Magical thinking in science and philosophy

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Atla
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Magical thinking in science and philosophy

Post by Atla » January 10th, 2020, 4:27 pm

Here are my 3 favourites (there are more, but these take the prize in my opinion):

1. Strong emergence. We get something out of nothing, for example: we get mind out of matter; we get qualia out of the complexity of matter; we get the Big Bang and the entire universe out of nothing and so on.

People employ the technique of handwaving to demonstrate how something extra emeeeerges out of nothing.

2. Encoded information. Shannon information is a dimensionless abstract concept created in the last century. So then people employed the technique of the reification fallacy to treat information as a newly discovered thing that exists in addition to matter. So now bits of information are encoded 'in' matter and so on, effectively duplicating the universe.

3. Classical realm vs quantum realm. People employed the technique of shut up and calculate so they could sweep the problems under the carpet.
So if I zoom out and squint this way, it's all 'real' and it's the classical world. If I zoom in and squint that way, none of it is 'real' and it's the quantum world.

I don't get it, why are such fallacies still so mainstream?

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Terrapin Station
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Re: Magical thinking in science and philosophy

Post by Terrapin Station » January 10th, 2020, 8:17 pm

Matter isn't nothing. Matter necessarily has properties.

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Re: Magical thinking in science and philosophy

Post by Present awareness » January 10th, 2020, 9:15 pm

Atla wrote:
January 10th, 2020, 4:27 pm
Here are my 3 favourites (there are more, but these take the prize in my opinion):

1. Strong emergence. We get something out of nothing, for example: we get mind out of matter; we get qualia out of the complexity of matter; we get the Big Bang and the entire universe out of nothing and so on.

People employ the technique of handwaving to demonstrate how something extra emeeeerges out of nothing.

2. Encoded information. Shannon information is a dimensionless abstract concept created in the last century. So then people employed the technique of the reification fallacy to treat information as a newly discovered thing that exists in addition to matter. So now bits of information are encoded 'in' matter and so on, effectively duplicating the universe.

3. Classical realm vs quantum realm. People employed the technique of shut up and calculate so they could sweep the problems under the carpet.
So if I zoom out and squint this way, it's all 'real' and it's the classical world. If I zoom in and squint that way, none of it is 'real' and it's the quantum world.

I don't get it, why are such fallacies still so mainstream?
Something from nothing is not a logical proposition, so like you say, magic would have to be involved. The three most common ideas on how the universe came to be are:
1. The universe appeared out of nothing with a Big Bang
2. God created the universe
3. The universe was always here

Number 3 seems most logical to me, since the present moment is always here and everything exists in the present. Number 1 doesn’t make much sense and number two has the problem of whom created God?
Even though you can see me, I might not be here.

Atla
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Re: Magical thinking in science and philosophy

Post by Atla » January 11th, 2020, 1:34 am

Terrapin Station wrote:
January 10th, 2020, 8:17 pm
Matter isn't nothing. Matter necessarily has properties.
Of course matter isn't nothing, but matter is its properties.
When we think of matter plus the properties it has (the information content of it), we are talking about two things so we have cognitively duplicated the universe.

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Re: Magical thinking in science and philosophy

Post by Steve3007 » January 11th, 2020, 6:02 am

I don't agree with the way that any of those 3 concepts have been characterized.

1. Emergence is simply the idea that there are properties of complex systems which cannot be extrapolated from consideration of their individual parts - from reductionism. This clearly appears to be the case. For example, human beings seem to have minds. Human brains appear to be composed of atoms. If that appearance changes in the future, I might think differently. But for now, it seems reasonable to suppose that mind is an emergent property of matter.

2, Encoded information. Obviously information exists. The Windows Operating System on this computer that I'm using exists. But it is not matter. So if you think it doesn't, you'll have to explain to me exactly what it means to you for something to objectively "exist" and we'll see if we disagree as to the definition of that word.

3. This seems to me to be a garbled account of what was meant by the short, pithy phrase "shut up and calculate". I don't see how you're trying to relate it to some idea that quantum and classical physics are different realms. You'd have to explain more.

