My intention was provide a primer on the demarcation problem and to illustrate that demarcation is a practical and tangible issue that we cannot easily solve. Any proffered solution is, by necessity, flawed in some manner or another and will leave a critical audience wanting for something better. I had hoped to help dispel the idiotic notion that science is some monolithic entity with clearly defined boundaries and rules; I find it far more appealing rough around the edges.

    On the one hand, I can handwave away your point by stipulating that I was sorely limited for space and would hardly have enough room to articulate these differences and still hit the points I was aiming for. But that would be cheap and no fun. It has also been suggested to me that the epistemological / sociological distinction you propose rides shotgun on a presumed division between the history and philosophy of science. Any such distinction would also need to be justified in those same terms.
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  3. Godot added a topic in History and Philosophy of Science   

    The Demarcation Problem for Illiterates
    I"m enrolled in a science writing class this semester. One of the assignments was to write 1000 words about science. I decided to take the directions literally and write about science: I chose the demarcation problem.

    The target audience for these short papers is expected to be completely naive, so I kept it very high level and necessarily simplistic. I finished off at 982 words and submitted the first draft (to be critiqued by the class) Monday night. The Heretic has already read it for me and suggested that I put it up here.


    What is Science?

    Science surrounds us and infiltrates all aspects of our lives, yet is surprisingly difficult to define in a sufficiently inclusive manner. The Scientific Method is largely considered to be the pinnacle of human achievement: a robust method of exploring, uncovering and understanding the secrets of the natural world. But how do we define science?

    A simplistic definition might be to consider science the pursuit of knowledge. But this definition is excessively broad, as it would permit the paranormal and supernatural to don the mantle of science. A more robust definition in common use is to view science as a systematic and repeatable series of methodologies that seek to learn about the natural world via experimentation and rely upon testable hypotheses. This definition too has flaws: counterintuitively, it is worded such that cooking would be considered science and that String Theory would not.

    These two quick examples demonstrate the difficulty in defining our boundary conditions, or what are more commonly referred to as our demarcation criteria.

    What is the Demarcation Problem?
    Quite simply, the demarcation problem is an argument in the philosophy of science that seeks to distinguish the boundary criteria between science and nonscience. Others may refine the argument slightly to define it as the boundary between science and pseudoscience. Any distinctions to be made between nonscience and pseudoscience are not germane to this paper and both terms herein will be considered synonymous.

    What Relevance is the Demarcation Problem?
    The demarcation problem is not exclusively an academic concern. There are real world consequences at stake. Prevalent in the news in recent years has been the ongoing saga in the United States where evangelical groups continue to try to force creationism to be taught in schools. The rulings in both the 1925 Scopes Trial and the 2004 Dover Trial found that creationism and its pseudoscientific analogue, Intelligent Design are not scientific.

    Proposed Demarcation Criteria
    Over the years, many demarcation criteria have been proposed to define the fuzzy boundary between science and nonscience. While hardly exhaustive, the following list of criteria provide a high-level summary of the scholarship in this filed of philosophy over the last century.

    Verification / Confirmation
    Verification and its modern cousin confirmation posit that the truth of a theory can be determined by axiomatic logical relationships. Put another way, a theory that can be arranged in an axiomatic fashion in syllogistic form can be verified (or confirmed). This fails as a demarcation criterion, as nearly any nonsensical statement can be written into a syllogism and thus “confirms” a theory even when it bears no relationship to the theory at all.

    Introduced by Sir Karl Popper in 1934, falsification proposes to define as scientific any endeavor that makes a testable claim. Non-testable claims thus are by definition, non-scientific. Although roundly endorsed by many practicing scientists and popularizers of science as being the pinnacle of demarcation criteria, it does not attain as a criterion. As proposed, falsification only determines whether a theory is testable and says nothing whatsoever about whether the theory is meaningful. Thus, the question “Am I wearing socks?” is scientific, but String Theory is not (with our present level of technology). Furthermore, pseudosciences like phrenology and astrology would become scientific by dint of being testable and falsifiable; that they are thoroughly refuted and discredited are immaterial.

    Kuhnian Paradigm Shifts
    In 1962’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Thomas Kuhn divorces the scientific process into “normal science” and “revolutionary science.” He describes “normal science” (aka “puzzle-solving”) as the series of regular activities, rarely challenged through Popperian “conjectures and refutations” whereby science grows through the slow accretion accepted facts and theories. Conversely, Kuhn defined “revolutionary science” as a “non-cumulative developmental episode in which an older paradigm is replaced an incompatible new one.” In this view, adherence to the old paradigm during the ascendance of a new paradigm may delve into pseudoscience. Criticism of Kuhn suggests that his dichotomization of science does not attain as a demarcation criterion; many pseudoscientific endeavors could be viewed as “puzzle-solving.”

