Don’t Assume Science and Reality Are Equivalent

first_imgScientists and philosophers have questioned for centuries if science is a true reflection of reality. Most just assume it is.Last week, Science Magazine reviewed a book that shook up the science world in 1979: Laboratory Life: The Social Construction of Scientific Facts, by Bruno Latour and Steve Woolgar. In his review titled “Arbiters of truth, then and now,” Joseph Swift re-introduced a question that has dogged science for centuries, even as far back as Plato and Aristotle: is science an accurate reflection of external reality?The question seems absurd to many people. Of course it is, they assume, rattling off a list of technological innovations that sprang from science: refrigerators (confirming thermodynamics), space heaters (confirming electrodynamics), lasers (confirming quantum theory), and atom bombs (confirming relativity and atomic theory). Why even doubt that science reflects reality? The question is much more nuanced than initial impressions suppose.Surprisingly, Swift readily acknowledges the problem. In their 1979 book, when “social construction” theory was rising, Latour and Woolgar doubted whether cell biologists were “discovering” reality instead of “manufacturing” it. They observed scientists at the Scripps Institute and how they worked. Basically, Latour and Woolgar turned scientists into their lab rats. Swift says,During his time in Guillemin’s lab, Latour noticed the defining role that language played in bringing well-hidden facts to light. He argued that it was not the experiment per se but the scientist’s interpretation of an experiment’s result that made phenomena real.Latour watched how scientists debated and discussed their “findings.” He concluded that the point where scientists reached a consensus appeared arbitrary. Naturally, “Scientists found this troubling.” The social constructionists began deconstructing not only science, but art and literature, claiming that what these experts said was not truth but interpretation. After the social construction movement was spent, scientists dug in with a return to “scientific realism” that assumed that their work accurately reflects reality, and that is the situation largely today, even though the postmodernism spawned in the 1970s and 1980s survives in cultural contexts.Pragmatism Is Not RealityThe philosophers of science, however, were not convinced. They remind scientists of a long history of doubt about science and the nature of reality by leading scientists and philosophers. Logical positivism, a strong attempt to equate science with reality, failed in the 1930s. One problem is that something may “work” without being “True” with a capital T. You can treat light as a particle in one experiment, and it works. You can treat it as a wave in another experiment, and that works. But what is light? To this day, after decades of quantum theory and nuclear physics, we don’t know. Scientists take “wave/particle duality” as a given, but do not understand it. Many other things in science are useful but not necessarily true. Pragmatism is not the same as realism.Science Is HistoricalIn addition, science has an intrinsic historicity. Did the neutron exist before it was discovered? While the intuitive answer is, “Yes, of course; it was there all the time,” scientific objects do not exist until they are defined, and there was no definition of a neutron, or an electron, or a neutrino, until those particles were defined by the theory that incorporated them to explain certain observations. People oblivious to neutrons in the 19th century and prior were very comfortable with their concept of reality in their day, but was it true? Phlogiston was “real” until it was overturned by oxygen theory. Newton’s concepts of space, mass and time were not just improved on by Einstein, but replaced. The Ptolemaic system was real until it was replaced by the Copernican system, even though Ptolemy’s system worked for most human needs throughout its 1,500-year tenure. Here’s the lesson for us: We don’t know how many theories scientists believe in today are ripe for replacement in the future. The concepts of a “gene” or a “species” are ones to watch.Occult ForcesAnother issue is that science routinely deals with unobservable realities, like black holes, the interiors of stars, the core of the Earth, dark matter and dark energy, and much more. Some of these are placeholders for ignorance, because they work for the consensus paradigm of the day. Einstein famously inserted a fudge factor, the Cosmological Constant, into his equations, in order to maintain the