Starving Child in the Wilderness Revisited


Michael Stuart Kelly

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Bob,

We mean different things when we use the term "metaphysics." I refer to a category of human knowledge, which can extend back to primitive religions. You refer to the specific thoughts of this or that person, probably starting with the ancient Greek philosophers.

It's a good thing I do not use your standard to categorize science. We might get stuck starting in the middle ages or something that way and even imagine that ancient civilizations (like Egypt) had no science at all.

Michael

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Bob is just crudely restating Objectivist axioms. Rand did over-glorify Aristotle, though, since she didn't really understand science, the scientific method and statistics. If she had she'd have been more modest about knowing the knowable instead of shoveling out all that epistemic, absolutist nonsense. Frankly, I'm glad she did things the way she did, however, or we wouldn't have much use for her today, if we'd even know about her.

--Brant

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Bob,

We mean different things when we use the term "metaphysics." I refer to a category of human knowledge, which can extend back to primitive religions. You refer to the specific thoughts of this or that person, probably starting with the ancient Greek philosophers.

It's a good thing I do not use your standard to categorize science. We might get stuck starting in the middle ages or something that way and even imagine that ancient civilizations (like Egypt) had no science at all.

Michael

Actually, they didn't. Science As We Know It was invented in Renaissance or perhaps a bit earlier, say around the time of Grossteste and (Roger) Bacon.

The hypothetico-deductive method is less than 500 years old. This method involves building mathematical models (theories) of nature and using them to make predictions which are then empirically tested. Experimenting did not begin Big Time until Galileo.

What the Egyptians, Babylonians, Chinese, Incas and Maya had was empirical methodology, which is necessary for science but not sufficient. Mathematical models (theories) of wide generality were not invented way back then because mathematics as rather primitive. Even the Greeks who developed geometry were not able to deal with motion. Archimedes who is the greatest physicist of ancient time developed only statics. He never developed a system of dynamics, partly because he did not have the tools. Newton and Leibniz invented calculus which is precisely the mathematics necessary to describe motion. Archimedes was remarkably advanced (he invented a special case of integral calculus for areas and volumes) but he still did not have motion nailed down. Galileo and Newton were among the first.

The fact the the Egyptians were able to put up the tallest man-made structures in the world (until the Eifel Tower) is a testimony to their empirical engineering skill and their task management, but it is not quite science. Ditto for the great projects built by the Babylonians (Zagarats and canals), the Inca and the Maya (great stone works). The mathematics of the Egyptians was remarkably crude. About equivalent to eighth grade arithmetic. Not even algebra.

Ba'al Chatzaf

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Bob,

Why try to define universal terms according to a subjective standard? On a simple Google search, right at the start, I got the following essay:

Science in Ancient Egypt

And there is plenty more out there. Now either all these people are idiots or your definition of science is subjective.

I opt for the second and I am baffled why you do that.

Michael

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Bob,

Why try to define universal terms according to a subjective standard? On a simple Google search, right at the start, I got the following essay:

Science in Ancient Egypt

And there is plenty more out there. Now either all these people are idiots or your definition of science is subjective.

I opt for the second and I am baffled why you do that.

Michael

The Egyptians were excellent engineers, managers and empirical craftsmen. Then never developed the hypothetic-deductive method of science. The Egyptians did not develop logic as an art and their mathematics was surprisingly crude given the excellence of their buildings. The Egyptians never had deductive mathematics. That was invented by the Greeks, Thales in particular.

Science is a method of theory construction in which laws are postulated, predictions are derived mathematically from the laws and the the predictions are tested empirically (experimentally). The Egyptians did not do this, nor did the Babylonians, Incas, Mayans, or ancient Chinese.

The hypothetico-deductive method was developed about 400 years ago starting with Galileo, Kepler and Newton. Newton brought the method to a high state of development. Although most current physical theories are at odds with Newtonian mechanics the technique is pretty much as Newton invented it. See -Principia Mathematic- by Isaac Newton, particularly his rules for hypothesis formation in Book III.

