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Thread: What is Science?

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    Default What is Science?

    Well, after the Ki thread got so convoluted with arguments over scientific terminology and technique, I thought we should open a technical discussion on Kuzushi. That got nowhere because of the same pseudo-scientific element that tried to define ki as a set of bodyskills that would always produce kuzushi. And that was again backed up with some scientific malarky.

    So, as someone who works with PhD scientists all day every day, and has done so for the past five years, many of my personal acquaintances also being highly degreed, I thought we might try a thread on the scientific method.

    Why in Meditation?

    Well, science is a mental construct. It's a set of rules for thinking about things and what we will accept as "true".

    As my Chinese MD colleague recently said, science is basically DME, Design of the Study or Question, Measurement, and Evaluation.

    You make your question, you collect and quantify your data, you evaluate the data and arrive at conclusions.

    Some people on the Ki and Kuzushi threads were able to stick to these parameters pretty well. Others less so. Some posters were outright dismal in the kinds of things they tried to justify with "science".

    Science is a way to view the world.

    However, it is not the only way to view the world. It is the best way to view some things in the world--such as design of nuclear reactors, for instance--and the worst way to view others, such as whether your girlfriend likes you.

    Science is good for analyzing rates of cancer and adjusting for race, age, occupation, smoking, etc.

    It is bad for explaining a painting, a sculpture or a Zen koan.

    Science is only as good as the mind that is using it.

    If someone allows invalid data to be counted as valid, that's a mental weakness. If they falsify or insert wishful data, it's invalid. If they choose only situations or examples or data that support their hypothesis, it's invalid. Their answers cannot be trusted. If they cannot say where their data originated, their claims are worthless.

    But if they are very clear and objective and maintain consistent parameters and rules of evidence as they gather and quantify their data; and if they maintain the same standards as they evaluate the data and draw their conclusions, the results can be very valuable.

    Still, there are places for science and places where we're pretty stupid to try to use it.

    Please make your comments at will.
    David Orange, Jr.

    -------------------------------------------------------

    "That which has no substance can enter where there is no room."
    Lao Tzu

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    Quote Originally Posted by kimiwane
    Why in Meditation?

    Well, science is a mental construct. It's a set of rules for thinking about things and what we will accept as "true".
    Mr Orange,

    I think your new thread is very timely, but the arguments (above) for keeping it here under Meditation seem to me rather tenuous. I think it would attract a larger audience and more participants if it were in the Members' Lounge.

    Best wishes,
    Peter Goldsbury,
    Forum Administrator,
    Hiroshima, Japan

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    Default all righty

    Quote Originally Posted by P Goldsbury
    Mr Orange,

    I think your new thread is very timely, but the arguments (above) for keeping it here under Meditation seem to me rather tenuous. I think it would attract a larger audience and more participants if it were in the Members' Lounge.

    Best wishes,
    Scientifically speaking, I will agree with you.

    Mr. Garrelts made some well phrased comments in his last post on the kuzushi thread. I think there is too much loose usage of the name of science in this world and especially the martial arts areas of it. My Chinese colleague calls me a "science writer", which surprised me, but I've since gotten used to it. I had a cup of wine earlier today with a neurologist who was signing his latest murder mystery novel in a benefit meeting. I got photos of a pretty horrific thoracic surgical procedure just before I left the office.

    I don't claim to be a scientist, but I do work in that world and I guess I understand their goals and methods. I don't expect one to be a PhD to claim rational principles in a disagreement, but if they want to attack my ability to think scientifically, I think they should state some qualifications as I have stated mine. Some of the most astute people I ever knew were carpenters and electricians without college degrees. Some of the best aikido people I knew were laborers. Very tough people and, with good technique, hard to beat. One of the best was a railroad worker, rather like Saito sensei.

    We can all benefit from rational understanding, but I'm not sure how far it can penetrate into certain elements of Japanese and Chinese culture. Say, for instance, Zen. How do we rationalize that? I'd rather just keep that off the stage. So one thing I would like to address is the limits of science. Where does it belong? Where can it penetrate and where can it not? Is there a point past which science cannot go?

    To me, there is a danger in science rather like that in martial arts. We are alive in the world, but if we filter our minds and perceptions to accept only certain elements--be they "scientific thinking," "martial arts," or "police mind" or "activist" or "rich"--we cut out a large part of what's really out there.

    I take Zen as my matrix attitude. Walking to work, getting milk for my coffee, unlocking the office door, turning on the computer. And even things like talking to my colleagues on non-specific general topics. Go with the flow.

    When the topic turns to a specific study or a serious concern, then "nothing special" means to focus on databases, data variables, data editing phases, and the physical files they relate to. Which involves the medical or work records in those files, meaning individual people with individual causes of death. Just the facts. No fantasy involved.

    Then it's walk down the hallway, open the door, close the door and that kind of thing. Hello to the lady coming out of the elevator, hello to the janitorial lady. No need for science in there.

