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    Thread: The Limitations of Science and the Danger of Scientism

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      The Limitations of Science and the Danger of Scientism

      Spoiler for Wikipedia article defining Scientism:



      Spoiler for Limitations of Science and Its Method:
      Last edited by Dannon Oneironaut; 05-03-2010 at 06:55 AM.

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      Figuring Bert Thompson is a big-time creationist, I'd take his opinion of "science" with a grain of salt.

      Also, what's up with you just posting long-ass articles with very little, if any at all, personal contribution to the subject matter?
      Last edited by Catbus; 05-04-2010 at 12:00 AM. Reason: misspelled "big"

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      Bert Thompson is a creationist. All of his "science" degrees come from biased christian colleges.

      Creationism has absolutely no basis in reality, therefore anything he has to say about science is horribly misguided and inaccurate.


      Edit: Here's what he thinks about evolution. It boils down to "GODDIDIT."
      Last edited by Sekhmet; 05-03-2010 at 08:35 PM.

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      Well, that is his opinion. Personally, I believe in evolution. But I like his point about how it cannot be tested. That doesn't mean that it is wrong. Like I said, I believe in evolution. No matter his personal beliefs, the article is a very interesting article, and makes a very valid point. And along with the wikipedia article the point is that just because something is not testable, does not mean that it is untrue. But just because science has limitations, doesn't mean that everything is true, like creationism for example.

      Science is great because it is foolproof. It can be verified. It can be trusted. It is objective. It deals in facts. That being said, it is important to know that it has limitations. And I believe that science has been consistently expanding its limitations since its inception. So it is interesting to see where it will go.

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      It's always fascinating to hear the double standard so many people have about which scientific theories are or are not "testable." People have no trouble accepting the scientific consensus on the age of the Earth, the size of our galaxy, the speed of light, etc., none of which are things which we can directly observe... but when it comes to evolution: Hey, you can't test that! Give me a break. Science is the business of drawing inferences about the natural world based on the empirical evidence at hand. And there is plenty of empirical evidence that has been brought to bear on the question of evolution. Evolution is falsifiable (fossil rabbits in the Precambrian and all that) but has yet to be falsified. Deal with it.

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      I haven't fully read either of your sources, so please excuse my question if it has already been answered. However, my first automatic question in response to these notions is this: how else can you learn something objective about the world?

      Science seems like a very broad encompassing term, at its simplest indicating observations followed by theories tested by more observations. What method would you propose could work as well?

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      Quote Originally Posted by DuB View Post
      It's always fascinating to hear the double standard so many people have about which scientific theories are or are not "testable." People have no trouble accepting the scientific consensus on the age of the Earth, the size of our galaxy, the speed of light, etc.,
      Well, creationists also have a problem with science's age of the Earth. And the speed of light is testable. But you are preaching to the choir here. I believe in evolution. I am not a creationist. I think that the point is that such conclusions are outside the territory of the scientific method. I am not saying that it means that it isn't true. Evolution is true, but it isn't science. Just like psychology is true, but it isn't science, since it is subjective. That is what I think that the point of these articles are. That there are other studies of truth besides science. It is not to discredit science at all. These articles are not anti-science. But isn't it interesting how defensive people get when you point out the limitations of their belief system, whether it be based on religion or science? "No, science is everything! Science is all! Science is the only truth!"

      @thegnome54: You are missing the point. Learning about the objective world is science's domain. That is where science belongs. Learning how to create fire or make the wheel was science. I have a car and a computer which is possible because of science. etc. Physics and astronomy etc. But as to whether it is a good idea to build nuclear weapons or if abortion should be legal or illegal is not science, and apparently neither is evolution, or paranormal stuff, or altered states of consciousness through meditation or drugs. Well, brain chemistry is science, but that doesn't study the experience of consciousness itself. Science cannot ever know if we have freewill or not. If I choose to lift up my right foot and I do it is the realm of philosophy, etc. A musician has access to truths that science doesn't. An artist has access to truths that science doesn't. A farmer has access to truths that science doesn't. Science can only look for the answer to the question "How?". But how is not the only question us humans have. And the truth is not only "How".

