Pharyngula

For Mike Huckabee.

Collins is a good choice for any candidate who thinks sucking up to a religious constituency is more important than getting the best advice about science. For anyone who actually wants advice about science, I recommend RPM.

Comments

  1. #1 David Marjanovi?, OM
    January 8, 2008

    If not, the[n] Collins is right and the universe appears to be fine tuned for life

    Or for rocks. (Lithic Principle.)

    Or for black holes…

  2. #2 David Marjanovi?, OM
    January 8, 2008

    The cracks between the tiles in my shower enclosure are not fine-tuned for the purpose of allowing mildew to thrive

    How do you know? :-)

  3. #3 David Marjanovi?, OM
    January 8, 2008

    What I mean is, no corporeal entity intentionally made the cracks appear and actively ensured that the conditions in the cracks would be conducive to the formation and sustainting of mildew…

    You still don’t know that. :-)

    (Cue Ockham’s War Axe. Ichthyic is right in comment 42, which probably is why it’s 42, but I digress.)

  4. #4 David Marjanovi?, OM
    January 9, 2008

    That is exactly right–saying the universe appears to be fine-tune for rocks is the same as saying it appears to be fine tuned for life. A universe that cannot produce rocks cannot produce life, and one that can produce rocks will produce the building blocks for life.

    You seem not to have noticed my intent. What if life is a marginal unimportant byproduct of the universe reaching its true goal, the production of rocks?

    For black holes instead of rocks, this argument has indeed been made, as you yourself have mentioned.

    Also, you write that “science rightly doesn’t like to accept ‘luck’ as an answer”. That’s wrong. Science of course accepts testable hypotheses of luck all the time. Why did this radioactive decay happen right now? Luck.

    But since there’s really no logical theory of likely existence, you really then can’t say why there isn’t a 23-dimensional field of moving specks instead, etc.

    You have fallen among the scientists. We know full well that it’s impossible to disprove solipsism. Please stay within methodological naturalism — unless you actually want to stay boring.

  5. #5 David Marjanovi?, OM
    January 10, 2008

    hmm, following that line of thought, if there is mostly empty space in the universe, then isn’t the universe fine tuned for nothing?

    Many other values of plenty of constants would have produced just as much nothing, or even a little bit more…

  6. #6 David Marjanovi?, OM
    January 13, 2008

    We can’t even get science off the ground without some presumptive equivalent of values about it’s being regular, lawful etc, as Hume noted.

    Well, that’s true, but this is not a “presumption”. It is itself a scientific hypothesis. If it were wrong — if the universe were unpredictable –, we would notice. This hypothesis is being tested in every single observation (whether of an experiment or of anything else), and it has still not been disproved.

    Philosophy is pretty much helpless in this situation. Philosophy can only tell if an idea leads to logical contradictions. If an idea is merely wrong instead, philosophy can’t tell.

    Take your “why” question for example. Does that question even make sense in the first place? What if there simply is no “why”? I don’t see how philosophy can tell us that. Maybe — maybe! — physics (in other words, science) will one day be able to do that, but philosophy?

    Incidentally, not all multiverse hypotheses are untestable. Smolin’s cosmological natural selection would for example be disproved if we found a single neutron star that’s twice as heavy as the Sun. Furthermore, the principle of parsimony is applicable: from what little I’ve read, eternal inflation explains the same data as cosmological natural selection with fewer assumptions.

  7. #7 David Marjanovi?, OM
    January 20, 2008

    (BTW TM, can you really define “existence” for the material world in a way that doesn’t circularly reference our experiential encounter with it? What is it’s logical status.)

    We’re in science here, not in philosophy. We know we can’t disprove solipsism, but we don’t care. Why should we ever bother trying to define existence? In science, the argumentum ad lapidem is not a logical fallacy.

    Eat that. :-)

    ————–

    Ken (218), thanks for the Monty Python link! LOL! As the Klingon proverb says, “Four thousand throats can be cut in one night by a running man.”

