Saturday, October 8, 2011

I'm Condescending

It is true. I am here to confirm the widely spread (by me) rumor that I am in fact condescending.  I suppose I should slightly unpack that.  If you say something stupid, the first time I address it I may or may not be a gender-neutral naughty word here about it.  But the second time, not so much.

Why? Well, if it's something I'm taking my time to write back to one on, then it's on a matter that is owed some degree of intellectual pursuit.  Or I'm drunk. Or both.  Whatever. 

Oh, right. Small detail: if you can't get the little bits right, you should probably not be overly surprised when people who've been successfully graduated from (a non-public?) high school don't take your more 'refined' claims all that seriously.  For instance. You knew there would be one, right? After all, it's not like I just randomly blog about any old nothing! No, I blog about particular nothings. And here's one. Nothing exists outside of our minds.

It's a fair enough conversation to have if one wants to keep things out of the realm of science.  But A. Hughman is clearly not happy with that. So, we have, apparently, philosophy, science and poetry all in one. He makes mention that sound is a pressure wave in air. Well, more than that. It's a wave of pressure propagating through air which hits an eardrum. But more importantly it is interpreted by a brain. (and ultimately, dear readers, it's really about language) This is important because of the non-thought experiment asked in circles of self-styled sophisticates: if a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?  See. Well, Hear. Just ask yourself. Somewhere in the world a tree has just fallen. Did you hear it?

Apparently, you'll be happy to know, it doesn't.  You see hear, if there isn't a brain connected to an eardrum in the equation, the displacement of air actually doesn't happen when a tree falls. That being settled, you'll also be happy to know that color works the same way.  If there isn't an eye (and presumably a brain, though that part wasn't explicitly made a requirement) to see a given hue, it isn't there.

If Richard Feynman were still alive, I'd go kick him right in the nuts for filling my head with notions that it wasn't an antenna that made Moscow Radio exist, or that made the radio waves materialize. He lied to me saying that they were there the whole time. 

Fair-minded readers might take his first sentence or two at face value: he's not really saying that things stop existing if a brain isn't there in the mix. Rather, only, our ability to comment on them is absent. Clearly, I'm not so generous because, again, he undertakes to explain physics in this sketch of his. This means it's not a 'what-if' or 'gee-whiz' question, the likes of which a properly educated philosopher might think is a legitimate variety of question a respectable person can straight-faced ask in polite society. No, he's drawing this as a direct model of our actual universe. A statement of how information propagates through a 'sound' wave (through air!).

Why does this matter, and why do I care, or why should you?

He's not alone. This is the kind of routine, fundamental lack of education in mathematics and the sciences that infects the core of the 'skeptic' movement as regards people of a certain generation. Or rather, I should say, is the apparent core of that generation. The skeptically competent are too busy working in careers of import on matters of relevance. No longer burdened by such mind-straining dilemmas as whether a displacement wave continues to propagate in the absence of an eardrum and the brain to which it's attached, they've cloistered themselves in 'labs' at 'research facilities' where they 'study' slightly more complex problems about this universe of ours.

But 'we' don't hear you. You run obscurely popular blogs (obscure to the public, popular among those who also do 'research', pr 'care' about knowing something about something) that most people aren't aware of.  So, in your stead, your proxies are this ilk of vocal, intellectually curious but perhaps, um, academically wanting skeptics who are, talkative, funny and pleasant.  I suppose they're also my proxies too because they're willing to ask the questions the average person is willing to ask. Unfortunately, unlike the competent, they're unwilling to answer these questions.

They have a show they run live each Tuesday. On blog tv. And they'll discuss anything (plush toys was one of the more heartwarming ones I watched. Got me right there.)

At bat, we have a musician who likes to contemplate philosophy, logic and say really stupid shit about science (Newtonian mechanics are almost entirely wrong; Relativity 'we know' is almost certainly entirely wrong) and other such pearls of wisdom. 

There's a gentleman who likes to subtly peddle his vague religious hankerings and has a master's of science degree in an unspecified field and tells us about, say, water and 'other, more subatomic molecules'. 

