Perhaps I'll be safe here (Page 3)

Viannaa: I just loveeeeeee seeing Axocanth explain and explain.. His mind is non stop hotness 🔥🤤
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zeffur: If only he could properly understand--that would be an improvement. lol
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Viannaa: Oh im sure he does understand... He's on another level 😏😉
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axocanth: Wanna play Wordy?

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Viannaa: Id never win ya 😋 I actually have to get back to work in 5mins, rain check.
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zeffur: No, actually, he does not understand. That's why he is fixated on the subject.

Ask him to substantiate his evo chump beliefs using only proven facts (i.e. no misinterpretations, no assumptions, & no indefensible opinions/claims) & you will see quite quickly that he has no sound basis at all to accept such utter evo chump absurdities as valid/true.
(Edited by zeffur)
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axocanth: In my previous post, as a counterexample to the Youtuber's assertion that a scientific theory (among other things) is an "explanation", I alluded to orthodox quantum mechanics (QM). I wrote the following:

"Not all theories are explanatory. Indeed, often touted as the most successful scientific theory ever--(orthodox) quantum mechanics--is non-explanatory. All agree it is a magnificent tool for systematizing and making predictions of certain observable phenomena; nonetheless it offers no explanation for WHY what is observed is observed. (I will support this claim with quotes from leading physicists in the field if necessary)."

Notice my use of the word "tool". We'll come back to this . . .

What do I mean by "orthodox" and what do I mean by "explanatory" (or non-explanatory)?

By "orthodox" I refer to the so-called "Copenhagen interpretation" of quantum mechanics. The name comes from the Danish physicist Niels Bohr -- THE towering figure in 20th century QM. The views of the Copenhagen school, including Bohr and his many followers, overwhelmingly dominated the early-mid decades of 20th century physics, and as far as I can discern, still remains the prevailing position today.

This is not to say that the Copenhagen view enjoyed a UNIVERSAL consensus. Science, being the heterogeneous business that it is, always produces a few dissenters; in this case, by far the most celebrated maverick in the field was Albert Einstein.

Moving on . . .

You might be surprised to learn that there are numerous stances one may adopt towards a scientific theory; that is, how the theory is to be understood.

The most obvious, and probably the most common in science as a whole, is to understand a theory as description of reality; the theory is telling us--or attempting to tell us--the way the world REALLY is. And these attempts can be either true or false. People who take this attitude toward theories are known as "scientific realists".

For the realist, then, theories are to be understood LITERALLY; they are to be taken at face value.

There are certain obvious cases where a realist attitude is not appropriate. For example, if a theory mentions an ideal gas, or a frictionless plane, say, such things are clearly not meant to be taken literally. No one thinks that ideal gases and frictionless planes exist. They are what we might call "useful fictions".

"Scientific antirealism" is a blanket term for any position that opposes scientific realism. It comes in various forms.

One such antirealist position is known as "instrumentalism". On this view, a scientific theory is not to be understood--as the realist understands it--as a/an (attempted) description of reality. Scientific theories, on this view, are not the kinds of things to which the terms "true" and "false" apply.

On the instrumentalist account, as the name suggests, theories are to be understood simply as "instruments" or tools, not as descriptions of reality. We might say that the instrumentalist regards a scientific theory as a black box: punch in the data and the box will throw out observational predictions for you.

But to ask "What's inside the black box?" is to ask the wrong question. Depending who you ask, you might be told the question is meaningless. You might be told "nothing!". You might be advised to just "shut up and calculate!".

The Copenhagen school of quantum mechanics adopts the instrumentalist position. Niels Bohr himself explicitly stated "There is no quantum world".

What he means by this is that if you take LITERALLY all the unobservable posits of the theory (wave functions, eigen values, etc., etc.) then you are misunderstanding the theory. The theory is not describing, or even TRYING to describe reality, it's just a tool! It's a "useful fiction".

Therefore, if you think the double-slit experiment, say, or any other observable phenomenon, is EXPLAINED by all the behind-the-scenes unobservable postulates of quantum mechanics, you'd better think again. These things are not to be taken literally!

QM, then, is a scientific theory alright, but on the orthodox account at least, it EXPLAINS nothing. It is non-explanatory.

Needless to say, not everyone is happy with this state of affairs. Einstein (the realist!), most notably, was outraged. Science, on his view, must try to do more than Copenhagen offers; science must try to provide a causal-explanatory account of WHY we see what we see. Science must try to EXPLAIN !

