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Posted by Aurino Souza on September 6, 2002 17:05:08 UTC

Hi Mario,

This is an open forum. Why does everyone apologize for butting in, when that's the whole idea? I don't get it. In any case, it's nice to hear from you.

What do you mean by "communication?" What do you mean by "science?" Are you sure your concepts are the same as mine? Then how can you make such a statement? :)

That's my whole point! We're in the middle of a big fog, that's for sure. The question is, can we do something about it?

Beautifully worded. However, as nice a picture it is to imagine science as a purely mathematical enterprise, I think it is incredibly difficult to attain.

I didn't say science should be a purely mathematical enterprise, far from it. All I'm saying is that it's not always fair to assume people know what we are talking about. I think it's fair to assume everyone knows what "2" means. I don't think it's fair to assume everyone knows what "time began X billion years ago" means. See, even physics suffers from the same problem, although to a smaller extent.

Have you ever seen the source code for a computer program? A street map? A cookbook? A musical score? A bank statement? These are all examples of what I mean by "good language". The basic attribute of a "good language" is that it leaves little or no room for ambiguity. They still need interpretation, but they do not support conflicting interpretations. That is, either you get it or you don't, it's very difficult to "get it wrong", so to speak.

Now look at this forum and show me some examples of good language. I doubt you'll find any. (hint: skip Alan's posts :-)

We can express physics through math because we're talking about *relatively* simple causality. I throw a ball up, I know that it will decelerate at 9.81 m/s. We detect the strength of an EM field and know the strength of the source, we can determine the source's distance using the inverse square law. In fields like biology, you can't do that as easily, since the processes are exponentially more complex. I mean, try to write a mathematical formula to express the exact path natural selection will take. I fear that such a venture is beyond the limit of our small minds.

You got me wrong (the funny thing is, the more people misunderstand me the more I'm convinced I'm right)

Complexity has nothing to do with it. Sure, math is extremely simple and that severly limits its use, no argument with that. But have you ever stopped to think how is it that people can drive from 236 Elm St in Jackson Hole, to 632 Main St in Louisville, without making a single mistake? Isn't that amazingly complex?

Good communication is key to any human enterprise. Without it, all we're left with is a meaningless mess.

In the end, I agree that communication flaws are huge problems, but in many areas I see no way out of the woods.

The first step in solving a problem is acknowledging it exists. I don't think that is happening yet. Whether it can be solved remains to be seen, but we should never assume everyone is as stupid and limited as we are. Every now and then a genius is born.

I disagree with you that using communication to solving communication errors is counterproductive. Some concepts are easier to get across than others, as long as both parties are willing to mentally make room for error.

It's not that you can't solve communication errors by communicating more, the problem has to do with the approach to communication. People too often assume that subjective concepts are easily understood by others, and that despite huge amounts of evidence to the contrary. I think the problem has an easy solution, although in some cases it might be a bit laborious. First, concentrate on objectivity, on things we can point to and say "look, this is what I'm talking about". Second, whenever objectivity can't be achieved, stick to logic and logic alone. Third, when the previous two can't be achieved, forget about it, unless you're writing poetry.

Oops! Am I following my own prescription? I'm not sure.

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