See also http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hypothetico-deductive_method

Ba'al Chatzaf

Edited by BaalChatzaf
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So as I understand it, ancient Egyptians never used even a primitive form of trial and error (the basis of science). They simply built by intuition.

Empirical is more than intuitive. The step pyramids were grossly primitive compared to the giant ones that followed, but no step, no follow. Reality is the basis of science, it's foundation. But raw, unaltered reality is no more science than a vacant lot is a house. Bob is talking about science in a clear, unequivocal, particular, usable way. You are broadening the subject out so much as to vitiate the scientific method, muddying the waters.

--Brant

Edited by Brant Gaede
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Brant,

If I am doing that, then oodles of people are, too. Probably the majority of English speakers. I already gave one link and a hint about how to find more. Do you need even more?

Sorry. I just don't think people are allowed to prohibit words and concepts at whim.

(btw - My remark was tongue-in-cheek. From your reaction, I am not sure if you understood that. I personally don't consider an Egyptian pyramid "raw unaltered reality, anyway. I see the clear input of the science of engineering.)

Michael

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So as I understand it, ancient Egyptians never used even a primitive form of trial and error (the basis of science). They simply built by intuition.

Gimme a break.

:)

Michael

The main characteristic of science is postulating causes and laws in a general and abstract way.

Ordinary empirical activity which all humans have done from time immemorial is a particular form of induction. It is called learning from experience. Science is a major refinement of this inclination to induce to rules of thumb and seek practical solutions to problems (humans have always done that at all time and everywhere). Science is a very general quantified approach to comprehending natural processes and events. Science not only is far more sophisticated than the kind of induction kids do to learn to walk without falling; it is quantified and requires mathematics. The astronomy and cosmology of Ptolemy was devoid of causes. It was more of a classification scheme and a descriptive scheme than a science. Modern astronomers (starting with Kepler) sought to find -causes- for the motions of the the various visible bodies.

The mathematics of the Egyptians for all their excellence at rule-of-thumb construction and managing large projects was very primitive and crude. Their most advanced mathematics was not even algebra. It was more like arithmetic augmented by various rules of thumb. The Egyptians did not have mathematical proofs. That was a Greek invention (Thales was probably the first). The Mayans were more sophisticated than the Egyptians. They actually had a base twenty positional system which means they had the zero. The Egyptians did not. Neither did the Greeks or the Romans.

As to the embalming skills of the Egyptians, they discovered empirically that sand and soda (calcium and nitrates) dessicate corpses preventing or slowing down rot and decay. This was not based on any real chemistry, it was based on empirically developed procedures with no real understanding of the underlying chemical processes. The Egyptians hit on a trick to keep bodies from rotting and they became rather skilled at it. In general, humans have in all times and places found that certain juices, plants, minerals have useful properties and they have developed an empirical art based on these findings. This is part of what is in science but it is not enough to be science.

Ba'al Chatzaf.

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Bob,

If I understand you correctly, there is no such thing as, say, primitive science. Either it is fully developed or it doesn't exist at all. I find this method of thinking corrupted on an identification level by confounding kind with degree. In my world you can't have complex knowledge without having simple knowledge first. That goes for simple to complex philosophy and simple to complex science. Category and measurement are two different cognitive tools. Links, dictionaries and tons of literature back me up. Also, in my world, words can have more than one definition, as seen in any dictionary.

I am starting to repeat myself a lot, so I must beg your pardon. I have to attend to other issues. This one is consuming far too much time non-productively. There is a world out there that thinks like I do. Once in a while I see people who think as you do. I do not understand why misidentification is such a value, but I do detect a "closed club" kind of attitude seen in religions, esoteric organizations, upper social classes and other groups segregated by arbitrary but organized rules. I see it and you folks are clear, so I must conclude that trying to hijack a word like "science," setting up shop as The One True Way, and claiming that the rest of humanity is wrong must mean something to you all.

We disagree. Let's leave it at that.

Michael

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Addendum to the above post.