    Don't people often wear glasses with two different focal settings? I know they used to have bifocals. That's how old I am.

    And we have two eyes. Don't these things tell us that we should have more than one way of looking at the world and thinking about it?

    Scientific thinking is generally good, but I don't think that it should be the first approach or the last approach to our experience in the world. I think the first and the last approach should both be the beginner's mind--the open mind.

    Thank you.
    David Orange, Jr.

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    "That which has no substance can enter where there is no room."
    Lao Tzu

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    Fine. Let's leave it here and see what happens.

    I think the kuzushi thread over in the Aikido Forum became quite good, actually.

    I also think that Trevor Johnston raised a number of interesting questions in the Meditation thread concerning how one defines the mind. I think these are philosophical issues, however, and are not really amenable to being settled one way or another.

    Best wishes,
    Peter Goldsbury,
    Forum Administrator,
    Hiroshima, Japan

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    Default Trevor's comments

    Quote Originally Posted by P Goldsbury
    Fine. Let's leave it here and see what happens.

    I think the kuzushi thread over in the Aikido Forum became quite good, actually.

    I also think that Trevor Johnston raised a number of interesting questions in the Meditation thread concerning how one defines the mind. I think these are philosophical issues, however, and are not really amenable to being settled one way or another.

    Best wishes,
    I had better hopes for the development of the kuzushi thread but I don't think it's necessarily reached its end. I hope.

    Yes, Trevor's comments are good. I don't see how some of the points can be proven but it's interesting.

    Best wishes.
    David Orange, Jr.

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    "That which has no substance can enter where there is no room."
    Lao Tzu

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    Default the truth is out there

    I think many of Trevor's questions could be answered by a careful read of Fundamentals of Human Neuropsychology.
    Nullius in verba

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    Quote Originally Posted by eelecurb
    I think many of Trevor's questions could be answered by a careful read of Fundamentals of Human Neuropsychology.
    I was thinking of the questions he asked about the mind (#251) in the 'What is Ki?' thread.

    I do not think these can be answered by neurophysiology unless one is a reductionist and believes metal events to be identical with brain processes. This is a philosophical issue and has a long history.

    Best regards,
    Peter Goldsbury,
    Forum Administrator,
    Hiroshima, Japan

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    Default I think I see what you mean, but...

    Quote Originally Posted by P Goldsbury
    I was thinking of the questions he asked about the mind (#251) in the 'What is Ki?' thread.

    I do not think these can be answered by neurophysiology unless one is a reductionist and believes metal events to be identical with brain processes. This is a philosophical issue and has a long history.

    Best regards,
    Well, in their own courses, the authors of the text I mentioned begin the discussion of neuroscience, the study of the brain, with Cartesian duality - the mind/brain dichotomy. In my own experiences, back as an undergraduate, and in what I've read since, not all scientists are dismissive of philosophy. Nor do they believe that science has all the answers. As Carl Sagan wrote, many retain a sense of the numinous. This is what drives them, not any search for fame & fortune. Most on the side of science in that particular topic (What is KI) came across as very reductionist, not allowing for anything but that provable in a double-blind study. Empirical data are criticised as not acceptable; the stories and experiences are dismissed as "anecdotal".

    Where is the sense of wonder, and curiosity about things outside of our own little areas of experience & expertise?
    ...the whole vast universe with its myriad distant suns, its whirling galaxies, its unimaginable phenomena, the biggest light show of them all and the cause of feelings of awe so deep and powerful that we are made abject. Even a scientist, rational and conversant with logic, is filled with a sense of what Sagan calls "the numinous." This might be defined as an almost religious feeling that nature is a manifestation of something both overwhelmingly exciting and more than a little frightening.
    Last edited by Todd Lambert; 11th February 2006 at 08:03. Reason: "clarity"
    Nullius in verba

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    Quote Originally Posted by eelecurb
    Well, in their own courses, the authors of the text I mentioned begin the discussion of neuroscience, the study of the brain, with Cartesian duality - the mind/brain dichotomy. In my own experiences, back as an undergraduate, and in what I've read since, not all scientists are dismissive of philosophy. Nor do they believe that science has all the answers. As Carl Sagan wrote, many retain a sense of the numinous. This is what drives them, not any search for fame & fortune. Most on the side of science in that particular topic (What is KI) came across as very reductionist, not allowing for anything but that provable in a double-blind study. Empirical data are criticised as not acceptable; the stories and experiences are dismissed as "anecdotal".

    Where is the sense of wonder, and curiosity about things outside of our own little areas of experience & expertise?
    Well, I do not think we disagree here.

    Cartesian dualism is an important part of my courses here on the philosophy of language, but I start much earlier back, with theories of kotodama.
    Peter Goldsbury,
    Forum Administrator,
    Hiroshima, Japan

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    Quote Originally Posted by P Goldsbury
    Well, I do not think we disagree here.

