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Occam’s Razor (by contrast with LOI, LNC and LEM as well as W-PSR) is not an absolute principle of correct reasoning

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Long-time visitors or regulars at UD will know that (along with StephenB who drew the significance to my attention . . . ) I champion the idea of self-evident, plumb-line first principles of right reason:

Laws_of_logic

That is, if we contemplate say a bright red ball on a table, we see a world-partition:

W = { A | ~A }

. . . which leads to manifesting the classic laws of identity [A is A not non-A], non contradiction [(A AND ~A) = 0] , and excluded middle . . . this, best expressed as (A X-OR ~A) = 1.

red_ballLikewise, I have argued for a weak-form principle of sufficient reason.

Contemplating that ball on the table, it is natural to ask, how it is there, hoping to make sense of its existence. Thence, we can apply:

W-PSR: For each entity A, we may freely ask and inquire as to why A is, seeking an answer.

Obviously, we may simply set out on the inquiry so this is undeniably self-evident.

It does not declare a view as to what we will find, but it is patent that we find entities that are contingent, and others that are necessary, of possible beings. Where, there are also candidate beings such as a square circle that — due to contradiction of core, defining characteristics — cannot be realised.

Such are impossible beings:

One and the same object cannot be circular and squarish in the same sense and place at the same time, i.e. a square circle is impossible
One and the same object cannot be circular and squarish in the same
sense and place at the same time, i.e. a square circle is impossible

Contingent beings, of course, depend for origin and/or continued existence on the presence of enabling, on/off factors . . . formally termed necessary causal factors. A fire is a good illustration as each of heat, fuel, oxidiser and an unimpaired chain reaction are necessary for it to begin or be sustained. Indeed in such a case there must be a sufficient cluster of causal factors, and such will include at least all necessary, enabling, on/off ones that contribute to its existence:

Fire_tetrahedron

By contrast, there are possible beings that have no dependence on such factors and so will exist in any possible state of affairs or world. The truth stated in 2 + 3 = 5 is such a case. It never began, it cannot cease, there are no circumstances on which it will not hold. That is, necessary beings are real, and highly relevant, including numbers, necessarily true propositions and more. Where of course, the Eternal God is a serious candidate to be such (by sharp contrast with flying spaghetti monsters, unicorns or perfect tropical islands etc).

So, contrary to common dismissive views, we do have grounds for accepting first principles of reason and to ponder issues of possible vs impossible being and contingent vs necessary being. Where also, a genuine nothing . . . non-being . . . can have no causal powers so if ever there had been an utter nothing, that would forever obtain.

A direct implication is, that if something — a common world:

The Big Bang timeline -- a world with a beginning
The Big Bang timeline — a world with a beginning

. . . now is, something always was; a necessary being.

(The debates in and around UD on origins, in the end, are about what that necessary being is. Where, given the strong evidence for the finitely remote origin of the only actually observed cosmos, we have excellent reason to see it had a beginning and so is contingent and caused. With the demise of the steady-state universe model, we have had to face implications of a cosmos with a beginning.)

Now, in this context, I need to make a strong emphasis, regarding Occam’s razor (OR):

Occam’s Razor is NOT a first principle of right reason, but instead is a heuristic for economy in reasoning for finite, fallible minds forced to decide and act on best available and accessible limited and costly information, through bounded rationality, with possibility of error.

In a world besotted with scientism, it will help to show this by concrete example.

So, let us ponder models of the solar system c. 1600:

solsys_contdrs_1600As I noted in my remarks in the caption at IOSE:

The three main contenders c. 1600, and how the situation would have looked to Tycho Brahe. (NB: This is a case where the “simplest” model and one that fitted evidence available at the time, was wrong. An improved, simplified version of a more complex model turned out to be correct. Though, final direct empirical support in key cases took until the 1800’s.) Brahe hired Kepler to carry out mathematics to sort out the orbit of Mars, and in the course of his labours to sort it out, Kepler concluded that (I:) planets — including the Earth — orbit the Sun in elliptical orbits with the sun at one focus. (II:) The speeds of moving planets vary so that the line from the Sun to a given planet sweeps equal areas in equal times, and (III:) the square of orbital period of planets varies as the cube of the semi-major axis of the orbital ellipses. (NB: This actually PROMOTED Earth into the heavens!) Newton later showed that Kepler’s laws are consequences of universal gravitation, where F = G* Mm/r^2.

