[extropy-chat] what is probability?

Benjamin Goertzel ben at goertzel.org
Tue Jan 9 16:49:22 UTC 2007

> > it is simply BS that all of "philosophy of science" ever written
> > is either trivially obvious, or wrong.
> Easiest way to prove me wrong is to provide a counter example. So tell me
> one thing, just one thing, that philosophers of science have discovered that
> is clear, precise, unexpected, and true.

For example:
The discovery that complex scientific theories are extremely rarely
proved WRONG, but nearly always only proved AWKWARD or INELEGANT for
explaining certain classes of phenomena.

> > How would you tell the story of the "disproving"
> Please explain what those quotation marks mean.

See above.

> >of classical gravitation theory and its replacement by Einsteinian
> > gravitation?
> Subtle experiments were performed that Einstein could explain and Newton
> could not.

This is not correct, as any thoughtful historical analysis would show.

Rather, experiments were performed for which Einstein had a more
elegant, less awkward explanation than Newton.

For instance, there are plenty of ways to explain the precession of
Mercury's orbit within Newtonian mechanics.  But, they are "hacky"
compared to the elegant explanation within General Relativity theory.

> > Consider the mass of the top quark, for example. [.] there is some
> > artfulness and judgment involved in defining which empirical observations
> > are to be considered actual observations of the top quark, versus which
> > are to be considered noise generated by the experimental equipment.
> It's interesting that you had to go to the very cutting edge of experimental
> science where there has not been time to sort things out. If everything is
> culturally related why didn't you discuss the great controversy scientists
> are having over the mass of the electron, or the mass of a baseball for that
> matter? I'll tell you why, because such a controversy doesn't exist.

There are many examples, I was writing an email not a textbook so I
just gave one.

A similar issue arose with Galileo's observations through his
telescope, way back when.  There was no agreement on which of his
observations were real and which were artifacts of the terrible
telescope....  This of course was the cutting-edge back then.
Scientific progress was made via Galileo interpreting observations in
the manner guided by his theory...

It is certainly true that the theory-dependence of observations is a
more dramatic phenomenon at the cutting edge of science than in the
context of well-accepted science.  But the phenomenon always exists,
it's just a matter of degree...

-- Ben

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