Scientists, and how they actually operate

Land o’ Goshen!

Lloyd Pye pointed to this article, and it confirms so much:

Accept Defeat: The Neuroscience of Screwing Up

I do highly recommend to any and all a read of this.  It will both undo all your preconceptions about science (the ones we were taught in school, in particular) and teach you something about problem solving.

It talks about part of our society that we, those who think differently, all butt our heads up against – the insistence by the rest of the world that we are wrong and they are right.

What it tells us is that as outsiders in the interplay of ideas, we have a role to play – the interested outsider that just doesn’t accept their blinkered way of seeing things and who insists that they pay attention to reality itself, not the expectations of their logic and conformity-think.

Oh, I love articles like this!

They are so few and far between, but they make me feel so ON TARGET, that my endeavors and inquiries in life have made some sense, after all – that I am not just an iconoclast, but that iconoclasts are good!

What it really says is that we have a perspective that they don’t have, the ability to not hit the <DELETE> key when we see something that seems anomalous.


Everything in reality is REAL.

It doesn’t seem to US that something so obvious should need to be said, but to THEM it needs to be said.

In one 2003 study, he [Kevin Dunbar] had undergraduates at Dartmouth College watch a couple of short videos of two different-size balls falling. The first clip showed the two balls falling at the same rate. The second clip showed the larger ball falling at a faster rate. The footage was a reconstruction of the famous (and probably apocryphal) experiment performed by Galileo, in which he dropped cannonballs of different sizes from the Tower of Pisa. Galileo’s metal balls all landed at the exact same time — a refutation of Aristotle, who claimed that heavier objects fell faster.

While the students were watching the footage, Dunbar asked them to select the more accurate representation of gravity. Not surprisingly, undergraduates without a physics background disagreed with Galileo. (Intuitively, we’re all Aristotelians.) They found the two balls falling at the same rate to be deeply unrealistic, despite the fact that it’s how objects actually behave. Furthermore, when Dunbar monitored the subjects in an fMRI machine, he found that showing non-physics majors the correct video triggered a particular pattern of brain activation: There was a squirt of blood to the anterior cingulate cortex, a collar of tissue located in the center of the brain. The ACC is typically associated with the perception of errors and contradictions — neuroscientists often refer to it as part of the “Oh shit!” circuit — so it makes sense that it would be turned on when we watch a video of something that seems wrong.

So far, so obvious: Most undergrads are scientifically illiterate. But Dunbar also conducted the experiment with physics majors. As expected, their education enabled them to see the error, and for them it was the inaccurate video that triggered the ACC.

But there’s another region of the brain that can be activated as we go about editing reality. It’s called the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, or DLPFC. It’s located just behind the forehead and is one of the last brain areas to develop in young adults. It plays a crucial role in suppressing so-called unwanted representations, getting rid of those thoughts that don’t square with our preconceptions. For scientists, it’s a problem.

When physics students saw the Aristotelian video with the aberrant balls, their DLPFCs kicked into gear and they quickly deleted the image from their consciousness. In most contexts, this act of editing is an essential cognitive skill. (When the DLPFC is damaged, people often struggle to pay attention, since they can’t filter out irrelevant stimuli.) However, when it comes to noticing anomalies, an efficient prefrontal cortex can actually be a serious liability. The DLPFC is constantly censoring the world, erasing facts from our experience. If the ACC is the “Oh shit!” circuit, the DLPFC is the Delete key. When the ACC and DLPFC “turn on together, people aren’t just noticing that something doesn’t look right,” Dunbar says. “They’re also inhibiting that information.”

The lesson is that not all data is created equal in our mind’s eye: When it comes to interpreting our experiments, we see what we want to see and disregard the rest. The physics students, for instance, didn’t watch the video and wonder whether Galileo might be wrong. Instead, they put their trust in theory, tuning out whatever it couldn’t explain. Belief, in other words, is a kind of blindness.

“A kind of blindness.”

Wow. This explains the disconnect in the global warming debate.  One side sees a certain bit of evidence and it does not compute, so they hit the <DELETE> key, allowing only the sides of the argument in that agree with what they think is the reality.  Anomalous facts aren’t let into the argument that might possibly take place in their heads.

I am talking there of the global warmers themselves, not my side.  Should I be applying it to my side, too?  I admit that what they say goes in one ear and out the other – because, in my mind, I’ve heard those arguments before and they don’t rate another listen.  Did I hear them the first time?  Did I really weigh their evidence properly?  Did I give it a fair hearing?

