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Posted by Richard D. Stafford, Ph.D. on May 16, 2003 22:13:22 UTC

Hi Tim,

As I said earlier, I will occasionally peruse the forum and if I find a serious question I will do my best to give a serious helpful answer. I think your question is serious and I am sorry my thoughts are not as clear as I might wish.

Again, I am afraid that I take into account issues which others (particularly Harv) just don't think about at all. Of significance here is exactly how one comes to learn what words mean. After many years of serious thought on the issue, I finally decided (probably some 40 years ago) that the only answer is that one guesses. Having guessed, we presume we are correct and take whatever usage of the word we are aware of as being consistent with that interpretation. Essentially we presume that we know what we are talking about.

Fundamentally, taken as a whole, what we think is a valid interpretation of our experiences amounts to extraction of "information implicitly embedded in the data". There is a very important problem buried in this presumption. First, it is possible we are wrong. Historically mankind has been found to be wrong on a great number of occasions. How do we know they were wrong? Clearly we have come upon additional data which contradicted what we thought was true.

The other side of the coin is the fact that it is possible we are right: i.e., there actually does exist something we think is true which is true. Now, if that is the case, then contradiction will not occur no matter how long we wait and no matter how much additional data we obtain. These truths are what I am referring to when I speak of "information implicitly embedded in the data".

It should be clear to any rational individual that it is this second case which should interest any working scientist. That is to say that we are looking for that information which is truly embedded in the data, not what we think (from our very limited perspective) is embedded there. If that is the case, what can one say?

One can say that, if there truly is information implicitly embedded in the data, it must be presumed that there exist patterns of data which are possible (those which express that truth we are trying to discover) and patterns of data which are not possible (those which would yield contradiction of that truth). This is the essence of what a scientist means when he says there are rules.

If all things are allowed then there are no rules as, clearly, the data which invalidates rule (being allowed) will eventually be found.

I don't know if that clears up the issue or not.

Have fun -- Dick

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