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Philosophy of science

Discussion in 'News' started by gallery nucleus, May 18, 2006.

  1. gallery nucleus

    gallery nucleus New Jack

    Joined: Apr 20, 2006 Messages: 3 Likes Received: 0
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    Last edited by a moderator: May 19, 2006
  2. the.crooked

    the.crooked Veteran Member

    Joined: Apr 7, 2006 Messages: 5,864 Likes Received: 183
    Re: POWER IN NUMBERS SHOW: All artwork for $100

    well im gonna hijack this thread.

    heres the paper i just wrote for a philosophy of science class.

    Within the debates of scientific realism and anti-realism lies a specific argument about entities that are either observable or unobservable. Ban C. Van Frassen argues from his anti-realist position that the only entities which a person can correctly believe in are those that are observable (Churchland 278). Others like Paul Churchland and Ian Hacking contend that it is just as possible to believe in unobservable entities as observable ones (Churchland, Hacking). While Van Frassen is very convincing in his argument for anti-realism, that the belief of entities outside of our observable realm are either not to be believed in or are not real is disheartening to me. I, like Hacking, feel that by the use of unobservable entities as a tool within experimentation coupled with a process of experimental prior grounding, we can bring validity to the belief in unobservable entities.
    We would be best served with an explanation of Van Frassen’s position if I am to adequately argue against it. Van Frassen first splits the anti-realist camp into two kinds. The first believes that science may aim to be true while not necessitating a literal construal of its theories. Just as with the first, the second position within anti-realism supposes that science seeks to give theories which are true, but that their account of the world is to be taken literally (Frassen 267). Also specific to the second kind is that the theories mentioned “need not be true to be good” (Frassen 267). Van Frassen claims a position of the second form.
    In so much as we are to understand the use of the word ‘literal,’ Van Frassen suggests that we look to theology for an accepted use of the term. More specifically that the word can be understood by the difference in interpretation of the bible by fundamentalists and liberal theologians. The former representing the literal construal of the bible, while the latter maintained “allegorical, metaphorical, and analogical interpretations” (Frassen 267). To be taken literally then, should be seen as concrete and substantive rather than mutative.
    However, the concrete nature of a literal construal does not necessitate only a realist perspective on the implications of that construal. This follows from the idea that a having a literal construal affects “our understanding of what a theory says,” but not the reason we make theories nor “the epistemic attitude” which we put towards those theories (Frassen 268). It follows then, that while we may literally understand a scientific theory, we are not required to believe it is true, or that the entities discussed within are real (Frassen 268).
    We are now able to discuss the actual position of Van Frassen. He calls this stance ‘constructive empiricism’ (Frassen 268). Van Frassen explains that as an empirical position it entails that:
    Science aims to give us theories which are empirically adequate; and acceptance of a theory involves as belief only that it is empirically adequate (Frassen 268).

