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" By definition it must be irrational and absurd (absurdity meaning here beyond the realm of reason and fact)."

Absurdity should be more in the sense of, "beyond the realm of understanding" I think. There are plenty of areas in science that defy (or seem to defy) logic. Heisenberg's principle can be demonstrated with a simple optics experiment, and still it makes no sense to natural logic. And I won't even go into entanglement theories. The point is that a switch, or a shift, or a displacement of dimension in the way something is apprehended and comprehended, even by means of reason, can change the nature of the thing to esoterical and back. That's the whole point of argument, and it comes from the fact that we don't know exactly what we mean by science, is it what we can touch, what can be proved logically, what can be theorized without material proof, does it also include those things that are not there yet for the simple reason that have not been discovered yet. Try to show a nuclear explosion to an 18th century Englightened and see if his first impulse is not to take it as a god's thunder. Try to explain the principle, and the theory of relativity with it, and see if he finds it rational.
Yet another subject for a diary...

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)

by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Sat May 30th, 2009 at 09:10:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think JD may be quoting Kierkegaard, who is quoting Tertullian - Certum est, quia impossibile est.

The logical talents of the early Christian fathers were perhaps not their strongest suit.

ValentinD:

That's the whole point of argument, and it comes from the fact that we don't know exactly what we mean by science, is it what we can touch, what can be proved logically, what can be theorized without material proof, does it also include those things that are not there yet for the simple reason that have not been discovered yet.

No, we do very much know what we mean by science. Science isn't specific discoveries, but the social and personal processes by which those discoveries are made. I would be very surprised indeed if the members of the Royal Society in Newton's time would have considered a nuclear bomb to be an act of god, once someone took the time to explain radioactivity and fission to them.

Some scientists seem to drift into quasi-authoritarian religiosity, and new ideas can take a generation or more to become accepted. (The theory of continental drift is one of the most famously disappointing examples.)

But as long as reliable evidence is provided scientists will, eventually and sometimes grudgingly, remain open to reassessing how they believe the world works.

This shouldn't be confused with a lack of appreciation for strangeness. Quantum theory and relativity are counter-intuitive - but only because our natural intuition evolved in a different direction.

In fact all of science works in the opposite direction to naive intuition, by definition. Anything which is obvious and intuitive, or 'obvious' because it 'feels right' in a purely subjective, irrational or conveniently expedient way, isn't science.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Sat May 30th, 2009 at 06:31:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm not certain you could have successfully explained the relativity theories, let alone quantum mechanics, to scientists in Newton's time.
But even if we could say that brilliant people have such great minds, no matter the century they existed in, it's not only a problem of (counter-)intuitiveness.
I used the term logic, not intuitive (or worse: obvious) because logic has a universal quality to it, independent of the sophistication level of the person.
Saying that light can be seen as a wave or as a particle though, is not so so unlike the early christianism's theological disputes around the holy trinity's composition.

There is also another point: the scientifical methodology still in use today is absolutely useless in face of a new phenomenon. Say, a parallel universe. Partly because of the technical means available, partly because being inside a system makes it very hard to get a birdeye view of its functioning, we're doomed to advance blindfolded.
We notice some weird behaviour in some CERN experiment, and start building theories as to the cause of it. Theories are built on the base of what we know today, hence faced with something totally new, very different, or overarching, there will be little chance of figuring it out (I'll attempt a class-difference example: imagine someone barely familiar with powder guns and suddenly having to deal with a nuclear bomb; or better, an F22 attack on a tribal army in medieval Africa).
In practice, science evolved by a myriad of steps and streams of discoveries, but they were all depending on the past situation. Something which is somehow outside the present day's scope will likely never be captured by one of the proposed theories, except by accident.
In short, this methodology is not comprehensive, and given the way we constantly get to new levels of complexity of the universe, I don't expect it to be.
Maybe ants are intelligent at their own level, but I can perfectly see why we would never be able to explain to them the world outside.

Note: this is no plea in favour of religion, but just a train of thought that can well have flying-saucer aliens at the end.

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)

by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Sat May 30th, 2009 at 07:11:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In many ways, the 16th century scientist was much more open to new ideas than the 20th century scientist. There is a huge leap from the (western) medieval mind, which could explain everything in a religious context, to the Renaissance mind, which puts every aspect of the world back in question.

Modern physicists are much closer to the former, because there is an ever increasing body of knowledge that must be preserved sine qua non. One simply cannot invent a theory that contradicts past successes. For example, both relativity and quantum mechanics must reduce to classical Newtonian physics on the scale of a laboratory or an engineering work.

Newton didn't have to follow the accepted rules of past developments except for one: Euclidean geometry. This does not mean he could not have grasped Einstein's ideas, on the contrary he was probably a better geometer than Einstein. He simply had no reason to develop in that direction, as the experiments that Einstein cared about were not accessible. Moreover, the fact that at least 1/3rd of all of Newton's work was on alchemy suggests to me that he would have been quite at ease with the quantum view of the world.

--
$E(X_t|F_s) = X_s,\quad t > s$

by martingale on Sun May 31st, 2009 at 12:04:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Maybe. One can also construct a sound theory, even prove it, and leave the job of its compatibilty with the acquis communautaire to someone else. The two parts of the demonstration are not necesarily dependent on each other.
The modern history of scientifical theories has seen anything btw, including theories cancelling each other or not being successful because not being convincing, or even liked enough by the community.
Fortunately science doesn't work in the manner of the catholic church burning Giordano Bruno, and there are scientists taking seriously, or at least doubting mystical or spiritual phenomenons without being reduced to muttering silently "eppur si muove".

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)
by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Sun May 31st, 2009 at 06:54:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
One can also construct a sound theory, even prove it, and leave the job of its compatibilty with the acquis communautaire to someone else.
True, but if the theory is not relevant to other scientists, it stays on the fringes and is soon forgotten. That's a risk one takes.

BTW, I think you're using theory in the typically mathematical sense of a body of consistent results. I believe the word theory is usually reserved by scientists for an amply proven set of mechanisms and conclusions about the some aspect of the world.

--
$E(X_t|F_s) = X_s,\quad t > s$

by martingale on Sun May 31st, 2009 at 11:38:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm not certain you could have successfully explained the relativity theories, let alone quantum mechanics, to scientists in Newton's time.

If you gave them the equivalent of a modern university education in physics, you most probably could. But it's true that you cannot explain quantum mechanics to someone who is not familiar with Newtonian mechanics, matrices and PDEs. That's a couple of centuries of gap you'd have to bridge.

But even if we could say that brilliant people have such great minds, no matter the century they existed in, it's not only a problem of (counter-)intuitiveness.
I used the term logic, not intuitive (or worse: obvious) because logic has a universal quality to it, independent of the sophistication level of the person.
Saying that light can be seen as a wave or as a particle though, is not so so unlike the early christianism's theological disputes around the holy trinity's composition.

shrug

The experimental results are what they are, and the equations are pretty convincing. And the equations and experimental results agree that there is no fundamental distinction between waves and particles. I fail to see how that's any weirder than the fact that ice cubes and water are made of the same kind of molecule, despite having radically different physical properties.

There is also another point: the scientifical methodology still in use today is absolutely useless in face of a new phenomenon. Say, a parallel universe. Partly because of the technical means available, partly because being inside a system makes it very hard to get a birdeye view of its functioning, we're doomed to advance blindfolded.
We notice some weird behaviour in some CERN experiment, and start building theories as to the cause of it. Theories are built on the base of what we know today, hence faced with something totally new, very different, or overarching, there will be little chance of figuring it out (I'll attempt a class-difference example: imagine someone barely familiar with powder guns and suddenly having to deal with a nuclear bomb; or better, an F22 attack on a tribal army in medieval Africa).

If it interacts with our experimental apparatus in a reasonably consistent fashion, we can build a model for how it behaves. It does not need to be the correct model, or even to have any justification from first principles. "Black magic empiricism" will allow us to get a rudimentary handle on its behaviour. And once we have a rudimentary handle on its behaviour, we can begin to construct testable models. From that point out, it's a fairly routine exercise to reconcile them with existing models - that's what physics has been about for the last couple of centuries. Assuming, of course, that there is a Theory of Everything. But as working assumptions go, that assumption has done us a lot of favours.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sun May 31st, 2009 at 12:42:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
"That's a couple of centuries of gap you'd have to bridge."

Yes, that was my point, and until you bridge that gap the person risks taking it as yet another weird theory of turning copper into gold. A couple of centuries gap is a leap sufficiently big to turn a heresy to material fact, or to make walking on air accepted by empiricists :)

"I fail to see how that's any weirder than the fact that ice cubes and water are made of the same kind of molecule"

Your comparison is of the wrong category. It would be weird if they were made of two different kinds of molecules at the same time.

As to the equations, you're probably aware that the issue is about statistics involved in explaining a fundamental property of the matter, and with it, the fact that we still don't know what a photon is.
As an aside, the particle property of light was not definitively accepted until the '70s, despite any quality of Logic and Reason that Einstein's quantum theories and the experiments of Compton and others carried.

