What qualifies as science?

Discussion in 'General Science & Technology' started by Jozen-Bo, Apr 25, 2017.

  1. NotEinstein Valued Senior Member

    Ah, that would indeed explain why I see both being used.
    Wikipedia uses the a-version too: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aether I guess it's useful to write "aether", if only to explicitly distinguish it from the chemical ethers.
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  3. exchemist Valued Senior Member

    Indeed. Speaking as a chemist, that is certainly one reason why I prefer the Greek style spelling.
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  5. NotEinstein Valued Senior Member

    Then I shall try to comply with thy superiour British imperial spelling.

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  7. river

    The thing is , is that , the soul can be corrupted by the physical experience(s) of the body .
  8. origin In a democracy you deserve the leaders you elect. Valued Senior Member

    This is the science section so please supply evidence that this is more than just a belief of yours.
  9. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    As long as arguments from authority are abusing Einstein's reputation again, we can note his view on the relationship between math and physical reality,

    expressed famously as:
    “God does not care about our mathematical difficulties. He integrates empirically.”
  10. TheFrogger Registered Senior Member

    ...but River, is the soul eternal? For example when we die, do we continue to exist as Ghosts: spirits in the netherworld? Laws are subjective. They depend on which country you are in. Morality is objective. Murder is illegal because the victim cannot retort!
  11. NotEinstein Valued Senior Member

    (Under some definitions/usages of the word it's not. I think "ethics" would be a better choice of words here. But your point is clear nonetheless.)
  12. Yazata Valued Senior Member

    I'm hesitant to intrude into an argument that might result in my being attacked by both sides, but I do want to say that 'dispositions' are currently a hot topic of discussion in the philosophy of science. See for example here's a recent (2017) book that tries to give an account of things like laws of nature and causation in terms of dispositions:


    Imagine a 'fragile' glass that has a strong likelihood of breaking if dropped on the floor. It's tempting to treat 'fragility' as a property of the glass. But it's a peculiar property in that it doesn't manifest unless the glass is dropped (which we probably have no intention of doing). Dispositions concern possible behaviors as opposed to actual behaviors and seemingly hold true even if they are never actualized. So logical issues intrude regarding unrealized 'counterfactual' possibilities and truth-conditions in possible world semantics.

    Many of the principles of science seem to only hold true in ideal cases that might not ever occur in actual physical reality. Newton's first law. But even if there's never an occasion in physical reality where a mass moves at constant velocity without any other forces acting on it, Newton's law is still useful in science and it still seems to be true. How is that? What's happening there?

    More discussion here -


    Last edited: Oct 1, 2017
  13. NotEinstein Valued Senior Member

    If I'm part of one of those sides, don't be, and I'm apologize for my behavior.

    I do like the term "dispositions" instead of "potentials" in this context. It removes the possible confusion with physical potentials (such as scalar and vector ones).

    I'm already intrigued; I think I will have to obtain a copy of this book. Thank you for mentioning it!
  14. NotEinstein Valued Senior Member

  15. Yazata Valued Senior Member

    Theoretical physics seems to do that constantly. We often see "proofs" of physical propositions that consist of torrents of incomprehensible mathematical symbolism in which one string of symbols is presumably being derived from others. The iconic black/white-boards of physics classrooms are filled with it. It's never really clear to laypeople what all the relations between various squiggles has to do with reality.

    I don't think that theoretical physicists give much thought to what they are doing. They just learn their techniques in graduate school and they use them until problems arise.

    Apparently the underlying idea is that certain expressions of the formal language of mathematics capture something about reality, such that the logical form of the mathematics is isomorphic with the form of reality we might say.

    So sure, there does seem to be a basic ambiguity here.

    One can use the word 'mathematics' to refer to (A) the symbolism itself and its conceptual interpretations (how the symbols are understood) which was certainly invented by human beings and is historically situated.

    Or we can use 'mathematics' to refer to (B) the underlying form that the symbolism captures, a form that (assuming physics is correct) also manifests in how reality actually behaves.

    We see a very similar thing happening when mathematical relationships are treated as objective, such that mathematicians all around the world agree on particular mathematical discoveries and on the soundness of their proofs.
  16. NotEinstein Valued Senior Member

    I disagree. At best it's the scientists doing this. Science itself is actually quite clear about this. Mathematics is the language that is used to describe what happens in reality. It's the amazing correspondence between this approach and reality that causes scientists (and teachers) to often not emphasize this (enough).

    Any properly taught scientist should be aware of this fact. (Yes, I'm dangerously close to making a "true scotsman" fallacy argument here.)

    This is more a statement about the sorry state of education than anything else, IMO.

