Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive


Forgot your password?
DEAL: For $25 - Add A Second Phone Number To Your Smartphone for life! Use promo code SLASHDOT25. Also, Slashdot's Facebook page has a chat bot now. Message it for stories and more. Check out the new SourceForge HTML5 Internet speed test! ×

Comment Re:Fundamentalists (Score -1) 566

NOTE: my Karma has been nuked, so unfortunately I will be unable to continue this discussion after this posting.

Statistics can't be used when we can't measure the initial condition either.

Sure it can be. Take a random population. Randomly assign them to two groups, one that gets alternative treatment and one that gets a sham treatment. No diagnosis is necessary.

Without diagnosis, you are not studying any single disease, rather you are studying all diseases. (If you want to study a single disease you'd need a diagnosis.) So what you are talking about is an immense study where one half is not permitted any form of alternative treatment, and the other half is. It would probably have to span 30+ years. Let's see you get funding for it!

The problem is that the initial classification for a study requires a diagnosis, and if we're studying alternative treatments, the diagnosis has to be performed by the alternative practicioner themselves due to science not having suitable instruments. In another post (replying to 'jd') I discussed the problems that this brings, especially as the alternative practicioner's diagnosis is not going to make a lot of sense to science (I provide a concrete example).

The only forms of proof available are through personal observation with personal perceptions.

Which, as science has shown us, is no proof at all.

Unfortunately, all of science is based on human perception (who is it reading and interpreting the instruments?). Certainly science does its best to minimise these problems, but they still exist. If you ignore that factor and the problems that it brings, then you've just created an immense trap to fall into. I discussed this further with 'jd'.

This has been more than enough proof for many historic cultures, e.g. Chinese, Tibetan, Indian, etc

Thankfully, we've learned a lot since then. Why should we go back to the dark ages before empiricism?

Yes, learned a lot and forgotten a lot. Who said they were not empiricists, anyway? That is your opinion based on hearsay or prejudice rather than research.

Anyway, my Karma has been totally nuked so you can have the last word now -- I am unable to reply.

Comment Re:Fundamentalists (Score -1) 566

NOTE: my Karma has been nuked, so unfortunately I will be unable to continue this discussion after this posting.

Well, that depends on what you'd want to study. I tend to be of the school of thought that you want like treatments for like causes, not necessarily like treatments for like effects. Thus, if there are N ways to get a headache, I would expect N treatments. In other words, I would expect that if I looked at the underlying cause (which will presumably be electrical, chemical and/or blood pressure related, where any possible magnitude and permutation of those is entirely valid) that if two people had absolutely identical underlying causes that the treatment would always be absolutely identical (ie: the treatment isn't random) and that if I monitored that underlying cause, there would be a change in state between before treatment and after treatment.

Okay, good -- a concrete example. I was at a party once, and a German guy got drunk and walked into a low beam. In the morning he was in terrible head pain but there was no obvious damage. I offered to give him healing. He reluctantly accepted. I put my hands on his head. I saw that the energetic form of his head had been pushed in -- broken in almost. I called as much power as I could muster, and in a couple of minutes I saw that it had popped out and returned to its original form. I asked him how he felt, and he said the pain had all gone. Job done! (It is not often this quick.) However, he had a new problem -- he couldn't believe what had just happened. I left as quickly as was polite because I didn't want to get involved as he tried to make sense of it all.

So, now we want to study this scientifically. So we need to create a category: "Damage to the energetic form of the head". Then all cases of this type, we can group together and give the same treatment, and do our statistical analysis of the outcome. But already we have a problem because science will not accept the diagnosis of the practicioner, nor the reality of this state of "damage to the energetic form". It is currently unmeasureable by science, and very easy to ridicule: "Where is the proof!?". However, we could indeed conduct the study regardless, assuming we accept the diagnosis of the practicioner. But you can see that in order to study these treatments, you need to get inside them, which is very uncomfortable for many scientists, because it means suspending judgement.

In the case of my witch-doctor friend (a curandero), even after 5 years studying on and off with him, I still don't understand what he sees, i.e. I can't even do the first stage of categorisation of cases by cause according to his method of treatment and world-view. By the time I can do that categorisation, I will be a curandero just like him. Only then could I conduct my scientific study. Now do you see the problem?

