The term “pseudoscience” gets thrown around quite a bit these days, most notably in debates about the dominant consensus on anthropogenic climate change. Say “pseudoscience,” and immediately a bunch of doctrines leap to mind: astrology, phrenology, eugenics, ufology, and so on. Do they have anything in common? Some posit unknown forces of nature, others don’t. Some are advocated by outsiders to the scientific community, while others have been backed by the elite. And the status of each can fluctuate over time. (Astrology, for example, was considered an exemplary field of natural knowledge from antiquity through the Renaissance.)
For millennia, philosophers have attempted to erect a boundary between those domains of knowledge that are legitimate and those that are anything but—from Hippocrates’ essay on “the sacred disease” (epilepsy) to editorials decrying creationism. The renowned philosopher Karl Popper coined the term “demarcation problem” to describe the quest to distinguish science from pseudoscience. He also proposed a solution. As Popper argued in a 1953 lecture, “The criterion of the scientific status of a theory is its falsifiability.” In other words, if a theory articulates which empirical conditions would invalidate it, then the theory is scientific; if it doesn’t, it’s pseudoscience.
That seems clear enough. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work. Epistemologists present several challenges to Popper’s argument. First, how would you know when a theory has been falsified? Suppose you are testing a particular claim using a mass spectrometer, and you get a disagreeing result. The theory might be falsified, or your mass spectrometer could be on the fritz. Scientists do not actually troll the literature with a falsifiability detector, knocking out erroneous claims right and left. Rather, they consider their instruments, other possible explanations, alternative data sets, and so on. Rendering a theory false is a lot more complicated than Popper imagined—and thus determining what is, in principle, falsifiable is fairly muddled.
The second problem is that Popper fails to demarcate in the right place. Creationism, for example, makes a series of falsifiable claims about radioactive dating, rates of erosion, and so on, while the more “historical” sciences, like geology and astronomy, pose theories that are more explanatory narratives than up-or-down (and therefore falsifiable) protocol statements of empirical bullet points. Any criterion had better at least replicate our common-sense notion of “science,” and so far no clear criterion has been able to do so. No wonder most philosophers have given up on the task. As the prominent philosopher of science Larry Laudan put it 30 years ago: “If we would stand up and be counted on the side of reason, we ought to drop terms like ‘pseudoscience’ and ‘unscientific’ from our vocabulary; they are just hollow phrases that do only emotive work for us.” Demarcation is distinctly out of fashion among philosophers today.
On the other hand, “emotive work” is pretty interesting from a historical perspective. Scientists consider a great many doctrines to be wrong, even wrongheaded, but not all of them get labeled “pseudoscience.” No one in the history of the world has ever considered himself a pseudoscientist. It is a term of abuse that is deployed by some members of a scientific community against individuals they consider threatening. By tracking under which conditions scientists denigrate others as “pseudoscientists,” we can actually learn how scientists define healthy science at a particular moment. Instead of attempting to find a one-size-fits-all demarcation criterion, we should think about pseudoscience historically. This helps us understand how science functioned in the past as well as in the present.
Read it all HERE.
Jon Stewart on the Middle Eastern uproar over the video “Innocence Of Muslims”.
Are Hospitals Less Safe Than We Think?
Bad doctors. Prescription errors. Surgical slips. Medical mistakes injure or kill hundreds of thousands of Americans every year. Why patients are kept in the dark.
When I was a medical student, modern medicine began to seem as dangerous and dishonest as it was miraculous and precise. The defining moment came when I saw a sweet old lady I cared about die after a procedure she didn’t need and didn’t want.
I had been assigned to follow Ms. Banks, whose scans revealed advanced ovarian cancer. Despite the poor prognosis, the conventional treatment is major surgery to remove the uterus, cervix, fallopian tubes, and ovaries. But I got to know Ms. Banks, and she told me that she just wanted to spend time with her family and do a few more things before she died. I explained to her that she could be passing up a potential, albeit unlikely, cure; then at the morning staff meeting I tried to communicate her wishes to forgo both a biopsy and treatment. I was shredded up, down, and sideways.
The drive for the doctors to do a biopsy was like a train no one could stop. Eventually, by overstating the benefits and understating the risks, the doctors convinced Ms. Banks to undergo the biopsy to confirm her diagnosis. Then, during the procedure, the biopsy needle accidentally punctured a major blood vessel, which resulted in an added six-week stay in the hospital, marked by blood transfusions, multiple CAT scans, and malnutrition, since most of the time she was not able to eat. Those six hellish weeks turned out to be six of her last nine on earth. Despite the apparent problems with her care, information about her preventable complication and prolonged hospitalization were never presented in our staff meeting or reviewed internally in the same way that other industries learn from their bad outcomes. I realized that hospitals did not have to disclose their outcomes to anyone, even when they were much worse than the national average. In fact, when I explained to the head attending surgeon what happened and recounted Ms. Banks’s objections to the biopsy, I was told that sometimes patients don’t know what they want and we need to decide for them.
ipl2: Presidents of the United States “Welcome! In this resource you will find background information, election results, cabinet members, notable events, and some points of interest on each of the presidents. Links to biographies, historical documents, audio and video files, and other presidential sites are also included. Select the president you want information about from the list below.”
