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Author Topic:   Logic and Empiricism
JustinC
Member (Idle past 3184 days)
Posts: 624
From: Pittsburgh, PA, USA
Joined: 07-21-2003


Message 46 of 55 (405142)
06-11-2007 2:57 PM
Reply to: Message 43 by Grizz
06-10-2007 6:50 PM


Re: Beyond Branes
quote:
I am not advocating a position or trying to take a position - I was just trying to get a discussion going that might cary over into the main topic of this forum. And yes Stragg - Ultimately I was asking how far is one willing to go with reason alone? What place does reason have in determining truth or value within scientific inquiry?


Well, if a theoretical framework makes empirical predictions and one believes in a theory of confirmation, then it would seem that the theories support would have to be increased in the predictions come to fruition.

The upshot of this would be that any deduction from this framework would be supported as well, even those which may not be observable in principle. And I don't think this can be considered the use of pure reason ("reason alone") since are judgement of the premises is purely based on empirical principles.

And ahoy from the HPS department at the University of Pittsburgh. I studied Bio and Chem in my undergrad and am finishing up my HPS degree/physics minor degree by next spring.


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Grizz
Member (Idle past 3811 days)
Posts: 318
Joined: 06-08-2007


Message 47 of 55 (405168)
06-11-2007 6:36 PM
Reply to: Message 45 by Straggler
06-11-2007 12:48 PM


Re: Beyond Branes
I too am a physics/maths undergrad who got happily sidetracked by the philosophy of science courses (all seems a very long time ago alas).
I agree that questioning the nature of reality beyond the 'that which works' mentality is interesting and worthwhile even if often frustrating and fruitless.

So given that Nator has answered the question to some degree as to how far he would take reason alone in the search for truth - how would you relate all of this back to the OP?

It seems that most of those with a scientific bent, including myself, see the deductions of reason alone as useful and potentially fruitful areas for prediction and further enquiry but are broadly sceptical of calling anything that is not ultimately backed up by empirical evidence of some sort, scientific 'fact'.

I was really hoping to hear the opinions of at least one ID supporter on the subject.

In the Scientific Enterprise theory and reasoning will always be subservient to observation. Regardless of what a theory predicts or how logically consistent it may appear to our rational mind reason is strictly a means to an end. This is how science works and how it differentiates itself from other fields of inquiry such as Philosophy. Both are important in their own right but take a different path to deciphering the nature of reality. They complement one another. I believe Scientists generally distrust philsopohers as meddling nit-pickers and philosophers question many of the conclusions scientists reach regarding the nature of absolutes and of reality.

I believe the discord lies in misunderstandings of what types of truths each system is after. The assertion that the sun will rise tomorrow is neither true nor false - the truth of the statement is contingent - as are all scientific assertions regarding physical reality that have been born from observation. Science does not deal in absolute truths but contingencies. The reasoning employed is inductive. No matter how many times we measure the mass of the electron there is no way to state with absolute certainty that future observations will yield the same result. Although the idea is absurd there is nothing about our current observation of the mass today that suggests a future measurement will not produce a different result. We can only say based on observations to date we have no rational reason to believe nature will suddenly change its mind. To a scientist this is nit picking but thats what philosophers do. Science by it's nature is an inductive system and cannot establish absolute truths.

So in relation to my initital post - scientific facts cannot be deduced from reason alone no matter how compelling the argument. An emperical justification will awlays be needed. Branes will simply be a conjecture until emperically verified. Multiverses will remain foroever outside of our ability to detect emeprically and will be limited to an interesting theoretical possibility.

Edited by Grizz, : No reason given.


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Straggler
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Posts: 10285
From: London England
Joined: 09-30-2006


Message 48 of 55 (405340)
06-12-2007 11:22 AM
Reply to: Message 47 by Grizz
06-11-2007 6:36 PM


Calling All Those of Reason Based Faith
Well broadly I agree.

I was really hoping to hear the opinions of at least one ID supporter on the subject.

Yes we do need input from someone coming from a faith based position in order to continue.
How far will those coming from a faith based position be willing to draw conclsuions on reason and logic alone without empirical evidence? How exactly does this differ from the empirically based and highly sceptical scientific viewpoints expressed above? Does logic and reason add anything to the faith based view? Do logic and reason stand in the way of faith at all?

Any faith based takers?


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RAZD
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Posts: 20327
From: the other end of the sidewalk
Joined: 03-14-2004
Member Rating: 3.6


Message 49 of 55 (405495)
06-13-2007 7:40 AM
Reply to: Message 47 by Grizz
06-11-2007 6:36 PM


Re: Beyond Branes
Welcome to the fray Grizz

Branes will simply be a conjecture until emperically verified. Multiverses will remain foroever outside of our ability to detect emeprically and will be limited to an interesting theoretical possibility.

Or they will remain a mathematical convenience. Like dark stuffs ...

In the Scientific Enterprise theory and reasoning will always be subservient to observation.