static universe he believed in at the time. He called that the biggest mistake of his life. But later, the Cosmological Constant made another appearance within a different paradigm.Looking back at Latour’s bombshell book about the “social construction” of science, Swift ends with this optimistic opinion:Forty years after its publication, Laboratory Life remains prescient in its ability to encourage scientists to see that descriptions of reality and reality itself are not the same thing. The gap that separates the two can, however, be made smaller by good science. While we may never touch reality, we can certainly get very close.Thus Swift acknowledges that science and reality are not the same. But what is “good science”? How can the scientist reach outside the theory in order to judge that it is good? Swift is just whistling a cheerful tune in the dark here.Realism About RealityJames Zimring is less optimistic in his new book, What Science Is and How It Really Works, which he introduces in The Scientist. Although he is a practicing scientist, he is well aware of the pitfalls of “affirming the consequent,” a logical fallacy that assumes the effect of a cause is the true cause. Examples of scientists misled by this fallacy are legion. Zimring acknowledges, “scientific theories are always underdetermined by the available data.”This is not “ivory-tower semantics,” Zimring asserts, as he gives examples of both good and bad predictions that were assumed to identify real causes. Like Swift, Zimring doesn’t want to give fodder to the “anti-science rhetoric” in social media, but but he insists we have to face the ‘reality’ that science is not necessarily about truth. He concludes,One could argue that we live in a time of sound bites and simplicity that cannot tolerate nuanced thinking. If scientists don’t bang the gong of “truth,” then it may only hasten the dismissal of science as just another opinion. However, I would argue that this position does not give the intended audience enough credit, and that claiming absolute truth ultimately does more harm than good, not only for the interface of science with the public, but for the practice of science. If data are sacrosanct to the sciences, then let us embrace the historical data on science itself.An excerpt of Zimring’s book has been posted separately on The Scientist. In it, Zimring discusses examples of “phantom entities” (what we called “occult forces” and “unobservable reality” above) that “never have existed at all, other than the idea of them.” Zimring accuses today’s science of having its own phlogistons. One cannot use the success of a theory, he says, to judge it is correct in the sense of absolutely true.One of the very worst occult forces in science today is Natural Selection. It explains everything; therefore it must be true, evolutionary biologists insist. We have shown over and over that NS is a vacuous concept, a tautology, equivalent to the Stuff Happens Law (e.g., Nov 14-15, 2019). Think about it as you read Zimring’s articles.If you are interested in exploring more of the science-vs-reality debate, I have found great value in the course “Science Wars: What Scientists Know and How They Know It” by Steven Goldman (Lehigh U), offered by The Teaching Company. In 24 half-hour lectures, Goldman traces the debate from the Greeks to the present day, and exhibits detailed knowledge of theories in astronomy, relativity, quantum theory and much more, from which he draws many examples. You’ll learn a lot about the history of science, and find out at the end why the debate is not resolved, and probably never will be. Note: The course is frequently on sale, and MP3 download is sufficient for most people.One caution: Goldman gives a bad review of Intelligent Design in lecture 23, showing his bias, but in so doing violates some of the very principles he taught in earlier lectures! For instance, he agrees there are no criteria for separating science from pseudoscience, but then claims that scientists are qualified to decide what is science. That is absurd; they are among the least qualified to do so, since many of them are highly invested in their own paradigms, and have never studied philosophy of science. There is an upside to listening to him, though; it can be an exercise in practicing the baloney-detecting skills you have learned here at CEH. (For more rebuttal, you can buy the lecture series on Intelligent Design by Michael Behe, Goldman’s colleague at Lehigh. Behe responds in detail to many of the criticisms against ID.) 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LoveLife to empower SA youth

