Philosophy of Science Facebook group – Nature of science

Philosophy of Science Facebook group Alessandro Carvalho shared a link

[ 25/May/21 ]

All 6 answers are clearly wrong.

Science, at its best, is an eternal enquiry into the nature of being that uses a process of refining all elements of experimental design, performance, evaluation and interpretation to determine which of the available interpretive schema is most likely to account for all observations in the most parsimonious way possible.

And reality often has the unsettling characteristic of demanding responses to complex issues in very short times, so we all have many subconscious processes to simplify down reality under stress to produce rapid responses. This is often antithetical to science.

Thus science is a process of starting from a set of assumptions, and progressively become less wrong over time; as contexts allow.

When you do the numbers on the evidence sets currently available as to what seems (as a minimum) to be present in reality, and in the sets of possible interpretive schema available, then it seems entirely possible that there is sufficient complexity and uncertainty present that the process could be continued indefinitely.

It seems that we all get born with various sets of biases instantiated in our sensory and neural systems by the evolutionary processes of the last 4 billion years that we have strong tendencies to form certain classes of understandings and models in the first instance. Becoming as aware as possible of the many classes and instances of such biases is an essential step towards being able to see the infinities that seem very probably to exist beyond them.

Developing an ability to be comfortable with such fundamental uncertainty is very difficult for most human brains. The strong biases towards simple binary resolutions tend to make stepping beyond binary logic into the infinite realm of all possible logics and all possible sets of truth values too much for most. Thus what most are able to conceive of as science is a very simplistic model of what science actually is at its best.

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Why are people in the world starving when most of the biggest economies in the World have stored food mountains?

Why are people in the world starving when most of the biggest economies in the World have stored food mountains?

[ 25/May/21 ]

Money.

Using markets to measure value; then using that measure as a proxy for human value more generally.

In an age when most things were genuinely scarce and human labour was genuinely of value, then that system arguably worked fairly well.

In an age where automation can produce a large and exponentially increasing set of goods and services in universal abundance, and where the energy of a person’s labour can be produced by a machine for a few cents per hour, then the value measured by market systems diverges significantly from the values held by the vast majority of humanity.

Market based measures are now generating the greatest sets of existential level threats faced by humanity, and that creates many deeply complex issues as currently most of the essential systems for maintaining social and technological systems are deeply embedded in the current market based systems.

There are no simple answers to that question, and there are some simple things that can be done to buy sufficient time to allow more complex solutions that have some long term stability to be developed and deployed. One of those is some form of universal income. And it has some complex issues with it, particularly in the area of the money creation systems currently producing most of the money in circulation.

So it is an issue that needs to be solved quickly, and it is a very complex issue, and it is only one of many drivers of substantial and urgent reform of the monetary systems of the planet that many of the more conservative among us will find difficult.

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Daniel S – comment on science as belief

Daniel S – comment on science as belief

[ 25/May/21 ]

Hi Daniel,

It is clear that human neural networks have a very strong set of biases for simple answers to complex questions. The major evolutionary and developmental reasons for such biases at multiple levels of the core of our being are now well documented and understood for those with an interest in such things.

Becoming comfortable with eternal uncertainty takes a lot of work. It is not a default setting for human beings.

And I am quite unlike the interviewee. I tend not to trust things until I have spent some time with primary datasets myself. After leaving uni I spent months becoming sufficiently familiar with the math that I could verify and critique all of Einstein’s writings. It took me almost a year to be confident of all of Goedel’s conclusions. I did biochem and ecology at uni, and had most of my youth on farms, and as a hunter had a large dataset of animal behaviour that I could test various theories against.

I like numbers, and actually working with the numbers of quantum mechanics gives one a reasonable appreciation of how something closely approximating classical causality can emerge from systems that are fundamentally uncertain within probability constraints. When one takes that principle and applies it to all levels of evolutionary development, particularly to levels of social development, then one starts to build a very different sort of picture of human interaction and human neural activity.

I have as strong a dislike for any claim to science based in truth as I have any religious form of truth.

For me, the only sort of science that is worthy of the name is one based in eternal uncertainty, and an eternal journey towards becoming less wrong as contexts allow.

