Science and truth

Discussions on the philosophical foundations, assumptions, and implications of science, including the natural sciences.

Re: Science and truth

Postby NoShips on November 17th, 2016, 6:55 am 

Eclogite » November 17th, 2016, 6:43 pm wrote:[quote="[url=http://www.sciencechatforum.com/viewtopic.php?p=309069#p309069]
So, Mount Everest is not now the highest mountain in the world, nor was it so in 1500 AD. The highest mountain in the world is Chimborazo in Ecuador. As it is only just south of the equator is sits astride the equatorial bulge and it is thus further from the centre of the Earth than any other point on its surface.



This section, I suspect, is nothing more than a red herring, Eclogite -- not at all relevant to the discussion at hand. I think what you're doing is committing the simple fallacy of equivocation. What you're telling us is that the statement "Mt Everest is the highest mountain in the world" can be both true and false depending on what definition of "high" we accept. But this is simple equivocation -- the two "high"s are different.

The statement Mt Everest is the highest1 mountain in the world" is not the same as the statement "Mt Everest is the highest2 mountain in the world" (where high1 and high2 stand for varying concepts of height). Or perhaps some would prefer to say the two statements represent different propositions. They're not saying the same thing any more than "Triangles have three sides" and "Squares have three sides" are -- so why should we be surprised if one is true and the other false?

It's like my claiming the statement "Susan is the tallest girl" in the class is both true and false -- depending which of two Susan's in the class we plug into the statement. Susan1 is not the same as Susan2; likewise for your high1 and high2. They don't mean the same. This has nothing to do with our discussion of truth.

Does this sound plausible?
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Re: Science and truth

Postby NoShips on November 17th, 2016, 7:06 am 

BurtJordaan » November 17th, 2016, 7:24 pm wrote: Properly executed observations are factual truths, but the interpretations of observations are not.


What you seem to be suggesting here is that there is such a thing as "raw" observation, entirely untainted by the conceptual apparatus we bring to bear on it, which is then subject to a subsequent process of interpretation.

We hear a lot about the "theory-ladenness" of observation these days, i.e., that all observation is infused with the theories and concepts we bring to the encounter. Think of that famous duck/rabbit picture. Do you first neutrally see the data (lines and squiggles) and then interpret it as a duck? Or do you just see a duck?

All this might be captured by the slogan: eyes don't see (any more than a camera does); people do
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Re: Science and truth

Postby NoShips on November 17th, 2016, 7:24 am 

BurtJordaan » November 17th, 2016, 7:24 pm wrote: Also, mathematical models used in science are not truths, so in that sense, the existence of quarks is not a truth, because it is basically an interpretation of a model.


Good point! Faradave has been defending the position both that science constructs models and that quarks are real, or put another way, the statement "Quarks exist" is true (or at least we have good reason to think so).

But I smell inconsistency in the air. Surely a model is not the kind of thing to which the epithet true even applies. One model might be regarded as superior to another, depending on our own interests and the use to which we want to put it, but to speak of a model being "true" seems to me misapplied. Models, unlike statements and hypotheses, say, don't seem to be in the truth business.
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Re: Science and truth

Postby Eclogite on November 17th, 2016, 9:42 am 

NoShips » Thu Nov 17, 2016 10:55 am wrote:
Eclogite » November 17th, 2016, 6:43 pm wrote:[quote="[url=http://www.sciencechatforum.com/viewtopic.php?p=309069#p309069]
So, Mount Everest is not now the highest mountain in the world, nor was it so in 1500 AD. The highest mountain in the world is Chimborazo in Ecuador. As it is only just south of the equator is sits astride the equatorial bulge and it is thus further from the centre of the Earth than any other point on its surface.



This section, I suspect, is nothing more than a red herring, Eclogite -- not at all relevant to the discussion at hand. I think what you're doing is committing the simple fallacy of equivocation. What you're telling us is that the statement "Mt Everest is the highest mountain in the world" can be both true and false depending on what definition of "high" we accept. But this is simple equivocation -- the two "high"s are different.

The statement Mt Everest is the highest1 mountain in the world" is not the same as the statement "Mt Everest is the highest2 mountain in the world" (where high1 and high2 stand for varying concepts of height). Or perhaps some would prefer to say the two statements represent different propositions. They're not saying the same thing any more than "Triangles have three sides" and "Squares have three sides" are -- so why should we be surprised if one is true and the other false?

