The Conception of "real" in science and general discourse

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Re: The Conception of "real" in science and general discours

Postby Eodnhoj7 on June 4th, 2018, 12:09 pm 

hyksos » June 2nd, 2018, 7:01 pm wrote:
Eodnhoj7 » June 3rd, 2018, 12:15 am wrote:But the question occurs, at least to me, what is language? In it we can observe that it not just acts as a form of mediation but manifests through symbols which in themselves are just structures. What is structure but the repetition of symmetry, with this symmetry bringing forth order as order. All things which existed, exist and will exist do so through structure and in these respects all phenomenon take on the form of a language in themselves as medial points to further structures.

I moved around font emphasis to make my reply more sensible.

I wanted to respond to the the phrase that appears in bold blue there. In that context, you are using the word "language" to actually mean a symbolic encoding. Symbolic encodings are not about human language anymore, or how humans communicate theories. This is getting closer to semiotics, which has a different set of rules. We see, for example, insects using pheromones to signal an attack on their hive. Street signs of a certain color indicate action by a driver on a road. (Green means GO. Red means STOP). Even the cells of our bodies use "encodings" to communicate with each other. Some kind of protein molecule called Wnt.

I understand what you are arguing, considering the language is a series of verbal or written structures which provide definition. The problem is that as structures they take on the nature of extending into further structures. So while a language may inevitably result into further languages, it also results in actions or empirical realities (through the act of measurement and/or construction), in there own right.

These medial nature inherent with all structure, where structure exists through structure, necessitates an inherent symbolic context to all reality as this mediation takes on a form of crystalizing a representation of something into something else. An empirically observed building, for example, takes on this act of mediation as it represents further rooms and qualities to which rooms contain (the ability to maintain a reality or move inside of it).

The problem of semiotics, that while it observes the inherent symbolic nature of reality, is that it is dependent upon language itself. This implies:

1) All semiotics is dependent upon language.
2) Language in itself takes on the form of symoblism if semiotics is to maintain its own premises.
3) Semiotic dependences upon language as semiotic itself implies the possibility that all semiotic realities are linguistic realities.
4) Point 3 observes all reality as inherently symbolic.


What is structure but the repetition of symmetry, with this symmetry bringing forth order as order.

I think the claim is that existence is predicated upon geometry. Why you used the word "symmetry" instead is kind of peculiar. Geometrical truths can certainly be encoded into a language. This is not standard fair in "science" when talking about what is real. This is more like a topic for an ontology of quantum mechanics. (i.e. "Reality is made of information. It's all bits. 1s and 0s." yadda yadda )

Yes, the reason the word geometry over symmetry is used is based upon a premise where all phenomenon are composed of space. What we understand of as space extends as the foundation for all abstract and empirical realities. While the empirical can be argued for itself, at the abstract level we use inherent spatial terms to describe certain phenomenon such as: "Empty thoughts" "He is full of himself", "He drew/crossed a line" etc. We intuitively measured intuition itself through spatial terms as a phenomenon which seems to arise from space itself.

Normally we would say that individual humans are limited in their memory and ability to perceive the universe. So theories are formed and communicated amongst us in some "language" due to those shortcomings. The alternative claim would be something like we form physical theories as equations because this says something deeper at the nature of cosmos. Well, maybe maybe not.


And the dimensions of a schematic or those of an experiment do not encapsulate reality by providing a median to action?

The dimensions of an experiment provide a medium {sic} to action?

Yes, they provide a median. All experiments, through the act of test provide a specific set of boundaries which form the results themselves. For example if I am measuring the reproductive capabilities of a set of rabbits I form a box, give a specific amount of feed, keep the rabbits under those conditions for "x" amount of time, etc. Now the experiment may correspond to what happens in the nature world, or it may not. However, either way a specfic set of dimensions were applied to the experiment meant to measure the framework of nature itself. These dimensions may mirror nature, but because we created the framework and the framework does not consist of nature itself, it is still an approximate understanding of nature and our understanding of it...hence a degree of randomness is involved because of this approximate nature.
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Re: The Conception of "real" in science and general discours

Postby mitchellmckain on June 4th, 2018, 1:49 pm 

BadgerJelly » June 4th, 2018, 11:25 am wrote:Mitch -

I’ll simply **** off and stop wasting my time then.

Bye


It is not a waste of time.

Just because people ask a question which has no answer (let alone one which is simple and which everyone can agree about) doesn't mean the question isn't worth asking.

Just for example. People ask "what is the purpose of life?" Well, I think the best answer is that of existentialism that deciding on a answer for this question for ourselves is a big part of what life is about. It is very clear that a lot of people don't like that answer and will even try to equate this with saying life has no purpose -- to which the existentialist can only throw up his hands is exasperation.

Likewise, on this question of what is reality, just because we cannot expect everyone to agree, doesn't mean the question isn't worth asking. And even if we cannot expect agreement, we can still discuss the merits of different answers. Perhaps this will at least identify answers which many think have serious flaws. I think being aware of that has value, don't you? So... I have put forward my idea that reality is as varied as doing. That seems pretty broad to me. Do you think it is too broad or not broad enough? Can you suggest an alternative which is more satisfactory to you? I see much value in discussing different ideas even if there is no means to getting everyone to agree on an answer.

Dialogue is the best we have. Even when it doesn't produce agreement, people still learn something from it. I certainly have.
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Re: The Conception of "real" in science and general discours

Postby mitchellmckain on June 4th, 2018, 3:22 pm 

You know... what might help a lot is to look at a specific example: something which challenges this question of reality where you think a looser idea of reality is needed.

