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[livejournal.com profile] coalescent reminded me that I've been meaning to blog this for a while but it got buried in the thesis panic: Het Grauniad ran an article fairly similar to my competition asking for single things that are essential for people to know. Incidentally, [livejournal.com profile] gnimmel, if you're reading this, you haven't claimed your prize!

So the Guardian asks What is the one thing everyone should learn about science?. Of course, being a national newspaper they asked famous scientists rather than random people on my flist, but it's very much the same kind of idea. (Though my competition started off from science I didn't restrict it quite so much.) It's interesting how people have interpreted the question; some of them are quite meta and want to tell people things about science, whereas others pick scientific facts, ie observations about how the world works as interpreted by science.

I don't like a lot of the suggestions in the article. Some of them are very much playing up to damaging stereotypes of what science is. Science in some people's statements is coming across as a sort of peevish old man who wants to keep people from believing anything that gives them comfort or joy, whether religion or spirituality or the paranormal. Very Gradgrind, really. And that very much ties into the other stereotype, that science is a list of Facts that are True because they're handed down from on high and not to be contradicted. Which basically makes science hard to distinguish from dogmatism. So I rather like Ridley's: Science is not a catalogue of facts, but a search for new mysteries, and Maynard's paraphrase of Popper: Erecting hypotheses that can be falsified, and designing experiments capable of doing so, is the hallmark of the true scientist.

Perhaps a similar exercise is [livejournal.com profile] misia asking What's your definition of "having sex"?. She gets some very interesting and provocative answers. It seems to me that in some contexts at least it's a fairly important question, and certainly it's a word that pretty much everyone needs to use conversationally some of the time, and there's really very little consensus on it.

So, anyone want to try a soundbite short definition of either science or sex? Or both, if you're feeling ambitious. It's something to ponder, anyway.

(no subject)

Date: 2005-04-14 11:26 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] khalidz0r.livejournal.com
I believe science is the knowledge or information achieved through a systematic approach that is sound during the time in which this knowledge or information was achieved.

In computer science we distinguish between knowledge and information; information is just organized data, knowledge is more like the behavior extracted from this collected information. So just an example, and probably a bad one, saying that the melting temprature of water is 100C (Given the definition of melting, and the definition of temprature, etc - obviously) is information. However, the fact that some things melt at a certain temprature is knowledge.

Having sex is well, something dependant on the person himself/herself, and the person(s) he/she is interacting with. So it's hard to find a reasonable definition for it. I am no expert in the area, unfortunately, so I'll just shut up about that. :P

(no subject)

Date: 2005-04-14 02:21 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rysmiel.livejournal.com
So just an example, and probably a bad one, saying that the melting temprature of water is 100C

Boiling, surely ? At standard pressure etc.

This time of year in this part of the world, I really feel reminded that oh, yes, this is a planet where water is liquid some of the time.

(no subject)

Date: 2005-04-14 03:38 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] khalidz0r.livejournal.com
Opps, sorry, yes, I meant boiling. :P

(no subject)

Date: 2005-04-14 03:32 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] coalescent.livejournal.com
I believe science is the knowledge or information achieved through a systematic approach that is sound during the time in which this knowledge or information was achieved

I don't think scientific knowledge is qualitatively different than other types of knowledge. So, I'd prefer to say that science is the systematic and methodical process by which knowledge about a chosen thing (for very broad values of 'thing') is gained. And technology is the application of that knowledge.

(no subject)

Date: 2005-04-14 03:34 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] coalescent.livejournal.com
I don't think scientific knowledge is qualitatively different than other types of knowledge.

And as soon as I posted, I realised that was a really stupid statement; of course scientific knowledge is different, in that it's gained by repeatable tests. But I'm still more comfortable describing the process as science, rather than the body of results.

