0675: "Revolutionary"

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Makri
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Re: "Revolutionary" Discussion

Postby Makri » Tue Dec 15, 2009 1:07 am UTC

Innocent wrote:In the modern technological and highly-specialised world scientists are rarely aware of the work of philosophers; it is virtually unprecedented to find them queuing up, as they have done in Popper's case, to testify to the enormously practical beneficial impact which that philosophical work has had upon their own.


I fail to see what this enormous practical impact should have been. Maybe some individuals changed their outlook on what they were doing, but what exactly are scientists doing differently now than they were doing it before Popper? Because this, I think, is the question relevant to deciding that point.
Also, it is, in my experienced, an acknowledged fact that a philosopher of science should not always trust and take completely seriously scientists own outlook what they're doing. Just ask physicists about whether they think that "electrons really exist" and compare that with the philosophical debate on the issue.

what scientific truth is


The whole SEP article never mentions the term "scientific truth". The only book by Popper I've ever read is Conjectures and Refutations, and it's been a while since then, but I can't remember any definition of (any kind of) truth there, either. I don't think it's necessary anyway, but since you brought up the issue of different kinds of truth, I'd like you to explain them.

why Popper's philosophy is highly relevant to modern science


Why exactly? As I said, I'm not aware scientists don't behave like a century ago. And on a theoretical level, what are the interesting questions about science that Popper's theory offers an answer to? Something that is interesting is this idea of progress towards truth - but as far as I know, the problem of making that work logically wasn't solved in his lifetime. Is there some agreement about this issue now? I don't know how those subsequent attempts by logicians were received, and I don't feel like reading the SEP article about truthlikeness in the middle of the night. Given what you are saying here, you should probably know, so it's easier to just ask. :P
And then there is this induction and theory choice stuff, which also seem to be not extremely relevant to science as it is actually going on, because people don't very often come up with theories out of the blue. This is not to say it's false, though.

Killroy wrote:whereas philosophy in its most popular modern form is simply the process of elevating theories to dogma.


Do you by any chance live in Europe? ;)
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Re: "Revolutionary" Discussion

Postby Brace » Tue Dec 15, 2009 1:11 am UTC

Makri wrote:The only book by Popper I've ever read is Conjectures and Refutations, and it's been a while since then, but I can't remember any definition of (any kind of) truth there, either. I don't think it's necessary anyway, but since you brought up the issue of different kinds of truth, I'd like you to explain them.


Hold on a moment, I'll make a scan of some relevant pages and post them.
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Re: "Revolutionary" Discussion

Postby Makri » Tue Dec 15, 2009 1:13 am UTC

That would be nice, thanks. :)
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Re: "Revolutionary" Discussion

Postby punto » Tue Dec 15, 2009 1:13 am UTC

so what about that Twilight Zone episode where the guy gets into a spaceship and comes back 50 years later, but he's only a couple of months older? From the point of view of his wife on earth, his clock slows down, but from his point of view on the spaceship, her clock slowed down, she should be young and he should be old. What would happen in real life?

(and before you correct me, I didn't actually watch the original episode, I just remember the description from an episode of Gilmore Girls)

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Re: "Revolutionary" Discussion

Postby thesophist » Tue Dec 15, 2009 1:17 am UTC

Kilroy(ZTC) wrote:An "inductive" theory is just a theory which hasn't failed yet. When it does fail, it is replaced. Science is the process of facilitating the expedient failure of theories, whereas philosophy in its most popular modern form is simply the process of elevating theories to dogma.


I see your Karl Popper and raise you a Quine-Duhem thesis.

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Re: "Revolutionary" Discussion

Postby Brace » Tue Dec 15, 2009 1:26 am UTC

thesophist wrote:I see your Karl Popper and raise you a Quine-Duhem thesis.


You're offering a question of methodology as if it is a question of truth.