For example, how about the phenomenon of children who have imaginary friends. Isn't that an issue at least in the sense that some psychologists might consider it unhelpful or even harmful to simply tell a child that their friend is not real. My idea suggests that would focus on what this friend can do that that would describe the sort of reality it has. In this we can simply ask the child what sort of things their friend can do. Wouldn't that work?

Or... if you are more interested reality has it has to do with physical science. What about the Higgs particle? We can describe the role it has in the standard model and in the event found in particle accelerators which scientist identify with this particle. Doesn't it make sense to say the Higgs particle exists in the sense that it plays these roles in science but not in the sense that you can see them with your eyes or talk to them?

LOL I just had this thought of changing Carl Sagan's talk about "the dragon in my garage" to "the Higgs particle in my garage" and wondering if the discussion would go that much differently.
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Re: The Conception of "real" in science and general discours

Postby hyksos on June 5th, 2018, 3:04 am 

Eodnhoj7 » June 4th, 2018, 8:09 pm wrote:I understand what you are arguing, considering the language is a series of verbal or written structures which provide definition. The problem is that as structures they take on the nature of extending into further structures. So while a language may inevitably result into further languages, it also results in actions or empirical realities (through the act of measurement and/or construction), in there own right.

These medial nature inherent with all structure, where structure exists through structure, necessitates an inherent symbolic context to all reality as this mediation takes on a form of crystalizing a representation of something into something else. An empirically observed building, for example, takes on this act of mediation as it represents further rooms and qualities to which rooms contain (the ability to maintain a reality or move inside of it).

The problem of semiotics, that while it observes the inherent symbolic nature of reality, is that it is dependent upon language itself. This implies:

1) All semiotics is dependent upon language.
2) Language in itself takes on the form of symoblism if semiotics is to maintain its own premises.
3) Semiotic dependences upon language as semiotic itself implies the possibility that all semiotic realities are linguistic realities.
4) Point 3 observes all reality as inherently symbolic.

We only see that symbols are used by insects and cell communication. So we can justifiably say that symbols will enhance the reproductive success of an organism in certain narrow cases where it is efficient to do so.

"all reality as inherently symbolic."
We are not nearly there yet. We can only say that many life forms on earth use symbols.
Yes, the reason the word geometry over symmetry is used is based upon a premise where all phenomenon are composed of space. What we understand of as space extends as the foundation for all abstract and empirical realities. While the empirical can be argued for itself, at the abstract level we use inherent spatial terms to describe certain phenomenon such as: "Empty thoughts" "He is full of himself", "He drew/crossed a line" etc. We intuitively measured intuition itself through spatial terms as a phenomenon which seems to arise from space itself.

None of those examples are "inherent spatial terms". They are a collection of metaphors and metonymy. The foundation of human language and intuition is found in our ancient past as hunter-gatherers in paleolithic times.

Yes, they provide a median. All experiments, through the act of test provide a specific set of boundaries which form the results themselves. For example if I am measuring the reproductive capabilities of a set of rabbits I form a box, give a specific amount of feed, keep the rabbits under those conditions for "x" amount of time, etc. Now the experiment may correspond to what happens in the nature world, or it may not. However, either way a specfic set of dimensions were applied to the experiment meant to measure the framework of nature itself. These dimensions may mirror nature, but because we created the framework and the framework does not consist of nature itself, it is still an approximate understanding of nature and our understanding of it...hence a degree of randomness is involved because of this approximate nature.

But the example you are describing is a defense of instrumentalism. In instrumentalism "science" is nothing but stamp-collecting a bunch of tools for prediction. You place the "specific set of boundaries" into the prediction Theory Machine, pull the crank, and out pops the predictions. If those predictions match, the theory is "correct". If not the theory is incorrect. There is no concession to any ontological commitments.

In any case, instrumentalism is deep into the "anti-realism" side of philosophy of science. You will not reach "The Real" from that place. Unless your point is that instrumentalism is metaphysically true, and therefore we are forever stuck predicting "without explanation" as it were.
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Re: The Conception of "real" in science and general discours

Postby Eodnhoj7 on June 5th, 2018, 12:13 pm 

hyksos » June 5th, 2018, 3:04 am wrote:
Eodnhoj7 » June 4th, 2018, 8:09 pm wrote:I understand what you are arguing, considering the language is a series of verbal or written structures which provide definition. The problem is that as structures they take on the nature of extending into further structures. So while a language may inevitably result into further languages, it also results in actions or empirical realities (through the act of measurement and/or construction), in there own right.

These medial nature inherent with all structure, where structure exists through structure, necessitates an inherent symbolic context to all reality as this mediation takes on a form of crystalizing a representation of something into something else. An empirically observed building, for example, takes on this act of mediation as it represents further rooms and qualities to which rooms contain (the ability to maintain a reality or move inside of it).

The problem of semiotics, that while it observes the inherent symbolic nature of reality, is that it is dependent upon language itself. This implies:

1) All semiotics is dependent upon language.
2) Language in itself takes on the form of symoblism if semiotics is to maintain its own premises.
3) Semiotic dependences upon language as semiotic itself implies the possibility that all semiotic realities are linguistic realities.
4) Point 3 observes all reality as inherently symbolic.

We only see that symbols are used by insects and cell communication. So we can justifiably say that symbols will enhance the reproductive success of an organism in certain narrow cases where it is efficient to do so.

