i'm all up in the comments in this review of the worst line of "scientific" "research" ever pursued. you'd think it would be impossible to be as disingenuous and doltish as "scientists" of this stripe, but at least they have achieved self-fellation.
i'm all up in the comments in this review of the worst line of "scientific" "research" ever pursued. you'd think it would be impossible to be as disingenuous and doltish as "scientists" of this stripe, but at least they have achieved self-fellation.
In which Crusader AXE avoids the snark to reflect semi-seriously on how the current attitude toward science research, funding and community will kill us all thus saving future generations from the problem of debt because they'll never be born or all be dead.
Problem solved! Gomert-Paul in 1016!errr...2016.
The trial was due to begin next month. He faced 13 felony charges including computer and wire fraud. Prosecutors accused him of stealing millions of scientific journals from a computer archive at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with the intent of making them freely available.honestly, whatever the fam might think, i don't believe you can blame mit for his suicide. but the actions of mit could not possibly be more antithetical to the supposed purposes and values of mit: mit taking heroic measures to restrict access to scientific research is like the lutheran church taking extraordinary measures to repress the scriptures. right, mit hates the whole idea of science insofar as it is incompatible with $$$ for the corporate interests of which they are a client.
the idea that science has shown that you can't change your sexual orientation is a very nice example of the fact that academic social science is often mere political ideology. really scientists of whatever sort might work at a university, but their results on this matter are exactly as empirical as lady gaga's, though infinitely less compelling and well-written. they will demonstrate to be true whatever helps their bit of the political spectrum, or whatever people like themselves say they believe this week. actually, offhand, until i have overwhelming reasons to do otherwise, i would accept anyone's account of her own sexuality, and you should think about what taking the opposite approach - though of course only with regard to people whose story is politically inconvenient - has actually done to people who are not straightforwardly, as it were, heterosexual. so you tell me you're bisexual. i have a theory according to which that's impossible, complete with brain scans or questionnaires; it really pisses me off that you can't make up your mind, etc. or: no one is really homosexual; their natural heterosexuality has gotten screwed up by their moms.
this approach, where someone is telling you what his experience is and you're waving around your diploma and telling him that that's scientifically impossible, is just exactly the same. and the evidence for it - which will appear very compelling to people who who are already entirely certain because that's what everyone they know says - is just going to be laughably inadequate.
anyway, maybe homo and hetero are going to turn out to be in your genes or your brain, though that strikes me as extremely unlikely. (but i imagine the nazi regime would have been happy to find a genetic marker, for example.) perhaps human sexuality is actually quite fluid and complex, and we won't actually know anything about it unless we listen to people, even christians. geez don't y'all remember what the scientific establishment said about these things twenty, or forty, or eighty years ago? how'd that shit turn out? twenty years ago, if anyone brought up what they said forty years ago, they just blandly believed of themselves that they had it right now. at every stage they drove a political/religious/aesthetic agenda in the baldest way, and only the next generation became aware of it, which is a pretty large failure of basic self-awareness and self-criticism, if you ask me. just because it's swung left doesn't mean it's gotten any truer. anyway, if you take seriously anyone's claim to have any science on this, you need to stop being bewildered by people's academic degrees and job titles; stop the irrational deference and show some gumption; haven't you learned anything by now?
we may eventually reach the point at which gay folks can say something better than 'it's not my fault,' and very suddenly science will reach startlingly different conclusions. indeed, many gay people say much better or much else, the reason for which, whatever his drawbacks, we need more david halperins.
perhaps today's social scientists accept a particular version of the pragmatist theory of truth? that is, whatever leads to desirable social transformations (an end to bullying, e.g.) is true. to turn this from an insane abstract theory of truth to a practically useful insane theory of truth you need the premise that what people like me think is a desirable social transformation is, beyond the possibility that a good objection might someday arise, a desirable social transformation. now, the way to create the desirable social transformation is by manipulating people into believing whatever would help, which has the added benefit of making it impossible for such objections to be raised. so, whatever sentences you produce that would serve to manipulate people into doing what you want them to do are also true. very possibly this is the most ridiculous series of thoughts that has ever occurred to a human being. also it is evil. but it is very inspiring!
People have given many explanations for the massacre in Aurora. Gun control laws, lack of compulsory universal use of psychiatric medication, the effects of red hair dye on the human brain: all have been explored with that stunning mixture of certainty and stupidity that only the social sciences provide.
Here at Crispylabs, however, we have solved the problem. With a very high degree of probability, we can declare that climate change is the culprit.
We came up with this hypothesis because we can't stop thinking about climate change. That people we agree with about everything called it a national security crisis made us realize that climate change is to blame for everything and anything: it's a universal crisis: the cause of everything that goes wrong.
To test our stunning conclusion, we stuck precisely a passel of extremely cute babies - a diverse population of black and white, male and female, punk and preppy, straight and gay (born that way) babies - in a room and slowly increased the heat to 136 degrees fahrenheit: yesterday's high temperature in northern Greenland. Before they expired, the babies got super fussy. Imagine what would have happened if we had issued them assault rifles! It would have been baby armageddon, just like last time.