I don't mean to stop discussing. Please feel free. I just mean I personally am taking a breather on this issue because of diminishing returns in my life. I seek wisdom and I see none in this direction (competing science against philosophy, trying to restrict the meaning of common words and how people use them, etc.). But maybe there is some for other folks who start from a different place than I do.

Michael

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Bob,

If I understand you correctly, there is no such thing as, say, primitive science. Either it is fully developed or it doesn't exist at all. I find this method of thinking corrupted on an identification level by confounding kind with degree. In my world you can't have complex knowledge without having simple knowledge first. That goes for simple to complex philosophy and simple to complex science. Category and measurement are two different cognitive tools. Links, dictionaries and tons of literature back me up. Also, in my world, words can have more than one definition, as seen in any dictionary.

I am starting to repeat myself a lot, so I must beg your pardon. I have to attend to other issues. This one is consuming far too much time non-productively. There is a world out there that thinks like I do. Once in a while I see people who think as you do. I do not understand why misidentification is such a value, but I do detect a "closed club" kind of attitude seen in religions, esoteric organizations, upper social classes and other groups segregated by arbitrary but organized rules. I see it and you folks are clear, so I must conclude that trying to hijack a word like "science," setting up shop as The One True Way, and claiming that the rest of humanity is wrong must mean something to you all.

We disagree. Let's leave it at that.

Michael,

Of course there is "primitive science." That's what Aristotle sometimes did. Maxwell did too, I believe. Bob is talking about the scientific method, a way of verifying knowledge that can't be verified, at least immediately, by whether a wall falls down or not. Einstein didn't get his relativity ideas by the scientific method. That's the way he found out he wasn't full of it. The experiments came later and the theories are still falsifiable. He can still be proved wrong if he is wrong by reference to the theories and experiment. There is no "closed club." Anybody can come along and disprove aspects of the scientific method if they're disprovable.

--Brant

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Bob,

If I understand you correctly, there is no such thing as, say, primitive science. Either it is fully developed or it doesn't exist at all. I find this method of thinking corrupted on an identification level by confounding kind x

"Low Level Science" is the sort of induction and abduction (hypothesizing causes) that people have been doing since the dawn of our race. "Low Level Science" is how little kids learn how to avoid falls and how to ride a bike. It differs from fully developed science in that low level nduction/abduction is generally not quantitative nor does it use an abstract mode (mathematics in particular) to express theories and laws. Fully developed science also factors out the specific viewpoints of observers to come up with general laws and hypotheses which are correct for -all- observers. Science objectifies observations and comes up with the "God's eye" view of nature complete with general hypotheses and laws that apply everywhere and always.

Contrast this with practical engineering. The engineers of the Middle Ages learned by trial and error the sort of walls and buttresses that would bear the load. Sometimes they were wrong and their buildings collapsed. Modern scientific construction has models (expressed with vectors and tensors) which express the anticipated forces. That is why computer models can be constructed (they just carry out the mathematical calculations very quickly and represent the results visually) which enable engineers to test out assumptions on which constructs will bear the anticipated loads. Models like this could not be constructed during the Middle Ages (even models for hand calculation) because the mathematical tools did not exist at time. They were invented/discovered later on.

In modern science there is an element of trial and error, but most of that has been absorbed into the mathematical models and theories.

Ba'al Chatzaf

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:laugh:

~ I read all this, and all I can think of is...

...nothing like the typical NARCISSISTIC attitude of our present 3rd-Millenium, 'Monday-Morning-Quarterbacking', 20-20 hindsight 'analysis' (ahem!) on all those ancient, historical ignoramusi our knowledge of (pick your subject: even 'philosophy') has depended upon building from...and superciliously regarding them all as...primitive, savage, damn-near self-made (unlike 'us') idiots...which, rhetorically, means what, about us?

~ Can one say that some of us might be...a bit biasedly 'temporally' myopic?

LLAP

J:D

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Rand did over-glorify Aristotle, though, since she didn't really understand science, the scientific method and statistics. If she had she'd have been more modest about knowing the knowable instead of shoveling out all that epistemic, absolutist nonsense.