One does not need to spend much time with the numbers of the world of atoms to appreciate that all understandings are necessarily simplistic approximations to whatever reality actually is. If Garret Lissi’s conjectures are anywhere near real, then the complexity present is truly mind boggling.

When one starts to understand the major systems of how cells, sensory systems, and neural networks actually operate, then it becomes clear that what we experience as reality is always and necessarily a vastly simplified model of whatever reality actually is. We all necessarily live in our own VR (Virtual Reality) versions of whatever OR (Objective Reality) actually is, these are our experiential realities, and they are all personal. We then go on to build our simplistic understandings of them, and many then have the arrogance to call that “Truth” ????

We need our models, and we all need to treat them with humility – every level. Mathematicians and physicists tend to be worst at that, because they can be so certain in some classes of maths and logic, and they subconsciously take that certainty across to reality (where it does not belong). That certainty tends to be worst in those who constrain their investigations to the simplest of possible mathematical and logical systems – that of the binary truth value system True/False. As one starts to explore higher order truth value systems (and their consequent logics and mathematics), the view changes drastically (the next simplest is the trinary True/False/Undecided).

Operational confidence is a very different thing from the “Certainty” of “Truth”. Confidence always retains a place for questioning and uncertainty that “Truth” does not allow (even if not often exercised, it remains present).

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Can everyone on Earth fit in a road island side by side?

Can everyone on Earth fit in a road island side by side?

[ 24/May/21 ]

If the questioner means Rhode Island (the US state), then it has an area just over 3,100km sq (3.1 x 10^9m^2). People come in many different sizes, but most are smaller than the average US citizen, so the average largest cross sectional area of a person is somewhat less than half a square meter. So everyone on the planet would be able to stand in Rhode Island, with a little bit of breathing room, but it would be a squeeze if everyone decided to lie down.

California is 140 times the size of Rhode Island. Everyone could actually live in California, if they were vegan, and if the best agricultural practices were followed. Wouldn’t be a lot of room to move around outside, and all the roofs would be growing stuff, and it is doable.

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If the collapse of the world is inevitable, then is it wrong to hasten it? What are the ethical considerations of this course of action?

If the collapse of the world is inevitable, then is it wrong to hasten it? What are the ethical considerations of this course of action?

[ 24/May/21 ]

If one believes that anything is inevitable, then one will be drawn to a set of conclusions.

If one is capable of appreciating what seems to me to very probably be the reality of our situation – that reality contains multiple levels of fundamental uncertainties, and all of our perceptions and models of it are necessarily simplistic; then the idea of anything being inevitable is a form of overly simplistic hubris.

Some things may seem very probable, and that is a very different sort of thing from an inevitability.

It seems clear to me that the very concept of morality is founded in the survival of complexity, particularly complexity capable of using linguistic tools to model its own existence in a model of the reality within which it exists.

In such an understanding, any action that increases risk to such life is ethically inexcusable (as is a failure to take such action as one reasonably can to decrease such risk).

In such an understanding we all have an ethical duty to use our best endeavours to search for solutions to any and all such classes of risk. Any acceptance of such as “inevitable” is an ethically inexcusable failure of imagination, a failure to make sufficient effort to see the possibility of a solution (a failure to sufficiently search the abstract classes of strategy in uncertainty), and as such, a form of self justified intellectual laziness. {Much as I loved reading Asimov as a youth, and much as he taught me, his Foundation thesis is built on a very simplistic set of strategies – as all good novels must be.}

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Is socialism the only path forward for mankind?

Is socialism the only path forward for mankind?

[ 23/May/21 ]

Depends how you define socialism.

If you define it as the ownership of all property by the community as a whole, then no – that is not a viable path forward.

If you define it as social cooperation, where multiple levels and classes of independent agents (in charge of their own property) cooperate and use high technology to ensure that all individuals have what they consider reasonable levels of goods and services and reasonable degrees of freedom, then that is essential for our long term survival.

So it very much depends on what you mean by the question, as to how one answers it.

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What are some arguments against the existence of cause and effect?

What are some arguments against the existence of cause and effect?

