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6 Days Ago - 1 Like   #136
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QuoteOriginally posted by photoptimist Quote
...But then someone found that the orbits of stars around galaxies was not right given the amounts of visible matter so now we have dark matter. But is dark matter real or is it a kind of epicycle kludge that is awaiting a better theory?
Present theorising implies dark matter and dark energy to be the vast majority of the universe and familiar matter in the single figure percentages. Kludge seems the kindest way to describe entities unobserved and to date unobservable invoked to explain hideous shortfalls between theory and observable behaviour. Colour me scornful.


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5 Days Ago - 1 Like   #137
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Is scornful azure or blue (to circle back in time a little)?? <insert smart-ass grin here>
5 Days Ago   #138
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QuoteOriginally posted by dlh Quote

The confusion comes when people mistake the model of the universe they've created for themselves, since and before birth, for the real thing. We've all got a sort of mathematical model of the real world in our heads that gives us an interface of sorts to the "real world". The fielder can suddenly run out after a high fly ball (apologies to people in countries that don't have baseball) after having spotted its trajectory for a brief moment; suddenly stop, jump up, and turning in the air, outstretch his glove and snag the ball out of its trajectory. It's a very effective model that allows him to do this. But it's only a model. "Maya", the "wall of illusion", in Hinduism is the error people make of thinking their model of reality IS reality, and thus the only right and true reality. We cannot apprehend reality directly, much less comprehend it. All we can do is try to make our models of reality correspond as closely as we can to the real thing. But people who are blinded by Maya can't do that, because of their axiomatic adherence to the notion that their view of things is truth.
I find the underlined sentence at odds with your description of a fielder successfully accomplishing a skilful feat in the real world. A couple of years ago I took a course on the history of philosophy and the world views offered by philosophers through the ages. All were trying to makes sense of how we know things. Other than Aristotle, so many others had to find some way of validating their worldview that did not depend on their perceptions. They simply refused to accept the evidence of their senses as a primary. Descartes for example used a convoluted reasoning that since he could think, he must exist. In short, nearly all tried to DEDUCT through pure reason (Hello Kant) how we knew what we knew. If I remember correctly, Hume realised his rationalizations while flawless, should be ignored if one wanted to live in the real world.

But our senses are our only direct cognitive contact with reality and, therefore, only source of information. Without sensory evidence, there can be no concepts; without concepts, there can be no language; without language, there can be no knowledge and no science. Aristotle looked to the outside world for answers, St Augustin looked for truth in the Bible.
By undercutting the validity of the senses we cut ourselves off from the real world. Try to disprove the evidence of sensory perception without using data obtained from such perception.

As for "certainty", it is possible - in a given context. Water will boil at x* at a given altitude and pressure. Dropped objects will fall to earth but not if accelerated to 17000 mph. There are no absolute (without context) certainties other than perhaps that nature to be commanded needs to be obeyed.
5 Days Ago - 1 Like   #139
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QuoteOriginally posted by arnold Quote
It looks like the process of concept-formation is, in large part, a mathematical process. If you consider the definition of a concept you can see the similarities.
As the physicist above pointed out we can easily use the languge of math so we use it to find concepts. Math is infinite and most math is not helpful to define concepts. In fact if we do not find the math "pretty" we reject it on faith. Many concepts are understood only through the language of metaphor. Perhaps love, as a concept, can be quantified in some meaningful way, but it can never get to the heart of the meaning. Case in point, the concept, "heart of the matter". There is no nucleus of the matter because in the language of metaphor there is no particular worth attached to the metaphor.

