Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Philosophy Still Owns Science.


Karl Popper


Lawrence M. Krauss, atheist and physicist, says:
Philosophy used to be a field that had content, but then "natural philosophy" became physics, and physics has only continued to make inroads. Every time there's a leap in physics, it encroaches on these areas that philosophers have carefully sequestered away to themselves, and so then you have this natural resentment on the part of philosophers. This sense that somehow physicists, because they can't spell the word "philosophy," aren't justified in talking about these things, or haven't thought deeply about them---
(Ross Andersen, “Has Physics Made Philosophy and Religion Obsolete?” The Atlantic (April 23, 2012). Pm et 396. Online URL: visited 7/2/12.)

problem is philosophy is still very important to scinece, and in fact any time a scientist pretends to be using scinece to examine something beyond the domain of scinece he is using philosophy More over philosophy directly informs and shapes and guides science in its understanding.

Exhibit A: Popper's Verisimilitude

Karl Popper is almost universally admired by scientists. He's the only philosopher of science who is so admired among scientist that he's almost thought of as one. Popper used philosophy to show that science doesn't' prove things. He did not use science to talk about scinece he used philosophy. His argument about verisimilitude come right out of philosophy.

He argues that one cannot confirm an abstract ideal through empirical observation. This is strictly a matter of philosophy. That forms the basis for his notions on verisimilitude.

Karl Popper, The Logic of Scientific Discovery. London, New York:Routledge Classics, original English publication 1959 by Hutchison and co. by Routldege 1992. On line copy URL: digital copy by Cosmo oedu visited 2/6/2012, p4

Karl Popper (1902-1994) is one of the most renewed and highly respected figures in the philosophy of science. Popper was from Vienna, of Jewish origin, maintained a youthful flirtation with Marxism, and left his native land due to the rise of Nazism in the late thirties. He is considered to be among the ranks of the greatest philosophers of the twentieth century. Popper is highly respected by scientists in a way that most philosophers of science are not.[1]

He was also a social and political philosopher of considerable stature, a self-professed ‘critical-rationalist’, a dedicated opponent of all forms of scepticism, conventionalism, and relativism in science and in human affairs generally, a committed advocate and staunch defender of the ‘Open Society’, and an implacable critic of totalitarianism in all of its forms. One of the many remarkable features of Popper's thought is the scope of his intellectual influence. In the modern technological and highly-specialised world scientists are rarely aware of the work of philosophers; it is virtually unprecedented to find them queuing up, as they have done in Popper's case, to testify to the enormously practical beneficial impact which that philosophical work has had upon their own. But notwithstanding the fact that he wrote on even the most technical matters with consummate clarity, the scope of Popper's work is such that it is commonplace by now to find that commentators tend to deal with the epistemological, scientific and social elements of his thought as if they were quite disparate and unconnected, and thus the fundamental unity of his philosophical vision and method has to a large degree been dissipated.[2]

Unfortunately for our purposes we will only be able to skim the surface of Popper’s thoughts on the most crucial aspect of this theory of science, that science is not about proving things but about falsifying them.

Above we see [from larger article] that Dawkins, Stenger and company place their faith in the probability engineered by scientific facts. The problem is probability is not the basis upon which one chooses one theory over another, at least according to Popper. This insight forms the basis of this notion that science can give us verisimilitude not “facts.” Popper never uses the phrase “fortress of facts,” we could add that, science is not a fortress of facts. Science is not giving us “truth,” its’ giving something in place of truth, “verisimilitude.” The term verisimilar means “having the appearance of truth, or probable.” Or it can also mean “depicting realism” as in art or literature.”[3] According to Popper in choosing between two theories one more probable than the other, if one is interested I the informative content of the theory, one should choose the less probable. This is paradoxical but the reason is that probability and informative content very inversely. The higher informative content of a theory is more predictive since the more information contained in a statement the greater the number of ways the statement will turn out to fail or be proved wrong. At that rate mystical experience should be the most scientific view point. If this dictum were applied to a choice between Stenger’s atheism and belief in God mystical God belief would be more predictive and have less likelihood of being wrong because it’s based upon not speaking much about what one experiences as truth. We will see latter that this is actually the case in terms of certain kinds of religious experiences. I am not really suggesting that the two can be compared. They are two different kinds of knowledge. Even though mystical experience per se can be falsified (which will be seen in subsequent chapters) belief in God over all can’t be. The real point is that arguing that God is less probable is not a scientifically valid approach.

