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  • Reductionists of the world UNITE!

    As a reductionist of long standing I have today received the VERY GOOD NEWS that I am in the company of Nobel Laureate physicist Steven Weinberg. Accordingly, I will let Dr. Weinberg present our defense with the following excerpted observations taken from his book “Dreams of a Final Theory”:

    “The century now coming to a close has seen in physics a dazzling expansion of the frontiers of scientific knowledge. Einstein’s special and general theories of relativity have permanently changed our view of space and time and gravitation. In an even more radical break with the past, quantum mechanics has transformed the very language we use to describe nature: in place of particles with definite positions and velocities, we have learned to speak of wave functions and probabilities. Out of the fusion of relativity with quantum mechanics there has evolved a new view of the world, one in which matter has lost its central role. This role has been usurped by principles of symmetry, some of them hidden from view in the present state of the universe. On this foundation we have built a successful theory of electromagnetism and the weak and strong nuclear interactions of elementary particles. . .” [pp. 3 – 4]

    “Scientists have discovered many peculiar things, and many beautiful things. But perhaps the most beautiful and the most peculiar thing that they have discovered is the pattern of science itself. Our scientific discoveries are not independent isolated facts; one scientific generalization finds its explanation in another, which is itself explained by yet another. By tracing these arrows of explanation back toward their source we have discovered a striking convergent pattern – perhaps the deepest thing we have yet learned about the universe.” [p. 19]

    “Our present theories are of only limited validity, still tentative and incomplete. But behind them now and then we catch glimpses of a final theory, one that would be of unlimited validity and entirely satisfying in its completeness and consistency. We search for universal truths about nature, and when we find them, we attempt to explain them by showing how they can be deduced from deeper truths. Think of the space of scientific principles as being filled with arrows, pointing toward each principle and away from the others by which it is explained. These arrows of explanation have already revealed a remarkable pattern: they do not form separate disconnected clumps, representing independent sciences, and they do not wander aimlessly – rather they are all connected, and if followed backward they all seem to flow from a common starting point. This starting point, to which all explanations may be traced, is what I mean by a final theory.” [p. 6]

    “There is no guarantee that progress in other fields of science will be assisted directly by anything new that is discovered about the elementary particles. But . . . I am concerned here not so much with what scientists do, because this inevitably reflects both human limitations and human interests, as I am with the logical order built into nature itself. It is in this sense that branches of physics like thermodynamics and other sciences like chemistry and biology may be said to rest on deeper laws, and in particular on the laws of elementary particle physics.

    In speaking here of a logical order of nature I have been tacitly taking what a historian of philosophy would call a ‘realist’ position – realist not in the everyday modern sense of being hardheaded and without illusions, but in a much older sense, of believing in the reality of abstract ideas. A medieval realist believed in the reality of universals like Plato’s forms, in opposition to nominalists like William of Ockham, who declared them to be mere names. . . I certainly do not want to enter this debate on the side of Plato. My argument here is for the reality of the laws of nature, in opposition to the modern positivists, who accept the reality only of that which can be directly observed.

    When we say that a thing is real we are simply expressing a sort of respect. We mean that the thing must be taken seriously because it can affect us in ways that are not entirely in our control and because we cannot learn about it without making an effort that goes beyond our own imagination. This much is true for instance of the chair on which I sit (to take a favorite example of philosophers) and does not so much constitute evidence that the chair is real but is rather just what we mean when we say that the chair is real. As a physicist I perceive scientific explanations and laws as things that are what they are and cannot be made up as I go along, so my relation to these laws is not so different from my relation to my chair, and I therefore accord the laws of nature (to which our present laws are an approximation) the honor of being real. This impression is reinforced when it turns out that some law of nature is not what we thought it was, an experience similar to finding that a chair is not in place when one sits down. . . “ [pp. 45 – 47]

    “Our discovery of the connected convergent pattern of scientific explanation has profound implications, and not just for scientists. Alongside the main stream of scientific knowledge there are isolated little pools of what (to choose a neutral term) I might call would-be sciences: astrology, precognition, ‘channeling’, clairvoyance, telekinesis, creationism, and their kin. If it could be shown that there is any truth to any of these notions it would be the discovery of the century, much more exciting and important than anything going on today in the normal work of physics. So what should a thoughtful citizen conclude when it is claimed by a professor or a film star or Time-Life Books that there is evidence for the validity of one of the would-be sciences?

