Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Doggerel #142: "Can Science Prove Love?!"

Welcome back to "Doggerel," where I ramble on about words and phrases that are misused, abused, or just plain meaningless.

Woos love to pretend that they have exclusive province over love, emotion, and other concepts that often have highly disputed definitions. Of course, the fact that we can recognize these things, or at least the definitions we each personally use undermines that claim.

One sickening subplot that annoys me in sci-fi series involves Straw Vulcans incorrectly suspecting one of the humans is attracted to them, complete with alleged humor to be had with resulting miscommunications. Along the way, there's another Straw Vulcan listing 'symptoms' of love, describing the various little bits of biological noise humans do with their eyes, perspiration, heart rate, etcetera. If only love were that easy to measure. A fair number of woos will now proceed to claim that skeptics like me believe it's that simple.

In real life, we perform all sorts of tests to figure out if someone's in love, usually involving predicting behavior. It's essentially a series of uncontrolled case studies, but given that it's hard to perform ethical lab tests on that sort of thing, that's generally okay. If enough of the predictions come true, it becomes reasonable to reach a tentative conclusion. It's on the messier side, but that's pretty much what science does: Use observations and evidence to verify or falsify a hypothesis. Our intuition isn't a magical process.

5 comments:

Tom Foss said...

Either this is crazy weird timing, or you've been talking to one of the attendees at the Randi speech last night.

Akusai said...

I sent him an e-mail. It was only right that he know we at least though of him while imbibing our libations.

Tom Foss said...

True dat.

The Mess said...

And if you are right in what would you posses that?

Tom Foss said...

What?