    ————–

    If life is only a veil of tears

    Eggcorn. Vale, as in valley. A deep valley where you can only look up to the mountaintops and sigh…

    the H-R diagram describing stellar evolution

    I know the astronomers call it evolution, but they really shouldn’t. They should call it development.

    —————

    Well, AD enthusiasts have pointed out so long that life-friendliness is not fixated on humans but the ability of the universe to produce life in general

    But, as we keep telling you, this is just as wrong. It’s not just life, it’s rocks in general, and black holes!

    science hasn’t really provided its own explanation of the why of the laws

    And what exactly makes you think that this will forever stay the state of affairs?

    I implied that the reality of ethics means that we actually do have value, and that should be a part of why something producing us exists.

    That doesn’t follow.

    We actually do have value to each other. That’s it. To assert we have value to “the universe” presumes that the universe contains, or has, or is, a consciousness; in other words, you assume the answer a priori.

    Would you have any clue how to make a circuit to feel nauseated, really, the way you could imagine how to program it to play chess?

    Homer Simpson: So far!

    Dennet is a denialist – run really hot water over your hand and tell me what you get is just a bunch of signals or logical processing.

    You could be right, but your pathetic argument from personal incredulity isn’t going to help us find out if you’re right.

    And that is supposed to be a philosopher? Where’s the logic!?!

    I’m not a modal realist because I think G*d selects the universes worth having more or less, but there really isn’t a logical way to define matter in any non-circular way. It’s an artifact of how the cosmic program sets up the regularity of our experiences, IMHO

    Why do you write “think” when you mean “believe”?

    (and as I keep saying, none of us *knows* anything about that mess so why get uptight about it?)

    We don’t know anything about the mess. We only know about the logic. :-)

  8. #8 David Marjanovi?, OM
    January 20, 2008

    Why doesn’t someone explain then why particles decay exactly when they do? Oh, there isn’t a reason they say. Well, maybe the same can be said for other things to[o]

    Indeed. Why should there be a reason for why all those constants have the values they have? I’m not saying research on this shouldn’t continue. I’m saying you shouldn’t simply assume there is a reason and proceed from this — you could end up trying to explain why Napoleon crossed the Mississippi.

    No, wrong. What we’re “in” is what we are actually doing here, which is philosophy regardless of the intentions of the OP or anyone else.

    OK… you are trying to drag us into philosophy, we try to stay in science, and we end up talking past each other. Is that more like it?

    (Hmmm. An “inclusive/exclusive we” distinction would be very practical sometimes.)

    You bother if you want to. Why bother arguing with someone who does want to, if you don’t care?

    Because you act as if we must define existence before being able to talk (meaningfully) about fine-tuning. If I have misunderstood you, please explain.

    I said before, it can be about more than one thing.

    Then why of all possible choices single out life and not mention the others?

    Philosophy, science, etc. have to “get off the ground.”

    What ground exactly?

    It isn’t personal incredulity, it’s the nature of what’s given. Since feelings are the subject, that’s what I refer to, from the subjective viewpoint that’s by definition what it means.

    Er… then please explain why your talking about qualia isn’t an argument from personal incredulity.

    We actually do have value to each other. That’s it. To assert we have value to “the universe” presumes that the universe contains, or has, or is, a consciousness; in other words, you assume the answer a priori.

    First, it isn’t necessarily conscious the way we are to express value, but the answer was not assumed a priori, it came from the values of things like the fine structure constant having values narrowly in the range needed to support life, and with no clear physical argument (again, none of you provide any) for why laws and constants should have to be what they are.

    Here you are assuming that just because science hasn’t found an answer yet it is incapable of finding one.

    You are also again assuming that it’s life, and not rocks or black holes, that is of importance.

    It is then a supposition derived from observation and logical reflection, not an “assumption” out of thin air or emotion, similar in type to a sense that the universe expresses mathematical beauty for some deep reason (you guys really wouldn’t pick on that, would you, because most of you don’t cynically despise that concept?)

    I do pick on it.

