• T Clark
    4.2k
    The only thing standing between the wealthy and poverty is wealthTogetherTurtle

    From a Steve Martin Saturday Night Live monologue:

    You.. can be a millionaire.. and never pay taxes! You can be a millionaire.. and never pay taxes! You say.. “Steve.. how can I be a millionaire.. and never pay taxes?” First.. get a million dollars.
  • TogetherTurtle
    344
    You.. can be a millionaire.. and never pay taxes! You can be a millionaire.. and never pay taxes! You say.. “Steve.. how can I be a millionaire.. and never pay taxes?” First.. get a million dollars.T Clark

    And any aspiring millionaire wouldn't have it any other way.
  • Coben
    942
    Physicists are looked down on in philosophy forums too ..I like sushi
    I remember once being the the philosophy forum of a science forum. I brought up an issue about the cause of a medical condition. The condition was considered to be caused by a bacteria. I pointed out that this is an oversimplication of causes, since environmental factors, social factors, dietary factors can cause the condition. And to be clear the condition was now, because of scientific experiments considered not to be caused by anything but the bacteria. How the bacteria managed to be effectively opportunistic in some people but not others was not an issue to many of the scientists i encountered.

    I wrote this all out, put some real work in.

    a scientist responded by saying he checked the research and said that it was accepted that the bacteria was the cause.

    I asked him if he understood the point I was raising about 'cause'. Then he got nasty and said I didn't understand how science works. I explained that I did and tried another shot at getting at the issue of cause.

    He linked me to articles on the research.

    i got snarky.

    Now of course this is a single interaction. I don't generalize this to scientists. I am sure there are scientists who would have understood and been able to engage in my points and certainly some in public health, rather than, say, in pharmacology (hint, hint about bias), might have agreed with me.

    I just bring it up because it is a sort of classic philosophy/science encounter.

    Or really any cross-paradigmatic encounter.
  • I like sushi
    1.3k
    80% of people on most forums are quite strange.

    It takes patience. Mine has pretty much run out now, but I sometimes find the odd discussion interesting to follow.
  • Bill Hobba
    28
    I am a mentor on Physics Forums and the reason philosophy is off topic there is it once was its own sub-forum. It was moderated by someone who was basically qualified in both physics and philosophy and kept it under control. They left and it got out of control - people could not tell the difference between speculations (and mostly gibberish at that) and philosophy. The physicists over there kept the physics in line - by forum rules you basically cant discuss 'junk' only actual physics as in papers, textbooks etc. As a mentor part of my job it to help adjudicate on stuff that's 'borderline' science. A philosophy mentor would need the same and we lost ours, so it was ditched.

    Regarding the relationship of physics to philosophy it took a big hit with the story of Kant and Gauss regarding non-euclidean geometry - but that is a thread in itself. The view of today's physicists is probably summed up by Feynman 'Philosophers say a great deal about what is absolutely necessary for science, and it is always, so far as one can see, rather naive, and probably wrong.'. An example would be what is energy. Philosophers probably argued that one for yonks really getting nowhere. But along came Noether and all was clear, but in a way no philosopher would ever have thought of - its merely a consequence of symmetry in time. As a matter of fact we now know much of physics is about symmetry - but most philosophers don't know it, and of those that do they probably argue about it like what was done about energy. Scientists accept we do not know, and another Noether (who was a mathematician that moonlighted in physics) is needed to resolve it. Its humbling admitting that's the way it is. Heisenberg and Dirac had an interesting discussion about a Kuhn like view of science and its just steady progress:
    http://philsci-archive.pitt.edu/1614/

    Myself and I would say most physicists side with Dirac eg Weinberg:
    https://www.physics.utah.edu/~detar/phys4910/readings/fundamentals/weinberg.html

    Thanks
    Bill
  • Bill Hobba
    28
    'So for instance, Newton's laws assume that mass doesn't depend on velocity, that's a weakness.'

