Phil Friedman

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On Forcing Perception to Fit Preconception

On Forcing Perception to Fit Preconception


Preface:  This post is dedicated to Gerald Hecht, who has shown himself to be not only a paradigm of the "Mad Scientist", but someone of intellectual courage and integrity, who cares deeply for the true values of science and academic activity.

Religion is a culture of faith; science is a culture of doubt.
Richard Feynman, Nobel-prize-winning physicist
Internet-based social media has great potential for advancing the cause of connecting all humanity into a worldwide forum for intellectual exchange.

However, one of the things that concerns me about social media is that it is a forum which exhibits a propensity for people to take reasonable ideas and extend and embellish them in irrational ways. Because the prevailing etiquette on social media discourages overt disagreement, there is, to my mind, scant in the way of natural checks and balances within the burgeoning cloud of ideas and views, now so readily available for reading. And this presents a real danger that social media will lead a reversion to a modern day variant of medieval irrationality.

That which follows is a semi-serious discussion about what I submit is a serious issue. If you are up for this type of discussion, then I am more than delighted to have you read and join the conversation, which I hope will be occasioned by this piece. But if you believe in the frequently-repeated  social media dictum that, "If you can't say something good, don't say anything at all...", please feel free not to waste your time or mine --- just turn the page.

For I will be questioning a number of baldfaced pronouncements that have been appearing on this platform recently. And I prefer not to cause you discomfort.

The criterion which we use to test the genuineness of apparent statements of fact is the criterion of verifiability...

A.J.Ayer in "Language, Truth and Logic"  (1936)

The cornerstone of scientific investigation and discovery is the postulation of theory to explain and predict phenomena that we observe in the world of our perceptions.

Often, such explanation and prediction are not possible without positing factors (existence) not directly available to perception.

For example, atomic theory posits the interaction of particles and energy that we can't see, in order to explain and predict (and manipulate) that which we can see. We can perceive the heat energy released by a controlled atomic reaction, and harness that heat via steam-driven turbines to create electricity.

But make no mistake, although we can perceive the effects, for instance, of an atomic reaction, we do not see the reaction itself. We infer it and its nature via the mediation of the best and currently most accepted theory or theories in atomic physics.

A theory which is not refutable by any conceivable event is non-scientific... Every genuine test of a theory is an attempt to falsify it, or refute it...

Karl Popper in "Science As Falsification" (1963)

Confidence in the truth of our scientific theories is based on their level of repeated success in either predicting or "post-dicting" the events which are amenable to our direct perception, that is, events in the observable world.

This is not to say that everything directly observed in our world has been explained by scientific theory, nor to say that everything even could be so explained.

Science may or may not ultimately be able to explain "everything". However, if an explanation is to be considered scientific, it has to meet specific criteria, one of which is verifiability.

Otherwise the explanation at hand falls within the realm of mysticism --- that is, acceptance based on faith and non-rational commitment.

Mysticism is popularly known as becoming one with God or the Absolute, but may also ... refer to the attainment of insight in ultimate or hidden truths ...

Wikipedia in "Mysticism"

Understand that I am not  here arguing against the validity of mystical insight or revelation. I am simply and specifically pointing out that mysticism is not science, and that mystical "truths" are not scientific "facts" or theories, and should not be confused with them.

Unfortunately, on social media, such confusion is often fomented, especially when mystical pronouncements are made by professed scientists and academics.

Sometimes this confusion is inadvertent, but sometimes I suspect it is intentional. Either way, I submit that those of us who understand that difference, or at least should understand it, have a responsibility to the social community to work to keep the game "honest".

That said, it's important to recognize that a new anti-rational, anti-science movement has been building on social media.

Telltale signs of non-rational mysticism centered around fractals, masquerading as rational statement include 1) propositions about the universal presence and importance of fractals in the physical organization of the world, without explanation or supported example;  2) assertions about the potential for reorganizing society fractally, without supporting detail or data; and 3) slogans that are clearly intended to mimic an emotion-based team-building environment.  None of which is rational or scientific.

Enter that which I call the Movement for Perceptual Spin, or MFPS...

If you've followed the discussion to this point, you understand that the bulk of modern scientific theories deal with reality at a level of existence that we do not directly perceive. You also understand that we test and verify these theories in accord with how well they explain and enable us to account for and manipulate the world at that level of existence which can be perceived and which is directly observable. 

As I see it, those who employ MFPS seek to provide what is essentially mysticism with the trappings and aura of science. And in the atmosphere of uncritical  thought and comment nurtured on social media --- itself so pervasively accepted as a medium of intellectual exchange --- MFPS constitutes a potentially serious attack on Rationality and Science.

How does MFPS seek to accomplish its innate objective(s)?  By forcing perception to fit preconception.

