FW: Authority Criterion

Jim Taggart (jtaggart@astea.com)
Thu, 18 Sep 1997 08:49:21 -0400

Be careful here. You are discussing several different things here.
Don't mix them up.

1. Almost anyone who has been interviewed and quoted in the press, or
has been present for an event later reported (I have been), has been
surprised at the difference between the event and the reporting. It
makes you realize how careful you must be in believing ANYTHING which is
reported in the press. Reporting, however has nothing to do with the
"scientific method."

2. Science can be divided into two parts, theoretical and experimental.
People either invent theories, and then perform experiments to prove or
disprove the theories, or conversely, they perform experiments, and then
invent theories to explain their observations. The kernel of the
scientific method is experimental. The key to scientific understanding
is that anyone can verify another scientists observations by repeating
the experiment. You do not have to rely on another's description of an
event (unlike reporting).

Scientists are, of course, free to disagree about the interpretation of
results, but it is the experiments that provide a common ground for
discussion. Lacking repeatable experiments, you have only speculation,
not theory.

> ----------
> From: Allen Roy[SMTP:allen@infomagic.com]
> Sent: Thursday, September 18, 1997 3:02 AM
> To: ASAnet
> Subject: Authority Criterion
> I received the following discussion from Prof. Robert Herrmann about a
> method used to discredit theories. This method has been used
> conviently
> by Shimmrich, by quoting from Chadwick and Austin, and lately by
> Morton
> calling on Chadwick rather than Howe.
> Prof. Herrmann:
> 1. Over the past 20 years of my scientific efforts, I have been
> interviewed only twice by what may be called the "news media." One was
> an
> interview about the "Solution to the General Grand Unification Problem
> . .
> ." by the local paper here in Annapolis "The Capital." (Annapolis is
> also
> the capital of Maryland.) That interview did not appear as it was
> blocked
> by the managing editor and, indeed, the reporter left the paper
> shortly
> thereafter. The other interview was by Maryland Public TV. The
> interviewer
> and the producer (the cameraman) showed great interest in the concepts
> discussed and the taped interview lasted almost 30 minutes. But, the
> actual material that appeared was a (very) small sound bit relative to
> the
> mathematical model that establishes that the "sudden appearance of
> complex
> macroscopic objects within our universe" is a viable scientific
> possibility. But, the sound bit was so short that few individuals
> would
> have had any idea of what I was trying to convey. The reason for this
> is
> that the only idea in which the editors at Maryland Public TV were
> truly
> interested is the so-called Creation/Evolution "controversy." They had
> counter interviews with individuals from the University of MD and the
> Smithsonian Institution. (Washington DC is but 25 miles from
> Annapolis.)
> The editors at Maryland Public TV used a *forbidden method* in their
> attempts to convey scientific information. But, this is almost always
> the
> method used by the news media since, with the exception of purposely
> ignoring information, it is probably the only way the news media can
> discredit much "origins" research. (And many of these reporters are
> the
> "science reporters" who are supposed to be properly trained in these
> matters.)
> 2. It seems like a 1,000 years ago when I had an elementary course at
> Johns Hopkins University in the "Scientific Method." Almost on the
> first
> day of class, the professor discussed this "self-evident" forbidden
> method, a method some claim is a part of the "scientific method," the
> Authority Criterion. A few (simplistic) illustrations are sufficient,
> I
> believe. (1) This is one of the worst illustrations of the use of this
> forbidden method. The news media seems interested in "compressed"
> information that needs to be "comprehended" by the general public. (Is
> this possible?) Scientist, Professor A, has a theory. The reporter
> doesn't even go to interview Professor A, but rather interviews
> Professor
> B, a professor who holds The Such and Such Chair in Theoretical
> Physics at
> Big Time University. The reporter asks B whether or not A's theory is
> correct. Professor B replies, "Of course not. Based upon my
> experience, I
> am convinced that it is impossible and it is totally incorrect." (I
> point
> out that Professor B is convinced of this even though he has not read
> the
> theory since A's conclusions contradict the content of some of
> Professor
> B's philosophical hypotheses - hypotheses consistent with but not a
> specific part of Professor B's favorite theory. How could A's be
> correct?)
> The reporter asks, "Can you tell me why it is impossible?" Professor B
> answers, "Well, there are many technical reasons I am sure that I
> could go
> into that your readers would not understand, but you should trust me,
> it