    Now, the conventional answer would be that this evidence must be tested with an open mind and without theoretical preconceptions. I do not think that this is a useful answer, but this view seems to be widespread. Once in a television interview I said that in believing in astrology one would be turning one’s back on all of modern science. I then received a polite letter from a former chemist and metallurgist in New Jersey who took me to task because I had not personally studued the evidence for astrology. Similarly, when Philip Anderson recently wrote disparagingly of belief in clairvoyance and telekinesis, he was upbraided by a Princeton colleague, Robert Jahn, who was experimenting with what Jahn calls ‘conciousness-related anomalous phenomena’. Jahn complained that ‘although his (Anderson’s) office is only a few hundred yards from my own, he has not visited our laboratory, discussed any of his concerns with me directly or apparently even read with care any of our technical literature’.

    What Jahn and the New Jersey chemist and others who agree with them are missing is the sense of connectedness of scientific knowledge. We do not understand everything, but we understand enough to know that there is no room in our world for telekinesis or astrology. . .
    I do not think that most people who believe in astrology imagine that it works the way it does because of gravitation or any other agency within the scope of physics; I think that they believe that astrology is an autonomous science, with its own fundamental laws, not to be explained in terms of physics or anything else. One of the great services provided by the discovery of the pattern of scientific explanation is to show us that there are no such autonomous sciences.” [pp. 48 – 49]

    “If you go around asking why things are the way they are, and if, when you are given an explanation in terms of some scientific principle, you ask why that principle is true, and if like an ill-mannered child you persist in asking why? why? why? then sooner or later someone is going to call you a reductionist. Different people mean different things by this, but I suppose that one common feature of everyone’s idea of reductionism is a sense of hierarchy, that some truths are less fundamental than others to which they may be reduced, as chemistry may be reduced to physics. Reductionism has become a standard Bad Thing in the politics of science . . . Elementary particle physicists are particularly likely to be called reductionists, and the dislike of reductionism has often soured relationships between them and other scientists.

    The opponents to reductionism occupy a wide ideological spectrum. At its most reasonable end are those who object to the more naïve forms of reductionism. I share their objections. I consider myself a reductionist, but I do not think that the problems of elementary particle physics are the only interesting and profound ones in science, or even in physics. I do not think that chemists should drop everything else they are doing and devote themselves to solving the equations of quantum mechanics for various molecules. I do not think that biologists should stop thinking about whole plants and animals and think only about cells and DNA. For me, reductionism is not a guideline for research programs, but an attitude toward nature itself. IT IS NOTHING MORE OR LESS THAN THE PERCEPTION THAT SCIENTIFIC PRINCIPLES ARE THE WAY THEY ARE BECAUSE OF DEEPER SCIENTIFIC PRINCIPLES (and, in some cases, historical accidents) AND THAT ALL THESE PRINCIPLES CAN BE TRACED TO ONE SIMPLE CONNECTED SET OF LAWS [caps supplied for emphasis]. At this moment in the history of science it appears that the best way to approach these laws is through the physics of elementary particles, but that is an incidental aspect of reductionism and may change.

    At the other end of the spectrum are the opponents of reductionism who are appalled by what they feel to be the bleakness of modern science. To whatever extent they and their world can be reduced to a matter of particles or fields and their interactions, they feel diminished by that knowledge. Dostoevsky’s underground man imagines a scientist telling him, ‘Nature doesn’t consult you; it doesn’t give a damn for your wishes or whether its laws please you or do not please you. You must accept it as it is. . .’ and he replies, ‘Good God, what do I care about the laws of nature and arithmetic if for one reason or another, I don’t like these laws . . . ‘ At its nuttiest extreme are those with holistics in their heads, those whose reaction to reductionism takes the form of a belief in psychic energies, life forces that cannot be described in terms of the ordinary laws of inanimate nature. I would not try to answer these critics with a pep talk about the beauties of modern science. The reductionist worldview is chilling and impersonal. It has to be accepted as it is, not because we like it, but because that is the way the world works.”[pp. 51 – 53]

    “. . . During the time that I served on the board of overseers of the Super Collider project I and the other members of the board had to do a good deal of public explaining about the aims of the project. One of the members of the board argued that we should not give the impression that we think that elementary particle physics is more fundamental than other fields, because it just tended to enrage our friends in other areas of physics.