Edit: Or a question of epistemology. Actually, it seems like you are offering a question of methodology as a question of epistemology as a question of truth. The fail is strong with you.
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Re: "Revolutionary" Discussion

Postby BlueEyedGreen » Tue Dec 15, 2009 1:34 am UTC

Interesting discussion, here, regarding the philosophy of science. I suppose I may as well weigh in.
Science has its philosophical foundations, and these foundations are important and relevant to modern science. Historically, science emerged as a branch of philosophy, before the modern barriers between the two field were put up. To do science at all presupposes a great deal about epistemology and metaphysics, as it relies on the possibility of truth and the existence of an objective physical universe. The scientific method, which is still relevant to science today, is quite philosophical itself, in that it makes assertions regarding the nature of truth and reality, and how to attain fact. Not understanding the philosophy behind this upsets its integral importance to science.
I do not say this in order to suggest or demonstrate science's inferiority to philosophy, or to infer that philosophy is somehow more "pure" than science, or more important. To suggest that science and philosophy are mutually exclusive or in competition, except in instances of philosophical theories that disallow science; or that they are in any circumstance greater or less than one another, would be indefensible. Both are important tools used to discover the truth of the nature of the universe. I cannot see why one should attack another, considering that scientists and philosophers, especially considering how many people are both, (if I am to use a particularly restrictive definition of 'philosopher') since scientists and philosophers are colleagues working towards the same goal of understanding.

Regarding the comic itself, I think we've all seen this occur and know how annoying it is. There's an arrogant little thing in my own philosophy program who's rather like this, beard and all. Philosophy majors offended should notice that Randall discusses philosophy a lot in these comics, so this little jab at the foolhardy, pretentiously-bearded philosopher shouldn't be taken seriously. Science-majors attacking philosophy should note that by talking about this they are engaging in philosophy themselves, and being self-contradictory, and rather a lot like this foolish bearded fellow.

My point: let's all leave academic snobbery aside and try to figure things out, and in the vein of Randal Monroe, do something fun and exciting on the way.
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Re: "Revolutionary" Discussion

Postby aterimperator » Tue Dec 15, 2009 1:37 am UTC

Innocent wrote:
No, seriously; I'm not aware that Popper is of particular significance for any of the natural sciences.
You're seriously like the only one who isn't aware of that.
I've never heard of Popper, let alone "aware" of "particular significance" of him. Obviously this is an argument from incredulity, responding to a post arguing from incredulity, however I think my response is justified by the phrase "like the only one".

Innocent wrote:If you're not trying to discover truth
We're not. We're trying to come up with predictive models that match our observations of reality; essentially, we're trying to approximate reality. I suppose you're from the school of thought that we "discover" the "True" mathematical equations that control reality, but I have no such illusions.

Innocent wrote:if not for people like Popper we wouldn't have sophisticated ways of understanding what makes a scientific theory a good scientific theory— or even what makes a scientific theory scientific in the first place!
It's very simple: if it explains the data, predicts future data, and isn't as complicated as the other ideas that do the same things, then it's a theory; if it is contradicted by reality, is unnecessarily complicated, makes no predictions, or is unfalsifiable, it is not.

JWalker made some pretty good points, though, as has been pointed out, his last paragraph has some flaws/odd definitions.

thesophist wrote:it is important (or at least interesting) to understand why it is that scientist's predictions match observation.
I'm not sure I follow; the predictions match observation because the model we have constructed is a good approximation of how reality actually works, I don't see any more "why" there.

thesophist wrote:Is it because they have been lucky for centuries, or is it because they have somehow gotten at truth; and if they have gotten at truth how and why?
It could have worked from purely trial and error (though it didn't). The fundamental methodology handed down to us from Galileo is "does the prediction match what happens in reality or not?", pure trial and error would eventually lead to better approximations of reality. Obviously we did not actually go about it this way, but I think the methodology itself is enough to answer the "how and why" question.

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Re: "Revolutionary" Discussion

Postby thesophist » Tue Dec 15, 2009 1:40 am UTC

If the method is not valid then we have no reason to believe the conclusion is true. That is philosopher's fundamental concern with science, how do we know the scientific method produces truth?

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Re: "Revolutionary" Discussion

Postby aterimperator » Tue Dec 15, 2009 1:42 am UTC

BlueEyedGreen wrote:[science] relies on the possibility of truth and the existence of an objective physical universe.
I don't think it relies on "the possibility of truth"; I do recognize it relies on an assumption of the existence of an objective universe, however I would argue that is a *necessary* assumption that all functional humans must make.