In my case, I believe the answer is “YES.”  I went into the whole AGW subject just interested to see how they ruled out possible non-human causes of warming.  I had no reason at that time to say that warming isn’t happening.  I didn’t find the studies that ruled out other causes (solar irradiance, cosmic rays, Milankovitch Cycles, sunspots, natural variability).  I wasn’t terribly shocked at that.  Science has followed wrong concepts and jumped to conclusions before; I just accepted this as another case of that.  Yes, there were studies that provided evidence suggesting that the globe was warming.  But evidence is not proof.  There has to be a lot more than a few bits of evidence.  I long ago weighted their evidence and found it lacking, at least to me.  I read their arguments, and there were so many caveats, I was amazed that someone hadn’t called them out on it.  (Well, someone HAD, I just didn’t know it at the time.  And the someone was an outsider, someone who could look at the evidence and ask tough questions.)

So, I am comfortable applying this article to those who side with the idea that humans are releasing so much CO2 into the atmosphere that we are dangerously changing the climate.  But not to my side.  I see us as the ones asking tough questions, and them being the ones who get uncomfortable and telling us we shouldn’t be asking those questions, since they are the experts.

But as specialists, they all speak the same language and make the same assumptions.

The climate researchers even deny facts are facts, when they aren’t in agreement with their preconceptions.  They hit the <DELETE> key.  Michael Mann (Mr Hockey Stick) convinced Keith Briffa at the UK Climate Research Unit (CRU) to terminate his proxy history right where the modern readings disagreed with their overall conception of what reality was.  It couldn’t be the theory that was wrong, so it had to be the anomalous data Briffa brought to the table.  So the “wrong” data had to be expunged.  Briffa’s trace was ended, right where it merged with other ones, in 1960 – but, unlike the others, Briffa’s never came out the other side.  His “wrong” data was not allowed to be represented.

The troubling thing about it was that they considered it to be normal to throw out data that didn’t fit.  They did it so often, they can’t believe there is such a big fuss about it.  Phil Jones, the top man at CRU seems to be a bit schizophrenic about it all.  One side of him recognizes that the belief system they operate under isn’t as convincing as they make out, but the other side defends their conclusions, anyway.  It seems his DLPFC has been overridden by some of what has happened – but not enough for a clean break.  Not yet, anyway.

The followers of AGW – and they are legion – are <DELETE>ing pretty much every argument they hear, that asserts that the CRU people were playing with the data in ways that are not warranted.  Their DLPFCs are working overtime, since CLimategate showed them to be doing what Dunbar shows scientists have a tendency to do: ignore results that don’t fit their theory.  It isn’t science, and Dunbar points out that it is not science – that there is something wrong with such an approach.

He points out that you can’t deny reality.  Results of real experiments, of real field measurements, of real thermometers, of real urban heat islands, of recent tree rings not agreeing with the theory – all these cannot be ignored forever.  Why not?  Because sooner or later the science as they are applying it, will fail and will be seen to fail.  And then the shit is going to hit the fan.

Those of us on the outside think that time may as well be now – before governments injure the world economy to a major extent.  And if it is not true, it will all have been done for nothing.

Like in the article, the outsiders – the so-called skeptics – think that the sides should all sit down and have a discussion about the whole thing, so their questions can get asked, and so the other side can hear their concerns and deal  with them if they are real.  It is the belief of the so-called skeptics that these questions were never allowed to be heard before, and that the questions, if addressed, will correct errors that have happened due to the excluding of some of the data and improper adjustments of possibly all of the data.

As long as the AGW researchers see numbers that don’t fit and then delete them from reality, the so-called science of climate change will be an unreal science. It may have a consensus, but as long as all the people inside their bubble think the same way, they will have a blind spot and will keep going down an avenue of research that leads to incorrect conclusions.

Yes, they claim that there are hundreds, if not thousands, of studies that support their arguments.  But amazingly, they think that there are NONE that argue the other side.  Their <DELETE> key pretends that even entire studies simply don’t exist.  And with studies arguing both ways, where is the science that is trying to reconcile the two realities?  The “anomalies” are not unreal.  They are just facts the warmers don’t want to accept as anything more than experimental errors.  By thinking of them as mistakes, they give them second-class status, if that.  It really isn’t even second class, not when it is sent to the dustbin.

When is all of the evidence going to be considered?

When will the blinders come off?

Did you notice the part in the article where Dunbar talked about entering results in a lab book? That is what scientists do with every experiment, with every data processing.  They do that so they can go back and see what they did on that particular day – because sometimes it is something done long ago that makes today’s work make sense, so they need to be able to go back and find it and then try re-doing it in light of new information or new results.  So scientists enter everything in lab books.

Briffa, Jones, Mann et al – where are their lab books?  If they are under the gun about their own assertions (in their Climategate emails) that they were doing “tricks” to the data, their own organizations – universities and government departments – should be asking to see those lab books, so someone can review and show that the numbers were NOT fudged.  In science, one CAN prove a negative – because it is in the lab books.

And if they did not keep lab books and record their procedures?  Well, THAT is a “Holy shit!” moment, because then, folks, they are not scientists.  It just simply isn’t science if you don’t even know what you did.

