(Philosophy of science videos) Laws of nature + After the end of evidence

#1
Laws of the Universe - Are the laws of nature just human constructs?

VIDEO: https://iai.tv/assets/videos/linked/HTLG...RSE.SD.mp4

INTRO: Since Newton, we have assumed that the universe is governed by unchanging laws, and Stephen Hawking once even argued that we were close to uncovering them in their entirety. But are these laws really eternal features of the universe? If so, how do they emerge and how do they act? Or are they merely human ways of codifying the world, which remains somehow unknowable and inexplicable?

The Panel: Nobel Prize-winning physicist Gerard 't Hooft joins Helen Beebee, Manchester's Samuel Hall Professor of Philosophy and President of the Aristotelian Society, and UNC-Chapel Hill cosmologist and professor of physics Laura Mersini-Houghton explore the laws of nature.

PAGE: https://iai.tv/video/the-laws-of-the-universe



After the End of Evidence - Massimo Pigliucci on empiricism's end-date

VIDEO: https://iai.tv/assets/videos/linked/HTLG...nce_SD.mp4

INTRO: Has modern physics outgrown the need for evidence? New York philosopher Massimo Pigliucci argues for a new age of explanation.

PAGE: https://iai.tv/video/after-the-end-of-evidence



The New Enlightenment - Can we reclaim objectivity after relativism?

VIDEO: https://iai.tv/assets/videos/linked/HTLG...ent_SD.mp4

INTRO: 'Dare to know' was the radical rallying cry of the Enlightenment. Since then philosophers from Nietzsche to Derrida have argued there are limits to knowledge so profound that truth is an impossible goal. Have relativism and postmodernism made the Enlightenment dream irrelevant? Or can we forge a New Enlightenment that provides us with direction and is equally radical and exciting as the original?

The Panel: Editor of The Philosophers' Magazine Julian Baggini, Dartmouth University philosophy professor Amie Thomasson and post-postmodern philosopher Hilary Lawson investigate the Enlightenment.

PAGE: https://iai.tv/video/the-new-enlightenment
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#2
There's no reason to believe that human constructs could prove so consistent when compared to a universe of changing laws.

An argument against evidence is an argument against the entirety of the hard sciences.

Relativism and postmodernism have never laid a finger on Enlightenment values.
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#3
I have to admit that I haven't watched the videos. (Which feature philosophers and physicists that I generally like and respect. The others I haven't heard of.)

But that has never stopped me from expressing an opinion.

Quote:INTRO: Since Newton, we have assumed that the universe is governed by unchanging laws, and Stephen Hawking once even argued that we were close to uncovering them in their entirety.

Hubris.

Quote:But are these laws really eternal features of the universe? If so, how do they emerge and how do they act? Or are they merely human ways of codifying the world, which remains somehow unknowable and inexplicable?

I think that they are both of those things (in a way). Physics is a human construction that seeks to model how physical reality seems to us to behave. So in one sense it is something we made. But in another sense it captures and reflects something beyond itself.

Physics isn't just literary fiction, it isn't pure creative anything-goes. You really can use the mathematics of theoretical physics to predict what future observations will be. And quite often those future observations are almost precisely what physicists predicted they will be.

So how is that possible unless the mathematics is somehow isomorphic with some formal aspect of reality? (The no-miracles argument and ontic structural realism.)

Quote:INTRO: Has modern physics outgrown the need for evidence? New York philosopher Massimo Pigliucci argues for a new age of explanation.

I have a lot of respect for Massimo Pigliucci, but (without watching his video) have to disagree with that idea. Physics still needs evidence, in the absence of evidence physics runs the risk of turning into speculative metaphysics.

I think that contemporary theoretical physics is increasingly moving in that direction. The always outspoken Sabine Hossenfelder, author of the recent Lost in Math seems to think so. The problem seems to be that many recent theoretical physicists proposed theories based on their mathematical elegance and their potential ability to solve various outstanding problems. (String-theory, supersymmetry, and whatnot.) The only problem with that, is that experimental evidence that might be expected to confirm them doesn't seem to.

https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/cro...-thinking/

She quotes the famous physicist Frank Wilczek, who appears to agree with her: "But I don't think we should compromise on this idea of post-empirical physics. I think that's appalling, really appalling... If there was any bit of experimental evidence that was decisive and in favor of the theory, you wouldn't be hearing these arguments. You wouldn't. Nobody would care. It's just a fallback. It's giving up and declaring victory. I don't like that at all."

http://www.math.columbia.edu/~woit/wordpress/?p=10314

Sabine Hossenfelder's chapter titles are something to behold. A few examples:

Chapter 6: The Incomprehensible Comprehensibility of Quantum Mechanics -- In which I ponder the difference between math and magic.

