Jump to content


Senior Members
  • Posts

  • Joined

  • Last visited

Everything posted by Davy_Jones

  1. Don't the witchhunters in the thread have other witches to burn?
  2. Oh, I know QM is a major headache to the realist. She extrapolates from quantum reality to macro-reality and gets caught up in all kinds of paradoxes and puzzles. The question I'm asking here, though, is: Why should the scientific antirealist (like almost everyone here it seems), if he is a commonsense realist too, squirm with questions about the reality of soccer balls (as you were doing, I think)? After all, the scientific antirealist doesn't believe all that quantum stuff is true. It's just a model. Seems to me the obvious answer he (the latter) should give is "Of course soccer balls are real. Why would you ask such a silly question?".
  3. I'd like to direct the following to @Markus Hanke and @TheVat with regards your recent remarks on the difficulties that quantum weirdness imposes on ascribing reality to things like soccer balls and chimpanzees, say, while expressing my thanks once again for the stimulating input. Let's start with a refresher of Schrödinger and his fuzzy pussy, which no doubt everyone here is familiar with already, but with an emphasis on the realism-antirealism implications. Correct me if I butcher the physics or the history, gentlemen, as is quite likely. Schrödinger, along with Einstein, given their realist proclivities, were deeply dissatisfied with the dominant Copenhagen antirealist understanding of QM. Erwin, therefore, proposed his famous thought experiment in order to expose what he and Einstein took to be the inadequacy or incompleteness of the orthodox interpretation. A classic reductio ad absurdum. So what Schrödinger said was: "Hey guys, if what you're telling us is true, and that's all there is to the story, and we extrapolate from the micro to the macro realm, then we end up with absurd results . . . like a cat that is neither alive nor dead till someone takes a peek inside the box; a cat that, prior to being examined, exists in a superposition of . . . er, eigenvalues and wave functions or whatever." I'm not a physicist -- obviously! Feel free to substitute in the correct jargon. But note that dreadful word "true" in the first sentence. The scientific antirealist--Bohr, Heisenberg, and just about everyone here it seems--almost by definition is a person who does not think scientific theories, or at least those that posit unobservables, are true. The scientific antirealist, almost by definition, is a person who does not believe in the reality of unobservables like eigenvalues and wave functions and all the rest. As I've been told time and time again by the antirealistically inclined physicists here, "We don't deal with truth and reality. We are not even trying to generate true theories or describe (unobservable) reality. All we do is construct models which, to varying degrees, yield accurate desciptions of what can be observed. Our models are not to be taken as representations of reality; our models are not to be considered true or false. They are like maps, and a map cannot be true or false." And this is indeed a fairly standard instrumentalist-antirealist manifesto. It seems to me problems and paradoxes with extrapolating from the micro to the macro level only arise if one assumes a realist stance, as Schrödinger and Einstein did. From their perspective, if it's true in the quantum world then, by extrapolation, it must be true for the world tout court; true in the world as a whole . . . and the quantum fuzzy weirdness applies to trees as it does to quarks. But the antirealist (apparently just about everyone here) does not think it's true at the quantum level; it's just a model, not to be taken literally. The antirealist may not address questions about the reality of unobservable theoretical posits. It does not follow, however, that Niels Bohr, say, would deny reality to a very observable angry chimp banging on his windshield. Einstein, the realist, tossed and turned at night wondering whether the Moon ceases to have a determinate existence--a mind-independent existence--when no one is looking . . . as QM realistically interpreted implies (as far as I understand). Bohr, meanwhile, who did not interpret the theory realistically, presumably slept like a log. So my question for you guys is: Why should the reality of chimpanzees, rocks, soccer balls, and even Frank Sinatra cause you any sleepless nights . . . unless you believe quantum physics, or any science which posits unobservables, is literally true? What's keeping you awake? Shouldn't your position, the position of any scientific antirealist who is also a commonsense realist, be: "Of course the Moon and soccer balls and enraged chimpanzees are real" -- you "But what about quantum physics?" - some pest "Oh, that's just a model. You mustn't take these things literally. Goodnight!" -- you No doubt I'm missing something obvious here and making a fool of myself. But, hey, we live and learn. Your explanation would be greatly appreciated. I've assumed above from various comments in the thread that you are both more antirealistically inclined in these matters, at least with respect to QM. Forgive me if I'm misreading. If you're not antirealists yourselves, what do you think a typical antirealist would say? In the OP, I tried to explain the difference between (what I called) commonsense realism and scientific realism. One who assumes the latter position, denying the reality of quarks perhaps, does not necessarily hold to the former position and deny the reality of enraged chimpanzees.
