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7

TheLegendaryBirdMonster wrote (edited )

I prefer this article, it starts with kinda the same premise but dives deeper and more interesting imo https://theanarchistlibrary.org/library/science-as-radicalism-william-gillis

edit: Let's talk about it here

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ExpiresOn092020 wrote

That was very interesting read, I would like it to expand more on the different signs on scientism but I guess that's what the book is for.

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amongstclouds wrote

Careful. Some newer members of Raddle seem to think criticizing Scientism makes us right-wing nuts. Haha!

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sudo wrote

Good article; I agree with all of the points the author makes. Though, if the OP is posting this article because they think scientism is an issue affecting Raddle, I think pseudoscience is a much bigger problem here than scientism.

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TimmyCatChores wrote

The link isn't working for me. Perhaps you can post the text.

3

Pop wrote

The formatting isn't perfect but here you go:


Science is unquestionably the most powerful approach humanity has developed so far to the understanding of the natural world. There is little point in arguing about the spectacular successes of fundamental physics, evolutionary and molecular biology, and countless other fields of scientific inquiry. Indeed, if you do, you risk to quickly slide into self-contradictory epistemic relativism or even downright pseudoscience.

That said, there is a pernicious and increasingly influential strand of thought these days — normally referred to as “scientism” — which is not only a threat to every other discipline, including philosophy, but risks undermining the credibility of science itself. In these days of crisis in the humanities, as well as in the social sciences, it is crucial to distinguish valid from ill-founded criticism of any academic effort, revisiting once more what C.P. Snow famously referred to as the divide between “the two cultures.”

First off, what is scientism, exactly? Sometimes it pays to go back to the basics, in this case to the Merriam-Webster concise definition: “An exaggerated trust in the efficacy of the methods of natural science applied to all areas of investigation (as in philosophy, the social sciences, and the humanities).” But surely this is a straw man. Who really fits that description? Plenty of prominent and influential people, as it turns out. Let me give you a few examples:

Author Sam Harris, when he argues that science can by itself provide answers to moral questions and that philosophy is not needed. (e.g., “Many of my critics fault me for not engaging more directly with the academic literature on moral philosophy … I am convinced that every appearance of terms like ‘metaethics,’ ‘deontology,’ [etc.] … directly increases the amount of boredom in the universe.”)

Science popularizer Neil deGrasse Tyson (and physicists Lawrence Krauss and Stephen Hawking, science educator Bill Nye, among others), when he declares philosophy useless to science (or “dead,” in the case of Hawking). (e.g., “My concern here is that the philosophers believe they are actually asking deep questions about nature. And to the scientist it’s, what are you doing? Why are you concerning yourself with the meaning of meaning?” —N. deGrasse Tyson; also: “I think therefore I am. What if you don’t think about it? You don’t exist anymore? You probably still exist.” —B. Nye).

Any number of neuroscientists when they seem to believe that “your brain on X” provides the ultimate explanation for whatever X happens to be.

Science popularizer Richard Dawkins, when he says “science” disproves the existence of God (while deploying what he apparently does not realize are philosophical arguments informed by science).

A number of evolutionary psychologists (though not all of them!) when they make claims that go well beyond the epistemic warrant of the evidence they provide. Literature scholars (and biologists like E.O. Wilson) when they think that an evolutionary, data-driven approach tells us much that is insightful about, say, Jane Austen.

The list could go on, for quite a bit. Of course, we could have reasonable discussions about any individual entry above, but I think the general pattern is clear enough. Scientism is explicitly advocated by a good number of scientists (predictably), and even some philosophers. A common line of defense is that the term should not even be used because it is just a quick way for purveyors of fuzzy religious and pseudoscientific ideas to dismiss anyone who looks critically at their claims.

This is certainly the case. But it is no different from the misuse of other words, such as “pseudoscience” itself, or “skepticism” (in the modern sense of a critical analysis of potentially unfounded claims). Still, few people would reasonably argue that we should stop using a perfectly valid word just because it is abused by ideologically driven groups. If that were being the case, the next version of the Merriam-Webster would be pretty thin…

Philosopher of science Susan Haack has proposed an influential list of six signs of scientistic thinking, which — with some caveats and modifications — can be usefully deployed in the context of this discussion.