      I propose that there could be an objective way to experiment on subjective experience, like meditation. If you had fifty people and you gave them all the same meditation technique, (For example the ones that supposedly allow you to live without eating) without telling them what the results are supposed to be, and then compare their experiences and log them in a database and keep repeating the experiment and see what the trends are.

      Remember: THIS THREAD IS NOT ANTI-SCIENCE!
      Last edited by Dannon Oneironaut; 05-04-2010 at 12:59 AM.

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      Quote Originally Posted by Dannon Oneironaut View Post
      A musician has access to truths that science doesn't.
      This is a really bad example. There's so much science surrounding music it's ridiculous. There are of course the physical aspects of the instruments and how they function to produce sounds. There's a whole pile of physics right there. Next there is our perception of sound, which is likewise in the realm of science. Neverminding the more obvious example of the mechanics of the ear, the question of why specific intervals, chord progressions, textures of sound and rhythm invoke particular sensations in us is a scientific question. It has to do with our brain and how our brain processes, decodes and assigns meaning to sound. It can all be described and understood scientifically. There is no aspect of our experience that is outside the realm of science because there is no aspect of our experience which is not a result of our brain. Our brains are a part of nature.
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      That is where science belongs. Learning how to create fire or make the wheel was science. I have a car and a computer which is possible because of science. etc. Physics and astronomy etc. But as to whether it is a good idea to build nuclear weapons or if abortion should be legal or illegal is not science
      I can't help but feel that this is in some ways similar to the No True Scotsman fallacy. Can't you imagine someone thousands of years ago arguing that science is good for plenty of things but it's not the role of science to explain fire, or why lightning strikes, or why some people give birth to two babies instead of one? As our scientific knowledge develops, this false dichotomy between 'science/objective truths' and 'mystical/subjective truths' just keeps being pushed along to new places.

      Science can only look for the answer to the question "How?". But how is not the only question us humans have. And the truth is not only "How".
      I agree with the first two sentences there. However, the third is debatable. Can't you imagine that perhaps 'why' questions (which I assume are what you're alluding to here) might just be irrelevant questions resulting from us humans misapplying our notions of agency? If there isn't a god or 'larger' awareness (which I would hope most people would acknowledge is a possibility) then 'why' questions wouldn't make any sense. Granted, I'm not claiming that this is true. No one knows yet whether 'why' questions are legitimate, and it's very possible that we will one day reach a point where science can no longer be usefully applied to the world around us. However, my position is simply that we are not yet at that point. Right now, science is undeniably our best tool for gaining reliable knowledge of the world around us. It's good and important to maintain awareness that this may not always be the case, but I don't think it's reasonable to claim that any other methods are actually better at discovering truths than science is at this point in time.

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      Quote Originally Posted by Mark75 View Post
      This is a really bad example. There's so much science surrounding music it's ridiculous. There are of course the physical aspects of the instruments and how they function to produce sounds. There's a whole pile of physics right there. Next there is our perception of sound, which is likewise in the realm of science. Neverminding the more obvious example of the mechanics of the ear, the question of why specific intervals, chord progressions, textures of sound and rhythm invoke particular sensations in us is a scientific question. It has to do with our brain and how our brain processes, decodes and assigns meaning to sound. It can all be described and understood scientifically. There is no aspect of our experience that is outside the realm of science because there is no aspect of our experience which is not a result of our brain. Our brains are a part of nature.
      Emphasized text is scientism.

      No, this is a good example. Science knows all about the frequencies of Hz and the mathematics involved. Science knows how the ear works and the acoustic properties of vibrational resonance in the body of a guitar, etc. But science is only capable about knowing "about" music, or sound, to be more specific. A scientist cannot be a Beethoven or a Jimmy Hendrix. A scientist may know about the properties of light and color but that doesn't mean that a scientist can paint a great painting. That doesn't mean that a scientist will be a Picasso. Science cannot know what beauty or ugliness is.

