Philosophy of science-the first two and a half millennia.

How does science work? And what's all this about quantum mechanics?

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TimeSeeker
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Re: Philosophy of science-the first two and a half millennia.

Post by TimeSeeker »

uwot wrote: Sat Sep 22, 2018 9:05 am That living beings adapt to their environment is not a theory, it is demonstrably the case.
This is incomplete in respect to time and Ergodic theory. The adaptation of living beings is itself a theory. It is falsifiable by the species' failure-to-adapt a.k.a extinction.
This is the "Thanksgiving Turkey Problem" (re?)described by Taleb.

http://uk.businessinsider.com/nassim-ta ... 14-11?IR=T
Consider a turkey that is fed every day. Every single feeding will firm up the bird's belief that it is the general rule of life to be fed every day by friendly members of the human race looking out for its best interests. On Thanksgiving, something unexpected will happen to the turkey. It will incur a revision of belief.
This is falsification in a nutshell. Unexpected and strongly unfavourable observation.
uwot
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Re: Philosophy of science-the first two and a half millennia.

Post by uwot »

TimeSeeker wrote: Sat Sep 22, 2018 9:59 am
uwot wrote: Sat Sep 22, 2018 9:05 am That living beings adapt to their environment is not a theory, it is demonstrably the case.
This is incomplete in respect to time and Ergodic theory. The adaptation of living beings is itself a theory. It is falsifiable by the species' failure-to-adapt a.k.a extinction.
Well, extinction just proves that species go extinct. It doesn't prove they didn't evolve in the first place.
TimeSeeker wrote: Sat Sep 22, 2018 9:59 amThis is the "Thanksgiving Turkey Problem" (re?)described by Taleb.
"The man who has fed the chicken every day throughout its life at last wrings its neck instead, showing that more refined views as to the uniformity of nature would have been useful to the chicken.”
Bertrand Russell-The Problems of Philosophy
TimeSeeker
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Re: Philosophy of science-the first two and a half millennia.

Post by TimeSeeker »

uwot wrote: Sat Sep 22, 2018 10:20 am Well, extinction just proves that species go extinct. It doesn't prove they didn't evolve in the first place.
This is but semantics. Proves to whom? The observer!

Does the observer conceptualise adaptation and extinction as distinct phenomena in discrete space-time; or does (s)he conceptualise 'extinction' as the consequence of adaptation failure as time flows?

Is the observer adapting sufficiently to avoid extinction? Now that's a hard question ;)
uwot wrote: Sat Sep 22, 2018 10:20 am "The man who has fed the chicken every day throughout its life at last wrings its neck instead, showing that more refined views as to the uniformity of nature would have been useful to the chicken.”
Indeed! But when you utter the word "uniformity" what reference frame do you assert it from? That word is rather meaningless without pre-supposing a time-span. Uniformity over a day? Year? Milenium? A million years? Hence - ergodic theory.
uwot
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Re: Philosophy of science-the first two and a half millennia.

Post by uwot »

TimeSeeker wrote: Sat Sep 22, 2018 10:33 am
uwot wrote: Sat Sep 22, 2018 10:20 am Well, extinction just proves that species go extinct. It doesn't prove they didn't evolve in the first place.
This is but semantics. Proves to whom? The observer!
And the species.
TimeSeeker wrote: Sat Sep 22, 2018 10:33 amDoes the observer conceptualise adaptation and extinction as distinct phenomena in discrete space-time; or does (s)he conceptualise 'extinction' as the consequence of adaptation failure as time flows?
There used to be dodos, now there aren't.
TimeSeeker wrote: Sat Sep 22, 2018 10:33 amIs the observer adapting sufficiently to avoid extinction? Now that's a hard question ;)
I'll find out soon enough.
TimeSeeker wrote: Sat Sep 22, 2018 10:33 am...when you utter the word "uniformity" what reference frame do you assert it from?
It's not a word I utter much.
TimeSeeker wrote: Sat Sep 22, 2018 10:33 amThat word is rather meaningless without pre-supposing a time-span. Uniformity over a day? Year? Milenium? A million years? Hence - ergodic theory.
I doubt that will bring the dodos back. Still, given your handle and references to time, you can see what I think of time here: https://willijbouwman.blogspot.com p38 onwards.
TimeSeeker
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Re: Philosophy of science-the first two and a half millennia.

