Adonis Diaries

Archive for December 31st, 2009

Idiosyncrasy in “experiments”; (Dec. 30, 2009)

Idiosyncrasy or cultural bias related to “common sense” behavior (for example, preferential priorities in choices of values, belief systems, and daily habits) is not restricted among different societies: it can be found within one society, even within what can be defined as “homogeneous restricted communities” ethnically, religiously, common language, gender groups, or professional disciplines.

Most disciplines (scientific or pseudo-scientific) have mushroomed into cults, with particular terminologies and nomenclature:  They want to impress the non-initiated into believing that they have serious well-developed methods or excellent comprehension of a restricted area in sciences.

The initiated on multidisciplinary knowledge recognizes that the methods of any cult are old and even far less precise or developed than perceived; that the terms are not new and there are already analogous terms in other disciplines that are more accurate and far better defined.

Countless experiments have demonstrated various kinds of idiosyncrasies. Thus, this series on idiosyncrasies.  I have already published one on “conjectures” in mathematics.

This article is intended to compare the kind of controlled experiments that are applied by scientists in (natural science), such as physical natural phenomena, engineering… and those developed by scientists dealing with the behavior of people or employing human participants in the experiments (psychology, sociology, economics, or education).

Although the physical sciences, such as all the branches in physics and chemistry…, used controlled experimentation long time ago, in order to develop the huge body of knowledge on the natural phenomena, it was the social and psychological sciences that tried to develop the appropriate and complex statistical modeling packages in order to study the more complex and more varied human behaviors.

It appears that the restricted and countable number of variables in studying the physical nature, and their relative lack of variability with time, did not encourage the physical scientists to contemplate sophisticated statistical models for their controlled experiments, or even to teaching the design of experiments in the engineering curriculum.

Before we expand on the variability of human behaviors it might be more appropriate to analyze the most critical difference in the two sciences. Knowing that any concept is synonymous with the corresponding necessary set of operations in order to be able to measure it scientifically in experiments, we can understand the big leap forward of the body of knowledge in natural sciences compared to the social and psychological sciences.

Whereas the physical scientists can define the concepts of force, moment, power and the like through the relationships of measurable variables based on length, time, and mass the scientists investigating human behaviors have to surmount that hurdle before seriously contemplating to measure human concepts.

Human behavior and the cognitive concepts of attitudes, mental abilities, and moods, problem solving mechanisms, perception, and the like cannot be measured scientifically until sets of operations are agreed on, for each one of these concepts, through the study of human activities or the things that people do while performing a valid task or a set of purposeful tasks.

For example, saying that color blindness is a deficiency that confuses colors will not cut it; what is needed are a set of instances that could define this illness such as what exactly are the colors of the spectrum with mixtures of two primary colors can a “protanope” (color blind individual) match that are different from normal people, he will confuse a blue-green color with white or gray, will confuse red, orange, yellow, yellow-green, and green when suitable brightness and saturation of these colors are used, and has reduced visibility in the red end of the spectrum.

Two decades ago the air force in the USA contracted out groups of psychologists and human factors professionals to specifically establish a set of operations that could be submitted to potential airplane fighters to measure and evaluate their capabilities for the mental and perception workload needed for the job.

This set of ten or twelve operations measuring short term memory capacity, reaction times, computational abilities, attention span, and types of errors committed in each operation is the kind of hurdles that the study of human behavior have to surmount.

The operation measurements of a single human concept may be a life project for a group of scientists that require secure and continuing funding from concerned parties who have vested interests in thorough study of the concept.  It is obvious that a few human concepts will enjoy deeper and more complete investigations than others.

Maybe because the physical scientists did not face the problems of establishing sets of operations that the method of controlled experimentation was not deemed essential enough to rigorously teach in high school programs, and ultimately failed to initiate the students to the experimental methods.

Social sciences made significant in-roads into the educational programs in the last decade.  This lack of early initiation of students to experimental methodology might also be the main reason why rational thinking and the experimental mind is not that widespread throughout all societies and are just confined to the privileged who could afford higher education at select universities.

Physical scientists rely on equipment to “objectively” observe and measure, and the more the equipment are precise the more accurate are the data.  Scientists of human behavior have to rely on people’s responses and observations.

It has been proven that man is Not a good observer of complex events; even when viewers are forewarned that they are to see a movie about a crime, and that they are to answer questions about details later on the accuracy of the observation, subjects were discovered not to be that accurate.