The first sign is when words like “science” and “scientific” are used uncritically as honorific terms of epistemic praise. For instance, in advertisement: “9 out of 10 dentists recommend brand X.” More ominously, when ethically and scientifically ill-founded notions, such as eugenics, gain a foothold in society because they are presented as “science.” Let us not forget that between 1907 and 1963, 64,000 American citizens were forcibly sterilized because of eugenic laws.

The second of Haack’s signs is the adoption of the manners and terminology of science regardless of whether they are useful or not. My favorite example is a famous paper published in 2005 in American Psychologist by Barbara Fredrickson and Marcial Losada. They claimed — “scientific” data in hand — that the ratio of positive to negative emotions necessary for human flourishing is exactly 2.9013 to 1. Such precision ought to be suspicious at face value, even setting aside that the whole notion of the existence of an ideal, universal ratio of positive to negative emotions is questionable in the first place. Sure enough, a few years later, Nicholas Brown, Alan Sokal, and Harris Friedman published a scathing rebuttal of the Fredrickson-Losada paper, tellingly entitled “The complex dynamics of wishful thinking: The critical positivity ratio.” Unfortunately, the original paper is still far more cited than the rebuttal.

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Pop wrote

continued


Third, scientistically-oriented people tend to display an obsession with demarcating science from pseudoscience. Here I think Haack is only partially correct, as my observation is rather that scientistic thinking results in an expansion of the very concept of “science”, almost making it equivalent with rationality itself. It is only as a byproduct that pseudoscience is demarcated from science, and moreover, a lot of philosophy and other humanistic disciplines tend to be cast as “pseudoscience” if they somehow dare assert even a partial independence from the natural sciences. This, of course, is nothing new, and amounts to a 21st century (rather naive) version of logical positivism:

The criterion which we use to test the genuineness of apparent statements of fact is the criterion of verifiability. We say that a sentence is factually significant to any given person, if, and only if, he knows how to verify the proposition which it purports to express — that is, if he knows what observations would lead him, under certain conditions, to accept the proposition as true, or reject it as being false. — A.J. Ayer (Language, Truth, and Logic)

The fourth sign of scientism has to do with a preoccupation with identifying a scientific method to demarcate science from other activities. A good number of scientists, especially those writing for the general public, seem blissfully unaware of decades of philosophical scholarship questioning the very idea of the scientific method. When we use that term, do we refer to inductivism, deductivism, adbuctivism, Bayesianism, or what?

The philosophical consensus seems to be that there is no such thing as a single, well-identified scientific method, and that the sciences rely instead on an ever-evolving toolbox, which moreover is significantly different between, say, ahistorical (physics) and historical (evolutionary biology) sciences, or between the natural and social sciences.

Here too, however, the same problem that I mentioned above recurs: contra Haack, proponents of scientism do not seem to claim that there is a special scientific method, but on the contrary, that science is essentially co-extensive with reason itself. Once again, this isn’t a philosophically new position:

If we take in our hand any volume; of divinity or school metaphysics, for instance; let us ask, Does it contain any abstract reasoning concerning quantity or number? No. Does it contain any experimental reasoning concerning matter of fact and existence? No. Commit it then to the flames: for it can contain nothing but sophistry and illusion — David Hume (An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding).

Both Ayer’s verifiability criterion and Hume’s fork suffer from serious philosophical problems, of course, but to uncritically deployed them as a blunt instrument against in defense of scientism is simply a result of willful and abysmal illiteracy.

Next to last, comes an attitude that seeks to deploy science to answer questions beyond its scope. It seems to me that it is exceedingly easy to come up with questions that either science is wholly unequipped to answer, or for which it can at best provide a (welcome!) degree of relevant background knowledge. I will leave it to colleagues in other disciplines to arrive at their own list, but as far as philosophy is concerned, the following list is just a start:

In metaphysics: what is a cause? In logic: is modus ponens a type of valid inference? In epistemology: is knowledge “justified true belief”? In ethics: is abortion permissible once the fetus begins to feel pain? In aesthetics: is there a meaningful difference between Mill’s “low” and “high” pleasures? In philosophy of science: what role does genetic drift play in the logical structure of evolutionary theory? In philosophy of mathematics: what is the ontological status of mathematical objects, such as numbers? The scientific literature on all the above is basically non-existent, while the philosophical one is huge. None of the above questions admits of answers arising from systematic observations or experiments. While empirical notions may be relevant to some of them (e.g., the one on abortion), it is philosophical arguments that provide the suitable approach.

