Reality Thursday

by John Holbo on October 1, 2009

I don’t see why only Theory and Monday should have all the fun. Still, one comment from Michael’s thread caught my eye. Hidari:

I might also add that the ‘anti-relativist’ or (as I would prefer to put it) ‘anti-contextualist’ position is generally hopelessly confused in that they tend to use Positivist arguments to support Realist positions. But you can’t do that. The positivists were instrumentalists, as befitted their anti-metaphysical, pro-empiricist assumptions. Realism is a metaphysical position.

The rest of the comment suggests this is supposed to express a Nancy Cartwright-style view, which I don’t think is really quite properly described as anti-realist. (It is anti-Realist, for certain values of the self-important capital-R. But that is another kettle of fish. Or, possibly, Fish. I mention this out of scrupulosity because it just isn’t clear to me the positions Hidari is objecting to in the thread are Realist, as opposed to realist.) Anyway, the point is this. I’ve been watching the new They Might Be Giants Here Comes Science DVD with my girls [amazon]. It’s great! Can’t decide yet whether I like it better than the earlier TMBG kid’s discs, but it does measure up so far.

In the opening number, one of the Johns does exactly the thing that bothers Hidari (and Cartwright is indeed someone who scourges this particular move): offering positivist arguments on behalf of realism.

As I was saying, one of the Johns quotes Rudolf Carnap, “science is a system of statements based on direct experience and controlled by experimental verification.” And the other John then says: “Or as we say, Science Is Real!” And the song starts. But these two statements are hardly equivalent. Indeed, even the graphic for the song title is eloquently anti-Carnapian:


This clearly implies that science does not consist of sentences. It is a thing that itself contains the things that sentences about science are about. Or as we say: things! Reality! (Call it what you will. Place is thick with the stuff.)

Here’s a YouTube link to the video for TMBG “Science is Real”, complete with Carnapian intro. (You can also watch it as an Amazon preview, but they cut the Carnap bit! That was the best part!)

So your job, this Reality Thursday, is to write a song – or poem – expressing as clearly as you can, with extra style points for keeping it intelligible to an 8-year old – your favored philosophy of science. Does it consist of sentences, or does it consist of reality? You decide! The only thing I can think of that rhymes with ‘paradigm’ is ‘spare a dime’. As to the rest: I’m recovering from the flu myself and have 100+ papers to grade, so don’t ask me to dance you a little jig. I don’t have the time or energy.

You can also comment in prose.



alex 10.01.09 at 10:08 am

Science is how we think things out
And try quite hard not to scream and shout,
We take a look
At thing, or book
And ask, ‘Can we know what’s really there?’
‘Or even, maybe, what’s right, and fair?’

We can’t pretend to have no ideas,
Or dreams or needs, or hopes, or fears.
But wanting it won’t make it so,
And old ideas must sometimes go.

Science can’t tell us how to feel,
But it shows what counts as real.
That’s a thing we need to know,
If we’re all going to live, and grow.

Extempore, and perhaps mere doggerel, with a possible contradiction between the inclusion of the humanities in the first verse, and the first couplet of the third…


Ginger Yellow 10.01.09 at 10:42 am

What the hell is the ‘E’?


Malaclypse 10.01.09 at 10:49 am

Can’t decide yet whether I like it better than the earlier TMBG kid’s discs, but it does measure up so far.

It is clearly superior to Here Come the 123s. I think Here Come the ABCs is the best album, but Science has the best song (“Why Does the Sun Shine”). That song also has the best video – theremin-playing cartoon cats rock.


Aaron Boyden 10.01.09 at 11:16 am

I’m almost positive I remember Plato having Socrates tell us somewhere that he doesn’t think an investigation of words necessarily fails to be an investigation of the things themselves (I don’t remember exactly how he put it). And, of course, even before he started turning his attention to semantics in his later work (which may be what TMBG are thinking of), Carnap felt it necessary to point out (in the Aufbau) that settling the logical/structural facts didn’t seem to leave anything still unsettled (I’m thinking particularly of his discussion of the analogy of the railway map).


Hidari 10.01.09 at 11:49 am

Ah but to be completely true to the TMBG position: should the prize not really go to a song/poem in favour of your favourite philosophy of science that contains a logical contradiction?

Incidentally, just to be clear: my target was clearly Realism with a capital ‘R’: what Hilary Putnam calls ‘Metaphysical Realism’.


