# This One Might Surprise You Coming From Me

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I just read a rather good essay on RoR by Joe Rowlands:

Disconfirming Evidence

From the article:

Years ago in school I learned about an important method in science. Since then, I've mentioned it to a few people and they told me that they were never actually taught it in school. The lesson went something like this:

A guy is given a set of numbers. The numbers given are 4, 6, 8, 12, and 14. He is told that there is a larger set of numbers, and these are mere examples. It is his job to formulate a theory for what numbers are in this larger set and verify his theory. He can do this by simply asking whether a specific number is also in the set. He can ask as many times as he wants, but this is the only kind of question he can ask.

The guy examines the set of number. He notices that all of these number are even. He formulates a theory that the set includes even numbers. There were some not mentioned, though. So he asks whether 2 is in the set. Yes it is. Okay, how about 10? Yes, it is. Okay, if it is even numbers, how many even numbers is it? Is 16 in the set? Yes. 18? Yes. How about 102? Yes. 500,214? Yes. A billion and two? Yes. Well, he thinks he's done a good job of confirming his theory. So he provides his answer. It is the set of even numbers! And he fails the test.

And here is where the lesson begins. When offered the chance to ask whether a number was in the set, he only looked for examples that fit his theory. He could have asked a million more questions...

... This is all tied to Karl Popper's view that real science must be falsifiable. ...

... There's a serious methodological flaw in creating a theory that is sufficiently vague so that it can be seen as consistent with any outcome. The theory lacks any kind of predictive ability. It may be seen as explaining the results, but it can only do so after the fact. ...

... You can always create a theory that "explains" the facts. But until you start looking for disconfirming evidence, the theory has no real support.

I have to admit this is a take on Popper's falsifiability theory I had not considered. I think Rowlands nailed an important point.

The irony is that he does not allow for his kind of approach in working through an idea when he gets to preaching his rules for living, especially when he gets on his soapbox and goes into "Objectivism teaches..." mode. When folks he feels superior to present "disconfirming evidence," he doesn't respond well. (Not that his feelings have any objective merit.)

Anybody, other than his regulars, who has disagreed with him in public can attest to that. And the proof is all over his forum in threads gone by.

Maybe times are changing, or maybe this was good thinking from a person who cannot look at himself too much as he looks at others. It's certainly odd to see a remark like the following come from him:

Many people make claims about "people" or "humanity", but mysteriously exclude themselves. This is an easy example of disconfirming evidence. If you say something applies to everyone, ask if it applies to you.

Heh...

Whatever...

The only reason I am mentioning this article is because the point is so pertinent to discussions I have had with others and I intend to wed this argument in the future to my own understanding. So I want to preemptively give proper credit.

Rowlands did some good thinking here and I'll take it. I don't expect to see a change in his behavior, though, like, you know, following his own advice. So I'll have to take it imagining the article has an anonymous author to get the message without the contradictions of the messenger tagging along in the background. (I'm speaking of in my mind, not in my crediting.)

I would love to be disproven someday. He is not a stupid man.

And I'll leave it at that...

Michael

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What did you think Popper was saying.? He was actually instantiating Rand's advice: Check your premises. And one way of doing that is looking at all the consequences of your premises. If you find one of the consequences is contradicted by fact, you know that at least one of your premises is false.

This is logic 101. If A implies B and B is false then A is false.

So the real cruel way to test a scientific hypothesis is to bust one's but and attempt to falsify it by a contrary fact. or find out that it logically implies a contradiction.

This was Popper's point from day uno.

Ba'al Chatzaf

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What did you think Popper was saying.?

Bob,

That he was into cheap profundity?

That he wanted to play at great philosopher, too?

Michael

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This is logic 101. If A implies B and B is false then A is false.

For example let A be whatever generally accepted scientific theory, and let B be "tumors can't autolyze (go away on their own)". Then A implies B means the scientific theory implies tumors can't autolyze.

It turns out that some (I didn't say all) tumors can autolyze (in the right conditions). This fact is proved by the fact that they DID autolyze, a fact of observation.

All theories that imply that tumors can't autolyze (that no tumor can autolyze), are false. It's as simple as that. Logic 101. Doesn't matter how generally accepted the theory is. Doesn't matter how many Medical Deities swear on a stack of Bibles.