  4. I do wonder whether the human race will ever tire of hunting and burning witches. Re: (and I refer to the more malevolent elements in the thread, not you nice folks) the latest scandal from the quidnuncs around the scuttlebutt regarding myself imposing definitions on others Are we to believe now that I, perhaps with the help of a time machine, held a gun to the head of Einstein, Weinberg, Perrin, and all the rest, mercilessly forcing them to conform to my idiosyncratic definition (which I have never proposed in the first place) of reality? "Your obeisance to lexicographical tyranny or your life, sucker!" Let's suppose that what the Council of Grand Inquisitors says is correct, and we're all working with more-or-less different understandings of the terms truth and reality. It's not even all that implausible; intuitions do vary from person to person. The facts remain, however, that contra the opposition claims, there are scientists who are trying to describe reality as they understand the term ; there are scientists who speak of, who "deal with", truth and reality whatever these things mean to them. They said so! What next: they're all deluded liars? I could, of course, be quite wrong about all this. Wouldn't be the first time. Isn't it wonderful, though, that we live in an enlightened age where people can speak freely without fear of an auto-da-fé. Cough, cough.
  5. The following is not particularly relevant to the OP, but if no one has any objections, I offer it for reflection (since the reality of gravity was touched upon). The question is this: Is it possible that we, or at least all those who currently believe in its reality, might one day come to believe that gravity is not real, that it does not exist? Newton was a cautious man. Though he did explicitly assert gravity really does exist, he shied away from "feigning any hypotheses" regarding its nature. What he did do, however, was to impute gravity as the cause--the common cause--of various observable effects (falling apples, motion of the planets and comets, tidal behavior, etc.). Then along came Einstein, also attributing gravity to be the common cause of the aforementioned effects, and a few others to boot (time dilation, etc.). Now, suppose one day we come to learn, or at least believe, that what we now attribute to a common cause (gravity) is in fact the result of multiple causes. What would we then say? (Those of you familiar with Hilary Putnam's celebrated "Twin Earth" thought experiment will see the parallels). One option would be to say: "Gravity is real. It is the collective name we give to a plurality of causes." Another option, however, would be to say . . . "Gravity doesn't exist. We were wrong" . . . and assign individual names to each of the multiple causes. I'm not suggesting this is likely (I've no idea how likely it is). What it does show, I think, is that the putative reality of gravity remains an open question. Would we call a substance on Twin Earth that is superficially indistinguishable from our water, but does not have the chemical formula H2O, water? Or would we give it another name? Intuitions differ.
  6. Hmm, does not seem like a problem to me. No doubt there are difficulties with the concept; this doesn't appear to be one, though. Isn't this like saying, The coin has two sides: one heads and the other tails. Our concept of reality is a mess"? When one side of the planet is illuminated, the other is not. When it's summer in Canada, it's winter in Australia. Where's the problem? In the philosophy of language, they talk about indexicals (words such as "I", "now". "here". etc.), that is, certain statements are indexed according to the person, time, place, etc. of utterance. Therefore, taking indexicals into account, there is no contradiction between the statements "It's hot here", when uttered by yourself, and "It's cold here" when uttered simultaneously by me. Both can be true.
