Robert Campbell

The Logical Leap: Induction in Physics

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You have made some interesting claims, Robert. But since you haven't posted except once since I responded to you below I fear you might miss my questions, so I repeat them:

First, Rand didn't consistently adhere to her rejection of cosmology, even with regard to the physical sciences. Otherwise, she wouldn't have articulated a priori philosophical positions on the nature of space and time.

Can you be concretely specific as to what you are calling her a priori positions? A quote and a citation would help, if possible.

Whereas with regard to psychology, she never seems to have noticed that there was any cosmology to reject. The Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology is loaded with assertions about human cognition and its development. Occasionally one of these is very weakly sourced (as in her assertion about crows' ability to recognize only small numbers of objects). Normally they are not sourced at all; Rand writes as though she just knows a whole bunch about the mental processes of young children, even of babies. The tradition of developmental psychology done from the armchair has been continued by Leonard Peikoff and David Harriman.

This may be true, but her sources are introspection and anecdote. She admits the crow epistemology is something she heard somewhere, and it is to illustrate, not to prove a point. That humans can only hold about seven items in working memory is a commonplace. I am unaware of any serious contradictions between her and Piaget, Damasio, Sacks, Merlin Donald, Jff Hawkins, or others. The objections you give are are procedural. Do you have factual objections?

Second, Rand became more inclined to legislate for scientists after the expulsions from her circle of Nathaniel Branden and Robert Efron. In her 1971 piece on "psychologizing," she tried and failed to demarcate between philosophy and psychology in a way that she wouldn't have a few years earlier. She now insisted on the absolute priority of philosophy over all of the sciences and claimed that the traffic between them could go only one way (from philosophy to science, never in the opposite direction). As Leonard Peikoff assumed primary responsibility for any further elaborations of Objectivist epistemology, she signed on various of his peeves and crotchets (such as the supposed philosophical corruption of all physics post 1900).

Again, can you give specific, and preferably cited examples?

Third, Rand was ambivalent about biological evolution throughout her career. On the one hand, she was rather taken with the crank theorizing of people like Ralph Adams Cram (a likely source for her late-1940s speculations and early-1970s essay to the effect that we fully evolved human beings live surrounded by specimens of subhmanity, who might look just like us, but will never be able to think properly). On the other she wanted to maintain her "philosophical" distance from any biological theory of evolution.

Interesting. Can you provide more information about this Cram character, an explain the reasons for your speculation?

I have hardly any sympathy for Harry Binswanger. But i kind of feel for him on one issue. His single discernible positive contribution, as a latter day member of her circle, was to try to teach her about evolution. He succeeded, but only to point that Rand was willing to acknowledge that there was a lot of evidence in favor of neo-Darwinian evolutionary theory—which she still refused to endorse, though she roundly condemned creationism.

Hence her final stated view of evolution, in her 1981 Ford Hall Forum address, would on official Objectivist grounds have to be excoriated as grossly agnostic and, as a consequence, cravenly irrational. Except that it was Ayn Rand's position, so the Peikovians pass over it in silence.

While I personally find her lack of biological knowledge problematic, especially for her theory of human nature, and its implications for the origin of individual values, I cannot fault her for failing to take a stand on a technical matter which she admitted she did not understand well enough to pronounce upon.

Agnosticism in the matter of religion is a sin because religious claims are arbitrary. No evidence is offered in their favor. Evolution is a omplex technical matter for which all sorts of evidence is provided, evience which most layman fin it very difficult to weigh. Most laymen I know who say they accept evolution actually hold some sort of confused Lamarckian ideas. They accept the fact of evolution, given the presence of fossils, and so forth. As for the theory of how it works, most would do better to take Rand's stance.

Cram''s essay was pointed out by Shayne - let me know if there's anything else he wrote of import.

Thanks.

Edited by Ted Keer

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Homey don't play that.

Uh huh. It's not like I expect you or DF to actually provide an answer for your puffed up pretense. You have your ruse, he has his. Your ruse is a bit more clever: you pose as being on the side of reason, while you stab her in the back with the nonsense concept of "instantaneous communication."

Shayne

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Homey don't play that.

Uh huh. It's not like I expect you or DF to actually provide an answer for your puffed up pretense. You have your ruse, he has his. Your ruse is a bit more clever: you pose as being on the side of reason, while you stab her in the back with the nonsense concept of "instantaneous communication."