Much of theoretical physics has outstripped observation, IMH(ysa)O, and really what we have are mathematically convenient models to explain what we observe. The basic problem I have is that math is not reality.

IIRC branes also obviate the need to invoke dark matter\energy because of the existence of stuff outside the brane. If this is so, I would think that one should be able to differentiate between the two by observations at a more local level: dark stuffs are supposed to take effect outside stellar systems; we have evidence of some anomalous behavior in the paths of satellites as they reach the outer limits of the solar system. Anomalous with regard to the current model that includes dark stuffs:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pioneer_anomaly

quote:
The Pioneer anomaly or Pioneer effect is the observed deviation from expectations of the trajectories of various unmanned spacecraft visiting the outer solar system, notably Pioneer 10 and Pioneer 11. At present, there is no universally accepted explanation for this phenomenon; while it is possible that the explanation will be mundane—such as thrust from gas leakage—the possibility of entirely new physics is also being considered.

It seems to me that the brane explanation for the gravitational anomaly that originally invoked the mathematical concept of dark stuffs would operate locally and would explain this anomaly.

Another potential explanation is Weyl geometry:

http://www.izwt.uni-wuppertal.de/?q=en/node/84

quote:
In this respect, it deals with the wider problem of epistemic legitimacy and the role of alternative theories in mathematical physics. An own alternative theory for cosmo-geometric models is proposed. From the point of view of the accepted standard theory, this alternative seems to be surprising and perhaps provocative.

Of course another explanation of the anomaly is god stuff ...

I was really hoping to hear the opinions of at least one ID supporter on the subject.

Probably the one most likely to tackle that is randman, and he is restricted to the shouting box forum (Forum Showcase), which has been fairly silent of late.

I believe the discord lies in misunderstandings of what types of truths each system is after. The assertion that the sun will rise tomorrow is neither true nor false - the truth of the statement is contingent - as are all scientific assertions regarding physical reality that have been born from observation.

It comes down to perceptions of reality and the various mechanisms used for different levels of perceptions, science, philosophy, faith. To me the various systems of perception that are closest to reality are those that are least in conflict with observations and most consistent with conclusions that extend beyond the reaches of science.

Enjoy

ps - type [qs]quote boxes are easy[/qs] and it becomes:

quote boxes are easy
-- it's the easiest quote method here.

Edited by RAZD, : weyl song


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Son Goku
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Posts: 1153
From: Ireland
Joined: 07-16-2005


Message 50 of 55 (406026)
06-16-2007 8:38 AM
Reply to: Message 43 by Grizz
06-10-2007 6:50 PM


Maths and physics.
This is a topic that comes up again and again, so I thought I'd say a few things. First of all I must deal with statements "mathematical construct" and "Is maths reality?/maths is not reality?". These terms are used very vaguely, so rather than trying to break it down I'll explain how maths is used in theoretical physics, with examples and use it to discuss these statements.

1. Mathematical statements about physical quantities
An example of this kind of statement is "momentum is a one form". In mathematics you can commonly switch between coordinates. An example is the 2-D plane where you can use Cartesian coordinates or polar coordinates:

Now various things can live on the plane, functions and vectors for example. When I switch between different coordinates vectors change in a specific manner. One-forms are objects that change in the opposite manner (in a sense).
Physics often require transformations between coordinates. An example would be moving between the coordinates of somebody on a train and somebody on the ground. When you do these transformations momentum changes like a one-form. Hence we say momentum is a one-form. In a similar sense we'd say area is a real number. When a surveyor says a field is 100.24 m^2 nobody goes "A 100.24!, what is a 100.24?, it doesn't exist. Maths only models reality!" So I'll take it that these kind of statements aren't controversial.

2. Mathematical definitions of new physical quantities
This would be related to your example of an electric field, which would be a vector valued function satisfying Maxwell's equations. Energy is simlarly defined and yet most people have no contentions about it. Quarks would be similar.

These are the things that often recieve the question "Are they real?".
At the end of the day it's like asking is a cereal bowl "really" a cereal bowl or just a collection of atoms. Are the words "cereal bowl" just a useful linguistic-mental tool to describe this collection of atoms and their interactions or does it reflect some deep truth about what is actually there?
I don't think that scientists don't care about philosophical issues, it's just that the "Is it real?" one is very old and doesn't really go anywhere and is applied unevenly (e.g., nobody stops to ask is velocity just mathematical construct).
Compare it to much deeper issues such as how much of our universe's physics is forced/implied by symmetry.


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RAZD
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Posts: 20327
From: the other end of the sidewalk
Joined: 03-14-2004
Member Rating: 3.6


Message 51 of 55 (406028)
06-16-2007 8:59 AM
Reply to: Message 50 by Son Goku
06-16-2007 8:38 AM


Re: Maths and physics.
"Is maths reality?/maths is not reality?".

These are the things that often recieve the question "Are they real?".
At the end of the day it's like asking is a cereal bowl "really" a cereal bowl or just a collection of atoms.