As the world grows ever hotter, flatter, and more flatulent, things continue to be really fucked up. Coincidence? We think not, and our regression paralysis confirms us in our speculation.
If things continue at the rate established by James Holmes at 12:28 AM, everyone will have shot everyone else by 2051.That said, the tipping point will very frankly be a disconnect, or The Disconnect: a yawning abyss in which all that exists is annihilated utterly, as though by the anti-will of the inverse of God.
this here is complete horseshit. and the idea that there is a difference in the political psychologies of left and right has even gone brain. notice the irresistable undertow of self-praise that accompanies these notions: that conservatives have a bigger irrational-fear zone, or that liberals are more open to experience. i want you to feel good about yourself, but i'd suggest therapy rather than "science." the academic left is absolutely unanimous and each person believes what she believes for reasons of social cohesion. actually open-minded people questing for new experiences would not chant the same litttle cliches in unison. really this is the most pitiful way imaginable to defend your political positions: it would be irrelevant to the truth of the positions even if it were true, which it isn't. put em in a scanner and the self-deception lobe lights up like hong kong at night.
if a white scientist tells you that white craniums are bigger, or if a man tells you that men have a bigger reasoning facility and women a bigger emotional region, you should just ignore it and let it blow over. the american academic leftist is achingly desperate to belong epistemically and yet is a monster of hubris. that anyone could possibly disagree with themselves is a bizarre fact that needs some sort of explanation, and there can be only one: our opponents are cognitively defective. they might as well just scream 'tard!' and have done. if you are making grants for this kind of 'research,' stop right now. at an absolute minimum, if you are going to do any sort of research on 'political psychology,' you need to make sure the researchers are politically diverse. the fact that that would basically not be possible with american academic psychologists shows precisely how open-minded they are.
no doubt everyone sort of entertains the notion that disagreement with themselves is a pathology. like i assert that there's something defective about people who think lou reed made good records. say i proposed to show that with empirical studies, scientifically...
the idea that there are brain differences between liberals and conservatives is frigging pathetic, and it shows why it matters what you know when you start: dude the left-right political spectrum was invented at very earliest in the french revolution. it had no purchase in american politics until the late 19th century. there have been many other ways of conceiving the political spectrum. it is a textbook case of the sort of problems i outline below: we're going to imprint momentary cultural fads or mistakes into your very biology. people's political positions correlate to things like income levels, state or region of residence, gender, race, sexual identity, and so on: so you'd better be willing to connect all of these with brain configuration. now we're really, really in interesting territory, the territory that begins to show that the researchers are actually reactionaries, which they could prove by self-dissection, which would also do the world and human knowledge a favor. i'm going to put it like this: until you can do something less self-serving and less historically ignorant, until you can actually show some openness to new ideas or experiences, i'm not even going to look at the 'data.' really if someone's paying me i'll try to smash the methodology. (well, it's psychology; the methodology comes pre-smashed.) but there's no more need for that than there is to sift through the pile of shit bit by bit to account for the stench. that there is a pile of shit there is evident from the smell, and we don't need to do the chemical analysis.
so say the neurology folk started, more or less unquestioningly, with freud. i predict they'd find the id region; maybe they have. if they started with demon possession they'd find the demon regions etc. what you're detecting is only as good as the theory you bring to bear. say it's the dsm...
now, it's not that they're not seeing anything. and i actually think that at the more careful or open-minded levels they are starting to realize what i believe certainly to be the case: the systems are far far more connected than they might have thought. so, for example, i don't think that reason and emotion are separate functions or states or activities. now if you start with the presumption that they are - that is, you sort of start with some greek philosophy or something, on a superficial read - no doubt you'll find centers of animal irrationallity and centers of higher cognitive functions etc. oops that is a mistake: you started with a theory or a cultural nostrum or a star-trek spock v bones conceptual structure. but that's not to say that you couldn't learn something else if you really loooked without treating the distinction as a full-fledged unquestioned dogma. 'higher cognitive functions': in that phrase lurks an entire bourgeois value system or the part of the culture where the kids have to go to college, or something; or maybe it's just the pride of the ph.d. doing the research.
if you think there can be linguistic processing units in the human head that aren't at the same time rage processors or desire processors or visual and auditory procesors, i say you're tripping. not that there's a wire running between them: they just are not distinct. and if you just think of this whole thing as software running on hardware, i say you'll be working with an entirely different metaphor after awhile, like descartes thought of the whole thing in terms of hydraulic lifts, or when they figured it had to be a clockwork, or was a lot like a big industrial facility. i think - i want to say i know - that we are far more coherent and interconnected than that, and with the outside world, and that if there are modules we will find them not, you know, recapitulating descartes or an ethics where reason makes you good and animal instinct makes you bad and so forth. if it were science, you would not know what you were looking for, and you would not find what you expect. to study the human brain, you're going to have to think like an alien who hasn't absorbed, say, the presuppositions of western culture or latest fad in psychiatry. you're going to have to think like someone who never went to grad school...