first_imgFrom left: DED’s Jürgen Wilhelm, loveLife CEO Grace Matlhape, and Khanyisile Kweyama, Barloworld’s group executive for human resources and transformation, listen to a youngster relating his loveLifeexperience. (Image: Janine Erasmus) MEDIA CONTACTS• Fareed MohammedLoveLife public relationsTel +27 11 523 1000• Rebecca Morgan Barloworld media relationsTel +27 11 445 1333 USEFUL LINKS • LoveLife • Barloworld • Deutscher Entwicklungsdienst • Volunteer Service Enquiry Southern Africa RELATED ARTICLES• Loving life, fighting Aids • HIV-Aids in South Africa • Social development in South AfricaJanine ErasmusNational youth HIV prevention programme loveLife has signed a new partnership with the German Development Service (Deutscher Entwicklungsdienst or DED) and major South African corporate Barloworld.Lovelife’s new initiative named Connected! will be the main beneficiary of the partnership.Connected! is a strategy aimed at the thousands of young South Africans who possess leadership potential but have no chance to develop it.Barloworld has given a grant of US$120 000 (R1-million), to be spread over three years. DED will match the first year’s portion.DED director-general Jürgen Wilhelm, present at the signing with several other dignitaries, applauded the new initiative and the opportunities for development that it presented.“The DED believes that our support of innovative approaches to HIV prevention, such as this one, is key to halting the spread of the disease,” said Wilhelm. He added that the organisation was delighted to be able to contribute, through its association with loveLife, to this exciting new national strategy.Since it seeks to groom a new generation with a new outlook on life and renewed sense of responsibility, said Wilhelm, Connected! would serve as an example to the international community, especially within the Southern African region.Local innovatorsDr David Harrison, former loveLife CEO and now consultant and Connected! project manager, was confident that the initiative would fulfil its five-year goal of building bridges between mainstream South African society and the country’s poor communities.Explaining the three-part Connected! strategy, Harrison said the first step is the establishment of the network that will provide a platform for youth to make their ideas known. “Let their voices be heard, but in a way that is constructive and problem-solving, instead of just angry,” he commented.The second task is to change the mindsets of the youth so they see themselves less as recipients of public redress, and more as local innovators among their people.Lastly, the young innovators will be linked to opportunities. This, said Harrison, is what differentiates Connected! from a number of other leadership programmes, which often only benefit those who already have access to opportunities.“In this way they will show their peers that corruption and graft are not the only ways to get ahead,” said Harrison, “and that a risky lifestyle is simply not acceptable”.LoveLife CEO Grace Matlhape agreed, saying that many young people put themselves at risk not because they are ignorant, but because they feel they have little reason to protect themselves.“We hope to contribute to building leaders who will be inspired to work towards their dream, but will also serve the community and go on to find their place in the world,” said Matlhape.Breaking new groundConnected! will draw on youth who have participated in loveLife’s two volunteer leadership programmes, groundBREAKER and mpintshi (isiZulu, meaning friend), explained Harrison.GroundBREAKERs are the 18- to 25-year-olds who are already familiar with the loveLife mission and vision, have experience in mobilising their communities for good, and in many cases have become local leaders.To date, almost 10 000 youth have graduated from the one-year service programme.In addition, more than 20 000 youngsters between the ages of 12 and 25 have completed training as mpintshis, assisting their groundBREAKER team leader in implementing programmes in schools, clinics and community-based organisations.According to a 2008 survey conducted by Volunteer Service Enquiry Southern Africa, groundBREAKER graduates are powerful advocates for change, are tremendously positive about working with their communities, and often go on to hold leadership roles in community organisations.Furthermore, the survey revealed that groundBREAKERs have better prospects of education and employment. About 60% have found employment or started their own businesses. And almost 50% have enrolled in tertiary studies, compared with the national average of 30% of young people who study after matriculation.With careful nurturing, the partners believe, these will be the leaders of the future. By putting them in touch with an ever-growing country-wide network of similar-minded people, Connected! aims to encourage about 5 000 of these potential young leaders, located mainly in marginalised communities, to become public innovators.At the same time the programme will boost their management, analytical and innovation skills, giving them the tools to address pressing issues in their communities.Do you have queries or comments about this article? Contact Janine Erasmus at [email protected]last_img read more