[ 23/May/21 ]

First I need to give the argument for something like cause and effect.

If everything were completely random, if there were no cause and effect of any degree or kind, then there could be no structure over time. Any structure that did emerge would be ephemeral, disappearing as fast as it appeared.

So given that we are here, and we are asking and answering questions, then there must be something that allows some approximation that is sufficiently close to cause and effect at some levels at least in the sorts of contexts that we exist in.

The question now is:

Does reality require that cause and effect be simple and universal at all levels and all contexts; or is there evidence that something else may be present which allows sufficient cause and effect at the levels and contexts that we exist at for those levels of structure to persist?

In this sense, our very existence guarantees that there must be something that very closely approximates cause and effect at the scales we normally deal with (which for the purposes of biology includes the atomic/molecular level on upward, at least in the sorts of contexts that we evolved in and currently exist in).

Are atoms stable everywhere?

No.

We have strong evidence that in the heart of suns, and in the very early universe, conditions were such that atoms were not stable. We don’t exist in those places, we exist here and now (in a relatively cool and stable outer spiral arm of a galaxy, orbiting 93 million miles from the nearest sun – a member of a rather stable class of suns).

When we look reasonably closely at the evolutionary strategic environment that seems very probably to have given rise to our existence; then we can see successive levels of cooperative systems slowly (in successive very narrow sets of contextual constraints) emerging and building to a level that our level of complexity could emerge in a set of contexts. At every level – cooperation was fundamental to both emergence and continued existence, and cooperation is in most contexts very vulnerable to exploitation by cheating strategies – and thus requires an evolving ecosystem of cheat detection and mitigation systems to survive (every level).

Another important thing to note when looking deeply at that strategic context is that the need to respond rapidly in many contexts will instantiate strong sets of biases in neural networks to prefer simple models over more complex and nuanced models. In many contexts time to compute an answer is more important than the accuracy of that answer. The last to move is often the first one eaten.

Thus there is a strong evolutionary pressure to produce brains with a strong preference for simplicity at every level of abstraction.

In many brains, that pressure is likely to preclude even the possibility of considering highly abstract and nuanced structures. Those brains are so heavily biased for simplicity that everything does actually resolve down to simple binaries, like True/False, Right/Wrong, Good/Evil. Getting to nuance beyond such simplicity is often difficult and in some contexts is just not going to happen.

Thus for someone like me, who has spent over 50 years fascinated by behaviour, biochemistry, systems, uncertainty, chaos, quantum chemistry; dealing with fundamental uncertainty is normal, and for me most simplicity like “True/False” in respect of reality, is in the class of “useful simplification, but highly unlikely to be how things actually are”.

For me, the evidence is beyond any remaining shadow of reasonable doubt, that what we experience as classical causality is real and reliable in most contexts at our scale, and it is build on multiple levels of chaos within probability constraints.

Constrained chaotic systems are unpredictable in the specific, but become very predictable when large populations are considered. When thinking in terms of Planck time units, even a single tick of an atom in an atomic clock contains more Planck time units than there have been ticks of an atomic clock in the age of the universe. Such large collections tend to behave in very predictable ways in most contexts, but not all.

Thus we can get the sort of regularity required to build structures like atoms and life, and computers, and yet still have conditions where there can be sufficient difference between classical “cause and effect” for there to be meaningful separation and choice in some contexts. And that is a deeply complex idea that requires years to explore to a useful depth.

So our existence as physical entities demands something that very closely approximates cause and effect; and our existence as moral agents demands something more nuanced that does allow for degrees of independence in some contexts.

Fortunately, we seem to exist in a reality where both things can in fact be true, and there is no simple systemic explanation that makes that obvious to all, it really does require a lot of work, and most people have neither the interest nor the time to do that work, so simple approximations are required (like independent realms – duality – which while they may not be true in any absolute sense, do deliver useful approximations in practice in most contexts).

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Critique of Gregg Braden – WORLDVIEW PIONEER SERIES: Health Freedom Part III

A link on Deb’s facebook page to
WORLDVIEW PIONEER SERIES: Health Freedom Part III: Transhumanism and the Science of Self-Empowerment

[ 22/May/21 ]

Sorry Deb – I’m having real difficulty listening to Gregg Braden – He is so clearly a conman. And like all good conmen, most of what he says is accurate. His opening comment about human cells and batteries makes that obvious. Yes each cell does maintain a membrane potential, but that is across the membrane – between the inside and the outside of the cell.


