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In Defense of Common Sense
NY Times ^ | August 12, 2005 | JOHN HORGAN

Posted on 08/13/2005 5:54:20 PM PDT by neverdem

As anyone remotely interested in science knows by now, 100 years ago Einstein wrote six papers that laid the groundwork for quantum mechanics and relativity, arguably the two most successful theories in history. To commemorate Einstein's "annus mirabilis," a coalition of physics groups has designated 2005 the World Year of Physics. The coalition's Web site lists more than 400 celebratory events, including conferences, museum exhibits, concerts, Webcasts, plays, poetry readings, a circus, a pie-eating contest and an Einstein look-alike competition.

In the midst of all this hoopla, I feel compelled to deplore one aspect of Einstein's legacy: the widespread belief that science and common sense are incompatible. In the pre-Einstein era, T. H. Huxley, a k a "Darwin's bulldog," could define science as "nothing but trained and organized common sense." But quantum mechanics and relativity shattered our common-sense notions about how the world works. The theories ask us to believe that an electron can exist in more than one place at the same time, and that space and time - the I-beams of reality - are not rigid but rubbery. Impossible! And yet these sense-defying propositions have withstood a century's worth of painstaking experimental tests.

As a result, many scientists came to see common sense as an impediment to progress not only in physics but also in other fields. "What, after all, have we to show for ... common sense," the behaviorist B. F. Skinner asked, "or the insights gained through personal experience?" Elevating this outlook to the status of dogma, the British biologist Lewis Wolpert declared in his influential 1992 book "The Unnatural Nature of Science," "I would almost contend that if something fits in with common sense it almost certainly isn't science." Dr. Wolpert's view is widely shared. When I invoke common sense to defend or - more...

(Excerpt) Read more at nytimes.com ...


TOPICS: Culture/Society; Editorial; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: alberteinstein; einstein; horgan; john; johnhorgan; physics; science; technology

1 posted on 08/13/2005 5:54:21 PM PDT by neverdem
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To: neverdem

Expect more of this drivel as the NYGayTimes loses readers.


2 posted on 08/13/2005 6:01:41 PM PDT by Bars4Bill
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To: Bars4Bill

The NYT writing a column on common sense is an oxymoron anyway.


3 posted on 08/13/2005 6:04:01 PM PDT by Alright_on_the_LeftCoast
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To: neverdem

The author makes the mistake of most "scientific" writers of telling us everything he knows rather than everything we want to know.


4 posted on 08/13/2005 6:09:30 PM PDT by MikeHu
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To: neverdem

New York Times columnists wouldn't recognize common sense if it ran over them on Fifth Avenue.


5 posted on 08/13/2005 6:10:48 PM PDT by Mad_Tom_Rackham (Crush! Kill! Destroy the heathen!)
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To: Bars4Bill; Alright_on_the_LeftCoast
Expect more of this drivel as the NYGayTimes loses readers.

What's drivel about it? This is a guest OpEd column.

John Horgan(the author) oversees the science writings program at the Stevens Institute of Technology and is the author of "Rational Mysticism."

6 posted on 08/13/2005 6:11:17 PM PDT by neverdem (May you be in heaven a half hour before the devil knows that you're dead.)
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To: neverdem

There are so many hard feelings toward the NY Times here at FR, that even when they publish a good column (as they do occasionally) no one wants to talk about it -- they just want to slam the paper.


7 posted on 08/13/2005 6:17:10 PM PDT by 68skylark
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To: El Gato; JudyB1938; Ernest_at_the_Beach; Robert A. Cook, PE; lepton; LadyDoc; jb6; tiamat; PGalt; ..
FReepmail me if you want on or off my health and science ping list. I'm not posting the following guest OpEd because it would probably get yanked, like the guest OpEd that described how to poison a milk tanker with bacteria. After it was on the Times' website all day, terrorists are coming to FreeRepublic.com to study our vulnerabilities. The Terrorist and the Grid
8 posted on 08/13/2005 6:25:34 PM PDT by neverdem (May you be in heaven a half hour before the devil knows that you're dead.)
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To: 68skylark

What are you talking about? /sarc


9 posted on 08/13/2005 6:26:40 PM PDT by neverdem (May you be in heaven a half hour before the devil knows that you're dead.)
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To: 68skylark

But it's not a well-written column; he doesn't defend common sense or even discuss it. All he does is parade his academic knowledge. It's not a defense of common sense; far from it. It's a defense and advocacy of academic learning. The presumption is that he has common sense -- but never exhibits any. The NY Times can't ell the difference -- that's their problem.


10 posted on 08/13/2005 6:27:27 PM PDT by MikeHu
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To: MikeHu
But it's not a well-written column; he doesn't defend common sense or even discuss it. All he does is parade his academic knowledge. It's not a defense of common sense; far from it. It's a defense and advocacy of academic learning. The presumption is that he has common sense -- but never exhibits any. The NY Times can't ell the difference -- that's their problem.

