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Parody of Language

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  1. Parody of Language added a topic in Explore   

    Some excerpts concerning "logical negativism"
    I am reading an essay by Sowa about Peirce. It's generally an essay that is basically trying to promote Peirce's work, and suggests that Peirce has basically been ignored by analytical philosophy. The essay is here: www.jfsowa.com/pubs/csp21st.pdf‎

    But I thought I would post here because of some of the excerpts and quotes that Sowa has mined. His argument is, basically, that Peirce was being ignored largely because he didn't follow the fashion of the later Vienna Circle and Logical Positivism by avoiding metaphysics. In fact, here is what Peirce writes about the subject:


    "Find a scientific man who proposes to get along without any metaphysics — not by any
    means every man who holds the ordinary reasonings of metaphysicians in scorn — and you
    have found one whose doctrines are thoroughly vitiated by the crude and uncriticized
    metaphysics with which they are packed. We must philosophize, said the great naturalist
    Aristotle — if only to avoid philosophizing. Every man of us has a metaphysics, and has to
    have one; and it will influence his life greatly. Far better, then, that that metaphysics should
    be criticized and not be allowed to run loose." Peirce
    Sowa writes about Hao Wang: "In his book Beyond Analytic Philosophy, Hao Wang, a former student of Quine and assistant to Gödel, classified philosophers by the terms nothing else and something more. The leaders of the analytic movement were mostly characterized by what they excluded: they chose a methodology that could address a limited range of topics and declared that nothing else was a legitimate matter of discussion. By applying logic to a narrow range of questions, they often achieved high levels of precision and clarity. But the philosophers who sought something more felt that the unclear questions were often the most significant, and they tried to broaden the inquiry to topics that the nothing-else philosophers rejected."

    This seems like a fruitful way of understanding logical positivism, but you won't really see this in any of their doctrines. It's interesting that any movement that comes to be called positivist seems to have it's heart in what doctrines it rejects. Personally I see the modern scientific skepticism movement, and the striving for demarciation, in this same light: By their rhetoric, they seem to be talking about science, but in effect they are really talking about everything that isn't science, or shouldn't be considered science.

    Sowa notes that this way of thinking is rejected by Peirce, "His first rule of reason, 'Do not block the way of inquiry' (CP 1.135), implies that no question is illegitimate."

    Wang criticizes Quine:


    Quine merrily reduces mind to body, physical objects to (some of) the place-times, placetimes
    to sets of sets of numbers, and numbers to sets. Hence, we arrive at a purified
    ontology which consists of sets only.... I believe I am not alone in feeling uncomfortable
    about these reductions. What common and garden consequences can we draw from such
    grand reductions? What hitherto concealed information do we get from them? Rather than
    being overwhelmed by the result, one is inclined to question the significance of the
    enterprise itself.
    And Wang quotes a personal letter by C. I. Lewis, the founder of modern modal logic:


    It is so easy... to get impressive 'results' by replacing the vaguer concepts which convey real
    meaning by virtue of common usage by pseudo precise concepts which are manipulable by
    'exact' methods — the trouble being that nobody any longer knows whether anything actual
    or of practical import is being discussed.
    Two other examples of logicians who are treated the same way as Peirce is Whitehead and Godel, who are both pretty much just referred to by the analytic tradition only for their purely logical results. But in all three cases, these logicians have all branched off into philosophy, without ever really divorcing logic from philosophy. But you rarely hear of Whitehead other than as the co-author of the Principia, and Godel is famous for the Incompleteness Theorem, but his proofs for the existence of God are rarely mentioned. Sadly, Peirce is rarely known as a logician, which was really the heart of his interest, but as a Pragmatist. Also there is a logical theorem with his name known as Peirce's Law.
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  2. Parody of Language added a post in a topic Pinker on Scientism   


    Scientism is a philosophical idea that says that philosophical ideas are worthless, because only science has answers to questions, and/or says that only scientific questions are worth asking.
    I still have difficulties with how "science" is instantly equivocated in some quarters with "institutional science". When people speak of science as a noun, I still have a hard time understanding who is being spoken about here, and who speaks. Sometimes people speak of science with an authoritarian voice, and by two kinds: First, by those who are critical of science's alleged authority; and second, by those who wish to invoke the authority of science, or merely submit to it.

    But to me, science has always been the process of inquiry itself. I've often enjoyed Peirce's quote, "Every work of science great enough to be well remembered for a few generations affords some exemplification of the defective state of the art of reasoning of the time when it was written; and each chief step in science has been a lesson in logic." Science itself should be in a process of self-overcoming. To bind it down by some doctrine about scientific method, or some orthodox view, would be to sap it of it's character.

    So it makes sense to have a pejorative term for scientism, which could be seen as the involution of science. Scientism is the process by which science becomes enamored with itself, and at the same time loses its affection for the object of its study.
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  3. Parody of Language added a post in a topic Time to begin and think.   

    This is an interesting thread. On rather more mundane grounds, I wonder if the distinction between this relational and substantial conceptions of time, as I think the matter is conceptional, has to do with rather different modes of rationality embodied in the logic of terms and the logic of relatives (what today is called predicate logic). For Aristotle, for example, substance and relation were different categories, and in his logic of terms subject and predicate had very different roles. A predicate is always about one thing, the subject, and all propositions are to be analyzed in terms of subject and predicate. If this is the form of your rationality, then the concept of substance would preoccupy your thoughts, because substance is the one subject that can't, in turn, be used as a subject.

    Aristotle, of course, was no feeble intellect, and every time we believe we have surpassed him, we see some note in his works that indicate that he understood, in some ways, the difficulties that we have with his work. By construing relations as a category on par with substance, it suggests that he understood very well the difficulties of a simplistic subject/predicate form of thought. Before our modern logic was called predicate logic, or first order logic, Peirce and others called it a logic of relatives, inspired by De Morgon who suggested that the subject-predicate division was just one kind of relation, and perhaps the whole of logic could be founded on relations rather than subjects and predicates. Of course, this is exactly what has come about.

