Using Human History as a guide Could Our Present Civilization Fall Into a New Dark Age?

Vertigo

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Yes I'm also not sure what you mean. Science is not political; it just is. Scientists make discoveries. If one scientist decides a discovery is too dangerous there's no way they can 'hide' it; sooner or later another scientist will make the same discovery. Scientists just uncover the realities of the universe we live in, others may then do damage with that knowledge but the scientists can't be blamed for that.

Sure scientist do make predictions when it is required of them, though they mostly don't like doing so, and getting those predictions wrong can have serious consequences. Climate change is an obvious and current example but it is spurious to hold them to account when they get those predictions wrong; predictions are not science but might be guided by science. I've never quite understood why we all laugh at all the horrendously inaccurate political and social predictions that punters make and yet we are horrified and yell 'foul' whenever a scientist makes any predictions that are not later found to be perfect in every detail.
 
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Venusian Broon

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I disagree, not with the overall intent of your above message as I read it - that 'science' is amoral and that morality comes in by how scientific knowledge is used by people (not necessarily scientists of course), which is another matter altogether....

but with this particular point you make:

predictions are not science but might be guided by science.
From Wikipedia:

"Science is a systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions about the universe."

I'd say a science that cannot predict is not a science and therefore predictions are at the very core of it's philosophy. Predictions are a vital component of science. (As is a science that cannot be tested, although I may just allow ones that are theoretically possibly as testable ;))

I think I'm being pedantic, but it niggled! :D.
 

Mirannan

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Montero:

Others have done this better (Drexler, for one) but I see in the future and the near future at that - within the lifetimes of many people here - a revolution comparable to or greater than the industrial revolution in both farming and industrial sectors.

The industrial revolution made huge changes in both farming and manufacturing sectors of the economy, but it left intact the idea that everyone has to work to live. The coming robot/AI/nanotech revolution may well make work obsolete, at least for all but a small fraction of the human population. After all, someone has to maintain the robots - for now. I see that fraction shrinking as self-maintenance becomes more and more common.

If you are reading this right now (2018 AD) then you are an enormously complex network of interacting nanomachines. Most of the time, they don't need maintenance, although there is a class of extremely expert maintenance personnel who take care of what maintenance needs doing; we call it the medical profession.

We will have the issue of what to do about the large majority of humanity who have nothing pressing to do. This issue is already causing a great many problems, with many people wanting to use out-of-date solutions. As robots take over more and more of the routine work and an increasing amount of the expert stuff, it is only going to get worse.

As for politics; well, a variant of the "benevolent dictator" method might well come into being. All hail our AI overlords!
 

Mirannan

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I disagree, not with the overall intent of your above message as I read it - that 'science' is amoral and that morality comes in by how scientific knowledge is used by people (not necessarily scientists of course), which is another matter altogether....

but with this particular point you make:



From Wikipedia:

"Science is a systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions about the universe."

I'd say a science that cannot predict is not a science and therefore predictions are at the very core of it's philosophy. Predictions are a vital component of science. (As is a science that cannot be tested, although I may just allow ones that are theoretically possibly as testable ;))

I think I'm being pedantic, but it niggled! :D.
This is a discussion about what one means by "prediction". Science makes predictions along the lines of "change the experimental conditions in this way, or add chemical A to chemical B, and this will happen." This is not the same as predicting the future; although it is quite possible that what people do is deterministic, it is impossible to predict what a given human will do with precision, for reasons do do with incomplete information. It has also been proved impossible to predict the weather in detail more than maybe three months in advance, if one is lucky; see "chaos theory".
 

Justin Swanton

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'Science' is a very woolly word. We need to subdivide it. I come up with three categories: science, scientific ideology, and scientists.

Science as pure and simple science is like mathematics. It's the use of investigative techniques, many of them hi-tech, to better understand reality in an empirical way, i.e. effects that can be scientifically measured leading to causes that can also (sometimes) be scientifically measured. There's nothing wrong or right about this; it's just pure knowledge.