i'm joining forces with the santorums to do something about this evolution business, a la edward wilson. (henry thanks for the correction!) really if we were far more cooperative than we are - in precisely the same environment - evolutionary theorists would have less than no trouble explaining that, and likewise if we were far more competitive or aggressive. if everyone did art all the time, or if there was no such thing...no prob. that is, you've got a wee little issue with empiricalness (or possibly empiricity). (once again: our idea of art goes back at absolute most to the renaissance, more likely the 18th century. baby it is not genetic.) look, you just start with the idea that natural selection has to explain everything. really? does it explain why i just tripped over that tree root? or why my forebears have been doing so for eons? does it, in other words, explain my clumsiness, my ugliness, my indifference, my psychosis, my psoriasis, etc? does it simultaneously explain, let's see, democracy, communism, and fascism? does it explain the income tax, the protestant reformation, and rihanna's hairstyle? oh it's got to. no, no it doesn't. every change in the organism is accompanied by a thousand 'unintended' or irrelevant or non-adaptive or counter-adaptive effects. the idea that everything has an explanation, and that all the explanations must appeal to a single principle, is much more a religious than a scientific orientation. it has the same form as an appeal to god's will: everything can be explained by one thing, which we just stipulate in advance. someday we'll wonder how we ever thought this. you reason from effect to cause, but the cause is a single dimension of explanation that is assumed to obtain prior to any detailed examination of the effect: it's apriorism or something. or we're just pretending it's not an infinitely complicated mess out here.
after an exhaustive and of course irrefutable quantitative analysis, our research team has arrived at the following strictly scientific conclusions: the united states of america is the 741st-greatest nation the world has ever known, with the 876th-most-heroic military. as you might expect, the hittites finished first, followed closely by the mongol khanate. the latter got bonus points for being the funnest nation in history, which admittedly is not saying much.
you can see that this light-up-the-x-region-of-the-brain sort of approach makes people happy; it keeps giving nyt op-ed columnists the sense that they're talking about Science. i just want to make one remark about the 'pleasure center': obviously, pleasure (for example) is a hyper-primitive psychological term, and it is the psychology you bring into the experiment that determines the sort of result you're looking for, or what would count as a result, or what sorts of things we test. same with 'addiction,' and the idea that every problematic behavior or every habit of a human being is an addiction (kristof's position here, more or less) was an utter stampede before and completely outside the brainscan fad, which here is more or less an attempt to freeze a momentary paradigm or cultural formation as an eternal truth. as you may know, i would myself resist as extremely wrong the idea that addiction is a matter of pleasure. you'd be better off regarding it as a pursuit of pain, and i think the idea that addiction is the pursuit of pleasure is a view developed by non-addicts. but in any case the idea that, for example, you run marathons for the pleasure is extremely counter-intuitive, and it would occur to someone who was already in the grip of a 'theory' of human motivation (one which turns out non-explanatory, or is very dormitive-virtuey). 'pleasure' is the worst sort of psychological butchery or philistinism: there just is no such thing, really, and it stands in for anything that motivates anyone or anything that anyone pursues. we get it as a universal explanation from, you know, british utilitarianism, where it is the acme of all value etc. it was going to make human motivation comprehensible - or even, quantifiable - on a single principle. well now 'scientists' can pay off on bentham's hedonic calculus with their little light-ups. that a warm bath, kinky sex, a good burrito, cocaine, the sistine ceiling, money, and a five-mile run all cause the same sort of feeling is just false, and if you didn't already suppose that they must, somehow (because there is one thing in common to everything we pursue, and it's in the head of the pursuer), you wouldn't have 'found' these alleged structural similarities. that all these things must somehow be the same is something you brought to, not something you discovered in, the observations. indeed, none of these things are actually located (only) in the brain, and the whole thing presupposes an internalist theory of mind: what is real for you is what happens in your own little brain, which i want to to say is a bizarre picture. but don't worry. there will be a next paradigm.
did you know that sex with neanderthals boosts the immune system? you're gonna be ok after all!
i must say that i agree with this. rational choice theory is basic to capitalist economics, and though maybe the ideas were systematized under the auspices of the rand corporation (which of course does not itself count against their accuracy; though it ought to make you decide to focus critical scrutiny), they are implicit in classical economics going back to smith. the idealization of actual messy humans as utility-maximizers - which is the initial assumption that makes behavior mathematically modelable (if that's a word) - does all the work, really. the fact that it's false is supposed to be a little glitch or something for which we have to adjust. essentially it models us as sheer individual greed machines: it's an ideology masquerading as a science. it drives all kinds of philosophy. mathematics of action: game theory, e.g. i had a go in against the state at its use in arguments for the legitimacy or necessity of the state. i also like the fact that mccumber points out that this is only one meaning of 'individualism,' and, shockingly, mentions emerson and whitman. thanks for that!