    So when I read about this spatial substansivism, this is what I'm thinking. The Leibniz idea of spatial relativism sounds correct to me. Compare this with Leibniz's contemporary, Newton, whom I've been reading lately who understood very well the difference between relative and absolute space, but he felt he had no choice but to reduce relative space to absolute space. His concept of relative space, I believe, was influenced by Galileo who was propogating the idea that the earth was moving, and he had to argue against the idea that if the Earth was moving, that falling object would have to move sideways as the earth moved. The counterargument was about falling objects in a sea vessel, let's say in the interior where you would have no way of knowing whether the vessel was moving or not. No matter how fast the ship was moving, objects would continue to fall directly downward, as long as the ship was moving at a constant velocity.

    So for Newton, this was an example of a relative space, and the sea vessel is an analogy with the earth itself as if moves about in its orbit. As much as we associate Newton with science, and science with empiricism, it strikes me how much Newton argues against appearances. In his discussion on the difference between absolute and relative space and time, he calls absolute space and time at the same time mathematical and true, whereas relative space and time are sensible and apparent. His triumph was against the senses of the body that thought itself fixed. But the body felt that it was fixed both in a sea vessel as well as on the shore, but the physical force was applying to the sea vessel and not to the shore. This was the difference between absolute and relative motion: Only absolute motion is changed by physical forces.

    Newton writes in the Principia, "Absolute space, in its own nature, without regard to anything external, remains always similar and immovable. Relative space is some movable dimension or measure of the absolute spaces..." Relative space is defined in terms of absolute space, and can be formalized as "All R is A" in the logic of terms.

    The following passage did strike me:


    All things are placed in time as to order of succession; and in space as to order of situation. It is from their essence or nature that they are places; and that the primary places of things should be moveable is absurd. There are therefore the absolute places; and translations out of those places, are the only absolute motions.
    Every relative place is relative to some other place, either relative or absolute. If your rationality is constrained to the logic of terms, there must be some absolute place at which all the relative places must be relative to, to avoid an infinite regress. But with a logic of relatives, which really had to wait two generations after Isaac Newton, you could say the following: A is in motion relative to B, and A is in a different motion relative to C. The idea that "the primary places of things should be moveable" is not absurd in the logic of relatives.

    I'll be reading Einstein next, and I'm more than a little curious if the centuries between the two men have molded a new form of rationality based on the logic of relatives, a 19th century invention. Afterall, Einstein did call his theory the theory of relativity.
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  4. Parody of Language added a topic in Explore   

    The pragmatic maxim and dynamic logic (technical)
    C.S. Peirce, a master logician, found some difficulty with how the old formula "clear and distinct idea" was defined. He didn't find it very clear. He had a different sense of the purpose of ideas than Leibniz did who wasn't particularly empirical in his thinking. But Peirce had a foot in both logic and science, and so he proposed what is now called the pragmatic maxim:

    "Consider what effects, that might conceivably have practical bearings, we conceive the object of our conception to have. Then, our conception of these effects is the whole of our conception of the object."

    Our ideas aren't clear unless we can explicate what I would call the practical difference that the object of the idea would. Note particularly the term conceivably. Lately I've been thinking about this in terms of dynamic logic, a species of modal logic that I've stumbled on recently.

    I've been thinking about methods lately, in terms of techniques used in experiments. I try to stay simple, and say that measuring the length of something is a method, then you can measure the various dimensions of an object, and then determine the volume of an object by means of a composite method that combines more basic methods, such as measuring length or volume displacement.

    Suppose that a method is operational, which means you have to actually make concrete changes to the subject. This must be modelled in logic as moving by changing the actual world, which means changing from what is now the actual world to one of the possible worlds that are reachable from this world. So the actual world is indexical, there is nothing special about the actual, other than we identify one of the possible worlds as the actual one.

    Let's consider this proposition: Striking the match will possibly produce fire. To show the logical form, you put the method inside angular brackets: <strike a match> produce fire. To show that striking a match will necessarily or always produce fire, you would use square brackets: [strike a match] produce fire. But it seems that the former proposition is true because, for example, the match might be wet, and so won't always produce fire. We could correct this by sequencing methods as in [ensure the match is dry; strike the match] produce fire. This is equivalent to [ensure the match is dry][strike the match] produce fire.

    The difference between <strike a match> produce fire and [strike a match] produce fire is that the former means that sometimes striking a match will produce fire, and sometimes it won't. This means that it isn't really a good method for producing fire, and most methods that have nothing to do with the outcome will have merely possibility brackets. Some methods might actually interfere with the result making it impossible to produce fire, for instance ~<submerging the match in water> produce water which is the same as [submerging the match in water] ~produce water using normal modal laws.

    To me this gets very close to not only articulating Peirce's pragmatic maxim in formal terms, but gets us closer to being able to unravel the logic of scientific method. Dynamic logic has already been axiomatized, but through online sources alone, it seems to be applied mostly to verifying computer programs. I'm going to continue to read more and experiment more to determine whether this logic can or should be applied to scientific logic.
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  5. Parody of Language added a post in a topic Evaluating scientific consensus   

    davidm, I said that I wish that environmentalists acquire judgment. You're asking me what to blame environmentalists for, but who to blame for what really isn't something I'm concerned about.


    I think we should massively expand nuclear plants around the world. Why don't you think this will happen? It seems to be mainly environmental groups who oppose this, isn't it? On the other hand, if the environmental goal is to try to replace fossil fuel energy with "clean energy", then nuclear energy should at least be considered the lesser of the evils from an environmental perspective. I guess I premise this on believing that nuclear power plants can be very safe, even if catastrophes in the past like Chernobyl didn't represent the safe design and practices. Back when we were discussion the peak oil problem, it seemed to me that nuclear power plants are both proven and comparable in energy output with fossil fuel plants, whereas solar and wind farms were simply dwarfed by fossil fuel energy output. Additionally, solar and wind power is transient, rather than permanent, unless coupled with extensive battery systems or molten salt tanks to hold on to the energy, which doesn't fully address the problem. They both smooth out the output curve, but don't flatten it completely.


    So is all human existence, the life of the sun, the duration of the universe... The issue is about time frames. If a climate crisis is imminent, it's prudent to speak in more practical and actionable terms.