Lastly, a sixth sign of scientism is the denial or denigration of the usefulness of nonscientific activities, particularly within the humanities. Saying that philosophy is “useless” because it doesn’t contribute to solving scientific problems (deGrasse Tyson, Hawking, Krauss, Nye), betrays a fundamental misunderstanding (and let’s be frank, simple ignorance) of what philosophy is. Ironically, the scientistic take could be turned on its head: on what empirical grounds, for instance, can we arrive at the value judgment that cosmology is “more important” than literature? Is the only thing that matters the discovery of facts about the natural world? Why? And while we are at it, why exactly do we take for granted that money spent on a new particle accelerator shouldn’t be spent on, say, cancer research? I’m not advocating such a position, I am simply pointing out that there is no scientific evidence that could settle the matter, and that scientistically-inclined writers tend, as Daniel Dennett famously said in Darwin’s Dangerous Idea, to take on board a lot of completely unexamined philosophical baggage.

In the end, it all comes down to what we mean by “science.” Perhaps we can reasonably agree that this is a classic example of a Wittgensteinian “family resemblance” concept, i.e., something that does not have precise boundaries, nor is it amenable to a precise definition in terms of necessary and jointly sufficient conditions. But as a scientist and a philosopher of science, I tend to see “science” as an evolving beast, historically and culturally situated, similar to the in-depth analysis provided by Helen Longino in her book, Science as Social Knowledge.

Science is a particular ensemble of epistemic and social practices — including a more or less faulty system of peer review, granting agencies, academic publications, hiring practices, and so on. This is different from “science” as it was done by Aristotle, or even by Galileo. There is a continuity, of course, between its modern incarnation and its historical predecessors, as well as between it and other fields (mathematics, logic, philosophy, history, and so forth).

But when scientistic thinkers pretend that any human activity that has to do with reasoning about facts is “science” they are attempting a bold move of naked cultural colonization, defining everything else either out of existence or into irrelevance. When I get up in the morning and go to work at City College in New York I take a bus and a subway. I do so on the basis of my empirical knowledge of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority system, which results — you could say — from years of “observations” and “experiments,” aimed at testing “hypotheses” about the system and its functionality. If you want to call that science, fine, but you end up sounding pretty ridiculous. And you are doing no favor to real science either.

Massimo Pigliucci is the K.D. Irani Professor of Philosophy at the City College of New York. His interests are in the philosophy of biology, the structure of evolutionary theory, and the nature of pseudoscience. His latest book, co-edited with Maarten Boudry, is Science Unlimited? The Challenges of Scientism (Chicago Press). He blogs at platofootnote.org.

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TimmyCatChores wrote

How does this apply to social justice activism?

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ExpiresOn092020 wrote

What makes you think it has appliances in that area?

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TimmyCatChores wrote

Education is a need many contexts for all people.

Children have a need for education, and science is part of education.

Science is responsible for the technology that everyone takes for granted. To not teach science is to prevent children from being able to fill their needs in modern society.

That's social justice. All justice is social justice for a social species.

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amongstclouds wrote

You do realize we're not anti-science... right?

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TimmyCatChores wrote

No I don't. because that seems to be your point. That science isn't always right.

That's fine, but has no relevance whatsoever to any sort of activism. It's just like a general paranoia.

If it means more than that, you certainly have not explained it.

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amongstclouds wrote

Here we go with the gaslighting. AGAIN.

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TimmyCatChores wrote

All you do is accuse. That's really nasty, and you never say a meaningful thing.

I've lost the point with all this adolescent bullshit

What exactly is your purpose?

What do you need from me?

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amongstclouds wrote

You're unbelievable. I have no clue why you're really here but you should really step back and look at who you are. :(

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ExpiresOn092020 wrote

That's a lot of assumptions that you expect me to accept at face value and it would be very unscientific of me to do.