well thank god. it was never clear to me whether there was something wrong (like, extremely and obviously wrong) at the very heart of quantum mechanics, or whether it was just the fact that scientists immediately let themselves launch from specific data to the most overblown metaphysical speculations, for which, let's say, their training did not prepare them. but at any rate, you'd think that it has to slowly calm down toward something that might make some sort of sense.
here's how i think about it. heinrich wolfflin, in principles of art history, describes different ways or representing reality. one pair is "linear and painterly": think raphael vs rembrandt. in raphael, all the emphasis is on clarity of outline in a well-ordered, plane-oriented composition. rembrandt breaks the symmetries and planes and builds figures from within rather than tracing definite outlines. raphael effaces the brushstroke: you don't see the traces of the manual work. rembrandt is just the opposite. rembrandt disperses the light, yet makes clear that it emanates from a definite source; raphael bathes the scene in a relatively uniform, unsourced light, etc. wofflin writes: "They are two conceptions of the world, differently orientated in taste and in their interest in the world, and yet each capable of giving a perfect picture of visible things" (p. 18 of the dover edition). there is not a way to adjudicate between them wherein one would be 'objective': there is not one objective system of representation.
now science is not the world: it's a series of systems for representing the world. at any given moment, like art even where it is concerned with accurate depiction, it also responds to all sorts of factors: cultural moods, funding mechanisms, academic hierarchies, mood. and it responds constantly to aesthetic factors: simplicity vs complexity, clarity vs richness, etc. but this is not to say that science is 'nothing but' these factors.
there can be more than one accurate representation of the same thing. but there could be inaccurate representations. giotto really is truer to the world and our experience of it than a medieval altarpiece (not surprising because the medieval painter wasn't trying for accuracy!) and masaccio really is more accurate than giotto. perspective really was an advance in truth, even though it was also a set of representational conventions and had its limits.
on this parallel, there could be different paradigms neither of which was more accurate, or which highlighted different aspects or had different contexts, purposes, and so on. however it certainly does not follow that any paradigm is fine, and it would take a lot to make me think that two paradigms were in any sense 'incommensurable'; certainly not if they're consecutive in the very same culture or science. (i don't offhand entirely preclude the possibility of 'incommensurable' scientific paradigms which are equally accurate or inaccurate, but i wouldn't expect to see that and of course it depends, as it so did in the interpretation of kuhn, what you mean by 'incommensurable.') but certainly linear and painterly are very different. but but you got painterly in response to linear: the paradigms are historically connected, in fact they more or less have to have the sequence they do, and they are certainly not globally or entirely different in the way they represent the world.
now what wolfflin misses (though not entirely), and maybe what kuhn misses, is the massive overlap of alternative systems and paradigms. rembrandt understood raphael; he could recognize the objects depicted even as he he worked through it into a different but equally comprehensible representational schema. raphael and rembrandt are very different, but not alien to one another, and there is a story to tell about how you get from one to the other. and they are both, among other things, trying to 'imitate' or accurately represent the very same world.
how we see and how a dog sees are very different, but you can tell in our interactions that we experience the same world in somewhat different ways. (when the dog wants out, she barks at the door; she doesn't pass through the wall.) you can tell that aristotle's experience overlaps massively with our own - that the world he's trying to account for is our world (albeit different in the ordinary ways; he didn't have cable) - though he produces such a different representational scheme. it is really interesting and important to try to enter into that scheme, and you can't evaluate its capacities for truth unless you enter into it as far as you can in its own context or in its own terms. then it reveals its truths, or its role in a history that does in some ways to some extent make progress. then if you were trying to narrate physics aristotle to einstein as a series of paradigms, you'd have to do all sorts of things: smooth shifts between closely-related paradigms, relatively sudden relatively radical displacements (like maybe ancient to medieval), revolutionary developments re-explaining experimental results developed within the previous paradigm, and so on.
our actual sensory experience, on my account, is not representational; that's why we share a world; and that's why modern philosophy at least since descartes has been a dead end: we are not looking at our own ideas or mental images, we are looking at, which is to say, ingesting, actual things. but there are representations: things like paintings and theories. the analogy of our experience to such things is compelling. but it's wrong. the current fad for the idea that the universe consists of information is a version of this mistake, which seems intractable. the notion that in interacting with my dog i am immediately acquainted only with a series of percepts, images, feels, etc is a terrible betrayal of our actual experience and world. it is non-explanatory and it raises a thousand unanswerable skeptical doubts. and it seals each of us in our own percepts, behind a screen, or a bunch of us together in our language.
i'm not denying that einstein is truer than aristotle. orbits are elliptical and the earth isn't flat and people do believe all kinds of crap. but you do want to treat einstein's physics as a system of representation responding to all sorts of factors too: no scientific theory is 'objective' in the sense that it does not deploy representational schemata which are alterable, and to which there are alternatives. but representational schemata are not all equal truthwise, even though there could be equally true representations in some two systems of the same thing. and some representational systems are sensitive to different kinds of truths or different features of real things than others; no human schema is entirely adequate to an infinitely profuse reality; or, reality is always in radical excess to its representations.