    We've argued this before, but I still have my doubts that this is about capitalism. It was never very clear what you meant by capitalism, now how to divorce the concept of capitalism from the requirements of economics as a whole. Population itself could be said to require economic growth, or it could just be mainstream demand for increasing prosperity that is the cause for this.


    It may not be fair to call a technical solution a miracle. I was looking at the Wikipedia article for geothermal energy, and it seems that there is a great deal of energy available, but development is constrained by the costs of capital. If you compare drilling for geothermal energy with drilling for oil, you can see the only difference is that one technology is proven and reliable, where the other one is largely unexplored. But as the price of oil goes up, we create a situation where it is more profitable to take more risks on more unproven technologies.

    I agree with you insofar that we are talking about possible technologies that haven't been invented yet. Simply "more research" doesn't tend the increase the rate of discovering new technologies, as the history of technology appears to show. And after invented, it usually takes a substantial amount of time to develop those technologies into commercial products that can be mass marketed. But there do seem to be a number of technologies that already exist which are hindered not by research but by development, which is just waiting investors with a large enough bank who are willing to gamble with it. I'm talking about the usual suspects here: Solar power, geothermal, wind farms, nuclear energy, but not nuclear fusion, algae ethanol, etc. The former are proven technologies which lack development on a wider scale. Or I should say they are actually being developed rather intensely, despite the pessimism in this thread.


    This is a pretty simplistic and archaic notion you have here. This concept of poor people who still have the time and education to develop an appreciate for poetry and art is a symptom of the modern, developed, and affluent world. For most of the history of humanity, before the great evils of capitalism and the middle class, the poor were burdened largely by survival interests, and didn't survive. When people lived off the land, working the land consumed most of their time, from sun up to sun down. Technology and fossil fuels is what allow farmers to get away with six hour days and still have time for second jobs, schooling, and holiday parties. It is far better to be a poor person in the developed world these days than it has ever been in the past.

    And the affluent, in my judgment, don't actually judge their lives based on the quantity of their possessions. Wealth is a necessary, but not sufficient, condition to live the good life, and by this I mean the possibility to enjoy to a higher degree the finer things in life. Affluence is more about the ability engage your abilities, to participate in opportunities that poor people could scarcely imagine. If I was wealthy, I could tell you the things I would do with it, and they wouldn't involve collecting useless things, but in using wealth as a means toward becoming something more, probably an engineer of some sort, or working on some of humanities greatest problems.

    Look, I know what it is like to experience envy, and it is too easy to console oneself with sour grapes. The idea that wealthy people don't actually live the good life, or can't, is a prejudice of the lower class.
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  6. Parody of Language added a post in a topic Evaluating scientific consensus   

    I think the political issue is how much of a sacrifice should be expected. There is a sense in which carbon emissions is linked to prosperity, and of course the debate within nation-states about who should make sacrifices never end well. (Or we could just demonize oil companies while benefiting from their activities...) Or if, let's say, the United States reaches it's target emissions level only by off-shoring most of it to China lets say, who is already the leading producer of carbon emissions, then you haven't actually made any global progress. Oddly enough, and I just found the Wikipedia article on the Kyoto Protocol, the notorious treaty that earned former President Bush the ire of environmental groups worldwide by not signing, considers China a "developing country" therefore had no requirement to reduce or cap their emissions levels at a particular level. This might have been a "give away" to help get the treaty ratified, or consciousness about how much the world has been using China's manufacturing capabilities, making it hypocritical to put restrictions on them, but this doesn't make too much sense in a direct "let's reduce carbon emissions" manner.

    Peter, to be fair, the goal of reducing carbon emissions in itself isn't complicated. In the United States at least, it seems that the strategy has been to offer incentives rather than penalties, but I don't know how well this has been working. The fleet of automobiles has very slowly been including hybrid and electric cars, and my sense is that more fuel-efficient vehicles have been replacing less fuel-efficient vehicles. Realistically, this is a direct response to gasoline prices, putting some support to the idea that the free market will solve some of the problem on it's own, premising that gasoline pricess will continue to rise. But this ignores that some states impose taxes on the purchase of gasoline.

    Another sector is the energy sector, and I've tried to find some data on this. Again I turn to Wikipedia where a chart divides up carbon emissions based on economic sector. I was hoping that energy and transportation would make up for the bulk of the emissions, but the chart shows that we would need to include also "industrial processes" in order to account for barely over half of the carbon produced. Energy is a touchy subject because so much of our quality of life depends on it's consumption. By premising the law of supply and demand, we should suppose that the production of carbon emissions is going to correlate with the production of energy, which correlates with the demand for energy. I think there is a real movement to the use of energy efficient appliances, but I doubt that this will compensate for population increases. This is one way in which the United States is fundamentally different from most of Europe where the population is expected to decline, whereas the United States population is increasing.

    But incentives are being used to encourage more environmentally friendly forms of energy. I used to be skeptical about solar energy, but I've seen some reports that in some locations solar power has already reached "grid parity" to conventional forms of energy. But there are serious limitations to the ability for this mode of energy to expand, such as the amount of solar energy available in areas of the country where overcast conditions dominate the weather. I have become skeptical of the optimism of environmentalists who wrongly assert that alternative energy is practical at the same time that they oppose nuclear energy. The numbers I have seen support the idea that nuclear energy is the only serious alternative to modes of energy that consume fossil fuels. The rage against oil, gas, and coal companies is easier to explain when you couple it with wild exaggerations about how much energy "green energy" can realistically produce. Then it is easy to suppose that it isn't technical or engineering considerations that have slowed the adoption of clean energy, but the political and economic corruption of corporations who profit from the use of fossil fuels. But clean energy isn't as simple as installing a couple of large solar panels on the roof of a family of four. This won't even run the dryer, and it doesn't matter how many CFL's you install, or whether everyone turns off the light after they leave the room.

    This said, a lot can be done, I think. But I doubt it will be enough. The manufacture of solar panels, itself, involves the emission of greenhouse gases, and this doesn't even include the energy required in it's manufacture. But the data seems to show that economic recessions and even the potential for a great depression is good for the environment. I just hope that environmentalists acquire judgement on these issues, and stop posing as one-sided advocates who forget the interest of nations in their own prosperity and well-being. But I'm not optimistic.
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  7. Parody of Language added a post in a topic Evaluating scientific consensus   

    Black holes are a deductive consequence of the laws of physics. They were first hypothesized about before they were discovered. I don't really knwo all the details.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lamarckism#Current_views
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  8. Parody of Language added a post in a topic Evaluating scientific consensus   

    Hugo, I became emboldened from reading the first part of Ian Hacking's Representing and Interveening. But I think you're right about "normal science". Even with the consensus on Darwinian evolution, you still hear talk about Lamarckian evolution in connection with "epigenetics".

