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Opinions

Written By: - Date published: 8:43 pm, December 9th, 2016 - 162 comments
Categories: The Standard - Tags: , ,

From an old but useful piece on how all opinions aren’t created equal, something for us here at The Standard to think about.

Every year Deakin University philosophy lecturer Patrick Stokes says something like this to his students,

I’m sure you’ve heard the expression ‘everyone is entitled to their opinion.’ Perhaps you’ve even said it yourself, maybe to head off an argument or bring one to a close. Well, as soon as you walk into this room, it’s no longer true. You are not entitled to your opinion. You are only entitled to what you can argue for.

He points to Plato’s distinction between opinion/belief, and certain knowledge,

… unlike “1+1=2” or “there are no square circles,” an opinion has a degree of subjectivity and uncertainty to it.

So there we have the separation of fact from opinion. But because of the uncertainty it’s not that simple and Stokes then goes on to outline 3 different kinds of opinion.

  • our taste or preference for something e.g. strawberry ice cream is better than chocolate.
  • our views on things that many people are concerned about e.g. politics
  • opinions generated from technical expertise e.g. medical or legal opinion

He argues that while there is no disagreeing with the first one, problems arise when the second and third are treated as if they were the first. For instance we can say that we think that strawberry is better than chocolate, and generally the only way to argue about that is lightheartedly or in jest, where we all know that it’s impossible to really argue the point. But if we say that we feel climate change isn’t real we’ve stepped into a different kind of opinion.

If “Everyone’s entitled to their opinion” just means no-one has the right to stop people thinking and saying whatever they want, then the statement is true, but fairly trivial.

But if ‘entitled to an opinion’ means ‘entitled to have your views treated as serious candidates for the truth’ then it’s pretty clearly false. And this too is a distinction that tends to get blurred.

To  my mind there are two issues. One is that when it’s a subject that affects many people (e.g. climate change),  our opinions on this hold a different degree of gravitas than those about icecream. The risks associated with knowledge at this level are much higher. The other is that our knowledge and opinions about something like climate change should be generated from expertise not personal preference. Our preference of ice-cream isn’t an informed opinion, but our beliefs about climate change should be.

It’s not as black and white obviously, we’ve all just spent years arguing about whether John Key is a good Prime Minister. I would say that many (not all) of the right wing opinions I see here about Key in recent times are ice cream flavour opinions, and I could then make the argument for that being true. I could also make the argument that Key is not a good PM, but I’ve seen credibly constructed arguments that he is a good PM.  With which I disagree, but the point being we’re not having an argument about the flavour, instead we are arguing about something that is important and therefore needs to be based on making an informed argument not expressing a taste preference.

Where I suspect I diverge from Stokes’ analysis is that I think we are also in danger where we lose the ability to question technical expertise from a non-professional knowledge base, and where technical expertise is heralded above ethics, values and other ways of knowing. Too often we are faced with Ice-cream Flavour opinion vs Expert opinion, with the each being used to try and displace and marginalise the other. But both can also be used to marginalise the opinions and debate around issues that are important to many people that don’t fall neatly between Ice-cream and Expert. I’d like to see us step out of that dichotomy and apply critical thinking to all our sources of knowledge in order to find the ones that are most useful.

[yes, I did avoid the V word, and would prefer we talked about opinions instead]

162 comments on “Opinions”

  1. { ” You can’t really argue about the first kind of opinion. I’d be silly to insist that you’re wrong to think strawberry ice cream is better than chocolate. The problem is that sometimes we implicitly seem to take opinions of the second and even the third sort to be unarguable in the way questions of taste are. Perhaps that’s one reason (no doubt there are others) why enthusiastic amateurs think they’re entitled to disagree with climate scientists and immunologists and have their views “respected.” }

    Well there’s a problem here as well…. the experts themselves.

    Lets go back to the days when the ‘ experts’ held the view the world was flat ,… many people who had the audacity to question that were put to death ,…

    Then there’s the case of so-called ‘ orthodox’ scientific opinion that closes down alternative cancer treatment despite the drug culture that makes billions annually , lobby’s political leaders and at the same time passes laws to close down alternative medicine for example. And the hypocrisy there being that often those very same synthetic drugs they develop are derived chemically from the very herbs the herbalist uses.

    Then there’s the ‘experts’ with vested interests who are paid by the lobbyists to say certain things… to close down an internal combustion engine that uses water and that would threaten the oil industry – or the dozens of amateurs that discovered things that caused huge advances- despite the naysaying by the then ‘experts’…

    Rutherford comes to mind… as does Nikolai Tessler… or Bell… Pasteur…most of these started off as amateurs , not part of the established scientific community…

    And then there’s the issue of faith based opinions … eg : that there is now a huge amount of evidence that the theory ( and it is merely a theory – yet influences whole fields of science and its financial backers ) of evolution is shot through with serious faults and discrepancies , – yet because it has been repeated over and over people simply just accept it as fact … and that despite quantum physics now lining up more in agreement to the ancient sages than they do with the more orthodox ‘ modern ‘ scientific opinions… yet whole lucrative careers have been built around the evolution theory.

    Science changes with each discovery therefore previous assumptions are cast aside.

    Often it is we observe the external symptoms through empirical evidence… yet we do not always understand the process of why it happens just that it does.

    Here is an example in relation to the working poor of this country.

    Statistics demonstrate this taken over a 30 year period since the introduction of neo liberal economics.

    People who may not have had the slightest interest in politics noticed the differences immediate in their take home pay , rising prices , purchasing ability and inability to sustain the same quality of life they formerly enjoyed. They didn’t need voluminous books and articles and statistical graphs from political scientists to tell them all that….

    They just bloody well observed it !

    Fact !

    Leave it to the political analysts and ‘ experts’ to formalize the theory’s as to why it happened…

    I believe this is where we have many political lobby groups paying for researchers to come up with data that is flawed and misleading to justify denying that simple working persons observance of the obvious – and yet these dishonest lobbyists will swear black and blue to the contrary.

    They will try and use jargon and gobbledygook to try and overwhelm what the lay person patently observes as the actual reality. And it is that tactic by lobbyists that is so successful in closing an issue down. Or so they hope.

    This is one reason I’m not a member of any political party , – and my main criteria is if a political leader declares their adherence to neo liberal ideology or not for example . If they do – I’m against them. Automatically.

    And that opinion comes directly from a sense of ‘ a fair go ‘ for all. And that is an issue of values, and ethics, morals . So that now we are moving into a completely different arena to one whereby they are causative reasons for the opinion forming . Which is again ,..subjective to upbringing, background , education etc etc…

    Anyhow , that’s my opinion and I’m sticking to it.

    • Pat 1.1

      or in other words……lies,damned lies and statistics

    • weka 1.2

      People who may not have had the slightest interest in politics noticed the differences immediate in their take home pay , rising prices , purchasing ability and inability to sustain the same quality of life they formerly enjoyed. They didn’t need voluminous books and articles and statistical graphs from political scientists to tell them all that….

      They just bloody well observed it !

      Fact !

      A couple of things. Not all expertise comes from scientists or academics, and we need to be careful not to silo ‘expertise’ into sectors like that. Nor should we assume that because parts of those sectors have been co-opted or come with their own biases that the knowledge they generate is useless.

      The people who observe what happens to their lives over time are a source of knowledge. Useful IMO, and I think anecdote is maligned because too many don’t know how to use it meaningfully. But people who observe the changes to their lives are less useful for generating knowledge about large groups of people esp those they are not around. That’s where other forms of generating information and knowledge are useful (the census, surveys/research etc).

      I agree there are huge problems with the way that authority is used within different fields of expertise and where it coopts it. This is what I was alluding to at the end. I think the solution to that is to encourage and teach critical thinking to the wider public so that ‘expert’ knowledge can be assessed critically.

      • Pat 1.2.1

        have you considered that many have neither the desire nor the time involved in applying critical analysis to all the decisions in their lives?…hence opinions

        • weka 1.2.1.1

          I’d find that a more useful question if I thought more people had critical thinking skills.

          • Pat 1.2.1.1.1

            and how are those skills developed?…..would suggest it goes to the heart of your concern

            • weka 1.2.1.1.1.1

              how so?

              • Pat

                by doing

                • weka

                  ‘by doing’ goes to the heart of my concern about critical thinking? Sorry, that doesn’t make sense.

                  If you mean people learn critical thinking by doing, I’d agree but only where they have some critical thinking skills to begin with. And where those skills get tested in a realm of challenge. I see a lot of people who consider themselves good thinkers (and they are), but who revert back to ‘I’m entitled to my opinion’ when challenged. That’s not good practice for critical thinking. Others will debate but they still fail to understand things like how to evaluate or present evidence.

                  • Pat

                    “If you mean people learn critical thinking by doing, I’d agree but only where they have some critical thinking skills to begin with”

                    so more people would have better critical thinking skills if more people had better critical thinking skills?….and i don’t make sense?

                    the question should be why are people not inclined to develop more critical thinking skills and then you may be able to resolve the lack.

                    I provided a couple of possible causes which you responded to with…”I’d find that a more useful question if I thought more people had critical thinking skills.”

                    go figure

                    • Carolyn_nth

                      Actually, I do think the whole focus on “critical thinking” has been challenged as a Western European construction – that some cultures do focus on doing in response to problems, rather than critical thinking in the abstract.

                      here is the British Council response to such criticisms

                    • Pat

                      @Carolyn_nth

                      perhaps not so much a western concept but rather an elitist (possibly not right but will do for purpose) concept …..the overwhelming majority of people through time and cultures only learn what they need to survive and all energy have until relatively recently (and still continues in much of the world) been devoted to survival….add in unlimited information and is it surprising that we have a lack of critical thought on all subjects?

                      i would suggest that critical thought is applied at the level that serves the thinker….or in other words, some people have too much time on their hands

                    • weka

                      I don’t consider all people to be the same. So sure, there are people who don’t have time or inclination, and there are people who don’t have the skills, and there are overlaps.

                      “so more people would have better critical thinking skills if more people had better critical thinking skills?”

                      Here is what I said,

                      “If you mean people learn critical thinking by doing, I’d agree but only where they have some critical thinking skills to begin with”

                      Which means, that critical thinking is a range of skills and to learn by doing I think you need some of the more basic skills to begin with. I don’t believe that critical thinking is inherent in most humans. It needs to be taught. Or maybe it’s just modern ones.

