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Thread: the 'no miracles' argument for scientific realism- any thoughts?

  1. #31
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    Quote Originally Posted by plant View Post
    what is my rest mass? lets say 70kg (i wish)
    what is my mass when travelling in a car at 100miles an hour relative to the ground? 70.00000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000 001 (let's say)
    Your rest mass doesn't change when you are in a car, our models say that all motion is relative, whereas rest mass is an invariant. But the details of the model don't matter-- it's a model. Before it, we had Galileo's model, and I showed mathematically why we cannot conclude anything from its success other than that we only experience what we should regard as low velocities. Then we had special relativity, whose demise told us we can only conclude that we only experience weak gravity. When and if quantum gravity comes along, it will come with lessons about the demise of general relativity. And so it goes.
    so.. isn't newton is an approximation of einstein which will be an approximation of ??? who will be an approximation of XXXXX theory developed by artifical intelligence which we will not have the mental capacity to understand.
    Obviously every law must quantitatively approximate a previous one that worked, that is a simple logical requirement that has nothing to do with realism. Realism is taking that obvious fact and concluding from it several things for which there is no evidence:
    1) there needs to be a reason these laws are approximately successful, other than the simple reason that this is how they are designed, and
    2) that they are approximately successful means they must conceptually approximate the "actual reality", or what is "really happening", despite all the times that was shown to be false.
    the 'structural relaist' says - so what if newton didn't 'know' space-time was curved by mass.. in the future perhaps we will also reject this model.. however the math/ relationships remain approximately true because they map on to a real external world.
    Again, I await the structural realist's argument to the fact that all we learned from the demise of Galilean relativity is that it was built from velocities that were too small to ever tell us what was "really going on", or what the "true reality" was actually like! The statement you just wrote is perfectly defensible until the irrelevant and unsupported final phrase after "because" was tacked on. It does nothing to the beginning of the sentence that anyone needs, and is made of pure fancy, like any system based on pure faith. It's not that people don't find value in pure faith, it's that realists don't seem to understand that is all they are doing.
    Last edited by Ken G; 2017-Oct-18 at 02:27 AM.

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    Ken i was trying to be funny when i said 'cult-of-ken'... obviously missed the mark :-)

    your statement
    "Realism is taking that obvious fact and concluding from it several things for which there is no evidence: 1) there needs to be a reason these laws are approximately successful, other than the simple reason that this is how they are designed"

    How do you explain the fact that these laws are approximately successful?
    I say- it's because they map on to a real external world that we can know something about. .. and I think there does "need to be a reason". Accepting there might be no reason isn't science is it? If newton asks himself "why does this apple fall down, not up?"... would you say, Mr Newton stop looking for reasons? Or are you saying that within the context of science we look for reasons, but you are happy we don't need to look for reasons why our scientific theories are approximately succesful and so useful?

    You say that this is because this is how they are designed.

    Is that what you are saying?.. this is putting the cart before the horse (or Descartes before the horse) isn't it?

    On the meta-issue of anti-realism... Do you think there is a logical / scientific way you have escaped from your solipsism? I don't think there is.. if so i'd love to hear it.
    I think you have a non-scientific belief that there is a world that exists outside your head.
    So.. if you have accepted that there is a real world outside your head.. (and that is acceptable).. why is thinking there is a real external world not acceptable? I would say, unless you are a solipsist (in which case why bother with anything).. you have by definition accepted that there is a real world out there.
    Now, if you are indeed saying "i can know nothing outside of my consciousness"... then you are indeed stuck in your solipsism.. BUT at least you are being consistent...

    please explain!
    Last edited by plant; 2017-Oct-18 at 05:14 AM.

  3. #33
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    Quote Originally Posted by plant View Post
    Ken i was trying to be funny when i said 'cult-of-ken'... obviously missed the mark :-)
    My bad, too sensitive.
    your statement
    "Realism is taking that obvious fact and concluding from it several things for which there is no evidence: 1) there needs to be a reason these laws are approximately successful, other than the simple reason that this is how they are designed"

    How do you explain the fact that these laws are approximately successful?
    Because if they weren't, we'd keep trying. For thousands of years. Which we did!
    I say- it's because they map on to a real external world that we can know something about.
    You can certainly choose to believe that, as any realist does. But here's why you have no argument to support that belief: if you were a caveman who had not discovered any laws of physics, would you still be a realist, or wouldn't you? Be honest. Also, most people don't know any physics-- none at all. They cannot cite a single law that is approximately correct, and really don't know much science whatsoever. Would statistics show that those people are less likely to be realists? I strongly doubt it, I don't see any correlation whatsoever between people's physics knowledge, and the tendency to be realists. So the claim that approximate success of laws of physics is the reason that realists are realists is basically baloney.
    .. and I think there does "need to be a reason".
    And lots of people think the world is 6,000 years old. You can believe what you like, the issue is, what support can you cite?
    Accepting there might be no reason isn't science is it? If newton asks himself "why does this apple fall down, not up?"... would you say, Mr Newton stop looking for reasons?
    Not at all, what I would say is what any scientist should say: start making and testing models. Models, not "reasons." Do you think Newton's law of gravity was a reason for things to fall? No, it was a model of why they do fall. You can tell this must be true, because someone born on a space station who had never seen gravity wouldn't see a "reason" for gravity, now would they? That's the difference between a "reason" and a model for what you already know you observe.