So, in my subject title above, it was intended to be talking about scientists, real scientists.

Perhaps the title could have been: Scientists, and how “they” actually operate.

This also applies to so-called “alternate researchers,” and their treatment by scientists, which is VERY much how they approach so-called global warming skeptics.  But this post is plenty long enough for now.  That will need to be another post.

Just as Thorsten Veblin posited long ago that being perpetual outsiders was good for Jewish people, as a stimulant for their mental and scientific and other achievements,alternate researchers and climate skeptics are good for science.

The Jewish people have, in that outsider capacity, been a stimulus for the rest of the world.  Not the only stimulants, but certainly big contributors.  In that same way, I have always seen alternate researchers as being necessary iconoclasts for the theories of establishment scientists.  But both groups – alternate researchers and climate skeptics – are currently treated as pariahs.

At least so far.

More later.. . .

. . . . Steve


5 responses to “Scientists, and how they actually operate

  1. A quote I ran across today…”truth never changes, only our perception of it.”

    After looking over this article it shows us just how rigid our thinking can be when we are caught in the bell curve of what is real in our belief paradigm.

    The best approach I have found to-date and we have conversed about prior to this article is to be observant, yet open to a shift in our beliefs. Perhaps the “oh shit” could be replaced by “oh shift”. Scientists can get so ensconced in their re-search and schooling that they are in effect, afraid to be proven wrong or admit that their system of thought, the very foundation that they have built their lives around could be wrong.

    So what? Is it that bad to admit that we have wasted time chasing our tail to oblivion? How about a re-lease, a new found freedom to consider…be de-tached from our laser-like focus state of mind?

    I enjoy getting my world rocked now, because it has done so much more good to free me from the prisons of the narrow mind set. So let it be.


  2. Kimbo –

    You have a healthy take on growth. Not so many people do. A lot of people, it scares the bejeezus out of them.

    And, IMHO, no one more than scientists. They do have a lot to lose if they step outside orthodoxy. One wrong step has been known to ruin entire careers.

    Halton Arp at one time was the world’s foremost expert on anomalous things in space. He knew enough about them that when the idea that the Red-shift in the stars’ spectra was from the Doppler Effect, he pointed out a lot of reasons why it couldn’t be true. They essentially almost drummed him out of the field. Scientists can be nasty.

    Then there is the woman archeologist (in the controversial video “The Mysterious Origins of Man”) who found human footprints in 240,000 year old layers in central Mexico. Not only were the footprints 227,000 years before Clovis man in the Americas, but it was 50,000 years before the earliest modern humans anywhere. She checked it six ways from Sunday, because she knew people were going to shit a brick. They did: She never worked as an archeologist again. Scientists can be vicious.

    Science is a VERY conservative world. Translation: Very rigid in its thinking. That really holds us back – a LOT.

    As a kid in school, I read a lot about the period in Physics preceding 1930. All kinds of new ideas were being built, one on top of another. Progress was happening all over Europe and America. I was reading this in the mid-1960s.

    Since that time, very little solid progress has been made. Everyone has been trying to consolidate the progress made 100 to 80 years ago. Yes, they have quarks, string theory, beaucoup dimensions and a few other ideas – but none of them has contributed jack to anything. It is all fanciful, and in my mind, silly season. I was going to get into theoretical physics, but am so glad I didn’t. Nothing has been done. My career would have been ending just about now, and – unless I myself did it – nothing worth spitting on was done in all that time.

    Like you, I early on decided that my world was going to get rocked every now and then, so I had the choice of welcoming it or fighting it. I literally threw it out at the universe: “Go ahead, whatever my soul has coming, blast me with it, so I can get on to other things.”

    Ouspensky and Gurdjieff’s work, as I read it in The Fourth Way, talked about three parallel lines of growth. They said that we only work on one line at a time, and the one we are on will have breaks in it. And when the breaks come, if we are stuck on that line, it really takes us a while to get off that line – that we have to find a way to move onto one of the other lines, in order to move forward again. So they said the thing to do is to leave one line before it breaks, so that we are on one of the other lines then. It means changing to another line intentionally, right when everything is going really well on the one – and that is something people have a hard time doing. People want to think that the really good path they happen to be currently on will be wonderful forever; I guess it is part of mania – but it always peters out. So, do we take our fortunes in our own hands or do we ride the one into the ground and then do our Keystone Kop Chinese fire drill and try to shift to another line after the event? Almost all of us ride it into the ground. (It’s why people get caught in stock market crashes – no one believes it will end.)

    So, my whole life, I’ve accepted that whatever I am doing it is going to be that way forever – NOT. When I’ve forgotten this (usually from wishful thinking), I’ve gotten bit.

    So, the Universe loves anyone who is ahead of the curve on changing, who by intent goes out on a limb or gets out of the box.