Scientific ideology however is something entirely different. By 'scientific ideology' I mean the attitude that everything can be understood and explained purely and exclusively in terms of physical causes. There's no room in this outlook for any kind of reality that can't be scientifically evaluated, that is, put under a microscope or in a test tube. Hence any line of argumentation that deduces the existence of a God from the nature of the physical universe is automatically rejected since God cannot be measured by scientific instruments. It's an attitude, not a scientific conclusion, since logically it is quite possible to posit effects that have for cause an immaterial being that can't be physically studied. I'm not wandering into religion here, just pointing out an attitude that just assumed from the outset, not scientifically demonstrated.

Then there are scientists. Scientists are fallible human beings hence quite capable of speculation that isn't founded on incontrovertible facts. Dont forget that most scientists are specialists - competent in their narrow fields of knowledge but as ignorant as the next man about lines of scientific enquiry that are dissimilar to their own. So one scientist can make assumptions based in insufficient evidence, publish it in a paper, and the scientific community simply takes it at face value. It is possible that other scientists in that specialist field may challenge the first scientist's affirmations, but that does not inevitably follow, especially if his conclusions endorse the scientific ideology mentioned above. Also he may have followed a long and possibly expensive investigative process that isn't easy for fellow scientists to duplicate, or may have put forward physical evidence that no-one thinks to check. Remember the Piltdown Man? (again, I'm not wandering into a debate on Evolution, just showing how easy it is to perpetrate a scientific fraud)

Edit: Today I think it's more a case of conclusions based on insufficient evidence rather than outright fraud. A real scientist should have no hesitation saying the words "I don't know."
 
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Vertigo

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I disagree, not with the overall intent of your above message as I read it - that 'science' is amoral and that morality comes in by how scientific knowledge is used by people (not necessarily scientists of course), which is another matter altogether....

but with this particular point you make:



From Wikipedia:

"Science is a systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions about the universe."

I'd say a science that cannot predict is not a science and therefore predictions are at the very core of it's philosophy. Predictions are a vital component of science. (As is a science that cannot be tested, although I may just allow ones that are theoretically possibly as testable ;))

I think I'm being pedantic, but it niggled! :D.
This is a discussion about what one means by "prediction". Science makes predictions along the lines of "change the experimental conditions in this way, or add chemical A to chemical B, and this will happen." This is not the same as predicting the future; although it is quite possible that what people do is deterministic, it is impossible to predict what a given human will do with precision, for reasons do do with incomplete information. It has also been proved impossible to predict the weather in detail more than maybe three months in advance, if one is lucky; see "chaos theory".
Yes I take your point @Venusian Broon but @Mirannan has nicely qualified my somewhat ambiguous use of the word prediction. I did not make it clear that I was using it in the sense of predicting the future rather than predicting the outcome of an experiment as part of the scientific process.
 

Dave

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OK, but I'm still wondering what you are picturing when you say "Dark Ages".
I am still waiting on this from Baylor too. I don't think anyone can answer the question until then. They were "dark" as in the "absence of light" because we didn't know very much about them. We know more now, and as sknox says he is a medieval scholar, he would know much more than I.

I still don't agree with Justin Swanton that technology has run its course, or that we need to separate "scientific ideology" either. Technology has not climaxed, nor has it run out of steam. We are hitting natural resource limits though, and these may be our downfall. I do agree with Justin on some of what he says though:

If by the Dark Ages you mean the post-Roman world of the 5th century onwards then it wasn't actually that dark... ...the peasants knew about soap (and the sun did shine sometimes).
By "dark," people also sometimes mean that they were pre-Renaissance, pre-Reformation and pre-The Age of Enlightenment. These changes brought about freedom to think, freedom to worship, and free will. Only after those changes could Science flourish in the way we know now.

So, if by "dark", Baylor means taking away those freedoms, and ideals such as liberty, tolerance, fraternity, constitutional government and a separation of church and state, well yes, we could very easily return to that kind of society based instead upon religious dogma, superstition, intolerance, authoritarian government. I'd say that the last year and a half has already started to take us down that Orwellian road, but I'm not allowed to say any more.
 

Venusian Broon

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My view of what Baylor means by 'dark ages' is, simply put, a period of time where there are very significant demographic, technological, cultural and economic deteriorations in a large-scale society/(s).