Post by TimeSeeker »

uwot wrote: Sat Sep 22, 2018 11:49 am I doubt that will bring the dodos back. Still, given your handle and references to time, you can see what I think of time here: https://willijbouwman.blogspot.com p38 onwards.
Ah! Good! That'll move things along quicker - I accept everything you've put on that page. The dodos, the dinosaurs and The Titanic are all gone - sucks for them, lessons for us.

You have only one assumption to be skeptical of in your epistemology: the "arrow" of time. Or in the language of thermodynamics - entropy.

I am not saying we can stop the heat death of the universe e.g reverse time. But I do think we can delay it for ourselves. If we figure out what the ontology of "time" is and how to control it. Computer scientists and quantum physicists have some ideas. e.g https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Time_crystal

You can see my thoughts on why we are making an error here: http://www.whatisti.me/2018/09/02/Openi ... s-box.html
Dubious
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Re: Philosophy of science-the first two and a half millennia.

Post by Dubious »

Dubious wrote: Fri Sep 21, 2018 9:52 pm That idea, it seems to me, is self-evident. Falsification implies negation which is absolute when referring to that whose main or upholding thesis has been disproven.

Also, in my view, the one thing still called a theory but no-longer within a probability range to justify calling it that is evolution of which Earth is both evidence and manifestation. What remains theoretical are some of its details, those functions which drive the process onward...or backward.
TimeSeeker wrote: Sat Sep 22, 2018 7:48 am I can agree with that, and want to add that by the same criteria by which evolution was nominated a theory and deemed “true” then one can make the case for “the universe is a computer simulation” and prove it true.

Neither is falsifiable. But the latter has better explanatory AND predictive utility and far more supporting evidence.
Not certain whether I completely understand your post. Also when you say "latter" don't you mean "former" referring to evolution?

You are right that neither are falsifiable but for very different reasons.

Evolution is a fact; it cannot be falsified. The goings on in a petri dish already proves as much.

The universe as a computer simulation cannot be falsified since that is pure speculation. Between speculation and fact there exist no theories unless some evidence accrues to turn, as of yet, an unsupported supposition into a theory amenable to testing.

As far as I know, that hasn't happened yet but I could be wrong.
Dubious
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Re: Philosophy of science-the first two and a half millennia.

Post by Dubious »

Dubious wrote: Fri Sep 21, 2018 9:52 pm Falsification implies negation which is absolute when referring to that whose main or upholding thesis has been disproven.
uwot wrote: Sat Sep 22, 2018 9:05 am One of the criticisms of falsificationism is that scientific theories are themselves theory-laden. On a simple level, if a brick doesn't fall to the floor, there's something wrong with the theory that bricks always fall to the floor. On the other hand, when you are analysing the data from, say the Large Hadron Collider, if you don't get the results that your theory predicts, there could be any number of reasons why that might be the case. Any one of the theories that combined to build a machine the size of a small city could be wrong.
True, but in the first instance it's easy enough to determine falsifiability based on a "single" factor. Is there or is there not a gravitational field to determine what the brick will do.

In the LHC case the process of falsifying a theory is many times more complex there being a chain reaction of events which supplies the result. If any one of those events isn't fine-tuned enough the results may be misleading and even proof may be as uncertain as disprove.

In a process as complex as the LHC where there's a myriad of factors in play preceding the output, proving the falseness of a theory - especially one in tune with its model - becomes equally complex. From the way I see it, a theory under those conditions becomes false indirectly and by default if everything else checks out.

Dubious wrote: Fri Sep 21, 2018 9:52 pm Conversely, surviving theories which reflect our current conceptions of reality, exist within a probability index measured by its ability to blend with observed facts. Though falsification may negate the theory as a whole, it may still hold value in certain of its details which may be transcribed into another theory not unlike an organ transplant. The operating room of science has always been a messy one. A theory may be dead but some of its parts may still be useful elsewhere.
uwot wrote: Sat Sep 22, 2018 9:05 am And by the same token, body parts from elsewhere might keep the first theory breathing.
Same idea but in reverse.

