Re: How does science work?
Posted: Wed Jul 17, 2019 7:24 pm
Ah. Now I understand. Please excuse my past misuse of “why” (I.e. as if how something happens is why something happens).
For the discussion of all things philosophical, especially articles in the magazine Philosophy Now.
Ah. Now I understand. Please excuse my past misuse of “why” (I.e. as if how something happens is why something happens).
I always found the concern of the difference of the 'how' versus 'why' odd. I've only run into this most significantly in the religious apologetic efforts to dismiss or trivialize science with respect to religious issues. I interpret "why" to mean "for what (cause)". Some interpret this as meaning "what evaluative cause or purpose for X?" but I never see this as a concern being non-religious with respect to physical reality. As such, to me, science DOES answer the 'why' necessarily but means "for what (causal connection) about X?" 'How' only expands on some process where why asserts the causal connections between known things.uwot wrote: ↑Fri May 04, 2018 8:27 amWell, "why" is ultimately philosophy. Here's a paragraph from a draft of the article:
Some physicists take a very dim view of philosophy. According to the late Stephen Hawking, philosophy is dead, because “Philosophers have not kept up with modern developments in science. Particularly physics.” But what of physicists doing philosophy? Steven Weinberg wrote in Dreams of a final theory a chapter called Against philosophy, part of the thrust of which is that the only service philosophers can provide physicists is to point out how useless other philosophers are. Even so, he concedes that: “Physicists do of course carry around with them a working philosophy. For most of us, it is a rough-and-ready realism, a belief in the objective reality of the ingredients of our scientific theories.”
So scientists do generally have an idea of 'why', but it doesn't make any difference to the mathematical models, which are the ones that count, because you can do things with them.
Well, this thread was originally about me writing an article for Philosophy Now. The OP was written over a year ago and the article is in the next edition of PN, which is coming out in a couple of weeks. It opens like this:
I'll have to read the article to see how you expanded on this. I would pick all of these as essential. But the emphasis is more on the practicality as to which choices are made on the 'fringes' of science that are less threatening to the particular middle parts of science. I don't approve of how science tends to act as an institute that evolved to be more political as it is for the power of selecting which theories are most useful though. A fuzziness exists with the word "evidence" when what is observed often has a description that gets passed by without noticing it can be laden with bias. [Like how someone who might tell you to look at some flower and presume that it is obviously something 'beautiful' as some intrinsic fact that cannot be denied.]uwot wrote: ↑Thu Jul 18, 2019 7:32 amWell, this thread was originally about me writing an article for Philosophy Now. The OP was written over a year ago and the article is in the next edition of PN, which is coming out in a couple of weeks. It opens like this:
With which of these three propositions do you most agree? A scientific theory must be:
1) A logically coherent explanation.
2) Supported by evidence.
Since we talking about 'fringes' (very small and the very large extremes on some of science) the question is about an "ultimate" apriori premise in a logical explanation, not that science doesn't answer, "why". I have noticed that the root of the question originates with the demarcation which is about the religious interpretation of whether something God-like or God itself is the ultimate source. As to something I disagree to beyond this is the presumption that is as equally illogical: a belief that NO such absolute truth can be discovered within the fringes. This is the paradigm that I think is occurring that is strictly due to culture and the times. Because, for instance, demarcation was needed to separate which things should be permitted in a practical way with respect to politics, some theories are placed forward even if they are not sincerely the best. In some ways this is similar to a magician who wants to save their jobs by ensuring some parts are sufficiently 'mysterious' and require a kind of faith in the presentation. As long as it 'entertains' as it is expected to, the society will permit the magician to continue doing what it does best. For science, I believe a lot of it within institutes tends towards political cycles in the same fashion as Karl Marx's reference to this in history of governments.uwot wrote: The difference between how and why, at least as I use them in the article can be expressed like this:
How does gravity work? Answer: according to the rules set out in Einstein's Field Equations. That is both supported by evidence and is useful.
Why does gravity work? Answer: Er, well no one really knows, but according to General Relativity, it's because there's this rubbery stuff called 'spacetime' which gets warped by massive objects. There is no direct evidence for 'spacetime', but it doesn't really matter, because whether it exists or not makes no difference to the efficacy of the field equations.
