Thursday, July 30, 2015

Is Neo-Darwinian Exposition Often a Case of Science Fiction or Fiction Science?

In my book, The Integration of Faith and Learning: A Worldview Approach, I referenced William D. Romey's article, "Science as Fiction or Nonfiction: A Physical Scientist's View from a General Semantics Perspective" (ETC, 37:3, Fall 1980, 201-207) in which Professor Romey says, "It is time to recognize the fictional dimension of all science and to acknowledge what is often thought 'pure' is a blend of fictional and nonfictional elements. . . ." He notes that inferences in science often involve "a leap across a gap of unknown dimensions," and that "any inference, then, may not be far from a flight of fantasy."

What brought these comments to mind was a book review by S. I. Hayakawa, that famed semanticist, discussing science fiction and L. Ron Hubbard's book, Dianetics. (ETC, 8:4, Summer, 1951, 280-293). In that review, Professor Hayakawa describes "the dangers entailed in the profession of science-fiction writing." How he describes the practice reminds me of how discussions of evolutionary "facts" and processes are often presented. Read Hayakawa's description  here and see if it doesn't resonate with a lot of Neo-Darwinist rhetoric:

"The art consists in concealing from the reader, for novelistic purposes, the distinctions between established scientific facts, almost-established scientific hypotheses, scientific conjectures, and imaginative extrapolations far beyond what has even been conjectured. The danger of this technique lies in the fact that . . . the writer . . . may eventually succeed in concealing the distinction between his facts and his imaginings from himself." As a result, adds Hayakawa, the writer's imaginings can "acquire so vivid a verbal existence that they may begin to  have, in the writer's evaluations, 'actual' existence."

From a semantics perspective, you could say that such writers have imprisoned themselves in their own verbal cage. Or, from a more ordinary perspective, it could be said that they have come to believe their own propaganda.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Problem Solving 101

I just read a review of a wireless router extender (the Netgear N300, which I own and enjoy). The owner said that the extender worked fine with his previous Internet service provider, but with the new provider,  he couldn't get it to work after "five or six hours" of trying. So he posted a negative review of the extender on Amazon.

Do you see the problem here? The rule is, If you change a variable in a working system, and the system stops working, look first at the variable you changed. Why blame another component in the system? That component worked fine before the change.

In the instance at hand, changing cable companies likely means a change in wireless routers. Maybe the new router (1) doesn't do WiFi well, (2) has the WiFi feature turned off, (3) isn't synchronized with the extender (unplugging the router for a minute has been known to work wonders). Or, perhaps the user is being impatient. A minute or two can be needed for the N300 to handshake with the router initially.

There is a tendency to blame the final link in any operational chain rather than investigate the upstream links. Here, the wireless extender is the final link and gets the blame. Come to think of it, the TV or laptop or BluRay player is probably the final link, so perhaps they should be investigated too.