Subsequently, various other interpretations of QM have been proposed (e.g. pilot-wave theories, multiverse, etc.) in an attempt to do precisely this: to EXPLAIN.

These are realist accounts. David Deutsch, for example, is more than explicit (just read his books!) that his multiverse theory is not simply a black-box, a tool. It's an attempt to describe and explain how the universe (er, universes) REALLY IS.

These realist interpretations, however, to this day remain minority views, at least as far as I can tell.

I'll leave you with a section quoted by another member, the one who posted the video that I responded to.

"Role of the observer in determining outcomes: the Copenhagen-type interpretations imply that the wavefunction is a calculational TOOL, and represents reality only immediately after a measurement, perhaps performed by an observer; Everettian interpretations grant that all the possibilities can be real, and that the process of measurement-type interactions cause an effective branching process."

(my CAPS)
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zeffur: All theories should be an attempt to explain what is true--even QM measurements & probabilities attempt to predict the frequency of a certain (i.e the truth of) result/s occurring. Measured black box output is also a truth. Guessing about the causation or how such probabilities occur is the realm of speculation, because we cannot determine all things simultaneously.
(Edited by zeffur)
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axocanth: Here's that video again (from the previous page):

I posted my reactions on the Youtuber's page (below the video), and the action is underway.

(Sort the comments by "newest first" if it's not the default. I'm "Axolotl Frank".)
(Edited by axocanth)
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axocanth: @ Harp (continuing from another thread)

"But the revision requires evidence and argument that shows that it [the new theory] fits the facts better than its predecessor." - you

The immediate problem with a remark such as this is that you assume that the "facts" remain the same through paradigm shifts. This is the notion that the facts are completely unproblematic; the facts are just "raw data" uncontaminated by theoretical preconceptions. The facts "speak for themselves".

In other words, on the kind of common-sensical view you're suggesting, all parties promoting divergent theories agree on the facts, though they may disagree on which theory better accommodates and/or explains the VERY SAME facts.

You assume a sharp fact-theory dichotomy . . . as did the Logical Positivists: an "observation language" vs "theoretical language" distinction was critical to their program. And the gradual realization that such a distinction was untenable is one of the main reasons for the collapse of their program.

It is now recognized that facts are--at least to some degree--"theory laden", which is to say that the facts are not unproblematic and "raw" as described above, but rather the facts observed are colored by the theoretical-conceptual apparatus brought to bear thereon.

As a simplistic example, consider Ptolemy (the geocentrist) and Copernicus (the heliocentrist) sitting on the same beach around dusk. For the former it is a fact that the sun is setting; the Sun is moving down over the horizon. For the latter the Sun is doing no such thing; the Sun remains perfectly still as the Earth rotates.

To paraphrase a famous line from Kant: "Theory without observation is empty; observation without theory is blind".

Or consider what the following philosophically informed scientists have to say:

"Einstein said that it is the theory which decides what can be 'observable'. I think he was right -- 'observation' is a complicated and theory-laden business."

- John Bell, essay "Against 'Measurement' " (in "Speakable and Unspeakable in Quantum Mechanics", p215)

"Facts do not 'speak for themselves'; they are read in the light of theory"

- S J Gould, essay "The Validation of Continental Drift"

And an interesting anecdote from the aforementioned Bas van Fraassen . . .

"A good example are also the homunculi: when van Leeuwenhoek examined his semen under the new microscope, he saw these postulated fully formed little humans swimming around. Not only that, his friends (all male) saw them too."

What we see in paradigm shifts, at least to some extent, is not just a change of theory, but all kinds of other changes. Questions which were important under one paradigm may simply be irrelevant under another. A problem may not be solved by the successor paradigm; it may simply vanish! Moreover, there is not necessarily only a gain in explanatory power ("fitting the facts better" ). You ask:

"Can you give me an example of a paradigm shift that has not followed this pattern?" - you

The Cartesian "vortex" theory of gravity had a very nice explanation for why the planets are (roughly) coplanar and codirectional. The successor Newtonian paradigm had no explanation to offer for this phenomenon, at least to begin with. A fact which the former paradigm could explain could not be explained by its successor.

This kind of thing is referred to as "Kuhn loss" (after Thomas Kuhn): paradigm shifts involve some gains and some losses in terms of explanatory power; explaining the FACTS. It's not a simple case of accumulation.