      Quote Originally Posted by thegnome54
      As our scientific knowledge develops, this false dichotomy between 'science/objective truths' and 'mystical/subjective truths' just keeps being pushed along to new places. it's very possible that we will one day reach a point where science can no longer be usefully applied to the world around us. However, my position is simply that we are not yet at that point. Right now, science is undeniably our best tool for gaining reliable knowledge of the world around us. It's good and important to maintain awareness that this may not always be the case, but I don't think it's reasonable to claim that any other methods are actually better at discovering truths than science is at this point in time.
      Quote Originally Posted by Dannon Oneironaut
      And I believe that science has been consistently expanding its limitations since its inception. So it is interesting to see where it will go.
      I cannot envision us ever outgrowing science. Just like I would hate to see us give up music. I think that science is indispensable and has done so many great things and discovered so many great things. It is part of human nature to be curious about the nature of this reality, I hope we never give up science. And I agree that it is a great tool for gathering facts. Please understand me, I am not anti-science.
      Last edited by Dannon Oneironaut; 05-04-2010 at 02:08 AM.

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      Quote Originally Posted by Dannon Oneironaut View Post
      A scientist cannot be a Beethoven or a Jimmy Hendrix. A scientist may know about the properties of light and color but that doesn't mean that a scientist can paint a great painting. That doesn't mean that a scientist will be a Picasso.
      You are confusing "science" with "scientists". A scientist cannot become a Beethoven or Jimmy Hendrix just by learning about the function of the mechanics of sound because it takes years of practise to learn to play an instrument (and it is insulting to suggest that they cannot do it at all). Also it is likely that most scientists (most people, for that matter) don't learn about how to actually create music. But this has nothing to do with the claim that music and its effect on people can be described by science. In fact, nothing you've said even mentions my claim that art can be described by science. It can. "Art" finds its meaning in our perceptions, which are a result of our brain. Exactly what about music do you see that science can not explain?
      Quote Originally Posted by Dannon Oneironaut View Post
      Science cannot know what beauty or ugliness is.
      I've already addessed this. "Beauty" and "ugliness" are perceptions. They are a function of our brains. Our brains and their functions can be described by science.

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      Quote Originally Posted by Dannon Oneironaut View Post
      Evolution is true, but it isn't science. Just like psychology is true, but it isn't science, since it is subjective.
      Quote Originally Posted by Dannon Oneironaut View Post
      Remember: THIS THREAD IS NOT ANTI-SCIENCE!
      I would like to believe you, but these are flat anti-scientific statements. They expose your deep misunderstanding of both evolution and science--not to mention psychology (although that one may be forgivable as I've learned that most people equate psychology with Freudian dream interpretation, which you'd be right to say is not science).

      Quote Originally Posted by Dannon Oneironaut View Post
      But science is only capable about knowing "about" music, or sound, to be more specific. A scientist cannot be a Beethoven or a Jimmy Hendrix. A scientist may know about the properties of light and color but that doesn't mean that a scientist can paint a great painting. That doesn't mean that a scientist will be a Picasso. Science cannot know what beauty or ugliness is.
      And why not, exactly? There are questions which science can't answer, but these that you alluded to are not among them. Exactly what it is about a song or painting that makes it beautiful to human beings is a fact about the natural world which can be acquired through experience. This puts it within the purview of science. Your lack of imagination notwithstanding, there's no reason why we couldn't use the methods of science to discover the ingredients of music that most people will find pleasing. We start with a theory about which elements of music are important and which aren't, then we write some songs which vary on those dimensions, have lots of people listen to them and evaluate them, statistically determine if the elements that we thought matter actually matter, then if necessary we revise our theory to fit the new data, write new songs, etc., over and over until we have a really solid theory about what makes music beautiful. And if we find that people respond differently to these elements of music--as we inevitably will--we can in principle use this same method to determine what it is about those people that causes them to like or dislike certain things, and use that knowledge to predict which music they will and won't like. Tada! We just "did science" on music. (And more specifically, we did psychology. A lot more than superegos and oral fixations, as I hope you come to realize.)