    I follow you, but this is dangerous to do. When the two do disagree, it should be very clear that (obviously) reality "is right", and our model (maths) is not. That they match so closely does not allow the conclusion that "maths is real".

    But Write4U uses neither of those. Write4U uses a Pythagorean approach where mathematical objects are part of reality. They do not symbolise (A), they do not capture (B), they are. They cause. They act.
  17. Yazata Valued Senior Member

    I wrote: "Theoretical physics seems to do that [flip-flop between thinking of mathematics as real and symbolic] constantly. We often see "proofs" of physical propositions that consist of torrents of incomprehensible mathematical symbolism in which one string of symbols is presumably being derived from others. The iconic black/white-boards of physics classrooms are filled with it. It's never really clear to laypeople what all the relations between various squiggles has to do with reality."

    Why is mathematics the 'language that is used to describe what happens in reality'? Why not poetry or religious myth? What is it that gives mathematics its advantage?

    I haven't read through your argument with Write4U and don't really know what you two said to each other back there. But it seems to me that the phrase 'the amazing correspondence between this approach [mathematics] and reality' comes very close to agreeing with what I take Write4U as saying.

    What fact? It looks to me like you've pointed at a philosophical problem.

    OK, but supposing that our mathematical model does 'agree' with reality (there's a whole tangle of philosophical problems with how we could know that), there's still the question of what that means and how that is. Presumably physical reality possesses some inherent form or structure that's isomorphic with the logic of the mathematics. Theoretical physicists assume that the structure of their mathematical propositions are capturing some truth about reality.

    The abstract structure or form that the mathematics of physics supposedly captures seems to be shared somehow with reality itself.

    Like I said, I haven't followed this latest exchange between you two. But having seen many of Write4U's posts, and I'm inclined to read him as interpreting the word 'mathematics' as my B, as referring to the underlying form of reality that the formal language of mathematics attempts to capture. Presumably it's what gives the propositions of pure mathematics their objectivity, what makes them true for mathematicians all around the world.

    In philosophy of mathematics terms, he seems to me to be arguing for mathematical Platonism.


    Last edited: Oct 5, 2017
  18. NotEinstein Valued Senior Member

    Of course you can model reality with poetry or religious myth! It's just that mathematics seems to be working more efficiently than any of those. It's a preferred choice due to its proven practicality, but by no means is it the only choice.

    In many ways Write4U and I indeed do agree. But I do not share his Pythagorean views that mathematical objects are real.

    I was using "fact" in a more colloquial sense there, sorry for the confusion.

    Yes, but they allow for the possibility to be proven wrong. And if it turns out that that wrongness came from the usage of mathematics, then scientists will have to find something else to use as a language to describe reality. This usually doesn't come up much in science because mathematics seems to work so well. Scientists have perhaps become a bit too cocky there.

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    Yes, but this still does nothing to prove that mathematical objects are real.

    This started with post #320, where I pointed out that Write4U was giving mathematical objects (a wavelength) physical properties (interaction). Later mathematical values also were the source of changes to real physical objects. This can only be true if mathematical objects are real themselves. In your A the maths would describe the interaction, not be the cause of it. In your B would still be descriptive, even if it can also be used prescriptive there. For a mathematical value to physically affect the real world, it must be part of it. Write4U includes "mathematical values" in the set of real objects. It's not referring to an underlying form, it is by itself. (Or at least, Write4U constantly applies this notion. If (s)he doesn't believe in it, (s)he should stop doing that.)
  19. Write4U Valued Senior Member

    Values are properties of..........?
  20. NotEinstein Valued Senior Member

    I suppose values are properties of variables, functions, stuff like that.
  21. Write4U Valued Senior Member

    Of course you are looking at wavelengths. A bundle of them. Put sunlight through a prism and the wavelengths become separated and clearly recognizable as photons with wavelengths of specific values (frequencies). Those are observable physical expressions of the inherent (mathematical) values of sunlight.

    The Fibonacci sequence is clearly a mathematical construct. Anything which displays an "order" is by definition an expressed mathematical "function". This is not a "model" in nature, it is a symbolized pattern (model) of natural expressions. You need look only at daisies or a spiral galaxy. It is an inherent natural implicate of spiral patterns. We did not invent this pattern, nor did the daisy. It is an inherent value (potential) of spiral constructs (patterns). Any deviation of the Fibonacci sequence is caused by an external or even internal (DNA) interference which affects the formation of an orderly Fibonacci pattern.

    As to waves, wavelengths, frequencies, speed, interferences, all are "expressions" of potentials, (physical or meta-physical values and functions), at any level (even in chaos theory) from the very subtle (Planck scale) to gross expression in our reality. Bohm postulates that these "physical expressions" are preceded by a mathematically functional "Implication" and are deterministic in a hierarchical order. The DeBroglie-Bohm Pilot wave is a theoretical model of a universal physical function, a fundamental "guiding force" to which everything in this universe is subject.

