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Author Topic:   Mlodinow & Hawking on Model-Dependent Realism
Stephen Push
Member (Idle past 2969 days)
Posts: 140
From: Virginia, USA
Joined: 10-08-2010


Message 1 of 72 (588463)
10-25-2010 7:59 PM


In their new book, The Grand Design, and in the October issue of Scientific American, physicists Leonard Mlodinow and Stephen Hawking explain their philosophy of science:

[W]e shall adopt an approach that we call model-dependent realism. It is based on the idea that our brains interpret the input from our sensory organs by making a model of the world. When such a model is successful at explaining events, we tend to attribute to it, and to the elements and concepts that constitute it, the quality of reality or absolute truth. But there may be different ways in which one can model the same physical situation, with each employing different fundamental elements and concepts. If two such physical theories or models accurately predict the same events, one cannot be said to be more real than the other; rather, we are free to use whichever model is more convenient.

Based on this philosophy, Mlodinow and Hawking conclude that the big bang theory is “more useful” than the account given in Genesis because it “explains the most about our present observations” and thus “is the best representation we have of the past.” “Still,” they add, “neither model can be said to be more real than the other.”

What are your thoughts about this philosophy? Is it naďve to believe that the Earth is really less than 6,000 years old and life really evolves?

Edited by Stephen Push, : No reason given.


Replies to this message:
 Message 3 by Larni, posted 10-26-2010 8:45 AM Stephen Push has not yet responded
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 Message 6 by Dr Adequate, posted 10-26-2010 1:44 PM Stephen Push has responded
 Message 10 by New Cat's Eye, posted 10-26-2010 4:09 PM Stephen Push has not yet responded

  
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Message 2 of 72 (588502)
10-26-2010 8:24 AM


Thread Copied from Proposed New Topics Forum
Thread copied here from the Mlodinow & Hawking on Model-Dependent Realism thread in the Proposed New Topics forum.
    
Larni
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Posts: 3976
From: Liverpool
Joined: 09-16-2005


(1)
Message 3 of 72 (588507)
10-26-2010 8:45 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by Stephen Push
10-25-2010 7:59 PM


My first though is that Hawking and Mlodinow should stick to physics and leave the philosphising to people with more time on their hands.

But it boils down to either trusting our sense (and measuring equipment) or not.

If you don't trust radiometric dating then you are free to beleive what you like about the age of Earth. But if you trust our intruments you can't logically draw the conclusion that Earth is but 6k years old.

A model 'model' reality so the more of reality it 'models' the more real it is.

Genesis does not model reality at all and the Big Bang model (at this point) seems to do an ok (not perfect) job.

Seems to me that more accurate is better than less accurate. Nearly real is better than not real.

You don't need to beleive in evolution, you can read about it happening in the appropriate journal and given the right education and equipment you could duplicate the research.

Try duplicating Genesis.

Edited by Larni, : spellink

Edited by Larni, : x2


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ringo
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From: frozen wasteland
Joined: 03-23-2005
Member Rating: 3.4


Message 4 of 72 (588533)
10-26-2010 12:51 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by Stephen Push
10-25-2010 7:59 PM


Stephen Push writes:

“Still,” they add, “neither model can be said to be more real than the other.”


A model is "real" only in the sense that it exists and can be observed. It is not the thing that it models. A model of a skyscraper is not a skyscraper.

Two different models of the same thing are equally "real" but one may be an accurate model and the other may not.


"It appears that many of you turn to Hebrew to escape the English...." -- Joseppi
This message is a reply to:
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Straggler
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Posts: 10284
From: London England
Joined: 09-30-2006


Message 5 of 72 (588535)
10-26-2010 12:59 PM
Reply to: Message 4 by ringo
10-26-2010 12:51 PM


Models
Ringo writes:

A model is "real" only in the sense that it exists and can be observed. It is not the thing that it models. A model of a skyscraper is not a skyscraper.

If the model is made to scale and made to accurately reflect the skyscraper in every detail wouldn't it then just be a replica skyscraper?

I am not sure your skyscraper analogy is very good exactly because the perfect model of a skyscraper would be a replica skyscraper. Whereas no scientific theory or model will ever actually be that which it models.

An accurate description would seem to be the best we can hope for.

Ringo writes:

Two different models of the same thing are equally "real" but one may be an accurate model and the other may not.

Yes. And how do we determine which model best reflects reality? Ability to consistently explain all known observations and further ability to predict new observations?