and it is worthwhile really to immerse yourself in different historical moments, different cultures, different groups' experiences, insofar as that is possible, among other things so that you don't just think your moment or group must have the truth or the only true schema, and so that you don't stop being critical of all sorts of factors in your own representational schema. it's hard to be aware of your own era's/culture's representational schema and you can't become completely aware of it. but you need always to be seeing the compelling qualities of other schemata, know the present structure is optional, not the last word. because it will certainly be replaced. under aesthetic demands and sociological shifts, but also in a quest for representational accuracy.
and what the history of science shows among other things is that the world will keep blasting through every representational schema, that each is impoverished; none is exhaustive. that's one reason why you keep observing and experimenting instead of just repeating the commonplaces of your present science or the present syntax of your community's language.
the end of the errol morris series just shows perfectly clearly that (a) the thing is a personal grudge (and too late! the guy is dead dead dead), and (b) morris does not have the equipment actually to grapple with kuhn's position. if only it was that easy! morris's grudge might have been richly motivated fifty years ago. but alien abductions? flat earth? these objections were answered and exhausted before kuhn even finished his book. ridiculing kuhn as a total irrationalist etc is just not engaged in his writings, and ridiculing the way he sucked on a cig of course doesn't help at all. no one would have read kuhn if the position was that mind-numbingly implausible. (and again, i speak as a realist.) the sensation kuhn had when he read aristotle was the sensation of entering into a globally different way of thinking. he saw how it hung together, saw what happens when, for example, you take seriously the concept of final cause. well you need to have that sensation, even if you also need to narrate a somewhat more continuous set of developments than kuhn's structure suggests. but then you just take the stupidest thing that aristotle ever said (women have fewer teeth than men), and discredit the whole worldview on that basis, and then accuse kuhn of agreeing? dude please. and it does make you re-think the grudge a little. it makes you wonder how carefully morris ever read anything, makes you see why kuhn might throw an ashtray.
We will see that, like a particle, the universe doesn't just have a single history, but every possible history, each with its own probability; and our observations of its current state affect its past and determine the different histories of the universe, just as the observations of the particles in the double-slit experiment affect the particles' past. That analysis will show how the laws of nature in our universe arose from the big bang. (Grand Design, chapter 4)
i'm going to skip the disclaimer deferring to the super-intelligence of richard feynman etc. also i'm not gonna take another shot at the retroactive past right now. but i just want to point out that the idea that 'the' universe originated uniquely in a big bang is incompatible with the rest of the passage. the universe has every possible origin. surely the steady state theorists weren't wrong: if that is one of the possible histories, it is precisely as actual as the universe(s) that originated in the big bang.
i think hawking is going to argue that we don't need god to explain anything. true, true, but if god is possible then he's as actual as you and me (which is not very, i admit, in this cosmology). if it is possible that god created the universe etc...the only rational position is both to believe and not...in anything, really.
"richard feynman was a colorful character," writes hawking. and an incredibly dull old sod who never recovered from being dropped on his head as a baby. and also he didn't exist at all. he was mercurial like that, as well as colorful.
is a universe that obeys newton's laws all the way down a possible universe? then it is an actual universe, and since in that universe the quantum events that give rise to the 'every possible history' approach do not occur, that universe does not have all possible histories. so if that universe is possible, then it is not the case that the universe has every possible history.
what we're supposedly looking for is an 'elegant' theory that will help us explain future observations. (elegance was #1 to future observations' #4 in hawking's standards for the goodness of theories). you might want to ponder just how elegant 'the universe has every possible history' is. i propose that there could be no less elegant theory, no lusher or more teeming ontology. that's fun! that's cool! but by hawking's own standards it is bad. (well, i guess strictly speaking we might get an even more lush ontology from the claim that the universe has all possible and all impossible histories. i'm kind of surprised that that wasn't hawking's approach. perhaps further double-slit experiments will demonstrate that as well; but at this point it's only speculation. still it seems to explain a lot!)
of course elegance is a complex concept, as hawking acknowledges, and for all i know this gives you the fewest or the simplest equations. but in the old ockham's razor sense ('don't multiply entities without necessity') this is, very precisely, the least elegant possible account.
on the other hand, with regard to the standard of delivering predictions likely to be borne out in future observations, the idea that the universe has every possible history works incredibly well. i predict, with regard to every possible event, that the event will actually occur. there i'm done! and science is entirely finished. thank god because that shit was wack.
