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truedelphi Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jul-18-10 06:47 PM
Original message
Problem with Modern Science and Scientific Inquiry
Edited on Sun Jul-18-10 06:49 PM by truedelphi
I am posting this in "Rural" because I think many of you are independent enough in your thinking to understand what I am saying here.

A while back, we moved to our current location. One of the perks is that our current landlord doesn't pay any "gardeners," so we can actually plant things without having the guy with the leaf blower come and stand on the newly planted stuff.

We are really enjoying the garden. Directly behind it is a four mile long by half mile wide stretch of Open Space -s o we only have three neighbors - two kitty corner across the street and one to the northeast of us.

Well, the part of this that is unfair is that the northeast neighbor is one of the few people in the entire neighborhood that sprays. And he really sprays.

There is a fifteen wide foot area separating our turf from his. It is part of the open space, and also has some water meters on it, so neither of us can fence it in. (Our two lots are fenced in from deer)

So he sprays like every other day, and the glyphosate from the RoundUp he uses is helping the pine beetles that come from his very diseased trees attack the two pine trees in the common yard. Two wonderful, ninety foot pine trees live in the small area between us, and they have begun to droop from the notorious pine beetle, as their roots extend under the area which is within his purview to spray.

I asked a friend who is a a Native American Shaman what to do. And he told me, "Just pray for the trees, and water them and water them. Water them whenever you can." (Talking to the neighbor does no good. For whatever reason he hates pine trees, and constantly says I should get the landlord to cut down these trees. I point out that these two pines are much healthier than the ones in his yard, but he is fixated on the two trees in the space between us. He wants them gone. BTW, my landlord considers this man to be mentally ill, and doesn't want anything to do with him.)

Well, in a way I thought that the Shaman's notion of watering the pines was nuts - after all, how could mere water be helpful in getting rid of the pine beetles? But I decided one day last year to run a rain bird for 24 hours on the base of the tree that was suffering the most. By the twelve hour mark, there were several woodpeckers greedily bouncing along the trunk of the tree, eating up the beetles that had become uncomfortable from spraying. (Coincidental to the spraying, M. and I had put in several overflowing bird feeders, about a week before I decided to water, so birds have really taken over the Open Space Forest behind our yard.)

So the Shaman was right. My watering last year, combined with a very cold winter and spring, has allowed the trees to recover from the damage done to by the pine beetles. Maybe my prayers and rituals have helped as well.

But how would a scientific inquiry into this work? Well, I can see some researcher first mapping out a group of trees impacted by pine beetles. Then he (or she) would set up a net to make sure that no birds or insects could affect the experiment. Then he (or she) would have a control group of the same type of trees, but trees which were healthy. Then he would water. And since the birds would be kept away from the diseased trees, his (or her) results would not indicate the great help that watering provides for trees impacted by the pine beetle...

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Recursion Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jul-18-10 06:54 PM
Response to Original message
1. The controlled trial is one model of experiment
Edited on Sun Jul-18-10 06:54 PM by Recursion
But it's not the only one. Even the way you described wouldn't be the holy grail of experimental science, the double-blind control study (in which neither the subject nor the researcher know whether the subject is in the experimental group of the control group). Of course, with non-human subjects, the subject is always assumed not to "know", so the question is if the researcher would know.

These kinds of experiments are great for certain kinds of questions. But they suck at other kinds of questions -- particularly kinds where we don't really know how many factors we need to sort through (famous case in point: doctors were trying for years to find a substance to help people having heart attacks but every drug was showing the same benefit -- eventually they realized it wasn't actually any of the drugs, it was the glycerine they was being injected along with them).

A better model of experiment for your trees would be Multiple Competing Hypotheses. It gets more use in the life sciences and social sciences.
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truedelphi Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jul-18-10 07:00 PM
Response to Reply #1
3. Thank you for your quick response, and also for the links provided.
Edited on Sun Jul-18-10 07:00 PM by truedelphi
And it was interesting to hear the anecdote about the glycerine in the heart drugs.

The other tale about drugs I have always enjoyed is the one where the manufacturer of Viagra thought V. would work as a heart med. Then as they were running some tests, they found it it did NOT work as a heart med.