    And, ironically to your argument, when Newton came out with his laws about gravity and planetary motion, people were upset-- expressly because the laws don't give reasons for planets to do what they do! The laws require you to know what the planet was doing before, in order to know what it will do next! That's the opposite of having a reason-- planets have no reason to do what they do, they do it because of what they were doing before, which was because of what they were doing before, all the way back to the Big Bang-- which, by the way, has no reason! The search for "reasons" can always be framed, ultimately, as a search for a "first cause." How far have our "approximate truths" gotten us toward that reality?
    Or are you saying that within the context of science we look for reasons, but you are happy we don't need to look for reasons why our scientific theories are approximately succesful and so useful?
    If you can come up with a testable model for a reason why our theories are accepted when they are shown, after centuries of trying by thousands of brilliant minds, to be approximately correct, that is different from "because that's how science is done," then let's hear it! Choose whatever beliefs you like, we can even look for the reasons that you chose that belief. But what does it matter if you have no argument for it? That's the irony of the "no-miracles" argument-- realists already believe in the biggest miracle of all, that there needs to be a reason for our models to work. It is the anti-realists who reject miracles, by rejecting that whopper!
    You say that this is because this is how they are designed.
    That's how we observe it to work, is it not? But you are not satisfied by what you observe, you want to add to it things you do not observe and do not have evidence for. What do we normally call that? That's all I'm saying here, let's call it what it is.
    On the meta-issue of anti-realism... Do you think there is a logical / scientific way you have escaped from your solipsism?
    Absolutely. The solipsist says "it is impossible for me to know anything." To that I answer, why on Earth would you want to define your word "know" to be something that is impossible to do? Would I define something to be a mountain only if it was impossible to climb, and nothing else counts as a mountain? We simply create an accessible definition of "knowing" and "knowledge." In science, that's easy: scientific knowledge is knowledge of successful models, as well as knowledge of their limitations and knowledge of the need to keep testing and keep replacing them. That's what "knowing" is in science, and I do not deny my ability to do it at all.
    I think you have a non-scientific belief that there is a world that exists outside your head.
    Actually, I don't-- I consider that a good model, not a belief. In fact, it is quite obvious to me that's just what it is, so overwhelming is the evidence to support that view! But I also know enough physics to know that the inside/outside my head dichotomy is idealized and artificial. I could give dozens of reasons why we already know (in the sense I just gave) that distinction is artificial. Here's a start to the list:
    1) my head does not have an inside and an outside, because its boundary is ambiguous and arbitrary, but is a useful model to pretend it isn't. And what part of the brain is my awareness "inside" anyway?
    2) all electrons involved in my thought processes are known (in the scientific sense) to be indistinguishable, which is why white dwarf stars exist, for example. This means there are not electrons that are "inside" my head, and electrons that are "outside" my head, there is just a state of all the electrons at once, such that if you do observations, sometimes those electrons will show up outside, and other times inside, but you can never say which electrons are which because they don't have their own identities.
    3) the idea that my awareness has a spatial location is highly dubious, because even though we know my brain is intimately involved, it could simply be that my brain is processing information, and my awareness is that pattern of information. If someone discovers the proof of Fermat's last theorem, should we say that proof is located "inside their head," or should we say that the proof simply exists independent of space and time, even though the proof was discovered at a given place and time?
    4) the process of discovering some new law or principle looks, if you watch it happening, like a kind of dialog or interaction between a thinking brain (which our idealized model says is acting "inside" us) and stimulus (which our idealized model says is from "outside" us). But if the law or principle emerges from that interaction, in what sense can we say two things that are interacting are separate? Doesn't the interaction change the participants, thereby unifying the system into a single functioning mechanism? In other words, inside my car's engine there are pistons and rods and other stuff. Do we say that the pistons make the car go, or the rods? The "going" of the car requires them to cooperate, just as you can watch a mind and its stimulus cooperating to generate a realist model of "inside" and "outside" that then idealizes that cooperation as if it were two separate things rather than a unifying interaction.
    5) quantum entanglement shows us that "real" systems are fundamentally holistic, rather than made of separable parts. However, the entanglements are fragile and easily broken by the complex systems of interactions that are so commonplace in a world of ghastly many interacting particles. This in turn leads some to think the parts are fundamental, and entanglement has to somehow mysteriously emerge from those parts, but they get all tripped up trying to use language that makes sense of that picture. It is far more responsive to the facts to use language that says the holistic entanglements are fundamental, and the breaking of those entanglements is what emerges quite naturally from all the complex interactions. So we end up with some realists who think the world is made of interacting parts, and other realists who think the world is made of holistic entanglements being fractured and sliced up so many ways they end up looking like a bunch of separate parts.