That seems to be the best method we have hit upon to determine the accuracy of our models.


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Dr Adequate
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Posts: 16094
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Member Rating: 8.2


Message 6 of 72 (588540)
10-26-2010 1:44 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by Stephen Push
10-25-2010 7:59 PM


Their example of creationism is not actually an example of their philosophy. They write:

If two such physical theories or models accurately predict the same events, one cannot be said to be more real than the other; rather, we are free to use whichever model is more convenient.

Now, the predictions of creationism are flatly false.

The only way one can even attempt to square creationism with observation is through omphalism --- but that makes no actual predictions, it just runs to keep up.

The nicest thing I can think is that they're using "creationism" in a private and technical sense --- for example, if all they mean by it is the hypothesis that God made the Big Bang go bang.

Edited by Dr Adequate, : No reason given.


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 Message 1 by Stephen Push, posted 10-25-2010 7:59 PM Stephen Push has responded

Replies to this message:
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1.61803
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Posts: 2823
From: Lone Star State USA
Joined: 02-19-2004


(1)
Message 7 of 72 (588547)
10-26-2010 2:11 PM


1. A copy that can not be distinquished from the original is the same thing . there is no difference.
2. Parsimony yet prevails
3. We are only as accurate as our most accurate model.

4.It makes no sense to look for zebras and then be stampeded by horses.

5.Rare things are rare.

6. Science should be silent on matters concerning religion.
7.Proof is a function of mathmatics
Thats all I can think of at the moment.

Oh wait one more.
8.Has the supernatural hypothesis failed? a) yes b) not if your superstitious.


Replies to this message:
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 Message 15 by Straggler, posted 10-27-2010 2:13 PM 1.61803 has responded

  
ringo
Member
Posts: 16362
From: frozen wasteland
Joined: 03-23-2005
Member Rating: 3.4


Message 8 of 72 (588550)
10-26-2010 2:19 PM
Reply to: Message 5 by Straggler
10-26-2010 12:59 PM


Re: Models
Straggler writes:

I am not sure your skyscraper analogy is very good exactly because the perfect model of a skyscraper would be a replica skyscraper. Whereas no scientific theory or model will ever actually be that which it models.


That's my point exactly. It doesn't matter how "real", complete, convincing, etc. a model is. What counts is whether or not it's an accurate depiction of what it purports to model.


"It appears that many of you turn to Hebrew to escape the English...." -- Joseppi
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Stephen Push
Member (Idle past 2969 days)
Posts: 140
From: Virginia, USA
Joined: 10-08-2010


Message 9 of 72 (588570)
10-26-2010 3:58 PM
Reply to: Message 6 by Dr Adequate
10-26-2010 1:44 PM


quote:
The nicest thing I can think is that they're using "creationism" in a private and technical sense --- for example, if all they mean by it is the hypothesis that God made the Big Bang go bang.

No, they clearly state that they believe the big bang theory is no more real than the account of creation in Genesis. But as you point out, in the first quote they seem to say that two models must have equal predictive power to be equivalent. I've read the whole book, and I can't explain this disconnect.

The conclusion of the book asserts that M-theory, which they believe will be confirmed, is the long-sought Theory of Everything and that, they seem to claim, it literally creates our reality. Perhaps they believe both the big bang theory and Genesis are unimportant or uninteresting once you know the Theory of Everything.

Edited by Stephen Push, : No reason given.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 6 by Dr Adequate, posted 10-26-2010 1:44 PM Dr Adequate has responded

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New Cat's Eye
Inactive Member


Message 10 of 72 (588572)
10-26-2010 4:09 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by Stephen Push
10-25-2010 7:59 PM


[W]e shall adopt an approach that we call model-dependent realism. It is based on the idea that our brains interpret the input from our sensory organs by making a model of the world. When such a model is successful at explaining events, we tend to attribute to it, and to the elements and concepts that constitute it, the quality of reality or absolute truth. But there may be different ways in which one can model the same physical situation, with each employing different fundamental elements and concepts. If two such physical theories or models accurately predict the same events, one cannot be said to be more real than the other; rather, we are free to use whichever model is more convenient.

Based on this philosophy, Mlodinow and Hawking conclude that the big bang theory is “more useful” than the account given in Genesis because it “explains the most about our present observations” and thus “is the best representation we have of the past.” “Still,” they add, “neither model can be said to be more real than the other.”

What are your thoughts about this philosophy?

Let me see here:

The quality of 'reality' is attributed to a model when it is successful at explaining events. The BB model is better than the Gen one, but neither is more 'real'.