That is, it is demonstrably not always true that the “simplest” — itself a slippery notion — model or explanation will turn out correct or closest to correct.

Instead, we would be well advised to seek balanced models which address relevant factors economically and exhibit empirical reliability. Where, the fundamental underlying model is the form of induction that can be termed abductive inference to best current explanation in light of (a) factual adequacy, (b) coherence, and (c) powerful explanatory elegance that is at the balance point between being an ad hoc patchwork and overly simplistic.

One more point.

Given that this blog addresses Origins Science issues in the midst of a hot controversy, we must emphasise the vera causa principle:

VCP: serious candidate causal explanations for remote reaches of space or the unobservable past (recent or deep) should only consider as serious candidates those factors or clusters of factors that are observed to have adequate capacity to cause effects materially similar to traces of the unobservable reaches of space and time.

Newton championed much the same in his four principles of reason, as a basis for reasoning on matters astronomical, and Lyell and Darwin hoped to apply such to geology and biology.

The sting in this, of course, is that FSCO/I is a common phenomenon, and this includes the world of life. But, to the infuriation of many critics of design thought, it has exactly one commonly observed source: not blind chance and/or mechanical necessity, but intelligently directed configuration, aka design. And like unto it, fine tuned co-adaptation of components or facets of an entity that enable interactive functionality also has just the same only observed source.

And so, we see that — contrary to how it is often put forward — Occam’s Razor is not a foundational principle of reasoning, and needs to be counter-balanced by genuine first principles of reason and considerations of inference to best current explanation in light of strengths and weaknesses of serious candidate models. END

 

PS: It will probably help to look at Science as an ideal of praxis, from a design perspective in light of concerns over Origins Science:

. . . let us give a “rough working definition” of science as it should be (recognising that we will often fall short):

science, at its best, is the unfettered — but ethically and intellectually responsible — progressive, observational evidence-led pursuit of the truth about our world (i.e. an accurate and reliable description and explanation of it), based on:

a: collecting, recording, indexing, collating and reporting accurate, reliable (and where feasible, repeatable) empirical — real-world, on the ground — observations and measurements,

b: inference to best current — thus, always provisionalabductive explanation of the observed facts,

c: thus producing hypotheses, laws, theories and models, using  logical-mathematical analysis, intuition and creative, rational imagination [[including Einstein’s favourite gedankenexperiment, i.e thought experiments],

d: continual empirical testing through further experiments, observations and measurement; and,

e: uncensored but mutually respectful discussion on the merits of fact, alternative assumptions and logic among the informed. (And, especially in wide-ranging areas that cut across traditional dividing lines between fields of study, or on controversial subjects, “the informed” is not to be confused with the eminent members of the guild of scholars and their publicists or popularisers who dominate a particular field at any given time.)

 As a result, science enables us to ever more effectively (albeit provisionally) describe, explain, understand, predict and influence or control objects, phenomena and processes in our world. 

In addition, origins questions are freighted with major consequences for our worldviews, and are focused on matters that are inherently beyond our direct observation. So, since we simply were not here to see the deep past of origins, we are compelled to reconstruct it on more or less plausible models driven by inference to best explanation. This means that in origins investigations, our results and findings are inevitably even more provisional than are those of operational science, where we can directly cross check models against observation. That further means that origins science findings are inherently more prone to controversy and debate than more conventional theories in science.

