Re: Reading ranting grunting.

Richard Plourde (
Tue, 23 Sep 1997 00:32:20 -0400

At 08:15 PM 9/22/97 -0400, Michael Lorrey wrote:

>SF is the only place where I can find new ideas that someone
>trying to bury under umpty million syllables of latin-ish
>Why do highly skilled and specialized scientists insist on
writing about
>their discoveries in nomenclature and acronyms that only someone
also in
>their own highly specialized field would understand? No wonder
>isn't much cross fertilization.

While "in group" elitism might account for some of the special
terminology (especially when that terminology gets used to
cover-up wild-eyed speculation as fact -- vis. much of the stuff
published about approaches to education or economics or politics),
another factor raises its head.

Our languages, English as one example, while rich and evocative,
also come from cultures where the twins of animism and
anthropomorphism run rampant. A flower 'wants' to look at the
sky, a rock 'desires' to fall to earth because of an 'affinity,'
an electron 'gets attracted' by protons and 'repelled' by other
electrons. A Golden Retriever 'loves' its master, and "Gaia"
'feels' tremendous disappointment and despair at our behaviors.

Something, such as quantum physics, simply *cannot* get explained
in a language that does not allow for the structural relationships
of quantum physics. A language, based on animistic assumptions,
and human-native sensory capabilities, cannot suffice. People can
make explanations in everyday English that satisfy -- but that
misinform. People can make explanations that have coherence with
current experimental results -- but those explanations fail to

As a particularly blatant, and quantitatively absurd, example,
I've known people who simply *cannot* accept that the construct of
'color' cannot apply to an electron. "Well, sure -- they're too
small to see, and even much, much, much smaller than a wavelength
of light -- but still, with good enough instruments, instruments
that can see better than us, we should be able to tell their
colors. Everything has a color." Can you imagine trying to
explain an electron as a wave-function to someone hung-up on
"everything has a color?"

Without recognizing what we do, most of us make language fixed,
and use it as a criterion for "what makes sense" rather than
allowing our senses (and our sensory extensions, such as
microscopes, voltmeters, etc.) to declare what "makes sense" and
adapting our language to express what we sense. (If we did that,
we might more readily recognize non-sense. Propaganda, for
example, depends on symbolic-coherence as something sufficient for
convincing. People say, "That makes sense," even when they have
no way of sensing or measuring what gets said except by reference
to not-sensible and not measurable symbologies.)

People working in advanced areas of science come to quickly
recognize that language *cannot* get used as a criterion for what
they find. The 'paradox' of "wave" or "particle" for a photon,
for example, represents a *linguistic* paradox -- one that can
result in unending linguistic debate so long as language operates
as a tacit criterion for fact, but one where the debate evaporates
into irrelevance once people decide to characterize the
interactions of a photon, without regard to language -- inventing
a new language for that characterization if necessary. And such
necessity occurs.

Once language gets recognized as a symbology, and a symbology not
inherently able to represent all relationships that we can
characterize, then the need for a revised and extended symbology
becomes evident -- unless we fall into the all-too-common trap of
assuming that if our language doesn't cover it, it ain't there.

Reconsider your comments in that light.


Richard Plourde ..

"The word is not the thing, the map is not the territory"