"all reality as inherently symbolic."
We are not nearly there yet. We can only say that many life forms on earth use symbols.
Yes, the reason the word geometry over symmetry is used is based upon a premise where all phenomenon are composed of space. What we understand of as space extends as the foundation for all abstract and empirical realities. While the empirical can be argued for itself, at the abstract level we use inherent spatial terms to describe certain phenomenon such as: "Empty thoughts" "He is full of himself", "He drew/crossed a line" etc. We intuitively measured intuition itself through spatial terms as a phenomenon which seems to arise from space itself.

None of those examples are "inherent spatial terms". They are a collection of metaphors and metonymy. The foundation of human language and intuition is found in our ancient past as hunter-gatherers in paleolithic times.

Yes, they provide a median. All experiments, through the act of test provide a specific set of boundaries which form the results themselves. For example if I am measuring the reproductive capabilities of a set of rabbits I form a box, give a specific amount of feed, keep the rabbits under those conditions for "x" amount of time, etc. Now the experiment may correspond to what happens in the nature world, or it may not. However, either way a specfic set of dimensions were applied to the experiment meant to measure the framework of nature itself. These dimensions may mirror nature, but because we created the framework and the framework does not consist of nature itself, it is still an approximate understanding of nature and our understanding of it...hence a degree of randomness is involved because of this approximate nature.

But the example you are describing is a defense of instrumentalism. In instrumentalism "science" is nothing but stamp-collecting a bunch of tools for prediction. You place the "specific set of boundaries" into the prediction Theory Machine, pull the crank, and out pops the predictions. If those predictions match, the theory is "correct". If not the theory is incorrect. There is no concession to any ontological commitments.

In any case, instrumentalism is deep into the "anti-realism" side of philosophy of science. You will not reach "The Real" from that place. Unless your point is that instrumentalism is metaphysically true, and therefore we are forever stuck predicting "without explanation" as it were.



We only see that symbols are used by insects and cell communication. So we can justifiably say that symbols will enhance the reproductive success of an organism in certain narrow cases where it is efficient to do so.

Observing symbols as inherent within the reproductive process observes symbolism as having an inherent form of quasi-gender as male (active form) and female (passive non-form). This duality as active form through localization and passive form as non-localization mirrors back quantitatively to standard binary code of 1 and 0 or qualitatively as being and non-being. The issue of symbolism and replication, as as a form of reproduction, is dependent upon this duality of locality and non-locality which is synonymous in many respects to an inherent gender as "halve" or "part" according to is further synonym of "sex" relative to its Latin roots.

None of those examples are "inherent spatial terms". They are a collection of metaphors and metonymy. The foundation of human language and intuition is found in our ancient past as hunter-gatherers in paleolithic times.

"Fullness", "Emptiness", "Line", "Limit", etc. are dependent upon inherent observations of space with space dependent upon an alternation of definitions as:

1) Limit
2) No limit
3) Expanse as a form of locality and non-locality
4) etc.

The metaphor as a non-literal approach to language observes inherent qualtities that mirror across other qualities regardless of there degree of empirical reality or not. For example the metaphor (or part of it) "it is easier to get a camel through the eye of a needle...." observes inherent relations of size where the "camel" and "the eye of needle" show a relation of units where their identities are dependent upon size. This "size" shows an inherent relativistic element of space.

The problem of the metaphor relies on the fact most of the time it is dependent upon an intuitive understanding of space.

The problem with arguing that language was designed by caveman and has no spatial characteristics occurs in the respect that all hunter-gather societies depended upon an understanding of space to begin with:

1) The projectile weapons depended upon spatial awareness.
2) Hunting/gathering grounds are localities which exist within certain localities.
3) The stars as a form of measuring seasons, positions, etc promoted a necessity in observing time through relative movements of parts
4) Without written language (assuming they had not written language, which may not be the case) they were reduced to communicating through the act of "pointing" (as a form of triangulation between the observer, the observed, and the general community observing) with this act of pointing giving premise to various forms of hand language, verbal communication, etc.




But the example you are describing is a defense of instrumentalism. In instrumentalism "science" is nothing but stamp-collecting a bunch of tools for prediction. You place the "specific set of boundaries" into the prediction Theory Machine, pull the crank, and out pops the predictions. If those predictions match, the theory is "correct". If not the theory is incorrect. There is no concession to any ontological commitments.

In any case, instrumentalism is deep into the "anti-realism" side of philosophy of science. You will not reach "The Real" from that place. Unless your point is that instrumentalism is metaphysically true, and therefore we are forever stuck predicting "without explanation" as it were.


Not necessarily considering the scientific method's emphasis upon experimentation requires constructing certain frameworks of measurement. Even if one is to observe without any instruments, for example entering a plateau to watch "x" behavior of animals, it is still dependent upon certain conceptual constructs of time (seasons in this case), movements relative to other movements (feeding patterns, movements of group "x" relative to group "y", etc.). A framework is a set of abstract or empirical boundaries applies to give context to a specific phenomenon and in these cases is not just integral but necessary for the scientific method which in itself is a framework as specific relative concepts.
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Re: The Conception of "real" in science and general discours

Postby mitchellmckain on June 5th, 2018, 3:31 pm 

hyksos » June 5th, 2018, 2:04 am wrote:In any case, instrumentalism is deep into the "anti-realism" side of philosophy of science. You will not reach "The Real" from that place. Unless your point is that instrumentalism is metaphysically true, and therefore we are forever stuck predicting "without explanation" as it were.