BlueEyedGreen wrote:in that it makes assertions regarding the nature of truth and reality, and how to attain fact.
I disagree, I am fairly certain that science merely assumes reality exists, and that cause and effect exist; two assumptions I would argue are necessary for all functional humans.

thesophist wrote:If the method is not valid then we have no reason to believe the conclusion is true. That is philosopher's fundamental concern with science, how do we know the scientific method produces truth?
Science doesn't claim to produce "Truth".

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Re: "Revolutionary" Discussion

Postby Brace » Tue Dec 15, 2009 1:43 am UTC

Image
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Sorry for blurriness, hope these are at least somewhat readible and that they shed some light on the situation. They're not from Conjectures and Refutations, but rather from Popper Selections.
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Re: "Revolutionary" Discussion

Postby Makri » Tue Dec 15, 2009 1:46 am UTC

aterimperator wrote:I'm not sure I follow; the predictions match observation because the model we have constructed is a good approximation of how reality actually works, I don't see any more "why" there.


What is the issue here is this: Theory T1 doesn't explain some family of facts X. Then you develop a theory T2 that explains X, but also makes predictions about new facts Y. And it seems to happen rather often that these predictions are true, which is mysterious. There is indeed rather a big debate about this. The "good approximation" argument features in that debate, but it's not like this is "not much". What on earth does it mean for a scientific theory to be "a good approximation of how reality actually works"?! :D

Killroy, thank you very much for the effort! I'm afraid, though, that I can't read it very well. Can you just give me the exact citation? Then I can just have a quick look at it at the library.
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Re: "Revolutionary" Discussion

Postby Brace » Tue Dec 15, 2009 1:52 am UTC

Makri wrote:What on earth does it mean for a scientific theory to be "a good approximation of how reality actually works"?! :D


It means that the propositions of the theory correspond to reality. Read Tarski if you really want to know. The statement "Snow is white" is true if and only if snow is white. At first glance this may appear tautological, until you realize that it is referring to both objects in a metalanguage and objects in themselves. The first instance of Snow is White refers to a language, a set of propositions. IE, a theory. The second refers to the objects Snow and the abstract or relational property White.

In each case, if a given proposition is false then its negation is true. This is the correspondence theory of truth, as described in several sentences by a random internet person. You're welcome.
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Re: "Revolutionary" Discussion

Postby Brace » Tue Dec 15, 2009 1:53 am UTC

Makri wrote:Killroy, thank you very much for the effort! I'm afraid, though, that I can't read it very well. Can you just give me the exact citation? Then I can just have a quick look at it at the library.


Popper Selections, edited by David Miller. The page numbers should be visible enough for the rest, I hope.
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Re: "Revolutionary" Discussion

Postby Makri » Tue Dec 15, 2009 1:56 am UTC

It means that the propositions of the theory correspond to reality.


No, it doesn't. That would mean for the theory to be true, if you're a correspondence theorist. But a "good approximation to how reality actually works" is not a true theory. This is the problematic part.

Popper Selections, edited by David Miller. The page numbers should be visible enough for the rest, I hope.


Thanks!
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Re: "Revolutionary" Discussion

Postby thesophist » Tue Dec 15, 2009 1:56 am UTC

aterimperator wrote:
thesophist wrote:If the method is not valid then we have no reason to believe the conclusion is true. That is philosopher's fundamental concern with science, how do we know the scientific method produces truth?
Science doesn't claim to produce "Truth".


Really? So it's not true that there is this force called gravity which pulls objects together, or that there are these things called atoms which constitute those objects, or that life on Earth evolved over millions of years? If science doesn't produce truth then why are we bothering to do it at all? Let's just pay some fiction authors to dream up a bunch of crazy theories and be done with it.

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Re: "Revolutionary" Discussion

Postby Brace » Tue Dec 15, 2009 1:57 am UTC

Makri wrote:No, it doesn't. That would mean for the theory to be true, if you're a correspondence theorist. But a "good approximation to how reality actually works" is not a true theory. This is the problematic part.


You're right. I misread you, sorry. The pages I made (poor) scans of address this issue. Hopeful you will find a more legible copy in a library.
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Re: "Revolutionary" Discussion

Postby Shackleton » Tue Dec 15, 2009 2:00 am UTC

Protip: Philosophers are also specialists.

