[extropy-chat] what is probability?

Benjamin Goertzel ben at goertzel.org
Sun Jan 7 21:28:07 UTC 2007

> > > all statements of probability necessarily entail a subjective
> > > viewpoint
> >
> > Everybody thought that a century ago, but not now. It's not
> > just a good idea for there to be a 50% probability of this
> > atom decaying in the next hour, it's THE LAW.

That is silly ... it is not a "law" legislated by some legislative
body; it's an inductive observation made by humans based on looking at
the output of their experimental machinery, and furthermore defined in
terms of words and mathematical operations that are part of human

Read Imre Lakatos on the validation of scientific research programmes
and get back to me next month ;->

[Or, if you're really adventurous, check out my Goertzellian
philosophy of science, which basically agrees with Lakatos but adds a
little more meat ...
http://www.goertzel.org/dynapsyc/2004/PhilosophyOfScience_v2.htm ]

A key point Lakatos made is that scientific statements (like "this
atom will decay in the next hour with 50% probability") are not even
**defined** outside of the language of some particular scientific
research programme.  This leads to the notion of "incommensurability"
between rival research programmes, and the need to compare rival
programmes via criteria like productivity and generativity rather than
comparison to "objective truth".  Which is how science has worked in
reality -- not via "objective truth" being used to decide between
research programmes...

In short, the history of science strongly supports the notion of
probability estimates as degrees of belief; your scientific example
doesn't effectively argue for an objectivist perspective on

-- Ben G

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