 

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)

by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Sun May 31st, 2009 at 07:20:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, that was my point, and until you bridge that gap the person risks taking it as yet another weird theory of turning copper into gold.

But that gap can be bridged in a matter of three years' worth of university education.

So Newton wouldn't understand QM and GR in the sense that if you presented him with the results, he'd say that they were nonsense. But he would certainly be able to understand them if you explained their basis in experiment and theory. Only, that explanation would take a couple of years, because there's a limit to how much you can compress this stuff...

A couple of centuries gap is a leap sufficiently big to turn a heresy to material fact, or to make walking on air accepted by empiricists :)

I'm not sure what the point is here? That the world is weirder than we imagine? Certainly. But it is also weird in different ways than what we imagine. Of all the weird ideas about the world - from Newton going forward - only a minuscule fraction of a percent have turned out to be correct.

Your comparison is of the wrong category. It would be weird if they were made of two different kinds of molecules at the same time.

But who promised you that waves and particles were two different kinds of phenomena? At the quantum level, they are no more different than electricity and magnetism are different in the relativistic picture. That is equally weird if you stop to think about it.

As to the equations, you're probably aware that the issue is about statistics involved in explaining a fundamental property of the matter, and with it, the fact that we still don't know what a photon is.

But we do. It's what comes out when you quantize the Maxwell equations. Why does there need to be more to it than that?

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Mon Jun 1st, 2009 at 04:39:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's what comes out when you quantize the Maxwell equations. Why does there need to be more to it than that?

Because as can be seen
here, even for minds as brilliant as Niels Bohr's it took quite time before accepting the existence of a particle of light.

One can also look here for a different kind of view of quantum mechanics. I particularly liked this phrase:

The Bohm interpretation is a hidden variables theory. In other words, there is a precisely defined history of the universe; however, some of the variables that define the history are not (and cannot be) known to the observer. For that reason, there is uncertainty in what we know about the universe.

One can also check out this theory here that seems to have a particular problem with quantizing Maxwell's equations - and I'd also like to quote:

In a September 2007 conference David Wallace reported on what is claimed to be a proof by Deutsch and himself of the Born Rule starting from Everettian assumptions. ...  It is fair to say that some theoretical physicists have taken them as supporting the case for parallel universes.

and also this one of which we can read here:

Carver Mead has developed an approach he calls Collective Electrodynamics in which electromagnetic effects, including quantized energy transfer, derived from the interactions of the wavefunctions of electrons behaving collectively. In this formulation, the photon is a non-entity ...

None of these theories are disproved, btw.

That said, it can be refreshing to meet a mind populated by so many certainties. On condition that it's on a sunday afternoon and one has nothing better to do of his time.

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)

by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Mon Jun 1st, 2009 at 02:19:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
So you've proved - presumably to your own satisfaction - what, exactly? That JakeS doesn't know what he's talking about?

Quantum ontology is not the same as quantum modelling. The ultimate 'existence' of quantum phenomena is an artifact of modelling the quantum world from a classical starting point, and extending familiar concepts like waves and particles into spaces where they don't entirely fit. Not even the concept of existence applies in the same way that it does in the classical world.

So no one knows what a photon is - and it's not a useful question to ask, because no one knows what anything is. There are only functional descriptions of varying levels of consistency and accuracy. Our psychology imposes approximate but useful object relationships which turn out not to exist in reality.

But the functional descriptions still work reliably. The functional descriptions which calculate how quanta behave work well for bosons and fermions, subject to certain limits and only a little handwaving. The functional description that calculate the large scale relationships between matter and spacetime work well, subject to certain limits, and only a little handwaving.

The link between the two remains a mystery. So of course there's uncertainty about parts of the picture, because that's where the science is happening. You can say a theory is useful and understood without demanding that there's a full ontological picture to support it. As long as it gets accurate answers, and as long as it's being expanded, improved, or challenged, it doesn't need to be a final and complete map of the world.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Mon Jun 1st, 2009 at 02:43:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Way up this thread I chose as an example the dual nature of light precisely for its implications.
I claimed that this is an example which can hardly be explained rationally.
I showed that brilliant scientists doubted for years, even as both theoretical and experimental base was already there.
Why? Because explaining such fundamental topic by means of probabilities is -- weird. In this particular case, it's not just that we wouldn't hold the ultimate secret of the universe; the problem is that we don't quite know what photons, or quanta are, even at a functional level. And the practical applications in work today are only using the tip of the theoretical iceberg.
More still, the philosophical issues resulted from this are absolutely fascinating and show, not the limits of rational thinking (on the contrary, I always claimed myself of rational argumenting, not from mystical ), but the complexity of the universe even as we know it and the irrationality of using terms such as irrational vs some rational, hard-fact science.

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)
by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Mon Jun 1st, 2009 at 03:38:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Or like I already said before, there is but a small part of the religious phenomenon that I can safely call "subjective". The rest of it, be that the creation (not that idiocy called intelligent design, mind you), the spiritual, or the mystical side, I hold my judgement and I don't exclude at all that sometime in the future they will be subject to rational, skeptical, analythical approach.

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)
by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Mon Jun 1st, 2009 at 03:46:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Related to this, one big obstacle will have to be removed, and that is science being reduced to materialism and reducing the world to what can be seen. The fact that scientifical positivism became the religion of the modern days, literally killing the man, doesn't mean it will always be like that. We're known to be a resilient species :)

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)
by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Mon Jun 1st, 2009 at 04:03:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yawn. I've seen that movie before.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Mon Jun 1st, 2009 at 08:41:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, you've probably seen it here, argued way better and leaner than I tried to.

I begin to realize that you indeed have debates of almost anything.

The newcomer's guide should contain an explicite recommandation for him/her to search the archives before entering in or starting any kind of debate :)

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)

by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Tue Jun 2nd, 2009 at 09:51:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
ValentinD:
Why? Because explaining such fundamental topic by means of probabilities is -- weird. In this particular case, it's not just that we wouldn't hold the ultimate secret of the universe; the problem is that we don't quite know what photons, or quanta are, even at a functional level. And the practical applications in work today are only using the tip of the theoretical iceberg.
At a functional level, you get particles when you decompose the hilbert space of spaces of a complex system in terms of irreducible representations of the appropriate group of spatio-temporal symmetries.

The brainless should not be in banking. — Willem Buitler
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Jun 3rd, 2009 at 04:37:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Did you just say weird?

European Tribune - The world is weirder than you ever thought

In other words: it is an experimentally verifiable fact that, if God doesn't play dice, 1) the world out there has spooky action at a distance; 2) you are not allowed to ask about the values of quantities you don't measure; 3) if you considered "what if" you had actually measured an additional quantity, the values of the ones you did measure would change.


The brainless should not be in banking. — Willem Buitler
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Jun 3rd, 2009 at 04:40:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
ValentinD:
Way up this thread I chose as an example the dual nature of light precisely for its implications.
Which are? Hopefully something more substantial than
this is an example which can hardly be explained rationally.
If you cannot explain an experiment rationally, you'll have to revise the logic of your attempt at rational explanation and, if that is not faulty, examine the (often unstated) philosophical assumptions and maybe drop some of them.
I showed that brilliant scientists doubted for years, even as both theoretical and experimental base was already there.
Why?
Because they had to give up a lot of metaphysical baggage. Some of the creators of QM were never able to do it. Einstein and Schrödinger among them.
the philosophical issues resulted from this are absolutely fascinating and show, not the limits of rational thinking
Wait, I thought
that this is an example which can hardly be explained rationally.


The brainless should not be in banking. — Willem Buitler
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Jun 3rd, 2009 at 08:45:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Like the good semanticist that you are, you certainly realized that the latter sentence used "rational" in a positivist/realist understanding, while the former used it in an idealist one.

Unfortunately I had not read previous debates here on quantum mechanics ontology, related metaphysics and so on.
Or else I would have directly referred you to those debates and avoid repeating here what has largely been said before.
Suffice it to say that ontological and epistemological interpretations of the different quantum mechanics theories are well there and are not disproved by "rational hard-fact" science. At that level there is hardly any "hard fact" and the notion of rational depends on your chosen interpretation. That's what I also meant with my example, which I gave with no intention to provoke such a debate, but just to show that science is far from being a hard-fact field.

That said, it's your right to think you can leave metaphysics and the spiritual out of science, or classify them as irrational, and my right to call that positivism and blind materialism.
Others also did this before, and subsequent debates were far from solved.

Other diaries will probably deal with the issue, and this is definitely not the place.
I can hardly find a post in this diary, so it's become unmanageable and that's a pity, it was originally about improving ET's presentation and clarifying agenda issues.