Chapter 8: Space, the Final Frontier -- In which I try to understand a string theorist and almost succeed.

Chapter 9: The Universe, All There Is, and the Rest -- In which I admire the many ways to explain why nobody sees the particles we invent.

Chapter 10: Knowledge is Power -- In which I conclude the world would be a better place if everyone listened to me.

(I can't help it. I just gotta like this woman.)
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#4
(Jan 5, 2019 07:22 AM)Yazata Wrote: I have to admit that I haven't watched the videos. (Which feature philosophers and physicists that I generally like and respect. The others I haven't heard of.)

But that has never stopped me from expressing an opinion.

Quote:INTRO: Since Newton, we have assumed that the universe is governed by unchanging laws, and Stephen Hawking once even argued that we were close to uncovering them in their entirety.

Hubris.
Haven't watched either. That these notions are even contemplated seems a colossal waste of time.
I would agree that Hawking displayed hubris there, but not that it applies to our assumption of unchanging universal laws of physics (which you may not have meant).
Unchanging universal laws can exist that we may not ever have the means to ever fully comprehend. Even existing physics sets some hard limits on what we can ever expect to know.

Quote:
Quote:But are these laws really eternal features of the universe? If so, how do they emerge and how do they act? Or are they merely human ways of codifying the world, which remains somehow unknowable and inexplicable?

I think that they are both of those things (in a way). Physics is a human construction that seeks to model how physical reality seems to us to behave. So in one sense it is something we made. But in another sense it captures and reflects something beyond itself.

Physics isn't just literary fiction, it isn't pure creative anything-goes. You really can use the mathematics of theoretical physics to predict what future observations will be. And quite often those future observations are almost precisely what physicists predicted they will be.

So how is that possible unless the mathematics is somehow isomorphic with some formal aspect of reality? (The no-miracles argument and ontic structural realism.)
That's true. It's just a far cry from saying that something wholly of our own creation could somehow mathematically tell us something hitherto unknown that we then find when we look at the universe. That would require not only some notion of consciousness creating reality but of a single consciousness doing so, as opposed to the collective. A rather solipsist notion.

Quote:
Quote:INTRO: Has modern physics outgrown the need for evidence? New York philosopher Massimo Pigliucci argues for a new age of explanation.

I have a lot of respect for Massimo Pigliucci, but (without watching his video) have to disagree with that idea. Physics still needs evidence, in the absence of evidence physics runs the risk of turning into speculative metaphysics.

I think that contemporary theoretical physics is increasingly moving in that direction. The always outspoken Sabine Hossenfelder, author of the recent Lost in Math seems to think so. The problem seems to be that many recent theoretical physicists proposed theories based on their mathematical elegance and their potential ability to solve various outstanding problems. The only problem with that, is that experimental evidence doesn't seem to confirm them.  

https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/cro...-thinking/

She quotes the famous physicist Frank Wilczek, who agrees: "But I don't think we should compromise on this idea of post-empirical physics. I think that's appalling, really appalling... If there was any bit of experimental evidence that was decisive and in favor of the theory, you wouldn't be hearing these arguments. You wouldn't. Nobody would care. It's just a fallback. It's giving up and declaring victory. I don't like that at all."

http://www.math.columbia.edu/~woit/wordpress/?p=10314
Yeah, I've long had a problem with scientists and/or science journalists accepting their favorite theory as reality when there are no predictive differences among competing theories. People seem to accept 14 dimensions and an infinite number of bubble universes just because the math looks promising, but not because any experiment or observation can actually verify them. And often, our most well-verified theories state we can't even hope to verify them. The best we can hope for is speculation and a vague dream of stumbling across some new physics.

One of these days, physicists will have to learn to be more practical again. Likely when the economy or the taxpayers' good graces have dried up.
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#5

Yaz: "I have to admit that I haven't watched the videos."

Syne: "Haven't watched either."


In the video discussion about laws... Helen Beebee is the one who takes the familiar empiricist or anti-metaphysics stance that laws are just the codification of non-absolute regularities. Laura Mersini-Houghton is the apparent Platonist who reifies laws that are universal/absolute but considers them prior in rank to space/time. And Gerard 't Hooft is maybe something in between the two. (i.e., Our current formulaic descriptions are not necessarily perfect accounts of final laws which he does consider would be "real/concrete" somehow within a cosmos that nevertheless does not appear to be upfront computer hardware with programming installed in the latter).