    Firstly, mathematical beauty is nothing but mathematical simplicity — and the assumption that the universe is mathematically simple is nothing else than the application of the principle of parsimony, in other words, science. There is no physical or metaphysical reason for why the universe should be mathematically simple; we just start from the simplest possible assumptions and only complicate them when we are forced to. What else than maximum parsimony should we start from, maximum munificence?

    Secondly, my concept of mathematical beauty really does not include tensors and endless heaps of differential equations! ARGH!

    (Tensors occur in the theory of relativity. They are thus fundamental. A tensor is… I forgot… a vector where each coordinate is a matrix, right? Differential equations are all over the place in physics.)

    As for talking about “think” versus “believe”: if we don’t “know” then is there such a big difference?

    I’m using these words for rational vs irrational. If I’m wrong, I prefer being wrong for the right reasons.

    And finally for you, you once said that philosophy only tells us what arguments are logical etc.

    Not quite. I said, or at least tried to say, that philosophy can tell us when there’s a logical error in an idea, which is fine and important. What it cannot tell us is whether an idea that is logically consistent with itself and others is wrong. For that, you need to observe reality — and that’s what science does.

    I’m reminded of Goethe’s theory of colors. He simply refused to accept that white was a composite; to him, pure white was pure white. On this, he built a nice, contradiction-free theory… which is still wrong. We can observe, again and again, that white is a composite. Merely thinking about it doesn’t help.

    Also, what is the point of philosophy of language? Now that the science of language — linguistics — exists, philosophizing about language is just meddling in the affairs of science. Good riddance. Or are there still philosophers of nature running around now that biology has grown up?

    The question is whether further “analysis” would even in principle apply to something qualitative in nature.

    Wait and see. Maybe it will work, maybe it won’t. If we never try (which is what you suggest), we’ll never find out… It was once thought the composition of the stars would forever remain unknown to us. Then it was discovered that simply looking at them (admittedly in a sophisticated way — spectroscopy) was sufficient and much more informative than anyone would have dared to hope.

    Also, that assertion of yours that anything is “qualitative in nature”: it may well be correct, but how is it not an argument from personal incredulity? Please explain.

    Are you saying, the study would explain why sensation actually is qualitative, or just pretending like Dennett et al that it really isn’t?

    Maybe this, maybe that, maybe something nobody has ever thought of (philosophers have a tendency to overlook the fact that their imagination is limited). Or maybe it won’t explain anything. We’ll see. Just wait for it.

    No, whatever is behind this does not have to be complex, to have parts, etc. to express values. Why doesn’t space itself have to have parts to transmit radiation, how can “structureless” particles decay after random times, etc?

    Here’s what you wanted to write:

    No, we don’t know whether whatever is behind this has to be complex, to have parts, etc. to express values.

    This I can agree with. Pretending to know that it doesn’t have to is not defensible. After all, you (like everyone else) don’t even know if your analogy is defensible.

    (Oh, and radiation consists of particles that move through space… and at the same time, they are a “deformation” of space… no parts required.)

  9. #9 David Marjanovi?, OM
    January 20, 2008

    The rest of you didn’t have to follow up, why gripe and then do it yourself and vice versa?

    Because if two ideas contradict, at least one of them is wrong, and we’re interested in finding out which one(s) is/are wrong, and why. That’s a habit scientists have…

    Perhaps these memes started out as behavioral rules which were necessary to maintain the survival of prehistoric clans. For example, as I understand the basics of human prehistory, humans wondered about in clans. It was very important that clan members not kill each other for the overall survival of the clan. Thus creating a set of rules (probably behavioral) were needed to ensure survival.

    This is common to all social animals, not particular to humans. In other words, those who killed each other just for the fun of it have already died out.

    This hypothesis is weakened to the extent that conflict seems to be a prominent feature of humanity.

    Game theory.

    (That’s a branch of mathematics.)

    maybe supported by Einstein’s relativity theory

    How?

    Also, I can’t see how an eternally expanding universe can have circular time…

    I consider the question, what just “ought to exist” of itself, what in effect is the default condition of existence?