33 Replies to “Occam’s Razor (by contrast with LOI, LNC and LEM as well as W-PSR) is not an absolute principle of correct reasoning

  1. 1
    kairosfocus says:

    Given the tone and substance of some recent objections, it seems we need to revisit self-evident first principles of right reason, and to particularly underscore that Occam’s Razor is not such. KF

  2. 2
    Zachriel says:

    kairosfocus: it is demonstrably not always true that the “simplest” — itself a slippery notion — model or explanation will turn out correct or closest to correct.

    Occam’s razor doesn’t directly concern the simplest explanation per se, but the vacuousness of extraneous entities. If you have two formulations: F = M * A and F = M * A + Janus , the latter has an extraneous and unnecessary entity, so the former is preferred.

    Numquam ponenda est pluralitas sine necessitate

  3. 3
    Joe says:

    Occam’s Razor welcomes Intelligent Design- it’s an evidence thing and unguided evolution just cannot muster any.

  4. 4
    kairosfocus says:

    Z, hypotheses ought not be multiplied without necessity is an appeal to parsimony or simplicity, is widely acknowledged as such and accordingly I have given an historically important illustration of why we should not expand it into a general principle of reasoning on the imagination that it is a principle of truth-seeking. KF

    PS: Do you have a clear case of — not mechanical necessity, but FSCO/I such as text in posts in this thread or that in a 6500 reel or an oil refinery — on observation coming about by blind chance and mechanical necessity? If not the posing of a case of mechanical necessity rather than FSCO/I is a strawman caricature.

  5. 5
    Zachriel says:

    kairosfocus: Z, hypotheses ought not be multiplied without necessity is an appeal to parsimony or simplicity

    There are many kinds of simplicity. Occam’s razor concerns ontological simplicity, parsimony with regards to entities.

  6. 6
    Joe says:

    Zachriel:

    Occam’s razor concerns ontological simplicity, parsimony with regards to entities.

    And that is why ID stops at one Intelligent Designer.

  7. 7
    kairosfocus says:

    Z, I replicate here my comment 45 in the no evidence thread, in response to a dismissal of what I have to say as “nonsense”:

    45 kairosfocus February 16, 2015 at 9:16 pm

    F/N: So humble a source as wiki on Occam [admittedly, citing SEP], is instructive at 101 level:

    >> Occam’s razor (also written as Ockham’s razor and in Latin lex parsimoniae) is a problem-solving principle devised by William of Ockham (c. 1287–1347), who was an English Franciscan friar and scholastic philosopher and theologian. The principle states that among competing hypotheses, the one with the fewest assumptions should be selected. Other, more complicated solutions may ultimately prove correct, but—in the absence of certainty—the fewer assumptions that are made, the better.

    The application of the principle can be used to shift the burden of proof in a discussion. However, Alan Baker, who suggests this in the online Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, is careful to point out that his suggestion should not be taken generally, but only as it applies in a particular context, that is: philosophers who argue in opposition to metaphysical theories that involve allegedly “superfluous ontological apparatus”.[a] Baker then notices that principles, including Occam’s razor, are often expressed in a way that is not clear regarding which facet of “simplicity” — parsimony or elegance — is being referred to, and that in a hypothetical formulation the facets of simplicity may work in different directions: a simpler description may refer to a more complex hypothesis, and a more complex description may refer to a simpler hypothesis.[b]

    Solomonoff’s theory of inductive inference is a mathematically formalized Occam’s razor:[2][3][4][5][6][7] Shorter computable theories have more weight when calculating the probability of the next observation, using all computable theories which perfectly describe previous observations.

    In science, Occam’s razor is used as a heuristic (discovery tool) to guide scientists in the development of theoretical models rather than as an arbiter between published models.[8][9] In the scientific method, Occam’s razor is not considered an irrefutable principle of logic or a scientific result; the preference for simplicity in the scientific method is based on the falsifiability criterion. For each accepted explanation of a phenomenon, there is always an infinite number of possible and more complex alternatives, because one can always burden failing explanations with ad hoc hypothesis to prevent them from being falsified; therefore, simpler theories are preferable to more complex ones because they are better testable and falsifiable. >>

    One slice of the “nonsense” RDF wishes to brush aside.