Shayne

No, I simply refuse to answer someone who can't communicate civilly and bring himself to apologize when he's been gratuitously insulting—something you can still do. Your response to my mere statement that I was not alarmed was overblown, and your choice to resort to escalating insults in your confusion is evidence of a long-practiced defense mechanism which I am sure has not served you well in life. I know three year olds with better manners and interpersonal skills. I will not reward such behavior. But neither am I your enemy.

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In addition to George's spot on analogy of the dishonesty of adopting the theologian's method of inscrutable authority, there are other errors here.

I don't agree that George's analogy is "spot on," that DF is being dishonest, or that he's "adopting the theologian's method of inscrutable authority." What I understand DF to be saying is that if you want to understand physics, you have to learn some physics. There is no road to doing this short of some work at learning a difficult subject. Also, I've always found DF's explanations of physics remarkably good, considering that he's at the disadvantage of writing in a language which isn't his native language and at which he isn't as fluid as I gather he is at French.

I do have philosophical disagreements of interpretation with DF, some of them long subjects. However, I just want to say in this post that I think charges of his using any method of "inscrutable authority" are misplaced. He isn't hiding anything, or telling anyone that he or she isn't capable of understanding physics. Only that nothing short of effort expended learning the subject gives one knowledge of the subject. (DF can correct me if I'm misinterpreting his message.)

Ellen

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No one was alarmed when, according to Newton, it was believed that gravity propagated instantaneously. Why should we be alarmed now if it appears that entangled particles communicate instantaneously?

First of all, it's irrelevant whether none or few are alarmed, what's relevant is if something IS in fact alarming. A dozen morons not being alarmed by something alarming is not an argument.

The fact is that it is impossible in principle to know whether particles communicate instantaneously -- such a condition is physically impossible to measure. And that is precisely the reason to be alarmed at the concept -- there is in principle no way for human beings to know that this is actually going on. And so we have physicists running ever more expensive tests to put upper bounds on the speed of this alleged "spooky action at a distance" -- but unless they bump into some non-instantaneous speed of communication, something that everyone thinks is unlikely, including me, there is no principle that will stop them from consuming ever greater volumes of tax revenues for this activity, which is very probably completely worthless.

Shayne

Shayne, I'm confused now over what exactly you find alarming. I had thought it was the very idea of "spooky action at a distance," but your comments above leave my wondering if instead the issue alarming you is merely that of the expenditure on experiments. (I agree that *that* is alarming. There needs to be a separation of science and state.)

Ellen

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In addition to George's spot on analogy of the dishonesty of adopting the theologian's method of inscrutable authority, there are other errors here.

I don't agree that George's analogy is "spot on," that DF is being dishonest, or that he's "adopting the theologian's method of inscrutable authority." What I understand DF to be saying is that if you want to understand physics, you have to learn some physics. There is no road to doing this short of some work at learning a difficult subject. Also, I've always found DF's explanations of physics remarkably good, considering that he's at the disadvantage of writing in a language which isn't his native language and at which he isn't as fluid as I gather he is at French.

I do have philosophical disagreements of interpretation with DF, some of them long subjects. However, I just want to say in this post that I think charges of his using any method of "inscrutable authority" are misplaced. He isn't hiding anything, or telling anyone that he or she isn't capable of understanding physics. Only that nothing short of effort expended learning the subject gives one knowledge of the subject. (DF can correct me if I'm misinterpreting his message.)

Ellen

Perhaps, but when he says such things as:

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?

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. He says philosophers simply do not have the knowledge. He sounds just like a global warming scientist. His a priori assertion that no book written for a layman (including philosophers) can convey the philosophical implications of modern physics may be an indictment of the authors he's read. Would you accept the reverse argument, that physicists cannot say anything menaingful about philosophy, because philosophy books directed to a lay audience cannot convey the relevant knowledge?

Now we are to accept that Rand's statements on the the development of the conceptual faculty are unsound, not because her views developmental psychology are false, but because, since she was not also a credentialied developmental psychologist, she could not have known enough to draw the relevant conclusions about epistemology?

This is the standard religious "If you don't already understand I couldn't explain" argument, and it is fundamentally dishonest.

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In addition to George's spot on analogy of the dishonesty of adopting the theologian's method of inscrutable authority, there are other errors here.

