"Wings of Red"

Wings of Red

In the Lakota language, the Red-winged Blackbird is called wablosa, "wings of red". It's scientific name is Agelaius Phoeniceus (flocking red).

In the disciplines of Philosophy of Science and Epistemology, the concept of certainty poses some fundamental questions. Certainty is defined objectively as perfect knowledge that is free from error, and subjectively as complete lack of doubt. Can we be objectively certain about anything?

Logical reasoning takes two basic forms: Deductive reasoning, where a general case is used to deduct specific instances, with the presumption that the general case is applicable in all cases, and, inductive reasoning, where a general rule is derived from a specific case. Deduction fails in explaining exceptions and leads to deductive fallacies. Induction is vulnerable to faulty generalizations. Although far from perfect, we rely on a combination of deduction and induction to "explain" the world around us. History teaches us that there are only a few things that we can be absolutely certain of. On the other hand, we can be reasonably confident (confidence interval) about some of our explanations of phenomena. We must constantly modify our best guesses to deal with the complex world around us, and the errors in our judgement.

What does any of this have to do with the Red-winged Blackbird? On of the most prominent physicists of the 20th Century, Richard Feynman is quoted to have said: "Philosophy of science is about as useful to scientists as ornithology is to birds". Although Feynman is probably right in reflecting the sentiment of scientists, the dominant view among many world intellectuals is that "the world is ultimately beyond our grasp". * In response to Richard Feynman, some have pointed out that, paraphrasing Craig Callender, "it is likely that ornithological knowledge would be of great benefit to birds, were it possible for them to possess it". * (08:50)

Song of the Day: Blackbird - The Beatles (1968)
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