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Re: Magical thinking in science and philosophy

Post by Terrapin Station » January 11th, 2020, 6:15 am

Atla wrote:
January 11th, 2020, 1:34 am
Terrapin Station wrote:
January 10th, 2020, 8:17 pm
Matter isn't nothing. Matter necessarily has properties.
Of course matter isn't nothing, but matter is its properties.
When we think of matter plus the properties it has (the information content of it), we are talking about two things so we have cognitively duplicated the universe.
I wasn't saying that it's different than properties, I was just using the common language for this. Otherwise I almost always wind up having to explain the less common language, or folks just ignore it.

You're not addressing the point, though. Mental properties are simply properties of matter, just like all other properties.

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Re: Magical thinking in science and philosophy

Post by Steve3007 » January 11th, 2020, 6:17 am

Atla wrote:Strong emergence. We get something out of nothing,
If you regard this as magical thinking I presume that means you think we don't get something out of nothing.

What is your evidence for supposing that we don't get something out of nothing - Is it logical or empirical? i.e. do you conclude this by deduction purely by thinking about it, in the absence of any sensations, or do you conclude it by induction, by spotting patterns in sensations?
So if I zoom out and squint this way, it's all 'real' and it's the classical world. If I zoom in and squint that way, none of it is 'real' and it's the quantum world.
The act that you refer to as "zooming out and squinting" is a colloquial way of talking about reducing the range and accuracy of observations. Laws of physics are models, extrapolated from finite subsets of all possible observations. New observations, at new accuracy levels, are made as time goes by. Where the new observations don't fit the old model, a new model is created which fits all of the observations so far made and which includes the old model as a special case. i.e. you can derive the old model from the new one by making simplifying assumptions. ("assume the horse is spherical").

So Quantum Mechanics includes Classical physics as a special case. The laws of Classical Mechanics and Classical Electromagnetism can be derived from the laws of Quantum Mechanics by making simplifying assumptions.

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Re: Magical thinking in science and philosophy

Post by Atla » January 11th, 2020, 6:26 am

Steve3007 wrote:
January 11th, 2020, 6:02 am
1. Emergence is simply the idea that there are properties of complex systems which cannot be extrapolated from consideration of their individual parts - from reductionism. This clearly appears to be the case. For example, human beings seem to have minds. Human brains appear to be composed of atoms. If that appearance changes in the future, I might think differently. But for now, it seems reasonable to suppose that mind is an emergent property of matter.
You seem to be mixing weak and strong emergence, I can't really make heads or tails of this. Mind in the physical sense would be weak emergence, and mind in the mental sense would be strong emergence.

Weak emergence (these emergent properties) can be explained by taking into account all the actual parts, not just cherrypicking some parts. Also, we have to keep in mind that the universe has no known parts. So what appears to you to be clearly the case, is probably just magical thinking.

2, Encoded information. Obviously information exists. The Windows Operating System on this computer that I'm using exists. But it is not matter. So if you think it doesn't, you'll have to explain to me exactly what it means to you for something to objectively "exist" and we'll see if we disagree as to the definition of that word.
That's factually completely wrong. Windows is a software, and a software is always a part of the hardware. Software is just electrons flying around and such, depends on how the hardware is manufactured. There is no such thing as information by itself.

3. This seems to me to be a garbled account of what was meant by the short, pithy phrase "shut up and calculate". I don't see how you're trying to relate it to some idea that quantum and classical physics are different realms. You'd have to explain more.
The point is that they usually divide reality into the classical world and the quantum world, and then try to figure out how these two relate to each other. But there is only one world.

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Re: Magical thinking in science and philosophy

Post by Atla » January 11th, 2020, 6:29 am

Terrapin Station wrote:
January 11th, 2020, 6:15 am
Atla wrote:
January 11th, 2020, 1:34 am

Of course matter isn't nothing, but matter is its properties.
When we think of matter plus the properties it has (the information content of it), we are talking about two things so we have cognitively duplicated the universe.
I wasn't saying that it's different than properties, I was just using the common language for this. Otherwise I almost always wind up having to explain the less common language, or folks just ignore it.