"But to postulate an infinite number of possible theories is not to produce them. If there is one theory that explains the facts better than any other, then that seems the one to accept as the most reasonable."

Here, as you know, you're appealing to the "Inference to the Best Explanation" (IBE) argument. The argument goes like this:

"From a set of candidate explanations we are licensed to infer to the truth (or perhaps the approximate truth, probable truth, etc.) of the best one."

Notice, the argument involves an inference to TRUTH (or something similar). In other words, IBE maintains we have good reason to BELIEVE that the best explanation is true. You claim only that we should accept the best explanation as the "most reasonable". Does that mean you would believe it to be true?

It's a popular argument with scientific realists. Antirealists, on the other hand, tend to be skeptical. Why should we think that there is any connection between a nice explanation (a nice story that gives us a warm feeling of satisfaction and--perhaps misplaced--understanding) and TRUTH.

Moreover, IBE is opposed by the "Best of a Bad Lot" argument. What if the TRUE explanation is not among the candidates? It would surely be a mistake to infer to the truth of an explanation which is the best of a "bad lot".
(Edited by axocanth)
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axocanth: re:

"It is the linkage with absolute truth that seems to be the difference.
Not believing that we have access to absolute truth, or, at least, can never know that we have it, cannot justify belief in any absolute sense." - Harp

I hear a lot about this "absolute truth" and, to this day, I have no idea what people are talking about. Perhaps you could explain?

Where I come from (i.e. the kind of stuff that I read) there are two values that can be assigned to certain things (e.g., statements, propositions, beliefs, and possibly scientific theories): "true" and "false".

(I say "possibly" for scientific theories as not everyone--e.g. instrumentalists --thinks scientific theories are truth-evaluable.)

Whether it be a statement such as "The cat is on the mat" or something heavier like "Jesus is the only begotten son of God", they are either true or false.

(Or perhaps, in certain tricky cases, neither true nor false.)

No one in linguistics or the philosophy of language, that I know of anyway, speaks of "absolute truth".

Perhaps it's a bit like Blackshoes and Zeffur with their biological "kinds" -- a term you don't recognize.

No one I know of in science or philosophy recognizes the term "absolute truth".
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harpalycus47: I am not assuming that facts and theory are totally divorced from one another at all. I have made no attempt to define fact. It depends to what extent the theory is incorporated into the fact. And to what extent such a theory is shared.
Here is a stone. That is a fact (provided that we are not going to enter the realms of questioning that the world is as we experience it - be it as a material or mental construct).
It is a fossil depends upon some idea of fossilisation that informs our identification.
It is a fossil femur depends upon our understanding of anatomy.
All our knowledge is situated in a web of knowledge or theory.
Debate can only be entered into within the framework of the theory
So, if we are working within the same framework of theories then the facts are indeed facts. This is indeed a fossil femur. And that is a fact that can be used as evidence in some dispute.
The only alternative is, as I have said, the universal acid of scepticism.
Are you seriously saying that you do not regard it as a fact that the earth is spherical? We cannot be ultimately absolutely certain, as previously noted, but its general acceptance and coherence with a multitude of other 'facts' lead us to that reasonable supposition. Only within the light of an alternative theory can we doubt it. But then that alternative theory has to have its own theory laden explanations. For example, light rays bend in accord with some mathematical presuppositions. By finding some stratum of agreement (there are light rays) we can eventually agree upon some aspect of reality that we agree upon. And that would be the basis of debate.
There will always be extreme outliers, but the vast majority will have an agreed view of the world, whatever its ultimate metaphysical status.
Within this consensus, debate is possible. The creationists throw doubt on features of the world, such as dating techniques, the nature of the Australopithecines and the like, but do not deny their fundamental nature. We are operating upon a fairly consistent foundation of belief. Of course the creationists have an extra layer of belief, but even that I think I have sufficient grasp to be able to discuss it meaningfully.

I am still at a loss as to what the real point of this is. As a discussion about philosophy of science it is fine, but I cannot see how, in practical terms, it fundamentally alters anything. You say, for example, that I don't recognise 'kinds'. I don't recognise them as part of the description of the world, but I fully recognise them as concepts and can argue accordingly.
I don't think that I fundamentally disagree with anything that you have said. I cannot see, however, that these philosophical musings have any real practical application to the evolution/creation debate. I would be pleased if you could show me how they do so.

