[extropy-chat] what is probability?

John K Clark jonkc at att.net
Mon Jan 8 22:58:12 UTC 2007

Benjamin Goertzel <ben at goertzel.org> Wrote:

> if you did some background reading in the philosophy of science it would
> make more sense to you

Probably, but I doubt it would be worth my time. If I was able to translate
your remarks into English I have a very very strong hunch it would be one of
2 things:

1) True but trivially obvious.

2) Wrong.

But I'm not just picking on you, I think that is largely the case for all
philosophers of science. The thing is, if they were really onto something,
if they really did have a better understanding of the scientific method then
mere scientists you'd think they would have made major contributions to our
understanding of how the universe works just like those silly scientists
have. But I can't think of a single philosopher of science that has done
that. Isn't that strange? They remind me a little of movie critics who
go on and on why a movie is terrible but are incapable themselves of
making even a crappy movie.

> Philosophy of science has its jargon like any other discipline, and as
> usual, replacing the jargon with everyday words buys apparent
> comprehensibility at the cost of precision.

That is true for real science, but in social science and philosophy jargon
has a quite different purpose, to conceal the fact that what you are trying
to say is so obvious it's a downright cliché or it's just plain stupid. I'm
not saying philosophy is as bad as physiology in that regard, but it's still
pretty damn bad.

> The point is that assessing the truth or falsehood of a theoretical
> scientific statement is not a simple thing.

Excellent, you did not use one word of jargon and yet your sentence was
clear precise and true. Unfortunately it is also obvious.

> Criteria for validation vary from one scientific approach to another, e.g.
> cultural norms

So in some cultures this bridge will collapse if I march over it, and in
other cultures it won't.

Jef Allbright <jef at jefallbright.net> Wrote:

> it has been traditional for some people to (misleadingly) label these as
> "laws", as if they were absolutely decreed, rather than derived via a
> subjective process of observation and sense-making refinement.

Jef, if everything is subjective then nothing is subjective, for something
to be meaningful you need contrast. Suppose that everything that exists and
everything that does not exist, everything you can imagine and everything
you can't imagine has the property of being bloxinated. Do you think the
word "bloxinated" is likely to be useful to you, can you imagine any reason
to use it in a sentence? I can't.

> The very high statistical regularity of "random" radioactive decay

My use of quotation marks in "this" sentence is as foolish as your use of
quotation marks above. Let me ask you something, can you give me a logical
reason why every event must have a cause? I can't.

>Newton and other scientists who for a long time knew that gravity acted as
>an attraction between bodies following a strict inverse square law, or as
>Einstein revealed that gravity is best modeled as a curvature in space, or
>do we incorporate the newer speculations about effects on gravity due to
>intense magnetic fields and/or "dark matter" or ...?

I don't get it, are philosophers of science of science incapable of
understanding the concept of asemtopes or limits? I thought the same Newton
you talked about explained that pretty damn well back in 1687 when he
invented the calculus. To put it simply we're getting better.

  John K Clark

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