    Lakatos’ Methodology of Scientific Research Programmes
    In response to both Popper and Kuhn, Imre Lakatos, in 1978’s The Methodology of Scientific Research Programmes, defines a research programme as a core of assumptions or ideas that cannot be altered or abandoned without eschewing the programme. Lakatos was focused on explanatory power. Any evidence that challenged the core of a programme was termed an auxiliary hypothesis and a programme was further described as either “progressive” or “degenerative” according to whether or not the auxiliary hypotheses increased or decreased the explanatory power of the programme.

    Feyerabend’s Epistemological Anarchism
    In his 1975 book Against Method, Paul Feyerabend sidestepped the demarcation problem by declaring it irrelevant. According to Feyerabend, science is an anarchistic process guided by no single unifying methodology. For him, attempting to provide a rigid definition for science prevents science from growing or advancing in any non-prescribed fashion. Taking a series of examples from the history of science, Feyerabend demonstrated that science progressed in leaps and bounds in ways not dictated by any strict methodological adherence. In light of this narrative, a rationalist is forced to conclude that, in science, anything goes.

    The philosophy of science has discussed the Demarcation Problem at great length for over a century. The examples presented above are merely a highlight reel through the major arguments put forth in that time. The consensus in the field is that the Demarcation Problem is insoluble.

    In practical terms, however, we are still often required to make a precise demarcation between science and nonscience. How you choose to draw that line (if at all, à la Feyerabend) will likely depend on a series of ad-hoc rationalizations that may or may not incorporate some of the arguments presented above. If anything I’ve presented piques your interest at all, I would encourage you to seek out the primary literature written by these fine minds.
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  4. Godot added a post in a topic NHL 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs: Round 1   

    I've been too busy procrastinating... I'll start a new thread for the second round.
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  5. Godot added a topic in Play   

    NHL 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs: Round 2
    The second round of the playoffs has gotten ahead of me much in the same way as the first round did!

    To recap:

    in the East:
    Ottawa put a scare into the Rangers and forced game 7 only to fall short. The Caps pulled off a huge upset of the Bruins (this is probably the first time in NHL history where the previous two Finalists lost in the first round). Philly embarrassed the Pens and the Devils snuck past the Panthers.

    in the West:
    L.A. pulled off a massive upset of the Canucks while the Preds pulled off a lesser upset of the Red Wings. Mike Smith stonewalled the Coyotes past the Blackhawks and the Blues made short order of the Sharks. This is a small mercy for Sharks fans as they can now get on with the rest of their lives rather than waiting another month for the inevitable collapse.

    Going forward into Round 2:
    (Despite each series already being two games in, I'm still going to call as I saw it before the series started)

    Eastern Division
    Rangers vs. Capitals - Rangers are the stronger team, although the Caps may be playing better as the underdog. Rangers in 6.

    Flyers vs. Devils - The Flyers laid a pretty serious beat down on the Pens in Round 1, they may not have as easy a time of it against a more seasoned goalie in Brodeur but I think they are the stronger team.

    Western Division
    Blues vs. Kings - On paper I would give it to the Blues. Unfortunately, with a number of injuries piling up, they're pretty thin on the ice. The Kings are looking very solid out there and and Quick is playing hot. I expect them to ride him into the Conference Final, but my call would have been for the Blues in 5. Down 2-0, I think the Kings may sweep it.

    Coyotes vs. Predators - The Predators are a strong team and have done well this season while the Coyotes limped into the playoffs, only clinching the third seed due to the retarded NHL ranking system. The Coyotes play a very disciplined, defensive brand of hockey and Mike Smith has been unstoppable. Shots on goal show that Phoenix have been outshot in every single game by a double-digit margin in some cases. In teh long run this trend will bite them in the ass hard, but not this round. I would have thought the Preds would take it in 7, but I suspect that the Coyotes will do it in 5.
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  6. Godot added a post in a topic NHL 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs: Round 1   

    What an amazing group of games this weekend!

    Nashville finished off Detroit, St. Louis finished off San jose, Philly finished off Pittsburgh and LA finished of Vancouver.
    New York, New Jersey and Chicago are all in trouble.

    In other hockey news, Raffi Torres was given a 25 game suspension for
    hit on Marian Hossa. The NHL has been trying to cut down on headshots and dangerous plays in general this season (and post-season). Torres is a repeat offender for playing on the edge of dirty. 25 games sends a clear message to the rest of the league about what will and what will not be tolerated, but is it excessive?
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  7. Godot added a topic in Play   

    NHL 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs: Round 1
    Better late than never, eh?

    davidm and I have been talking hockey in chat since the playoffs started and we both discussed who we thought would advance. As surprising as how a few of the series have been played thus far, the biggest surprise has been how intense most of the games have been. Things tend to ramp up the closer you get to the Finals, but at this rate they'll all be sucking wind by the third round!

    Rather than go into any sort of lengthy discussion explaining my picks this round, I'm just going to state them, warts and all.