                      “the question should be why are people not inclined to develop more critical thinking skills and then you may be able to resolve the lack.”

                      Again, that will be true for some and not others.

                      I note that you haven’t bothered to clarify what you meant when I asked for clarification. Are we at the disingenuous stage now?

                    • weka

                      “and all energy have until relatively recently (and still continues in much of the world) been devoted to survival”

                      This is a belief that’s not supported by fact. Most pre-industrial cultures had ample time and resources to develop culture, art and technology far beyond survival.

                      “i would suggest that critical thought is applied at the level that serves the thinker….or in other words, some people have too much time on their hands”

                      Lol. Was that you engaging in critical thinking?

                      @Carolyn,

                      no reason we can’t do both. I see that in activities such as gardening or craft, where thinking and doing are not separate in the way they are on a blog 😉

                      edit, will have a full read of that article later but yeah, buddhism.

                  • Pat

                    seem to have struck a nerve…

                    “This is a belief that’s not supported by fact. Most pre-industrial cultures had ample time and resources to develop culture, art and technology far beyond survival.”

                    and do those things require critical thought by the overwhelming majority of a society?….I doubt even you in your desperation would claim that.

                    “i would suggest that critical thought is applied at the level that serves the thinker”

                    if i live near wild tigers i will make sure I make critical decisions about how to interact in that environment but have no need to ponder whether there is an equal land mass in the other hemisphere, though that is not say i may not but it is not important to my survival. What is critical will depend on environment and position within it.

                    your other post includes….”.Which means, that critical thinking is a range of skills and to learn by doing I think you need some of the more basic skills to begin with. I don’t believe that critical thinking is inherent in most humans. It needs to be taught.”

                    everyone who attends school in NZ is taught critical thought through the science curriculum…..to some it is a passion, to others a chore (and all points in between) but the same instruction provides different outcomes, it may be argued that it simply reinforces a natural curiosity and that the critical thought process is inherent in the individual. Just as some have a natural musical ability others may have a capacity for critical thought….that is not to say either can not be taught but it is no guarantee it will be pursued.

      • WILD KATIPO 1.2.2

        weka

        { ‘ A couple of things. Not all expertise comes from scientists or academics, and we need to be careful not to silo ‘expertise’ into sectors like that. Nor should we assume that because parts of those A couple of things. Not all expertise comes from scientists or academics, and we need to be careful not to silo ‘expertise’ into sectors like that. Nor should we assume that because parts of those sectors have been co-opted or come with their own biases that the knowledge they generate is useless. ‘ }

        And I would tend to agree.

        Or in other words, it is wiser to sift.

        Here’s an example. Many indigenous cultures explain events, natural phenomena etc in story’s handed down … which are often subsequently written off as myths, traditions etc by western rationalism…

        Yet, often it is that modern science ends up validating those very ideas… it is just that it was passed on in a way that was pertinent to the culture and age they lived in. It was just another way of saying the same thing using different imagery.

        As for using information gleaned from ‘ sectors have been co-opted or come with their own biases that the knowledge they generate is useless ‘… by all means use their expertise … a great example was Operation Paperclip : Whereby the Americans took around 60 German /Nazi scientists ( and and their family’s ) who were working on advanced rocketry and propulsion systems after World War Two who were working for Hitler , made false passports for them and relocated them all back in the USA.

        And out of that we got Wernher Von Braun – who went on to become the chief of NASA.

    • Draco T Bastard 1.3

      Lets go back to the days when the ‘ experts’ held the view the world was flat ,… many people who had the audacity to question that were put to death ,…

      [citation needed]

      In fact, I don’t any of the experts throughout history have ever held that the Earth is flat.

      and it is merely a theory

      Your ignorance is showing. You obviously have NFI WTF a theory is.

      And, no, evolution has not been disproved.

      Science changes with each discovery therefore previous assumptions are cast aside.

      More ignorance.

      Scientific Method.

      Statistics demonstrate this taken over a 30 year period since the introduction of neo liberal economics.

      People who may not have had the slightest interest in politics noticed the differences immediate in their take home pay , rising prices , purchasing ability and inability to sustain the same quality of life they formerly enjoyed. They didn’t need voluminous books and articles and statistical graphs from political scientists to tell them all that….

      They just bloody well observed it !

      Fact !

      Leave it to the political analysts and ‘ experts’ to formalize the theory’s as to why it happened…

      Without knowing why we can’t fix it. Yes, the majority of people saw their incomes go down but without knowing the why they couldn’t argue against what the politicians and businesses were doing.

      Anyhow , that’s my opinion and I’m sticking to it.

      And it’s completely worthless because it’s not backed by any facts.

      • WILD KATIPO 1.3.1

        ‘ In fact, I don’t any of the experts throughout history have ever held that the Earth is flat. ‘

        At various times indeed they did believe the earth was flat – more well known in the early to late medieval period in Europe. As well as that they also maintained that the sun revolved around the earth. Hence Galileo. Concerns about Columbus’s trip across the Atlantic.
        ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

        Regards the THEORY of evolution. Darwin’s theory.

        ‘ and it is merely a theory ‘
        ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

        ‘ And, no, evolution has not been disproved.’

        It hasn’t been disproved but it hasn’t been proven either. And it would be ‘ poor science ‘ to simply base everything off of a yet unproven and flawed theory – which it is because there are glaring discrepancies in it.. Underline the word THEORY,…not necessarily FACT.

        ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

        ‘ Science changes with each discovery therefore previous assumptions are cast aside.

        More ignorance. ‘

        Compare medical treatments of the Medieval age : compare modern antibiotics. , wound ( burns , bone breakage, near drownings , crush injuries etc etc ) treatments …

        All of which the scientific theory’s of the time were cast aside. Or even go back to the American Civil war and compare minie ball gunshot wound treatments to today’s methods of gunshot wound treatments .

        That’s just one field.

        …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

        • Draco T Bastard 1.3.1.1

          At various times indeed they did believe the earth was flat

          [citation needed]

          Please note the difference between what the expert of the time wrote and what the ignorant believed.

          And, yes, Galileo was excommunicated for proving that the Earth wasn’t the centre of the universe.

          It hasn’t been disproved but it hasn’t been proven either.

          Of course it hasn’t been proven. It’s still falsifiable but nobody, so far, has been able to falsify it. There has, on the other hand, been a hell of a lot of evidence supporting it.

          The real problem here is that you don’t understand what a scientific theory is. Your ignorance about it sounds remarkably like the stupidity that comes out of fundamentalist churches who espouse the Xian creation myth as fact.

          All of which the scientific theory’s of the time were cast aside.

          I didn’t say that there hadn’t been mistakes made. Economics is the big one there as it still uses the same hypothesis that Adam Smith came up with and many of the same assumptions because they haven’t applied modern scientific process to it.

          The problem here is that you take these few mistakes and then demand that we throw the whole lot out which is just pure bloody stupidity.

          • WILD KATIPO 1.3.1.1.1

            ‘ The real problem here is that you don’t understand what a scientific theory is. Your ignorance about it sounds remarkably like the stupidity that comes out of fundamentalist churches who espouse the Xian creation myth as fact. ‘

            ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

            Which is simply your subjective opinion.

            And purely because it is still simply a ‘ theory ‘ ie: Darwins ‘ theory ‘ of evolution and not hard cold fact. And while there may be small regional adaptations within a species , there is NO continuity of the evolution of any species. They still cannot find the ‘ missing link’ which becomes problematic.

            If the fossil record was accurate what we would expect to find is a relatively neat and chronological order of each stage of development in any given species. And if, – given the earths supposed time lines according to that theory , – we would expect to find differences so small that they would be barely detectable.

            But we dont.

            What we do have find is a series of radical jumps between examples that are presented in support of that theory ,… that in many cases are so far removed from each other genetically and physiologically that they are not even related.

            In regards to human evolution we are given what are supposed to be examples of human ancestors but with hips designed for supporting quadrupedal locomotion , not bipedalism , limbs designed for more arboreal existence ie : long arms in proportion to the legs , jaws designed to be powered with muscles attached to a saggital crest , chest rib structures designed to support mass muscle bulk like the apes and not designed for upright bipedalism , and on it goes… hardly the sort of neat , clean record of human development that the theory of evolution would have us believe.

            Even the closest examples that are offered up have far more in common with the Simian branches with Simian characteristics than hominid ,- while the closest ‘ humans’ they might come to it is the Denisovian ( on which they base the whole premise for their anatomy on a finger bone and a tooth ! ) or the Neanderthal.

            So where are the intermediary stages – all the missing links ‘ – in the fossil record?

            Especially so since that theory teaches this earth is so old – surely then that means the probability rate of finding ‘ missing links’ would be raised significantly even higher…

            The answer is they don’t exist. And by this time with all the scientific advances and with all the finance and scientists out there in the field one would think they would have found them. They haven’t.

            A lot of peoples careers and funding rest on proving this ‘ theory ‘ correct… and there’s no way academia will let it easily be challenged. And that is only talking about human origins… let alone all the other myriad of species.

            But the real issue here is that you disagree with this opinion and the critique of a theory that has been erroneously assumed as fact . When it clearly hasn’t been established and provable as fact at all – rather it is simply held up as an modern orthodoxy.

            And to stubbornly maintain a prejudice supporting a so – far unproven theory and simply assume it is truth simply because someone else says so is to deny good scientific practice , – and that also means your understanding of just how and what is scientific theory and how it is applied.

            Good science does not prejudice an outcome by holding onto a preconceived set of theory’s and assumptions in the face of new or current evidence that contradicts those former theory’s and assumptions.

            Nor does it simply assume something is solid fact while still simply a theory that can be challenged by counter arguments due to its discrepancies.

            Nor is it subject to maintaining current theory simply because of sheer dogma when superseded by provable fact. If that wasn’t the case , then we would have accepted Hitlers racial theory’s about the superiority of the Aryan race. Science is littered with examples of theory’s that have been ‘ cast aside ‘ or rejected simply because they were either superseded or proven erroneous.

            • One Anonymous Bloke 1.3.1.1.1.1

              Draco”s right. Science doesn’t deal in proof: cf Einstein, Box, Schmidt etc etc.