What is a need? Why is education a need? How does it correlate with other needs?

What are the other parts of education?

How does knowledge of science allows children to 'fulfill their needs in modern society'?

What is preventing people to teach science to children?

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TimmyCatChores wrote

did you really not answer me, and just ask a lot of defecting questions?

lets just call it a day friend, i don't have free time to play around like this.

You couldn't answer the question without bullshitting, so you lost.

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ExpiresOn092020 wrote

  1. You did not ask a question for me to answer, you just stated your opinion.

  2. I'm not deflecting because my questions are relevant to (and obtained from) your comment and needed to understand what you mean.

  3. For someone interested in truth, I find it laughable that you don't recognize the Socratic method.

Finally, this was not a competition and I'm not interested in a cerebrum measuring contest. You totally misread me.

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TimmyCatChores wrote

"For someone interested in truth, I find it laughable that you don't recognize the Socratic method."

What is that?

"I find it laughable."

This is too juvenile for me to continue.

You wrote a lot of words, and said absolutely nothing.

Try harder, or give up. You can't hang in the argumentation dept.

Give me a run for my money. <sigh>

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amongstclouds wrote (edited )

All you do is ask deflecting questions when confronted with an opinion you don't totally agree with. This is getting out of hand.

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TimmyCatChores wrote

I'd also like to know, if science is not your authority for truth, what is?

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ExpiresOn092020 wrote

A more important question is what is truth? Is a collection of data truth?

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amongstclouds wrote

Truth is just a word that attempts to create legitimization by submitting to 'authorities' when in reality 'truth' is only something that individuals themselves can come to understand.

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TimmyCatChores wrote

Who you are is contingent on the culture in which you live.

If you were born in a tribe 30,000 years ago, you would not be the same person, and you would not have the same truth.

If you were born into a present day Brazilian tribe, you would not be the same person, and you would not have the same truth.

We don't create anything without shared ideas. We don't create anything that works consistently without a shared truth. That's how science and technology evolved over time, after climbing out of trees.

If you don't need to do anything, you can believe whatever you want. If you don't need help from any one you can do what you want.

If that's the case for you, it sounds great, but people in the world need to share absolute truths in order to survive.

Absolute truths like: if you don't eat, you die, and the general desire to live.

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amongstclouds wrote

We're not a hive-mind. Culture is still the conglomeration of individuals interacting with each other. But go ahead and do what you continue to do.

You are not on Raddle for positive reasons.

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TimmyCatChores wrote

Don't tell me what I'm doing, when you couldn't argue your way out a paper bag.

You are not an authority because you say you are.

Block me if you don't want me calling out your bullshit. Be a good sport.

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amongstclouds wrote

You're the one acting like an authority and trying to dictate what people should think.

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TimmyCatChores wrote

no. asking people to explain themselves is authoritarian. It's common sense in a forum.

What planet are you on?

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amongstclouds wrote

You disregard anything you don't agree with. You keep doing this and will continue to do this.

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TimmyCatChores wrote

you haven't said a bloody. It's just hot air.

Don't think everyone is going to let you get away with nonsense.

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amongstclouds wrote

I see right through you. You're not subtle.

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TimmyCatChores wrote

again. no meaning. just a simple ad hominem.

You have no idea what to say about anything, now that the jig is up.

You bullshit all day, won't you?

You'll keep up the charade all day, every day. Wow, what a life.

I see you

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BigGeorge wrote (edited )

Greetings conrade!

I am the man behind raddle, he who hath created all of this using my immense fortune, and I am so thankful for your service to the cause!

You are truly a grand example of a radical free thinker! You are the only one who understands that we must shape the next generation to overcome the brutal reality that curses our generation!

Everyone pay attention to this great social justice activist! Learn from them!

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TimmyCatChores wrote

Calling out bullshit is what rational-skeptics do.

Mkay?

So get used-to it. You might as well block me, because I don't play this shit.

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amongstclouds wrote

You're literally playing games.

-1

TimmyCatChores wrote

you haven't said a thing. It's tough shit that I called out your bullshit.

If I see you post bullshit, I'm going to call it.