    KF

    That should suffice to make it plain that my context of reference includes various senses of “simplicity” and extends to scientific reasoning and debates about such, where that is highly relevant to debates in and around UD.

    On origin of life and body plans rich in FSCO/I, design thinkers point to the only empirically warranted cause of such, design. An attempt to take excuse of simplicity at the expense of factual and explanatory adequacy is not being simple but simplistic driven by ideological a prioris.

    Where, on record for 30 years, such thinkers have consistently acknowledged that what we see in life by itself may point to design but does not imply that relevant designers are beyond or within the observed cosmos. As I have put it, a molecular nanotech lab a few generations beyond the current state of the art could do it.

    It is at the level of fine tuning of the cosmos that sets up a context that supports C-chemistry, aqueous medium cell based life that there is much more direct basis for pointing — even through multiverse speculations — to design by a designer beyond the observed cosmos.

    KF

  8. 8
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N: A Goodreads clip from WmAD in Being as Communion:

    “Insofar as explanation fails to account for some salient fact, it is incomplete and its parsimony can no longer rightly be regarded as an asset. Indeed, the key failing of materialism, as we shall see, is that its parsimony is purchased at the cost of misrepresenting reality.”

    — William A. Dembski, Being as Communion

    In short, parsimony does not stand on its own.

    KF

  9. 9
    Zachriel says:

    kairosfocus: Baker then notices that principles, including Occam’s razor, are often expressed in a way that is not clear regarding which facet of “simplicity” — parsimony or elegance — is being referred to

    Good. Then we agree that there is more than one meaning of simplicity in this context; ontological or syntactic among them. Occam made explicit reference to extraneous entities.

    As an example, if you have two formulations: F = M * A and F = M * A + Janus , the latter has an extraneous and unnecessary entity, so the former is preferred.

  10. 10
    kairosfocus says:

    Z, again, I have spoken to Occam’s razor as it commonly crops up in scientific contexts as a heuristic of simplicity . . . note the clipped on Solomonoff mid 60’s on using OR as a key piece of deducing a theory of induction, which also reflects that. Further to this, you are putting up a scarecrow figure, where a personal intervention would be relevant would not be with mechanical necessity but with highly contingent complex functionally specific organisation and information, not credibly a result of blind chance and mechanical necessity — such as text of posts in this thread etc. Let’s add: a dropped metal coin near earth’s surface reliably falls at a = 9.8 N/kg, but on settling the upper side H/T naturally follows a highly contingent 50-50 H-T distribution. However, if I chanced across a string of 500 coins with codes for ASCII characters for the 1st 72 characters of this post or the like, I would instantly and for good cause infer design. KF

  11. 11
    Mung says:

    Occam’s Razor is often abused by the ignorant and unlearned.

    Zachriel: There are many kinds of simplicity. Occam’s razor concerns ontological simplicity, parsimony with regards to entities.

    What sort of entities are F, M and A?

  12. 12
    Jerad says:

    Joe #6

    Occam’s razor concerns ontological simplicity, parsimony with regards to entities.

    And that is why ID stops at one Intelligent Designer.

    And why evolutionary theory stops at zero designers. 🙂

  13. 13
    gpuccio says:

    Zachriel:

    After all, it is rather simple:

    If your F = M * A is a good explanation, and Janus is really unnecessary, there is no reason to add Janus.

    But if your F = M * A explains nothing, there are all the reasons to use imagination and intuition and method to add Janus (which has to be something which really helps, and whose inclusion is carefully chosen among different possibilities).

    But it is never a good idea to believe that F = M * A must be the solution, and that some particular Janus must be avoided by dogma, and to invoke Occam or anyone else to defend our prejudices.

    Is that clear, or do I have to explain?

  14. 14
    gpuccio says:

    Jerad:

    And why evolutionary theory stops at zero designers. 🙂

    And why evolutionary theory stops. 🙂

  15. 15
    Jerad says:

    gpuccio #14

    And why evolutionary theory stops at zero designers. 🙂

    And why evolutionary theory stops. 🙂

    Oooo, very clever. gpuccio: two points.