Michael Payton (yes, the one who had his ass handed to him by William Lame Craig) appears occasionally. He's the one who gave me the study to shore up the claim of "general knowledge' that 'everyone just knows' about 16 year old, black, runaway, homeless, crack addicted hookers (an awfully specific group!), and then rage quit when the publication to which he cited addressed none of the parameters noted above, with the reminder that 'it is kinda' common knowledge.

This is all an outcrop of youtube and, I'm not sure what it is that I'm aiming for here. I go there, and I address some of the issues, but, you know, I'm condescending and a jerk and an asshole (so I'm told!). So, maybe some of you other science types who have superior personalities can give it a go.  Because, and you're welcome for the guilt trip, this is who quite a lot (if video views are an indication) of the skeptical, atheist community hear talking. And they think these people are making good sense, and talking about profound Deepities. 

In the last month, I've heard that water is like other 'subatomic molecules', Galileo was executed, pressure waves are a language that doesn't exist unless and until someone is listening to it, General Relativity is almost certainly entirely wrong (twice I've heard this one), and I am nonplussed.

Why is it that these people who go around saying things and not immediately standing appropriately embarrassed and apologizing for saying such a stupid, stupid thing are garnering so much attention?  Is there some wave that is sweeping the skeptic community where having delusions of mediocrity is a step in the right direction?

So, um, someone clue me in here. What. The. Fuck. Is. Happening?


Michael Gray said...

This has always been the case.
Aristotle moaned about the very thing.
The only qualitative difference is that with the ubiquity of megaphones for the ignorant, we see *much* more of it than we were ever exposed to. And we notice the squeaky wheels.

In fact, I think that the Σ(stupid) is shrinking slowly.
(My only support for this notion are emotions backed up by anecdote, but at least I admit as such!)

As for the so-called "Skeptical Community", it devolves the same way as any other human organisation: those who have nothing better to do get to take over the management and drive out the competent who, (almost by definition), have superior things to do, as opposed to getting their power-trip by solely counting how many worthless committees as they are able to muscle their way into.
The scum rise to the top.
This has been happening for decades now. The CFI is a prime example. One-trick ponies who need to make a living but who have no other skills than to debunk the same trivial story over-and-over, like a bigfoot groundhog-day.

Which is why I have insisted that our atheist group remains unstructured. As soon as they start holding committee meetings, it is time for me to vamoose!

Scented Nectar said...

It's simple. There are a lot of people who are really stupid and/or assholes who try to fake their way. The only good news is that more and more, they are standing out like sore thumbs. They are being called on it a lot more often, which makes the stupid more noticeable. It also brings a flurry of the other stupids and stupidity-supporters/apologists, all wound up in a fear of exposure.

The Justicar said...

Well, I think we should have an exploratory committee to test out whether we should structure it or not.

I was talking to Abbie the other day and bemoaning how much I hated faculty meetings. Pretending to take notes allowed me to either a.) play text twist, or b.) get a lecture written.
So much time wasted talking about what we should talk about, or what we should teach, and other deep issues of no consequence to anyone who isn't there at the meeting.

"Should we adopt a new book for calculus?"

"Why? Isn't the $300.00 one fucking over enough students already? Plus, has anything changed in the last 3 editions that they can't live without knowing?"

The department 'suggested' differential equations book was $220ish and <150 pages.

At least the calculus text lasted a year.

I digress.

I know the problem isn't new, and I know there's the appearance because everybody's visible. I've long argued that clearly either computers or the internet are just too cheap these days - everybody's on it cluttering it up! (like with that math shit the other day. And Time Cube!)

I used to be told that 'the cream rises to the top". "Yeah?" I said, "it's not the only thing that floats."

In regards, "(My only support for this notion are emotions backed up by anecdote, but at least I admit as such!)", I'm going to respond practicing my diplomacy skills. Quoting from John Greg here, "Thank you for that enlightening yet different opinion."

The Justicar said...

Well, then I quit the atheist movement. I'm going to start a new, new, new atheist movement. I'll call it the nah-Gnu nah-Gnu movement, and we'll have a cool handshake. I totally get to be Mork.

Scented Nectar said...

Count me in. I'm pretty sure I'm from Ork too, plus I can do the Spock fingersplit, which I guess is common to both Vulcans and Orkians. Must be a universal greeting. :)

Spence said...