5 Days Ago   #140
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We need to inquire if there Has to be a theory that is unique in that it can make sense of everything perfectly. If there is more than one of these theories can we say one is correct and the other is wrong? If several theories can describe, predict, and formulate everything that every was and ever will be, it still doesn't mean that is reality, only that they correspond perfectly with reality. Is one correct? Are they all correct? Are none of them correct? Does it even matter?
In the 19th century spontaneous generation was a fact. Rats, maggots, fungus, etc. was just spontaneous. It is now fact since Louis Pasteur that this false, except it isn't. Pasteur did experiments and wrote the books history shows you confirmed once and for all clarified that notion. (clarified is another term metaphorically understood) In fact Pasteur had a contemporary who took hay infused bottles and performed Pasteur's experiments. He was meticulous. He performed his experiments at different altitudes and documented this well. His experiments "proved" Pasteur wrong. He did find spontaneous generation in his bottles that used the prescribed method of Pasteur. He wrote Pasteur and he got a tongue stuck out at him. (again metaphor) Well the Catholic leaning of France at the time overwhelmingly credited Pasteur despite the fact evidence showed he was wrong. Pasteur was correct for the wrong reasons. There are in fact bacteria that can with stand boiling but his "germ theory" has stood the test of time because is gets results. We still use germ theory and it has proven sound. It may be totally correct or just useful in an incomplete understanding, or just works.
Is the concept sparkling wine different from champagne? Ask a grape grower, a chemist, and an economist and you get different answers.
How about the colors bleen or grue? Do they exist or not and why is the criterion you use one someone else should?

Are there an even number of stars in the sky or odd? I submit it is all faith.
5 Days Ago - 2 Likes   #141
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QuoteOriginally posted by arnold Quote
I find the underlined sentence at odds with your description of a fielder successfully accomplishing a skilful feat in the real world. A couple of years ago I took a course on the history of philosophy and the world views offered by philosophers through the ages. All were trying to makes sense of how we know things. Other than Aristotle, so many others had to find some way of validating their worldview that did not depend on their perceptions. They simply refused to accept the evidence of their senses as a primary. Descartes for example used a convoluted reasoning that since he could think, he must exist. In short, nearly all tried to DEDUCT through pure reason (Hello Kant) how we knew what we knew. If I remember correctly, Hume realised his rationalizations while flawless, should be ignored if one wanted to live in the real world.
The deductive is seductive -- logic is far cleaner and more absolutely true or false than any possible statement about the natural world. If one seeks certainty, math and logic tied to a simple fixed corpus of axioms are the way to go. Of course the real world isn't listening to the incantations of the rationalists and even logic loses its certainty if one starts looking at complex things like arithmetic and must face Godel's scary theorem. It's more than a little ironic that an animalistic subjective desire for stability lead the rationalists' so astray.

QuoteOriginally posted by arnold Quote
But our senses are our only direct cognitive contact with reality and, therefore, only source of information. Without sensory evidence, there can be no concepts; without concepts, there can be no language; without language, there can be no knowledge and no science. Aristotle looked to the outside world for answers, St Augustin looked for truth in the Bible.
By undercutting the validity of the senses we cut ourselves off from the real world. Try to disprove the evidence of sensory perception without using data obtained from such perception.
This is very very true -- the senses are our channel by which our internal thoughts get information about external conditions.

However, information theorists would categorize the human senses as noisy channels with both stochastic and deterministic sources of error. There are several fascinating branches of science spanning cognitive science, neuroscience, and behavioral economics that delve into the deep discrepancies between Homo sapiens and the fairy tale concept of rational man. One really can't trust one's senses to the last iota which is why some much of science involves building measurement instruments that end up having better repeatability than human senses do.

QuoteOriginally posted by arnold Quote
As for "certainty", it is possible - in a given context. Water will boil at x* at a given altitude and pressure. Dropped objects will fall to earth but not if accelerated to 17000 mph. There are no absolute (without context) certainties other than perhaps that nature to be commanded needs to be obeyed.
"Certainty" is elusive! First, one can heat water above its normal boiling temperature under some conditions (e.g., one exception is a clean smooth-walled container and water free of any bubbles which can easily happen when microwaving a cup of water). Second, a dropped helium ballon or butterfly typically does not fall to earth.

These exceptions aside, science has done a pretty good job of sensing, detecting, and characterizing the many natural phenomena that affect thermodynamic states, physical motion, and many other things. And engineers have become quite adept at applying this scientific knowledge to build things that reliably do what people would like them to do. It's a happy marriage between inductive and deductive techniques.

But any certainty offered by science or engineering comes with fuzzy limits defined by the limits of the science (the span and density of experimental conditions) and the limits of the considerations and approximations used by the engineers. For example Ricoh says its cameras can operate between -10C to 40C(14F to 104F) based on how its engineers designed the camera. However, the basic materials and physics of the camera are likely stable over a broader but unknown temperature range.

