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Posted by Harvey on May 1, 2001 17:45:35 UTC

Paul,

I enjoyed your little essay. Although, no offense to Dick, but I think you are placing too much emphasis upon his formulations. Whether you are the "apostle Paul" for his paper I'll leave it for you to decide, but Dick himself continues to back off from making his model anything more than a means to represent reality (and as he has said shouldn't be confused with an attempt to say that this 'is' reality).

However, couldn't we just randomly pick any model and say 'this represents reality'? Astrologers do this all the time. They represent the actions of humans by looking at planetary motion. If I happen to this or that, sure enough there is a reason under the stars that can be 'translated' into planetary motions. Astrology is simply the result of creative human minds being able to apply theoretical notions to actual results. Unless verifiable predictions are made, there is nothing *scientifically* unique in his model.

There's a concern in the philosophy of science that scientific theories are constantly in danger of something related to such a scenario (which MrOVL pointed out). Hilary Putnam, I believe, showed that it is possible to create an infinite number of theories to explain a finite amount of observables. The number of potential theories (or models of reality) are always going to be infinite whereas our observations are always going to be finite. If you seek theories that 'curve fit' the finite amount of data points, then you will find that an infinite number of 'curves' (i.e., theories) are capable of fitting the data.

One of the ways that science is able to defend against such attacks is by comparing other evidential aspects of a model (such as a theories simplicity, or universality, or utility, etc). These pragmatic considerations (included in Occam's razor) prevent some of the infinite collection of models from ever being taken as 'a' correct theory. What is not known is how effective science is at eliminating all other possible theory contenders. If multiple theories are possible, then scientific realism is threatened (the thesis that says it is possible to construct such viable alternatives is called the strong undetermination of a theory - or SUV).

What I see from Dick's attempt is a philosophical mechanism by which to represent the world if one needed a mathematical model to represent the real world at a general and diverse level (e.g., for a AI computer simulation). Whether this is useful for that purpose requires greater minds than I, but in terms of science I don't see how it can lead to any new scientific breakthroughs (e.g., predictions of observable phenomena yet to be observed). It doesn't strike me as a theory per se, but simply as a way of interpreting theory. For that, there's possibly an infinite collection of such proposals waiting in the wings of creative minds.

Warm regards, Harv

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