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Everything posted by Dragonfly

  1. No, a miracle would be a phenomenon that is unexpected, that goes against well-founded laws that we've found. That Thorium 230 changes into Radium 226, which in its turn changes into Radon 222, etc. until it has become lead, is not a miracle (even if it might have seemed a miracle in the 19th century, as it violated the then known laws of the Dalton model of atoms), but if iron spontaneously changed into gold, it would be a miracle. So tables turning into chairs which then turn into canaries is not "unexpected" and does not go against well-founded laws? Good grief. Please indicate where I said that. The only thing I said was that the statement "an entity behaves according to its nature" in itself does not preclude that possibility. It is our experience and the physical laws we've derived that show us that such things won't happen (so that if it nevertheless did happen, it would be quite unexpected and would be called a miracle), while they also show that other spontaneous changes (like radioactive decay) do happen. No, because its nature would be to act completely random. You're begging the question: the nature of a thing cannot be random as it then wouldn't be the nature of the thing, therefore a thing cannot behave randomly. There is no contradiction in the notion of something behaving randomly. You assert that a thing must have an "identity" which apparently means that it somehow should "behave well". But you cannot make that assertion a priori, as you cannot assert a priori that the thing must "behave well". "Behaving well" is that what you from experience have observed and not something dictated by some Holy Book with Eternal Truths. Not at all, I never said that logic is a meaningless tautology, only that logic itself doesn't generate any new knowledge about the physical world. Here is your prior statement [Dragonfly, 01 September 2010 - 12:33 PM]: The law of identity is the basis for logic, and you made the comparison to a "meaningless tautology." I can't blame you for wanting to modify it now, but you will need to acknowledge that you are, indeed, modifying your former position. I'm not modifying anything, you should read better: I said that Rand's definition of causality was a meaningless definition, as it was a mere tautology. That would be in contrast to the common definition of causality that is not tautological, but empirical, i.e. something that is not automatically true, but has to be verified experimentally. That is of course quite different from logic itself, that is based on tautologies. I refer only to the law of Identity as Rand calls it a corollary of that law. That is also a good example of a fallacy in Objectivist reasoning: first they introduce a new definition of causality that is contrary to the usual definition, and then they claim that experiments that show that some events are not causal [according to the standard definition] must be contradictory as they cannot be acausal according to their new definition. And that is called logic! I've shown now that there isn't any contradiction in my text. But I'm always willing to elucidate further if it isn't clear yet.
  2. Ill-mannered jerk: You're a phony! You're a fraud! I demand proof from you that you're not a phony! Yeah, sure. Why don't you fuck yourself? Some background for the few remaining civilized people reading this tread: On this forum I have myself never brought up the fact that I'm a physicist. At most I'll have confirmed it when asked about. A little detail that can easily be checked. But of course such stupid liars like GHS or Keer won't do that when they play their little power games. It has been mentioned by other people, like Ellen, who know me from longer ago, when I still posted in my own name on other forums. At the time I was still rather naive about giving personal information on the Internet. In the meantime I've learned my lesson (thanks to Objectihooligans among other ones), so I now keep the personal information to a minimum on public forums. I'm only interested in arguments, not in playing the authority, which can be checked by any honest person who has the ability to read my posts.
  3. Well, I've had enough of GHS's continuous insults and smears, so he may have the last word. A rational and polite discussion is not possible with him. Apparently he can only resort to personal attacks, calling names, bullying, bragging about his own achievements, using the argument from intimidation, sarcastic misinterpretations of your arguments while he himself only presents arbitrary assertions without any proof. The following description by Rand fits him to a tee: Not surprisingly he has also a claque that admires this kind of "arguing", but I prefer a different style and a minimum of politeness, without name calling. Even with someone like James Valliant (not exactly my friend) I've had a polite and constructive discussion on the Dawkins list, although we, not surprisingly, disagreed strongly.