              Schmidt’s essay Unsettled Science lays out the facts of the matter.

            • One Anonymous Bloke 1.3.1.1.1.2

              where are the intermediary stages – all the missing links ‘ – in the fossil record

              Every time they find one, it adds an extra gap! Can you understand why it’s such a stupid argument now?

            • Psycho Milt 1.3.1.1.1.3

              And purely because it is still simply a ‘ theory ‘ ie: Darwins ‘ theory ‘ of evolution and not hard cold fact.

              Sigh. The theory of evolution is simply a “theory” in the same sense as the theory of gravity is simply a “theory.”

              Remind yourself of the main point of the OP:

              You are not entitled to your opinion. You are only entitled to what you can argue for.

              Evolution has the most compelling argument and all evidence thus far discovered points to that argument being correct. Those who disagree with the theory have the counter-argument “God[s] must have done it,” with no evidence thus far discovered to support that argument.

              No PhD in biology or genetics is required to understand that, only the ability to read and understand an argument.

              • One Anonymous Bloke

                To paraphrase Lao Tsu,

                In this way, true and false are abstracted from understanding.

            • Draco T Bastard 1.3.1.1.1.4

              Which is simply your subjective opinion.

              No it’s not. It’s based upon your proven ignorance of science.

              If the fossil record was accurate what we would expect to find is a relatively neat and chronological order of each stage of development in any given species. And if, – given the earths supposed time lines according to that theory , – we would expect to find differences so small that they would be barely detectable.

              But we dont.

              Actually, we do:

              Fossils provide a unique view into the history of life by showing the forms and features of life in the past. Fossils tell us how species have changed across long periods of the Earth’s history. For instance, in 1998, scientists found a fossil showing an animal at the transition from sea creature to land creature. This tetrapod had a hand-like fin, confirming a prediction of evolutionary biology. Though the fossil record does not include every plant and animal that ever lived, it provides substantial evidence for the common descent of life via evolution. The fossil record is a remarkable gift for the study of nature. – See more at: http://biologos.org/common-questions/scientific-evidence/fossil-record#sthash.0LdyRNoh.dpuf

              Everything you’ve said so far in this thread is worthless gobbledy-gook.

      • weka 1.3.2

        “Your ignorance is showing. You obviously have NFI WTF a theory is.”

        I think there is an opportunity here for people that have degrees of scientific literacy to explain what they mean rather than attacking people for their relative ignorance.

        Theory is an interesting one, because as a word and concept it has meaning outside of science, and what often happens in these conversations is that it gets used in various ways and people end up talking past each other. If we want to understand each other, and if we want to start bridging the gaps between different understandings, then it’s useful to take those meanings into account.

        • KJT 1.3.2.1

          In science

          Hypothesis. = an idea. Something yet unproven.
          Theory. = proven, within the limits of current knowledge.

          So. In fact, science is never settled as there is always the possibility of fresh information coming to light.

          Evolution is a scientific theory.
          But as far as we are aware, it is a proven fact. In reality you can observe evolution happening yourself, with viruses, short lived insects and other life around you. In laypersons terms, it is a fact.
          Someone may have an opinion that it is caused by green tea kettles in orbit. But in no way can the show any evidence. So , it remains an opinion.

          Newtonian and Archimedian physics are a bunch of scientific theories derived from direct observation. . We use them to make planes that fly, ships that float and buildings that do not fall down. The fact that these things all work validates the theory. The theory explains observed reality.

          Einstein/Rutherford etc came along with more knowledge. It, like most science, did not invalidate earlier physics. It added more understanding of what happens at a micro level.

          Even Native “Witch doctors” used science. If a tree bark killed people they stopped using it. If it helped the pain of several people they continued. Of course their sample sizes often made their research questionable. After generations, though, that experimental knowledge found some effective remedies.
          Many modern “Witch doctors” unlike the old ones, ignore evidence and rely on unvalidated opinion. I am pleased they are not allowed to design ships.

          The flat earthers, ignored the experts in favour of religious ‘opinions’.
          Even ancient civilizations had worked out the earth had to be round.
          They even measured the diameter within a few % of reality. They, of course had no way of knowing the earth is pear shaped.

          Lastly. Everyone is entitled to an opinion. They are not entitled to their own facts.
          Perception, is not reality! Something politicians and economists seem to be the last to learn.

        • Draco T Bastard 1.3.2.2

          I think there is an opportunity here for people that have degrees of scientific literacy to explain what they mean rather than attacking people for their relative ignorance.

          Ignorance can only be cured if it’s called out.

          Theory is an interesting one, because as a word and concept it has meaning outside of science, and what often happens in these conversations is that it gets used in various ways and people end up talking past each other. If we want to understand each other, and if we want to start bridging the gaps between different understandings, then it’s useful to take those meanings into account.

          Actually, theory only has one meaning – it’s the scientific one.

          Using it any other way is wrong and causes misunderstanding.

          • Carolyn_nth 1.3.2.2.1

            dtb:

            Actually, theory only has one meaning – it’s the scientific one.

            Using it any other way is wrong and causes misunderstanding.

            Eh?

            But you linked to a dictionary definition that gives several meanings – as used in the English language.

            On what basis do you claim the scientific meaning is the only correct one?

            • Draco T Bastard 1.3.2.2.1.1

              But you linked to a dictionary definition that gives several meanings – as used in the English language.

              And all of them, except the last, were the scientific meaning. The last one was contextual enough that it could easily be understood not to mean theory.

              On what basis do you claim the scientific meaning is the only correct one?

              Because it’s the only meaning that allows understanding to be transmitted. Anything else prevents understanding.

              • Carolyn_nth

                But these are not really scientific (not just the “idiomatic” use as stated at the end:

                the branch of a science or art that deals with its principles or methods, as distinguished from its practice:
                music theory.
                5.
                a particular conception or view of something to be done or of the method of doing it; a system of rules or principles:
                conflicting theories of how children best learn to read.
                6.
                contemplation or speculation:
                the theory that there is life on other planets.
                7.
                guess or conjecture:
                My theory is that he never stops to think words have consequences.

                Basically, some equate with a hypothesis, or more loosely as speculation.

                is the theory of art or music totally scientific – or based on preferences?

                • Draco T Bastard

                  Basically, some equate with a hypothesis, or more loosely as speculation.

                  But what they are not is a dismissal of the facts which is what WILD KATIPO tried to do with evolution. The Theory of Evolution is a theory but it’s so far past speculation and hypothesis it’s not funny but even if it was still just a hypothesis you’d still need to do more than state ‘it’s just a theory’ to dismiss it. You have to come up with a theory that better explains the observed facts.

                  is the theory of art or music totally scientific – or based on preferences?

                  Reading up on the theory of why atonal music works should answer that question for you.

                  • Carolyn_nth

                    I know about those sort of theories of music. There is a scientific aspect to it. But the artistic and performance elements – the things that result in people responding emotionally to music, is “art”

                    see here for a discussion of music: art vs science

                    But I see the base assumptions and values as exhibited in your comments here, are based in the hard sciences, and material realities.

                    • One Anonymous Bloke

                      That’s obvious: science explains things, and in time (if Neurobiology hasn’t already) may map the process of emotional response to art.

                      But the map is not the territory any more than Botany is a flower.

          • One Two 1.3.2.2.2

            Ignorance you say , Draco

            Yes , your exhibiting rather alot of it

            Defensiveness and aggession also..

            Perhaps reflect on the attachment you have to ‘science’

            • Draco T Bastard 1.3.2.2.2.1

              Yes , your exhibiting rather alot of it

              No I’m not.

              You are though.

              Perhaps reflect on the attachment you have to ‘science’

              I like facts and to base decisions upon facts.

              You obviously prefer delusion and ignorance to guide you.

              • One Two

                I like facts and to base decisions upon facts

                Obviously you like to see yourself a certain way, which is why you are abusive and insulting on topics such as this!

                These facts you speak of – who or what is the custodian of said ‘facts’?

    • Fustercluck 1.4

    • KJT 1.5

      One I well remember, is the scoffing about sailors reports of rogue waves.

      Until the oceanographers saw them in satellite pictures.

      The observation that most New Zealanders are now worse off is confirmed by per capita GDP figures. The right wings own favourite measure, but they persist on quoting total GDP, which is meaningless.

  2. corokia 2

    “an internal combustion engine that uses water”

    “quantum physics now lining up more in agreement to the ancient sages”

    “yet whole lucrative careers have been built around the evolution theory.”

    – all examples of why people should be able to argue and back up the opinions they hold when they express them in public.

    • weka 2.1

      Yes. The issue there is the presentation of beliefs as supported by evidence, but IMO those conversations often don’t lead to evidence that is credible but is instead another layer of belief. On the other hand, I see people saying that the only credible evidence is orthodox e.g. within medicine it has to be a randomised controlled trial. Huge problems there, given that RCTs are designed for specific purposes not to be the be all and end all of knowledge about human health. So the defining of what is useful or credible evidence restricts us in what we can learn (and is often itself co-opted by power structures and those with vested interests).

      It’s the polarising of those two problems that I find interesting. And potential ways to bridge that.

      • corokia 2.1.1

        “RCTs are designed for specific purposes not to be the be all and end all of knowledge about human health”- If you looked into this a bit more critically, I think you’d find that nowhere do medical researchers ever claim that RCTs are the ‘be all and end all”. They are a method of removing bias when determining the effectiveness of treatments.

        • weka 2.1.1.1

          I wasn’t referring to medical researchers, but people who argue about such things on the internet 😉

          However I have also seen doctors argue that with RCTs treatment if any kind is not valuable, and that’s arguable not true.

          “They are a method of removing bias when determining the effectiveness of treatments.”

          Some treatments, but not all.

          • corokia 2.1.1.1.1

            “However I have also seen doctors argue that with RCTs treatment if any kind is not valuable, and that’s arguable not true.”
            Sorry, but I don’t understand that sentence. Maybe too late at night for me 🙂

            A method for removing bias in studying the treatment that is the subject of the double blind randomised control trial.

            • weka 2.1.1.1.1.1

              Sorry, typos etc. It should read,

              “However I have also seen doctors argue that without RCTs, treatment of any kind is not valuable, and that’s arguably not true.”

