- The massive training of everyone in sight
- The great control chart race
- Beating up the vendors
|SPC, Science™, and other panaceae|
It was belief in magic. It was "control chart-ism." If only we hang these Shewhart charts, magic will happen. Magic did happen. Whoever hung the charts eventually disappeared.
The Allegory of the VCD MachineOnce upon a time, TOF had the occasion to visit a computer assembly plant. He was proudly shown the Great Wall of Charts. See how many charts we have! It is only a matter of time before our problems go away. Huzzah!
TOF examined one of the charts. It was replete with signals of assignable causes: that is, causes not normally part of the cause-system. What was the assignable cause of this pattern? Blank looks. Did you investigate to discover the causes? Investigate?
These were not foolish people. They were quite bright. But they had forgotten that the operative word in "control chart" was "control," not "chart." They had confused the instrument with the objective.
A visit was paid to the process, which was currently rejecting many circuit boards. It was a VCD machine (variable-center distancing). The jaws plucked a component off a paper strip, inserted the leads through the holes in the circuit board, and crimped them on the other side. Then the circuit board re-centered two other holes under the jaws, ready for the next component off the tape. Behold its majestic glory:
(Geez, you really can find everything on the intertubes.)
TOF noticed a peculiar thing. As each board was stuffed, the operator would remove the board, place a yellow sticky arrow on it, then inspect the board. Sometimes he saw a smashed component (or whatever) and he placed a second sticky-arrow pointing to this. The number of defects was counted and plotted on a u-chart as defects per 100,000 insertions.
A question formed in the brain of TOF. Neurons crackled. Why did the operator place the first arrow before he inspected the board?
I don't know, the Host of TOF replied.
Shall we ask the operator? The Host was reluctant that he, an Engineer, should ask a lowly Machine Operator, but his curiosity eventually triumphed. The Operator pointed to the first marked component. That's the wrong component, he said. Design Engineering revised the board layout and changed the component to a different rating. But no one reprogrammed the Sequencer that tacks the components in order on the paper tape, so we're still inserting the old component here.
Every time they ran that board, 100% of them had to be reworked. Reprogramming the Sequencer was boring, and so after the excitement of board re-design and Engineering Change Orders and all the rest of the foo-foo, it fell between the cracks. The Solution? Reprogram the freaking Sequencer so it plucks the right component out of the bins. Duh? Additional solution: prepare a checklist for board re-design to flag all equipments and documentation that are to be revised or adjusted or reprogrammed as a result of the change.
Despite all the charts, they had not had statistical process control, but statistical wallpaper.
Yet their enthusiasm had been undoubted. Like the person who worships the intellect instead of using it, they admired the control charts without using them for actual, you know, control. Like cargo-cultists, they thought that by replicating the outward forms and rituals they could achieve the same results achieved by those who had mastered the substance. In effect, although the charts were crying out to them, things the chart did not show -- the specific defects involved, the lack of configuration control at the Sequencer, etc. -- had become invisible. They thought the answers were statistical! But a thermometer only tells you you're sick. It doesn't cure the sickness. Instruments do not act on their own.
For those who might want to noodle the substance of the SPC methodology, TOF recommends the classic work: The Western Electric Company SQC Handbook, by a writing committee headed by the revered Bonnie Small, who once received a standing ovation at a conference of the American Society for Quality Control, when a speaker noticed her in the audience and pointed her out. SQC was what SPC was called in its early days, but that word "quality" kind of spooked the turkey herd.
TOF also modestly notes that when he worked summers at Mack Printing Company, this was one of the many technical publications that were then printed there. TOF's father was pressroom superintendent, but this was not, repeat not, of any benefit to TOF, who received what we might call "character-building" work assignments, many of them involving steel wool and kerosene.
Which leads us to today's topic.
Scientism ReduxInstruments are useful. They are, in a word, instrumental. However, it is a mistake to suppose that if an instrument (or methodology) cannot see something, that something is not there. Or to suppose that if an instrument can see a particular kind of thing, that all things must be of that particular kind. Faithful Reader would not believe some of the things that have been plotted on control charts under the assumption that all data must be control-chartable.