Thus the statements which are of special interest to the scientist are those with a high informative content and (consequentially) a low probability, which nevertheless come close to the truth. Informative content, which is in inverse proportion to probability, is in direct proportion to testability. Consequently the severity of the test to which a theory can be subjected, and by means of which it is falsified or corroborated, is all-important.[4]

Scientific criticism of theories must be piecemeal. We can’t question every aspect of a theory at once. For this reason one must accept a certain amount of background knowledge. We can’t have absolute certainty. Science is not about absolute certainty, thus rather than speak of “truth” we speak of “verisimilitude.” No single observation can be taken to falsify a theory. There is always the possibility that the observation is mistaken, or that the assumed background knowledge is faulty.[5] Uneasy with speaking of “true” theories or ideas, or that a corroborated theory is “true,” Popper asserted that a falsified theory is known to be false. He was impressed by Tarski’s 1963 reformulation of the corresponded theory of truth. That is when Popper reformulated his way of speaking to frame the concept of “truth-likeness” or “verisimilitude,” according to Thronton.[6] I wont go into all the ramifications of verisimilitude, but Popper has an extensive theory to cover the notion. Popper’s notions of verisimilitude were critixized by thinkers in the 70’s such as Miller, Tichy’(grave over the y) and Grunbaum (umlaut over the first u) brought out problems with the concept. In an attempt to repair the theory Popper backed off claims to being able to access the numerical levels of verisimilitude between two theories.[7] The resolution of this problem has not diminished the admiration for Popper or his acceptance in the world of philosophy of science. Nor is the solution settled in the direction of acceptance for the fortress of facts. Science is not closer to the fact making business just because there are problems with verisimilitude.

Exhibit B:

Philosophical roots of reductionism

Reductionism is both a philosophy and a tool in science. “Methodological reductionism” is the process of reducing phenomena to its smallest constituent parts to understand what makes it function is a method for dealing with complexities that need to broken down.(8) Then there is “philosophical reductionism” which maintains as it’s goal a philosophical and/or ideological tenet that science can explain everything:

"One form of scientific reductionism follows the belief that every single process in nature can be broken down into its constituent parts and can be described scientifically. The broadest sense of the term upholds the idea that science can be used to explain everything, and that nothing is unknowable. By looking at the individual constituent processes, scientists can gain an understanding of the whole process. For example, a reductionist believes that the complexity of the human brain is a result of complex and interacting physical processes. If scientists research and understand these underlying chemical reactions, then they can explain intelligence, emotion and all of the other human conditions. The only way to comprehend fully the sheer complexity of the human brain is to look at the individual pieces." (9)

Here we can definitely see the ideological aspects of science at work. These advocates of this certain type of reductionism believe that “everything can be explained through science.” Obviously for this to be true science has to be the most valid from of knowledge if not the only form of knowledge. Materialists, who tend to philosophical reductionists, and this includes phyisicalists, go step further and just refuse to accept as knowledge anything that can’t be quantified and pinned down by their methods. God can’t be apprehended by their methods so there must not be a God. This notion of science as the most or only valid form of knowledge is clearly ideological and stems form philosophical concerns. In the issue of reductionism we can see one of the most obvious junctures at which philosophy has clung to scientific development and is still being infused with science. Reductionism is inherently infused with philosophy.

"Reductionism encompasses a set of ontological, epistemological, and methodological claims about the relation of different scientific domains. The basic question of reduction is whether the properties, concepts, explanations, or methods from one scientific domain (typically at higher levels of organization) can be deduced from or explained by the properties, concepts, explanations, or methods from another domain of science (typically one about lower levels of organization). Reduction is germane to a variety of issues in philosophy of science, including the structure of scientific theories, the relations between different scientific disciplines, the nature of explanation, the diversity of methodology, and the very idea of theoretical progress, as well as to numerous topics in metaphysics and philosophy of mind, such as emergence, mereology, and supervenience." (19)

