Science Fiction is Not About Science - Page 6


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Thread: Science Fiction is Not About Science

  1. #51
    Quote Originally Posted by epimetheus View Post
    But if the data is insufficient to reach a conclusion, as you suggest, then we cannot make the claim that overall 'goodness and badness' have not changed: you don't get to have it both ways. Unless you have data to the contrary, then please share.

    True i have no data to back this up. I doubt any such data could exist, given how ill-defined are morality, culture, literature etc. But a lack of evidence cuts both ways. We don't know it does, we don't know it doesn't, we are both talking from opinion.
    It actually doesn't cut both ways...

    Otherwise known as Russell's Teapot: In any situation where there exists reasonable doubt as to whether something has changed it is incumbent - always - on the person making the claim to provide the proof.

    If I was claiming that people's farts are smellier now than they were in 1975 because we eat more garlic and then when you doubt my 'evidence' my response to you is to say "well neither of us has any real data, we're both just talking from opinion" you would hopefully think I am bonkers. But you could not prove it.

    Opinion is fine but it is plain disingenuous to assert, as you have repeatedly in this thread, that what you are claiming is scientifically proven and that I would need to prove you are wrong when you have done nothing to prove you are right or even close to right.

    Quote Originally Posted by epimetheus View Post
    What is that evidence? I'd like to see it so i know what strength of evidence you deem satisfactory since you disregarded the data i gave before (not that's there's anything wrong with demanding rigorous evidence).
    You mean...the evidence that being a kind and generous person is harder if you are poor?

    I don't know where to start. I don't suppose many dirt poor people are donating to food banks or running marathons for charity or volunteering as aid workers or fostering children or worrying about 'giving back to society' do you?

    I could give you evidence if you want, but all you have to do is Google 'link between poverty and murder rate'. Or 'link between poverty and human trafficking'. Or 'link between poverty and family breakdown' and so on.
    Last edited by luckyscars; February 27th, 2019 at 08:29 AM.
    "If you don't like my peaches, don't shake my tree."

  2. #52
    Quote Originally Posted by JustRob View Post
    I defer to your evidently greater knowledge of the subject, which is actually well outside my personal comfort zone, as I have often explained. However, while "science fiction" may be a relatively new term in the field of literature this style of writing has effectively existed for a very long time as "romance", that older term simply meaning "not realistic" as opposed to being about affections between couples as it does now. Also, speculation isn't really futuristic just because a subject isn't understood yet. For example, people have been speculating about paranormal phenomena for an extremely long time and ghost stories can hardly be seen as futuristic.

    I was intrigued to discover, when I had my strange apparently precognitive experience involving Don Quixote and Cervantes, that he had actually written that novel to persuade writers to move away from writing old fashioned romances and to focus on modern novels based on realism. The idea that precognition is possible is of course itself now regarded as a romantic notion by many people, so to use Don Quixote for a practical demonstration of it in reality was typical of the devious way that my mind works, suggesting that romance and realism are in fact subjective concepts rather than concretely distinct as Cervantes apparently saw them.

    I think that it is a shame that the term "romance" as a genre has shifted in meaning and has been superseded by much more specific terms such as "science fiction" and "fantasy". Science is just a particular way of looking at reality and fantasy implies an extreme regardless of what one is looking at, but romances in the old-fashioned sense cover all aspects of the human condition, which is itself real but not simply physical, regardless of science and everyday experiences. The response to the OP probably should then be that science fiction is about the human condition because it is one form of romance, using the old meaning for that genre name. As an example of the mess that genre names have got into, all those currently popular stories about werewolves are romances, to use the old genre name, but nowadays they are probably regarded as fantasies even though they require scientifically fictional components and often seem to involve romantic, in the modern sense, relationships as well.

    So, it isn't that science fiction is not about science but that romance is not specifically about science, but it often uses fictional science to achieve its purpose and nowadays gets labelled as science fiction as a result. No doubt Cervantes would therefore also have argued against the need for science fiction had he lived in our time rather than centuries ago, so that certainly isn't a new issue, just a new genre name. Personally I never saw my own story as science fiction but as an old-fashioned romance, but one has to move with the times and terminology even when they move in an illogical direction, it seems, and as a consequence one ends up in discussions like this one, so please pardon my Quixotic manner.
    I hope you don't think I was being rude/arrogant with what I said, Rob. I certainly don't have any greater knowledge. And, having read this post, I agree with all the points you made here.
    "If you don't like my peaches, don't shake my tree."

  3. #53
    The thing about all these genres is that they merely describe the surface story, Don Quixote and Gulliver were political commentaries, not just romances, or 'fiction' as we call them now, Chaucer wrote poetry, sure, but he probably got himself tortured and executed for what he wrote once Henry got rid of Richard. The consequences of political writing are not so extreme nowadays, at least, not where I live, but if your views are too far from the norm they can still be unpleasant if the story is too immediate, sometimes easier to get a point across if you take it far from the here and now. Science fiction does that well, great political writing sometimes.
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  4. #54
    Quote Originally Posted by luckyscars View Post
    It actually doesn't cut both ways...

    Otherwise known as Russell's Teapot: In any situation where there exists reasonable doubt as to whether something has changed it is incumbent - always - on the person making the claim to provide the proof.

    If I was claiming that people's farts are smellier now than they were in 1975 because we eat more garlic and then when you doubt my 'evidence' my response to you is to say "well neither of us has any real data, we're both just talking from opinion" you would hopefully think I am bonkers. But you could not prove it.
    Russell's teapot applies to claims that are unfalsifiable, such as the existence of an utterly undetectable teapot somewhere in space. While i acknowledge there is no data to support the story claim, and it would be hard to gather any such data, that is not the same as the phenomena being impossible to prove one way or another - just very difficult.