  7. Oh, for crying out loud, Mr Eastwood. I was being . . . shall we say playful. And I think you know it. (And the next person who says "obtuse" gets shot. Seems to be a fave word around here.) Does it count that I feel 300 years old right now? What I said was "Then, thanks to the work of Perrin et al, all of a sudden atoms were real. And scientists said so explicitly." Whereas previously atoms had been regarded as "useful fictions" by the majority of relevant scientists, within a relatively short period they were being assigned ontological reality by the majority -- and said so explicitly. I did consider typing " . . . all of a sudden atoms were taken to be real" just to be super clear but withheld thinking it would be obvious. If it was less than clear, sorry; I am now clarifying. (If atoms are indeed real, then they were real at the time of the dinosaurs, real in 1900, real now, and will be real when we're all dead . . . unless you're a social constructivist. I'm not, and I highly doubt anyone else here is.) And why mention this at all? To provide further evidence, as if any more was needed, to refute various claims (see OP and the entire thread passim) to the effect that scientists/physicists do not try to describe reality, scientists do not deal with reality, hard-nosed scientists do not talk about metaphysical airy-fairy will-o-the-wisps such as truth and reality. What current scientists, including those here, happen to feel about the reality of atoms does nothing to vitiate the refutation. All it takes is one flying bird. I have not provided a definition of real, in this thread or any other. See above. I have given no definition of real. But yes, echoing your own thoughts, I'm sincerely pleased to have this opportunity to learn from so many knowledgable people, including yourself. The seemingly insatiable nastiness and character defamation, though, (which the mods incomprehensibly do nothing about) from certain members has me very close to cashing in my chips. The reason is that, in a debate over the the truth of the claim "birds don't fly", pointing out a few penguins and cassowaries (as my opponents have been doing) carries little weight. Pointing to just one soaring eagle, on the other hand, serves to refute the claim immediately. I've pointed out a veritable flock of seagulls . . . to little avail it seems. (Now apply that, mutatis mutandis, to the claims we actually are debating -- see my will-o-the-wisp comments a few paragraphs above) For the third time, I have offered no definition of real. What I have done is refute the claims just mentioned. It is not true that there are no scientists (cf. "there are no birds that fly") that are trying to describe reality, aiming for truth, and all the rest. They said so themselves! How many times does Mr Sinatra have to sing to falsify "Ole Blue Eyes never sang a song in his life"? Peace and love to all.
  8. Obtuse? Bad faith? You have no idea how hard I've been biting my tongue here . . . continually being insulted and "corrected" by (certain - some have been very nice) people who clearly haven't the faintest idea what they are talking about. Call me fat, bald, ugly. I couldn't care less. Please do not insult my integrity, though. I do care about that. Thank you. Now, is this your proof for the existence of gravity? "People fall to the ground from 10th floor windows. Therefore gravity exists"? Observe, I will now prove the existence of phlogiston using identical reasoning: "Stuff burns. Therefore phlogiston exists" QED Philosophy of science was never so easy. Have you seen gravity? What does it look like?
  9. The above was in response to beecee's "Scientific models and theories by definition, do not set out to reveal whatever truth and/or reality that we can be aware of. " Once again, with all due respect to all involved, I find remarks like these very puzzling. Let's talk Copernicus and Galileo . . . Is it your position that Copernicus, when he proposed his heliocentric model/theory, was not telling us this is the way the solar system really is? If so, how do you know this? What evidence do you have to support this view? (My understanding is that precisely the opposite obtained, but I'd have to read up on it all again before committing.) The case with Galileo is even clearer: That's exactly what he was saying, i.e. The Copernican model/theory is (a representation of) the way things really are . . . and that's why, or at least one of the reasons why, he got into so much trouble. The Church was quite clear on this: You may promote the Copernican model, Signor Galileo, just so long as it is construed instrumentally, just so long as it is understood to be a mathematical calculating device, just so long as you don't go around telling people it is literally true. Galileo, being the scientific realist par excellence that he was, found himself unable to bite his tongue. And the rest is history . . .
  10. Better keep your voice down. You can get into a lot of trouble for saying things like that around here. The others will explain to you what "real" really means to a scientist.
  11. I've heard Isaac Newton say it. "Hitherto I have not been able to discover the cause of those properties of gravity from phenomena, and I frame no hypotheses... And to us it is enough that gravity does really exist, and act according to the laws which we have explained, and abundantly serves to account for all the motions of the celestial bodies, and of our sea." Yet another case of a scientist, a fairly accomplished one at that, making existential claims about unobservable reality.