alright then let me try this: the co-actuality of all possible histories (or indeed of more than one) is itself impossible. that is, considered as a single unique item every possible history is possible. hard to quibble there. but the co-actuality of histories in which richard feynman, that particular person, exists in one and not in the other is not possible. or what can we mean by 'possible'? probably hawking has physical possibility in mind along the lines of the laws of physics; would he recognize that it is impossible for feynman both to exist and not to exist? (to be clear: it is possible that feynman existed. and it is possible that feynman didn't exist. but it is not possible that feynman both existed and didn't exist.) if not, then i think he ought to drop the physical laws too; it would not of course then follow from the fact that these laws hold that they do not also fail to hold.
hawking and mlodinow go to great lengths to avoid the word 'true' in the grand design. they constantly refer to theories they like or defend as 'good' or (very often) 'real.' i see why they don't want to open this can of worms. but just resorting to different terms really doesn't help. when they say a theory is real, they mean it's true, and that means it guides research and isn't falsified etc: again a pragmatist theory, in a pretty unsophisticated version. but using 'real' here is just odd. a theory is real if it has actually been articulated: theories that aren't real are theories that have never been formulated, or theories (for example) put forward by fictional characters in novels or something.
let's say that to say a theory or assertion is true is to say that it allows us accurately to make predictions about the future, or that it is true or true enough as long as it is not contradicted by observations. so i've begun the hawking, and he doesn't claim to generate a theory of truth. he can't, in some way, because then among other things he'd be squarely in a realm in which no particular observation or calculation could help him. he'd be in philosophy, in short. however there is a theory of truth nevertheless (and no observation or calculation can help him): "A model is a good model if it: (4) Makes detailed predictions about future observations that can disprove or falsify the model if they are not borne out." so the model makes prediction p at time t1. at t2 an observation is made that's incompatible with p (but cf quine: in fact no observation is incompatible with any theory). however, to say that it's true that that observation has actually been made at t2 is to predict that this claim, p2 (such-and-such an observation has been made), will not be falsified at some t3, which is to say that that claim, p3, will not be falsified at some t4. and so on. sometimes a view entails an infinite or vicious regress. this view entails an infinite or vicious progress, and that every assertion (even those about the past) is an infinite assertion about an infinite future. i believe that in this case no model can actually be falsified.
such a theory of truth cannot of course be attributed to hawking etc.; c.s. peirce is a plausible candidate.
anyway, here's one reason that calculations and observations can't help you generate a good theory of truth: because all calculations and observations must be deployed within a conception of truth; if the equation is not true, then generating a theory of truth from it (supposing such a thing makes sense) just takes you further afield. indeed no theory of truth can be established by any evidence. for one thing the question of the truth of the theory of truth itself arises, and a theory of truth (for example, the pragmatic theory) might be true according to itself (it helps, or whatever). that does not establish that it's true, any more than writing in purple ink 'a sentence is true if and only if it is written in purple ink' establishes that a sentence is true if and only if it is written in purple ink. ( hawking retreats to the 'goodness' of a model, probably precisely to avoid the thornbush of truth. but either he actually does mean truth or at any rate something just as problematic.) in all honesty i think theories of truth are articles of faith, or rather they are inchoate expressions of commitment to a certain sort of world. you are not going to be able to do without such commitments.
can't stop bloggin! one more thing on hawking: the world is not mind-dependent. the mind is world-dependent. (andy clark puts forward one version of this truth, for example.) now the notion that the world is mind-dependent is profoundly anti-naturalistic. if darwin is in the right world, then the human mind arises in a process of adaptation to an actual pre-existing environment, and is comprehensible in terms of the demands that environment poses, the objective facts with which it confronts a creature. but the hawking approach asserts the opposite: that the environment arises in response to us, in a profound and insane sense: we create its past. so if you still wanted a little evolution, you'd be forced to conclude that the mind arose from adaptation to an environment retrojected into the past by that very mind: we actually are making right now the past that gave rise to us. the human mind in this scenario is an uncaused cause, a prime mover; a god. now i note that the ability of these folks to swallow absurdities appears to know no limit. but these particular absurdities are completely incompatible with the sciences that ended up giving rise to them.
back to hawking: "the unobserved past is indefinite." "Observations you make on a system in the present affect its past." ask yourself, for example, what experimental results could show that 'the unobserved past is indefinite.' i would think, for example, that the idea that the past is in continual flux would make it impossible to do any sort of experiment: the conditions under which it was performed won't stay still for a moment. what did you just do in the lab or just observe? there are many correct answers to this, as many as there are future reinterpretations. i wonder whether it could turn out, for example, that george washington wasn't the first president. or whether it might keep changing back and forth, etc. i don't mean that we could revise our beliefs. i mean can it actually cease and resume being true that he was? somewhere back there, gw is flickering in and out of existence.
well i suppose this assertion applies only to the 'unobserved' past. this might have two senses: something past that was not observed in the past is indefinite (which i'm reading as a third truth value between true and false?). for example, it is indefinite - it neither true nor false - that there was a universe a billion years ago. or perhaps the idea is that something asserted about the past now is indefinite unless that past is observable now. however, nothing past is observable now. follow either of these ideas for awhile and you'll realize you just got lost.