A prime example of trying to force perception to fit preconception is the claim I keep seeing that trees exemplify fractal structure.  As I've written elsewhere in "On Trees, Trolls, Trust and Truth", for long time, I was completely baffled by this claim. For when I look at many trees, I do not "see" the mathematical regularity embodied by fractals.

Fractal - noun frac·tal \ˈfrak-təl\ :  any of various extremely irregular curves or shapes for which any suitably chosen part is similar in shape to a given larger or smaller part when magnified or reduced to the same size...

Merriam-Webster Dictionary

My confusion was not limited to trees. There are those who assert that fractal mathematics and fractals in nature s are keys to developing a "Theory of Everything" --- in other words, a potential hook into a unified theory of the universe.

But I couldn't see from where these claims came. At least I didn't, until I started to chase the origin of what I consider to be a prima facie ridiculous claim that "trees" universally exhibit fractality. More on that in a while.

The origins of fractal geometry trace back back to renown mathematician, Benoit Mandelbrot (1924 - 2010), and a number of progenitors in the prior century. And it is a fact that Mandelbrot  Mandelbrot was among the very first to employ computer graphics to create and display fractal geometrical images, demonstrating how visual complexity can be created from simple rules.

For what it is worth, I get that. What I don't get is all the talk about trees and fractality being the basis for a Theory of Everything, even if we take note of the belief that fractal mathematics can be employed to advantage in Chaos Theory, which seeks to find patterns of organization in apparently chaotic phenomena. And by the way, I am not alone in that.

In an article cited by Milos Djukic during an exchange between him and me, author  David Auerbach summarizes the situation:

At its worst, complexity theory spills into mysticism about the hidden universal patterns of nature and society, which has sometimes made the field an unfortunate handmaiden to both postmodern jargon and business doublespeak ...
David Auerbach in Slate

Okay, let's get back to the question of where wacky-do claims about fractality come from.

A brief and far from exhaustive internet search leads to an organization based in Albuquerque, New Mexico, which calls itself the Fractal Foundation. This organization appears to have some academics attached to it as directors and board members. And its mission appears to be to draw educational institutions into using studies of fractals and fractal geometry in their science and math courses.

None of the information on the site is really clear, and the statements to be found there are a mixture of accuracy and what I see as wrongheadedness. In the latter category, there is the statement that,

"Natural fractals include branching patterns like trees, river networks, lightning bolts, blood vessels, etc, and spiral patterns like sea shells, hurricanes, and galaxies."   ("Where Do  We Find Fractals?")

Branching patterns? Really? River networks? Really? Galaxies? You really have to be kidding.

Look at the photo immediately below. The leaves of the fern shown in the middle  display a fractal pattern. That is to say, each leaf is itself made up of a sub-leaf (if that is the correct term, which it may not be) that is the same shape as the parent.

However, the same cannot be said for the branches of the trees shown at each end. To be sure they branch. But at different intervals. And in different directions. And in different shapes.

Remember fractality is not simply organization, nor even organization in a repeating pattern. But rather systematic organization in a curve or geometric figure, each part of which has the same mathematical character as the whole.

On Forcing Perception to Fit Preconception

Do the people who make these assertions about fractals in nature ever actually look around themselves? In fact, I suspect they do. And that brings me to the the main point of this post.

Mystical certitude --- true faith, if you will --- is difficult for most people to achieve. They cannot make the Kierkegaard's "leap of faith".

Consequently, in the absence of rational questioning and scientific searching for disconfirmation, mysticism --- which involves an a priori commitment to a given propostion --- filters and rearranges perception to fit its preconception. Which is, I submit, why some people perceive fractility in nature where it is not. And why they begin to think it must be an organizing principle that underlies everything.

If you doubt this, consider the image of the Banyan tree at the very beginning of this post. It appears to be pretty well organized along fractal lines. And so you might accept your perception of it as evidence of fractility in nature.

But look again. It's actually a Bonsai that has been carefully pruned and trained to grow in such a regular pattern, as you will realize from the following photo. 

Perception forced to fit preconception.   ---  Phil Friedman

On Forcing Perception to Fit Preconception

Some suggested further reading:

"The Fractal Revolution in Society, Social Media First"  by Milos Djukic

"On Fractals Forever and Free Will"  by  Gerald Hecht

"Surely, You Jest"  by Phil Friedman

"Shirley There Will Bee a Test" by Gerald Hecht

"On Trees,Trolls,Truth and Trust" by Phil Friedman

Author's Notes:   If you found this post interesting and worthwhile, and would like to receive notifications of my writings on a regular basis, click the [FOLLOW] button on my beBee profile. Better yet, elect there to follow my blog by email. As a writer-friend of mine says, you can always change your mind later.

As well, feel free to "like" and "share" this post and my other articles — whether on beBee, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, or Google+, provided only that you credit me properly as the author, and include a live link to my original post.