    Do you know if this question makes sense?

    Wouldn’t a value of one be more “logical” if the universe was just “about” mathematics?

    No, why? (Apart from the question what it might mean to be about mathematics.)

    (Well, do you really entertain doubts over whether it is really wrong to torture children, etc?)

    No. But I also don’t doubt that this is not a law of physics. I hold that tenet because I have empathy, and it seems I have empathy because it’s innate, and it seems innate empathy exists because it has evolved. If I want to, I can also add utilitarian arguments (if children can be tortured, then my hypothetical children can be tortured, and probably I can be tortured, too… I don’t want that).

    Why would anyone conflate ethics and physics? I don’t get it.

  10. #10 David Marjanovi?, OM
    January 23, 2008

    Taking a random approach to catching up:

    The snake exploits three different sensory systems in relation to prey, like a mouse. To strike the mouse, the snake uses its visual system (or thermal sensors). When struck, the mouse normally does not die immediately, but runs away for some distance. To locate the mouse, once the prey has been struck, the snake uses its sense of smell. The search behavior is exclusively wired to this modality. Even if the mouse happens to die right in front of the eyes of the snake, it will still follow the smell trace of the mouse in order to find it. This unimodality is particularly evident in snakes like boas and pythons, where the prey often is held fast in the coils of the snake’s body, when it .e.g. hangs from a branch. Despite the fact that the snake must have ample proprioceptory information about the location of the prey it holds, it searches stochastically for it, all around, only with the help of the olfactory sense organs. (Sjölander, 1993, p. 3) Finally, after the mouse has been located, the snake must find its head in order to swallow it. This could obviously be done with the aid of smell or sight, but in snakes this process uses only tactile information. Thus the snake uses three separate modalities to catch and eat a mouse.

    Sounds stupid. But how sure are we that we don’t behave the same way? We prefer literally looking for things over relying on other senses even when they would work… that’s probably because our sense of sight has more precision than the others, but snakes smell in stereo…

    Question: Why did the chicken cross the road?
    Buddha: Asking this question betrays your own chicken nature.

  11. #11 David Marjanovi?, OM
    January 23, 2008

    I don’t like random approaches. :-)

    When I say a question makes sense, I mean that the question isn’t wrong. The textbook example of a wrong question is “why did Napoleon cross the Mississippi”: it doesn’t make sense to say that any imaginable answer to this question is right or wrong, the question itself is wrong because it includes a wrong assumption.

    If science deals with finding facts, it can’t even critique its own alternatives or their “sensibility” – this is what all critics founder on, they can’t even critique “metaphysics” without doing metaphysics.

    We know full well that it’s impossible to disprove solipsism. But science isn’t about truth, it’s about reality…

    Science requires one single assumption: that there is a consistent reality (no matter if it only exists in my solipsistic mind!), “consistent” meaning that the world is largely predictable and that unpredictable miracles don’t happen all the time at unpredictable intervals in unpredictable locations etc. etc..

    Fortunately, this assumption (methodological naturalism) is not an axiom. It is itself a scientific hypothesis: it can be tested, and is tested in every single observation (whether of an experiment or of something else). In other words, science is capable of disproving itself.

    It keeps failing to do so, therefore the basic assumption of science is correct beyond reasonable doubt, therefore the assumption that science works is justified. No metaphysics necessary: science hovers on its own bootstraps (mixing metaphors is fun).

    I am not conflating ethics and physics, I am “conflating” ethics and the universe, which does not mean the same thing. Physics is a certain program of study we developed, it has context and applicability to this and that by definition and limitations too of course.

    Fine, physics is the science about the universe, it’s not itself the universe. That’s what you want to say, right? Isn’t ethics the philosophy of how to behave, rather than the behavior itself, too?

    The universe is not a human activity, it is “something” and I can consider exploring a possible relationship between it and ethics, unless you can propose an a priori reason why that cannot be the case.

    Why should it be the case? You do seem to be arguing that moral laws and laws of physics are comparable, and I don’t get why that should be, nor do I see any evidence that it is that way.