If you think of batteries, to increase the voltage you need to put cells in series. To get 12V from 1.5V cells, you need 8 of them, and you need to put the positive of one of them to the negative of the next.

To get the voltage he talked about from human cells you would need to connect the inside of one cell, to the outside of the next one, and daisy chain them in that way.

That is not possible.

That is not how cells work.

Insides and outsides are separated by cell membranes, which is how the cells manage to generate that potential. If you connect the inside of one to the outside of its neighbour, then the potential short circuits to zero by definition.

So saying what he said is 100% con.

It is 100% psuedo-science designed to deceive.

Of course we are complex, complex in terms of number that no human mind can deal with in detail. In a sense, that is necessary.

If you think of counting systems, number, we use decimal – we have 10 fingers, decimal is a convenient way for us to learn to count. Computers use binary – 0 & 1. Ten in binary is 1010, (18 + 04 + 12 + 01) in decimal 10 (110 + 01).

Molecules like RNA and DNA have 4 different possible constituents, so as they get longer, the possible variations on sequence increase by a factor of 4 with each step. We have over a billion nucleotides in our genome (closer to 3 billion) which is like a decimal number with over a billion zeros.

That is just an impossibly large number to make any meaningful sense of. If you do the math for how many quantum states could possibly have existed in the universe to date, given all the mass present, and using plank time and having about 10^42 ticks per second, then the number only has about 220 digits in it (+/- 10 depending on various assumptions used). The numbers encoded in our genome are just so much vaster than anything that could possibly have been tested in detail, that the difference is hard to conceive of. We are in a very real sense multiple levels of embodiment of random search that was sufficiently useful approximations to whatever optimality was in the history of our ancestors that we have managed to survive.

So we are not entirely random, we are sorted random over deep time, and we contain multiple levels of structure, and we also contain a great deal that is random and far from any sort of optimal anything.

That is what it is to be human.

And much of the structure we do embody is deeply complex and beautiful and amazing.

And we can do some things to it that seem clearly to me to be very useful, like reversing the tendencies to degrade over time that were necessary to get us to this point, but do not actually allow us to get much further unless we change them.

So in that sense, of adding capacities to what we have, extending health span, improving resistance to various forms of disease, then I am all for transhumanism. To those (like Ray Kurzweil) who think that we can easily have our essence embodied in a computer system, I think Ray vastly underestimates just how much of the experience of being human is encoded in the specific embodiment that we are. I suspect that attempts to do digital humans are going to result in very low resolution models of many aspects of being human that are in fact very important. So I am not a fan of the idea of Emulated humans (Ems) that many like Robin Hanson seem to champion (and I enjoy arguing with Robin, he is no slouch – and I am never quite sure what level I am arguing with in the conversations we have had).

So I don’t trust anything that Braden says, even as most of it is actually quite accurate, he is clearly very willing to falsify concepts for effect, and clearly does so very effectively.

He has found a market in which that works, and in which he is highly unlikely to encounter anyone like me to challenge him.

His entire purpose seems to be to exploit biases and ignorance to sell books – and he seems to be very good at it and to do it very consciously and devoid of any integrity. That is antithetical to my value sets and I am not interested in wasting any further time on him.

[followed by]

Hi Deb,

I’ve never been a great fan of Uploads, though I am very interested in a lot of what Ray Kurzweil does, and he is a fan of the idea.

To me his interest in the idea comes from his lack of a detailed understanding of biology.

I trained as a biologist (biochemist) first and foremost. My interest in computers came later.

I have been fascinated by evolution and life and how it works for almost 60 years.

I am autistic.

Math is as easy to me as breathing.

So in can investigate things in a few seconds that would take me weeks to explain to someone in a step by step fashion.

I’ve been like that as long as I can remember.

As a result, I am a very long way from any sort of social agreement, even in circles of specialists devoted to such things.