You're about as likely to discover something new and valid in philosophy, as an untrained observer, as you are in, say, quantum physics. But I don't think that means you shouldn't try.

What annoys me is that because scientists receive an education that places such an emphasis upon explaining to them exactly how smart they are, they're likely to call you an idiot for not being immediately blown away by their 'original' idea that somehow seems to be exactly the same as a seven-year old's understanding of spark-notes Plato.

(Also, why is it that only the physicists seem to have the slightest idea about the actual purpose of science in the first place?)

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Re: "Revolutionary" Discussion

Postby phlip » Tue Dec 15, 2009 2:02 am UTC

punto wrote:so what about that Twilight Zone episode where the guy gets into a spaceship and comes back 50 years later, but he's only a couple of months older? From the point of view of his wife on earth, his clock slows down, but from his point of view on the spaceship, her clock slowed down, she should be young and he should be old. What would happen in real life?

Have a look at the Wikipedia article on the subject... but basically, the guy on the spaceship has to turn around to come back to Earth, and thus his full trip isn't inertial, the two perspectives aren't symmetrical, and it's not a contradiction for the results to be different.

There's also a thread in the Science forum which talks about this sort of thing... there are a few scenarios broken down to show exactly what's going on, in there.

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Re: "Revolutionary" Discussion

Postby aterimperator » Tue Dec 15, 2009 2:02 am UTC

Makri wrote:
It means that the propositions of the theory correspond to reality.


No, it doesn't. That would mean for the theory to be true, if you're a correspondence theorist. But a "good approximation to how reality actually works" is not a true theory. This is the problematic part.

More precisely, it means that the propositions of the theory correspond to most of reality so far as we know it. Again, you assume we are "discovering" "Truth", we aren't.

Moreover, your main point of contention seems to be predictions of phenomena we haven't yet witnessed; this is rather like being surprised that when, I, who has seen a baseball hit someone with a high impact, and cars hit other cars with high impact, predict similar effects when I see a plane headed towards the ground at a fast speed.

Shackleton wrote:What annoys me is that because scientists receive an education that places such an emphasis upon explaining to them exactly how smart they are
Oh yes, my entire education was me sitting in class with the professor telling me I'm smart. My final exam was a single essay: "explain precisely how smart you are".

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Re: "Revolutionary" Discussion

Postby Makri » Tue Dec 15, 2009 2:10 am UTC

Yes, I can see that there's his definition of verisimilitue on one page. (They don't have the book, but the article is also in C&J, if I'm correct, and that, they have.) But that one is known not to work. (I'm told that all false theories come out as equally far from the truth. I don't actually know why, but I understand it's a formal issue, so I just trust other people on that.)

Also -just mentioning it for the sake of completeness -, the "good approximation" answer needs another component: you have to restrict underdetermination of theories or it won't work because it will be just a coincidence that T2 happens to also make some additional true predictions. It might as well not make any, or false one's, if the class of available theories is not restricted in some way.

aterimperator wrote:More precisely, it means that the propositions of the theory correspond to most of reality so far as we know it.


What on earth does that mean? :P (The philosopher's standard question...) What is "most of reality"? And once you've determined that: What does it mean for propositions to correspond to it?

Again, you assume we are "discovering" "Truth", we aren't.


If you don't care about truth, then you have to forget that whole talk about good approximation to something as explanation for the predictive success of scientific theories. That presupposes a realist attitude.

Moreover, your main point of contention seems to be predictions of phenomena we haven't yet witnessed; this is rather like being surprised that when, I, who has seen a baseball hit someone with a high impact, and cars hit other cars with high impact, predict similar effects when I see a plane headed towards the ground at a fast speed.


When it comes to 20th century physics, however, phenomena of this kind are something to be surprised about. (Special relativity seems to be kind of famous for it.)
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Re: "Revolutionary" Discussion

Postby thesophist » Tue Dec 15, 2009 2:17 am UTC

You scientists need a new strategy. You can't beat philosophers in a debate, that's like trying to beat a fish at breathing underwater. You guys should throw up some equations and graphs that definitively prove your point.

