Why does science work so well in this universe?

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

Why does science work so well in this universe?

Postby hyksos on August 11th, 2017, 5:01 pm 

I refer to the Scientific Method as a recipe to follow, (given in laymen terms, at the high-school level.)

  1. Gather data.
  2. Form a hypothesis.
  3. Perform experiments to confirm or refute your hypothesis.
I then claim this method will yield enormous success for those who engage in it.

If this method is explained to a cynical adult (who has since had some exposure to philosophy) , the mind of the recipient immediately goes into denial mode. They immediately start trying to cut the method off at the pass, denying it could ever produce accurate theories of anything. They refer to the fact that not all data can be collected,, that there will be exceptions-to-the-rule that will not be accounted for, and "black swans" and so forth. A wall of rejection and denial and excuse-making will be set up to refute the Scientific Method.

I agree that intuition would dictate that this method would never work. Nevertheless, it does work. If you engage in the method without prejudice or cynicism, it does indeed produce enormous success -- this cannot be denied given the explosion of technology in the industrial revolution, and the 19th and 20th centuries.

We are left asking : Why does science work so well in this universe?

I have asked this question in a number of different places on the internet, and the answers were (ironically) very hostile. As if the question is "obvious" in some way. I believe that nobody knows why science works, only that it does.

Your thoughts?
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Re: What does science work so well in this universe?

Postby Braininvat on August 11th, 2017, 6:12 pm 

It works because it's all about empirical evidence and not how we wish things might be or imagine them to be. Science is just a very fine elaboration of the basic concept of "paying attention to what's going on around you." Everytime an anti-science person steps aboard a jet and displays confidence that they will soon arrive someplace hundreds or thousands of miles away, they are revealing their utter hypocrisy and intellectual dishonesty.

Science works in ANY universe where there can be conscious beings that pay attention, ask questions, and gather evidence.
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Re: What does science work so well in this universe?

Postby wolfhnd on August 11th, 2017, 6:42 pm 

Science is life reflecting life. If you have senses and a nervous system you are doing science. Like everything else there is a scale of qualities we use to refine the concept and application of the abstraction.

The question always comes up if there is something that transcends science. It is closely related to the emergent properties hypothesis of the whole being greater than the sum of the parts. I believe the confusion introduced by both the properties of swarm intelligence and the lack of "natural" selection on cultural evolution explain the lack of satisfaction that people feel when contemplating science.

When you say works if you do so outside a value system you make the same mistake people like Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins make. If science leads to AI that replaces humans that is a form of selection. You can't really claim then that the objective is necessary superior to the subjective if the cultural abstractions that produce AI are more powerful a force than biological selection. Abstraction such as freewill are real even if they can't be measured. Religion for example is real even if it doesn't reflect empirical observations. I suspect we will eventually come to the see the universe as information but we just don't have the "physicality" of information figured out yet.
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Re: What does science work so well in this universe?

Postby mitchellmckain on August 12th, 2017, 1:34 am 

hyksos » August 11th, 2017, 4:01 pm wrote:I refer to the Scientific Method as a recipe to follow, (given in laymen terms, at the high-school level.)

  1. Gather data.
  2. Form a hypothesis.
  3. Perform experiments to confirm or refute your hypothesis.
I then claim this method will yield enormous success for those who engage in it.

First of all science is more than just this. It is an important part of it, especially the last step. It is a key difference between the activity of science and most other activities which follows a very different method.
  1. Decide on the thesis you want to prove.
  2. Gather data which may help you do this.
  3. Formulate arguments to convince people that your thesis is correct.
This is the method of rhetoric used by lawyers, politicians, evangelists, and used car salesmen. When you compare the two the difference is obvious. The first method seeks the truth and the second method does not.

But from this perspective, you can see this kind of honest inquiry would be more successful at finding the truth not just in science but in many things. The only question in which of these two methods you use is whether you are actually interested in finding the truth. It is certainly not surprising that it is the first of these two which finds it.

hyksos » August 11th, 2017, 4:01 pm wrote:If this method is explained to a cynical adult (who has since had some exposure to philosophy) , the mind of the recipient immediately goes into denial mode. They immediately start trying to cut the method off at the pass, denying it could ever produce accurate theories of anything. They refer to the fact that not all data can be collected,, that there will be exceptions-to-the-rule that will not be accounted for, and "black swans" and so forth. A wall of rejection and denial and excuse-making will be set up to refute the Scientific Method.