This is incorrect. Anti-realism is something some people like Dewey have tacked onto instrumentalism and which others like Popper have rejected. I am reminded of the rhetoric by Christians who have equated existentialism with atheism despite the fact that the father of existentialism was a theist. No. At most you can say that instrumentalism is on the edge of anti-realism and that is where some but not all instrumentalists take it.

Wikipedia reference

I am also inclined to repeat some of my point concerning the critical and uncritical elements of different groups, but instead I will just point this link to it "My Side" Bias and Distortion My point being that not everyone lacks the critical thinking which knows better than to equate groups and labels with a fixed set of ideas. Thus an understanding of the diversity of thought will distinguish anti-realism from instrumentalism.
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Re: The Conception of "real" in science and general discours

Postby hyksos on June 6th, 2018, 12:33 am 

This is incorrect. Anti-realism is something some people like Dewey have tacked onto instrumentalism and which others like Popper have rejected. I am reminded of the rhetoric by Christians who have equated existentialism with atheism despite the fact that the father of existentialism was a theist. No. At most you can say that instrumentalism is on the edge of anti-realism and that is where some but not all instrumentalists take it.

Wikipedia reference

I am also inclined to repeat some of my point concerning the critical and uncritical elements of different groups, but instead I will just point this link to it "My Side" Bias and Distortion My point being that not everyone lacks the critical thinking which knows better than to equate groups and labels with a fixed set of ideas. Thus an understanding of the diversity of thought will distinguish anti-realism from instrumentalism.

(There is a danger of becoming uselessly academic, lets say. We could , for all intents spend the next 3 screens of this thread bantering back and forth about sections the writings of Dewey and Popper and debating and hashing out what did Dewey mean on page 271? WHat did Popper mean in chapter 6? And on and on like this. Never-ending interpretation of interpretation. SOme people woudl say this is time well spent. Maybe. But Instrumentalism is extremely relevant today -- right now -- among us. And not just some dry exercise involving interpreting dead white men.)

There is nothing particularly "incorrect" about what I posted. For all purposes, one can draw a giant spectrum that spans a chalkboard. On the left side of the chalkboard is the `Most REalist` positions. And on the righthand side, the `most anti-realist` positions. For each theory within Philosophy of Science, you can place it on particular location on this giant spectrum drawn on the chalkboard.

For example, on the very far lefthand side of Realism, you find people like Max Tegmark. Who run around public declaring that the universe is a mathematical structure. In other words, harmonious with realism, they believe that whenever science uncovers a structure, then that structure must be real. REalism melted down into one sentence goes something like "Science uncovers real aspects of the universe." (incidentally Sceintific Realism is the default mode for Carl Sagan, Bill Nye, Niels deGrasseTyson and PBS nova).

Instrumentalism is deep into the righthand side of the chalkboard. Here it is declared that science not only does not uncover what is "Real" -- but worse that it does not even do the work of explaining the world around us. Scientific antirealism is dedicated to the idea that Science is doing something qualitatively different than what was done by the Shamans of paleolithic times who would sit around the campfire in the evening "explaining" where it all came from in mythological terms. Science does not produce explanation. Science is not in-the-business-of producing explanations. Science produces a bunch of Instruments who predict outcomes of physical systems given initial conditions. Period.

The Nye-Sagan-degrasse-Tyson nexus is saturated with the idea that religion is "removed" from a society's culture. In that empty slot where the Religion Module used to go, a Science Module is firmly snapped into place to replace it. Carl Sagan is on video saying that "science replaces superstition".

Instrumentalism says horse crap. There is no such replacement, because what Science does is qualitatively and inherently very alien to the functions of religion.

You don't need to quote Karl Popper, James Dewey, nor wikipedia. Quote me. I will give it to you straight without filler or filter.
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Re: The Conception of "real" in science and general discours

Postby mitchellmckain on June 6th, 2018, 1:40 am 

On further investigation, I can at least agree with hyksos that my response was one sided.

While Wikipedia represents this issue as the instrumentalism of Dewey versus the instrumentalism of Popper, other sources pretty much equate instrumentalism with the former.

For example: Encyclopedia Britannica is quite decisive in saying that instrumentalism is directly opposed to scientific realism. It will be helpful to see the whole first paragraph so I will quote it here.

Encyclopedia Britannica wrote:Instrumentalism, in the philosophy of science, the view that the value of scientific concepts and theories is determined not by whether they are literally true or correspond to reality in some sense but by the extent to which they help to make accurate empirical predictions or to resolve conceptual problems. Instrumentalism is thus the view that scientific theories should be thought of primarily as tools for solving practical problems rather than as meaningful descriptions of the natural world. Indeed, instrumentalists typically call into question whether it even makes sense to think of theoretical terms as corresponding to external reality. In that sense, instrumentalism is directly opposed to scientific realism, which is the view that the point of scientific theories is not merely to generate reliable predictions but to describe the world accurately.


The reason I think this is helpful is because the first part of this in italics doesn't look opposed to realism but only reflects the practical way in which scientific theories are discovered, which is not according to agreement with some reality scientists believe in but according to whether they can predict the results of measurements. Again, I think a big part of the problem goes back to the issue of the theory of truth which we discussed in another thread. If you find the correspondence theory of truth somewhat flawed then you may also not jump from the part in italics to what follows. Hyksos' reference to the description of the reality of the mathematical structures found by science is a particularly good form of scientific realism which I can really get behind. This is quite compatible with saying that the instruments and predictions represent very mathematical structure which both Hyksos and I believe to be an objective reality. Thus I think many scientists like myself and philosophers of science like Popper see much of value in the first part this encyclopedia Britannica quote while rejecting the latter part.

