1166: "Argument"

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Eebster the Great
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Re: 1166: "Argument"

Postby Eebster the Great » Tue Feb 05, 2013 6:08 am UTC

Kit. wrote:
Eebster the Great wrote:Seeing as the "Universe" is by definition a closed system, all we need to prove that closed systems exist is to prove that the Universe exists.

First, it would only work for finite universes, with finite entropy.

Why? The law should still apply to an infinite system.

Second, it's useless. Newton's first law introduces a framework that could be used anywhere at any time - and at any scale (well, it doesn't always fit the observed data, but that's another story). "Universe as a closed system" is only good to describe a heat death of it. What is needed to legitimize the everydays use of thermodynamics is some sort of statement why we can apply a framework for closed systems to small and obviously non-closed ones (as we can observe what happens with them).

Thermodynamics, in this context, is basically just a statistical result of Newton's first law anyway.

For example, a statement that any physically meaningful function of energy/entropy must be an analytic function might make it legit to use closed-system approximation for "sufficiently well closed" open systems.

It can't possibly be an analytic function if there are a finite number of microstates.

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Re: 1166: "Argument"

Postby addams » Tue Feb 05, 2013 6:14 am UTC

The argument will rage on and on; As long as the Nobel and Ignoble Posters remember: We Do It For The Buttered Cat!
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Re: 1166: "Argument"

Postby Kit. » Tue Feb 05, 2013 1:29 pm UTC

Eebster the Great wrote:
Kit. wrote:
Eebster the Great wrote:Seeing as the "Universe" is by definition a closed system, all we need to prove that closed systems exist is to prove that the Universe exists.

First, it would only work for finite universes, with finite entropy.

Why? The law should still apply to an infinite system.

Wouldn't infinite systems have infinite energy?

Eebster the Great wrote:
Second, it's useless. Newton's first law introduces a framework that could be used anywhere at any time - and at any scale (well, it doesn't always fit the observed data, but that's another story). "Universe as a closed system" is only good to describe a heat death of it. What is needed to legitimize the everydays use of thermodynamics is some sort of statement why we can apply a framework for closed systems to small and obviously non-closed ones (as we can observe what happens with them).

Thermodynamics, in this context, is basically just a statistical result of Newton's first law anyway.

Good luck avoiding Loschmidt's paradox with that.

Eebster the Great wrote:
For example, a statement that any physically meaningful function of energy/entropy must be an analytic function might make it legit to use closed-system approximation for "sufficiently well closed" open systems.

It can't possibly be an analytic function if there are a finite number of microstates.

Why?

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Re: 1166: "Argument"

Postby bmonk » Tue Feb 05, 2013 9:41 pm UTC

DavidRoss wrote:
webgiant wrote:I took an applied science class last semester, "Generators, Transformers, and Motors", in which the teacher and one of the students were convinced that a solar cell capable of producing enough energy to power a light bulb could be powered by that same light bulb to produce the energy needed to make the light bulb generate enough power in the solar cell to power the light bulb. The teacher was not an unintelligent man, and understood basic principles of electricity and induction, but refused to accept that a solar cell only capable of converting 15% of the light striking it into electricity was not able to power a light bulb producing 100% of the light striking the solar cell in a continuous perpetual motion-like process.

I think this goes to show why most climate-change deniers are in science fields completely unrelated to climate change: you can be an incredibly smart expert in one science field, and still believe pseudoscience about another scientific field.


I wouldn't have been so charitable to the teacher. He was not a smart expert in any scientific field.

He probably plugged his computers into this strip?
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Re: 1166: "Argument"

Postby Klear » Wed Feb 06, 2013 12:34 am UTC

bmonk wrote:He probably plugged his computers into this strip?
Image


Hehe.. that is soooo stupid! Perfectly working infinite energy perpetuum mobile and he plugs it in a way that all of the sockets are blocked.

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Re: 1166: "Argument"

Postby Eebster the Great » Wed Feb 06, 2013 5:43 am UTC

Kit. wrote:Wouldn't infinite systems have infinite energy?

Probably, but energy could be infinite and the system could still be "isolated" in the sense that there is no nonconservative energy exchange.

Kit. wrote:
Eebster the Great wrote:Thermodynamics, in this context, is basically just a statistical result of Newton's first law anyway.

Good luck avoiding Loschmidt's paradox with that.

The fluctuation theorem does a good job with this provided the Big Bang was relatively low entropy (which it was).

Kit. wrote:
Eebster the Great wrote:It can't possibly be an analytic function if there are a finite number of microstates.

Why?

Because it is discrete.

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Re: 1166: "Argument"

Postby J Thomas » Wed Feb 06, 2013 10:19 am UTC

Kit. wrote:
Eebster the Great wrote:
Second, it's useless. Newton's first law introduces a framework that could be used anywhere at any time - and at any scale (well, it doesn't always fit the observed data, but that's another story). "Universe as a closed system" is only good to describe a heat death of it. What is needed to legitimize the everydays use of thermodynamics is some sort of statement why we can apply a framework for closed systems to small and obviously non-closed ones (as we can observe what happens with them).