Brant,

Perhaps Rand did not know enough about natural selection to fathom that it was the absolute basis of her absolutist philosophy. Not just man's proper course on earth, but the whole universe follows a pattern of which natural selection is the biological part: ordering and release of heat that drives the expanding universe. Electrons order into increasingly complex structures over time, thereby releasing energy because complexity is thermodynamically favorable, and this energy includes lots of heat to favor the second law of thermodynamics. According to that law, the ordering must be accompanied by a greater disordering; and heat is the most disorderly form of matter/energy. Now these physicochemical tendencies may be different in different universes, but Rand knows where she lives! She made no absolute philosophy or meaning for some vacuum-orb with a mind (which cannot exist!), but rather a philosophy and a meaning for "man on earth," the layman's phrase for "electrons in this universe."

Our universe is knowable, and no other can exist - so our universe is absolute, and so we can know absolute things. As far as I know, they found nothing in those black holes, string theory only posits subunits of quarks, and wormholes only take us from one part of this universe to another. Surely something of which I am ignorant will get me on this, but I dare say that we must take our universe to be an absolute 5 x 10^30 m of diameter of everything, just as we take gravity as an absolute, though its particles are as obscure as their strings. As Rand said to Donahue, we are psychologically ill if we admit anything unobservable into our views of reality, for we cannot do well in our world if we base our lives off of an hypothetical other.

Notes: As things order, they release heat: so global warming is a sign of progress - though of course we must get this heat out of our atmosphere and into the heat-pressured expanding void. We can halt that quest a bit by draining our oceans into a hole in the Saharan crust.

Michael,

You said that nobody here is President Thompson of Atlas Shrugged. Considering my missive here, do you stand by that statement?

Bob,

I get the idea that Thomas S. Kuhn's The Structure of Scientific Revolutions would show you that the Dark Ages were naught but a European period after the fall of Rome.

Edited by Peter Grotticelli
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Bob,

I get the idea that Thomas S. Kuhn's The Structure of Scientific Revolutions would show you that the Dark Ages were naught but a European period after the fall of Rome.

Science as we know it, was invented in the 16-th and 17-th century in Europe.

Ba'al Chatzaf

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Rand did over-glorify Aristotle, though, since she didn't really understand science, the scientific method and statistics. If she had she'd have been more modest about knowing the knowable instead of shoveling out all that epistemic, absolutist nonsense.

Brant,

Perhaps Rand did not know enough about natural selection to fathom that it was the absolute basis of her absolutist philosophy. Not just man's proper course on earth, but the whole universe follows a pattern of which natural selection is the biological part: ordering and release of heat that drives the expanding universe. Electrons order into increasingly complex structures over time, thereby releasing energy because complexity is thermodynamically favorable, and this energy includes lots of heat to favor the second law of thermodynamics. According to that law, the ordering must be accompanied by a greater disordering; and heat is the most disorderly form of matter/energy. Now these physicochemical tendencies may be different in different universes, but Rand knows where she lives! She made no absolute philosophy or meaning for some vacuum-orb with a mind (which cannot exist!), but rather a philosophy and a meaning for "man on earth," the layman's phrase for "electrons in this universe."

Our universe is knowable, and no other can exist - so our universe is absolute, and so we can know absolute things. As far as I know, they found nothing in those black holes, string theory only posits subunits of quarks, and wormholes only take us from one part of this universe to another. Surely something of which I am ignorant will get me on this, but I dare say that we must take our universe to be an absolute 5 x 10^30 m of diameter of everything, just as we take gravity as an absolute, though its particles are as obscure as their strings. As Rand said to Donahue, we are psychologically ill if we admit anything unobservable into our views of reality, for we cannot do well in our world if we base our lives off of an hypothetical other.

Notes: As things order, they release heat: so global warming is a sign of progress - though of course we must get this heat out of our atmosphere and into the heat-pressured expanding void. We can halt that quest a bit by draining our oceans into a hole in the Saharan crust.