But we can also find in hyksos' post another critical issue because I am VERY much opposed to those who fashion science into a religion with themselves as its high priests. I wouldn't be surprised at all to see those of this so called nexus opposing a methodological difference between science and theology because that would stand in the way of their assuming a papal role of authority in the name of science over all truth and reality. You can also see why they would like the correspondence theory of truth, for no doubt they would measure all truth according whether it agrees with reality as the "high priests" of science have dictated it to be.

What I couldn't quite decide is whether hyksos is supporting or opposing this religification of science. His black and white opposition to instrumentalism would suggest he supports it, but it is perhaps better to let him declare this for himself. But if he is supporting what I am so strongly opposing it would explain why we come into conflict so often.
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Re: The Conception of "real" in science and general discours

Postby hyksos on June 6th, 2018, 3:01 am 

His black and white opposition to instrumentalism would suggest he supports it,

(mid-course correction)

I am an instrumentalist.
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Re: The Conception of "real" in science and general discours

Postby mitchellmckain on June 6th, 2018, 10:52 am 

hyksos » June 6th, 2018, 2:01 am wrote:
His black and white opposition to instrumentalism would suggest he supports it,

(mid-course correction)

I am an instrumentalist.

That helps a LOT! So when you insist that instrumentalism is anti-realist you are taking an anti-realist positition? No wait.... now I am more confused. What about that universe as a mathematical structure deal, are you opposing or endorsing? Or.... does your midcourse correction mean you are agreeing to the middle road like Popper and me, to a little bit of instrumentalism and realism too?
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Re: The Conception of "real" in science and general discours

Postby Braininvat on June 6th, 2018, 12:29 pm 

Math offers useful approximations of what reality is, but I'm not a mathematical realist. I think one can be an Instrumentalist when they do science, and then be something entirely else when engaged in spiritual contemplation. Some forms of cognition are quite useful for grasping holisms that are not accessible by a mathematical/reductionistic analysis of constituent parts of experience.
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Re: The Conception of "real" in science and general discours

Postby hyksos on June 6th, 2018, 4:44 pm 

That helps a LOT! So when you insist that instrumentalism is anti-realist you are taking an anti-realist positition?
Yes.

No wait.... now I am more confused. What about that universe as a mathematical structure deal, are you opposing or endorsing?
I oppose Tegmark's view. But respect it in its own right.

Or.... does your midcourse correction mean you are agreeing to the middle road like Popper and me, to a little bit of instrumentalism and realism too?

I don't know. I would have to read Popper first.

There is a distinction to be made between, on one hand, how science is practiced by scientists in a lab, and on the other hand, how science is communicated to a popular audience.
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Re: The Conception of "real" in science and general discours

Postby mitchellmckain on June 6th, 2018, 4:56 pm 

hyksos » June 6th, 2018, 3:44 pm wrote:
That helps a LOT! So when you insist that instrumentalism is anti-realist you are taking an anti-realist positition?
Yes.

No wait.... now I am more confused. What about that universe as a mathematical structure deal, are you opposing or endorsing?
I oppose Tegmark's view. But respect it in its own right.

Or.... does your midcourse correction mean you are agreeing to the middle road like Popper and me, to a little bit of instrumentalism and realism too?

I don't know. I would have to read Popper first.

Thanks for clearing that up.

hyksos » June 6th, 2018, 3:44 pm wrote:There is a distinction to be made between, on one hand, how science is practiced by scientists in a lab, and on the other hand, how science is communicated to a popular audience.

I am sure by now you have some idea how difficult this is. We usually say that mathematics is the only language in which it can be taught correctly. Communicating it to a popular audience basically amounts to describing various visualizations, which is not the real science itself but is only used as a creative guide in looking for new directions of research. I hope you are not suggesting that the instrumentalist view would be an effective way of doing it.
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Re: The Conception of "real" in science and general discours

Postby hyksos on June 6th, 2018, 7:09 pm 

I hope you are not suggesting that the instrumentalist view would be an effective way of doing it.

What Carl Sagan was doing (and consequently, Nye and deGrasse-Tyson) was making the conclusions of science compelling and inspiring of awe. PBS Nova to some degree does the same thing. The goal is to create popular interest in science, and to inspire the next generation of scientists.

Instrumentalism is a "dirty secret" in academia. It pulls the rug out from underneath the excitement of science, thus it is not talked about on TV. You could try to communicate instrumentalism on TV, but good luck. The average viewer would find it hopelessly dry. You might be able to pull this off on say CSPAN-3, maybe late at night.

To be a little more realistic about this, a TV show that tries to cover philosophy at all , would try its best to communicate very much Philo 101 material. Like "This is Rene Descartes. He lived in such-and-such year. He said X and Y. His books were banned by the church. Now lets move onto Hegel."

On any given radio talk show, it's going to be "What is quantum mechanics?" and then that question will fill out 45 minutes. This website is a philosophy forum. THe moderators do a pretty good job at keeping people honest.

But if you go into the marketplace outside this website, it's really free-for-all. You're gonna get Deepak Chopra and company saying that quantum mechanics proves that Buddhism is correct -- or that quantum mechanics proves that angels exist -- or that some math theorem discovered in the 1920s proves that God exists -- and et cetera.

"I watched this show on youtube and now I know that quantum mechanics says we create our own reality by thinking it into existence."


Oh yes. This is what you will encounter if you step a 200 meters away from this forum. I mean, if there were facebook and not sciencechatforum.com , we would have anti-vaxxers here. We would have people that say GMOs give you cancer and make your children ill.