I don't agree that George's analogy is "spot on," that DF is being dishonest, or that he's "adopting the theologian's method of inscrutable authority." What I understand DF to be saying is that if you want to understand physics, you have to learn some physics. There is no road to doing this short of some work at learning a difficult subject. Also, I've always found DF's explanations of physics remarkably good, considering that he's at the disadvantage of writing in a language which isn't his native language and at which he isn't as fluid as I gather he is at French.

I never said that DF is dishonest; I said that a type of argument he sometimes uses is dishonest. More on this later.

As for the theological method of argument, you seem to have a skimmed over or missed a number of DF's remarks. Here is a recent example:

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.

Now what the hell do you think DF is saying here? I'll tell you what he is saying.

(1) There is no clear line of demarcation between physics and philosophy, so the expertise of the physicist spills over into philosophy. He is an authority in the philosophical implications of physics.

(2) The nonphysicist, in contrast, lacks the knowledge necessary to understand the philosophical relevance of experimental results in physics.

(3) Note well what is being said here. The layman simply cannot understand the philosophical insights of the physicist, who is an authority in such matters. So what does this mean? Well, DF says that the layman might read a popularized account by a physicist, but he will probably latch onto one that confirms his prejudices. So he will end up with a rationalization, not real knowledge. The layman can never attain the latter because "he doesn't understand all the aspects of those experiments, as that requires specialized knowledge that he doesn't have."

4) Note how this deplorable argument cuts off all possible avenues of criticism for the layman by including a "damned if you do, damned if you don't" clause. Physicists are authorities, but laymen are not permitted to appeal to such authorities in defense of our own arguments, because any such appeal will be mere rationalization. We will pick and choose an authority to suit our purpose, while lacking the knowledge necessary to know which authority we should pick. Thus, if in the matter of causation and QM, I find an authority who agrees with me, DF will simply say, "He doesn't count, because you don't have the knowledge required to recognize a legitimate authority. I do have that knowledge, however, so I will tell you which authorities you should listen to."

5) Many years ago, in a lengthy discussion of authorities in ATCAG, I addressed this very argument. Here is part of what I wrote (p. 175):

There is a further problem with the notion of a "religious authority." This designation is ambiguous. As an illustration, consider what it would mean to speak of an astrology expert. To say that Mr. Jones is an authority on astrology would mean that Mr. Jones has a thorough knowledge of the doctrines of astrology, but this does not necessarily imply that Mr. Jones personally believes in the truth of astrology. In fact, we shall assume that Mr. Jones considers astrology to be false.

Now we encounter another astrology expert, who in addition to possessing comprehensive knowledge of astrology, also believes these doctrines to be true. Here we have two legitimate authorities, Mr. Jones and Mr. White, who disagree concerning the truth of astrological doctrines, but both qualify as experts nonetheless. Clearly, therefore, the truth or falsity of astrology cannot cannot be determined by an appeal to either of these authorities (since they contradict each other), so we must listen to the arguments of each authority and then judge on the basis of available evidence.

Suppose, however, that I persist in defending the truth of astrology through an appeal to authority. "After all," I argue, "Mr White has studied astrology intensively for many years, and he believes in the truth of its doctrines. What right have we as mere laymen to question the soundness of his judgment?"

Now suppose someone points out to me that Mr. Jones, whose knowledge of astrology is comparable to that of Mr. White, does not personally believe in astrological doctrines. On the contrary, he considers them to be false. In response to this I reply that Mr. White is the only qualified authority, and only his testimony should be seriously considered. It is obvious that I am using the notion of "authority" in a peculiar way here. The only substantial difference between Mr. While and Mr. Jones is that the former believes in astrology while the latter does not. If I disqualify Mr. Jones as an authority on this basis, I would justly be accused of circular reasoning. I wish to appeal to an authority in support of my belief, yet I am unwilling to accept anyone as an authority unless he agrees with me in the first place. Is it any wonder, then, that all astrological "authorities" will somehow defend my position?

Now transpose these authorities to the realm of religion....

I wrote all this in the early 1970s, at the tender age of 23, and I was addressing a very common theological appeal to authority. I had no inkling that I would one day encounter a physicist who would use exactly the same form of argument. I could have posted this passage nearly as is, with only minor changes in wording, in response to DF's argument, as if it had been written specifically for that purpose. It is a throughly dishonest type of argument that has been around for many, many centuries. Pick up almost any orthodox book on theology and chances are good you will find it. It has been a standard theological tactic designed to cut off all criticism at its roots, before doubts have a chance to grow and threaten the established orthodoxy.