Last edited by photoptimist; 5 Days Ago at 05:46 PM. Reason: typos
5 Days Ago - 1 Like   #142
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QuoteOriginally posted by swanlefitte Quote
As the physicist above pointed out we can easily use the languge of math so we use it to find concepts. Math is infinite and most math is not helpful to define concepts. In fact if we do not find the math "pretty" we reject it on faith. Many concepts are understood only through the language of metaphor. Perhaps love, as a concept, can be quantified in some meaningful way, but it can never get to the heart of the meaning. Case in point, the concept, "heart of the matter". There is no nucleus of the matter because in the language of metaphor there is no particular worth attached to the metaphor.
An engineer thinks that equations are an approximation to reality.
A physicist thinks reality is an approximation to equations.
A mathematician doesn't care.
5 Days Ago - 1 Like   #143
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QuoteOriginally posted by photoptimist Quote
An engineer thinks that equations are an approximation to reality.
A physicist thinks reality is an approximation to equations.
A mathematician doesn't care.
Great statement but then explain why mathematicians believe in god much more than biologists.

5 Days Ago - 1 Like   #144
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QuoteOriginally posted by swanlefitte Quote
Great statement but then explain why mathematicians believe in god much more than biologists.
For biologists, the fascinating complexity of life is not only explicable, it's inevitable. Take a nice stew of carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, hydrogen and other trace elements, add various external energy sources, and autocatalytic cycles of chemicals lead to more complex self-reproducing critters. Cook at room temperature for some billions of years in a 500 trillion square meter oven and voila!

In contrast mathematicians are used to intelligent creatures constructing artificial worlds so it's natural they might assume this world is the same (and deeply fear the coming of the cosmic rubber eraser!)
5 Days Ago - 1 Like   #145
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QuoteOriginally posted by arnold Quote
... But our senses are our only direct cognitive contact with reality and, therefore, only source of information. Without sensory evidence, there can be no concepts; without concepts, there can be no language; without language, there can be no knowledge and no science. Aristotle looked to the outside world for answers, St Augustin looked for truth in the Bible.
By undercutting the validity of the senses we cut ourselves off from the real world. Try to disprove the evidence of sensory perception without using data obtained from such perception.
...
That's why I say that our mental models comprise an interface to the real world. We've got a pretty good system for data acquisition, and as you point out, reasonably accurate as far as it goes. But we don't see ultraviolet as bees do. We don't see infrared as pit vipers do. We don't hear things much above 22,000 cycles per second, as dogs do, or below about 18 cps as elephants do. We don't even experience reality in real time: when the fielder snags the ball, it's about a tenth of a second for the fact to become reality in his mind, due to the propagation delay imposed by the nervous system and the time it takes in the brain to process the data so acquired. My "fielder" example is selected precisely because it demonstrates what a marvelously wonderful system of perception and modeling we've got. But it's still just a model, as a plastic model of a fighter plane lacks salient details of a real full-sized one.

By the way, the word, "comprehend" doesn't primarily mean, "to understand" - that's only an analogical usage - it means to fully grasp, literally to wrap one's hand fully around the object. In order for us to comprehend the Universe, we would have to have one-to-one correspondence between elements in our mental database and items of the greater reality, and at both ends of the span between the subatomic and the supra-galactic.

Nothing I've said in any way undercuts the value of sensory perception: the fact that it is acquiring data in an incomplete way doesn't mean that it has no value, simply that we're really only sampling the data in a narrow bandwidth determined by our ancestral heritage and shaping by the changing environment. But the understanding that your worldview is only that, and different from that of every other single person on the planet is the beginning of awareness.
5 Days Ago - 1 Like   #146
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QuoteOriginally posted by swanlefitte Quote
...I submit it is all faith.
Which I take to mean, having confidence that your model of the Universe is sufficiently accurate to be able to get along in the real world, though you understand the uncertainty resulting from the lack of complete information and a somewhat distorted understanding. "Act as though you knew what you were doing, and everyone will assume that you do."
4 Days Ago - 1 Like   #147
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QuoteOriginally posted by dlh Quote
That's why I say that our mental models comprise an interface to the real world. We've got a pretty good system for data acquisition, and as you point out, reasonably accurate as far as it goes. But we don't see ultraviolet as bees do. We don't see infrared as pit vipers do. We don't hear things much above 22,000 cycles per second, as dogs do, or below about 18 cps as elephants do. We don't even experience reality in real time: when the fielder snags the ball, it's about a tenth of a second for the fact to become reality in his mind, due to the propagation delay imposed by the nervous system and the time it takes in the brain to process the data so acquired. My "fielder" example is selected precisely because it demonstrates what a marvelously wonderful system of perception and modeling we've got. But it's still just a model, as a plastic model of a fighter plane lacks salient details of a real full-sized one.

