[ExI] against Many Worlds QT

Lee Corbin lcorbin at rawbw.com
Tue May 19 05:23:37 UTC 2009

Jef writes

>>> Lee, my purpose in raising this issue will be served when it's
>>> recognized that you simply can't "model" an "unattainable final goal."
>>> What is the behavior of this element?  Precisely how does it
>>> constrain the behavior of the model as a whole?
>> Here is what the driving analogies are: our models
>> (or theories *about*) physical reality. Suppose that
>> you and I are measuring a temperature or merely the
>> length of a rod. It is EXTREMELY USEFUL, I contend,
>> to maintain that our measurements are converging on
>> something.
>> Something real, i.e., though the measuring rod we
>> know to be a host of dancing sub-elementary particles
>> (again, we "know" as an approximation to something
>> that somehow really does make up the measuring rod),
>> the thing we're trying to measure is on average of
>> our measurements closer and closer to something,
>> and our rod is (can be measured to be) more and
>> more exactly some multiple of the one they keep
>> in Paris.
> Would you likewise assert that Ptolemy with his epicycles was actually
> more *accurate* than previous theories of celestial motion?

His were (of course) more precise than earlier
theories in being able to provide better
predictions, but they were if anything less
correct in that they fleshed out a completely
mistaken conjecture about the solar system.

Here I am going out on a limb to say that it
is *correct* (no mince words) to say that
"the planets revolve around the sun".

(Eternal Truth #2: every statement must be
further modified.
Hence "around the sun" must be modified to
be "about the common center of gravity",
"planets" must be modified to include a
great many other bodies in the vicinity,
"around" must be understood to not be in
defiance of general motion due to galactic
rotation and speed of the galaxy itself,
and so on, literally forever.)

But still, it is absolutely important to
be able to embrace the realization "planets
circle the sun"---and to embrace it as
correct, without any beating around the

> Or mightn't you agree with me that
 > his theory was more *coherent* within
> the broader context of observations
 > of his time?

No offense, but to me that's an unnecessarily
obscure way of describing him and his theories.
He was way off track about how the solar system
basically works, even though his approximations
for the sake of predictions were praiseworthy.
So, to answer your question: no.

> In the same light, you might recognize that evolutionary "progress",
> of which scientific progress is an instance, does not move
> teleologically toward any particular goal, but rather, proceeds by way
> of exploring its adjacent possible, responding to (local) regularities
> (not Truths) with persistent structures reflecting the increasingly
> probable.

Actually, I agreed more with what you wrote to

I believe that (society parameters allowing)
our scientific progress does move closer to
pinning down reality (though I hasten to add
as always that this is a never ending process).

To me, a term such as "the increasingly probable"
hides more than it makes clear. Something is
probable?  Probably what?  Probably so?  True?  Oh.

The introduction of concepts such as "the adjacent
possible", while they do shed light on matters IMO,
are built on a superstructure of simpler concepts.
Among these are the conscious and unconscious
postulates of basic realism.

>>> Your position is not so much wrong as it is lacking in the
>>> sophistication necessary for effective reasoning about complex,
>>> evolving, *open* systems increasingly applicable to our world of
>>> increasing technological and social change.
>> On the contrary, to me your position invites
>> degeneration into vague concepts and doubtful
>> epistemologies. For example, what I describe
>> can be easily translated into any language
>> in the world, and then translated back without
>> much loss. I'd be far less confident that your
>> notions would survive that test as well.
> I got that same response from my kids and my newer employees.  "Why
> can't you just be simple and clear?"  And in my very practical
> positions as a father and a technical manager, my instrumental
> effectiveness continued to increase even as I operated within a
> broadening scope of increasing uncertainty.  But you are right, it
> gets harder and harder to convey the bigger picture.

As I say, I find many of your descriptions and the
concepts you use to be useful, but they come rather
late in one's epistemology, resting upon more
basic things. Your kids and employees, of course,
often really are looking for "yes" and "no" (I'm
hardly telling you anything, of course), black or
white, or particular shade of purple-gray, (as a
mauve) when you try to convey a more nuanced
outlook. Well, most of us in daily life use the
concepts of basic realism.

And so do you, of course. If the cop pulls you
over, you'll either argue that you were *not*
speeding or admit that you were, or some mixture
of the two. You won't dare employ any talk of
his increasingly adaptive response to evolving
traffic flows and his own perceptions on the
one hand vis a vis yours, with nothing like the
actual "real" (sic) velocity being admissible . :)


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