    It follows that it is necessary to understand what it is for a theory to be empirically adequate. As to what it is to be empirically adequate, Van Frassen states that “a theory is empirically adequate if what it says about the observable things and events in this world is true” (Frassen 2680). As an empirical position, it mandates that those things in the theory that must be true are only those statements about what is in the observable realm. For an empiricist believes that the only things which science and our experience can speak about are exactly those things which we experience, ala the skepticism of Hume et al. Thus we find that should there be a statement about unobservables in a theory; they need not be deemed true or false so long as the implications from that statement, about what is observable, are true. Here we see the content of the disagreement between scientific realists and Van Frassen’s constructive empiricism. Namely that the realists believe what is said in a theory about both observables and unobservables is true.
    Also true of empirical adequacy, is that there should be within it at least one model which contains all phenomena, or it “saves the phenomena” (Frassen 268). That means there should be at least one model of the world which could be derived from said theory that accounts for all the events and entities within the world. It follows that should the aim of the theories be this idea of empirical adequacy, then any model derived from theories which are constructed with that aim in mind will reflect that aim. As such any empirically adequate statement will imply such as model as discussed or else it would not be an empirically adequate statement to begin with.
    Naturally, one would be curious then, what is the distinction between what is observable within a theory, and what is unobservable. Van Frassen again splits the issue; this time into that of observable/unobservable entities & phenomena vs. theoretical/nontheoretical language (Frassen 269). Van Frassen and Churchland both agree on the pervasiveness of theoretical terms within all language and as such, I have no complaints. For if one pursues a reduction of terms within language to only those which are not theoretical, you find yourself doing so until you are left with no terms at all (Frassen 269). What one is left with then, is to establish what the distinction between unobservable and observable entities are.
    To that end, Van Frassen makes the quick distinction of what it is to be an observable thing. As he puts it; “the term ‘observable’ classifies putative entities (entities which may or may not exist)” (Frassen 270). That is to say such things as a talking monkey is observable in the respect that we know a talking monkey does not exist, for we have not seen one and we could directly observe it(Frassen 270). Conversely our concept of any number is not an observable thing. This seems a correlate to Kant’s discussion of a posteriori and a priori knowledge. Namely that those things that are observable are a posteriori and those things that are unobservable are a priori. Frassen is sure to note a connection between human acts and these entities being discussed. For an unrestricted and unaided human perception is an observation, where as something such as extrapolating the temperature of something by calculating its mean kinetic energy is not an observation of its temperature (Frassen 270).
    Next, Frassen presents us with a general form by which to state those things that are observable to us:
    X is observable if there are circumstances such that, if X is present to us under those circumstances, then we observe it (Frassen 270).