It's like my claiming the statement "Susan is the tallest girl" in the class is both true and false -- depending which of two Susan's in the class we plug into the statement. Susan1 is not the same as Susan2; likewise for your high1 and high2. They don't mean the same. This has nothing to do with our discussion of truth.

Does this sound plausible?
Everything you say sounds plausible and may well be correct.

What I am suggesting is that not only is truth undefined, but we fail to adequately define what our questions mean. Each term means different things and different times and to different people. It's a little like Heisenberg's uncertainty principle. (That's an analogy and suffers all the deficiencies of analogies.)

I suspect this exchange is not proving too rewarding for you. I am being deliberately vague, because I believe that captures the essence of my assertions. But if the roles were reversed I should be very frustrated.

Also, for me, it keeps coming back to the thought that it doesn't matter too much exactly what truth is, or what reality is, we can work quite adequately with a fuzzy impression of either or both. I cannot pinpoint the position and momentum of an individual atom, but put enough of them together and I recognise a cheesecake when I see one.
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Re: Science and truth

Postby Braininvat on November 17th, 2016, 1:21 pm 

Some true statements don't need to be fuzzy because (as I posted before, without any ripple) they are so definitional as to be tautological. You are just defining a word. Others, like statements of probability in quantum mechanics, are necessarily fuzzy. Models tend to be approximations. Direct measurements can be precise.

But all statements seem to me to lie within a "web of belief" (as Quine called it) where truth relies on a complex network of commonly held propositions about the world. Mountains are bump-like protrusions from the earth with a distinct point at the top, altitude is distance from sea level (and so may change when big ice sheets melt). Height and altitude may mean 2 different things - the former might mean distance from base to peak, the latter distance from sea level to peak. The former will not change in response to ice sheet melting, the latter will. Then there's the notion of what the "base" is and how we may precisely define it. Seems like a tangled web, but we seem to do okay finding rational points of agreement. Truth seems to fare better when people understand what numbers actually mean (notice how many people think "margin of error" is the only rating of actual error in a poll, when the most serious errors are what statisticians call "systematic errors.").
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Re: Science and truth

Postby BadgerJelly on November 17th, 2016, 1:40 pm 

If the question is whether or not truth changes then it is a philosophical question.

"Truth" does not change because it is an abstract construct. The application of the idea of "truth" can and change and has various forms essentially expressed through some form of language. An abstract set of rules define what is "true".

To sum up, not being an actual professional scientist, I would say scientist are not directly concerned with the idea of "truth" only with applying thought to sets of data that has often been accumulated with some prior intent or general purpose.
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Re: Science and truth

Postby NoShips on November 17th, 2016, 8:24 pm 

Braininvat » November 18th, 2016, 2:21 am wrote:Some true statements don't need to be fuzzy because (as I posted before, without any ripple) they are so definitional as to be tautological. You are just defining a word.



Braininvat, sorry! Rest assured I read your first post very carefully; I just couldn't think of anything intelligent to say in response. Some comments you made did strike me intuitively as somewhat fishy (e.g. that "cats are furry bipeds that purr and sleep 20 hours a day." is what you call a definitional truth); though I'm not sure I can articulate exactly why. Lemme try briefly...

(Hilary Putnam has written extensively on this kind of thing, as you probably know.)

To call something a definitional truth, as I understand it, would be to assert that both halves of the definition mean the same, the philosophers' most beloved example being "bachelors are unmarried men". The statement is analytic (in philo jargon), which is to say that its truth (or falsity) can be known simply by examining the meanings of the terms -- no empirical investigation is required. We can know the truth of "bachelors are unmarried men" from the comfort of our armchairs, and we need never worry about falsification. We could not possibly ever come to learn that not all bachelors are unmarried men. (Dare I say it, but many people fear the core of Darwinian evolutionary theory -- "survival of the fittest" -- is a truth of this kind.)

Now, if you're familiar with Putnam's work, he challenges the analyticity of many of our dearly held so-called "analytic truths" (which I believe equates to your "definitional truths") -- he even uses your own example, except with "tiger" for "cat. His conclusion, however, unlike your own, is that "tigers are feline, quadropedal, furry, etc., etc.," is not analytic. We might, for example, come to learn that cats are actually robots with fake fur, have 5 legs (all the ones we've seen had a leg missing), and so forth. :)

Of course, no one supposes this will actually happen; Putnam uses far fetched examples to make a logical point.