As I recall, "Einstein was wrong, my theory is better" was a meme that would pop up about once or twice a month on the JREF forums.  (Probably still does, I don't spend much time there now)  JREF was lucky to have quite a few capable physicists who had a lot of patience dealing with them though.  They would carefully and patiently explain all the things SR and GR gets right and has been demonstrated to get right, and then show why the newcomers totally awesome new theory got these cases hopelessly wrong.

That said, subatomic molecules is a new one on me.  I can honestly say that I haven't ever stumbled across that one before.

Michael Gray said...

As for the Root Mean Squared(Sum_of_Stupid)/World having dropped in the last few decades, remember not to be as parochial as to exclude China and India.
The levels of education against superstition there have been quite staggering over the decades, and far outstrip the noisy increase of idiocy emanating from the USA, (for example), as the sheer numbers swamp all other considerations.

Michael Gray said...

"Subatomic molecules"
Could they be the cute animals that burrow into Nuclear Submarines whilst under water?

John D said...

It is really hard to be one of the few psychological monists and strict materialists on the planet.  I am always hurting everyone's precious feelings.  Like when a friend of mine (with a BA in philosophy) starts telling me that we could actually live in a "false" reality just like the Matrix.  They get pissed off when I say "That is really stupid... but it is an interesting fantasy... if you like."

My fantasies usually involve strange women... but each to their own.  I suppose all forms of fantasies end up leading toward some form of masturbation.  In the case of our "philosophers", they like to masturbate their minds while being entertained by the latest utopian bullshit universe they created that day.  They must say "Gee wiz... I just created a new fantasy universe... and today's version has even fewer bullshit arguments and logical flaws as the one I invented yesterday!"

Then, after I piss them off they tend to start bitching about some self-perpetuating conspiracy involving the Illuminati and Jews or something.... or the fact that gender is only a creation of social norms... or logic is not an absolute and could be reinvented by a all powerful god....and....and....and....

AHughman said...

Never said pressure waves are a language that doesn't exist until someone is listening to it. In fact I don't even know what that sentence means. I said "sound" is a word, that describes something that necessarily is heard. A pressure wave is the empirically verified *cause* of sounds, but "sounds" by definition require a brain. You don't think that's what the word means for some reason, I don't know why, maybe because you can't bother to stop ranting long enough to pick up a dictionary, but it's a language problem we're having, not a scientific one. It's not always about science. I gladly bow my head to the scientist to explain how displacement waves propagate. But we're not talking about how waves work. We're talking about what the word sound means.

What. the. fuck. is. happening. is you're equivocating and straw manning proudly, and getting angry about it rather than finding the root of the miscommunication.

The Justicar said...

I suppose right out of the gate I should point out that I was unaware that I was remotely angry. Thank you for telling me how I feel; clearly, you're the person best situated to know that.

Further than that though is the charge that I am straw-manning your position and equivocating.  This is an easy charge to make, but one I think you'll find some difficulty in establishing as an accurate model of what I've written. I've linked to your original article, and my readers are generally fairly well educated such that they're capable of following links and reading the original. To the extent that you claim I've concocted a strawman of your argument is precisely to the extent that you're demonstrating my central point; viz., you don't know what you're talking about.

You are making, as I noted, a distinction between sound and waves in which they're embedded (the mechanism by which they're propagated, say).  You note that our divide is not on scientific matters; rather, it's linguistic. This is, one notes, precisely why I've taken you to task over the nature of sound waves (and even EM radiation). To say that I've created a caricature of your argument and then attacked it is to say that you fail to differentiate my point:  the reason your analysis fails is because the thing you're saying is contingent upon an eardrum and a brain to interpret the data is not. It is a property of the wave of itself, and is therefore not contingent on anyone being around to hear it.

In other words, I'm not strawmanning your position; I'm saying it's simply bullshit.  Whether or not an eardrum and brain happen to find themselves in the presence of a sound wave doesn't determine whether the wave is actually there, or not. If a tree falls, there is a displacement that happens, and it is this displacement that is the 'sound'.  The only thing that changes when someone is around to hear it is that the wave and the person happen to be in the same space at the same time; remove the person and the wave remains - only no one is listening to it.