    The reason we give the impression that we think that elementary particle physics is more fundamental than other branches of physics is because it is. I do not know how to defend the amounts being spent on particle physics without being frank about this. But by elementary particle physics being more fundamental I do not mean that it is more mathematically profound or that it is more needed for progress in other fields or anything else but only that it is closer to the point of convergence of all our arrows of explanation.” [pp. 54 – 55]


    Thank you, Dr. Weinberg, and AMEN!


  • #2
    You just answered one of my questions Raul from the Theorem thread

    That I had left for you to answer. I asked all the orderliness in magnetic fields,,etc.etc, why does it occur and what does it mean...you answered it quoting Weinberg. I Am Definitely Buying This Book This Weekend.
    Visit the Theorem thread Raul (I asked you some questions {no todos relacionados a la fisica} pero tengo mucha curiosidad). Love, Suki.

    Comment


    • #3
      Am I a Reductionist Already?

      Raul, I was pleased to see that Steven Weinberg mentioned my old favorite philosopher, William of Ockham. The reason for that is that William of O., with his razor-like thought first put forward the principle that "entities ought not be multiplied unnecessarily." and this started me on my path of future philosophical discoveries, and also sounded the death-knell of metaphysics, which emphasized to the point of irrationality and inaccessibility objects of being which are not possible to human experience. He was the first thinker that taught me about the limits of human understanding and knowledge and the values of being incisive,i.e., keen and discerning, about the meanings of the words in language.

      Now, I don't think necessarily and sufficiently that such qualifies me as a reductionist. But I don't come down on the side of specialists in fields of study either. However, I do still insist on the limitations of human knowledge, and I am as chary about Weinberg's sweeping generalizations as I have for years been about the generalizations of metaphysicians. But I must say I am intrigued by the "cosmological" approach of Weinberg in the effort to reduce all things and frames of reference to a single source code system of elementary particle physics.

      Yet intriguing feelings are subjective, and I am still distrustful of all such subjective emotions. Therefore, until such time as I see more positive results from the efforts of the reductionist Weinberg, and other reductionists, I will continue to favor the nominalist position of Old William of Ockham, and still support historical materialism too.

      I ask you, Raul, do You or Suki, for that matter, see anything wrong with historical and/or dialectical materialism?

      Regards Boricuas,
      EddieR

      [Edited by Eddier1 on 28th September 2001 at 20:05]
      E.1: TWO STEPS FORWARD, ONE STEP BACK - V.I. Lenin

      Comment


      • #4
        Scientists and Philosophers

        Originally posted by Eddier1
        I ask you, Raul, do You or Suki, for that matter, see anything wrong with historical and/or dialectical materialism?

        Regards Boricuas,
        EddieR
        Eddie,

        You're putting that question to the wrong guy. Dialectical materialism, for me, is only a word that I associate with the musings of Hegel, who, as far as I have been able to determine, seemed to think that existence is predicated on a dialogue within the realm of materiality that leads to synthesis of universal propositions. With regard to matters of existentialism, I came very late to the party - in fact, I missed the whole debate, as I did not take up these questions until well after my formal education (BS in civil engineering and MBA in business and financial management). But, for what it's worth, I see no problem with Marx' idea that societal institutions are built on the material structure of economic enterprise.

        Frankly, based on an early and brief encounter with the ravings of Kant, I lost hope of finding assistance from the philosophical classicists in my search for truth. Many years later, I still question that thinkers shut away in closed rooms, no matter their brilliance or schooling in logic, will have anything much to say that is relevant. I do feel, nevertheless, that historical philosophical perspective and training in logical structures is a useful adjunct to interpretation of the reality that science brings us, for example the recent idea in quantum mechanics that calls into question the primacy of matter, and that energy and the laws which govern it are the only things real in this universe.