Chinese medicine has the 6 pulses read at the wrist. This is the method of diagnosis for a part of Chinese medicine. Once you have learned to take those pulses correctly (I haven't), your diagnosis will agree with that of other practicioners, and then there is a common basis for measuring progress. Now imagine the ridicule of doing a scientific study using 6-pulse-readings as a basis. "Homeopathy! Homeopathy!" they will shout. But what other approach is feasible given that there is as yet no instrument other than a human capable of accurately measuring the six pulses? Even if the study were successful it would likely be buried as most scientists would find neither the method nor the result acceptable.

Also you assume that it is possible to give identical treatment once the cause has been diagnosed. This may be the case with certain Chinese remedies, where a quantity of a physical agent is given (herbs, whatever). This is not possible when the treatment is energetic. I can say that I performed procedure "X", but generally the procedures are very broad, and the treatment is in cooperation with the patient (at some subtle level), i.e. there is a feedback loop, so it is impossible to give the same treatment twice. This makes it problematic for scientific study, unless you get into the fine details, which as I say are generally unmeasurable with current instruments, and nonsensical to anyone who is not willing to at least "entertain the possibility" that they may be part of a valid world-view. So it remains outside of scientific study, through no genuine fault of its own.

Now to go back to your other point:

But just to point out that human perception is all that we've got. It is our only direct input, despite its flaws. Everything else is second- or third-hand.

To some extent, I've covered this in discussing the level of directness (or lack thereof). However, it is worth examining this point a little closer. Yes, as Descartes (and indeed R. D. Laing) noted, human perception is indeed all that we've got. Furthermore, indirectness (as noted) increases the number of places errors can be introduced. As a result, you want to keep things as direct as possible.

Equally, though, quantitative data can be more precisely compared than qualitative data. When comparing qualities, you introduce all kinds of other types of error.

I agree completely. It is so much easier to study something that can be quantified. This is why science gets so uncomfortable studying qualitative things. Really the scientific method is not so well suited to these cases.

You are defining 'exists' as something that is measurable by a physical instrument. To me the only thing that exists is my direct perception, and everything else is secondary, for example it is derived from perception through reason and model-fitting in my imagination.

Ah, well here we'll need to agree to disagree. In part because I don't believe people directly perceive anything (I regard the senses as feeding an internal virtual reality in which the consciousness resides, where there is no guaranteed relationship between the senses and the VR representation)

I think we are agreeing. There is 'reality' (whatever that means), then there is "perception of reality", which is reality plus all the confusion of the human mind, one step away from reality. Then there are all the things that we build on top of it, hoping to get closer to 'reality', but in fact we are TWO steps away from reality, reality plus human confusion plus consensus and model-fitting and estimation of likelihood, for example. We are now two steps away although we hope we are at a reasonable approximation of zero steps away. All being well (e.g. in cosmology, general relativity, etc) we probably are reasonably close to zero steps away, but if the confusion+consensus+model-fitting/etc process doesn't work out too well, we may be SO far away from reality that we have no idea how confused we are. If we are not aware of the weaknesses of this process of perception we may believe we are zero steps away and impose that belief on others, not realizing how transparent is the error to those who have experienced different perceptions during their lifetime.

but also because I hold that mathematics holds primacy, that all physics across all multiverses [...] The whole point of multiverse theory is that they aren't. Which means that you can prove that the mathematics in the universe is necessary but is NOT sufficient to model itself since it is NOT sufficient to model the universe and the two are equivalent sets.) That, however, gets rather esoteric.


As I say, you can have the last word now because I won't be able to reply to due to my destroyed Karma.

Comment Re:Fundamentalists (Score 1) 566

until a scientist can get in your head with you and see your perceptions, science will never move forward into this domain.

Why do you think it's necessary for a scientist to "get into your head"? If you're making a claim that X treatment has an effect on outcome, all you have to do is measure the outcome.

If all you're claiming is that alternative medicine can change your perception of the disease process, then I don't think you'll find many who would object to that. If you claim that alternative medicine can change the outcome of the disease process, that can be studied in scientific terms.