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)

by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Wed Jun 3rd, 2009 at 10:39:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
i think it's an important part of ET's 'knowing itself', and the facet being presently studied is tolerance toward diversity. i'm glad not all ET is so meta, but it makes a nice break from oohing and aahing about the latest ghastly phenomena coming down the newspike, lol.

yes other diaries will return to this, because, atheism's victories notwithstanding, there is more religion than ever in today's world, (most bad, probably), and religion has more influence than ever on politics that affect all of us, faithful or not.

where better to debate its sins and virtues than this forum, where several nations (and belief systems) meet?

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Wed Jun 3rd, 2009 at 11:12:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Suffice it to say that ontological and epistemological interpretations of the different quantum mechanics theories are well there and are not disproved by "rational hard-fact" science. At that level there is hardly any "hard fact" and the notion of rational depends on your chosen interpretation.

Scientifically, they are the same theory. They make the same experimental predictions, and their equations reduce to each other. The debate between them is a non-debate, as far as the science is concerned.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Thu Jun 4th, 2009 at 04:33:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
... at least we settled one thing: we've still no idea what a photon really is :)

Besides all this, another question come to mind:
how come a whole range of progressive can be so idealistic in social, or political matters, and so down-to-earth materialistic in science matters.
You all jumped at my throat when I was singing praises to God Reason and pragmatic ThirdWayers, yet now those same people do exactly the same about science: all of a sudden, pragmatic, hard-fact, purely-rational approach is no longer damned.
I proclaim my idealism about science, and all I hear is Vade Retro!

What is a progressive in the end, is it an idealist, or not? Or the idealism is limited to the working class? The philosophical dreamer continuously building new, better worlds, is in reality reduced to hard fact science and restricting philosophy to production-means ownership issues.

The conclusion would be that poemless was right: progressive is no progressive really; it's just another word for marxist.

Why not call a cat what it is then.

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)

by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Wed Jun 3rd, 2009 at 10:51:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
how come a whole range of progressive can be so idealistic in social, or political matters, and so down-to-earth materialistic in science matters.

Who's idealistic around here?
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed Jun 3rd, 2009 at 10:57:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
ValentinD:
we've still no idea what a photon really is :)
It depends on what you mean by "really".

Can you calculate a phonon dispersion relation, by the way?

The brainless should not be in banking. — Willem Buitler

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Jun 3rd, 2009 at 11:01:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
how come a whole range of progressive can be so idealistic in social, or political matters, and so down-to-earth materialistic in science matters.

Because science deals in facts, predictive power and universally applicable theories. Politics, by its nature, does not have the luxury of universally applicable theories and easily controlled experiments. That is not to say that science cannot inform politics - it obviously can, just as science and politics can inform religious dogma (the other way around, though... not so much).

But attempting to turn politics into a physical science with universally applicable theories and three-significant-figures predictive power has historically not turned out so well. Just as attempts to turn science into a political or religious enterprise has never really been terribly productive.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Thu Jun 4th, 2009 at 04:29:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I, personally, feel extra-ordinarily bored by your comments.
by Lily (put - lilyalmond - here <a> yahaah.france) on Thu Jun 4th, 2009 at 07:23:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That's your prerogative. Me, I feel extraordinarily exasperated with all the attempts to claim the mantle of science to justify personal superstitions.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Thu Jun 4th, 2009 at 08:04:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Because as can be seen here, even for minds as brilliant as Niels Bohr's it took quite time before accepting the existence of a particle of light.

So?

The proponents of the steady state theory took a long time to be convinced of the big bang. Again, this speaks to the intuition and metaphysics of the scientists, not to the science.

The Bohm interpretation is a hidden variables theory. In other words, there is a precisely defined history of the universe; however, some of the variables that define the history are not (and cannot be) known to the observer. For that reason, there is uncertainty in what we know about the universe.

Yes. Your point?

It is possible to attribute the time development of the observable to non-local hidden variables, just as it is possible to attribute it to the operators (Heisenberg picture) or to the wavefunction (Schrödinger picture). These are mathematically and experimentally equivalent. Which one you choose is an issue of mathematical elegance and/or personal preference.

The same goes for the multiverse picture: Being experimentally and mathematically indistinguishable from the Copenhagen picture, using it is a matter of personal preference.

All of these different metaphysics are about where to locate the time dependence of an observables. But since observables are only observable in toto, it seems highly unlikely that this particular line of enquiry will ever move beyond the philosophical into practical application. By all means, use any and all of them if that is the most mathematically elegant, or conceptually satisfying, solution to the problem at hand. But let's not pretend that they justify treating quantum mechanics as evidence that science accepts "weirdness" in general, or that your particular religious "weirdness" is epistemologically equivalent to scientific models.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Mon Jun 1st, 2009 at 07:27:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
ValentinD:
None of these theories are disproved, btw.
You know why? Because they are just interpretations. They lead to the same experimental predictions as "standard" quantum mechanics and are mathematically equivalent.

In other words, you're talking about different noumena noumena for the same phenomena

The positive noumena, if they existed, would roughly correspond with Plato's Forms or Idea -- immaterial entities which can only be apprehended by a special, non-sensory, faculty: "intellectual intuition".[19]

Kant doubts that we have such a faculty, because for him intellectual intuition would mean that thinking of an entity, and its being represented, would be the same. He argues that humans have no way to apprehend the meaning of positive noumena:

which is not very productive.

The brainless should not be in banking. — Willem Buitler
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Jun 3rd, 2009 at 04:45:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Migeru,

  1. Are you trying to make the case for science that will one day have the means to answer any question that may arise?

  2. This is not yet the case. The picture isn't complete, and you cannot prove that it will ever be.

  3. Valentin believes there's more there which he cannot prove, either, though there's some evidence - for more, not the complete picture.

  4. Science explores the odds and ends of our existence. So does philosophy. So does Buddhist contemplative science, to cite but one prominent example. The findings of Buddhist scholars cannot be proved with the same methods that you apply to prove your point. Does this make these findings irrelevant?

  5. Maybe 'materialistic science' will make discoveries that have been found long ago in other disciplines. Maybe not. If they do, are these discoveries only given scientific relevance once they'll be proved through the methods you solely acknowledge?

  6. You will not be able to find a consensus because, again, one is talking apples, the other oranges.

So, maybe it is better that each tries to explore the other's view, if interested, and come back in a few diaries' time.

I admit that this is not exactly a balanced approach since Valentin doesn't appear to be a contemplative scientist but knows your side.
This would be different if you were debating each from his own and differing discipline alone.

 

by Lily (put - lilyalmond - here <a> yahaah.france) on Wed Jun 3rd, 2009 at 06:03:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Lily:
Migeru,

  • Are you trying to make the case for science that will one day have the means to answer any question that may arise?
No, because some questions have no meaning or no answer.

For instance, under Newtonian physics there was a concept of "absolute velocity". When Maxwell's equations were found to predict the speed of light, it was assumed this could be used to answer the question "what is the absolute velocity of the Earth in space?". The Michelson-Morley experiment failed to show any absolute speed. Under Einsteinian physics the question "what is the absolute velocity of something?" is a meaningless question. It's not that science cannot provide an experimental answer to the question, it is that the question is meaningless. Quantum mechanics also provides a number of examples of meaningless questions

  • This is not yet the case. The picture isn't complete, and you cannot prove that it will ever be.
I am, in fact, quite confident that it will never be. On the other hand, I am also quite confident that we know enough about physics to explain every ordinary phenomenon, in principle.
  • Valentin believes there's more there which he cannot prove, either, though there's some evidence - for more, not the complete picture.
He's not very explicit as to what, exactly, there is "more". Thus I am not quite sure how it would be possible to prove or disprove thar this "more" actually is there. If he's referring to "hidden variable theories", there is no known experiment that is inconsistent with the "standard interpretation" of quantum mechanics. So, "hidden variables" are either incorrect or experimentally indistringuishable from "standard quantum mechanics". Moreover, although "hidden variables" have their origins in a philosophical "naïve realism" (naïve here being a technical term and not one of abuse), hidden variable theories compatible with experiment must be nonlocal, contextual and not counterfactually definite. This means they are nothing that any reasonable layperson would call "intuitive", and since hidden variable theories are mathematically more contrived than standard quantum mechanics and are not any more "intuitive", I choose to stand by standard quantum mechanics. Well, I am partial to the Everett "relative state" interpretation (I consider "many worlds" a misnomer) but that is still only an interpretation of the standard mathematical apparatus.
  • Science explores the odds and ends of our existence. So does philosophy. So does Buddhist contemplative science, to cite but one prominent example. The findings of Buddhist scholars cannot be proved with the same methods that you apply to prove your point. Does this make these findings irrelevant?
Did I say they are irrelevant?
  • Maybe 'materialistic science' will make discoveries that have been found long ago in other disciplines. Maybe not. If they do, are these discoveries only given scientific relevance once they'll be proved through the methods you solely acknowledge?
Clearly they can only be given "scientific relevance" by scientific methods.
  • You will not be able to find a consensus because, again, one is talking apples, the other oranges.
I'm talking quantum physics because quantum physics was being talked about.
So, maybe it is better that each tries to explore the other's view, if interested, and come back in a few diaries' time.