        Still, if one can confirm the perspective of another icon of reductionism, Stephen Hawking, then possibly I have not missed much after all:

        Excerpt from "A Brief History of Time" by Nobel Laureate physicist Stephen Hawking [pp. 190-191]
        "Up to now, most scientists have been too occupied with the development of new theories that describe WHAT the universe is to ask the question WHY. On the other hand, the people whose business it is to ask WHY, the philosophers, have not been able to keep up with the advance of scientific theories. In the eighteenth century, philosophers considered the whole of human knowledge, including science, to be their field and discussed questions such as: did the universe have a beginning? However, in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, science became too technical and mathematical for the philosophers, or anyone else except a few specialists. Philosophers reduced the scope of their inquiries so much that Wittgenstein, the most famous philosopher of this century, said, 'The sole remaining task for philosophy is the analysis of language.' What a comedown from the great tradition of philosophy from Aristotle to Kant!


        Regards, Raul

        Comment


        • #5
          Re: Scientists and Philosophers


          Come on Raul, you know, or ought to, that Hegel was not a dialectical materialist; he was an objective idealist.

          Dialectical materialism turned Hegel up-side-down, and was the official philosophy of Karl Marx, who originated it.
          Up to that time, all materialist philosophies were grouped under the category of Historical Materialism. Perhaps, the first truly materialist philosopher was the ancient Greek Democritus, who was the first thinker to put forth the theory of atoms being the basis of matter in the universe. It is said that he had a mentor called Leucippus, who may have given him the idea of atomic theory, but it has not been proved since nothing Leucippus ever wrote is extant.

          It is sad to read that you still think that the great German philosopher Immanuel Kant was a lunatic. And that he soured your taste for reading the classical philosophers, like Democritus that I mentioned. But back to elementary particle physics and the basic building blocks of Nature.
          Below is the latest I could find to support that the tiniest and most elusive of particles still have Mass, and together with other neutrinos are the basic building blocks of matter in our Universe. BTW, these are even more basic than the Quarks, which when split or dialectically divided, since one in nature divides into two, revealed the other more basic neutrinos mentioned above.
          How far are these tests to go before the pure energy without mass is discovered. No one yet knows. But if such energy is unleashed, some fear it will transform everthing in a chain-reaction into energy. How quickly we will be transformed into that energy, is not known. But whether it be slow or at the speed of light, I say it is better to know!

          Below please find some facts about the elementary particles of the neutrinos:

          Physics: Scientists Find Elusive Tau Neutrino
          July 2000
          Associated Press
          July 20, 2000
          In what is being hailed as a heroic achievement in physics, scientists have found the first direct evidence of the tau neutrino, an elusive and ghostly subatomic particle that was thought to be the last missing piece in the architecture of matter.
          The breakthrough, announced on July 20, 2000, was achieved by scientists at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory outside Chicago, Illinois. Fifty-four scientists from the United States, Japan, Korea, and Greece had collaborated on tracking down the tau neutrino since 1997 at the Fermilab.
          "It's a tremendous milestone," said physicist and Nobel Prize winner Martin Perl. "Now it has been seen and it behaves in the way we expected."
          The tau is one of the fundamental building blocks of all matter. It is the 12th and last of the impossibly tiny particles described in the standard model of particle physics to be confirmed in experiments. The standard model seeks to encapsulate all elementary particles and forces in a single explanation. Now the bits have been identified, although the many forces that guide their interplay remain a mystery.
          "We finally have direct evidence that the tau neutrino is one of the building blocks of nature," said Byron Lundberg, a physicist and spokesman for the international team. "It is one thing to think there are tau neutrinos out there. But it is a hard experiment to do."



          "Physics: Scientists Find Elusive Tau Neutrino ," Microsoft® Encarta® Encyclopedia 2000. © 1993-1999 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.

          Regards Boricua,
          EddieR
          E.1: TWO STEPS FORWARD, ONE STEP BACK - V.I. Lenin

          Comment


          • #6
            And the news just keeps coming!

            Originally posted by Eddier1

            Come on Raul, you know, or ought to, that Hegel was not a dialectical materialist; he was an objective idealist.