    Hugs back,
    . . . . Steve

  3. Hey Steve,

    I always enjoy these conversations. It’s very healthy to talk about allowing ourselves to be wrong and to step on over to that other line. Comfort zones are nothing but walking the line of ignorance is bliss. I have shifted once again and allowed my world to be rocked so hard that it caused and earthquake here this morning! 4.4 at 4am! How about that??? LOL.

    Whatever field of study or path we are on, if we resist change and cling on to our belief systems with the fear of abandon, then we are FOOLing ourselves.

    What I have found to date is that everything, pretty much everything that has been taught to us as history is one big fat lie. And we run around trying to prove what we think is true so we don’t have to face the truth….that we’ve been duped. Okay, so now what? Feels good to let go of all that crap…liberating!!! Remind me to share (if I haven’t already) a body of material with you that opens up that proverbial can of worms. I’m still having some aftershocks (pun intended) but things are settling in with my soul now. We tend to have it all backwards…we define ourselves by what we do, but those limits are actually our prison walls. It’s not so much that we are trying to sort out who we are, as it is…by removing what we are “not”, that we discover true freedom without walls, universal vision.

    From what I can sense, we are entering a new stage. It will become more obvious by the day that our world is not what it seems and people are going to have a hard time with it…I feel that is why so many souls, especially the celebrity types are buckling under the pressure and pressing the “exit please” button.

    But hey, for those of us who are willing to peak behind the curtain and see the little wizard pulling the levers….we’ll just have fun exposing the truth for all who have eyes to see…so let it be.


    • So, Kimbo –

      What crap is it you have ejected? (…this time?) Share whatever your body of material is, and let’s see what worms were in the can.

      At one level I am aware that the defining of ourselves – at all – is to have it backward. There is no Steve and not-Steve, except for the convenience of temporary focus. It is the not-Steve that dances in front of Steve, trying to catch the attention to things that are – and things that are not. Sometimes a connection is made, and something is learned. All the not-Steve is part of me, as much as the Steve parts are. And they all need to/want to merge at some point, when a certain harmony exists for a bit.

      The “facts” of what has been are part of that not-me, and they want me to find them – whatever they are. It is necessary that they find a way into our minds, so that the un-facts stop getting in the way.

      If you look at this blog and what I cover, it is all over the map. All those lines, and when the urge to jump to another line comes to mind, over there I go. There are other lines I haven’t touched on, too. The fun part is that I don’t know where they lead. It is like a 10-year-old, heading down the railroad tracks on a Saturday morning, wondering where they go. They go somewhere specific, but that is there? I will know when I arrive.

      I am critical of closed minds, and perhaps I shouldn’t be. Part of that is that it is so EASY to be critical, rather than understanding. But I do know that closed minds, if left to be pushy, will misunderstand the leaving-alone as acceptance of the rightness of their way of thinking, and much of the time I can’t stand the thought of that. So, I can’t leave it alone. I have to put some words out there, words that might be heard some day, if not now. Maybe that is why I love writing so much: My words can hang in the breeze a lot longer.

      No one is ready for any fact or truth the first time it is heard. But it does plant a seed. Over time, with some multiple exposure, something clicks – and it is not given to the fact-giver to know which time gets into the awareness. And it might even be a 3rd or 4th-party connection that “gets” the effect to someone who sees behind the curtain. It is a crossing over from one state of realization to another.

      Realization is so much a part of what we are here for. The wheel of Buddhism is not a physical thing, not a reincarnation thing, not a karmic punishment thing, not a step-by-step learning thing. It is, in a few ways only, a waking up thing: we can get there at almost any moment. It is a state-of-mind thing, not a diploma and so much information or so much soul earning.

      The man behind the curtain for each of those who pay attention (which is what Ouspensky called a student) is ourselves. The rest of it is only triggers – all of it. They are only really triggers when they birth a realization or a different state-of-mind. Up till then, they are only rocks or leaves or lovely lips or noise or music or stars in the sky.

      Nuff sed fer now.

      . . . . Steve

      P.S. Do share what you were talking about…

  4. Hey Steve,

    I started to share this stuff on a yahoo forum I frequent, so I am going to plop the link here and you can check it out. If you are still interested in this rabbit hole, then we can start a blog about it here maybe???

    I know what you mean about feeling intolerant of those who are asleep and as much as we think it is a good thing to give ’em a nudge, I have found that the best thing for me to do is to discern when the person is ready, then put the info out there as a potential suggestion and not feed them the worms without asking if they want to open the can first. You’re ready willing and able and so am I, but this is most definitely not the norm.

    Here’s the link for now.

    You can follow the posts by scrolling down below the initial posts.

    Oh, and before I forget, I have had several dreams where I am choosing between the red and blue…symbols of which pill I might take. Took the red one…

    It’s all good.


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