So yeah. I mean I critique Carl Sagan. I am critical of Niels deGrasse-Tyson. I come down on Bill Nye. But in the grand scheme, we need these men (direly even) to communicate what is known about physics and neuroscience and the history of life on earth. We need um.
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Re: The Conception of "real" in science and general discours

Postby Reg_Prescott on June 10th, 2018, 4:37 am 

Hopelessly off topic, but since the OP absquatulated with the only lifeboat weeks ago, let the band play...

I take it to be obvious and scarcely worthy of civilized discussion that instrumentalism is a form of scientific antirealism, thus, ipso facto, opposed to scientific realism. After all, an instrument -- almost by definition -- is in the business of getting a particular task done (consider surgical instruments, instruments of torture, bagpipes, etc.); not in the business of describing reality by way of truth-evaluable statements.

As far as my own understanding goes anyway, Hyksos has encapsulated the idea fairly accurately above; Mitchell's unfamiliarity with the literature is, once again, ostentatious. Nonetheless, the Encyclopedia Britannica quote he posted (7 posts above this one) says it all: "In that sense, instrumentalism is directly opposed to scientific realism, which is the view that the point of scientific theories is not merely to generate reliable predictions but to describe the world accurately".

The archetypical showcase of instrumentalism is, of course, Osiander's unsanctioned preface to Copernicus's De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium in which we are told -- quite possibly against the views of Copernicus himself -- that the astronomical model or theory contained within is not to be construed as a description of reality, but merely as a useful instrument of calculation. I'll say it again a little louder this time: when we're wearing our instrumentalist hat we are not engaged in scientific realism. Now hold that thought...

Way back on page 2, when the world was young and Badger of Assisi still talked to the animals, I had ventured:

Reg_Prescott » May 17th, 2018, 8:24 am wrote:Now, thanks to the foundational work of Niels Bohr and his co-conspirators, the orthodox school of thought in quantum physics has been overwhelmingly antirealist ...

and
Reg_Prescott » May 17th, 2018, 8:24 am wrote:Quantum physicists, by and large, are trained to think in an antirealist mode.

the latter of which sparked the familiar high mm dudgeon ...

mitchellmckain » May 17th, 2018, 1:50 pm wrote:This is completely incorrect. On the contrary, scientific realism is the overwhelming presumption of the scientific community and this does not change when the topic is quantum physics.


Hiss! Hiss! Hiss!!

David Deutsch, physicist and champion of the many-worlds interpretation of QM, has the following to say on the issue:

[r]ejection (or incomprehension) of the Copenhagen interpretation coupled with what might be called pragmatic instrumentalism, became (and remains) the typical physicist's attitude to the deepest known theory of reality. If instrumentalism is the doctrine that explanations are pointless because a theory is only an 'instrument' for making predictions, pragmatic instrumentalism is the practice of using scientific theories without knowing or caring what they mean.

-- The Fabric of Reality, p329


On the duo of apparently weak assumptions, then, that instrumentalism is a variety of scientific antirealism, and that this Deutsch dude knows what he's talking about, we must conclude that mitchellmckain's dynamic duo of asseverations

"This is completely incorrect", and

"... scientific realism is the overwhelming presumption of the scientific community and this does not change when the topic is quantum physics."

are both completely incorrect.


Finally, though, in response to both Hyksos, who simply claims to be an instrumentalist simpliciter, i.e., without any qualification, and Braininvat who says above ...

Braininvat » June 7th, 2018, 1:29 am wrote:I think one can be an Instrumentalist when they do science, and then be something entirely else when engaged in spiritual contemplation.


... it seems to me unlikely, to say the least, that a scientist would explicitly adopt, or endorse under duress, an instrumentalist approach to her work except in those most abstruse hideaways of the scientific mansion where a realist approach is somehow precluded or rendered problematic in one way or another. And quantum mechanics, far and away, provides us with the paradigmatic example of this 'flight' from realism. After all, all parties can agree, I think, that QM is weird man!, it seems almost to defy a realist interpretation, and if it doesn't cause you a sleepless night or two you must, as they say, have "rocks in your head".

To be more specific, it's inconceivable (to me anyway) that an entomologist, say, might advance a statement such as "the Madagascar hissing cockroach has six legs", only to qualify it with, "but this statement should not be understood as a truth-evaluable description of reality", or "Who the hell really knows about the ontological status of cockroaches. We just shut up and calculate".

As I said earlier, from personal encounters (online) with quantum physicists, they show a tendency to take what they've been taught about scientific norms and standards as it pertains to subatomic physics, and then expand on this -- as if what goes for physics goes for all of science -- to encompass the entire scientific spectrum. With absurd results!

"Shut up and calculate" might be a perfectly acceptable instrumental modus operandus for conducting one's research in recondite physics. Try it in primatology, though, and you can expect to be made a monkey of.

In summary, then, what I mean to say is, instrumentalism seems to me a reasonable position to adopt vis-à-vis certain recherché theories in which unobservable entities of questionable ontological status are involved (QM, go go go!). An across-the-board instrumentalist, or scientific antirealist tout court, on the other hand, might consider a firm rap on the head with a blunt instrument -- a hammer, say -- for relief.
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Re: The Conception of "real" in science and general discours

Postby Braininvat on June 10th, 2018, 10:11 am 

The statement about hissing cockroaches is so taxonomic that I wouldn't really say it reflects the activity of science. As Kant would have pointed out in his critique of pure raisins, it is analytic. If it's an insect then it has six legs. And "hissing cockroach" already contains the category "insect. " No science was brought to bear on reality to form that statement. A better example would be, the Madagascar cockroach, based on our observations this summer, will always prefer chunky peanut butter over creamy when presented with the choice. And there, of course, ontological status is taken for granted.