The one that comes to mind first is the collapse of the Western Roman Empire in the fifth century, but one can also point to the late Bronze age collapse circa 1200 BCE happening to the peoples around the Mediterranean basin and the middle East. There are, for example, a great many archaeological findings that show how much European society regressed technologically and how commercial output disappeared in many areas, after the W. Roman Empire dissolved (pottery for example). I am sure we can point many others throughout the world (the decline of the great civilisation of the Maya in the 9th Century, must also qualify, I feel.)

In all of the cases above I'm sure, as you've put @Dave , that the 'dark' officially refers to the fact that as part of this deterioration, writing and record-keeping almost entirely disappeared. Hence, after 'golden' periods where we have had 'illumination' of what societies were doing, from reading the words and thoughts of people of the time, there were then none (or very little). We may guess more about what happened then, because archaeological and other techniques are improving* and are telling us more about findings from those times...but these are generally indirect findings.

In ages past, separate areas of the globe could go into decline - other parts could be simultaneously booming. As Western Europe went through it's dark age in the fifth to 10th century, China was flourishing. The scary thought, I suppose, is that today everywhere is connected to everywhere else. Every economy and government, our knowledge and communications networks as well, whether you like it or not, are connected together in ways that have never occurred before in history. A true dark age now, would likely impact everyone at the same time.

------------------------------------------

*and perhaps we find more written material from that period, if you are lucky!
 

Elventine

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Speaking as a scientist not quite sure what you are getting at Elventine. Could you perhaps give some specific examples of this?
Well, let's see -

Forging results? Smudged data?

How Many Scientists Fabricate and Falsify Research? A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Survey Data

This scientist nearly went to jail for making up data

Stanford researchers uncover patterns in how scientists lie about their data

False positives: fraud and misconduct are threatening scientific research

So how am I to believe anything any scientist says unless I can see the actuality of it?

Which leads to your comments Vertigo -

Yes I'm also not sure what you mean. Science is not political; it just is. Scientists make discoveries. If one scientist decides a discovery is too dangerous there's no way they can 'hide' it; sooner or later another scientist will make the same discovery. Scientists just uncover the realities of the universe we live in, others may then do damage with that knowledge but the scientists can't be blamed for that.

Science has an ideal that it has not yet reached and won't reach while it is held in the hands of those with a very squggy sense of ethics - because that is what science is lacking - basic ethics and any form of ethical standards. Until they get some I hold everything that they (scientists) say at arm's length and yes because of that lack of ethics science is very political.

What is or isn't proven or what the latest study shows about climate change or other important things has a political effect and people use this to their advantage.

This I suppose you will say has little to do with the scientists but it has everything to do with scientist because scientists can and have and will continue to be bought. It has happened before - personal ethics go out the window when an opportunity or that next great discovery comes along. This is how we have gained some of humanities worst weapons and other things best not used by anyone. History is littered with the unethical achievements of science and so I see no reason to not, not trust a word any of them say now unless they can actually show me in a practical experiment the results.

Then we get to some of the most important problems with science and why we should always view it with some degree of "Is it really?" -

'Science' is a very woolly word. We need to subdivide it. I come up with three categories: science, scientific ideology, and scientists.

Science as pure and simple science is like mathematics. It's the use of investigative techniques, many of them hi-tech, to better understand reality in an empirical way, i.e. effects that can be scientifically measured leading to causes that can also (sometimes) be scientifically measured. There's nothing wrong or right about this; it's just pure knowledge.

Scientific ideology however is something entirely different. By 'scientific ideology' I mean the attitude that everything can be understood and explained purely and exclusively in terms of physical causes. There's no room in this outlook for any kind of reality that can't be scientifically evaluated, that is, put under a microscope or in a test tube. Hence any line of argumentation that deduces the existence of a God from the nature of the physical universe is automatically rejected since God cannot be measured by scientific instruments. It's an attitude, not a scientific conclusion, since logically it is quite possible to posit effects that have for cause an immaterial being that can't be physically studied. I'm not wandering into religion here, just pointing out an attitude that just assumed from the outset, not scientifically demonstrated.

