Friday, March 5, 2010

A Spoof Taken Seriously

Just as deism's sway long outlasted its apparent expiration date, so too logical positivism continues to influence. Witness the childrens song Science is Real by the band They Might Be Giants which begins with a quote from the Vienna Circle's Rudolf Carnap:

Science is a system of statements based on direct experience and controlled by experimental verification.

If that is too abstract the lyrics provide a distilled version of the silliness: "Science is real." This is followed with more insights such as: "the facts are with science," and "the truth is with science."

The song is a funny, if somewhat over-the-top, spoof on scientism. But an alarming number of listeners seem to fit the caricature too well as they approvingly comment on the song, such as here. Logical positivism is dead, long live logical positivism!

6 comments:

  1. My understanding is that reports of the death of logical positivism are greatly exaggerated.

    Seriously, what do you think is the currently reigning -ism or the one you think works best?

    ReplyDelete
  2. I'm not so sure it it a spoof. Truth is in the eye of the beholder, I suppose, but given its context, I think otherwise. Other titles on the CD (as summarized at boingboing) include:

    "Put It To the Test" (possibly the best kids' song ever written about falsifiablity in hypothesis formation) cover the basics, the big Philosophy of Science questions.

    Then there's songs for all the major disciplines: "Meet the Elements," "I am a Paleontologist" (also delving into the joys of a science career), "My Brother the Ape," "How Many Planets," and the diptych formed by "Why Does the Sun Shine?" (stars considered as superheated gas) and "Why Does the Sun Really Shine?" (stars considered as superheated plasma) -- these last two are a brilliant look into how different paradigms have different practical and theoretical uses. "Photosynthesis," "Cells" "Speed and Velocity" -- you get the picture. "

    http://boingboing.net/2009/09/08/they-might-be-giants-1.html

    My favorite lyrics are in "Put it to the test" which teaches hypothesis testing and falsifiability:

    "If there's a question bothering your brain
    That you think you know how to explain
    You need a test
    Yeah, think up a test

    If it's possible to prove it wrong
    You're going to want to know before too long
    You'll need a test

    If somebody says they figured it out
    And they're leaving any room for doubt
    Come up with a test
    Yeah, you need a test

    Are you sure that that thing is true?
    Or did someone just tell it to you?
    Come up with a test

    Test it out
    Find a way to show what would happen
    If you were incorrect
    (Test it out)
    A fact is just a fantasy
    Unless it can be checked
    Make a test
    Test it out

    If you want to know if it's the truth
    Then, my friend, you are going to need proof
    Come up with a test
    Yeah, you need a test

    Don't believe it 'cause they say it's so
    If it's not true, you have a right to know
    Put it to the test (put it to the test)
    Yeah, test it out (put it to the test)
    Yeah, put it to the test (put it to the test)
    Put it to the test (put it to the test)"

    By the way Larry, I'm not sure how I feel about logical positivism. I'm kinda on a Popper kick right now, and think falsifiability makes a lot of sense, especially in the way I actually conduct science. Hence, my choice of the above song!

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  3. That's a great video Cornelius, I love it. As soon as it started playing on my computer, my two-year-old ran over and enjoyed the hell out of it. Thank you helping me with his indoctrination.

    TMBG are a terrific band, their music both for adults and children is great. I have followed them since the early 80's. Now I'm old, we have their CD/animated DVD Combos for children: "Here come the ABC's" and "Here Come the 1-2-3's". My son loves them both, and wants to watch them over and over.

    He learned his alphabet at about 17 months from "Here come the ABC's".

    We don't have "Here Comes Science."

    There has always been a great deal of science in their songs.

    On "Here come the 1-2-3's" there is a song "Triops has three eyes" which is about the triops, a crustacean with, indeed, 3 eyes. Puppets inform the audience that Triops has been around 220 million years. Take that, Ken Ham.

    And they throw in tripod fish to boot.

    Their song "Mammal" (for adults) is a startlingly accurate description of mammalia.

    "A glass of milk
    Standing in between extinction in the cold
    And explosive radiating growth
    So the warm blood flows
    Through the large four-chambered heart
    Maintaining the very high metabolism rate they have.
    Mammal, Mammal..."

    Download it now.

    I wrote a good long blog post skewering the coffee-spittingly ridiculous science errors of the right wing fundamentalists: Your Science Makes Jesus Cry. It's pretty funny.

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  4. Diogenes:

    ===
    That's a great video Cornelius, I love it. As soon as it started playing on my computer, my two-year-old ran over and enjoyed the hell out of it. Thank you helping me with his indoctrination.
    ===

    The anti intellectualism in evolution is more common than many realize.

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  5. "The anti intellectualism in evolution is more common than many realize."

    Really, though, one ought to work on saying "evolutionism."

    For instance -- and regardless of one's opinion of either -- it is incorrect to contrast "Creationism vs Evolution" ... the correct contrast is "Creationism vs Evolutionism."

    ReplyDelete