    As for “arguments from personal incredulity”: that is how we get the givens off the ground, to prove anything else with!

    I still don’t get what you mean by “off the ground”. Also, proof is only possible in math and logics.

    What if I just didn’t believe in the results of experiments you showed me, you’d have to say “But we just know this is what happened right in front of us” etc.

    No, we don’t “just know” anything other than cogito ergo sum. But we don’t need to.

    - all science and philosophy (data, initial “axioms” that are by definition underived from other axioms – “you have to start somewhere” – just seen by the mind’s eye until we can use them and see how they do) ironically starts from “givens” backed up by an implicit threat of argument from incredulity. You can insert “personal” there to make it seem subjective, but people are making the initial appreciations and claims in any case. Sure, it’s an honor system to some extent, but that’s the breaks. Our experiences and logical intuitions are the actual ground it all derives from, which you appreciate unless falling for the idiocy of naive realism.

    Science does not require naive realism. See above: it’s even compatible with solipsism. It doesn’t have an axiom, it rests itself on a scientific hypothesis. Its method consists of nothing more than applying the principles of falsifiability (“if I were wrong, how would I know, given methodological naturalism?”) and parsimony (where else should we start from — munificence?). That’s it. It really is that simple.

    Sure I don’t know, and thanks for at least not going with those who assume any originator of the universe has to be complex. However, I found precedents to action without structure such as muons, the virtual particles in “empty space” etc. Remember that force fields were once considered absurd since “how could one particle reach out to another at a distance without actually touching it” etc. Hence it is at least credible based on things we actually know.

    I can’t help thinking the analogy is completely spurious. I can’t disprove its applicability, but the burden of evidence is on you. Claiming your analogy is credible is indefensible; we merely don’t know that it is wrong.

    Incidentally, force fields do consist of particles touching each other. For example, photons are particles that carry the electromagnetic force (…in addition to at the same time being waves).

    BTW, pls. tell me about the (presumed) “Order of Merit” you were awarded.

    It’s the Order of the Molly.

    If you want to tell me you look at colored surfaces and don’t realize that the nature of the sensations of color (please don’t tell me you’re a naive realist idiot who thinks that what you experience is just the stuff sitting in front of you) differ[s] in an irreducibly qualitative way, I can’t do anything with your understanding.

    I don’t understand what you mean. Do you just mean that the sensation of red differs from the sensation of green?

    Qualitative is about irreducibly simple nature, not irreducibly complex. It’s ineffable because there aren’t parts within it to distinguish one from another.

    If it’s ineffable — not falsifiable even in principle –, then it isn’t science, and I’m out of here.

    And no, science is not an honor system.

    which I think is just saying that the universe is about something more than nihilism.

    Why do you think the universe is about anything? I submit that “what is the universe about?” is probably a wrong question.

    If it can be real, I say the universe can incorporate it.

    But it doesn’t have to. There’s not even a reason why it should, is there?

    Can’t you imagine justifying a system of ethics on your own long-term self-interest, for example? Does it really have to be based on laws that are comparable to those of thermodynamics?

    OK, as for why it’s “there”, then what is your answer to what just ought to be in existence, the default given in effect? This stuff, really? See my reply to David about this.

    Nobody has any idea on what that might be. Nobody even knows whether the very question is wrong — a possibility that you seem to overlook.

    Something needs to be self-existent

    What about quantum uncertainty allowing particles to come into and out of existence all the time, and yet be measurable in the meantime? Casimir effect?

    ————————-

    Re: This is common to all social animals, not particular to humans. In other words, those who killed each other just for the fun of it have already died out.

    ** I think that assumes natural selection is an all-or-none phenomenon though. Stabilizing selection (if I’m recalling the construct correctly) results in a normal distribution of a particular phenotype. And the normal distribution is the basis of most statistical analyses, so it’s likely the most common form of selection. This should predict that most people are normal, while there’ll still be a few serial killers like Manson, Dalmer, and a few other Hannibal Lecter-like types left in the gene pool.