    Eastern Division

    Rangers vs. Senators
    Bruins vs. Capitals
    Panthers vs. Devils
    Penguins vs. Flyers (yeah, right)

    Western Division
    Canucks vs. Kings
    Blues vs. Sharks
    Coyotes vs. Blackhawks ()
    Predators vs. Red Wings (sorry Dave!)

    Although I don't have a clear favorite to carry the Cup, I expect it will be Nashville or St. Louis out of the West and New York or New Jersey out of the East.

    Anybody else have any predictions?
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  8. Godot added a post in a topic What books are you reading now?   

    I greatly enjoyed The Name of the Rose and Foucault's Pendulum, but found Baudolino and The Island of the Day Before to be substandard. I saw this one on the shelf last time I was in the bookstore. Please let us know what you think, Michael.

    As for myself, I'm nearing the end of Feyerabend's Against Method (I'm enjoying it immensely and probably will even more on subsequent readings).

    A friend also recommended to me Randy Pausch's The Last Lecture (as the tale of a dying man sharing life lessons, how good a life he had and how he regrets not being there as his young family grows up, it is very easy to become emotionally invested in the story and feel moved by his upbeat attitude and demeanour. If you look at it a bit more objectively, the various life lessons aren't anything we all haven't heard previously. Ignoring the impact of his personal situation, the book rates a solid ...meh).

    Depending on how heavily I become bogged down in coursework between now and July, I'm hoping to read both Guy Gavriel Kay's and Iain M. Banks' newest novels (both received for Christmas). I expect to delve into Pratchett's Discworld series as a reward this summer.
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  9. Godot added a post in a topic NFL Super Bowl 46   

    I've never followed the draft, so I can't speak to that with any intelligence. However, I did catch a discussion on SportsCenter where the talking heads (Steve Young, Ron Jaworsi, Trent Dilfer, and random non-football guy) were all in agreement that Peyton would not be back in Indy next season, irrespective of whom Indy takes in the draft.
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  10. Godot added a post in a topic NFL Super Bowl 46   

    That was a surprisingly low scoring game! We were having diner with the in-laws, but I was able to watch most of the game with the sound off. We left just after the Giants scored. I haven't watched any of the post-game stuff; is there any explanation available for what Bradshaw was doing there at the goal line with falling backwards into the end zone? I mean, it looked like he was trying to stop short in order to keep the clock running and maybe kick the field goal. Any other thoguhts?
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  11. Godot added a comment on a blog entry Elbow Pain   

    I'd recommend seeing a physio first and foremost to obtain an accurate diagnosis and appropriate management and rehab.

    If biceps work is currently aggravating it, more biceps work won't solve it either. If the pain arises from a loaded extension of the elbow during pressing movements (but not in a tricep extension) it may reflect something with the joint peoper or ligaments. The tingling in your forearm and hand is a strong indication of at least nerve aggravation / impingement.

    More work will not solve this problem. Rest, ice / heat, perhaps some massage and time to heal are what you need. Continuing to workout in this fashion will only exacerbate the current problem. See a physio.
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  12. Godot added a post in a topic NFL 2011 Playoffs round 2 picks   

    I make no comment about your point spread predictions, but I'm going to disagree with you on the Saints 'Niners game. If the Saints get rolling, I don't think the Niners offense can keep up in a shootout.

    A buddy of mine down in the mailroom at work is a huge Broncos fan. He doesn't expect them to beat the Pats either, unless they pull out another perfect storm of a game like they did last week.
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  13. Godot added a post in a topic NFL 2012 Playoff picks   

    I'm going ot disagree with two of your picks. I don't think any of the animal-themed teams will win this weekend. Bengals Texans will be close, but I expect the Texans to eke out the win. Either way though, I wouldn't expect either team to get past the semifinal next week.

    Giants Falcons could go either way depending on which team decides to show up. Both teams have looked pretty bad at times in the regular season, but the Giants have a better track record in the playoffs.
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  14. Godot added a post in a topic Gaining Weight and Strength Training   

    I've been a gym rat for many a year and I have to agree with this. The only thing that ever bugged me (and still does) about newbs in the gym is how some of them are proudly ignorant of gym etiquette. If you come in and do what you can, great. If you don't know what you're doing, ask or be receptive to people that offer you advice. Don't act like a giant self-important douche. I'm most annoyed when you see 3-5 guys commandeering a wide swath of the bench area, all chatting and none lifting (or lifting essentially warmup weight when they do). [/end rant]

    Keep up the good work with the lifts though! Be sure to keep pushing the rep limit as well as upping the weight.
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  15. Godot added a post in a topic NFL 2011 Week 6 Picks   

    Nicely done.

    And in other news, fire sale in Denver! Lloyd has been traded to the Rams for a bag of used footballs. Six weeks in and they're already throwing in the towel on the season...
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