And you have no problem with this type of argument? I am dumbfounded. So why do I call it "dishonest?" Because it is extremely unlikely that one will stumble across it accidentally; it is designed for a specific purpose. It leaves absolutely no opportunity for laymen to exercise their critical judgment. The authority, whether in religion or science, thereby establishes himself as an absolute monarch. He needn't even consider the objections of laymen, because, by definition, they cannot possibly know what they are talking about. He is the judge and jury in all such matters. Our only job is to listen and learn from him, or from fellow authorities that he has sanctioned.

I said it before but I will say it again. I am astonished to find this type of argument seriously proposed on OL. On a Christian website, maybe, but here? What's next? An argument that we should obey our government without question and believe everything it tells us?

Ghs

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Subject: Exaggeration and Presumptuousness

> you don't understand the mathematics...I managed to do calculus (by myself) at age thirteen [baal, Post #891--attempting oneupsmanship of Shayne]

Yeah, right! There's a big difference between being able to, say, find a single limit or slope of a curve and "doing calculus" at an early stage of one's mathematical knowledge (prior to study of algebra, geometry, trig, analytic geometry, etc.)

Calculus involves the mastery of a whole set of skills involved in being able to do both differentiation and integration across a broad spectrum.

Are you trying to impress people with pretentious exaggeration? Sort of like the person who has just read The Fountainhead and then says he "knows Objectivism"? Or cliams he is "an Objectivist" the moment he completes Galt's speech?

Edited by Philip Coates

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Subject: Exaggeration and Presumptuousness

> you don't understand the mathematics...I managed to do calculus (by myself) at age thirteen [baal, Post #891--attempting oneupsmanship of Shayne]

Yeah, right! There's a big difference between being able to, say, find a single limit or slope of a curve and "doing calculus" at an early stage of one's mathematical knowledge (prior to study of algebra, geometry, trig, analytic geometry, etc.)

Calculus involves the mastery of a whole set of skills involved in being able to do both differentiation and integration across a broad spectrum.

sequences, series, limits, Cauchy Convergence and Dedikind Cuts. I taught myself from G.H. Hardy's book. I mastered a whole set of skills including Cantorian set theory. I was able to do it because I was smart.

When I taught myself calculus (actually the analysis of real and complex variables) I also learned how to prove theorems.

Ba'al Chatzaf

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Your response to my mere statement that I was not alarmed was overblown, and your choice to resort to escalating insults in your confusion is evidence of a long-practiced defense mechanism which I am sure has not served you well in life.

My response was a test and a challenge and you weaseled out of it, escalating your moronic replies while committing the sin of changing the subject. My methods separate the wheat from the chaff. But, supposing that you have an actual thought in your head of relevance here, then you are merely being stubborn about some notion you have of the style of my interactions. You put style over substance. And I'm sure that has not served you well.

When I was in college, I had this curmudgeon of a professor who almost everyone in the class hated. They thought he was a "jerk." Yet what I saw was a very intelligent man with perhaps bad interpersonal skills. I got the top grade in his class, he opened up the door to my first opportunities, and we were friends for a long time after that. So yeah, my preference of substance over style has had consequences.

Shayne

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(2) The nonphysicist, in contrast, lacks the knowledge necessary to understand the philosophical relevance of experimental results in physics.

I would like to know what "the philosophical relevance of experimental results in physics" might mean. Does it mean, for example, that if physics has established that what we refer to as 'space' and 'time' is actually better described as 'space-time' then philosophers (laypeople) should quit speculating about space and time as if they were separable? If a layperson cannot understand this then they can learn the math and study the equations to convince themselves if they want to but it has no bearing on what physicists do. Actually, many people write books that are fairly non-technical for the interested layperson but to suggest that a layperson (philosopher ignorant of physics) can somehow direct a scientist's work is ridiculous. Science is self-correcting, if there is some major "epistemological corruption" it will be exposed and corrected eventually.

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Shayne, I'm confused now over what exactly you find alarming. I had thought it was the very idea of "spooky action at a distance," but your comments above leave my wondering if instead the issue alarming you is merely that of the expenditure on experiments. (I agree that *that* is alarming. There needs to be a separation of science and state.)