About me, Phil FriedmanWith 30 some years background in the marine industry, I've worn numerous hats — as a yacht designer, boat builder, marine operations and business manager, marine industry consultant, marine marketing and communications specialist, yachting magazine writer and editor, yacht surveyor, and marine industry educator. I am also trained and experienced in interest-based negotiation and mediation.

In a previous life, I was formally trained as an academic philosopher and taught logic and philosophy at university.

The (optional-to-read) pitch: As a professional writer, editor, university educator, and speaker, with more than 1,000 print and digital publications, I've recently launched an online program for enhancing your expository writing: learn2engage — With Confidence. My mission is to help writers and would-be writers improve their thought and writing, master the logic of discussion, and strengthen their ability to deal with disagreement.

On Forcing Perception to Fit Preconception

To schedule an appointment for a free 1/2-hour consult email: I look forward to speaking with you soon.

On Forcing Perception to Fit Preconception                              Image Credits:  Phil Friedman and

On Forcing Perception to Fit Preconception

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Claire L Cardwell

4 years ago #63

Winston Churchill said after one a lady chastised him for smoking 'madam you are ugly and you will still be ugly in the morning, this is a cigar and a cigar is a good smoke'.

Phil Friedman

4 years ago #62

Mark, isn't that TMI about non-smokers? :-) No, don't answer that!

Phil Friedman

4 years ago #61

Mark, isn't that TMI about non-smokers? :-)

Phil Friedman

4 years ago #60

thank you, Claire, for the exceedingly kind words. I value my connections with you and others like you. Cheers!

Claire L Cardwell

4 years ago #59

Very interesting article on Freud Gerald Hecht - like you I can't understand why so much of his work has been suppressed.

Claire L Cardwell

4 years ago #58

You are not always negative Phil! Provocative and Stimulating Debate - Yes.

Phil Friedman

4 years ago #57

Gerald, thank you for the information. Fascinating and eye-opening. Also provides opening for all manner of puns --- from which I think I shall stay away as though they were the plague. Cheers!

Phil Friedman

4 years ago #56

Maybe not, Mark. But according to the Honey Bees, I am always negative. Cheers!

Phil Friedman

4 years ago #55

Mark, I do not question that there are successful therapies nominally based on Freudian "theory". And although my guess is that I am far less expert than you in this matter, my personal opinion is that the successes are likely tied to the individual practitioners. For in psychotherapy, as in education, my belief is that the nature and character of the therapist or teacher is much more important that the "theory" nominally followed. All of which is, of course, totally independent of the question whether Freudian theory --- or for that matter, Friedian observation --- is scientific. Thank you for reading and commenting with insight here.

Phil Friedman

4 years ago #54

Gerald, I could relate to you and all anecdotes of people I've known with obsessive disorders, who have undergone years of Freudian therapy to no observable effect, but who in a few short months of behavioral modification were restored to functioning in the world. To my mind, Freudian theory is more akin to metaphysics than to science. But what do I know, since I'm crazy. Thank you for reading and commenting. It is always a pleasure to hear from you.

Phil Friedman

4 years ago #53

The response, Neil, indicates that the distinction drawn in the article between science and mysticism is a distinction that needs repeating and explaining. And the piece sets out to call attention to the propagation of mystical postulates under the guise of scientific statements. If it were such a widely recognized truth, you would not see the reaction that you point out is over the top for a "pretty unexceptional article." Cheers!

Phil Friedman

4 years ago #52

Thank you, Harvey, for reading and commenting. I am afraid that I cannot agree with you, when you say, "Mysticism and science are one in the same when we look through the human eye at the edge of our knowledge." It's a nice turn of phrase but is precisely one of the things that, in the tradition of the Logical Positivists, I am denying. Mysticism and science have essentially different characters. It may be true that on the "edges of our knowledge" we slip from science into mysticism (or metaphysics or fantasy or faith --- none of which are confirmable or disconfirmable), but that does not mean science is anywhere the same as mysticism. Cheers!

Phil Friedman

4 years ago #51

Well, Mark, Freud did postulate different parts of the mind (not brain) e.g., id, ego, and super-ego. And that theory does not enjoy universal acceptance among even just social scientists. Freud has also been accused of allowing his personal feelings about women and sexuality to color his general theories. The question for some is whether the works of Freud are social science or metaphysics. Logical Positivists like A. J. Ayer would argue that much of Freud is not science, precisely because it is not subject to being disproved by observation of perceptual phenomena. Although they would admit it makes for good bedside reasing. Cheers!