    Newtons laws have many weaknesses I will not go into, but they can be rectified and is now the modern theory of Classical Mechanics as you will find in a proper treatment like Landau - Mechanics. The laws are replaced by a critical assumption - The Principle Of Least Action. What is the reason for that assumption? - I will let people think about that - there is a reason - but its not what you would think. Mass in that treatment is shown to be a constant independent of velocity:

    Thanks
    Bill
  • Coben
    942
    Interesting. (wasn't your forum I mentioned, though that should be clear since the topic wasn't physics). I didn't realize Kuhn got so skeptical about science having meaning. I could swear I read papers by him, a long time ago, bemoaning how his work was being used to undermine the idea that science was objective. Not how his work sank into me. IOW I neover took him as saying that it was all just a bunch analogies, each paradigm, and now we have shifted into set X, and then set Y, all arbritrary like fashion trends.
    Regarding the relationship of physics to philosophy it took a big hit with the story of Kant and Gauss regarding non-euclidean geometry - but that is a thread in itself.
    I can see Kant's philosophy took a hit, but I don't see why philosophy in general should. Gauss was a physicist, though Schweikart was not, but he was not doing traditional scientific research. He was exploring math and what seemed like something interesting but not practical ended up being useful and in fact reflected reality. So we have mental activity not based on empirical studies aiding science. While not philosophy per se, I don't see it as undermining philosophical work. It is an example of something outside of science contributing to science.
  • leo
    601
    The view of today's physicists is probably summed up by Feynman 'Philosophers say a great deal about what is absolutely necessary for science, and it is always, so far as one can see, rather naive, and probably wrong.'. An example would be what is energy. Philosophers probably argued that one for yonks really getting nowhere. But along came Noether and all was clear, but in a way no philosopher would ever have thought of - its merely a consequence of symmetry in time.Bill Hobba

    Well, it doesn't take a genius to realize that if relative acceleration is a function of distance that doesn't depend on time: dv/dt = f(r), then vdv = f(r)dr, then v²/2-F(r) is a constant that doesn't depend on time.

    Which can be generalized to say that if we assume things follow laws that don't depend on time, then there is a quantity that is conserved through time. We call that quantity energy, in reference to the historical concept according to which mechanical motion could be converted into other kinds of motions (such as heat).

    It's quite funny that you would quote Feynman on how philosophers are naive and wrong, say that philosophers went nowhere on the question of what energy is, then say that after Noether everything became clear among physicists, when there is this other quote from Feynman that you haven't mentioned (over 40 years after Noether):

    "It is important to realize that in physics today, we have no knowledge of what energy is."

    its merely a consequence of symmetry in time.Bill Hobba

    It is an example of poor philosophy to say that "energy is a consequence of symmetry in time" is an answer to the question "what is energy". Just like saying "a sunburn is a consequence of overexposure to UV radiation" is not an answer to the question "what is a sunburn", an answer would rather be something like "sunburn is an inflammatory response in the skin triggered by direct DNA damage by UV radiation".

    Another example of poor philosophy is to say that energy is a consequence of symmetry in time. Rather, the existence of a conserved quantity through time (which we call energy) is a consequence of the assumption that physical laws do not change through time. Nothing forces us to geometrize time and talk of symmetry in time, that's just one way to look at it, if you want you can say that in a particular mathematical model energy is seen as a consequence of symmetry in time, but in saying that one risks committing the fallacy of reification, treating time as a physical thing rather than a concept.

    As a matter of fact we now know much of physics is about symmetry - but most philosophers don't know it, and of those that do they probably argue about it like what was done about energy.Bill Hobba

    That's one particular way to interpret the phenomena, simply because physicists of the 20th century have focused on formulating theories in terms of symmetry and symmetry breaking doesn't imply that physics has to be "about symmetry". Just like we can assume physical laws do not change through time without talking of symmetry in time, and we can formulate physical laws without invoking symmetry as a fundamental concept. I recall some well-known physicists mentioning that focusing on symmetry might turn out to be a dead-end, I can't find the quotes now, but symmetry-based reasoning hasn't been much fruitful these past decades, and it isn't clear that alternatives wouldn't be more fruitful.