Ellen

I think this is a "don't get me started" question.

But sticking to the question at hand, as I said before, if this *is* spooky action at a distance, then we can never be sure that it is. So it's a setup. We chase after this ghost forever, while pop physicists continue preaching about the weird nature of reality, that it must be God or something, and they keep raping and pillaging we peasants to feed the fat priest class. It's the same story in every field. I think anyone *not* alarmed must be half asleep. Nowhere else in the history of science have we hit this fundamental wall of ignorance where now all of the sudden there's no local cause for a given effect. For the entire history of science there always had to be some kind of direct physical connection, for example, with fields of some kind that extend and diminish with distance. Perhaps "alarmed" isn't quite the right word. Highly suspicious and distrusting is closer to the mark.

One of these days maybe I'll just decide to take it all like George Carlin does: http://libertypoet.com/freedomwatch/freedomofchoice.

Shayne

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George: Watch this 1 minute video for an overview of quantum entanglement for laymen:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jh8uZUzuRhk

This is what they tell us. But the truth is more complicated: They can't actually observe this entanglement. What they observe are statistical correlations over many runs of an experiment, correlations that they can only (as of now) explain with the concept of entanglement. Since they lack any other explanation, they presume that the only one they have come up with must be the truth.

All they really have liberty of saying (if we are to trust their experimental setup) is that it is *as if* the particles are entangled. That is all they actually know. So I think there a fraud being perpetrated here.

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Please be careful in your paraphrasings. I said that quantum physicists expect their claims to be taken as statements of objective fact. Is it your opinion that physicists do not mean their statements to be taken as statements of objective fact?

Dragonfly said it so much better than I can express it:

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.

So the finding in quantum physics seem to shake some people's idea of "rationality", and I'm interested to hear more about the Objectivist perspective intaht context.

Shayne for example is a layperson who says he is alarmed/upset. So what upsets him? That all experimental attempts to save the idea of a "local realistic theory" with hidden variables have failed and in fact comfirmed QM?

Or is it the quantum entanglements which he feels can't be explained "rationally" from our "everyday-life" perspective?

But when you think about it: if, before the "big bang", all was concentrated to a point of "infinite density", once it began expanding (and it still is), many connections still may exist. Everything may be connected with everything.

To Dragonfly:

I laugh, but you're the one laughing to the bank, for now, Dr. Stadler (I'm sure you and/or BC must have been called that before by some unusually astute Objectivist.)

Ah, the bad guy Dr. Stadler, one of those villains disturbing the benevolent universe. :o

Who is John Galt? You, Shayne? :D

Just curious: why did you call Niels Bohr "corrupt"?

[...] it has now definitely been shown that local realistic theories with hidden variables are ruled out, [...].

But not non-local (i.e., superluminal) theories with hidden variables.

Could you illustrate with an example and explain, Ellen?

Edited by Xray

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xray,

Evidently you are banned from posting more than 5 posts per day, so you make up for it by repeatedly editing your posts, violating the spirit of the local law that is supposed to have constrained you. I don't know what got you in trouble with the moderators, but either they were right to constrain you and you should operate in good faith with their constraint, or they were wrong and you should stop posting here.

Anyway, your grasp of what I have been saying is about nil. You've failed completely to grasp my position, and this isn't the first time I have corrected you, so I don't see that you have an excuse. I will only say that a universe where everything is interconnected has been in evidence for a very long time, that's not new or controversial. What is new and controversial is the idea of instantaneous action at a distance, without any interconnecting medium that would carry out such interaction. This doesn't integrate with anything else we know, it is a glaring exception to every rule we have inferred from how reality works. This is what Einstein complained about. Supposing reality really did work that way, it's not a problem for a rational philosophy. The problem is that it looks a lot like a hasty conclusion and that it is believed religiously and zealously by its adherents without any proof that it is true. Ironically, these zealots then call people like me zealots for not believing in their religion.

Shayne

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I will only say that a universe where everything is interconnected has been in evidence for a very long time, that's not new or controversial. What is new and controversial is the idea of instantaneous action at a distance, without any interconnecting medium that would carry out such interaction. This doesn't integrate with anything else we know, it is a glaring exception to every rule we have inferred from how reality works. This is what Einstein complained about. Supposing reality really did work that way, it's not a problem for a rational philosophy.