Detection, therefore, is the property you're trying to describe. But detection doesn't determine the existence of the thing. Hearing the sound implies a source, but not hearing a sound doesn't imply the absence of the source.

With respect to my supposed equivocation; this is a charge that is similarly without merit. My definitions have remained static throughout. I am arguing that my definitions are superior to your definitions. What is more is that I'm arguing that my definitions and understanding is so far superior to yours that because what I'm arguing is true your claim must fail. Sound is the pressure wave within certain frequencies. That someone might fail to be around to listen to it doesn't change what it is. So long as the wave exists with sufficient power and in a particular range of values, that is sound whether anyone actually detects it or not.

This isn't idle speculation mind you. It's how word is defined - the wave only has to be potentially detectable to be a sound wave; it need not be heard in actuality. Brains are not a component of what makes a sound wave.

And, it's worth noting, that you're also wrong a wave is the source of a sound. The event which causes the displacement is the source; the oscillation of the wave within certain pre-defined limits *is* the sound.

TL;DR: you fail to adequately distinguish between perception of an event, and the existence of an event.

I'll thank you to leave your amateur musings about my emotional state to yourself; you are in no position of any variety to know the first thing about how I may or may not feel. This fact --the absence of data bearing on the point--doesn't seem for the slightest moment to constrain what you say though.

AHughman said...

Well that was very angry. The straw man was suggesting that I argued: "a displacement wave continues to propagate in the absence of an eardrum and the brain to which it's attached". That is not my argument nor ever was. It was that SOUND is dependent on the eardrum and the brain to which it's attached.

As for your definition of sound, and which of ours is the correct one, I will simply point you to a dictionary. Let me give you multiple sources so you can be sure I'm not just picking and sensation produced by stimulation of the organs of hearing by vibrations transmitted through the air or other medium.Webster:a : a particular auditory impressionb : the sensation perceived by the sense of hearingc : mechanical radiant energy that is transmitted by longitudinal pressure waves in a material medium (as air) and is the objective cause of hearingApple:vibrations that travel through the air or another medium and can be heard when the reach a person's or animal's ear.Wikipedia:Sound is a mechanical wave that is an oscillation of pressure transmitted through a solid, liquid, or gas, composed of frequencies within the range of hearing and of a level sufficiently strong to be heard, or the sensation stimulated in organs of hearing by such vibrations.Notice how they depend on being heard, or possibly heard. There is a difference between a sound wave and a sound. A sound wave is measured, and observable though empirical methods. Sound is an auditory experience.

John D said...

There is this thing called a deepity.  It is a play on words that sounds profound but is really saying nothing.  An example is "Love is just a word."  Some people say this and think they sound smart and deep.  But it is not deep.  It is a deepity.  This was coined by a really smart dude named Daniel Dennett.... look him up.

You are trying to say something profound but all you are really doing is masturbating over definitions of words and mystically trying to use this masturbation to claim something profound.  It is not profound.  It is a lame-ass discussion about the definition of a word.  Comprendo?

AHughman said...

I am familiar with Dennett and deepity. Dennett I respect, deepity I do not. It's a word that's used to avoid actual discussion. It's anti-philosophical and dull-witted (to quote a friend). Most discussion is arguing about definitions and semantics, and most philosophical issues are resolved when these language disagreements are cleared up. If we didn't debate and solve semantic issues language would become meaningless.

The Justicar said...

If your last claim is true, then it means that before our species was debating on semantics, the language it had was useless. Clearly, this last sentence of yours is counterfactual. For how could our species have been debating the semantics of its language before the language had a meaning by which they could press it into the service of the debate.

I'm also dubious as to the claim that most discussion involves debating definitions and semantics for two reasons. The primary reason is that I rarely find myself in debates about the meanings of words, and most people I know have little to no interest in debating or arguing over such. I might have a skewed sample, but that claim is not congruent with most conversations I have, or most conversations I hear others having.

Also, I was unaware that philosophical discussions actually resolved matters. One should think that Aristotelian debate would counsel one against thinking that an argument settles a matter, or a debate resolves an issue.  Ask 100 philosophers so straightly put as 'what is philosophy' and you'll get 100 different answers.