I admit that this is not exactly a balanced approach since Valentin doesn't appear to be a contemplative scientist but knows your side.
This would be different if you were debating each from his own and differing discipline alone.

I don't know what you mean by this last part.

The brainless should not be in banking. — Willem Buitler
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Jun 3rd, 2009 at 06:26:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I've always thought of myself as being quite prolific...; I feel humbled.

There are questions that have no meaning, no answer. Agreed.
What about questions that have existential meaning?

Science can explain almost every "ordinary phenomenon". Agreed.
What about extra-ordinary phenomena?

I'm no quantum physicist. I believe the point of science's limitations can better be made arguing from outside science, not from within. Valentin is trying to argue from within. He may not be a quantum physicist but he stays (tries to) within the rational framework of the debate. One must sound ir-rational to defend a position or other sciences that reach into, ~other dimensions.

When you consider findings outside your own science relevant, you should also consider methods revolving around them relevant. Not?

Clearly they can only be given "scientific relevance" by scientific methods.

Agreed.

I'm talking quantum physics because quantum physics was being talked about.

:) I see.

Last paragraph: You can drop it, please. I hope I've just made myself clearer.

by Lily (put - lilyalmond - here <a> yahaah.france) on Wed Jun 3rd, 2009 at 07:04:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Lily:
Last paragraph: You can drop it, please.
Actually, now that I think I know what you mean by contemplative scientist I can go back to what you say
Lily:
So, maybe it is better that each tries to explore the other's view, if interested, and come back in a few diaries' time.

I admit that this is not exactly a balanced approach since Valentin doesn't appear to be a contemplative scientist but knows your side.

How does the fact of whether one or both or none of two people is a "contemplative scientist" determine what is a "balanced approach"?

The brainless should not be in banking. — Willem Buitler
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Jun 3rd, 2009 at 07:17:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
[You read an write at light speed...]

What I meant by "balanced approach":

If one has been trained as a scientist and the other one in Buddhist contemplation and none knows the discipline of the other. Both can find out about the other and maybe learn from it.

If both are trained scientists but one has the vague idea (open mind) that there is merit to integrating contemplative (or other) methods into what is considered as scientific, then both don't have the same amount of work to do.

by Lily (put - lilyalmond - here <a> yahaah.france) on Wed Jun 3rd, 2009 at 07:24:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
"A vague idea" and "an open mind" are not quite the same thing, though.

The raison d'etre of science is to provide universal answers. I find it very hard to imagine a "contemplative" approach that provides universality. That is not to say that contemplation is not interesting, but it cannot meaningfully be called science.

(Mig has a good Keynes quote saying something similar about economics and Queen Victoria...)

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Thu Jun 4th, 2009 at 04:22:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
From The General Theory:
But the proper place for such things as net real output and the general level of prices lies within the field of historical and statistical description, and their purpose should be to satisfy historical or social curiosity, a purpose for which perfect precision--such as our causal analysis requires, whether or not our knowledge of the actual values of the relevant quantities is complete or exact--is neither usual nor necessary. To say that net output to-day is greater, but the price-level lower, than ten years ago or one year ago, is a proposition of a similar character to the statement that Queen Victoria was a better Queen but not a happier woman than Queen Elizabeth--a proposition not without meaning and not without interest, but unsuitable material for the differential calculus. Our precision will be a mock precision if we try to use such partly vague and non-quantitative concepts as the basis of our quantitative analysis.


The brainless should not be in banking. — Willem Buitler
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Jun 4th, 2009 at 04:25:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Lily:
What about questions that have existential meaning?
How do you propose to explore an existential question in a way that allows two different people to reach an agreement on the answer?

What's the meaning of life? We don't know. What's the meaning of my life? Maybe I know, or not, but I submit that you cannot know, just like I cannot pretend to know what the meaning of your life is, unless you tell me and I take you at face value. And even then, your meaning may not apply to me. So, what would be the point of asking about the meaning of life?

Lily:

When you consider findings outside your own science relevant, you should also consider methods revolving around them relevant. Not?
But relevant to what?

The brainless should not be in banking. — Willem Buitler
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Jun 3rd, 2009 at 07:22:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
relevant to what?

You said you hadn't said they were irrelevant.

If you find them relevant in some way, you could explore that question.

If you are confident that science has the answers to all ordinary phenomena, and other disciplines provide answers to both some ordinary but also extra-ordinary phenomena and you find that this is relevant, something about these extra-ordinary phenomena may be relevant and point to a deeper meaning that you do not wish to acknowledge at this point.

"What's the meaning of life?" is the central question that motivates all philosophising.

Science is only a sub-discipline that evolved because people were curious about physical phenomena that they wanted to understand in order to make use of them. Their understanding would serve (cf. industrialisation) our meaning. That meaning has always consisted of living on planet Earth for a given number of years, exploiting it and the time at hand, consciously or not. Has it been an end in itself, or was it rather motivated by religion (serve the gods/God) and our struggle for survival?

Scientific discoveries and progress helped to better cope with our physical human condition (discovery of new land, medicine, engineering, etc.). We have always 'worked the land' and struggled with our human condition. Through the ages, people have also sought answers in nature, in gods, in God, for the better, for the worse.

Suddenly Science stands out and claims that the likelihood of a God being there is minimal and cannot be proved. Religion is at the origin of wars, so much harm and inhumanity. So why bother with it? Science can explain almost everything in our world anyway.
WHO is that 'Science' ;) that he claims sovereignty in all matters of knowledge?

It cannot explain what the meaning of life is. Hence life has no meaning, says he. Only your life has a meaning, my life has a meaning and what that is, is only for you, for me to decide.

I find it hard to find individual meaning in an overall meaningless scheme. Why trust science on that? Why not go and look and ask others who have found meaning? Do we stop bothering about life's meaning (as a whole) because we're afraid there will never be a consensus? That seems silly because this question is existential. It speaks of where we come from, where we're going. If others have found answers, why would you, I not find? What if your, my answers differ? They may. They shall give you peace, they shall give me peace and not anyone else.

The very curious thing is that once people try to explore the question, having only themselves in mind and their quest for Truth (with the big "T"), they arrive at a magic moment where they look up and see that they're not alone, that others have found the same. They may have different names for what they've found, describe it differently because our knowledge is always only partial and two people will always see differently but they'll know that they're talking about the same, ~God~.

At that point, however, consensus is no longer an end in itself. It's simply there.

---

If science claims authority but ignores the question of life's meaning, what can it alone be good for?

by Lily (put - lilyalmond - here <a> yahaah.france) on Wed Jun 3rd, 2009 at 09:03:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Er - sorry - but this is nonsense.

The experience of god proves nothing about the existence of god. Because - obviously - experiences differ. So does any consensus about what they mean. And also what they mean for 'the meaning of life.'

The one thing theists - and conservatives - seem to have in common is a rather desperate need to impose absolute moral meanings on their experience.

But the reality is that these meanings are obviously different for everyone. So which of them is 'god'?

Moral and metaphysical relativism already happens within and between religions. So no consistency is possible.

Science has its own morality, but it's hardly any more absolute than the insistence of a theist that reality is like this and this is what it means.

Peace is a good thing, but - as I'm sure I've pointed out before - Christianity and theism hardly have an excellent record when it comes to promoting peaceful coexistence.

The difference between science and religion is that science accepts diversity and open-mindedness, of a sort, while religion denies them.

By not denying reality, science has a more hopeful chance of reaching an accomodation with it. Human nature can be studied - and in fact it's only by studying it and accepting the realities of human morality, both good and bad, that a rational civilisation might one day by possible.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Wed Jun 3rd, 2009 at 09:26:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
impose absolute moral meanings on their experience.

That is your experience. Is it absolute?
Is it what is essential to spiritual experiences?
Do you know?

The difference between science and religion is that science accepts diversity and open-mindedness, of a sort, while religion denies them.

This may be true for religion as the organised political body of believers. Is it also true for faith itself?

Science is not open-minded towards the idea that there is a god and that there are all kinds of extra-ordinary or paranormal phenomena that it cannot explain.

Institutionalised religion offers structure to believers. At the institution (Church governing level), people have power, and there is/has been abuse. You only see the abuse and choose to miss the essence of why believers believe and what they have found. Have you ever asked?

By not denying reality, science has a more hopeful chance of reaching an accomodation with it. Human nature can be studied - and in fact it's only by studying it and accepting the realities of human morality, both good and bad, that a rational civilisation might one day by possible.

Science does not deny reality? But it ignores so much of reality unless you deal the non-answers about our origins and our hereafter as absolute truths.
This can really only be open-mindedness "of a sort".