Any "rational" philosophy has to take into account the findings in QM - would you agree?

My guess is mankind in the future will come across many more things which "don't integrate with everything we know" and which violate our idea of how "reality" works. Like Feynman said: "I think nature's imagination is so much greater than man's - she never going to let us relax."

As a physicist who automatically qualifies as a philosopher extraordinaire, perhaps you will be so kind as to give us -- the sweaty, ignorant masses -- the benefit of your wisdom by presenting one significant metaphysical conclusion that you believe is Care to give it a try? We will see how far you get.

Ghs

George,

Why all that sarcasm on your part toward DF?

Can you see significant metaphysical conclusions entailed by QM?

Where do you see the role of epistemology in the future? Imo it is possible that epistemolgy will become more and more the domain of neuroscientists, physicists, etc.

Edited by Xray

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I will only say that a universe where everything is interconnected has been in evidence for a very long time, that's not new or controversial. What is new and controversial is the idea of instantaneous action at a distance, without any interconnecting medium that would carry out such interaction. This doesn't integrate with anything else we know, it is a glaring exception to every rule we have inferred from how reality works. This is what Einstein complained about. Supposing reality really did work that way, it's not a problem for a rational philosophy. The problem is that it looks a lot like a hasty conclusion and that it is believed religiously and zealously by its adherents without any proof that it is true. Ironically, these zealots then call people like me zealots for not believing in their religion.

My guess is mankind in the future history will come across many more things which don't integrate with everything we know and which violate our idea of how "reality" works. Like Feynamn said: "I think nature's imagination is so much greater than man's - she never going to let us relax."

If you open your mind too much your brain will fall out. Whoops...

Seriously though, your position isn't an argument, it's more like a religious effusion. And you're wrong. Most everything we learn is a refinement of either what we knew, or of what we could have known if we had followed reason. Radical surprises that contradict beliefs are usually for the sheep who follow trends instead of reason. But by all means, why don't you list some of your examples of what "we" "knew" about reality at one time, that was contradicted at a later time. And be sure that you don't ignore the lone men who warned everyone ahead of time that they were going off an intellectual cliff. I don't care what the masses "think" or "thought". I care about what could have been known by a man of reason. And by my understanding, science is a process of continual expansion and refinement, not contradiction.

Shayne

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(2) The nonphysicist, in contrast, lacks the knowledge necessary to understand the philosophical relevance of experimental results in physics.

I would like to know what "the philosophical relevance of experimental results in physics" might mean. Does it mean, for example, that if physics has established that what we refer to as 'space' and 'time' is actually better described as 'space-time' then philosophers (laypeople) should quit speculating about space and time as if they were separable? If a layperson cannot understand this then they can learn the math and study the equations to convince themselves if they want to but it has no bearing on what physicists do. Actually, many people write books that are fairly non-technical for the interested layperson but to suggest that a layperson (philosopher ignorant of physics) can somehow direct a scientist's work is ridiculous. Science is self-correcting, if there is some major "epistemological corruption" it will be exposed and corrected eventually.

I hope it is clear that the passage you quoted is a close paraphrase of something written by DF. It is not something I agree with.

You suggest that "philosophers (laypeople) should quit speculating about space and time as if they were separable." Well, Einstein had a gift for explaining complex notions in comprehensible terms, and here is what he had to say on this matter (Relativity, p. 61):

The non-mathematician is seized by a mysterious shuddering when he hears of "four-dimensional" things, by a feeling not unlike that awakened by thoughts of the occult. And yet there is no more common-place statement than the world in which we live in a four-dimensional space-time continuum.

Space is a three dimensional continuum. By this we mean that it is possible to describe the position of a point (at rest) by means of three numbers (co-ordinates) x, y, z, and that there is an indefinite number of points in the neighbourhood of this one, the position of which can be described by co-ordinates such as x1, y1, z1 which may be as near as we choose to the respective values of the co-ordinates x, y, z of the first point. In virtue of the latter property we speak of a "continuum," and owing to the fact that there are three co-ordinates we speak of it as being "three-dimensional."

Similarly, the world of physical phenomena which was briefly called "world" by Minkowski is naturally four dimensional in the space-time sense. For it is composed of individual events, each of which is described by four numbers, three space-coordinates x, y, z and a time co-ordinate, the time value t. The "world" is in this sense also a continuum; for to every event there are as many "neighbouring" events (realised or at least thinkable) as we care to choose, the co-ordinates x1, y1, z1, t1 of which differ by an indefinitely small amount from those of the event x, y, z, t originally considered. (My italics.)