Dubious wrote: Fri Sep 21, 2018 9:52 pm Also, in my view, the one thing still called a theory but no-longer within a probability range to justify calling it that is evolution of which Earth is both evidence and manifestation. What remains theoretical are some of its details, those functions which drive the process onward...or backward.
uwot wrote: Sat Sep 22, 2018 9:05 am Well, the full title of Darwin's book was 'On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection'. That living beings adapt to their environment is not a theory, it is demonstrably the case. The theory bit is the natural selection; at the time, the prevailing opinion was that god did it, but of course you are right; there is much about the actual mechanism that remains theoretical.
That's the point I was trying to make; that evolution has long ceased to be theory and shouldn't be preceded by "the theory of...", being a misnomer. I wasn't thinking of Darwin but of the certainty in our current understanding that evolution is a fact dispensing with the uncertainties contained in the word "theory". As far as I know, it's the only erstwhile theory to have done so.
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Re: Philosophy of science-the first two and a half millennia.

Post by TimeSeeker »

Dubious wrote: Sun Sep 23, 2018 3:03 am
Dubious wrote: Fri Sep 21, 2018 9:52 pm That idea, it seems to me, is self-evident. Falsification implies negation which is absolute when referring to that whose main or upholding thesis has been disproven.

Also, in my view, the one thing still called a theory but no-longer within a probability range to justify calling it that is evolution of which Earth is both evidence and manifestation. What remains theoretical are some of its details, those functions which drive the process onward...or backward.
TimeSeeker wrote: Sat Sep 22, 2018 7:48 am I can agree with that, and want to add that by the same criteria by which evolution was nominated a theory and deemed “true” then one can make the case for “the universe is a computer simulation” and prove it true.

Neither is falsifiable. But the latter has better explanatory AND predictive utility and far more supporting evidence.
Not certain whether I completely understand your post. Also when you say "latter" don't you mean "former" referring to evolution?

You are right that neither are falsifiable but for very different reasons.

Evolution is a fact; it cannot be falsified. The goings on in a petri dish already proves as much.

The universe as a computer simulation cannot be falsified since that is pure speculation. Between speculation and fact there exist no theories unless some evidence accrues to turn, as of yet, an unsupported supposition into a theory amenable to testing.

As far as I know, that hasn't happened yet but I could be wrong.
No. I mean the latter. Anything unfalsifiable is unscientific. The moment you declare something a fact you have cast it in stone. You can never undo it. It effectively becomes a religion. Unless you think facts can be falsified?

I don’t like the idea of not being ever able to change my mind. That smells like epistemic arrogance, so I try to keep my mind clear of absolutes. As part of diligent epistemic housekeeping - I strive hard to keep no category in my head that I call 'facts'.

And so juxtapose Einstein’s general relativity and Newton’s theory of gravity - which one is fact and which one is theory?
They are both theories! The difference is only in their predictive precision and domain of applicability.

Quantum mechanics and quantum chemistry is on the way to show us how abiogenesis (Evolution’s missing link) could work, then Evolution could just become a subset of physics. But there is a non-zero chance that physics could show us that abiogenesis is impossible (perhaps it violates some law?). Or maybe - highly improbable. And then what happens to Evolution's factuality?

Without a “Theory of everything” all we have are theories. And they are all subject to falsification!

Even quantum field theory!
Even general relativity!

So - to circle back. Quantum physics is all about computation. This is not speculation. It is empirically backed to the point where quantum information is assumed to be a fundamental property of the universe. It has been tested and reproduced over and over.

So if one could say Evolution is a fact, then one should also be able to say “the universe is a quantum computer simulation” is also a fact.
I am not even sure that's sufficient though. QFT is a quantitative theory. Evolution is a qualitative theory. QFT has been empirically and mathematically backed. It makes ridiculously precise predictions. Evolution doesn't.

The problem is but one of scale/complexity.
QFT makes accurate predictions at very small spacetime scales. It's just way too computationally expensive (to humans)
Evolution makes very crude, qualitative predictions at very large spacetime scales. But it is computationally cheap (to humans)

Which is exactly the same distinction between Einstein's General Relativity vs Newton's universal law of gravitation: precision and computational cost.
And computational cost is a function of complexity: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_O_notation

This is also the very reason for the aphorism in quantum physics: Shut up and calculate! ( http://www.math.columbia.edu/~woit/wordpress/?p=9649 )
uwot
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Re: Philosophy of science-the first two and a half millennia.

