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I'm Always Interested In Rational Discourse

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Posted by Mike Levine on August 5, 2003 14:02:11 UTC

Dick,

If there's one thing I agree with you is that you do write quite a lot! My goodness, I don't even know where to start!

I definitely do not think that my perspective is the only acceptable perspective; however, I also do not think it is anywhere near as unacceptable as many would prefer be believed.

I cannot comment on this as I still don't know what your perspective is. Unlike Alan, who believes "entropy is optional", you don't seem to be questioning the validity of our scientific knowledge. Whatever your beef is, I still didn't get it. What's wrong after all?

You think that I am over-confident. What that implies is that you think I am wrong.

So you read minds? When I say I think you are over-confident, all that implies is that I think you are over-confident. "Being wrong" is not synonymous with it.

Now, it is certainly your prerogative to believe I am wrong.

I do not believe you are wrong. Neither do I believe you are right. I just fear that, if you are wrong, you don't seem the kind of person who would recognize it. But I'm passing judgement, and that is an unpardonable sin.

And I fully understand the evidence for that position. The world is certainly full of nuts and, when I stand back and look at my position from the perspective of a working scientist, I find little evidence achievable on a cursory level which could be used to discriminate between myself and them. Scientists don't have the time to check out every nut so it is rather ridiculous to believe any serious scientist would expend much time looking at my work.

Now we're talking!

I have one further problem the other "nuts" actually lack. I know you won't believe it but it's the truth none the less, the mathematical techniques I use are at the edge of what the average professionals are taught.

Actually, most nuts I met claim exactly the same thing.

If that is a fact, and I hold that it is, then you should be able to understand the additional burden imposed on my work. Most of the best physicists use the, should one say, "lesser" members of the academy as a blocking network. That is to say they presume that if one cannot convince the peons, the work certainly can not be worth looking at.

Likewise, most nuts have a very convincing (to themselves) explanation as to why they are ignored when (they think) they should be given a voice.

Add in the "fact" that what I have done "cannot possibly be correct" and success at reaching the big boys is practically non-existent. I accept that and don't really find it irrational at all.

I suppose I can take that as your acceptance of my skepticism. I wonder what you'd do if you were in other people's shoes. Would you act rationally and dismiss grand claims based on the probability that they are wrong, or would you irrationally spend you life seeking for a pin in a haystack?

And you are entirely right, it takes very little time to become convinced that most people have no idea what physics is all about.

I have never met a physicist who knows what physics is all about. It seems to be as much of an issue for them as organic chemistry is an issue for good cooking. I did meet several philosophers who claim to know it, but the fact that they can't solve the simplest differential equation makes me very skeptical of their over-confidence.

So what is physics all about? You certainly sound confident that you know it.

"... the intended meaning of sentences cannot be conveyed that easily, if at all." In doing so, you are bringing up a problem near and dear to my heart. The consequences of that fact are subtle and far reaching and I would very much like to talk to someone about the only mechanism I can conceive of which takes that fact into consideration. If you are interested, we could discuss the issue.

Yes, I'm interested. I've been trying to discuss it with Harv, but he is far more knowledgeable than I am, so I need someone at my level. Why don't we focus on this one single issue and forget your personal issues? That could be a lot more productive.

What I present is a tautology and, when it produced both quantum mechanics and relativity (special and general) without producing a conflict of any kind, the question of "why?" came directly to the forefront. That is exactly what lies behind my realization that Einstein had made a subtle error.

I always found it odd that Einstein chose to use 'time' as an axis for his coordinate system while at the same time making it explicit that time couldn't be measured according to his own definition. Sort of like "let's define time as something to be measured with a ruler but let's use a clock to measure it". It sounds strange to me, but I always took for granted that Einstein knew far more than I could possibly learn.

By the way, "tautology" is not a philosophical term; nor is it abstract, elusive or ambiguous. The specific definition is "needless repetition of an idea in a different word or phrase". In science, any argument which can be shown to be a direct consequence of your original assumptions (most often specified in your definitions) and thus has no real new content is generally referred to as a tautology. Essentially, it is an argument which contains no information other than what is stated as accepted in the opening of the argument.

I beg to differ. First, this is an issue for philosophers, not for physicists. 'Tautology' cannot be defined as a mathematical concept, so no scientific truths can be said about it. In any case, the search for the final theory of everything is nothing but the search for a tautology, out of which all physics laws could be derived. So I can't agree with you on this.

But the really important point I disagree with is, it's not necessarily true that tautologies have no real content. For instance, if I tell you the square root of 13,380,964 is 3,658, does '3,658' have any content or not? You might argue that sqrt(13,380,964) = 3,658 is a tautology, but unless you could calculate it for yourself, it might be argued that the tautology does give you information you didn't have before.

It might be argued that tautologies are extremely useful, and it might be argued that they do contain information due to the simple fact that our brains/minds have finite power. Which is why this whole thing is an issue for philosophers.

Mathematics is, in a very real sense, the most significant tautology ever constructed. The importance of a tautology is that acceptance of the underlying definitions is acceptance of everything else as the steps can be traced exactly.

Again, I can't agree with this. It can be shown (as Godel did) that taken far enough, this game will eventuall yield two contradictory propositions. Yours, if I may be so blunt, is a naive view of logic.

I have tried to clarify exactly where I am coming from in order to give you the opportunity to decide whether or not any of my thoughts raise your interests.

I'm of course interested in some of the issues you bring up. If I may be honest, I'm put off by your constant references to the intellectual abilities of other people as well as your own; I regard those kinds of issues of no significance whatsoever, as any person who even manages to survive in such a hostile world is far more intelligent than any vain philosopher.

When you focus on rational thinking, though, you do say a lot of interesting things. I hope we can continue this dialogue.

Regards, ML

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