Delicious Pundit 10.01.09 at 12:55 pm

My doggerel disk is but one terarhyme
But still it finds something to go with paradigm.
I drink gin and tonic and yes, I spare a lime,
When me and the boys talk shift about paradigm.

Damn, coffee’s ready. Gotta go.


kid bitzer 10.01.09 at 1:10 pm

phaedo 99e.


kid bitzer 10.01.09 at 1:21 pm

tho soc’s claim is less “words are just as real as things!”
than “things are just as much images as words are!”

i.e. sensible bodies are only images of forms, and so no less derivative than words.
so i’m not sure it makes the point you wanted. neither investigating words nor investigating (sensible) things gives us direct access to capital-r reality. his view may be too far afield to help here.

but he does advocate making verse!


Steve LaBonne 10.01.09 at 2:12 pm

Quoth Putnam, “Hey, metaphysician!
Come hear from my Polish Logician!
You say we are two,
you and I, and it’s true-
but we also are one, by addition!”

(I’m kind of violating the premise since I’m actually no fan of Putnam.)


Chris 10.01.09 at 2:24 pm

neither investigating words nor investigating (sensible) things gives us direct access to capital-r reality.

This is true as far as it goes, but that doesn’t make the extra layer(s) of indirection unimportant. Furthermore, what Plato seems to have failed to anticipate is that the difference between observations of reality and reality is dependent on the techniques of observation — which are capable of refinement.


jacob 10.01.09 at 2:50 pm

Ginger Yellow @2: I had thought (hoped) that the E was a piece of bacon, but the video makes it clear that it’s some sort of rock.


dsquared 10.01.09 at 2:54 pm

they already wrote the song about my philosophy of science:

Is this the real life?
Is this just fantasy?
Caught in a landslide
No escape from reality
Open your eyes
Look up to the skies and see
I’m just a poor boy, I need no sympathy
Because I’m easy come, easy go
A little high, little low
Anyway the wind blows, doesn’t really matter to me, to me

it’s basically Feyerabandian.


Platonist 10.01.09 at 3:35 pm

Alex @1:

“‘Or even, maybe, what’s right, and fair?’…Science can’t tell us how to feel” does appear to be a contradiction — but if you noticed this, did you perhaps have a consistent alternate reading in mind? I don’t see any hope for the first line — it should become: “But absolutely not, never, what’s right or fair.” But the second one might work as: “Science can tell us why we feel.”

Kid bitzer @8:

Wouldn’t the Platonic approach be to ask whether science consists of the forms (the real “things”) or thoughts/intellectual intuitions about the forms (probably not statements, since they qualify as images)?

Chris @10:

“Plato seems to have failed to anticipate is that the difference between observations of reality and reality is dependent on the techniques of observation—which are capable of refinement.”

But Plato’s point is grounded on the fact of a gap between observation and observed, and not on the size of that gap. It’s that I’m looking at a photo, not that the resolution is poor, so technique doesn’t solve it. (You’d have to have direct intuition of the real to measure the actual rather than relative difference between more and less refined techniques of observation. Or, as Nietzsche puts it: you can’t look around your own corner, no matter how sharp your eyesight.)

My philosophy of science song was written by Laurie Anderson: “It’s a sky-blue sky… Let x = x.”


SusanC 10.01.09 at 3:40 pm

I’m not feeling up to poetry right now, but how about:
(Most of) the words used in scientific discourse refer to imaginary, culture-specific mathematical objects that allow us to imperfectly predict the sense experiences we will have when we interact with our culturally-specific measuring instruments.

This, space aliens on the planet Zarg will not have the same physics as us if they don’t have the same material culture (even if the difference is something trivial, like their version of the Large Hadron collider puts more energy into the colliding particles. And if they do a different kind of experiment, then all bets are really off)


John L. Taylor 10.01.09 at 5:05 pm

A Limerick for Computational Epistemology

Science finds a normative naturalist foundation
Where logic meets mechanism in computation
Whose relevance to Man
Is supplied by an aught implying a can
And to truths we may converge without termination.


John L. Taylor 10.01.09 at 5:19 pm

Correction to 15: I forgot to employ the use versus mention distinction in my rough draft. For clarity’s sake, the next to last line should read: Is supplied by an ‘aught’ implying a ‘can’ .


rea 10.01.09 at 5:26 pm

Observe the poor word “paradigm”
With which nothing else seems to rhyme
Except the short phrase “spare a dime”
Found by John Holbo just in time


SusanC 10.01.09 at 5:45 pm

The Forms which can be spoken are not the true Forms.