I think where we get the problems of math versus reality is where a mathematical theory explains things just fine, just that it adds something that we are (at best) not sure is really there -- ie if a mathematical model invokes extra dimensions, but otherwise matches all observed phenomena do those dimensions really exist?

{abe} Conversely, if another mathematical model invokes dark matter and energy, but otherwise matches all observed phenomena do those matter\energy really exist? Can both be reality? Or can the "cartesian coordinates" of dark stuffs be transformed to the "polar coordinates" of string dimensions? {/abe}

Enjoy.

Edited by RAZD, : abe


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we are limited in our ability to understand
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Son Goku
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Posts: 1153
From: Ireland
Joined: 07-16-2005


Message 52 of 55 (406058)
06-16-2007 3:19 PM
Reply to: Message 51 by RAZD
06-16-2007 8:59 AM


Re: Maths and physics.
I think where we get the problems of math versus reality is where a mathematical theory explains things just fine, just that it adds something that we are (at best) not sure is really there -- ie if a mathematical model invokes extra dimensions, but otherwise matches all observed phenomena do those dimensions really exist?

Well extra-dimensions usually have a direct effect on particle interactions. I'd have to have somebody give me an example of an entity from a physical theory that has no observable consequences or presence and yet is a required as an axiom for the theories foundation.

{abe} Conversely, if another mathematical model invokes dark matter and energy, but otherwise matches all observed phenomena do those matter\energy really exist? Can both be reality? Or can the "cartesian coordinates" of dark stuffs be transformed to the "polar coordinates" of string dimensions? {/abe}

Again dark matter and dark energy have detectable effects that characterise themselves. Dark Matter itself having been detected recently in the bullet cluster.

I honestly can't think of an example where there is some entity that cannot be observed and yet the theory needs it at its basis.


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RAZD
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Posts: 20327
From: the other end of the sidewalk
Joined: 03-14-2004
Member Rating: 3.6


Message 53 of 55 (406059)
06-16-2007 3:28 PM
Reply to: Message 52 by Son Goku
06-16-2007 3:19 PM


Re: Maths and physics.
I honestly can't think of an example where there is some entity that cannot be observed and yet the theory needs it at its basis.

But can you have this same answer for two different (competing?) theories to explain the same phenomena?

Or can the "cartesian coordinates" of dark stuffs be transformed to the "polar coordinates" of string dimensions?

ie - are these really the same thing?

Edited by RAZD, : {


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we are limited in our ability to understand
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Son Goku
Member
Posts: 1153
From: Ireland
Joined: 07-16-2005


Message 54 of 55 (406062)
06-16-2007 3:59 PM
Reply to: Message 53 by RAZD
06-16-2007 3:28 PM


Re: Maths and physics.
But can you have this same answer for two different (competing?) theories to explain the same phenomena?
ie - are these really the same thing?

Ah, I see what you mean. Usually no, physical constraints work in such a way that different theories rarely give the same answers to a question.

I'll answer for the extreme first. If you have two theories which give the same answers for every possible question that exists within their domain of explanation then they always turn out to be actually the same theory, simply expressed in two different mathematical languages. It is simply that the languages emphasize different things.
An example would be wave-mechanics and matrix-mechanics. Both are actually Quantum Mechanics, with different primary entities. Think of a object-oriented language and a verb-orientated language both describing a goat going up a mountain.

The less extreme case, that they agree on somethings, is rarer. You'd be talking about the point in time when we have two theories where their area of agreement has been tested and verified, where as their area of disagreement remains untested. As I said this is rare and even still it is not much of concern for the following reason.
Either:
(a)One theory is always an emergent of another. Let's say I had a String Theory that agrees completely with the Standard Model of particle physics on low energy scales. Is the Standard Model right or is String right? Is it truely point Particles or is it Strings? The thing is that the Standard model naturally tells you that it gives way to some other structure at high energies. It states "Particles behave as points up to a certain energy scale", this is also the statement String makes and that is the statement you have empirical support for.

(b) They talk about the same stuff, they only give it different rules. An example would be General Relativity and Brans-Dicke Theory. They don't agree, however they still talk about the same stuff.
i.e. "curved spacetime", e.t.c.
So you don't have the question of "Which theory's objects actually exist?"

Edited by Son Goku, : Minor punctuation

Edited by Son Goku, : Spelling


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DominionSeraph
Member (Idle past 3095 days)
Posts: 365
From: on High
Joined: 01-26-2005


Message 55 of 55 (420660)
09-08-2007 10:59 PM
Reply to: Message 7 by New Cat's Eye
05-02-2007 11:37 AM


Catholic Scientist writes:

If someone had faith in two mutually exclusive things, they could use reasoning to realize that they must be mistaken somewhere.

Well, it also works if you say that the apparent exclusivity is simply due to a failure of the human mind. So you could say that both are right (no mistake there), but due to your mental failing you can't put both concepts in the same mental box, and so have to work around that by using two boxes that you switch between.
It's observation that lends credence to yours, as observation shows us that you can't put both things in a Box o' Reality either.


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