Post by uwot »

Dubious wrote: Sun Sep 23, 2018 3:15 amThat's the point I was trying to make; that evolution has long ceased to be theory and shouldn't be preceded by "the theory of...", being a misnomer.
I agree entirely. I think it's because some people don't understand the 'theory' bit. It isn't that living organisms evolve; as you have pointed out, that is demonstrably the case. The theory is any explanation you care to come up with.
Hope you don't mind, TimeSeeker, but I'm going to use you as an example:
TimeSeeker wrote: Sun Sep 23, 2018 11:01 amAnd so juxtapose Einstein’s general relativity and Newton’s theory of gravity - which one is fact and which one is theory? They are both theories!
No they're not, this is implicit in the OP. Newton's Law of Universal Gravitation is basically an equation, which, if you plug the numbers in, will give you results which are accurate enough for most purposes everytime-it's a law, after all. Same with Einstein's field equations, but even better. The difference between Newton and Einstein's work on gravity is that Newton not only did not offer any theory for how gravity works, he explicitly claimed that theories have no place in physics. Einstein, on the other hand, came up with the theory that gravity is caused by warped spacetime, which may or may not be true, but makes no difference to how well the laws work.
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Re: Philosophy of science-the first two and a half millennia.

Post by TimeSeeker »

uwot wrote: Sun Sep 23, 2018 2:52 pm Newton's Law of Universal Gravitation is basically an equation,
So is Einstein's General Relativity.
So is Quantum Field Theory.

Equations - all of them :)
uwot wrote: Sun Sep 23, 2018 2:52 pm which, if you plug the numbers in, will give you results which are accurate enough for most purposes everytime-it's a law, after all.
Spot the contingency in your claim. The 'everytime' is qualified with 'most purposes'. These are mutually exclusive statements.
1. Newton's equations don't work for objects traveling at or near the speed of light.
2. Newton's equations don't work for very small objects such as atoms or quantum particles.
3. Einstein's equations fall apart at quantum scale and inside black holes.

All our theories have limits. And at certain intersections - they can't be reconciled with each other (yet?).

On the other hand a 'law' is is defined so as to be 'universally applicable'. When I hear the word 'universally' - I tend to assume 'no contingencies'.
And yet our two best physics theories have their "respective domains of application". And they contradict each other!

Need I remind you that the universe has no 'contexts', or contradictions ? ;)
uwot wrote: Sun Sep 23, 2018 2:52 pm Einstein, on the other hand, came up with the theory that gravity is caused by warped spacetime, which may or may not be true, but makes no difference to how well the laws work
When you say "how well the laws work" - I trust you mean "how well they predict"? (within the limits of their applicability).
Einstein's causal hypothesis is wrong. The Higgs' boson tells us that ( https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2 ... 124857.htm )
Last edited by TimeSeeker on Sun Sep 23, 2018 8:34 pm, edited 7 times in total.
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Greta
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Re: Philosophy of science-the first two and a half millennia.

Post by Greta »

This is the problem:
theory, noun
1. a coherent group of tested general propositions, commonly regarded as correct, that can be used as principles of explanation and prediction for a class of phenomena: Einstein's theory of relativity.

2. a proposed explanation whose status is still conjectural and subject to experimentation, in contrast to well-established propositions that are regarded as reporting matters of actual fact.
They are basically contradictory. The common use of the word 'theory' is the same as the formal use of 'hypothesis'.

Given the political problems caused by this quirk of language, maybe the scientific community could work towards a specific word to describe rigorously tested ideas? Perhaps use 'theory' in place of 'hypothesis' (maybe dropping that word) to bring the language in line with community understanding.

Some might not like the idea of 'dumbing down' the language but, given the deliberatively mischievous muddying of these waters by those with a creationist agenda, it would seem easier for science to change its language than for the community. Perhaps English could borrow a term from another language where such terms are more clearly defined?
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Re: Philosophy of science-the first two and a half millennia.

Post by TimeSeeker »

Greta wrote: Sun Sep 23, 2018 3:04 pm This is the problem:
theory, noun
1. a coherent group of tested general propositions, commonly regarded as correct, that can be used as principles of explanation and prediction for a class of phenomena: Einstein's theory of relativity.

2. a proposed explanation whose status is still conjectural and subject to experimentation, in contrast to well-established propositions that are regarded as reporting matters of actual fact.
They are basically contradictory.

Given the serious political problems caused by this quirk of language, maybe the scientific community could work towards a specific word to describe rigorously tested ideas? Perhaps use 'theory' in place of 'hypothesis' (maybe dropping that word) to bring the language in line with community understanding.

Some might not like the idea of 'dumbing down' the language but, given the deliberatively mischievous muddying of these waters by those with a creationist agenda, it would seem easier for science to change its language than for the community. Perhaps English could borrow a term from another language where such terms are more clearly defined?
You can't fix logocentrism in language. It IS the problem!