Steve LaBonne 10.01.09 at 6:22 pm

(Not apropos of anything really, but I love Stevens and the thread made me think of the title of this beautiful late poem of his:)

Reality is an Activity of the Most August Imagination

Last Friday, in the big light of last Friday night,
We drove home from Cornwall to Hartford, late.
It was not a night blown at a glassworks in Vienna
Or Venice, motionless, gathering time and dust.
There was a crush of strength in a grinding going round,
Under the front of the westward evening star,
The vigor of glory, a glittering in the veins,
As things emerged and moved and were dissolved,
Either in distance, change or nothingness,
The visible transformations of summer night,
An argentine abstraction approaching form
And suddenly denying itself away.
There was an insolid billowing of the solid.
Night’s moonlight lake was neither water nor air.


Greg 10.01.09 at 6:33 pm

No philosophy of science here, unless you turn to the subtextual. Anyway,

A limerick as poem: a paradigm.
The incentive: a stick or a carrot. I’m
caught like a rabbit.
How paradigmatic!
My last word? Suitably anodyne.


LFC 10.01.09 at 8:20 pm

@19: Thanks for the Stevens poem. The last two lines are especially good, imo.


John L. Taylor 10.01.09 at 10:21 pm

One more:

I admit that Logical-Empiricism left me impressed
Though early forms couldn’t pass the verification test.
And Constructive Empiricism
Is not without lyricism,
But I find a variety of structural realism the best.


Aaron 10.01.09 at 11:46 pm

Auntie says I’m made by God,
and the moon landing was a fraud,
but when I go to learn at school,
my teacher says that that she’s a fool
and that astronauts are really cool
and I think that’s probably true,
but not as much as I do
think that one and one is two

“oh, one and one is two,
I’m pretty sure that’s true,
’cause if you doubt it, then there is
nothing you can do”

Dr. Quine says spiders
have got it figured out
as they wait inside their webs
they’re in the middle looking out
and once they’re done with logic,
they will not scream or shout,
but use their web to crawl a ways
to suck bugs’ juices out

“oh one and one is two”

so when I’m asked, what will I be
when I am thirty-two or three,
doctor, lawyer, or may-be
a ventriloquist,
I will say whatever it is,
I’m sure to be a pragmatist

“oh one and one is two…”

And Dr. Quine, he has a dog,
double-u, v oh,
it says that empiricism
is the way to go
but Dr. Quine says, wait Spot,
you are partially correct,
but don’t think that all knowledge
is like your Labradory set
and Spot gets sort of grumbly
but doesn’t ask just why,
but Dr. Quine is patient,
and lets his sleeping dog lie.

“oh one and one is two”


vivian 10.02.09 at 1:25 am

Hilary Putnam –
Don’t you go Cuttin’ Him –
Collapsed the Fact/Value
Distinction quite prettily

Science and Ethics,
They’re somewhat synthetic
I’d explain it in detail
but never as wittily.


vivian 10.02.09 at 1:26 am

Grr. sassifrassin rassintassin preview…


Tim O'Keefe 10.02.09 at 2:53 am

To those of you complaining about TMBG:

If you’re happy to concede that scientific theories can be ‘real’ (or at least acceptable) in a sense that doesn’t commit you to the dread Metaphysical Realism, so that we can justifiably say things like “It’s true that the nuclei of atoms other than hydrogen are composed of neutrons and protons,” why not extend the same courtesy to the statement “Science is real”? Whaddya think that that statement really commits one to, metaphysically speaking, especially in the conversational context of a song addressed primarily to kids 5-8 years old?


John Holbo 10.02.09 at 3:55 am

“Whaddya think that that statement really commits one to, metaphysically speaking, especially in the conversational context of a song addressed primarily to kids 5-8 years old?”

Well, first, I think it’s important not to assume that overly-serious efforts to analyze children’s songs are, in fact, overly-serious! (Over-seriousness is, in fact, in many cases, if not the new under-seriousness, then at least a contender to the throne of the perennially good old underseriousness.)

That said, let’s take this seriously. What might ‘science is real’ commit one to – in a more adult context – that one might wish to beg off, while still even being a realist, in some fairly solid, if uncapitalized, sense? Stars are real. They were real before we got here and will be real after we go away. Sentences about stars are real. But they weren’t real before we got here and they are almost certain to cease to be real before all the stars have ceased to exist. If ‘science’ is best thought of as referring to a set of sentences or statements, then science is real, but it wasn’t real before we got here – at least it didn’t exist yet. The strong hint in the song is that ‘science itself’ was here before we got here. But maybe it’s best not to talk that way because it’s better to stick closer to the sentence view of what science really is.