  4. You don't have to take my word for it, as I'm just a "phony physicist". I've already given a good reference for you, namely the book by d'Espagnat, a renowned physicist and philosopher. Another famous physicist, Roland Omnès, wrote: "This book is a monument to d'Espagnat's excellent work and style: it is surely the most complete book to have been written on the subject and one likely to last a long time, at least until we come to fully understand the remaining mysteries in the field".
  5. Exactly my point. That's why the book is irrelevant for understanding those later developments. Because Frank could not have known those later developments, that for example definitely proved Einstein wrong in his assumption of local hidden variables.
  6. My, what a shocking revelation... I never claimed that I'd read those books, did I? Indeed I just googled them as you'd mentioned them to get a bit more information and that's how I got the dates. Irrelevant, as I was discussing the philosophical impact of discoveries made after that time, like for example the Aspect experiments. No matter how excellent those books might be, they could never have discussed those new findings, and were therefore not relevant in that regard. Is it really so unclear what I'm writing?
  7. Yes, Ellen knows who I am and knows my email address. So do Jonathan, Daniel, Barbara and MSK. After having had some bad experiences, I do prefer to maintain some anonymity on the Web, however. I can understand that, as I'd accidentally omitted the word "not" from the sentence, so it should read "..are not engaged in fundamental research.."
  8. What does it matter? Would my argument be less valid when I just turned out to be a truck driver? My arguments stand on their own, I never used the argument that I am an authority in the field, in contrast to some other people on this list.
  9. No, that is not the same, although I think the formulation "existence exists" is confusing to say the least. I suppose the supposed meaning is "there exists a real world, independent of our consciousness" Not at all. That it is a tautology doesn't make it untrue. It is at the basis of logic, but in itself it doesn't prove anything. That's not a good definition. See for example Bob's post: No, a miracle would be a phenomenon that is unexpected, that goes against well-founded laws that we've found. That Thorium 230 changes into Radium 226, which in its turn changes into Radon 222, etc. until it has become lead, is not a miracle (even if it might have seemed a miracle in the 19th century, as it violated the then known laws of the Dalton model of atoms), but if iron spontaneously changed into gold, it would be a miracle. No, because its nature would be to act completely random. What would be the contradiction? There are only contradictions between theories, which means that at least one of those theories must be wrong. Experience shows that tables don't turn spontaneously into chairs, but also that thorium or uranium do turn (ultimately) spontaneously into lead. It is empirical observation that is decisive. With the large body of knowledge that has been formed by mankind, we can make predictions which phenomena we can expect and which phenomena not, which doesn't mean that there can't be surprises (like the discovery of radioactivity). Not at all, I never said that logic is a meaningless tautology, only that logic itself doesn't generate any new knowledge about the physical world. Hm, about the use of logic... As I've shown, there are no contradictions, and the fact that some events may be acausal doesn't mean that everything is random. That's what is called a false dichotomy. Would you only like to preach to the choir? Further, your conclusions about what I've said are incorrect, so perhaps it isn't so strange after all.
  10. That is the GHS method. Putting words into your mouth that you've never said, making some sarcastic caricature of you that hasn't any basis in reality. He's constantly suggesting that I claim that physicists are infallible authorities, while the only thing I've repeatedly said is that if you want to criticize the conclusions made by physicists in their field, you should study that field first. A general knowledge of philosophy alone is not sufficient. Further, if I criticize philosophers for their pretensions in that regard, it is understood (as I also have said explicitly, but don't repeat in every post) that I don't mean all philosophers, but the rather pompous kind you find especially in Objectivist circles. That I for example admire the philosopher Daniel Dennett is a matter of record, so there is nowhere a question of "retreat" as has been suggested.
  11. Chasing a spider is not without risks, as you can read here.
  12. Why should such a ratio exist? If the universe would be finite, there would be a number M for which the distance between any two objects in the universe is always < M. But there is no a priori reason that there couldn't be an object with a distance to a given object that is > M and that argument can be repeated ad infinitum, meaning that there doesn't have to be a natural number M with that property. In such a universe there would be a bijection between the number of objects in the universe and the natural numbers. It may be a frustrating idea that you'll never finish counting them, but it is not contradictory.