The problem here is that these objections are not addressing the method outlined above.
1. "not all data can be collected" All this means is that the method is not applicable to everything. So what? What does this have to do with whether the method works when it is applicable.
2. "exceptions to the rule" All this means is that inductive inference is not always an absolute proof (the exception being mathematical induction, which is an absolute proof). So this is ultimately a red herring. Who said science is about absolutes? It is about probabilities. Besides science has kind of a way of incorporating the inductive step by systematically continuing to test the theory over an over again in new ways.

hyksos » August 11th, 2017, 4:01 pm wrote:I agree that intuition would dictate that this method would never work.

My intuition dictates the opposite. And that is the problem with "intuition." People intuit all kinds of contradictory things. Such a subjective methodology is quite unreliable at finding the truth and that is exactly why we need the scientific method.

hyksos » August 11th, 2017, 4:01 pm wrote:
Nevertheless, it does work. If you engage in the method without prejudice or cynicism, it does indeed produce enormous success -- this cannot be denied given the explosion of technology in the industrial revolution, and the 19th and 20th centuries.

1. If it is left to the above alone then it is hardly surprising that an honest inquiry into the truth can do what rhetoric cannot. But the truth is that the success of science rests on far more than just this simple prescription for honest inquiry. So let's point out the other elements which contribute to the success of science.
2. Objectivity: This requires a little bit more than the above. Science achieves objectivity by providing written procedures which anyone can follow.
3. Precise measurement: This is an important part of the ability to make the written procedures in number 1. It only with such measurements that the element of subjective judgement can be taken out of the equation.

hyksos » August 11th, 2017, 4:01 pm wrote:
We are left asking : Why does science work so well in this universe?

1. Honest inquiry works better in a universe where there is a truth there to be found. If it was just a chaotic logically inconsistent dream in our own head, then the reality is likely as not to simply conform to whatever thesis and proof we decide to make.
2. Objectivity works better in a universe where there are things which are the same for everyone, i.e. independent of the particular person. If there is an objective aspect to the universe, then objectivity is a method for discovering it. If we are all just dreamers, then no matter how coherent our dream worlds may be, there is no reason to expect things to be the same for everyone.
3. Precise measurement works better in a universe where everything is related to each other by mathematical relationships. And these measurements are useful for discovering natural laws when these mathematical relationships are governed by mathematical equations. This is more than even a shared dream, for such mathematical relationships and equations make a reality quite separate from the desires and whims of our minds.

hyksos » August 11th, 2017, 4:01 pm wrote:
I have asked this question in a number of different places on the internet, and the answers were (ironically) very hostile. As if the question is "obvious" in some way. I believe that nobody knows why science works, only that it does.

I think it is reasonable to suppose that the hostile responses indicate that those people do not know why science works. However, let me point that you you have employed inference here to conclude that "nobody knows why science works," and you have already pointed out the flaw in such an argument. To do this as a proper scientific study, you need to provide the actual numbers giving such a response and then we can calculate the probabilities involved.
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Re: What does science work so well in this universe?

Postby hyksos on August 12th, 2017, 2:16 am 

mm,

Your essential claim here is that science works well in this universe because : the universe is not a "chaotic logically inconsistent dream".

But to pretend that someone (anyone) knows why the universe is not such a thing should automatically be assumed to be false, from the outset. This answer begs the question, if science works in this realm on account of it not being a "chaotic logically inconsistent dream in our own head", then why is the universe not such a thing?

It certainly could have been that way, but it was not.

Precise measurement works better in a universe where everything is related to each other by mathematical relationships.

Yes, so the success of science is because "everything is related to each other by mathematical relationships". Why is the universe this way, and not another way?

If you were contend that "There is no other way the universe could be", I would (no.1) consider the answer to be hostile, and (no.2) really require elaboration on the point.
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Re: What does science work so well in this universe?