But then -- after asserting the existence of definitional truths -- in your most recent post you tell us:

"But all statements seem to me to lie within a "web of belief" (as Quine called it) where truth relies on a complex network of commonly held propositions about the world."

Quine does indeed say so -- which is to deny the very analytic/synthetic distinction that you yourself appear to be upholding in your earlier comments! If Quine is right, then there are no definitional (analytic) truths! All statements from "The Earth is 4 billion years old" to "2+2=4" are in the same boat, or same "web". Even a statement as firmly entrenched as "bachelors are unmarried men", "2+2=4", or your own example from earlier, "f=ma", may come to be revised one day. No statement is immune from revision, and conversely, any statement (e.g. "the Earth is flat") can be held firm from refutation come what may -- without contradiction -- if we so desire.



I claim no expertise in Putnam, Quine, tigers, or bachelors, so I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on the above, if you have any. Thanks!
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Re: Science and truth

Postby NoShips on November 17th, 2016, 8:28 pm 

BadgerJelly » November 18th, 2016, 2:40 am wrote:To sum up, not being an actual professional scientist, I would say scientist are not directly concerned with the idea of "truth" only with applying thought to sets of data that has often been accumulated with some prior intent or general purpose.



One thing I think we need to acknowledge from the outset is that, no matter what opinion you hold personally on science and truth, as a matter of brute fact many high profile scientists do speak of science discovering truth.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yRxx8pen6JY
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Re: Science and truth

Postby BadgerJelly on November 18th, 2016, 2:49 am 

NoShips -

Understand that words can be used in different ways. There are technical truths in logic and truths used in a colloquial way.

An artist can talk of discovering "truth" too, or someone religious, or through mathematical theory. I may even hear a piece of music and say it sound like "truth". We can even produce studies in psychology that question how we view and deal with "truth". It is generally the area of philosophy that goes to great lengths to distinguish lingual terms and contexts. Recently I wrote something about "truth" and framed it as being something I would use in my writing as referring to logic and then went further into this by practically destroying the antonyms "true"/"false" are founded upon. With a set of rules there is a "truth". Within nature we don't know if there are or are not set rules we can distinguish so truth in such a sense is unknowable. Within set abstract constructs truth has a firm footing. The game of chess has rules and we can say "truthfully" that to make some moves is outside of the rules "a false move" in light of the set and established rules.

From the above example given that there are infinite possible moves and that games can literally continue into infinity we can never possibly know the rules of chess with 100% certainty. We could perhaps watch a billion games and believe we understand the game completely. We may never have observed anyone make a castling move though and to observe such an occurance would leave us confounded. Science, in this way, is about setting up a model to describe the "rules of the game" accurately. Science cannot conclude if there are set rules but has established great discoveries in nature by using such a premise.

It is true that if I drop a ball of a building I can tell you when it will hit the ground given the wind speed doesn't get too high. What "truth" means and how it is applied in different areas varies the meaning. Science is not concerning with the meaning of truth it is concerned with applicable and workable scientific method.

In science we could even begin to say things like "more true", meaning the evidence is accumulating to support the theory. At a certain point a theory is so established that is "true", such as Newtonian mechanics. What comes after Newtonian mechanics does not make it redundant. Maybe in the far flung future we will view Newtonian mechanics as so far removed from current thinking that it is essentially "false". (this shows the colloquial use of the term "truth" used in science). I would certainly argue that to some degree the use of mathematical truths over reach their boundaries and thus causes confusion as to what "truth" means outside of mathenatical logic.

Scientists observe nature and guess what is happening. They then devise an experiment to test their guess. If the results don't fit the guess they adjust their guess based on the manner of the experiment and the data accumulated. If there is a formula to describe the universe there is a formula. If not there is not. Science merely pursues an understanding of nature and leaves the idea of "truth" to the philosophers. Humans being quite a contrary bunch of idiots can of course be pulled in two directions and think about the meaning of truth and idealise this and put it to use in scientific investigations.

