[ExI] What can be said to be "wrong", and what is "Truth"

Damien Broderick thespike at satx.rr.com
Mon Oct 13 20:29:14 UTC 2008

At 12:54 PM 10/13/2008 -0700, Jef wrote:

>In the bigger picture, pragmatic predictive success
>has never been about knowing what's correct, but about knowing more
>and more what's unlikely to be correct.

This is a nicely phrased falsificationist perspective. Perhaps one 
ought to add: unlikely to be correct *of any models so far considered 
and tested with some degree of precision*. It's a while since I read 
Imre Lakatos, but I think his competing research programs version of 
Popper might go like that.

And I suppose "correct" means "comparatively effective or fruitful 
for current focal purposes, without screwing up too much else off in 
the penumbra." That is, in Asimov's striking phrase, it doesn't 
unexplain more than it newly explains.

And then--O Lord, can't we ever stop, just sit down and rest for a 
moment?--"unlikely to be correct" *as currently formulated*. First it 
was waves, then it was particles, then it was waves again, then 
particles and waves, or wavy strings, or neither but something that 
can be handled heuristically with a blend of those simplifications, etc etc.

My own little bug creeps out blinking into the light: if and when a 
powerful theory emerges (in physics or psychophysics) that not only 
permits some "anomalous paranormal effects" but really hints strongly 
that they ought to exist, then psi, for a long time seen as "unlikely 
to be correct," might pop up as a prediction/retrodiction. Then all 
the good empirical work compiled by the allegedly crackpot heretics 
will fit into place, and the trash will remain with the woo-woo 
mystagogues and priests--and good riddance.

Damien Broderick 

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