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I just read a rather good essay on RoR by Joe Rowlands:

Disconfirming Evidence

From the article:

Years ago in school I learned about an important method in science. Since then, I've mentioned it to a few people and they told me that they were never actually taught it in school. The lesson went something like this:

A guy is given a set of numbers. The numbers given are 4, 6, 8, 12, and 14. He is told that there is a larger set of numbers, and these are mere examples. It is his job to formulate a theory for what numbers are in this larger set and verify his theory. He can do this by simply asking whether a specific number is also in the set. He can ask as many times as he wants, but this is the only kind of question he can ask.

The guy examines the set of number. He notices that all of these number are even. He formulates a theory that the set includes even numbers. There were some not mentioned, though. So he asks whether 2 is in the set. Yes it is. Okay, how about 10? Yes, it is. Okay, if it is even numbers, how many even numbers is it? Is 16 in the set? Yes. 18? Yes. How about 102? Yes. 500,214? Yes. A billion and two? Yes. Well, he thinks he's done a good job of confirming his theory. So he provides his answer. It is the set of even numbers! And he fails the test.

And here is where the lesson begins. When offered the chance to ask whether a number was in the set, he only looked for examples that fit his theory. He could have asked a million more questions...

... This is all tied to Karl Popper's view that real science must be falsifiable. ...

... There's a serious methodological flaw in creating a theory that is sufficiently vague so that it can be seen as consistent with any outcome. The theory lacks any kind of predictive ability. It may be seen as explaining the results, but it can only do so after the fact. ...

... You can always create a theory that "explains" the facts. But until you start looking for disconfirming evidence, the theory has no real support.

I have to admit this is a take on Popper's falsifiability theory I had not considered. I think Rowlands nailed an important point.

The irony is that he does not allow for his kind of approach in working through an idea when he gets to preaching his rules for living, especially when he gets on his soapbox and goes into "Objectivism teaches..." mode. When folks he feels superior to present "disconfirming evidence," he doesn't respond well. (Not that his feelings have any objective merit.)

Anybody, other than his regulars, who has disagreed with him in public can attest to that. And the proof is all over his forum in threads gone by.

Maybe times are changing, or maybe this was good thinking from a person who cannot look at himself too much as he looks at others. It's certainly odd to see a remark like the following come from him:

>

Many people make claims about "people" or "humanity", but mysteriously exclude themselves. This is an easy example of disconfirming evidence. If you say something applies to everyone, ask if it applies to you.

Heh...

Whatever...

The only reason I am mentioning this article is because the point is so pertinent to discussions I have had with others and I intend to wed this argument in the future to my own understanding. So I want to preemptively give proper credit.

Rowlands did some good thinking here and I'll take it. I don't expect to see a change in his behavior, though, like, you know, following his own advice. So I'll have to take it imagining the article has an anonymous author to get the message without the contradictions of the messenger tagging along in the background. (I'm speaking of in my mind, not in my crediting.)

I would love to be disproven someday. He is not a stupid man.

And I'll leave it at that...

Michael

That's important stuff.

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A famous test relevant to this topic is the Wason selection task.

Popper was correct that that falsification is part of scientific method. He was wrong dismissing induction and abduction.

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Some posters on Objectivist sites maintain that science does not proceed by falsification.

I am not sure that Popper denied the value in induction. He only said that it cannot provide proof. He was correct. Simply accumulating instances may indeed increase your confiidence - and rightfully so - but proof must come from another method. In this case, specifically, the Wikipedia article says that this 1966 experiment was replicated in 1993. It is a funny thing, but the social sciences are where we are more likely to find replication and failure to confirm, by repeated runs of someone else's experiment. Perhaps paradoxically, it is because in sociology, we do not necessarily accept the theories being offered and "proved" so we test the experiment again. Chemists do this, also, because new products (analysis or synthesis) lead to new applications and so chemists build on each other's works. In physics - supposedly the touchstone of science - this does not happen so often. That leads post-modernists to claim that science is not self-correcting. Science is. Most sciences are. Physics may not be.

I failed the Wason test, by the way, falling in to natural language if-then, rather than adhering to material logic, which I also know.

The disconfirming of disconfirmation is that we do not test the Law of Identity, the Validity of the Senses, and other axiomatic truths.

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Induction does not provide deductive proof.

That' the real bruhaha and gotcha I see as the constant subtext among all the word games in these discussion with Popperians in O-Land.

But here's a thought. A falsified proposition does not provide ANY proof about reality if you disconect reality from propositions.

The value I see in Rowlands's idea is to keep propositions tied to reality, not solely to a hermetic system of game rules.

Michael

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Induction does not provide deductive proof.

That' the real bruhaha and gotcha I see as the constant subtext among all the word games in these discussion with Popperians in O-Land.