            Dialectical materialism turned Hegel up-side-down, and was the official philosophy of Karl Marx, who originated it.
            Up to that time, all materialist philosophies were grouped under the category of Historical Materialism. Perhaps, the first truly materialist philosopher was the ancient Greek Democritus, who was the first thinker to put forth the theory of atoms being the basis of matter in the universe. It is said that he had a mentor called Leucippus, who may have given him the idea of atomic theory, but it has not been proved since nothing Leucippus ever wrote is extant.

            It is sad to read that you still think that the great German philosopher Immanuel Kant was a lunatic. And that he soured your taste for reading the classical philosophers, like Democritus that I mentioned. But back to elementary particle physics and the basic building blocks of Nature.

            Below is the latest I could find to support that the tiniest and most elusive of particles still have Mass, and together with other neutrinos are the basic building blocks of matter in our Universe. BTW, these are even more basic than the Quarks, which when split or dialectically divided, since one in nature divides into two, revealed the other more basic neutrinos mentioned above.

            How far are these tests to go before the pure energy without mass is discovered. No one yet knows. But if such energy is unleashed, some fear it will transform everthing in a chain-reaction into energy. How quickly we will be transformed into that energy, is not known. But whether it be slow or at the speed of light, I say it is better to know!
            Eddie,

            Hey, thanks for the news! I suppose it can only be viewed as an important affirmation of the standard model. My reference to energy was only a reference to the fact that, in quantum mechanics, particles that demonstrate mass, such as electrons, can only be described as a wave. Their behavior is not particulate in the way that we understand the behavior of such bodies in the realm of our senses.

            Taking this reality, all that we regard as having "materiality" might be nothing more than local concentrations of energy. When you pick up a 60-pound boulder, what you experience is its most demonstrable energetic property, gravitation, the warping of space that marks its energetic concentration.

            I guess you now understand the reason for my caveat with regard to my knowlege (lack of knowledge, actually) of classical philosophy! Actually, I didn't mean to imply that I thought of Kant as a lunatic, but more that he and I were not on the same wavelength. Without placing blame, I can say that the transmission was most definitely garbled.

            At any rate, we reductionists are certainly closing no doors to you philosophers!

            Regards, Raul

            [Edited by Raulgr on 30th September 2001 at 21:06]

            Comment


            • #7
              Re: Scientists and Philosophers


              Excerpt from "A Brief History of Time" by Nobel Laureate physicist Stephen Hawking [pp. 190-191]
              "Up to now, most scientists have been too occupied with the development of new theories that describe WHAT the universe is to ask the question WHY. On the other hand, the people whose business it is to ask WHY, the philosophers, have not been able to keep up with the advance of scientific theories. In the eighteenth century, philosophers considered the whole of human knowledge, including science, to be their field and discussed questions such as: did the universe have a beginning? However, in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, science became too technical and mathematical for the philosophers, or anyone else except a few specialists. Philosophers reduced the scope of their inquiries so much that Wittgenstein, the most famous philosopher of this century, said, 'The sole remaining task for philosophy is the analysis of language.' What a comedown from the great tradition of philosophy from Aristotle to Kant!


              Raul, you opine that you may not have missed much, and of course you would argue from what you quoted from Hawkings that he hasn't missed anything. In the case of Hawkings, however, you would be in error, because he has missed significantly in making erroneous assumptions about philosophy and philosophers in the 20th century. Notably, he errs about Wittgenstein, (who he probably favors because of logical positivism which is close to the hearts of reductionists). Wittegnstein was definitely NOT the most famous philospher of the last century. Bertrand Russell was. Now, I know you are conversant, to say the least, with mathematics, having been an accountant with the IRS for over 20 years, but have you had the chance to read Russell's Principia Mathematica, which he co-authored with A.N. Whitehead? If not I recommend that you do so as soon as possible. Anther work of Russell which is a MUST, and will prove my point about him being the most famous philosopher of the 20th, is his
              Our Knowledge of the External World, which is a critique of the Theory of Sense Data that clinches his fame as top philosopher of that century.