  13. .There is nothing a priori incoherent in the notion of an infinitely big universe (or "omniplex" if you like), only in the way you express it: would you say that however big the set of natural numbers is, it is even bigger than that?
  14. And that is exactly what happens in some cases. I can't remember that anyone claimed that events are never caused, I must have missed that. Moreover, the fact that for example the event of the decay of a radioactive atom is acausal (it may decay the next second or in a billion years, there is no cause that makes it happen at a particular moment), does not mean that the behavior of an ensemble of such atoms cannot be predicted, as there is a definite probability that such an atom will decay, resulting in the well-known exponential decay laws with their half-life values.
  15. That is a weird and meaningless definition (see for the common definition for example the wikipedia article on causality), as it is as tautological as the law of identity. Because how do we know what the "nature" is of the entities that act? The only way is to observe how those entities act and that is what we call its "nature". So the event consists of the acting of the entities that act as they are observed to act. Well, duh. This doesn't preclude the possibility that such entities will act completely random, that for example that a table will the next moment become a chair and then a canary. In general we don't see such things happen, but that is an empirical fact, not something that can be derived a priori from the law of identity. Again: what is a specific identity? Unless you can rely on divine revelation you can only empirically determine what that identity is, by observing the behavior of that entity. Saying then that its behavior is determined by its identity is merely repeating a tautology. Now it may be true that it would be hard to live in a world were all entities would behave in a random way (that is a kind of anthropic principle), but that doesn't imply that no entity could behave in a random way.
  16. he sure as hell opens himself up to the charge of being a credentialist "authoritarian." Note that he doesn't say that a philosopher should know physics if he is going to comment on it. That's because I've said that before. See for example here: or here: It's obvious from the context that I'm talking here about those philosophers, particularly of the Objectivist brand, who do not have such knowledge. In the past I've also said that there are some philosophers who are also scientists and therefore know what they're talking about. The difference is in the subject. The philosophical implications of modern physics are difficult to understand, not because physicists are such lousy writers or bad popularizers, but because the facts are so counterintuitive. I think that for example Feynman's QED - The Strange Theory of Light and Matter is an excellent book for the general reader, but as the title already indicates: it's a strange theory (for which Feynman got the Nobel Prize, BTW).
  17. At last someone who really can read what I've written. Nowhere I've talked about the "authority" let alone "inscrutable authority" of physicists. People who claim that I've done that are putting words into my mouth and twisting the meaning of my words for their own purpose. It's exactly as you say: nobody claims that physicists are infallible authorities in their field, but if you want to criticize their results, you'll have to study the subject first. Thanks. Only my French isn't that good, my English is better, if only because in the course of the years I've written thousands of posts on English forums, and sometimes people have been kind enough to point out grammatical or idiomatic errors (you've been one of them), while it's years ago that I've been in France and written anything in French, although I've translated a number of French books into Dutch.
  18. How do you know that it is his fault? His may present his conclusions in a coherent manner, but if they don't make sense to you, it isn't the fault of the physicist, but the fact that reality turns out to be much stranger and more counterintuitive than you'd might have expected. Don't blame the messenger. And if you don't trust the messenger, by all means improve the results, but then you have to study the subject first, you can't dismiss them just because they don't make sense to you.