We cannot clone a person in an instant to let the two outcomes unfold, both with and without treatment. If an alternative treatment corrects a problem before it becomes measurable with current instruments there will be nothing for science to measure -- so no scientific proof available. Statistics can't be used when we can't measure the initial condition either. Then the only option is to get into the practicioner's head and figure out what he/she considers that he/she is manipulating and measure that. Science cannot yet get into someone's head. So unfortunately science is not yet able to help us determine whether or not the given treatment is valid or not, as it does not yet have the tools. The only forms of proof available are through personal observation with personal perceptions. This has been more than enough proof for many historic cultures, e.g. Chinese, Tibetan, Indian, etc, but it is not considered enough for Science. So all Science can reasonably say is "I can't answer this question because the required measurements cannot yet be performed".

Comment Re:Fundamentalists (Score 1) 566

Human perception is never good enough for anything. Humans perceive things that are unreal all the time (see The Guardian's experiment on false memories that they recently ran as an example).

I don't want to argue because you're taking a reasoned stance rather than a fundamentalist stance. But just to point out that human perception is all that we've got. It is our only direct input, despite its flaws. Everything else is second- or third-hand. To me it is valuable to understand the only direct input feed we have from the world, and to put it above second-hand sources such as other people's opinions, or constructions such as 'objective reality' (which is something we construct in our imaginations through accumulated impressions and consensus, not something we perceive directly).

Anything that exists can be measured by a physical instrument. Not necessarily at the time that you deduce that it exists (particle physics frequently deduces the existence of particles long before direct observation becomes possible) but even then you can firmly establish the constraints on that physical instrument and thus prove that such an instrument must be buildable.

This seems circular. You are defining 'exists' as something that is measurable by a physical instrument. To me the only thing that exists is my direct perception, and everything else is secondary, for example it is derived from perception through reason and model-fitting in my imagination.

Unlike some, I am not a skeptic of "alternative medicine" merely because it is alternative. I accept entirely the premise that there may be alternative approaches to medicine that are superior to conventional Western medicines. If a witch-doctor could demonstrate repeatable cures for hangovers then I would want to know how any why, but I wouldn't deny evidence merely because of the label on the packet. However, I absolutely require that such approaches be shown with the same scientific rigour that I would expect of any other kind of medicine (or, indeed, any other kind of phenomenon). Equally, I am highly skeptical of Western medicine where that scientific rigour is absent or dubious. There can be only one standard and there can be no excuses made for any industry, be it mainstream or traditional.

I know a witch-doctor (well, several), and I think his cure for one person's hangover would probably be different to his cure for another person's, depending on the case. For your study, you'd want all the treatments to be the same, right? I don't think it's going to happen, not when it is so personal. So I guess we're not going to get the straightforward proof you're looking for. But whose fault is that? If you require very strong independent standards of objective proof, you're excluding all treatments which might work but are difficult to study or analyse.

Anyway, it was a pleasure to discuss this with a non-hostile person.

Comment Re:Fundamentalists (Score -1, Troll) 566

More tosh. Simplifying, either medicine makes you better or it does not. Science can tell you if it does.

Please, in future learn *something* about science before dismissing it out of hand. And if you don't have the inclination to do that, then please carefully consider your comments about "fundemantalists".

I am not dismissing science. I trained as a scientist, and I used scientific principles to judge the effectiveness of things that I observe through human perception rather than physical instruments. This seems entirely reasonable to me. You seem very confident that science can measure whether a treatment makes you better or not. Science is very good at measuring things that are badly wrong, not so good at measuring precursors or things just starting to go wrong. I can't speak for homeopathy because I've never tried it or studied it, but the stuff I use daily is proven beyond doubt in my world-view through careful observation of cause and effect. The only thing missing is a physical instrument to measure the results -- but why should I wait until one is invented when I have direct perception providing observations to work with. What I don't understand is the fundamentalist bile coming from people who think that they know everything, when science has never claimed to know everything.

Comment Re:Fundamentalists (Score -1, Troll) 566

I think you're missing a piece - the measurement of the health of a human is well within the realm of human perception and instrumentation. The goals of standard medicine and alternative medicine are the same: improve the health of a human. If standard medicine works and alternative medicine doesn't, well, you should be able to figure the rest out from there.