      And as an interesting footnote, I'll point out in response to your "scientists can't be Beethoven or Jimi Hendrix" comment that Brian May of Queen is an astrophysicist.
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      And I agree that it is a great tool for gathering facts. Please understand me, I am not anti-science.
      I know you aren't, sorry if it came off that way. What I mean to ask is, what other than these 'facts' you refer to is useful or possible to know, and what method is better at discovering them than science?

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      Well, to be clear, I didn't mean that a scientist cannot also be a musician, I meant that it is not science that makes music, or that when Brian May is playing guitar he is a musician, when he is studying space he is an astrophysicist. My point is that a musician cannot shoot a rocket out into orbit, unless he is a scientist.

      And why not, exactly? There are questions which science can't answer, but these that you alluded to are not among them. Exactly what it is about a song or painting that makes it beautiful to human beings is a fact about the natural world which can be acquired through experience. This puts it within the purview of science. Your lack of imagination notwithstanding, there's no reason why we couldn't use the methods of science to discover the ingredients of music that most people will find pleasing. We start with a theory about which elements of music are important and which aren't, then we write some songs which vary on those dimensions, have lots of people listen to them and evaluate them, statistically determine if the elements that we thought matter actually matter, then if necessary we revise our theory to fit the new data, write new songs, etc., over and over until we have a really solid theory about what makes music beautiful. And if we find that people respond differently to these elements of music--as we inevitably will--we can in principle use this same method to determine what it is about those people that causes them to like or dislike certain things, and use that knowledge to predict which music they will and won't like. Tada! We just "did science" on music. (And more specifically, we did psychology. A lot more than superegos and oral fixations, as I hope you come to realize.)
      This is what pop music is, this is how the music industry works. And the thing is is that music is constantly evolving so that what one generation likes the other hates. I went to a arts and humanities class the other week with my client who is a student there. The class was about these musicians in Europe somewhere who did exactly that. They interviewed hundreds of people about everything they like and dislike in music. The experiment was to create "The Best Song in the World" and "The Worst Song in the World". The ironic thing was that the worst song ended up being the better song and the best song ended up being the worse song. The song that was supposed to be the worst song had all kinds of bagpipes and polka beats and dissonant distorted guitar and atonal bells and gongs. And the best song ended up sounding like canned music with no soul, but it had all the "hooks" and catchy jingle sounding things in it.

      So, y'all think that I am being anti-scientific because I think that there are some things that science has limits? I said that the limits are expanding all the time. I think that you might just be a little defensive about your beliefs.

      I want you to show me how science can know what beauty is and what ugliness is. Maybe you are right. Has there been any studies? I think that advertising probably studies this the most. So maybe I can see what you mean. But advertising? All our music would be like Hannah Montana and Justin Timberlake! But Brian May, he is a good guitarist. But I think that is because of his musical talent, not because of his knowledge of astrophysics. All the art would look like Kincaid!

      I think that artists should paint pictures and the musicians should make the music and scientists can figure out how the brain works. The musicians know how the music works, they study music, they don't need to know scientifically how the brain works in order to know what they like and what we like. Jimmy Page can write the best songs without knowing how the brain works. I don't think that knowing how the brain works would help him any bit.

      So you actually believe that scientists are more qualified to make music than musicians?
      Last edited by Dannon Oneironaut; 05-04-2010 at 03:18 AM.

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      Quote Originally Posted by Dannon Oneironaut View Post
      This is what pop music is, this is how the music industry works.
      Heh, it would be pretty amusing if the music industry worked this way. It doesn't. The music industry wouldn't know the scientific method if it toured out of Liverpool and wore a funny haircut. Also, there is no reason at all why the method I outlined should be confined to producing pop music. If you think that is the case, explain the reasoning to me.