Neil Smith

4 years ago #50

Gotta say this seems like an incredible, at times even heated response to what reads like a pretty unexceptional article. Science surely is all about disproving through investigation that which is believed but not supported by evidence? Theories only stay theories until they get disproved after all. It is interesting that in so much of cutting edge Physics it is hard for me to differentiate between the acute, left field thinker and the whacked out looper. The danger is that I start taking the fairy tales as seriously as the the science.

Harvey Lloyd

4 years ago #49

@Phil Friedman i believe you have stumbled on to something with your final statement. "However, that does not negate the fact that science and the scientific method are differentiated clearly from mysticism." Your statement on the surface would appear to be correct, and i would agree. But after further thought the statement separates humans from the process. The argument becomes circular once we install the human dynamic. Mysticism and science are one in the same when we look through the human eye at the edge of our knowledge. String theory, multiverse and many other theories exist. I find them interesting and mysterious but would need a level of "mysticism" to continue to work through their existence. Because i have only fragmented science to rely on. I must step out in faith, because the human part of me knows that science cant completely hold the weight past the edge. Interesting concepts but would argue, facts, without the human existence as part of the equation, regardless of process, would only serve to isolate the science.

Phil Friedman

4 years ago #48

Chas, thank you for reading and commenting. For me, one of the problems with posting bare quotes is that I have difficulty in discerning the commenter's intent and meaning, which in this particular case, may or may not coincide with what you want to say. In Einstein's case, although he refers to experiencing the "mysterious", I do not believe that he identified this with mysticism. To be sure, experience of the mysterious is the impetus for science. However, that does not negate the fact that science and the scientific method are differentiated clearly from mysticism. Cheers!

Phil Friedman

4 years ago #47

Gerald, I feel the same, and I reiterate and stand by what I said in the dedication of this post. Cheers!

Phil Friedman

4 years ago #46

So then, Milos, when you speak of "faith" (noun) what are you talking about. Most people who talk of faith are referring to beliefs having to do with spiritual matters, God, intelligent force in the universe, Karma, and the like. Are you speaking of faith in humanity, in goodness over evil, in honesty over pretense? Or in the power of fractals? What then? And for the record, I did not say that I had more faith than you in people or humanity. I posed a conditional because by saying, as you did clearly, that it is "dangerous" to try to discuss scientific matters on social media, you imply that lay people are not up to understanding. Of course, if you did not mean what you said, or do not support the words you quoted, then that is another matter entirely. So which is it, my friend?

Milos Djukic

4 years ago #45

Phil >" I have more faith, I guess, than you in the ability of reasonably intelligent and educated, but non-scientific people to engage in rational examination of issues." (from #105) No Phil, You have not more faith in people and humanity than me or anybody else here, irrespective of our intelligence, education, knowledge, faith, non-science backgrounds, science backgrounds or the ability to engage in rational examination. Everyone's opinion is equally valid and equally important. I have not mentioned faith in god. That topic is definitely beyond question and out of scope of this discussion about perceptions of scientific truths.

Phil Friedman

4 years ago #44

Milos > "I never doubt or underestimate anyone's faith ..." Neither do I, Milos. However, I do not hesitate to question someone when they present tenets of faith (which are non-rational) as assertions of scientific fact. The very definition of faith precludes questioning by others who do not hold that faith. But the very nature of scientific postulates as to fact and scientific theories is that they are subject to questioning and verification or falsification. That is, my friend, one of the core points of this post. Beyond that, while everyone is entitled to his or her own tenets of faith (as long as they do not involve harm to others), it is not incumbent upon the rest of us to accept them as "valid". For example, Christians are entitled to believe that Jesus was the Messiah, even though Jews (who do not deny the historical reality of Christ) do not accept him as the Messiah. Or even though Muslims consider Jesus (as I understand it) to have been a minor "prophet." But recognizing everyone's right to hold their own beliefs of faith, does not mean we all have to accept everything anyone happens to believe. Personally, I see not point in discussing points of faith because they are not subject to rational or logical discussion. However, I will always be moved to comment when someone asserts a tenet of faith as a rational, even scientific statement. Especially when someone trades on a persona as a scientist. For such actions seem to me both irresponsible and potentially harmful--- on social media and elsewhere. Call it the Academic Code, if you like. Cheers!

Milos Djukic

4 years ago #43

You are most welcome Mark Anthony and thank you. I have similar doubts about my writing.

