Persuasion in Science and Assumptions of Knowledge
From birth we are conditioned to think as particular way. Our parents and the society we live in affects the very way we think about any subject. It’s said that science is just based on facts, but this is not true, every deduction tailored by what we were taught to be true in a complicated line of reasoning that is subtly altered by who we are. Many are theoretical, not facts, but judged as facts if they have a high enough regard when comparing to things that may be undisputable facts. Mathematics, Physics and Chemistry are altered less that other subjects, but they are altered, even the idea that 1+1=2 being based on a theoretical idea of a relationship that we are taught is exactly correct and cannot vary. In Western society we have a dependency on theory that other areas of the world have less of.
Take the example that a business has 4 employees at £20,000 cost each. If a new supply of employees can be obtained for £10,000 each, the business can employ twice the number and produce twice the items and twice the profit. The new employees being half the cost of the old employees. But the real world doesn’t work this way. There are reasons and ramifications why this isn’t true, but theory says it is, even forgetting all about the fact that an apple isn’t an apple until it is in a certain place at a certain time, the term ‘an apple’ being a very rough grouping in itself, so two theoretical and identical variables not being equal. x=x in theory, but x¹x in practice or real life.
But how do we assess is something is true or not? We only stand a chance by personal experiment, and then not going into the problem with pre-conceived ideas. In legal terms a set of jurors are only valid if they have no information about a case beforehand. If they do they are supposed to be automatically dismissed, but in most cases, especially high profile and well-known ones, this becomes impossible.
So, we rely on the knowledgeable and those we consider of a status who will likely know the answer, but they themselves are tailored by who they are. ‘There is a resistance to new ideas.’ This is a well known and provable piece of information. If this is the case, ‘new information’ is regarded as less reliable or worthy than ‘old information.’ In an unbiased world, this should not be true, any bit of information regarded as equal until assessed, and without using this principle to evaluate it, bias is already built in. Theories are theories, some less likely, some more, some are elegant, some are confused and unbalanced, some are more coherent than others, but they are all theories and artificial constructs of the mind, not facts, so to choose one that is already embedded in the system and to consider other lesser, simply by not being in place, means that they are being pre-judged and using the bias of the system to judge them. In many cases a person’s status allows a theory to have the same consideration as a lesser-status person’s facts and people like to have things set permanently in a place, the look of something being sometimes more important than if it is true. The world isn’t elegant, but mathematics and physics is believed to be. Why, because people choose the elegant over the inelegant, again, built in bias when all consideration should be equal. The fact we live in a mainly positive universe suggests that balances may not be all they are supposed to be.
But what is status? It comes in many forms. Hopefully it is because one person is more knowledgeable in a particular narrow field than another. People rarely advance in a field unless they specialise, the people who really attain a high status quite often being good managers rather than the skilled technicians of the subject. The skills behind their success quite often being the accumulation of those of people under them, but the organisation they belong to getting the credit, they control the organisation, therefore they inherit the credit, quite often doing no practical work in the field, except now being considered the experts in it.
Then again, communication is the key, not to being right, but being able to persuade something being taken as right. A skill with words allows one person who is not good at communicating their thoughts to test that Y is true and being able to personally prove it, but failing in persuading anybody else, but another person who is a skilled communicator being able to document that Y is false and being able to persuade people that this is so. The media is full of such people, who by their standing, can obfuscate what is currently happening for their own or their employers ends. The history of smoking is almost a definition of this, where doctors of high status managed to trick the public for tenures and monetary returns. What is suspicious is that their status wasn’t subsequently revoked, or disbarred in their qualifications by the various educational establishments that had given them their qualifications. The idea is that they had ‘earned’ them so they couldn’t be removed, but any qualification is a standard judged by somebody else, their subsequent actions invalidating the validity of their judgement. People make mistakes, but such deliberate manipulation suggests that previous things were probably also manipulated, just not caught, so compounding the evaluators lack of observance, not the qualification of competence that it should be. To do so would also call their educational establishment to be checked or judged, so doors were closed. It’s not the illusion of truth and logic that is imagined in such places.
Generalists are treated as the common person, quotes like ‘Jack of all trades, master of none,’ being an insult common used by many people, implying that all the knowledge they have is superficial and if they specialised in one area they would have a better idea. But the idea of a polymath or generalist has slowly gained acceptance, cross field knowledge advancing both fields where it would not have originally, but the status of this cross knowledge seen as less worthy than either in the independent fields where knowledge had been ignored or stunted by specialisations. Knowledge is knowledge, and if you miss something because you did not consider it, you’re not as good as you or other people think you are. Your status is giving a false level and standard.