Wow, so confident that alternative medicine doesn't work. So how do you explain all the intelligent people using it? I can only think that you have never tried it, or set it up for failure if you did try it. Then it is easy to doubt. Science is good at measuring things when they are really serious. Not so good at measuring things just starting. Human perception when trained gives very good information, but until a scientist can get in your head with you and see your perceptions, science will never move forward into this domain. I find this really frustrating because I am trained as a scientist and I use that model to understand what I perceive. So I use scientific principles in a domain that science rejects.

Comment Re:Fundamentalists (Score -1, Troll) 566

ROFL. Yes, it's dreadfully inconvenient that scientists insist that something actually work.

There are lots of things that work without the benefit of science, lots of things that science is not yet able to measure, and lots of things that science does not yet understand. That includes many things that we take advantage of daily -- even before we start on the stuff which is ridiculed by people like you. Do you really believe that Science explains everything? No? Then why can't you accept that some real things may exist outside of the bounds of current scientific dogma. Are scientists representatives of God? Do they really know EVERYTHING? I told you -- fundamentalists scientists -- not much different to any other fundamentalist.

Comment Fundamentalists (Score -1, Troll) 566

Fundamentalists exist in science as well. Alternative therapy is outside the domain of science because science insists on being able to measure stuff with a physical instrument (human perception not being good enough). So science has immediately disqualified itself from judging alternative medicine, yet still the science fundamentalists continue pushing their doctrine outside of its bounds.

Comment Re:Technological parallels to innate abilities (Score 2) 222

It would make it very difficult if not impossible for evil to exist.

It would make it impossible for free will to exist.

I don't think knowing everyone else's thoughts excludes either evil or free will. Say for example there is a genocidal or warmongering group in power with enough popular support -- us knowing what they are thinking doesn't stop them acting. Even if we know their plans, they know we know, and the balance of power probably can't be shifted by that. Transparency may reveal evil but doesn't stop it. People in general are incredibly selective about what they believe, and psychic powers are unlikely to change that. If they prefer the illusion, unconsciously they'll choose not to investigate or challenge it, even if they have the ability.

We here on Slashdot are more aware about a lot of things than perhaps our relatives are: 419 scams, virus risks, pump-and-dump, good security practice, MS FUD, whatever. We SEE and KNOW -- they don't. It is not so different to reading thoughts -- having the insight to understand something that others are not aware of, even though they could learn if they wanted. However that ability gives only limited power to change the world. The knowledge can't be made to work unless other people can be persuaded to give it importance. Sad but true. No end to evil just yet.

Comment Technological parallels to innate abilities (Score -1) 222

There is an idea that many recent technological developments are preparation for innate human abilities being re-enabled again on a wider scale. Telephone is preparation for direct psychic communication, TV is preparation for remote viewing, virtual reality and video gaming are preparation for *dreaming* journeys, and lack of privacy is what we've all had all along -- anyone with a little bit of ability can read all your most private thoughts (but why on earth would they want to, given the murk found in most people's minds???). So when we're all used to all this nonsense in our daily lives -- constantly online with our phones, TV, multi-player gaming, and with absolutely no privacy -- then maybe they'll turn these abilities back on again and we can throw away the machines. At least that is how the idea goes. Seems like an interesting viewpoint at least.

Comment Re:Web of trust can't work for something like this (Score 1) 308

Yes, it is inevitable that traitors or impostors will get onto the web of trust, unless it is a very very small web of trust. If it is a small web, then it is little different to me sending mix cassette tapes through the post to my personal friends. Is this why it is Retro?? Not sure how this safely goes beyond the small group, or gets sufficient momentum to become a noticeable movement, without sacrificing the 'personal trust' aspect.

Comment Re:Sex (Score 1) 437

Let's see how your GF adapts to alternating between one minute intense activity and one minute rest for 20 mins. (Maybe necessary to check out Mantak Chia for endurance tips?) Suggestion: Try not to let her notice you watching the clock to maintain the correct timing. Actually, running up stairs at every opportunity seems like it might fit as well.

Slashdot Top Deals

"The following is not for the weak of heart or Fundamentalists." -- Dave Barry