              Now, you might think who am I to correct Stephen Hawkings, he was a Nobel Prize winner in theoretical physics, and I only have my university credentials in Philosophy, History, and Literature. Well the truth is the truth; it's objective, and that is all that needs to be referred to, and not Hawking's fame nor my lack of fame. I speak for the Philosophers, because I am a bona fide Philosopher, and I offer you the data that will prove that what I said about Russell is the truth. But let me put the icing on the cake, and I use that metaphor, because I just finished reading your culinary interests addressed to Suki. Or should I say the `piece de resistance' is that Bertrand Russell, the Critical Realist, was singled out by none other than Albert Einstein as the only person and mathematician as well as philosopher who UNDERSTOOD HIS THEORY OF RELATIVITY! He did not say that about Hawkings or any other elementary particle physicist in the 20th century.

              Regards,
              EddieR


              [Edited by Eddier1 on 30th September 2001 at 09:34]
              E.1: TWO STEPS FORWARD, ONE STEP BACK - V.I. Lenin

              Comment


              • #8
                Re: Scientists and Philosophers

                Originally posted by Eddier1
                Raul, you opine that you may not have missed much, and of course you would argue from what you quoted from Hawkings that he hasn't missed anything. In the case of Hawkings, however, you would be in error, because he has missed significantly in making erroneous assumptions about philosophy and philosophers in the 20th century. Notably, he errs about Wittgenstein, (who he probably favors because of logical positivism which is close to the hearts of reductionists). Wittegnstein was definitely NOT the most famous philospher of the last century. Bertrand Russell was. Now, I know you are conversant, to say the least, with mathematics, having been an accountant with the IRS for over 20 years, but have you had the chance to read Russell's Principia Mathematica, which he co-authored with A.N. Whitehead? If not I recommend that you do so as soon as possible. Anther work of Russell which is a MUST, and will prove my point about him being the most famous philosopher of the 20th, is his Our Knowledge of the External World, which is a critique of the Theory of Sense Data that clinches his fame as top philosopher of that century.

                Now, you might think who am I to correct Stephen Hawkings, he was a Nobel Prize winner in theoretical physics, and I only have my university credentials in Philosophy, History, and Literature. Well the truth is the truth; it's objective, and that is all that needs to be referred to, and not Hawking's fame nor my lack of fame. I speak for the Philosophers, because I am a bona fide Philosopher, and I offer you the data that will prove that what I said about Russell is the truth. But let me put the icing on the cake, and I use that metaphor, because I just finished reading your culinary interests addressed to Suki. Or should I say the `piece de resistance' is that Bertrand Russell, the Critical Realist, was singled out by none other than Albert Einstein as the only person and mathematician as well as philosopher who UNDERSTOOD HIS THEORY OF RELATIVITY! He did not say that about Hawkings or any other elementary particle physicist in the 20th century.

                Regards,
                EddieR


                Eddie,

                Yes! Russell is on my list. Thanks for the reminder! I'll get started on his "Principia" as soon as I have finished Weinberg's "Dreams of a Final Theory".

                As to who, of 20th century philosphers, occupies the position of MOST EXALTED, I, of course, would not touch that with a 10-foot pole! That Russell merited the accolade accorded him by Einstein is not, therefore, likely to be challenged by me! And, it might very well be that Dr. Hawking's lack of philosophical savvy is exceeded only by my own. However, I do think it well to keep in mind that, while relativity was novel at the beginning of the 20th century, it was in the basic lexicon of physicists at its close. Theoretical physicists of the 21st century are presumed to have a working mathematical understanding of relativity. It is that general level of understanding, I believe, that is the reference point in Dr. Hawking's remarks.

                There is, by the way, at least one among SENIOR REDUCTIONISTS who doesn't get a warm, cozy feeling from the logical positivism of Wittgenstein, to wit, Nobel Laureate theoretical physicist Steven Weinberg, who had this to say of the noted philosopher:

                Excerpted from "Dreams of a Final Theory by Steven Weinberg, pp. 28-29
                Ludwig Wittgenstein, denying even the possibility of explaining any fact on the basis of any other fact, warned that 'at the basis of the whole modern view of the world lies the illusion that the so-called laws of nature are explanations of natural phenomena.' Such warnings leave me cold. To tell a physicist that the laws of nature are not explanations of natural phenomena is like telling a tiger stalking prey that all flesh is grass. The fact that we scientists do not know how to state, in away that philosophers would approve, what it is that we are doing in searching for scientific explanations does not mean that we are not doing something worthwhile. We could use help from professional philosophers in understanding what it is that we are doing, but with or without their help we shall keep at it.


