William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

The Theology of Water—Is Design Intelligent? Guest Post by Bob Kurland

ice structure

Physicist Bob Kurland gives us a twist on the anthropic principle.

“The water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of living water, welling up into eternal life. This is a new kind of water, a living, leaping water, welling up for those who are worthy. But why did Christ call the grace of the Spirit water? Because all things are dependent on water; plants and animals have their origin in water. Water comes down from heaven as rain, and although it is always the same in itself, it produces many different effects, one in the palm tree, another in the vine, and so on throughout the whole of creation. It does not come down, now as one thing, now as another, but while remaining essentially the same, it adapts itself to the needs of every creature that receives it.”—Quoted in the Office of Readings (Monday, Week 7 of Easter), from a catechetical instruction by St. Cyril of Jerusalem.

The title of this post, “The Theology of Water”, is taken from a short story by Hilbert Schenck in a collection of science-fiction stories with a religious theme, Perpetual Light.

In this story, after fruitless searches in the rest of the solar system, some middle-aged astronaut scientists explore Titan, the largest moon of Saturn, to find life. Titan is unique amongst solar system satellites in having an atmosphere, albeit a very cold one.

The scientists don’t find life in any form, but they do find a strange type of water: freezing and melting points much lower than “earth” water, but still with the unusual feature of solid water (ice) lighter than liquid at the freezing point, and with other differences in the thermodynamic properties. The different properties are in fact those that would be suitable for life on this cold world, if life existed. In testing the Titan water, the scientists turn it into earth-type water and realize that they are the life for which water is intended.

I dispute the essential scientific point of this story, that water at comparable temperatures and pressures would be different on Titan than on earth. The properties of ice—its relatively high melting point (compared to what one might expect doing a Periodic table comparison), it being lighter than liquid water—and the unusual thermodynamic properties of water can be traced ultimately to fundamental bonding properties, specifically to the properties of the hydrogen bond (see the illustration above), which in turn can be explained (in principle) by fundamental physics–quantum mechanics and electrostatics.

Nevertheless, in telling the story, Schenck makes this important point: the properties of water are tightly linked to the properties of the planet earth in order to provide an environment suitable for life (that is to say, carbon-based life as we know it). Here are those properties (and I quote from the story—all temperatures are in degrees Centigrade—0 degrees Centigrade is the normal freezing point of water):

1) liquid water has a maximum density at 4 degrees. If it didn’t (if the maximum density was at the freezing temperature), the cold water would sink to the bottom of the ocean and earth’s average surface temperature would be more than 20 degrees lower;

2) if the vapor pressure or the unusually high heat of vaporization of water is changed, either too much or not enough cloud would exist, which, in either case, would be a meteorological disaster;

3) if the density of ice is greater than that of liquid water at the freezing point (for most substances the density of the solid is greater than that of the melt), the ice would sink to the bottom of the oceans and the oceans would be perpetually frozen at the bottom, leading to massive winds at the surface;

4) if the high specific heat of liquid water is reduced, the temperature stabilizing effect of the ocean is lowered, and more storms and lower average temperature results;

5) the properties of water are optimized for the tilt of the earth’s axis (23.5 degrees from the vertical)–if it were 0 degrees tilt, the temperature stabilizing effect would be too large, with complete cloud cover and ice-caps down to 40 degrees latitude

(6) in the story, the properties of water are set for a mean earth temperature that is optimum for metabolism at 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit (and guess to what temperature that corresponds?)

Our biochemistry crucially involves the chemistry of water and hydrogen bonding. The structure and reactions of proteins, enzymes, and DNA is critically dependent on hydrogen bonding, internally and to other biochemical molecules. Here are some resources about biochemistry and about the role of hydrogen bonding in DNA and proteins.

Biologists interested in alien life have considered biochemistries other than carbon-based/H2O. (See the Wikipedia article on hypothetical types of biochemistry.) Of these, one based on ammonia, NH3, seems most likely. However the hydrogen bonds between ammonia molecules are only half as strong as those between water molecules. Also, the temperature range for liquid ammonia is much lower than that for water, -78 to -33 degrees, so chemical reactions would proceed much more slowly, possibly too slowly for life-sustaining reactions.

So, the chemistry of hydrogen-bonding is one of those “finely-tuned” realities of nature that enable human life to exist. We recall the Anthropic Principle, used to explain the fine-tuning of physical constants and cosmological facts (among which are the age of the universe and the unlikely existence of a large moon for our planet) that enables the existence of intelligent, carbon-based life. I have not invoked the improbability of such fine-tuning, because probability, as a quantitative measure, is not properly applied to a single entity, and there is but one universe—we can know no other despite the speculations of metaphysical cosmologists.

How then do we justify the unlikelihood of such fine tuning, cosmological, physical and chemical? And when I use the term unlikelihood, I’m not referring to the improbability of picking one white ball out of a bag of a zillion black balls. Rather, I’m saying that we can think of all sorts of other universes, with different physical constants and laws, for which our type of life would not be possible. Indeed, it is hard to imagine how any of the operative laws/constants might be nudged just a little bit and still allow for our kind of life.

Such fine tuning for hydrogen-bonding physics and chemistry should not, I believe, be tossed as another ingredient into the Intelligent Design” (ID) stew. As I understand ID, its principal tenet is opposing the Darwinian model for evolution (common descent). Proponents of ID argue that gradual changes in form or biochemistry that might enhance survival (the cornerstone of the Darwinian survival-of-the-fittest program) are not sufficient to achieve the drastic differences in morphology and the “irreducible complexity” of various biochemical schemes.

To my mind this is a “God of the gaps” type argument–to attribute that which we don’t understand to specific divine intervention. Moreover, a God who frames fundamental physics so that variety and complexity grows “naturally” from a unified beginning is much more to be admired and worshiped than a God who assembles, Leggo-like, all the objects of a Young Earth (including evidence for a 4.5 billion year old earth and a 14 billion year old universe). Paul Davies puts it very well:

…the hypothesis of an intelligent designer applied to the laws of nature is far superior than the designer…who violates the laws of nature from time to time by working miracles in evolutionary history. Design-by-laws is incomparably more intelligent than design-by-miracles. (Emphasis added, The Cosmic Jackpot: Why our universe is just right for life, p.200.)

“Design-by-laws” (in Davies’ felicitous phrase) is just how the anthropic principle can be interpreted. Since a full discussion of the anthropic principle would require a much lengthier article, I’ll defer that. But I would like to end with one further comment. My home blog is entitled “Reflections of a Catholic Scientist“. And, as a Catholic scientist, my God is much more than a creator, a demiurge who designed the universe engine and pressed the starter button. My God is a Trinity, a personal God, who intervenes from time to time in history, who sustains the laws of physics that make the universe-engine chug along, and who came to us in the person of His son, verified by historical revelation.

93 Comments

  1. Briggs

    September 21, 2015 at 9:05 am

    Bob,

    There is no difficulty in theory in having a probability for a unique single event. Nor even for why this universe instead of that one.

    All probability (like logic) needs is a list of premises. What are they? Our standby “Half of Martians wear hats and George is a Martian” gives (we deduce) a probability of 0.5 to “George wears a hat.”

    So probability is always the wrong argument in evolution or multiverses unless one can identify the proper premises which are probative of the event in question. Evolution is therefore not wildly improbable nor is it highly probable. Nothing is. All probability is conditional on premises.

    Thus the real debate in evolution and mutliverses and whatever are in discovering the true causes, i.e. the real premises.

    This is why arguments from evolution or multiverses or whatever to the proposition “God didn’t design” are always wrong.

    I’ll expand this. When I get the time.

    Ho ho ho. Time.

  2. Beautiful post by Bob Kurland. But why do people insist on caricature of Intelligent Design? We don’t believe in an ad-hoc tinkerer god, sculking around in the gaps of secular science with a box of tools and schematics. Kurland’s insights all were expounded definitively in Discovery Institute Fellow Michael Denton’s Nature’s Destiny, in my judgement the masterpiece of Intelligent Design theory. Intelligent Design has to be a law based process, as far as we can know, which is still confined to Newtonian inklings on the beach.

  3. Ye Olde Statistician

    September 21, 2015 at 9:31 am

    Then there is the argumentum ad multiple worlds…

    “Although this order of things be restricted to what now exists, the divine power and wisdom are not thus restricted. Whence, although no other order would be suitable and good to the things which now are, yet God can do other things and impose upon them another order.”
    –Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologica Part I, Q25, Art.5, reply obj. 3

  4. So, the chemistry of hydrogen-bonding is one of those “finely-tuned” realities of nature that enable human life to exist

    You keep saying “enables”. Did it “enable” life or did life forms take advantage of it?

    Another way to put it: are the properties of those other finely-tuned realities a requirement for life? Considering we can’t even adequately answer the question “What is life?” and having no life outside of Earth to compare against, we can’t say it’s a requirement.

  5. I use the term unlikelihood, I’m not referring to the improbability of picking one white ball out of a bag of a zillion black balls. Rather, I’m saying that we can think of all sorts of other universes, with different physical constants and laws, for which our type of life would not be possible.

    It’s the same probability of any event that has occurred: 1

    When you talk about the unlikelihood you are indeed comparing it to picking the only white ball out of a bag of otherwise black ones. Changing balls to possible configurations doesn’t change anything.

  6. This effort is, frankly, not very coherent in its current form. But it reads like a draft that you are perhaps still working on, so maybe some comments will be helpful to you:

    You have a contradiction:

    “I have not invoked the improbability of such fine-tuning”

    then,

    “How then do we justify the unlikelihood of such fine tuning”

    But “unlikelihood” is just a synonym for low probability.

    You seem to be mistaken about what the anthropic principle is. But most people who talk about it are. I suggest further reading. (But the field is fraught with conflict: many scientists think it’s terrible reasoning, whereas others think it’s just obvious.)

    Then there is:

    “My God is a Trinity, a personal God, who intervenes from time to time in history”

    This is confusing, if you also believe in a universe governed by natural law. Can these interventions be, at least in principle, predicted by applying natural law? Can we calculate when the next intervention will happen? If not, then they are violations of the law, or “miracles”. But if things can happen at any time that violate natural law, then that law does not actually govern the universe. In other words, there is no natural law. Which is it?

    There are other problems, but I would suggest starting with the obvious ones that I’ve pointed out.

  7. Bob,

    “My God is a Trinity, a personal God, who intervenes from time to time in history,.. ”

    Since God is personal, He intervenes a lot more than “from time to time.”

    History is simply the collection of past events. It is much more than what is written down in textbooks, recorded on film, etc. My personal relationship with Him is history, as real and as true as anything (say) on the History Channel.

    George,

    “Intelligent Design has to be a law based process, as far as we can know,…”

    I assume you are making a statement about “Intelligent Design” as an explanatory model and not making a statement that attempts to circumscribe His abilities or laws.

  8. Briggs: I’d be much interested in how you would apply probability to the anthropic principles; I have a very rough and crude idea of what YOU (excuse the upper-case, but I’m trying to mimic speech) mean by probability but I still don’t see how you fold in empirical evidence.

    George Gilder: Thank you for the kind words. Let me say I do believe in Intelligent Design, but I don’t believe it’s part of science. Anything that is part of science requires not only a theory but replicated measurements to validate
    the theory. The closest that Intelligent Design has come to such a requirement is Hoyle’s prediction of the excited nuclear levels of Carbon-12, to account for the unlikely (otherwise) presence of this in the universe.
    When, or if, science by common consent should include teleological principles (see Thomas Nagel’s “Mind and Cosmos”) one might consider Intelligent Design as a scientific theory, if it could be falsified by measurement.

    DAV: “You keep saying “enables”. Did it “enable” life or did life forms take advantage of it?”
    That’s a chicken or egg precedence question which I refuse to answer!!!
    “It’s the same probability of any event that has occurred: 1”
    You and Briggs fight that one out–I’m not competent to do so.

    Lee Phillips: Thanks you for your suggestions. I’ll keep them in mind.

  9. Since physical laws represent constraints on the patterns we observe, it is only natural that any apparently diverse manifestation grounded in a simple source might have physical laws that traced the diverse manifestation to a simple origin.

    However the problem with dismissing the “God of the gaps” argument (aka “via negativa”, “neti neti”) is that there are some gaps that aren’t of the kind that science can study. The perceived world is the world at a particular moment in time, but the objective facts about an event in space-time don’t change as our perspective changes.

    This is a little hard to explain, because certainly if I say “It is now 2:30”, then the objective facts of that utterance and of the brain state that led to it will remain true about that time even when I no longer existentially experience the thought as being true. The objective facts that appear at the moment the thought was true do not change, yet the thought ceases to be true.

    Consider a catalog of all of the objective properties of the world, W. This is a complete catalog of the properties associated with every event in space-time. If the “now” moment is an objective property then there should in principle be a function Now(W) that yields the unique time value that we perceive as the present. But since W is simply a catalog about objective facts, each of which is invariant about each event in space-time, then either the Now moment never changes or else it must depend on something beyond W. i.e. something beyond the objective facts that are subject to scientific study.

    For an illustrative example of this principle, consider a book. The book has page numbers, so we know what page we are on when we are reading it. The page numbers are objective facts about the book, but the current page we are reading is not. If our awareness of the current page were generated by the book, then the current page could never change, because the book doesn’t change. But if we can turn the page (or if the current page changes in any other way), then this implies that the current page arises from something beyond the book we are reading. It cannot be an emergent property of the objective facts within the book.