  16. 16
    gpuccio says:

    Jerad:

    Thank you. But you are my mentor.

  17. 17
    Graham2 says:

    KF: Does this thread have a point ?

  18. 18
    kairosfocus says:

    G2, this thread corrects abuse of Occam’s razor, as the OP stated. And in fact in the exchanges above you see the fallacy of imagining or suggesting that an intelligence is an extraneous extra to be “shaved away” so (in the wider UD context) making a priori ideologically motivated rejection of the only known source of FSCO/I falsely seem to be intellectually virtuous. So in correction I proposed that we deal with balanced inference to best explanation that must (a) be factually adequate, (b) be coherent, and (c) be elegantly simple . . . neither ad hoc nor simplistic. KF

  19. 19
    Zachriel says:

    gpuccio: But if your F = M * A explains nothing, there are all the reasons to use imagination and intuition and method to add Janus (which has to be something which really helps, and whose inclusion is carefully chosen among different possibilities).

    You may mean that F = M * A doesn’t explain everything, then we might insert a new term, Janus, to represent the unknown. However, naming it Janus is arbitrary, and we wouldn’t be able to say it was the Greek god of motion without specific evidence.

  20. 20
    kairosfocus says:

    Z, you have of course chosen a bit of a strawmannish case. F = m*a is a well known case of mechanical necessity [which is why I contrasted it with cases of a different order], and is not really relevant to the case of high contingency. That requires explanation, and when we see functionally specific complex organisation and associated information implying deeply isolated islands in config spaces that utterly swamp available solar system or observed cosmos atomic and temporal resources, the other default, blind chance is utterly implausible. As the posts in this thread demonstrate, there is a commonly seen adequate cause of such, intelligently directed configuration, that just on the association alone would be a strong induction. But that is also backed up by a causal context, namely that the config space blind search challenge so overwhelms available resources, that beyond 500 – 1,000 bits of complexity we may confidently infer that FSCO/I is produced only by design, which works by s=creatively specifying configs likely to work and accessible to troubleshooting to get problems fixed. As is a matter of commonplace knowledge. In short, while F = ma is adequatr to study momentum etc, chance and/or mechanical necessity is NOT shown causally adequate to FSCO/I but design is. So, the stout zero concessions or acknowledgements resistance to the inference from FSCO/I to design, show that something else is at work other than inductive reasoning, likely Lewotinian a priori evolutionary materialism and/or its fellow travellers ever demanding to shut the door to the much feared possibility that God may have some thing to do with design. And back on topic, trying to use Occam’s razor to justify such, is a clear case of refusing to properly address the balance of factual adequacy, coherence and being adequate in explanations. KF

  21. 21
    Zachriel says:

    kairosfocus: you have of course chosen a bit of a strawmannish case

    You seem to have lost track of the thread, which concerns Occam’s Razor, not FSCO/I.

  22. 22
    gpuccio says:

    Zachriel:

    Well, I supposed that with “Janus” you meant some different term of a different nature. I never meant that it should “represent the unknown”, just a different principle that helps explain what we observe.

    ID theory does not postulate any term to “represent the unknown”. It introduces design as a very realistic term, derived from experience, to represent the input of information from a conscious intelligent purposeful agent.

    That’s why ID theory does not affirm that the designer or designers was (were) “the Greek god of motion”, or anyone else. There is no “specific evidence” about the identity of the designer or designers. Not yet.

    But there is a lot of “specific evidence” for a design process.

    A detectable design process, where the identity and nature of the designer is unknown, is a concept completely different from an undefined “unknown”.

  23. 23
    Zachriel says:

    gpuccio: Well, I supposed that with “Janus” you meant some different term of a different nature. I never meant that it should “represent the unknown”, just a different principle that helps explain what we observe.