                Further, you might find interesting Dr. Weinberg's rather insightful analysis of the historical interplay of philosophy and scientific understanding given in chapter 7 of his book (titled "Against Philosophy"), wherein he sets the stage for that discussion as follows:

                Excerpted from "Dreams of a Final Theory by Steven Weinberg, pp. 168-169
                It may seem to the reader (especially if the reader is a professional philosopher) that a scientist who is out of tune with the philosophy of science as I am should tiptoe gracefully past the subject and leave it to experts. I know how philosophers feel about attempts by scientists at amateur philosophy. But I do not aim here to play the role of a philosopher, but rather that of specimen, an unregenerate working scientist who finds no help in professional philosophy. I am not alone in this; I know of no one who has participated actively in the advance of physics in the postwar period whose research has been significantly helped by the work of philosophers. I raised in the previous chapter the problem of what Wigner calls the "unreasonable effectiveness" of mathematics; here I want to take up another equally puzzling phenomenon, the unreasonable ineffectiveness of philosophy.


                Now I understand, my dear Edward, that this is somewhat akin to waving a red flag in a pasture of bulls, but I thought that I would give mention of it in the hope that we might find amusement in further conversation on this subject. At any rate, I do have the feeling that you will find its reading of interest.

                Regards, Raul

                Comment


                • #9
                  Re: Re: Scientists and Philosophers

                  Excerpted from "Dreams of a Final Theory by Steven Weinberg, pp. 28-29
                  Ludwig Wittgenstein, denying even the possibility of explaining any fact on the basis of any other fact, warned that 'at the basis of the whole modern view of the world lies the illusion that the so-called laws of nature are explanations of natural phenomena.' Such warnings leave me cold. To tell a physicist that the laws of nature are not explanations of natural phenomena is like telling a tiger stalking prey that all flesh is grass. The fact that we scientists do not know how to state, in away that philosophers would approve, what it is that we are doing in searching for scientific explanations does not mean that we are not doing something worthwhile. We could use help from professional philosophers in understanding what it is that we are doing, but with or without their help we shall keep at it.
                  ----------------------------------------------------

                  Raul, please take note that what I said about reductionists probably having Wittgenstein and logical positivism close to their hearts, was placed by me in parenthesis, and was directed most of all at Hawkings who admits being positive about the former's "fame". Of course, there are exceptions to the rule, and Weinberg is one but one who makes a most feeble attempt at rebuffing Wittgenstein's incisive criticism of some of the practices of elementary particle and/or other physicists. It is something which definitely chaffs the ego of Weinberg. But note, if you go over his statement very carefully, at how he reintroduces philosophy and/or philosophers as perhaps being necessary to provide explanations of the WHY after the theoretical physicists provide the WHAT. Wittgenstein, and all logical empiricists and/or positivists are "DEADLY" in their criticism of anything that smacks of Ontology, or the search for the WHAT or BEING about all things. Obviously,
                  Weinberg feels the heat, but after ejecting philosophy and philosophers realizes the necessity of them, so he lets them in through the backdoor of the heated "kitchen" of theoretical physics. He doesn't blanch at what Hawkings says about philosophy, but then he feels "hurt" about Wittgenstein's criticism. Weinberg now knows what it feels like when the shoe is on the other foot, so to speak.

                  Regards,
                  EddieR
                  E.1: TWO STEPS FORWARD, ONE STEP BACK - V.I. Lenin

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    The Book by Weinberg "Dreams of a Final Theory"

                    I like it very much...but it is (again) bringing up more questions than it answers. But it sure has cleared up a lot natural law questions I used to have.

                    Eddie, it has been a long time since I studied dialectical materialism. Those Estudios Generales courses that I took at La Universidad de Puerto Rico are coming back to haunt me!! And some of what Raul's questions about our relationship to matter and knowledge...it reminds me of an essay I did when I was 18 years old on Antonio Gramsci on Organic intellectualism and inorganic intellectualism or knowledge. Voltaire, Rousseau and some other early materialists I still remember. Though I must admit I have not reread them in a long time. You resparked that initial interest but now with modern Weinberg type theories on particle physics...interesting!