    This is a general principle from computer science. A state machine consists of a collection of states, together with a notion of a current state. A state transition involves a change in the current state. But the current state cannot be an attribute of the state, it is rather a machine attribute that selects the state. To the extent that each state has a notion of the current state, then each state considers itself to be current, even when it is not. But only for the state that is subjectively experienced is that consideration a truth.

    A simulated being within a simulated reality might attempt to learn all of the objective facts about the states and their transitions. These would correspond the the simulated physical laws. But the notion of “now”, the notion of the current state, is not an attribute of a state nor of a transition, and thus if there is a “now” that changes, then this is evidence that there is a reality that is actually executing the state machine.

    So Physics can make claims about time, in the sense of what happens “at time t” or about the properties of transitions such as the “arrow of time” (e.g. why we remember the past, but not the future), but it can never decide which moment in time is the present, the current state.

    This shows how Searle, and the others who followed him, got it wrong. Awareness is not the software that runs on an objective CPU, rather subjective awareness is the hardware (the determiner of the current state) and it is the objective world that is the abstraction that refers to possible states of awareness. Within a computer simulation, the CPU is unknowable, it is not to be found within the objective facts, rather the objective facts are knowable because they are manifest within the unknowable, subjective, reality.

    The catalog of objective properties, W, does not depend on those properties corresponding to a reality that actually exists. If those properties included the objective facts about a Physicist who tried to decide if reality existed, then the answer would just be one of the facts, regardless of whether the reality actually existed. Thus it is not only that the existence of the “now” moment is not an objective fact, but the existence of reality itself is not an objective fact. It is only known to be true existentially, because we experience it.

    In my view, the answer to the anthropic principle (to finally get back to the point) is that the reality we experience is, among all of the possible states, the one the divine chooses to manifest as the current state. This state hangs together as though it derives from a simple origin because the simplicity of the divine constrains the possible states in that way. But you will never find the divine in the objective model for the same reason that you don’t find the author (or the reader) within in the world of a book (although the author may choose to include a character that represents the author and perhaps even one who represents the reader). The reason is that the objective facts represent an arising within a reality that is necessarily and essentially not objective, despite that the constraint of simple origin means that all its apparently diverse aspects are, in each moment, patterned in the form of complete and consistent objective laws.

  10. Jim Fedako: “Since God is personal, He intervenes a lot more than ‘from time to time.'”
    I agree. My phrasing was not as apt as it might have been.

  11. “This is confusing, if you also believe in a universe governed by natural law. Can these interventions be, at least in principle, predicted by applying natural law? Can we calculate when the next intervention will happen? If not, then they are violations of the law”

    1. No, they ca not be predicted. However, you are wrong in suggesting that this means that they per say violate natural law. There are a lot of things allowed by natural law that are not predictable in the particular. See quantum mechanics and chaos theory.’

    We don’t live in a clockwork universe where everything is predictable based on what came before it. Get over it.

    2. To the extent that divine intervention seems to defy natural law it is because we don’t fully understand the true natural law and we aren’t accounting for an outside force acting on the universe (and God is necessarily an outside force)

  12. MattS:

    You are forcing me to be more precise about “prediction”, which is fine.

    Quantum mechanics is a deterministic theory: the wave function evolves fully deterministically. The results of certain measurements can take various values with various probabilities; these probabilities can be calculated by QM with great precision.

    Classical chaos is the application of a fully deterministic theory to systems that are sensitive to initial conditions to a degree that it quickly becomes impossible to calculate the detailed behavior of the system (fluid turbulence, etc.).

    In both cases everything is subject to natural law. Are you are suggesting that God and His interventions are similar to a quantum measurement, or to events that arise in a classical chaotic system? If so, you are suggesting that he is subject to natural laws (most of which, of course, we don’t know about). But this is not a God that can intervene arbitrarily. Even if our computers are not large enough to predict his next intervention, it must obey the laws of nature, even if those laws are in some sense probabilistic. Either that, or He is not subject to natural law. Can’t have both.

  13. Matt S and Lee Phillips: if one believes in an omnipotent God, then He certainly can override or supervene “natural law”, since that law is instituted by Him.

  14. ” if one believes in an omnipotent God, then He certainly can override or supervene “natural law”, since that law is instituted by Him.”

    But that’s not what natural law means. This is the crux of the problem, and why this combination of ideas is not coherent.

  15. Ye Olde Statistician

    September 21, 2015 at 1:13 pm

    But if things can happen at any time that violate natural law, then that law does not actually govern the universe.

    But if writing can happen at any time that violates grammatical rules, then that rule does not actually govern the writing.

  16. On examination, most if not all of the Biblical miracles have significant elements that follow the natural order of things, only with a contracted time parameter. For example, the feeding of multitudes beginning with no more than a few fish and loaves of bread can be seen as the compression of several generations of production of each into an instant of time. Same for water into wine, where passage through the vine and fermentation process are truncated. Walking on water is simple when it’s ice. Raising the dead? Just restarting biochemical processes and reversing others (lysis and decay). Fire from heaven? Lightning. Visibly appearing and disappearing? Well, not everything is easily explained … but “there’s more in heaven and earth, etc.”

  17. YOS, I’ve gone to your recommended link, and I have to say that I don’t find Chastek’s argument compelling. It follows that of physicists who denigrate the anthropic principle by saying if the fundamental constants and facts of nature weren’t were they were, we wouldn’t be here to wonder about it. There’s no universal principle that says the fundamental constants have to be what they are, nor the fundamental properties of things are such as they are–masses, charges, force laws; they could be otherwise and if they were even slightly different, this comment (me, you, the whole ball of wax) wouldn’t be here to dispute about it.

  18. DAV: “You keep saying “enables”. Did it “enable” life or did life forms take advantage of it?”
    Bob: That’s a chicken or egg precedence question which I refuse to answer!!!

    Not exactly chick and egg (mutual causation). Taking advantage of a situation doesn’t necessarily mean causing the situation. The whole gist of your post is an implication that conditions favorable to life on Earth are too improbable to be coincidental. So, in effect, you are answering.

    The point of my question is why isn’t it more likely that, as life evolved, the ones most attuned to the conditions prevailed?

    DAV: “It’s the same probability of any event that has occurred: 1”
    Bob: You and Briggs fight that one out–I’m not competent to do so.

    Pointing to something that has occurred and asking, “what is the probability of THAT happening,” has the trivial and obvious answer of one. What is really meant by the question is anybody’s guess. Most likely it’s P(THAT happening | what we know and it never happened until then) or P(THAT happening again | given what we know).

    Pointing to something that requires a large number of events to occur, like the evolution of sight, and claiming P(EYES | all those events occurring, probability for each event) == epsilon is overlooking that evolution is more like a Markov process and less like a casting of a bagful of dice if a particular evolutionary step conveys a survival advantage. The survival advantage raises the probability of the next Markov state by effectively buying more lottery tickets so to speak.

  19. @Bob Kurland,

    “Matt S and Lee Phillips: if one believes in an omnipotent God, then He certainly can override or supervene “natural law”, since that law is instituted by Him.”

    Yes, but he can also choose to act within “natural law”

    There is an old joke that should stand as a lesson to Christian sects that reject modern medicine in favor of faith healing.

    A man was trapped on his roof in a flood.

    The water was up to his ankles when another man came by in a rowboat and offered him a lift. The man on the roof refused saying “God will save me.”

    The water continued to rise and was up to his waist when a man in a speed boat came by and offered to rescue him. Again the man refused saying “God will save me.”

    The water continued to rise and was up to his neck when a helicopter flew over and offered to rescue him. The man refused saying “God will save me.”

    The water continued to rise and the man drowned. He was brought before God for judgement and the man asked “Lord, why didn’t you save me?”

    And God answered “I sent you a rowboat, a speedboat and a helicopter, what were you waiting for.”

  20. “n both cases everything is subject to natural law. Are you are suggesting that God and His interventions are similar to a quantum measurement, or to events that arise in a classical chaotic system? If so, you are suggesting that he is subject to natural laws (most of which, of course, we don’t know about). But this is not a God that can intervene arbitrarily. Even if our computers are not large enough to predict his next intervention, it must obey the laws of nature, even if those laws are in some sense probabilistic. Either that, or He is not subject to natural law. Can’t have both.”

    You refuse to accept that there is natural law that we are incapable of seeing. God in necessarily outside of the universe as we understand it, outside of both space and time. What does quantum mechanics say will happen if our universe is acted on by an outside force with access to infinite energy.

    Think about that for a while. The laws of physics as we understand them break down at very high energies. God has infinite power to play with.

    Of course nothing requires that God has to be flashy about it when he does intervene.

  21. “If so, you are suggesting that he is subject to natural laws (most of which, of course, we don’t know about).”

    No I am not. However, not everything that is subject to natural law is predictable, which breaks your entire point.

  22. God said FREEZE, and literally everything stopped.
    God performed something, perhaps a miracle.
    God said UNFREEZE and everything started again from where it left off, but changed by what God did.
    Detecting the freeze period, or multiple freeze periods, by man is probably not possible.
    After all, He is omnipotent.

  23. MattS thinks that

    “not everything that is subject to natural law is predictable, which breaks your entire point.”

    I’ve already agreed that there is plenty that is not predictable, while being nevertheless governed by natural law. So God may be constrained by natural law, while His comings and goings may never be predictable by Man. My point is merely that if He is part of the natural world and, therefore, subject to its laws, these comings are goings are also so subject, and He is not free to intervene at will. I don’t think you want that kind of God, am I right (I ask anyone here who wants any kind of God)? Therefore your God, truly omnipotent, does what he wants, when he wants, ungoverned by any law. Since this God participates in our reality, this reality (what we call the universe) can not be governed by natural law. This is what I mean when I say that you can’t have it both ways. And this point remains, no matter how small a portion of natural law Man comprehends, or how unpredictable its consequences. It is a simple matter of definition.

  24. As far as I can see this article states a misconception, seems ambivalent about ID, and then ends with a statement of faith.

    Dr Brigg’s already addressed the misconception although I can phrase it by way of an example. If you win the lottery and the odds of winning the lottery is one in one hundred million, you can’t use this fact as an argument for why it was physically impossible for you to win the lottery.

    ID is extraordinarily foolish and it’s hard to understand why anyone would raise the claims of IDers without an embarrassed cough. An IDer argues that Nature can’t do X, while being comfortable with the assumption that God created Nature.

  25. MattS: you might be intrigued by reading works by the philosopher of science, Bas van Fraassen who argues that there are no laws of nature. To say that there are laws of nature (and I’m not altogether prepared to deny such) is to take a “realist ” view of science, i.e. that scientific theories mirror reality. Not all philosophers agree with that notion, and many argue that science is just a very involved structure “to save the phenomena”. In 100 years we may find entirely different “laws of nature”, just as someone from 100 years ago would now find entirely different laws from his time. The only two laws that seem to stand up are the First and Second Law of thermodynamics; as Einstein said:
    ” Therefore the deep impression that classical thermodynamics made upon me. It is the only physical theory of universal content which I am convinced will never be overthrown, within the framework of applicability of its basic concepts.”

  26. Sorry, I meant the above comment to be directed to Lee Phillips, not MattS

  27. George Gilder wrote: “But why do people insist on caricature of Intelligent Design?”

    Intelligent design is not a particularly good hypothesis.

    1) The world is so badly designed that no intelligent designer would want to take credit for it. Consider rain. Rain is a terrible idea. It degrades virtually everything it touches, and it is an arbitrary way to distribute life-giving water. A better design would be for each plant to have its own drip irrigation system, and for each animal to likewise have a personal watering tank. Instead, we have rain and its inevitable erosion.

    2) Erosion is a serious problem. If the design were so intelligent, why spoil it with changes such as are the result of erosion? Indeed, if the world has change from erosion, then why not have change from evolution and natural selection. Intelligent Design is a hypothesis created to counter evolution and natural selection, thus erosion harms the Intelligent Design hypothesis.

    3) The concept of Intelligent Design begs the question– it is circular reasoning. People looked around and saw a universe that seemed too complex to be natural and declared that someone must have designed it in such a complex way. It is complex, so it must have been intelligently designed, which is why it is complex, so it must have been intelligently designed, which is why …

  28. The philosophical problem with ID is that it is ultimately based on the fallacy of personal incredulity. It also arbitrarily sets limits on God’s power. God can do X but he can’t do X through Y. (Y = Nature.) This makes no logical sense whatsoever.

    This is also why the Catholic Church is sophisticated enough not to make this sort of mistake. However, it is important to clarify that with regard to ID there seems to be two flavours. The first is the one I criticized and which was quoted by the author of this article; and the second type, which asserts that Nature is ‘guided’ by God’s purpose. The second claim is not as amenable to criticism as is the first.