Postby BadgerJelly on August 12th, 2017, 3:48 am 

I have steered away from reading other replies and can say to begin with I agree. Nobody knows. What does seem most telling is that we, as humans, are able to have something we call "understanding" and that this "understanding" is possible because we relate our "position" to other "positions". Meaning we "see" the universe as it is as much as we "see" because our "sight" is limited. Our machinations are reflected back toward us as we look "outward". That is a not to deny the material universe exists only to say that we were confined to a single room all our lives without windows we'd never be able to see beyond this limit.

I like to imagine a world where all humanity live within "rooms" and have no idea of outer space (say floating around a sun in some vast structure and having evolved in there and wholly unable to "break out".) In this sense we are very possibly in the very same situation. Our understanding is limited by our reach and our reach helps us understand things as best we can by trial and error, which is a feature of learning. we naturally repeat things as best we can so we can navigate around the world, if not we'd never learn to walk. With more and more conscious control stemming from more automated physical functions, such as breathing, we are living with day-to-day repetition and understand given events from some point of reference. Science works within the confines of our understanding and is pretty much a natural method of learning taken to a level that involves precise measurements and analysis.

There are numerous ways to look at this question other than this. If we are looking an understanding of the universe we are obviously a part of said universe. So, if we are part of it we must naturally abide by any possible "laws"/"rules". It this sense we could simply say that science works because "we work".

Another way to look at this is more in terms of the first little story of the "world of rooms". It is a heuristic, a tool, that when refined more and more works better and better. It could in the bigger picture be missing some "component" yet closely related enough to the universe to explain the "face value". In this way we could talk about using a shoe as a hammer or a stick as a hammer. Science is kind of like this, it works and we refine it more and more but ironically the best and most precise tool for the task may be a screw-driver used on the corners of the metal plate we are not even bothering to take notice of. This would be to class "science" as a satte of psychological "fixatedness", not really something that is comfortable, or even reasonable, to suggest?

If you've seen how I have been interested with Husserl and phenomenology in general you can probably get the gist of the kind of questions that come to my mind with this very obvious, and yet very puzzling, question. This for me then brings me to ask more or less what are the areas of "understanding" that science either struggles to get to grips with, or simply does not claim any real hold on? The current mindset of the educated masses is that the universe is one of materialism and physicalism, because we are able to actively measure only tangible phenomenon with anything resembling precision. For me it is the "yard stick" that makes science work so well in furthering our understanding of the universe. Without a means to measure we would remain unable to really get to the nitty gritty of the workings of the stuff of the universe.

We could also suggest that science works so well because of mathematics or because of art. That emotions are the heart of understanding and that science is a regard for some other "emotional" aspect of human nature? Here though we find an area where science fears to tread. The area of creative imagination and pure speculation. It seems that no matter what we are or what the universe is we nevertheless keep on keeping on and in doing so we've found science to be of great use to look further and further, to ask more and more.

It is a strange way you've worded the question too, by saying "THIS" universe. This eludes to the preset idea of science being wholly useless in some "other" universe. It might be that in three of four million years the whole universe we know may be completely beyond present human comprehension and that right now we just happen to be existing in a period of the universes history that makes it tangible for us (this referring to the nature of us as being part of the universe.) In four million years time maybe a whole "other" kind of "life" will exist that would use a whole other "methodology" which would to us look completely un-methodical. Rationally though this quite simply sounds mostly absurd, but what doesn't?

Over all it works so well because it deals with the pursuit of the objective rather than getting stuck in the quicksand of subjectivity too much. I could ramble on more and more but in general it works because if I see something and point at it and get your attention you look and ask like me "What is that?" It works because we are curious and we are curious because it works.
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Re: What does science work so well in this universe?

Postby mitchellmckain on August 12th, 2017, 2:19 pm 

hyksos » August 12th, 2017, 1:16 am wrote:mm,

Your essential claim here is that science works well in this universe because : the universe is not a "chaotic logically inconsistent dream".

Yes. A method which actually seeks the truth is more likely to work in a universe where there is a truth to be found. It is the simplest of logic.

hyksos » August 12th, 2017, 1:16 am wrote:But to pretend that someone (anyone) knows why the universe is not such a thing should automatically be assumed to be false, from the outset. This answer begs the question, if science works in this realm on account of it not being a "chaotic logically inconsistent dream in our own head", then why is the universe not such a thing?

Nonsense. To ask why the method works and why the universe is the way it is, are two entirely different questions. Frankly, most people see very little value in the second question.