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Re: "Revolutionary" Discussion

Postby Shackleton » Tue Dec 15, 2009 2:20 am UTC

The really good achievements of science I can pull off the top of my head:
Spaceflight.
Nuclear power and weapons.
The Haber process.
Inoculation.
Antibiotics.

The really good achievements of philosophy:
Democracy.
Republics.
Freedom being considered a 'good thing'.
The abolition of slavery.
Human rights.
Non-arbitary law.

Philosophy's a route to freedom or eudaimonia, science is a route to more food, more comfort, and less physical suffering.

If science is being held above philosophy, I think all that shows is that as a society, we have not only given up on, but we are consciously rejecting freedom. Science and philosophy are twin projects - if the science we have today was well applied, we'd probably be somewhere close to eudaimonia.

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Re: "Revolutionary" Discussion

Postby BlueEyedGreen » Tue Dec 15, 2009 2:30 am UTC

aterimperator wrote:
BlueEyedGreen wrote:[science] relies on the possibility of truth and the existence of an objective physical universe.
I don't think it relies on "the possibility of truth"; I do recognize it relies on an assumption of the existence of an objective universe, however I would argue that is a *necessary* assumption that all functional humans must make.

BlueEyedGreen wrote:in that it makes assertions regarding the nature of truth and reality, and how to attain fact.
I disagree, I am fairly certain that science merely assumes reality exists, and that cause and effect exist; two assumptions I would argue are necessary for all functional humans.


I shall clarify because I don't believe that you understand what I meant by "possibility of truth". There are philosophers who believe that there is no such thing as truth, and that science is lame and pointless. Science is a method of discovering the truth about certain things; therefore, it presupposes that there is such a thing as truth, and that this truth can be known. Without truth there can be no science. If there is no such thing as truth, and nothing can be said to be true, than there would be no point to science, nor would its methods be valid. In that science is meant to discover truth, it assumes that such a thing is possible.
The other thing is related to this. For the reasons I have just stated, science assumes that there is such a thing as truth, and, as we both agree, that there are such things as the universe causality. These are in themselves assertions about the nature of the universe, so I don't understand what exactly you disagree with. Perhaps with the word "assertion"?
Now, at any rate, I believe that you are voicing your disagreements with these points either in order to assert that philosophy is irrelevant to science, or for the purpose of academic edification. I have the feeling that the former is the true reason, largely because of your comments about the necessity of certain assumptions to human life, since they attempt to diminish my statements for purposes other than (and contrary to) sharpening them into truer statements. You seem to argue that because we all must assume that there is such a thing as the universe in order to live normally, my statements do not count. I'm afraid, however, that that is not valid logic. I was talking about the philosophical fundamental of science, not what people do in their day-to-day lives. However much science and philosophy have to do with how people live, while an interesting subject, is not relevant to my claim that philosophy is relevant and important to science. Indeed, you are using philosophy and applying it to science; furthermore, we agree about at least some the assumptions science makes about the universe. Both of these facts solidify my point.

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Re: "Revolutionary" Discussion

Postby Shackleton » Tue Dec 15, 2009 2:33 am UTC

thesophist wrote:You scientists need a new strategy. You can't beat philosophers in a debate, that's like trying to beat a fish at breathing underwater. You guys should throw up some equations and graphs that definitively prove your point.


I know plenty of philosophers who are hopeless in a debate. The reason why we look good is that most lay-man philosophy arguments are the equivalents of "the sun revolves around the earth, discuss".

In fact, the arguments of Galileo's time are quite a generous comparison. Galileo was working roughly around the same time as Descartes, and I often find people arguing the positions of, for instance, Protagoras.

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Re: "Revolutionary" Discussion

Postby sninctown » Tue Dec 15, 2009 2:40 am UTC

oh man. good comic. half the time i'm annoyed by poorly-reasoned thought experiments, and the other half of the time I'm coming up with ideas that are brilliant until I learn a little more and realize why they don't work, at which point I post them to halfbakery.com and then forget about them.

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Re: "Revolutionary" Discussion

Postby achan1058 » Tue Dec 15, 2009 2:45 am UTC

sninctown wrote:half of the time I'm coming up with ideas that are brilliant until I learn a little more and realize why they don't work
Welcome to grad school.

