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Ridiculous? Prove It! (just Kidding...)

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Posted by Aurino Souza on October 17, 2002 16:46:38 UTC

Hi Harv,

Thanks for taking that bag of chips and giving me something healthy to digest.


I'm not sure what you mean that "the outcome of every single experiment can never, ever be questioned", since this is common practice in science. I assume you mean something else.

Sorry, sloppy writing. All I meant was, "what happened, happened". For instance, when Michelson found that, against his expectations, rotating his apparatus didn't produce the interference patterns he was expecting, he (and the whole world) was forced to question some of the assumptions involved in physics. What he, and nobody else, can do is question the fact that the patterns didn't occur. "No interference patterns in the Michelson-Morley experiment" is a fact.

Of course, one could be philosophically nasty and say that there is no such thing as 'stones' just like there are no such thing as 'sound' in that reduction of those concepts lead to different concepts entirely (e.g., sound roughly reduces to air molecule vibrations, stones roughly reduce to a collection of atoms of carbon, silicon, etc). In that sense, nothing we say is 'true', it is merely a useful description for us to comprehend what's around us.

Hmm... we may have a problem here. How can we be philosophically nasty to the philosophically nasty? For instance, you often make a case that faith is an integral part of our knowledge, but I think that's commonsense rather than logic. I don't think is wrong as I agree with it, but doesn't that mean that we should leave the philosophically nasty alone and do not bother?

I guess what I'm trying to say is, isn't a purely rational person just as deluded as a religious fanatic?

Many philosophers are concerned about what are objects, I don't see it as a cause for mental illness unless you mean the kind of attention that Alan gives to such concepts.

That is exactly what I meant. No offence to Alan, but I think truth and pragmatism are much closer than they seem.

Proof is one of those words which you must find out what that other person means when they use it.

I think this is where the whole problem starts. I don't think everyone understands the concept of proof in a meaningful way, and it's often the more logical people who have trouble with that.

Commonly, proof is just sufficient evidence to come to a conclusion about an event, action, description, etc. Often, one means a scientific proof which is based on higher standards of evidence, theorizing, explanation, and prediction.

The way I see it, proof always needs a context, and that means that the context itself cannot be proved. But while some people seem to think that that means the proof is meaningless, I take it that proof and context must coexist; that is, one is a function of the other. The selection of context then becomes a matter of... commonsense?

The problem, of course, is that the physical universe is not a formal system, or at least, we don't know enough about the universe to say that it is formal system. People who try to impose the rules of formal systems (esp. mathematics) on the universe are making significant miscalculations in their conclusions on what is true in the universe. You cannot provide mathematical proofs of the universe since one must assume certain axioms are true about the universe and one must interpret the results of the formal deductions in light of them being true for the universe.

If you agree with my 'proof requires context' scenario, then it becomes clear that there can possibly exist a context for the universe. In a way that's essentially the problem of solipsism. And I think what it should teach us is not that solipsism is in fact a good explanation for reality, but rather that a mistaken philosophical approach eventually leads you to ridiculousness.

I read an interesting article in a philosophy journal last night about how physicists attempt to do this by assigning isomorphisms between the mathematical structures and the physical (phenomenal) structures of the universe.

Reality as a language!

The sentence "stones fall to the ground" is true because anyone can verify that there is an isomorphism between the sentence and the sensory experience of watching stones fall to the ground.

The best we can hope for is that we are interpretations of the mathematical structures are genuinely isomorphic (or, partially homomorphic - don't worry about what that means) to the physical strutures of the universe.

This is where the whole confusion starts. If reality can be seen as a language to the extent that we are able to describe it through linguistic isomorphisms, then tautologies are absolute truths about the universe. That's what I initially found exciting about both Stafford's and Langan's approaches. The problem is, as I later came to see it, is that reality is not a language, it's only partially isomorphic to some linguistic descriptions. There are, as any person who ever tried to communicate the feeling of the colour green to a blind person knows, aspects of reality that resist any attempt to linguistic description.

This is by no means a formal proof showing that mathematics results in physics. Rather, it only shows that we have justification in using these isomorphic results from mathematics in obtaining empirical success in science.

Commonsense through and through!

Formal proof for the universe is not only impossible, it is rather ridiculous.

And I guess the real challenge is to learn to live with that. I personally never had a problem although, as you said, that is only so because I rely not only in logic but also in philosophy, math, music...



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