But here's a thought. A falsified proposition does not provide ANY proof about reality if you disconect reality from propositions.

The value I see in Rowlands's idea is to keep propositions tied to reality, not solely to a hermetic system of game rules.

Michael

If a logical consequence of a hypothesis is contradicted by a fact then hypothesis that implied that consequence must be false. A true proposition cannot logically imply a false proposition. In formal terms if A implies B and B is false then A is false. This is known in the trade as modus tollens and is one of the valid deductive forms. Even Aristotle knew it.

Ba'al Chatzaf

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Bob,

None of what you said connected propositions to reality.

Michael

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Bob,

None of what you said connected propositions to reality.

Michael

That is one of the biggest problems in modern physics - wonderful mathematical incantations manipulating propositions which often have no valid connection to reality.

Dennis

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Bob,

None of what you said connected propositions to reality.

Michael

That is one of the biggest problems in modern physics - wonderful mathematical incantations manipulating propositions which often have no valid connection to reality.

Dennis

when an assertion contradicts a know fact it is false. A know fact, --- get it. A fact is what is what in the world.

A true premise cannot imply a false proposition. That is how we falsify theories. If a theory implies something that is show not to be true b experiment then we know the theory is based on at least one false premise.

Ba'al CHatzaf

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Bob,

So far you still haven't connected propositions to reality.

Assertion = Proposition

Known fact = Known by whom and how is it known? = By proposition, of course.

True premise = Proposition

False premise = Proposition

Theory = Proposition

"A fact is what is what in the world" = That assertion is a proposition, dude.

Michael

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Bob,

So far you still haven't connected propositions to reality.

Assertion = Proposition

Known fact = Known by whom and how is it known? = By proposition, of course.

True premise = Proposition

False premise = Proposition

Theory = Proposition

"A fact is what is what in the world" = That assertion is a proposition, dude.

Michael

It is a fact that this sentence is a response to your posting. Is that connected enough for you. A proposition which asserts a fact is a true proposition A proposition that is contrary to a fact is a false proposition. Facts are not statements. Facts are what is.

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Bob,

How do you determine what is a fact and what is not?

I haven't seen anything in your method so far except manipulate propositions.

Michael

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Please have a look at this:

Lawrence Kruass explains the matter very well.

Ba'al Chatzaf

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Please have a look at this:

Lawrence Kruass explains the matter very well.

Ba'al Chatzaf

All very smug but Feynman was the king of discouraging dissention and cutting off discussions with appeal to authority. The ideals of science are seldom practiced in theoretical physics where a handful have already decided what passes for discussion and what is no longer to be discussed because it has already been decided.

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1:55 to 1:56 "... and we don't even believe anything ..." He was speaking extemporaneously, and that could be an excuse. Sometimes people just blurt out what they really do believe. How does he drive a car? Does he recognize his car? Does he doubt that it is his? I do not mean does he mistakenly approach a similar vehicle and then identify his error and then find his own car. I mean, while driving down the street does he suddenly have a crisis of belief because he has talked himself out of his certainty that this is his car?

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In the last year or so my nonfiction reading included a few books on physics picked at random. I was just curious about the subject , never having read anything much on the subject prior. Multiverses and string theory(theories) seemed to be the 'norm' and that these types of theories are pretty much the generally accepted ideas and state of physics. They seem to me to be near fantastical explanation of 'things', but my feeling was that the maths must have led these assumed rational thinkers to these conclusions. I am starting to get the idea perhaps I should rethink my appraisal of the validity of their maths?

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The further one gets from testable hypotheses the more fantastical the possible conjectures, so physicists can posit hard to refute nonsense just as if they were actually writing science fiction. The real work in physics is collecting hard to get data. It's more fun to get theoretical about what is really ignorance. Some science fiction, BTW, does precede knowledge for the same reason hypotheses can, because of suggesting where to look.

--Brant

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1:55 to 1:56 "... and we don't even believe anything ..." He was speaking extemporaneously, and that could be an excuse. Sometimes people just blurt out what they really do believe. How does he drive a car? Does he recognize his car? Does he doubt that it is his? I do not mean does he mistakenly approach a similar vehicle and then identify his error and then find his own car. I mean, while driving down the street does he suddenly have a crisis of belief because he has talked himself out of his certainty that this is his car?

Believe as in take on faith. Scientific Theories are held provisionally until they are falsified. Then they are dropped or modified.

Ba'al Chatzaf

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The further one gets from testable hypotheses the more fantastical the possible conjectures, so physicists can posit hard to refute nonsense just as if they were actually writing science fiction. The real work in physics is collecting hard to get data. It's more fun to get theoretical about what is really ignorance. Some science fiction, BTW, does precede knowledge for the same reason hypotheses can, because of suggesting where to look.

