Science is the measurement of quantifiable things. That which is not measurable is not science. Causality and morality and consciousness and so on are not measurable and therefore are not scientific. That which unquantifiable but which is coerced into quantification is pseudoscience. How strongly do you agree with this, on a scale of 1 to 7?
Lady Margret lifted the fan to cover her face, turned to the Duchess, and whispered, “He said what about science?”
“That it couldn’t answer all questions!”
“Ooohhh….!” The sound came out of Lady Margret as she fell to the ground in a dead faint was like the air escaping from a life boat holding a 240 pound woman—coincidentally, the same weight as Lady M—eighty nautical miles from land and any hope of rescue.
Edward Bulwer-Lytton has nothing on me.
To quote from our friend Mike Flynn:
Science!&tm; Makes Astonishing Breakthrough
“Tired All the Time? Maybe You Need More Sleep”–headline, Philly.com, May 29
Incidentally, the Scientific Ethicist is awaiting more questions before his next column can be produced.
Here is an equation:
Ain’t it pretty? It seems to say how (in the causal sense) the quantity u changes over time in some coordinate system. That might be 3-D space, or something else. Several groups have made it their own. Some say that u is heat, others that it is information, and still more that it is money.
Who is right? All and none.
The danger is, as always, the Deadly Sin of Reification. The equation becomes the thing it represents because the thing it represents is not ideal. The thing departs from perfection in the way the perfect model does not. The thing, the old, worn, but serviceable and loyal reality, is thrown over for a trophy equation.
Reality is ontological; things exist; equations are immaterial. Equations are epistemological; they express and quantify knowledge. But, of course, not all knowledge can be quantified. The equation can belong to anybody who claims it represents knowledge of any real u, but the equation never becomes any u.
Equations are never indications of reality—reality itself is all the proof we need of reality.
We may as well give the rest of the space over to Stanley Jaki. Quotations from Means to a Message: A Treatise on Truth, the chapter on Science.
Don’t forget that The Consensus—the old one, not our new one; we are too far ahead to be in the grip of fallacy, right?—for “generations of scientists” was that the ether was real, because why? Because equations were confused with reality.
Similar was the case with the mathematics of Maxwell’s equations that certainly worked while nothing could be verified about the ether which those equations seemed to control. Maxwell’s calculations of the coefficients of the rigidity of the ether, and similar data offered by Lord Kelvin do not belong to the proud pages of physics. Hertz himself found that electromagnetic waves spread across space but he did not find the ether, the presumed material substratum which was supposed to undulate if there were waves. The gripping recognition of this failure promoted Hertz to coin what has become the most pithy phrase ever uttered in reference to physics: “Maxwell’s theory is Maxwell’s system of equations.”
The phrase summed up what should have been formulated about all earlier great laws of physics.
Equations are lifeless.
Quite the contrary happens once the construction of a major physical theory is completed. There remains nothing in it with explicit contact with anything material. The edifice becomes a complex of equations. As such it exists in full independence of all the philosophical and quasi-philosophical assumptions and factors that helped its erection in the first place. Even letters, wholly arbitrary signs of course, that stand, say for the electron charge, for mass, and so forth, are, within the theory, merely reference points to quantitative data.
Reality is soon relegated to a closet. But at least equations can be taught—and their learning graded.
Who will quote for us Feynman about the (what was it?) Brazilian students knowing the equations but not the physics? In the meanwhile, Jaki quotes Feyman, that “two theories, although they may have deeply different ideas behind them, may be mathematically identical, and then there is no scientific way to distinguish them.” See the equation for you u above.
Probability doesn’t escape.
Quantum mechanics is a statistical method, utterly void of philosophical propositions. The expression, the philosophy of quantum mechanics, is a glorified oxymoron.
Philosophy comes before probability and quantum mechanics, not after.