    Maybe one way you can look at it is that if different scientific paradigms are, to Kuhn, like different languages that can't exactly be translated, then it is as if these different languages are constantly borrowing from each other, the way "Karate" is both English and Chinese, and may eventually merge.

    Anyway, I guess I can't really say anything more about climate science, not really. Just wanted to get it out there.
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  9. Parody of Language added a post in a topic Evaluating scientific consensus   

    davidm, your reductio seems valid to me, and even when I say it to myself it sounds contradictory to say that it is irrational for scientists to engage in consensus. Even Aristotle says that true statements are consistent with each other, and if there is global warming, and human beings are causing it, then all scientists who engage in earnest inquiry on the matter should come to consistent conclusions. Maybe my own bias is that I worry more about group think and conformity than the opposites.

    "My understanding is that the evidence for human-caused global warming is in the area of five-sigma, which means it is as certain as anything can be in science, bearing in mind that science is an inductive and not a deductive enterprise."

    I heavily disagree with this. I think it just depends on whether you would rather emphasize it's deductive or inductive qualities, and also which school of which science you are talking about. The chemistry of gases and the biology of evolution lean more heavily on induction, while the astronomy of black holes is very deductive in character.
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  10. Parody of Language added a post in a topic Evaluating scientific consensus   

    Peter, I knew I could be challenged on what rationality should be defined as, and any definition is bound to be stipulative because the lexical definition is manifold and inconstistant. Depending on the definition, the question as to "whether my choice of rationality is rational" could be coherent or not. I do have a definition in mind, and it coheres I think with your proposition that rationality is the obedience to authoritarian rules, depending on how tyrannical you fix this authority to be.

    Here's my suggestion. Let's take rationality to be defined in terms of consistency. With all the discussions of scientific method, and how there is no single scientific method, grew my interest in that there are many scientific methods, but not at all in the character of asserting "this is how science should be done." Consider something as simple as measuring the length of an egg with a ruler. As mundane as this example is, it employs a method. If I were an operationalist, and I could be close to one, I would say that measurement is nothing other than the methods employed to measure something. But the crux of this method is that I could measure the same egg, presuming that the egg doesn't change in length, multiple times and get the same length. Furthermore, everyone could measure the same egg, and get the same length, quite independently of each other. Of course, if independence strikes you as contradictory to the notion of authoritarian, then rationality isn't authoritarian, because we can all derive our own answers independent of the authority.

    However, there is definitely a sense in which measurement is authoritarian, and that's because one of the sentences that I just said is actually false. If everyone measured the same egg, we would not all get the same length. There is no method without discipline, and by discipline I mean a certain kind of training by which, using the same method we get the same results. To some extent we have all been disciplined in this way, and by this alone we are considered educated. It was by authority that we are disciplined, and it is by authority that we are told that we are employing the method correctly or incorrectly. And rationality is the process by which, all of us, by using the methods correctly, we obtain consistency of the results.

    I realize there is a serious danger of circular definition here, but I also think there is a sense in which the definition can be saved of circularity. I don't want to unravel this right now, however.
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  11. Parody of Language added a topic in Explore   

    Evaluating scientific consensus
    Sorry to hammer home a sore topic, but I've spent the last week or so trying to figure out how to make good on my promise to lay out the argument for human-caused global warming. But I've failed at this, none as much time as I wished I have, and maybe to be genuine it isn't very high on my priority list. It's one of the issues that I can do the least about, and honestly isn't very interesting. So engaging this topic is a little trollish for me. Maybe I shouldn't write at all about it. But I feel like I need some closure on the topic, so please allow me to continue.

    The only logical argument I could come up that would dispose me is that this is an instance of valid appeal to authority. Everywhere I search on the internet I see plenty of evidence of a scientific consensus for the existence of global warming, and that this is due to human causes. I did find some books that seemed like genuine criticisms of global warming, but they were authored by scientists whose expertise wasn't associated with climate science, like geology.

    Aside from this logic, there is the vague plausibility, to my mind, that the thesis is could be true. It is possible to measure the temperature of the earth's atmosphere. Weather stations all over the globe are constantly recording and reporting the temperature. We have satellites who, given some assumptions, can produce a decent approximation of the temperature of the earth. Similarly, we can measure the temperature of our oceans at various points, at various times of the year, under various circumstances.

    The existing consensus, no doubt, is a product of decades of what might be thought to be detective work, evaluating various maybe's and probably's. For instance, maybe the upper atmosphere is cooler than the lower atmosphere, or at least doesn't show the same warming that our weather stations report. So deploy high altitude weather balloons. Or maybe, as one skeptical book argues, heating and cooling is a consequence of cloud cover: Fewer clouds would reflect less light from the earth's surface, causing it to warm. But this claim can easily be examined with satellite photography. You could further speculate about volcano erruptions, or the urban heat effect. These maybe's too could be evaluated using rigorous scientific method.

    The average educated person could easily speculate on all of these possibilities himself, the more he learns about climate change, the model and it's function. Doubts are produced, and this is scientific. Skepticism is a scientific virtue. So there should be a great deal of credibility achieved when scientists, after decades of investigative work, run out of doubts. Science should be the gold-standard for human inquiry. A scientific institute says that global warming is due to the products of fossil fuels, but Average Joe says that he thinks it's because of volcanic activity. It's very important how this debate should be settled: The institute should be able to respond to volcano conjecture, not by dismissing or demeaning it, and not by questioning who funded Average Joe, but by responding in the like, "We wondered about that too, and here's where that reasoning took us." Science should assimilate, but not oppose. It's character shouldn't be political.