  29. ID!
    1. The aim of the principals in this field is to identify situations in nature that reflect design and not natural acts.
    2. These ID people do not attempt to bring God into their efforts at all, especially not the God of the Gaps sort of thing.
    3. To my knowledge, they also do not assume the mantle of proposing a full and complete rational for life, existence, and a full alternative to evolution.
    4. They do question the NeoDarwinian Theory, and do cite reasons for considerable doubt as to the available evidence, completeness, and the ability of NDT to explain certain occurrences, in particular lack of evidence of earlier stages of development of any of the Pre- Cambrian explosion of life forms, the “Punctuated Equilibrium” stopgap idea notwithstanding.
    5. Philosopher of Science, J. P. Moreland, has said that “there is no set of necessary and sufficient conditions by which to define science.” He believes that the application of the methods and tools of science in ID Theory can be accepted as being within the purview of science.
    6. For an in-depth treatment of modern ID efforts, the book “Signature in the Cell”, by Stephen Meyer is to my knowledge the most complete available. Delivering judgments about ID prior to reading and absorbing this book is rather biased and unfair, but it doesn’t faze some scientists from giving their largely negative opinions based on little awareness of the subject as it is currently conceived and practiced.
    7. I have yet to see a concrete proof that the NDT of evolution can stepwise create a complex biological system such as man inside of the 600 or so million year limit imposed by the Pre-Cambrian appearance of life without violating the ” irreducible complexity” construct of Michael Behe. If there is such a proof, I would be delighted to hear about it!

  30. Shack Toms,

    “This is a general principle from computer science. A state machine consists of a collection of states, together with a notion of a current state. A state transition involves a change in the current state. But the current state cannot be an attribute of the state, it is rather a machine attribute that selects the state. To the extent that each state has a notion of the current state, then each state considers itself to be current, even when it is not. But only for the state that is subjectively experienced is that consideration a truth.”

    A machine state consists of a single state. It is not a ‘collection of states.’

    The current state is part of the state. It is not something separate. The part of the state that determines state transitions is the PC. The PC is just as much a part of the machine state as any other part of the machine state. Little point commenting on the rest of your argument as your premises are wrong.

  31. Will Nitschke,

    “A machine state consists of a single state. It is not a ‘collection of states.’”

    Any real physical state machine (PC) has a finite set of possible states. It is not necessary incorrect to describe this set as a collection of states.

  32. By PC I mean Program Counter (anyone talking about Machine States should know what that stands for), not Personal Computer. What he wrote was that a Machine State (although he wrote it backwards, as State Machine) is a collection of states. Which it isn’t. Although he could have meant that a *finite-state-machine *is a collection of states. Although that makes about as much sense as saying a motor vehicle is a collection of kilometers traveled.

  33. Manning, as a quondam physicist, I disagree with
    “Philosopher of science, J. P. Moreland, has said that ‘there is no set of necessary and sufficient conditions by which to define science.’

    It is certainly necessary that predictions made in a scientific context be able to be falsifiable. Many more philosophers of science will hold to that criterion. It is also necessary that the theory or principle be set within a general framework of theories–that’s Latakos’ criterion for a scientific theory.
    ID does not satisfy either of those criteria.

    Which is not to say that I don’t believe God designed the universe to exist with some exceedingly clever but general principles and particular rules. But that’s a matter of theology, not science.

  34. To add—if that’s what J.P. Moreland said about science, I don’t hold him in very high regard as a philosopher of science.

  35. ID!
    J. P. Moreland wrote a chapter in the book “Intelligent Design 101”, where he addressed the issues of whether ID is science or not. His summary was:
    “..Intelligent design theory really is science because (1) it generates positive and negative test results; (2) It actually explains facts in scientifically standard ways; (3) it can be confirmed by facts: and (4) it solves internal conceptual problems that evolution doesn’t solve. These are the four things that a scientific theory ought to do, and intelligent design does all four.”
    In the body of the chapter, Moreland offers evidence that supports these conclusions in great detail, which I will not copy here since it is over 24 dense pages long.
    On page 52 of the book he states:
    ” Now the truth of the matter is that methodological materialism is simply false. First, there is no such thing as a definition of science. There have been attempts for at least twenty-four hundred years to define science, and no one has been able to do so. There is no such thing as a definition of science. No line of demarcation applies to and specifies all and only science. Carefully note what I am saying. I am saying that a line of demarcation would consist in a set of necessary and sufficient conditions that set apart something as science. They would be necessary in the sense that anyone practicing science would have to adhere to them. They are sufficient in that anyone adhering to those conditions is practicing science. A definition constructed around those necessary and sufficient conditions would clarify whether someone practices science of something other than science, such as religion, art, or politics.
    There is no set of necessary and sufficient conditions by which to define science. There are good “rules of thumb” that help clarify what science is.”

    So Moreland DID say this without a doubt. The quote is correct.

  36. Manning, with all due respect, I did not say you quoted incorrectly. I said Moreland’s statement is not correct. With the full quote I would dispute that
    “(1) it generates positive and negative test results; (2) It actually explains facts in scientifically standard ways; (3) it can be confirmed by facts”
    Can you or Moreland show me any positive or negative test results predicted by ID? It does not explain facts in scientifically standard ways; and it can not be confirmed by facts, because there are other explanations that will explain the data used by ID proponents equally well.
    I should add that when ID first came out and I read Michael Behe’s two books, I was very much for ID. After I read some criticisms, and started to think for myself, I rejected ID as science although I still accept it as an element of theology.

  37. Ye Olde Statistician

    September 22, 2015 at 2:41 pm

    The philosophical problem with ID is that

    It swallows whole the Newtonian notion of dead matter that must be animated from without.

  38. Ye Olde Statistician

    September 22, 2015 at 2:43 pm

    identify situations in nature that reflect design and not natural acts.

    Why do they suppose that nature does not reflect design? To Aquinas, it was precisely the opposite: it was the dependability of nature that he took as a starting point for his fifth way.

  39. Sander van der Wal

    September 22, 2015 at 3:16 pm

    ID means that there is at least one specific designer, amd maybe more than one. So, how are people going to proof that a particular design is made by this designer, and nog by another one? Think patent fights in court.

    Secondly, how *much* intelligence must the designer at least have had to design, for instance, the water molecule? After all, if you cannot measure that intelligence, houw do you know it was *intelligent* design, instead of *blundering into something workable while having a multi-dimensonal hangover*- kind of design.

    Or does the designer automagically gets all the attributes of the Philosophers God, and none of the Demi-urge ones? Like there must be *exactly one* designer, instead of like a multi-disciplinary team of hand-picked crafts-entities or whatnot?

  40. Bob Kurland:
    We do disagree!
    To answer your request fully, however, would require me to copy significant parts of several books on ID, quite a few pages, even if I managed to abridge them thoroughly. I will list here the key books I have referenced that in fact address your doubts:
    1. Signature in the Cell, by Stephen Meyer 2012
    2. Darwin Doubts, by Stephen Meyer 2012
    3. Intelligent Design, by William Dembski 1999
    4. Doubts About Darwin, by Thomas Woodward 2003
    5. Darwin on Trial, by Phillip Johnson 1993
    6. Intelligent Design 101, by H. Wayne House Editor 2008 (Moreland’s Chapter is here.)
    7. The Edge of Evolution, by Michael Behe (you read this)
    8. Darwin’s Black Box, by Michael Behe. ( and this)
    9. Why Us, by James Le Fanu 2009

    Of these books, I value Signature in the Cell, which is a rather large and complete exposition of ID, and it does address your concerns well. My problem is not only the page count, but also how to abridge any of these works properly, since I am not a worker in this field. They are meant to be taken philosophically as a whole, not a paraphrase, so I am not sure of my own judgment as to how much is important, what has been changed since publication, and what can be left out, thus leaving issues to be coped with further.
    I will work on the abridgements as time permits, as it will be useful to me, but don’t hold your breath! You could, of course, read the best of the books for yourself!

  41. Manning, thanks for the list of books. I’ve also read #3 and #5. I’ll see if I can borrow or get a cheap copy of #1 (it isn’t high on my limited book expenditure) and see if what Stephen Meyer says validates Moreland’s claim.
    Let me say in addition that Moreland does not, if I read his background and position accurately, have that much standing as a philosopher of science–as a theologian and philosopher of religion, yes, but nothing I see in his background qualifies him to speak authoritatively on science.
    Also, my requirements for what constitutes science may more severe than that which the general public holds. I hold with Fr. Stanley Jaki (who had a Ph.D. in particle physics) that science consists of the which can quantitatively tested in replicated measurements. That would include physics (excepting string theory) , chemistry and lots of biochemistry, neurobiology and genetics

  42. @Mannning

    Unfortunately your four criteria that ID meets is also met by nearly every imaginable junk scientific or pseudo scientific theory. Freudian psychoanalysis and Marxism can all easily pass your four ‘tests’.

  43. One point I don’t think gets enough attention is initial conditions. Let me give an example that is intended as a parable. In an introductory physics course, one may start with projectile motion by considering a shell shot from a cannon, looking at the maximum range, maximum height, time of flight, location hit, etc. Then one might look at a cannon on a cliff trying to hit a ship on the sea below, and then the ship on the sea below returning fire. And so forth. In all these cases (ignoring air resistance, etc.) we get a parabolic path that, theoretically, can be extended to the whole real axis of time. In reality, we have to consider the initial conditions of where the parabola actually starts and stops. The initial conditions are not given to us by the general equation of motion itself. They are extra data that must be supplied.

    So, in trying to figure out the age of the Earth, or the material universe, it seems to me that we are extrapolating backward but that the initial conditions are not determined by the equations themselves (e.g., exponential decay functions that are definable for the whole real axis). It seems to me the initial conditions are simply givens.

    If this is so, then a God Who can create the universe can create an Earth with vast amounts of oil under the surface to begin with; He does not have to make oil be the result only of a lengthy process tied back to organic life. If He is the Author, He may begin the narrative at whatever point He wishes to. He may create the light from the stars reaching or nearly reaching the Earth when He creates the stars themselves.

    An extrapolation is an act of faith, isn’t it?

    Thank you for your consideration.

  44. “Initial conditions” . . . . a spear is just about to hit the gazelle although Mr Caveman didn’t throw it, but if creation had begun 3 seconds earlier then it would have left his hand. A dead leaf that didn’t break off the limb of the tree is only 2 inches from hitting the water of a stream – that too – creation would have needed to begin 12 seconds earlier for it to have experienced the break-away. Apply that to absolutely every minute occurrence, not just giant pools of buried oil and astronomic light paths from stars. At the start moment of creation Mrs Caveman was partway through the fifth word of a sentance and those listening had full knowledge of the four and a half words they had never heard and all the 5 minutes of gossip that preceded it.

    Sorry, but it’s a very comic picture. Nothing exists until a snap of the fingers at any moment, and that’s the start frame of the film, and everyone and everything acts as though it wasn’t. John said to Betty, “did you have a good day yesterday?” and Betty says yes although there wasn’t a yesterday, and yesterday there wasn’t a Betty . . . . there wasn’t even a yesterday.

  45. Initial conditions in science don’t get much attention because they are not important. If I want to predict the trajectory of an object using general relativity I only need to measure present conditions. What the initial conditions were, will be completely irrelevant to your ability to predict/calculate the future path.

  46. Ye Olde Statistician

    September 23, 2015 at 8:02 am

    What the initial conditions were, will be completely irrelevant to your ability to predict/calculate the future path.

    Not completely. That only holds in simple systems, with idealized bodies (e.g., ideal gasses, perfectly elastic collisions, perfect vacuum, etc.) These ideals are close enough to the reals that the calculations are not too badly off. But in complex systems, it doesn’t work so well. In disorganized complexity, mathematics must give way to statistics and we get only generalized predictions about average performance. And in organized complexity, very small differences in initial conditions can result in enormous divergences in final performance. It matters a great deal on which side of the bifurcation set you start, because it puts you on one side of the equilibrium manifold.

    To put it another way: If Leverrier had done his calculations fifty years earlier, he would never have found Neptune.

  47. “What he [I, Shack Toms] wrote was that a Machine State (although he wrote it backwards, as State Machine) is a collection of states.”

    Ha! It is always difficult to convey new ideas, because the (beneficial) impulse to read others sympathetically involves trying to put what is said in terms of what they were expected to say.

    No, I didn’t write it backwards. I was actually defining the term I mentioned, because I suspected (apparently correctly) that it might not be familiar to all readers. But I think it is a concept that all readers here can grasp easily.

    You mentioned that digital computers have a PC. The PC comprises some number of bits. The main memory comprises more bits. Input registers, output registers, etc—all more bits. These bits permit a representation of the current state of a state machine, whose possible states are the elements of the powerset of those bits. (I.e. the notion that a bit may be either 0 or 1 is equivalent to the notion that it may be optionally included in a set).

    “The current state is part of the state. It is not something separate.”

    That is contradicted by the definition of a state within a state machine.

    From, e.g. Wikipedia: “A finite-state machine (FSM) or finite-state automaton (plural: automata), or simply a state machine, is a mathematical model of computation used to design both computer programs and sequential logic circuits. It is conceived as an abstract machine that can be in one of a finite number of states. The machine is in only one state at a time; the state it is in at any given time is called the current state. It can change from one state to another when initiated by a triggering event or condition; this is called a transition. A particular FSM is defined by a list of its states, and the triggering condition for each transition.”

    That definition is not exactly equivalent to mine. I didn’t require the set of possible states to be finite, for example. So a Universal Turing Machine is a state machine by my definition, but not by the Wikipedia definition. It has been proved that (apart from considerations of computer speed) a Universal Turing Machine can do anything that any digital computer can do. But all actual digital computers have a finite number of bits, and thus a finite number of possible states.

    Thus, to the extent that a physical system can be simulated on a sufficiently powerful digital computer, a state machine is an appropriate abstract model of that physical system.

    But clearly, by the Wikipedia definition and mine, the current state is a distinguished state within a set of allowed states. By their definition, there is a finite number of possible states, and the state machine is “in” one of them. That notion of “in-ness” is the equivalent of saying that the state is distinguished. There is always exactly one distinguished state.