    The laws are replaced by a critical assumption - The Principle Of Least Action.Bill Hobba

    Physics would be clearer if we did away with this principle. Yea it's mathematically elegant, and increasingly physicists have given up intuitiveness in favor of mathematical elegance, and now we have a physics whose motto is "shut up and calculate" because it cannot be understood, and somehow we're supposed to see that as an achievement. The achievement would be to have a similar predictive power without all that nonintuitive complexity that stems from layers and layers of mathematically elegant principles.

    To say that things move the way they do because they move in such a way that they minimize a mathematical function is adding an unnecessary layer of complexity, as opposed to focusing on how things move and describing that.

    But then again Newton's laws were unnecessary layers of complexity too, seeing how for instance Newton's second law is a mathematical definition of the concept of force. One could instead focus on how things accelerate one another and do away with the intermediary concept of force.
  • Bill Hobba
    28
    There is quite a bit wrong with your post eg acceleration does depend on time as does velocity by their very definition. But let's start with the principle of least action, it comes from QM namely Feynman's path integral approach. That's why its more fundamental than Newtons laws.
  • Dzung
    53
    Physicists are looked down on in philosophy forums tooI like sushi

    I could hardly imagine how. Can you share an example?
  • Dzung
    53
    But 'where' is the 'domain of natural numbers?'Wayfarer

    Numbers, or any kind of symbols, were in the mind of C.S.Pierce who said some thing like this universe is full of (if not all) signs. Have you come across semiosis?
    My interpretation is that every surrounding we acknowledge is no more than a sign. Some can say that rock on the side road is not because it's been there and will be without your mercy. But how do you know if it's the same rock yesterday - given it may have more or less atoms due to dusts on the road or itself's friction with the tarmac?
  • S
    11.8k
    In my experience of talking with scientists about philosophy, I have found that many times most scientists seem to look down on it like if it were just speculative non-conducive discussions about random thoughts that anyone can make up.Shushi

    Well, it's not "just" that, but let's not kid ourselves that that doesn't sum up a large part of it.

    Love the comic strip at the bottom of your opening post, by the way. "What do you mean by 'pure'? What do you mean by 'just applied'? I wonder... do they know I exist?". :lol:
  • Dzung
    53
    We should turn that around too, make people understand that so-called scientists who don't understand the intellectual underpinnings of what they do are just technicians.T Clark

    Can there be the case where some well-thought scientists think certain philosophical statements make more sense than their modern science's reach, but who do not dare to speak out loud? I have that kind a feeling after watching video interviews of big physicists. I also read some where that people change position (they used the word "retreat to a safer position", such as agnosticism) under harsh media attacks (provoking/luring questions).
  • T Clark
    4.2k
    Can there be the case where some well-thought scientists think certain philosophical statements make more sense than their modern science's reach, but who do not dare to speak out loud? I have that kind a feeling after watching video interviews of big physicists. I also read some where that people change position (they used the word "retreat to a safer position", such as agnosticism) under harsh media attacks (provoking/luring questions).Dzung

    I get the feeling that most scientists don't spend much time thinking about philosophy at all. To some extent, I think that's because they don't understand the nature of metaphysics and epistemology or their unspoken assumptions about reality.
  • T Clark
    4.2k
    Currently, dark matter is the hypothesis which best matches the data, but it is still only a hypothesis - it is not established theory. If you could present an alternative explanation that successfully matches all the data and does not involve hypothetical invisible particles, you would go down in history along with Einstein.EricH

    It's not my intention to reopen the dark matter discussion, but I was just reading an article on the web that I thought people might find interesting.

    @https://www.symmetrymagazine.org/article/testing-dama
  • SophistiCat
    834
    Now of course this is a single interaction.Coben

    Which is impossible to judge based on the retelling of one of the participants. For all I know, you could be right, but to a rational observer who knows only that the argument was between a non-expert with a superficial familiarity with the research and the experts who conducted the research (because even before you squabbled with someone on a forum you were in a virtual argument with the authors of the studies in question), the balance of credibility is obviously not in your favor.