Milos Djukic

4 years ago #42

Ok, let's face it Gerald Hecht ; You are an excellent writer. Just my two cents :)

Milos Djukic

4 years ago #41

Phil, I never doubt or underestimate anyone's faith. This type of suspicion is a sure sign of unjustifiably elitism and the flagrant example for underestimation of people. Social media discussions are not about getting people to understand and believe in your vision and to work with you to achieve your goals. The real Iinfluencer is the man who is mainly preoccupied with the people and not with its own status or a former status or status of other people. You are one in a million reasonably intelligent and educated, equally unique, unrepeatable and unpredictable members. My intention is not to impose the rules of the game or to draw conclusions. Discussion means to respect everyone's opinion and to listen carefully without provisional interpretations which are very often nothing more then misinterpretations. Elitism is about drawing conclusions about everything and everyone Writing in social media and discussions are more like teaching and mutual shaping of perception rather than activism. What is important is the way in which we manifest our disagreement. A good foundation is certainly unquestionable respect of diversity and a very careful interpretation of other people's attitudes. You are free to assume whatever you want or to reject any claim, like anyone else. Cheers my friend.

Phil Friedman

4 years ago #40

Mark, neither you nor anyone else should be intimidated by reference to "motives" for writing and participating in discussions on social media. Motivation and motives are irrelevant, as I see it. What counts is honesty and integrity in discussion, for example, not presenting opinion as fact, not using appeals to authority, not cloaking non-rational statements in the trappings of scientific truth, and so on. One of the things I learned in a former life as an academic is that, if given the chance and some authentic guidance, people can comprehend a whole lot more that knowledge-elitists give them credit for. Neither science nor philosophy should be considered solely the provinces of academics. Indeed, at one time, most of the great scientists and philosophers were NOT academics. Insight and understanding are not the exclusive possessions of a small club, but available to most who are willing to put forth the effort to attain them. I have often been accused of being an elitist because I want to conduct discussions of substantive issues on social media. But the fact is that I am the very opposite of an elitist for that very reason. Namely, because I do not condescend to my readership by assuming they cannot understand or deal with genuine discussion of ideas and opinions. Will such discussions on social media involve error? You bet your butt they will. Will such discussions sometimes involve misrepresentation? Absolutely. But anyone who thinks such is not present in the world of science and academia, should read about the history of the discovery of Piltdown Man. Cheers! (cc: Gerald Hecht)

Phil Friedman

4 years ago #39

Milos, as a former university professor, I agree with you that because the normal checks and balances of the academic world are absent from general social media, scientists and academics have a special responsibility, when writing on social media, to not take advantage of their positions to present opinion as fact. And to not cloak fuzzy statements in the garb of scientific truth. I have more faith, I guess, than you in the ability of reasonably intelligent and educated, but non-scientific people to engage in rational examination of issues. And feel that any other position is unjustifiably elitist. You say, "... practice has shown that the scientific communication of any kind in social media that are not strictly related to scientific topics (unlike professional groups, blogs and scientific-professional networks) of any kind is generally unpopular way of communications and sometimes even dangerous....." But you do not present any support for that claim, nor do you explain what you mean by "dangerous." And in the absence of such support, I for one reject that claim in all of it's components as the expression of an (incorrect) opinion, and having no demo stated basis in fact. I agree that social media is what we make it, but submit that we could make it so much more than it is. And that one way is to not underestimate the population. Cc: Gerald Hecht

Milos Djukic

4 years ago #38

Mark Anthony is an excellent psychological science communicator. Unfortunately, practice has shown that the scientific communication of any kind in social media that are not strictly related to scientific topics (unlike professional groups, blogs and scientific-professional networks) of any kind is generally unpopular way of communications and sometimes even dangerous. There are also intrinsic writing motivation and extrinsic writing motivation. For different people, the importance of these two types of motivation is also different. Intrinsic motivation is mainly based on the feeling of pleasure during the act of creation. Therefore, the need for an external reward is negligible. You are, for example, maybe more “engaged”, while I am more “detached“ type of writer. It's logical, because I work with students. It takes a lot of understanding, patience, attention and commitment to gain a trust. I am glad that people in social media know how to recognize quality and superficiality. We are all sometimes skeptical, but I've always believed in the power of the written word.

Mark Blevins

4 years ago #37

I lady I know who is studying astrophysics told me its been proven the universe is only 4% solid. The rest is energy. She says that leaves a lot of room for things like a spiritual realm

Harvey Lloyd

4 years ago #36

Intellect is difficult to find on social media. I found your post thought provoking not challenging my beliefs. I do enjoy the fractal concept and the review of nature as finding solutions for mankind's ills. (We certainly can not look to our political leadership for the solution.) Neither are part of my belief or faith structure. Merely complimentary. Your discussion is one of caution as we tend to grasp for things in our faith that are concrete and prove or disprove something. Faith is a belief, that i need not argue with someone else concerning its faults or adventures. It's mine and i own it. Science can neither take or give to it. This doesn't make science wrong or right. Science is an opportunity for us to understand our physical environment. Unlike the medieval church who took control of science to its own benefit. Science should set itself up as absolutes based on its history and charlatans. This is not incongruent with my faith. But rather the only way to seek truth in human form. For where they intersect...................we need to find our intellect and have brave discussions such as these.