I’m not convinced that’s right. I think it might be alright to say that scientific truths are true independently of us – barring cases in which the truths are about us, in which case they can’t be independent of us – and (ideal) science consists of scientific truths. So (ideal) science exists independently of us. Or something like that. This view is often dismissed as absurdly Realist, but I don’t think it’s so clear. But it certainly might be a wrong view to hold, for a lot of well-rehearsed reasons, having to do with the suspicion that we are absurdly imagining away humans while preserving a touch of the human. In a crypto way ‘science would be real even if no minds ever arose in the universe’ might be analogous to ‘jokes would still be funny even if no minds ever arose in the universe’. It’s just not so clear what that would mean.

When you start to spell it out in detail, ‘science is real’ loses a lot of the ‘but stones are real!’ intuitiveness that proponents are often relying on.

But Tim knew this already, being a sophisticated fellow.


John Holbo 10.02.09 at 4:26 am

Just to be clear: I actually do think Tim is a sophisticated fellow. (Damn that being ironic about everything. Then when you try to be serious it sounds ironic.)


Billikin 10.02.09 at 4:26 am

Waving hands,
Spiral staircase,

That does not quite do it, but what do you want for ten syllables. ;) I did not address a 5-8 year old, either. But I would do that primarily with drawings or games, not with words, anyway.

I think that Piaget basically got it right. Ask someone to describe a spiral staircase, and nearly everyone will use their hands, because their understanding is not verbal. Like all knowledge it is mostly verbal/mathematical, but also includes actions, perceptions, and judgments. That is not to say that it is real. ;)


Billikin 10.02.09 at 4:32 am

Oops! The “it” in the last two sentences refers to science. :)


Billikin 10.02.09 at 4:50 am

BTW, this theme brings back painful memories of reading Sartre. Often I would suddenly realize that something he had said 100 pages earlier meant the opposite of what I had thought. One such misunderstanding concerned scientific laws. I originally thought of a scientific law as a set of observations, like the meaning of “mother” as the set of ordered pairs, {Eve – Cain, Barbara – W, . . .}. But Sartre meant a verbal/mathematical statement. Les Mots, indeed! ;)


garymar 10.02.09 at 7:13 am

A Popperian Haiku:

A beautiful thought;
An ugly fact flounders in.


bad Jim 10.02.09 at 8:09 am

Yo, kids! Listen up! Here’s the deal:
Forget what you want, how you feel.
Put things to the test.
Keep what works. Fuck the rest.
What works is, in practice, the real.


bad Jim 10.02.09 at 8:21 am


Since only what works can be real.


bad Jim 10.02.09 at 8:59 am

Normally we would see finch soup through the window
As the redheads make merry in the birdbath
But they’re all flown.
Shouldn’t I make a stern face and shout, or wield a toy gun
To make the hawk depart?


Scott Martens 10.02.09 at 9:51 am

The things that are true
are the things that you do
and that work even when you think that they shouldn’t
an idea is real
not for its appeal
but because it helps you to do what you couldn’t

is to reality
like choking the chicken to a good solid screw
so science is not ideal
and usually only real
when it can tell you what you generally ought to do


JoB 10.02.09 at 10:26 am

Science is not all it’s propped up to be, but, at least, it doesn’t govern by decree, and it’s therefore open to both you and me!

The last “therefore” may well be philosophical – still, it’s the only one that is not merely whimsical.


SusanC 10.02.09 at 11:20 am

Nearly all children play games of pretense, so you’ld expect older children to have an intuitive understanding of the “real” versus the pretend. (I’ll pass on the questions of what point in development this distinction is understood, whether children with severe autism can pretend, whether other times or other cultures have the same notion of “real” that we do, etc). To say that science studies objects that are “real” in this sense seems rather safer than a strong Realist position that (e.g.) we have empirical evidence that we are not the proverbial brain in a vat.

If children have played online games like World of Warcraft, they may know that you can use scientific method to investigate an entirely simulated world. (And indeed, such investigation is part of the fun of these games)


Tim O'Keefe 10.02.09 at 11:42 am

Hi John. In the video, the contrast is between science, which is “real,” and things like fairies and unicorns, which are “not real” (although stories about them are still enjoyable). I presume that this doesn’t mean just that science, as a social practice, exists. Instead, the point is that science isn’t just a bunch of crap we made up; instead, it is grounded in observation, tested, and can be reliable. This is fairly thin notion of ‘real,’ compatible with a large range of metaphysical positions, including the fairly instrumentalist positions expressed by, Scott Martens 10.02.09 at 9:51 am and bad Jim 10.02.09 at 8:09 am.