An article on the website strangenotions, yclept Straw Man Scientism by "Qu Quine" proposes that scientism does not really exist and it is double-plus unfair it is to accuse atheists of practicing it. After which, a wretched horde of fanboys swarmed the commbox like the orcs from the black pits of Dwarrowdelf, and demonstrated empirically by their comments their undying and invincible commitment to scientism. Trashing poor Quine's larger point, they demand scientificalistic evidence for their favorite obsession: the existence of God, or (as they prefer to spell it to show clever they think they are) "god."
|Feyerabend, looking displeased |
with rampant scientism
Scientism, as TOF's Faithful Reader knows, is a quasi-religious belief in the omnicompetence of the techniques of natural science. That is, the beloved* conviction that the only real knowledge is that obtained through the tools of physics and chemistry. Thus is the wisdom or understanding garnered by history, art, literature, philosophy, and other pursuits at best "opinions" or "hypotheses" waiting to be tested using the methods of empirical science. In similar wise, did the Enlightened™ suppose that his medieval predecessor had been trying real hard to imitate Greco-Roman art and architecture, and failing miserably. Everybody else, it seems, is always trying to do what we like to do.
(*) Faithful Reader may also realize that "be-love" and "be-lief" are the same word, cognate with the German "ge-liebt."While often mistaken for a religious straw man for attacking atheism, the concept of scientism actually stems from the critiques of such luminaries as Wittgenstein, Feyerabend, Hayek, and Midgley, who saw it as an attack upon the humanities. It is the age-old war between Science and Humanism.
Aaron Darrishaw recognizes that scientism threatens to distort science into pseudoscience by pressing it into molds in which it doesn't fit. He provides a list of objects outside the domain of science similar to one oft proposed by TOF, much to the agitation of those other atheists who have not gotten the memo. Thus it is empirically false to say that "scientism" was something made up by the religious to beat on atheists. By asserting that there is no scientism, "Quine" asserts (by implication) that Feyerabend and the rest were deluded fools. Alex Rosenberg, for example, proudly proudly espouses scientism by name, as does chemist Peter Atkins. Others -- the Dawkins, Meyers, and the rest -- act out scientism while simultaneously decrying the descriptor. But they continually behave as if all questions were scientific questions. Like the man who possesses only a hammer everything they see looks like a nail.
Science vs. ScientiaStipulated, the Latin term scientia means simply "knowledge" and is one of the Three Intellective Virtues: Understanding, Knowledge, and Wisdom. (These are not synonyms.) This older usage survives in such terms as "political science," "military science," and even "the sweet science" sometimes used in reference to boxing. But in the Modern Ages, "science" as commonly used has contracted to mean "the natural sciences" only, with physics as the paradigm case. The Scientific Revolution spread to chemistry, somewhat so to biology (esp. in biophysics and biochemistry) and is much talked about though little practiced in the social "sciences." Operationally, it means "whatever people wearing white lab coats are doing."
Jacques Barzun noted in The House of Intellect that "scientific" has become an "approval word" and was being used simply to indicate that some product or proposal was "good." One can see this in how "science" expands or contracts to encompass things of which the speaker approves. Creationists will refer to "creation science," Marxists to "scientific socialism." When needful, even mathematics and engineering are incorporated into "science" or Science is redefined to mean "dealing with falsifiable hypotheses using data," by which definition a police detective or a building contractor is a scientist.Now natural science really is an fruitful way for gathering knowledge of many aspects of the natural world; viz., those which are measurable and controllable. The error, as TOF has noted before, lies in supposing that this it the whole of reality. Mathematics is not based on empirical evidence or repeatable experimentation; yet she achieves far more certain knowledge than the natural sciences. In fact, science relies upon mathematics in much the way that a lame man relies upon a walker. (Boo-yah!)
Now one of the commboxers to Qu Quine's essay, whom TOF will call "Max," made a number of comments in response to an opposing viewpoint that deserve to be examined as a case example of the scientism that Mr. Quine says does not exist.
The Blue MaxMax: [W]e are not required to take this business about foundation of reality or the rest of it seriously until you can demonstrate, with more than mere stories and reflections on those stories that you are actually discussing a real agent.
Like many devotees of what Midgley called "the Cult of the Cerebral," Max trips over a self-contradiction. If he does not take a "foundation of reality" seriously, what warrant has he to talk about a "real" agent? Or does he suppose that reality has no foundation?Max: Reason isn't our common ground, evidence and repeatability are. We can all reason spectacularly, and directly into error if our reasoning isn't checked by systematic observation. ...
Because human brains are quite capable of being wrong the only thing we can do is devise tests and experiments to see of these hypotheses [sic]. One or both of them can be wrong. But we can't just reason about it and hope we have stumbled on to truth.