Hollard commits to South African children

first_imgThe insurance group recently increased its annual contribution to the Hollard Foundation from R10-million to R15-million and more of its resources have been dedicated to supporting early childhood development (ECD) initiatives.South Africa’s infant mortality rate is 30 in every 1 000, and the private sector is ramping up its efforts to help realise the intention of the National Development Plan (NDP) to bring this number down.The NDP seeks to reduce the rate of infant mortality by a third, bringing it down to 20 in 1 000, by partnering with the private sector and bringing resources and skills to where they are needed most.In the wake of a donation by the Carte Blanche Making a Difference Trust of two state-of-the-art paediatric theatres to Frere Hospital in Eastern Cape, the number of children who are able to receive the treatment and care they need has increased dramatically.In bringing the facilities to this area and others like it countrywide, the trust has partnered with a number of organisations, such as the Hollard Foundation, an independent trust set up by the Hollard Insurance Group.“Hollard is committed to assisting government in achieving the goals set out in the National Development Plan”, said Nic Kohler, Hollard group chief executive. “We realise the importance for children and society of investing in a child’s foundation years – from birth to age nine – and so our (corporate social investment) focus is on the health, nutrition and education needs of children in this age group.“These children are now being afforded the chance of reaching their full potential in life – something Hollard is very passionate about.”The doors to the first dedicated paediatric facility in the region opened in October 2014; since then more than 300 children have received surgery. The waiting period for surgery has been cut by five months, and the chances of the children reaching adulthood have greatly increased.“These operating theatres not only allow us to save lives but also to improve the quality of the life of that child because we are intervening sooner,” said Frere Hospital chief executive Dr Rolene Wagner.COMMITMENT TO THE FUTUREThe insurance group recently increased its annual contribution to the Hollard Foundation from R10-million to R15-million and more of its resources have been dedicated to supporting early childhood development (ECD) initiatives.One such project is the Kago Ya Bana programme in Midvaal, the product of a partnership between the Midvaal Municipality and the Gauteng departments of social development and education.Kohler said his company hoped its efforts would help the government to serve its residents and fulfil its commitment to the terms of the Children’s Act. “In doing so, we hope to provide a blueprint for other municipalities to do the same, thereby leading to real, systemic change.“It is through public-private partnerships that we see the development of solutions to the challenges that our country faces… It is our mission to be a catalyst for positive and enduring change, using our influence to harness resources way beyond those which we directly control.”last_img read more

Shop Geocaching Newsletter – March 2012

first_img SharePrint RelatedShop Geocaching April 2012 NewsletterApril 2, 2012In “GeoTours”Houma Travel GeoTourFebruary 5, 2016In “Community”Inside Geocaching HQ Podcast Transcript (Episode 15): GeoToursJune 18, 2018In “Community” T-Shirt and Sticker of the Month! We like to keep our selection fresh at Shop Geocaching.  In order to do so, we’re implementing two exciting new programs.  First, if you’ve ordered in the last few weeks you may have noticed a little something extra with your order.  Each month, we’re going to release a new sticker that will be included free of charge with your order (while supplies last, of course).  Secondly, our creative team is working on some fun new designs for our new T-Shirt of the Month program.  Starting in March, we’ll be releasing a new design every month.  Like the stickers, these will only be available until supplies last.  If you think you have some brilliant ideas for shirt or sticker designs, please let us know!What’s New!This month, we’ve brought in several new items. Included are three versions of Maxpedition Packs – popular already with the caching community, these packs are perfect for carrying your caching essentials! Fun new shirts including our Challenges and Hamster Coffee Break designs have been added.  Also, check for the new versions of our Decon Cache Containers and the devious Fake Bolt Cache Container! See these items and more in our “What’s New” section! For orders outside the United States, please visit our International Distributors list.  They feature many of the same listings in our shop as well as unique geocaching items of their own.If you have any questions or suggestions on products for the website, please send us an email to [email protected] Caching from Groundspeak!Share with your Friends:Morelast_img read more

