In-tui-tion, In-tui-fiction and educated guess

During my recent lecture series on science and religion, I tried to make clear that science includes many beliefs in addition to hard facts while religions encompasses hard facts in addition to many beliefs.
So what about the fuzzy approach of intuition or educated guess in a prototypical biological experiment? If this is not just a dose or time variation from a previous experiment, it will always involve an extrapolation from somewhat related facts believing that the next experiment will be better than the last (which usually doesn’t come true). Einstein may be quoted (following a recent essay in LJ)

zu diesen elementaren Gesetzen kein logischer Weg [führt], sondern nur die auf Einfühlung in die Erfahrung sich stützende Intuition.

or by another source:

Die Sehnsucht nach dem Schauen jener prästabilierten Harmonie, von der Leibniz gesprochen hatte, ist die Quelle der unerschöpflichen Ausdauer und Geduld, mit der wir Planck den allgemeinsten Problemen unserer Wissenschaft sich hingeben sehen … Ich habe oft gehört, daß Fachgenossen dies Verhalten auf außergewöhnliche Willenskraft und Disziplin zurückführen wollten; wie ich glaube, ganz mit Unrecht. Der Gefühlszustand, der zu solchen Leistungen befähigt, ist dem des Religiösen oder Verliebten ähnlich …

and of course Feynman with his 1964 lectures series on physics (sorry, not online) or Raymond Wilder‘s famous statement (Science 1967)

The ultimate basis of modern mathematics is thus mathematical intuition.

(Although common sense or “gesunder Menschenverstand” has a poor reputation since Hume it remains our daily fallback). In any case, the observation above seem to be largely acceptable for most scientists. The immediate conclusion – grant reviews are useless – will raise objections. Nevertheless all reviews that I have been involved in, just add more beliefs. This may give some relief to the funding agencies (B&M Gates Foundation is an exception) moving the responsibility to other shoulders. If the application, however, comes from a well known lab, peer review will only add some educated guess. – science as “secularized religion” with belief in the validity of an experiment, the labbook as bible, celebrated in lecture halls, heralded by professors and canonized in text books, yea, yea.


Even cosmologist talk about an “axis of evil“…


Taleb’s swan book also has an account about the slow (largely correct) cognitive system in contrast to the quick (error prone, intuitive) heuristics that are based on previous experience. He is citing blink that is

a book about rapid cognition, about the kind of thinking that happens in a blink of an eye. When you meet someone for the first time, or walk into a house you are thinking of buying, or read the first few sentences of a book, your mind takes about two seconds to jump to a series of conclusions. Well, “Blink” is a book about those two seconds, because I think those instant conclusions that we reach are really powerful and really important and, occasionally, really good.