              In other words, some people think that RCTs are god and that a treatment is not valid if it hasn’t been through as RCT. It’s a good example of this issues raised in the post. Instead of saying that RCTs* are the most valid assessment tool, or, that without them a treatment can’t be validated, we should be looking at what is the best way to assess and validate any given treatment.

              *I’m using RCTs a bit generically there to refer to a range of researches of which RCTs are considered the gold standard.

              In addition to that, we also know that medical research has been coopted or corrupted to the point of much of it being highly questionable. And that’s coming from medical people. I don’t mean it’s of now use. I mean that we have to look at each piece of research through that lens.

              • AB

                “some people think that RCTs are god and that a treatment is not valid if it hasn’t been through an RCT. ”
                Nobody in the medical research field thinks that. They think that without an RCT it is difficult to know with much certainty if a treatment is valid – especially if the differences from placebo are small. And it is impossible to quantify the benefit of a treatment without an RCT.
                RCTs are an essential analytical and statistical tool.

                The problem with RCTs comes with modern drug development where the benefits of the latest drug over its predecessors may be very small or negligible. Under these circumstances then there are ways to get ‘creative’ with trial design to try and show some benefit, e.g. if you can show that your drug has similar efficacy to older drugs but is tolerated better by the elderly or has to be taken less frequently or in a more convenient formulation. And having spent millions on developing your drug you want to get into the market.
                In short – the design and reporting of RCTs can be corrupted by the influence of money. However that doesn’t invalidate them as an analytical and statistical method

              • KJT

                RCT’s are the only way we have to prove if a remedy is effective, or not.
                Unless, like immunisation, we simply roll it out for huge numbers of people straight away. Though Jenner did test it first on himself and a boy with rabies. The trial effectively was in such large numbers we could be sure of its effectiveness.
                Luckily, immunisation works with very uncommon side effects.

                It is, however, unethical to release potentially harmful treatments, on large numbers of people, without a controlled trial, to prove its effectiveness.

                That some drug companies have not done the science properly for commercial reasons. That does not invalidate the science. Just shows you should look at who is paying for the research.
                In my opinion, for example, i do not think GMO’s and nanoparticles are proven safe, because all the research is by companies selling them.

    • Corokia

      Perhaps as someone who uses an automobile that runs on water has not the slightest interest in engineering ,… notices that the price they pay for water is less than what they formerly had to pay for petroleum. And is therefore better.

      Should these people be expected to mess around undertaking a PHD in order to express their opinion? Of course not.

      Different if they had to have to stand before a scientific peer review… then they would be asked for environmental impact, ergonomics, production feasibility and on and on and so forth.

      • corokia 2.2.1

        IS there an automobile that runs on water?

        • WILD KATIPO 2.2.1.1

          I cant say … but apparently there was a guy from the South Island who invented one and stuck it in a mini back in the 1970’s – I was young child when that came on TV and I still remember seeing the guy – he was wearing a dark checked shirt and had dark wavy hair. ( Black and white days ).

          Stuck in my mind even way back then even though I didn’t give a stuff about cars – still don’t.

          Something about splitting the oxygen from the hydrogen as both form flammable gases.

          • One Anonymous Bloke 2.2.1.1.1

            It’s very very simple. Water has no use as a fuel until you separate it into Hydrogen and Oxygen (assuming you believe the theory that elements exist).

            That process of separation uses energy (that’s “energy” as measured in Joules, not some vague woo that helps you understand the intrinsic wisdom of the universe).

            Or you can build a steam engine (which probably runs on coal).

            This is of course assuming you believe the theory called “Physics”. If not, be careful with that dihydrogen oxide you’re messing around with.

      • weka 2.2.2

        “Should these people be expected to mess around undertaking a PHD in order to express their opinion? Of course not.”

        Has anyone suggested that they should? Of course not. There is a huge difference between expecting people to back up their publicly expressed opinions and suggesting they have to do so to a PhD level.

        • WILD KATIPO 2.2.2.1

          The Battle of the Little Bighorn is an interesting thing to study… there are many who say Custer acted out of impulse and ego… there are many others who believed he felt he had to act fast to prevent the tribes escaping across the plains and prolonging the Army’s campaign.

          He didn’t have modern comm’s gear and had to make a decision on what available recon / knowledge he had at the time.

          In like manner, people often have to make decisions based on opinions they hold which is in turn based off the knowledge / data they have at that time.

          And sometimes they will make the wrong decisions and hold an erroneous opinion of the situation.

          The big difference is if in light of conflicting data they can change or adjust their opinions to be more in line with reality.

        • Draco T Bastard 2.2.2.2

          When it comes to saying that they have a car that runs on water then they need to back it up with scientific evidence. Prove that they actually do have a car that runs on water.

  3. corokia 3

    How do you define “experts”?

    ” when the ‘ experts’ held the view the world was flat ,… many people who had the audacity to question that were put to death”
    – It was religious leaders who killed those who questioned the accepted dogma at the time.

    • Or to really get to the heart of the matter… it was cunning manipulators who used religion as a tool to enforce their own agendas.

      And so moving on in history , – the external face changes but the same old lust for power doesn’t. So instead of someone dressed up as a priest they have on a military uniform ,… and use ethnic cleansing.

      Nothing to do with religion there – but genocide nonetheless.

      And not forgetting the fact that many dictators form cults – which are often described as ‘ religious’.

      Both Pol Pot and Hitler did the same.

      • weka 3.1.1

        I think we can safely say that at that point in European history mainstream religion was doing some pretty evil shit precisely because of its doctrine. So while I wouldn’t define it as a religious problem per se, I also wouldn’t say that religion wasn’t an important factor. Religious institutions had huge power in society at the time.

        • WILD KATIPO 3.1.1.1

          I think we can safely say that those historically who used religion as a tool for genocide and political power in regard to their so called Biblical faith hadn’t the slightest intention of honoring Christs words to ‘ love one another ‘ and the Old Testament ‘ Thou shalt not kill’.

          Some of the worst atrocity’s were committed by member’s of the historical church… followed later by some of the most widespread genocides by secular govt’s.

          The issue here is powerheads that would use any tool to enable themselves, regardless.

          • weka 3.1.1.1.1

            possibly, and I’ve made similar arguments in response to people who think that religion is inherently a problem or generates corruption. But then we’d have to allow that science is likewise neutral and only corrupted by power mongers and such, whereas I think the belief systems inherent within science culture lead to the corruption. Ditto some religion.

            • One Anonymous Bloke 3.1.1.1.1.2

              …the belief systems inherent within science culture lead to the corruption…

              Really? Do they? For example, Exxon and the Koch’s fund the corruption of science: how can you separate the results from your postulated “inherent” corruption?

              • weka

                Not sure what you are on about there OAB. I didn’t use the word ‘all’ or ‘every’. If you think that Exxon and the Koch’s funding of the corruption or science was or wasn’t a result of the culture of science, make the argument. Myself, I think it’s probably got nothing to do with the point I made, in which case, wouldn’t it be better to understand what I meant first?

                • One Anonymous Bloke

                  You’re saying that there’s a particular type of corruption that’s inherent to science and I’m asking how you can identify it amongst all the other influences societies bring to bear.

                  The culture of science that I respect, one that has considerable currency among scientists, can be summed up as honesty and curiosity.

                  It’s an ideal, certainly, and scientists – individually or as a group – don’t always live up to it – just like every other ideal on the planet. Where’s the uniquely inherent corruption though?

              • Carolyn_nth

                I think s”science” as a process, and “science culture” are two different things.

                Cultures can change over time… and then the power thing can become significant.

                • One Anonymous Bloke

                  Which is one reason for the aphorism “science progresses by a series of funerals”.

    • weka 3.2

      and/or political leaders, basically the power dominators in society who have a vested interest in not changing the status quo because that means they will have less power. That much hasn’t changed.

  4. Pat 4

    it is also interesting to consider say the field of economics…..many highly acclaimed economists who studied and modelled their theories, sometimes for decades ultimately ended up disagreeing on fundamental points…..and we are in effect left with opinions.

    I would suggest that there are very few endeavours where ultimately it doesn’t boil down to opinion/belief……perfection does not exist, or at least it has yet to be proven.

    • weka 4.1

      “and we are in effect left with opinions.”

      Probably true in a lot of cases, but then we have the issue of IceCream opinions vs informed ones, or evidence based ones etc.

    • corokia 4.2

      Smoking cigarettes increasing the risk of lung cancer- opinion/ belief/ what?

      • weka 4.2.1

        theory so well supported by evidence that we should treat it as fact ;-p

      • WILD KATIPO 4.2.2

        Interesting one… as some individuals smoke all their lives without major illness, some cultures and some diets seem to ward off chronic illness, leading scientists to theorize it is genetics, lifestyle and diet…

        Just their considered opinion ,… of course…

        • Draco T Bastard 4.2.2.1

          Actually, it’d be an hypothesis. An idea put forward to explain the observed data.

          Although, Epigenetics – it’s probably in the realm of an actual theory now.

          Again, your ignorance is showing.

      • Pat 4.2.3

        I would suggest that it can be demonstrated it increases the risk however I would also suggest as to what degree would not be universally agreed and then we are in to the area of opinion….and as we constantly base decisions on points of degree that may well be critical.

        • weka 4.2.3.1

          I’d add that much of our knowledge about smoking and lung cancer comes from the imperatives of public health, which by necessity focus on populations. Corokia’s question seemed based in that context.

          • Pat 4.2.3.1.1

            but which population? and which cohort?….an interesting study reveals self medication with nicotine through smoking may be beneficial for schizophrenia.

            is there an overall benefit to the individual in smoking in this circumstance?

            what is the greater risk? we cannot avoid risk nor mortality so we make decisions (hopefully) based on acceptable risk.

            • weka 4.2.3.1.1.1

              I don’t disagree with the value of those questions, but I also think that corokia’s original statement “Smoking cigarettes increasing the risk of lung cancer” is true enough to be considered a fact. The implication was that across the whole population, for any individual who smokes their risk of getting lung cancer is higher than people who don’t smoke.

              There’s a limit to the usefulness of that ‘fact’ for any individual, depending as you say on other factors and perspectives. But in terms of blunt instruments, it’s very valuable information.

              • Pat

                blunt instruments are not generally recommended for anything …..they are often very dangerous….IMO

                • weka

                  A hammer is a blunt instrument. Very handy when used right.