RockYou Hacker: 30% of Sites Store Plain Text Passwords

first_imgIn a chat today lasting over an hour, we got to talk to a person claiming to be the infamous hacker behind RockYou‘s latest data security woes.While he claimed to have no animosity toward users, he had one clear message for websites: Take better care of your customers’ data. RockYou isn’t the only hacked site storing plain text login information, either.What HappenedTo bring us all up to date, here’s the gist of the story so far: The hacker, who we’ll call Tom (not his real name) for brevity’s sake, tells us that he used an SQL injection to gain direct access to RockYou’s database, where he found login information for more than 32 million user accounts. The data was all in plain text and contained third-party site logins, as well.Tom sat on this information for a while. Although he’s posted about similar hacks in the past, he also claims to have exposed the same vulnerabilities and gained access to the same kind of data for many major U.S. sites. Tom wouldn’t reveal which sites he’d hacked, but he did say that he has no intention of using or publishing the data he’s unearthed.But yesterday, incensed by this warning from an Internet security company and RockYou’s claims that only some accounts had been compromised by the security breach, Tom posted about the hack on his blog.We (along with several of our peers) were tipped off to the situation via Twitter, and TechCrunch has since written twoposts about the data breach.Why This Is a Bad ThingOne of the more interesting facets of the story is RockYou’s failure to appropriately protect user’s login credentials. The hacker showed us an image containing the last few lines of a 32,603,388-line, seven-column dataset weighing in at 276 MB. All the data we saw was in plain text; any grade schooler could have used this information to log in to users’ accounts.“If you don’t store passwords for accounts, if somebody hacks you, what can he do? Deface your site. The end,” said Tom.“That’s nothing against 32 million emails with passwords. Count how many of them have PayPal. If I check every one, and only 10 percent of them have it, and I take only $10, it’s a pretty nice amount, don’t you think?”The hacker makes an excellent point with this object lesson, and he clearly holds RockYou and its ilk squarely at fault.Tom, who says he’s employed in a good security-related job, believes there should be laws requiring companies to encrypt user data. He said, “They are now hunting for me, but why? I didn’t do anything wrong. They should now be in jail because they put all of these people at risk. This was just for illustration.”What We Can All DoTom says that one out of every three sites he’s gained access to store user data in plain text databases. “Server owners can use third-party sites for authentications, like Facebook, Google, OpenID or OAuth.” he said. “Why the [redacted] would they want user passwords? I don’t understand that.”For websites, the hacker recommends using hashes with salt or PCI DSS to protect user data. He said that message-digest algorithm-5 (MD5) is an inadequate solution. As a case in point, check out this post we saw today on Slashdot. “If you’re storing it in MD5, it’s nothing… It’s no problem to use a GPU cracker, or better, a botnet of PS3s. I’ve got three at home.”As far as users are concerned, Tom said, “Companies are putting people at risk by storing their data that way. [Users] should use their brains and generate a strong password for each site. He noted that Roboform, PassPack and KeePass are all good tools for storing and maintaining passwords.For the time being, Tom said he plans to leave the RockYou data unpublished and allow his actions to serve as a warning to users and websites to take better care of their data and identities. 8 Best WordPress Hosting Solutions on the Market Top Reasons to Go With Managed WordPress Hosting Related Posts A Web Developer’s New Best Friend is the AI Wai…center_img Tags:#Analysis#NYT#web Why Tech Companies Need Simpler Terms of Servic… jolie odelllast_img read more

Civic body chief booked for abusing sweeper

first_imgThe municipality chairman of Sangod in Rajasthan’s Kota district has been booked for allegedly abusing and beating up a sweeper, who was carting away a cow’s carcass by dragging it with a tractor-trailer, police said on Sunday. The municipality chairman, Devkinandan Rathore, was booked under the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act on Saturday for beating up and abusing contractual sweeper Rajkumar Valmiki, said Station House Officer (SHO) Dhanraj Meena. Statements recordedPolice have launched an investigation into the matter and recorded the statements of Mr. Valmiki and the eyewitnesses, the SHO said, adding that no arrest had been made so far. Mr. Valmiki told police that he was taking the carcass away on Saturday afternoon by using a tractor-trailer as there was no other facility available to shift dead animals. When he was crossing a market area, Mr. Rathore reached the spot, hurled abuses and manhandled him, Mr. Meena said citing the sweeper’s statement . Video of incidentA video of the incident was uploaded on social media but police later removed it and blocked the video’s source, the SHO said. He said the matter had been handed over to Deputy Superintendent of Police Rameshwar Parihar for further investigation. Apparently, a cow vigilante had informed Mr. Rathore about Mr. Valmiki taking the cow’s carcass through the market.last_img read more