    That's another crucial problem with realists-- the realists think they are approximating a reality that they don't even agree on! There are realists who think the world is really 6000 years old, and realists who think the world is really 4.5 billion years old, and they can give precisely the same reasons for being realists. Can you even tell which one a realist thinks is the real world, when all you have to go on is their realist arguments? I can't. I don't even know what Hilary Putnam thought about how humanity really originated, so ambiguous are realist arguments about what reality they are talking about!
    So.. if you have accepted that there is a real world outside your head.. (and that is acceptable).. why is thinking there is a real external world not acceptable?
    You should know by now my answer to that. I don't just accept there is a real world outside my head, I know there is a real world outside my head, in the same sense that I know matter is made of atoms: all I mean by knowing is that I have the scientific knowledge of a useful scientific model that is not the truth, not even approximately the truth, and will likely be replaced someday by a model that bears virtually no resemblance to my current model but which will easily explain why I thought my current model was the truth (which, fortunately, I didn't, because that was never what I meant by "knowing").

    Now, if you are indeed saying "i can know nothing outside of my consciousness"... then you are indeed stuck in your solipsism.. BUT at least you are being consistent...
    Nope, solipsism has never been anywhere close to my stance. Instead, I look at what I mean by knowing. And by the way, I don't think I know my own consciousness well at all! That's largely an illusion, if you ask me.
    Last edited by Ken G; 2017-Oct-18 at 07:43 AM.

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    Ken, What is you definition of illusion?

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    Quote Originally Posted by SkepticJ View Post
    Are planets really on epicycles, orbiting the Earth? Yet that theory worked pretty well for a long, long time.
    Indeed, Copernicus' theory needed more epicycles to get his heliocentric theory to work than did the geocentric theory. Given the observational limits of the era, their was little to chose between helio- and geo-centric theories.
    Last edited by swampyankee; 2017-Oct-18 at 09:43 AM.
    Information about American English usage here and here. Floating point issues? Please read this before posting.

    How do things fly? This explains it all.

    Actually they can't: "Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible." - Lord Kelvin, president, Royal Society, 1895.



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    Quote Originally Posted by gzhpcu View Post
    Ken, What is you definition of illusion?
    In the context of my statement about consciousness, I meant it in regard to the idea that I know my own quite well. So the meaning I took was an illusion is something that seems to me to be true after only superficial examination, a kind of "quick glimpse" if you like, that kind of falls apart under closer examination. I would say it is similar to the illusion that we know something "like the back of our hands," when in fact most people probably could not successfully draw the vein pattern on th back of their hand at all.
    Last edited by Ken G; 2017-Oct-18 at 12:37 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by swampyankee View Post
    Indeed, Copernicus' theory needed more epicycles to get his heliocentric theory to work than did the geocentric theory. Given the observational limits of the era, their was little to chose between helio- and geo-centric theories.
    That is because Copernicus reverted to the ancient standard of admitting only perfect constant rate circles or vector combinations thereof, while Ptolemy had used variable rate deferent circles based on the equant method. At low and moderate eccentricity such as we have with the planets, Ptolemy's model was in good agreement with the rather crude positional measurements of the time, with just the deferent and a single
    annual epicycle for each planet. By going heliocentric, Copernicus eliminated the annual epicycles, but had to add others to do everything with constant rate perfect circles.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken G View Post
    In the context of my statement about consciousness, I meant it in regard to the idea that I know my own quite well. So the meaning I took was an illusion is something that seems to me to be true after only superficial examination, a kind of "quick glimpse" if you like, that kind of falls apart under closer examination. I would say it is similar to the illusion that we know something "like the back of our hands," when in fact most people probably could not successfully draw the vein pattern on th back of their hand at all.
    interested to hear thoughts on Dan Dennet's 'consciousness explained' which some have felt should have been titled 'consciousness denied'.... or perhaps quotes around either word of the title. on 2nd thoughts ... this would be better as a separate thread!