    Van Frassen is providing that those things which are observable may not always be observable by circumstance, and as such there is also a converse circumstance by which such an entity is in fact observable. That I may not see the sun during a lunar eclipse does not mean it is not observable for once the moon moves, the sun is once again observable. We are then left with the question of how do we decide at which point an entity is no longer observable but “only detectable in some more roundabout way” (Frassen 270)? This is in reference to Maxwell’s continuum of varying observational degrees (Frassen 270). Frassen answers this question by concluding that the term ‘observable’ is in and of itself a ‘vague predicate’ (Frassen 270). A quick parallel to an argument for the morality of incest is used to show how in the case of vagueness a distinction can not be drawn. However, Frassen answers with a counter case to that of direct observation as to show that there is in fact an opposite to it. More specifically, he posits the phenomena of a charged particle passing through a cloud chamber. The disturbance in the cloud chamber of the passing of the particle is indicative of its affect on the environment contained within the chamber, but is not an observation of the existence of that particle. It merely reflects that there was some disturbance within the chamber by some unobservable thing (Frassen 271).
    Let me summarize to this point in the argument. Van Frassen’s constructive empiricism provides an alternative perspective to the realist position within the evaluation of science. Within that is the belief that theories only entail their validity by that which is observable within a theory, thus they meet a criterion of empirical adequacy. It is this empirical adequacy that causes an issue to be had with the realists from Van Frassen’s perspective. For the realist would not have the validity of their claims be contained within only the realm of the observable, but encompass both that of observable and unobservable phenomena. Ian Hacking is one of these realists, and he presents a view which is in direct contention with that of Van Frassen, but also offers a means to verify those claims. On the surface, his argument is for the validation of experimentation as supportive of realism, and that the use of unobservable entities as a tool within experimentation to learn about other unobservables is indicative of the reality of that unobservable entity. I will discuss each part separately.
    Hacking makes his first move in establishing that experimentation has a role in the discussions of realism and anti-realism. Entities which are unobservable in principle are still regularly used within the context of experimentation as more than tools of thought, but tools of practice (Hacking 280). Here he uses this to split the issue of realism into that of realism about theories, and realism about entities. For, in the case of experiments only a belief in entity realism is needed (Hacking 280). He makes this distinction as to separate his argument from the shaky ground of realism in regard to theories and models. Hacking supposes that the act and aim of experimentation as inducing phenomena is directly tied to the belief in the entities used to do so (Hacking 281). That experimenters use entities which are in principle observable and unobservable without discriminating as to the reality of the two shows their dedication to entity realism. This is true in so much as the act of experimentation loses validity if the means of experimentation do not exist. Hacking contends that there is validity in experimentation as most of its phenomenological results are later translated into technology (Hacking 281). If there is validity within experimentation, then there must also somewhere lay validity within the belief that the entities used within such, observable or otherwise, are also real.
    Hacking makes a small argument as to the linguistic aspect of this discussion. Specifically he speaks to the ambiguity with the terms designating the entities themselves. He relies upon Putnam’s position that while we may always have some subjective disparity in the actual interpretation of term which describes an entity, we are all referring to the same entity (Hacking 282). This ends up being the case because what is shared between our different interpretations of the term is enough to elicit a common understanding of what is meant when one invokes such a term. Also, that different sets of theories which may on the surface not deal with the same entities, do so in the actual content of their respective theories (Hacking 282). The difference between descriptions of the electron by Thomson comparative to that of the electron discussed by Stern and Gerlach does not really matter because, at the heart of it, they are both discussing the shared concept of an ‘electron’ (Hacking 282).
    Next is Hackings consideration of why interference into the natural world is important in this situation. As experimentation is just that, an unnatural situation caused by manipulation of natural factors, then the relation of experimentation to this discussion is also that of interference(Hacking 283). In so much as this is affected by unobservables, Hacking states that we are “convinced of the reality of entities” by virtue of the use of their “causal properties” to “interfere elsewhere in nature” (Hacking 283). That is to say by the use of a set of theories around an entity to create another experiment, we are necessarily believing that those entities exist, or that their causal properties are true. Hacking gets to the point when he states that we know that macroscopic objects are real “because of what we do with them, what we do to them and what they do to us” (Hacking 283). This provides the base for his future arguments. If we know such observable things exist in the world because of our personal interaction with them, then it follows that that same form of interaction should be a viable means to establish the reality of such unobservable entities. Hacking then posits that it is our use and utility of unobservable things within experimentation that allows us to believe that those unobservable things do exist (Hacking 283).
    So far we have established that validity within experimentation is tied to the belief that the entities used within an experiment exist. Also that interference as the principle of experimentation is the means through which we come to believe in entities. And finally that experimentation as a form of interference is parallel to our interactions with observable macroscopic entities. This is all a set up for his specific example of experimentation that necessitates the existence of the entities contained within. Perhaps a quick review of the disparity between Hacking and Van Frassen is in order. Namely that Van Frassen feels that those entities which Hacking is trying to validate, can not be so. For Van Frassen, it is only the implication of those experiments on what is in fact observable that matters. However, if Hacking were to provide a base unto which to validate belief in unobservable entities, Van Frassen would be forced to give that there is more to the acceptance of theory within science than his focus on empirical adequacy.
    Let us now see whether or not Hacking can accomplish that goal. He starts his argument by acknowledging that “even if experimenters are realists about entities, it does not follow that they are right” (Hacking 283). Indeed the burden lies on Hacking to produce such an argument otherwise. He also gives that even within experimenters there are typically those that believe “neutral bosons as merely hypothetical entities, while electrons are real” (Hacking 283). Why the distinction? How can we validate any unobservables existence, if even within the context of experimentation there is no standard as to which entities we are to be realists about? The answer, he contends, lies in that :
    There are an enormous number of ways to make instruments that rely on the causal properties of electrons in order to produce desired effects of unsurpassed precision (Hacking 283).