I think they're using 'real' as in: Real to the person with the model. As opposed to: Real to any/everybody.

That way, the Gen model can be just as real to one guy as the BB model is to them.

That makes sense from an inside perspective, but I don't think its a particularly useful philosophy.

I mean, yeah, my model of the world certainly seems real to me! But what does that have to do with anything?


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Omnivorous
Member (Idle past 1077 days)
Posts: 3808
From: Adirondackia
Joined: 07-21-2005


Message 11 of 72 (588573)
10-26-2010 4:18 PM
Reply to: Message 7 by 1.61803
10-26-2010 2:11 PM


1.61803 writes:

1. A copy that can not be distinquished from the original is the same thing . there is no difference.
...
6. Science should be silent on matters concerning religion.

Well, at a minimum, the copy is older.

Inability to distinguish an original from a copy is a failure of perceptual apparata or technology, not a test of identity. If I can hold the original in my left hand, and the copy in my right, they are definitely not the same thing.

And if a religion teaches that vaccinations will cause you to contract the targeted disease, or that dipping your wick in holy water will protect you from HIV, science should have something to say.


Dost thou prate, rogue?
-Cassio

Real things always push back.
-William James


This message is a reply to:
 Message 7 by 1.61803, posted 10-26-2010 2:11 PM 1.61803 has responded

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1.61803
Member
Posts: 2823
From: Lone Star State USA
Joined: 02-19-2004


Message 12 of 72 (588575)
10-26-2010 4:46 PM
Reply to: Message 11 by Omnivorous
10-26-2010 4:18 PM


And if a religion teaches that vaccinations will cause you to contract the targeted disease, or that dipping your wick in holy water will protect you from HIV, science should have something to say.

Agreed, take the Catholic church and the banning of condomns as an example. HIV being the targeted dz.

I meant more in terms of Science concerning itself with reality rather than religion. But I get your meaning fully.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Edited by 1.61803, : add quotation


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 Message 11 by Omnivorous, posted 10-26-2010 4:18 PM Omnivorous has acknowledged this reply

  
Dr Adequate
Member
Posts: 16094
Joined: 07-20-2006
Member Rating: 8.2


Message 13 of 72 (588579)
10-26-2010 5:00 PM
Reply to: Message 9 by Stephen Push
10-26-2010 3:58 PM


No, they clearly state that they believe the big bang theory is no more real than the account of creation in Genesis. But as you point out, in the first quote they seem to say that two models must have equal predictive power to be equivalent.

Then I would suggest that they leave the philosophy of science to people who are good at it.

* coughs modestly, points repeatedly at self *

And I'll leave them to do the physics.


This message is a reply to:
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Straggler
Member
Posts: 10284
From: London England
Joined: 09-30-2006


Message 14 of 72 (588689)
10-27-2010 2:04 PM
Reply to: Message 10 by New Cat's Eye
10-26-2010 4:09 PM


Competing Models
CS writes:

I mean, yeah, my model of the world certainly seems real to me! But what does that have to do with anything?

Indeed. So how do you decide between competing models as to which one most accurately describes or reflects reality?

E.g. Biblical Genesis Vs Big Bang or Adam and Eve Vs evolution.


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 Message 16 by Stephen Push, posted 10-27-2010 2:29 PM Straggler has responded
 Message 17 by New Cat's Eye, posted 10-27-2010 2:52 PM Straggler has responded
 Message 18 by Coyote, posted 10-27-2010 2:54 PM Straggler has responded

  
Straggler
Member
Posts: 10284
From: London England
Joined: 09-30-2006


Message 15 of 72 (588691)
10-27-2010 2:13 PM
Reply to: Message 7 by 1.61803
10-26-2010 2:11 PM


"Science should be silent on matters concerning religion"
Numbers writes:

6. Science should be silent on matters concerning religion.

Whose religion? All religions?

You do realise that there would probably be no such thing as science if that particular rule had been adhered to don't you? Think Galileo.

So should science stay silent om matters such as: How the universe came to exist? How man's sense of morality came to exist? The nature of consciousness? The beginnings of life? Why humans are inclined to believe in the supernatural? What actually causes religious experiences? Why humans are inclined to imbue mindless physical processes with conscious intent? Why is that we humans feel the need to ask "why" questions and seek meaning when it may well be the case that none exists?

Are these the sorts of matters that science should be silent on in your opinion?

Edited by Straggler, : No reason given.


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