Hidari 10.02.09 at 12:30 pm

Yo yo yo,
the real is the deal so i’m keepin’ it radical
the rhymes that I state make my thesis political
The models I make, predict my bullets’ trajectory
you bullshit constructionists can u even match my salary?

Your pissed on epistemology with my bullet is ruptured
My soul deep ontology makes your white face get flustered
This bass mic is real like the laws of gravity
You tell me you it’s just words, man have you lost your sanity?

Breakdown! Jigga jigga jigga….I want everyone in da house to say ‘critical realism’…..Yo… Roy Bhaskar in da house….Respect is due…..

etc. etc. etc.


Scott Martens 10.02.09 at 12:45 pm

Well… having laid out an instrumentalist position, albeit a rather elderly pre-Popperian one associated with specific and discredited (but sorta Epicurian) schools of thought, let me play devil’s advocate to Tim. Consider two scenarios:

1. I’m always losing my keys and I think mystical, practically invisible creatures called gremlins are doing it. I believe gremlins to be short, so I attach a hook on the wall next to the door and systematically hang my keys there every time I come home. After that, I have no trouble finding my keys.

2. I’m always getting ear infections and I think they’re caused by microscopic, practically invisible organisms called bacteria. I believe bacteria to have cell walls with distinct chemical properties that can be disrupted by certain distilled by-products of molds, or synthetic equivalents. I take doses of those chemicals regularly and my infections go away.

Let’s further muck about with the scenario: In order to confirm my theories, I stop using the hook by the door and lo and behold, I start losing my keys almost immediately. I stop taking the antibiotics and my infections still go away. Ergo, gremlins are real and bacteria are not.

Now, you can tell me that the reason I stopped losing my keys was because I started putting them in a fixed place everyday and the reason it made little difference if I took antibiotics or not is because my infections were probably caused by viruses rather than bacteria. But, I could respond that you’re making just-so stories. In fact, I rarely lose objects in my house, and you’d think I’d be finding keys at random all over the place if I was just forgetful. And telling me that antibiotics aren’t doing anything because what I really have is viruses is akin to claiming that I’ve stopped losing my keys because there are no gremlins, only kobolds steal keys and they’re scared of hooks.

Children routinely have beliefs that are not very different from the belief in gremlins outlined above. Their belief in germs is no more well-grounded than their beliefs in monsters under the bed. To be honest, I kinda shuddered at that video, because singing “science is real” sounds to me a lot like “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so”. Children are not so clear on the ontological significance of claims about what’s real and what isn’t, but they generally have some understanding of what love is, so I suspect the hymnists are ahead on that one.

It is genuinely difficult to convince people that science isn’t just ideology, political correctness and personal ambition when the phenomena it discusses are remote from day-to-day life and when they want to believe otherwise, just as it is incredibly easy to convince them that science proves some prejudice they already possessed no matter how flaky. I came from exactly the kind of background that was sceptical of evolution but couldn’t even imagine questioning the virgin birth, and Dobzhansky’s argument for evolution is the one that I found convincing: Once you engage with a larger body of knowledge about the world, you find that nothing in biology makes sense without common descent and at least some aspects of natural selection. The most substantial argument against gremlins is that their existence makes no sense in light of a larger and more complex world, while the argument for bacteria is that vast amounts of modern medicine, epidemiology and microbiology make no sense without them.

Dobzhansky’s view may be compatible with a variety of metaphysical positions. It is totally incompatible with Carnap’s positivism, and certainly with the rather naive hypothetico-deductive approach described in the video.


armando 10.02.09 at 1:29 pm

It is genuinely difficult to convince people that science isn’t just ideology, political correctness and personal ambition when the phenomena it discusses are remote from day-to-day life

But isn’t the history of the successes of science somewhat strong evidence that there might be something to this fancy science business? I realise that that isn’t going to convince you about any particular bit of science, but if the science project seems pretty effective at times then surely blanket dismissals on ideological grounds sound weaker.

I guess the tricky thing is when someone decides that while they may support the water-tight conclusions of noble science, they also regret the naked ideology of those bits that they don’t like very much. And, obviously, if sufficiently many people take that kind of self serving stance, then science *is* effectively ideological.