    That is to say that we can use the exhibited properties of what we call electrons to build instruments that will interfere with natural world in a predicted and given manner. This is the foundation of Hackings argument against anti-realism. Let it not be confused that this process does not confirm the reality of electrons from that we infer their existence with the successful completion of the experiment. But that confirmation lies in that we construct “new kinds of devices that use various well understood causal properties of electrons to interfere in other more hypothetical parts of nature” (Hacking 283).
    To that end he gives the specific experimental example of Peggy II. I would refer the reader to Hacking for a full explication of the science contained within the experiment, but I will summarize it here. Specifically, Peggy II is an apparatus designed to study weak neutral currents. An explanation as to what weak neutral currents are is not needed for they are not being considered as a candidate for being validated, but is merely the concept which the experiment is set out to gain empirical information about. To continue, the actual apparatus is a particle gun which shoots polarized light at a crystal, which in turn emits polarized electrons. These electrons are then checked for their respective direction of polarization, right or left. Beyond that, the rest of the experiment “requires other devices and detectors of comparable ingenuity” Hacking (284). What the results of the experiment produced was the first empirical evidence “of parity violation within weak neutral current interactions” (Hacking 285).
    The success of the experiment does not imply then that electrons do exist. However, it is that the experiment ran at all, that does so. For, the creation of phenomena through manipulation of what we understand to be electrons, is where the distinction lies. The realist in regard to entities does not believe in their existence because “the save phenomena. On the contrary, we believe in them because they create new phenomena” (Hacking 284). Such is the case with this experiment, that through the causal relations of electrons the phenomena of “parity violation in weak neutral current interactions.” Finally the argument against Van Frassen stands.
    I would like to further the argument, however. While Hacking shows how we may come to believe in the existence of unobservables through their experimental utility, I think that another argument presents itself. As an empiricist, Van Frassen may ask Hacking to what end we can experimentally substantiate some of these causal properties we speak of about electrons. I contend that there are a multitude of experiments which do so. More specifically there is one that not only helped further the claims of Hacking, but also shows a direct role of the observer on such unobservable entities.
    The double slit experiment was executed to learn about the interference patterns of particles and how that expresses wave-particle duality. Simply stated, the experiment consists of light or a beam of electrons being shot at an interface that has two open slots by which the particles may pass through. After the particles pass through they expressed rather curious tendencies. Namely that the patterns were not that of a single source, particles, but that of an interference patter, waves. The results reflected the assumption that unobservable particles such as photons and electrons may act within what we call wave particle duality. This experiment was derived one step further for the uses of quantum mechanics, and it is in this derivation that we find the importance of the experiment. At the quantum level consideration of wave particle duality is expressed by many different interpretations and theories, but is all predicated upon the general implications of this one experiment. Modify the initial double slit experiment so that there is some sort of direct observational tool at the point of interface between the slits and the particles. This tool can either be a human eye, or some other means by which we are to ‘witness’ the passing of these particles through the barrier. What we end up finding is that the act of ‘observing the passing of the particles through the barrier’ causes some action to happen in which no longer do we see an interference pattern on the observing screen, but that it acts as if it had not been from a point source. This has had major implications within quantum theory. Namely that the role of the observer has a direct impact on the reality within which the particles exist and act.
    I am not claiming that the theories proposed pre and post experimentation are necessarily correct by virtue of the experiment. To me, what is of real interest is what this small change in experimental procedure from the initial set up implies about what is being ‘observed.’ The determinable and repeatable outcome of not producing an interference pattern by merely observing at a point in the experiment, indicates to me, that something is being observed. Perhaps not in respect of a sense organ such as the eye, but in so much as we see an effect of our observation on something. For while we do not directly observe the passing of the particle through the slit, we witness that our attempt to do so impacted the experiment in a determinable fashion. Even if that thing which was affected by the act of observation is unobservable, it necessitates that something was indeed affected. And as such there is perhaps some validity to believe that those things which are directly unobservable can be said to be ‘observed’ by our affect on them. This is also continuous with Hacking’s claim that we come to know even those things which are observable by our interactions with them. This is true in so much as the interaction of the observer to the ‘unobservable wave/particles’ parallels our interactions with macroscopic observable things.
    While the effect of the observer in this experiment lies entirely within the ambiguity of that which is unobservable and that which isn’t, it at least shows that that ambiguity can also provide solutions to the problem of verifying the existence of unobservable entities.
    While Van Frassen’s constructive empiricist stance is quite welcoming to science and its theories, it does not bode well for the part of experimentation. As experimentation is seemingly more and more the act of science, it would follow that some reconciliation is needed. Hacking offers that in the form of being a realist about entities within experimentation and by providing a guideline by which to establish when unobservable are candidates for existence. Supportive of Hacking’s claims are previous experiments that when considered, seem to imply that the vagueness inherit to the observable/unobservable distinction offers the solution to the problem of confirming unobservable entities’ existence. As for the ontological importance that each of these positions hold, I feel that the realist position taken by Hacking and myself presents the more interesting implications for science, and as such seeks to further the aim of science more than that of its anti-realist counterpart. The limitations of truth to observables by Van Frassen’s notion of empirical adequacy seem to imply that one of the most basic means through which we conduct science, experimentation, is not geared towards truth at all. I think most within the scientific community, including myself, would first look for an option that would reconcile that expression of science rather than exclude it. And if we can find such substantial positions that do allow for that reconciliation, as that of Hacking and myself, then I will choose that.
  3. the.crooked