Earthquakes occur only in the Earth’s crust. Deep earthquakes originate in crust that is sliding down beneath another tectonic plate. The most devastating earthquakes are those that are strong and shallow with the focus point less than 20 miles (32 km) underground and that occur in highly populated areas. – Provided by RandomHistory.com
Woody Allen: ‘To have been a lead character in a juicy scandal doesn’t bother me’
“You equate retirement with death,” Woody Allen’s character is informed, by his psychiatrist wife, in the opening minutes of his new comedy To Rome With Love. The line is blatant self-diagnosis on Allen’s part. In December, the director will turn 77 – well past the point at which “death enters your basic timeframe”, as he puts it – and this morning finds him in his editing suite on Park Lane, Manhattan, dressed in khaki slacks and khaki shirt, toiling hard to keep the reaper at bay. In a week or two, he’ll finish shooting his 2013 movie, which doesn’t yet have a title; then, while he edits that, he’ll start mulling ideas for 2014′s, poring over the scraps of paper on which he scribbles stray thoughts and keeps in a drawer. Outside, New York is oppressively humid, but thanks to air-conditioning and a total lack of windows, Allen’s workspace is a chilly cavern. (“I have an intense desire to return to the womb – anybody’s,” he once told Time.) Against the dark carpet, dark walls and dark furniture, Allen stands out: a small, beige presence, labouring.
A surprisingly persistent misconception, to this day, is that the real Woody Allen must be broadly the same as his movie persona: the fretful nebbish, plagued by hypochondria, beset by existential terrors, anxious to the point of paralysis. But that Woody Allen, of course, could never have written and directed at least one feature film a year, as he has done, with only two exceptions, since 1966. The offscreen Allen exudes single-mindedness of purpose; he’s guardedly friendly, and these days a little deaf. The hypochondria part is real enough, though – as is the fretting. The movie he’s wrapping up now – a “serious drama” set in San Francisco, starring Cate Blanchett – is proving a disappointment, he says. But that’s always the way.
For S. Korean men, makeup a foundation for success
SEOUL, South Korea -
Cho Won-hyuk stands in front of his bedroom mirror and spreads dollops of yellow-brown makeup over his forehead, nose, chin and cheeks until his skin is flawless. Then he goes to work with a black pencil, highlighting his eyebrows until they’re thicker, bolder.
“Having a clean, neat face makes you look sophisticated and creates an image that you can handle yourself well,” the 24-year-old college student said. “Your appearance matters, so when I wear makeup on special occasions, it makes me more confident.”
Cho’s meticulous efforts to paint the perfect face are not unusual in South Korea. This socially conservative, male-dominated country, with a mandatory two-year military conscription for men, has become the male makeup capital of the world.
South Korean men spent $495.5 million on skincare last year, accounting for nearly 21 percent of global sales, according to global market research firm Euromonitor International. That makes it the largest market for men’s skincare in the world, even though there are only about 19 million men in South Korea. Amorepacific, South Korea’s biggest cosmetics company, estimates the total sales of men’s cosmetics in South Korea this year will be more than $885 million.
Why Van Gogh’s Flowers Are Changing Colors
When conservation work on Flowers in a Blue Vase by Vincent van Gogh was begun in 2009, conservators noticed that the vibrant yellow paint used for some flowers in the painting had become greyish and cracked. Scientists who investigated the change say it’s due to a never-before-seen chemical reaction between the pigment, called cadmium yellow, and a protective varnish added well after the painting was finished. Using X-rays on a microscopic sample of the painting, scientists found the compound causing the discoloration—cadmium oxalate—in a micrometer-thin layer between the paint and the varnish.
Attack of the Drones | Watch Free Documentary Online
The US government’s growing reliance on aerial drones to pursue its war on al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Yemen, Afghanistan and elsewhere is proving controversial – as evidenced by the international reaction to recent drone missile attacks along the border with Pakistan.But Barack Obama’s administration is undeterred, favouring the technology more and more because it reduces the need for American troops in those countries and the risk of politically unpalatable casualties.But this strategy is giving rise to anxieties that conflict is becoming just a big computer game, in which ‘desk pilots’ in air conditioned bunkers far from the battlefield can kill a few enemy fighters and then go home to their families, remote from the human consequences of their actions or the anguish of associated civilian casualties.