Man is unable to be an objective recorder of the events that transpire because he gets involved in the scene actions.  Man has a very narrow range of attention and barely can satisfactorily attend to a couple of stimuli. This observation deficiency is compounded by our sensory differences and illusions; for example, one in sixteen is color blind, many suffer from tone deafness, taste blindness and so on.

Man does not think of himself objectively but rather has convictions, feelings, and explanations based on very restricted experiences, hearsay  memories and he tends to generalize and develop a set of beliefs concerning the operation of the mind (idiosyncrasies).

Man usually expects to see, and then see what he wants to see, and hardly deviates from his beliefs, even when faced with facts.  For example, many scientists have overlooked obvious data because they clanged to their hypotheses and theories.

Man has to generate an abundance of reliable information and assimilate them before he could eliminate a few systematic biases that he acquired from previous generations and his personal experiences.  Consequently, experimenting with people is more complex and more difficult than the physical scientists or engineers have to cope with.

First, there are no design drawings for people’s mind and behavior as engineers are familiar with because the structure of human organisms is approximately delineated and the mechanisms are imperfectly understood.

Second, people vastly differ in anthropocentric dimensions, cognitive abilities, sensory capabilities, motor abilities, personalities, and attitudes.  Thus, the challenge of variability is different from physics where phenomena behave in stable fashions, are countable, and can be controlled with minimal management.

Third, people change with time; they change in dimensions, abilities and skills as well as from moment to moment attributable to boredom, fatigue, lapse of attention, interactions among people and with the environment.  People deficiencies in senses, physical abilities and cognitive capabilities changes with time and thus, the techniques of selecting subjects have to account for the differences in age, gender, specific deficiencies, training, educational levels, communication skills, and incentives to participate in an experiment.

Fourth, the world is constantly changing and systems used by people are changing accordingly.  Thus, interfaces for designing jobs, operations and environment have to be revisited frequently to account for new behavior and trends.

Fifth, everyone feels is an expert about human behavior on the basis of common sense acquired from life and specific experiences and we tend to generalize our feelings to all kinds of human behaviors but not so expert in the fundamentals of natural sciences such as physics or chemistry.

We think that we have convictions concerning the effects of sleep, dreams, age, and fatigue; we believe that we are rather good judges of people’s motives, we have explanations for people’s good memories and abilities, and we have strong positions on the relative influence of nature and nurture in shaping people’s behavior.  Consequently, the expertise of psychologists and human factors professionals are not viewed as based on science.

Six, physical scientists may enjoy the possibility of “testing to destruction” of prototypes or the materials under study, a luxury that experiments on people forbid or are impossible to do outside the safety range allowed by moral standards, laws, and regulations.  Research on people has to circumvent this major difficulty by using dummies, animals, or willing subjects thoroughly aware and educated to the dangers of the procedures.

Seventh, research on people is regulated by privacy laws and concepts such as consciousness, mental images, fatigue, and motives are highly personal experiences and not open to public inspection while science must be a public affair and repeatable by other researchers.

Consequently, human and social sciences developed terminologies that natural scientists cannot comprehend.  For a experimental natural scientists a variable is a variable.  What is on the left hand side of an equation is the data and what are on the right hand sides are variables and coefficients.

For social scientist you have dependent variables (data), independent variables (factors, manipulated variables, within group variables, between group variables, confounding variables, control variables, treatment variables, sub-group variables, and on).

Controlling an experiment in social sciences is a major project that requires months in preparations to eliminate biases related to people selections and material used by the subjects and the experimenter.

Social sciences have developed many “sophisticated” statistical analyses packages and each discipline prefers its own set of “experimental design” because the members are familiar with the interpretation of results and not because the experiments are pertinent or useful for practical usage.

Multidisciplinary studies are important for a university student to get clear on the many idiosyncrasies of disciplines and start reflecting seriously on what is objective, what is experiment, how valid are research results, how biased are research, and how to correctly interpret results and read scientific studies.

Producing a good reflecting “scientist’ is not an easy task; we are not searching for the appropriate equation but for a good formed scientific and empirical mind. Courses in experimental designs are fundamental even for philosophy students, especially in religious schools.