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Re: The Book by Weinberg

                      Originally posted by Suki
                      I like it very much...but it is (again) bringing up more questions than it answers. But it sure has cleared up a lot natural law questions I used to have.

                      Eddie, it has been a long time since I studied dialectical materialism. Those Estudios Generales courses that I took at La Universidad de Puerto Rico are coming back to haunt me!! And some of what Raul's questions about our relationship to matter and knowledge...it reminds me of an essay I did when I was 18 years old on Antonio Gramsci on Organic intellectualism and inorganic intellectualism or knowledge. Voltaire, Rousseau and some other early materialists I still remember. Though I must admit I have not reread them in a long time. You resparked that initial interest but now with modern Weinberg type theories on particle physics...interesting!
                      Very good Suki! What theoretical physicists and even Raul are benighted about is that they have failed to keep up with the development of the Philosophers throughout the ages. I don't blame them for that deficiency, because I know that most of them have given all their time to their respective field of study. However, they may come to realize that they are the ones who are trapped in a time-warp concerning the impulses they feel to provide an all-emcompassing theory about the way things are. The philosphers, whom they have chided for being behind the times, are NOT, because they have since the time of Immanuel Kant solved the problem of any all-encompassing theory by rejecting the impulses to any future cosmological explanation concerning what things are and the way they are.
                      All these physicists, including supporters like Raul, must backtrack to square one of Philosophy and recreate the evolution of Philosphy within themselves, and THEN MOST IMPORTANTLY OF ALL REREAD KANT AND PAY PARTICULAR ATTENTION TO UNDERSTANDING WHAT HE IS SAYING ABOUT THE FUTURE OF ANY COSMOLOGICAL OR ALL-ENCOMPASSING METAPHYSICAL THEORY. I know that Kant is a very difficult, hard read, but it can be done and understood if one starts from square one of Philosphy, i.e., the classical ancient Greek philosophers and work their way up to Kant. Note, that Democritus, whom Raul would probably classify as one of those thinkers working in closed rooms, and trying to solve the mysteries of the universe, DID ARRIVE AT THE THEORY OF ATOMS AS THE BASIS OF THE MASS OR MATTER OF THE UNIVERSE. There were no recognized science or nuances of scientific methodology in that time, but yet even Philosophers have to eat, pay the rent, and shop and I feel certain that the likes of Democritus while on their way to the Agora, stopped to observe and study Nature and the heavens and caverns respectively above and below Earth, and also stopped to enter into disquisitions with the existing Philosophers of his time who "hung out" at the Stoas in the Agora.

                      How ironic that the theoretical physicists who are tossing 'brickbats' at Philosphy and Philosphers are so ignorant of their own backwardness and need to get updated as to why Philosphers are so critical of their impulsive efforts to provide a General Theory of Existence based on elementary particle physics. And also how can they in all good conscience brush away the discoveries of Democritus, the father of the Atomic Theory of all Matter? Get updated is what I say!

                      Regards,
                      EddieR

                      E.1: TWO STEPS FORWARD, ONE STEP BACK - V.I. Lenin

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                      • #12
                        BENDICION!

                        Eddie,

                        Was it something you said? Looks like our boy Maduro is sprinkling a little HOLY WATER on this forum! Stay dry!

                        Regards, Raul

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                        • #13
                          Re: BENDICION!

                          Originally posted by Raulgr
                          Eddie,

                          Was it something you said? Looks like our boy Maduro is sprinkling a little HOLY WATER on this forum! Stay dry!

                          Regards, Raul

                          Geez, or should I say Holy Moly, Raul; that guy ought to go down the hall to the Religion forum. He might of erred in placing his post here though. I don't think, however, we will be hearing from Maduro again.

                          Speaking of hearing from posters, in my latest post to Suki I mentioned you a few times, and please don't be shy about giving us your viewpoints and if need be hearty criticism. In any case, don't just wait for Suki to reply, but please do pitch in with your ideas or concepts as well. And I feel certain Suki will do her part to contribute. Again, I say Raul don't be shy nor reluctant to wade into the fray of this very interesting thread concerning theoretical physics and philosophy.

                          Regards,
                          EddieR
                          E.1: TWO STEPS FORWARD, ONE STEP BACK - V.I. Lenin

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