Absolute truth.
Any description that we give of the world is limited.
So, the description the cat sat on the mat is only a partial truth at best. What exactly do we mean by the cat? What implications are there in our use of the word cat? Does it imply that the cat is alive? Then what do we mean by living? What unknown factors are part of the true state of affairs we describe as a cat sat on a mat? Is it indeed true that there is a cat on the mat? Could it be a holographic projection? Is it still true that the cat sat on the mat if there are two cats there? And so on.
The absolute truth must be a complete description of all that particular state of affairs, which is manifestly impossible. We have an incomplete description, a limited knowledge and the impossibility of genuine and inerrant communication. The image and associated assumptions of my cat on the mat would be radically different from yours.
Which is why I regard absolute truth as unobtainable. That is why I cannot justify belief in an absolute sense. Because I do not know to what extent my understanding of the truth actually equates to the truth. And can never know.
We certainly do allocate truth values to statements, but it is a trivial matter to show that that does not necessarily equate to truth. Was it true that the earth was flat? People believed it to be true and it would be allocated that truth value. And before you rightly point out that from another point of view, as in contemporary thought, it was false, that is exactly what I mean by absolute truth. It is, ultimately, beyond us.

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axocanth: Hi again, Harp

As you said yourself, I don't think the scope of our disagreement is very broad, so just a few comments for now.

What's the point of all this, you ask. Well, it seems our main area of disagreement, and how this all got started, is the confidence we place in scientific theories. I think, by and large, that one should not commit to a belief in the literal truth of any scientific theory (for reasons explained in our previous, less salubrious, location).

You, by contrast (if I'm understanding you correctly), demur. You take a more realist position while I take a more antirealist stance.

Now, needless to say, any sensible realist position has to be very carefully hedged indeed if not to appear ridiculous. For example, were someone (not yourself) to say "(I believe) scientific theories are (all) true" we might consider calling the folks with the white coats to lock him up somewhere safe. Just look at the history of failed theories! Clearly, not all scientific theories are worthy of belief -- least of all the dead ones!

So, I'm curious, could you share your thoughts on this? Under what circumstances would you consider a theory to be worthy of belief?

Second point: Round Earth . . .

No, same as you, I have no problem with it. I believe the Earth is (roughly) spherical. I not only assign a value of "true" to the statement "The Earth is spherical", but feel extremely confident that I'm right.

Could we be wrong about this? Of course, as you happily concede yourself.

From our viewpoint in the 21st century it sometimes seems almost inconceivable that we could be wrong about this. Were someone to tell us "I don't believe the Earth is round" we might consider calling these guys with the white coats again. It's tempting to think a person would have to be stark raving mad NOT to believe in a round Earth.

That said, it's salutary for us to remind ourselves, for example, that a mere 500 years ago or so, the very same incredulity would be directed at anyone claiming the Earth moved. From their perspective, you'd have to be stark raving mad to believe such an absurdity.

I've no doubt you're familiar with the arguments against a moving Earth. Perhaps other readers (assuming there are any) are not. If the story that Copernicus was trying to sell was true, we'd be spinning around every 24 hours at perhaps the cruising speed of a Boeing 747 (depending on your latitude).

Not only that, but due to the Earth's annual revolution, we'd be hurtling through space at an even crazier speed; an almost unimaginable speed.

"But we don't feel any of this!!! Are you out of your mind ???!!!"

3. You've mentioned certain examples of scientific theories that you (presumably) feel I, or any sensible person, ought to believe, e.g. heliocentricy and the round Earth. E.g.

"It does not require us to assume that such theories are not a closer description of the truth than previous ones. I do not see what your point is above and beyond what has already been accepted. Do you regard accepting heliocentricity or a spherical (more or less) earth as 'sticking our necks out'?"

- you

Now, if we're considering simply the statements "The Earth is round" and "The Earth revolves around the Sun", I've no problem to admitting to a belief in both. I think both statements are true.

That said, it's doubtful that anyone would consider either of these statements to be a scientific THEORY. They certainly don't satisfy your own criteria of theoryship:

"Theory: In science, a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world that can incorporate facts, laws, inferences, and tested hypotheses."

However, if we insist on calling them theories, then congratulations! -- you have identified two theories that I believe are true.

But if we consider a more typical full-blooded THEORY, e.g. the Copernican theory, then--assuming I lived 500 years ago and felt as I do now--I'd have said "I don't believe it's true".