2012: Not on apocalypses; (Dec. 29, 2009)

Scientists at NASA published a report that is predicting sun flare up on September 22, 2012 at midnight.  The sun is far hotter and more active than it was a million years ago. This flare up is not your run of the mill gorgeous aurora borealis in the Arctic. The sun will eject particles (ions and electrons) that will grill all electrical infrastructure and electrical machines in the northern hemisphere.

What are the effects after electrical power going dead? Potable water is the major immediate problem since most potable water is purified electrically and distributed electrically to high rises.  Citizens will have to survive for at least a year before electrical infrastructure and electrical equipments are renewed and fabricated.  Urban people will try to relocate to regions enjoying clean potable water sources (which are becoming rare almost anywhere, even in Africa).

“Sun winds” carry one billion tons of plasma and when solar winds come in contact with earth magnetic field then a major catastrophe sets in.  This phenomenon occurred in 1859 (Carrington eruption) and lasted for 8 days; telegraph services were disrupted.  Luckily, potable water and clean water sources were intact at the time.

Thus, no transport relying on electricity in any part will function.  Hospital will have to replace their generators after the solar wind episode.  Mostly, modern health providing facilities will be at an end.  Pharmaceutical industry will stop producing vital medicines.

Solar eruptions are witnessed around the equinoxes (periods when the center of the sun faces directly the equator).  What do you think technology can offer to resolve the consequences of this solar wind hazard? In the meantime, diseases will spread; rats and roaches will invade urban centers in broad day light. Time to get used to eating rats but how to finding potable water?

Note: It is January 4, 2012: The date has elapsed for the apocalypse, and the doomsday promoter, Jose Arguelles, has passed away last March. Jose was an art historian, and passionate of the Maya cosmology.  Don’t rely on exact date: The year is not over?

My Universe: 17 essential principles of “Adon’s Philosophy”

The rationale for this philosophy is that, at an early age, the brain gets connected and trained to perceive the world from repeated signals and impressions from the outside material world, nature, community, and interactions.  Your brain is learning to perceive the world as a “coherent entity” or a “perfect entity”, a world that seems to be governed by activities of cause and effect. 

Before puberty, the brain has been mostly engaged in re-structuring and maintaining what has been stored and registered: Synapses keep rejuvenating and neurons start to be transferred from one part of the brain to other more active specialized sections.

The developing brain at early age in engaged in training the control mechanisms in order to guide your well oiled “common sense” practices: your brain will be better equipped to orient your decision away from rash decisions and to plan for the longer term pleasures of the mind.

After puberty, we no longer have to suffer pain or try to endure it if we have treatments to alleviate physical pains: pain is totally counterproductive in all mental or physical activities.

Staying alive is the main learning process at early age in brain development. Thus, overindulgence after puberty is the ruin of health, confusion in the mind, and proliferation of worries and problems with no return for brain development.

Before venturing into this uncharted territory of describing my “philosophy” (lover of knowledge) on life, let me state that there is a “real universe” that each one perceives differently: if this real world didn’t exist then there would be nothing to perceive.

The real world cares less about the notions of time and space. No matter how we rationalize about the real world, our system of comprehension is strictly linked to our brain/senses systems of perceptions.

The way many animal species perceive the universe is different from our perception.  All we can offer are bundles of hypotheses that can never be demonstrated or confirmed even empirically.

The best we can do is to extend the hypothesis that our perceived universe correlates (qualitative coherent resemblance) with the real universe. The notions of time, space, and causality are within our perceived universe. 

Each individual has his own “coherent universe” that is as valid as any other perception. What rational logic and empirical experiments have discovered in “laws of nature” apply only to our perceived universe; mainly to what is conveniently labeled the category of grown up “normal people” who do not suffer major brain disturbances or defects.

Man uses symbols such as language, alphabets, mathematical forms, and musical symbols to record their cognitive performances.  Brain uses “binary code” of impressions and intervals of non impressions to register a codified impression. 

Most probably, the brain creates all kinds of cells and chemicals to categorize, store, classify, and retrieve various impressions. The rational is that, since no matter how fast an impression is, it stands to reason that pretty quickly the trillions and trillions of impressions would saturate the intervals between sensations.

The following ideas set the stage for a stable and rich development of the mind:

One, “Indulge entirely in the entire array of the sensory material world (that does not kill you or maim you) till the age of puberty. Then desist indulging on sensual pleasure to the bare necessity.  Family and community have to consciously learn not to interfere in this aesthetic stage.  Indoctrination of customs, traditions, and set of values has to be relegated to after puberty.”