[I must go out now, will be back tonight.]

by Lily (put - lilyalmond - here <a> yahaah.france) on Wed Jun 3rd, 2009 at 10:06:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I should know better than to respond, but this is so immensely wrong I can't help myself:

Science is not open-minded towards the idea that there is a god and that there are all kinds of extra-ordinary or paranormal phenomena that it cannot explain.

Wrong. It just wants evidence of them. Show us a paranormal phenomena.  Show us a god.

Science can explain all these things, at least in draft form. It's just people don't like the explanations.

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed Jun 3rd, 2009 at 10:12:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed Jun 3rd, 2009 at 10:19:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
How many more are reading along here? Are you taking turns? lol

I don't know whether 'paranormal' was a good choice of word. Science doesn't have an explanation for miracle healings. Scientists call them "spontaneous remission". The name doesn't offer any explanation.

Miracle healings happen. That's a fact.

You want to see God, yet you don't know the meaning of 'spiritual'. That will be difficult, and it's not meant to be because God cannot be seen, only experienced through faith. Quantum theories won't do, and I won't do but we can take it easy because I'm not imposing on you what you cannot see. I only invite you to have a look for yourself.

Later -

by Lily (put - lilyalmond - here <a> yahaah.france) on Wed Jun 3rd, 2009 at 10:29:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Lily:
How many more are reading along here? Are you taking turns? lol
News flash: this is a blog, not a private conversation.

The brainless should not be in banking. — Willem Buitler
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Jun 3rd, 2009 at 10:31:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
[yes, I'm STILL here]

I know it's a blog :) but the debate is quite advanced... so.

by Lily (put - lilyalmond - here <a> yahaah.france) on Wed Jun 3rd, 2009 at 10:50:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
See the "recent comments" tab at the top of the screen? Following along is easy.

Religion doesn't have an explanation for miracle healing. It calls them "miracle healings" and witters on about the grace of Apollo and the favour of the Three Hags.

I don't want to see God. You do.

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed Jun 3rd, 2009 at 10:34:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Okay then.
by Lily (put - lilyalmond - here <a> yahaah.france) on Wed Jun 3rd, 2009 at 10:57:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
BTW: Do you hereby acknowledge God's existence?
In fact, you do. You hear that others 'see' God, respect what they see and you just don't want to see the same as well.
by Lily (put - lilyalmond - here <a> yahaah.france) on Wed Jun 3rd, 2009 at 11:00:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
No, though if you were wilfully misinterpreting what I said you might manage to construct that from it.

Other people experience something they call "God". That only tells me about what they experience, not what is real or true: it's an interesting datum about how humans work, not how about how the universe works.

Or, to put it another way, my best guess is that "God" is a brain-fart.

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed Jun 3rd, 2009 at 11:06:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's very possible in the next 50 years of Central Nervous System research, both physiological and systematic, that 'experiences' will be well understood.

I am already convinced that subjective transitions of emotions/moods/feelings (and why not beliefs?) are biochemical. Exactly how these biochemicals change or transition a 'mood state' depends on what is there already, both in terms of memory (patterns of past experience decentralized), genetics and any physical 'damage' that may have occurred.

Roxy Music sang that 'Love is the drug'. It's actually the other way round.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Wed Jun 3rd, 2009 at 11:22:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yup. Though I wouldn't hold my breath for the 50 years ... I rather suspect it'll take longer than that to work out the tools to think about it, never mind actually understanding it.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed Jun 3rd, 2009 at 11:33:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But is 'sometime' scientific? ;-)

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Wed Jun 3rd, 2009 at 11:40:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Lily:

Science doesn't have an explanation for miracle healings. Scientists call them "spontaneous remission". The name doesn't offer any explanation.

Miracle healings happen. That's a fact.

Hold it right there.

"Spontaneous remission" happens. That's a fact.

Calling it a "miracle healing" is an interpretation.

Since the fact that remission or healing took place can be agreed on, but whether there was a supernatural event ("miracle") involved  is not agreed on.

A doctor may say "I don't know how this happens". And you come and say "I know, it was a miracle". And how do you know? "Because of my faith".

The brainless should not be in banking. — Willem Buitler

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Jun 3rd, 2009 at 10:35:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, quite. A nice wide statistical survey of health benefits would be more useful than cherry-picked accounts of miracles which may or may not be independently verifiable.

When people try do this, results are mixed - at best.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Wed Jun 3rd, 2009 at 10:47:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You can ignore these events and find the comfort you're looking for in history. You live in a free country.
by Lily (put - lilyalmond - here <a> yahaah.france) on Wed Jun 3rd, 2009 at 11:07:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You may call it spontaneous remission or miracle healing. There's no scientific way to explain how a cancer that had been there suddenly disappears.
by Lily (put - lilyalmond - here <a> yahaah.france) on Wed Jun 3rd, 2009 at 11:03:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The scientific explanation is "We don't understand that yet."
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed Jun 3rd, 2009 at 11:07:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The body's immune response wins out?

But why is it so wrong to say honestly, I don't know?

Does accepting it was a supernatural event inform future treatments of other patients? No, because a "miracle" is not repeatable.

Accepting you honestly don't know may lead you to research what actually happened and you may end up making a therapeutic advance.

Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful.

The brainless should not be in banking. — Willem Buitler

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Jun 3rd, 2009 at 11:08:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Does accepting it was a supernatural event inform future treatments of other patients? No, because a "miracle" is not repeatable.

That's not quite so. If you begin to look outside science, you will find that there's an immense spiritual world that can be understood (and is understood by some). It can explain such spontaneous healings. You'd have to open your minds to be able to integrate these insights and applications into what's known in science. But nobody has to.

by Lily (put - lilyalmond - here <a> yahaah.france) on Wed Jun 3rd, 2009 at 11:23:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You ignore psychosomatic effects. "What do you call alternative medicine that works? - medicine"

The entire animal is a feedback system. You can't separate out the bits that are physical or metaphysical, or which is the product of which. So in one sense I agree with you - belief is part of the human (at least) system. But belief is only one small area of the total ecosystem that is called a human.

But then again I believe that consciousness is a simple product of complexity i.e. the 'experience' that emerges when different parts of the brain 'terminate' simultaneously.

And none of this in any way reduces my sense of wonder at life.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Wed Jun 3rd, 2009 at 11:39:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
And none of this in any way reduces my sense of wonder at life.

I like this.

by Lily (put - lilyalmond - here <a> yahaah.france) on Wed Jun 3rd, 2009 at 11:44:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Sven Triloqvist:
You ignore psychosomatic effects. "What do you call alternative medicine that works? - medicine"
Now we could get into whether religion helps motivate people to engage in beneficial behaviours which are beneficial because of psychosomatic effects and not because of any supernatural effects, and whether "enlightened rationality" threw out the baby with the bathwater in the 18th century...

The brainless should not be in banking. — Willem Buitler
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Jun 3rd, 2009 at 11:52:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
'Supernatural' is, as you have been promoting, another name for 'We don't know that yet'. If you'll forgive my clumsy paraphrase.

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Wed Jun 3rd, 2009 at 12:03:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
If you begin to look outside science, you will find that there's an immense spiritual world that can be understood (and is understood by some). It can explain such spontaneous healings. You'd have to open your minds to be able to integrate these insights and applications into what's known in science.

Look, if you're gonna do medicine - particularly serious business like curative and palliative therapies for dangerous diseases like cancer, you need clinical trials and plausible biological explanations. It is downright unethical to start practising any modality that has not been tested for safety and effect.

And guess what? Once it has been tested for safety and effect, it is not "alternative" anymore. Medicine is incredibly open-minded in that respect: If it works for more patients than it harms, then it's in.

Humanity tried "looking outside science" for cures for thousands of years. Then we tried looking inside science for a hundred or so years - give or take fifty years depending on the disease in question.

I know which mortality rate I prefer.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Thu Jun 4th, 2009 at 05:20:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It is in, unless it offends the structures in the medical system.

Washing your hands before treating patients was not in, just because of the proven effect in Ignaz Semmelweis famous study. (Instead he was driven away.)

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Thu Jun 4th, 2009 at 10:39:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, as we know
a new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.
But this doesn't mean that paradigm shifts are not evidence-based.
Kuhn vehemently denies this interpretation and states that when a scientific paradigm is replaced by a new one, albeit through a complex social process, the new one is always better, not just different.


The brainless should not be in banking. — Willem Buitler
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Jun 4th, 2009 at 11:05:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Feyerabend similarly says that the changes are generally better by being mathematically simpler.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Thu Jun 4th, 2009 at 11:19:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Though "simpler" is not as simple a concept as it sounds.

The brainless should not be in banking. — Willem Buitler
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Jun 4th, 2009 at 11:26:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Perhaps cleaner, or more elegant. I'm not sure I'd go with simpler!
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Thu Jun 4th, 2009 at 11:28:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think from memory he goes as far as saying easier to calculate, but it is ten years since I read his work.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Thu Jun 4th, 2009 at 11:32:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That is surely wrong.

