Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘human sciences

Cool down on Convictions: “Fact is a bitch”

Note: Re-edit “Fact is a bitch,  (Written in November 24, 2007 and posted in 2008)

The most common starter in any conversation is: “The Fact is…”

Our politicians, journalists, and commentators use “Fact is…” to mean truth, evidence, axioms, observation, conjecture, deduction, opinion, belief, interpolation, or personal experience in arguments…

Even practiced scientists have sometimes hard time differentiating what is fact and what is Not a fact most of the time.

For example, scientists in human sciences have reached a consensus that if the analysis of data is significant at a level of 5% that is, the chances that less than five observations out of a sample of 100 observed might not exhibit the general behavior statistically, and hopefully based on a judicious experimental design, then the behavioral scientist might be inclined to state that the effect in a relationship is a fact.

(The dangerous events is what happens on both extreme tails on this “Normal Curve“))

If a scientist decided to repeat the same experiment and set the level at 1% because the phenomenon is most important from his point of view, and the effect turned out not to be significant, then would the relationship stops to become a fact?

Even in “hard sciences“, dealing with materials and natural phenomena, which do not vary that much as humans vary in their characteristics, the laws are applicable within certain ranges and conditions. (If you apply any equation with considering the magnitude of the problem, you run in deep problems for the users)

Can we consequently deduce that fact is relative?

May we go one step further and claim that the only fact is that everything is relative?

Or this is called truth?

What is then the difference between fact and truth?  Maybe it is the relative degree of uncertainty in the proclamation?

When people say: “It is a fact”, do they mean anything such as a “pass partout” concept? If what they observe with their senses is considered fact, then a colorblind person or with other defects has the right to disagree with what “normal” people senses?

Again, the concept of normality is a matter of consensus, or is it not?

If for example the sample of individuals contains 10% color blind in an experiment related to discriminating among colors, then a mindless level of 5% is certainly not appropriate if the scientist failed to control that “fact” or factor.

Let us move from scientific lucubrations to questions weighting on the mind of middle-aged individuals.

For example, we can say it is a fact that “everyday is made to be lived before we leave this world“, but the truth is we can’t help but think one second ahead of time, and about tomorrow, and thus relinquishing the power of the moment.

Another example, we may say it is a fact “not to take ourselves too seriously: nobody is going to survive”, but the truth is we believe that we are actually surviving all calamities and pandemics.

Worse, we believe that our immediate offspring is going to acquire all the best qualities that we believe we have: Are we ignorant that nature has a way of tending toward average in its progress and development?

If I state that, logically, there is no meaning for life: we are going to die, the human specie is going to vanish and Earth is a goner as well, sooner or later. Is that logic a fact because billion of species have vanished and billions of planets and stars have disintegrated? With what facts can you counter such a logical statement?

If I say: “Give me a delicious stupid reason to hang on to in order to forget this harsh reality, since we enjoy thinking ahead of time and planning for our survival” then can you be kind enough to offer me an antidote for excessive logical or deductive tendencies?

Does anyone have a character, firm and insensitive enough, to ally completely with logic and rationality?

Maybe nothing is real for modern man as deep feeling is, and the hope that a boring paradise is waiting at the end of the rainbow with unlimited pleasures, probably cloning what we have been experiencing on Earth, these pleasures that we have forgone because of aging and diminishing power?

If I say: ” The fact is I started enjoying the stories of novels, and do not care that much about the endings; I do not rush to know how the story ends: if I got a happy ending then I feel depressed and if it is a sad ending then I say “this is not news to me”. Would that sentence expresses logic, a state of mind that varies from day-to-day, or it could be accepted as a fact for the moment in the individual psychic?

Maybe the common denominator among modern men is relishing rediscovering the wheel, and then feeling happily surprised that an ancient philosopher has stolen his copyrights.

Content is necessary, but it is the variations on the main content and how it is communicated that set individuals apart.

I am shocked at editors who believe it is their right to transform the style of an author to suit an abstract targeted public.

Go Graphics, do your communicating!

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.

I hate to talk, read, and write. Oh, and I hate math: Different teaching resolutions… 


I got this revelation. 

Schools use different methods for comprehending languages and natural sciences.  Kids are taught the alphabet, words, syntax, grammars, spelling and then much later, they are asked to compose essays.  Why this process is not applied in learning natural sciences?

I have strong disagreement on the pedagogy of learning languages. 

First, we know that children learn to talk years before they can read. Why kids are not encourage to tell verbal stories before they can read?  Why kids’ stories are not recorded and then translated into the written words to encourage the kids into realizing that what they read is indeed another story telling medium?

Second, we know that kids have excellent capabilities to memorize verbally and visually whole short sentences before they understand the fundamentals. Why don’t we develop their cognitive abilities before we force upon them the traditional malignant methodology?  The proven outcomes are that kids are devoid of verbal intelligence, hate to read, and would not attempt to write even after they graduate from universities.

Arithmetic and math are used as the foundations for learning natural sciences. We learn to manipulate equations; then solving examples and problems by finding the proper equation that correspond to the natural problem (actually, we are trained to memorize the appropriate equations that apply to the problem given!).  Why we are not trained to compose a story that corresponds to an equation, or set of equations (model)?

If kids are asked to compose essays as the final outcome of learning languages, then why students are not trained to compose the natural phenomena from given set of equations?

Would not that be the proper meaning for comprehending the physical world or even the world connected with human behavior? 

Would not the skill of modeling a system be more meaningful and straightforward after we learn to compose a world from a model or set of equations?  Consequently, scientists and engineers, by researching natural phenomena and man-made systems that correspond to the mathematical models, would be challenged to learn about natural phenomena. Thus, their modeling abilities would be enhanced, more valid, and more instructive!

If mathematicians are trained to compose or view the appropriate natural phenomenon and human behavior from equations and mathematical models then the scientific communities in natural and human sciences would be far richer in quality and quantity.




August 2020

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