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How Do We Know What We Know?
March 25, 2009 7:18 AM   Subscribe

For most of us, science arrives in our lives packaged neatly as fact. But how did it get that way? Science is an active process of observation and investigation. Evidence: How Do We Know What We Know? [HTML version, Flash version also available] examines that process, revealing the ways in which ideas and information become knowledge and understanding. In this case study in human origins, the folks from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology explore how scientific evidence is being used to shape our current understanding of ourselves: What makes us human—and how did we get this way?
posted by netbros (15 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite

 

Well done. It's nice to see how the scientific proccess has evolved since John Stuart Mill.
posted by HumanComplex at 7:48 AM on March 25, 2009


I know that I don't know how I know what I know.
posted by DreamerFi at 8:14 AM on March 25, 2009


How do I know that I know what I know is known?
posted by lordrunningclam at 8:24 AM on March 25, 2009


There are known knowns.
These are the things we know we know.

There are known unknowns.
These are the things we know we don't know.

But there are also unknown unknowns.
These are the things we don't know we don't know.

- D Rumsfeld.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 8:25 AM on March 25, 2009


When you are in your twenties, you think you know. But you don't know.
Then you reach your thirties, and now... you know that you don't know.
You get into your forties, and you know. But you don't know you know.
Your fifties, well in your fifties, you *KNOW* and you know that you know.

- (probably bad) Paraphrasing of George Carlin. You know?
posted by mrzer0 at 8:33 AM on March 25, 2009


Huzzah! I'm a professional Scientician! Good to see people lauding the method. I'm of the very strong opinon that if more people knew how science was carried out, they wouldn't be so distrustful/disdainful.


(I was preparing a post about this, but netbros beat me to it)
posted by Homemade Interossiter at 10:09 AM on March 25, 2009


l33tpolicywonk: I don't beleive that originated with D.R. That's actually a part of the Cynefin framework and is a very real part of systems analysis.
posted by lysdexic at 10:45 AM on March 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


So you say, MIS-TER SCIEN-TIST!!
posted by LordSludge at 10:46 AM on March 25, 2009


Now how does one distill that into a simple response to the ubiquitous "If you haven't proven the science yourself then it's just faith, the same as my religion!" comment?
posted by CaseyB at 11:00 AM on March 25, 2009


For most of us, science arrives in our lives packaged neatly as fact.

Yes, I had a few facts delivered from Amazon the other day that had come out of the shrink-wrap and I sent them back. They were probably okay, but you never know about leakage. It was okay though - I just went down to the grocery store and tossed the facts I needed into my cart with the cruelty-free hog fatback and Cheezits.

Then it occurred to me how much I liked these new facts - so I called my broker and told him to buy a few shares of Facts, Inc. They put out a damn fine product!
posted by macross city flaneur at 11:03 AM on March 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


When you are in your twenties, you think you know. But you don't know.
Then you reach your thirties, and now... you know that you don't know.
You get into your forties, and you know. But you don't know you know.
Your fifties, well in your fifties, you *KNOW* and you know that you know.


Then you read a little cognitive science when you're - well, any age - and come to understand that our feeling of knowing increasingly looks to be tightly managed by the brain itself as a reward for doing things it wants us to do.

And then you realize the question of knowing is hopelessly fraught.

And then you stop looking to popular culture to answer difficult epistemological questions.
posted by macross city flaneur at 11:09 AM on March 25, 2009


I hope this helps, but I just don't know anymore.
posted by RussHy at 11:29 AM on March 25, 2009


This is nice, but it seems ... too much like the standard "Scientists follow the scientific method" fairy story. Whenever I see that I just sort of want to go dig up Karl Popper and throw his decomposing body on whomever is saying it and yell "YOU MADE HIM CRY!"
posted by strixus at 1:23 PM on March 25, 2009 [2 favorites]


go dig up Karl Popper and throw his decomposing body on whomever is saying it and yell "YOU MADE HIM CRY!"

This should be our preferred method of punishment. For everything.
posted by AdamCSnider at 5:20 PM on March 25, 2009


how did it get that way?

deborah mayo's Error and the Growth of Experimental Knowledge might be up your alley :P

how did we get this way?

matt ridley's Chiefs, Thieves, and Priests sounds interesting, cf. ernest gellner's Plough, Sword and Book
...the effects of rationalism and empiricism was to "locate the well of truth outside the walls of the city", i.e., to create a source of epistemic authority which was not under social control, and which could be appealed to by those currently lacking in power. (He was, of course, fully aware of all the ways in which this is only an imperfect approximation.) This tends directly to undermine traditional sources of epistemic authority, which are overwhelmingly self-justifying and circular — authoritarian in a stricter sense.
cheers!
posted by kliuless at 9:36 AM on March 28, 2009


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