    Well, it could be a catch-all, the adjustment to the orbit of Mercury that makes Newton’s Theory work, or whatever. But we can’t ascribe specific properties to the catch-all without specific evidence. Newton suggested God adjusted the planetary orbits now and then.

    gpuccio: ID theory does not postulate any term to “represent the unknown”.

    We understand the intention, even though the history of the concept is deep in theological considerations.

  24. 24
    kairosfocus says:

    Z, I chuckle, as thread OP author. The underlying context is that many objectors to the design inference often dismiss first principles of right reason but promote a heuristic, Occam’s Razor to effective first principle status. That includes cases of suggesting that a designer is shaved away as a reasonable causal factor of FSCO/I or fine tuning . . . which are connected via the interaction of correct and correctly organised components in a coherently functional whole . . . in contexts of origins science. So, I paused a moment to set context [HT, SB!] and proceeded to distinguish self evident first principles of reasoning from the economising heuristic, the razor. I took time to show by relevant example how it has failed in key cases. I then put up a more balanced, inference to best explanation approach that addresses factual adequacy, coherence and explanatory balance & power. In that context, for origins etc contexts I highlighted the vera causa principle, that only explanations adequate to relevant effects should be on the table. At its level, F = m*a is quite adequate, though at another, it exemplifies a part of the fine tuned coherent organisation of the world that points to design as ultimate cause. That latter level is not in view for the moment, the point that mechanical necessity is associated with lawlike natural regularity leading to low contingency on similar initial conditions is. Thus, high contingency of an aspect of an object, phenomenon or situation needs separate causal explanation. Chance acting through stochastic contingency is a default — e.g. which side of a die or coin (a 2-sided die) will be uppermost. But there are special cases, FSCO/I where that is not an empirically grounded adequate cause, namely FSCO/I and linked complex fine tuning. That puts on the table the point that it is not a reasonable move to want to use something that is not adequate, to pretend that what is adequate can be locked out by appealing to Occam. KF

  25. 25
    Zachriel says:

    kairosfocus: I chuckle, as thread OP author.

    Which is why it was surprising you forgot the topic, “Occam’s Razor (by contrast with LOI, LNC and LEM as well as W-PSR) is not an absolute principle of correct reasoning”.

  26. 26
    kairosfocus says:

    Z, Forgotten, I have not. The reasons why it is not of that level, have been made plain. Above you have raised the very interesting case of systematic departure from expectations, per Mercury and the suggestion of an inner planet, Vulcan. Of course, Relativity put paid to Vulcan, raising the issue of provisionality of inductive reasoning and Mr Rumsfeld’s unknown unknowns. There are u-u’s about design — just what is conscious intelligence and volition etc — but the ability of such to cause relevant phenomena such as FSCO/I is not in doubt. And, the flip-side of Occam pops up, Procrustes’ bed and forcing things to simplistically fit a predetermined framework that do not properly fit, by inappropriate chopping. KF

  27. 27
    kairosfocus says:

    PS, let me express appreciation for a serious discussion.

  28. 28
    Joe says:

    Jerad:

    And why evolutionary theory stops at zero designers.

    What evolutionary theory? 🙂

  29. 29
    kairosfocus says:

    GP @ 13:

    But it is never a good idea to believe that F = M * A must be the solution, and that some particular Janus must be avoided by dogma, and to invoke Occam or anyone else to defend our prejudices.

    In short, Occam’s Razor must never become a hunter’s blind or stalking horse for dogmatic closed-mindedness, whether by way of lab coat clad a priori ideological evolutionary materialism, or any other means.

    An excellent counter-balance here is the vera causa principle linked to explicit comparative difficulties. That is, we should diligently explore and identify credibly adequate candidate causes (in light of observed capacity to cause the phenomenon of interest) and should seek the superior explanation per factual adequacy, coherence and balanced explanatory power . . . neither simplistic nor an ad hoc patchwork.

    KF

  30. 30
    kairosfocus says:

    Joe,

    in a sense there is a theory of evolution; the problem is, the suggested mechanisms have not been shown causally adequate relative to origin of body plans. Thus, they fail vera causa . . . but too often are locked in ideologically.