    In the case of a physical machine, the set of states is the powerset of the bits, and the current state distinguishes a particular element of that powerset.

    The possible transitions between states are defined by the hardware (the programming being simply a part of the state), however software can simulate hardware and thus can, on its own, be modeled as a state machine. A program can have no way to decide whether it is running on actual hardware or a simulation.

    If an invariant abstract state contained the knowledge of whether it was so distinguished, then there could never be a transition to distinguish any other state as being the current state.

    In a sense, they all distinguish themselves as current all the time, and all but one of them is wrong about that.

    The operation of a state machine is a mapping M(x) from some sequential index set, such as the counting numbers, into the set of possible states. The “current state” is then simply the value of M(x) where x is the distinguished current index.

    The sequence of states of the PC in a running machine is a mapping in the time domain, PC(t). The “current” value of the PC is the value it takes on at the current time PC(t=now), but that value, “now”, is not something science can decide. Science can talk about “at time t”, or even about the arrow of time, but it really cannot say anything about which particular time is “now”. That is, it can talk about abstract states and their transitions, but not about the concrete referent of those abstractions in the purely subjective notion of the current state.

    In fact, many Physicists deny that “now” is a meaningful concept except as a synonym for the time perspective from which any particular reference to it happened. That is, they deny that any moment in time is distinguished among all possible times as “the present”. There is only the field of objective properties, whose domain is the entire manifold.

    This is not surprising, because Physics models the abstract states and their transitions, and each abstract state always sees itself as the current state (although only one of the states is correct about that, being concretely, i.e. subjectively, realized as the actual current state).

    What Physics studies corresponds to is the last sentence of the Wikipedia definition of a state machine (“A particular FSM is defined by a list of its states, and the triggering condition for each transition.”)

    Physics attempts to discern the rules governing the state transitions in nature, the “laws of nature”. This can possibly be completed so that all the possible transitions are known. The states, being abstract elements, are distinguished only by the transitions (i.e. by the results of measurement).

    The “God of the gaps” rebuttal depends on the notion that primitive religion (which was also primitive science, by the way) attempted to explain the state transitions as acts of divine will.

    The notion of a divine miracle appears to be widely taken as a state transition that violates the normal rules. I don’t think that is a very helpful definition. By that definition, quantum tunneling would have been a miracle, but it isn’t seen that way now. So the notion of a miracle is more of a stance with respect to such a transition than the fact of such a transition.

    The rebuttal asserts that everything that is knowable about the transitions can eventually be specified without such an appeal, that there is no gap left over that can be filled by anything systematic, such as divine will.

    And it leaves out the notion of the current state. Physics is incredibly useful, and it may even be true, but it doesn’t say much about ontology. The existence of the concrete referent of the abstract model is not derivable from the model.

    That’s an unbridgeable gap.

    There is always exactly one current state, and it includes everything that can be known within that state about the history and future of the transitions. So if a miracle causes a change of state, the evidence about the past and future will change along with it.

    The current state has to be a possible state, so miracles might never contradict science, and even if one did we might not be able to know it.

    The greatest miracle, perhaps, is that anything exists at all, and that miracle happens in every moment, including this one.

  48. Fr. Rickert, you make a good point about initial conditions. Roger Penrose gives an extended discussion in “Road to Reality” about the required initial condition in phase space for the 2nd Law of thermodynamics to hold. (See Chapter 27, “The Big Bang and its Thermodynamic Legacy”). The requirement is an exceedingly small volume in phase space–there’s a good cartoon of his in which God has a needle and is going to poke at a large volume.

  49. Fr. John Rickert:

    The position and velocity at any point on the parabola are enough to determine the whole curve uniquely; you don’t need to know the “starting” conditions.

    It is of course logically consistent for a God to have begun the universe at any instant, with its history in place. But serious people don’t often waste time on what is merely logically consistent, but search for natural and pleasing explanations of the universe that we observe. Invoking supernatural entities with arbitrary powers is not an interesting form of model building.

  50. Fr. John, that was an interesting point you made about initial conditions. Roger Penrose made a similar point in his treatise “The Road to Reality” about the very small volume in phase space that gives rise to the Second Law of Thermodynamics. See Chapter 27 “The Big Bang and its thermodynamic legacy”.

  51. Ye Olde Statistician

    September 23, 2015 at 10:33 am

    The position and velocity at any point on the parabola are enough to determine the whole curve uniquely; you don’t need to know the “starting” conditions.

    Unless you are dealing with a complex system, in which case “starting conditions” are crucial. See “Butterfly Effect.”

    I guess that semester in Boundary Value conditions was wasted.

  52. YOS, you’re quite correct with regard to initial conditions being important under certain limiting conditions. There are interesting simulations and actual experiments of the double pendulum as one example. See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QXf95_EKS6E

    and other Youtube videos on the double pendulum.

  53. swordfishtrombone

    September 23, 2015 at 12:55 pm

    “a God who frames fundamental physics so that variety and complexity grows “naturally” from a unified beginning is much more to be admired and worshiped than a God who assembles, Leggo-like, all the objects of a Young Earth”

    Even greater admiration should be given to a God who creates the universe without even existing.

  54. YOS,

    You are confusing yourself again. The point addressed was over the nature of advanced scientific theories. What are the? How are they designed? What is their purpose? What do they achieve? That is to say, what are the fundamental laws of nature?

    I suspect you are constantly confused on this topic because you see the world in terms of causes and effects, concepts that our advanced scientific theories dispensed with centuries ago.

  55. Ye Olde Statistician

    September 23, 2015 at 8:12 pm

    causes and effects, concepts that our advanced scientific theories dispensed with centuries ago

    Which may be why those “fundamental laws” are floating in the void like so many Ockhamite entities.

    Scientific theories cannot “dispense with” causes and effects. Otherwise, what would one expect if he shot a neutron into a nuclear pile? Or dropped a lead ball from a tower? If scientists have gone down the path blazed by al-Ghazali, whereon the dead body of natural science lies in the House of Sumbission, so much the worse for science. Engineering will go on as best it can, expecting that introducing cause A will in the common course of nature result in effect B.

    http://joelvelasco.net/teaching/120/cartwright-How_the_Laws_of_Physics_Lie.pdf

  56. Shack Toms,

    You started off well, then the last part of the first section of what you wrote descended into nonsense. I don’t know why. Clearly you grasp some of the things you’re talking about. For example, there is no such thing as “powerset” — this is a word you just made up, and left undefined. So you can hardly complain that others aren’t smart enough to understand you when you actually don’t make sense. And this statement: ” the notion that a bit may be either 0 or 1 is equivalent to the notion that it may be optionally included in a set).” Is gibberish as well. I could go on. You begin by discussing machine states, then switch to talking about a “set” which is a different thing. Again, no definitions, so again this is all gibberish. If you want to use words out of context, or words you invent yourself, you need at least to clearly define them up front. Or preferably, read more on the topic and use words that already exist and have agreed meanings.

    Also, as a tip, please don’t appeal to Wikipedia for definitions, meanings, etc. What some amateur has written somewhere on what he thinks is or isn’t correct isn’t helpful. Explain things clearly in your own words. There is no point in trying to establish what basic words mean. If we’re at that level of discussion, there is no point evening carrying on.

    You then go off on a long winded discussion explaining, apparently, in the most convoluted way possible, that there is the machine state and then the states of the individual bits within the state. Using the same word to describe two different things will confuse everyone, and probably yourself. Anyway, what you spent a lot talking about was completely trivial anyway.

    Finally you make a limited amount of sense for a few paragraphs and then go completely off the rails, tossing in references to quantum tunneling, god of the gaps, etc., which have nothing to do with anything you tried to establish previously. The reader at this point is forced to conclude you suffer from an extreme form of attention deficit disorder. Besides your lack of ability to build an argument before getting bored with it and switching topics, you also have the bad habit of inventing words, using words out of context, and in your sillier moments, using completely wrong words. For example, you spend time rambling on about machine state transitions then use the term “state transition” which doesn’t exist in computer science, but is a reference to a certain type of chemical reaction found in chemistry.

    The ‘trick’ to proving yourself smart it to take complex topics and make them easier to comprehend. NOT take simple concepts and make them sound incomprehensible. Pay closer attention to how Dr Briggs, for example, explains difficult concepts elegantly. You can learn a lot from him.

  57. “Scientific theories cannot “dispense with” causes and effects”

    They did centuries ago. Where is cause and effect in the laws of gravitation?

  58. Ye Olde Statistician

    September 23, 2015 at 9:41 pm

    Where is cause and effect in the laws of gravitation?

    If you mean “law of gravitation” only in the sense of a description, obviously nowhere. Yet we can use this “law” to work a fair number of machines and the like. If there were no cause and effect, then the causes input into the machine would not produce the same effects “always or for the most part.”

    However, physical objects help salvage physics from becoming mere mathematics (which we all know only approximate reality). So we might say that “gravity” (as opposed to the “law of gravity”) is caused by mass, and is one of the natural powers of matter, introduced in the dominant theory by means of a Higgs boson (properly, the Higgs field). This causes a bend in the space-time manifold, so that bodies moving through this bend are said to be “attracted”[sic] by gravity.

    So the apple falls because its stem detached from the tree and it is moved by the bent space-time caused by the mass of the Earth. And that mass, in turn, is caused by the Higgs field.

  59. YOS,

    Of course you realize Higgs is just one model … it is not law, so to speak.

  60. Ye Olde Statistician

    September 23, 2015 at 11:33 pm

    Yes, Higgs field is a theory, like quarks and electrons. Like all of natural science, it could be ludicrously wrong and our descendants will laugh at us. However, we work with the material we have at hand, and it illustrates that theories always have a causal relationship buried within them, no matter how much Hume or al-Ghazali may appeal.

    https://thomism.wordpress.com/2015/09/22/active-and-receptive-in-nature/

  61. YOS,

    So you admit you are wrong which is an admirable quality in an intellectual discussion. The pointless ramble about why you don’t like scientific theories that don’t conform to your beliefs serves no purpose. It seems Dr Briggs many discussions on why scientific theories have value when they become successfully predictive has entered one ear and passed through the other without obstruction.

  62. Surface tension is the property of liquids in general (not merely water) that seems most peculiar to me. It makes it possible to have substances with a boundary but no fixed shape, almost as though God said “Let there be a meniscus is the midst of the fluids and let it divide the liquids from the gases.”

  63. Ye Olde Statistician

    September 24, 2015 at 7:39 am

    The pointless ramble about why you don’t like…

    Why are you unable to disagree without a personal attack? Would it not be better actually to show in what way “scientific laws” are grounded, or how they are anything more than simply a description of what happens (in an ideal world, in mathematical language*?

    Or at least name the beliefs with which you claim they are out of conformance.

    Besides, pace Briggs, making successful predictions does not make a theory true, only useful. (At least for instrumentalists.) The Ptolemaic model made successful predictions for over two thousand years. His point is that if a theory makes unsuccessful predictions, the theory must be wrong to some degree.

    *except in natural selection

  64. “it being lighter than liquid water”
    FFS!

    “My God is a Trinity, a personal God, who intervenes from time to time in history, who sustains the laws of physics that make the universe-engine chug along, and who came to us in the person of His son, verified by historical revelation. ”

    Could you have word with your god & ask him to have a cosy chat over a cup of tea with the one that ISIL adherants worship & see if he could ask them not to go around murdering those who disagree with them, as the more recent revelations of his person on Earth say they should?

  65. YOS,

    There is no way to criticize your claims without addressing your personal beliefs because your ‘critique’ of science is based on your personal beliefs. As Kant would say, there is phenomena and there is noumena. We can never truly know what noumena *is* because we have no means to get to *it* directly. Einstein’s conceptualization of the laws of nature may be reformulated tomorrow or centuries in the future, and we may then look at relativity in the same way we look at Ptolemy today. What is critical in all this is that each better theory better accounts for the observations using the fewest (or no) ad hoc adjustments. This tells us we are getting closer to the ‘truth’ but it never tell us how close or far we are from the ‘truth’. If you start looking for what these scientific theories are ‘grounded in’ then you are imposing your emotional baggage over the top of them, which serves no useful purpose whatsoever. Your talk of ‘grounding’ does not enable better theories to come along that make better predictions. The opposite happens. You begin to dismiss the better theories because they are inconsistent with your beliefs about how such theories should be ‘grounded’. You move away from science back into a mental dark age. Your way of thinking is utterly bankrupt which is the reason for why it was abandoned.

  66. Ye Olde Statistician

    September 24, 2015 at 7:13 pm

    because your ‘critique’ of science is based on your personal beliefs

    Which personal beliefs, and how?

    As Kant would say, there is phenomena and there is noumena. We can never truly know what noumena *is* because we have no means to get to *it* directly.

    IOW, mystical woo-woo.

    each better theory better accounts for the observations using the fewest (or no) ad hoc adjustments. This tells us we are getting closer to the ‘truth’

    How do you know that unless you apply a metaphysical principle like Ockham’s Razor?

    If you start looking for what these scientific theories are ‘grounded in’ then you are imposing your emotional baggage over the top of them,

    And if you don’t, you simply leave them hanging in the air as ad-hoc rules of thumb, disconnected from physical reality. Already today, we confuse the physical world with mathematical descriptions of it.

    Your talk of ‘grounding’ does not enable better theories to come along that make better predictions.

