Forrest W. Young

Professor, Quantitative Psychology

Truth & Consequences

 

Truth

  1. Everything is illusion

    • There is no rational scientific way to know the true nature of anything.
    • Everything we perceive is just perception of reality, not reality itself.
    • Reality exists independent of observation, but can't be seen.
    • Observation changes reality.

  2. The statement "everything is illusion" is itself an illusion.
    ( So is this statement ... etc., etc... )

  3. Rational-Scientific search for truth is not convergent (over time). Analogy: Hill climbing algorithm trying to find the highest point of the ocean. Even on land, the landscape changes slowly over time.

  4. The scientific method has been useful, however. It has provided an understanding of realilty which has been beneficial to mankind for the last 200 years.

    Will it continue to be useful?

  5. The final and most important truth:

    • If
      pi=3.14159... and
      e = 2.718281828... and
      i = sqrt(-1)
    • Then
      1 = -e raised to the pi*i power!

    In their book "Mathematics and the Imagination", Edward Kasner and James Newman call this formula "elegant, concise and full of meaning". They also quote a remark by Benjamin Peirce, the Harvard Mathematician, "Gentleman", he said, after writing this formula on the blackboard, "that is surely true, but is is absolutely paradoxical; we cannot understand it, and we don't know what it means, but we have proved it, and therefore we know it must be the truth."

 

Consequences

  1. I play ... I work ...
    I take my work seriously ... but not too ...
    I do what I do because it is fun ... and because its useful.
    (but, it's all an illusion)!

      When we play, we do not ask why we are playing ... we just play.
      Play serves no moral code except that strange code which,
      for some unknown reason, imposes itself on the play.

      You will search in vain through scientific literature for hints
      of motivation. And as for the strange moral code observed by
      scientists, what could be stranger than an abstract regard
      for truth in a world full of concealment and deception.

      Can it be that all the great scientists of the past were really playing a
      game, a game in which the rules were written not by man but by nature?

      In submitting to your consideration the idea that the mind is at
      its best when playing, I am myself playing. And that makes me feel
      that what I am saying may have in it an element of truth.

      John Lighton Synge

  2. I enjoy mathematics.

    Mathematical systems are internally consistent artificial systems with their own complete reality (though clearly, not real reality).

    But, Godel's proof lets us know that a mathematical system can't be both internally consistent and complete (sigh...)

    Keep in mind, though, that mathematics for its own sake isn't the goal in applied mathematical fields like Statistics and Psychometrics. We must always be able to relate the mathematics to reality (the real reality) so that we can determine its usefulness. And when the further development of a mathematical system isn't useful we should move on to something else. (See my adobe acrobat notes on The Future of Psychometrics).

  3. I particulary enjoy programming.

    With programming, things are clearly right or wrong --- no gray --- all black and white.

    Unfortunately, that's not really true at advanced levels. With complicated programming systems all you know for sure is that the system isn't right! The probability that there are bugs is so close to one that you just know they are lurking around somewhere!

  4. But most of all, I like Data Visualization and Analysis.

    I think the biggest problem in the social sciences is that researchers either study meaningful questions sloppily, or meaningless questions carefully.

    I believe that Data Analysis and Visualization can help researchers in the social sciences optain carefully reasoned answers to their carefully constructed scientific questions: Meaningful answers to meaningful questions.

    I enjoy Data Analysis and Visualization because I enjoy helping others find meaningful answers to meaningful questions.

    What I enjoy most is inventing methods that have the potential to improve and expand the kinds of meaningful answers that people can obtain to their meaningful questions.

 

A Poetic Summary

seeing data - asking truth - gaining insight
forrest w. young


The Moral of the Story

    Don't take this scientific stuff too seriously, especially in the Social Sciences. Enjoy it, but be sceptical. And in Statistics and Psychometrics the best one can do is to help others find meaningful answers to their meaningful questions. Data Analysis and Visualization is one way to do that.