    But that's not the important point. What was the point of this anecdote?

    I just bring it up because it is a sort of classic philosophy/science encounter.Coben

    From what you have told us, it appears that the "classic encounter" consists of you presuming that scientists in general would not know anything about isolating principal causes of a phenomenon while accounting for relevant confounders. How could they, indeed? After all, 'cause' is a philosophical term of art, so they need an amateur philosopher with little knowledge of the subject matter to set them straight.

    What is particularly perplexing about this encounter is that as a philosopher you weren't problematizing a concept that is commonly taken for granted, or bringing to light an unexamined assumption, or suggesting a different conceptual framework. Rather, you were challenging the science on its own turf - perhaps without even realizing that that is what you were doing. It could be that the researchers did not do a good job of accounting for all relevant factors and evaluating alternative hypotheses - I don't have enough information and expertise to judge. But that is precisely what is expected of them as scientists.

    How do you think philosophers theorize about causality? How do they evaluate their own theories? They systematize and generalize causality by examining our causal thinking and practice. But toy examples like billiard balls colliding or stones smashing windows can only get you so far. Scientific practice provides a large pool of complex examples, from Newtonian dynamics to epidemiology, and here philosophers mostly learn from scientists, rather than the other way around. If a philosophical account of causality is contrary to the best scientific practices, this is usually taken to be philosophy's deficiency.

    That is not to say that philosophers cannot contribute to the discussion of causality, but that would be more in areas where science runs up against conceptual difficulties, such as in quantum mechanics, for example. As for routine problems with the quality of studies and such, scientists and mathematicians are more adept at debugging those than most philosophers.
  • Bill Hobba
    28
    Actually there are no conceptual difficulties in QM - really its just what in math is called a generalized probability model:
    https://www.scottaaronson.com/democritus/lec9.html

    Now what it means - that is another matter.

    Thanks
    Bill
  • Coben
    942
    Which is impossible to judge based on the retelling of one of the participants. For all I know, you could be right, but to a rational observer who knows only that the argument was between a non-expert with a superficial familiarity with the research and the experts who conducted the research (because even before you squabbled with someone on a forum you were in a virtual argument with the authors of the studies in question), the balance of credibility is obviously not in your favor.SophistiCat
    Sure, there's no reason for you to accept my version of the encounter. But then there's no reason to assume I had a superficial familiarity with the research. The person I was talking to was a physicist. I was a person who suffered from the condition in question and had researched it for years. My classic encounter was with a scientist who appealed to authority and was not willing to show that he understood my objection. What did he do? He read my post, then checked to see what the current cause was considered to be and reported back to me that I was wrong. Which was a strange thing to do since it was stated in my previous post what current consensus was. IOW he did not interact with my argument, he told me what I already obviously knew, but let me know that that was the end of the subject. I encountered this kind of pattern repeatedly with scientists on that site. Even in instances where I was less of an expert than the scientist - for example, when the topic fit their profession or I had no special background in the topic - I noticed a repeated lack of interest in actually dealing with the arguments, though they might spend time lecturing me about me or something not relevant about the group they think I am in or whatever. IOW it wasn't the effort they were resistent to, it was the having a discussion.

    Someone could argue that it is so trying to have these amateurs talk about science. Well, that was part of the point of the forum. I did not preface my points with some diatribe about science, which I was obviously interested in and based a lot of my arguments on. Many did not seem to realize that there was non-consensus within science on the issues in question. And by this I do not mean there was a fringe scientist or two, but actual splits in the greater community on issues - this was certainly true on a lot of issues in cosmology that interested me. But if I presented an idea that they thought there was consensus on and even cited polls of physicists or whatever the relevant scientist group was, it would still be treated as fringe and the musings of a pompous idiot (me). And I often found they did not read posts particularly well. My posts would sometimes trigger responses, with incorrect assumptions about what I must mean.

