Sunday, August 27, 2017

Alternatives to “law” in science






It seems clear that a great deal of the fuss is the result of the words, “law” vs. “description.” The prescriptive/descriptive dichotomy is probably too simplistic. Neither is it so simple to just find a new term. One of the more interesting developments in philosophy of science is the small, yet determined, group of feminist science critics. Their social project is to clean science up from it's “sexist spin” (my term) by ridding it of paradigms based upon dominance, hierarchy and linear understanding. Naturally one of the first places they have to start is in dealing with the notion of natural law. Nelson quoting Keller:

Our understanding of what constitutes a law (in nature as well as in society) is of course subject to change, and not all laws necessarily imply coercion. Certainly not all scientific laws are either causal or deterministic; they may, for example be statistical, phenomenological, or just simply the 'rules of the game.'….The extreme case of the desire to turn observed regularity into law is of course the search for the one 'unified' law of nature that embodies all other laws, and that hence will be immune to revision. [1]
Keller doubts that the P/D dichotomy distinguishes the law of nature metaphor from coercion, (Nelson's analysis of Keller). Keller wants to draw upon biology rather than base her alternative on physics. She moves from search for laws to a search for order. Linear hierarchy of the legal metaphor limits our relation to and understanding of nature. Keller admits that order can imply the same hierarchical relationships as does law. It also allows for other kinds of relationships. “Order is a category comprising patterns of organization that can be spontaneous, self generated, or externally imposed; it is a larger category than law precisely to the extent that law implies external constraint..”[2]
Ruth Bleier says dominance determinism and hierarchy is in genetics, so biology is not free of it. She also uses that fact to justify using political concerns as guides to scientific paradigms, because in matters such as racism the relationship between the scientific and political was one-to-one. In other words the dominance and hierarchical nature of genetics was used to justify racism.[3]A Derridian might say, however, that the tension between the two implications of “order” is the point of deconstruction. Law and order go together like soup and sandwich. There's an even better answer as to way the idea of using order rather than law is not a defeat for my argument: order, and organizing principle might fit tether well. Order might be the product of organizing principle.


Scientific realism and property essentialism


This view has the most potential to compete with the TS argument. This is because the other theories furnish first and foremost cosmological explanations and only tangentially compete with the argument as a result of the implications of the explanations they offer. In other words they don't directly attempt to explain from where laws of nature come. This theory does so explain, or at least some versions attempt to. That is what we are calling natural law (they don't all agree with the concept of law) the behavior of physical objects, is the result of properties in the objects. Nancy Cartwright is an example of a thinker who is not content with the notion of natural law or physical law. In resolving the difficulties she raises Alan Chalmers demonstrates a view much like that of property essentialism. Chalmers is a scientific realist. Cartwright, in How The Laws of Physics Lie, argues that laws can't be taken in a realist sense. Cartwright's approach is basically Humean. For example an electronic amplifier performs in a way very different from the technical description. Fundamentally reproducible scattering cross sections in nuclear physics are not deduced from theory. She is making the road map argument, my name for it. In other words, practice is to theory as a road map is to land scape, not always accurate. Laws are not precise descriptions.[4]
Chalmer's solution involves linguistic resolution to the problem. In other words it's primarily a matter of describing accurately what the law encompasses; laws are descriptions of powers, behaviors, and dispositions. Things happen in the world because things have the power or disposition to make them happen a certain way. Balls bounce because they are elastic.[5]The properties of the objects necessitate certain effects and it's a matter of describing in such a way that the definition of law captures that power or disposition. “Once such things as capacities, powers, tendencies, dispositions or properties are included in our ontology, then laws can be taken as describing their mode of operation.”[6] Chalmers sees causes and laws as intimately linked. Laws are essentially descriptions of causes. As he puts it, “events are caused through the actions of particulars that possess the power to act as causes.”[7] Chalmers is speaking of essentialist theory. The problem with Chalmer's view is this is almost tautological. That laws cause things is just fundamental to the definition of law in physical terms. He's really just saying “causes cause things,” The explanation here is not explanatory. Sure balls bounce because they are elastic but what is it that and why are they elastic? Why do things endowed with elasticity bounce? Of it's the molecular structure but why does it have that structure?
Brian Ellis presents a challenging view. [8]This view is challenging to the TS argument because questions the very concept of hierarchical laws, reducing law-like aspect to properties in objects, as essentialists do. It just makes sense that reductionists would get around to that. External overarching laws are a holdover from belief in God, so of course they must go. What did I say in premise (2) of the deductive version of my argument? I said that they try to eliminate the hierarchical nature of OP's they wind up making new ones. Ellis tries to eliminate them and put the causal powers in the objects but then winds up talking about hierarchies again:
The members of these natural kinds [of things—orders of things existing] are charactrrisable by their causal powers, capacities, and properties and have no other intrinsic properties….The fundamental natural kinds belong in hierarchies. At the lowest most specific level of these hierarchies the members of these natural kinds are are intrinsically identical. But as we ascend the hierarchies the natural kinds become more general admit variation.[9]
The same criticism still applies. There's no accounting for why the properties exist. The one concrete example I can think of we see in the section on gravity where the3 starched cloth with billiard balls illustrates how matter warps space and relates gravity, but the illustration assumes gravity anyway. They never try to say why or how property X produces behavior Y and not some other behavior. They use the term necessity in saying the laws are grounded in properties that would make them contingent not necessary[X]
Philosophers of science are now less willing to just assume that laws of physics are mere descriptions, they either want to know why they work or they want to move away from the paradigm of “law.” But we are still pretty much uncertain as to the whys. We are still in the dark about what it is that's being described. But if we try to understand orvanizing princpoes the best one is mind.


