My Photo

« We Can Haz Kitty Open Thread With No Guns! | Main | Do not mistreat or oppress a foreigner, for you were foreigners in Egypt »

January 30, 2011


I'd have to go with table suffleboard on a sufficiently long table. Drinking and playing that game has a cosmological effect - it makes the sun come up during what should still be the middle of the night. It also makes wives angry. I mean, how is it my fault that the sun came up before I got home? I don't control the sun.

I've never had Tanqueray 10. After Beefeater I like Bombay Sapphire quite a bit too

I've had Bombay Sapphire, too. It's my second-favorite gin. Tanqueray 10 is everything a gin should be, while being some other things that one hadn't, through lack of imagination, yet thought a gin should be.

But it's fairly dear. Sapphire is an acceptable fallback.

Re: single malts, well, the ones I like most tend to be hard on the wallet. For a sure thing, I'd tend to go Ardbeg. But I'm an earthy sort.

For reference, Tanqueray 10 goes for under $55 a handle, while an acceptable single-malt (Bunnahabhain or Ardbeg) are more like $43-$48 per 750 ml. Sapphire is $33 a handle, which is more my speed.

None of which is really all that germane to me at present, because I've left off drinking for the most part.

I mean, how is it my fault that the sun came up before I got home? I don't control the sun.

Where was this when I needed it?

hsh: Oh man. I just sent that to the mrs.

Cool. We'll have to discuss it at happy hour once I've completed my austerity regime for fiscal recovery. I'm going to be sitting on a bag of lentils for a few more weeks.

Late to the party, but I just had an epiphany on this "science is just a kind of faith" idea that keeps popping up.

"Science" tells me that alcohol is made of molecules. I have never seen a molecule. Oh, I've seen models of molecules, and drawings of molecules, but then I have seen statues of angels and icons of saints, too.

So I have to concede that "science" is as much a matter of "faith" for me as "religion" is to some people. Astronomers, paleontologists, biologists, chemists, physicists have all written things that I have read and believe. But I can hardly claim to have personally tested their theories. That alcohol is made of molecules is something I take "on faith" in quite the same way as somebody takes it "on faith" that Christ turned molecules of water into molecules of wine at Canaa: we both "know" what we "know" because we read it in a book.

My point is not to defend my preferred sort of "faith" against the other kind. I am only saying that, as a non-scientist, I have to concede this: if you define "faith" broadly enough, then my belief in "science" is indeed a matter of "faith".


"Science is magic that works".

The internets tell me that this is a quote from Cat's Cradle and I seem to recall it's so.

and what is the 3rd hit? Moe Lane!

I may never have seen an alcohol molecule, but I know how to make them. And their effect when consumed.

Even we scientifically minded types have to take some things on faith. Do I have the skill (or the time) to build the instruments that I could use to measure the speed of light for myself? Or any other basic physical constant? No.

I have to concede this: if you define "faith" broadly enough, then my belief in "science" is indeed a matter of "faith".

You can reduce almost any two things to a level of generality that they are comparable in some way.

The problem is that in defining "faith" broadly enough to encompass science as a kind of faith, you've redefined the word into meaninglessness. At that level of reduction, anything that you believe to be true is a matter of faith.

That's not what faith actually means, though. Faith is belief in the absence of evidence. We cannot observe molecules with the naked eye, but even without molecular photography the existence of molecules has been accepted science for a century now.

A better (and fairly topical) analogy would be the existence of extrasolar planets. We cannot directly observe them. We can't prove to a layman that they exist. But we know they do, to a high degree of certainty. Why? Because among other things, we can observe the change in magnitude when a distant star is occluded at regular intervals by an object in orbit around it.

You could say that for a layman to accept these things--for someone who does not, for example, grasp the complexities of astronomy and orbital mechanics--it requires a certain amount of faith in science that they themselves do not understand. But this is faith only in the colloquial usage of the term: it would be more accurate to say that such a person trusts science--or more accurately, they trust the methods by which good science is done. They trust it because it has a centuries-long established track record of delivering trustworthy, concrete, measurable results that they can see with their own eyes every time they start their car, use their phone, or merely exist in a house that has electricity and does not collapse in a strong wind.

Earned trust and blind faith are not the same thing.

Not just that, but if you consume enough alcohol molecules, you can see them. Well, I don't really know this. It's just my hypothesis. Time to test it!

"Earned trust and blind faith are not the same thing."

Faith is in fact not belief in the absence of evidence. People of faith find evidence all around them.

However, it is belief in the absence of a repeatable methodology, or proof. Yes, molecules exist, we can see them, their existence can be proven. They are different in that way.

There are places in science where the hypothesis becomes unproven, or unprovable, where I believe the conclusions become a matter of faith and thus bad science.

An example only:

I think the direst predictions of the climate change scientists fall into this category. I am onboard all the way up to the end of the world in 30 years scenarios. We need to have an active, aggressive cultural change program.

BUT, I don't believe it has to be completed "tomorrow" anymore than I believe 2012 is "end of days". In both cases I could be wrong, but in both cases I am being asked to believe it on faith.

Not just that, but if you consume enough alcohol molecules, you can see them. Well, I don't really know this. It's just my hypothesis. Time to test it!

I have conducted extensive tests, and my finding is that if you consume enough alcohol molecules, you can see pretty much anything.

Admittedly my tests were conducted under not very controlled conditions.

Not controlled at all, come to think of it.

I think the direst predictions of the climate change scientists fall into this category.

But those predictions are among a number of possibilities presented. They predict various scenarios with various degrees of confidence or various likelihoods. Climate scientists don't say, "I predict this particular scenario with certainty. It will happen." They might say they're quite sure about something very general, like average global temperatures or sea levels continuing to rise, without specifying rates, allowing for a wide range of more specific scenarios. But the more specific you get, the less confidence there is. And for all the scenarios at a given level of specificity, some will be considered more likely than others. It ain't Jesus.

HSH: And at some point you have to take stock of all the different outcomes and their probabilities, weigh the total likelihood of a bad outcome, and ask whether or not we're okay with taking the risk of doing nothing just because we're not quite sure which flavor of "really bad" is more likely.

When the overwhelming majority of the planet's scientists who have the most experience with climate science disagree only on which flavor of "really bad" we are likely to get, we are far past the point where "do nothing" is a responsible position to take.

Iirc the Braggs, who developed the methods (x-ray diffraction) that allowed to 'prove' for the first time the material existence of atoms (as opposed to just using atoms as the best hypothesis/theoretical model to describe certain phenomena) did not accept their own results as proof because it was still indirect. That is, they showed what one would expect if atoms were real but did not show the atoms themselves. To use a hypersimplified analogy: If one fires a shotgun several times into a dark room and later finds that the holes in the wall leave a silhouette of a human being then a reasonable assumption would be that there was something human-shaped in the way of the pellets. The positivists would claim that in absence of a body this would not be a sufficient proof (there are indeed possibilities that can do without a pellet catcher in the path even if they are quite silly).

The comments to this entry are closed.