    Those “predictions” are the business of physics. The business of meta-physics is to ensure that the physics holds together logically. That’s like saying rules of grammar do not produce better novels.

    You begin to dismiss the better theories because they are inconsistent with your beliefs

    Which theories and which beliefs?

    I much fear that your ad hoc mathematical-rules approach would move science back to a mental dark age in which numerology ruled and mathematical formaulations were thought to “cause” physical reality.

  67. Ockham’s Razor is not a metaphysical principle but a pragmatic one. The more ad hoc assertions you add to a theory the more you reduce its predictive power, sometimes to the point of uselessness.

    Physics informs Metaphysics. You cannot start with Metaphysics and then bend your observations or reject or dislike or complain about the observations and the predictions made by scientific theories, all because they don’t conform to your Metaphysics. You are confusing Metaphysics with Dogma. If you think phenomena and noumena are mystical concepts you are also confusing philosophy with dogma.

  68. YOS, I want to compliment you on your breath of knowledge, your reasoning capability and good humor in the face of, to put it very mildly, non-gracious discourse. It’s interesting that some commentators on this blog make assertions without justification, preen their greater intellectual capacity (I hope I don’t), and yet never acknowledge errors, as for example, in asserting that initial conditions are irrelevant in kinematics. For myself, although such used to get under my skin, I now just ignore them. They have nothing to contribute to broadening my intellectual horizons.

  69. ” never acknowledge errors, as for example, in asserting that initial conditions are irrelevant in kinematics.”

    Wow, did someone here say that? I’ve looked over the comments but I can’t find anything like that. Can you tell me where it is?

  70. Ye Olde Statistician

    September 24, 2015 at 10:21 pm

    Ockham’s Razor is not a metaphysical principle but a pragmatic one.

    Don’t tell me. Tell Ockham.

    The more ad hoc assertions you add to a theory the more you reduce its predictive power, sometimes to the point of uselessness.

    Like the Big Bang became the Big Bang with Inflation, then the Hot Big Bang with Inflation, etc.? The theory seems to be doing okay so far.

    Physics informs Metaphysics.

    Vice versa. Physics, for example, must take existence for granted as a precondition for doing physics at all. It cannot consider existence as such. Similarly, motion, life, causation, and other fundamentals. It addresses — among a slew of other things — what any physics must possess if it is to be a physics at all.

    You cannot start with Metaphysics and then bend your observations or reject or dislike or complain about the observations and the predictions made by scientific theories, all because they don’t conform to your Metaphysics.

    Metaphysics draws no physical conclusions any more than mathematics does; although many people confuse a mathematical conclusion with a physical one. I do object to scientists drawing conclusions that are not scientific conclusions, but dress up in white lab coats to play them in the press releases. For example, when scientists a hundred years ago swore up and down that because Darwinism was true, eugenics followed as a “scientific” consequence.

    You are confusing Metaphysics with Dogma.

    Which dogmas?

    If you think phenomena and noumena are mystical concepts you are also confusing philosophy with dogma.

    No, I consider Kant a mystical woo-woo, although I suppose the polite term is that he is an idealist. The contention that we cannot know anything but our own thoughts is an example of a bad metaphysic that would sabotage the entire scientific program, if scientists ever actually took him seriously. Me, I’m a modified realist, more or less of the Aristotelian stripe.

  71. Bob Kurland,

    “It’s interesting that some commentators on this blog make assertions without justification, preen their greater intellectual capacity (I hope I don’t), and yet never acknowledge errors, as for example, in asserting that initial conditions are irrelevant in kinematics.”

    The discussion was over what constitutes exemplars for advanced scientific theories. Our best scientific theories DO NOT bother with initial conditions at all. You will not find initial conditions as relevant in QM, Relativity, Standard Model, etc. No mistake was made.

    It’s very poor form to intentionally misrepresent what was written in order to attempt to score a point. Now it’s blown up in your face.

  72. YOS,

    All you have done in your reply is to assert your beliefs as facts minus arguments to support your beliefs. There is little to be gained engaging with someone who considers Kant to be a fool but Aristotle a genius. Or for that matter, that every philosopher who wasn’t Aristotle a fool. Clearly there is great confusion identifying fools in such a discourse. You also confuse popular theories with predictive theories, and arbitrarily assume cause, motion, etc., are fundamental to metaphysics. Why? Because your beliefs require it? This is a very childish and churlish world view. If you want to debate grown ups, you can’t ignore Newton or Einstein’s work on the basis that you feel Aristotle’s archaic system of thought is more consistent with biblical texts. Understanding Nature is an agnostic enterprise. When a new scientific discovery is made, you may, if you wish, attribute it to discovering some part of God’s mind or purpose, if that is your inclination. But what you attempt to do is frankly an embarrassment to theists. You are like the cleric who refused to look through Galileo’s telescope because the image presented must have been the work of the devil.

  73. Ye Olde Statistician

    September 25, 2015 at 8:55 am

    All you have done in your reply is to assert your beliefs as facts

    Which beliefs? I have asked for specifics several times and received only “childish and churlish” accusation and name-calling.

    There is little to be gained engaging with someone who considers Kant to be a fool

    I said he was an idealist, rather than a realist. He declared that a man could have no knowledge of the physical world, only knowledge of his own thoughts. That is mystical woo-woo, but not necessarily foolishness. It is certainly a hostile mental environment for natural science.

    but Aristotle a genius.

    I do prefer realism to idealism. But Aristotle was dedicated to the notion that “nothing is in the mind unless it is first in the senses,” and developed a philosophy rooted in empirical experience rather than navel-gazing introspection. He single-handedly invented natural philosophy — that is, he defined a body of knowledge and a set of methods for a coherent study of nature. No one else has ever done so. That strikes me as a reasonably genius-like accomplishment.

    You also confuse popular theories with predictive theories, and arbitrarily assume cause, motion, etc., are fundamental to metaphysics.

    Which theories were confused in this manner? Be specific.
    I did not arbitrarily assume that cause, motion, etc., were fundamental to metaphysics. I stated that they were fundamental — axiomatic– to physics. Since no science can analyze her own axioms by her own methods, these things must be studied by something “behind” the physics; viz., the meta-physics. For further information, see here:
    http://classics.mit.edu/Aristotle/metaphysics.html
    (although one should read the Posterior and Prior Analytics first, probably also the Categories and the Physics.)

    Why? Because your beliefs require it?

    You have still not pointed to any actual beliefs or shown how they compel these conclusions. It’s actually that a realist perspective on things seems far more coherent than an idealist perspective.

    If you want to debate grown ups, you can’t ignore Newton or Einstein’s work

    A good thing, then, that I have not done so. Fortunately, Einstein moved physics back closer to an Aristotelian perspective.

    on the basis that you feel Aristotle’s archaic system of thought is more consistent with biblical texts.

    What Biblical texts have I cited? Be specific. I think you are spooked by things unseen.

    Understanding Nature is an agnostic enterprise.

    Well, up to the point where you actually know something. Agnostic means “not-knowing.”

    But this is trivially true. You don’t need Darwinian evolution to understand auto mechanics, either. You don’t need differential calculus to understand ring theory.

    OTOH, it may be true for “knowing” nature, but less so for “understanding” nature. A different order entirely.

    When a new scientific discovery is made, you may, if you wish, attribute it to discovering some part of God’s mind or purpose

    Attribute “it” means what? What is the antecedent to the pronoun? It seems to be “discovery”. But the discovery is attributed to the discoverers.

    You are like the cleric who refused to look through Galileo’s telescope because the image presented must have been the work of the devil.

    There is no record of such a “cleric.” Galileo’s discoveries were confirmed (and in some cases anticipated) precisely by the Jesuit astronomers at the Roman College. When a telescope was made available to Bellarmino, he used it with great enthusiasm.

    There were examples of physicists, many of them crypto-pagans, who refused to look. There were other who did look and could see nothing, since there is a skill to looking through a telescope.

    There was discussion of whether the images mediated by the instrument were reliable. Due to impurities in the glass, for example, the images were often green-tinted, leading to the old joke about the moon being made of green cheese. Also, the field of view was highly restricted on the Galilean telescope, and a reasonable magnification could capture only a portion of the Moon. There were a number of other technical issues that sowed doubt among the physicists and even the mathematicians (astronomers).

    I have not yet seen a contemporary report that anyone thought the telescope a work of Satan. Perhaps you are working from your prior beliefs regarding the Other rather from historical facts?

  74. YOS you don’t seem to understand what the word ‘realism’ means in philosophy, but if you do (which I doubt), you still need to work out how to ‘discover’ it. To say you ‘know it’ is stating a belief, not an argument. To declare you are realist without a method to ascertain what is ‘real’ is boorishness. What you mean, I suspect, is that you believe in a child-like anthropomorphic view of reality. What you can smell, see and touch is ‘real’. Everything else is not. Since we now know that phenomenological perceptions are highly misleading, to continue to insist on such a simplistic world view is absurd and already disproven centuries ago. That an object set in motion continues in motion until its motion is forcefully stopped, for example, is the way the world really behaves, but has no parallel to what you may believe is ‘real’ by using your bodily senses. Your concept of ‘realism’ is no more than an arrogant and ignorant conceit.

    The point I raised was that Physics informs Metaphysics. It cannot work the other way around. You can change your Metaphysics but you don’t get to pick and choose your observations. Our best physical models have dispensed with cause and effect, and indeed, many other things you ‘believe’ can’t be dispensed with, such as even ‘motion’. (And probably other things you believe in which I’ve forgotten.) There is no ‘motion’ in a virtual reality simulation of the world. Only the illusion of motion. There is no ‘motion’ in a holographic representation of reality either. Which is one physical interpretation of reality. This does not mean that our universe is like this, but it demonstrates beyond dispute that your ‘axioms’ are likely no more than mere fancies. You have completely failed to address this point. When you write that the universe cannot ‘just’ be maths, for example, you fail to connect such statements to arguments. Who said the universe was ‘just’ maths? A virtual reality simulation or a holographic representation of a physical universe is not ‘just’ maths. These are merely your own confusions you are projecting onto things you don’t understand.

    As a final comment, you would be better served to desist from dissecting an argument sentence by sentence. I realise this is ‘popular’ on the internet among the poorly educated. But you strike me as better educated than that (if dogmatic). Arguments don’t exist as individual sentences. Copying the thinking habits of poorly educated people does you no service. Present a rebuttal to what was written, not to fragments of what was written. You’ll have less chance of running off on foolish and pointless tangents that way.

  75. Get a room, guys.

    Just for the record (on the exceedingly minute chance that anyone trying to learn anything stumbles upon this feces-flinging fest), cause & effect, not to mention motion, are as much a part of current physics as they were for Newton, or for Archimedes.

  76. Ye Olde Statistician

    September 26, 2015 at 1:53 pm

    cause & effect, not to mention motion, are as much a part of current physics as they were for Newton, or for Archimedes.

    Certainly. But they are “given”. Physics can learn how motion takes place, as when an apple moves from green to red, or a cannon ball moves from here to there, but she does not study what motion is. Ditto for cause and effect. She can learn that this cause produces that effect, but she does not study what causation is. You cannot prove your own assumptions.
    +++++
    YOS you don’t seem to understand what the word ‘realism’ means in philosophy

    Do you mean Platonic realism or Aristotelian realism? It has to do with the problem of the universals, the mathematicals, the propositions, and so on. Both Platonists and Aristotelians hold that they are real, in opposition to the materialists and the conceptualists. The latter include the idealists, although there is a sense in which Platonists can be considered idealists; but here we mean in the sense of Kant.

    What you can smell, see and touch is ‘real’. Everything else is not.

    It is not clear whether this means “you” as in me or “you” as a general indicator; i.e., whether you are stating this as your own personal belief or ascribing it to me.

    Since we now know that phenomenological perceptions are highly misleading, to continue to insist on such a simplistic world view is absurd and already disproven centuries ago.

    The classical belief was that the evidence of the senses was by-and-large reliable, but that it was often mucked up in various ways. Otherwise, how do we know that what we see through the telescope is a true representation of reality? Or that the reading on the gauge actually is what we think it is? If you change “phenomenological perceptions are highly misleading” to “phenomenological perceptions can be highly misleading,” we can be in agreement.

    It would also be helpful to know what your ancestors actually did teach before you start calling them stupid. That, for example, perceived motion is only relative was known to the medievals. Oresme cited the principle of relativity when he pointed out that the apparent motion of the heavens did not mean that the heavens actually revolved. Aquinas noted that color can only be judged relative to white (which incorporates all other colors in it), resolving the blue dress problem centuries ago.

    That an object set in motion continues in motion until its motion is forcefully stopped, for example, is the way the world really behaves

    That’s what Jean Buridan wrote in the 14th century: et tunc ab impetus quam dedit eis, moventur adhuc, quia ille impetus non corrumpitur nec diminuitur, cum non habent resistentiam.
    “…and then from the impetus [momentum] which he gave to them, they are moving yet, because the impetus [momentum] is neither corrupted nor diminished, unless it encounters a resistance [contrary force].”

    The point I raised was that Physics informs Metaphysics. It cannot work the other way around.

    And the point I raised was that you cannot derive your axioms from your conclusions. You must assume them, a priori.

    You can change your Metaphysics but you don’t get to pick and choose your observations.

