Re: The Flat Earth? - Conclusion

Ian Stewart,F13,732405, (
10 Jul 1995 13:10:21 +1000

>From article <3tlpun$>, by (Madhudvisah dasa Swami):
> [sci.astro removed from follow-up]
>Ian Stewart,F13,732405, ( wrote:
>> From article <3tf4hq$>, by (Madhudvisah dasa Swami):
>> > [Long thread full of the most utter tripe]
>> > We just take Krishna's and our spiritual master's word for it.
>> Oh. Right. Krishna says black is white... OK, I don't have a
>> problem with that. ;)
> But the idea is if we can find someone who has perfect knowledge then the
> best way to get knowledge is to hear it from Him...
> If you want to find someone's telephone number you could develop an
> elaborate "scientific" method to do it. [descr. of legwork cut]
> ... That is the ascending process of gaining knowledge, the
> scientific method. However there is a much better process, the descending
> process, accepting the knowledge from an authority, from someone who
> knows. You could call the operator or look in the telephone book and find
> the number immediately...

Why does this keep turning up in sci.astro? Never mind..

Nice analogy. Let's kick it a bit further. You claim that
scientists don't like 'phone books', that we prefer to find out
the numbers the hard way. Well, you are right, we are a bit leery
of phone books. The reason is that there are so many of them (eg
'Bible', 'Koran', 'Bhaguvad-gita (sp?)', even 'New age'), and the
cockamamie things all give _different_ numbers for the same person!
So put yourself in the position of a scientist trying to find the
number for 'Bill Smith', say. Crikey, no-one likes hard work, so
if this guy is a bit new to the game he might be tempted to look
in one of the 'phone books'. Unfortunately when he does so,
nearly all the time it is clearly _not_ Bill at any of the numbers.
A lot of scientific guys have done this, it's a well beaten trail,
because, you know, we are optimists at heart. But the failure rate
with these 'books' is very high. Sure, sometimes you get someone
who sounds like Bill, or Fred, or whoever you are looking for,
but the supporting evidence doesn't stand up. When you send Bill
a telegram, he denies it was him on the phone.

So if scientists are allergic to 'phone books' as a way of
finding out about Nature, it is not because of wrong-headedness
but simply sad experience. In fact, a scientist will support
the method which achieves the best results. 'Phone books'
just do not measure up. Its not that he has anything against
them, and in other arenas, such as ethics etc, he may indeed
find that one or another of the phone books is highly useful.
But not as a way of finding out about the physical world.

You, on the other hand, are in the position of a person who,
for various reasons, is totally determined to believe that
Bill's number as given in a particular phone book is kosher,
even though the person you get when you ring that number
doesn't sound anything like Bill and, in fact, claims to be
someone else entirely. Now, who is more sensible - the scientist
who says, "look, wise up cousin, it's _obvious_ that that isn't
Bill, just like it wasn't Fred, or Ernie, or any of the other people
you claimed to be ringing before. Now quit wasting bandwidth,"
or you saying, "No, no, it _is_ Bill really, he's just making his
voice go funny! You just have to have _faith_!"

Ian Stewart **********************************************
Dept of Physics * Caesar: "Yond Cassius has a lean and *
UNE, Australia. * hungry look. He thinks too much." * **********************************************