    So forgive me when I failed to separate separate things. In the last thread, and I think I admitted this, I failed to distinguish between climate science and the environmental movement. That environmentalism appropriated climate science gave me the impression that climate science itself has been politicized. Also my discussion of ideologies surrounding climate science made it sound like I was disputing climate science. It's a little too sociological, or meta-political, to try to capture the cognitive biases involved in how people behave politically. Generally, when political groups happen to be right about something, they are only incidentally right, this is perhaps the only thing people really need to know about politics. To take a different example, I'm an atheist, but not because atheism is true and somehow I'm predisposed to believe true statements, but because I'm predisposed to become an atheist. Environmentalists have been waging a war against industry for a very long time now. They have made an enemy of industry, and so they were predisposed to find the concepts of athropegenic climate change compelling. It would be a serious mistake to suggest that any political group is inherently rational. They all have their moments.

    Now it is worth wondering if I'm being a hypocrit here in excluding science. It's a central question in the philosophy of science to ask whether science is inherently rational. I'm probably too much of an idealist, because I think it is possible for science to be rational, but on the whole the institution of science as it is actually practiced isn't rational. I don't believe that hinging significant policy debates on scientific consensus helps matters at all. I prefer my science to be as clean of politics as possible, and so I remain an idealist, and a bit of a purist.

    So let me talk for a minute about scientific consensus. We should trust that humanity has caused global warming because that is the scientific consensus on the matter, by scientists who are qualified to speak on the matter. Logically, this should immediately be identified as an argument. To evaluate this argument, we evaluate it's form. We pretend that we aren't actually talking about anthropegenic climate change, but we're talking about any issue. We ask, is this argument valid no matter what issue we're talking about. It helps if we think of concrete examples rather than just making up issues. For instance, we could ask about genetically-modified food, or the theory of evolution, or of cold fusion.

    There are two ways, I think, in which the trust in scientific consensus could be undermined. Basically, if these two issues are shown not to be present, then I think scientific consensus should be trusted. I don't think either of these issues influence climate science, but I implore that advocates cease making scientific consensus a simplistic matter.

    The first issue is institutional. If there are institutional reasons to suggest that scientists are taking a certain position on an issue. This basically suggests that the rationality of science has been thwarted on an institutional level. For instance, if there are institutional pressures for scientists to conform, or if they are being rewarded for speaking a certain way on the topic. Similarly, if the scientists themselves are being selected based on their agreement to certain views, and the rest simply fail to attain credibility due to their conclusions alone. There should be no single authority that determines which scientists should be considered credibile. In fact, on the whole, a great argument that the rationality of a science hasn't been undermined by institutional reasons is when you find a diversity of views and competing models and ways of interpreting the data. Consensus can even used as evidence in support of institutional corruption of the scientific process.

    The second issue is what Kuhn calls "normal science". Normal science is when scientists all implicitly, though probably not explicitly, agree on a paradigm. A paradigm is when scientists, without being aware of it, have learned to think and speak in narrow ways about the subject matter. This is when there are no radically different ways of thinking about the topic that competes at the same time as the mainstream theory. Basically, the rationality of science is questioned when the concepts involved are assumed, implicit, not questioned not due to dogmatism but because they have become invisible. If the science is involved in normal science, there is the express possibility that any scientific consensus is just a revolution away from being overturned. It would be like citing a scientific consensus on Newtonian physics against Einstein.

    I don't know if climate science is engaging in normal science or not. On one hand, the existence of a consensus at all, especially to the degree that it exists. I see numbers citing between 82% and 98% of climate scientists agree that human beings are the cause of global warming. On the other hand, there's a very distinct difference between a concept and a proposition. Whether human beings are causing global warming is a statement, it can be true or false. A scientific paradigm is more about the concepts themselves. So it is certainly possible, even within that scientific concensus, for researchers to be coming to the same conclusion is very different ways, and even disagreeing with each other radically on how they approach the problem.

    That said, to be honest, I have a problem with the idea of scientific consensus. The odd thing is that widespread agreement is a sign of irrationality, not of rationality. I'm smarter when my ideas are being met with constant criticism, and by people who think themselves smarter than I am. And I've always associated this with intellectual and scientific virtue. To look for consensus, it seems to me, is to be applying a political formula to science, when it is in this and other ways in which politics and science are fundamentally different.

    But my ignorance of the situation in detail prevents me from evaluation whether this scientific consensus is a rational or irrational one, and whether arguments that refer to it are valid or invalid. I also worry that climate science itself is being corrupted by politics, and I don't mean in the obvious way. It interferes with rationality when you are no longer thinking about the subject matter, but about it's humanitarian and social consequences. But I hope that scientific virtue alone can withstand this.
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  12. Parody of Language added a post in a topic Merchants of Doubt   

    I've never once attacked the science of climate change. Not once. Seriously. In fact, reading my own posts, and reading your responses to my posts, I really think your tone towards me is unwarranted. I'm not going to defend myself to you, nor be made your antagonist. I'm going to go so far as to say that you're incapable of having a sober discussion about this topic. In chat I told you that I changed my mind about climate change, and that I think the scientific consensus is true. Now I feel like you're cornering me into the denialist position.

    But you're right that the ideology is irrelevant to the science. I did find this book, The Climate Crisis, on the Kindle store and I'm considering purchasing it. It's $32 though, but it might be worth it. I'm hoping for a sober, authorative, and comprehensive book on the topic. If you know a better book like this let me know.

    To show good will, if you want, I'll try to reproduce the argument for anthrogenic climate change in a new thread, as I understand it. The goal will be to try to show the necessary connection between the evidence and the thesis, while taking advantage of new things I've learned about intensional logic on the way.

    For instance, consider the concept of a greenhouse gas. Classically, this term has an extension and an intension. It's extension would be every gas that is considered a greenhouse gas, such as carbon dioxide and water vapor. But it's intension includes it's extension in every possible world, even in possible worlds where the laws of nature are very different from our own. A greenhouse gas is a gas that contributes to the greenhouse effect which causes a planet to radiate less heat than it recieves from the sun. That a greenhouse gas contributes to global warming is a necessary and analytic truth. That carbon is a greenhouse gas is a contingently true proposition. Therefore, that carbon contributes to global warming is contingently true. But if you were to analyze the chemical properties of carbon, and you find that any chemical that have these chemical properties must necessarily contribute to global warming, and any chemical that has these chemical properties contains carbon, then it becomes a necessary truth that carbon contributes to global warming.