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Re: "Revolutionary" Discussion

Postby Brace » Tue Dec 15, 2009 2:46 am UTC

Makri wrote:But that one is known not to work. (I'm told that all false theories come out as equally far from the truth. I don't actually know why, but I understand it's a formal issue, so I just trust other people on that.)


They do if you measure them holistically, which might be necessary. But in this case the problem quickly disappears simply because each iteration of a theory can be taken as a distinct theory. So if a theory which says X -> Y is refuted, this does not intrinsically mean a theory which says X -> (Y v Z) is refuted, unless the evidence against the one can be given as evidence against the other as well. The holistic question is simply a methodological question, and I think in many ways it only serves to replace a short story with a long one.

Makri wrote:Also -just mentioning it for the sake of completeness -, the "good approximation" answer needs another component: you have to restrict underdetermination of theories or it won't work because it will be just a coincidence that T2 happens to also make some additional true predictions. It might as well not make any, or false one's, if the class of available theories is not restricted in some way.


I don't think Popper would disagree with this.
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Re: "Revolutionary" Discussion

Postby WhiskerTips » Tue Dec 15, 2009 2:51 am UTC

Someone had a bad experience? :(

Sure seems like it Randall, that's petty.

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Re: "Revolutionary" Discussion

Postby schrodingasdawg » Tue Dec 15, 2009 3:16 am UTC

As a physics major, I was never taught about Popper or the idea of a falsifiable theory as part of my curriculum. However, I did learn about Popper and the idea of a falsifiable theory from biologists who were offering arguments against creationism and intelligent design. And, to this day, I continue to hear about the importance of falsifiability from both biologists and people who are simply interested in the philosophy of science.

I haven't actually read Popper's works, so maybe I'm not well-informed enough to take a stance, but nonetheless I'm inclined to agree that scientific theories must generally be falsifiable. I'd like to say there should be circumstances in which a theory can be disproved if the theory is not true, else it isn't really subject to experimental scrutiny. I have no doubt that some scientists don't agree with this idea, there are certainly a lot of physicists who continue to be convinced that a grand unified theory must be true, in spite of the continued lack of evidence of proton decay and magnetic monopoles. And technically, GUT hasn't been disproved since the proton always could have a longer half life. Of course, if proton decay is observed, I'll be forced to admit that GUT is right. Because of that possibility, unfalsifiable (but verifiable) theories can't really be positively claimed as untrue. However, I think it is right to be skeptical of them.

So, I think falsifiability is important (and from that, Karl Popper, too), but it's probably not the whole story.

Anyway, there's some crappy amateur philosophy from a physics major. Feel free to tear it apart, philosophy majors.

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Re: "Revolutionary" Discussion

Postby π=3.15 » Tue Dec 15, 2009 3:29 am UTC

phlip wrote:
p=3.15 wrote:
FCN wrote:I just edited my post to make it even clearer, since apparently even some people at this very intelligent webcomic forum fail to understand my brilliance. To simplify and draw a diagram in words, I am standing still. Relative to me, the train is moving left to right at .5c. Relative to the train, the racecar is moving right to left at .5c. So, relative to me the racecar is stationary, which means that the racecar clock must be going at the same rate as my clock. But the train clock is slower than my clock (by time dilation) and the racecar clock is slower than the train clock (for the same reason), so the racecar clock must be slower than my clock. Contradiction.

Relative to you, the race car is going at half the speed of light. s=(v+u)/(1+vu/c^2) v=.5c, u=.0c, so s is still .5c, the velocity of the race car relative to you.

What? No. v = velocity of train relative to you the observer = 0.5c; u = velocity of racecar relative to train = -0.5c. s = velocity of racecar relative to you the observer = (v+u)/(1+vu) = 0. The racecar is stationary relative to the outside observer.

The point is that while "the racecar's clock is slower than the train's" is true in the train's reference frame, it is not true in the (shared) reference frame of the outside observer and the racecar. Because relativity of simultaneity. See also the twin paradox, another paradox based around the fact that time dilation is symmetric - if you and I are moving relative to each other, I see my clock as running faster than yours, but you see your clock as running faster than mine... but because of relativity of simultaneity, this is not a contradiction.