Your original question was: "Why does science work so well in this universe?"

I assumed the more meaningful way of understanding this as "What is it about the universe which makes this method work so well?" rather than something like the petulant child query of "Why can't the world just be the way I want it to be?"

hyksos » August 12th, 2017, 1:16 am wrote:It certainly could have been that way, but it was not.

Wow! That is an extraordinary claim. How can you possibly know any such thing? I suspect what this claim really amounts to is that you can imagine such a universe -- or at least imagine that you can imagine such a universe. But the reason we can have dreams which are logically incoherent chaos is because they are completely unreal and very probably due to no more than the random firing of neurons in the brain. Frankly, I think the logical incoherence not only makes them incapable of reality but practically impossible to remember because their logical incoherence makes them meaningless -- not all dreams, mind you, just those lacking in logical coherence.

hyksos » August 12th, 2017, 1:16 am wrote:
Precise measurement works better in a universe where everything is related to each other by mathematical relationships.

Yes, so the success of science is because "everything is related to each other by mathematical relationships". Why is the universe this way, and not another way?

And why should this question even have an answer let alone an answer that can be objectively established.

Of course, you can insist on an answer and make one up as many do. Theists like myself typically believe that God created the universe for a reason and the universe is the way it is to satisfy that purpose for which He created it. But some theists, like myself, also understand the complete subjectivity of such a belief and would hardly expect other people to agree.

As to a theistic understanding of why the universe is mathematical and measurable in particular... I believe it has to do with automation. It is to make the universe operate on its own according to its own rules rather than just according to His own whim. It is to make the universe and existing thing on its own rather than just a dream of His. And the reason for this is to create the conditions for life, which rather than being some magical substance, is a self-organizing process by which living things make their own choices and thus create themselves. In simplest terms, I believe the mathematical nature of the universe is necessary for the existence of free will.

hyksos » August 12th, 2017, 1:16 am wrote:If you were contend that "There is no other way the universe could be", I would (no.1) consider the answer to be hostile, and (no.2) really require elaboration on the point.

Then I would have say that you have a peculiar definition of hostility which is highly suggestive of an intolerant ideologue. The idea that there is no other way the universe could be, is not hostility but simply a different point of view. It is typical of intolerant ideologies that they push a "with me or against me" attitude which views any disagreement and differing points of view as being hostile. Well I am certainly hostile to intolerance and this sort of attitude, championing instead the attitude that different points of view are healthy and an asset to human civilization. All points of view? Not completely, no. Only those compatible with the ideals of a free society, i.e. liberty and tolerance, are an unalloyed asset to civilization. The intolerant viewpoints are more of a mixed bag, they both increase our diversity and oppose diversity at the same time.

Actually the idea that, there is no other way the universe could be (in certain regards, at least), is an extremely logical one. It is basically saying that there is a reason why the universe exists and only a universe which satisfies certain conditions also satisfies this reason why the universe exists in the first place.

Besides the theist version above there is also the naturalist version which would say that the universe is the way it is because of causal events within some set of natural laws

A very different approach is the multiple worlds anthropic one, saying that all possible worlds exist and only this one has people like us in it... capable of asking such stupid (according to some people) or interesting (according to others like myself) questions.

There is also a combined approach, which I like, which says there is no reason to choose one type of world over the other because even when both exist, their nature determines how we categories them. The chaotic logically incoherent universe DOES exist, in our dreams, and the chaotic logically incoherent character of these universes is why we call them dreams. I think it is even reasonable to argue this is the only way such worlds could even exist.

If you argue that all of these answers basically presuppose logically coherent world, then I would reply that your original question of "why is this world the way it is?" by supposing an answer to such a question, is already presupposing to same degree, a logically coherent world.
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Re: Why does science work so well in this universe?

Postby Braininvat on August 12th, 2017, 3:50 pm 

The anthropic principle (weak version) supplies a good framework for understanding that only a logical and coherent universe can possibly give rise to sentient lifeforms that will try to understand it and wonder at its logic and coherence. Chaos and consciousness just don't go well together. Where there is order and a regularity of pattern and causality, there is the potential for science to develop and thrive among sentient creatures.
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Re: Why does science work so well in this universe?