    To go off on a tangent, I'm harboring the thesis that the problem of induction, and Hume's skeptical position, is a consequence of empiricism, and doesn't really exist for epistemological rationalism. The argument offered above can't be justified empirically, nor can induction. Empiricism can only defend contingent truths, but science is only satisfied with necessary truths. At the same time, the taste in logic during the 1900's was purely extensional, among the same philosophers of logic who inherited the same British empirical bent of David Hume: Russel, Quine, and the logical positivists. Intensional logic, on the other hand, returns us to a more rationalist frame of thought, even if it must be grounded on observation.
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  13. Parody of Language added a post in a topic Merchants of Doubt   

    Because experience on this forum indicates that we, including myself, aren't above wrangling with ideological issues. But point taken, it doesn't really matter, let it sleep.


    In this case we should begin with learning more about the spectrum between the best case and worst case scenarios. I'll try to read more about the actual science of climate change. I think I bought the wrong book from Kindle from your recommendations that night, which focuses exclusively on the politics of climate change.


    Then you immediately dive back into ideology... Is it truly the facts you're interested in, or the power to play on people's feelings?
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  14. Parody of Language added a post in a topic Merchants of Doubt   

    I guess you think people are a lot more rational, and fact-based than I do. I don't think many people are actually thinking through the consequences of global warming like you are saying, but are just making judgments about the story or narrative. Global warming is a story, it has a plot, and a moral lesson to it.


    Pretty much. World hunger, as it happens, has very little to do with a lack of food. Where governments aren't wholly indifferent and neglectful of their populations, or just plain abusive in their use of resources, they are simply incompetent. At least this is my sense of the situation.


    I probably won't survive.


    This is why your understanding of the matter gives you more insight than most of humanity. It doesn't take much to learn three or four facts about it, make your own conclusions about it, and understand better than most people. But if you look how politics is conducted, in a democracy, it is only "feelings" that really count. Right now it feels like moral indignation and cynicism, but what else is new.


    Probably the latter. "Political dimension" I fear gives it too much credit. Looks more like naivete, incompetence, and ignorance of human nature.
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  15. Parody of Language added a post in a topic Merchants of Doubt   


    I would look to futurism and transhumanism. But it's hard for me to say much about them because you never really hear how they resonate through the culture, other than that they don't really resonate, which in itself says a lot. I'm watching a couple science fiction shows in Netflix, where you would expect futurist themes to proliferate, but utopian shows like Star Trek are replaced by shows with dystopian themes like Continuum (in the future the government is taken over by a large corporate police state that takes away people's rights) and Terra Nova (where in the future humanity is suffering from environmental devastation, and people are colonizing the prehistoric past of the Earth to escape from it). It's hard to understand why viewers just seemed more optimistic and hopeful about the future during the Cold War, where the United States (speaking for my own country) did face a realistic threat, than now when even the ghost of terrorism is yawning into a more distant past and we basically attack countries at will with drones now. But the trend seems to be that the better conditions actually are, the more people complain, and the worse they think things are.

    But when I was reading more about futurism and transhumanism, it seemed to me that the geist of religion was still there. Substitutes for God, the soul, and immortality are all still there. Probably all that is different is that it would be a religion without a moral basis. If there was a morality, it would be projected towards the future, such that the future takes the role of heaven, or hell, depending on which side you take between machines and cyborgs. Technology is the means of salvation. But the singulatarians are like the extreme Christians who don't see much role for morality at all, but see salvation as purely an act of grace of an omnipotent and omniscience A.I.

    But the futurists, I believe, are rather simplistic in their thinking. They look at trends on a graph and believe that those trends must continue for some reason, without looking for the causes of those trends. Technology, at it's best, must be clearly distinguished from magic: We can't change things at will, but can only appropriate the forces of nature that actually exist. We are already reaching some of the limits of technology in terms of computing power and the energy density of batteries. And the oil explosion in the 20th century is a better explanation of the rise of a post-industrial, information age than the mere aptitude of the human race.
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  16. Parody of Language added a post in a topic Confession   

    I was thinking about vanity today at work, and made a note to myself to embrace vanity more*. I don't want to be well-liked, respected, praised, admired, or honored. I demand only to be revered.

    * Yes, I'm vain enough to keep journals, actually three of them.
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  17. Parody of Language added a post in a topic Merchants of Doubt   

    Peter, I have a hard time seeing how you think that climate change is a debate that's really about rainfall and growing seasons, as if people "really" care more about the latter than the former. Then you changed the topic to be about the rich and poor, so therefore the debate is really about the opposition of classes and stratification. This just sounds Marxist, as if everything is really about economics, and supposed tensions between the rich and the poor. But in my opinion, the tensions between rich and poor have never been lower, and the dividing line is by no means clear. It is rather arbitrary, we just pick arbitrary numbers in order to define the division, as with the "We are the 99%" movement.

    My opinion is that climate change is so much talked about because of a different kind of ideology. Main thing about the climate change debate is that it's about human beings having an effect on nature. If this was the only case of this ideology, my case would be weak, but look at the opposition to genetically modified foods, and the opposition to vaccinations. The opposition to capitalism, in the right context, could be seen as nothing more than the opposition to industrialization. There's also the opposition to processed foods, to preservatives, and to mass produced goods. There's a movement back towards whole foods, which is essentially foods that are touched least by human hands, closer to "nature".

    I basically see the climate change debate, in it's subtext and tone, as being intimately involved in a newly aligned Nature Movement. It's almost pagan in it's deification of nature, and it's suspicion towards mankind. It's reactionary against the ethos of technological process: For instance, at one time genetically modified foods was a hopeful technology to combat World Hunger, an old liberal cause that's been replaced by the Organic Food Movement, which actually makes world hunger worse. The Nature Movement is teleological in a similar way as the old Stoic's nature philosophy: Live according to Nature. It is alleged that Nature is itself in a very careful balance where the slightest disturbance will unhinge and have dramatic consequences. Just as religion tends to form the contrast of God versus Man, the Nature movement contrasts Nature versus Man. Man is considered anti-Natural, Man can in no case improve upon Nature, that's just hubris.