Phil Friedman

4 years ago #35

Henry, thank you for reading and commenting. Yes, you are correct that one of my core points is to be cautious about turning something that has to do with science and/or mathematics into an issue of faith --- or mistaking it for such. The obverse of that is to avoid trying to make a question of faith into a scientific question --- or dressing it up as one. BTW, it is gratifying to me that you thought enough of this post to actually read it eight times. And not complain. :-)

Phil Friedman

4 years ago #34

Robert> "History is baby steps, and every great inventor, innovator or scientist understands that." With all due respect, Robert, that is not substantiated in the least by history. As to the balance of your comment, I can't tell if you see it as descriptive or prescriptive. Finally, as to your reference to "browbeating", I don't see how that is genuinely possible on social media, since the reader is in control of what he or she reads, and with a click move on. Of course, if you mean that someone should be able to comment on, for example, one of my posts, yet expect me not to reply if I disagree, then I disagree with you in that regard. Thank you for reading and commenting.

Phil Friedman

4 years ago #33

Mark, I agree. And Irene Hackett manages her Sanctuary Hive, I think for that purpose. However, I have two additional points. 1) In , I suggest a label to use at the top of a post to indicate that the author asks that no critical comments be posted. Most people think that I am joking, but I'm not. Take a look at what I say there. 2) I personally make it a policy to avoid making critical comments these days on someone else's post(s) --- unless it is someone who I know can deal with it. But I do not see why I should hold back when someone makes a comment on MY POST(S) with which I disagree. If you don't want me to answer you, don't come onto my post to make a comment. Seems fair, doesn't it?

Harvey Lloyd

4 years ago #32

Ok i am on my 8th read of your post and the commentary, @Phil Friedman. Maybe i am just slow to understand. I believe your post was concerning the effort to understand our existence we should remain vigilant in discerning science and faith (My interpretation of Mysticism in your post.) Science offers us theories that get tested over time and merged with current facts. Sometimes these facts get overturned by new knowledge and discourse. Faith is something that is individual. Not scientific or factual but rather a coalescing of facts and beliefs that form a faith within our own destiny. I didn't sense your post challenged this process but did have us look at fractals for what they are, science in the search for truth. When we take science and force it through the keyhole of faith it is mystical and clearly open for debate. I don't see fractals as a faith issue. Fractals are a visual understanding of chaos, or at least our attempt to understand. This search will never end. The forces of nature may be observed and understood but our individual ability to go beyond observation requires faith. To this end each will choose their own. Chose wisely. If anything your post served as a warning, and a good one, be careful what you place faith within. The test will come of that faith and where will you be within the test. Thank you for showing the line and its challenges you have strengthened my faith.

Robert Cormack

4 years ago #31

We certainly "see what we want to see," and if we were able to see sub-atomic particles, we'd probably be scared to death. This accounts for our "good manners" on social media. We're not advocates of change so much as advocates of "answers." We want "answers" that fit into what we think and feel, so we're congratulatory of those who do this. The title "Why You're Doing Better Than you Think" will have higher readership scores than "Don't Image You're Stupid—You Are Stupid." Nobody's looking to be browbeaten—even if it is the truth. Nor are we looking for truth that's TOO real. History is baby steps, and every great inventor, innovator or scientist understands that.

Phil Friedman

4 years ago #30

Mark, you are correct in the main. But the words I used are not mine. They are words I have read dozens of times on LinkedIn and lately on beBee. The precise phrasing is immaterial. The message is always, "If you can't give me a stroke for my ego in front of everyone reading this, don't say anything at all because I am not here to engage, but only to strut and preen."

Phil Friedman

4 years ago #29

Mohammed, please understand that I am not denigrating marketing and sales. Indeed, one might look at marketing and sales as an important part even of religion.What I am saying is that sometimes in discussion, we are not seeking to market or sell anything. I say this because I draw a distinction between the desire to convince someone to believe a proposition and the mutual search for understanding and truth. I trust that doesn't sound too lofty to express on social media. Cheers!

Jim Murray

4 years ago #28

Pulling this kind of engagement on a Sunday is really something. Good on you, mate.

Phil Friedman

4 years ago #27

Thank you, Milos. I understand.

Phil Friedman

4 years ago #26

Melissa, thank you for visiting the conversation. I am pleased for you that you have found your "own" wisdom, for most of us spend a lifetime seeking wisdom, but rarely attain it. As to your predelection for Muzak, I am left speechless. Does that mean you also like Pablum and very weak tea? Well, to each his (or her) own. Be well and stay un-vexed.Cheers!

Milos Djukic

4 years ago #25

#73 Phil Friedman, I will refrain from what I would like to say due to the reasons that are already stated. Cheers.

Phil Friedman

4 years ago #24

Thank you, Mark, for reading and commenting --- as always. Cheers!