Thermodynamics, in this context, is basically just a statistical result of Newton's first law anyway.

Good luck avoiding Loschmidt's paradox with that.


Maybe I've missed the point about that, but is there really anything going on with Loschmidt's paradox beyond an expression of Gambler's Ruin?

Low-probability events are rare. So most of the time they won't happen. But if they are important, when you wait long enough then they will happen. Done.
Last edited by J Thomas on Thu Feb 07, 2013 3:02 am UTC, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: 1166: "Argument"

Postby addams » Wed Feb 06, 2013 7:08 pm UTC

ok. I will argue with you for a while.
Just to keep the argument going.

Time is not linear. Yet; Not everything that can happen will happen.
Because; Like Mama said, "Because; Just; Because."

What did Mama know? Anything?
My Mama did not say there would be days like this.
Did yours?



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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wUL65ddSbk0
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Re: 1166: "Argument"

Postby Hafting » Wed Feb 06, 2013 8:04 pm UTC

Invertin wrote:
i've heard arguments to this effect ('where did god come from?') directed at religious folks
and I really do not intend to make this into a religious thing i just felt i had to direct my grievances towards this specific train of thought because it hasn't quite reached the last station

two of god's features as a god is that he is omnipotent and that he exists outside of our understanding of the laws of physics
so why would causality apply to him
why can't god have created god- it doesn't make sense but that's why it's omnipotent and not aslongasitmakessensewithinourunderstandingofthewaythingsworkpotent


Physics arguments do not apply to religion - but philosophical arguments do. Religious nuts sometimes say that science never explains everything, you just gets new questions. Quark theory now explains why protons,act the way they do, but why are quarks the way they are. And we know roughly what happened from 1s after big bang until now - but not the first nanoseconds. And so on.

Then they claim that religion is somehow needed as it solves this problem. (The quarks are so because God made them that way, the big bang happened because Gos started it, blah blah...)

But they are wrong, religion too has the same problems. When it answers questions, it only creates new questions. "The bible says so!" Why? "It is the words of God!" Why is God the way he is, when did he appear, what exactly is his motivations, why did he do things just the way he did . . . And soon enough, the religious nut has no answer. And no, "God works in mysterious ways" is not an answer.

At least, with science, there is hope of an answer in the future. We are still figuring out more. The religious have little hope of that.

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Re: 1166: "Argument"

Postby mishka » Thu Feb 07, 2013 1:41 am UTC

There seems to be evidence that we live in a computer simulation.

So I propose using a cheat code to spawn a perpetual motion machine.

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Re: 1166: "Argument"

Postby cjmcjmcjmcjm » Thu Feb 07, 2013 1:53 am UTC

Klear wrote:
bmonk wrote:He probably plugged his computers into this strip?
Image


Hehe.. that is soooo stupid! Perfectly working infinite energy perpetuum mobile and he plugs it in a way that all of the sockets are blocked.

New mascot for /r/shittyaskscience?
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Re: 1166: "Argument"

Postby addams » Thu Feb 07, 2013 5:31 am UTC

Hafting wrote:
Invertin wrote:
i've heard arguments to this effect ('where did god come from?') directed at religious folks
and I really do not intend to make this into a religious thing i just felt i had to direct my grievances towards this specific train of thought because it hasn't quite reached the last station

two of god's features as a god is that he is omnipotent and that he exists outside of our understanding of the laws of physics
so why would causality apply to him
why can't god have created god- it doesn't make sense but that's why it's omnipotent and not aslongasitmakessensewithinourunderstandingofthewaythingsworkpotent


Physics arguments do not apply to religion - but philosophical arguments do. Religious nuts sometimes say that science never explains everything, you just gets new questions. Quark theory now explains why protons,act the way they do, but why are quarks the way they are. And we know roughly what happened from 1s after big bang until now - but not the first nanoseconds. And so on.

Then they claim that religion is somehow needed as it solves this problem. (The quarks are so because God made them that way, the big bang happened because Gos started it, blah blah...)

But they are wrong, religion too has the same problems. When it answers questions, it only creates new questions. "The bible says so!" Why? "It is the words of God!" Why is God the way he is, when did he appear, what exactly is his motivations, why did he do things just the way he did . . . And soon enough, the religious nut has no answer. And no, "God works in mysterious ways" is not an answer.

At least, with science, there is hope of an answer in the future. We are still figuring out more. The religious have little hope of that.


http://simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_o ... _goddesses

Are you sure? Six Quarks and Thousands of Gods.
There IS more than one Religion.
For some of us, it is a mix and match affair.

Besides; "God works in Mysterious ways." Is a good answer.
Not only do I not want to explain some things to you.
You would not understand, anyway.

Sometimes, The Dog puts more effort in than you do!
See? The Dog tries and fails.
You will fail, too.

Let us save all of us some trouble.
Relax and Blame God.

What God will carry the Blame?
It will take a Human form? Again?!
Life is, just, an exchange of electrons; It is up to us to give it meaning.

We are all in The Gutter.
Some of us see The Gutter.
Some of us see The Stars.
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Those that do not Know; Don't tell them.
They do terrible things to people that Tell Them.

