Belief or doubt, which is more likely to yield truth?

Discussion in 'The Backstage' started by Biddlin, Jan 27, 2019.

  1. Biddlin

    Biddlin Well-Known Member

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    I read an article this morning about a chiropractic treatment that rendered a teenager partially paralyzed and resulted in his death. An extreme case, to be sure, but what struck me were the statements of the parents and practitioner that the kid's doubts about chiropractic and not their actions caused his demise.
    The whole basis of Palmer chiropractic has been debunked for the better part of a century by those doubting scientists who want repeatable results in double blind studies and who found that "subluxation" or misalignment of bones has nothing to do with disease.
    I would never allow my kids or myself to be "treated" by a witch doctor, and I cannot see much difference in chiropractic, acupuncture or most other "alternative medicine."
    So here's my question to you: Does mere belief make something true? If you believe that tonewood makes a guitar sound better, does it really? Does it just work for believers?
    Before you think, "Biddlin's just trolling us." keep in mind that quantum physicists tell us merely observing an event changes that event.
    Weizmann Institute researchers built a tiny device measuring less than one micron in size, which had a barrier with two openings. They then sent a current of electrons towards the barrier. The "observer" in this experiment wasn't human. Institute scientists used for this purpose a tiny but sophisticated electronic detector that can spot passing electrons. The quantum "observer's" capacity to detect electrons could be altered by changing its electrical conductivity, or the strength of the current passing through it.

    Apart from "observing," or detecting, the electrons, the detector had no effect on the current. Yet the scientists found that the very presence of the detector-"observer" near one of the openings caused changes in the interference pattern of the electron waves passing through the openings of the barrier. In fact, this effect was dependent on the "amount" of the observation: when the "observer's" capacity to detect electrons increased, in other words, when the level of the observation went up, the interference weakened; in contrast, when its capacity to detect electrons was reduced, in other words, when the observation slackened, the interference increased.

    Thus, by controlling the properties of the quantum observer the scientists managed to control the extent of its influence on the electrons' behavior.
    I ask this as a profound skeptic and would appreciate your own thoughts, views and/or beliefs.
     
    Last edited: Jan 27, 2019
  2. donepearce

    donepearce Well-Known Member

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    This is all to do with the Wave Function, and the rate at which it collapses. Thee wave function is the description of the haziness of a particle, and the likelihood that it can be found at a location. While the wave function describes the particle, it doesn't actually exist at any location - it is effectively everywhere at once. The more massive the particle (or rather the particle plus any observing system), the shorter the time it can exist in this undefined state. Any act of observation, however slight, adds enough mass to the system to bring about essentially instant collapse to a particle at a location. Schroedinger's Cat is a clumsy thought experiment that tries to illustrate this, but fails in that despite being hidden, the cat is massive, and hence can't exists in the superposition state. It is therefore actually alive or dead in the box, not in an indeterminate state.

    So back to the electron. The degree of interaction directly determines the level to which it can be pinned down to a spot. In the classic Double Slit experiment (which every physics major will have performed), the electrons don't interact with anything until they hit the screen, so the wave description applies perfectly, and an interference pattern is seen. This is the fundamental experiment that proves the wave/particle duality in quantum mechanics.

    As for belief. Don't do it. Never. About anything. Always start from the null hypothesis - I withold belief until I see overwhelming evidence. Quantum mechanics has passed this test in Spades. It is probably the most accurate scientific theory ever discovered. Its accuracy has been compared to measuring the distance from New York to San Francisco to within the thickness of a human hair.
     
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  3. SG standard

    SG standard Well-Known Member

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    The most eloquent description of alternative medicine I've heard comes from Tim Minchin: Alternative medicine is medicine that either hasn't been proven to work, or has been proven not to work. Medicine that's been proven to work is called.......... Medicine.

    The problem with 'treatments' like homeopathy - which has a big following, even amongst doctors - is that it confuses the effect of suggestion and placebo with pseudoscience explanations. This is dangerous. Interesting interview with a German doctor who set out to write a book establishing homeopathy's credentials (yes, that's how strongly some doctors believe in this nonsense), but ended up writing a book debunking it.

    At the same time, belief in outcomes has been shown to be a significant factor in health treatment outcomes that extend to physical as well as mental health. Equally, people living stressful lives, but not believing this will harm them have life expectancies matching those that are not stressed. Whereas, people living stressful lives and believing this is bad for their health have reduced life expectancy. Now, there are physiological reason for this - but the belief is correlated with the outcome: The belief impacts reality.

    At his point we need to separate out what we mean by 'true'. For a start, we haven't evolved to encounter 'reality' as such, and it's pretty difficult for us to do so, as individuals. So we can encounter something in our perception as a 'truth', which is not accurate to what is there to be experienced in the outside world. However, our encountering it - our perceiving it - is as true within our consciousness as any other content of consciousness. I think it was Anil Seth (neuroscientist) who described the brain's generation of our perception as being like a controlled hallucination - that helps us to understand the challenge of 'experiencing truth'.

    A brief example of this: Two groups of participants were given wine to drink whilst their brains were scanned in an fMRI scanner. All were told the research was into the effects of alcohol on the brain. One group were told the wine was an expensive French wine, with descriptions of the grapes growing on the south side of a valley, etc., etc. The other group were given an apology; sorry we can only afford a cheap wine for this experiment. In fact, the researchers were interested in the differences in their experiences: In both groups, regions of the brain associated with pleasure lit up, however for the group told they were drinking expensive wine, those regions lit up far more. So they literally experienced more pleasure - they didn't simply imagine or believe it, it was actually present in their brains - but it was caused by a belief, not by reality (the wine was the same for both groups). This has obvious implications for guitar mods - if you believe the hype, you may just experience it too!

    All this is fine when it comes to filling up guitar forums with endless talk about tonewood, pickups, and the merits of all sorts of guitar mods, but mere belief is not a great way to determine whether or not your kids should be vaccinated.

    As for the topic title, belief will only get you to the truth by pure chance, whereas doubt always has the potential to lead you there.
     
  4. donepearce

    donepearce Well-Known Member

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    This is why you don't find the word true used by scientists. There is an objective reality out there, but our interaction with it comes by way of our senses, which are just lousy. Placebos work, even when the patient has been told they are placebos. The white coat of the doctor is all it takes.

    It's a pretty good idea to try and make your internal model of the world coincide as closely as possible to the actual world, but it isn't easy, and you have to be constantly checking your credulity.
     
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  5. iblive

    iblive Well-Known Member

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    I do believe there is some validity to the chioropractic arts. Not that I would personally go to one. My issue being. After the initial visit the plan is to come back in a couple weeks for an adjustment...... come back again in a couple weeks for an adjustment..... well... you get the picture.

    Years ago I had a couple issues with my back. One was a severe muscle spasm. The other a slightly pinched nerve. As it turned out. My general practitioner doctor also had the letters after his name to be a bone cracker.... which he did. Then he gave me a sheet of low stress stretching exercises to do at home as therapy. His words, “my goal is to make you feel better now and with these exercise I won’t need to see you again.”
     
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  6. donepearce

    donepearce Well-Known Member

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    I reckon that expertise doesn't really come into this. You just have to keep changing doctors until you find the one whose pet theories happen to coincide with your actual condition. My lower back problems were eventually fixed by a sports physio who identified a postural problem with my neck. Go figure.
     
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