Any way you look at it, I am an outlier.

And I remain committed to maximising the probability of life and liberty across all dimensions of the expressions of humanity and intelligence more widely.

And that is a deeply complex space of issues with multiple levels of complexity and responsibility essential for existence.

So while I understand the existence and emergence of people like Braden, I find them viscerally offensive and annoying. That our legal systems do not have severe penalties for deceit at that level is a deep failure of those systems. Ignorance is one thing, and must be accepted, deceit at that level is entirely something else, and needs to be seriously discouraged.

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What if the world next year decides Covid-19 is part of their lives with new viruses but lets normal lives continue with events, they had enough of locking themselves in houses?

What if the world next year decides Covid-19 is part of their lives with new viruses but lets normal lives continue with events, they had enough of locking themselves in houses?

[ 21/May/21 ]

If everyone actually stayed home, no cheating, for just 4 weeks, then the virus would be eliminated from the planet.

We achieved that in New Zealand, twice.

It got away in New Zealand as a result of two events at similar times, one a large wedding with international guests, the other an international stock breeding conference. Both had infectious people at them, and hundreds of cases appeared all around the country. The entire country was asked to stay home for 4 weeks, and the vast majority complied, and the virus was eliminated from the country.

It kept coming in at the border, but a two week quarantine period caught most cases, but some of the visitors were so ignorant that they were breaking out of the quarantine facilities, and the virus got away again in one city as a result. A short lockdown in that area removed it again.

We have done it here, twice.

It is entirely achievable.

Apart from the lack of tourists life has been fairly normal here for the last year.

What it takes is people actually avoiding contact with anyone other than their small group – for a 4 week period; combined with reporting of any symptoms and a good testing and contact tracing regime.

We put in place systems to ensure that everyone had food and accommodation. No one left out.

It worked.

If it can work here it can work anywhere.

It just takes people actually doing it.

It is the ignorant self righteous cheats that cause the problem for everyone.

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Models of global warming have a large range of predictions, from mild to dire. Surely our opinions of this subject are just as varied. Should we bet on the low odds & do nothing or should we take action NOW on a global level?

Models of global warming have a large range of predictions, from mild to dire. Surely our opinions of this subject are just as varied. Should we bet on the low odds & do nothing or should we take action NOW on a global level?

[ 20/May/21 ]

Many other good answers here pointing out aspects of the issues.

There really are not any long term mild predictions at the current rate of CO2 emissions and nothing done to limit it.

The issue is serious, and we have lots of serious issues.
We do need to meet the needs of everyone for water and food. That is urgent, and way ahead of climate change.

And in the long term it is complex, because in relatively recent history there have been ice ages, and we need to avoid those.

So we need to develop technologies that allow us to manage climate, and the technical part of that is not that hard, the real issue is that any technology that powerful can be extremely destructive if used as a weapon.

If anyone is seriously interested in security and freedom, then they need to accept that both are maximised in cooperative contexts.

We need global cooperation between all levels of conscious agents, and cooperation is a very different thing from control.

Cooperation accepts that agency can exist at multiple levels and at every level any real expression of freedom result in diversity.

And all levels of freedom demand responsibility if they are not to self destruct. All levels of structure have need of real limits and boundaries. Any level of freedom that does not respect the boundaries required for its own survival ceases to exist.

So real freedom (the sort that survives in evolutionary contexts) is never without constraints, it always demands responsibility.

And the real issues are deeply more complex than climate change.

Automation is much more of an issue, in the sorts of changes it is necessarily driving.

Fully automated systems fundamentally break market based systems. Few people are sufficiently aware of that as yet, and it is the issue of the coming decades.

So we live in complex times, and there must be a lot of fundamental change if we are to have a long term future, and that is all doable – we just need to do it.

Making it happens demands that:

1/ We accept and respect diversity, all levels.

2/ We cooperate with all those levels and instance of diversity that are not actually a direct threat to anyone else.

3/ We develop global level cooperative systems.

4/ We work towards developing technology that can ensure that everyone has all the reasonably need to do whatever they responsibly choose.

5/ We cooperate to develop technology capable of managing all classes of existential level risk (including meteor strike and climate change).

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