  12. Those members who continue to insist--despite voluminous evidence presented to the contrary--that scientists don't talk about metaphysical nonsense like reality and truth (or if they do, it's not to be taken too seriously), science "doesn't deal" in such things, only philosophers lie awake contemplating such silliness, etc., may wish to examine the following article on physicist Jean Baptiste Perrin, as well as his speech upon acceptance of the Nobel Prize. (see link). By the way, you may also have noticed that the only person here who has presented any actual substantive evidence, in the form of actual quotes from actual scientists, and not simply personal anecdote (roughly "Scientists don't talk like that!! Coz I say so!!"), is myself. Strange days indeed! https://www.nobelprize.org/prizes/physics/1926/perrin/facts/ Highlights include: Introduction . . . 1. "Jean Perrin maintained that if molecules were real, particles blended into a liquid should not all sink to the bottom but should distribute themselves throughout the liquid." And now Perrin speaking himself . . . 2. "These brilliant successes tell us, otherwise, nothing about the absolute weights of the atoms. If they all became at the same time a thousand times smaller, a milliard times smaller, infinitesimal in the mathematical sense of the word, with matter becoming again continuous at each reduction, our chemical laws and our formulae would be unchanged, and the idea of the atom, then driven back infinitely far beyond all experimental reach, would lose its interest and its reality." 3. "Such a collection of agreements between the various pieces of evidence according to which the molecular structure is translated to the scale of our observations, creates a certitude at least equal to that which we attribute to the principles of thermodynamics. The objective reality of molecules and atoms which was doubted twenty years ago, can today be accepted as a principle the consequences of which can always be proved." 4. 'Even whilst evidence continued to accumulate on the still disputed atomic reality, a start was made to penetrate the interior structure of these atoms, a research in which Rutherford and Bohr obtained marvellous results, as we know.'
  13. Oh, I'm not sure that's true, sir. These things can be a big deal. Take, for example, the reification of atoms around the turn of the 20th century. Prior to then, atoms had been widely regarded as simply a "useful fiction" . . . much as other members in this thread speak about current theoretical posits. Then, thanks to the work of Perrin et al, all of a sudden atoms were real. And scientists said so explicitly.
  14. I got a rap on the knuckles earlier, various accusations of dishonesty, and enough downvotes to sink the Titanic for--supposedly--putting words in other people's mouths. (I don't think I was). Better watch yer step, Clint. It's a rough town. I really don't care all that much about whether scientific realism or antirealism is the more appropriate stance. I just find it interesting, that's all. But insult Mr Sinatra and ya better bring a gun, punk. (just having fun )
  15. Re above Let's grant everything you just said is true. If these observables are taken to be real, but not the unobservables (conveniently ignoring what prof Lincoln explicitly states -- cough, cough), science nonetheless "deals with" reality, right? It deals with these observables that you speak of. It is describing observable reality. Edit: Er, what is "iirc" ? Belief, eh? Well, to believe a given proposition is, by definition, to believe that it is true, and to believe in something is to believe that it exists. If (at least some) scientists do indeed believe in dark matter and similar unobservable creepie-crawlies, then they are not only dealing with observable reality, but (what they take to be) a real unobservable reality (pardon the pleonasm) too. And that's known as scientific realism . . . a position that everyone here seems to think exists only in my overactive imagination. One cannot claim--on pain of inconsistency--that he believes in something, but does not think it is real. Unless, of course, you're just having fun (cf. "I don't believe in ghosts . . . but they scare me!").
  16. Ah, Mr Vat . . . With all due respect, my good sir and fellow Sinatra aficionado, it's hard to see how your remarks above (deferring to observables, etc.) can be reconciled with statements such as the following (copied from another thread). And I suggest such statements are not at all atypical. (I listen out especially for scientists saying things like this LOL) QUOTE Well, I'm up to Lecture 20 now in prof. Don Lincoln's (see the "Is Gravity a Force?" thread for details and price) wonderful series "The Evidence for Modern Physics" entitled "How We Search for Dark Matter". Right off the bat, at the 00:10 min mark, prof Lincoln opens with a no-holds-barred: "In the last lesson I laid out some of the reasons why scientists believe that dark matter is real." UNQUOTE
  17. What you've just done is give me a scientific causal account of how I am able to see the Sun (or whatever). It might even be true for all I know. (Of course, your forebears--Newton et al--would have told me quite a different story . . . corpuscles, transverse waves, and all that). Now, nothing of what you've said does anything to deny that I see the Sun; all is does is explain (perhaps even a true explanation) how I see the Sun. Are these effects real? If they are, and science is describing them for us, then science is describing reality. Right? Chalk up another case of science describing reality then. Yay!