Set theory is broken. Semiotics is recursive. The symbol-grounding problem means you can always reduce (deconstruct) language to contradict itself because words are always defined in terms of other words. Worse - the SI units of time and mass are defined in terms of each other (circular reasoning)! And now quantum physics can't reconcile their definition of time with that of general relativity ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Problem_of_time ). So this entire notion of 'objectivity' to which science laid claim is evaporating.

This is why I can use socratic irony to contradict every claim. The entire system we are operating in is fundamentally flawed and I know how to game its limits.

I don't have a 'creationist' agenda. I have a 'constructivist epistemology' agenda ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Construct ... istemology ).

Computer scientists have figured it out already: We use regular languages and Lambda calculus
* https://arxiv.org/abs/1710.10258
* https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lambda_calculus

I spent 30 years re-building my metaphysical and epistemic framework from computer science, so I don't have to depend on English for thinking.

On the other hand - try taking people's language (their only tool for defining themselves) away from them without giving them an alternative and see what happens...
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Re: Philosophy of science-the first two and a half millennia.

Post by uwot »

Greta wrote: Sun Sep 23, 2018 3:04 pm This is the problem:
theory, noun
1. a coherent group of tested general propositions, commonly regarded as correct, that can be used as principles of explanation and prediction for a class of phenomena: Einstein's theory of relativity.

2. a proposed explanation whose status is still conjectural and subject to experimentation, in contrast to well-established propositions that are regarded as reporting matters of actual fact.
They are basically contradictory. The common use of the word 'theory' is the same as the formal use of 'hypothesis'.
You are right of course, Greta; 'theory' is used to mean different things and it's not my place to tell people how to speak their own language.
Greta wrote: Sun Sep 23, 2018 3:04 pmPerhaps English could borrow a term from another language where such terms are more clearly defined?
Well, in the philosophy of science, there is Ludwik Fleck's 'Denkkollectiv' and Kuhn's 'paradigm' which cover a lot of the bases. The problem is that some scientists don't like to admit that much of their work is actually working to support a theory/Denkkollectiv/paradigm-which Kuhn called 'normal science'. They much prefer to give the impression that they are describing 'the truth'. So they make out that 'theories', such as evolution and relativity are much more cohesive than they in fact are. Most scientists though, simply don't care and just get on with the business of making things work.
The point I was making is that there is nothing theoretical/hypothetical about the demonstrable fact that species adapt to the environment, nor that time slows down pretty much as relativity, special and general, (the ontological hypotheses underpinning which are mutually exclusive) predicts. The 'theories' of evolution and relativity are fluid and contain whatever explanatory hypotheses are current. So a 'theory' in that sense change from one day to the next. But yes, these slippery things are called 'theories', and I stand corrected.
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Re: Philosophy of science-the first two and a half millennia.

Post by Dubious »

I always thought of hypothesis as an incipient theory which hasn't yet received its credentials by way of incoming evidence. It's at the beginning stage where falsification is not yet applicable not having developed into a proper theory with the means to be falsified. It's the falsification aspect which mostly separates an hypothesis from a theory even though the latter begins with the former; it's probability rating is still in the red not yet having reached the level of theory.

I think most scientists have no problem acknowledging that you can't get to a theory without an hypothesis to light its fire. Can't see why it would need another term to denote a difference already apparent.
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Re: Philosophy of science-the first two and a half millennia.

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uwot wrote: Sun Sep 23, 2018 9:16 pm
Greta wrote: Sun Sep 23, 2018 3:04 pmPerhaps English could borrow a term from another language where such terms are more clearly defined?
Well, in the philosophy of science, there is Ludwik Fleck's 'Denkkollectiv' and Kuhn's 'paradigm' which cover a lot of the bases.
True, so true. There is also Hanz Stockmeier's "Das Lebenkunz des Hinfrageanfurzkunft: Dritte Verlag, zweite Verganganheit", while Kopferstuff-Songeringersteinheilderberger wrote "Die Zeitansschrauberei der Zeitworter von Gegenstohr Zukaufenlag". And let's not forget "Der Arbeitspruhensage des Vollstandigen Hohzollapparat der die seine zufragliches Ankunft nicht Spazierengehen gelegen konnen sein wurden gewesen."

Ficken, I love the German language. You can't write gibberish worth shit until you at least partially master the Grundregel des Worterbucher von Hermannstadt.
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