Tag Archive: principles


The film Valhalla Rising was released in 2011 directed by Nicolas Winding Refn, co-written by Refn and Roy Jacobsen, and starring Mads Mikkelsen. It is a dark adventure drama set in pagan Scotland during the dark ages. The main character played by Mikkelson is a mute warrior named One Eye. He is enslaved by a pagan chieftain for the purpose of gambling on fights as he appears to have a supernatural ability to defeat all opponents.

One day while bathing in a mountain stream he discovers an arrowhead which he conceals. He later uses it to cut his bonds and then kill his masters. As he wanders off he discovers that he is being followed by the young boy who was tasked with feeding him while he was caged. The boy has decided that sticking with One Eye is probably the safest option in a dangerous world.

They eventually come across a group of Christian mercenaries who have just massacred a community of pagans and forced their women and young girls to disrobe. They are seen huddling in terror and from the cold. The “missionaries” ask who he is and where he comes from. The boy answers for him and tells them that he was born from hell. They offer One Eye and the boy a place on their ship as they are heading for the “holy” lands to do the same to Muslims and need good warriors.

Unfortunately, due to some abberation of both weather and trans-Atlantic current, the voyagers become lost at sea, surrounded by mist with no wind to fill the sails. As they edge closer to desperation and madness they eventually find that they have arrived at a new land. The leader claims this land in the name of God and declares it to be the new holy land though others think it is hell. The survivors of an attack by native Americans and some intergroup conflict decide the safest option is to set off after the warrior from hell who seems indestructable. This wasn’t the wisest choice as, one by one they are picked off by the natives. In the end One Eye offers himself in sacrifice, without fight, in order to save the life of the young boy.

For me the movie is a comment on society’s psuedo-ethics. The one adult character who showed any moral character was judged to be amoral, from hell, by every other character as a result of being forced to fight to the death to stay alive. The other characters saw themselves as morally and spiritually superior to him thanks to their religious psuedo-ethics, both pagan and Christian. Patriotism is another very similar psuedo-ethic, though not mentioned in this film. They rely on individuals believing themselves superior to others via their strength of belief in or attachment to some “thing”, whether it be a hobgoblin or a piece of dirt.

The film highlights the “Dunning Kruger effect” as it pertains to moral reasoning.

“The Dunning-Kruger effect, named after David Dunning and Justin Kruger of Cornell University, occurs where people fail to adequately assess their level of competence — or specifically, their incompetence — at a task and thus consider themselves much more competent than everyone else. This lack of awareness is attributed to their lower level of competence robbing them of the ability to critically analyse their performance, leading to a significant overestimation of themselves. In simple words it’s “people who are too stupid to know how stupid they are”.”

http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Dunning-Kruger_effect

 In this case the characters, inexperienced as they are with the concepts of empathy and genuine moral reasoning skills based around genuine moral principles such as justice, beneficence and respect for autonomy, mistake their religiousness for morality…as so many people still do today. In the end One Eye, the social pariah, is shown to be the only character with any sense of strong moral principle or empathy by protecting the child and then sacrificing himself to save the child.

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Principles of Science

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Above is a design for a wood carving I created in order to illustrate the principles involved in the application of scientific method. The knotwork represents the evidence that needs to be unraveled. The tree at the centre of the spiral represents Truth. The three circles at each corner of the tree triangle represent the cognitive processes involved: logic, intuition and bottom-up processing.
The five circles arranged on the spiral represent the five principles of scientific method: Empiricism, Scepticism, Tentativeness, Openness, and Anti-authoritarianism, all feeding the tree of Truthful knowledge.

The level of anti-science rhetoric, and ignorance of what scientific method actually is in the community and the media greatly disturbs me.There really needs to be a concerted effort by the scientific community  to engage with and educate the community about scientific method and why it is the most effective process we have for discerning objective truth.

Below I have transcribed part of a lecture that my first year research methodology lecturer Andrew Tilley gave to us on the subject. This lecturer used to use a lot of humorous cartoons in his lectures. My favourite was of three people in conversation that went thus:

1st person: Men are from Mars.

2nd person: Women are from Venus.

3rd person: Pop psychology is from Uranus.

From Tilley AJ 1999
The Science of Psychology Lecture
Science is a PROCESS of acquiring knowledge and a means of trying to understand reality and reveal the truth.

Science is the OBJECTIVE, SYSTEMATIC process of DISCOVERING, DESCRIBING, ANALYSING and ultimately EXPLAINING phenomena and events and relationships between variables.

Science is based on the assumption that a) everything is essentially ordered and organised rather than random or chaotic; & b) based upon CAUSE AND EFFECT. ie based upon reliable, consistent predictable, or lawful relationships between variables.

Principles of Science
1 Empiricism
2 Scepticism
3 Tentativeness
4 Openness
5 Anti-authoritarian

1 Empiricism. This principle means that evidence about reality must be OBJECTIVE AND OBSERVABLE. What you think is true must be OBJECTIVELY DEMONSTRABLE to the most severe critic. Non-empirical evidence is inadmissible. NOTHING IS TAKEN AS SELF EVIDENT. Scientific knowledge must be based upon empirical observation. Logic, reason , common sense and intuition are all useful and necessary but insufficient to produce or provide knowledge.

2 Scepticism. This principle is all about checking and questioning. Science is sceptical and critical. It insists upon being able to check and question evidence and explanation. How good is the evidence? Is the evidence REPRODUCIBLE? Is the evidence sufficient to support the explanation? Is the explanation sufficient account for the evidence? Is there a simpler, or better or alternate explanation. Science maintains that all NATURAL events and phenomena have NATURAL causes. Science is all that is necessary to explain everything.

3 Tentativeness. Science offers only tentative or approximate explanations that are relative to the existing state of scientific knowledge, which can change. Nothing is written in stone, nothing is sacred. Science always allows new and better theories to replace old theories if they are found wanting in the face of the empirical evidence.

4 Openness. Science is open and public. Scientific research is published to INFORM and to allow and encourage others to question and check the validity and reliability of the research.

5 Anti-authoritarian. Being empirical and sceptical means that science is naturally anti-authoritarian. Science REJECTS AND RECOILS from accepting on faith, without questioning, the statements or pronouncements of any text or authority on the nature of reality. Nothing is accepted unless it is supported by empirical evidence. Acceptance of any position is tentative and open to change or modification if a better explanation for the existing evidence, or if new evidence comes to light.

My note: (In other words Science is not a belief system like religion. It is a system for uncovering facts so that people can form their beliefs about the world out of truths, not myths).

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