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Re: 1166: "Argument"

Postby Retsam » Thu Feb 07, 2013 7:10 am UTC

Hafting wrote:Then they claim that religion is somehow needed as it solves this problem. (The quarks are so because God made them that way, the big bang happened because Gos started it, blah blah...)

But they are wrong, religion too has the same problems. When it answers questions, it only creates new questions. "The bible says so!" Why? "It is the words of God!" Why is God the way he is, when did he appear, what exactly is his motivations, why did he do things just the way he did . . . And soon enough, the religious nut has no answer. And no, "God works in mysterious ways" is not an answer.

At least, with science, there is hope of an answer in the future. We are still figuring out more. The religious have little hope of that.


The point of the argument that science doesn't have all of the answers isn't to say that religion has all of the answer. It's only to say (at the point of sounding redundant) that science doesn't and inherently can't have all the answers. For some reason this is something that tends to be forgotten. Science can tell you how life works, how it got to be here, give us many fascinating ways to end it, but it can never tell us why. Not because there's anything wrong with science, but because it's a finite system for deriving general principles from observed data, not a universal answer to all of life's questions.

Of course, you can always keep asking questions of religion. Anyone who claims to fully understand the nature of God is either kidding themselves, kidding you, or insane. Religion isn't about pretending we have all the answers, it's about starting from a few starting assumptions, taken on faith, and building up what we know about God and the world from there.

If you think science is any different, that it doesn't depend on any unproven assumptions like religion does, then feel free to prove to me that "A straight line segment can be drawn joining any two points." (i.e. Euclid's first axiom)

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Re: 1166: "Argument"

Postby Eebster the Great » Thu Feb 07, 2013 4:35 pm UTC

Retsam wrote:If you think science is any different, that it doesn't depend on any unproven assumptions like religion does, then feel free to prove to me that "A straight line segment can be drawn joining any two points." (i.e. Euclid's first axiom)

I'm not going to get into the whole religion debate right now, but this isn't a good example of a scientific axiom. It's actually a geometric postulate, and is not really necessary anymore anyway, as the foundations of geometry have changed.

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Re: 1166: "Argument"

Postby Max™ » Thu Feb 07, 2013 4:43 pm UTC

Retsam wrote:If you think science is any different, that it doesn't depend on any unproven assumptions like religion does, then feel free to prove to me that "A straight line segment can be drawn joining any two points." (i.e. Euclid's first axiom)

Science doesn't depend on untestable assumptions, outside of those which reduce to absurdity.

I exist and observe a world with features I can examine.
There are other observers who exist in the same manner I do.
I can pose an explanation for some feature of the world and test it with experiment.
I can determine if my explanation is falsified through said experiments.

Poof, science.
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Re: 1166: "Argument"

Postby rmsgrey » Thu Feb 07, 2013 5:28 pm UTC

Eebster the Great wrote:
Retsam wrote:If you think science is any different, that it doesn't depend on any unproven assumptions like religion does, then feel free to prove to me that "A straight line segment can be drawn joining any two points." (i.e. Euclid's first axiom)

I'm not going to get into the whole religion debate right now, but this isn't a good example of a scientific axiom. It's actually a geometric postulate, and is not really necessary anymore anyway, as the foundations of geometry have changed.


Mathematics doesn't depend on much in the way of unproven assumptions - the main one is that logic works. The bulk of mathematics is conditional statements: "if we assume this, and define that, then the other follows" - if we assume an ordered sequence of natural numbers with each having a unique successor, and define addition in terms of successors (a+0=a; a+b+ = (a+b)+, where a+ is the successor to a) then 2+2=4. 2+2=2+1+=(2+1)+=(2+0+)+=((2+0)+)+=(2+)+=3+=4

You can go further back and show that you can create a countable sequence with each having a unique successor given any of several modest sets of assumptions and definitions, and you can proceed forward to define subtraction, multiplication, division, negative numbers, rational numbers, etc - all the stuff you built up in school from the basic counting numbers, but it's all still a few assumptions and a lot of definitions, and you can throw away or change any of the assumptions and you're still doing mathematics - maybe not as interesting mathematics, but that's not the point. Two plus two equals four because that's what we mean by "two", "four", "plus" and "equals".

Where maths and science interact is when the assumptions for a bit of maths turn out to match well with what's observed about the world, or when observations about the world suggest some interesting assumptions. If the conclusions of the maths don't match what's observed about the world, then it turns out that some other set of assumptions that matches at least as well should have been used instead. That doesn't make the maths wrong, just not as useful to the scientist.

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Re: 1166: "Argument"

Postby addams » Thu Feb 07, 2013 6:03 pm UTC

rmsgrey wrote:
Eebster the Great wrote:
Retsam wrote:If you think science is any different, that it doesn't depend on any unproven assumptions like religion does, then feel free to prove to me that "A straight line segment can be drawn joining any two points." (i.e. Euclid's first axiom)

I'm not going to get into the whole religion debate right now, but this isn't a good example of a scientific axiom. It's actually a geometric postulate, and is not really necessary anymore anyway, as the foundations of geometry have changed.


