[From Bill Powers (970826.0528 MDT)]
Dan Miller (970825)--
Francisco Arocha (970825):
If behavioral scientists cannot tell crap from what are, in their own
terms, quality papers, how can even they evaluate PCT papers?
Some behavioral scientists have a well developed crap detector. The
problem is that once we have detected crap a few times we are no
longer asked to do so.
Every now and then, when this discussion comes up yet again, I get an
overwhelming sense that we must be doing something wrong. The message of
PCT is too damned simple to be misunderstood. The evidence is too clear to
be refuted. Maybe that's the only thing we should be concentrating on. We
can see people controlling stuff; when we disturb, or try to disturb, what
they are controlling, they alter their behavior to counteract the effects
of our actions. Yet on other occasions they will spontaneous change their
behavior and bring whatever they were controlling to a new state where it
is again stabilized agains disturbances.
That's it: that's what all the fuss is about. If scientists would simply
get that idea and admit that these phenomena are going on, the door would
Darwin's idea was no more complex than that. All he said was that there are
natural variations in the forms of organisms from generation to generation,
and that those organisms that fail to reproduce as well as others because
of these variations get weeded out, just as a pigeon breeder weeds out
forms that are not desired. He claimed that the processes of random
variation, competition, and natural selection could account for all the
varied forms of life that we see, including ourselves.
Whether Darwin got it just right (or whether I have stated it just right)
is beside the point. His idea is obviously feasible and logical. Nobody
could have rejected it because they didn't understand it. In fact, those
who rejected it most strongly did so because they DID understand it, and it
conflicted with their beliefs or theories, particularly about human beings.
We're in the same position with PCT. We have a simple idea that can be
demonstrated with a pair of rubber bands, including all the main features
of control that we talk about, even levels of control and multiple-person
control. If anyone who has experienced the demonstrations rejects the idea
of control, it can only be because they DO understand it, and are
threatened or offended or invalidated because of it.
There is really very little we can do about that. If we start arguing
against the objections, we get drawn into tangled webs of rationalization
which can't be straightened out by facts and logic. Whenever we point out a
flaw in one aspect of an objection, the person objecting will simply switch
to another aspect of it, certain that there must be some explanation of the
apparent flaw. We can't, from outside another person, find the loose ends
that will unravel the tangle for that person. That's something that each
person has to work out alone.
I think we should change the logo of the Control Systems Group from a block
diagram of the theoretical model to a picture of two rubber bands (which
also happens to be a nice synbol: infinity). And I think that each of us,
whatever the field of expertise, should concentrate on simply presenting
the phenomenon of control in as simple and clear a fashion as possible,
making sure it is understandable and making no great effort to push our
explanation of it onto anyone.
There will always be objectors. In science, people will object because the
phenomenon doesn't fit their own theories. In ordinary life, people will
object (although in a smaller proportion) because it conflicts with what
they have been taught and believe. That's life. But many people, even
scientists, will also understand what they are seeing, and many of them
will start wondering about explanations, new explanations. That's all we
need, and the most we can hope for.
When scientists reject the concept of control, they do so because they are
blinded by their own theories and can't see what they are looking at. They
see only what the theory leads them to consider important. Our job is to
keep shoving other phenomena under their noses, patiently and persistently,
until the phenomena are noticed. Until the phenomena are noticed and
acknowledged, there's no point in promoting any theoretical explanations.