More confusion comes into play when mathematical abstracts that accurately adhere to experimentational results are clumsily explicated through language. Here the world of analogy and metaphor often distorts the mathematical "truths" by trying to help the public "visualise" what is essential beyond vision. In much the same way as reading a book about a dog does not present you with direct observation of a dog science does not, and cannot, present anyone with direct observation of nature when it comes to subatomical physics. For many "seeing is believing". Seeing is the "truth".

When I look and see a table I can view it as a truth or a non-truth. Meaning what "table" means makes sense to me in a communal sense and has "truth value" in language and allows interaction between people around this here object called "table". The idea of "table" has a different kind of truth compared to the physical objective "table" ... science does not concern itself with such philosophical jargon (for the most part!).
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Re: Science and truth

Postby Eclogite on November 18th, 2016, 4:04 am 

In summary, Badger, I think you just said that truth is dependent on context and definition. That parallels my position.
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Re: Science and truth

Postby NoShips on November 18th, 2016, 4:14 am 

BadgerJelly -- and everyone else -- we seem to have got bogged down in a philosophical discussion of truth, which is not what I, and I daresay everyone else, wants.

What I really want to ask our members, the physicists in particular, is quite simple, and concerns more their attitudes to their theories, as opposed to whether or not truth is actually attained; namely do they take a realist attitude to their theories, whereby all mechanisms and entities postulated therein should be taken at face value -- these entities (purportedly) refer to objects in reality. Or, on the other hand, is the proper attitude to adopt one of a more antirealist or instrumentalist bent?

To be more clear, we often speak of Santa Claus, but no one -- at least here presumably -- supposes the name "Santa Claus" actually refers to a real person.

Before anyone howls in outrage, this is not as flippant as it sounds: a person who reads, perhaps in an economics treatise, of the "average American taxpayer" and takes this literally, has simply misunderstood. The term "average American taxpayer" isn't meant to refer. It's what I described earlier as a façon de parler, or a "useful fiction". To adopt a realist interpretation, in this case, I think we can all agree would be inappropriate. The term might do some useful work for economists, but should not be taken literally.

Now, two examples I gave earlier were those of "point masses" and "perfect gases", terms which appear in scientific theories, but which I guess we all agree are not to be taken literally. The appropriate attitude towards these terms is an antirealistic one. On the other hand, the term "tectonic plate" is almost certainly taken literally by all geologists. The appropriate attitude, geologists would tell us, is realistic.

How about smaller thingies then? Well, until the late 19th century, the scientific community overwhelmingly adopted an antirealist position to the terms "atom" and "molecule". Anyone who took these things to be real would likely have been told they are misunderstanding the theories in question -- "These terms are not meant to be taken literally". This changed at the end of the 19th century -- largely due to the work of Jean Baptiste Perrin -- who convinced many of the reality of these tiny beasties; Ernst Mach constituting a noted holdout for the antirealists.

So what of contemporary physics? This is the question I want to pose. If I take quarks, say, to be real am I misinterpreting? What is the appropriate position to adopt to quarks and all their diminutive brethren: realist or antirealist? (Or perhaps "don't ask!")

I mentioned Einstein in my opening post and his conversion from antirealism to realism (putting him at odds against Bohr et al) in later life. Einstein was a committed antirealist in his younger years, thus if you had told him circa 1916 you believe in non-Euclidean spacetime and whatever other entities were posited in his theories of relativity, he would have told you, I think, that you have misunderstood his theories. "These things are not meant to be taken literally".

And this, after all, is a serious business: if we adopt a realist attitude to Einsteinian relativity, then we commit ourselves to the view that space and time, as traditionally understood, do not exist!

[I'm not a physicist, which is probably obvious. Hope I haven't done too much violence to physics :) ]
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Re: Science and truth

Postby BadgerJelly on November 18th, 2016, 5:34 am 

Eclogite » November 18th, 2016, 4:04 pm wrote:In summary, Badger, I think you just said that truth is dependent on context and definition. That parallels my position.