Mathematics doesn't depend on much in the way of unproven assumptions - the main one is that logic works. The bulk of mathematics is conditional statements: "if we assume this, and define that, then the other follows" - if we assume an ordered sequence of natural numbers with each having a unique successor, and define addition in terms of successors (a+0=a; a+b+ = (a+b)+, where a+ is the successor to a) then 2+2=4. 2+2=2+1+=(2+1)+=(2+0+)+=((2+0)+)+=(2+)+=3+=4

You can go further back and show that you can create a countable sequence with each having a unique successor given any of several modest sets of assumptions and definitions, and you can proceed forward to define subtraction, multiplication, division, negative numbers, rational numbers, etc - all the stuff you built up in school from the basic counting numbers, but it's all still a few assumptions and a lot of definitions, and you can throw away or change any of the assumptions and you're still doing mathematics - maybe not as interesting mathematics, but that's not the point. Two plus two equals four because that's what we mean by "two", "four", "plus" and "equals".

Where maths and science interact is when the assumptions for a bit of maths turn out to match well with what's observed about the world, or when observations about the world suggest some interesting assumptions. If the conclusions of the maths don't match what's observed about the world, then it turns out that some other set of assumptions that matches at least as well should have been used instead. That doesn't make the maths wrong, just not as useful to the scientist.


I agree.
Math is poetry.
Some poetry is good and right and true.
Simple, Elegant, Obvious.

Some math is good and right and true.
Simple, Elegant, Obvious.

Some is crap. Clumsy, ugly, complicated.
Who could Love a thing that is Clumsy, Ugly and Complicated?
That's funny.
I am Clumsy, Ugly and Complicated.
We all are. We are people.
Some more than others.
It is a matter of degree. 180? or 360?
Life is, just, an exchange of electrons; It is up to us to give it meaning.

We are all in The Gutter.
Some of us see The Gutter.
Some of us see The Stars.
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Re: 1166: "Argument"

Postby bmonk » Thu Feb 07, 2013 10:30 pm UTC

rmsgrey wrote:Mathematics doesn't depend on much in the way of unproven assumptions - the main one is that logic works. The bulk of mathematics is conditional statements: "if we assume this, and define that, then the other follows" - if we assume an ordered sequence of natural numbers with each having a unique successor, and define addition in terms of successors (a+0=a; a+b+ = (a+b)+, where a+ is the successor to a) then 2+2=4. 2+2=2+1+=(2+1)+=(2+0+)+=((2+0)+)+=(2+)+=3+=4

You can go further back and show that you can create a countable sequence with each having a unique successor given any of several modest sets of assumptions and definitions, and you can proceed forward to define subtraction, multiplication, division, negative numbers, rational numbers, etc - all the stuff you built up in school from the basic counting numbers, but it's all still a few assumptions and a lot of definitions, and you can throw away or change any of the assumptions and you're still doing mathematics - maybe not as interesting mathematics, but that's not the point. Two plus two equals four because that's what we mean by "two", "four", "plus" and "equals". . . .


And then along comes Gödel who proves that any reasonable logic system cannot be both consistent and complete--that is, we must take the assumption that logic works. So even logic is based on faith . . .
Having become a Wizard on n.p. 2183, the Yellow Piggy retroactively appointed his honorable self a Temporal Wizardly Piggy on n.p.1488, not to be effective until n.p. 2183, thereby avoiding a partial temporal paradox. Since he couldn't afford two philosophical PhDs to rule on the title.

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Re: 1166: "Argument"

Postby Pfhorrest » Thu Feb 07, 2013 10:50 pm UTC

bmonk wrote:And then along comes Gödel who proves that any reasonable logic system cannot be both consistent and complete--that is, we must take the assumption that logic works. So even logic is based on faith . . .

How exactly does the incompleteness theorem require we assume logic works? To my mind "logic works" means essentially that it is consistent. The incompleteness theorem shows that completeness (of sufficiently expressive systems) would imply an inconsistency, and from that strongly suggests that all such systems must then by incomplete (hence the name), because we do take as given that logic works, that is to say, does not result in inconsistencies. But that doesn't seem to prove in any way that we must assume consistency, or that we must merely assume it. (There are more obvious problems to proving that logic works, namely logic has to work for that kind of proof to work so you don't end up saying much more than "logic works if it works", but see "Debugging" for an ongoing discussion about that; point being, what does the Incompleteness Theorem have to do with it?)
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Re: 1166: "Argument"

Postby dudiobugtron » Fri Feb 08, 2013 12:07 am UTC

bmonk wrote:And then along comes Gödel who proves that any reasonable logic system cannot be both consistent and complete--that is, we must take the assumption that logic works. So even logic is based on faith . . .


That seems a strange thing to say, given that Gödel's proof is based on the assumption that logic works.
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Re: 1166: "Argument"

Postby addams » Fri Feb 08, 2013 2:21 am UTC

dudiobugtron wrote:
bmonk wrote:And then along comes Gödel who proves that any reasonable logic system cannot be both consistent and complete--that is, we must take the assumption that logic works. So even logic is based on faith . . .


That seems a strange thing to say, given that Gödel's proof is based on the assumption that logic works.

