ramen and pickles

science, technology, and medicine served up with some tasty noodles

What is Science?


Stephen Pinker has written a book, which promises to be on an interesting topic, dear to my heart, namely an investigation on why the level of overall violence in the world is decreasing and what might be done to accelerate its further decline.

However, I couldn’t get past the preface without running into this sentence:

“My approach is scientific in the broad sense of seeking explanations for why things happen.”

When did this constitute science even in a broad sense of the term? Now, there is not a whole lot to be gained from arguing semantics, and he is free to define and use a word however he wants. However, this implies to me that from the outset that he is looking to make some statements that related past associated events into a just so story of how they caused one another. This is what Nassim Taleb calls the narrative fallacy (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Narrative_fallacy) which is something that we should all be vigilant to avoid to allow clear thinking, as it is an easy trap to fall into, and here is Pinker, in my mind, implicitly embracing it from the outset.

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