  19. Is it really so difficult to understand? No doubt the whole 20th century has been a period of revolutionary developments in science, special and general relativity, quantum mechanics. But if you limit yourself to the period before 1962, you're missing the later developments, like the Standard Model, new insights in cosmology, the Aspect experiments, the decoherence phenomenon, which are all essential to an understanding of the modern physics. That's no different from saying that the work of Darwin and Mendel may have revolutionized biology, but that knowledge about biology is pretty outdated if you don't know the developments in the second half of the 20th century, know nothing about molecular biology, DNA, etc. Yes, when the subject is ethics, esthetics or political philosophy. But not when it concerns questions about the nature of reality, determinism, causality, the study of space and time. For a real understanding of those issues a thorough understanding of the physical theories is indispensable. If the philosopher takes the effort to really study the field, fine. But when he ex cathedra proclaims such things as "space cannot be curved", "QM is contradictory", "the universe cannot contain an infinite number of objects", then he shouldn't be surprised when the physicist doesn't take him seriously. First, many physicists have little or no knowledge of philosophy, so they are in the same boat. No they're not. First many physicists are engaged in fundamental research, so they don't need to bother about philosophical issues. But in the fundamental research there is no sharp division between the physical theory and its philosophical implications. Is somebody who is seriously ill a "kiss-ass when it comes to experts" when he prefers the opinion of the medical expert over the quack and the faith-healer? This is unbelievable. Don't you really see the difference between having an opinion and writing a supposedly authoritative treatise on a subject? I do have my ideas about psychology or economy and many other subjects, but I wouldn't dream in a thousand years to write a book about them, pretending to be an expert in those fields. I won't have to bother about theologians, as theology is not a science. Ah, surely a convincing argument. Wrong question. The claim is that every event does have a cause. This is not something that is self-evident, but is based on the empirical evidence in the macroscopic world. A study of the world of elementary particles has shown that in certain cases no such evidence exists. The philosopher now claims that there must be yet a cause. That is an extraordinary claim that the philosopher has to prove. Then I'll make it somewhat more explicit: QM has shown that there is no such thing as a well defined trajectory of a particle (meaning that the momentum and the position of that particle are simultaneously well-defined). It may be a useful approximation at macroscopic scales, but it breaks down at the subatomic level. Now I've heard many Objectivists claim that such a trajectory in fact does exist, but that we only cannot measure it, which shows that they do not understand the physical principles involved.
  20. The fallacy in your argument is that there are hardly revolutionary new facts discovered with regard to the arguments for free trade that would completely overthrow the old arguments. In fundamental physics however the discoveries in the last century have been ground-breaking, but perhaps you've missed that. It's of course the other way around. You seem to think that there is some sharp dividing line between physics and philosophy and that as soon as a physicist steps one centimeter over that line he's suddenly an ignorant layman. In fact it is the philosopher who is the layman as soon as he starts to argue about the relevance of experimental results to philosophy, as he doesn't have the knowledge for a real understanding of that relevance of those results. He can perhaps find a work by some scientist for the general reader that seems to be in line with his own ideas and consider that as a vindication of his ideas. But that is only a rationalization supported by confirmation bias, as he doesn't understand all the aspects of those experiments, as that requires specialized knowledge that he doesn't have. You can see the same pretension of the philosopher in Robert's example of Rand's epistemology when she ventures into the field of developmental psychology as if she were a specialist in that field. Or are we to believe that this is also the domain of philosophy instead of that of psychologists and biologists who are just amateurs in that regard? Demolition? Eddington was right that the common perception of solidity is an illusion from a scientific viewpoint. Although the more or less educated population now knows that solid matter is composed by atoms that are not at all solid themselves, most of them would still be surprised to know that you could in principle compress the total human population into the size of a sugar cube or that every second billions of neutrinos fly unhindered through every square centimeter of the earth surface, emerging at the other side. Now you can of course say that what we in daily life call "solid" is just that and that it works fine in everyday life, but it does entail an intuition that is definitely incorrect for a deeper understanding of what matter is and what the consequences may be. QM has demolished the classical notion of a reality in which objects are perfectly localized and where every event has a cause. That many philosophers still cling to their Newtonian billiard ball concept of reality is because they still don't understand the evidence. They still think that QM just has some measurement problems but that in "reality" everything is still precisely defined. Alas for them, it has now definitely been shown that local realistic theories with hidden variables are ruled out, it is reality itself that is inconsistent with their intuitive vision. But I'm afraid that checking their own premises isn't their strong suit.
  21. Yes. That is: no conscious observer is needed. Sometimes the interaction with the environment is also called an "observation". See for example E. Joos et al. Decoherence and the Appearance of a Classical World in Quantum Theory, 2nd edition, Springer 2003, and Maximilian Schlosshauer, Decoherence and the Quantum-to-classical Transition, Springer 2007. I think the first relevant article dates from 1970, but the essential article defining the mechanism was an article by Zurek in 1981, and it became an established theory with experimental verifications in the 1980's and 1990's.