Sure; Logic works for the people that have faith in Logic.
Prayer works for people that have faith in Prayer.

Sometimes both work; Or, seem to.

(Doing my part to keep the argument going. It does not matter what we argue about; As long as we argue. 20 thousand words. You have a record to break. Right?)
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Re: 1166: "Argument"

Postby Max™ » Fri Feb 08, 2013 2:50 am UTC

bmonk wrote:
rmsgrey wrote:Mathematics doesn't depend on much in the way of unproven assumptions - the main one is that logic works. The bulk of mathematics is conditional statements: "if we assume this, and define that, then the other follows" - if we assume an ordered sequence of natural numbers with each having a unique successor, and define addition in terms of successors (a+0=a; a+b+ = (a+b)+, where a+ is the successor to a) then 2+2=4. 2+2=2+1+=(2+1)+=(2+0+)+=((2+0)+)+=(2+)+=3+=4

You can go further back and show that you can create a countable sequence with each having a unique successor given any of several modest sets of assumptions and definitions, and you can proceed forward to define subtraction, multiplication, division, negative numbers, rational numbers, etc - all the stuff you built up in school from the basic counting numbers, but it's all still a few assumptions and a lot of definitions, and you can throw away or change any of the assumptions and you're still doing mathematics - maybe not as interesting mathematics, but that's not the point. Two plus two equals four because that's what we mean by "two", "four", "plus" and "equals". . . .


And then along comes Gödel who proves that any reasonable logic system cannot be both consistent and complete--that is, we must take the assumption that logic works. So even logic is based on faith . . .

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p is the code number of a valid proof of this claim." ~Greg Egan, Oracle
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Re: 1166: "Argument"

Postby webgiant » Fri Feb 08, 2013 8:39 am UTC

Max™ wrote:
Retsam wrote:If you think science is any different, that it doesn't depend on any unproven assumptions like religion does, then feel free to prove to me that "A straight line segment can be drawn joining any two points." (i.e. Euclid's first axiom)

Science doesn't depend on untestable assumptions, outside of those which reduce to absurdity.

I exist and observe a world with features I can examine.
There are other observers who exist in the same manner I do.
I can pose an explanation for some feature of the world and test it with experiment.
I can determine if my explanation is falsified through said experiments.

Poof, science.

Evolutionary Theory is getting to the point of becoming an absolute, because it would be very difficult to come up with an experiment which would falsify Evolution. Not because dogma is involved, but because of the sheer complexity of such an experiment. We're long beyond simple stuff like out-of-place fossils or unusual genetic histories. The sheer volume of evidence means falsification may take a few lifetimes to prove, if its even possible.

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Re: 1166: "Argument"

Postby Pfhorrest » Fri Feb 08, 2013 8:48 am UTC

webgiant wrote:Evolutionary Theory is getting to the point of becoming an absolute, because it would be very difficult to come up with an experiment which would falsify Evolution. Not because dogma is involved, but because of the sheer complexity of such an experiment. We're long beyond simple stuff like out-of-place fossils or unusual genetic histories. The sheer volume of evidence means falsification may take a few lifetimes to prove, if its even possible.

Being "unfalsifiable" because it's true and so there isn't actually any counterevidence out there is very different from being unfalsifiable because it doesn't make any empirical claims the likes of which are subject to falsification. It's the latter that's important criterion. The former can't be a criterion because it essentially says "do not believe anything which proves to be true".
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Re: 1166: "Argument"

Postby Max™ » Fri Feb 08, 2013 8:50 am UTC

webgiant wrote:
Max™ wrote:
Retsam wrote:If you think science is any different, that it doesn't depend on any unproven assumptions like religion does, then feel free to prove to me that "A straight line segment can be drawn joining any two points." (i.e. Euclid's first axiom)

Science doesn't depend on untestable assumptions, outside of those which reduce to absurdity.

I exist and observe a world with features I can examine.
There are other observers who exist in the same manner I do.
I can pose an explanation for some feature of the world and test it with experiment.
I can determine if my explanation is falsified through said experiments.

Poof, science.

Evolutionary Theory is getting to the point of becoming an absolute, because it would be very difficult to come up with an experiment which would falsify Evolution. Not because dogma is involved, but because of the sheer complexity of such an experiment. We're long beyond simple stuff like out-of-place fossils or unusual genetic histories. The sheer volume of evidence means falsification may take a few lifetimes to prove, if its even possible.

The sheer volume of evidence means you would need to turn off evolution, or show that we're all existing in a simulation within the dreams of Great Cthulhu, Ia, Ia!

The statement "organisms evolve over time" isn't really falsifiable, portions of it may be, our description of it may be, but it's much the same as falsifying gravity at this point.

Gravity isn't something you can just say "nope, doesn't exist" without first providing an explanation for the observation that... well, gravity works.

If you did do that, you simply changed our old understanding of gravity to a new updated version.