    That’s right. More importantly, mutations happen all the time, so while certain phenotypes may disappear very quickly every time they appear, they still never stop appearing. Natural selection works all the time, not just once.

    I can’t answer your questions about game theory because I’ve actually read rather little on that topic. I was alluding to the prediction of game theory that a society without a low level of people doing something that brings them short-term advantages and long-term disadvantages cannot be stable.

    Re: Einstein’s Theory

    **Well, I have taken some liberty with understanding relativity theory in a construct I call the clock model, because I simply cannot comprehend the time-is-relative concept if I think about it purely from a linear perspective–it’s more intuitive to me from a circular perspective. Namely, if one imagines moving linearly along the minute hand of a clock, one can literally understand how time can be relative; the velocity of time (i.e., the speed of the minute hand) should move slower closer to its axis of rotation and faster further away from it as a consequence of tangential velocity. I’m guessing that time slows down as one approaches light velocity is a consequence of linear movement along a space-time plane that is actually rotating (probably towards the centre of some hypothetical point).

    Erm… no, that’s not how it works at all. What’s going on is that the speed of light is the same for all observers and that there’s no reason to think that mass as in gravity and mass as in inertia might be different things. Everything else follows from that — by means of (for the layman like me) horrible, horrible mathematics. A math geek once told me it’s so advanced that after looking at two lines of the mathematical derivation every normal person quits — and I’m pretty sure that by “normal person” he meant himself.

    Rotation is a form of acceleration, and therefore not relative. Speed is relative, acceleration isn’t.

  12. #12 David Marjanovi?, OM
    January 23, 2008

    It would be difficult to argue how this research doesn’t demonstrate dualism and causality.

    I don’t see at all how it even just implies dualism. Please explain.

  13. #13 David Marjanovi?, OM
    January 23, 2008

    Your ideas sound also like the basis of string theory, especially the derivative and multiple world concepts that derive from it.

    Whose? Mine? I don’t have a single original idea on physics at all.

    I presume that, because other people are made of the same stuff I am, in roughly the same physical arrangement, they probably work the same way I do. I don’t have direct access to their subjective states, but because I presume that the causal processes must be pretty similar, I can presume that they are like me regarding this feature.

    That’s a nice argument from parsimony, nice enough that I buy it, but nothing more. How falsifiable is it?

    the argument that some physicists use to account for the universe. They say some state of space or perhaps some pre-space popped “the” or at least our universe in a mega analogy more or less to virtual particle production. Well, if such a “space” without parts can do that, regardless of what went into thinking it can, that works against the idea that a “creator” has to be complex.

    More importantly, it works against the whole idea of a creator being necessary. You can stop here, as long as you don’t find an argument for why a creator is necessary anyway.

    I say, if that pre-space or whatever can “express” mathematical elegance or symmetry or whatever, I think it can express other “ideas” as well, as well as partake of “consciousness” (whatever it is in principle as a fundamental, not to be confused with what makes this or that be its contents and process) at least in some unchanging and basic form.

    Since when is symmetry an idea (as opposed to an observable property), what do you mean by “fundamental”, and why do you think consciousness could be one?

    It is legitimate to question wonder why a non-specific, non-predicate abstraction like “exist” should or even could have blessed this particular form and nature of things instead of other logically possible worlds with other laws and constants etc. To me, that would be a ridiculous existential loose end flapping around, like the number “137″ just for no good reason (as a *number* per se …) being reified into brass numerals somewhere.

    Well, I don’t get it. What makes you think the values for the constants observed in our universe are less likely than any others? What makes you think we have the foggiest idea on what a likely number for that particular constant would be? What makes you think you or anyone has an idea on whether 1/137 is a likely value? You wrote 1 would be more likely — why? Are integers somehow special?

    We don’t even know if any of these constants really are constants, i. e. independent from any other constant. All evidence we have on this topic is negative: we haven’t succeeded in deriving their values so far. Why do you think we will never succeed?