Cable Is the New Novel
In 1973, Tom Wolfe, nattily dressed ringleader-theoretician of the New Journalism, declared that his uppity oeuvre had bumped off “the novel as the number one literary genre, starting the first new direction in American literature in half a century.” Licking his chops over the carcass, he explained that the no-longer-Great American Novel had croaked as a result of complications from congenital self-absorption and straying from the healthy engagement with manners and morals that had been the novel’s lifeblood since its birth in the 18th century. “The top rung is up for grabs,” he gloated. “The Huns have arrived.”
As usual, Wolfe was a little hyperbolic, but he had a point. Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood (1966), Joan Didion’s Slouching Towards Bethlehem (1968), and his own The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test (1968)—not to mention any issue of Rolling Stone or Esquire—contained more razor-edged prose and narrative propulsion than the dreary cascade of academic-minded fiction dripping from writers’ workshops, where the target readership was mainly other writers.
A similar status upheaval may be happening in the realm of screen entertainment.
First Issue of the New-York Daily Times, now The New York Times, Is Printed (This day in 1851)
Originally sold for a penny a copy, the New-York Daily Times was founded by journalist and politician Henry Jarvis Raymond in 1851 and has been controlled by the Ochs-Sulzberger family since 1896. The paper shortened its name to The New York Times in 1857. Perhaps the most respected newspaper in the world, it has been awarded more Pulitzer Prizes than any other. In 2006, the newspaper announced that it would save how much money by narrowing its page width by 1.5 inches (4 cm)?
Sitting together on a train were Pres. Obama, George W. Bush, a little old lady, and a young girl with large breasts.
The train goes into a dark tunnel and a few seconds later
There is the sound of a loud slap.
When the train emerges from the tunnel,
Obama has a bright red hand print on his cheek.
No one speaks.
The old lady thinks: Obama must have groped the
Blonde in the dark, and she slapped him.
The blonde girl thinks: Obama must have tried
To grope me in the dark, but missed and fondled
The old lady and she slapped him.
Obama thinks: Bush must have groped the blonde in the dark.
She tried to slap him but missed and got me instead.
George Bush thinks: I can’t wait for another tunnel,
So I can slap the shit out of Obama again!!!
ANGRY Sandy Lewis, an ex-broker who once manipulated a stock price to make a point, at his Essex, N.Y., farm. “There’s no rational structure” on Wall Street, he says.
ESSEX, N.Y. — Striding barefoot through the fields of his farm in the Adirondacks, S. B. Lewis, known as Sandy, is talking without pause, gesturing this way and that in a soft summer rain.
That Mr. Lewis is in a rage is not unusual. A few days earlier, he had watched as the computerized stock trading of Knight Capital ran amok.
“If Knight blows, six firms follow, and the whole corrupt thing goes up,” he said. “Predator banks and hedge funds run the market for their pleasure — there’s no rational structure, nothing!”
He is just warming up. News reports have revealed a world he knows intimately. Goldman Sachs pays vast fines to avoid prosecution for mortgage securities fraud. Barclays manipulates interest rates. The Senate exposes HSBC as a racketeering enterprise, laundering money for drug cartels. Banks are laden with bad assets.
And Wall Street, Washington, the press corps, everyone sits and stares like so many dumb cows.
“The complicity on Wall Street is sickness!” Mr. Lewis says. He fixes you with his laser stare. “If you think the big firms are being honest” — his tone slides streetwise — “well, sweetheart, go think something else!”
vintagephoto: 1930s. Margarita Cansino / Rita Hayworth
Rita Cansino, born Margarita Carmen Cansino, 1918, Brooklyn NY. She appeared in some 15 films,, then received the full Hollywood makeover. Raised her hairline; changed her hair color; changed her name; and perhaps some other alterations, and voila! now she is Rita Hayworth.
Now this would be eye opening!
October 1904. Bath, Maine. “Bath Iron Works. Launch of battleship Georgia.”
How Do Our Brains Process Music?
listen to music only at very specific times. When I go out to hear it live, most obviously. When I’m cooking or doing the dishes I put on music, and sometimes other people are present. When I’m jogging or cycling to and from work down New York’s West Side Highway bike path, or if I’m in a rented car on the rare occasions I have to drive somewhere, I listen alone. And when I’m writing and recording music, I listen to what I’m working on. But that’s it.
I find music somewhat intrusive in restaurants or bars. Maybe due to my involvement with it, I feel I have to either listen intently or tune it out. Mostly I tune it out; I often don’t even notice if a Talking Heads song is playing in most public places. Sadly, most music then becomes (for me) an annoying sonic layer that just adds to the background noise.
As music becomes less of a thing—a cylinder, a cassette, a disc—and more ephemeral, perhaps we will start to assign an increasing value to live performances again.