Much of physics, of course, is devoid of ontology. Particles aren't really permanent particles. A lot of them, like all those neutrinos pouring out of the sun's core, never even interact with anything else, serving only to balance energy ledgers. And then there's virtual particles. Maybe it's better just to talk about energy density and loci of field strength and kick ontic "thingness"up the road.
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Re: The Conception of "real" in science and general discours

Postby Reg_Prescott on June 10th, 2018, 6:34 pm 

Braininvat » June 10th, 2018, 11:11 pm wrote:The statement about hissing cockroaches is so taxonomic that I wouldn't really say it reflects the activity of science.


Sigh and harumph!

Well, if you don't like cockroaches, how about people then? The idiom of psychology, say, is replete with talk about people. So is the vocabulary of economics, and the ontology of sociology, and the theories of archeology.

I don't imagine, though, that very many researchers in the abovementioned disciplines take an instrumentalist approach to people talk and people theories.

The point I was trying to impress is that for a person to claim she is an instrumentalist when it comes to quantum physics (say) sounds to me perfectly reasonable. And she'd be in good company. The place is choc-a-bloc with 'em.

But to simply claim that one is an instrumentalist without qualification, as Hyksos does, leaves one wondering whether he is an across-the-board instrumentalist; that perhaps he takes a "shut up and calculate" approach to, among other things, rivers and mountains (yes, you'll find these in scientific theories too, I think. If not choose something else very near and very big).

Instrumentalism makes at least a certain amount of sense where unobservables are involved. When applied to the realm of medium-sized everyday objects and processes that are in plain view, however, it sounds vaguely insane.

Braininvat » June 10th, 2018, 11:11 pm wrote:As Kant would have pointed out in his critique of pure raisins, it is analytic. If it's an insect then it has six legs. And "hissing cockroach" already contains the category "insect.


This takes us off topic (har har), but sounds a bit suspect to me, BiV. Do you mean to say you've never captured a cockroach, taken it home, and then torn off a leg or two while wearing little or no clothing? And it thereby ceased to be a cockroach? Ahem.

You'd be on firmer ground with a statement like "gold contains 79 protons" (hope I got that right). Now, capture a sample of gold, get naked, and tear off one of its protons.

What happened? is it still gold?
Last edited by Reg_Prescott on June 10th, 2018, 7:22 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: The Conception of "real" in science and general discours

Postby davidm on June 10th, 2018, 6:44 pm 

I haven’t had time to read this whole thread, but it looks quite interesting, the kind of online discussion that is so hard to find.

I’ll just drop in my own two pennies, even if this has been already covered.

I think science is at most an instrumentally useful enterprise. I guess that makes me a scientific anti-realist, but I’m not crazy about such labels.

Once can imagine a dog pawing and sniffing a book and developing, within its cognitive limits, an impression of what the book is — a mental model of it. But of course that mental model would exclude everything of what the book represents to humans. Still, this wouldn’t make the dog’s model incorrect, just limited to the dog.

Perhaps we are like a dog pawing and sniffing at the universe.

For more than a thousand years, Ptolemy’s conception of the solar system checked out beautifully and was instrumentally useful. Then Copernicus came along, but both their competing systems yielded correct results. It was only later that Copernicus gained the upper hand because of more refined empirical studies of the solar system.

Similarly, Newton’s laws held for hundred of years, until they didn’t. But even though Newton’s theories are strictly false, they remain instrumentally useful. No one needs relativity theory or quantum mechanics to calculate spacecraft trajectories to Mars, for example. Newton does just fine, as he does for most everyday stuff. But his “laws” aren’t real, if by real we mean isomorphic to reality, any more than a map is the territory. We are just constantly refining maps.

General relativity and quantum mechanics are our two most successful theories in physics, yet they are incompatible.

The pessimistic meta-induction counsels that we should expect all of our current theories to strictly be false, since all of our past theories have proven to be strictly false. But just because they are false, doesn’t mean they are not useful. See Newton.

I suspect that finding how the universe “really is,” is a chimerical pursuit. It may be that how things “really are” is meaningless, because there is no way things “really are” outside of minds.

It seems to me the fact that we can construct models that make accurate predictions may just be that the models and predictions are consistent with the questions that we are able to ask. There may be different models and predictions from which we are cognitively excluded, the same way a dog is cognitively excluded from reading the collected works of Shakespeare — though he may have a perfectly adequate dog model of such a book (it’s not edible, but I can stand on it to reach food, and it doesn’t make a good toy for fetch, etc.)

I don’t think there is any such things as “the” scientific method, and the overlapping methodologies that characterize the scientific endeavor generally lack ontological commitments.
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Re: The Conception of "real" in science and general discours

Postby Braininvat on June 10th, 2018, 9:24 pm 


This takes us off topic (har har), but sounds a bit suspect to me, BiV. Do you mean to say you've never captured a cockroach, taken it home, and then torn off a leg or two while wearing little or no clothing? And it thereby ceased to be a cockroach? Ahem.

You'd be on firmer ground with a statement like "gold contains 79 protons" (hope I got that right). Now, capture a sample of gold, get naked, and tear off one of its protons.

What happened? is it still gold?


Silly person.