Then there are scientists. Scientists are fallible human beings hence quite capable of speculation that isn't founded on incontrovertible facts. Dont forget that most scientists are specialists - competent in their narrow fields of knowledge but as ignorant as the next man about lines of scientific enquiry that are dissimilar to their own. So one scientist can make assumptions based in insufficient evidence, publish it in a paper, and the scientific community simply takes it at face value. It is possible that other scientists in that specialist field may challenge the first scientist's affirmations, but that does not inevitably follow, especially if his conclusions endorse the scientific ideology mentioned above. Also he may have followed a long and possibly expensive investigative process that isn't easy for fellow scientists to duplicate, or may have put forward physical evidence that no-one thinks to check. Remember the Piltdown Man? (again, I'm not wandering into a debate on Evolution, just showing how easy it is to perpetrate a scientific fraud)

Edit: Today I think it's more a case of conclusions based on insufficient evidence rather than outright fraud. A real scientist should have no hesitation saying the words "I don't know."
The bolded text is why science always fails itself at the end - it views any and all knowledge gained at any one point as all of the knowledge it needs - the fact that this thing is like this today must mean that it was and always will be like that and it negatively impacts our world and us. Take nuclear power - at one point it was deemed safe enough for children to play with - simply because they had yet to see the effects. Science is blinded by it's own limited worldview but it also takes a lot to change that worldview when someone does pause to question the "Proven results".

Yet what is "proven" is rarely and basically never the actuality of reality.

This perception (and it is a perception) of the flaws in science is also not helped by sciences need to show off - instead of making sure or even leaving room for a questioning of its results everything that is at this moment "proven" is taken and shown as the truth and the only truth. Which shows how stupid science can be because in it's limitedness it is going against its own ideals.

So yeah. Science as a whole has made its own mess and it needs to start fixing its issues if it really wants to once again be taken seriously.
 

Montero

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Well, yes, some individuals and some corporations do fudge stuff or make exaggerated claims - however the concept of the peer reviewed journal is a key check and balance. I don't know if you are familiar with it but this is how it works.

1. A scientist or scientists do some research and write a paper on it, which has a summary, methodology of the experiments (types of equipment used, how it was calibrated), the results - tables of data and graphs, discussion of the implications of this and conclusions. Generally there are references to other such papers in the field.
2. The paper is sent to a journal. The journal editor will send it out to one or more reviewers who are scientists working in the same field at different institutions from the first scientists.
3. These peer reviewers read the paper, comment on it for ease of comprehension, accuracy of theories referenced, quality and quantity of data and whether or not the data justifies the conclusions drawn. They may also repeat a subset of the experiments to see if they get the same results (within the stated error margins) of the original researchers.
4. The reports from the peer reviewers are sent back to the editor of the journal, and depending on the type of comments the editor will either schedule the paper for publication, or send it back to the submitter with the comments from the peer reviewers and will then wait for it to be re-submitted with corrections, further supporting data or whatever else is required.
5. This cycle can easily take a year.
6. When a paper is published in a peer reviewed journal, other scientists in the field will read it, may also repeat an experiment, or in some way use it in their own research. They may then write papers which reference that paper.

I have on occasion seen published papers heavily criticised by other research groups and the publicly published ding dong can last years.

These scientific journals are available to buy from the publishers and there will be copies in University research departments, University libraries and the Science Reference Library at High Holborn. In my day you could walk in the SRL for free and read any paper. Generally people write to the SRL for copies of a particular paper and a photocopy is posted. Any University will not have every copy of every journal - it is too expensive - but they will have access to online search machines and you can order individual papers pertinent to your research that way.

The scientific literature goes back to the days of Newton. You can read Newton's papers on gravity in the Royal Society journal published at that time. Rigorous science is based on making accurate information publicly available, and questioning it. So things change with time. As a chemist I am familiar with the theory of phlogiston - which was overtaken by scientific experiment showing the existence of oxygen and how combustion really works.
 

sknox

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I won't try to guess at what BAYLOR meant. I will, however, take some issue with the usual portrayal of the Dark Ages and of the collapse of the Roman Empire. The adjective "dark" is pejorative and for some specific reasons. The "collapse" of the Empire is flat out wrong, as a number of scholars have demonstrated. The two topics are related.