    "Consciousness Explained" on @Wikipedia:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Consci...ed?wprov=sfsi1

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    assuming we cannot say (scientifically) anything at all about 'the real' world.... or we deny the concept has meaning except as a useful day-to-day mental model that helps us not get hit by cars.....

    what about the statements:
    "no part of the real world is actually red"
    "in the real world 7 is never equal to 5"

    are these things not facts about 'reality'? no matter what reality is... is there any POSSIBLE reality where 7=5, and Redness can exist without eyes and minds to see see it? Where a paradox is not a paradox? where you can divide by zero?

    what happens to 'reality' when all minds in the universe are extinguished. When all mind-dependent models must be eliminated?

    probably some will say "its all models... all the time..." :-)

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    Quote Originally Posted by plant View Post
    assuming we cannot say (scientifically) anything at all about 'the real' world....
    Science is all about saying things about the "real world," that's exactly why the "real world" has to be something science can say something about! In short, that's why the "real world" has to be a collection of testable models, or it isn't science at all.
    ... or we deny the concept has meaning except as a useful day-to-day mental model that helps us not get hit by cars.....
    Not an insignificant meaning, by the way!
    what about the statements:
    "no part of the real world is actually red"
    Red is an attribute of a model. We use many models all the time, so there is never a single model we call "the real world." This is another key point that realists gloss over-- they pretend it would make sense to talk about a single "real world," but in everyday life we are constantly using different models all the time. If I am wearing a red shirt, that means I have a model of the "real world" involving attributes of redness and shirtness. But if I say I "love someone," is that real like the red of my shirt? No, it's obviously a totally different kind of model. Is the love someone feels more or less real than the red of their shirt? It's differently real, that's all. But the realist is unable to navigate differences in realness, because they are unable to navigate the entire concept that different types of models generate different concepts of realness. They are hamstrung by thinking realness is just one thing: what is actually real. Is my shirt approximately red? Do I approximately love someone? These statements really don't make much sense, because there is nothing to approximate there, there is just the meanings I intend when I say these things.
    "in the real world 7 is never equal to 5"
    Let's look at this statement without the "in the real world." How is it different? So what is that phrase adding to the statement? The concept of 7 is different from the concept of 5,
    and we look for ways to apply these concepts, these templates, to our experiences. What more needs be said that is not playing make believe?
    are these things not facts about 'reality'? no matter what reality is... is there any POSSIBLE reality where 7=5, and Redness can exist without eyes and minds to see see it?
    If you have a conceptual framework, a template, where 7=5, then you might find ways to fit that template to your experiences, yes. For example, 7 does equal 5 in mod 2, so just think of a situation where "mod 2" is a useful template for the real world. How about flipping a coin? Then whether it rotates 7 times in the air, or 5 times, is going to result in the same outcome.
    If the coin flip determines whether you live or die, then 7 will very clearly equal 5, as far as you are concerned, but it's just because the templates associated with those numbers, here taken mod 2, fit the situation you need them for.
    what happens to 'reality' when all minds in the universe are extinguished.
    How will you answer that without using your mind? We have a model. The model says the universe will go on when minds are extinguished. That's the model our minds come up with, the template we fit to our experiences. It's still a model, and it resides where all models reside: in your mind. That's what we can observe, what we can test-- the rest you can believe in what you want, but it's always just going to be an arbitrary choice on your part.
    probably some will say "its all models... all the time..." :-)
    What else do you know how to do? Even realism is a model, which is the core irony of that philosophy. Indeed, calling it "ironic" is kind-- I actually regard it as internally inconsistent, a kind of logical error that people can believe anyway because they are free to believe in whatever they want-- even in logical errors.
    Last edited by Ken G; 2017-Oct-19 at 07:58 PM.

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    So you have a model in your mind that says "the universe will go on when minds are extinguished".
    Since you can't test this model (and there is no possible future i can imagine where it could ever be a testable theory), you are not being scientific about it. Hence, once again i think IMHO that you have chosen to believe in something in a non-scientific way...

    In addition you have chosen to base your views on 'the scientific method' presumably because it is useful. If it were not, it wouldn't be science. Why have you chosen 'the scientific method' above some other method? Introspection/ Relgion /God etc? If one is a structural realist- once can have some reason to prefernce 'the scientific method' over all others. How do you argue with a religious person who says ... well i choose different models.. we are as 'correct' about the ultimate nature of 'reality' as each other. A religious person might say.. your scientific models of the electron are of no utility to me. Again i think you have chosen (as a non-default philosophical position) to believe, in a non-scientific way that the scientific method provides the best models. How can you then place science above all other belief systems?

    Finally, i'm not convinced that there is any good logical argument for escaping what i will refer to as "the prison of solipsism" (solitary confinement). I think that most of us make a non-scientific, non-logical choice to preferentially believe we are not a brain in a vat, being fed neural impulses by an evil demon.

    You have stated "Absolutely (.. there is an escape...). The solipsist says "it is impossible for me to know anything." To that I answer, why on Earth would you want to define your word "know" to be something that is impossible to do? ". I don't think this is correct. I think the solipsist says "it is impossible for me to know anything outside my own consciousness". I know i am thinking, and i am making mental models but i cannot know there is anything other than my consciousness. In which case you might be a figment of my imagination, or vice versa. And now you're re-defining the word 'knowledge'?