                  • Pat

                    a hammer can indeed be a blunt instrument

                    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blunt_instrument

                    • weka

                      Yes, and as an instrument that is blunt, it’s also very useful for its original intended purpose. Ditto much research on populations. Or are you suggesting that such research is inherently a murderous or GBH weapon?

                    • Pat

                      “Yes, and you then chose to use it differently than what I meant.”

                      unfortunately I havn’t yet mastered mind reading.

                  • Pat

                    disingenuous much….like a hammer whether broad research is “handy” or a weapon is determined by the intent of the user…. their opinion as it were.

                    the term ‘blunt instrument’ was one you chose to apply

                    • weka

                      Of course, that is my point. We have research on smoking and that is very useful in some contexts and for some purposes. It’s not inherently for beating people with.

                      “the term ‘blunt instrument’ was one you chose to apply”

                      Yes, and you then chose to use it differently than what I meant.

            • Corokia 4.2.3.1.1.2

              I personally have not run any studies on the risk of lung cancer from cigarettes, but I am prepared to accept the statements from “experts ” in this field.
              IMO the current backlash against “experts” risks throwing the baby our with the bathwater ( hope that metaphor fits – getting a bit late for me. Pomarie )

      • Psycho Milt 4.2.4

        Smoking cigarettes increasing the risk of lung cancer- opinion/ belief/ what?

        As mentioned in the OP, it comes down to what you can argue for. The people who claimed cigarettes increase the risk of lung cancer had some very strong evidence backing them up (smoking makes you 14 times more likely to get lung cancer, IIRC – compare that with the recent scare-mongering about red meat, which is claimed to make you 0.18 more likely to get cancer). The counter-claimants had little evidence for their arguments and often a big conflict of interest in that they were making money from the sale of cigarettes. It’s opinion, but some opinions have better arguments than others.

      • McFlock 4.2.5

        Common belief, expert opinion 🙂

        Common belief in that most people these days believe it based on popculture etc.

        Expert opinion based on massive cohort studies over decades that point to an overwhelming correlation, coupled with experimental observation down to the cellular level of various aspects of tobacco exposure, which together form a “Theory” (capital T) that explains all those empirical observations working together with little or no need for additional evidence or effects.

        Anyone arguing for their belief that tobacco use doesn’t cause cancer would need overwhelming evidence, overwhelming either in quality or quantity.

        However, what we can’t say at the moment is whether Jim’s specific lung cancer was caused by smoking or something else. We can point to the pcorrelation and say that with that level of probability and Jim’s known tobacco exposure, there’s a good chance that it was. But Jim might just have been lucky. But then further research might demonstrate a “smoking gun” that identifies the external cause of a cancer.

    • Carolyn_nth 4.3

      Pat said:
      I would suggest that there are very few endeavours where ultimately it doesn’t boil down to opinion/belief……perfection does not exist, or at least it has yet to be proven.

      I would say behind most arguments are various value judgments/assumptions: ones that cannot (at least easily) be refuted or proven by facts or arguments. I recall some such thing from doing philosophy 101 back in another century.

      Did some quick googling:

      Basic assumptions of science”

      So far I have boiled them down to three:

      There is a world, a reality.
      I am part of this world.
      My senses provide me with a not entirely wrong, arbitrary yet mostly consistent, representation of reality.

      Fundamental assumptions of philosophers

      That the universe exists
      That you can learn something about reality
      Models with predictive capabilities are more useful than models without predictive capabilities.

      Such assumptions will influence the kind of facts people will look for, and the topics individuals consider important enough to develop an argument around.

      One of the ways to criticise an argument is to look to see if the facts and arguments are consistent with the basic assumptions.

      In politics, generally I think a lot of disagreements go back to people’s basic assumptions or values.

      So, using broad brush strokes to characterise some basic assumptions:
      right wingers tend to value competition, (rewards for) individualistic endeavours, and hierarchical forms of organisation;
      left wingers tend to value a collaborative, inclusive society.

      I also think there is a masculinist assumption that economics is the bedrock of politics.

      • weka 4.3.1

        Interesting. Maybe we should be arguing about values then instead of how they get expressed in politics.

        • Carolyn_nth 4.3.1.1

          Well, I think the values thing is very important.

          But they only way people can discuss them, and communicate about them, without dissolving into a shouting match, is to using evidence-based, logical arguments. At some point, though, the differing values underlying the arguments will become clear.

          Facts and logical argument are needed to find the best ways of doing things in keeping with our basic values.

      • Pat 4.3.2

        “I also think there is a masculinist assumption that economics is the bedrock of politics.”

        and

        ‘Hard science is given (masculinist) higher priority,as it focus on material things.”

        while I may be inclined to agree that economics is judged to be the “bedrock” of politics I cannot possibly agree that economics can be considered a hard science and therefore on that basis cannot be considered masculist…..economics is a social science.

        Without certainty everything becomes judgement and those judgements are as many and varied as there are judges.

        • Draco T Bastard 4.3.2.1

          economics is a social science.

          There’s a problem with that assertion.

          The resources that economics concerns really are real and they really are limited. That’s not social science – that’s a cold hard fact.

          That, though, does appear to be something that most economists, in their study of money and motivations (which they’re getting wrong), have forgotten.

          • Pat 4.3.2.1.1

            economics is not concerned primarily with resources per se….it is a study of human behaviour, very much a social science and the reason why it struggles to predict ….the variables are infinite (or at least unmeasurable).

            Hari Seldon is a fiction

          • Carolyn_nth 4.3.2.1.2

            There is a social/society component to the allocation of resources – underlying assumptions about the kind of society the allocaters of resources value, etc.

      • One Anonymous Bloke 4.3.3

        right wingers tend to value competition, (rewards for) individualistic endeavours, and hierarchical forms of organisation…

        Or, right wing politics is a natural consequence of the amygdala’s role in self-deception. The vast body of lies that right wingers tell one another (poverty is a choice, there is no such thing as privilege, Climate Physics is a hoax, etc etc.) exists in spite of damning evidence to the contrary.

        These lies can be discarded and replaced with new ones at will (“there is no such thing as global warming”/”climate has always changed”) because the amygdala, which is supposed to warn us off false narratives, becomes desensitised by repeated exposure to dishonesty.

        There’s nothing new about propaganda, we just have a better understanding of how it works these days.

        • Carolyn_nth 4.3.3.1

          I the the politics of deception have escalated by the neoliberals in the last few decades. Before that, there were more right wingers is just strongly believed in the better knowledge of the elites, etc – many still do.

          • One Anonymous Bloke 4.3.3.1.1

            Elite engineers know a sight more about it than I do, as do elite scientists and historians, artists, and let’s not forget the Silver Ferns.

            We defer to skill every time we hire a plumber or a sparky.

            The Right defer to something else entirely.

    • Incognito 4.4

      … and we are in effect left with opinions.

      Not quite, models are more than (just) opinions; they are logical conceptual frameworks that are internally consistent but also consistent with empirical observations and ideally have predictive power (in a statistical sense).

      All models are wrong but some are useful

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/All_models_are_wrong

      Economists use models, politicians have ideologies (doctrines?), etc.

      • Pat 4.4.1

        ‘Economists use models, politicians have ideologies (doctrines?), etc.”

        indeed they do….such a pity then that the opinions on what factors and how they apply differ so markedly depending on school.

        • Incognito 4.4.1.1

          Yes, there’s a fair bit of ‘conditioning’ and indoctrination going on, just like religion …

  5. I guess its back to that probability factor…

    If you roar down a 50 kph suburban street you may get away with it 10 times … then the 11th ,…. Smash !

    Lights out.

  6. One Two 6

    Thoroughly enjoyable article, and commentary section

    Important and enjoyable

    Thanks

  7. Andre 7

    The post and discussion up to this point has only briefly touched on what’s most important to me when evaluating an “opinion”, “idea”, “theory”. What is the evidence, and what are the alternative explanations for that evidence? Then once cause and effect is claimed, can it be successfully used to make predictions about new situations?

    Using the the flat earth scenario, the first bit of evidence is “well, it looks flat to me” which is pretty solid up until the point someone says “OK, then why is it that when a ship first appears on the horizon, you can only see it’s topsails, then as it gets closer you can see more and more of it?”. Then someone predicts “if the earth is round, then I can sail west across that big ocean to get to the same place we’ve always got to by following the coastlines going east” and does it.

    In the case of evaluating medical treatments, there are two very strong confounding factors that are well-known to affect outcomes, bias and placebo effect. So while randomised controlled double-blind trials have their flaws, they’re the best technique we have for separating out the real benefits of a treatment from the confounding effects. Many of the mistakes and erroneous conclusions in conventional medicine seem to come from not carrying out proper trials when expanding the scope from where it’s been shown to work, to similar conditions where it “should” also work, or where anecdotes suggest a new “off-label” application for a medicine. This fails to properly eliminate the possibility of placebo effects causing the anecdotally observed benefits.

    • weka 7.1


      In the case of evaluating medical treatments, there are two very strong confounding factors that are well-known to affect outcomes, bias and placebo effect. So while randomised controlled double-blind trials have their flaws, they’re the best technique we have for separating out the real benefits of a treatment from the confounding effects. Many of the mistakes and erroneous conclusions in conventional medicine seem to come from not carrying out proper trials when expanding the scope from where it’s been shown to work, to similar conditions where it “should” also work, or where anecdotes suggest a new “off-label” application for a medicine. This fails to properly eliminate the possibility of placebo effects causing the anecdotally observed benefits.

      That might be true if the only form of medicine was conventional medicine that was able to be well studied by RCTs. But it’s not. I agree that if one wants to know how effective a drug is, then an RCT is a good way to go (assuming one can manage or take into account the bias, vested interests and corruption). But if one wants to assess the efficacy of something like acupuncture, then it’s not necessarily going to be that useful. Placebo and confounding factors are benefits in Traditional Chinese Medicine, not things to be controlled out of the way.

      (and as far as I can tell, off-label use is an integral part of the development of pharmaceuticals).

      So I would say that your comment appears to be informed opinion (your ability to explain it well matches my lay person’s understanding of RCTs and conventional medicine), but that it is limited and erroneous because you believe that some forms of medicine are better than others (based on previous conversations IIRC).