Don't troll me any more. I'm asking nicely.

Don't even respond. Just ignore me. I don't have time for children trying to find a group identity. Your's is bullshit, and I will call it out every time, so stay away from me.

Be a good sport...with your bullshit.

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amongstclouds wrote

Critiques of science aren't asking us to not use the scientific method but to understand how it can be manipulated and used for exploitative purposes -- but your attachment to 'Truth™' can be dangerous.

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TimmyCatChores wrote

But you need to tell me how you determine the truth.

You can't just tell me I'm wrong, you need to explain how I'm supposed to do it right.

Left is a left PHILOSOPHY forum. Asking for an explanation is argumentation, and it's solidarity.

All I'm getting here is 'science doesn't know everything', which is fine, but you give no concrete explanation as what relevance that has in real life.

It seems like an excuse to say "I'll believe whatever I want".

There's no detail to the argument.

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amongstclouds wrote

I never said you were wrong but was explaining the purpose of critiquing the scientific process. I never said science doesn't know anything.

You just want answers that agree with you and you decide to dismiss anything other than that as 'right-wing thought' or whatever buzzword you can come up with. Did you come from leftbook?

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TimmyCatChores wrote

This is too abstract. I've forgotten your point was regarding the thread.

Don't worry about my manners. That's why the blocking feature is there.

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amongstclouds wrote

Then block me? Because you're the only one being hostile.

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amongstclouds wrote

I wish things were as simple as you try and make them out to be. :(

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TimmyCatChores wrote

You don't give an answer ever.

Explain yourself in more than just 'I don't like that idea'. There needs to be reasoning for your words to merit influence. It's philosophy. <shrugs>

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amongstclouds wrote

Again, just because you disagree with someone's opinions doesn't mean they aren't giving you an answer.

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amongstclouds wrote

“It is not the slumber of reason that engenders monsters, but vigilant and insomniac rationality."-Deleuze

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TimmyCatChores wrote

Lets look carefully at the discourse.

If you're not raising the level of understanding for people, and just saying "I don't like it", it's not working for rational discourse.

It's like "I don't like what you say but have no obligation to explain why".

That's simply disruption.

I love to learn. That's why I ask people to explain themselves. That's how to learn.

Here, asking someone to explain themselves is 'authoritarian'.

On my posts, I call bullshit bullshit.

If you're not here for the same purpose, I do not accept disruption.

If I need to do what I did on FB, which was ban a thousand people so I could have space, I guess I'll need to do that if I decide to put more effort into the transition.

I'm going to start with the people I consider bullshiters on this thread, so they don't bother me on other threads.

Solidarity and collective thinking go together. I'm not looking for banter from guys who just do that. I'm looking to work.

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BlackFlagged wrote (edited )

If you don't want anyone to talk to you, why don't you just make a forum, post what you want to say, and then lock the thread so no one can offer their perspective?

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TimmyCatChores wrote

Well it is a question for me, the relation between mental health and activism, which is a focus for me.

It's pretty simple to expect to not be attacked in the mental health forum for talking about legitimate psychology.

The accusations are getting intense from people who are anti-psychology.

That's not anything sensible in the real world of real work.

How can there be cohesion between anything if I can't relate activism to real science, in the absence of mumbo-jumbo anti-science?

I just at least be able to say anti-science is bullshit in the mental health forum.

I'm kind-of confused that people think that's OK.

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TimmyCatChores wrote

It's just wrong and Whack. And it seems to be 'normal' here. It's saddening and discouraging. <sigh>

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amongstclouds wrote

Yes, and I gave you a response in our original interaction and you disregarded it because you don't like it. Jump on down from your moral pedestal for one moment.

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amongstclouds wrote

You're hurting your own cause more than helping anything... and for the best, you seem to want things to be your way and ignore the individual concerns and desires. You're literally ignoring an entire aspect of existence as a conscious being capable of interacting with the environment.

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TimmyCatChores wrote

you need to quote what you're talking about, because there's no relevance to this conversation anymore.

You don't seem to have a point about the topic.

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Pop wrote

It takes a lot of work to answer these questions - for now it might be preferable to just read what others have to say on this site in general