Postby Forest_Dump on August 12th, 2017, 6:44 pm 

hyksos wrote:I refer to the Scientific Method as a recipe to follow, (given in laymen terms, at the high-school level.)


Gather data.
Form a hypothesis.


I was trying to think of any cases I have ever heard of where this order was actually used but couldn't. I think there was a time in the 17th or 18th century when a few people tried to write encyclopedias containing all knowledge or facts but that didn't really work. I think, and I think this should be very obvious, we first form hypotheses that interest us, for any number of reasons, and then gather the date to confirm or support them. Nobody just blindly gathers data in the hopes that something will pop out at them - you probably wouldn't make it out of your bedroom in the morning with all the time it would take you to gather data on the dust particles in the air. Before you even begin to gather data you have some a priori expectations that the data you gather will inform you of something important in the hypotheses you would already have in mind to test.

I am definitely a fan of "pure" science done for the sake of learning something interesting and not just some form of product improvement. But I am also very much aware that there are broader cultural and contextual historical patterns to the questions we find of interest. Personally I am very much interested in evolution and human evolution in particular. But, in thinking back to the late 60s early 70s when this interest began, a major reason why was in the fact that, at that time and place, this topic was (for reasons I truly don't understand now) thought to be in conflict with the dominant religion around me. I still like to think and read about this stuff when I can but I have to admit some of my interest is diminishing because I am daily confronted by more complex and immediate problems and puzzles of more direct relevance (to me at least - and of life and death significance to many around me). But looking at the patterns of history and science, this is part of a broader pattern. Many of the popular topics of science are or were popular because they were or are part of the dominant, expansionist (some would say predatory) culture. It isn't a global thing (I know many will be out tonight looking at the meteor showers who care very little about astronomy, etc.). Sciences works and has expanded and has experienced considerable success because it is a small part of a larger cultural pattern that rewards economic success in specific (at least potentially expansionary and economically viable) areas. But the methods of science vary tremendously and there is no single scientific method - there is only rewards for what appears to work to reap some kind of economic or other tangible benefit.
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Re: Why does science work so well in this universe?

Postby hyksos on August 12th, 2017, 7:11 pm 

Nonsense. To ask why the method works and why the universe is the way it is, are two entirely different questions.

No it is not an "entirely different question". The reason: science happens inside this universe. Scientists do not travel "outside" the universe to observe it from a distance. Ironic that I would have to point this out. Humans-doing-science itself is a physical phenomenon taking place within the universe.

I think it is even reasonable to argue this is the only way such worlds could even exist.

This is the hostility I was referring to. This cavalier answer that goes : "We wouldn't be here if it wasn't this way!"

Actually the idea that, there is no other way the universe could be (in certain regards, at least), is an extremely logical one. It is basically saying that there is a reason why the universe exists and only a universe which satisfies certain conditions also satisfies this reason why the universe exists in the first place.

I was about to ask you to disentangle this word salad -- but I'm afraid it will only bring on more hostility.

And the reason for this is to create the conditions for life, which rather than being some magical substance, is a self-organizing process by which living things make their own choices and thus create themselves.

I believe this is the source of your hostility. You are presuming, as an unchallenged axiom, that the universe was created for humans -- and from that axiom reason that the universe must have been the way it is "otherwise we wouldn't be here talking about it." It's a conversation-ender. It is meant to silence an opponent and 'win'.
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Re: Why does science work so well in this universe?

Postby mitchellmckain on August 13th, 2017, 12:54 am 

hyksos » August 12th, 2017, 6:11 pm wrote:
Actually the idea that, there is no other way the universe could be (in certain regards, at least), is an extremely logical one. It is basically saying that there is a reason why the universe exists and only a universe which satisfies certain conditions also satisfies this reason why the universe exists in the first place.

I was about to ask you to disentangle this word salad -- but I'm afraid it will only bring on more hostility.

But there is hardly anything complicated in my explanation quoted here. A lot of people believe the universe exists for a reason (whether natural or divine). But then, how could the universe be inconsistent with the very reason it exists in the first place?

But this probably doesn't go along with your idea that the universe could have been a logically incoherent chaos, and you appear to equate any disagreement with either hostility or "word salad." The latter is another one of those affectations of intolerant ideology -- any disagreement is incomprehensible to them. In truth, I do have some hostility to intolerant ideologies. So, yes, I would probably be considered quite hostile in the way you measure such things.