Ain't no scientism here, nosiree, Bob. It's just that the common ground of a rational animal is not rationality but "evidence and repeatability." (Such as a gorilla might be trained by repeatedly rewarding her with treats as evidence of correct behavior.)Max: In science we can have competing hypotheses about a phenomena, People working on these different hypotheses are both utterly brilliant, lets say, and yet the hypotheses are mutually exclusive. Now how do we distinguish among these brilliant hypotheses. We cannot do it by philosophy, or metaphysical musings.
Max has indeed demonstrated that Reason is not our common ground by cutting himself loose from it. He has tossed all of Mathematics! We do not know that pi is irrational from "systematic observation." Indeed, there is no round object in the universe whose circumference and diameter have an irrational ratio -- pretty much by definition. Rather, we know mathematical truths by reason, not from by evidence and repeatability. But if anything is a common ground among cultures, it is Mathematics.
Aside: human brains are not capable of being wrong. Humans are. Humans are not automatons "operated" somehow by a ghost in the machine.
But the physicist Pierre Duhem pointed out an interesting example:
"...[T]ake two physicists who do not define pressure in the same manner because they do not admit the same theories of mechanics. One, for example, accepts the ideas of Lagrange; the other adopts the ideas of Laplace and Poisson. Submit to these two physicists a law whose statement brings into play the notion of pressure. They will hear the statement in two different ways. To compare it to reality, they will make different calculations so that one will find the law verified by facts which, for the other, will contradict it."The disagreement cannot be resolved by experience and repeatability, but only by philosophy and metaphysical musings on the nature of pressure. No amount of experiment or data collection will settle the definitions of the terms.
"Some reflections on the subject of experimental physics" (1894)
[tr. Ariew & Barker, Pierre Duhem: Essays in the History and Philosophy of Science]
Facts attain meaning only in the light of a theory. Indeed, the theory informs the scientist which facts he ought to search for in the first place. What Kuhn called "normal science" may go on indefinitely, until someone conceives a different way of looking at the same facts and there is a "paradigm shift." What was once conceptualized as "experimental error" or "faulty data" suddenly takes on new significance. So long as Newton held sway, the universe was conceived as being as mechanical as the technology of that era. There was this spooky "force" of gravity that reached out and somehow pulled things in. Then, Einstein re-imagined the whole thing, and the "force" of gravity disappeared to be replaced by particular states in the field of Ricci tensors. The math still worked, but the physics that justified it shifted. There is no "force" of gravity; space-time itself is "bent" by the presence of mass.
Paradigm Shift: The same data can be seen
in light of two different theories.
Old woman looking left;
Young woman looking back over shoulder.
Max: Consider theology, not just Christian theology, there are thousands of deep thoughts about myriad religious ideas. ... The only way to distinguish would be to test these hypotheses out,
Nothing it seems is beyond the scope of Science™ -- but there ain't no scientism here, nosiree. The supposition here is that all propositions are scientific "hypotheses," to be "tested" as scientists test theirs.
Max: There [sic] metaphysical understandings of god do not establish the reality of that which they posit. We can approach them via reason, but reason alone cannot help us to establish the fact of theological hypotheticals. They simply cannot. We can entertain premises, but that isn't the same as establishing them as accurately reflecting reality.
We cannot simply dismiss logic and reason out of court. Natural science itself would not survive such an amputation. One must reason from the facts to a theory, and from the theory to predicted new facts. In between these two journeys is what Galileo called "the work of the intellect." How do these facts suggest this theory rather than that theory.
Max: You are merely asserting that your god [sic] is the foundation of all beings, etc. There isn't any evidence that this is so. It doesn't appear so when looking at nature.[Ain't no scientism here, nosiree.]
Aside: It does not seem to occur to some folks that spelling conventions have a reason. Even if none of these beings existed, the terms "God" and "god" would still denote two distinct concepts. It is like confusing a Chevy Impala with a species of antelope. Or Polish with polish.Ol' Max here makes three very iffy assertions.
- Traditional theologians did not "merely assert" that God is the "foundation of all beings [sic]." They reasoned deductively from the existence of contingent being that there must be a necessary being, one whose nature just is to exist. This we might call Existence Itself. If Existence did not exist, there would be no be-ings. Duh. Further study of this being led to the conclusion that it was equivalent to the concept of God. That is, they did not start with some being among beings -- this chair, that table, that God, this Spaghetti Monster, Thor, that teacup, etc. -- and arbitrarily decide that one of them would be designated Ground O' Being™. That would be like collecting Fido, Spot, and Rover and asking which one is "dog." The arrows of deduction work the other way around.