Reductionism goes back to the Greeks and tied to philosophy up to the development of early modern science and beyond. The Greek atomists were reductionists. They wanted to cut up reality in order to get at the basic elements. The idea of positing basic building blocks doesn’t require that one abolish other aspects of reality. Yet certain of the pre-Socratics, such as Leucpp and Democritus, began doing this.(11) The term “reductiosm” is not very old. The modern issues enter science from philosophy. Ontological reductionism was part of the dispute between nominalists and realists in the middles.(12) The major alternative to reductionism is holism. Holism also goes back to the Greeks with Aristotle. The Atomists had atoms in the void as the final explanation and Aristotle had final cause of an unmoved mover as the final cause and explanation of all harmony and unity in the world.(13) Modern science abhors teleology, the idea that everything is directed toward a goal or an end point. The teleological is the hall mark of Aristotle’s’ unmoved mover. Atoms in the void don’t require a goal; they are the end of the process. Thus science has had this atheistic bias literally since the Greeks. Likewise, theistic thinking takes on a holistic bias form the Greeks as well. Science was slow to completely turn over to the atomists and did so in stages. The bias against teleology was not adopted into biology until the middle of the nineteenth century (with Darwin and Wallace). Natural mutation and random selection have come to dominate in biology and replace any idea of purposefulness.(14) The distinction between appearance and reality is a carry over from Democritus’ claim that binary oppositions in experience, such cold and hot, sweet and sour, are really just atoms moving in void. We take this as empirically proved because we dismiss experience as subjective and go with the ‘objective measurement,’ never really considering how we are conditioned by philosophical hold over to think this way.

In both B and C we see philosophy providing the basis for science, not just a way that was useful in the days of the Greeks and is no longer but in the modern world it offers guides and the basis of methodological discussion.

Science is method. It not facts it's not lists of "proven things" it's methodology. no methodology, no scinece.

the minions of this nonsense always get themselves in trouble. look at Exhibit D where Krauss makes a fool of himself trying to take down philosophy.

Exhibit C:hilarious exchange between Krauss and Andersen (interviewer for the Atlantic)(plum my commentary).

A humorous exchange occurs when Andersen points out that philosophy offers a basis for computer science. Krauss says: “Well, you name me the philosophers that did key work for computer science; I think of John Von Neumann and other mathematicians, and---.” Andersen says: “But Bertrand Russell paved the way for Von Neumann..”

Karauss says: “But Bertrand Russell was a mathematician. I mean, he was a philosopher too and he was interested in the philosophical foundations of mathematics, but by the way, when he wrote about the philosophical foundations of mathematics, what did he do? He got it wrong.” So not only can we take him over as one of the science boys since he did math but (which would just as easily mean math is part of philosophy again) but he also got it wrong about math (yet that reflects on his philosophical side not on his math side, not real sure how that works since it would be the math side that got it wrong). Andersen remarks “Einstein got it wrong.” To which Krauss replies:

"Krauss: Sure, but the difference is that scientists are really happy when they get it wrong, because it means that there's more to learn. And look, one can play semantic games, but I think that if you look at the people whose work really pushed the computer revolution from Turing to Von Neumann and, you're right, Bertrand Russell in some general way, I think you'll find it's the mathematicians who had the big impact. And logic can certainly be claimed to be a part of philosophy, but to me the content of logic is mathematical."

Science guys are happy when they are proved wrong? I guess he must be ecstatic since Albert’s article? We’ll have to ask him how happy he’s been since his book was panned. It means there’s more to learn, such as the meaning of life and the value of philosophy. He admits logic is part of philosophy and Russell was into both it just eludes him that this also means philosophy is the foundation of computer science and math together that makes it the foundation of physics. Now that’s the “unthinkable” we should be taught to think. Maybe the fortress of facts is a house of cards and maybe there’s more than one form of knowledge in the universe? Scientists being happen when they get it wrong doesn’t change the original fact being made that there are other views than that one.
(ibid: see above the Andersen interview)

In each case we see that philosophical thinking is still making vital contributions and is both guiding scinece and correcting it.

[1] Steven Thornton, “Karl Popper,” The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Winter 2011 edition Edward N. Zalta Editor, URL: vested 2/6/2012
[2] ibid
[3] Miriam-Webster. On line version of Webster’s dictionary. URL: visited 2/7/2012
[4] Thornton, ibid.
[5] ibid
[6] ibid
[7] ibid
(8)“Scientific Recutionsm,” website: URL: visited 3/13/2012 is a site ran for educational purposes by a psychologist and other unnamed authors who work in the seicnes.
(9) Ibid.
(10)Brigandt, Ingo and Love, Alan, "Reductionism in Biology", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2008 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = .
(11)Richard H. Jones, Reductionism: Analysis and the Fullness of Reality. Danvers, Massachusetts: Associated University Press.2000, copy, Google books, URL: visited 3/13/2012
(12) ibid.
(13) ibid.

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