But back to the meaningful question, which is... What is it about this world which makes the methods of science work so well.
1. This world is NOT logically incoherent chaos. There are truths to be found.
2. There is an objective aspect to reality which is the same for everyone.
3. There is much in this universe which is measurable and many mathematical relationships between measurements.

Perhaps we can imagine worlds for which this is not the case. But we have no reason to consider the claim that such worlds are possible to be anything more than a product of imagination also.
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Re: Why does science work so well in this universe?

Postby Eclogite on August 13th, 2017, 2:00 am 

mitchellmckain » Sun Aug 13, 2017 4:54 am wrote:1. This world is NOT logically incoherent chaos. There are truths to be found.
2. There is an objective aspect to reality which is the same for everyone.
3. There is much in this universe which is measurable and many mathematical relationships between measurements.

Perhaps we can imagine worlds for which this is not the case. But we have no reason to consider the claim that such worlds are possible to be anything more than a product of imagination also.
I am in fundamental agreement with each of the points you have made in each of your posts in this thread, except your last sentence. I do not see how it follows from the foregoing. Since we do not know why this universe is, it seems a leap of faith to declare that certain other types of universe cannot be. Would you explain your thinking on this further?
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Re: Why does science work so well in this universe?

Postby mitchellmckain on August 13th, 2017, 3:00 am 

Eclogite » August 13th, 2017, 1:00 am wrote:
mitchellmckain » Sun Aug 13, 2017 4:54 am wrote:1. This world is NOT logically incoherent chaos. There are truths to be found.
2. There is an objective aspect to reality which is the same for everyone.
3. There is much in this universe which is measurable and many mathematical relationships between measurements.

Perhaps we can imagine worlds for which this is not the case. But we have no reason to consider the claim that such worlds are possible to be anything more than a product of imagination also.


I am in fundamental agreement with each of the points you have made in each of your posts in this thread, except your last sentence. I do not see how it follows from the foregoing. Since we do not know why this universe is, it seems a leap of faith to declare that certain other types of universe cannot be. Would you explain your thinking on this further?

Perhaps you are reading too much into it.

This is much like an atheist's response to the belief in God. He says he has no reason to believe that God exists, and could even say he has no reason to think God is anything but a product of imagination. This is NOT a claim that God does not exist or that God IS a product of imagination, and most atheists are not so foolish as to think they can prove any such thing.

In other words, I am likewise a nonbeliever with regards to this claim that such a world is possible. I see no reason to believe that this claim should be accepted as fact. We have no objective evidence with regards to what worlds are possible. Perhaps hyskos knows this by some special revelation to him. Certainly many theists claim to know that God exists by such special revelation. However, atheists having had no such visitation or whatever, quite rationally conclude they have no reason to believe that God exists. Likewise, I am not privy to any revelation about what worlds are possible and thus conclude I have no reason to believe this claim that chaotic logically inconsistent worlds are possible. In fact, I see good reasons to think it is not possible for the simple reason that something logically incoherent does not actually describe anything at all as far as I can tell. But that is just me. Who knows really? I certainly haven't received any divinely given knowledge to the contrary.


But I guess you might suggest this lack of knowledge means, such a world is possible as far as we know. Ok, but we can equally say that it means that such a world is impossible as far as we know. I inclined to think it impossible for the reason given. It seems to me, a world which is logically incoherent is not meaningful description of a world at all.
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Re: Why does science work so well in this universe?

Postby mitchellmckain on August 13th, 2017, 3:23 am 

Hmmm... I have been rethinking this. Perhaps I have been equivocating between two types of logical inconsistency. After all, logically incoherent dreams do seem to exist.

I suppose we can have a logically coherent description of a world where events lack a logically coherent progression in the same way that dreams often do.


But.... If this is what we mean... I have to wonder if even this universe always has a logically coherent progression of events especially when people are involved. Further thought is required... So in order for an honest search for truth to be unworkable, we are talking about a world with no consistent patterns in the progression of events. Hmmm.... Every time I think of something to say about such a world, I realize it doesn't work, leading me to think that we cannot say anything meaningful about such a possibility.