      Without having an equal understanding of other approaches to health, how can you make such claims validly? And in the absence of such understanding wouldn’t it be more useful to seek understanding? I’m arguing the logics here.

      • Carolyn_nth 7.1.1

        What is an RCT? I keep seeing it in this discussion – everyone else seems to know what it means.

        • weka 7.1.1.1

          Randomised controlled trial. It’s the gold standard way to test pharmaceutical drugs, because it allows scientists to separate out the placebo effect and any other unwanted factors from the desired effect being studied. Which it’s good at in its pure form for assessing certain things, but medical science has been hugely corrupted by vested interests and commerce, so it’s getting hard to tell now.

          (btw, there’s a whole masculinist thing here too, whereby hard science is considered ‘higher’ than that touchy feely other science like the quantitative research that nurses do. RCTs are hard science).

          • Carolyn_nth 7.1.1.1.1

            Thanks.

            Hard science is given (masculinist) higher priority,as it focus on material things.

            Understanding human behaviour and how societies operate can’t be investigated in the same way: because it involves people investigating people and their systems; it involves human interactions; and because there are potentially an enormous array of factors in play.

            So the masculinist resort is to prioritise numbers-based research eg economics, statistics – seems to cut out the subjective human factor – only it doesn’t – there are always value/subjective judgements about which phenomena to give a numerical value.

            • KJT 7.1.1.1.1.1

              Why is economics considered musculinist.

              In my considered musculinist view, economics is as scientific as looking at chicken entrials.

              There are too many unconsidered variables to do anything more than use models, which partially explain things.

              Often the economists were correct, as far as what they can measure went, eg Keynes was observing reality, at the time.
              Hoon uses empirical evidence of the failure of trickle down and globalisation.

              However politicians and idealogs, Freidman, only take the bits that agree with their opinion. Constructing elaborate models with no foundation on reality. With lots of numbers and graphs to make it look like science.

              It is correct that things like happiness cannot be measured, but access to housing, health care, education and recreation can.

              Science only works with things we can measure.

              We have to decide, in our subjective view, if we maximise economic effeciency by killing off all our elderly at 65, or we look after them.

              • weka

                Carolyn’s original comment wasn’t that economics is masculinist, but instead it’s the positioning of economics within politics that is masculinist.

                From upthread “I also think there is a masculinist assumption that economics is the bedrock of politics.”

                However one could argue that economics is largely masculinist. If it weren’t we’d have had Marilyn Waring as Minister of Finance by now (politics is also masculinist, which is part of why she left).

                Likewise in medical science. It’s the positioning of hard science (quantitative research) high on a hierarchy, and placing women’s science as something lowly and over there, that makes medicine masculinist (plus a whole raft of other things).

                But one could also argue that practice itself is masculinist, harder to do than with economics I think, but I could give it a go if you are interested 🙂

                • Carolyn_nth

                  Thanks, weka.

                  yes. And I also had in mind some twitter debates recently, generated by Bryce Edwards, who seems to have an obsession with attacking “identitarian” (his word) politics/supporters.

                  While agreeing with me and Sue Bradford that gender, race, etc and class-based politics are intertwined, he still persists with his focus on attacking “identity/identitarian” politics. And one of Edwards’ supporters on Twitter recently added into the debate that economics was the bedrock or fundamental aspect of politics.

                • Nic the NZer

                  “Likewise in medical science. It’s the positioning of hard science (quantitative research) high on a hierarchy, and placing women’s science as something lowly and over there, that makes medicine masculinist (plus a whole raft of other things).”

                  Unfortunately this kind of thing always comes up bundled with implications that science is in some way sexist. This is just nonsense
                  and its actually massively sexist to imply that women in science in some way do some different thing called womens science.

              • Carolyn_nth

                Well, I consider it masculinist, from my observations of politics, plus a very long strand in scholarship that identifies various aspects of culture and politics dominated my masculine values – which tends to privilege a lot of men, but some women are into such values, too.

                for instance see page 2 of the introduction:

                on how economics has traditionally had a masculine bias

                A lot of analysis of gender and politics, over decades have identified that male MPs most often get given responsibility for economics, and women MPs for social policy. This is changing gradually, with the growth of writing on feminist economics.

                Previously economics was considered to be gender neutral, while hiding the masculine biases -eg the strong focus on the traditional notion of the male breadwinner, while ignoring how domestic arrangements impact on the wider economy.

                Also, a lot of gender analysis has focused on masculinity as being focused on “instrumental” activities (dealing with managing the material world) and femininity as being more expressive or relationship based;

                as indicated in this abstract, for instance

                My observations relate to how such gender divisions are strong within the current National government portfolios. The economics/finance portfolio is given highest status traditionally.

                Also, on left wing discussion forums, as here, many men focus on demonstrating their grasp of economics as a priority (and for some a measure of their status and/or grasp of politics) – women tend to be less inclined to do this.

                NB: I see masculine and feminine traits as being socially and culturally constructed, and thus subject to change over time.

                • KJT

                  As far as i can see, women are given responsibility for social policy in National, when it is destructive.

                  Disposable hatchet people.

                  Positive stuff comes from Key or Joyce etc.

                  Myself, I got into economics as part of Management studies, but my continued interest is due to my support for social justice. The need to “speak the language” to counter right wing bullshit.

                  One I am particularly keen on is validation of unpaid work such as child rearing.
                  Raising the super age, or privatising super, for example, particularly impacts on those who have had time out of the workforce to be carers.

                  • Carolyn_nth

                    Yes, I agree, unpaid work is an important economic, gender and social justice issue. And it is very often brown people doing low paid caring work as well. This is what some of us mean when we say gender race and class are all in the mix for our left wing politics. Edwards concurred, but still goes on about “identity/identitarian” politics.

                    It is good to see the shift towards this mix.

                    To me, underpinning such politics are values of social and economic justice. In the early 21st century, issues of economic (in)justice have reached crisis point. It needs a strong campaign and political will to restore justice.

                    Also, underpinning politics of economic and social justice are issues of power: who has it, in whose interests they exercise it and or abuse it, and how abuse of power can be challenged and stopped – how power can be exerted (by the many) to bring about an economically and socially just society.

                    On the left the usual view is that power should be with the people collectively, not some elite or ruling class. (I see issues of power being the bedrock of classical Marxism).

              • Nic the NZer

                “We have to decide, in our subjective view, if we maximise economic effeciency by killing off all our elderly at 65, or we look after them.”

                That seems easy to answer does it not? You only get efficiency gains if the resources dedicated to elderly care can be more usefully used doing something else. We also have a looming unemployment problem implying that those resources can’t. Unfortunately the debate on this issue is nonsensical and attempts to answer this question based on what the govts surplus/deficit budget condition is which has quite clearly nothing to do with the matter at hand. But such is the reality of such a debate in NZ.

        • Nic the NZer 7.1.1.2

          Stands for Randomized Controlled Trial.

          A pertinent discussion on their limitations here,
          https://larspsyll.wordpress.com/2016/12/08/rcts-in-the-garden-of-eden/

          • Jan Rivers 7.1.1.2.1

            So pertinent to be having this discussion about the nature of evidence and truth and the nature of scientific proof when ‘truthiness’ is regarded as adequate in so many places.

            To add to the useful links about the nature of knowledge Jess Berentson-Shaw wrote an interesting piece on the Morgan Foundation website earlier this year categorising increasing strengths of evidence from different kinds of scientific work.
            http://morganfoundation.org.nz/coleman-vs-health-experts-right-wrong-sugar-tax/ about the sugar debate.

            There are models (hypotheses) which cannot be directly proven but are none the less useful. For example the Buddhist model of the personality is not provable but is experientially satisfying – just think of the Freudian idea of the unconscious and how introspection can bring some of the contents of our unconscious to the surface. Other kinds of unrprovable models are more widely useful. Marxism and classical economics fall into this category. (Marxism is far more useful because it aims to explain economics and society whereas classical economics explains only the operation of pure markets and actors in relation to themselves.) 🙂

            • Incognito 7.1.1.2.1.1

              Hi Jan,

              Good to see you again on TS and I hope you don’t mind if I use your comment as a stepping stone for mine 😉

              It seems that often people limit discussion about facts and discernible truth to logic and the cerebral treatment. Jung, for example, developed the concept of the collective unconscious, which has been rejected as unscientific and worse. It begs the question as to whether our current ‘definition’ of truth and reality isn’t too narrow …

              • Nic the NZer

                Logic is only ever a mental process. We know for certain that logical statements are true or false but only because they are restricted to a domain of mental processes. Any statement about the real world we can never have certainty about however regardless how much evidence there is for it. All thats demonstrated about a real world statement by evidence is that it has not been demonstrated false by anything yet. That does not however mean it never will be.

                Should also point out this also doesnt mean such a statement will almost certainly be demonstrated false eventually, either.

              • Jan Rivers

                Thanks 🙂
                Exactly – although I think that ‘unscientific thinking’ like Jung’s can be a good prompt to seeking thinking about what is shared in consciousness across populations and culture and what is by what route it is shared – language, the nature of care and parenting, the environment or the shared experience of being human.

                Then there’s paradox and it’s uses. Or the idea that the thinking frameworks that we use that allow some kinds of thinking actually prevent others kinds of thoughts or certainly make them less likely.

                Also we rarely think about the limits on our consciousness and how it can mislead us quite easily. Daneil Kahnemann’s book is really good on this. In thinking fast and slow he showed we can think slowly (deeply) but it’s hard work and we can’t think everything out ourselves (not enough time in a lifetime) Most of our fast (intuitive) thinking feeds into our pre-existing assumptions and models and allows us to bond and trust without full information by relying on/ agreeing with other people.

                That’s one reason I think why 30 + hyears of neo-liberalism has given us an individualist frame of reference (into whwich we place new information) and its often can be very hard to even consider a communitarian thinking – let alone hold it in our minds as a frame of reference for placing new information.

      • Andre 7.1.2

        I’m satisfied that “alternative therapies” such as acupuncture, chiropractic, homeopathy etc have been adequately investigated, and their benefits are almost certainly entirely due to placebo effect at maximum strength due to the patient and “practitioner” having firm belief and the “treatment” being delivered in an extended sympathetic environment.

        I happen to think placebo effects are under-appreciated and under-used in conventional medicine.

