Re: Certain Experiment Fact

Sarah Marr (
Wed, 25 Sep 1996 10:30:36 +0100

Reilly Jones.

>Good question. I get the creeps any time I see the word "tolerance" any more.
>The word has been badly abused by the holier-than-thou politically correct
>brigades, who virtually always mean "intolerance" when they use it. Likewise,
>when they say "inclusive," they mean "exclusive"; when they say
>they mean "monocultural"; when they say "open-minded," they mean
>"closed-minded"; and when they say "diversity," they mean "perversity."

I don't believe you. Please give some concrete examples to prove your point.

>But I
>digress. Really, tolerance in practice is simply indifference. To tolerate
>something is to be indifferent to it, meaning it does not threaten your person
>or your way of life (which is nearly inseparable from your person) and holds no
>interest to you.

Nope. A lot of tolerance involves 'putting up with' something which does
affect your way of life, and which you are not indifferent to. One may
tolerate having a low wage because one loves one's job, but that doesn't
mean indifference towards being paid a low wage. One may tolerate a straight
flat-mate's lover, because of respect for the freedoms of that flat-mate,
but that doesn't imply an indifference to heterosexuality. (Sorry, couldn't
resist that twist :-) Etc... Hence the OED definition 'endure', 'endure with
forbearance', etc.

>This indifference, when applied to other humans, can be
>miserable. As Santayana pointed out: "[T]olerated people are never
>They live on, but the aroma of their life is lost."

I agree that 'toleration' has an intrinsic connotation of 'otherness'; and
that conciliation requires an overcoming of the feelings of 'forbearance'
which are required to satify a definition of toleration. But note that this
supports my argument above: if toleration equated to indifference,
conciliation would be unecessary.

>If something threatens your
>person or your way of life, no reasonable argument can be made that we should
>tolerate it, to roll over and let it have its way with you, without
resorting to
>the fiction that the group is of higher worth than the individual. Worth to

Again no. In both my examples above, toleration is based on the balancing of
feelings of the individual, for hir own personal happiness. These are
personal decisions based on personal feelings, they do not require recourse
to the concept of group-worth. That, of course, does not mean that you or I
or others have to agree with a person's choice to tolerate, but then, none
of us has to agree to anything, do we?

It's not a question of a threat to the person or to one's way of life,
that's too simplistic. It's to do with the nature of that threat, and a
personal balancing of priorities and desires.

<snip> (schools in the US are not within my sphere of knowledge)

>Jeff again: <Or does it simply mean 'acknowledging that there is a degree of
>uncertainty in all ideas, and dealing with that rationally'?>
>It most certainly does not mean this, since many ideas are held with certainty,
>that is, not a shred of doubt to them.

Practically (and I'm a practical kinda gal) I think this is true. There are
probably deep epistomological debates to be had in this area, but I ain't
gonna start them.

>The instant you have a doubt about something,
>you are uncertain. There are different degrees of doubt, therefore, there are
>different degrees of uncertainty, but there is only one degree of certainty.


>...but only one thing happens at any given instant of time.

Question: is time continuous or discrete? I thought time was quantum in
nature, with the minimum possible interval of time being related to Planck's
constant (h/2pi?). But I only dimly remember reading that, and I can't find
the reference, so I may be wrong (which I'm quite willing to accept). If I'm
right, then more than one thing can happen at any given instant of time.

>Dejan again: <So I must be out of this world since I'm spending months
>studying errors of measurement in order to publish a paper about some
>facts I measured in less than a week?>
>On the face of it, yes. Unless its part of some strange, esoteric initiation
>rite you have to pass in order to put food on your table. <g>

I'm assuming the reply here based around the <g> rather than a serious
comment, since assessment of measurement error is clearly so fundamental to
the scientific method.

>I see there's been further discussion since this, on the nature of experiments,
>so I'll just add a tidbit about it. I haven't seen the word "theory" come up
>yet, so let me say that an experiment can't be an experiment without a theory
>that not only predicts what will happen, but specifies what effects caused by
>the experiment will count as evidence, before the experiment is conducted.
>Observation, meaning no predictions are involved, still must have some theory
>behind it, or else what is to be recorded as having been observed?

I don't believe theories predict what will happen, they only predict what
might happen. Otherwise they wouldn't be theoretical.

To say observation needs a theory behind it is not true. Observation often
leads to discovery: it is an error of causality to say observation _must_
have some theory behind it; it is quite possible for the theory to evolve
from the observation. The theory, and the validity of that theory, may, of
course, be refined and checked by further observation and/or experiment.

>This gets to
>the difficulty that the "soft" sciences have...

Over to Robin :-)


Sarah Kathryn Marr