(no subject)

Date: 2005-04-14 12:22 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] gnimmel.livejournal.com
Sorry, I've been frightfully behind with the livejournal thingy. I'm catching up slowly, honest :)

(no subject)

Date: 2005-04-14 12:56 pm (UTC)
ext_8103: (Default)
From: [identity profile] ewx.livejournal.com
I'm not sure I have a definition as such, it's one of those ‘I know it when I see it’ things. If I did then it might be one of those things that's a collection of factors rather than any clear lines, with orgasms and genitals being the more important of them, and intent being quite important too. Nakedness doesn't seem like a good defining factor, though it's probably an indicating one.

(no subject)

Date: 2005-04-14 01:10 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] pseudomonas.livejournal.com
You clearly have a much more interesting experience of science than me :)

(no subject)

Date: 2005-04-14 02:20 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rysmiel.livejournal.com
Nakedness doesn't seem like a good defining factor, though it's probably an indicating one.

So what about all of us people who just find clothes uncomfortable and avoid them where possible for that reason ? I also dislike this attitude because it muddies the waters for those of us who like to give and receive backrubs without necessarily having any sexual element whatsoever.

(no subject)

Date: 2005-04-14 02:25 pm (UTC)
ext_8103: (Default)
From: [identity profile] ewx.livejournal.com
Err, hence “not defining”.

(no subject)

Date: 2005-04-14 07:16 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rysmiel.livejournal.com
Yeah, but "probably indicating" is still stronger than I'm comfortable with; I want to live in more places where it can be seen as "entirely orthogonal to".

(no subject)

Date: 2005-04-15 12:09 am (UTC)
ext_8103: (Default)
From: [identity profile] ewx.livejournal.com
I agree that nakedness and sex are well treated as orthogonal. I really do mean to exclude "indications" completely from definitions. If God went round painting everyone who had sex bright orange then orangeness would be an indication of sex, as I'm using the term, but wouldn't become part of my definition. I'd like to think that there's an implicit recognition that people can buy and use orange body paint, or remove their clothes in company, and in neither case be considered to be having sex, in there.

(no subject)

Date: 2005-04-14 02:44 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rysmiel.livejournal.com
A lot of what we're debating is the dividing line between engaging in sexual activities generally and actually having sex (though some are arguing that this distinction is not meaningful anyway.)

I don't think I would see it as a meaningful distinction - I've never really got what might motivate someone to be sexual thus far and no farther. As I was saying elsewhere, if you want a quick definition, sex is a form of focus. I should go say that on [livejournal.com profile] misia's journal, but I have to go talk about my summer student's project in ten minutes.

In a situation which is clearly not sexual in the first place, nudity doesn't magically turn it into sex.

I do twitch about this, just because people have such a wide range of ideas about what's "clearly not sexual" - there do seem to be some people who think backrubs default are, frex, the whole

Or to be naked with her friend in bed
An hour or more, not meaning any harm?


bit in Othello has always been something I found personally offensive because it strikes out a number of good things I have valued a lot and would not want mistaken for things they are not.

(no subject)

Date: 2005-04-15 12:22 am (UTC)
ext_8103: (Default)
From: [identity profile] ewx.livejournal.com

I think it's more that once nudity is involved I'm that much more likely to consider the question as to whether what is going on is sex, than that the presence of nudity will tip the balance as to whether it is sex. A fact about perception rather than interpretation, then. I guess I may be on weak ground in distinguishing the two, and perhaps it is even that perception that irks [livejournal.com profile] rysmiel even when it does not affect my ultimate interpretation. (Well, I claim it doesn't, I'm assuming that I know my own mind well enough.)

And, well, back to "I know it when I see it": all this theorizing seems rather distant from the actual nitty gritty! But then while there've been situations where boundaries existed, I don't think I've been in situations where the kind of very precisely defined boundary you mentioned were required.

(no subject)

Date: 2006-01-10 03:50 pm (UTC)
ext_8103: (Default)
From: [identity profile] ewx.livejournal.com

(Coming back to this after you linked to it from a more recent post.)