    By saying this, I'm not speaking about the science of climate change. Science is science, indifferent, impartial. Science only tells you the facts, at substantial cost I might add. It doesn't care about the story.
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  18. Parody of Language added a post in a topic Confession   

    Except you didn't tell us about your vanity! You could be as honest as anyone else, but it sounds different when an average person does it.

    I think Nietzsche wrote that in the common case people are led by habit, vanity, and fear. Fear and habit alone make it hard to really push yourself, to "live dangerously". And vanity is generally held in disrepute. It's the last thing that most people will ever admit to. On the other hand, it's the only thing that could really break us out of our mold. So maybe it's a good idea to encourage our vanity every now and then, let it drive us to our fullest, rather than repressing it all the time.

    I used to fear that I was exceptionally vain. Now I'm ashamed that my vanity is merely ordinary.
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  19. Parody of Language added a post in a topic Merchants of Doubt   

    Heretic, I generally associate democracy with cynicism, if you want to speak at that level. Democracy is conditioned on a fear of tyranny, but too much democracy tends to degrade into in-fighting between political factions.

    davidm, you're misreading most of what I've said. For instance, I say:



    You reply that this is incorrect, but then you say "Yes, there are outliers who are credentialed who contest this." So by incorrect, you mean that I am correct. What gives? I guess you're reading into things by thinking that I'm really saying there's a 50/50 split, even though I don't agree with that at all.


    Okay, you're replying to tone here. I just meant that science shouldn't be based on what the majority of scientists agree on. You don't determine what the facts are by polling PhDs but by doing experimental research.


    This isn't about rules of debate, so this isn't about burden of proof. This is a test of validity. An argument is invalid if it is possible for the premises to be true and the conclusion to be false. So the argument here is anthrogenic climate change by scientific concensus. Because it is possible that these factors are at work that I described, it makes it possible that the conclusion is false even with wide scientific consensus. So I'm bound to reject scientific consensus as a valid argument for anthrogenic climate change. Logically, we need to determine validity of kinds of arguments, and not about specific instances, otherwise every fallacy would be countered by specific circumstances. So we need to judge the validity of scientific consensus in general, and not only in this case.


    Well, first, I think you are completely missing the point about the cynical paradoxes. I'm probably not explaining myself well, but you're also reacting to my tone, or what you think is my tone, so maybe you're not reading me correctly either. But because it is interesting, I think the point you made is debatable. Even your example is flawed: You can calculate probability estimates based on deduction. You flip a coin, and have a 50% chance of it landing heads. But you didn't determine this through induction, but through deduction involving the principle of indifference. Deduction and probability are independent tools. I had the intriguing thought the other day that induction, as much as logicians and philosophers seem baffled by it, is really just about simplicity. The argument is inductively sound only if it simplifies and unifies the evidence. Because this implies simplifying and unifying, and thereby falsifying, reality, fallibilism falls away as induction's corrolary.
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  20. Parody of Language added a post in a topic The rediscovery of term logic   

    In the mid-1960s I turned to the problem of our deductive competence.
    How, for example, do ten-year-olds, innocent of “logic,” recognize the
    logical equivalence of ‘No archer will hit every target’ and ‘Every archer
    will miss some target’? What makes everyone instantly certain that (A)
    ‘Every colt is a horse’ and ( ‘Someone who owns a colt doesn’t own a
    horse’ are jointly inconsistent?
    Modern predicate logic (MPL) formally justifies such common, intuitive
    logical judgments, but its justifications do not explain how we make them.

    F. Sommers
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  21. Parody of Language added a topic in Explore   

    The rediscovery of term logic
    Discovered something interesting about logic just tonight in fact. A recent logician, Fred Sommers, has rediscovered term logic. But he's done better, he's enhanced it. Now it is on par with the predicate logic of Frege and Russell. This is significant.

    First, the new term logic and predicate logic are comparable in really only one way: They both involve translations into an algebraic like syntax. But the term logic syntax is much easier, and possibly more expressive. I've been fooling with predicate logic for about ten years now, and I still don't get the hang of it. Worse, it seems I do a better job reasoning if I skip the whole "translate into predicate syntax" step in the first place. The term logic syntax is just symbol algebra with only plus signs and minus signs. It's much more superfiscial, in the way that predicate logic is supposed to be deep and reveal the True Logical Form of the proposition. If anything, Sommers refutes this thesis.

    I was going to introduce the new logic, but read Sommers' Foreward in this book for a summary: http://books.google.com/books?id=F5a-US69x78C&lpg=PA1&pg=PR9#v=onepage&q&f=false. In a separate paper, which I'll have to trace, Sommers explains many of the advantages of his term logic, for instance that it deals with mass nouns appropriately and shows inferences that may even be impossible to express in predicate logic. But as of this writing, there might be pitfalls in the logic that I'm not yet aware of. For instance, how does it deal with multiple generality? And I haven't seen anything about modal logic, but I doubt it's that difficult to incorporate.
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  22. Parody of Language added a post in a topic Merchants of Doubt   

    Continuing the debate in chat, I do think that davidm has a valid case. But a large part of my issue is with cynical arguments in general, so let me just state this for the sake logic. Cynical arguments are difficult when you have two sides that seek to undermine each other. There are cases where the cynical arguments succeed. In this case, you have a paradox very much like the two-person liar paradox:

    Person A says Person B is lying. Person B says Person A is lying.

    So who is lying? In practice, the cynical paradox has many variations. For instance, when Fox News suggests that the mainstream media is biased, and that they themselves are fair and balanced. But the paradox lies in them calling themselves the exception, they aren't mainstream at all because they are fair and balanced. And all Cretans are liars.

    Davidm makes lots of points, some of them are points that I used to be more fond of. But I have to analyze claims from my own point of view. For me, it really does boil down to Person A versus Person B. You could say I'm just uninformed, but the only recommendations to correct that is to read Person C, and he will tell me whether A or B are correct. I could download the data for myself, but with all these interests who are funded by the fossil fuel lobby or big government, how would I trust that the data was in tact? And I couldn't interpret it for myself, I would need to find someone who will help me interpret it, and why should I trust them? There are, after all, so many powerful interests out there.