That's what science is. It is the method by which we examine what might be knowledge to determine what is not knowledge.
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Re: 1166: "Argument"

Postby J Thomas » Fri Feb 08, 2013 2:09 pm UTC

webgiant wrote:Evolutionary Theory is getting to the point of becoming an absolute, because it would be very difficult to come up with an experiment which would falsify Evolution. Not because dogma is involved, but because of the sheer complexity of such an experiment. We're long beyond simple stuff like out-of-place fossils or unusual genetic histories. The sheer volume of evidence means falsification may take a few lifetimes to prove, if its even possible.


Suppose you grow bacteria continuously. You have them growing in a liquid, and you keep on adding more liquid food and removing some of the liquid that contains food, waste, and bacteria. So the population will be stable, the bacteria multiply and the surplus gets removed.

Depending on how many bacteria you are growing and how fast they grow, there will be an observable evolutionary event about once a week. Something that grows better in that environment will outcompete the rest.

You cannot possibly falsify evolution. It's something that happens.

But there's a lot that's uncertain about the details. How does sexuality fit in? Rearrangement of genes? How does speciation work in practice and how much does it cost the populations that use it? What specific genetic mechanisms have evolved that speed the rate of evolution? There are proposed answers to all of those but mostly they haven't been tested very well.

And there are historical questions. Evolution happens, but it doesn't have to be the only thing that happens. Can we prove that Earth hasn't been repeatedly seeded by species from somewhere else? Not yet. All the mammals are related, but they could have evolved or been designed somewhere else from similar templates and released here, and they would look related.
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Re: 1166: "Argument"

Postby mishka » Sun Feb 10, 2013 9:02 am UTC

That explains the duckbill platypus.

No, nothing explains that thing.

Most likely though, we are in SimEarth 2.

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Re: 1166: "Argument"

Postby J Thomas » Sun Feb 10, 2013 2:21 pm UTC

mishka wrote:That explains the duckbill platypus.

No, nothing explains that thing.


I can give a very vague, handwaving explanation.

It's like, your genes don't exactly code for organs. They more code for organ construction kits.

And we might have a lot of kits stuffed into our genomes that maybe we don't use much.

Platypus detection of electric fields may not be so mysterious. Can you taste an electric field inside your mouth? I can taste electric currents. I haven't tested whether I can taste electric fields. Once you have a detector element, making a big array of them and training your descendents to interpret them in a spatial pattern is a mere exercise in engineering.

Making a hollow spur is not such a big deal. If you fold a fingernail into a claw you're halfway there. A sack of poison? What else is a pancreas? Easy to make sacks, and easy to connect them to tubes that secrete stuff from the sacks to somewhere else. Push the tube through the hollow spur and you're almost done. Do you have genes that can make poisons beyond digestive enzymes etc? Probably but do you need them? You have hormones that regulate blood pressure. Add a whole lot of one of them to your poison bag. You have digestive enzymes that digest hemoglobin. You can add that too. Hormones that make your blood clot less or more, add one of those. Etc. What makes them poison is their production isn't regulated by the victim's needs.

If you can do all that, then there's the question how to get there by natural selection. You need something that works a little bit before you can select it to work better. That's where I have to wave my hands extra fast. Natural selection in mendelian sexual populations is complicated. We probably have genetic mechanisms which temporarily switch genes from recessive to dominant and back. There could be genetic mechanisms in place that serve to sometimes vastly increase the rate of natural selection, but other times hinder it. That vastly increase the rate that some genes get selected. You may be better off to have one favorable gene increase fast than have ten favorable genes competing with each other to increase slowly.

Also, there could be partly-constructed kits in the genome. You wouldn't naturally expect a way to make feathers in a mammalian genome. Those evolved with birds. But wait, maybe there were dinosaurs with feathers. And possibly there were feathered animals before the sauropsids and synapsids split. It's vaguely possible you have not just the genes for structures that can make hair, that could be laboriously evolved to something like feathers. You might have genes that are preadapted to make the kind of feathers your long-distant ancestors made.

It's all just hand-waving, hypothetical possibilities that might somehow turn out to be possible. But it isn't unimaginable.
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Re: 1166: "Argument"

Postby Max™ » Sun Feb 10, 2013 4:42 pm UTC

Evolution, like sex, involves lots of trial and error. It's messy, at times ridiculous, and it doesn't always make much sense.
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Re: 1166: "Argument"

Postby Mirkwood » Sun Feb 10, 2013 5:32 pm UTC

Evolution is an observation. It is something we see in the physical world. That's why it's not falsifiable, any more than "objects fall" is falsifiable. What is falsifiable is the statement "Evolution happens due to..." or "objects fall because of..."

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Re: 1166: "Argument"

Postby J Thomas » Sun Feb 10, 2013 6:14 pm UTC

Mirkwood wrote:Evolution is an observation. It is something we see in the physical world. That's why it's not falsifiable, any more than "objects fall" is falsifiable. What is falsifiable is the statement "Evolution happens due to..." or "objects fall because of..."


There is a nonfalsifiable "explanation" for evolution, which goes like this:

1. Living things reproduce themselves, and the copies are mostly true copies.
2. There are occasionally changes from "imperfect" replication.
3. Sometimes the changes result in a change in survival or reproduction rates.
4. When the changed versions die faster or reproduce slower than the good copies, they will tend to die out. When they die slower or reproduce faster, they will tend to increase in numbers.