    the.crooked Veteran Member

    Joined: Apr 7, 2006 Messages: 5,864 Likes Received: 183
    Re: POWER IN NUMBERS SHOW: All artwork for $100

    i dare someone to read that...
  4. !@#$%

    [email protected]#$% Moderator Crew

    Joined: Oct 1, 2002 Messages: 18,517 Likes Received: 622
    Re: POWER IN NUMBERS SHOW: All artwork for $100

    it's pretty good.

    of course within those types of arguments, as mentioned in the paper, the linguistics of all of it take on a huge role...as you addressed, how do you define 'observable'

    lucky for me, my science work is all based in observation and data that can be photographed and often verified through several different methods. this verification is of the utmost importance in our papers. the majority of the scietific community is not going to even consider theories that cannot be observed. even our observations are under tight scrutiny. whenever we submit a paper the reviewers always want more evidence in addition to the observation and supporting evidence we provide. before they will publish that shit they want to be sure it can't be explained by anything else, including experimenter fault

    physics is playing a whole new ballgame where all this is concerned, and again this type of philosophical argument will be thrust to the forefront of where quantum theory is taking science.
    i've heard of this 'direct impact of observer upon experiment' phenomena in that wave particle shit.. i'l be interested to see how the reconcile all their data. or if they can..

    it all reminds me of a conversation i was having with my boss a while back. these embryos were exhibiting a phenotype that was causing a lack of definition in the development of one of their organs. i would take pictures of it, but it was so hard to 'show' because the defintion was lacking, and in fact a cynical oberver of the photo could claim you couldn't see the definition because it was just out of focus. so it begged the point, and i asked my boss "how do i take a picture of something that isn't there?"
    Last edited: May 19, 2006
  5. the.crooked

    the.crooked Veteran Member

    Joined: Apr 7, 2006 Messages: 5,864 Likes Received: 183
    i cant believe you read that unformatted. wow. im propping you for that.

    i have to say symbols. if there was anyone i expected to read this. it would have been you, mams or fermentor.

    i wanna say thanks to for yall's input when i decided to switch from physics to philsophy. It gave me a lot to thank about. It was before the board switch. i was shape. dont know if ya remember..

    ILL come back and state some other things since this is actually gonna be a real thread.

    ill explain the whole role of the observer much more when i return
  6. MAR

    MAR Veteran Member

    Joined: Jun 2, 2005 Messages: 7,264 Likes Received: 256
  7. El Mamerro

    El Mamerro Dirty Dozen Crew

    Joined: Feb 4, 2001 Messages: 14,718 Likes Received: 225
    Haven't been able to read it yet, but I should over the weekend.
  8. The Man with the Answers

    The Man with the Answers Member

    Joined: Apr 8, 2006 Messages: 781 Likes Received: 2

    not me? I prob have the most extensive scientific/philosophical background on here...
  9. Smart

    Smart Dirty Dozen Crew

    Joined: Apr 14, 2000 Messages: 17,017 Likes Received: 177
  10. The Man with the Answers