This is all fine and dandy, but need I point out that when people normally talk about time, they are not thinking of time as a coordinate? Indeed, many philosophers, such as Schopenhauer and Bergson, conceived of time in its primary sense as a subjective sense of duration. Schopenhauer, for example, gives a very interesting and plausible explanation of why time, subjectively considered, passes much more quickly as we grow older, and why time passes more quickly when we are enjoying ourselves than when we are not. As I noted previously, the notion that space and time are "absolute" was not (for the most part) a mistake made by philosophers or laymen (most people don't think in these terms); rather, it was an erroneous assumption made by scientists, especially Newtonians.

In sum, it would be a mistake for modern physicists to lecture the likes of Schopenhauer and Bergson on the real meaning of time. The word is and has been used in various ways. Physicists don't have a monopoly on word meaning.

I say this without the least objection to how the word "time" is used by physicists. But I do have a bit of a problem when physicists speak of a four-dimensional universe. If they wish to say that space and time are not independent variables, fine -- I have no problem with that. But the word "dimension" suggests a number of things that are not entailed by the mathematical use of coordinates. This is but one example where we must be very careful when translating the technical definitions of physics into conventional language. When due caution is not exercised, it is with good reason that laypersons will, as Einstein points out, get the impression that physicists are dealing with mysteries of the occult.

Ghs

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Your response to my mere statement that I was not alarmed was overblown, and your choice to resort to escalating insults in your confusion is evidence of a long-practiced defense mechanism which I am sure has not served you well in life.

My response was a test and a challenge and you weaseled out of it, escalating your moronic replies while committing the sin of changing the subject.

That's an interesting theory, but the evidence says otherwise. You asked me no questions. Your responses to me were:

I am not alarmed.

Neither is a corpse. Nor an infant. Nor an idiot. But Einstein, Bell, and me, we're alarmed.

Don't mock me, you're the one making the remarks of a fool who's self-satisfied with their foolishness because they think the majority approves. Or was this just your incompetent way of asking what I find so curious/alarming about the experiment?

You characterize that as a "test" and "a challenge"? I call it a gratuitously insulting passive-aggressive defense mechanism unworthy of my serious consideration.

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I would like to know what "the philosophical relevance of experimental results in physics" might mean. Does it mean, for example, that if physics has established that what we refer to as 'space' and 'time' is actually better described as 'space-time' then philosophers (laypeople) should quit speculating about space and time as if they were separable? If a layperson cannot understand this then they can learn the math and study the equations to convince themselves if they want to but it has no bearing on what physicists do. Actually, many people write books that are fairly non-technical for the interested layperson but to suggest that a layperson (philosopher ignorant of physics) can somehow direct a scientist's work is ridiculous. Science is self-correcting, if there is some major "epistemological corruption" it will be exposed and corrected eventually.

The notion of the inseparabilty of time from "events" (i.e., changes ocurring in space) long predates Eintein:

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/time/#RedPlaResTim

Aristotle and others (including, especially, Leibniz) have argued that time does not exist independently of the events that occur in time. This view is typically called either "Reductionism with Respect to Time" or "Relationism with Respect to Time," since according to this view, all talk that appears to be about time can somehow be reduced to talk about temporal relations among things and events. The opposing view, normally referred to either as "Platonism with Respect to Time" or as "Substantivalism with Respect to Time" or as "Absolutism with Respect to Time," has been defended by Plato, Newton, and others. On this view, time is like an empty container into which things and events may be placed; but it is a container that exists independently of what (if anything) is placed in it.

This is obviously not the same a physicists' mathematical descriptions of spacetime in relation to the speed of light, but its wrong to assume that philosophers have always held a naive conventional view of time and space or that they were unable to think about such ideas until physicists came along. Indeed, if my memory is right, wasn't Einstein influenced by Leibniz?

Edited by Ted Keer

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Judging from his popular books and from his interviews, Feynman was incessantly philosophical. I think you guys just have some deranged view of what philosophy is, and so all you're really saying Feynman didn't practice *that kind* of philosophy. I'd agree with that.

And anyway, who are you guys to talk about what intellectual tools theorists need to do their work? What new theories in any area have you come up with?