That's why I asked for a clarification. The OP was, imo, an attempt to wonder whether something might happen in the future akin to what had happened in the past, but that past never happened. The speculation rests on false assumptions. The Empire persisted in a variety of ways, to varying degrees, long after Odoacar strangled poor Romulus Augustulus. In many ways the crisis of the third century was more wrenching than that of the fifth. The sixth was probably still worse, not because of barbarians but because of other Romans (the Byzantines). Anyway, there's a whole literature on this.

That the perception about the Dark Ages persists has more to do with modern mythology than historical reality.

But I hold the core assumption to be wrong. The past is no predictor of the future, Harry Seldon notwithstanding. We keep wanting it to be, because humans love to have something to blame. But modern society is profoundly different from pre-modern, pre-industrial society, root and branch. Studying the past has all sorts of benefits, but they are the benefits of literature, not of science. We keep looking, trying to find the hidden pattern because we are obsessed by patterns. Heck, we see patterns in the stars at night, though we know it's but a trick of perspective and imagination. Astrology is not astronomy, and there are no predictions to be gained from scorpions in the sky.
 

Vertigo

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I will respond here but only once as otherwise we're going to derail this thread into something that will probably always remain two irreconcilable views.

I think your view of science and scientists has been coloured by a relatively small number of science scandals. In the report in your first link the conclusions are all low until they look at other scientist commenting on colleagues (which isn't too surprising in what can be a very competitive field) and frankly the number of respondents do not inspire me with the validity of the statistics. Also following on from @Montero comments on peer review, whilst I may of missed it, I could find no evidence of peer review of that particular paper.

I personally believe, based largely on pretty much every scientist I have ever known (which is quite a few though not a statistically large sample) and based on my personal view of the integrity of the majority of people I have ever met, that the vast majority of scientist have an extremely high level of both honesty and integrity. I think that it is very unfair to condemn all science and scientists based on those few that hit the headlines with one scandal or another.

The bolded text is why science always fails itself at the end - it views any and all knowledge gained at any one point as all of the knowledge it needs - the fact that this thing is like this today must mean that it was and always will be like that and it negatively impacts our world and us. Take nuclear power - at one point it was deemed safe enough for children to play with - simply because they had yet to see the effects. Science is blinded by it's own limited worldview but it also takes a lot to change that worldview when someone does pause to question the "Proven results".
Good scientist absolutely do not do this, my experience has been that most scientist say something along the lines of "this is our current best model of xxxx." It is generally the media that ignores this and reports all scientific announcements as the final word. And if you take your example of nuclear power, I think you'll find it was mainly governments that were trying to paint it as harmless not the scientists.
 

Parson

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As for freedom from the bondage of work; well, that doesn't imply "freedom" from work altogether. Many people work at jobs they would rather not be doing but continue to do them because they need the earnings to live. But that doesn't necessarily have to stay the way of the world forever; fictional examples of post-scarcity societies abound, and some non-fiction futurist writers have joined that game as well.
I suspect that a "post-scarcity" world is about as likely as FTL. --- Not quite impossible, but maintaining worse odds than your single Powerball ticket containing all the winning Powerball numbers. But even if that does come to be, there will always be work that needs to be done which will be seen by most members of the given society as "beneath contempt."

but the kind of work that is not as fun or fulfilling as we would want it to to be - check out the link in my previous post.
I did look at the link at the beginning. Looked to be a 14+ min music video, so I clicked off. And I will admit to being prejudiced here. I have a job I thoroughly enjoy doing, and would likely do most of it without being paid. My Dad was a farmer and he too got great pleasure from doing his work well often for starvation "wages." But, I still believe that a lot of people find more fulfillment in their vocation than their avocation. I think "work" is engrained in most of us and would be rapidly bored without it.

Good scientist absolutely do not do this, my experience has been that most scientist say something along the lines of "this is our current best model of xxxx." It is generally the media that ignores this and reports all scientific announcements as the final word. And if you take your example of nuclear power, I think you'll find it was mainly governments that were trying to paint it as harmless not the scientists.
As in so many cases, if you want to find where the lies abound, follow the money.
 

Mirannan

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I would like to say some more about science as I see it.