We can observe that mostly baby sheep grow up to be sheep and baby dogs grow up to be dogs etc, so #1 is true. We sometimes notice differences between parents and offspring that appear to be heritable, so #2 is true. When there is a change in survival or reproduction rates, we call it evolution and we assume that the visible changes had something to do with the changed survival.

This gives us no clue about falsifiable predictions. When we see a visible difference that appears to be heritable we don't know whether it will be associated with a change in survival in some particular environment until we test that. If there is a difference we know what to call it. We can predict that if the environment stays unchanged then the change in survival will probably not change either -- if the survival does change we can look for a hidden change in environment.

It makes sense. The math works. It all fits together. It is not falsifiable.

You can make specific falsifiable claims. Like, if you grow bacteria in a particular culture medium that has a citrate buffer, slowly enough that they are on the edge of starvation and their waste products slow their growth, you might predict that they might evolve to absorb citrate. They might evolve to starve slower (when the obvious alternative is to be always ready to grow fast, but not keep much reserve for bad times). Growing in a glass container where the surplus are removed, they might stick better to glass surfaces. Etc.

Then you could test how often particular bacteria that evolve in that environment will fit your predictions. If half of them do, then you might have imagined around half of the easy ways for them to evolve there.
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Re: 1166: "Argument"

Postby addams » Mon Feb 11, 2013 4:55 am UTC

Max™ wrote:Evolution, like sex, involves lots of trial and error. It's messy, at times ridiculous, and it doesn't always make much sense.

Nice argument.
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Re: 1166: "Argument"

Postby Plutarch » Mon Feb 11, 2013 5:15 am UTC

J Thomas wrote:
There is a nonfalsifiable "explanation" for evolution, which goes like this:

1. Living things reproduce themselves, and the copies are mostly true copies.
2. There are occasionally changes from "imperfect" replication.
3. Sometimes the changes result in a change in survival or reproduction rates.
4. When the changed versions die faster or reproduce slower than the good copies, they will tend to die out. When they die slower or reproduce faster, they will tend to increase in numbers.

We can observe that mostly baby sheep grow up to be sheep and baby dogs grow up to be dogs etc, so #1 is true. We sometimes notice differences between parents and offspring that appear to be heritable, so #2 is true. When there is a change in survival or reproduction rates, we call it evolution and we assume that the visible changes had something to do with the changed survival.
This gives us no clue about falsifiable predictions. When we see a visible difference that appears to be heritable we don't know whether it will be associated with a change in survival in some particular environment until we test that. If there is a difference we know what to call it. We can predict that if the environment stays unchanged then the change in survival will probably not change either -- if the survival does change we can look for a hidden change in environment.

It makes sense. The math works. It all fits together. It is not falsifiable.


Well I may get shot down in flames here - but what are forums for? - but is that what falsifiable means? Just because something makes sense, and the math works, and it fits together, does that mean it's not falsifiable? I thought falsifiable meant that something was capable of being tested scientifically, or mathematically. So even something that is regarded as absolutely true, like 2 + 2 = 4, is still falsifiable, because it can be tested? I thought that only things like religion were non-falsifiable, because they can't be scientifically tested. But I am prepared to be completely wrong about this.

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Re: 1166: "Argument"

Postby Resource id #1 » Mon Feb 11, 2013 5:53 am UTC

Everything requires a leap of faith. Without it we can't do anything. We must for instance assume causality, I mean I think it was Hume who realized that causality begs the question. But that aside assuming causality holds true there is still the problem of the substance duelist who wants to assume a mind independent of the body. While many people might laugh at that theory since it forces the rejection (or partial rejection) of the laws of thermodyamics there are still many strong arguments for it and as of yet, noone has proved physicalism either (even if you do allow for some basic metaphysical assumptions).

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Re: 1166: "Argument"

Postby rmsgrey » Mon Feb 11, 2013 10:29 am UTC

Plutarch wrote:Well I may get shot down in flames here - but what are forums for? - but is that what falsifiable means? Just because something makes sense, and the math works, and it fits together, does that mean it's not falsifiable? I thought falsifiable meant that something was capable of being tested scientifically, or mathematically. So even something that is regarded as absolutely true, like 2 + 2 = 4, is still falsifiable, because it can be tested? I thought that only things like religion were non-falsifiable, because they can't be scientifically tested. But I am prepared to be completely wrong about this.


Something is falsifiable if there are tests which could conceivably prove it false - 2+2=4 is not falsifiable because there's no way it could be false - or at least not unless logic is unreliable, or the symbols are being used in a non-standard way. What is falsifiable is the applicability of 2+2=4 to the real world - if you put two mice in a cage with two hungry cats, you don't end up with four mammals (at least, not for very long).

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Re: 1166: "Argument"

Postby J Thomas » Mon Feb 11, 2013 4:01 pm UTC

Plutarch wrote:... is that what falsifiable means? Just because something makes sense, and the math works, and it fits together, does that mean it's not falsifiable? I thought falsifiable meant that something was capable of being tested scientifically, or mathematically. So even something that is regarded as absolutely true, like 2 + 2 = 4, is still falsifiable, because it can be tested? I thought that only things like religion were non-falsifiable, because they can't be scientifically tested. But I am prepared to be completely wrong about this.