I've been doing some nude photography lately with a number of male and female subjects. (SGO naked calendar, which started out as a joke but a friend decided should actually be done.) Obviously it isn't sex, and the presence of nudity doesn't in any way make it so.

Indeed it feels strikingly non-sexual, much more so than, for instance, seeing a picture of a nude pretty MOTAS might do. Obviously that's from my point of view behind a camera, I can't speak for the subjects! I don't really find this that unexpected, but it does seem interesting in any case.

If we really want to get a handle on my definition, such as it might be, I think the answer is to come up with a collection of situations - narratives, even - and rate them all as yes/no/maybe, and see if any less vague notions can be identified.

Thank you so much!

Date: 2005-04-14 02:17 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] istara.livejournal.com
for your answer to my LJ help query. It was really kind of you to answer so quickly.

(no subject)

Date: 2005-04-14 05:16 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rysmiel.livejournal.com
Gosh, that's a good thread on [livejournal.com profile] misia's journal, though I've been channeling Nero Wolfe word-usage grumpiness on it as much as I've had anything to say to the point.

(no subject)

Date: 2005-04-14 07:15 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rysmiel.livejournal.com
There do seem to be an awful lot of different ways of defining sex and of drawing lines in relationship agreements coming out there, and indeed in general; which is much of the reason why my own position is a minimally defined starting point for further debate rather than adopting something larger, looking at what various people say they have agreed to there, I think working from a basis such as many of those would have cut back on a number of the things I have most appreciated happening to me in the last ten years or so - both sexual and in some cases non. Which is not to say anything about how well these agreements work for the people in question, just that they are not a priori for me.

You are quite right about "platonic", and I have recanted and used it that way myself a fair amount, I just do not like to. Wrt "fidelity", though, I think that's still a usage worth defending in other contexts than strictly that of whom one sleeps with, because what that usage can carry with it is making all considerations of the concept of faithfulness itself, not just whichever word one uses for it, relate primarily to promises about sex and only secondarily to other things; I've seen this attitude from too many places and I find it utterly hateful, because I work hard to stay faithful to, frex, the commitment to do my job as well as I can, and to be so good a friend as I can to all my friends, and I hate any way of doing things that makes all of those by definition subordinate to the question of whom one sleeps with.

[ OK, I know, set RANT=OFF. ]

(no subject)

Date: 2005-04-14 07:22 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] shreena.livejournal.com
Defining sex.. Well, if we're going to go with the whole "meaning of a word is in its use", then for me there's a difference between how I would use the word "sexual" and how I would use the phrase "having sex". The adjective is, for me, more about intention - you can look at someone in a sexual way, you can touch their face in a sexual way and, of course, you can do all of the obvious things like oral sex/mutual masturbation/masturbation in a sexual way. But, for some reason, if I'd stopped short of penetrative sex on any given occasion for whatever reason, I don't think I'd claim to "have had sex", I'd probably call it "sexual stuff" instead. I don't intellectually think that there ought to be a difference between activities that bring one to an orgasm depending on penetration but the usage of the phrase "having sex" does in general seem to refer to penetrative sex specifically and so I tend to follow that when I use the phrase. For what it's worth, I think the way the phrase is used is slowly changing, mostly because same sex couples are using it to refer primarily to oral sex/mutual masturbation.

(no subject)

Date: 2005-04-14 08:11 pm (UTC)
ext_1771: Joe Flanigan looking A-Dorable. (fred by isabel0329)
From: [identity profile] monanotlisa.livejournal.com
Science is not a catalogue of facts, but a search for new mysteries

but of course it is! & :-)

well, daughter of two natural scientists (chemistry) here.

Soundbite

Miscellaneous. Eclectic. Random. Perhaps markedly literate, or at least suffering from the compulsion to read any text that presents itself, including cereal boxes.

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