and you'll realize that you've lost entirely the pastness of the past. to repeat, what we have here is hegelian absolute idealism or something, and the continual revision of the past is also a doctrine of pomo narrative theory (which really derives from hegel). or maybe it's like the pragmatist approach to history (c.i. lewis's, for example): to say that p is true is to say it will guide us fruitfully in the future. so the claim that gw existed, for example, is a claim about the future. ok, well, knock yourself out while i try to knock yourself down. only don't try to tell me this is "science."
it's a little hard for me to see where the math comes in, but i do want to point out that it is indeterminate whether hawking has actually ever done any mathematics and whether it turned out right when he did.
in some ways this is a commonplace. for example, it became the case, say, in 1870, that manet's work of the 1850s anticipated impressionism. that wasn't true of manet's paintings in the 1850s, but it was true of manet's paintings of the 1850s in the 1870s. ok, is this the sort of thing y'all have in mind?
anyway, philosophy is not dead as long as physicists are engaging in the most rank and post-empirical philosophical speculation. when rorty and folks said philosophy was dead, they at least tried to stop doing it. hawking, though, doesn't really have the training to know whether philosophy is dead, or to kill it. certainly you can't kill it by putting forth a theory of truth, "solving" the problem of skepticism, or describing the cosmic order of the universe.
i can't do physics, because i can't do the math. but let me say in defense of my turf that i don't think we should let physicists loose in the realms of metaphysics and epistemology. hawking, as the tls review puts it, thinks the reverse: philosophy is 'dead' because it's not keeping up with physics. anyway, it's the quantum stuff where i feel these people go nuttier than exquisitely-educated fruitcakes. from the particle-slit experiments, or whatever it may be, they seem to draw conclusions like this: there are eleven dimensions. time splits at each event. the principle of non-contradiction is false. truth, reality, the world are/is observer-dependent. there's no fact of the matter about whether a cat is alive or dead, etc. now it's easy to let this stuff wash over you; it's been washing for decades now. and it's very, very easy to defer to the authority of people like hawking. obviously he's smarter than you and me. i, personally, couldn't write books by twitching my eyebrow, and i intend not to try. nevertheless, my left eyebrow is raised as though to write "huh?".
i would like to point out with all due respect that this shit is insane. it makes the highest flights of christian mysticism look rational. that experiments could show that reality is observer-dependent is an assertion that roget, consulting his excellent thesaurus, might call twaddle, flapdoodle, tommyrot, balderdash, bilge, poppycock, and piffle. the events observed in experiments are all observed, while events that are not observed are not observed; it's going to be rather hard to demonstrate the existence of non-observed events by observation, etc. that is exactly as profound as saying you've never seen something you haven't seen. but if you concluded that nothing is visible except what has actually been seen, i'd say in the words of the immortal metro truly (a dude i went to junior high school with) that you're off your feeble tree.
i think one thing these physicists have definitely overcome is ockham's razor: they appear to have a fondness for the maximally lush or bizarre explanation. once you get rid of non-contradiction, by the way, you have gotten rid of the possibility of explaining anything, much less everything: even if your explanation were true, it wouldn't follow that it wasn't false. if watching the paths of microparticles or whatever it is suggests to you that there are eleven or infinitely-many universes, i want to make sure you haven't tried all the this-universely explanations you might generate, etc.
some quotes in the review from hawking and mlodinow's book: "the unobserved past is indefinite." "Observations you make on a system in the present affect its past." "abstract considerations of logic lead to a unique theory that predicts and describes a vast universe." i suggest that these are philosophical or religious speculations having nothing to do with empirical results. the universe they describe is, for one thing, hegelian (for example in the notion that the present retroactively creates the past and in the extraordinary idea that the laws of logic generate a universe). this is speculative metaphysics at its most bloated, and i would really find some killer analytic philosopher to help these folks clarify their basic terms. where are rudolf carnap and gilbert ryle when you need them? i not only don't think that these claims are true; i don't know what it would mean for them to be true. i think they are incoherent.
really before we use science to derive a moral system or something, we might want to police it a little bit for extreme silliness. the gap between the self-image and the reality is, at least, kind of hilarious. it would be redundant to punch holes in a "study" like that; it comes with the holes pre-punched. at any rate, arguing with people who are entirely irrational and detached from reality is useless and unkind. rather, one should merely condescend.
ok ok! i'll punch one hole: the left/right spectrum, liberal/conservative way of thinking about the political spectrum is at most 250 years old. our political genes must be mutating pretty quick! tell me that this study does not constitute essentially a congratulation by the "scientists" to the people doing the funding in virtue of their political positions, and a self-congratulation of course.
it would shock me if american liberals were liberals in virtue of their adventurousness and willingness to take chances and have new experiences. now if there were a gene connected to nodding somnolently along with the banal wisdom of large groups...wait there is! that's how frances de waal gets morality out of evolution.