Yeah! Haha

NoShips -

My fault. Sorry :(

Although in part I was looking at the terms used and what they mean. Pretty hard to extract such meaning without getting bogged down in politics of language. Often there is a singular term that has different uses in different technical methods.
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Re: Science and truth

Postby Eclogite on November 18th, 2016, 5:40 am 

NoShips » Fri Nov 18, 2016 8:14 am wrote:What I really want to ask our members, the physicists in particular, is quite simple, and concerns more their attitudes to their theories, as opposed to whether or not truth is actually attained; namely do they take a realist attitude to their theories, whereby all mechanisms and entities postulated therein should be taken at face value -- these entities (purportedly) refer to objects in reality. Or, on the other hand, is the proper attitude to adopt one of a more antirealist or instrumentalist bent?
Until the physicists turn up, here is my position. I assume it is all real, but I know I can't do much about it either way and so don't really think it matters. When I think about it, as was necessary in this thread, then my precise outlook depends on the day of the week, my blood sugar level and what the weather is like.

I'll now make room for the physicists. (I'm not sure where they are, but I know how fast they are moving.)
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Re: Science and truth

Postby NoShips on November 18th, 2016, 8:57 am 

BadgerJelly » November 18th, 2016, 6:34 pm wrote:
NoShips -

My fault. Sorry :(



Not at all, musteline mate. I've thoroughly enjoyed reading -- and contemplating -- your very intelligent thoughts. That goes for everyone else who has taken the time to contribute. Thank you.

As I said, the question I pose is largely inspired by the two extremes of response I've encountered in other places. It would be nice to hear where the physicists here -- who, after all, deal with the really weird stuff -- stand on all this.

(Everything I've read tells me that quantum physicists these days overwhelming adopt an antirealist perspective on their subject material. Unfortunately I don't know any myself LOL.)

Sorry, Eclogite, tectonic plates just aren't all that weird. :) (how do they fare in that double slit experiment?)
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Re: Science and truth

Postby Braininvat on November 18th, 2016, 11:00 am 

Nosh, I can't fully account for my shift from analytic truth to web of belief, atm, but will return when I have more time. It seemed to me there was room for both kinds of truth, but my examples didn't seem too compelling. As you may guess, I'm strictly an amateur on the philosophy side of SPCF.
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Re: Science and truth

Postby NoShips on November 18th, 2016, 11:06 am 

Braininvat » November 19th, 2016, 12:00 am wrote:As you may guess, I'm strictly an amateur on the philosophy side of SPCF.



Me too, pal. Just waiting for some smartass to come along and make me look foolish. Nosh!
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Re: Science and truth

Postby NoShips on November 18th, 2016, 11:31 am 

Lest my last comment be misconstrued, what I love here is being able to rehearse and throw around stuff that I don't understand that well myself, in the hope of gaining a firmer understanding.

Or, put another way,I haven't the foggiest if anything I've said is right or wrong.

Erm, when does one start to be secure in such things? Graduation? Inauguration?
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Re: Science and truth

Postby NoShips on November 18th, 2016, 11:43 am 

Braininvat » November 19th, 2016, 12:00 am wrote:Nosh, I can't fully account for my shift from analytic truth to web of belief, atm, but will return when I have more time. It seemed to me there was room for both kinds of truth, but my examples didn't seem too compelling. As you may guess, I'm strictly an amateur on the philosophy side of SPCF.



More to say in the same vein. I started a topic here a couple of years ago entitled (something like) "Is Newton's second law definitional?"

I still have no idea what the answer is, but might fare better at a cheese and wine party now. Thanks to winos like you :). Does anyone know? *shrug*

All that really matters is getting the finest Swiss cheese, eh?
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Re: Science and truth

Postby NoShips on November 20th, 2016, 1:27 am 

I mentioned Steven Weinberg earlier as an example of a prominent scientist who does regularly speak of science attaining, or at the very least striving to attain, truth. Weinberg, therefore, is located at the extreme realist terminal of the realist-antirealist spectrum. Science tells us the way the world really is, or, at least, endeavors to do so.

This is surely the common-sense, pre-reflective attitude of the person on the street, as well as that of many more philosophically sophisticated working scientists themselves. As we've seen, though, scientists themselves are by no means univocal about this, thus the pronouncements of Weinberg et al must -- respectfully -- be regarded as personal opinion; not representative of a universal consensus within the scientific community.

I just did a little Richard Dawkins quote-mining, as he strikes me as another unabashed scientific realist (not that there's anything intrinsically wrong with that). Here's a sample:

"The truth is quite odd enough to need no help from pseudo-scientific charlatans."

"We are survival machines—robot vehicles blindly programmed to preserve the selfish molecules known as genes. This is a truth which still fills me with astonishment."