Now let's re-examine in this light, hyskos' question about why not such a world. I think we not only have Braininvat response regarding the anthropic principle, but also, we can even also think that such a world would have no reason to exist. Any such reason would imply some kind of rule or pattern of some kind, wouldn't it? No... for the reason could simply be to show that we can create such a world. But wait a minute... Can we really? Can people whose existence consists of consistent patterns create a world that is not. I am not entirely sure this is possible. Anyway, I still think the whole question is of questionable value and meaning in the first place.
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Re: Why does science work so well in this universe?

Postby Eclogite on August 13th, 2017, 3:27 am 

mitchellmckain » Sun Aug 13, 2017 7:00 am wrote: It seems to me, a world which is logically incoherent is not meaningful description of a world at all.
Thank you for the comprehensive explanation. On this point I suspect you are guilty of taking anthropocentric thinking to a universal level. That doesn't mean you are wrong, but if you are right it will be for the wrong reasons.
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Re: Why does science work so well in this universe?

Postby bangstrom on August 13th, 2017, 3:54 am 

Braininvat » August 12th, 2017, 2:50 pm wrote:The anthropic principle (weak version) supplies a good framework for understanding that only a logical and coherent universe can possibly give rise to sentient lifeforms that will try to understand it and wonder at its logic and coherence. Chaos and consciousness just don't go well together. Where there is order and a regularity of pattern and causality, there is the potential for science to develop and thrive among sentient creatures.

I have recently encountered a novel twist to this point of view that is a little less anthropocentric. To begin with, the concept of a universe governed by a set of immutable or god given laws that have been with us since the beginning of time is in itself an anthropocentric point of view. The beneficial effect of having fixed laws and their consistent application is a human invention that may not apply to the random nature of the natural world.

The primal universe may have been quite chaotic with variable dimensional constants (laws) that resulted in a material world that was equally unstable but, over eons of time, some laws and combinations of laws may have resulted in a greater stability at the particle level and the most stable configurations were also best suited for long term survival so, in a sort of evolution involving a ‘survival of the most stable,’ the whole universe arrived at the condition of stability that we see now.

This shifts the imagined direction of the universe from one that favors sentient lifeforms to one that favors stability at the atomic level and this in turn makes sentient life possible. The exquisite fine tuning of the natural laws that we imagine to be for our benefit may have come about by chance through a feed-back loop between the variable ‘laws’ of nature and the increasing stability of the atomic world.
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Re: Why does science work so well in this universe?

Postby mitchellmckain on August 13th, 2017, 11:40 am 

bangstrom » August 13th, 2017, 2:54 am wrote:The primal universe may have been quite chaotic with variable dimensional constants (laws) that resulted in a material world that was equally unstable but, over eons of time, some laws and combinations of laws may have resulted in a greater stability at the particle level and the most stable configurations were also best suited for long term survival so, in a sort of evolution involving a ‘survival of the most stable,’ the whole universe arrived at the condition of stability that we see now.

It is true that some aspects of the universe are a result of spontaneous symmetry breaking events and thus creating the laws of nature as they are today. But this can only happen within an already determined set of natural laws. Even if the universe resulted from a quantum event as Stephen Hawking suggests, then even this requires a pre-existing set of natural laws in which this could happen. I guess the point is that although you are mostly correct in thinking that most of what we call the laws of nature could indeed have come about by chance, I don't think you can get everything from absolutely nothing in this way.

bangstrom » August 13th, 2017, 2:54 am wrote:This shifts the imagined direction of the universe from one that favors sentient lifeforms to one that favors stability at the atomic level and this in turn makes sentient life possible. The exquisite fine tuning of the natural laws that we imagine to be for our benefit may have come about by chance through a feed-back loop between the variable ‘laws’ of nature and the increasing stability of the atomic world.

Again you are correct is suggesting that many aspect of fine tuning arguments are bogus for this reason. But you cannot completely rule out the idea that the universe was created for a purpose for two reasons. There is still the design of the set of laws you have to start with in order to get such natural law creating events, and from what we know of quantum physics the whole system of physical law is not a causally closed system, which means you cannot rule out the possibility of outside influences on the results of what science sees as random events.
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Re: Why does science work so well in this universe?