Phil Friedman

4 years ago #23

Thank you, Milos, for this additional reference. Do you agree with what it says? Do you think it is compatible with, or conflicts with what I've said in this post? "Social media has been transformative in how it has democratized communication. But it's a double-edged sword..." I'd say that one of the problems on social media is that scientists --- and philosophers and many other people qualified to correct misinformation and just plain wacky-do statements and thinking --- are bullied into not doing so by those who constantly portray all forms of disagreement as unacceptable behavior on social media. This leaves the field open , for example, for those who would turn fractals into a metaphysical religion. Cheers!

Phil Friedman

4 years ago #22

Thank you, Milos, for reading and commenting. And for the additional references. You and I will probably never agree upon this, but I question the value in a lay environment of citing references without providing interpretation, at least to the extent of disclosing one's own summarized thoughts concerning the takeaway from those references. This is mine, specifically in regard to the references you cite in #49: Mandelbrot himself considers his work in fractal mathematics and related areas to be primarily heuristic in nature (and not ontological). That is to say, he sees fractals as providing an a priori framework that can be used to bring a semblance of order to areas that appear conceptually chaotic, or to find the true underlying systematic order in physical phenomena that appear outwardly chaotic and not amenable to any form of analysis. This is consistent de facto with the application of fractal mathematics by Edward Lorenz in his work on finding order in the apparent chaos of Earth's weather system, with the discernible result that we have in the past two or three decades seen huge advances in our ability to predict weather, and especially the movement of dangerous storms. However, we must recognize that, as a conceptual heuristic, it does not have much ontological meaning except perhaps in the same way that any mathematical or physical model may have, when it is part of a successful predictive theory. Note for lay readers: "Ontology" is the philosophical "study" of the nature of existence, being, and reality. "Ontological meaning" in the above use means "reflective of underlying, directly-unobservable reality". Milos, that is my interpretation of the discussions referenced in #49. What is yours? Or yours, Gerald Hecht?

Milos Djukic

4 years ago #21

Article: "How social media can distort and misinform when communicating science" by Jacob Groshek And Serena Bronda (2016) - ( "Another panelist was University of Alberta law and public health professor Tim Caulfield, who actively works to diminish the phenomenon he calls "scienceploitation." He defines the term as when media reporting takes a legitimate area of science and inaccurately simplifies it for the general public. Beyond misinformation, hype, and other forms of scienceploitation on social media, there is at least one other serious threat to the effective communication of science online: the lack of civility in online and social media forums. Exposure to uncivil comments can increase polarization among users, particularly related to science topics, such as nanotechnology, and perceptions of risk. Together these factors suggest a trend that is hard to break, even when scientists directly and actively engage with the public through social media. There is a disconnected arrogance that turns off the public and does not get them excited about learning more. Social media and the internet are a conduit of bad information. On social media it's easy to find information that scares you and scientists are not participating in trying to make it right. Social media has been transformative in how it has democratized communication. But it's a double-edged sword: social media allows scientists to correct misinformation by communicating their findings with public audiences to promote an understanding of complex issues. Equally dangerously, though, social-media activism has the potential not only to distort public understanding of these critical issues but also to disrupt governmental support and policy regulations." - from "How social media can distort and misinform when communicating science" (see link above).

Kevin Pashuk

4 years ago #20

I believe (is that faith?) that you have put faith and science into a good perspective Phil.

Phil Friedman

4 years ago #19

Gerald, sharing much appreciated. Getting a "relevant" in addition is a helpful distribution tool. Thank you for being the inspiration for, and an integral part of this conversation.

Phil Friedman

4 years ago #18

Melissa, thank you for reading and commenting. Tentative faith (faith with reservations or doubts) is what Kierkegaard argued against, and is a conundrum that ultimately moved him to posit the necessity of the "leap of faith." I suggest to you that faith and science are not conceptually compatible --- although having faith in a higher power and, at the same time, being a scientist are. Which is a fertile topic for future discussion, should anyone want to get beyond the virtually ubiquitous literary Muzak that dominates social media. Cheers! And keep the faith! :-)

Milos Djukic

4 years ago #17

Gerald Hecht, I don't know.

Phil Friedman

4 years ago #16

Thank you, Kevin, for reading and joining the conversation. I agree that faith-based beliefs can be legitimately be examined and discussed --- as can scientific postulates and theories. We should not, however, confuse the two, for the standards for the standards and methods in each of these areas are respectively different. Faith is ultimately not scientific, and science is ultimately not based on faith. BTW, I once heard the noun "agnostic" defined as, "an atheist without cojones." Cheers!