The brainless should not be in banking. — Willem Buitler
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Jun 4th, 2009 at 11:33:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, there's fads and yes there's results that are not accepted for political reasons. But the track record of scientific medicine is still better than the record of non-scientific medicine, even with these flaws.

Or, to put it in another way, data beats consensus, but consensus beats folk medicine.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Thu Jun 4th, 2009 at 03:12:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
God cannot be seen, only experienced through faith.

God can also be experienced through the historical influence and actions of believers.

The results are mostly not encouraging.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Wed Jun 3rd, 2009 at 10:49:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
no, what you see is collective pathology by people who are manipulated to do what evil human told them.
gig bifference...

a million misapprehensions don't disprove anything.

white crows...

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Wed Jun 3rd, 2009 at 11:06:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
so much heat expended over a false dichotomy!

plenty of scientists believe in god, plenty don't. what's the issue?

religion created the inquisition, science hiroshima, both have plenty to answer for.

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Wed Jun 3rd, 2009 at 11:14:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You're right.
by Lily (put - lilyalmond - here <a> yahaah.france) on Wed Jun 3rd, 2009 at 11:35:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Colman:
Show us a paranormal phenomena.  Show us a god.

show the fish the water!

the whole universe is mostly unexplained phenomena, isn't it?

it's great how we've sussed so much out, but doesn't it pale compared to what we don't know?  

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Wed Jun 3rd, 2009 at 11:31:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
unexplained phenomena

Which are very different to unexplainable phenomena (whose existence I do not admit).
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed Jun 3rd, 2009 at 11:34:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
it's great how we've sussed so much out, but doesn't it pale compared to what we don't know?  

I'd be interested to know how you know that. isn't the amount we dont know in essence unknowable? It might be that science is complete next week, we just don't know.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.

by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Thu Jun 4th, 2009 at 11:22:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
What we don't know is a non-computable set, isn't it? Even if it were complete you might not know.

The brainless should not be in banking. — Willem Buitler
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Jun 4th, 2009 at 11:25:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
<giggle>
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Thu Jun 4th, 2009 at 11:27:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
yes definitely.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Thu Jun 4th, 2009 at 11:27:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
you said i know that, really it's just an idea, not original!

i find that's what history suggests. it took us so long to discover the earth was round, or that the sun was the centre of our galaxy, now we have begun to realise how deep space is, how can anyone think we have done more than scratch the surface, i don't understand.

even the workings of our own brains are only beginning to come dimly into view.

if you'd shown a neanderthal an ipod, and asked him how to get from there to here, he would probably strike two flints together and say, does it start with this?

he was probably pretty stoked with that science already, lol.

so extrapolating, if we are still neanderthals in some respects, doesn't it follow that the best discoveries will always lie ahead? as we discover more about how to discover, and correlate theories with proof.

there may have been a neanderthal whose eyes would have lit up, as he hustled off to find some beryllium or whatever to get started on his ipod project, or he may have gone, 'cool idea, but at this rate it'll take thousands more years to make one', and of course he'd be right!

some people are blessed with more imagination than their reality can contain, others just shut it down, it's just too painful to think of what we could be as a species, ( i_really don't like the word 'race'_) then look around at what we've become.

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Fri Jun 5th, 2009 at 08:02:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
i find that's what history suggests.

In the matter of the rate of accumulation of scientific knowledge, as in the matter of price movements on the stock exchange, the past does not predict the future with any great accuracy.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sat Jun 6th, 2009 at 07:15:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
that's true, but i don't think great accuracy is really necessary here.

after all, i'm investing in it time, thought and imagination, not hard cash, like the stock market!

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Sun Jun 7th, 2009 at 05:44:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
    Science is not open-minded towards the idea that there is a god and that there are all kinds of extra-ordinary or paranormal phenomena that it cannot explain.

Wrong. It just wants evidence of them. Show us a paranormal phenomena.  Show us a god.

Science can explain all these things, at least in draft form. It's just people don't like the explanations.

If we seperate between science as a method and the scientific community I think you are both right. Science as a method can approach any question and just wants evidence.

The scientific community on the other hand, can be very averse to touching some questions at all. There was a quite large donation for a professors chair in parapsychological research that bounced between Scandinavian universities before finally settling at Lund. There was quite some concern expressed that studying certain phenomena would debase the scientific community. Not very open-minded indeed.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Thu Jun 4th, 2009 at 10:31:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But as it happens, parapsychology (if we're talking about the same thing) turned out to be mostly bunk.

If you start studying everything that some eccentric rich uncle wants to give money to, you're going to get a high rate of false positives. If the True Probability of an event is very low compared to the noise in the experiment, the number of apparently significant results that are really due to noise will be much larger than the number of true positives. Of course, we do not know the true probability, but in some cases we have a pretty good idea.

While false positives are not a problem in principle, when you combine it with the well-known bias against publishing negative results and the fact that the metastudies needed to weed out false positives are time consuming (and then add the way pressure groups, newsies and outright frauds like to seize upon a single scientific paper, regardless of quality, to justify their cause, angle or story1), it actually does make sense to refuse to study something that can present no physically plausible mechanism of action.

Which is not to say that science doesn't have fads and that the scientific community isn't pretty conservative - sometimes excessively so. But obvious nonsense like homeopathy and wheels of perpetual motion really has no place in a serious research institution.

- Jake

1That's not a problem for science per se, but most scientists do observe a minimum of social responsibility.

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Thu Jun 4th, 2009 at 03:02:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You said you hadn't said they were irrelevant.

Irrelevant to science? They are. Irrelevant to philosophy? Not necessarily. Irrelevant to your personal experience of the human condition? That is for you to decide.

Macroeconomics do not consider the father's love for his daughter, except in the most tangential and contrived way. But we do not lambaste macroeconomics for failing to describe love, because it is outside the remit of macroeconomics.

Why, then, do so many people insist that science must describe their emotional life, or validate their philosophical convictions? Science can tell us that the Earth is quite definitely round. It can tell us that Bell's inequality is most certainly broken at the quantum level. It can inform the design of transistors. But it does not - indeed cannot - speak to your subjective experience or your personal belief, except to say that it is not universally and generally true, and that it has little or no predictive power.

I do not care whether the rest of the world shares my love for my family (in fact, I would be a little bit disturbed if it did...). That does not, however, make it less real. So the fact that science does not describe it can affect no more than a shrug and a "so what?" from me.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Thu Jun 4th, 2009 at 04:59:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I recommend,

Contemplative Science - Where Buddhism and Neuroscience converge by B. Alan Wallace.

inside the cover:

Science has long treated religion as a set of personal beliefs that have little to do with a rational understanding of the mind and the universe. However, B. Alan Wallace, a respected Buddhist scholar, proposes that the contemplative methologies of Buddhism and of Western science are capable of being integrated into a single discipline: contemplative science...

also:

In Contemplative Science, B.A.W. forcefully and properly challenges the materialistic presuppositions held by many scientists. He goes on to argue convincingly for the development of a contemplative science of consciousness based on a highly trained faculty of attention that can investigate the mind firsthand.
(Arthur Zajonc, Andrew Mellon Professor of Physics, Amherst College, author of 'The Dalai Lama at MIT')

publisher: Columbia University Press, NY

The Columbia Series in Science and Religion is sponsored by the Center for the Study of Science and Religion (CSSR) at Columbia University. It is a forum for the examination of issues that lie at the boundary of these two complementary ways of comprehending the world and our place in it. By examining the intersections between one or more of the sciences and one or more religions, the CSSR hopes to stimulate dialogue and encourage understanding.
(emphasis mine)

... stimulate dialogue and encourage understanding, not: encourage polarisation.

by Lily (put - lilyalmond - here <a> yahaah.france) on Wed Jun 3rd, 2009 at 06:47:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Western science is not "contemplative". It is experimental.

On the value of "contemplation"... Feynman Lectures on Physics, Volume I, Chapter 16 [PDF]

There is another school of philosophers who feel very uncomfortable about the theory of relativity, which asserts that we cannot determine our absolute velocity without looking at something outside, and who would say, "It is obvious that one cannot measure his velocity without looking outside. It is self-evident that it is meaningless to talk about the velocity of a thing without looking outside; the physicists are rather stupid for having thought otherwise, but it has just dawned on them that this is the case. If only we philosophers had realized what the problems were that the physicists had, we could have decided immediately by brainwork that it is impossible to tell how fast one is moving without looking outside, and we could have made an enormous contribution to physics." These philosophers are always with us, struggling in the periphery to try to tell us something, but they never really understand the subtleties and depths of the problem.

Our inability to detect absolute motion is a result of experiment and not a result of plain thought, as we can easily illustrate. In the first place, Newton believed that it was true that one could not tell how fast he is going if he is moving with uniform velocity in a straight line. In fact, Newton first stated the principle of relativity, and one quotation made in the last chapter was a statement of Newton's. Why then did the philosophers not make all this fuss about "all is relative," or whatever, in Newton's time? Because it was not until Maxwell's theory of electrodynamics was developed that there were physical laws that suggested that one could measure his velocity without looking outside; soon it was found experimentally that one could not.