      Quote Originally Posted by Dannon Oneironaut View Post
      So, y'all think that I am being anti-scientific because I think that there are some things that science has limits? I said that the limits are expanding all the time. I think that you might just be a little defensive about your beliefs.
      I also acknowledged that there are things that science can't answer. That's not the point. The point is that you have a warped sense of what is and is not the domain of science. "Anti-scientific" was perhaps not the best word to describe this, as your position isn't that science is bad or useless or anything like that; really it's just a matter of your view being ill-informed.

      Quote Originally Posted by Dannon Oneironaut View Post
      I want you to show me how science can know what beauty is and what ugliness is.
      I spent a considerable portion of my post sketching the basic outline of what a science of beauty in music would look like. Now it's your turn to point out why that method either (a) could not work in principle, or (b) is not science. The example you gave sounds interesting, but I should point out that professional musicians are not well known for their skills in research design and data analysis, so it shouldn't be too surprising that their grand experiment didn't turn out. Also, I would be interested to read about this first hand if you have a reference.

      Quote Originally Posted by Dannon Oneironaut View Post
      I think that artists should paint pictures and the musicians should make the music and scientists can figure out how the brain works.
      This sort of attitude is part of what I object to in your posts. Ironically, you hold the most narrow view of both art and science of anyone who has spoken up here.

      Quote Originally Posted by Dannon Oneironaut View Post
      So you actually believe that scientists are more qualified to make music than musicians?
      Don't put words in my mouth.

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      Well, i guess that is what I am getting at. That is what I need to know. Do you think that scientists are more qualified to make music than musicians?

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      Interesting thread. Both scientism and science have enormous practicality in the world, however they are still limited to their own domain. It is unwise to say there is no other way to learn and grow.

      Quote Originally Posted by Mark75 View Post
      Exactly what about music do you see that science can not explain?
      It is not music; it is not the experiencing of music. That is only scratching the surface. It is the experience itself! Science is limited to the brain and cannot conceptualize subjective experience without turning it into an object. Subjective experience, in its self-evidence, is actually devoid of concepts. When it becomes a concept, it becomes objectified; it becomes limited.

      I've already addessed this. "Beauty" and "ugliness" are perceptions. They are a function of our brains. Our brains and their functions can be described by science.
      'Beauty' and 'ugliness' are purely subjective terms. Understand they are extremely vague when it comes to comparing between paradigms; objective and subjective. Science is limited to objectifying everything, but 'beauty' is part of a subjective experience. Saying that it is a functioning of our brain tells me nothing about beauty. Beauty, in and of itself, is not describable or provable.

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      Quote Originally Posted by Dannon Oneironaut View Post
      Well, i guess that is what I am getting at. That is what I need to know. Do you think that scientists are more qualified to make music than musicians?
      It's a meaningless question. The group "musicians" and the group "scientists" are not exclusive. Be more clear about what you're trying to ask.

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      Are you avoiding the question or do you seriously don't understand?

      OK let me try to reword it:

      Are scientists who don't know how to play a musical instrument more qualified than musicians who are not scientists at making music?

      And another question:

      Would you rather listen to music made just for your likes and dislikes by a scientist or would you rather listen to music by a musician who is not a scientist who is expressing what he/she wants to express and likes?

      I admit, I am biased towards the musicians here, I am a musician myself and I think that it is so easy to pick up a guitar and play something people like because I am a person also with a brain and a heart. I think that if I were a scientist it would be impractical if not impossible to experiment on the brain in a lab with cat scans and electrodes and eeg monitors, etc.

      I think that psychology might be better suited, but still a musician is the expert in this situation. But of course psychology is not a natural science.

      @Really: Did you read the wiki article on scientism?
      and yeah, I think appreciation is subjective also, kind of like ethics in a way.


      OK, Dub
      this is interesting. You mentioned that you agree that there are limits to science, just that art and music are not. Well, OK, agree to disagree, but what do you think the limitations of science are?