  18. Well, go ahead, punk. Tell me about it. I have the day off anyway If what you say is true, and assuming geologists and Jane Goodall are doing science, then we have a case, or two cases, of science describing real things, describing reality. Don't we? This is what I've been trying to drive home. Suppose we were to ask Richard Dawkins or Stephen Jay Gould: Do you take the theory of evolution to be merely a model, useful for predictive and explanatory purposes, but not a literal description of the way things really are? In other words, we should not believe it to be true? Do you think natural selection is a mere theoretical posit, not a real force active in the world? Do you really think they'd say yes? The Creationists might explode with ecstasy: "The theory of evolution isn't true!!!! Natural selection is not real!!!".
  19. For example . . . "The reason science doesn't deal with "reality" and "truth" is precisely because those terms are subjective to each person, and can't be trusted as the foundation for an explanation." - Phi for All (bottom of page 1, emphasis added) Other members have said similar things. Edit: I just did a search through your (science!) forums for the keywords "theory true reality". The number of hits I received is 99230. Seems fairly obvious that scientists (there must be a few among them) do use these terms.
  20. How about we all forget about the esoteric heights of modern physics for now, come down to Earth, and discuss something a little more mundane? https://www.nationalgeographic.org/article/jane-goodall/ Following National Geographic (above), it seems reasonable to describe Jane Goodall's work on chimpanzees as science. I'll work on that assumption anyway. It also seems so obvious as to hardly need saying (cf. "Frank Sinatra is not a poached egg") that, in her studies of chimps, Jane Goodall is/was describing reality. I'll pause here to remark that the words real and reality have no technical meaning in philosophy, at least as far as I'm aware. Philosophers use these words the same way as everyone else does; at least I can say that's the way I'm using the terms. Certain members here seem extremely reluctant to use the words for reasons that elude me. Perhaps you might challenge yourself to go through a day wIthout saying the word "real". It won't be easy! Now, if Ms. Goodall is indeed a scientist, and science does not describe, or does not "deal with" reality, as certain members have been claiming or implying, what are we supposed to say about her work? The only option would appear to be, assuming she is describing or dealing with anything at all, is that she is describing nonreality, she is describing things that are not real. Is there any other alternative? We would have to say that Ms Goodall is describing . . . I dunno . . . choose your favorite version of unreality: she's describing holographic projections, or describing an illusion of some kind. Or maybe chimpanzees are theoretical posits; "useful fictions" helpful for predictive and explanatory purposes but not to be taken literally. Or perhaps she's describing things that exist only in her mind as the result of having her brain envatted by some evil scientist. Certain members take me as being impertinent or disingenuous or even dishonest by suggesting as much. I honestly cannot see any other way to interpret your comments about science having no dealings with reality, though.
  21. @Eise I'd like to comment on a few things you said above, with all due respect, as I feel they lie at the crux of a great deal of confusion, both in this thread and the two others I've participated in since joining. (note the numbers I added) (i) See my post right in the middle of page 6 (pertaining to Bas van Fraassen's "constructive empiricism"), and @TheVat's reply a few posts below. The way you're using the word truth here corresponds exactly to what van Fraassen calls empirical adequacy. Indeed, many scientists and philosophers--those of an antirealist bent--would concur with you: Science should aim for empirical adequacy, saving the appearances, capturing the phenomena, describing observable reality (these are all synonymous) . . . and stop right there! But as I've been pointing out time and time again, not all scientists share this antirealist view. A great many feel that the aim of science is to not only describe observable reality, but to go beyond the appearances, and--at least try--to provide a causal-explanatory account of what's going on behind the scenes. In other words, they feel science should aim at truth as it is commonly understood (the correspondence theory of truth), and not simply empirical adequacy. These people are known as scientific realists. (ii) Again, I can only express utter bafflement when people say things like this (not because it's false; precisely the opposite -- because it's so obviously true!). No one, surely, thinks a painting of sunflowers is trying to be or become actual sunflowers. No one thinks a model Boeing 747 has ambitions to metamorph into the real thing. And surely no one thinks a scientific theory is aiming to become that which it describes/represents. The salient question, rather, is whether scientific theories aim to descibe or represent reality. (I'll just use describe hereafter) Your "Theories are 'language entities', not the reality they describe" above is exactly analogous to saying "Paintings of dogs are not real dogs". True, of course, but who needs to be told this? (But also note, not everyone thinks scientific theories are linguistic in nature. This is the so-called "syntactic view" of theories associated with the logical positivists. Check out the currently popular "semantic view" of theories associated with van Fraassen and others.) Now, where I come from, everyone thinks scientific theories aim to get observable reality right . . . at the very least! The dispute, as I've explained above, is over whether they should try to do more. The realists say yes, the antirealists no. So, in short (cf. your remarks above), describing observable reality is an aim whether you're a realist or an antirealist. Describing both observable and unobservable reality is an aim . . . if you're a scientific realist. This is precisely what the scientific realist denies! The realist claims that it is possible to generate true theories, to construct theories that not only describe observable reality (which no one denies), but unobservable reality as well. What you say is quite correct: We cannot look behind the scenes, we cannot hold our theories up against unobservable reality for a direct comparison, and we can never enjoy certainty that our theories are true, but--the realist holds--we can have good reason to believe that our theories are true, and that's enough to claim knowledge. Consider: you leave some cheese out overnight. It's gone the next morning. You might reasonably infer, perhaps incorrectly, that there's a mouse in your house . . . that was never observed! You are making an inference to unobserved causes. And there's a good chance you'd be right. This is analogous to what the scientific realist claims. We can have good reason (though not certainty) to believe that theories about unobservable entities are true. The warrant for belief might take the form of 1. Inference to the best explanation (as above - the mouse is the best explanation) 2. If a theory not only accommodates the facts (i.e. is empirically adequate), but also yields new and surprising predictions--which are subsequently confirmed--then we have good reason to believe the theory is true. Yes, really true! etc., etc. Just think of that dude, wozzizname . . . Semmelweiss? who came up with the germ theory of disease. That's precisely what he was doing: positing unobservable (at that time) causes and inferring to the truth of his theory by dint of inference to the best explanation. And we now think he was right! Hope this helps a little. Interested to hear any comments you may have, sir. Peace!
  22. I find myself at a loss. I've tried to address each contributor, given limitations of time, with courtesy and respect. In return, my intelligence and integrity have been impugned by people who know nothing about me, moreover, I find myself continually being "corrected" on philosophical points by people who, it's rather obvious (and no offence intended), know little or nothing about the subject matter. For reasons incomprehensible to me, the evidence I have presented (e.g. direct quotes from Nobel prize-winning scientists) has simply been ignored or swept aside -- hardly what one might expect from those scientifically trained. Since joining a short while ago, about the only person I've met here who does seem well versed in philosophy is @Eise, apparently a well established and respected member of your community. @TheVat I know well, too, from his own now defunct science-philosophy site. He's a man whose breadth of knowledge--in both science and philosophy-- I respect enormously and whose judgement I trust implicitly. Since my own input here of late seems only to elicit insults and downvotes, I'll say nothing more for now. Perhaps the aforementioned members might offer their thoughts for us all to consider. Edit: Oh, but this . . . "The vast majority is typically 75%. How can you claim my argument is "untrue" when you only "suspect" more scientists use your definitions of reality and truth?" - Phi for All A reminder: The "argument" was "science doesn't deal with "reality" and "truth" " (bottom of previous page, and my response above) How can I claim your argument is untrue? Because a single counterexample serves to falsify it (cf. "Birds don't fly" - one flying bird disproves it). I provided two counterexamples, both Nobel prize winners, selected deliberately from the scientific discipline in which such examples (of scientific realism) are hardest to find: physics.
  23. Are you saying the natural world is unreal? Because that's what you just typed in black and white. What do you take the natural world for then? A hologram or a mirage or something? I'm not being sarcastic or disrespectful. It's precisely what your comment implies.
  24. Uh oh, here come the downvotes again. Would whoever did it mind explaining why? I don't believe I've been offensive to anyone. Disagree all you like, but have the courtesy to tell me why. Thanks!
  • Create New...

Important Information

We have placed cookies on your device to help make this website better. You can adjust your cookie settings, otherwise we'll assume you're okay to continue.