    But there are escapes out of this cynical paradox, at least I believe there are, but each of them need to be analyzed based on logic. For instance, you could use valid appeals to authority, but this is difficult when you have credentialed climate scientists who take both sides on the issue. You could appeal to scientific consensus, but there are two counterweights to this. First, science shouldn't work as a popularity contest, especially since the history of science is full of cases where the consensus wasn't based on what we now believe to be true. Second, there is the possibility of corruption of the scientific process itself, whether of the scientific journals who decide what does or doesn't get published, through the motivation of political alignment (aka group think), or through the common biases that scientists at this level generally share, such as social class or funding source.

    Why am I being so extreme? It seems I'm overturning every rock trying to find a way to defeat the arguments that have been offered. I think the case is inductively valid, but not deductively so. I'd like to find logically valid ways of arguing against such cynical paradoxes.
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  23. Parody of Language added a topic in Read   

    Merchants of Doubt
    After a small debate in chat with davidm and Nullifidian about the politics of global warming, davidm recommended a book to me called Merchants of Doubt. I have a Kindle now so I can pretty much download books like this right away and start reading. I've only started reading this, so I thought I would use this thread a forum to express some of my concerns.

    Just as I debate some of you guys in chat, I am at the same time self-critical. My poor performance in chat is due to lack of knowledge on many of the details. But it is important to understand, to some extent, where you guys are coming from, and to understand where my beliefs are coming from. I'm not a climate scientist, but like most Americans, I understand cynicism. I suppose a lot my doubts come from my feeling of powerlessness in the face of cynicism. So as a good example of this, let me relate my thoughts even after reading just a few pages of this book.

    First, what I mean by cynicism should be obvious from the context of the book. Merchants of Doubt is a book about lobbyists and think tanks that use various tactics to undermines what the author deems good science. So far, examples are the cancer causing properties of tobacco use, the risks and limitations of SDI (I don't know what this is), acid rain, the ozone hole, and the main subject, global warming.

    What bothers me most at this point is this excerpt:



    So the author is making a cynical case here. The narrative is that these "fact-fighters" were trying to disrupt the scientific process using these underhanded techniques. I guess it isn't necessary the material statements, but the form of cynicial arguments that I have problems with.

    First, it seems to me that cynical arguments seem to have to beg the question. You have to agree with the author about who the villains are. The book started out with an obvious narrative appeal describing the scientist Ben Santer as the protagonist. The book begins:



    Problem is, I already know this is a cynical book. So I pretty much analyze everything in the book from this standpoint. So I identify this pretty quickly as an attempt to manipulate me. This man's personality has nothing to do with the claims in the book. Even if he was a horrible person, with bad breath, and participates in cock fights, it wouldn't change anything.

    Here's what I mean by question-begging: Flip the roles, of hero and villain, can a similar story be made? Look at the first excerpt. Apparently these groups who are attacking global warming, for example, have a list of scientists with sound credentials who will weigh in on their side about the issue. As an outsider, if I saw in the press that these scientists conclude that people are causing global warming, but these other scientists, with equal credentials, say that people aren't causing global warming, how am I supposed to know the difference?

    Lets say that the cynical accusations continue in this book. I wouldn't doubt that the author will eventually describe books in the press that are part of this group attacking global warming. But this book that I'm reading, that is describing these cynical attacks on global warming, is itself a book attacking the groups who are against global warming. And if I were to find a book on my Kindle on the other side, what is to prevent them from making the same sort of cynical accusations as the other side?

    I think the problem is either the cynical methods have become too good, whereby it's impossible for someone on the outside to reason for himself who is the hero and who the villain, or there is no cynicism at all, other than conspiracy theories by certain book writers.

    So my issue is with cynicism in general. "Think tank" for instance is really just a pejorative term for a group of scientists and professors. The author hails the IPCC as the world's leading authority on climate issues, what distinguishes the IPCC from a think tank? You can't really, not from the outside, unless you have already decided who the villains were.

    Anyway, enough for now, I'll keep reading.
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  24. Parody of Language added a post in a topic How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love War   

    I prefer the will to power to nihilism of that sort. There is agreement in the span of your statement, but now you honor victory for it's own sake over resignation. You back yourself into a hippy corner when you decide to not take part in conflict. It is false to say that you know more about war by not taking part in it, no matter how stupid war makes you. It is as absurd as saying, "We're all going to die anyway!" Violence doesn't make death worse. It is rather the long death, the peaceful death of resignation, which is worse than the short death in the throws of ideological passion, or just plain hatred. It is like the competition of men over women. Many men lose from not realizing, or even in denial, that there even is a competition. It is actually rare for competitions to require agreement to compete, in the same way that animals and plants compete for resources. Pacificism is an enlightened form of extinction. It is the same in that hippy corner. First, it is less honest to wage a war of judgment to a war of combat. Second, honest aggression, for what you believe physiologically, straight through, based on the relative value of things (even if all values are mistakes), is "healthy for the soul" to speak like Socrates. Third, and most importantly, the universe is in a perpetual state of irresolvable tension. There is no escape from this, one must be much more than a monk to meditate this away. Deep down we already have a stake in the fate of society.

    The hippy corner was a pose all along, and also a gambit. It is both pride and vanity that says, "I reject your affairs. And by this, I really mean that in order to fight, you must come to me. Here I set the rules of debate and of judgment. I've been stewing on this for a while now. By the time you come, I will be most prepared." But long after, once pride eventually gives way, it asks, "You will come, right?"
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  25. Parody of Language added a post in a topic Ockham's Razor applied to dogma/belilef   

    Hmm, responding to Da Fire's point above that "consciousness is existence", I guess it's similar to what I was thinking about a few days back.

    It seems to me that our modern individualism has found primacy in human consciousness. We distinguish between individuals based on the sum total of awareness. Individualism is primarily a value system, and there are merits to it--I certainly wouldn't know how to live very long without it. But on the other hand, it has flipped around our ontology. Where once people thought of themselves as having an effect on the world, today we think of the world as having it's effect on us. The world doesn't exist except insofar as it has it's effect on someone.

    But this is just a value system. When the world finds itself in need of a different value system, our ontology could easily flip back again, or into something else.
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