      I can think of so much: dance? I guess what I am trying to say is that even if I were a scientist who studied music and the brain and dance and art and the brain it would all still remain a mystery to me. And I think that that mystery is the essence of good music. As in, you can tell when a musician has a great technique but no "soul" in his music. And I say soul, but don't think that I mean anything paranormal here. I just mean that something indefinable in the music that exalts it. You can have a cover band play a song note for note, timber for timber of the original artist and it might have no "soul" to it.

      I ramble... sorry
      Last edited by Dannon Oneironaut; 05-04-2010 at 04:48 AM.

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      Quote Originally Posted by Dannon Oneironaut View Post
      Are scientists who don't know how to play a musical instrument more qualified than musicians who are not scientists at making music?
      The reason I asked for clarification is that this question is completely and utterly irrelevant to our discussion, so I was hoping you actually meant to ask something else--you know, a question that would advance the discussion. Obviously I would rather listen to music made by someone who, surprise, knows how to make music. Is there a point here?

      Quote Originally Posted by Dannon Oneironaut View Post
      Would you rather listen to music made just for your likes and dislikes by a scientist or would you rather listen to music by a musician who is not a scientist who is expressing what he/she wants to express and likes?y
      Again, what on Earth are you trying to get at here? The question at hand is whether the methods of science can tell us anything about music, not what my musical preferences are.

      Quote Originally Posted by Dannon Oneironaut View Post
      I admit, I am biased towards the musicians here, I am a musician myself and I think that it is so easy to pick up a guitar and play something people like because I am a person also with a brain and a heart. I think that if I were a scientist it would be impractical if not impossible to experiment on the brain in a lab with cat scans and electrodes and eeg monitors, etc.
      I am sure there is a coherent point hidden deep.... very deep... in here somewhere.

      Quote Originally Posted by Dannon Oneironaut View Post
      You mentioned that you agree that there are limits to science, just that art and music are not. Well, OK, agree to disagree, but what do you think the limitations of science are?
      Hey, a relevant question. For one, it can't answer questions about morality. All the cause-and-effect facts in the world are not sufficient to render an action moral or immoral; that is for each person to decide. (Although see here for an interesting and provocative argument to the contrary.) In a recent thread, we talked about the mysteries of consciousness and free will. It is not at all clear to me that these are scientifically tractable questions even in principle. Finally, basically all metaphysical questions, almost as a matter of definition, are untouchable by scientific methods. For example, what is the nature of personal identity? Or identity in general? What does it mean to "cause" something? What does it mean for an event to be "possible" or to be "probable"?

      The number of philosophical questions which can never be addressed by science is staggering, which makes it all the more puzzling that you seem so stuck on a couple of the easy problems about which science actually can have something to say.

      Quote Originally Posted by Dannon Oneironaut View Post
      I can think of so much: dance? I guess what I am trying to say is that even if I were a scientist who studied music and the brain and dance and art and the brain it would all still remain a mystery to me. And I think that that mystery is the essence of good music. As in, you can tell when a musician has a great technique but no "soul" in his music. And I say soul, but don't think that I mean anything paranormal here. I just mean that something indefinable in the music that exalts it. You can have a cover band play a song note for note, timber for timber of the original artist and it might have no "soul" to it.
      Okay... so anyway, moving us back on topic, several posts ago I outlined what a science of beauty in music would look like, and I'm still waiting for you to point out why this method either (a) could not work in principle, or (b) is not science. I feel that I've been pretty damn clear about the issue and I'd appreciate it if you would cut the rambling and do the same. Clarity is a virtue in writing, so take your time if you have to... please.