‘Knowledge is like riding a bike.’ So, ‘once a doctor, always a doctor.’ But is this a good assessment of their knowledge? One professor of medicine used to start his lectures with the statement ‘Half of what you know as true today will be false in 10 years’ time.’ This is time dependent, so after the following 10 years even less may be true. One thing that is required for knowledge is constantly keeping it up to date, most people having gained a qualification, then left the field they gained it in, but being able to use it as a door to opportunity. The average age of a medical doctor in practice is about 40 years old at the moment. The average age that a person becomes a medical doctor is 28 years old, so at that point, unless they are actively engaged in the cutting edge of medicine they will be on average 12 years out of date and dependent on their own independent learning during all that time. The oldest practicing doctor in the world was 98, so 70 years have passed in their cumulative knowledge. Working in the field gives you practical knowledge and filters quite often to the theoretical, but the assumption is that this is continuous and active. There has been no research into what diseases are actually experienced by an average doctor, but taking into account the most common disease burdens, 95% will be of a number of main types from the 65% that are causes. Cancer cases probably account for 20% of all cases, but how knowledgeable and well informed on the latest cancer treatments are the doctors? Most simply refer them to hospitals where they are treated. 10% of doctors are found in hospitals at the moment, so most referrals are based on observations and possible suspicions.
Next, we come to who you are in society. This is quite often a judge of a person’s veracity or judgement of the power of somebody’s argument. The idea is that somebody who is good in a subject will go up societies scale and become wealthy or important. So, a Leader, King, Queen, Prince or Princess is intelligent and knowledgeable about most subjects and accurately assess, comparing one against another for the public good, much better than those around them. History has shown this to be totally invalid, but is still believed by people who consider themselves of lesser status. The endless list of despots suggests the complete opposite, that generally they have only a duty to themselves and keeping the system in exactly the current status and way it is run while they are in charge. Wealth allows for education, but it doesn’t allow for use of that education or using logic in practice.
Celebrity status is used as an argument in assessing the truth. A person who is famous can be considered of a much higher authority and to be trusted against somebody who simply is knowledgeable and does not have this status. Most adverts on TV are of this sort. Celebrity recommendation being a key element to persuading people that certain things are right or better. The truth behind this is that on average they are no more skilled or knowledgeable than the average person. Many have a skill, but this does not usually transfer over to their personal lives, or any other subject, a long-term celebrity relationship usually being on average a lot shorter than outside the celebrity field. Some do well, but many fail, higher than average, so are they good as role models in the publics relationships. Because of easy access to excess many make really bad decisions. Do you follow their example, or do you consider them as models to be avoided? Some are just famous for being famous with nothing that raises then above the common herd other than looks or chance given opportunity. Quite often concentrating a skill in one area causes other areas to fail rather than give them a good level in others.
The reverse is also true, a person who is reliable can be adjusted by the media to portray somebody who is unreliable and shifty and not someone to trust, as they are a ‘bad person,’ or a person who is unreliable and shifty can be portray by the media as reliable and you should trust their opinions.
For example, mental health problems are higher than people think, with now up to 60% of people experiencing a mental health problem in their lifetime. The average for doctors, who should be knowledgeable about such things and able to avoid it is around 85%, although if you take the number of medical that actually work fully or are trained in it then this number reduces to about 10% of doctors, most just ‘knowing’ the latest drug regime to follow in dealing with it, although this may account for 25% of all cases an MD may see. The drug or treatment regime is based on the latest opinions of doctors generally, many treatments being given by people trained in what is the most recent ideas of how it should be dealt with.
The problems of out of field knowledge and force of numbers. Knowledge is very specific and most jobs cover a very small area. Very practical jobs can be even smaller in aspect. Compare a woodworker with a metal worker. Different materials, different skills and different knowledge, using skills in one causing more damage than an average person due to their over-confidence with their hands. An orthopaedic surgeon is commonly classed as an expert in cancers, but they may have little further knowledge than their first initial training. You find this in dealing with numbers, 100 metal workers say a particular wood is unreliable as a support in mines, 3 wood workers say it is not, and can be used. 100-3, this must be true. Neither group are mining experts, but the numbers out of fields are taken as equal comparisons for the decision. Ask the 2 mining experts and they say you should be able to use it, but you are still only now 100-5, even though only 1 in 10 actually did any research or investigation.
There is also the problem of being too close, interrelated, interconnected, and interdependent to it. ‘Not seeing the wood for the trees.’ In the middle of a forest you may not see any edges, so the logical assumption is that the forest goes on endlessly in all directions. Seas do not exist as trees don’t grow in large areas of water, similarly mountains, ‘I see no mountains.’ Knowledge of the outside renders this view false, but we are in society and working on what society thinks. Mostly personal knowledge of the environment gained over 50 working years of the 4.6 billion the world has existed and 12.7 for the universe. Anything else is theoretical and dependent on how that information was obtained. It’s the difference between an object being seen as 100 years old and tested using a method that confirms this, being recorded as being first produced exactly 100 years ago, then finding a new way of confirming things that proves its actually 105 years old. This new anomaly gives the timeline a completely different form, and all conclusions and deductions since that point are incorrect and tailored to provide false information. In history things are often removed from view as it doesn’t agree with what ‘should be right,’ and is currently taught. It’s sad, but much of history seems to work this way, apart from a few key events and dates, being a lot of subjective fiction. ‘People learn from history,’ being the mantra, ‘they are learning according to the society they live in, and what they are allowed to see,’ being the actuality.