First, IMHO science has to do with making predictions (about the future, and I'll say more about that in a minute) about the specific effects of making a change in the environment - whether the environment in question is a controlled one such as a glass flask or an uncontrolled one like an open field - and then testing them by doing an experiment and seeing what happens. Unfortunately, what one is testing is just one factor among dozens and then statistics comes into the process. Statistical methods necessitate various precautions to get clean results, such as elimination of conscious or unconscious bias (double-blind controlled experiments, in the medical/biological field) and such error-creators as the placebo effect; one very common error often found in even published work is too small a sample size. The statistical methods themselves need to be used carefully; choosing the right sort of average, for example.

All of which means that doing science on one-off events is chancy at best. The least important reason is that one-off events are often unpredictable and so the right sort of instruments might not be available.

Some more: The experiment might be impossible for reasons of ethics; many possible medical experiments come into this category. It might be impossible because there is no possibility of a control. IMHO climate science comes into this category because we don't have a spare Earth (and Sun!) to use as a control. And, again IMHO, predicting something that has already happened is also usually worthless. It is unlikely that bias can be kept out, because the actual result is already well and widely known, and also accurate data might not be available because the instruments to gain such data did not exist. IMHO both of these problems apply to climate prediction.

However, all this does not mean that climate prediction is worthless - but the results are nowhere near as clear-cut as some would have us believe. The models might have left something out, and probably have. Some unforeseen factor might crop up to make the models useless. (An example might be a major meteor impact or supervolcano eruption, in the case of climate.)

And just one more thing: Experimenter bias, whether ideologically or financially based. A reasonably well known example is drug trials. The usual standard used in statistics is a 95% confidence level, meaning that in 19 out of 20 repeats of the experiment the results will support whatever conclusion was drawn. Unfortunately, there is no legal requirement (and even if there was, it's unenforceable) to publish negative results. So if the drug you're testing comes out as useless in a trial? Then simply repeat it until random chance gives the result you want - and that's the run you publish. Climate science (on both sides of the argument!) is probably another example.

Perhaps unfortunately, scientists are people - who can make errors, can be and probably are biased, are subject to various pressures and might even be dishonest. (Shock horror! :eek::eek:)
 

Dave

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Just to add to the rebuttal of Elventine's comments, I would say the proof of the system working lies in her own links - in that scientists who falsify data are discovered, shamed and likely don't ever work again. The problem with climate data is that we cannot ever measure historical temperatures so we rely on proxies. Manipulation of one set of data to compare it with a different set of data is not falsifying data. How you convert that data into temperatures, using some algorithm, is not an exact science, and it is open to different interpretations. Even so, the checks and balances of peer review work just the same way for that too.

As for scientists being bought, you would need to clarify. I think you mean that research is financed and paid for by big companies and governments. So, yes, that does determine the fields of research, but whatever a scientist believes, or even hopes, to find, he is still bound by the results he actually finds. If you need a good example of how this works in practise, the study of the effects of Acid Rain on plants during the 1970's is a good example. Scientists working in labs being paid for by the Central Electricity Generating Board (who created SO2 pollution) would counter those of other researchers. If you follow the research papers there was a great game being played between them, as one would find some small variable that the other had not included in an earlier experiment, and conclude that the previous research was flawed. It isn't a question of ethics. It is totally ethical, each researcher believed in what they were doing, and their results were correct up until the point they were disproved. This is exactly how science is supposed to work. A hypothesis is a kind of prediction, the experiment is designed to prove it, and the results confirm or deny it. However, the results are only as accurate as the experimental design.

The conclusions are always open to further question and modification and further experimentation. No scientist has ever said, that's it, that's the truth, I'm out of here. The idea of true and false, black and white, yes and no, those come partly from journalists who don't understand science, and partly because our laws, and governmental systems cannot deal with grey areas, or of being unsure about something. Courts bring in scientists as expert witnesses and pit them against other scientists as expert witnesses in a confrontational manner. That is not how science works, it is how a court works.
 

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A couple of observations from a retired scientist:

1: Faking data is the ultimate sin - do it and get caught, expect to be hung, drawn and quartered. Making the accusation is another thing entirely - you have to be very, very, VERY sure, because faking data is the ultimate sin and no-one takes it lightly.