Of course I agreed on the instrumental approach to QM. Was just quibbling about analytic statements a bit, not disagreeing with your main point. Some statements change from analytic to synthetic just by saying them backwards. Cockroaches are insects is analytic. Some insects are cockroaches is more synthetic. It takes observation to tell us that some insects like snacking on pancake mix, scurrying along baseboards, have shared morphology and breed with each other as a distinct species. It was a digression, and some of my posts are not golden. They're a proton short and more platinum like. So I will just ductile out for now. Until I am ready to test my metal.
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Re: The Conception of "real" in science and general discours

Postby Reg_Prescott on June 11th, 2018, 1:52 am 

Braininvat » June 11th, 2018, 10:24 am wrote:Cockroaches are insects is analytic. Some insects are cockroaches is more synthetic.


Hey BiV,

I still think you're skating on thin ice, friend, and I'll explain why below. First, just to be clear, though, this is a matter of no importance whatsoever; I'm not doing this to be adversarial or prove a silly point. It's just that the OP isn't around anyway and .... well, this kinda thing is interesting to sad pathetic losers like me!

Who knows, you might find it interesting too :-)

1. First up, don't make me go searching for all the places on this site where you've confessed your commitment to the Quinean web of belief. C'mon, admit it before I get nasty and look out Barry Manilow's Greatest Hits.

Now, notoriously, and as you well know, Quine denies any analytic-synthetic distinction: the totality of statements constituting the web are not distinguished in kind. It's just that some statements are closer to the periphery and thus more susceptible to revision, while others near the core remain relatively secure due to Quine's parsimonious and painless principle of minimal mutilation -- amending such statements, though feasible and occasionally done, tends to get awfully bloody.

Wotcha got to say about that?

2. Assuming we understand analytic to mean "immunity from revision", it doesn't even seem all that far-fetched to imagine that we might come to learn that cockroaches had been misclassified, and thus revise the statement "cockroaches are insects" to ... well, don't look at me, "cockroaches are politicians" or something.

Stranger things have happened. Remember whales? What would you say -- looking back through time -- to the dude 2000 years ago claiming that the statement "whales are fish" is analytic, therefore forever immune to revision? "Famous last words, sucker"? Last I heard even the rodential status of guinea pigs was in doubt. What next, eh? Orang-utans ruling the world?

3. Far more secure from amendment than "cockroaches are insects", I submit, would be the statement "cockroaches are animals", yet even the analyticity of that latter statement can be cast in doubt by way of outlandish thought experiments of the type that Hilary Putnam not only excels at, but apparently has a ball considering.

Hope you can read the following link (page 47). Substitute "cockroaches" for "tigers" and have fun...

https://books.google.com.tw/books?id=cE ... es&f=false
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Re: The Conception of "real" in science and general discours

Postby hyksos on June 22nd, 2018, 3:15 pm 

To be more specific, it's inconceivable (to me anyway) that an entomologist, say, might advance a statement such as "the Madagascar hissing cockroach has six legs", only to qualify it with, "but this statement should not be understood as a truth-evaluable description of reality", or "Who the hell really knows about the ontological status of cockroaches. We just shut up and calculate".

Except it is not inconceivable.

To get above the clouds for a minute here, your basic assertions so far as comprised of two gists

1. That instrumentalism is obviously practiced in theoretical physics and particle physics because (insert random David Deutsch quote)

2. But instrumentalism is obviously not practiced in biology because look at the all the explaining of insect legs. Biology is about facts and real things like number of eyes.

Boiled down further, the assertion would look something like : Instrumentalism could play no role in Biology.

Digressing a little more sideways, while quantum mechanics and its reception has Instrumentalism painted all over the hallways of its discipline, we could, for example, never form an instrumentalist perspective on evolution by natural selection. Right?

Wrong. The theory of Natural Selection is a statement that commits only to this prediction : that if entities are reproducing with variation, and those variations will determine their reproductive success, then that population of entities will diversify over time.

Period.

No. Period.

"But hyksos, evolution by natural selection says so much more about life on earth and blah blah blah and grandeur this and meaning that." It does no such thing.

For about 150 years since Darwin's Origin, we have seen perpetually that people don't want that theory. INstead, they want a theory about how Evolution is all about the "better replacing the worser", and the giving rise to higher and better lifeforms, and they want to know the direction this process is all going in in the long term, in order to ground all life on earth with meaning, and to place Mankind at the apex of this Grand Natural Battle of the Better Defeating the Lesser. The stronger defeat the weaker, and replace them. The smarter prevail over the dumber, the prettier prevail over the ugly, and life "betters itself". We mankind, the smartest, prettiest and best product of this process that pointed directly and inextricably at our presaged and teleological fulfillment! (..or something like that)

That's the story -- the narrative --- the "explanation" that people wanted natural selection to tell them. Because upright walking hominids are all about narratives, and plot archs and myths which explain.

But The Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection makes none of these commitments. It is a mere tool that merely predicts speciation among a population of varieties over hundreds and thousands of generations. The theory is dry... it's boring.. it even has a little flavoring of (:gulp:) instrumentalism.

While there may exist some Grand MetaNarrative behind all life on earth, and mankind playing a central role in that plot -- the raw theory of NS makes no commitments one way or the other to the existence of such a process. This is something to discuss over a beer at night with a colleague , but you could not publish a paper on it.
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Re: The Conception of "real" in science and general discours

Postby hyksos on June 22nd, 2018, 3:20 pm 

addendum : If you go far enough into academia.. say you enter a masters program in biology at east coast Ivy League University. They will tell you (beat into you) the following :

Evolution is a change in allele frequencies.

You could try deviate from that instrumentalist motto, but do so at your own professional peril.
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