Explore Pseudoscientific Discussion
marks the spot

Science succeeds by recognizing two conflicting quirks of human thinking:

A tendency to oversimplify in the service of confirming wondrous wishes
Discovery of abstract patterns of Nature that cannot be denied
Self deception
She who must be obeyed

Both quirks are manifestations of Keith Devlin's "patterns at a fourth level of abstraction."

a shadow of the world brought to us by evolution

1950's Jean Piaget asked what specific human skills evolution developed that let us comprehend the world the way we (sometimes) do, especially those skills which lead to science and mathematics
...and how it managed that task.
Human information functions are biological.
2000 Keith Devlin points to four distinct levels of abstraction that represent levels of increasing sophistication of human recognition of patterns in the world, 
...patterns that lead us to ever more effective interactions with that world.
        Metaphor (language)
1970's Richard Feynman became "a volcano" (according to his wife) as he read through the seventeen shelf-feet of K-12 science textbooks he reviewed for the California State Curriculum Commission, all of which
... were written by people "who don't know what the hell they are talking about."
Elementary science comes out of evolution's human brain--capable of abstraction leading to more and more complete grasp of the world's patterns (to let man avoid Mother Nature's traps)
...but even the "experts" who wrote those texts only rarely got it right

The scientist who uses science sees the concepts at the fourth level of abstraction.
Teachers and learners who do not use the science almost always work in the third level.
"He who can does; he who cannot teaches."

Desirable products of imagination often seem real when they are not.
Science is not simply discovery of facts 
Or learning of facts.
It's seeing certain abstract relationships
Seeing patterns that exist much deeper than our perceptions.
Science is simple, but seldom seen.
Science is simple but subtle.
Mathematics, too, is something very different from what it's usually thought to be.
Mathematics is the discovery of patterns at the edges of human comprehension.

What is the "fourth level"?

The Boolean relationship of implication is an example of a fourth-level abstraction.

See it seen, and see it missed:
Look at a fascinating "difference of opinion" concerning an intriguing
puzzle from Scientific American.

The above exploration of misunderstood elementary logic
started with the problems of medical quackery.  Pseudoscience
has very broad consequences.  It can affect us all.

Can we identify those arguments that are stuffed with oversimplification in the service of confirming wonderful wishes?  Can we identify logical imperatives being missed by arguments which are blind to that logic?  Can we demonstrate the correctness of our identifications? 

Our Web sites have pages that explore these issues.  A few of those pages look at some of the broader consequences.

The Trap of Overspecialization (trap of oversimplification)...  Students only rarely understand the science they learn and the consequences can be tragic.  The truly terrible tragedies will come from failure to realize the importance of fourth-level abstractions. Ethnocentrism and trends that seem to be leading toward "the greatest war in the history of the world"--recent comment by physicist J. Archibald Wheeler.

  "Nature is full of traps for the beast that cannot learn."


Ethnocentrism has the power to destroy humanity.  A powerful nation must have decision makers who see beyond the trap of ethnocentric blindness.

Scalars, Vectors and Tensors

Good - bad is not a scalar measure.  Nor is large - small.  Or red - green.  Scalar measure is rarer that we think.  But it's a rare person, indeed, that recognizes a vector, tensor, quaternion, or other multicomponent measure when looking squarely at it.  Understanding measure as position on a line was a pretty big step in the development of mathematics.  The universes that lie beyond that step is one of the biggest terra incognitas awaiting exploration by those outside the fields of study that force the student to work there.  Furthermore, it's a territory that can spawn ugly cognitive viruses which can cause dangerous cognitive diseases.

"Each person is free to select the one component out of millions that puts him or her 'at the top.'"
Advertising is our culture's predominate mode of communication, of manipulating behaviors.

What would an extraterrertrial visitor from an intellectually advanced species examine to judge the human species?  The ways we use information to adjust behavior, of course.  What would that advanced visitor conclude from its analysis of our advertising?

"Accentuate the positive, elmininate the negative, and don't mess around with Mr. Inbetween."

Fourth-level abstractions, when discovered,
reveal subtleties of kinds never before suspected.