  22. To give an example: "I didn't realize that physicists so readily conceded that some of their theories are self-contradictory." What theories are self-contradictory? Semantic quibbling. I made the distinction because I'm not talking about historical developments, but about the great impact of modern physics on certain philosophical ideas. To understand the latter, you have to understand more of physics than you can gather from books written for the layman. It is not the quantity of books that you've read that is important, but what books you've read. The examples you give are telling: Susan Stebbing's book is from 1958. Eddington died in 1944. Philip Frank's book dates from 1962. That means that those books may be interesting for a historical view, but that they are useless if you want to know what the philosophical implications of modern physics are, because since 1962 a lot has happened in that field. If you want to read a modern and very informed book, I'd suggest you read Bernard d'Espagnat, On Physics and Philosophy, Princeton University Press, 2002. I don't agree with all his conclusions, but he gives a good and fair overview of the current theories and their philosophical consequences, without ridiculing dissenting opinions, and he knows his stuff.
  23. Ha ha! Is that a pluralis majestatis? What can you tell? You know nothing! Who is condescending here? You're continually calling everyone with a different and better-founded opinion "corrupt" and "irrational". You should have a look in the mirror. First, it is Feynman, not Feynmann. And this is another example of your complete lack of understanding of the matter, as I'm a great admirer of Feynman, as everyone would understand who knows a bit about Feynman's ideas. Oh, perhaps you should read one day what Feynman has written about philosophers and about pompous fools.
  24. What are you taking "the Copenhagen interpretation" to mean? Aren't there a number of interpretations loosely lumped as "Copenhagen"? Do you simply mean indeterminist? If so, is it your claim that a specifically indeterminist interpretation is required for all those practical results of QM theory? Or do you mean something narrower, for instance, that the Heisenberg uncertainty principle is required? My use of the term Copenhagen interpretation was in fact in reaction to that stupid statement by sjw "Particularly given the rather stunning halt to progress in theoretical physics after the Copenhagen interpretation came on the scene." In general it stands for the "classical" view of QM, and I think that its distinguishing characteristic is the notion of the non-unitary collapse of the wavefunction when a measurement is made. At the time this was a more or less pragmatical solution, as it wasn't clear how the transition from the microscopic quantummechanical domain to the macroscopic classical domain worked. So there were macroscopic measuring instruments and microscopic quantum systems. For practical applications this worked fine, as the enormous successes of the theory have shown. But theoretically it was unsatisfying as it was not clear how the QM description could apply to macroscopic systems, which was also the reason for the famous problem of Schrödinger's cat. Today that problem has been solved, as we now understand the mechanism of decoherence which can explain the classical behavior of macroscopic systems, but that has been a relatively recent development.
  25. Yes, it is, if you attack physicists in general for weird statements that are only made by a very small minority that is certainly not representative. You don't have to consult the majority of physicists, but you have to know the subject before you can talk about "flawed philosophical reasoning". You may perhaps know a lot about philosophy and its history, but you're a layman in the field of scientific philosophy. Nobody asks you to click your heels, but you should for example first try to find out what exactly is meant by indeterminism in QM, before you start to deny it. The lesson we might learn is that it was science that discovered that Newtonian science was flawed. Again, nobody asks that the layman accepts blindly the conclusions of the science of his time, but neither should he pretend to know better or claim that those conclusions are wrong if he doesn't know the field. He may be skeptical, but he should defer his judgment as he doesn't have the required expertise. To give an example: I'm skeptical of the global warming theories that are now so popular, in particular as the political pressure behind those theories and the manipulation of opinion in the media in this matter is so obvious. But that doesn't mean that I'd state that those theories are wrong, as I just don't have the expertise to judge the merits of different climate theories. After all there is enough evidence that the scientists are far from being as unanimous as sometimes is suggested. Therefore my opinion is that I can attack the false propaganda, but not the theories themselves, as I just can't judge them without studying them thoroughly in detail. Cobblers should stick to their lasts.