    As a totally separate issue- if you are of the opinion that 1) we cannot know anything about reality and 2) the term 'reality' is just a useful model but has no meaning outside that context.... does that affect your emotional connection to science? I would imagine that most people working in the field of fundamenal physics must generally have a sense of "awe" about the universe- it's scale, complexity, the bizarreness of quantum mechanics etc etc. Perhaps i struggle to let go of (structural) scientific reality as i have an emotional attachment to the 'wonders of the universe'. If one says "look quantum mechanics really would be amazing if it is true.. all that crazy wave/particle duality, non-locality etc etc but don't get so excited and awe-inspired.. it's only a model. We will never know what's really happening- even into the far future".

    Ken- i think you will really appreciate this monty python clip from "The Holy Grail": "It's only a model" :-)
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m3dZl3yfGpc
    Last edited by plant; 2017-Oct-20 at 09:22 AM.

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    My take on your position is that you seem to accept the idea that we cannot know but you don't like it, so you would rather believe in the external reality being pretty much what we model it to be. You use a straw argument, I suggest, in forcing the solipsist to believe in a demon or nihilism.
    The agnostic, as I prefer to name her, can still believe anything she chooses from the array of options. Knowledge , scientific knowledge, is a set of ideas that make working predictions, engineering knowledge exactly the same, so it's useful in making interpretations of the fundamental underpinning. But as you say, those interpretations whether you choose supernatural or mechanistic interpretations are untestable while all our predictions are very testable. Of course it's all models, that's what we do.
    sicut vis videre esto
    When we realize that patterns don't exist in the universe, they are a template that we hold to the universe to make sense of it, it all makes a lot more sense.
    Originally Posted by Ken G

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    Yes- i'd prefer for there to be a real universe out there however this is irrelevant. I'd also prefer to have a Porsche.
    My point about 'emotional' connection to science is just that i'm interested to hear if being an anti-realist diminishes one's 'awe'.... i.e. Camelot! Camelot! (cries the scientific realist). It's just a model..... :-(

    1) I'm just not convinced that the 'models' model is the 'default' position... requiring no belief structure. I think if you're being logically consistent with application of your skepticism i think you must end up trapped in a solipsism. Now if all you can really tell me is nothing beyond "i all can possibly know is the content of my mind".. then we really are speaking past each other.

    2) The circular reasoning that our models are successful only because we choose models that are successful (and not because they partially - e.g. mathematically..map to an external reality) does not convince me.

    Why is this cat black? Because all black cats are black.
    Why am i here? Because if i wasn't here i wouldn't be asking the question!
    Why is this scientific theory good/predictive/has explanatory power? Because if it wasn't we wouldn't call it a good scientific theory.
    Last edited by plant; 2017-Oct-20 at 08:04 AM.

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    PLant: assuming that 'the future will resemble the past' in terms of our scientific theories is an example of induction. The turkey thinks every day is going to be wonderful.... until the day before thanksgiving. I think most people would deny that induction is a good approach to science.
    KenG: Science doesn't assume its theories, it tests them. I think it's very ironic that you don't count the future resembling the past as a good basis for a scientific model-- given that every single scientific model we have exhibits that property!

    I'm absolutely certain you are aware of the problems with inductive reasoning....

    All swans are white.
    I see a white swan.. does that mean all swans are white? No.
    I see 7000 swans.. and they are all white. Does that mean all swans are white? No.
    No matter how many white swans you find, you are never adding to scientific knowledge.
    It is only when you see one non-white swan that you refute the null hypothesis and learn something scientific about the world.

    Now- obviously... how do we generate a hypothesis? Clearly we use induction.. Hmmm... every swan i see is white. We should do a scientific study.. lets see if we can reject the null hypothesis that all swans are white.


    So.. even if you felt that all rigorous scientific theories have been without exception totally and utterly wrong in all regards (which is obviously not true unless you want to cherry pick).. even THEN you cannot say that all our current theories will be replaced by new/better theories in the future.
    This is illogical thinking isn't it?
    Unless you can now predict the future?? Now that would be a miracle.
    Last edited by plant; 2017-Oct-20 at 09:10 AM.