Ask 100 mathematician 'what is calculus' and you'll roughly get the same answer from all of them.

Ask 100 physicists what is physics, and you'll get roughly the same answer from all of them.

This is one reason why philosophers qua philosophers play no role in the advancement of learning about the structure of our universe.

This last remark of yours is complete word salad.

The Justicar said...

I just got that one. You're so punny!

AHughman said...

You argue consistently against your strawman. There's nothing I would say now that I haven't already said...or that every dictionary I could find hasn't already said. The only thing remaining in your argument is stubbornness.

I really can't say anything else.

AHughman said...

Science is a branch off of philosophy. It is an epistemological method.

The Justicar said...

It's not a strawman, and doesn't become one irrespective of how many times you lay that charge. As I said, it is easy enough for you to make the claim (as you have repeatedly demonstrated), but you will find it rather difficult to demonstrate that this is true (again, as you have repeatedly failed to do).

Yes, I'm stubborn. It's a byproduct of being perfectly correct on an issue.

See, an intellectually honest, reflective person would undertake the task of explaining why either an eardrum or a brain or both is a necessary condition to the phenomenon of sound. You haven't done this, nor have you tried. You've pointed to a dictionary and said "see" this proves that sound doesn't exist without someone hearing it (even though the definitions to which you cite do not indeed claim that experiencing a sound--commonly called hearing--actually is necessary to the sound existing.)

This isn't how the world works, yet you beat your chest, throw a couple of nonsense ideas around (you're angry, rawr), and then cite to dictionaries that don't make the claim you argue is correct.

It would be far easier to demonstrate how it is that a sound is predicated on the existence of either a brain or an eardrum, or both. 

It's telling that given all of the time and occasion in the world one should like, you've declined to present a single reason to think that sounds actually depend on hearing.

The Justicar said...

Yes, I notice you keep saying this all over hell's creation.

That doesn't make science a philosophy. To the extent that you threw in the caveat that it's a branch off of philosophy, it's a genetic fallacy. Whatever science might have been called 400 years ago doesn't bear one jot on what it is now.

Science and philosophy at one point weren't distinguishable from one another. As time progressed and we started doing 'experiments' and collecting 'data' and testing those data against hypotheses, it departed from philosophy. 400 years on science is making progress in explaining the universe through internal consistency, logical coherence and convergent lines of disparate data.

Philosophers are still trying to figure out the answer to the devastatingly intractable question: what is philosophy. 

This isn't meant to be an insult, though I can see why one might take it that way:  just a guess here, but you're not a scientist are you?

AHughman said...

How would you interpret, "the sensation produced by stimulation of the organs of hearing by vibrations transmitted through the air or other medium" To mean something otherwise?

AHughman said...

The genetic fallacy is a logical fallacy: Philosophy. Not Science. If you want me to take your claims of the uselessness of philosophy seriously, I suggest you don't use it as much.

The Justicar said...

In light of what is true about sensations.

Our senses are data gathering devices in the same way that any instrument in science we use is.  These are just hardwired, factory spec editions we get equipped with.

What it is our senses relay to our brains (i.e., what we experience about the exterior world) is a label the brain uses for a given phenomenon.  In this case, the data collection device is the ear. It monitors the exterior world for a certain range of vibrations in certain environments.

However it is that these data are processed and recorded in the brain, they are nothing more than information about the phenomenon that particular data collection device has evolved to detect.

The particular qualities of certain waves in certain media at certain energy levels is detectable by our ears.  The label we give to things which fit into that set is sound, sound one notes is what our ears are detecting, and what our brains are modeling.  Since 'sound' is just that range of phenomenon detected by our ears, what our ears are detecting is nothing more than a certain class of waves.

In other words, as I said from the outset, the sound is the wave; they are indistinguishable because they are one in the same.

This is why I said, a couple of times one notes, that you are not adequately differentiating between the existence of the thing (sound, which is only the wave) and the detection of the thing (hearing the wave).

When you say that a sound is dependent on an eardrum and a brain, you might as well say that xrays depend on film, and radio waves depend on a tuner.

What about soundwaves that we cannot hear, but that can be heard by other creatures? The only difference is in the data collection devices' sensitivity. Compression waves that fall outset of our ability to detect are no different than ones that fall within our ability to detect. They are the same phenomenon.  The only difference between those waves and the ones we call sound is that we're able to natively detect one set and not the other.