Milos Djukic

4 years ago #15

Gerald Hecht, Valerie Jamieson (not "Jamison" - my mistake!) is Editorial content director at New Scientist

Phil Friedman

4 years ago #14

Mohammed, thank you for reading and commenting. I understand what you are saying. I would ,however, make two points: 1) I make no judgment about the validity of anyone's religious beliefs, but maintain that such beliefs are always faith-based and should never be confused with scientific propositions. 2) Not everything that we think and write about on social media has to do with marketing and sales. Cheers!

Jim Murray

4 years ago #13

Kevin Pashuk...perhaps I should have used the term 'brind faith'

Milos Djukic

4 years ago #12

Phil Friedman, I really appreciate all the hard work you’ve done to shed some light on why we should be cautious with interpretations. In order to further elucidate what are fractals, I recommend the following links: 1. Benoit Mandelbrot’s TED talk, "Fractals and the art of roughness", filmed Feb 2010 on 2. Official Website: Homepage of Benoit B. Mandelbrot, Sterling Professor Emeritus of Mathematical Sciences Mathematics Department - Yale University at Yale University website 3. Prof. Benoit B. Mandelbrot, Interview by Valerie Jamison, New Scientist, 13 November 2004, 50-53. Q : Valerie Jamison: So fractals don't point to a singe rule underlying reality? A: Benoit B. Mandelbrot: There is no single rule that governs the use of geometry. I don't. think that one exist. - from Interview by Valerie Jamison, New Scientist, 13 November 2004, 50-53. “The most important thing I have done is to combine something esoteric with a practical issue that affects many people.” — Benoit Mandelbrot “My fate has been that what I undertook was fully understood only after the fact.“ — Benoit Mandelbrot “Order doesn't come by itself.“ — Benoit Mandelbrot

Kevin Pashuk

4 years ago #11

I'm guessing it's not the George Michaels song you are referring to. :)

Kevin Pashuk

4 years ago #10

After several 'conversations' with you Jim (both online and in person), I feel I know your intent. I wanted to be preemptive to define my stance on faith for all of those who may have quickly jumped to a conclusion... like THAT never happens on social media.

Jim Murray

4 years ago #9

Gerald Hecht I'm holding out to flip between Cowboys Eagles and the last ball game of the season.

Jim Murray

4 years ago #8

Kevin Pashuk. My comment was not meant to demean anybody's faith. I have faith myself. It's just not defined by a religion. I personally believe that it's possible to hold both the spiritual and agnostic views in your mind. But for a lot of people it seems to be one or the other.

Kevin Pashuk

4 years ago #7

I may be the 'nice' troll of the bunch Jim. I may also be the only member of the Beezer's to claim a specific faith, and not be agnostic or atheist. (and we are still good friends) I want to make sure that it's on the record that there's a big difference between how I identify with my faith (which does not require me to hang my brain on a fence before I go into the building) and 'blind' faith... Where one believes something because it sounds scientific, or mystical, or said forcefully. In that kind of faith I tend to not waste time ever trying to convince them that there is another viewpoint. I lump partisan politics in with Blind Faith as well... I'm with Phil... this kind of stuff truly takes away from social media's potential.

Kevin Pashuk

4 years ago #6

Lots to think about here Phil. Sharing in the Bloggers hive.

Jim Murray

4 years ago #5

Sharing in the Beezers Hive. It is worthy in the extreme.

Jim Murray

4 years ago #4

Gerald are one of my intellectual heroes.

Jim Murray

4 years ago #3

There are a lot of inordinate number in fact, who for one reason or another feel the need to explain the universe and all the complex inter-relationships that exist within it in simple ways. This is likely because they believe that a lot of people are idiots and would not understand the complexities that they so easily perceive. I believe it is this effort to simplify and carve up complexities into bite sized bits for human consumption that is at the root of everything you are critiquing here. People, for the most part don't understand science, it's much easier for them to, you know, believe in God or some other sort of mystical guiding spirit. The other issue is that if you're going to hang your hat on some theory, say fractals, then you damn well better be able to prove that your theory is valid, beyond showing a few examples and then trying to convince people that they are one of the cornerstones of our existence. If indeed fractals were that, which they most certainly are not, we would be shaped in a completely different way than we currently are. I, for one, like my asymmetrical body just the way it is thank you. On the opening appears that critical opinion seems to be the purview of 'trolls' as social media is currently structured. So guess what that makes you and me and Randy and Don and to a less extent, Kevin, among others. Yep...we are what we despise. Great post though. This comment is brought to you courtesy of the New England Patriots, who are mopping the floor with the Buffalo bills and making the game uninteresting. No fractals in football. Signed, Jim The Canadian Troll.

Randy Keho

4 years ago #2

I'm holding on to Kierkegaard and existentialism, followed closely by Huxley, Kerouac and Leary. However, Jim Murray is making an impression.

Phil Friedman

4 years ago #1

Hey, Gerald Hecht, this one is for you!

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