A philosophy is like a head. We all have one.

Which is why imo Rand's question "Philosophy - who needs it?" makes no sense.

Rand doesn't delve all that much into developmental psychology.

The result of her lack of knowledge are absurd statements like e. g. that a child having yet no knowledge of words is able to reflect about the concept "length". :rolleyes:

Edited by Xray

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You characterize that as a "test" and "a challenge"? I call it a gratuitously insulting passive-aggressive defense mechanism unworthy of my serious consideration.

You're the one who took it so seriously that you've found it impossible to engage in a rational discussion about the substantive issues I raise, and instead keep redirecting the conversation back to your imagined views on my character. I don't think you know what "passive aggressive" means.

You've made your point, I get it. I hurt your feelings and now you don't want to impart your alleged genius upon me. But since this was a BS reason to begin with and you know it, every time you fail to address the substantive issues I bring up, you have to keep on bringing this BS up over and over again to console yourself regarding your earlier bone-headed decision to elevate style over substance, while trying to convince everyone that the reason you don't deal with substantive questions is because your feelings are hurt, and not, as I think, because you actually have nothing of substance to offer on this "spooky action" issue. I say this based not on a personal judgement of you, but as an estimate of the state of the art. I don't think *anyone* has anything of substance to offer here. (But I would be pleased to find out that I was wrong)

Shayne

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Judging from his popular books and from his interviews, Feynman was incessantly philosophical. I think you guys just have some deranged view of what philosophy is, and so all you're really saying Feynman didn't practice *that kind* of philosophy. I'd agree with that.

And anyway, who are you guys to talk about what intellectual tools theorists need to do their work? What new theories in any area have you come up with?

A philosophy is like a head. We all have one.

Imo the question "Philosophy - who needs it?" makes no sense.

The sense it makes is that not everyone builds their philosophy in accordance to reason and reality but they should. I don't see what is hard to grasp about that. And Feynman, as far as I can tell, was quite rational regarding how he constructed his personal philosophy, exceptionally reality-oriented and mostly adhered to logic.

Shayne

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You characterize that as a "test" and "a challenge"? I call it a gratuitously insulting passive-aggressive defense mechanism unworthy of my serious consideration.

You're the one who took it so seriously that you've found it impossible to engage in a rational discussion about the substantive issues I raise, and instead keep redirecting the conversation back to your imagined views on my character. I don't think you know what "passive aggressive" means.

You've made your point, I get it. I hurt your feelings and now you don't want to impart your alleged genius upon me. But since this was a BS reason to begin with and you know it, every time you fail to address the substantive issues I bring up, you have to keep on bringing this BS up over and over again to console yourself regarding your earlier bone-headed decision to elevate style over substance, while trying to convince everyone that the reason you don't deal with substantive questions is because your feelings are hurt, and not, as I think, because you actually have nothing of substance to offer on this "spooky action" issue. I say this based not on a personal judgement of you, but as an estimate of the state of the art. I don't think *anyone* has anything of substance to offer here. (But I would be pleased to find out that I was wrong)

Shayne

That is close to an apology, but not quite.

The relevant policy is one of not rewarding bad behavior.

Your sentence: "Or was this just your incompetent way of asking what I find so curious/alarming about the experiment?" was passive aggressive. You combine a cooperative overture with a preemptive insult.

Step back and introspect your actions.

In making such comments you are being no different from the woman in the Phil Donahue audience who prefaced her question to Rand with an insult and expected to be answered as if it were Rand's duty to deal with a person on such a basis. In essence it the fallacy of complex question - you expect me to implicitly accept your insults in the course of answering your questions. My response is to say the insults have to be withdrawn before the questions can even be considered. I have no altruitsic duty to answer me no matter how loudly you abuse me.

You say that I am continuing BS, yet you have responded to every single one of my posts with some excuse, psychologizing insult, or new explanation each time. You say, for instance, that your response to my statement that I was not alarmed was "a challenge and a test" - yet I quoted it back - there was not question - just insult. Do you simply not realize when you are insulting people, or not keep track, or expect people to forget?

If you want an serious answer from me, and given your doggedness, you obviously do, then you can admit you were wrong to insult me and apologize for it. Take it as a compliment that I am spending so much time patiently explaining this to you.

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Ted, I certainly intend no apology. I stand by what I said and why I said it.

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