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Claiming Nothing

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Posted by Harvey on November 18, 2003 18:43:11 UTC

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?

If you say the world is entirely random, there is nothing to prove to you. Although, if you believe such, then your daily actions should reflect this belief. For example, I generally stay away from the gambling because I'm not a big believer in the random roll of the die as improving my livelyhood. If I felt that the operation of my car was a random event (50/50), I probably would buy a different car within the week. The reality is that humans cannot assume randomness to their events, otherwise civilization would not be possible.

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

Randomness and causation both need defense. With cause we look for statistical and explanatory justification that shows a cause is related to an observed 'effect', and in case of randomness we need statistical justification that an event happens in a manner that has alluded our ability to predict. Actually, randomness is much harder to justify than causation. That is, it is much more often that we see patterns emerge from what was previously considered as random, versus supposed causes that are no longer seen as related causes. The primary cause might change in our perspective, but often a primary cause will at least be seen as a secondary cause. Of course, primary causes can later be seen as completely unrelated to the effects, but the nature of causation is such that a suspected cause has a role to play. For example, the role of smoking is a primary cause of cancer, but with a deeper understanding of cancer we might later find that the primary cause is an enzyme that is misdirected (etc), but that make smoking as a non-cause.

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.

So, in order to have a complete and accurate description of the next sunrise we must just wait for the sunrise to occur? I think this is incredulous Aurino. Yes, we can always talk about the exact sunrise time as uncertain because of quantum indeterminancy, etc, but how can we possibly consider such nit-picking as possible reasons to doubt that we do have a complete and accurate description of the next sunrise (including where it will happen, at what time, etc)? Obviously, our language is good enough for such purposes, and I don't see it as force-fitting the world into our heads because we have the ability to understand the world with algorithms that allow us to do so in shortened notation.

In the case of a Christian quantum cosmology, it's nothing close to science. It is speculative fun. I think you are using a speculative fun exercise as ammo when in fact there is no correlation with real science whatsoever here.

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.

Describing is explaining/predicting. If you doubt that, just describe something without explaining or predicting phenomena related to the thing you are describing. For example, describe to me how it is that I would know when my television is working.

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.

That's a crock of an argument by Stafford. The process of prediction isn't just one of defining your terms (e.g., defining water as going downhill and then predicting that water does indeed go downhill). It is predicting new phenomena not previously considered as related to the discussion. For example, if I said that after years of reading your posts that I could predict all sorts of new information about you that you have not disclosed before, then I would have a pretty interesting theory having great predictive powers. It wouldn't be that I have defined you as a person (water going downhill), rather I have anticipated information that I shouldn't have any knowledge about unless I have stumbled upon some knowledge about you that is detectable using a theory that could accurately detect such information.

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?

If we lived in a world where magicians were not shown to be using tricks but had a long, long history of utilizing magic, then yes, it would be the skeptics burden to show that the magician was using tricks rather than magic. Since we do not live in such a world, it means that a skeptic does not need to be too concerned about such magic hype since we have ample reasons to doubt such claims.

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.

I see a sense of what I would term confusion on your part. Yes, models are not the phenomena they represent. And, no, models will probably never perfectly describe what it is that they are explaining and predicting. However, to deny the reality of what the model demonstrates as an accurate depiction is nonsensical in many instances in science. To reject certain models of science as non-matching the phenomena is ludicrous. That doesn't mean that the model is true, but it does mean that the model has asymptotically approached the truth behind the phenomena that we can for all practically purposes consider the model's results as true. Can it be improved? Maybe it can. Can another completely different model replace this one? Perhaps, but the more we understand and predict a phenomena, the more difficult that it is to accomplish since nature becomes more and more fussy as to what models will work. Maybe our imagination is limited, but once we reach the point to where we are almost completely satisfied with the model of explanation, there is no reason to seriously doubt the explanation. Like I said in my other reply, to doubt all of our reasoning of the world simply because it is doubtable is not justified. We have to have solid reasons for doubt which are that we are not getting the proper results in our models. If we obtain those results, we have an earned confidence in our model that must be shown otherwise in order to restore doubt in those models.

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

Skepticism requires justification, this is perhaps the single most misunderstood principle of any skeptic movement. Sometimes the justification is so obvious that it is not stated and therefore is not realized that such justification is needed, but there is no de facto belief system. All belief systems are human, and every human has equal right as a human to claim something as true. Some skeptic justifications might be that few humans believe it (e.g., especially scientists). Some skeptic justifications might be that no one has seen this phenomena and people who have might be lying, etc. The point is that claiming nothing has no merit. Claiming nothing and showing that such a claim is justified given the other possibilities, now that is justified if shown to be the case in a convincing style.

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!

Why do you use a human language? Do you not know that nothing can be properly labelled using an English term? The argument is ridiculous since terms are catagories of human expression that convey information. The word 'classified' is such a term, so is 'complex', so is 'ideas', so is 'antirealism'.

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.

If there was such a history and great experience with magic being consistent with our observations, then I would agree. However, no such history exists with regard to magic.

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