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    Also i'm not sure i understand KenG's concept of a model.
    Surely a model, by definition is some form of abstraction of another thing.. my plastic model of the international space station: reduced in size, made of plastic but in broad shape, very similar to the original.
    KenG seems to using some definition of 'model' that i am not familiar with- As i understand your philosophy (which i believe you feel is the obvious default system that any logical person should agree with without resorting to any external belief systems). No snarkiness intended :-)
    i say this because you have stated that you don't feel that our scientific theories need to be anything more than utilitarian convenient fictions.. that they are not approximately correct because they map on to any deeper reality but they are approximately correct because if they weren't, we wouldn't call them scientific theories.
    There is no need for them (it doesn't add anything) to say they map on to anything like 'reality'
    However- this is not the definition of a model.
    A scientific model must by definition , map on to something.
    So one might say "of course of scientific models map on to some aspect of something deeper- otherwise they wouldn't be models"
    Having a model without having anything it is modeled on is like a reflection in a mirror being present without the object itself being there.
    I also have a plastic model of a unicorn (not to scale).
    Are our scientific models like a model of a unicorn, or like a model of a space station? Or is the point that we can never know?

    Perhaps you will say "it's models of models of models".. this is as satisfying as the old "turtles all the way down". A explanation that requires an infinite regress of nested models is the logical equivalent of no explanation.

    have a good weekend everyone!

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    well,
    if we agree a belief is by definition an idea which cannot be tested but which gives the believer some satisfaction, while a science hypothesis or theory is an idea which predicts the outcome of some test, then I see no circular argument there. I see maths as a language enabling better models, so strongly mind based. The idea that maths is fundamental to an external universe is a belief.
    You can believe in something deeper, including a creator agency without leaving an agnostic stance. But I think it's important to realise what is belief and what is testable knowledge. I think the point is indeed: you will never know in this human life. What happens afterwards is a prime example where belief reigns. We know there are many beliefs about that but science is silent except we cannot measure anything consistently.
    sicut vis videre esto
    When we realize that patterns don't exist in the universe, they are a template that we hold to the universe to make sense of it, it all makes a lot more sense.
    Originally Posted by Ken G

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    Quote Originally Posted by profloater View Post
    well,
    if we agree a belief is by definition an idea which cannot be tested but which gives the believer some satisfaction, while a science hypothesis or theory is an idea which predicts the outcome of some test, then I see no circular argument there. I see maths as a language enabling better models, so strongly mind based. The idea that maths is fundamental to an external universe is a belief.
    You can believe in something deeper, including a creator agency without leaving an agnostic stance. But I think it's important to realise what is belief and what is testable knowledge. I think the point is indeed: you will never know in this human life. What happens afterwards is a prime example where belief reigns. We know there are many beliefs about that but science is silent except we cannot measure anything consistently.
    math is a mental tool to measure and to predict the outcome of experiments, but is not meant to find out what objects physically are. Just a bunch of equations and numbers. Reality imho is experienced, not broken down into equations. Reality is sensed.

  18. #48
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    Quote Originally Posted by gzhpcu View Post
    math is a mental tool to measure and to predict the outcome of experiments, but is not meant to find out what objects physically are. Just a bunch of equations and numbers. Reality imho is experienced, not broken down into equations. Reality is sensed.
    I do not think we need to go over those reality differences again. Plant has raised those same issues about belief versus knowledge. Your belief in reality was always clear but this question about external reality, as an assumption, requiring no miracles is a different tack I do not see how mind models require miracles if predictions come true. The success of models does not tell you whether the future is predetermined or subject to agency. I guess you are agreeing with me here about maths, it's a language used by mind. In your belief about external reality can miracles happen? What's the test?
    sicut vis videre esto
    When we realize that patterns don't exist in the universe, they are a template that we hold to the universe to make sense of it, it all makes a lot more sense.
    Originally Posted by Ken G

  19. #49
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    Quote Originally Posted by profloater View Post
    I do not think we need to go over those reality differences again. Plant has raised those same issues about belief versus knowledge. Your belief in reality was always clear but this question about external reality, as an assumption, requiring no miracles is a different tack I do not see how mind models require miracles if predictions come true. The success of models does not tell you whether the future is predetermined or subject to agency. I guess you are agreeing with me here about maths, it's a language used by mind. In your belief about external reality can miracles happen? What's the test?
    Depends on what is meant by miracle. The way I understand it - no.

  20. #50
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    Quote Originally Posted by plant View Post
    Also i'm not sure i understand KenG's concept of a model.
    Surely a model, by definition is some form of abstraction of another thing.. my plastic model of the international space station: reduced in size, made of plastic but in broad shape, very similar to the original.
    You mean what is called a "scale model," which is one of the more trivial versions of a model. More generally, a model is defined by what it does: it gives you a simplified way to understand and predict phenomena in some kind of context, usually a context that you know is much more complicated than what your model includes. However, in some cases the model is as complex as you know how to make it, like the "standard model" of elementary particles, or the "Big Bang model." But the point is, you make the model for a purpose, and there is no need for it to either be the actual reality, or not the actual reality, it just is what it is. So, a map is a kind of model, it tells you how to get somewhere. The territory being mapped is also a kind of model, at least, if someone asks you "what is the territory being mapped," whatever pops next into your model is easily shown to satisfy this definition of a model.