--Brant

The work at CERN being part of this, yes? Working through the current theories and maths did yield some knowledge as to where to look and possibly confirm things like the Higgs?( i gahter too that the Higgs may be what was found and or speculation as to whether a particle was found at that energy level and is in fact that or 'just something similar?)(( and or is there a differnce, layman confusion and expectation of easily understandable explanation))
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In the last year or so my nonfiction reading included a few books on physics picked at random. I was just curious about the subject , never having read anything much on the subject prior. Multiverses and string theory(theories) seemed to be the 'norm' and that these types of theories are pretty much the generally accepted ideas and state of physics. They seem to me to be near fantastical explanation of 'things', but my feeling was that the maths must have led these assumed rational thinkers to these conclusions. I am starting to get the idea perhaps I should rethink my appraisal of the validity of their maths?

Multiverses and string theory are recent additions to theoretical physics. In my opinion they are dead ends without any validity what-so-ever. The math may be fine but the connection from reality to the assumptions behind the math does not exist.

I suggest reading Nick Herbert "Quantum Reality: Beyond the New Physics"

http://www.amazon.com/Quantum-Reality-Beyond-New-Physics/dp/0385235690

In a compact form you will be exposed to the fact that many competing theories of QM exist even though the popes of physics may have declared one or another path the correct path. Sadly I do not know of any similar popular books discussing other alternative physics.

E-mail me with your physical mail address if you would like a free copy of my book of alternative physics dennislmay@yahoo.com

Dennis

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Lawrence Kruass explains the matter very well.

Bob,

Actually, Krauss didn't explain how reality and propositions are connected at all.

What I did hear him say is that you have to check your beliefs every single day in order to have progress. He said you should not believe in anything. And he said it with such conviction that I believe he does not check that particular belief at all. In other words, you must not believe in anything except the belief that you must not believe.

Hogwash.

It's a contradiction right at the root. A command to do something because he says so and nothing more.

Here's another belief he doesn't check--that not believing in anything is the reason we have progress. He used theology as a scapegoated enemy--as if this were an all-encompassing dichotomy, which is it not. It's a false dichotomy. One of the reasons is stated in Rowlads's article--artificially limiting knowledge to a specific context and treating it as universal for all contexts.

Then Krauss listed some goodies technology provides as proof.

I'm OK with science providing these goodies. But he left some things out of his "progress": weapons of mass destruction, manufactured viruses, and things like that. And he left out the people that use them to kill others. And he left out procedures for attaining peace of mind, motivation to become a better human being, and things like that--which are just as much an element of progress as technological goodies are. The progress is slower, but it is still progress. I could go on and on.

Bah...

I don't trust this guy.

btw - I have nothing against checking beliefs. That's one of the reasons OL exists, But I do have something against using "check your beliefs" as a replacement for morality instead of using it as one cognitive tool among many.

Here's my problem. This kind of thinking (touted as scientific thinking)--based on your posts--goes like this.

Reality is out there. I am in here. I (in here) will make an observation about reality (out there) and devise a statement. My statement (in here), though, actually has nothing to do with reality (out there). It kinda does, but not really.

Next, I will run my statement against other statements and rules in my head governing statements. I call that logic and falsifiability. If those rules of statements are infringed or validated, I have learned something about reality.

This is fudging on a fundamental scale so vast it is breathtaking. It is nothing in essence but the pure faith of theology that the Dawkins line of thinker is always ranting and railing against. Except, instead of worshipping God, this is worship, not even of Science, but instead, worship of the Scientific Method of manipulating propositions. It is worshipping mental rules that, by definition, have nothing to do with reality.

And look at the people who preach this. They worship openly in public. Their worship comes with its own rituals, scapegoats, unobservable origin stories (like the big bang), high priests, purity of thought enforcers, sermons, and all the rest you find in religion. The names of the things change, but the essence is the same.

This thinking starts with blind faith at the root. Like Terence McKenna said. "Science says give us one free miracle and we'll explain the rest." He forgot to add, "And we will worship the process--another free miracle--as our God."

Once again, I ask, what is the connection, in your view, between reality and propositions?

It's a reasonable question.

It's a thinking question, not worship.

Michael

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"The game of science is, in principle, without end. He who decides one day that scientific statements do not call for any further test, and that they can be regarded as finally verified, retires from the game." -- Karl Popper, from The Logic of Scientific Discovery