Daily Links & Comments

@1 Amen! One should at least suspect [BS] when symbolism and other formal techniques that could easily be dispensed with without loss of rigor and with a great gain in readability are used anyway. Reminder: I have a sensitive spam filter. Link

@2 A plucky amateur dared to question a celebrated psychological finding. He wound up blowing the whole theory wide open. Link

@3 Under the Yeah, Sure heading. How 3,000 year age of empires was recreated by a simple equation: Scientists show how math can predict historical trends with 65% accuracy. Link

@4 Following close behind…Nearly 25 percent of Asia-Pacific men rapists: study. Link

@5 The Folly of Scientism. Link

Please prefix comments with “@X” to indicate which story you’re commenting on. I should hardly need to say that a link does not necessarily imply endorsement.


  1. commenting as a physicist, who has also done some reading in philosophy and the philosophy of science, I praise Austin Hughes’ article, “The Folly of Scientism”. He cuts Atkins, Dawkins, Smolin, Hawking down to size. There is no one more ignorant than a physicist who knows only physics and mathematics.

  2. DAV

    @2: Every once in a while a broken clock displays the correct time.

  3. @5…see also “The Limits of a Limitless Science” by Fr. Stanley Jaki and any of the more recent books of Keith Ward, one-time Regius Professor at Oxford.

  4. Scotian

    In some ways @1 is a rebuttal to @5 as in from the former:

    “What he does necessarily attempt to deceive us about is his enterprise. His only indispensably distinctive characteristic is that in a certain way he misrepresents what he is up to”. As good a description of charges of scientism as any.

    I understand your disillusionment Bob but you may be comparing your fellow physicists to a higher standard than you do others. I’m sure that there are many more ignorant people.

  5. Hey Scotian, thanks for your comment, I’m not sure I totally understand it. I don’t see how #1 rebuts #5, but possibly you could explain that. And if one engages in an enterprise (physics, say), one should know all that’s possible to know about the enterprise. If you do physics, you want to know where it works and where it doesn’t work. And if there are those who are ignorant of philosophy, that’s ok, as long as they don’t try to put forward philosophical truths.

  6. Scotian

    Hi Bob, if I explain it I might trip Briggs’ spam filter. Your preconditions for engaging in physics seem rather stringent and I doubt if anyone, past or present, could come close to fulfilling them. By this criteria we must all remain mute in physics, philosophy, and I suppose anything else.

  7. Scotian, I like your comment. “What I should have said” (as in discussions with my wife) is that physicists or scientists who pronounce on matters of philosophy and theology should undertake to see what’s been done before in those areas… You’re quite right, you don’t need to know philosophy to do physics. I didn’t know any philosophy when I was doing physics some 20 or 30 years ago, and the physics was OK.

  8. Ken

    FBI has studied indicators of deception for years–any benefits better than chance are very small. On average, increased eye-blink rates correlate with increased thinking about novel issues…but…sociopaths & narcissists are notorious for their unblinking gazes. Not to mention humidity effects, etc. Make of that what you will…

    REALLY INTERESTING: A small group did a pseudo-scientific eye-blink “study” (presumably on a napkin) some decades ago…they covertly measured eye-blink rates of nearby patrons in a restaurant & came up with an average blink rate. So armed they calculated the following:

    Driving at 55 mph for 100 miles the average person will have driven about seven miles with their eyes closed.

    Someone else calculated a significantly lower eyes-closed distance driven figure: http://thesquealingtire.com/blink-of-an-eye/

    Obviously, such amateur analyses are too variable to be truly meaningful and this important issue is best resolved by professionals subsidized with oodles of grant money who can calculate the averages to one-millionth of a second and whatever the correspondingly precise distance works out to be.

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