Here is an example of something which is not falsifiable. I say, the gostak disdims the doshes. You point to something and say "That gostak there did not disdim any doshes.". I reply, no, that is not a gostak.

You point to something else and say "Those doshes there have not been disdimmed by any gostak.". I reply, either no, those are not in fact doshes or else Ah, but they have been disdimmed by a gostak.

If I get to decide what a gostak is, then I get to decide whether it's disdimmed any doshes or not. You can't falsify it.
-----------------

Here is a different kind of example, Newton's first law. A body remains at rest, or travels in the same direction with the same velocity, unless an outside force acts on it or they all cancel. This cannot be falsified. If you observe a body traveling in constant direction with constant velocity, there are no outside forces acting on it. If you observe a body get accelerated in any direction, there must be an outside force. Physicists have observed only a few kinds of outside forces, and have no explanation for any of them. For example, like electric charges repel each other, and opposite charges attract. Nobody knows why. It's a force. There is a separate force that keeps protons inside atomic nuclei. Protons must repel each other because they have the same charge, but they are observed not to repel. Therefore there is another force which cancels the repulsion.

If you were to discover an accelerated body that was not being affected by any of the known forces, that would not violate Newton's law. Physicists would find a name for a new force and it would go on the list of forces, and somebody (probably not you, and probably not the first physicist who worked it out) would get a Nobel prize. Newton's law is not falsifiable. It is not a hypothesis, it is a way to structure your thinking.
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Similarly with conservation of mass/energy. We say it is always conserved. Any time mass/energy disappears, or appears out of nowhere, we will hypothesize an undetectable particle that carries it from the place it disappears to the place it reappears. Conservation of mass/energy is not falsifiable. It is a way to structure your thinking, and not a hypothesis.
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Similarly with evolution. If a population has no variability it will not evolve, and that does not falsify evolution. If a variable population has a shift in gene frequencies, we can calculate the probability that this shift happened by random chance, and if that probability is very small then we assume natural selection has occurred. Shifts in gene frequency do happen far more often than random chance would predict. Whatever causes the shift is natural selection, this is a definition and is not falsifiable. On this level evolution is not a hypothesis, it is a way to think about whatever happens.
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Re: 1166: "Argument"

Postby mathmannix » Mon Feb 11, 2013 4:33 pm UTC

Sorry, I don't believe in disdimming. Or at least macrodisdimming.
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Re: 1166: "Argument"

Postby J Thomas » Mon Feb 11, 2013 6:23 pm UTC

mathmannix wrote:Sorry, I don't believe in disdimming. Or at least macrodisdimming.


Many Austrian gostaks say they don't believe in macro-disdimming. And yet when the time comes to macro-disdim, they jump right in and call it by another name.
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Re: 1166: "Argument"

Postby Max™ » Mon Feb 11, 2013 11:51 pm UTC

addams wrote:
Max™ wrote:Evolution, like sex, involves lots of trial and error. It's messy, at times ridiculous, and it doesn't always make much sense.

Nice argument.

Thanks, for some reason after I wrote it I thought "that would be a much better thing to get sigged for than if I had said "I am a naughty little ham sandwich, spank me harder mommy!" or whatnot"... don't know why.
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Re: 1166: "Argument"

Postby webgiant » Tue Feb 12, 2013 1:51 am UTC

Max™ wrote:
mikrit wrote:
Pfhorrest wrote:
bmonk wrote:So the trick then is to drop unbuttered toast?

Then you just get antigravity toast that refuses to fall at all.

Though I suppose that could possibly be put to use in some kind of perpetual motion scheme or another...

My hovercraft is full of toast.

My toast is full of Lovecraft... it whispers to me at night, but the worst part is how it just sits there hanging from the ceiling and stares at me with all those eyes... oh but I had only taken the word of those brave men who found that damned many-angled toaster... thing in that horrible city of ice and shadows at the south pole.

Good thing you wrote it all down in English so that no one you love would be able to read it and charter a boat out to a scary island with buildings constructed in non-Euclidean geometry.

Max™ wrote:
webgiant wrote:I think this goes to show why most climate-change deniers are in science fields completely unrelated to climate change: you can be an incredibly smart expert in one science field, and still believe pseudoscience about another scientific field.

Couldn't that just as easily be applied the other way? Setting aside, y'know, experts in fields related to the climate who don't buy the anthropogenic hypothesis... there are an awful lot of climate-change undeniers (a dumb word made dumberer!) with no scientific background whatsoever.

It's interesting that you chose the example of a teacher confused by things like the thermodynamic limits on a lightbulb powering itself with a solar panel as someone "smart in one field but dumb in another" before making your climate change example, but that discussion is far better suited for the "is it possible to have a rational discussion on global warming" thread.

The first half of my point is still quite true: most climate change deniers are in science fields completely unrelated to climate change, which means, at best, most climate change deniers are not climate experts.
Last edited by webgiant on Tue Feb 12, 2013 1:58 am UTC, edited 1 time in total.


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