        My objections come when the “alternative practitioners” claim there’s some kind of woo that’s not understood that’s causing benefits above and beyond placebo. That’s bullshit, until the claimants can provide the solid evidence. If the claimants want to use some other evaluation than randomised trials, then they also need to show convincing evidence why the alternative evaluation method is more credible.

        I’d be supportive of an argument about how to integrate known placebo treatments into the health system. Provided it’s clearly understood what’s placebo and what’s been shown to be more than placebo. Yes, I do believe medicine that’s been shown to be better than placebo in randomised trials is objectively better and we should be more willing to fund it, with the extra funding related to the extra benefit.

      • Draco T Bastard 7.1.3

        But if one wants to assess the efficacy of something like acupuncture, then it’s not necessarily going to be that useful.

        Probably not but there are other ways of testing it that would show if it actually worked or not.

        Real study isn’t limited to RCTs but science does require the study and that the study be repeatable. It cannot be just anecdote.

        • weka 7.1.3.1

          I’d largely agree with that, and say further that it’s about finding the appropriate study for any given phenomenon, not simply saying it should be this one here that is always the best.

          “It cannot be just anecdote.”

          We can use anecdote to generate hypotheses and sometimes data. I agree that single stories aren’t proof of wider concepts or applicability, but they can be damn good starting points (some anecdotes are more useful than others, and how we use anecdote is important).

          • Draco T Bastard 7.1.3.1.1

            We can use anecdote to generate hypotheses and sometimes data.

            No. We’d use anecdote to indicate that there may be something worth studying to generate data. We’d then use that data to generate hypothesis. We’d then test that hypothesis against its ability to predict outcomes.

            • weka 7.1.3.1.1.1

              That’s science, but there are other ways of generating knowledge that fall outside the strict definitions you are using.

              For instance, if my neighbour says he tried putting rabbit poo on his potato patch and got the best spuds he’s ever grown, we might have a conversation about that and what it means, develop a hypothesis (which we would call a theory because we’re not scientists), and agree to try it out. That’s anecdote generating hypothesis leading to trialling etc. (IMO what I have just described is also science depending on a few factors).

              • KJT

                I would say, that by empirical observation (seeing what actually happens), which is an essential part of science, he decided that of all the things that have been used on his garden, rabbit poo was the best.

                Not a different way of doing things. Simply experimental scientific research, carried out on his garden patch.

                • Would a scientist say – well let’s set up a trial against other types of poo to work out which is actually the best. Once we have determined that by repeatable experimentation then we will know.

                  The non scientist says ok I’ll try out rabbit poo (because of the recommendation) – never knowing or indeed really caring about the other poos because rabbit poo does the job. There doesn’t actually have to be a ‘better’ because the expectations are met.

                  To me this is one of the underlying ethos of science – the pushing boundaries of knowledge.

                  If the can opener works why try to improve it – it works.

                  The pursuit of more, better, deeper and so on seems to me to belong within the cult of progress – where the new is always better and everything can always be improved – not true and not always a good thing imo.

                  • Andre

                    A good scientist would first be looking to find out whether it was indeed the rabbit poo that made the difference and was repeatable, and that the difference was not some other factor that wasn’t noticed like maybe the neighbour on the other side sneaking over to pee on the potato patch.

                    It’s businesspeople and/or engineers (that’s me) that are more likely to fall into the trap of assuming the observed difference in outcome is necessarily due to the one and only noticed difference in input and therefore rush into maximising the output from tweaking that input.

                  • KJT

                    The problem is we do not know which new thing is better, until it has been tried.

                    Some things however would have been better if they never saw the light of day.

                    The Luddites were not wrong. Unfortunately they were opposing the inevitable.

    • Incognito 7.2

      As you probably know the most important factor that influences the outcome of those trials is intra- and inter-subject variability that adds a lot of (statistical) ‘noise’. This ‘noise’ needs to be filtered out and/or the signal-to-noise ratio needs to be increased, usually by increasing the number of subjects AKA patients recruited into the trial. This is one reason why those randomised double-blind trials often involve hundreds if not thousands of patients (and a long clinical observation period).

      You probably also know that the criteria for eligibility for enrolment into one of those trials is very strict and prescriptive. This is one reason why trial results don’t always perfectly (!) translate to the general population.

      You will also know that the primary outcome target of those clinical trials is an aggregate (e.g. comparing the medians of the treatment arms). Often post-mortem data analysis is done on patient sub-groups to salvage something useful for the sponsors/investors.

      Lastly, the nature of clinical trials is likely to undergo major changes in the years to come as we’re apparently entering the era of personalised medicine.

  8. Xanthe 8

    But the real problem is those that express “opinions” that are not really opinions at all . I say i like chocolate icecream beacuse I want others to buy some and i get a cut.

    Now this becomes a very real problem when news organisations have a policy of providing “balanced” “opinion” with no real understanding that many who tout “opinion” are actually pushing a line and their intent is to unbalance the discourse

  9. Cinny 9

    Just want to add something I always tell my kids, it’s OK to change your opinion or your mind when you learn more about a situation and realise not all is what you thought it was. It’s OK if your opinion isn’t the same as everyone else, as long as you have thought it through.

    Changing ones opinion does not necessarily mean that someone is a hypocrite, (unless their change in opinion is based on popularity or their own self interest), sometimes changing ones opinion means that they have evolved and learned. After all everything is constantly changing, everything.

    • One Anonymous Bloke 9.1

      You could also tell them: “keep an open mind, but not so open that your brain falls out”, and mention the amygdala’s role in confirmation bias and the Dunning-Kruger Effect.

      • Cinny 9.1.1

        yes we had a chat about that the other day, but will touch on it again with them, good advice OAB thanks.

        • One Anonymous Bloke 9.1.1.1

          It’s a hard one: the more individually certain you are of something, the less likely it is to be true 🙂

          • One Two 9.1.1.1.1

            Could you elaborate on that comment OAB?

            ‘Certainty and the individual”

            • One Anonymous Bloke 9.1.1.1.1.1

              It rephrases my comment at 9.1. Certainty is more likely to be a product of bias or stupidity than knowledge or wisdom. I include myself in this. The scientific method aims to correct this tendency with peer-review; democracy with universal suffrage.

  10. greywarshark 10

    It is humbling to read about the level of intellectual thinking that was being pursued and written about in early Greek times, and by other ancients also.

    This summary of some of Plato’s writings requires a much higher level of thought and comprehension than is generally used today. The ancients knew then what should be everyday understanding in modern times, but it appears that we cherry-pick what is convenient to our materialistic sides. Little time and thought has gone to attempting a real understanding and education about our thinking and ability to plan. act and make healthy and satisfying human lives and communities.

    The Phaedo is one of the most widely read dialogues written by the ancient Greek philosopher Plato. It claims to recount the events and conversations that occurred on the day that Plato’s teacher, Socrates (469-399 B.C.E.), was put to death by the state of Athens.

    It is the final episode in the series of dialogues recounting Socrates’ trial and death. The earlier Euthyphro dialogue portrayed Socrates in discussion outside the court where he was to be prosecuted on charges of impiety and corrupting the youth; the Apology described his defense before the Athenian jury; and the Crito described a conversation during his subsequent imprisonment.

    The Phaedo now brings things to a close by describing the moments in the prison cell leading up to Socrates’ death from poisoning by use of hemlock.

    Among these “trial and death” dialogues, the Phaedo is unique in that it presents Plato’s own metaphysical, psychological, and epistemological views; thus it belongs to Plato’s middle period rather than with his earlier works detailing Socrates’ conversations regarding ethics.

    Known to ancient commentators by the title On the Soul, the dialogue presents no less than four arguments for the soul’s immortality. It also contains discussions of Plato’s doctrine of knowledge as recollection, his account of the soul’s relationship to the body, and his views about causality and scientific explanation. http://www.iep.utm.edu/phaedo/

    It seems to me that rarely do we hear the word soul in ordinary day to day discussion, except in relation to music. And that music enters into it is not surprising if you believe that the desire to express oneself musically is an expression of the individual soul. The teaching of the Humanities discipline in universities is being dropped in favour of mindless advancement of science and vocationally useful subjects. Science understanding is good and likely to be profitable, people understanding is bad, because we are plastic and can be formed into what is required, what’s useful to know about people? We have their DNA, we know where they live!

    It could be that the saving grace of humans today, is the desire to be in touch with their own soul, the only thing that apparently can’t be developed by artifice leading to artificial intelligence entities. We have gone further in the material, physical and materialistic world than is valuable for us and become consumers of our world, mere human resources in the machine of materialism and economic house of cards.

    What are we about? How do we value ourselves, and each other and the wonderful entities we are, and the fathomless world we live in? There must be a halt to constantly thinking of accumulation of credits to spend in the world’s economy, and time to understand ourselves and our fellows and our world, the self-realisation at the top of Maslow’s hierarchy.

    To keep on as at present, there be dragons.

    Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a theory in psychology proposed by Abraham Maslow in his 1943 paper “A Theory of Human Motivation” in Psychological Review. Maslow subsequently extended the idea to include his observations of humans’ innate curiosity.

    Maslow’s hierarchy of needs – Wikipedia
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maslow's_hierarchy_of_needs

    • Carolyn_nth 10.1

      The Western European tradition has been traced back to Socrates

      Plato’s teacher.

      Soul is another of those words that have different meanings. For the ancient Greeks it tended to be strongly integrated with the body.

      A lot of Greek thought was influenced by eastern philosophies.

      Then Christianity developed it’s version of soul…. then the enlightenment that tended to downgrade intangibles like “souls”.

      Ultimately it seems to me your are focusing on human and humane values, which are the focus of the humanities.

    • Jan Rivers 10.2

      These maybe of interest in relation to contemporary attempts to include join a humanities and science approach and to support a depth of truth seeking in politics.