And I'd have been right! (at least by modern lights)

If we consider a scientific theory to be a collection of statements (not everyone does), then a single false conjunct renders the theory as a whole false. That is to say, if a theory takes the form T = [A & B & C . . . & n], then if at least one of the constituent elements is false, the entire theory (T) is false.

By modern lights, Copernicus was wrong about almost everything! He still had epicycles galore (more even than Ptolemy, I believe), he had the planets moving in circles, at constant speed (I think), etc., etc.

None of this is now considered true.

(Edited by axocanth)
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harpalycus47: Ultimately, I am a realist. Not a dogmatic one, and my realism is open to an idealist reality. The world, as seen, seems a lawful place and so I take it, pro tem at least, at its word. It would seem to me, to be contrary not to.

I fully accept that what we believe today may be tomorrow's nonsense, but there are various factors that make me reasonably confident in at least the general direction of science.

Firstly its structure, its collegiate nature, open information, peer review, data sharing and replication, though far from perfect, provide some safeguards.
Secondly there seems to me to have been a pattern of paradigm shifts not being the overturning of one world view for a different one, but partly at least, an extension, rather than replacement, of the previous theory. So Einstein extended Newton and particle physics extended to simple atomic model.
Thirdly, there seems to me to be a coherence about the various fields of science that militates against some arbitrary paradigm shifts. To me, much of science is like a jig saw, the more it fits together the more you can see that there is an overall picture.
Fourthly, the success of advanced technology based on scientific findings and theories suggests that science is discovering some sort of truth about the world.
And finally, there is the unarguable fact that we are where we are. We are subject to our emotionally led brains, quick and dirty brain heuristics, the power of peer pressure and social beliefs etc so, rightly or wrongly, we believe what we believe.
As to the sphericity of the earth and heliocentricity, neither are simply observations and both provide explanations for 'facts' , the changing patterns of constellations, the nature of eclipses, the infamous disappearance of ships over the horizon in the first case, the phases of Venus, the moons of Jupiter, the scale of the solar system for the second.
You are certainly right that Copernicus was no better than Ptolemy at prediction, but, to labour the point, along comes Kepler and 'extends' Copernicus. It feels very much like adding a perfectly fitting jigsaw piece to me.

If we consider a scientific theory to be a collection of statements (not everyone does), then a single false conjunct renders the theory as a whole false. That is to say, if a theory takes the form T = [A & B & C . . . & n], then if at least one of the constituent elements is false, the entire theory (T) is false.

It depends entirely upon the importance of that term. Some certainly would falsify the theory. Many would not. As science does not regard a theory as beyond doubt, not does it regard it as 'perfect' in all its claims. Consider the anomalous orbit of Mercury. It was known that Newtonian mechanics could not explain it. But they were so successful everywhere else and there was no alternative theory, it was simply left as an anomaly, until Einstein brought it into the enlarged fold.

(Edited by harpalycus47)
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BelgianStrider: Euuuuuuh Harp is it possible that the end of your reply was for someone else? I honestly cannot follow there
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harpalycus47: It was. Thanks for that.
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BelgianStrider: no problem
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axocanth: @ Harp

Not that it's very important, but a few comments you've made here and there (including one in your latest post) lead me to suspect that you may be conflating what I'll call "everyday (anti)realism" with "scientific (anti)realism".

Some forms of scientific antirealism are perfectly compatible with everyday realism. For example, I'd consider myself an everyday realist inasmuch as I believe in the existence of a mind-independent world, I believe the Moon is still there when no one is peeping, etc. In other words, I'm not an idealist (in the philosophical sense).

Meanwhile, my SCIENTIFIC antirealism is epistemic in nature: the unobservable posits in scientific theories DO purport to refer to entities with a mind-independent existence, however my position is that, by and large, the epistemic warrant is insufficient to commit oneself to a BELIEF that such theories are true.

Are we on the same page?

Next . . .

"Secondly there seems to me to have been a pattern of paradigm shifts not being the overturning of one world view for a different one, but partly at least, an extension, rather than replacement, of the previous theory. So Einstein extended Newton and particle physics extended to simple atomic model." - you

Ah, this Newton-Einstein thing comes up a lot. Perhaps we can discuss it. My own view is that Einstein DID replace Newton, as opposed to extending or continuing the latter's work.