    Have you ever noticed that in the double slit experiment the photon follows a straight path, until it passes a slit, whereupon their trajectories are no longer "straight" (even when scattered) but "jagged" because of wave interference which guide the paths of individual photons. To me this proves a physical wave phenomenon forcing the photons to change direction several times before they strike the target. This is not probabilistic, but deterministic. It's only probabilistic to us because we cannot (yet) follow each photon individually, but only statistically.

    You are getting stuck on this "mathematics" thing, while I keep trying to make it clear I am talking about "values" (a specific inherent characteristic of a thing) which interact in specific and often predictable patterns, which we have been able to symbolize in a mathematical language with "numbers and equations." Tegmark calculates the fundamental functions to be relatively simple. The problem lies in the entire scope of interacting values present in the universe, which IMO, leads us back to Bohmian Mechanics.

    The very fact that "mathematics are only descriptive" proves there was and is a physical expression of something which can be symbolically described in our reality (with mathematics), as causal or equivalent, be it physical or meta-physical.

    If that agrees with Pythagoras, Plato, Archimedes, Tegmark, Livio, and most cosmologists, I am happy to use those "scientists" for reference. Right or wrong, they were and are scientists and their work qualifies as "science". Is that not the OP question?

    IMO, science is the study of natural expressions in reality of values , their implicate functional properties (potentials) and their interactions (functions), some of which we can observe as "physical" phenomena, such as sunlight.

    As an ex-bookkeeper I dealt only with numbers, but these numbers represented "values" of physical exchanges and relationships. IOW, my ledgers were symbolic records (the double entry method is a functional model) of physical actions in reality.
    Interestingly, the double entry bookkeeping model was invented by a monk.
    But I don't believe you have answered my question as to what you think does qualify as science.
    Care to take a stab at it, so that we can discuss the merits of your interpretation?
    Last edited: Oct 5, 2017
  22. Write4U Valued Senior Member

    Well, if you suppose that, would it not be prudent to ascertain that supposition is correct? Seems relevant to me.
  23. NotEinstein Valued Senior Member

    I strongly doubt my eyes are powerful enough to see mathematical objects.
    *BUZZ* Wrong! The waves or photons are separated, not the wavelengths.
    Correct, I can see photons. But not wavelengths.
    And this is your Pythagorean view again. We've established already that I and many scientists disagree with you on this.
    I'm not sure that last bit is necessarily true, but I'll go along with it.
    Please define what "natural expressions" are.
    I've seen those, yes.
    But I argue the pattern is in our mind. The matter is out there, but there's no inherent spiral-ness to it. Its arrangement just makes our brains go "ooh, spiral!".
    Yes we did. We defined it!
    Agree with you there.
    But spiral constructs are abstract, so any inherent value it has too.
    (Irrelevant to the discussion at hand, so no comment.)
    And once again you are mixing "waves" and "wavelengths". They are not the same type of object. One is real, the other abstract!
    Again, Pythagorean views, not shared by most scientists.
    Keyword: model.
    Sure, but nowhere does the number three come along and give it a nudge. No mathematical objects are causing it to change from a straight path.
    Yes, because you keep confusing mathematical objects with real objects!
    Again, disagree because this is a Pythagorean view of things.
    The number three cannot interact.
    Exactly, and since "values" are a property of numbers, they too are inventions of mathematics, and thus not real.
    (No comment.)
    Utterly wrong. You cannot take a descriptive thing and turn it into evidence or proof of anything real. You seem to be fundamentally confused as to the role of mathematics in science, and science in reality.
    For example, in reality it may turn out that mathematics actually cannot describe the universe fully. This possibility alone disproves your statement.
    Are you calling "most cosmologists" unscientific?
    Argument from authority. How many scientists believe X has no bearing on the truth-ness of X.
    Not necessarily. Scientists are humans, after all, and humans can make mistakes. Additionally, there are both scientists believing in creationism and those believing in conflicting views. You are using your own selection bias to pick which scientists you believe. That's circular reasoning, and a terrible way to look for the truth.
    So what the scientists that you picked because you like them/their views believe is science? That's a quite subjective definition you got there.
    Again, that's your Pythagorean view, not shared by most scientists.
    Again, "values" aren't real. The number three can't smack me over the head with an integral.
    Shall we first resolve one issue before we start with another?
    Wikipedia agrees with me. But that's neither here nor there.
    Variables have values.
    Particles have properties.
    Those are the mainstream scientific uses of the words. It's not a "supposition", it's a definition.

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