Sunday, April 10, 2016

The Problem Of "Scientific" Categorical Thinking: Using The Wrong Sample Form Factor

I often criticize Science, Inc. for proclaiming itself infallible when it is limited to details and never can support the broad conclusions it hints at so the media will pick up on that and repeat them as gospel. But you rarely get as clear a demonstration of the failure of categorical thinking as this expose on venom measurements:

While the LD50 test (lethal dose 50% – the amount required to kill half of a test group) using mice is the primary means by which to assess venom toxicity, it is flawed.

"The mouse model enables standard data to be acquired," says Robert Harrison, head of the Alistair Reid Venom Research Unit at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, UK. "But mammals are not always the diet of preference, so toxicity in mammals is simply a standardised metric that probably has no bearing on toxicity to an amphibian, arthropod or bird."

Humans suffer a fundamental strain when analyzing our world: we see an order to it but are afraid to admit that our logic is derived from this order. This forces us to deconstruct and see details, but never come up with a unifying vision of reality:

For instance, the more we learn about the universe, the more it appears to be based on mathematical laws. Perhaps that is not a given, but a function of the nature of the universe we are living in. “If I were a character in a computer game, I would also discover eventually that the rules seemed completely rigid and mathematical,” said Max Tegmark, a cosmologist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). “That just reflects the computer code in which it was written.”

Does the code reflect the universe, or the universe reflect the code?

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