Postby hyksos on August 15th, 2017, 4:37 am 

For a short time in its early years, this universe was an incoherent noise of superhot unbounded nuclei. Any structure that did form, was quickly wiped out by fast-moving charged particles. Science was not being done a that time, and science could not have been done at that time. Nevertheless, it was this universe, and it was logically consistent and following nice neat laws of physics.

mitchelmckain is either adopting the position that the universe formed spontaneously in its current state, complete with scientists on earth. (He can answer for that himself). Or if he is not adopting that position, then his entire disputations in this thread have been debunked by my reasoning.

The mere existence of logically-coherent laws does not entail the existence of stable, long-lived structure. There may very well exist a "logically coherent" universe that is made up of nothing but sterile hydrogen gas. Such a perfectly-sound universe would have neither stars, planets, nor scientists. Not only could such a universe exist outside of a dream, it could be simulated on a computer.

We come full circle. Why does science work so well in this universe?
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Re: Why does science work so well in this universe?

Postby mitchellmckain on August 15th, 2017, 1:59 pm 

hyksos » August 15th, 2017, 3:37 am wrote:mitchelmckain is either adopting the position that the universe formed spontaneously in its current state, complete with scientists on earth. (He can answer for that himself). Or if he is not adopting that position, then his entire disputations in this thread have been debunked by my reasoning.

hyskos is either adopting the position that brains don't exist (He can answer that himself). Or if he is not adopting that position and his entire disputations in this thread have been debunked by my reasoning.


So much for his style of nonsensical argumentation and absurd posturing.

Back to the realm of rational discussion now...

1. Many of the laws of nature can indeed be explained to be the result of spontaneous symmetry breaking events. But since this process occurs in a system of natural law which makes this possible this definitely cannot warrant a conclusion that all the laws of nature came about by such a process. There is not a scientist in the world who would imagine that the early universe operated without any natural laws. On the contrary, what they do is formulate what those laws were and test them with experiments in particle accelerators.

2. We established the three characteristics of this universe which makes the methods of science work
I. The universe is not logically inconsistent chaos. There is truth in the universe to be discovered and thus the prescription of honest inquiry in the scientific method is more effective at discovering this truth than the methods of rhetoric.
II. There is an objective aspect to the universe which is the same for everyone and thus the objective method of scientific inquiry are effective at revealing this aspect of the universe.
III. The universe is full of measurable quantities with mathematical relationships between them so the mathematical methods of science are able to discover these relationships.

Thus we have answered the question of why the methods of science work so well in this universe because we are not really interested in whatever hyskos has decided to imagine the universe could be like.
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Re: Why does science work so well in this universe?

Postby neuro on August 21st, 2017, 2:16 pm 

I shall suggest a simple answer:
our consciousness works by searching for patterns, logic, consistency in anything we face.
All animals have this same cognitive approach, although they are less refined in this respect.
If you accept an evolutionist perspective, such capability of looking for patterns and consistency (and for physical laws) must have been favored by evolution.
If it has been favored by evolution, this suggests that it does work.
But in order for it to work there must be patterns, logic, consistency (and physical laws) in the universe.
Otherwise, stubbornly looking for rules and order would not be such an evolutionary advantage, would it?
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Re: Why does science work so well in this universe?

Postby BadgerJelly on August 22nd, 2017, 2:34 am 

A more lighthearted take:

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Re: Why does science work so well in this universe?

Postby Eclogite on August 22nd, 2017, 6:26 am 

hyksos » Tue Aug 15, 2017 8:37 am wrote:The mere existence of logically-coherent laws does not entail the existence of stable, long-lived structure. There may very well exist a "logically coherent" universe that is made up of nothing but sterile hydrogen gas. Such a perfectly-sound universe would have neither stars, planets, nor scientists. Not only could such a universe exist outside of a dream, it could be simulated on a computer.

We come full circle. Why does science work so well in this universe?

Since you are imagining different universes, I believe I am entitled to imagine the following.

We design, develop and build a device that enables us to transfer into such a universe, accompnied by a full array of instrumentation. Are you suggesting that we would not then be able to conduct effective and revealing science in that universe? I hope not, for that would be an illogical position for you to take.

Hence, in any universe that is "logically coherent" science has the potential to work well. That potential may be realised by the evolution of scientists in situ, or their transfer their from another universe.

This isn't rocket science, nor advanced cosmology.
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