You're not addressing the point, though. Mental properties are simply properties of matter, just like all other properties.
I didn't know that that's your point. So in that case, where does the Standard model for example list mental properties as properties of matter?

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Re: Magical thinking in science and philosophy

Post by Steve3007 » January 11th, 2020, 6:33 am

So in that case, where does the Standard model for example list mental properties as properties of matter?
If the Standard Model could explicitly do that then obviously mental properties would not be classed as emergent. The Standard Model can't even explicitly and precisely describe complex molecules. It's Physics, not stamp collecting.

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Re: Magical thinking in science and philosophy

Post by Steve3007 » January 11th, 2020, 6:39 am

Atla wrote:That's factually completely wrong. Windows is a software, and a software is always a part of the hardware. Software is just electrons flying around and such, depends on how the hardware is manufactured. There is no such thing as information by itself.
If my proposition "The operating system of my computer exists" is factually completely wrong, the only reason I can think of for my error is that I've misunderstood the meaning of the word "exists". Could you tell me your understanding of that word to help me out of my ignorance? Do you propose that the only thing we're allowed to think of as existing is the thing we've postulated, in order to describe and predict our sensations, that we call "mass"?

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Re: Magical thinking in science and philosophy

Post by Atla » January 11th, 2020, 6:39 am

Steve3007 wrote:
January 11th, 2020, 6:17 am
If you regard this as magical thinking I presume that means you think we don't get something out of nothing.

What is your evidence for supposing that we don't get something out of nothing - Is it logical or empirical? i.e. do you conclude this by deduction purely by thinking about it, in the absence of any sensations, or do you conclude it by induction, by spotting patterns in sensations?
So you don't consider getting something out of nothing to be magic?
There are no known cases of getting something out of nothing so what evidence are you asking me for?
The act that you refer to as "zooming out and squinting" is a colloquial way of talking about reducing the range and accuracy of observations. Laws of physics are models, extrapolated from finite subsets of all possible observations. New observations, at new accuracy levels, are made as time goes by. Where the new observations don't fit the old model, a new model is created which fits all of the observations so far made and which includes the old model as a special case. i.e. you can derive the old model from the new one by making simplifying assumptions. ("assume the horse is spherical").

So Quantum Mechanics includes Classical physics as a special case. The laws of Classical Mechanics and Classical Electromagnetism can be derived from the laws of Quantum Mechanics by making simplifying assumptions.
Umm no. It's about when or why or how things behace classically (like being in one place) or superpositionally (like for example being in 2 places at once or everywhere at the same time etc.)

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Re: Magical thinking in science and philosophy

Post by Atla » January 11th, 2020, 6:40 am

Steve3007 wrote:
January 11th, 2020, 6:39 am
Atla wrote:That's factually completely wrong. Windows is a software, and a software is always a part of the hardware. Software is just electrons flying around and such, depends on how the hardware is manufactured. There is no such thing as information by itself.
If my proposition "The operating system of my computer exists" is factually completely wrong, the only reason I can think of for my error is that I've misunderstood the meaning of the word "exists". Could you tell me your understanding of that word to help me out of my ignorance? Do you propose that the only thing we're allowed to think of as existing is the thing we've postulated, in order to describe and predict our sensations, that we call "mass"?
That's not what you said. You said that Windows isn't matter. But of course it is.

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Re: Magical thinking in science and philosophy

Post by Steve3007 » January 11th, 2020, 6:42 am

Atla wrote:So you don't consider getting something out of nothing to be magic?
There are no known cases of getting something out of nothing so what evidence are you asking me for?
Ah, so your answer to my question is that your evidence is empirical? Derived from sensations?

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Re: Magical thinking in science and philosophy

Post by Steve3007 » January 11th, 2020, 6:44 am

Umm no. It's about when or why or how things behace classically (like being in one place) or superpositionally (like for example being in 2 places at once or everywhere at the same time etc.)
Things don't "behave classically" or behave quantumly (new word I've invented). See my description of the way that models work.

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