    So in the above, I take a very general view of the meaning of a model. That it is not always entirely obvious what other people mean, or if there is a distinction between a model and a theory (to me, a theory is just a particularly sophisticated and well-tested type of model), there is an interesting investigation of the "model" concept at http://www.romanfrigg.org/writings/M...hysics_REP.pdf . Mathematicians, as is their wont, favor a much more formal meaning of a "model," and as is typical of them, you might not even recognize what they mean by the notion.

    i say this because you have stated that you don't feel that our scientific theories need to be anything more than utilitarian convenient fictions..
    Actually, if you look at the definition of a "fiction," you will find you are misusing the concept. Again it's the constant fallacy of the excluded middle-- you think that if something is not the "actual real truth," then it must be a "fiction." This kind of black-and-white thinking is just plain not sophisticated enough to serve us well in topics that involve subtlety and complexity. As is so typical of the realists, it's quite naive.
    A scientific model must by definition , map on to something.
    Sure-- it must map onto valuable expectations for outcomes of experiments. Look up the "scientific method." If you think it has to "map to" anything else, you are inventing some personal version of the scientific method that simply doesn't exist anywhere but in your belief system.

    Having a model without having anything it is modeled on is like a reflection in a mirror being present without the object itself being there.
    Actually, any time you look at anything, your brain creates a model. That's just what a brain does, it's easy to tease out the process there. For example, if you wear goggles that flip everything upside down, after a little while, you will see everything right side up again. That really should make it completely obvious that your brain always models what you see, whether you see it in a mirror, or not.
    I also have a plastic model of a unicorn (not to scale).
    Are our scientific models like a model of a unicorn, or like a model of a space station? Or is the point that we can never know?
    Please, the distinction is obvious: scientific models are tested. Please dispense with silly comparisons to unicorns, they're not going to get us anywhere.
    Perhaps you will say "it's models of models of models".. this is as satisfying as the old "turtles all the way down". A explanation that requires an infinite regress of nested models is the logical equivalent of no explanation.
    Actually, you are referring to a logical fallacy that you just made up, there is no such fallacy. Mathematicians aren't bothered by infinite regressions at all, they use them all the time.

  21. #51
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    Quote Originally Posted by gzhpcu View Post
    Depends on what is meant by miracle. The way I understand it - no.
    does that mean you apply the Miracles test, as in the OP, and find it supports external reality? Or is it your belief that in external reality Miracles cannot occur, because Miracles are unreal?

    I put it that way to tease out how this Miracles argument applies.
    sicut vis videre esto
    When we realize that patterns don't exist in the universe, they are a template that we hold to the universe to make sense of it, it all makes a lot more sense.
    Originally Posted by Ken G

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    No miracles in that our models work and progressively become clearer and more accurate in theor ptedictions.

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    If a miracle were confirmed to have happened, physics would be expanded to include it so it won't have been a miracle.

  24. #54
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    Quote Originally Posted by gzhpcu View Post
    No miracles in that our models work and progressively become clearer and more accurate in theor ptedictions.
    OK so why in an unknowable universe would we call predictions that come true , Miracles? It's a very coloured word. Miracles get called when normal predictions fail and people believe god intervened. Do people believe or not believe in god or gods but know about independent reality?
    sicut vis videre esto
    When we realize that patterns don't exist in the universe, they are a template that we hold to the universe to make sense of it, it all makes a lot more sense.
    Originally Posted by Ken G

  25. #55
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    from the Stanford Encyclopedia:- a snippet:

    " Epistemologically, realism is committed to the idea that theoretical claims (interpreted literally as describing a mind-independent reality) constitute knowledge of the world. This contrasts with skeptical positions which, even if they grant the metaphysical and semantic dimensions of realism, doubt that scientific investigation is epistemologically powerful enough to yield such knowledge, or, as in the case of some antirealist positions, insist that it is only powerful enough to yield knowledge regarding observables. "


    The piece also explains that many philosophers doubt that the realist-anti-realist argument has any point as it rests on whether belief can be inferred about unknowables from knowables. The extension of the science of observables and predictions to unobservables is either justified or not justified depending only on your personal beliefs.
    sicut vis videre esto
    When we realize that patterns don't exist in the universe, they are a template that we hold to the universe to make sense of it, it all makes a lot more sense.
    Originally Posted by Ken G

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    This whole business boils down to this common realist claim, and some very simple and clear flaws in it:
    They claim that our models wouldn't work, and couldn't get more accurate with time, unless they described what was really happening. Anything else, so they claim, would require a "miracle."