"The truth is that all examples of child protection and parental care, and all associated bodily organs … are examples of the working in nature of the kin-selection principle."

"[...] if I am asked for a single phrase to characterize my role as Professor of the Public Understanding of Science, I think I would claim Advocate for Disinterested Truth."

"I do remember one formative influence in my undergraduate life. There was an elderly professor in my department who had been passionately keen on a particular theory for, oh, a number of years, and one day an American visiting researcher came and he completely and utterly disproved our old man's hypothesis. The old man strode to the front, shook his hand and said, "My dear fellow, I wish to thank you, I have been wrong these fifteen years". And we all clapped our hands raw. That was the scientific ideal, of somebody who had a lot invested, a lifetime almost invested in a theory, and he was rejoicing that he had been shown wrong and that scientific truth had been advanced. "

"Reason has built the modern world. It is a precious but also a fragile thing, which can be corroded by apparently harmless irrationality. We must favor verifiable evidence over private feeling. Otherwise we leave ourselves vulnerable to those who would obscure the truth."

"It is the plain truth that we are cousins of chimpanzees, somewhat more distant cousins of monkeys, more distant cousins still of aardvarks and manatees, yet more distant cousins of bananas and turnips... continue the list as long as desired."

"Don’t ever be lazy enough, defeatist enough, cowardly enough to say “I don't understand it so it must be a miracle - it must be supernatural - God did it”. Say instead, that it’s a puzzle, it’s strange, it’s a challenge that we should rise to. Whether we rise to the challenge by questioning the truth of the observation, or by expanding our science in new and exciting directions - the proper and brave response to any such challenge is to tackle it head-on. And until we've found a proper answer to the mystery, it's perfectly ok simply to say “this is something we don't yet understand - but we're working on it”. It's the only honest thing to do. Miracles, magic and myths, they can be fun. Everybody likes a good story. Myths are fun, as long as you don't confuse them with the truth. The real truth has a magic of its own. The truth is more magical, in the best and most exciting sense of the word, than any myth or made-up mystery or miracle. Science has its own magic - the magic of reality."

"Gravity is not a version of the truth. It is the truth. Anybody who doubts it is invited to jump out of a tenth-floor window."




(All the above tapped from the mines of Wikiquote.) The final quote is an appallingly bad argument, if we can call it that, or analogy, although one that, unfortunately, gets rehashed ad nauseum. [e.g. "If you think evolution is just a theory, you might as well throw yourself off a high building and expect not to plummet, for gravity is just a theory too".] Gravity is not the same thing as self-inflicted defenestration. We don't need science to know that people plummet from roofs and windows, and we knew this before science came along. Theories of gravity -- there's not only one, and they come and go -- purport to describe how, and perhaps also, explain why, people fall from windows. Gravity is not the phenomenon of people falling from windows; it is, we believe, the unobservable cause of people falling from windows. Theories of gravity may come and go; defenestratees will, I daresay, continue to make a mess on the sidewalk regardless.
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Re: Science and truth

Postby BadgerJelly on November 20th, 2016, 3:00 am 

NoShips » November 18th, 2016, 11:31 pm wrote:Lest my last comment be misconstrued, what I love here is being able to rehearse and throw around stuff that I don't understand that well myself, in the hope of gaining a firmer understanding.

Or, put another way,I haven't the foggiest if anything I've said is right or wrong.

Erm, when does one start to be secure in such things? Graduation? Inauguration?


Certainty comes along in the form of being unsure about something. The rest is just practical and convenient facts to navigate through meaning! Haha ;)
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Re: Science and truth

Postby neuro on November 21st, 2016, 10:28 am 

May I just suggest that - as already discussed elsewhere - there is a primal fault in this whole thread?

It seems everybody is discussing about truth as if truth had something to do with ontology. We may discuss to any extent if something does or does not exist, and even whether truth does or does not exist.

But we must not forget that truth is not an ontological question, it is an epistemological one.
Truth is an interpretation and/or representation of reality (possibly the correct one).
It is a problem of knowledge of reality, not of existence.

The truthness of truth lies outside the domain of truth, in that it comes from the consistency (or not) of our interpretation/representation of reality with reality itself.