    ...I start much earlier back, with theories of kotodama.
    That sounds fascinating - it's something I, and probably my university professors, know little about. I'd like to learn more; language is one of the many subjects that competes for my time & attention. Would you be so kind as to point me to some Web resources to get me started?

    Kind regards,
    Nullius in verba

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    Quote Originally Posted by eelecurb
    Most on the side of science in that particular topic (What is KI) came across as very reductionist, not allowing for anything but that provable in a double-blind study. Empirical data are criticized as not acceptable; the stories and experiences are dismissed as "anecdotal".

    Where is the sense of wonder, and curiosity about things outside of our own little areas of experience & expertise?
    I'm not sure that the requirement of hard evidence precludes a "sense of wonder and curiosity about things outside of our own little area of experience & expertise." Most scientists I've been around do have a sense of wonder & curiosity--theoretically, that's why they became scientists. You just have to keep in mind that their curiosity is mainly about how the world actually works and not about how other people perceive the world to work (I'll leave it to the philosophers to decide whether there is a difference between the two). As such, controlled study is essential if you want scientists to start changing theories.

    This, however, doesn't mean that the entire "scientific community" conspires somehow to dismiss stories and anecdotal evidence in an effort to promote the same old ideas about how the universe "really works." On the contrary, it's just these sorts of stories we should be paying attention to so that we can found out whether an effect is real (that is, it is present in objective double-blind testing) or perceived. If it is real, then testing should enable us to more fully understand the properties of the effect so that we can make it better. Richard Feynman goes into this very well in his The Joy of Finding Things Out.

    Also, don't confuse an insistence upon evidence with reductionism. The experimentalist in me is perfectly willing to accept evidence that a phenomenon is real without having a reductionist explanation for it. In fact, we do this all the time: Despite the present inability of physicists to provide a reductionist view of consciousness, psychologists, biologists, and yes, even physicists continue to study a variety of phenomena that necessitate the existence of whatever it is that we call "consciousness."

    Although I personally think a reductionist view is something we should strive toward, in the end, it's really all about observing the world and trying to piece out a coherent picture of it all. Ultimately, reductionism may play no part in this.

    Have a good day.
    Richard Garrelts

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    I might just be echoing David Orange here, but to me science is basically coming up with an idea or theory, then going at it with a big knife.

    I am currently studying Computer Science, which takes science to mean the conclusions that other scientists have already reached (because what else can you study?). My impression of science is that which can be proved through anaylsis. That is very hard - and pointless - to apply some fields.
    Current notion: How would you define a 'skinny drink'?

    -Stephen Lewin

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    Quote Originally Posted by P Goldsbury
    I was thinking of the questions he asked about the mind (#251) in the 'What is Ki?' thread.

    I do not think these can be answered by neurophysiology unless one is a reductionist and believes metal events to be identical with brain processes. This is a philosophical issue and has a long history.

    Best regards,
    Basically, what I was trying to ask was how Kimiwane himself views the mind, because it has a great deal of relevance to how he views ki and the control thereof.
    Trevor Johnson

    Low kicks and low puns a specialty.

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    Default Viewing the Mind

    Quote Originally Posted by Trevor Johnson
    Basically, what I was trying to ask was how Kimiwane himself views the mind, because it has a great deal of relevance to how he views ki and the control thereof.
    I generally view the mind through zazen. Since my body is not moving, anything that is moving must be the mind.

    As for how I view it scientifically, I don't think I have a way to answer that. Last I remember, science had never come to a firm conclusion. You mentioned several possibilities, I think. Or at least a few.

    Is it just the actions of the brain? A byproduct of the brain and nervous energy?

    I replied, I believe, that since I cannot define (or find a definition of) the mind, I work with awareness or consciousness. And that means that where I direct my awareness, the ki goes. And it goes there in measure with the intensity of the awareness I focus.

    Hope that's helpful.
    David Orange, Jr.

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    "That which has no substance can enter where there is no room."
    Lao Tzu

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    Science still comes down to what is testable and reproducable.

    All kinds of very good "in theory" models have died in the lab.

    I'm not suggesting that there is nothing science has not explained--there are mountians of it.
    What I am suggesting is that 2 very different methods are usually being used as "evidence."
    Personal experience is a good place to start, but its not "proof" of anything.
    Replicated studies have no-where near the jolt of excitment as many personal experiences do--but that is where the "real" proof if found.

    I personally use and personally think/feel/etc that I derive some very real benefits from my practice of medtation and breathing exercises.
    For "me" as an "individual" its real enough to keep me doing it.

    (And in the end what we are doing in our practice of martial arts is a VERY "individual" thing.
    What "other" folks do and how "other" folks train and what "other" people are capable of is not really the point--its what WE do and what WE can do that counts.
    At least in my opinion)

    But that is a long way from me getting on-line and claiming "my" results are "proof" of anything.

    Rigorous testing is not for the faint of heart---but that is exactly what is needed for "proofs."


    Chris Thomas

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