Two, “Be exposed to all kinds of pains (that do not kill or maim you) till the age of puberty and then flee any pain like the plague”.

Three, “Learn not to fear the Gods even when you grow up.” If you survived till your brain was properly trained and adapted to reflect, study, and control your behavior then your well developed “conscience” is a good moral guidance to rely on.

Four, “Learn not to worry about death even after you grow up.” Children need to be exposed to seeing death of relatives.  It is part of strengthening common senses for existential situations: survival is the name of the game.  You are already a happy reflecting independent mind and you will adapt to happy philosophies that do not dwell so long on what happens after death. Fight against the “valleys of tears” teachings. Since it is a matter of belief, then pick the positive and pleasurable belief.

Five, “The individual is a whole and integral microcosm of the universe and he is holy.” Do struggle for the dignity of the individual, his well being, and equality in human rights.  We were all born to be free from oppressions and crimes against humanity and we must enjoy opportunities to be freed from oppressive environments.

Six, “Spirit and matter are one entity; the world of ideas and the material world are perception of our brain.”  Our brain has learned to unite these two worlds as a “coherent whole” and he may also dissociate them at will if necessity for survival arises. Thus, every individual creates a world as he perceives it; there are as many worlds as living human beings. Listen to the other point of view carefully: the world of your discourser is as real and viable as yours.

Seven, “If you are an introvert then enjoy your seclusion in good conscious. If you are an extrovert then go into politics with good conscious.” Do not fight your naturally acquired behavior; what was not rectified before puberty has no chance to be corrected unless you decide to change your outlook to your universe by daily active behaviors. Your job is to investigate the best alternatives that extend your behavior.

Eight, “Do not worry about your neighbor until he asks for aid; then, extend a helping hand with all your might and energy”. Respect your neighbor’s sense of dignity and his individuality. Your neighbor might be your best resource to re-structuring your brain.

Nine, “Constantly work on improving your body, mind, and the pursuit of continuing education.” You have to learn to enjoy physical exercises, mental problem solving, and living in nature.

Ten, “Refrain from over indulgence in everything”: it is an ugly sight dying looking constipated. Moderation is the optimum strategy for a happy, durable, comfortable, and healthy life.”

Eleven, “You are a perfect atheist if you failed believing in the dignity of your own soul” Your job is to gain confidence in the value of your holy person.

Twelve, “Never shirk the concept that you may once experience a fusion with the “cosmic spirit”, the “cosmic consciousness”, and feeling one with God.” Keeping the highest expectations in your mind and working on viable solutions will bring the best results in health, comfort, and pleasurable activities.”

Thirteen, “Refrain from extreme positions unless your goal is to reach a consensus for a working resolution.” Dialectical processes of thesis, antithesis and then synthesis of extreme concepts work in the long term; time for reaching a consensus can be shortened commensurate to world knowledge development. Thus, if you encourage the middle ground do not discourage extreme positions: the necessity of survival will select the appropriate period for social development.

Fourteen, “Once a grown up individual dies then an entire universe vanishes. Once the brain is dead then the one of the worlds dies. Your friends will remember your good deeds and keep your memory alive.” Nothing is lost, the interactions of the dead individual played the catalyst to changing lives and transforming views on the universe. Knowledge is propagated and developed.

Fifteen, “The drive of individual for personal freedom and independence set the stage for securing financial stability. Economic sufficiency is the pre-requisite condition for moving to the ethical stage in personal development. The individual is thus positioned, if he chooses, to get immersed in community ethics, customs, values, and traditions. He is ready to select the facilities of his choice for improvement toward quality of life and preserving human dignity against famine, pain, sickness. He is ready to safeguard the rights of the community and promote responsibly.”

Sixteen, “The individual may choose to cross to the stage of faith, the period of wise behavior where rational logic make room for compassion, forgiveness, broadmindedness. He promotes attitudes that preserve the peace, quietude, and appreciating alternative life styles.”

Seventeen, “Schools have to initiate students to rhetoric: the brain is fundamentally oriented to working with associations, analogies, metaphors, metonyms, and other processes that encourage intuitive, deductive, and inductive processes.  Most concepts and inventions are part of the processes of the rhetorical mind”

What is your universe? You may read my post “Cognitive mechanisms”




December 2009

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