Given this, the question whether science pursues truth or not can be easily and profitably paraphrased to:
"Science strives to make our truths more and more consistent with reality"
i.e. ir strives to improve our epistemological competence.
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Re: Science and truth

Postby NoShips on November 21st, 2016, 10:38 am 

neuro » November 21st, 2016, 11:28 pm wrote:May I just suggest that - as already discussed elsewhere - there is a primal fault in this whole thread?

It seems everybody is discussing about truth as if truth had something to do with ontology. We may discuss to any extent if something does or does not exist, and even whether truth does or does not exist.

But we must not forget that truth is not an ontological question, it is an epistemological one.
Truth is an interpretation and/or representation of reality (possibly the correct one).
It is a problem of knowledge of reality, not of existence.

The truthness of truth lies outside the domain of truth, in that it comes from the consistency (or not) of our interpretation/representation of reality with reality itself.

Given this, the question whether science pursues truth or not can be easily and profitably paraphrased to:
"Science strives to make our truths more and more consistent with reality"
i.e. ir strives to improve our epistemological competence.



Neuro, nice to see you again, and thanks for your input.

"It seems everybody is discussing about truth as if truth had something to do with ontology."

It does have to do with ontology, at least on a realist construal. If a theory is true, to the realist, then it not only predicts and describes what happens at the observable level, but its ontology (i.e., the architecture and furniture of the theory) really really do exist.

A true theory entails empirical adequacy; the reverse does not hold.

As we've said, Neuro, different people may have different understandings. Evidently to you, "truth" means nothing more than empirical adequacy. In other words, if two theories entail precisely the same set of observational consequences (but one posits quarks, while the other posits squarks -- with logically incompatible properties), then both are true. The realist demurs. If the quark theory is true, then the squark theory is false.
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Re: Science and truth

Postby Eclogite on November 21st, 2016, 10:46 am 

NoShips » Fri Nov 18, 2016 12:57 pm wrote:Sorry, Eclogite, tectonic plates just aren't all that weird. :) (how do they fare in that double slit experiment?)
As the Bible says, it is easier for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God than for a tectonic plate to pass through a double slit. And that's the Truth.
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Re: Science and truth

Postby NoShips on November 21st, 2016, 10:46 am 

LOL!
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Re: Science and truth

Postby NoShips on November 21st, 2016, 10:48 am 

What if we make the slits bigger?
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Re: Science and truth

Postby NoShips on November 21st, 2016, 10:53 am 

"But we must not forget that truth is not an ontological question, it is an epistemological one." - Neuro

I don't think so. Truth is a semantic concept. What's real is real (ontology). What can be said about ontology (sentences and all that) can be true or false. What is the case cannot be false. It just is.
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Re: Science and truth

Postby NoShips on November 21st, 2016, 11:01 am 

"The truthness of truth lies outside the domain of truth, in that it comes from the consistency (or not) of our interpretation/representation of reality with reality itself." - Neuro

Gasp! All I can offer in defense is that the nothing itself nothings.

It's my Heidegger impersonation. Wanna see my Marcel Marceau?
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Re: Science and truth

Postby NoShips on November 21st, 2016, 11:10 am 

"Science strives to make our truths more and more consistent with reality"
i.e. ir strives to improve our epistemological competence."
- Neuro

Once again, Neuro, this makes no sense, unless you endorse some kind of truth is simply what we take it to be.

If your truth wasn't consistent with reality to begin with, then it wasn't a truth.


I should say more... I have no doubt I come across as absurdly naive to a scientist. And you'd be absolutely right! Now, won't you extend the same courtesy?
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Re: Science and truth

Postby NoShips on November 21st, 2016, 11:22 am 

What you really mean to say is (cough cough, pardon me)... as we acquire more evidence, our epistemic warrant in believing we might have attained truth grows. Things do not get "more true". The age of the Earth is what it is (Mount Everest and all that).

I thunk. Correct me if I'm wrong, clever friend.
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Re: Science and truth

Postby BadgerJelly on November 21st, 2016, 12:20 pm 

NoShips » November 21st, 2016, 10:53 pm wrote:"But we must not forget that truth is not an ontological question, it is an epistemological one." - Neuro

I don't think so. Truth is a semantic concept. What's real is real (ontology). What can be said about ontology (sentences and all that) can be true or false. What is the case cannot be false. It just is.


Well ... it seems we may have some similar perversions in how we look about the world we're in. Don't go anywhere anytime soon please. Taking a little "holiday" from this forum at the moment :)
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