- The assumption that the "evidence" must come from "looking at nature" is another assertion of scientism.
- That "it doesn't appear so when looking at nature" is the fallacy known as "begging the question." Just as one geologist can look at an iridium-rich layer in the geological strata and "see" an asteroid strike while another looks and "sees" massive volcanic eruptions, people have looked at nature and seen God clear as day. To say that natural laws explain everything about nature is like saying the pigments and brushes and canvas and the laws of color explain everything about the Mona Lisa. In fact, scientific laws do not explain; they only describe.
And voila! Another bald assertion of scientism. Only knowledge obtained via scientific methodology counts as certain knowledge. (Even though, since Popper, it has become, alas, a bit less certain.) Topological function spaces are invisible to scientific methodology, but many topologists (including TOF!) have said concrete things about them.
Obviously, there are a number of things that can be deduced about such a being. For example, given that there is a BPA -- a Being of Pure Act (which is the conclusion of Aquinas' "first way") -- we can deduce that there can be only one such being. If there were two, A and B, one must lack a power or attribute that the other possesses. If there were no difference, they would be the same being. For example, A might be here while B would be there. But then, A would be in potency to the act of being there, which contradicts the premise that A is purely actual. Hence, there can be only one BPA. Further deductions follow. As these deductions accumulate, the BPA comes to resemble more and more the God of traditional religion.
In particular, the BPA is deduced to be immaterial and outside space-time. Natural science deals only with the metric and controllable aspects of material being, and can say little or nothing about that which is immaterial. But that science can say nothing does not mean that nothing can be said. Of the many things said about God, "metric and controllable" are not numbered.
|Rudolf Carnap was an ionic|
figure. He was positive.
Carnap the MagnificentPeople are sometimes surprised to realize that Science is based on a logical fallacy; viz., Asserting the Consequent. This takes the general form:
This is known as the Problem of Induction. It was formulated by Hume, who thought it was insoluble, later elaborated on by Mill. What it amounts to is that no finite number of particular observations can establish a universal law. Yet, without induction, science (not to mention Science!™) would be impossible. In fact, so would daily life. Hence, the Problem. Perhaps Max was on to something when he said that reason was not a common ground of experience! Or perhaps it was only a consequence of Hume's philosophy.
- If Theory T is correct, Evidence E will be observed.
- Evidence E is observed
- Therefore, Theory T is correct
Ernst Mach made a vigorous defense of induction, and so did Pierre Duhem. (See Duhem's "Logical Examination of Physical Theory" and "Research on the History of Physical Theories," found here.) Duhem was quite aware that asserting the consequent was coupled with the underdetermination of scientific theories. Given any set of facts, there will be always more than one theory that can account for them. (There are at present, for example, at least five distinct quantum theories to explain quantum mechanics, all consistent with the data.) Asserting the Consequence is a fallacy because the Evidence E may point to more than one theory T.
Aside: Duhem's thesis that scientific theories are underdetermined was later augumented by W. V. O. Quine, whose surname was adopted by the very Qu Quine whose blog post kicked this off. Coincidence? I think not!
The philosopher Rudolf Carnap made a valiant attempt to save positivism by proposing the following. Every Theory T has multiple predictions/consequences. Call them E1, E2, E3,...En. So he proposed:
This has obvious problems -- not all the E are of equal weight in supporting T, the number of consequences is indeterminate, etc. -- but it has a certain attraction. Except for statisticians, who will roll their eyes at that invocation of Probability™. There is no probability absent a model; but that means one must adopt a theory/model even to speak of probability. But let's stick our tongue firmly in cheek and see how this might work in a non-standard situation.
- If Theory T is correct, Evidences E1, E2, E3,...En will be observed.
- Evidences E1, E2, E3,...Ek have been observed
- Therefore, Theory T is probably correct with probability k/n
The Proof by ScientismSuppose as a scientifical hypothesis that
T: the God of Orthodox/Catholic theology exists as described.
Then certain evidences should be expected:
It says in Genesis that "...God created the heaven and the earth." Therefore:
E1: an objective universe exists.So we should look for evidences that such a thing is around.