    And it's not like the forum was filled with techincal posts meant to be passed between experts, there was opinion throwing and everyday speech by all participants and on all categories of issue, not just within science.

    This is how humans are, of course. Scientists may even be less annoying in these ways. Still, given that they were scientists and were taking the position, with regularity, that they did not use their intuition in reaching conclusions and disagreements with non-scientists were part of their war as team rational vs. the irrational horde, it was galling.

    I found it less annoying dealing with some Abrahamists who arguments boiled down to faith or, basically, intuition at some point. You wanna take the high rational ground, rather than the high moral or intuitive ground, well, it will likely be more annoying if that's not really what you are managing to live up to.

    Further my position did not contradict the research data, it called into question elminating other causes as factors, even decisives ones, despite the research not showing that these were not also causes. There was money riding on this. Billions.

    Now in the post you responded to I was writing to someone who I thought might find value in that kind of example. Not as proof, but as a category of talking bpast each other.
    But toy examples like billiard balls colliding or stones smashing windows can only get you so far. Scientific practice provides a large pool of complex examples, from Newtonian dynamics to epidemiology, and here philosophers mostly learn from scientists, rather than the other way around. If a philosophical account of causality is contrary to the best scientific practices, this is usually taken to be philosophy's deficiency.SophistiCat
    If it had been contrary that would have been a different situation. It wasn't. That was part of the blind spot, I thought, in the scientist I was dealing with.
    That is not to say that philosophers cannot contribute to the discussion of causality, but that would be more in areas where science runs up against conceptual difficulties, such as in quantum mechanics, for example. As for routine problems with the quality of studies and such, scientists and mathematicians are more adept at debugging those than most philosophers.SophistiCat
    I would guess in most cases, the vast majority, of case analyses you are correct. I think in medicine people outside the specific field can often produce great input because 1) so much of the research is funded by biased organizations and 2) we know, from scientific research, that funding sources affect results and what results are shared with us, and how the results are looked at by government oversight. 3) there are paradigmatic influences on medicine - with counter trends now - to isolate causes to single patients. Hm, that's not good wording. To look at diseases and chemical cures, rather than say public health, preventative medical approaches, and certainly not alternative approaches - in part becasue many of them cannot be patented. They want to find causes and treatments that involve pills in a lot of cases where other approaches might be just as effective and with less side effects.

    I could mull over if there are other sciences that also might have built in biases where philosophers could be of great help, but since I mentioned, I think, in this thread mainly physics - which you seem to agree about - and in that post medicaine, I stick here.
  • SophistiCat
    834
    "What it means" is where conceptual issues begin and end. What did you think I meant? Specifically with regard to causality, since that was the context, the issue is pretty controversial in QM. As you know, cause is not really a term in QM's vocabulary (and the same can be said about most areas of physics), so it is all about interpretation.
  • Bill Hobba
    28
    What I was pointing out is virtually anyone can learn QM so there is nothing conceptually hard about it, although misconceptions abound. Now, as you correctly point out when you ask questions like is QM casual you immediately run into issues, even issues as to what casual means - I suppose its a quibble on my part about conceptually understand and able to discuss using normal philosophical discourse.

    Thanks
    Bill
  • Dzung
    53
    they are also humans and the least human should have some level of philosophy I'd trust.But nowadays in the consumptionistic flow, one has less freedom to speak up, compared to say, Renaissance period. For example, scientists need budgets for their projects and better keep mouths shut whenever unnecessary. Having said that, due to specialization of any study subject, a physicist should inherently have less philosophic thoughts than a professional philosopher.
  • Pattern-chaser
    1.8k
    when you ask questions like is QM casual...Bill Hobba

    Causal? :chin:
  • Coben
    942
    when you ask questions like is QM casual...
    — Bill Hobba

    Causal? :chin:
    Pattern-chaser
    It's not a coincidence that the discoveries in QM and the steep rise in the divorce rate correlate.
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