South Africa Flag logo

South African Skeptics

August 18, 2019, 02:54:29 AM
Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.
Did you miss your activation email?

Login with username, password and session length
Go to mobile page.
News: Follow saskeptics on twitter.
   
   Skeptic Forum Board Index   Help Forum Rules Search GoogleTagged Login Register Chat Blogroll  
Pages: [1]   Go Down
  Print  
Author Topic:

Definitions

 (Read 788 times)
0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.
Rigil Kent
Clotting Factor
Hero Member
*****

Skeptical ability: +19/-3
Offline Offline

Posts: 2460


Three men make a tiger.


« on: April 03, 2009, 09:21:54 AM »

An interesting spin-off from the post started by Mentari on evolution happening by chance, is the question of definitions in science.

It seems that sometimes two separate and vastly different definitions may exist for the same thing, one aimed at the layman (lets call it the Collins Concise definition), and a more technical one for scientific purposes.

But is this really necessary? Doesn't such duplicity only serve to further widen the chasm between scientific understanding and Tom, Dick and Harry?

Mintaka
« Last Edit: April 03, 2009, 14:11:02 PM by Mintaka » Logged
bluegray
Administrator
Hero Member
*****

Skeptical ability: +9/-3
Offline Offline

Posts: 1107



saskeptics
WWW
« Reply #1 on: April 03, 2009, 11:37:44 AM »

It seems that sometimes two separate and vastly different definitions may exist for the same thing, one aimed at the layman (lets call it the Collins Concise definition), and a more technical one for scientific purposes.
Do you have an example of such a case where the definitions are a lot different? Even if one definition is aimed at the layman and another at someone in the field, they should be the same. Although they might not all provide the same detail, which is unavoidable I think.
Logged
Rigil Kent
Clotting Factor
Hero Member
*****

Skeptical ability: +19/-3
Offline Offline

Posts: 2460


Three men make a tiger.


« Reply #2 on: April 03, 2009, 13:24:13 PM »

Quote
Do you have an example of such a case where the definitions are a lot different?


You're kidding right? Wink

In geometry, a torus (pl. tori) is a surface of revolution generated by revolving a circle in three dimensional space about an axis coplanar with the circle, which does not touch the circle.

versus

A torus is a ring doughnut shape.

Mintaka

Logged
Mefiante
Defollyant Iconoclast
Hero Member
*****

Skeptical ability: +61/-9
Offline Offline

Posts: 3749


In solidarity with rwenzori: Κοπρος φανεται


WWW
« Reply #3 on: April 03, 2009, 14:36:53 PM »

Scientific definitions are usually functional ones.  That is, they tell you (often implicitly rather than explicitly) what criteria need to be satisfied in order that one may properly recognise the thing that has been defined.  In contrast, the normal way of talking leaves room for uncertainty because such definitions can be culturally dependent and they often rely on plain or direct recognition instead of a procedure for achieving that recognition.  Your example makes that clear enough.

A further potential point of trouble is that certain words and terms often carry additional meaning that depends on the particular discipline or context in which they are used, and of which the layperson is usually unaware.  Scientists prefer scientific definitions because they minimise the potential problem of misunderstanding or misinterpretation.  In addition, some of them have arisen because of deeper understanding to describe which existing language was inadequate.

Less commendably, on occasion there is an element of professional jealousy where definitions are deliberately made so as to be impenetrable to the uninitiated.  Curiously, there is an inverse relationship between the prevalence of this tendency and the exactness of the science from which it issues…

P.S.  Your use of “duplicity” gave me a good chuckle.

'Luthon64
Logged
Rigil Kent
Clotting Factor
Hero Member
*****

Skeptical ability: +19/-3
Offline Offline

Posts: 2460


Three men make a tiger.


« Reply #4 on: April 03, 2009, 14:57:40 PM »

Quote
P.S.  Your use of “duplicity” gave me a good chuckle.

yeah, I meant "duplication". Embarrassed

Cheers,
Mintaka
Logged
Pages: [1]   Go Up
  Print  


 
Jump to:  

Powered by SMF 1.1.11 | SMF © 2006-2009, Simple Machines LLC
Page created in 2.944 seconds with 23 sceptic queries.
Google visited last this page May 08, 2019, 11:19:57 AM
Privacy Policy