It says in Genesis that "In the beginning, God created...." Therefore:
E2: our universe has a beginning in time.So we should look for some initial point of time, like a 'big bang' or something, at least for the space-time continuum which we inhabit.
The Orthodox/Catholic God is all-power-full, that is: contains all powers. Being the primary cause of the rational soul, there is something in God that is analogous to reason in humans and his creation will be rationally constructed. Therefore:
E3: There will be regular laws of nature.So we should look for regularities in things like the motions of planets, radioactive decay, reactions of chemicals, the origin of species, and so on.
Because this rational God is singular, with no competitors to overrule or contradict Him:
E4: These laws of nature will be consistent and coherent.So we should look whether the same laws of motion obtain in the heavens as well as on the earth, whether gravity is compatible with electromagnetism, and so on.
Because He has endowed humans with intellect and will [i.e., the powers of reason]:
E5: The laws of nature are accessible to human reason.So we should see if we can make sense of nature, even if only to some extent.
It says in Wisdom that God ordered the world by "number, weight, and measure." Therefore:
E6: The universe can be known by numbering, weighing, and measuring stuff.So we should see if we can discern laws of nature by making empirical observations, running experiments, making measurements, and so on.
Both Catholic and Orthodox doctrine hold that God endowed created matter with the power to act directly according to its own nature. This "secondary causation" is attested by Augustine, who points to the Biblical text whereby God told the earth to bring forth the living kinds. This meant that it was earth (or the material world) that did so. Aquinas compared this to a shipbuilder who simply commands the timbers to form themselves into a ship.
E7: We would expect to find natural causes for natural eventsSo discounting miracles as rare exceptions, we should look to see if motion, light, electricity, evolution, and the like can be explained by the immanent powers of nature.
Catholics and Orthodox hold that God endowed human beings with free will, and this would entail that some would choose badly. Coupled with the permission to matter to act according to its own nature, this would mean that in the material world things might not work out well.
E8: We would expect to find evil [i.e., deficiencies in the good] in the material world.So if "science works" we would have confirmation of E2 through E7. If for example, we found scientific laws describing, say, the origin of species, that would be further confirmation of the lawfulness of nature (E3) being accessible to reason (E5) that identify natural causes for the evolution of them (E7) -- as Aquinas expected.
Although E8 is not scientific, it can be empirically verified by crying Earthquake! and Hitler!
So, having verified 7 out of 8 consequences of the God hypothesis, we have by scientism and Carnap's principle, a probability of 87% that God exists. Now all we need is proof that the objective universe exists. But since the empirical evidence demanded by science presupposes that there is an objective universe to produce it, it would be begging the question to demand scientific proof of E1. Still, it seems reasonable and no devotee of scientism would be rationally disposed to deny it. This raises p to 100%.
Well tongue-in-cheek as TOF said. God is not a scientific hypothesis, not an hypothesis at all. (Which is one way God differs from immanent nature gods like Poseidon and that crew.) But most of the above (E8 excepted) are prerequisites that Science™ must assume in order to do any work at all. They are not physics, but rather meta-physics. No science is equipped to demonstrate its own postulates. So it is good to know that there is some route by which the underlying bedrock of science can be justified.
Hey, maybe that's why modern science only arose in the Latin West!
All the Ism's are Wasm's
Love of theory is the root of all evil, Wm. Briggs likes to say. Once the idea becomes an over-arching TOE, once we start thinking that it is a thing in the world, we start to treat dissenters as heretics and opponents as evil. About six minutes into the lecture linked to above, Lukacs noted that if he told his undergraduate students that he might not believe in God, they took it in stride, nodded, and accepted the statement; but that if he told them he did not believe in science, the would be astonished and disturbed.
ReferencesBonnie Small, Western Electric Company SQC Handbook.
Qu Quine, Straw Man Scientism. www.strangenotions.com
aarondarrisaw. "chomsky, feyerabend, and scientism" (Leaving the Circus, November 4, 2012)
Mary Midgley. Science as Salvation. (Routledge 1994)
Edward Feser. "Science and Scientism" (Claremont Institute)
Pierre Duhem. Essays in the History and Philosophy of Science, tr. Ariew & Barker. (Hackett, 1996)
F. A. Hayek. “Scientism and the Study of Society”
Thomas S. Kuhn. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, an epitome by Professor Frank Pajares
Stamford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Underdetermination of Scientific Theory
John Lukacs. Templeton Lecture 2, part 1