~
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#6
Well that just sounds like splitting hairs. There's no practical difference in their takes. A Platonist still has to resort to empiricism if they want to show that their concept of number has any bearing on the physical universe. Whether those numbers exist a priori is a metaphysical, rather than a practical, question. IOW, this has no affect on how any science is done. It's one of those questions that we cannot even fathom the tools necessary to answer, and as such, it can only be speculation.
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#7
(Jan 5, 2019 09:23 AM)C C Wrote: In the video discussion about laws... Helen Beebee is the one who takes the familiar empiricist or anti-metaphysics stance that laws are just the codification of non-absolute regularities.

There's an ambiguity there, around which all the rest revolves. Does the word 'laws' refer to the 'codification' itself, or to the 'regularities' in reality that the codification presumably models?

It sounds like Helen Beebee may or may not be opting to interpret 'laws' in the first way, equating laws with the equations that physicists dream up and scrawl on chalkboards. (There's some justification for that.)

Quote:Laura Mersini-Houghton is the apparent Platonist who reifies laws that are universal/absolute but considers them prior in rank to space/time.

She's apparently opting for using the word 'law' in the second way, to name the 'regularities' alternative, whatever it is about reality that the 'codification' (the mathematical formulation on the chalkboard) captures. (There's some justification for that too.)

The 'prior in rank to space/time' bit seems to be a speculative metaphysical elaboration on that. It's a metaphysical elaboration that I think is shared by lots of theoretical physicists. Lawrence Krauss certainly seems to assume it in his 'something from nothing' speculations.

Quote:And Gerard 't Hooft is maybe something in between the two. (i.e., Our current formulaic descriptions are not necessarily perfect accounts of final laws which he does consider would be "real/concrete" somehow...

I think that's probably the best way to look at it.
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#8
Philosophy of time should play a role in scientific realism about laws (this to be or not to be for them).

Presentism would seem to either entail or cater to governing principles being more than formulaic descriptions. From the standpoint of their managing and maintaining the internal consistency of a generative process that is outputting ephemeral states of the universe which replace/annihilate each other in succession. (I.e., only a specific "now" ever exists, not the other cosmic states prior and subsequent to it which only have evidence of ever having been or yet to be via retention of patterns in the current environment and the psychological inference and expectation of future changes.)

Whereas eternalism would seem to either entail or cater to principles being general regularities which are abstracted from the repeating patterns exhibited in the co-existing differences of the universe from its temporal starting point to whatever version of its temporal end (no further structural differences). Vaguely akin to discovering how railroad tracks are predictably following a system of where they turn and go in a gigantic amusement park called "Train World". But there are no "rules" literally governing the railroad tracks since all their twists and turns exist simultaneously as a whole rather than being produced and then obliterated one after another. Or in a certain sense the pattern of the tracks is "the Law" itself as a material, structural entity.

Possibilism (growing block-universe) might entail or cater to a mingling of both views, where the "past" (as a sequence of co-existing differences) contributes to restricting and "setting" those future states of the universe to come which will be added to and endure with the former ones (the past block pressures newcomers to be coherent with it). Possibilism might even leave a door open a crack for "laws" being mutable or gradually changing over time, if as in presentism there is higher-level management of the former process for its addition/growth of a higher dimensional structure/continuum. (An alternative assertion of magic or that the lawfulness slash reliability of the process just brutely happens -- would still equate to a metaphysics of immaterial principles, anyway, since anything prior to space would not be "a place" filled with mechanistic interactions between "extended objects" that have "locations". That's what Laura Mersini-Houghton was probably unsuccessfully trying to get across when addressing the host's reactions to her apparent Platonism.)

~
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#9
Presentism doesn't necessarily entail absolute principles, because the present could merely give the appearance of a consistent history and universal laws. The appearance doesn't really speak to the natural laws. It doesn't assume a reality to anything that cannot be observed.

Eternalism would be more apt to entail absolute principles, as it presumes a universal structure of space and time that presumably exists regardless of being observed in the present moment. It assumes a reality to something that cannot be observed.

Possiblism is indeed the middle ground. It presumes a real past, with possible absolute laws, that cannot be observed and an apparent future, with possibly mutable laws, that can't.


But technically, any of these can support empiricism, Platonism, or a mix.
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