    I thought observations were “highly misleading,” and to “continue to insist on” them would be “simplistic.” Do you honestly believe you can have observations at all without some prior assumptions? Suppose you observe the sun going around the earth. As a mere observation, it has no meaning. It must be interpreted.

    Granted, an Aristotelian abstracts the principles from the observations. “Whatever is in the mind is first in the senses.” But that is another pair of boots. (And it doesn’t mean you swallow the observation whole.) The principles are still prior to the observations in the logical sense.

    Our best physical models have dispensed with cause and effect

    And a model is not the physical reality. You can make a reliable model of falling bodies without taking account of air resistance, but that doesn’t mean air resistance isn’t there. And if there is no cause to an effect, how can you ever develop engineering applications? If I turn this key, then that motor starts.

    That’s generally because the models are models of relationships. When I say that Sean and I are brothers, there is no “cause and effect” in the statement.

    and indeed, many other things you ‘believe’ can’t be dispensed with, such as even ‘motion’.

    Dang, and there was Mr. Philips saying “cause & effect, not to mention motion, are as much a part of current physics as they were for Newton, or for Archimedes.”

    There is no ‘motion’ in a virtual reality simulation of the world. Only the illusion of motion. There is no ‘motion’ in a holographic representation of reality either. Which is one physical interpretation of reality. This does not mean that our universe is like this, but it demonstrates beyond dispute that your ‘axioms’ are likely no more than mere fancies.

    No, it demonstrates that simulations are not realities. And if “This does not mean that our universe is like this” then what relevance does it have to the physical world? The heights of adult Frenchmen can be modeled with a normal distribution, but the normal distribution runs off to plus and minus infinity. That doesn’t mean that an adult Frenchman might be infinitely tall. “All models are wrong,” George Box once wrote, “but some are useful; the practical question is how wrong do they have to be to not be useful.” (Robustness in the Strategy of Scientific Model Building)

    The idea that the universe is without motion is even older than Plato and Aristotle. It goes back to Parmenides and leads to the paradoxes of Zeno. So who is being old-fashioned?

    Who said the universe was ‘just’ maths? A virtual reality simulation or a holographic representation of a physical universe is not ‘just’ maths.

    Umm…. Models and simulations are just math. This has been a plaint on the part of Einstein, Hawking, and other physicists. These mathematical models, they said, must always be referenced to the actual physical world. That a term exists (or does not exist) in a mathematical model imposes no obligation on the part of physical reality to go along with the gag.

    As a final comment, you would be better served to desist from dissecting an argument sentence by sentence

    Oops. Too late.

    Arguments don’t exist as individual sentences.

    In what way do you suppose an “argument” exists? Are you a realist, sir? (Platonic or Aristotelian?) Do you see no cause and effect in an argument, as in “these premises cause this conclusion”? Is there no motion involved, as in “this argument has moved me to a new position”?

    Nitschke Gems, this round only
    but if you do (which I doubt),
    boorishness
    you believe in a child-like anthropomorphic view of reality.
    Your concept of ‘realism’ is no more than an arrogant and ignorant conceit.
    These are merely your own confusions
    you are projecting onto things you don’t understand.
    among the poorly educated
    running off on foolish and pointless tangents
    Copying the thinking habits of poorly educated people

    (For the life of me, I cannot understand why you feel driven to vituperation of those with whom you disagree.)

  77. YOS, your non-replies – resplendent with clever sounding but ultimately dumb rhetoric demonstrates the central failing of the dogmatist. Ignore what you refuse to accept. Simply repeat what you believe.
    When you write that models are not physical reality, the stupidity of this claim is that you don’t know what physical reality is. You only delude yourself into thinking that you do. You assert this with the supreme arrogance of the stupid man. There is no motion in a computer simulating motion, which teaches us that motion need not be axiomatic in a Metaphysic. Your response? This proves the model must be incorrect! Why? Because motion is a ‘real’ thing! Why? Because it is! No argument, merely assert with the supreme arrogance of the stupid man.
    How do you establish that something underlying surface appearance is ‘real’? Ah, because God told Aristotle in some roundabout way (mumble mumble). In practice, the only way we can understand physical reality is to build better models that come closer to approximating it. A model that perfectly replicated every observable in every respect would be the thing modelled.
    Your dumb response to this truth is to dismiss it with a hand wave – it’s ‘mere maths’. If I analysed a red white grown in the Rhone region of France and created the same wine using chemicals such that it was an identical to the original wine in every respect, this would be the same wine. It would NOT be a ‘model’ of that wine. Nor would it be ‘mere chemicals’. That is ‘mere’ gibberish.
    A flight simulator; those lights, objects I see, sounds I hear, they are according to you ‘mere maths’. I didn’t realise I could see and hear maths until you pointed that out. If I build a model airplane and fly it outside my home is that ‘mere maths’ ? I realise my model is not a real plane – I can’t fly in it, of course. But this physical object cutting through the air is ‘mere maths’ ?
    What you don’t understand you camouflage with rhetoric. Why not address any of your half dozen or so more dumb claims, and for a change, stay focused on one of them? Hard to know which is more ridiculous, but here is a list of suggestions:
    1. How Cause & Effect are used in QM, Relativity, the Standard Model, our most advanced models of reality. [You have vacillated between admitting this is true or misrepresenting the argument by raising unsolved engineering problems, which obviously don’t represent our best models and are NOT what I was talking about.]
    2. Why Metaphysics requires axioms that are pulled out of thin air, and then become unquestionable truths, forever afterwards. [Empty blather on your part.]
    3. How you can know what reality is, without having to test your understanding of reality (via tools such as modelling). [Although I expect some ‘because God whispered in my ear’ mumbling as usual.]
    4. Why model airplanes, chess playing computers, robots, cameras, telephones, artillery weapons, ad nauseam, which all instantiate models of reality, are no more than ‘mere maths’. [Even a computer model requires electronics and electricity, and other hardware. By way of analogy, music must be played. One aspect of music is, of course, the notes you may record on paper or that reside in the memory of a computer. But the notes are NOT the music. For music to exist, at a minimum, it must be played on an instrument. This is your central confusion and deceit: to pretent that the music doesn’t require the instrument.]
    Now it will be impossible to pin you down on any of your nonsense claims. Your tendency is to assert a claim and then go off onto some sideways ramble that does not address or argue for the claim itself. The reason why you become immediately lost defending your claims is because your claims are beliefs not arguments. Don’t complain about being called a fool when you’re unable to address a single thing I have explained to you.

  78. Ye Olde Statistician

    September 29, 2015 at 9:26 am

    The reasoned arguments asserted (but not argued) by Will Nitzche
    –your non-replies
    –clever sounding but ultimately dumb rhetoric
    –the central failing of the dogmatist.
    –Ignore what you refuse to accept.
    –Simply repeat what you believe.
    –the stupidity of this claim
    –you don’t know what physical reality is.
    –You only delude yourself
    –the supreme arrogance of the stupid man.
    –merely assert with the supreme arrogance of the stupid man.
    –because God told Aristotle in some roundabout way (mumble mumble).
    –Your dumb response to this truth
    –dismiss it with a hand wave – it’s ‘mere maths’.
    –That is ‘mere’ gibberish.
    –What you don’t understand you camouflage with rhetoric.
    –your half dozen or so more dumb claims
    –Hard to know which is more ridiculous
    –Empty blather on your part.
    –Although I expect some ‘because God whispered in my ear’ mumbling as usual.
    –your central confusion and deceit: to pretent that the music doesn’t require the instrument.]
    –Now it will be impossible to pin you down on any of your nonsense claims.
    –assert a claim and then go off onto some sideways ramble
    –why you become immediately lost
    –your claims are beliefs not arguments.
    –Don’t complain about being called a fool when you’re unable to address a single thing I have explained to you.

    And all this asserted dogmatically on your part without a single shred of cited evidence! Where, for example, have I mentioned God? Where have I claimed music can exist physically without without an instrument? Although it is true that the instrument cannot be the efficient cause of the music. It sits mute unless it is played. It is rather (wait for it) an instrumental cause. But wait, you have claimed that there are no causes.

    I never claimed that models are useless. This is only a dogmatic assertion on your part. I have noted that the map is not the territory. But this cannot be the bone of contention, since you admit that “A model that perfectly replicated every observable in every respect would be the thing modelled.” Therefore, by your own account, a model will (and will necessarily) omit some aspect of reality. Such as motion, or causation.

    However, I am aware of a number of models that include such things as “velocity” or “acceleration” (a/k/a “uniform motion” and “difform motion”); for example: F=ma or t’=t/sqrt(1-/c²). How can we insist that the speed of light is a constant unless there is such a thing as speed?

    The fact of the matter is that, as Ockham observed, if we have too many terms in our models, we will not understand our own models. Since models are supposed to help us grasp some aspect of reality, this would seem to be obnoxious. Hence, the models must be simplified. We have to imagine such things as ‘perfectly elastic collisions’ or ‘motion in a vacuum.’ (There’s that word ‘motion,’ again. Shame on Newton!)

    Now some descriptions of reality need not describe motion. You can describe an apple as “smooth, red, shiny, sweet, cool,” etc. and never once take note that it “grew,” “turned from green to red,” “fell from the branch on a dozing scholar’s head,” or similar motions.

    Models are the only way we know of for exploring problems of organized complexity, even if they are not as powerful as the mathematical methods used for problems of simplicity or the statistical methods used for problems of disorganized complexity. Recall the statement of the great statistician, George E.P. Box: “All models are wrong, but some are useful; the practical question is how wrong do they have to be to not be useful.” (Robustness in the Strategy of Scientific Model Building) More on models can be found here: http://tofspot.blogspot.com/2014/03/americas-next-top-model-part-ii.html

    But how do we know if they are useful? Because they produce results congruent with reality. But your plaintive query “How do you establish that something underlying surface appearance is ‘real’?” would seem to indicate some doubt on your part about this physical reality thing. What if you “don’t know what physical reality is” and “you only delude yourself into thinking that you do”?

    Your claim that “there is no motion in a computer simulating motion” seems odd, since electrical currents are coursing through the circuits, relays are flopping, register lights blink, screens display text, printouts ratchet through printers. The components turn from cool to warm, fans spin, components age. There are oodles of motions in the computer.

    Perhaps there is no “motion” in the model, as in the description of the apple, above. No hint of forces (which equate to accelerations) or of velocities (or even other kinds of motions). But this is because we are modelling some limited aspect of reality that does not include its change, such as a correlation between CO2 and mean global temperature. It is an “associative law” not a “causal law.” No wonder it does not address causation! (See Cartwright: “How the Laws of Physics Lie.”) In correlations, we are only focused on the relation between the dependent and independent variables; that is, on the static structure. This is a bit like describing the anatomy of a dog. In sketching the skeletal and muscular systems, we need take no account of the puppy bounding after a ball or a postman.

    This does not teach us “that motion need not be axiomatic in a Metaphysic,” especially since it isn’t. Motion is axiomatic to the Physics and, because it is axiomatic, the Physics cannot examine its nature, only its consequences. What we learn is only that if we don’t need X to examine some aspect of Y, then we do not include it in our model. That does not obligate the real world to toss it out.

    While it is true that we can understand physical reality by building better models that come closer to approximating it. (We assume that a “better” model just is one that “comes closer to approximating” this elusive “physical reality.”) it is not the only way to do so, and physicists like Ellis, Smolin, Hawking, et al. have complained about too much confusion of the model with the reality. Faced with unfalsifiable string theories and multiverses, even some physicists have argued for what Richard Dawid calls non-empirical theory confirmation. “If a theory is sufficiently elegant and explanatory, it need not be tested experimentally” See, e.g., Ellis, George & Joe Silk. “Scientific method: Defend the integrity of physics” (Nature, 16 December 2014)

    You asked whether, if you built a model airplane and fly it outside your home, this physical object cutting through the air would be ‘mere maths’? Of course not. It is a physical object. You are using model in a mildly equivocal sense, equating it with a mathematical model. What would be ‘mere math’ would be to take the equations for drag, lift, etc. and draw conclusions about flight without ever flying a physical object.

    You say that metaphysics requires axioms that are pulled out of thin air. It would be useful to mention one or two of these airpulled axioms, just so we know what you’re talking about.

    You ask how I can know what reality is, without having to test my understanding of reality (via tools such as modelling). As an empiricist, rather than a mystic, I find this backward. How could I claim that a model is “better if it more closely approximates reality” if that reality must be tested against a model!? That is like saying “How do you know that mountain is there without having to test your ‘reality’ against the map?

    You have confused models with their instantiations. What many physicists have objected to is the supposition that what a model produces is necessarily true. Although I am pleased to see you incorporating bits of Aristotelian thinking — that a computer model requires physical matter to instantiate it, for example — keep in mind that any finite set of facts can be explained by multiple theories. The Ptolemaic model worked well for a millennium and a half, and over time became “closer approximations of reality” through the introduction of such mathematical novelties as the al-Tusi couples. Even after the discovery of the phases of Venus, the Copernican model and the Tychonic model produced identical results. (They differed only in the zero point of their calculations.) Hence, a model can produce accurate results without reflecting the actual nature of reality. And hence you cannot demonstrate the truth of a model by appealing to its utility.