Yeah I realized that mistake about u later. It is simultaneity. See I don't think this comic is about philosophy majors even, or about people who ask questions about the science, it's about cranks who hang on to silly fallacies like the racecar.
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Re: "Revolutionary" Discussion

Postby Ekko » Tue Dec 15, 2009 3:30 am UTC

Was I the only one who thought of Slavoj Zizek when I saw the guy with the goatee?

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Re: "Revolutionary" Discussion

Postby Brace » Tue Dec 15, 2009 3:43 am UTC

schrodingasdawg wrote:Anyway, there's some crappy amateur philosophy from a physics major. Feel free to tear it apart, philosophy majors.


Eh, I think the only real problem with your proposal is that if we make falsification a non-universal requirement, we'll inevitably be tempted to exclude our pet theories and the result will be dogmatism. That's not to say that I would preclude the discussion of theories of a metaphysical nature. Ancient greek philosophy was all metaphysics, and yet in the ionian school, for instance, we see something which might be reasonably called progress. However, if we have two theories of equal content and explanatory power, one falsifiable and one metaphysical, then we should as a rule prefer the falsifiable theory.
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Re: "Revolutionary" Discussion

Postby TalkyMeat » Tue Dec 15, 2009 6:28 am UTC

Just so we're clear here, and sorry if this has already been said, but actual philosophers all hate that guy too.

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Re: "Revolutionary" Discussion

Postby drewster1829 » Tue Dec 15, 2009 7:07 am UTC

Am I the only one who read this comic and thought of the John Gabriel thread?
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Re: "Revolutionary" Discussion

Postby schrodingasdawg » Tue Dec 15, 2009 7:40 am UTC

Kilroy(ZTC) wrote:
schrodingasdawg wrote:Anyway, there's some crappy amateur philosophy from a physics major. Feel free to tear it apart, philosophy majors.


Eh, I think the only real problem with your proposal is that if we make falsification a non-universal requirement, we'll inevitably be tempted to exclude our pet theories and the result will be dogmatism. That's not to say that I would preclude the discussion of theories of a metaphysical nature. Ancient greek philosophy was all metaphysics, and yet in the ionian school, for instance, we see something which might be reasonably called progress. However, if we have two theories of equal content and explanatory power, one falsifiable and one metaphysical, then we should as a rule prefer the falsifiable theory.


I do agree with what you say, but feel the need to say there might be more without certainty of how to articulate it. The GUT example is along the lines of what I'm thinking, however. The theory that the three forces (gravity excluded) are all part of one more fundamental force is not falsifiable. There are many particular models, and particular models can be falsifiable. But the two predictions that all GUT's seem to have in common---proton decay and the existence of magnetic monopoles---can never be falsified, so GUT as a whole isn't falsifiable and we can never prove it's wrong, even if it is. For this reason, I don't take GUT very seriously. But even I have to admit that GUT could be true, and if it is, the half-life of a proton, for instance, will eventually be measured, and thus a verification of GUT is possible. (Well, that'd be one piece of evidence for it anyway. There might be other theories that predict proton decay, then the problem is to find differing predictions between those theories and GUT. But I don't really know enough about QFT to really say much on this.) So GUT isn't really metaphysical, and is still potentially useful as a potential scientific theory in the unlikely case nature is described by such a theory. Though precisely because it's not falsifiable, I think it ought to be put on the shelf and not taken as seriously as it is by some high-energy physicists who think it must be true because of its "elegance".

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Re: "Revolutionary" Discussion

Postby chaospet » Tue Dec 15, 2009 8:04 am UTC

thesophist wrote:Every good scientist is a good philosopher, but not every good philosopher is a good scientist.


I'm just going to assume this is a joke. With very few exceptions, when good scientists attempt to dabble in philosophy the results are laughable at best.

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Re: "Revolutionary" Discussion

Postby Makri » Tue Dec 15, 2009 8:32 am UTC

Kilroy(ZTC) wrote:They do if you measure them holistically, which might be necessary. But in this case the problem quickly disappears simply because each iteration of a theory can be taken as a distinct theory. So if a theory which says X -> Y is refuted, this does not intrinsically mean a theory which says X -> (Y v Z) is refuted, unless the evidence against the one can be given as evidence against the other as well. The holistic question is simply a methodological question, and I think in many ways it only serves to replace a short story with a long one.