Now, is it absolutely, definitely, philosophically necessary that one should not be able to tell how fast he is moving without looking outside? One of the consequences of relativity was the development of a philosophy which said, "You can only define what you can measure! Since it is self-evident that one can not measure a velocity without seeing what he is measuring it relative to, therefore it is clear that there is no meaning to absolute velocity. The physicists should have realized that they can talk only about what they can measure." But that is the whole problem: whether or not one can define absolute velocity is the same as the problem of whether or not one can detect in an experiment, without looking outside, whether he is moving. In other words, whether or not a thing is measurable is not something to be decided a priori by thought alone, but something that can be decided only by experiment. Given the fact that the velocity of light is 186,000 mi/sec, one will find few philosophers who will calmly state that it is self-evident that if light goes 186,000 mi/sec inside a car, and the car is going 100,000 mi/sec, that the light also goes 186,000 mi/sec past an observer on the ground. That is a shocking fact to them; the very ones who claim it is obvious find, when you give them a specific fact, that it is not obvious.

Finally, there is even a philosophy which says that one cannot detect any motion except by looking outside. It is simply not true in physics. True, one cannot perceive a uniform motion in a straight line, but if the whole room were rotating we would certainly know it, for everybody would be thrown to the wall--there would be all kinds of "centrifugal" effects. That the earth is turning on its axis can be determined without looking at the stars, by means of the so-called Foucault pendulum, for example. Therefore it is not true that "all is relative"; it is only uniform velocity that cannot be detected without looking outside. Uniform rotation about a fixed axis can be. When this is told to a philosopher, he is very upset that he did not really understand it, because to him it seems impossible that one should be able to determine rotation about an axis without looking outside. If the philosopher is good enough, after some time he may come back and say, "I understand. We really do not have such a thing as absolute rotation; we are really rotating relative to the stars, you see. And so some influence exerted by the stars on the object must cause the centrifugal force."

Now, for all we know, that is true; we have no way, at the present time, of telling whether there would have been centrifugal force if there were no stars and nebulae around. We have not been able to do the experiment of removing all the nebulae and then measuring our rotation, so we simply do not know. We must admit that the philosopher may be right. He comes back, therefore, in delight and says, "It is absolutely necessary that the world ultimately turn out to be this way: absolute rotation means nothing; it is only relative to the nebulae." Then we say to him, "Now, my friend, is it or is it not obvious that uniform velocity in a straight line, relative to the nebulae should produce no effects inside a car?" Now that the motion is no longer absolute, but is a motion relative to the nebulae, it becomes a mysterious question, and a question that can be answered only by experiment.

I realise I paraphrased part of this argument in a parallel comment, but that's because I had recently re-read it. And I decided to hunt or a quote in response to the claim that "Western science" is "contemplative".

The brainless should not be in banking. — Willem Buitler
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Jun 3rd, 2009 at 07:12:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That's my mistake. I've also just realised this (before having read your comment).

Contemplative Science is seen as a new discipline.

by Lily (put - lilyalmond - here <a> yahaah.france) on Wed Jun 3rd, 2009 at 07:17:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Why?

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Wed Jun 3rd, 2009 at 07:27:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Why what?
by Lily (put - lilyalmond - here <a> yahaah.france) on Wed Jun 3rd, 2009 at 09:05:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
why is it a new discipline?

all science involves some contemplation or you're not doing it right.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.

by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Wed Jun 3rd, 2009 at 12:55:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Contemplation here means meditation, entering other levels of consciousness (yes, that fuzzy stuff). 'Contemplative Science' encourages dialogue and research between empirical scientists and contemplative 'scientists'.
 
by Lily (put - lilyalmond - here <a> yahaah.france) on Wed Jun 3rd, 2009 at 01:34:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
But in fact it is a very old discipline... and it has never been very good at the whole predictive power thing.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Thu Jun 4th, 2009 at 05:31:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If you gave them the equivalent of a modern university education in physics, you most probably could.
I don't see this as the issue at all. Newton, Descartes, Huygens, Leibniz were first rate minds who were quite capable of bridging the conceptual and philosophical with the practical. This is in fact what they did and what we celebate them for.

There is very little that's actually difficult about relativity or quantum mechanics at the purely conceptual level. Anybody can pick up the basics from countless books written for the public if they like. The true difficulty is technical. You cannot join the scientific conversation without a mastery of Riemannian geometry or operator theory, and these take many years to approach.

Yet the technical aspects are only used to actually solve problems, and in principle one is free to solve a problem any way one likes. I would claim that with nothing but the purely conceptual foundation of the modern theories, such as could be explained in an evening, the likes of Huygens and Newton would have had no difficulty in solving real problems. They did so with the problems of their day after all, which were just as vaguely expressed. Their solutions would have looked nothing like what we expect to see today of course, but would have been solutions nevertheless.



--
$E(X_t|F_s) = X_s,\quad t > s$

by martingale on Mon Jun 1st, 2009 at 03:15:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I would disagree. There is an entire conceptual apparatus that developed with 17th-19th century mathematical physics - generator functions, matrix algebra, vector calculus - etc. I don't see how you can make meaningful predictions in QM outside that framework.

Heck, in Newton's case, you'd have to explain electrostatics before you could even get started on QM, and electrodynamics and electromagnetism before you could get very far. And I would claim that electromagnetism in particular is impossible to understand until and unless you're familiar with PDEs, because you have to be able to quantify the positive and negative feedbacks in order to even give a qualitative description of the system's behaviour.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Mon Jun 1st, 2009 at 04:14:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I would disagree. There is an entire conceptual apparatus that developed with 17th-19th century mathematical physics - generator functions, matrix algebra, vector calculus - etc. I don't see how you can make meaningful predictions in QM outside that framework.
There's nothing specifically QM about any of your examples (generating functions, matrices or vector calculus). Historically, these ideas were developed for entirely different areas of mathematics in the 19th century or earlier, but even that late arrival had no limiting effect at all on scientists' ability to solve complex real world problems much earlier. For example, Euler (as for that matter Newton) was perfectly capable of treating full 3d motion in the middle of the 18th century without requiring the crutch of matrices or vectors. Monge was a master of PDE theory - in 1795!

Electrostatics is actually a bad example to use, precisely because the theory is mathematically identical to Newtonian gravity. Even relativity would have been no problem to these guys. Einstein's contribution, while crucial, is technically really very small, as it amounts to doing hyperbolic geometry instead of the Euclidean one. Newton knew more about conics than most mathematicians probably do today.

As to making useful predictions in QM without these methods, remember that matrix mechanics is only Heisenberg's picture. The Schroedinger picture is about wave equations, which had already been worked out in the middle of the 17th century by Euler and the Bernoulli gang.

--
$E(X_t|F_s) = X_s,\quad t > s$

by martingale on Mon Jun 1st, 2009 at 05:47:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Also, they were terrifyingly smart.

Netwon would have been a pig to persuade, but I doubt he would have had problems with the theory. Every year hundreds of ordinarily talented undergrads work their way through the basics without falling off anything tall and hurting themselves, so a genius really wouldn't find it difficult.

Ed Witten of string theory fame apparently worked through an entire three year undergrad physics curriculum over a summer holiday - competently enough to enrol as an applied maths postgrad, even though his original major was history, and he was planning to be a political journalist.

He may have had help from his father, who was another theorist. But even so.

He also lasted one term as an economics wannabe, which may or may not say something relevant and interesting about economics.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Mon Jun 1st, 2009 at 02:53:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Give Newton the Feynman Lectures on Physics and a summer and he'd be up to speed.

The brainless should not be in banking. — Willem Buitler
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Jun 3rd, 2009 at 04:33:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
This sentence:
"If it interacts with our experimental apparatus in a reasonably consistent fashion"

positively cancels the rest of the paragaph. My supposition precisely mentioned the technical means available, besides our being inside the system we are trying to understand.


Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)

by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Mon Jun 1st, 2009 at 02:31:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
If it does not interact with our experimental apparatus in a reasonably consistent fashion, how do you distinguish it from an invisible pink unicorn?

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Mon Jun 1st, 2009 at 08:43:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I was just wondering which exactly apparatus you have in mind: the present day one, or the one of Newton's time.

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)
by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Tue Jun 2nd, 2009 at 03:13:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Doesn't matter insofar as the epistemological point is concerned: If the best, most precise experimental apparatus available cannot detect the effect in any reliable way, then it is very hard to distinguish from invisible pink unicorns. If you can come up with a physically plausible detection scheme, then you've bought yourself a little bit of time. But making vague appeals to what might or might not be discovered in the grim darkness of the far future... well, that's just unproductive.