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      Again, what on Earth are you trying to get at here? The question at hand is whether the methods of science can tell us anything about music, not what my musical preferences are
      several posts ago I outlined what a science of beauty in music would look like, and I'm still waiting for you to point out why this method either (a) could not work in principle, or (b) is not science.
      Because science may be able to tell us that the harmony between the tonic and the fifth with a major third and a dominant seventh stimulates the pleasure areas of the brain when a IV chord comes after it, but musicians already know that. Science, at best, can verify what musicians already know, regarding music. And come to think about it, the only way a scientist could use his knowledge of science to write music is also if he could play an instrument in the first place, or at least understand music theory, so technically he would be using his musician skills, there would be no way for him to separate his objective science from his subjective musical taste to write a song. For example, people like it that a IV chord comes after a I7 chord but then there are so many options and choices as to what comes next, and when, and, with what time signature, and what rhtyhm, etc. but all of them might be just as enjoyable to the brain. So he will have to make a choice based on his own tastes or on the opinions of his colleagues or friends, which is what musicians do.
      It is like that science may be able to understand when the brain is dreaming, what part of the brain is dreaming, what stages the brain goes through during sleep that leads to dreaming, etc. But science can't know what the subjective experience of the dream is. It can know ABOUT it, but it can't know it.

      To think otherwise is the definition of scientism. Because it is subjective and science is objective by definition. Science can study the brain but it cannot study the experience, and the experience may take place in the brain but it is not the same thing as the brain.

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      Dannon, I think a good analogy here might be chess. It was long believed that chess masters would always be able to beat the computers, because they intuitively knew the best strategies and could see higher aspects of the game than any program could. However, since chess is a very well-defined system, computational power eventually won out. This seems like something similar to 'the ability to make good music'. Music is a huge but well-defined thing: a sequence of noises audible to the human ears. Right now, human musicians are believed to be able to make much better music than any program could because of their artistic intuition and whatnot. Eventually, however, we might come to understand the human brain well enough to make a program that creates music which people find more enjoyable, and generally 'better' than human musicians can reliably produce.

      The other part of your argument, though, is about consciousness and qualia. I don't know if you've ever read Frank Jackson's version of the Knowledge Argument, but it seems to be very relevant to the questions you're asking. Here is a summary of it.

      The underlying question is how qualia can be explained. This is a serious problem for scientists aiming to eventually try to study consciousness (i.e. me) which seems to lead to ugly situations no matter which approach you take. I actually just took a class on Philosophy of Mind taught by Jaegwon Kim, who is pretty well-respected and believes that scientific study of consciousness is in fact impossible. The prospect of this is deeply troubling, but the truth is no one can really say at this point. We'll just have to wait and see.

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      Quote Originally Posted by Dannon Oneironaut View Post
      And come to think about it, the only way a scientist could use his knowledge of science to write music is also if he could play an instrument in the first place, or at least understand music theory, so technically he would be using his musician skills
      So what? Who said it would be necessary to separate the two? I certainly didn't. The question, once again, is whether we can use the scientific method to better understand music. If we draw on musical skills while doing the science, then great. We're still doing science on music. Similarly, I can use language to communicate my ideas about the science of language. It doesn't change a thing.

      Quote Originally Posted by Dannon Oneironaut View Post
      there would be no way for him to separate his objective science from his subjective musical taste to write a song.
      [...]he will have to make a choice based on his own tastes or on the opinions of his colleagues or friends, which is what musicians do.
      That's completely wrong. That may be true for a crappy scientist, but it's an elementary consideration for someone who knows what they're doing. You develop a theory and you systematically test the theory, and you do your best to leave your personal biases out of it. Maybe you succeed and maybe you don't, but any scientist worth his salt at least knows what the process ought to look like.

      Quote Originally Posted by Dannon Oneironaut View Post
      Because science may be able to tell us that the harmony between the tonic and the fifth with a major third and a dominant seventh stimulates the pleasure areas of the brain when a IV chord comes after it, but musicians already know that.
      A scientific approach could tell us a lot more than that. As you know, there are a near infinite number of chord changes one can cycle through during a song, and which combination of progressions and resolutions will sound best to the audience is an empirical question, in the sense that it is concerning a fact which can be verified or refuted by reference to the external world. We can approach it as such by trying several of the combinations and seeing what works the best.