2: Scientist make mistakes - bad experiment, faulty equipment, or whatever, but the important thing is to report what was observed. Mistakes can be picked apart, explained and understood. Fake data is a disaster in the scientific community. If you're trying to recreate someone else's results and can't, pretty much the last assumption you make is fake data.

3: In spite of all of that, it does happen. Just like company CEOs fake their financial data, and help crash the world economy. Ditto bankers. And there's no shortage of news reports of dodgy accountants fiddling the books. Frankly, the thing that stands out for me is that scientific fraud is rare.

4: Faking data is the ultimate sin. Yes, I know I said that already. It's worth saying again!
 

BAYLOR

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A couple of observations from a retired scientist:

1: Faking data is the ultimate sin - do it and get caught, expect to be hung, drawn and quartered. Making the accusation is another thing entirely - you have to be very, very, VERY sure, because faking data is the ultimate sin and no-one takes it lightly.

2: Scientist make mistakes - bad experiment, faulty equipment, or whatever, but the important thing is to report what was observed. Mistakes can be picked apart, explained and understood. Fake data is a disaster in the scientific community. If you're trying to recreate someone else's results and can't, pretty much the last assumption you make is fake data.

3: In spite of all of that, it does happen. Just like company CEOs fake their financial data, and help crash the world economy. Ditto bankers. And there's no shortage of news reports of dodgy accountants fiddling the books. Frankly, the thing that stands out for me is that scientific fraud is rare.

4: Faking data is the ultimate sin. Yes, I know I said that already. It's worth saying again!
We're getting off topic a bit.:unsure:
 

Mirannan

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A couple of observations from a retired scientist:

1: Faking data is the ultimate sin - do it and get caught, expect to be hung, drawn and quartered. Making the accusation is another thing entirely - you have to be very, very, VERY sure, because faking data is the ultimate sin and no-one takes it lightly.

2: Scientist make mistakes - bad experiment, faulty equipment, or whatever, but the important thing is to report what was observed. Mistakes can be picked apart, explained and understood. Fake data is a disaster in the scientific community. If you're trying to recreate someone else's results and can't, pretty much the last assumption you make is fake data.

3: In spite of all of that, it does happen. Just like company CEOs fake their financial data, and help crash the world economy. Ditto bankers. And there's no shortage of news reports of dodgy accountants fiddling the books. Frankly, the thing that stands out for me is that scientific fraud is rare.

4: Faking data is the ultimate sin. Yes, I know I said that already. It's worth saying again!
Fair enough. But the statistical issue I mentioned is certainly possible. Faking data is not quite the same as being selective about which data set you use. BTW, from my limited reading into the subject historical climate data has been subjected to the same selectivity.
 

Mirannan

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I suspect that a "post-scarcity" world is about as likely as FTL.
Possibly, but consider: Many systems currently in existence supply useful goods without any input of human effort needed except gathering the goodies. You don't believe that? Well, ever gone blackberry-picking?

I see no reason why a sufficiently sophisticated nanotech system should not be able to produce useful goods at similar cost; air, sunshine and water. (OK, a small supply of soluble minerals too.) Sure, God has four billion years of design time on us, but on the other hand He might not have had an end in mind; else brambles wouldn't have so many thorns!

And actually, from the point of view of nutrition blackberries are far more complex than necessary. After all, each blackberry has a couple of dozen complete copies of the blackberry plant genome inside it, for a start.

(I chose blackberries because it's a food that is still wild-gathered fairly often, even in sophisticated Western societies. Mushroom-picking might be another example, but a bit more chancy - I wouldn't try it, but that's a skill/information issue.)

One more example: Earth produces, with no human input at all, billions of tons per year of reasonably efficient solar energy collectors. They are commonly called leaves.
 

Dave

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We're getting off topic a bit.:unsure:
Not until you clarify what you mean by "dark ages." If you mean that a catastrophic event leads to us losing all recorded information and the ability to maintain our present level of technology, then it is off topic. However, if we are going to willingly destroy our technological capability by no longer believing in science (arctic researchers have had their citations removed) and by banning scientists from using certain words, or if we burn books, persecute independent thinking, and rewrite history then I want to correct people who are already saying that scientists cannot be believed, because to allow it truly would be the start of a dark age.
 
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