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The Magic Of Science

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Posted by Aurino Souza on November 18, 2003 15:21:44 UTC

The opposite extreme of saying the world operates according to scientific theories and can be understand in terms of quantitative analysis is to say that the world and its events are entirely random.

Well, you can get in trouble if you go that way. If I claim that the world is entirely random, can you prove me wrong? How much order does one need to see before the concept of "order" becomes the only logical choice?

I think you got it wrong Harv. As I told recently to Mario, anything can be seen as random, anything at all. Randomness needs no defence; it's causality that does.

However, if the world is entirely random then why is it that we can predict certain events (e.g., lunar eclipses, the time of the next sunrise, etc). Obviously, symbols are good enough to predict the occurrence of events according to sound theoretical constructs. Hence, the world is not indescribable, at least not entirely so.

I think we're getting off a tangent here. I didn't say the world was not describable, I was trying to make a point about the coincidences between Christianity and QM. A few aspects of the world are describable, of course! But the reason you find coincidences between disparate things is because there are not too many ways to describe things. There is a huge world out there, and there is a small world of concepts inside our heads, and we are constantly trying to force-fit the former into the latter. It's obvious to me that such thing can't be done! A full, completely accurate description of the world must be equivalent to the world itself. Anything less is a lie of sorts.

I think where you have the problem is when we take our sound theories as information as to how the world actually is. I would agree to a point, but the onus of explanation as to why the world is predictable is on the individual who says it is indescribable.

You are mixing up two unrelated concepts. A blind man who has never seen a sunrise can perfectly predict when it will happen. I just don't think he can describe it, other than by repeating what he has learned from others.

The individual who states that the world is describable has provided their evidence that the world is indeed describable by predicting occurrences previously thought not possible (e.g., solar eclipses, comets, etc).

It's a good thing Dick is not around as he would give you a hard time on that. It might not be apparent at first sight, but the concept "eclipse" already contains enough information to do what you try to present as some sort of magical act. It's just like the "water runs downhill" thing: you measure the direction water flows, call it "downhill", present a "law of the universe" that says "water runs downhill", "downhill" being defined as "wherever the water runs", then amaze the unsuspecting crowd with your magical powers to know what was previously thought not possible. It's a sophisticated parlour trick, albeit a useful one.

Not only must the antirealist show reasons for skepticisms of a theory's failure (e.g., need for approximations, renormalizations, remaining unobservables, etc), ultimately it must explain a theory's successes if we are not actually describing the way the world is at some fundamental level.

I just gave you the explanation: it's a parlour trick.

Do you really believe David Copperfield makes buildings disappear? Do you feel a skeptic must explain how he does it, or otherwise be forced to accept that Copperfield does have strange powers? Where is the evidence that the strange powers of science are different from the strange powers of magicians?

Leaving it up to good guesses is not an option. For example, if we can explain the rate of rotation of the earth and therefore predict the next sunrise given certain physical equations, then why not accept that this is how the earth and sun actually are in relation to each other?

Because it doesn't make any sense! It makes sense to say we have a good model, but it doesn't make sense to say that the model is the thing. That would be like saying there is no difference between a building and the architect's blueprint.

What is missing from our theories that require us to accept the skeptic's plea that we not think we are describing what the skeptic claims is undescribable?


For many of the most routine science (e.g., engineering applications of science) this cannot be readily answered by the skeptic.

Actually, being a skeptic is the most comfortable job in the world: claim nothing, and no one can prove you wrong.

That's not to say that complaining can never be with just cause (e.g., renormalization is a concern if we want to say that this is the way the world is which is why Dirac criticized renormalization as used in quantum theories), however just because we can do it with some justification does not make antirealism justified.

"Anti-realism". Why do you keep bringing that up? Do you really think people and their complex ideas can be all classified under a few -isms that are universal? The same problem I'm talking about!

And, if the sunrise is actually at the time that meterologists say it is, then why doubt it? Sometimes you just have to accept the obvious.

If the building really disappeared, why be skeptical of Copperfield? Let's all bow down to his magic powers and give him all he wants, for he is closer to God than the rest of us mortals.

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