Physicists moaning about philosophy are sometimes citing an anecdote about some loudmouth metaphysician pest with no idea what they are talking about, examples of which are all over this forum. But even the most hard-nosed instrumentalist physicist is likely to have a philosophical model; a concept for why, in the above sense, their mathematics works*. Philosophical models are part of what Kuhn called paradigms. As it happens, when I was discussing the article with the editors, they asked if I could do a biography of Kuhn. So I did: https://philosophynow.org/issues/131/Th ... _1922-1996
*Richard Feynman is worth watching on this point: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NM-zWTU7X-k
I have both Kuhn and Popper's works although I haven't felt a necessity to read them when I got the gist of them through many sources already. I underlined the above to point out that this is the stated example OF our 'paradigm' that is blinding us today. It is my paraphrase about certainty above that makes this statement. The swan example, of which I am familiar, suffices to show something about things 'contingent' and relatively impossible to determine. But this is a bad example to speak of on the absolutes of origins or ends, those 'fringes', or any similar logical extremes....This demanded that anything that could not be supported by empirical evidence or strict logic was metaphysics and had no place in science (or indeed, anywhere else). One major problem – which in fairness the logical positivists were well aware of – is that no amount of empirical evidence (or logic) can prove a scientific claim. The classic example is that a million white swans do not prove that every swan is white. Popper’s innovation was to point out that it only takes one black swan to prove that the proposition ‘all swans are white’ is false. So the evidence could show you either what was only likely to be true, or what was definitely false. Therefore, as an endeavour seeking certainty, science should commit itself to trying to prove its own theories wrong. This is Popper’s principle of falsification.
It's the problem of induction.
Well yeah, the universe is what it is, and it does what it does. The thing is, no matter how well a theory accounts for the known behaviour of the universe, there is no way to know that it will account for all future observations. All theories are underdetermined. Maybe some bright spark will discover the Ultimate Truth. Trouble is, we'll never know it.
I mentioned that his parents were left-wing. I've no idea what Kuhn's personal politics were, but given that he lived through McCarthyism with no ill effects that I'm aware of, I'd be interested to know why you imply he was a communist.
It really isn't. Pretty much everything Aristotle said about why things move and continue to move is complete bollocks.
Well Zeno's argument was that the arrow couldn't move and that change is therefore an illusion. I made that point in another article 5 years ago: https://philosophynow.org/issues/104/Ph ... d_Branches Einstein's claim was that objects moving relative to you, specifically coming towards you, appear shorter in the direction of travel. This is based on Lorentz transformation which is basically a consequence of the Doppler effect. If moving objects actually became shorter, they would appear even shorter than they in fact do.Scott Mayers wrote: ↑Fri Jul 19, 2019 1:57 pmIn particular, Zeno's paradox of The Arrow, is where Einstein's idea likely came from either directly or indirectly. That the SHAPE of something changes when moving, is akin to Aristotle's' interpretation of what the difference between an arrow standing still versus one moving comes from.
That's pretty much what Kuhn advocated. As the article quotes Kuhn: “When reading the works of an important thinker, look first for the apparent absurdities in the text and ask yourself how a sensible person could have written them”
And that's pretty much what Kuhn called 'normal science' - working out the issues and implications that a given paradigm raises.Scott Mayers wrote: ↑Fri Jul 19, 2019 1:57 pm...I figured out how Newton's theories encompass relativity by only adding a fixed speed of time to his theories without the same exact explanations by Einstein. Much of this is by philosophically looking at the wording without requiring adding any necessary NEW observations, such as THAT the speed of light is demonstrated as 'fixed'. [You CAN infer directly from everyone's simplest experience and logic alone how there must be a fastest speed, for instance.
Yes indeed, logic can tell you whether your argument is valid, the trick is then to devise an experiment that can test whether your conclusions are correct which, fundamentally, is the point Karl Popper emphasised.
A lot of physicists' favourite philosopher is Popper. He, as you will know, advocated that scientists try to prove theories wrong. The rationale being that while you can never prove a theory right, you can prove it wrong.Scott Mayers wrote: ↑Fri Jul 19, 2019 1:57 pmIn fact, the one political error we continue to make in our 'paradigm' (as with past ones too) is the presumption that the first person to claim a novel theory that predicts with success, is treated as THE theory that cannot disrespect the author (as though their 'artistic' expression is copyrighted intrinsic to the reality). This conservation tends to prevent changes in the artistic models that may be needed, even if by themselves are 'equal', because a novel one being equal in that way can be more powerful to connect external theories.
Well yeah, in retrospect it seems bleeding' obvious, but Kuhn wrote the book that made everyone realise.Dubious wrote: ↑Sat Jul 20, 2019 5:35 amI may seem like a troglodyte for writing this but I see no reason why Kuhn is so famous. It's not as if he invented a new technique or paradigm for discovering scientific truth. He merely summarized philosophically the methodologies which have long been practiced but there's really only one to discover what nature keeps hidden and that's to observe and experiment constantly and consistently until that data becomes viable in a theory. Paradigms have always shifted so what's new?
As I said to Scott Mayers, it may be that a successful theory is complete, but we can never be sure.Dubious wrote: ↑Sat Jul 20, 2019 5:35 amRegardless of how much we want to believe our own theories or how brilliant they appear, nature has always been the great corrective. In effect, if we want to discover its operations from galaxies to quarks it is we who must surrender in the hope of eventually creating a theory which no matter how successful is never complete.
There probably wouldn't be any Science & Technology Studies departments in universities. Moot whether that's a good thing.Dubious wrote: ↑Sat Jul 20, 2019 5:35 amMy point is simply the moles who do the real work in science are not likely to preamble there research and discoveries by any so-called philosophy of science as if it required its mandate for authenticity. So in my abysmal ignorance I'm forced to inquire: would anything be different if the likes of Popper and Kuhn had never written anything? I doubt it.