I addressed this issue in my 2nd post (page 1) of this thread, so perhaps you might take a look to save me repeating myself.

Let's begin with a few facts that, presumably, everyone agrees on.

Fact 1: It's fairly common to hear scientists say, as you do, that Einstein's theory was a continuation, as opposed to a replacement, of Newton's. Of course, it also fairly common to hear other scientists say the opposite, as I do: Einstein work OVERTHREW Newton's.

My commentary: My own impression is that the scientists who say the former, by and large, tend to be less philosophically informed; they don't really understand the philosophical issues which are inevitably raised in a discussion of this kind. (I hasten to add, I do not include yourself. You're obviously quite conversant and sophisticated in such matters.)

The ones who say the latter tend to be more philosophically literate.

Consider the three physicists I quoted on page 1.

Einstein himself speaks of the "fictitious character of the foundations of [Newton's] system". Now, how is "fictitious" supposed to be understood if not "false"?

Kip Thorne tells us that Einstein "destroyed" the foundations of Newtonian physics. David Bohm, meanwhile, maintains that Einstein is conceptually on a "radically new line" from Newton; he "contradicts" Newton.

How do you reconcile these remarks with your own "Einstein extended Newton"? You have to admit fact versus fiction, contradict, radically new line, and destruction hardly sounds like an "extension".

Do you think these guys are just wrong?

Fact 2 (copied from page 1) : In most of our everyday experience (i.e. relatively low speeds, etc.) , Newton and Einstein's theories yield predictions which are almost indistinguishable.

My commentary: When scientists speak of Einstein "extending" Newton's work, or Einstein's theory "reducing" to Newton's (at low speeds, etc.), I think it is this they have in mind.

When we slow down from close to the speed of light to a more familiar everyday speed, the predictions yielded by both theories are indeed virtually indistinguishable; in this sense we might say that the PREDICTIONS of relativity reduce to the predictions of Newtonian mechanics. Nonetheless, as we slow down, the world does not gradually morph from an Einsteinian universe into a Newtonian one; rather, it begins to behave AS IF we were living in the kind of universe described by Newton.

As we slow down, Newton's (fictional! - Einstein) attractive force which acts instantaneously over any distance does not make a miraculous reappearance; (fictional!) space and time do not gradually become absolute and independent of one another. If we take Einstein seriously, then the universe remains precisely as it was!

It seems to me that those who claim that Einstein's theory reduces to Newton's have one foot in two universes! The world is either Newtonian or Einsteinian (considering only these two alternatives); it can't be both -- no matter how fast or how slow you're moving!

The final point I'd like to make is even more philosophical, I'm afraid (I hear the groans).

Now, Newton and Einstein both use the same NAME or term --"gravity". From this fact, though, it does not follow that they are talking about the same THING. Presumably, for one theory to be an "extension" or a "continuation" of another, the two theories would have to be talking about the SAME THING.

For instance, if you tell me "Vianna is a very nice lady" and I reply "I agree. Vianna is a very nice lady", though on the surface it appears we are talking about the same (lovely! ) lady, and thus in agreement with one another, this is not necessarily the case. It's possible that you have one Vianna in mind and I have another; in which case we are NOT talking about the same person and we are NOT in agreement -- we're simply talking past each other.

Now, what the scientific realist, like yourself, wants to say is this: "Yes, we know that Newton got a few things wrong about gravity. Newton had a few false beliefs about gravity, but Einstein corrected those. Through it all, the two men were nonetheless talking about the same thing. Einstein and Newton's use of the term/name "gravity" REFERS to the same entity."

But how do we determine whether your use of the name "Vianna" and mine "co-refer" (i.e. refer to the same person)? How do we know whether Newton's use of the word "gravity" REFERS to the same thing as Einstein's use of the word? How do we know whether Newton (or Einstein) is referring to anything AT ALL?

To address this question we must turn to theories of reference in the philosophy of language.

Consider the following conversation:

Tom: "I think unicorns are cute"

Susan: "What do you mean by "unicorn"?

Tom: "I mean a deerlike creature with a single horn"

Susan: "(As far as anyone can tell) there is no such thing as a deerlike creature with a single horn. Your use of the term "unicorn" fails to refer. You are--quite literally--talking about NOTHING."

. . . and now compare:

Isaac: "I have a theory of gravity"

Albert: "What do you mean by "gravity"?