Problably for lack of knowledge about the initial problem people pointed out with this definition, I have no idea what it means what you're saying. :(

I don't think Popper would disagree with this.


Perhaps not. I didn't even say it with Popper in mind, actually.
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Re: "Revolutionary" Discussion

Postby ReinSeiun » Tue Dec 15, 2009 10:00 am UTC

To any philosopher in this thread who is complaining about A) Science or B) Truth, I would deeply appreciate it if you found a copy of William James' lectures on pragmatism and truth. You seem to be using a definition of Truth that has been out of style since the American Civil War.

"Objective" Truth (what most my fellow philosophers seem to be talking about) is either A) unknowable or B) does not exist, because human knowledge is incomplete by definition.

All we can do is find out what works, then replace those methods when we find something that works better. Exactly what science is rigorously doing. This is what people like to call Truth, and the layman convinces himself that it is same thing as reality, when it is not.

But philosophy still has its role. Our job is to build conjecture, not truth, on things that are currently or inherently unfalsifiable, which is where the scientific method breaks down. Morals, human behavior, religion and meaning are some good examples. And if something -is- scientifically falsifiable, we really, really should get the hell out of the way, because scientists are better equipped to do the dirty work of verification than we are.

If you are interested, you can actually see this give and take between philosophy and science in a real world, contemporary example. There is a powerful feud going on between Philosophers of Mind and Psychologists. The two camps really go at one another.

Because the Science of Psychology is still new, the Philosophers of Mind do not fully trust that the theories of Psychologists are falsifiable with current technology. And of course, the Psychologists think that the Philosophers of Mind are getting in the way, and only building conjecture, not hard observations. Both sides of the argument have merit, and eventually, Psychology will be a fully fledged science and Philosophy of Mind will be obsolete - but likely not for a very long time.

You could argue that the Philosophy of Mind old guard is just trying to defend its turf, but you could say the same thing about the established scientists who rigorously analyze new hypotheses before they're accepted as theories.

I firmly believe Psychology will be better off for the trouble Philosophers of Mind have been causing it.

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Re: "Revolutionary" Discussion

Postby philip1201 » Tue Dec 15, 2009 10:42 am UTC

Cpt.DaveyJones wrote:@the guys with the racecar on train&@philip1201
Imagine there's spaceships that move with 0.6c.
I sit in one, you sit in one. I accelerate into one direction, you accelerate into the other direction.
Now, from your point of view, with what speed am I moving away from you?
AFAIK The adding speeds theorem applies when your actually within an object that moves with light speed, since time and space are bent.
As object in the spacecraft, my time would be slowed down too, but that would actually accelerate the other thing even more, wouldn't it?
Another thing:
If such a spaceship would pass our planet, then from the point of the pilot, he could be standing still and we are the ones moving with 0.6c. For us it's the exact opposite.
What will happen?


If you draw a Minkovski diagram, you'll see that the speeds add up just as I described: you'll be moving away from me at 0.88c .

Time and space don't bend in objects because of their speed, but because of their mass. In this case, the masses are negligible, so space and time don't bend. They just look differently. And that's depending on the observer, and not on the location of the observed. So it doesn't matter whether two objects are moving relative to each other, relative to a different observer, or whatever. If you're working in one dimension, you always have to add up speeds like that.

What will happen is that both observers will observe that which they are moving through as shorter. This means that earth (and the rest of the universe) will see the spaceship as shorter, and the spaceship will see the earth and the universe as shorter. As such, the person in the spaceship will pass the earth in less time than expected, according to himself. (when moving at 0.8c , the earth will look 5/3 shorter than usual, and therefore pass in 5/3 the time).
The person on earth however will see the person on the spaceship going slower, and when looking at the clock there, it will see the time in the spaceship as slower. The person on earth would count 5/3 of the time required to pass the earth, when looking at the time on the spaceship. Therefore, the person on earth will see the person on the spaceship see the earth pass at 5/3 the time. IT WORKS!

Reversedly, the exact same thing happens. If you truly don't know, draw some Minkowski diagrams of the situation(s) and see what happens and what both people see happen. If you're not, good day and thanks for making me think about it again.


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