> is complete nonsence. Indeed, it shows how incompetent A is in
> scientific
> matters." Now the reporter does not actually use all of what Professor
> B
> has said in a small article. What the reporter does is to write that
> "As
> to Professor A's so-called theory, Professor B, The Such and Such
> Professor of Theoretical Physics at Big Time University, is convinced
> that
> "it is impossible and totally incorrect" and, indeed, states that "it
> is
> complete nonsence."
> 3. This is an example of the forbidden "Authority Criterion." (There
> are
> numerous variations as well.) Cohen and Nagel (An introduction to
> Logic
> and the Scientific Method (1934), Harcourt, Brace and Co, NY) state
> the
> obvious that this method "is (not) free from human caprice and
> willfulness" and has no relation to the scientific method. For
> scenario
> (1), there is no evidence given that shows in any manner whatsoever
> that
> A's theory is incorrect. The general public is being forced to accept
> that
> it is incorrect based only upon the "Authority" of Professor B. Well,
> of
> course, is this not what is done in the courts with the so-called
> "expert
> witnesses?" Hopefully, it is not. Hopefully, an expert witness can be
> cross-examined, can be forced to be *specific* in criticism or, it
> could
> be argued, that the testimony is worthless. But, except _maybe_ in a
> series of Letters to the Editors, if they print them, Professor A is
> not
> allowed to make such a cross-examination, not allowed to "confront his
> accuser."
> 4. As I have read criticisms of creation science material, the usual
> procedure is not (1) but a slight variation. (2) In the usual
> scenario,
> Professor B has actually given Professor A's theory a cursory or
> partial
> reading. And using but this partial information and a little
> "scientific"
> terminology , Professor B makes similar statements relative to the
> Professor A's theory. This gives to the news media, at the least, the
> "appearance" that Professor B has applied the proper analysis, which
> he
> has not. Of course, there is the correct way to analyze Professor A's
> work. (3) Professor B would need to study in-depth not only Professor
> A's
> theory but all of the relevant references. And even then for a reason
> yet
> to be discussed, he might make the same statement that A's theory is
> nonsense. But apparently few, if any, anti-creationists have the time,
> they claim, to do a complete analysis since in my experience relative
> to
> my scientific findings case (3) has never been done.
> 5. The most important fact is (4) a scientific theory remains not
> refuted
> and valid unless specific scientific errors (not errors associated
> with an
> unstated philosophic stance) can be demonstrated. These errors can be
> logical in the case of a theoretical construct or they can be errors
> in
> prediction.
> 6. Is there anything that can be done about the use of a procedure
> that is
> not part of the scientific method to discredit creation science
> material
> and how is it possible for Professor B to arrive at his conclusions
> even
> under the usual scenario (2) and the correct scenario (3)?
> 7. Relative to (1), (2), (3), (4), I suppose the only secular
> possibility
> is education. Since (1) and (2) use a well-founded forbidden method to
> argue for the acceptance or rejection of a scientific theory, model or
> concept, if the general public is made aware of the fact that it is
> indeed
> forbidden and exactly what is the correct procedure (4), then
> possibly,
> just possibly, some individuals would recognize when this method is
> used
> to influence their thinking and would not only reject Professor B's
> statements but might even investigate the "other hidden" reasons for
> why
> in (3) Professor B has also rejected Professor A's theory.
> 8. Scenario (3) is closely linked to a specific form of logical
> argument,
> a form of argument that leads to wars, murder and almost any horrible
> behavior one can imagine, a form of argument that is used directly
> against
> the creation scientist in an attempt to discredit such work. This form
> is
> called the *enthymeme* and its relation to *self-evident* statements.
> I'll
> discuss this in my next posting. I mention that the worst descriptive
> process that is also forbidden by the scientific method, the use of
> positive statements, is discussed in the first few chapters of my
> Internet
> book, "Your Endangered Mind: The Great Scientific Deception" which I
> wish
> more individuals would consider.
> Sincerely,
> Robert A. Herrmann Ph. D.
> Professor of Mathematics
> http://herrmannra.sma.usna.navy.mil/
> http://www.xeo.net/herrmann/main.html
> "And God said. . . ." Ps 33.9(NIV); 1 Cor. 2:12-14; 1 John 2:27
> ----------------------------------------------------------------------
> -------
> Math. Dept., U. S. Naval Academy, 572 Holloway Rd., Annapolis, MD
> 21402-5002
> ----------------------------------------------------------------------
> -------
> Allen Roy
> Grand Canyon Creationary Geology Tours, see:
> http://www.tagnet.org/anotherviewpoint/