So not wanting the people in their survey to continue to rely on the drug, when it could not possibly help them, the manufacturer attempted, by both phone and mail, to ask people to return the Viagra.

No one would return the drug. So they sent people out to get it back from people. And still people were refusing left and right, saying "Now I couldn't tell you at all if it helped my heart or not, but sex has not been this good for me in years."

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Recursion Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jul-18-10 07:04 PM
Response to Reply #3
5. Here's an old show from the early 1980s called "Connections"
It's by James Burke, who's a historian and philosopher of science.

It's 12 wonderful hours of all the ways science solves problems it wasn't initially trying to solve.
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truedelphi Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jul-20-10 03:43 AM
Response to Reply #5
6. Thank you recursion.
Will check it out.

I am trying to put together an article on "protocols" and this will be helpful.

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Warpy Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jul-18-10 06:54 PM
Response to Original message
2. Pine bark beetle infestations out here in the west
coincided with the drought we've been in for so many years. Your shaman friend was absolutely correct when he told you the cure. The beetles attack trees that have been weakened in some way, usually by drought.

What we fail to see with a lot of shamans is that they're also oral historians with data that often goes back hundreds of years. Along with the spooks comes a lot of very practical information about climate and about local plants. It's often a matter of separating wheat from chaff, of mining the information we can use.

In this case, he knew what he was talking about.

As for your spray-happy neighbor, he probably is mentally ill to some point, that mental illness of entitlement and addiction to technology, even when used inappropriately. He's probably also shortening his life every time he sucks in a lungful of Roundup.

You'd rather see him than be him, right? That's the beginning of compassion.
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truedelphi Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jul-18-10 07:04 PM
Response to Reply #2
4. I do have compassion for him. And gratitude.
Despite our disagreements about the spraying, he has shown up on our doorstep, exactly twice. Both times with a huge overflowing basket of veggies from his garden, as a gift from his wife and him. (He never sprays his vegetable garden area of the yard and they were delicious.)

Both times, it was on the only two days in the last two years when we had no money for food. I have no idea why this was, but there seems to be some psychic link between the two of us.
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TxRider Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Aug-08-10 02:21 PM
Response to Reply #2
8. Yup he probably was right.
The roundup likely isn't a cause as it doesn't affect roots. It is a spray that only works on the leafy parts of plants, and not even all plants. It deteriorates very quickly if it hits the soil.

Drought will definitely put trees in stress and make them vulnerable to insects and diseases they can normally fend off. Watering them well and maybe even feeding them might help if it isn't already too late.
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txlibdem Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Aug-08-10 10:30 AM
Response to Original message
7. Who are you who are so wise in the ways of science?
BEDEMIR: Quiet, quiet. Quiet! There are ways of telling whether she is a witch.
CROWD: Are there? What are they?
BEDEMIR: Tell me, what do you do with witches?
VILLAGER #2: Burn! CROWD: Burn, burn them up!
BEDEMIR: And what do you burn apart from witches?
VILLAGER #1: More witches!
VILLAGER #2: Wood!
BEDEMIR: So, why do witches burn?
VILLAGER #3: B--... 'cause they're made of wood...?
CROWD: Oh yeah, yeah...
BEDEMIR: So, how do we tell whether she is made of wood?
VILLAGER #1: Build a bridge out of her.
BEDEMIR: Aah, but can you not also build bridges out of stone?
VILLAGER #2: Oh, yeah.
BEDEMIR: Does wood sink in water?
VILLAGER #1: No, no.
VILLAGER #2: It floats! It floats!
VILLAGER #1: Throw her into the pond!
CROWD: The pond!
BEDEMIR: What also floats in water?
VILLAGER #1: Bread!
VILLAGER #2: Apples!
VILLAGER #3: Very small rocks!
VILLAGER #1: Cider!
VILLAGER #2: Great gravy!
VILLAGER #1: Cherries!
VILLAGER #3: Churches -- churches!
VILLAGER #2: Lead -- lead!
ARTHUR: A duck.
CROWD: Oooh.
BEDEMIR: Exactly! So, logically...,
VILLAGER #1: If... she.. weighs the same as a duck, she's made of wood.
BEDEMIR: And therefore--?
VILLAGER #1: A witch!
CROWD: A witch!
BEDEMIR: We shall use my larger scales!
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