    Here are the simple fallacies in this claim:
    1) Ptolemy's model of the universe didn't give quantitative accuracy, and didn't get any better for some 1400 years. So realists shouldn't have had a leg to stand on for 1400 years, right? Wrong, there were still realists. Indeed, when I've asked realists "if you didn't know any physics theories that could produce quantitative accuracy in any situation, would you still be a realist?", their answer was always, yes. Ask yourselves the same question. So it's baloney that realists ground their beliefs on the idea that we have physics models that work well and improve over time.
    2) Nonrealist approaches can easily accomodate the fact that our models give quantitative accuracy, and improve over time-- we have a lot of people working on the problem, and for a very long time! Obviously the models can only improve, since they can't get worse, and it really isn't that surprising that they can be pretty good, given all the imagination, intelligence, and technology being applied to the problem. Thus the realist argument is very similar to anti-evolution arguments that say we couldn't have organisms that can see, think, and fly, via a random process of natural selection of "experiments" that worked. So they say, just like the realists, that the task would have been too difficult without some kind of external guidance. The anti-evolutionists think the guidance is from a supreme being that we have a close understanding of, the realists think the guidance is from some "true reality" that we have a close understanding of.
    3) The ultimate irony, and internal inconsistency, in realist arguments is that they think their approach avoids miracles, by embracing the biggest miracle of all: that as the intelligence of great apes improved via random natural selection, it did so in a way that allowed these extra-intelligent great apes, above all the other species on the planet, to acquire an understanding of reality as it actually is.

    So to any of you who choose to believe in realism, recognize that you are just choosing a belief that you like, for the usual host of personal and subjective reasons we use to choose beliefs that serve us in various ways. You have every right to do that, we all do. But don't kid yourself that you have some evidential basis for that choice, and above all, don't kid yourself that your choice stems from not believing in miracles!
    Last edited by Ken G; 2017-Oct-21 at 01:13 PM.

  27. #57
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    Quote Originally Posted by profloater View Post
    OK so why in an unknowable universe would we call predictions that come true , Miracles? It's a very coloured word. Miracles get called when normal predictions fail and people believe god intervened. Do people believe or not believe in god or gods but know about independent reality?
    Because imho the universe is not totally unknowable.

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    KenG - i see quite a few issues / have a few questions/ request clarification ....with your last post.

    1. Please stop conflating 'naive realism' with 'structural scientific realism'... and religious belief with the 'philosophy of science'.
    2. what exactly did you mean by your statement: 'the ultimate irony... in realist arguments... embracing the biggest miracle of all: that as the intelligence of great apes improved via random natural selection, it did so in a way that allowed these extra-intelligent great apes, above all the other species on the planet, to acquire an understanding of reality as it actually is. Surely you can't be serious that you think that evolution occurs via 'random chance'??? I really have no idea what you are saying here. Are you saying that to 'accept'/believe the theory of evolution is to accept miracles? I can't imagine that is what you are saying so i must have misunderstood your point here. Or are you trying to say that a human philosopher of science is no better than an ape's concept of 'reality' because only the cleverest people are anti-realists .. and that anyone who doesn't accept your 'models model' is the intellectual equivalent of an ape? Now that is an ad hominem attack if i ever heard one... or maybe an ad homonid attack :-)
    3. You have not explained your foolproof, logical escape from your solipsism. I'd love to hear it. Once again, i don't think your 'models model' can be considered a default philosophical position requiring no belief structure.
    4. Can you explain to me how an infinity of nested 'models' ('theories'?) can explain anything? In addition, given you feel scientific theories never get closer to any underlying reality.. surely the 'errors' of an inaccurate model (of an inaccurate model (of an inaccurate model ))) would multiply? Why should these models be infinite in only 1 direction?
    5. I still don't think you have addressed this issue of circularity in your arguments:

    The circular reasoning that our models are successful only because we choose models that are successful (and not because they partially - e.g. mathematically..map to an external reality) does not convince me.

    Why is this cat black? Because all black cats are black.
    Why am i here? Because if i wasn't here i wouldn't be asking the question!
    Why is this scientific theory good/predictive/has explanatory power? Because if it wasn't we wouldn't call it a good scientific theory.
    Last edited by plant; 2017-Oct-24 at 08:09 AM.

  29. #59
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    Quote Originally Posted by gzhpcu View Post
    Because imho the universe is not totally unknowable.
    You have picked up on a shorthand. Normally knowable means to me that we have predictive models and a history in memory so knowledge is the sum of all that. The unknowable I referred to many times is the underlying source of phenomena we observe and experience. so yes we know all sorts of things that are our growing interpretation of what we experience. The leap to the belief that therefore we are close to the independent reality is either a trivial distinction or the most important point in these threads. Depends what you believe.
    sicut vis videre esto
    When we realize that patterns don't exist in the universe, they are a template that we hold to the universe to make sense of it, it all makes a lot more sense.
    Originally Posted by Ken G

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    I believe in an independent reality as I see no viable alternative.

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