one thing i dig: when someone declares her own wisdom continuously, while simply rehearsing the idiot nostrums of her demographic. at any rate, it takes you about three sentences to realize that rebecca costa is a sheer cretin, the sting of which is only slightly mitigated by her constant declarations of her own intelligence. these are no doubt inspired by her mentor: bill maher, the greatest monster of self-congratulation since jesus. we face a simple choice: facts or beliefs? do we agree with whatever the climate lab says, or do we...think and generate ideas independently somehow?
at any rate, i'd tell her to read some epistemology, but that might hint that she can read. you can't oppose facts to beliefs: some beliefs are true, in which case they represent facts. fact has to be opposed to...you know, fantasy, irreality or something. "when facts become incomprehensible, we switch to beliefs." this sentence is itself incomprehensible. it indicates, if it indicates anything, both that the world makes no sense, and that in believing things we leave this incomprehensible world behind.
the idea, a conventionality of the educated left, is that we can cease to believe anything, replacing a commitment to any proposition with the facts themselves. "fact" here refers to whatever the experts say this week. this is indeed a remarkable achievement, a transcendence of the human condition so profound that it makes no sense whatever. but i am relieved to hear that costa has eliminated mere belief entirely: for example, that she does not believe that the earth is growing warmer.
i don't know, maybe there is an esl-type issue and costa doesn't actually understand how native speakers of english use the terms "fact" and "belief."
think about a principle like this: "All people are created equal." now what does that mean? is science going to help you figure out what it means? and then if it did somehow, what experiments or observations would bear it out or falsify it? but, on the other hand, is it a presupposition of the social science that you're doing? if you measure the effectiveness of a policy by the increased welfare of those affected, or even just display the data you've gathered, do you count some of these people more than others? or does each one = 1, whether they're white or black, male or female? see: a social vision or theory far in excess to anything science could pronounce on is built in at the base of every sociological study.
this is not merely to press the fact/value distinction. what is it like to be a bat? is the principle of non-contradiction true? does 2+3 = 5? does barack love michelle? how do you throw a pot? lays or pringles? which way will the plot of this film twist next? only a complete doink takes such questions to Science.
the problem isn't science, it's scientism: "Science" as the only source of truth. the sources of truth are many and varied, from flashes of intuition to a priori conceptual exploration to aesthetic experience. i guess you could try to explain *those* things as brain states etc. that wouldn't tend to show whether what they yield up is true or false, for example, even if you could make some progress.
and the social sciences are just by and large completely disingenuous attempts to manipulate people. you can study students' progress scientifically through standardized tests. really? what do you mean by "knowledge"? an entire normative orientation is built into the very idea of a standardized testing regime, or in a diagnosis of depression, or in a model for achieving economic recovery. the facts bear on these things, but that the procedure is scientific is just wrong or a rationalization for actual exercise of power, and an offloading of it: it's not me saying this, or even doing this to you: it's...Science!
and also i would say this deal where you have to choose between science and religion, reason and faith, fact and fantasy, obama and palin, is just jive. no one gets along in this world without constantly reasoning and without constantly believing things for which he has no reasons.
what's actually disturbing is the way Science serves power: the way people purport that whatever policies they think should be in place are not their own doing but that of Reality. obama actually takes this tack constantly, like his forebears john kerry and al gore. and i think you see that it has its limits as a leadership style; where's the passion etc? hey that's not even you talking, by your own account. it's, um, experts. someone who is that incapable of taking responsibility for their own opinions and their own attacks on your autonomy should never be listened to about anything.
we had better think about the epistemic hierarchy we are constructing. if all the truth is held by harvard professors and none by persons of other sorts, then of course you could ignore tea partiers or merely ridicule them. for one thing, all the harvard professors are leftists. however, you probably have no more stable grasp on the deliverances of particle physics or brain scanning than the rankest tea partier, so you don't know anything either. all you do is recite what these people say they know. it takes a lot of gaul to go from that sort of position to the amazing conclusion that Science exclusively determines truth and all other values. but i tell you that the structure i've just described is a religion.
i hope that stephen hawking is better than he's represented as being. and no doubt he is; i guess you can't get joe schmoe, or me for that matter, to understand the physics/mathematics of our pythagorean multiverse etc. maybe he knows something we don't.
Due to laws like gravity, noted last week's excerpt, Hawking writes that it is entirely possible that the universe "can and will create itself from nothing." That's why we exist. That's why there's something rather than nothing. We don't need God.now surely he's going to discharge the further obligation to explain why there are these laws rather than others, or no laws, for example. how can the headlines be about hawking's denial that there is a god, when in fact the argument appears to be that no god is necessary in an explanation of the origin of the universe? these things matter in the terms of the ancient argument.
at any rate, maybe theism/atheism turns partly on aesthetic sensibilities. there can be beauty in a city that grows up willy-nilly chaotically over time as well as of an area designed from whole cloth, a planned environment. the willy-nilly city may of course also be in principle explicable: well there are economic and political histories and so on. but it teems, is wildly profligate, always just barely eluding your explanatory machinery.