UNESCO adds reggae to global cultural heritage list

first_imgPort Louis, Nov 29 (AFP) Reggae music, whose chill, lilting grooves won international fame thanks to artists like Bob Marley, on Thursday secured a coveted spot on the United Nations’ list of global cultural treasures.UNESCO, the world body’s cultural and scientific agency, added the genre that originated in Jamaica to its collection of “intangible cultural heritage” deemed worthy of protection and promotion.”This is a historic day. We are very, very happy,” enthused Jamaica’s Culture Minister Olivia Grange, speaking by phone from Mauritius where the listings were announced.”Anywhere you go and say you’re from Jamaica, they answer ‘Bob Marley,'” said Grange, adding that the distinction “underscores the importance of our culture and our music, whose theme and message is ‘one love, togetherness and peace.'”UNESCO noted that while reggae started out as “the voice of the marginalised” it was “now played and embraced by a wide cross-section of society, including various genders, ethnic and religious groups”.Its “contribution to international discourse on issues of injustice, resistance, love and humanity underscores the dynamics of the element as being at once cerebral, socio-political, sensual and spiritual,” Paris-based UNESCO added in a statement.Reggae joins a list of cultural traditions that includes the horsemanship of the Spanish Riding School in Vienna, a Mongolian camel-coaxing ritual and Czech puppetry, among more than 300 other traditional practices.Jamaica applied for reggae’s inclusion this year at a meeting of the UN agency on the island of Mauritius, where 40 proposals were under consideration.They included Bahamian strawcraft, South Korean wrestling, the Irish sport of hurling and perfume making in the southern French city of Grasse.advertisementReggae emerged in the late 1960s out of Jamaica’s ska and rocksteady styles, also drawing influence from American jazz and blues.It quickly became popular in the United States as well as in Britain, where many Jamaican immigrants had moved in the post-WWII years.The style is often championed as a music of the oppressed, with lyrics addressing sociopolitical issues, imprisonment and inequality.Reggae also became associated with Rastafarianism, which deified the former Ethiopian emperor Haile Selassie and promoted the sacramental use of ganja, or marijuana.The 1968 single “Do the Reggay” by Toots and the Maytals was the first popular song to use the name.Marley and his group the Wailers then soared to fame on classic hits such as “No Woman, No Cry” and “Stir It Up”.Peter Tosh, a core member of the Wailers, established a successful solo career with hits including “Legalize It”, while Desmond Dekker also enjoyed international success with the song “Israelites”.Toots and the Maytals rose to prominence with “Pressure Drop” and Jimmy Cliff became an international sensation with “The Harder They Come,” also the title of a 1972 movie he starred in.The reggae sound, with its heavy bass lines and drums, has influenced countless artists and inspired many genres including reggaeton, dub and dancehall.The steady beats and smooth grooves have also proven key to hip-hop: Sister Nancy’s anthem “Bam Bam,” for example, has been heavily sampled by superstars like Kanye West, Lauryn Hill, Chris Brown and Jay-Z.The award will help “normalize reggae” which has always been a little marginalised on the world stage because of its “whiff of cannabis and libertarian revolt,” according to Jerome Levasseur, the director of the Bagnols Reggae festival in southern France.While largely symbolic, inclusion on the UNESCO cultural heritage list can serve to raise the profile of the country and the practice. (AFP) SCYSCYlast_img read more

Vitol Wants to Privatize Latvian Shipping Company

first_imgzoom Vitol Netherlands B.V., a majority shareholder in Latvian Shipping Company (LSC), has proposed to delist and sell 200 million bearer shares of the shipping company, listed on Nasdaq Riga.The proposal is set to be discussed at the extraordinary shareholder meeting scheduled for December 20, 2017.Vitol Netherlands acquired 19.62 percent of the total voting capital in LSC in June this year, bringing its total shareholding to 69.56 percent.Latvian Shipping Company returned to the black having posted a net profit of USD 13.08 million for the first nine months of this year.The recovery from last year’s loss of USD 19.33 million booked in the same period was driven mainly from the reversal of the fleet revaluation loss and profit from sale of non-core assets, the company said.The company has a fleet of 16 ships, including 12 MR product tankers and four Handysizes.last_img read more