    The Man with the Answers Member

    Joined: Apr 8, 2006 Messages: 781 Likes Received: 2
    anyway, I find your article irrelevant since it misses the big picture. we def need a philosophy thread, but my question is, are people heer familar with Husserl, heidegger, Rorty etc? and more importantly "phenomonology"? I think most people don't get what I'm saying cuz I mostly argue everything using the phenomological methodolgy to understand being....this includes everything from natioanl defense, to baseball to philosophy...
  11. The Man with the Answers

    The Man with the Answers Member

    Joined: Apr 8, 2006 Messages: 781 Likes Received: 2

    is that in refernce to me? you still haven't told me what you would prefer me to quote instaed to back up arguements...
  12. Smart

    Smart Dirty Dozen Crew

    Joined: Apr 14, 2000 Messages: 17,017 Likes Received: 177
    ANY unalterable database
  13. The Man with the Answers

    The Man with the Answers Member

    Joined: Apr 8, 2006 Messages: 781 Likes Received: 2
    well, all databases are alterable... but i understand what you mean... I find alot of iffy info on there... but you must take everything with a grain of salt and understand whats going on, not the exact details of what is going on...

    Usta mostly read encarta, but switched to wikipedia because they have way more etymological info than encarta...

    and I know its hard to prove on here, but I do know what I am talking about...I find wiki is the best and fastest resource for quick quotes... but one should always look for original sources.

    because of the controversy over wikipedia, I'm reluctant to quote it professionally. A few weeks ago i was looking for a good synposis of the sumartra quake... I found wiki had the best although I had to edit it after fact checking some statements... but they had the best laymans explanation, yeah?
    Last edited: May 20, 2006
  14. the.crooked

    the.crooked Veteran Member

    Joined: Apr 7, 2006 Messages: 5,864 Likes Received: 183
    Look dick. I didn't start this thread. It was spam for a gallery opening. I hijacked it and posted a rediculous paper I wrote for a class. I didn't expect anyone to read it. Thus the reason I left it unformatted and without the referrences.

    Yes, I do understand phenomenology. I was responding to a specific prompt within a class. So fuck off with your pretension. People like you are the reason most people think philosophy is for elitists buffants. I moved into this area from a very different position, and the most contention I've had with it is avoiding the preconceptions people have about me as a philosophy major. I do this stuff because I enjoy it. As for your response to the relevance of what I said because I ignored phenomenology: I am sorry I didn't include the references to the paper I didn't expect anyone to read. Let me give them to you.

    van Frassen, Bas C. "Constructive Empiricism." The Scientific Image. 1980.
    Reprinted in Readings in the Philosophy of Science. Theodore Schick. McGraw Hill 1999.

    Hacking, Ian. "Experimentation and Scientific Realism." Readings in the Philosophy of Science. Theodore Schick. McGraw Hill. 1999

    Churchland, Paul. "The Anti-Realist Epistemology of van Frassen's The Scientific Image."
    Readings in the Philosophy of Science. McGraw Hill. 1999

    I answer this way because there is a specific argument as to the dismissal of positivism, instrumentalism and phenomenalism within the arguments discussed in the articles. Read it and fuck off.

    The reason I didn't name you in that list is cus I have no idea who you are. Not that these people know me personally or I them. But at least I have had some report with them on here. I can only speak to the knowledge of which I have about anyone one person. So, you wanna validate why I should take you seriously? Stop being so fucking pretensious and discuss things. There are very smart people on this board other than yourself, if you in fact are. Do not discredit nor disrespect them by supposing that we do not understand you.
  15. The Man with the Answers

    The Man with the Answers Member

    Joined: Apr 8, 2006 Messages: 781 Likes Received: 2
    hmmmm....I was just trying to start a convo on phenomology.. no one dicusses it on here...

    but personally calling me "pretentious" is the funniest thing I ever heard... if you even knew me, lol... but majoring in philoshphy? bad idea

    but seriously, don't get your panties in a bunch.... I think your paper was written well, i'm not dissing that, I'm just saying I disagree with the whole idee of it