Thia is a perfect merging of philosophy and science, to the detriment of the latter.

--Brant

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You guys don't give me half a chance. As Kuhn said, I have to wait for the old men to die before the paradigm shifts. The new paradigm of absolutism will come before I am of the average age of ye here.

Brant, don't write off a dilettante so quickly. Rather than discredit my grasp of science, you should speak more specifically. Tell me how we've observed another universe.

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You guys don't give me half a chance. As Kuhn said, I have to wait for the old men to die before the paradigm shifts. The new paradigm of absolutism will come before I am of the average age of ye here.

Brant, don't write off a dilettante so quickly. Rather than discredit my grasp of science, you should speak more specifically. Tell me how we've observed another universe.

Peter,

Knowing absolute things is not necessarily the same as absolutely knowing them.

--Brant

Edited by Brant Gaede
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Brant,

I agree.

We don't have to absolutely know the universe to know the simple trends of ordering and expansion by heat of which I wrote. We just have to know a few fundamental physicochemical laws: electrons stabilize, and temperature varies directly with volume, in the only universe that we may sanely admit to our consciousness.

Don't you think it's a stretch to use the word "absolutely" in "absolutely know" just for the sake of making your quip look like a novel first principle? Use clearer adverbs &c. so that I don't have to ask for clarifications.

Edited by Peter Grotticelli
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Brant,

I agree.

We don't have to absolutely know the universe to know the simple trends of ordering and expansion by heat of which I wrote. We just have to know a few fundamental physicochemical laws: electrons stabilize, and temperature varies directly with volume, in the only universe that we may sanely admit to our consciousness.

Don't you think it's a stretch to use the word "absolutely" in "absolutely know" just for the sake of making your quip look like a novel first principle? Use clearer adverbs &c. so that I don't have to ask for clarifications.

Peter,

It's a matter of principle not to absolutely know something, especially when dealing with theory. In science it has to do with falsification. More generally it has to do with continuous education. The more you think you "know" the less you will learn. You will end up, even as a young man, with a mind full of dogma and certitude. It may be your own personal religion or one broadly accepted.

--Brant

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Michael,

You said that nobody here is President Thompson of Atlas Shrugged. Considering my missive here, do you stand by that statement?

Yup.

Science as we know it, was invented in the 16-th and 17-th century in Europe.

Language as we know it was invented a few centuries ago in Europe. (Without modern English, the concept of language does not exist.)

Heh.

Michael

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Science as we know it, was invented in the 16-th and 17-th century in Europe.

Language as we know it was invented a few centuries ago in Europe. (Without modern English, the concept of language does not exist.)

I recommend Arthur Koestler's The Sleepwalkers for insight on how science "as we know it" developed (I would say "developed" rather than "was invented").

Ellen

___

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I'll try this article right now since I don't have Koestler's work at hand: History of science.

What can we do is blank out over 90% of the article and then...

Nah. I'll keep with common sense.

I am talking about a general concept and the debate continues to be over semantics. But the general concept of science exists and will continue to do so. I also like using the general concept in addition to the recent Western development. Both are called "science." Both are legitimate definitions and both are used amply and legitimately (as I have demonstrated above by linking to an article about science in ancient Egypt). In using language, which meaning is meant is usually discerned by context.

I do not use the recent Western development to blank out the general concept. I will never understand the attraction this holds.

Michael

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Brant,

I concur that even Einstein is falsifiable. I concur: we have to be open to new observations. But until we get those new observations, we must consider our current conclusions to be absolutes in science and in philosophy, though we must always scientifically test them based on our new observations. These absolutes are our framework - our paradigms - without which we haven't any springboards for progress. Kuhn gives many examples to prove this in his above-cited book. So the scientists must always attempt to falsify, as you said, but the philosophers cannot do anything but wait for the scientists to do so; in the meantime, they must accept the absolutes without question, for only the scientists have the faculty to question the physicochemical tendency of the universe that I showed to be a template for natural selection and hence objectivism.

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