  79. YOS, let’s ignore your usual rhetorical gibberish. Which is 95% of what you wrote.

    You claim Cause & Effect are excluded from models because models are not perfect representations of reality. If they were perfect representation of reality, they would include Cause & Effect. This is a typical YOS made-up rubbish statement, pulled out of your nether regions after what must be a few moments of reflection. The last theory of physics that attempted to incorporate Cause & Effect was Descartes Vortex theory, circa, 17th century, which utterly failed to explain anything useful and is an approach since abandoned by all physicists. This is therefore the argument of a fool. Cause & Effect was abandoned in physics because it could not be made to work. Cause & Effect produced inferior physical theories. The exact opposite of your usual nonsense made up claim.

    But let me focus on just one other of your confabulations for now. You begin by back tracking: Originally models were ‘mere maths’. Now, apparently, they are not. And I confused ‘models’ with ‘instantiated models’. A convenient difference that exists in your mind and which you just made up on the fly, as usual. The only confusion occurred when you mixed up something that isn’t a model, e.g., equations on paper, with what models actually are. All models must be instantiated in something. Otherwise they are just collections of symbols. Models may vary in how abstract or concrete they are. But they all require instantiation, even if the instantiation is in a human mind. (Which would only be possible in extremely simple models.) There exists a commonly used word for more concrete models. They are called ‘physical models’. Apparently not only I, but everyone except you, is confused on what a model is. Or I have a better theory: you don’t know what you are talking about and make up nonsense claims when you get stuck. Which is all the time.

    And of course, you end with the vacuous statement of the intellectual simpleton desperately trying to sound ‘profound’. Models can’t prove anything is 100% absolutely true. What a genius you are. Of course, you forgot to add that no argument, statement or claim can ever be 100% proven about anything at all. So your blather pretends to say something but says nothing. It’s of course an attempt at introducing the usual false dichotomy fallacy. Because we can’t be 100% certain, we must be 100% uncertain. Again, an argument used by a fool. The Ptolemaic model made very general and approximate predictions. Even these were not very good and the model required endless ad hoc adjustments. (Circles inside circles.) This was our clue that the model was in error. More specific and novel the predictions — predictions that would, say, require a trillion to one probability of getting it right if was only a guess — cannot be dismissed with one of your brainless hand waves. The test of Relativity with regard to the 1919 solar eclipse, for example. For all your post modernist ‘relativism’ to make even the slightest bit of sense, all tests of a theory must be of equivalent value. But the problem is that they are not. The opposite is the case. Very unexpected novel and ‘unintuitive’ predictions tells us much more about the truth content of our models than those that are closer to coin flips. The irony here, of course, is that someone who believes in absolute but unobservable platonic forms is using the arguments of the relativists to argue for his beliefs, but is too dim witted to realise that the arguments of the relativists attack his own beliefs as well. No, we can’t be 100% certain if a model is a representation of reality. But we can be in theory, 99.999999999999999999999999% certain eventually. That’s good enough for everyone except you, apparently.

    YOS, I’ve seen these tired bankrupt arguments all before. They were not very good 50 years ago. They are even dumber when attempted today. And you’re not nearly bright enough to attempt to pull them off. Stick to teaching children in Sunday school, although I feel sorry for them.

  80. Manning, I’ve finished reading Meyers’ “The Signature in the Cell”. I’ve learned quite a bit about “historical science” but it’s still my opinion that Intelligent Design has a way to go before it can be considered a scientific theory. I’ve discussed this in a post on my blog. See:
    http://rationalcatholic.blogspot.com/2015/09/reflections-on-intelligent-design-good.html

  81. YOS,

    A footnote: address my arguments and statements only. Do you have attention deficit disorder? Can you stay focused on one argument for more than one sentence at a time? For example, who could possibly care what Richard Dawid thinks, understands or is confused about? Of what relevance is what someone else thinks about some side topic, relevant to addressing what you think you believe, or any of my own arguments? Why bring up such distractions at all? It comes across as someone who is out of his depth but desperately wants to convey the illusion of being ‘informed’.

  82. Ye Olde Statistician

    September 29, 2015 at 8:22 pm

    Cause & Effect was abandoned in physics because it could not be made to work.

    How can we account for neutron bombardment creating a chain reaction? Is it just long-standing coincidence? If there is no cause and effect, how does engineering work, where we deliberately introduce or control causes in order to achieve a desired effect.

    How does a new species arise if differential survival does not cause it?

    How can a detective ever solve a case, if the coroner cannot say that the cause of the skull’s fracture was the hammer?

    (It’s not necessarily the case that every causal theory will be correct. There is always more than one theory.)

    It is not true that “Originally models were ‘mere maths’.” Originally, I noted that many physicists were concerned that too much reliance was being placed on the models rather than on empirical reality. Things like quarks, for example, exist as a term in an equation. But there is as yet no physical evidence for them. This is what Hawking and others have meant. The existence of a term in an equation, he said, does not mean there must be a physical entity to correspond.

    You say that “no argument, statement or claim can ever be 100% proven about anything at all”? Betcha that the internal angles of a plane triangle add up to 180 deg., and that SQRT(2) cannot be expressed as a ratio of integers. Or does your skepticism extend all the way?

    The Ptolemaic model … required endless ad hoc adjustments. (Circles inside circles.) This was our clue that the model was in error.

    Actually, no. They were part of the model, not adjustments to it, and a major reason why the Aristotelian physicists disliked the Ptolemaic astronomers. (Recall that astronomy was a branch of mathematics, not of physics. That’s why the job title for astronomers in Europe was “mathematicus.”) They were neither endless nor ad hoc, but based on the then-best available observational data, in the Alphonsine tables. Planets, for example, were observed to sometimes move backward. The epicycle was Ptolemy’s solution: Mars appeared to move backwards at times because it was moving backward. It also sometimes appeared to grow larger and smaller. Moving around the epicycle would explain both phenomena.

    This did not flag any error in anyone’s mind because the Aristotelians insisted that the math was just math: calculations that would conform to the observations. Copernicus’ model actually included more epicycles than Peuerbach’s then-current edition of the Almagest. And it yielded predictions that were no better.

    What killed Ptolemy was the discovery of the phases of Venus by Lembo, Harrior, Galileo, and Marius — all apparently in the same month! These were incompatible with the Ptolemaic (and Gilbertian) model; but they were compatible with the Tychonic and Ursine models as well as the Copernican and Keplerian models.
    http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-_MUPCNejH0I/UhWIml-2L5I/AAAAAAAAAaU/MTS0EzyPxGY/s640/Ptolemaic+and+Copernican.jpg

    Kepler was able to show geometrically that movement along an ellipse was mathematically equivalent to movement along an epicycle on a deferent. But he had neither physical theory nor empirical observation to back him up. The lack of apparent parallax and Coriolis effects had to be dealt with by making ad hoc assumptions.

    The test of Relativity with regard to the 1919 solar eclipse, for example.

    The great irony was that the original data was fudged to make it come out right.

    When you say “someone who believes in absolute but unobservable platonic forms is using the arguments of the relativists to argue for his beliefs,” to whom are you referring?

  83. Ye Olde Statistician

    September 29, 2015 at 8:24 pm

    who could possibly care what Richard Dawid thinks, understands or is confused about?

    You had earlier expressed doubt about the controversy within physics about too much reliance on mere math. You even seemed to think it was something =I= came up with! The citations are simply to lift your eyes from the sliming.

  84. YOS,

    You’re making some effort to stay on topic. An improvement of sorts. Let me address one of your major confusions with regard to Cause & Effect. And then comment on the self contradictions in your understanding of models. We can come back to Ptolemy subject to your ability to constrain your rhetoric and stay focused on reason based arguments.

    Firstly you’ve had to alter the form of the argument because you’re repeatedly unable to address the actual argument. Let’s restate it again. Cause & Effect is not a requirement of a Metaphysic. I demonstrated this by illustrating how our most complex and advanced physical models have dispensed with it. These models are foundational to our understanding of the natural world. And these models inform the structure of our Metaphysics.

    Your first rebuttal was to argue that this is not so because our theories and models are ‘mere maths’. Suggesting with a hand wave that they are mere numbers or some such gibberish. The fact that these theories can predict outcomes that a trillion to one guess could not, is apparently of no import. Obviously this is a very stupid argument, so needs no further comment.

    Your second attempt at a rebuttal was that a perfect theory would indeed include Cause & Effect. There is no logical or rational basis for this statement. It’s merely the presentation of a belief. Hence it can only be observed as such, the actual history of science cited against the claim, and summarily dismissed.

    Your third attempt at a rebuttal was to move away from Metaphysics and raise examples from physics. That is to say, to alter the argument in a sneaky fashion. Now, nowhere is anyone claiming that Cause & Effect are not useful concepts in science. They are essential conceptual tools for any study of natural science where our level of understanding is limited. The more limited our understanding of natural processes (the greater our ignorance), the more useful are the concepts of Cause & Effect.

    Let me use an analogy to illustrate this. I want to be able to figure out how a chess playing computer might beat me in a chess tournament. The best way to discover how this might occur is to consider the strategy programmed into the software. Now, the chess computer does not have a ‘strategy’ – it is just flicking on and off 1’s and 0’s inside its memory space. My assumption that the computer has a ‘strategy’ is a useful fiction, a conceptualization I can use, to understand how the system will behave. given the limits of my brain. The chess computer cannot ‘desire’ an outcome, literally it cannot have a strategy, but since I cannot analyse the the 1’s and 0’s (the machine state) of the system as this is too complex, I invent the fiction of a system having desires and goals. And this tactic works very well. But the computer does not have desires and goals anymore than nature necessarily requires Causes & Effects. We have now reached a point where we can now dispense with Cause & Effect in our Metaphysics, and we have even begun, for the last 300 years at least, to begin to dismiss it from our better understand physical theories. But the greater our ignorance of science — which is vast — the more Cause & Effect as concepts will continue to prove useful.

    Of course you continue to make absurd statements like asserting that some scientists choose to trust models more than empirical reality, a ridiculous self contradiction. We DON’T KNOW what empirical reality IS. The model informs us. If we knew what empirical reality WAS, we would not use models at all. We can only COMPARE models and see which best matches our interpretation of the observations. ‘Empirical reality’ is a fiction you pulled out of the air, to argue against models, when in reality we can only compare models to models. It’s models all the way down. This is why you make no sense.

  85. YOS,

    I did not express doubts about any controversy within physics in relation to models or theories that cannot be empirically tested. I did not raise this topic nor is it relevant to any argument I actually made. I was addressing only your dismissive foolishness that models did not or could not contain truth content, because they were ‘mere maths’. This was no more than one of your standard attempts to get off topic because of your floundering.

  86. Ye Olde Statistician

    September 29, 2015 at 10:24 pm

    Cause & Effect is not a requirement of a Metaphysic.

    Correct. Metaphysics studies the nature of causality, but the latter is not a requirement for Metaphysics. It is a requirement for Physics.

    I demonstrated this by illustrating how our most complex and advanced physical models have dispensed with it.

    Actually, you have not demonstrated this. You have simply asserted it.

    Your first rebuttal was to argue that this is not so because our theories and models are ‘mere maths’. Suggesting with a hand wave that they are mere numbers or some such gibberish.

    I could not have said the part you put in quotes because it is a Britishism…. What I have contended is that the mathematical model is an abstraction from the physical reality, not the physical thing itself. (In good Aristotelian fashion, the formal mathematics must always be embodied in some material object, such as a system of linear equations written on a chalkboard. But this does not make the mathematics not-an-abstraction. Because it is an abstraction, it must necessarily omit some aspects of the physical reality, either by reason of Ockham’s Razor, because they cannot be practically measured, or because they are irreducibly qualitiative. This is simply in the nature of models. In particular, models are limited to those aspects of reality that are metrical. This led Heisenberg to write: “What we observe is not nature itself, but nature exposed to our method of questioning.” That is, the model restricts our thinking to those aspects that have been modeled.

    In particular, the absence of a variable from a model does not imply the absence of the physical property, asnoted in the introduction to Cartwright’s “How the Laws of Physics Lie”:
    Anti-realism about theoretical laws does not, however, commit one to anti-realism about theoretical entities. Belief in theoretical entities can be grounded in well-tested localized causal claims about concrete physical processes,
    Many of your issues and uncertainties are addressed here:
    http://joelvelasco.net/teaching/120/cartwright-How_the_Laws_of_Physics_Lie.pdf

    Consider a typical model: Thickness of a Molded Plastic Part was correlated against potentially important factors involving the material and the molding machine: Film Density, Tensile Strength, Air Bubbles, PreHeat Temp., Plug Temp., Air Pressure, Vacuum Pressure, Mold Temp., Dwell Time. The regression returned the equation

    Thickness = ­ 12.7+0.254 FilmDens+0.00008 Tensile-0.00517 Airbubbles-0.0421 PreHeat-0.00610 PlugTemp-­0.0106 AirPres-0.0282 VacPress+0.00419 MoldTemp-0.0310 DwelTime, with an R² = 86%.

    However, the model was overspecified. There was multicollinearity among the factors. Film Density and Tensile Strength were correlated and Air Pressure and Vacuum Pressure were correlated. After consideration of possible physical causations, the decision was made to drop Tensile and AirPres, yielding a reduced model:

    Thickness = ­ 13.2+0.258 FilmDens-0.00469 Airbubbles-0.0430 PreHeat-0.00635 PlugTemp-0.0182 VacPress+0.00373 MoldTemp-0.0232 DwelTime, which also had an R² = 86%. That is, dropping two variables had no impact on explanatory power.