Isaac: "I mean an attractive force which acts instantaneously over any distance."

Albert: "(As far as anyone can tell) there is no such thing as an attractive force which acts instantaneously over any distance. Your use of the term "gravity" fails to refer. You are--quite literally--talking about NOTHING."

Are you familiar with theories of reference, Harp?

(Edited by axocanth)
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axocanth: Speaking of hypocrisy . . .

In Blackshoes' thread on evolution we see the following pattern repeated over and over ad infinitum:

* Blackshoes posts a horrendously long article attacking evolution. No personal commentary from Blackshoes--demonstrating that he has read and understood the material he expects other members to read--is ever added.

* Almost invariably, within about about five seconds, the post receives a "like" from a mystery admirer (*cough cough*) who--unless he holds the world record for speed reading--clearly, has not read it himself.

* Anyone who honestly admits to not having read the article (on the grounds that it's almost certainly mindless crap, let alone that the poster HIMSELF doesn't read his own posted crap) is immediately referred to as a "nitwit", "liar", or any of a hundred other insults that six-year-old children throw around (as we hope they grow up fast).

* Anyone who DOES read the article and spends a great deal of time composing an intelligent and thoughtful response (e.g. Harpy) is invariably rewarded for his efforts by one of the two resident peabrains "Evolution is crap and you're a nitwit."

Oh, and Blackshoes routinely refers to himself with evident pride as a "Speaker of Truth".

Most recently, after another horrendously long blog was posted, I posed the following to Blackshoes:

Did you, or did you not, read your most recent horrendously lengthy blog prior to posting?

If you did, can you please give us a brief synopsis--one hundred words, say--on the main points.

If you didn't, why do you expect anyone else to read it if you're not willing to make the effort yourself? Why is anyone who admits to not reading it a nitwit or a liar?

Now, with Blackshoes being the Speaker of Truth that he is, I waited eagerly for an honest answer.

To my great surprise (* cough cough *), my questions were immediately deleted.

"Speaker of Truth", eh? I've met more honest snake-oil salesmen.

Does anyone else here miss the good old days when the Wireclub science forum actually had some intelligent people in it discussing serious topics?

(Edited by axocanth)
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zeffur: "snake-oil salesmen" aka evoidiots
1 year ago Report
Viannaa: He used my name..😮 Im in awe. ☺️😌
1 year ago Report
1 year ago Report
axocanth: It's common in these forums to see opponents of evolution post blogs or Youtube videos wherein defenders of Creationism offer their critiques of evolutionary theory.

By and large, with a few exceptions, the standard of these critiques is very low. In a great many cases, what we see is a non-scientist pontificating on scientific topics that he clearly does not understand well.

The defenders of evolution, meanwhile, respond with a vengeance, pointing out all the errors in these presentations. And rightly so! People who are talking crap ought to be held accountable -- they are misleading the public.

One response takes the form of posting Youtube videos of actual working evolutionary biologists who go through the original anti-evolution video point by point, explaining the various factual errors, misunderstandings, logical fallacies, and so on and so forth.

Unfortunately though, these evolutionary biologists do not always limit themselves to the nuts and bolts of the theory of evolution. They can frequently be seen taking a step back from the particulars of the theory of evolution and begin speaking about science as a whole: questions about laws, theories, scientific method, etc., etc.

Now, whether they know it or not--and in many cases I suspect they do not--they have departed from their own domain of expertise and encroached on the turf of the philosophy of science. They are no longer lecturing on topics on which they are an authority, the inevitable result of which is that they . . . well, end up talking a lot of crap.

Instead of a Creationist pontificating on scientific topics that he clearly does not understand well, we now have a scientist pontificating on philosophical topics that he clearly does not understand well. We have a scientist rather than a Creationist misleading the public.

Strangely, though, whenever I point these things out, the defenders of evolution, by and large, just get angry. Their motto appears to be: "It's ok to talk crap and mislead the public if you're on the right side"!

Now, back to that same video again . . .

The video basically consists of an evolutionary biologist--Forrest--telling everyone how clueless Creationists are. The section I want to focus on now, though, runs from about 13:00 - 14:00 mins.

