Stephen P. King (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Mon, 03 May 1999 08:37:08 -0400
Subject: Re: Why are scientists so certain about nondeterminism?
Date: 25 Apr 1999 00:00:00 GMT
From: email@example.com (R. Knauer)
Newsgroups: sci.philosophy.meta, sci.physics.particle
On Sun, 25 Apr 1999 15:03:02 +0200, Bjoern Brembs <firstname.lastname@example.org>
>That might actually happen this year...
That's a rather nondeterministic statement. :-)
>You might want to read
>Denniston, Miller, Matute (1996): Biological significance as a determinant of cue
>competition. Psychological Science 7(6): 325-331
>and references therein, whom I quoted in my first post to this thread. It might give you
>some insight on just why we want to see things causal and deterministic. Why thinking
>deterministically works is rather easy: the statistical law of large numbers.
Speaking of numbers, how about the fact that monkeys can learn how to
think mathematically, at least in terms of arithmetic. You can easily
imagine the tremendous survival advantage to being able to reason
mathematically, even if it is only to be able to do primitive
arithmetic. If a monkey sees 5 predators go into a cave and then sees
only 4 of them come out at various times, it knows that there is still
one in there. That comes in real handy when deciding whether to go
into the cave or not.
>Indeterminism is something that only becomes strikingly clear on a level where it would
>never become evolutionary important to take indeterminism into account. That's why we have
>to think causally and deterministically. It's astonishing Kant noticed that restraint
>already 200 years ago!
Nondeterminism is handy too - to provide solutions to problems that do
not admit a deterministic solution. Early man had to have benefitted
from nondeterministic hunches - those moments of lucidity that defy
deterministic explanation. We tend to hide such behavior under the
guise of "instinct", but that cannot be the only explanation.
A particular man's decision to mate a particiular female is not based
on any instinct - it is based on a nondeterministic hunch that such
activity will be beneficial. When we say that beauty is in the eye of
the beholder, we are saying that each person judges beauty
nondeterministically - that there is no deterministic reason for it.
There is a theory advanced in "Physics from Fisher Information : A
Unification" by B. Roy Frieden. I have not read it since it has not
made it to the libraries yet. Here is the description from
"This book contains a development of most known physics from a
unifying principle of information extremization. The principle states
that when knowledge is sought by a person, the act of seeking creates
for that observer the physical law that gives rise to the knowledge.
For example, in making a measurement of position, the observer locally
creates quantum mechanics--the physical law that gives rise to such a
measurement. In this way, man creates his own local reality. For
observations that do not involve time directly, the act of seeking
such knowledge amounts to a game of information hoarding between the
observer and nature. The payoff of the game is the law of physics in
That sounds a lot like Idealism to me. Western scientists are forced
by professional integrity to reject any worldview that is different
from Realism - at least while they are acting as physical scientists -
so the notion that we create our own local reality based on how we
measure that reality is not going to hold well with western
>Do you mean scientific or religious truth? Or any other? Which truth do you mean? Isn't
>truth a matter of convention?
Truth is the expression of that which is. What difference does it make
how it is acquired?
If you claim that truth is only valid when it is acquired by
scientific deduction, then I would remind you of Godel's
Incompleteness in formal axiomatic systems. What do you do about truth
that cannot be acquired by deduction? Are the Godel propositions not
truth just because they cannot be deduced formally?
There are truths peculiar to science, and truths peculiar to religion.
I am not in a position to decide which kind of truth is a priori
better without engaging in philosophical critique, which itself
depends crucially on which worldview one adopts.
>And as for good and evil: what is that? How do you define that? Isn't that something
>rather fuzzy and relative as well?
Sane people know that murder is evil because they themselves do not
want to be murdered. If someone comes up to you and says that murder
is good, you would then ask if it is OK for you to murder him, and he
would say that it is not, if he is sane. Therefore he knows that
murder is not good after all.
If, on the other hand, that person said that it would be OK for you to
murder him, you would have every justification to declare that he is
insane - because sane people do not invite others to murder them.
Therefore we conclude that there is an absolute character to the
sanction against murder, one that is almost universally recognized by
mankind, which has as its underpinnings the denial of human life. Life
is the thing that is good, and murder is evil because it is an act
which causes lack of that good.
>Are you sure you're not blending science and religion together? I don't think you'll be
>getting very far if you do.
Define "getting very far". If anything, it is physical science that
can only get so far.
And science has a lot of room to criticize religion at the
metaphysical level, what with its half-alive, half-dead cats and
mysterious forces like gravity which have alluded description on a
first principles basis for centuries.
To listen to western scientists when they attempt metaphysics is not
any different from listening to an ashram full of eastern mystics. At
least the mystics burn incense to hide the odor of their nonsense.
"As nightfall does not come at once, neither does oppression. In both
instances, there's a twilight where everything remains seemingly
and it is in such twilight that we must be aware of change in the air,
however slight, lest we become unwitting victims of the darkness."
-- Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas
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