    But even though the explanatory power was the same without including Tensile Strength and Air Pressure, that did not mean there was no Tensile Strength and Air Pressure. It only means that “Sire, I have no need of those” in order to predict the thickness of the part.
    ++++
    Your claim that “We DON’T KNOW what empirical reality IS” is kinda scary for the future of postmodern science. If we did not know the empirical reality, how could we create a model of it? How could we have “observations” (of what?) against which to compare the models?

  87. Ye Olde Statistician

    September 29, 2015 at 10:26 pm

    your dismissive foolishness that models did not or could not contain truth content

    What a relief. Let me know who said that and we can both pile on him.

  88. YOS,

    Four major errors and confusions in your first four sentences. What a wonderful start! I was speculating you had attention deficit disorder, but now I wonder if it something more serious such as Alzheimers? We have already moved past all these issues you circle back to; yet remarkably add creatively stupid things to say about them. Briefly –

    Metaphysics need NOT be about the study of Cause. A Metaphysic that assumes a block universe or holographic universe, does NOT require Cause. This does not mean that these Metaphysics are correct and others are wrong, only that Cause is NOT a requirement of a Metaphysic. How many times do I have to repeat this and how many times will you ignore this and say something tangentially stupid instead?

    Further it is NOT a requirement of Physics because it is not found in QM, Standard Model, Relativity. Our best theories. Other physical (inferior) theories certainly make use of it. There are no equations of the form C –> (t) –> E in the best theories. There are only mathematical models expressing relations. It should be completely unnecessary to explain this to someone who claims to be able to discuss philosophy: you cannot have a Cause and then an Effect without a time interval inbetween. Otherwise there is no distinction between what is the Cause and what is the Effect. Gravitation assumes action at a distance, for example, where there is no mechanical interaction required – no need for Cause & Effect (stating that this because the theory is deficient or that you don’t like the fact that it’s missing so it must be wrong– are not arguments! They are statements of personal preference), Quantum entanglement dispenses with the time interval entirely — now we have instantaneous action at a distance in our physics. I am not ‘merely asserting’ that Cause is not a requirement as I shouldn’t need to spell this out to you like you’re a child or simpleton. Action at a distance and instantaneous communications had to be introduced into Physics because there was NO OTHER WAY TO RECONCILE THE OBSERVATIONS.

    There is little point complaining about how so many models are imperfect and don’t correctly model reality in every respect. What is the point of this useless ramble? How does it address any of the arguments I put forward?

    Finally, you end on further idiocy by continuing to assume we already know what empirical reality is — otherwise how could we compare it to models? If we already know what physical reality *IS* why bother comparing it to models? Just refer back to the physical reality in front of us. What purpose would models serve? How do you know what physical reality is without having to study it and test what you’ve studied? This is not overly complicated to understand, even for you. A model contains at least some ‘truth content’ when it accounts for all known observations and consistently makes accurate predictions. We cannot say this model is perfect because the model does not model everything that might potentially be modeled, and new observations may be discovered, or existing observations reinterpreted, that may change the assessment of our model. But that’s life. We can get closer to the truth but can never know if we’ve ultimately discovered all there is to discover. We are far from getting close in any of our models to anything like that. Isn’t this epistemology 101? Do I really need to go over such basic concepts with you?

  89. Ye Olde Statistician
    “Although I am pleased to see you incorporating bits of Aristotelian thinking — that a computer model requires physical matter to instantiate it, for example — keep in mind that any finite set of facts can be explained by multiple theories.”

    The term “physical matter” refers to a certain pattern in our sense impressions. The concrete things that I know exist (i.e. the referents of statements about objective reality) are the sense impressions themselves, “physical matter” is an abstract model that seeks to explain their patterns in other terms.

    It is actually (cf Bishop Berkeley) less than an abstract model, it is a placeholder term for an abstract model that can never actually be defined (since we always model attributes, never the substance itself). The term “physical matter” refers to the substance as distinct from its attributes, i.e. the substance that presumably gives rise to the attributes. But we can go on to describe some attributes of whatever the term is supposed to reference.

    The substance called physical matter is not perceived (we perceive attributes) and, as usually intended, physical matter is a substance that does not perceive (although some hold that perception emerges from the operation of its attributes). In general, when the term “physical matter” is used, it implies that the substance that manifests these attributes is divisible.

    However, if the substance is divisible, then there must be a common material cause for the divided parts. There are thus three possibilities:

    1. There is what Douglas Hofstadter called a “strange loop” and the manifestation has no substance and no material cause at all. In this view of reality, the abstract math works by itself with no referent other than itself.

    2. There is an endless chain of divisible material causation with no ultimate material cause. (This possibility sometimes goes by the name “turtles all the way down”, in reference to a William James anecdote.)

    3. There is an ultimate material cause that is an indivisible unity without parts.

    The third choice not only is the nearly unanimous choice of mystics of every stripe, it is also the only choice that seems consistent with the actual existence of our sense impressions.

    Then there is the question of whether subjective awareness is an emergent property of the observed attributes, or the other way around. If it is the other way around, then we can identify the field of subjective awareness with this ultimate, unitary, material cause. But perhaps that seems too big an “if”.

    The notion that a computer simulation must be instantiated on hardware is only begging the question. The explanation it offers assumes that the explanation has been accepted. It attempts to explain the logical model of our experience by kicking the can to yet another logical model that manifests or instantiates our experience, but whose own manifestation is in no way simpler nor more fundamental. The logical model of the manifesting reality is not fundamentally different from the logical model of the manifested reality. It thus is the approach of “turtles all the way down”.

    The logical model within a simulation does not contain the hardware (although it can contain a logical model of the hardware). The “current state” within the simulation is defined by a present moment, which is the same present moment as for the instantiating hardware.

    The instantiating hardware is itself an objective model that must be instantiated, its parts must interact and this interaction is a feature of an underlying common material cause.

    This chain of material causation can be carried as deep as you want, but no matter how deep you go, the notion of the “present moment” is a common feature of all levels and transcends any particular manifested level. At each manifested/instantiated level, the “present moment” is the same as the present moment of the higher, manifesting/instantiating level. The “present moment” never arises as a phenomenon within any of the instantiated logical models, except as it is present in the instantiating logical model (the material cause).

    Thus, it is natural to conclude that this subjective awareness, which defines the “present moment” as the instantiated moment, is in fact the ultimate, unitary material cause. No matter how many levels of simulation there are, the current state is always the state within the single “now”.

    I am suggesting that the fundamental source is the fundamental subject. The source of being is the awareness of being.

    It may, at first, seem a little odd to model the hierarchy of reality with awareness as the ultimate source rather than as the ultimate emergent property, but the miracle is that anything exists at all, it is far less miraculous to take one known existent thing rather than another as being the fundamental source from which the rest of our experience arises.

    Furthermore, by taking a unitary material cause as fundamental, the problem of “why are there physical laws” seems reasonably tractable. The source of this kind of constraint would be the simplicity of the ultimate source. Briggs has alluded to this kind of thing in an earlier comment that cause and effect are actually a single event, interpreted in different ways. Following that line of reasoning to an extreme, the apparent diversity of reality is actually a single event, interpreted in different ways.

    But going the other way around and treating awareness as the emergent property seems hopeless. It is often called (after Chalmers), “the hard problem of consciousness”, but that trivializes the difficulty. The notion of creating awareness from the interaction of non-aware objective attributes is absurd.

    Our experience is always that we have experiences within awareness, the experiences never themselves manifest the awareness. There are many virtual worlds with objective attributes. They never manifest their own awareness, the awareness of the virtual world is always a feature of the real world environment. The notion that awareness is an emergent property of objective attributes is thus nothing but a special pleading, an attempt to explain our awareness using a claimed phenomenon that, whenever put to the test, turns out to be a wrong explanation.

    Whether this notion of material cause is considered monotheistic or non-theistic is, I suppose, a matter of definition. It fits what Tillich would have called “the ground of being”. But many who hold this view do not think of it as theistic, because their definition of God requires a being that is a part of the manifested reality rather than as the ultimate source of the manifested reality. To me that kind of definition isn’t actually monotheism. In my view, monotheism doesn’t assert the unity of God because of a census, but because it is essential to the nature of God (much as there can be but one reality and it would be meaningless to look for more and count).

    It is also a matter of definition whether awareness can exist in the absence of any perceptions, so in that sense it may be believed that the awareness arises along with the manifestation, however I think of such an awareness as latent and eternal.

    As others have put it (I believe Kant is among them), empiricism leads to idealism. He intended this as a criticism, but I think he should have pursued the logic further. Furthermore empiricism leads to an idealism where the manifested reality has a material cause that is both unitary and aware.

    ———————————————————————
    Will Nitschke
    “For example, there is no such thing as ‘powerset’ — this is a word you just made up, and left undefined. ”

    Given a set S, the powerset of S is the set of all subsets of S.

    One of the nine or ten axioms of set theory is that given any set S, its powerset exists. Some people use “power set” instead of “powerset”.

    I have no problem with your ignorance of set theory, that means nothing for we all have different backgrounds. I apologize for assuming it was widely known simply because this blog is often mathematical. But what boggles the mind is your position that if you haven’t heard of a term, then I necessarily haven’t heard of it either.

    “And this statement: ‘ the notion that a bit may be either 0 or 1 is equivalent to the notion that it may be optionally included in a set).’ Is gibberish as well.”

    Again, I apologize for assuming a basic familiarity with set theory. I am serious about that. Nobody is born knowing this stuff, everyone who learns it has to learn it for the first time at some point. I honestly felt it might be insulting to assume I needed to explain it, but I see that this was wrong. It would have been helpful.

    I’ll try to make it more intuitive. Consider a collection of bits, each of which can take on the value of 0 or 1. One way of representing the state of those bits would be to write down the name of each bit, together with its value. But since the values can only be 0 or 1 it is clear that any bit that isn’t 1 must be 0. So an alternate way of representing the same state would be to write down a list of all the names of the bits whose value is 1. We can then consider that list of bit names as a representation of a subset of the set of all the bits. Thus the subsets are each a representation of one of the possible states. These are just two equivalent representations of the same thing.

    As a concrete example suppose we have three bits, named b0, b1, and b2. We could represent a particular state as b0 = 0, b1 = 1, b2 = 1. But another way of representing that same state is as the set {b1, b2}, the subset of bits whose value is 1. The binary representation and the subset representation have equivalent information, they are just two different notations for the same thing.

    A common notation for the powerset of S is written as 2 with a superscript of S. It is motivated by this equivalence between the binary representation and the subset representation of the elements of the powerset.

    You complained about my reference to Wikipedia, which I made as evidence that the term “state machine” existed in the sense I had used it, because you thought it might not be the best authority on the content of the subject. I used the reference as evidence of widespread use, you apparently wanted an authority you could study.

    If the notion of a state machine is still a sticking point and you want a more widely recognized authority as a source, I see that MIT has freely published the notes from an introductory course in computer science. Chapter four of those notes has an introduction to state machines http://ocw.mit.edu/courses/electrical-engineering-and-computer-science/6-01sc-introduction-to-electrical-engineering-and-computer-science-i-spring-2011/unit-1-software-engineering/state-machines/MIT6_01SCS11_chap04.pdf

    The MIT course notes definition uses the term “the state at time t” instead of the term “the current state”. This terminology highlights the fact that the state machine does not know which state it is currently in. The state may know that it will be the current state at time t, but it does not know that the time t is the current time.

    This corresponds to the situation in Physics, the models do not, and cannot, yield the notion of “the current time”.

    ———————————————————————
    It boils down to this, perhaps. Science deals with objective facts. The objective is defined by independence with respect to the observer. This independence implies agreement among observers. Agreement is impossible without communicating the content to be agreed upon. Thus the objective is necessarily limited to that which can be communicated. But reality is different from any description of reality, no matter how complete. This difference, which we might call its “actual existence”, is thus not an objective fact about reality, and is therefore not subject to scientific inquiry. Subjectively it is self-evident (as the experience of the present moment), but it does not yield to an objective model.

  90. “Aristotelian thinking — that a computer model requires physical matter to instantiate it, for example”

    That is not Aristotelian thinking. Nobody seriously argues that stuff happens “in nothing” except perhaps Idealists, and nobody is an Idealist these days. The fact that you can find one thing that all philosophers agree on, and champion that as an Aristotelian success is absurd. “Yes, Aristotle had all these goofy ideas but *this* particular idea is consistent with mainstream thought, therefore Aristotle is still relevant today.” Frankly if that is all you can champion that is an indictment.

  91. Shack Toms,

    “Given a set S, the powerset of S is the set of all subsets of S.”

    Sorry, no. You don’t get to pull a sentence out of its context and comment on that sentence as if it exists alone in space. There is no such thing as a powerset in relation to what you were discussing which was in relation to machine states. In fact, for anyone to have the slightest clue what was being discussed, you would need to define what you meant by Set in relation to machine states. Unless you did that first, you would be writing gibberish. Which is what occurred. This is not about ignorance of set theory but the ignorance of a person pretending to be clever by jumbling together entirely unrelated concepts from different branches of science and maths in order to pretend to be ‘profound’. This works if you’re trying to impress stupid people, but that’s not hard to do. Try to impress clever people and you’ll find that more of a challenge. I didn’t read the rest of your post as there is nothing to be gained from your masturbatory confabulations.

  92. Ye Olde Statistician

    October 2, 2015 at 8:24 am

    Nobody seriously argues that stuff happens “in nothing” except perhaps Idealists, and nobody is an Idealist these days.

    Kant is actually quite popular.

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