    But you are right in terms of burden of proof. It is for me to provide data, which i have acknowledged several times is currently lacking. I would say, though, that the claim is not nearly as absurd as you claim. There are people (like myself), who report developing morality through engaging with stories, and there's the scientific framework of meme theory in which it could work. Scholars in psychology have also floated this idea before too.

    Not evidence, no. But not absurd either.

    If you claim farts are smellier now than in 1975 because garlic consumption has increased then all we need to do is conduct some experiments to confirm garlic indeed makes stinky farts, then measure the quantity of garlic consumption per capita then and now - data very likely to exist. Bonus points for identifying the causal agent in garlic that causes the stink. I might think you strange for being interested in farts, but not bonkers.


    Quote Originally Posted by luckyscars View Post
    Opinion is fine but it is plain disingenuous to assert, as you have repeatedly in this thread, that what you are claiming is scientifically proven and that I would need to prove you are wrong when you have done nothing to prove you are right or even close to right.
    I have repeatedly acknowledged a lack of data. I have only made one empirical claim and that was regarding the improvement of morality in humanity over time. I provided evidence for that claim, which you rejected. Please cite where i have otherwise asserted what i have said is scientifically proven.


    Quote Originally Posted by luckyscars View Post
    You mean...the evidence that being a kind and generous person is harder if you are poor?

    I don't know where to start. I don't suppose many dirt poor people are donating to food banks or running marathons for charity or volunteering as aid workers or fostering children or worrying about 'giving back to society' do you?
    Where i come from rich people are stereotyped as being greedy. The first thing that came up when i googled was this research, claiming poor people are more charitable, but i don't have time to hunt down the original article. But the main reason i wanted you to provide the evidence was to see what quality of evidence you deem sufficient for such debates.
    Last edited by epimetheus; February 27th, 2019 at 09:54 AM. Reason: Typos

  5. #55
    Quote Originally Posted by bazz cargo View Post
    All genres of fiction are an exploration of the human species. Science Fiction has a special place, especially the speculative versions, in pointing out the folly making poor decisions. Mad Max is a warning of what will happen when we finally crash the world economy.

    Science Fiction is the perfect place to explore gender issues, slavery, corporate greed and misinformation. Don't knock sci fi, it will save the world.

    As an example of exploring tricky subjects I recommend a book that is so dated in attitudes and still thought provoking, and emotionally provoking.
    R A Heinlien's Farnam's Freehold. It is an historical document and as such will offend anyone looking to be offended.

    Anyone writing fiction to make a point?
    If you analyze carefully, all good sci fi is about relationships and underlying theme / premise.

  6. #56
    Another thought... I wonder how many modern inventions are based on old Sci Fi gadgets. Did Star Trek Provide a template for the mobile phone? Did HG Wells foretell the Laser Beam? Will Mary Shelly have the last laugh?

    Anyone think up something they think is a possible future widget?

  7. #57
    how about 2 types of (modular) generator (systems)
    intended to leverage skyscraper wind tunnels
    and runoff?

    *sci fi, where every thing is fiction*

  8. #58
    I suppose it is also true that most sci. fi. is not about science because when they deal with mechanical innovation it is about technology, not science. Science consists of a methodology which attempts to devise and carry out experiments which would disprove a theory if they did not have the result predicted by it. Brilliant theories with stunning technological applications make much better fiction.
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  9. #59
    Quote Originally Posted by bazz cargo View Post
    Another thought... I wonder how many modern inventions are based on old Sci Fi gadgets. Did Star Trek Provide a template for the mobile phone? Did HG Wells foretell the Laser Beam? Will Mary Shelly have the last laugh?
    You know, Bazz, I always think this is kind of an overestimation...

    Star Trek was made at a time when phones were well-established, so the idea of mobile phones wasn't really that much of a jump. In any case, the idea of portable phones had been around for donkeys years.

    HG Wells's notion of a laser isn't really a laser in any meaningful sense but rather a weapon that involves the direction of energy - a 'heat ray'. The Ancient Greeks knew about directed energy.

    Correct me if I am wrong, but Wells's description doesn't really describe how it works vis a vis lasers (which, in fairness to him, would be strange in the context of that story) but only what it does, which is create a beam using a parabolic mirror? He describes this as being 'like a lighthouse'. The lighthouse simile is telling as it probably suggests where he got the idea from. Combining the idea of a 'beam of light' with the transfer of deadly heat is just an extension of what anybody who had ever held a magnifying glass up to the sun already knows.

    I know I sound like I have a bias against sci-fi and I honestly, truly don't (I enjoy it) but the idea of science fiction predicting future technology seems over-emphasized. IMO Science Fiction overall probably gets easily as much or more wrong about the future as it gets right. For every prediction of cell phones and lasers there's a prediction of hover boards and anti-gravity boots, together with a general failure to foresee things which are really central to our society - say, social media and climate change.
    "If you don't like my peaches, don't shake my tree."

  10. #60
    Quote Originally Posted by luckyscars View Post
    Correct me if I am wrong, but Wells's description doesn't really describe how it works vis a vis lasers (which, in fairness to him, would be strange in the context of that story) but only what it does, which is create a beam using a parabolic mirror? He describes this as being 'like a lighthouse'. The lighthouse simile is telling as it probably suggests where he got the idea from. Combining the idea of a 'beam of light' with the transfer of deadly heat is just an extension of what anybody who had ever held a magnifying glass up to the sun already knows.
    .
    Like I said, not really science fiction, but technology fiction.
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