At 13:18, immediately after a bizarre and nonsensical accusation of Creationist "begging the question" by beginning with a theory/conclusion (i.e., God) and then looking for confirming evidence (science routinely does the same!), Forrest tells us that science proceeds in a manner diametrically opposed to what Creationists do: In science, the evidence comes first and the conclusion/theory/hypothesis (I'll just say "hypothesis" from now on) follows later:

"The difference is, in science we look at the evidence and we say where is this evidence pointing. And then we go with that." - Forrest

First point: If you think about it, it makes no sense to say the evidence comes before the hypothesis. "Evidence", like "uncle", is what's known as a "relational term": an uncle is always SOMEONE's uncle, and evidence is always evidence FOR (or against) a hypothesis. In the absence of a hypothesis there can be no evidence; the former is logically antecedent.

Consider, for example, the following conversation:

"I found some evidence today."

"Oh yeah? Evidence for what?"

"It's not evidence for anything. It's just evidence."

Clearly nonsensical !

Second point: What Forrest is describing--very clumsily!--is an antediluvian notion of scientific method known as "inductivism" of the type prescribed by one of the early giants of scientific method, Francis Bacon, whose claimed adherents included such luminaries as Isaac Newton.

According to inductivism, what happens is something like the following: The scientist comes to the data with no hypothesis. The conclusion (theory, hypothesis) is already somehow contained WITHIN the data and all the scientist has to do is tease it out, so to speak. The scientist just examines the facts, which are raw and uncontaminated by theoretical preconceptions, and goes wherever they lead. The facts "speak for themselves". (cf. Gould quote below) . . . and when all this is done, we end up with a hypothesis . . .

. . . very much as Forrest describes.

(This is often contrasted with the so-called "hypothetico-deductive" method where a hypothesis is brought TO the data.)

Alas, inductivism is now seen to be hopelessly inadequate as a description of scientific method. Yes, even geniuses like Newton have been known to misdescribe what it is they're doing, as Albert Einstein warns us:

"If you want to find out anything from the theoretical physicists about the methods they use, I advise you to stick closely to one principle: Don't listen to their words, fix your attention on their deeds."

I'll leave you with a few quotes to ponder:

"Philosophical accounts of the nature of science, or of the 'scientific method', are, in part, accounts of the relation, or relations, of theory and experiment in science. A simplistic view of the history of philosophy of science since the eighteenth century would show one philosophy, inductivism, holding sway for a century and a half before being replaced by hypothetico-deductivism. Francis Bacon is usually blamed for inductivism, a position that we all now plainly see as silly. Indeed, over a hundred years ago, Charles Darwin, who publicly gave lip-service to the 'Baconian method', privately ridiculed inductivism, saying that "one might as well go into a gravel pit and count the pebbles and describe the colours". "

- Robert N. Brandon, "Concepts and Methods in Evolutionary Biology", p147

"How odd it is that anyone should not see that all observation must be for or against some view, if it is to be of any service."

- Charles Darwin

"Facts do not 'speak for themselves'; they are read in the light of theory"

- S. J. Gould, essay "The Validation of Continental Drift"

(Edited by axocanth)
1 year ago Report
axocanth: Or consider (13:27) . . . [same video as above]

"What you [the Creationists] are doing is saying 'Here's the solution that I'm trying to get to. Let's go find evidence for it' . . . and that doesn't work!"

- Forrest



"Here's the solution I'm trying to get to: The dinosaurs were wiped out by a massive meteor strike. Let's go find evidence for it."

Looks like you scientists have some rethinking to do. This kinda thing--if Forrest can be trusted--just doesn't work!

Oh, and "this kinda thing" that Forrest tells us "does not work" has a name: the hypothetico-deductive method.
(Edited by axocanth)
1 year ago Report
axocanth: re: my last two posts above:

I think it's obvious what Forrest WANTS to say (i.e. is TRYING to say), but it's not what he ACTUALLY says in the video.

If I'm reading him right, Forrest is trying to say something like the following:

* Creationists are completely dogmatic. They already have it fixed it in their minds that God did it. And nothing is ever going to change that, no matter what the situation is with the evidence. And . . .

* Science is quite the opposite

These are claims that would have to have to be judged on their own merits. Personally, I'd say the former claim (about Creationism) is fairly accurate; the latter (about science) is--once again--simplistic and grossly overstated.

Science is far more dogmatic and conservative than many people realize. Any doubters out there might want to try Thomas Kuhn's seminal 1962 "Structure of Scientific Revolutions" if you haven't read it already.

Fear not. It's a short book and quite accessible to a lay audience.

1 year ago Report