Billikin 10.02.09 at 1:46 pm

@ garymar

Nasty facts?


Chris 10.02.09 at 3:01 pm

@Scott Martens 12:45: And if those were typical, as opposed to contrived, examples, then there would be a science of gremlinology and no science of microbiology. In fact, if you observed those results, those intermediate conclusions would be reasonable ones to draw… until you saw more complete data. I don’t know if there’s a song on the album about changing your mind and your theory when you see new evidence, but there probably ought to be. (The two songs about the sun sort of make this point, but only if you know the history connecting them.)

Certainly it’s important to cover experimental design (if gremlins are short, they should be able to reach a low hook, but in fact a low hook works just as well as a high one; and a shelf or table also works just as well as long as you have the habit of using it, which rules out hookophobia; etc.) but I don’t think it’s fair to demand the entire scientific method be crammed into a two minute video. (You might find one of the other songs on the album, “Put It To The Test”, relevant to that point, though.)

The main point of “Science Is Real” is to raise the distinction between fact-based approaches and “those stories about angels, unicorns and elves” (a line which gave rise to a much funnier (unintentionally) line of criticism from people who think that one of those things is not like the others).


Rama 10.02.09 at 5:32 pm

Brother, can you spare a dime?
No, just Kuhn and his paradigm.
Science is what Scientists do
Not the fairy tales of how and who.

A human activity, nobler but like any other
With Priests and Sacred Texts refereed by a brother
Revolutions and paradigm shifts , but mostly Normal
With a Logic and Philosophy, very Formal.


lgm 10.02.09 at 5:55 pm

Science talks about the way that things
from radios to far out quantum strings
from rocks and streams that sparkle in the light
to chicken pox and dreaded Dutch Elm blight
get to be the way they are. So come
with me to look, and bring a pen
so that in winter we can once again
remember all we’ve seen. We’ll start to ponder
what’s in common with these things of wonder.
And should we guess, it wouldn’t be a chore
to venture back to look at things once more
to see if nature does as we surmised.
But if it does, we will not be surprised
if someone tells us that these things appear
the way they do because old dead Shakespeare
corrupted hath our helpless fragile heads
with culture from sixteen hundereds.


d.e. 10.02.09 at 6:12 pm

This thread fills my heart with love for the human race


M. Raskin 10.02.09 at 6:25 pm

I fear I’ve been sentenced to sentences
All pictures and diagrams are nought
Sometimes an idea
While perfectly clear
Can only be believed by those well taught.


Jim Harrison 10.02.09 at 6:28 pm

We think the scientists do science
And nature just sits there and poses
In fact, without a firm alliance
Of man and thing there’d be no gnosis.
The line between the S and O
Is dotted and moves to and fro.
It’s like what happens on a date
If you get lucky and you mate.
We get inside of nature’s pants
Because the lady wants to dance.
Or to make the selfsame point
Without alluding to your joint:
Science happens
As much in things as in the mind
Else the naked eyeball of our pride
Would be definitively blind.


lgm 10.02.09 at 8:52 pm

I seem to be having trouble focusing on the work I really should be doing. Sorry about the typos in the last one. This bad poem is meant to reinforce Jim Harrison’s better one above.

Some folks will say momentum is conserved
since old Queen Bess and her big Daddy Harry
told planets if they even slightly swerved,
they’d be treated like old Scottish Mary.

But planets grumbled: “Agamemnon, lord
of burning Troy would let us circle free.
Imagination never left us bored,
but charted epicyclic trajectories.

“New kings can try to change our errant ways,
but we’ll not follow puny laws like these.
Watch our independence. Lift your gaze
to where we frolic as we damn well please.”

But Newton told `em he would never look,
`less they moved exactly by the book.


JO'N 10.03.09 at 3:46 am

Though it's Popper I studied in college,
Falsification didn't acknowledge
Statistics, his terror.
So, he didn't write "Error
And The Growth of Experimental Knowledge."


Dan Nexon 10.03.09 at 4:02 pm

The quotation from Carnap aside, the video itself clearly embraces lowest-common denominator scientific realism: we know science is “real” because look at all the things we can do with it. The alternative is magic, like angels, unicorns, and elfs.

By the way, the amazon forum arguments about that line are worth a quick perusal. It seems that some segment of their audience doesn’t mind the pro-evolution message, but is upset about their rejection of angels.

If you haven’t seen it already, read the Wired interview.

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