      But there's no reason why we have to restrict ourselves to low-level questions about which resolutions seem to work best (we already have music theory for that!). Which instruments are the most pleasing? Which tempos are the best at fostering which moods? For a given style or a given song, do people prefer complex drum beats or minimal ones? Once again, these are empirical questions, and approaching them systematically can yield answers that are not obvious. (Again, I am downplaying the important factor of individual differences, but these can be taken into account in just as systematic a way. It's just a whole lot of extra work.)

      Do people do this? Not that I'm aware of. But the point is that there's nothing stopping people from doing so if they were so inclined, and there's no reason to think that it couldn't ultimately yield a lot of interesting musical knowledge (given a ton of time and effort).

      Quote Originally Posted by Dannon Oneironaut View Post
      But science can't know what the subjective experience of the dream is. It can know ABOUT it, but it can't know it.

      To think otherwise is the definition of scientism. Because it is subjective and science is objective by definition. Science can study the brain but it cannot study the experience, and the experience may take place in the brain but it is not the same thing as the brain.
      Well, yes and no. I think this point is where the fundamental disagreement here lies, so let me clear things up a bit. As I wrote earlier, I am skeptical that science will ever answer the question of why we have subjective experience in the first place. So in that sense, you're right, science cannot tell us the "why" of subjective experience. Which is unfortunate, because it's one of the most interesting and puzzling questions of all.

      But we're not talking about the "why"--we're talking about the "what." Studying the contents of subjective experience is actually very easy, and I happen to be in the business of doing so (<---I'm a link... click me and read me! I'm interesting! ). All you have to do is ask people! For example, I can give you a chocolate bar, and then punch you in the face, and ask you which of those two experiences gave you more pleasure. Upon hearing your answer, I've just learned a fact about your subjective experience! (Although perhaps not a very informative one in this case.)

      Using this same basic method, I can learn all sorts of interesting facts about your subjective experiences as you listen to various pieces of music. And as long as I am eliciting your responses in a systematic and rigorous way, I am "doing science" on your subjective experience of music.
      Last edited by DuB; 05-04-2010 at 07:38 AM.

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      Interesting to equate chess with music. Never thought about that. Many differences come to mind. First of all, chess is a game of logic and strategy, music is an art that evokes emotions. Chess has strict rules, music has no rules, just theory. Chess doesn't evolve unless you change the rules. Music is constantly evolving since it mirrors the times and the emotions and consciousness of the times. Also what about lyrics? Can a program come up with good lyrics? The reason we like music and lyrics is because we can relate to it and the artist who creates it. Can we relate to a computer program and can a computer program relate with us? Can a computer right a Bob Dylan song?

      I find it easy to conceive of a program beating a human at a game of logic and strategy. The only reason that it took so long is because chess is such a complex game, but even then I am surprised that it took so long. But of course i cannot comprehend the deeper aspects of chess. The chess programs always beat me unless I set it to beginner or intermediate.

      I have to go to bed now. Tomorrow I will read the link you posted after I get home from work. I am very interested in consciousness so I am looking forward to reading it. Night night. sweet dreams.
      really likes this.

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      Quote Originally Posted by really View Post
      It is the experience itself! Science is limited to the brain and cannot conceptualize subjective experience without turning it into an object. Subjective experience, in its self-evidence, is actually devoid of concepts. When it becomes a concept, it becomes objectified; it becomes limited.
      I am talking about the experience itself, too. The experience is subject to individual brains. That doesn't make it something magical or outside of nature.
      Quote Originally Posted by Dannon Oneironaut View Post
      Because science may be able to tell us that the harmony between the tonic and the fifth with a major third and a dominant seventh stimulates the pleasure areas of the brain when a IV chord comes after it, but musicians already know that.
      To know that you like a particular musical element is a considerably more shallow understanding than to know the specific physical and psychological reasons why.

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