Sources 

[1]E. F. Keller, quoted in Lynn Nelson, Who Knows?... op. Cit., 220.
Evelyn Fox Keller (born March 20, 1936) American, feminist, physicist professor emerita at MIT

[2]Ibid.

[3]Lynn Nelson, op cit, 221.
Ruth Bleier was a neurophysiologist, Ph.D, from Johns Hopkins, she was a life long activist, summoned before the HUAAC by Joe McCarthy, for running a peace committee in Maryland. She also taught Psychiatry, was professor at University of Wisconsin at Madison, and one of the first feminist thinkers to bring a feminist critique to scientific paradigms.

[4]Alan Chalmers, in Sankey, op. Cit., 7-8.

[5]Ibid., 10.

[6]Ibid.

[7]Ibid., 11

[8]Brian Ellis, “Causal Powers and Laws of Nature,” in Saknkey, ed. op. Cit. 19-39.

[9]Ibid, 23.

[10]Caroline Lierse in Sankey, op. Cit.,., 83.




4 comments:

Mike Gerow said...

True in theology too (as you are likely aware) ....feminist theologians tend to relational or co-sufferer images of God thus trying to subvert older characterizations of God based upon "dominance, hierarchy and linear understanding" in their field too.

So, Joe, how about that? How would you answer that sort of fem-theological critique?

In political terms, does your singular, top-of-the-hierarchy "TS" concept enable a Donald Trump? Or even worse, some actually competent dictatorial ruler of the "free world" in the future? This is not like you politically, of course not, but does the current US political sitch cause you to ponder any of your theo-metaphysical assumptions?

Should the well-formed state and the well-formed metaphysical universe have the same structure, as Plato would have had it?

K, why not?

Joe Hinman said...

Mike Gerow said...
True in theology too (as you are likely aware) ....feminist theologians tend to relational or co-sufferer images of God thus trying to subvert older characterizations of God based upon "dominance, hierarchy and linear understanding" in their field too.

So, Joe, how about that? How would you answer that sort of fem-theological critique?

I take their concerns seriously I am not just using them to play tyhe PC ID politics card. I'm a egalitarian.

In political terms, does your singular, top-of-the-hierarchy "TS" concept enable a Donald Trump? Or even worse, some actually competent dictatorial ruler of the "free world" in the future? This is not like you politically, of course not, but does the current US political sitch cause you to ponder any of your theo-metaphysical assumptions?

No of course not, Trump is opposed to everything I think is at the top of the hierarchy. Just because the hierarchy flows top down deoesn't mean top down is the value at the top. My favorite professor of all time is William S. Babcock an Augustinian historian at Perkins,(SMU) who led me to see that whatever put at the top is then imposed downward. If you put egalitarian social democracy at the top then that becomes right and it's imposes itself on reality.

It occurred to me that God's value system would not be based upon man's. I look to Jesus to model God's values. Thus love is at the top and I choose social democracy and egalitarianism and so on because I think they are mandated by agope,


Should the well-formed state and the well-formed metaphysical universe have the same structure, as Plato would have had it?

sure, thus we must have a government that strives to enable peace,freedom and justice,

Joe Hinman said...

God is power, thus God does not need to enshrine power as the as is center of value,which is what Trump does. The businessman seeks self aggrandizement and uses enlightened self interest as a vehicle for power. That is because his power is only relative. Power is not an issue for God so his center is love.

Mike Gerow said...

Hey Joe, I thought your second post here was a pretty good response!

To the point....