Let me ask a question. Did you read beyond the excerpt?

11 posted on 08/13/2005 6:30:55 PM PDT by neverdem (May you be in heaven a half hour before the devil knows that you're dead.)
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To: neverdem

Yep, I read the entire article twice.


12 posted on 08/13/2005 6:32:59 PM PDT by MikeHu
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To: neverdem

It took me a minute to get the connection between a pie eating contest and Einstein. Pie = Pi!


13 posted on 08/13/2005 6:42:14 PM PDT by Kirkwood
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To: neverdem

Anything from the NewYork Homosexual Times is suspect.


14 posted on 08/13/2005 6:54:08 PM PDT by Bars4Bill
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To: neverdem

Common sense comes from experience.
Experience comes from not using common sense.


15 posted on 08/13/2005 6:57:04 PM PDT by Doctor Stochastic (Vegetabilisch = chaotisch is der Charakter der Modernen. - Friedrich Schlegel)
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To: neverdem

Our electric grid and infrastructure is vulnerable indeed.

Here is an article from the Washington Post from 2002, which talks about how they could attack our grid using the internet. It's quite an interesting article, that's why I kept it bookmarked.

Cyber-Attacks by Al Qaeda Feared

http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn/A50765-2002Jun26

Late last fall, Detective Chris Hsiung of the Mountain View, Calif., police department began investigating a suspicious pattern of surveillance against Silicon Valley computers. From the Middle East and South Asia, unknown browsers were exploring the digital systems used to manage Bay Area utilities and government offices. Hsiung, a specialist in high-technology crime, alerted the FBI's San Francisco computer intrusion squad.

Working with experts at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, the FBI traced trails of a broader reconnaissance. A forensic summary of the investigation, prepared in the Defense Department, said the bureau found "multiple casings of sites" nationwide. Routed through telecommunications switches in Saudi Arabia, Indonesia and Pakistan, the visitors studied emergency telephone systems, electrical generation and transmission, water storage and distribution, nuclear power plants and gas facilities.

Most significantly, perhaps, U.S. investigators have found evidence in the logs that mark a browser's path through the Internet that al Qaeda operators spent time on sites that offer software and programming instructions for the digital switches that run power, water, transport and communications grids.


16 posted on 08/13/2005 6:59:13 PM PDT by FairOpinion
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To: neverdem

How old are you? I'm 50 and was force-fed the stinking New York Times in grade school in the 60's. I have watched the "Old Gray Lady," the "Newspaper of Record" degrade to being the GLBT drag queen, a lavender queer marching in the streets with other fags and degenerates. The New York Times is a piece of street garbage. As are all its columnists. Do you take pride in reading their DRIVEL?


17 posted on 08/13/2005 7:29:30 PM PDT by Bars4Bill
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To: Bars4Bill
How old are you?

Older than you.

Do you take pride in reading their DRIVEL?

I can cull the wheat from the chaff. What does this article, which describes the apparent rift between common sense and modern science, have to do with your obsessing about abnormal sex and the Times, other than the Times printed this article? The article says nothing about sexual perversions.

18 posted on 08/13/2005 7:59:40 PM PDT by neverdem (May you be in heaven a half hour before the devil knows that you're dead.)
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To: neverdem
His remark that "God does not play dice with the universe" reflected his stubborn insistence that specific causes yield specific effects; he could never fully accept the bizarre implication of quantum mechanics that at small scales reality dissolves into a cloud of probabilities. So far, Einstein seems to be wrong about God's aversion to games of chance, but he was right not to abandon his common-sense intuitions about reality. In those many instances when the evidence is tentative, we should not be embarrassed to call on common sense for guidance.

Does this mean ole Einstein was in the Intelligent Design Camp?

Of course the New York Times is going to defend "common sense"; if liberalism had to defend itself by appealing to "data" instead of someone's notion of "common sense" it would have been dead, buried and forgotten long ago. I'm sure Carl Marx had an abundance of common sense. Unfortunately the "data" didn't go his way. Just don't tell the NYT that.

19 posted on 08/13/2005 8:11:30 PM PDT by ALPAPilot
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To: neverdem

I am familiar with Einstein's work.

Also with NYT's lack thereof.


20 posted on 08/13/2005 8:27:37 PM PDT by Bars4Bill
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To: Doctor Stochastic

or...

"Experience is something you don't get until just after you need it." -Olivier

:)


21 posted on 08/13/2005 11:27:09 PM PDT by D-fendr
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To: neverdem

Thanks for the ping...

I don't know how this relates to the issue of common sense, but I like Einstein’s “Rules of Work” as quoted from then-Chicago Bulls Coach Phil Jackson’s Sacred Hoops:

1. Out of clutter, find simplicity;
2. From discord, find harmony;
3. In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.


22 posted on 08/14/2005 4:48:12 AM PDT by ReleaseTheHounds
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