Science advances one equation at a time; speculation about the nature of major scientific discoveries made decades or centuries from now is something best left to SciFi writers.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Tue Jun 2nd, 2009 at 05:36:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'll rather focus on the filled-half-glass of your post.
At least we have agreed that the scientifical methodology, in its skeptical and experiment-driven (I'd call it minimalist) approach, is far from comprehensive, and we can't exclude it entering the realm of metaphysics at some point, when a majority of the scientific community will open raise their eyes from pure materialism.

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)
by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Wed Jun 3rd, 2009 at 10:20:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
For certain values of "comprehensive."

Science describes the world as it appears to everyone who bothers looking. That is its great virtue, and what makes it such a powerful tool.

Of necessity, however, it means that science cannot answer - and will indeed never be able to answer - questions that have different answers depending on your subjective taste, your unique life experience or your particular cultural baggage. If you move into that, you are leaving the realm of science and entering into the realm of metaphysics, taste, ideology, theology, ethics, political economy or any of a host of other diciplines.

(Most of) these disciplines are both interesting and relevant. But they are not science.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Thu Jun 4th, 2009 at 04:12:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
logic has a universal quality

LOL! Not after it has been processed by the human mind, it doesn't.

The only logical statement that can be made about light (or anything else) is that it is what it is and it does what it does. If it does something that a person does not expect, then logically-speaking that person does not understand it. The thing itself does not care either way.

by det on Sun May 31st, 2009 at 04:25:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
"Not after it has been processed by the human mind, it doesn't"

That has nothing to do with it, no matter how you take it, as a philosophical category or as as a basis for science. Logic is at the basis of rational argumentation by definition, of scientifical argumentation, the best example being mathematics. This is the first place ever where I hear it taken for "intuitiveness" :)


Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)

by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Sun May 31st, 2009 at 06:14:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Actually there's no such thing as a completely logically consistent mathematical system.

The consistency is patchy. You can start from axioms and build systems, but you have to accept the axioms as given. They're not provable - nor are some of the processes used to build system.

According to George Lakoff, logic is founded in cognitive psychology. Certain processes 'make sense' because they use internally consistent metaphors. The process of selecting and refining those metaphors is trial and error, and not a metaphysical revelation of philosophical truth.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Mon Jun 1st, 2009 at 02:58:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes. I can smell some nice philosophical implications of this, concerning our methodological approach in science. Funny how little by little every thing seems to reduce to the man, in the end :)

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)
by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Mon Jun 1st, 2009 at 04:09:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
"If it does something that a person does not expect, then logically-speaking that person does not understand it."

Understanding issues like the dual nature of light, or the idea of curved space-time continuum remain "counterintuitive" even when you successfully went through the whole process of explaining the mathematics behind. If you look at how volatile things still are in the world of quantum physics, how theories appear, shine and disappear faster than a meteorite, you'll probably understand what I meant by saying that science is far from being the safe land we like to think it is, and that keeping in the realm of Reason and Hard Fact is far from excluding unexplained, weird phenomenons as mere delusions.

(obviously all this doesn't concern winged dragons spitting fire, or burning chariots taking this or that saint to the sky; those may be the criteria some choose to dismiss mystical phenomenons, for me it's just a mark of unseriousness and a intention to do propaganda rather than debate).

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)

by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Sun May 31st, 2009 at 06:39:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
And again you're not understanding that science is a process - it's not a set of beliefs about the world which are supposed to be fixed and definitive.

The edges of science are always in a state of change and tentative guesswork, by definition.

That's what the process is for - to extend those edges. And as a process it's the most successful philosophical construct in history.

Skeptical collaborative cross-checking and model building have turned out to be immensely powerful. No one - well, hardly anyone - believes they're limitless. But they're incredibly useful for exploration and open-ended enquiry.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Sun May 31st, 2009 at 06:55:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I know all this, I agree with you. I am just pointing out that even fullblown scientists using the skeptical collaborative cross-checking model sometimes happen to have it wrong and consider something as absolutely impossible.

When we speak about religions, we must distinguish what we're talking about.
For me, there are the mystical aspects that I may doubt about (ie, I don't venture defending them in a debate, but I keep an open mind, from reasons explained in my posts above);
there are philosophical aspects with which I came to agree with, after careful consideration;
there is stuff like the creation part, of which frankly, in a debate with a skepticist, I wouldn't know what to say: is it a metaphor, is it something deeply spiritual and without immediate logical value, or something else - this is indeed the realm of subjective, although I wouldn't go as far as to call it irrational;
and finally there are the religion bureaucracies, with the history we all know, and which I don't defend or particularly support.

All this shows why I shy away from giving outright verdicts about this or that, even as I understand your issues with the church bureaucracy or Jerome's with the mystic side of it.

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)

by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Sun May 31st, 2009 at 07:38:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
For me, there are the mystical aspects that I may doubt about (ie, I don't venture defending them in a debate, but I keep an open mind,

A skeptic's mind isn't closed. It just has a door policy.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Mon Jun 1st, 2009 at 04:54:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
scientists ... sometimes happen to have it wrong

No offence, but this is just a statement of the bloody obvious. They are only human after all. They do not claim to be infallible.

scientists ... sometimes happen to have it wrong and consider something as absolutely impossible.

Devious wording (again no offence). Science is dealing with describing the nature of things as they are; it is dealing with studying reality (what is possible) not unreality (what is not possible). But in so far as it goes, since science never considers anything to be absolutely proven (hence the concept of falsifiability), a scientist who claims something is "absolutely impossible" might be sticking his neck out a bit. However, he is perfectly entitled to make the claim since it only requires one instance of that "something" occurring to prove him wrong.

But to the broader point, so what if a scientist or group of scientists get it wrong? I hope no one has the idea that there is something wrong about being wrong in science (which is to say drawing the incorrect interpretation from the observations/results). Scientists get things wrong all the time. The point is that science strives to correct its own errors.

Of course, if you believe that there are some errors that science will never be able to correct or some aspects of "reality" that science will never be able to probe, then that is a different story. Such claims are ultimately unknowable, since the identification of an error/omission in current scientific understanding is the start of the process to rectify it.

by det on Mon Jun 1st, 2009 at 07:32:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
No offense taken. I can assure you the intention wasn't devious.

This sub-thread started from an affirmation of religious phenomenons as totally subjective and downright irrational. Many fellow bloggers here seem to be in agreement with that (I feel like saying: DUH! this is why I think the rating system is bad; I doubt certain posts above bear any "excellent" quality to them).
While I too can agree to the subjectivism of certain aspects (eg the creation in christianism), I think we should be much more careful in declaring it all "irrational", especially regarding religions like, say, buddhism.

TBG and JakeS mentioned the necessity of hard facts, and rational processes.
My point is that there were many scientifically sound theories considered wrong for decades before being accepted by the community, despite "rational" theoretical proof and hard-fact experimental proof.
No doubt bearing a grudge against religion, some here treat the religious phenomenons exactly the same way the Vatican treated Giordano Bruno and Galilei. I can't touch it, hence it doesn't exist. Well a lot of stuff was considered impossible even in modern time science, and is now accepted. So if we pretend ourselves evolved and rational, we should at least learn from the past,
namely to be more careful in our sentences (or else, why not, to tag them "Ideological"), more precise in our argumentation (rather than reducing christianism or buddhism to the winged dragons), open minded enough to accept that "impossible" today may be "scientifical fact" 200 years from now.


Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)

by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Mon Jun 1st, 2009 at 01:23:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
My point is that there were many scientifically sound theories considered wrong for decades before being accepted by the community, despite "rational" theoretical proof and hard-fact experimental proof.

"They laughed at Columbus, they laughed at Fulton, they laughed at the Wright Brothers. But they also laughed at Bozo the Clown." - Carl Sagan

No doubt bearing a grudge against religion, some here treat the religious phenomenons exactly the same way the Vatican treated Giordano Bruno and Galilei.

I call Galileo Gambit.

"I can't touch it, hence it doesn't exist." Well a lot of stuff was considered impossible even in modern time science, and is now accepted.

Doggerel.

So if we pretend ourselves evolved and rational, we should at least learn from the past,
namely to be more careful in our sentences (or else, why not, to tag them "Ideological"), more precise in our argumentation (rather than reducing christianism or buddhism to the winged dragons), open minded enough to accept that "impossible" today may be "scientifical fact" 200 years from now.

Markups added for clarity.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Mon Jun 1st, 2009 at 06:10:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Understanding issues like the dual nature of light, or the idea of curved space-time continuum remain "counterintuitive" even when you successfully went through the whole process of explaining the mathematics behind.

That is a statement about your intuition, not about the laws of physics...

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Mon Jun 1st, 2009 at 04:53:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
i'm still trying to figure out why wheels go backwards in movies!

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty
by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Mon Jun 1st, 2009 at 07:23:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
A function of shutter speed/frequency + Persistence of Vision phenomenon.

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Mon Jun 1st, 2009 at 07:56:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Science meets the brain ;-)

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Mon Jun 1st, 2009 at 07:56:51 AM EST
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