How can you tell is a person’s world view is reasonably invalid? Firstly, in an argument the first thing they will attack is the persons status, not their logic or facts. This suggests they will use popularity and image as truth, not something in fact being true or not. This person is more important than another so they must be true and the other lying. Fake logic based on a fake insight. This also applies to this is a physics problem, they have a doctorate in textiles, so as a doctor they must know more and have access to a higher knowledge. The more a person specialises it is usually the case they have less of general knowledge and information about some even quite close fields. Specialisation tends to concentrate the mind in exclusion to anything else. Chiropodists not usually being knowledgeable or knowing more than the average person about hair and vice versa, even they work on the same body, 5-6 feet apart.
They quite often quote the popular view without knowing any of the facts behind it, rubbishing facts because they aren’t quoted.
They use force of numbers. What is believed by most is true, even when there are valid doubts raised. 100 doctors say this eye problem is true, 10 doctors say it isn’t. The 100 are foot doctors and the 10 are neurosurgeons. They are not eye doctors, but who is closer to the problem to judge?
They will be unwilling to investigate the subject themselves. ‘Cleverer people have done this,’ or ‘I don’t think I’m clever enough or time to do so.’ I’m cleverer than you, so I don’t think you would be able to do it either. Basically, they haven’t thought deeply about the subject, so consider you to be similar.
The assumed ignorance of the general public. They will quite often judge and assume everybody in an area to be equal or lesser than themselves in knowledge. Social media is often of this sort; 100 people in a group, the person is a middle manager in a marketing firm and talking about black holes, ‘I don’t know this, so I judge and assume that neither can you,’ without knowing your astronomy background in the subject. They assume everybody present doesn’t know more than the average person and use this as a qualification for dismissing things. It’s basically playing on their own ignorance and making the same assumption for others. They could be conversing with top level physicists, or at least physics students, but they assume they are not and that the people are less knowledgeable than themselves.
Obsession, which is usually the worst. They have made up their minds, so don’t go confusing them with facts. They quite often quote ‘this is just bullshit,’ without even opening up their minds to any alternative or doubts. Their minds are closed to all new information and they have their fixed and unmovable opinions, so it’s no use arguing as you won’t achieve anything.
Enlightenment means nothing if nobody is prepared to provide the powers of reason and logic.
In this world you need to be seen as decisive and strong, even when you making the wrong choice that weakens you or your group. This is the logic of the incompetents. A wrong answer is wrong, a right answer is right, or there is no correct answer and to choose badly because you must be seen as decisive, means that even if you choose the right answer it probably is for the wrong reasons, more luck than any judgement. But this is not the same as an educated guess. Decisiveness is quite often the uneducated guess. Rarely there is no time for consideration, and preventing this quite often goes all the way up the line of command or control, after all only an incompetent puts an incompetent in charge or leaves them there. Sometimes the system is the incompetent part, and not capable and not fit for purpose. Usually there is a better way, but intransigence and unwillingness to adopt any new system with the view ‘this is as good as it gets,’ is part of the problem, not part of the solution.
Knowledge is one of degree, not absolutes.
All that can be said is that somebody through their education and career can be a higher percentage of being right than somebody who has is not actively involved in it. It is not ‘this person is skilled in this subject, and is right,’ ‘this person knows nothing about it, and is wrong,’ it’s just this person is more likely to be correct by degrees, but the information has to be based on logic and deduction. Without those, a person who is high up in the field may be of lesser reliability than those who know little, but can give a logical and deduced reason. Choosing somebody with high status who can’t justify their choice against a reasoned choice with examples, means you are enamoured and dependent on the status, not the knowledge or the facts.
The so-called paradigm shifts, are just people coming to their senses because they believed wrongly, not a new major breakthrough, quite often rejecting the facts and figures, and holding on to long entrenched theories until the evidence was so overwhelming they had to be thrown out, and still using the old theories would mean their status becoming suspect.
Carl Sagan once said ‘extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence,’ but the opposite is true, that ‘ordinary claims require ordinary evidence,’ and to dismiss an ordinary claim by requiring extraordinary evidence means you have a built-in bias against a new ‘ordinary’ theory that may be on an equal with the previous one. People just don’t like change and ‘normal’ is what people grew up with, ‘good and reliable’ being of the past, ‘bad and unreliable’ being of the future.
We do have this tendency to throw out the baby with the bath water though, Newtons theory of motion being regarded as ‘faulty’ and needing full replacement against ‘relativity,’ and that needing full replacement by ‘quantum theory,’ but to all intents and purposes, Newtons theory is used in all day to day tasks, the idea that Newton was of his time, and all that is needed is slight modifications due to updated knowledge and discoveries, rather than a complete and wholesale replacement, is not usually considered. Relative modified Newton, and Quantum and relative modified Newton is rejected, compared to using pure relativity and pure quantum theory, neither working fully in each other’s field of observation. Either one or the other is considered correct, quantum being the later entrenched theory so has the advantage, but there is the possibility that both are incorrect, a new theory explaining both trumping either one, but you can almost guarantee it will be universally rejected at the start.