      A strand of progressive work developing in NZ and elsewhere called Mindfulness for Change. There have been two weekend long gatherings . https://medium.com/enspiral-tales/the-conversational-creation-of-event-and-community-1ec182b9c575#.az8grh6tq

      Overseas Scoop’s past editor Alastair Thompson has written about soul led change in Europe http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/HL1608/S00051/the-earthworm-gathering-part-two-a-personal-coat-of-arms.htm

      Scoop Foundation is trialling an approach to support indepth engagement with ideas and recently launched Hivemind with a debate on Sugar and Obesity. The aim is to develop an approach that allows participants to vote on options and to see where they sit in relation to others. Scoop worked with public engagement experts to develop a series of perspectives recognising that the issues are often contested and complex and values collide.
      http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/HL1612/S00001/no-sugar-coating-what-should-we-do.htm
      You can participate anonymously and Scoop will publish the findings

      Scoop also co-locates information about the same topic together allowing information seekers to understand the widest possible set of perspectives.

      http://www.scoop.co.nz/#sugar

      • greywarshark 10.2.1

        Thanks Jan Rivers for those links.

        I find it interesting that the discussion so quickly deals with the thought of soul and our essential being and turns away to discussion about the nuts and bolts of argument and science etc.

        We need to go beyond the facets of ourselves that can be easily copied by computers and robots which will be cleverer and better than ourselves soon, perhaps already are in various laboratories round the world. I have wondered if this plethora of machines is part of a downward slope on a Bell curve and we reached the highest understanding of ourselves some centuries back, and since then have been preoccupied with machines, attack and killing toys and systems of different types, physical or cultural and bearing in mind holistic and analytic approaches.

        I don’t have the words to express exactly what I mean, except the thoughts above may have been what Freud and Jung and those types, may have been seeking.

        • Jan Rivers 10.2.1.1

          Yes. and Yes,yes, yes.

          Yes AI systems will be cleverer in some respects – but only to the extent that AI models are only a subset of humanity and can only encode the thinking that created them.

          Anne Pettifor described an example of this when discussing Bitcoin and Money / Credit. How you conceive of money differs fundamentally if you think of it as a form of trust than if you think of it as a commodity. That will affect the AI that you build to manage it. The rules encoded will not be neutral – they are culture and perspective specific.
          https://www.socialeurope.eu/2014/01/money-public-good/#

          We are already seeing some of this in the rules encoded in the algorithmic social investment approach for identifying people at risk. If the rules are written to get women off the DPB and into work – that will be the outcome. But the decision that this is a good goal is highly ideological.

          I think those in power in our society are allowing a society to be set up to discourage introspection about our own humanity or how we could work together or at most to make such thinking a solely private thing. Poverty, indebtedness, poor pay, student loans all encourage us to tie ourselves to the wheel of productivity and not to consider why we are here or see ourselves as part of humanity linked to sources of ancient wisdom and thinking as you suggest.

          We also deify spreadsheets and spreadsheet thinking, Idolise organisations with boards and vision and mission statements that can be encoded into activities and outputs as if these were the only model of reality or the only way of getting stuff that matters done,

          Sorry this is somewhat declamatory – but I do agree with you. And also there are some hopeful signs that there’s a nascent recognition that the conversation about love, truth and the pursuit of wisdom is hugely important.

  11. ropata 11

    Very important topic weka and it touches on the huge challenges facing the human race.

  12. Red Hand 12

    “people have right to think and say whatever they want”. People probably don’t think what they want to think most of the time. A daughter might want to think that her father is strong, but she cannot help thinking that he is weak.
    She would risk be complained about if she said something that amounted to racial harassment.
    “Racial harassment is behaviour that is racist, hurtful or offensive and is either repeated or serious enough to have a harmful effect on a person”
    https://www.hrc.co.nz/enquiries-and-complaints/what-you-can-complain-about/

  13. McFlock 13

    Just before I disappear again (no rest for the wicked), our opinions (well-argued or not) are also subjected to our ice-cream opinion of each issue’s importance.

    I know fuckall about rugby, but I do know guys who can tell you how many points a particular player scored in the 1955 3rd test against Wales. And yet they wouldn’t give a hoot about politicians, on the grounds that “they’re all the same”.

    But that also comes down to climate change vs social justice vs social credit economics vs geopolitics vs etc. One thing that seems to happen is that leftish politicians get hit from both sides if they make a policy announcement, both from the right for going too far and from the left for not going far enough, or not making an announcement on another “more important” issue.

    Just an observation. Good post.

  14. Incognito 14

    The Deakin University philosophy lecturer Patrick Stokes mentioned in the OP left out a few qualifiers and assumptions IMO, which understandably leads to misconception and confusion; his context got lost I believe.

    When people think about arguing or debating they often see it as a dichotomy, i.e. a game of winners-losers, right-wrong, correct-incorrect. But there are many types of arguing or debating.

    My first analogy is Garry Kasparov playing against computers. This was a game played with strict rules and a defined end result. In this context, it was easy to figure out who (or which) won and it is even traceable and can be analysed over and over again; people can learn from it.

    My second analogy is so mundane and familiar it almost comes across as a joke. You cannot argue with a 5-year old. Enough said, I presume.

    Most genuine arguing and debating is not about point-scoring or winning vs. losing but to come to a higher level of understanding, to a discernible truth, or to reach consensus. This is not about dichotomy but open-ended and being open-minded. IMO this is how political and scientific debates need to be conducted but unfortunately they too often get influenced or even corrupted by other factors and motivations.

    I’d like to think that Patrick Stokes more has/had in mind the Socratic Method of critical thinking, which is more akin a dialogue between two or more people who want the same thing.

  15. In Vino 15

    Interesting thread with no Right Wing Trolls. I am 3 days late looking at it, but congrats to all!

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    GreensBy robert.ashe
    2 weeks ago
  • Greens back Labour’s monetary policy reform
    Labour plans to change the way we do monetary policy in New Zealand and the Green Party supports them fully. We’re now of a single mind on this. Labour will move away from our reliance on a single, unelected person ...
    GreensBy James Shaw
    2 weeks ago
  • Govt drops ball on Masters Games housing squeeze
    Families currently living in emergency accommodation face being forced out onto the street as motel accommodation in Auckland is filled up by contestants and visitors of the World Masters Games in coming weeks, says Labours social development spokesperson Carmel Sepuloni. ...
    2 weeks ago
  • State inquiry for Nga Morehu – The Survivors of State Abuse
    The Prime Minister must show humanitarian leadership and launch an independent inquiry into historic claims of abuse of children who were in State care, says Labour’s Deputy Leader Jacinda Ardern. ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Coleman – ‘overwhelmed by disinterest’ and ‘conked out’
    Today’s trenchant criticism of the Government’s health policy by Ian Powell the executive director of the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists must trigger action by the Minister, says Labour’s spokesperson for Health David Clark. ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Statement on Syria
    Like the rest of the world, I have been horrified at the chemical attack on innocent Syrians that led to the deaths of so many men, women and children,” says Labour Leader Andrew Little. “The deliberate attack on civilians as ...
    2 weeks ago
  • The hard truth about that soft drink ad
    I am relieved that Pepsi has pulled its ridiculous commercial that obscenely co-opted the #BlackLivesMatter movement. At the very least, it was an awkward failure that tried too hard to be something it could never be. At its worst, it ...
    GreensBy Marama Davidson
    2 weeks ago
  • Journalism Matters: Interesting the public in the public interest
    Last week I launched two policies to support Kiwi journalism because as Bill Moyers put it, “the quality of democracy and the quality of journalism is deeply intertwined.” Journalism matters because it’s how we discover what’s happening in our world, ...
    GreensBy Gareth Hughes
    2 weeks ago
  • Homeownership rate hits new low; KiwiBuild needed now
    The homeownership rate has fallen to just 63.1 per cent, according to Statistics New Zealand’s newly released Dwelling and Household estimates. That’s down three per cent under National to the lowest level since 1951, confirming the need for Labour’s KiwiBuild ...
    2 weeks ago
  • OECD endorses Labour’s Future of Work approach
    An OECD report released today, highlighting the need for increased support for workers who are made redundant, is a strong endorsement of the direction of Labour’s Future of Work Commission, says Labour’s Employment spokesperson Grant Robertson. “We welcome the OECD’s ...
    2 weeks ago
  • The Government knows diddly squat about health funding
    Asked about the funding of the Auckland Regional Public Health Service, the Associate Minister of Health was at sea today on the typhoid outbreak, says Labour’s Health spokesperson David Clark.   “When I asked Nicky Wagner who was responsible for the ...
    3 weeks ago
  • Nicky Wagner blames disability workers for Govt’s funding failure
    Nicky Wagner displayed disrespect and sheer arrogance when she insulted disability support workers today, says Labour’s Disability Issues spokesperson Poto Williams. ...
    3 weeks ago
  • Parata in denial over special education crisis
    Hekia Parata has her head buried in the sand when it comes to the pressure that schools are under as they attempt to cope with an increasing number of children with severe behavioural and other learning support needs, says Labour’s ...
    3 weeks ago
  • Data-for-funding move hits Privacy roadblock
    The Government’s much-criticised grab for private client data from social service organisations has suffered another defeat after the Privacy Commissioner’s damning report, says Labour’s Social Development spokesperson Carmel Sepuloni. “This is a defeat for the Government’s plans to force social ...
    3 weeks ago
  • New research shows need for government-led house building
    Research by economist Shamubeel Eaqub shows the need for the government to lead the building of affordable starter homes, as would happen under Labour’s KiwiBuild policy, says Labour’s Housing spokesperson Phil Twyford. ...
    3 weeks ago
  • Kiwis need answers on typhoid outbreak
      The Ministry of Health wasn’t told about the typhoid outbreak until 11 days after three people from the same church were admitted to hospital, says Labour’s spokesperson for Health David Clark.   “It is no longer credible for the Minister ...
    3 weeks ago
  • Maori Party gets it wrong again on RMA
    The Māori Party is missing the big picture on National’s Resource Management Act reforms by supporting a fundamentally flawed Bill, says Labour’s Local Government spokesperson Meka Whaitiri. ...
    3 weeks ago
  • Maori Party error own goal on GM
    The Maori Party amendment to the Resource Legislation Amendment Bill does not achieve what they say it does on genetic modification, says Labour’s Environment spokesperson David Parker. “Their amendment relates to the new powers given to the Minister to over-ride ...
    3 weeks ago
  • Is the Government dragging its feet on typhoid?
    Serious questions have been raised about the Government’s handling of the Auckland typhoid outbreak which has claimed a life, says Labour’s Health spokesperson David Clark.   “It’s tragic that a woman has died and that at least 15 people have ...
    3 weeks ago