And so says Feyerabend.
Well you could in many circumstances substitute the word 'philosophy' for 'paradigm'. Both are conceptual models that allow scientists to explore theories other than mathematically. Einstein was particularly good at it. Special relativity owes a lot to Einstein's concept of space being a vacuum. General relativity, by contrast, owes much to Einstein's concept of 'spacetime' being a substance with mechanical properties, i.e. not a vacuum.Dubious wrote: ↑Sat Jul 20, 2019 5:35 amHaving said that, I don't negate a philosophy which strives for a method to understand the world as the initial impetus to move it into the realm of physics for further examination but there is nothing in Kuhn which correlates to that kind of emphasis...that I read of. He merely summarizes philosophically what has always been the case whether we were overtly aware of it or not while the grunt work goes on.
You are definitely not a troglodyte. Kuhn should be infamous.
Indeed. And thanks to Kuhn, very few philosophers now try and tell scientists what to do. The ones that do are quite rightly ignored. As the article which is the subject of this thread concludes: "Whatever anyone thinks should or shouldn’t qualify as science, the fact is that science is done by people. Some of those people are rationalists, some are empiricists, and some are pragmatists; and no matter what rules are imposed, people break them."RCSaunders wrote: ↑Sat Jul 20, 2019 2:49 pmJust as politicians, who have never produced a product or performed a medical procedure, believe they should determine how business is done and what good medical practices are, philosophers, who have never made a single scientific discover or produced a technological improvement are certain they know how those things should be done.
Well yeah, that's the nature of empiricism and its hardcore cousin instrumentalism.RCSaunders wrote: ↑Sat Jul 20, 2019 2:49 pmThe one thing they would discover is that there is not one basic template, one plan, one, "paradigm," for performing scientific research. The "right method" is determined by the physical phenomena, entities, events, qualities, or relationships being studied.
None of those things are in question, it's more along the lines of: 'Is spacetime a vacuum, as posited by special relativity, or a medium with mechanical properties, as posited by general relativity?'RCSaunders wrote: ↑Sat Jul 20, 2019 2:49 pmWhenever I read something like, "no amount of empirical evidence (or logic) can prove a scientific claim," I have to wonder if the writer knows anything at all about science. Does he believe the circulation of the blood is still in doubt, that anesthesia might not work, that wireless communication is not certainly possible, that geostationary communication satellites are only a hypothesis, or that science is still waiting for more evidence that lased light is possible?
Can you cite any philosopher of science that does so?
Well Popper's claim was that science proceeds by demolishing theories, rather than adding to the body of evidence supporting it. In this respect, the difference between Popper and Kuhn was that Popper was insisting that hypotheses should be actively challenged. Kuhn's point was that it happens anyway.
This simply isn't true. Any competent scientist or philosopher knows perfectly well that a single null experiment proves the antithetical hypothesis.RCSaunders wrote: ↑Sat Jul 20, 2019 2:49 pmWhat most people do not realize is that falsification is actually a way of proving a hypothesis is true. Since there must be a way to test a hypothesis to determine if it is false, if it is, when the test is performed, if it fails to prove the hypothesis is false, it proves the hypothesis is true, because if it were false, the test would succeed in proving it. Most scientist will understand that. Apparently most philosophers do not.
Uh. No. You may testing only 2 hypotheses in practice, but there is always a 3rd one to be considered - your experiment is flawed and your observation is inadmissible as evidence for the null-hypothesis because design/equipment/human error/other...
Yup, that's a typo. Try this: Any competent scientist or philosopher knows perfectly well that a single null experiment doesn't prove the antithetical hypothesis.Skepdick wrote: ↑Sat Jul 20, 2019 5:08 pmUh. No. You may testing only 2 hypotheses in practice, but there is always a 3rd one to be considered - your experiment is flawed because design/equipment/human error/other...
There is nothing about a "single null experiment." It says, "a way to test a hypothesis to determine it is false, if it is," and means whatever that test might be, one or a hundred experiments, measurements, etc. It must be a test that will absolutely prove the hypothesis false, if it is. If something could prove something false, if it is false, and it fails to prove that thing false (but would if the thing were false), .... I think you'll understand the necessary conclusion.uwot wrote: ↑Sat Jul 20, 2019 5:03 pmThis simply isn't true. Any competent scientist or philosopher knows perfectly well that a single null experiment proves the antithetical hypothesis.RCSaunders wrote: ↑Sat Jul 20, 2019 2:49 pmWhat most people do not realize is that falsification is actually a way of proving a hypothesis is true. Since there must be a way to test a hypothesis to determine if it is false, if it is, when the test is performed, if it fails to prove the hypothesis is false, it proves the hypothesis is true, because if it were false, the test would succeed in proving it. Most scientist will understand that. Apparently most philosophers do not.