By the way, the word, "comprehend" doesn't primarily mean, "to understand" - that's only an analogical usage - it means to fully grasp, literally to wrap one's hand fully around the object. In order for us to comprehend the Universe, we would have to have one-to-one correspondence between elements in our mental database and items of the greater reality, and at both ends of the span between the subatomic and the supra-galactic.

Nothing I've said in any way undercuts the value of sensory perception: the fact that it is acquiring data in an incomplete way doesn't mean that it has no value, simply that we're really only sampling the data in a narrow bandwidth determined by our ancestral heritage and shaping by the changing environment. But the understanding that your worldview is only that, and different from that of every other single person on the planet is the beginning of awareness.
There is no argument that we all have perceptual limits, that is why we invented machines to overcome them. My point is that having limits doesn't mean we can never know reality because of all the missing data. (not sure if you meant that).
Infallibility is not a precondition of knowing what one does know.
4 Days Ago   #148
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QuoteOriginally posted by photoptimist Quote
For biologists, the fascinating complexity of life is not only explicable, it's inevitable. Take a nice stew of carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, hydrogen and other trace elements, add various external energy sources, and autocatalytic cycles of chemicals lead to more complex self-reproducing critters. Cook at room temperature for some billions of years in a 500 trillion square meter oven and voila!
Um, really? I've been told this ever since I was old enough to hear about the Miller-Urey experiment. Unfortunately, nobody has a real clue how this would happen and et voila is the usual hand-waving explanation as to how it could. The chemistry is unbelievably complex, the extraordinary range of conditions needed to pull off the necessary reactions is many many miles from *cook at room temperature" and almost no-one tells you that Miller-Urey produced some amino acids in minute quantities detectable only by very sophisticated methods: the overwhelming majority of reaction products would come in handy for waterproofing your overcoat or surfacing a road. Next time anyone tells you that fairy story, tell them "must try harder, do it again."
4 Days Ago   #149
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QuoteOriginally posted by arnold Quote
There is no argument that we all have perceptual limits, that is why we invented machines to overcome them. My point is that having limits doesn't mean we can never know reality because of all the missing data. (not sure if you meant that).
Infallibility is not a precondition of knowing what one does know.
I didn't say anything about "knowing"; I said we can't comprehend it. An entirely different concept.

"To know that you know what you know and that you do not know what you do not know, that is true knowledge."

Of course, there are those whose sense of self-importance requires the denial of the separate existence of "reality".
4 Days Ago   #150
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QuoteOriginally posted by StiffLegged Quote
Um, really? I've been told this ever since I was old enough to hear about the Miller-Urey experiment. Unfortunately, nobody has a real clue how this would happen and et voila is the usual hand-waving explanation as to how it could. The chemistry is unbelievably complex, the extraordinary range of conditions needed to pull off the necessary reactions is many many miles from *cook at room temperature" and almost no-one tells you that Miller-Urey produced some amino acids in minute quantities detectable only by very sophisticated methods: the overwhelming majority of reaction products would come in handy for waterproofing your overcoat or surfacing a road. Next time anyone tells you that fairy story, tell them "must try harder, do it again."
Miller-Urey experiment ran for only one week in a 5 liter flask with a tiny spark. The Earth version ran for literally billions of times longer in a volume about 10^20 times larger with much higher fluxes of electrical, UV, and thermal energies plus with an environment with many potential catalysts in volcanic rock, meteoric metals, early clays, etc. Sure, the concentration of the interesting stuff in the Miller-Urey may have been small, but it is proof a reaction rate that would have produced much more substantive amounts over geological scales of time and space.
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