Since all iterations of this phenomenon are the same species of event, all of the properties about it are native to the phenomenon, not to a recording device that can detect within a certain range the existence of the phenomenon. We happen to call the band we can detect sound; this doesn't imply that a sound depends on anyone actually detecting it; it is a property of a certain class of waves, and not of our hearing it.

The Justicar said...

This presumes that logic is somehow to sole providence of philosophy, which is curious considering that many problems in logic can only be answered by its extension into pure mathematics.  Notably, not a philosophy.

Thus pointing out the logically fallacious chain of reasoning there is perfectly congruent with the claim that philosophers have no role to play in science.

AHughman said...

The first two words in the definition are "the sensation"...not the cause of the sensation, the sensation. I'm baffled that you can't get this. For the last time I'm not talking about sound waves. Though I'm sure you think sound waves are neat. So do I. Cool. Thanks for the science lesson. I've studied the physics. It's neat. Wonderful. But really...I'm not talking about the waves. It's irrelevant. Believe me...I know...I'm the one talking about it. I'm talking about sound, as it's defined. As I've just defined it. As the dictionaries define it. As the sensation produced by stimulation of the organs of hearing by vibrations transmitted through the air or other medium.

You...somehow...are still equivocating. It's downright stupid. And I really have nothing more to say. Congratulations on being plainly incorrect, consistently stubborn, and also using philosophy to try and show how philosophy is useless (that's a particularly good one). Read some books, preferably on the foundations of science or epistemology, relax, don't be so paranoid that the skeptic community around you is trying to destroy empiricism, and quit being so enraged that you can't read...angry man. >:o (that's you) Later.

The Justicar said...

Stating the physical properties of waves (of which sound manifestly is) is not, despite your continued assertion, a philosophical position. It's a factual one.

It's notable that, again, given ample time and occasion you've failed to argue (let alone demonstrate) that sound is not a property of the wave.

Ears are detection devices. They detect some properties of some waves. Like film in an x-ray lab detects the presence of x-rays.  Or like a tuner detects certain em waves. Whatever is being detected is already there and is a property of the thing being detected.

You may smugly tell me to read some books, but anyway who happens across this will note that of the people in the conversation, the one who requires the education isn't the writer of this blog.

I have no doubt that you're baffled - it has been apparent all along that this is the case; hence why I was pointing out to you the source of your ignorance. I understand that science can be difficult, and mathematics seemingly impenetrable.

I find the claim that you've studied the physics of waves rather dubious.

Again with the anger bit; that repetition is, in and of itself, an indicator that you are in no way amenable to limiting your bald assertions about one state of affairs to what is evidently true:  you'll just say whatever nonsense comes to mind.

It's pathetic, and quite a bit sad. Oh well, fortunately in academia you're a nobody of no consequence so your impact factor is necessarily quite restricted. Which makes me happy - it is after all a meritocracy. =^_^=

John D said...

Well.  I certainly value your post since you quoted a friend.  A friend is one of my favorite sources too!  Imagine that!  This guy called "a friend" is one smart fucker...

No wonder I hate people who call themselves philosophers.  The most important thing to them is arguing over definitions of words... WTF!  Thank you for helping me see the light.

AHughman said...

I hope that the people who happen across this will be smart enough to notice I defeated your argument with my first comment, and every subsequent comment only reinforced your ignorance and eagerness to condescend. I don't know though, I imagine fans of this kind of blog to that a cat emoticon?

The Justicar said...

No, all the graduate degree holding retards who read my blog are far too stupid to figure out that your non-argument is cogent.

Stupid, stupid scientists

Michael Gray said...

Science is the offspring of philosophy, in the same way that philosophy was the offspring of religion.
Both religion AS WELL as philosophy have been entirely replaced by science.
Religion = Control of the masses by a parasitic elite.
Philosophy = Mental Masturbation by those who are unable to do science.

Suck it up, because it is true.

Michael Gray said...

Your hope remains forlorn for this scientist.

The Justicar said...

Gosh, this one's going to be skinny as hell. Must change the settings on this soon.

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