    Jerad:

    No explanation should be touted as shaving away unnecessary extras, when in fact there is a problem of want of causal adequacy per vera causa. Indeed, note Occam’s emphasis: hyps ought not to be multiplied WITHOUT NECESSITY.

    Per vera causa, FSCO/I and fine tuned interaction of components producing a specific functional effect have but one observed adequate cause: intelligently directed configuration, aka design.

    The Lewontinian ideological lock-out:

    the problem is to get them [= hoi polloi] to reject irrational and supernatural explanations of the world, the demons that exist only in their imaginations [–> notice appeals to prejudice and closed mindedness], and to accept a social and intellectual apparatus, Science, as the only begetter of truth [[–> NB: this is a knowledge claim about knowledge and its possible sources, i.e. it is a claim in philosophy not science; it is thus self-refuting]. . . . To Sagan, as to all but a few other scientists, it is self-evident [[–> actually, science and its knowledge claims are plainly not immediately and necessarily true on pain of absurdity, to one who understands them; this is another logical error, begging the question , confused for real self-evidence; whereby a claim shows itself not just true but true on pain of patent absurdity if one tries to deny it . . ] that the practices of science provide the surest method of putting us in contact with physical reality, and that, in contrast, the demon-haunted world rests on a set of beliefs and behaviors that fail every reasonable test [[–> i.e. an assertion that tellingly reveals a hostile mindset, not a warranted claim] . . . .

    It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes [[–> another major begging of the question . . . ] to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute [[–> i.e. here we see the fallacious, indoctrinated, ideological, closed mind . . . ], for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door. [Billions and Billions of Demons, NYRB 1997. If you imagine this is “quote mined” kindly cf the wider annotated citation here.]

    . . . stands exposed as dogmatic exclusion that falls of its own weight.

    KF

  31. 31
    Mung says:

    Zachriel: There are many kinds of simplicity. Occam’s razor concerns ontological simplicity, parsimony with regards to entities.

    Indeed. What sort of entities are F, M and A?

    Since you seem to have lost the thread of your argument, let me offer this reminder:

    Occam’s razor doesn’t directly concern the simplest explanation per se, but the vacuousness of extraneous entities. If you have two formulations: F = M * A and F = M * A + Janus , the latter has an extraneous and unnecessary entity, so the former is preferred.

  32. 32
    kairosfocus says:

    Mung:

    What F, m and a are is a long story in itself.

    They are of course physical quantities, strictly ratios relative to units, with the units bearing associated physical dimensions (these days traced to the seven fundamental dimensions of physical quantities).

    Mathematical operations strictly work on the numbers, but dimensionality is also conserved.

    Numbers in turn are really interesting, traceable to operations on the empty set that set up the naturals, {} –> 0, {0} –> 1, {0,1} –> 2 etc. Thence we may define rationals and whole plus fractional part, thence infinite sum fractionals using a place value notation to get to a spatial continuum. From this, we can use ways to get orthogonal spatial axes and the pseudo-spatial dimension, time. Thence inject particles and kinematics, thence mass, momentum and kinetic energy to get physics a-going.

    And all along utterly abstract issues of number, structure and logic show themselves as constraining physical reality.

    Something that is at first unimpressive because it is so familiar, then on contemplation, the abyss yawns . . . a world of abstract speculations is shaping reality or reflects things that constrain it.

    Going on, what is mass.

    A biggie.

    Takes us into core Q-physics and symmetry breaking etc, yielding something tied to the wave function psi, with Mr Higgs’ boson ganging around peeking out and saying, boo. Strings in 11 dims, anyone? (Why does this bring up noodle soup to mind?) What is waving, and what is it waving in?

    Then, what happens such that if moving fast relative an observer mass rises per relativity?

    Mysteries, lurking next door to the utterly familiar.

    What is force, acceleration . . . and on General Theory of Relativity, gravitation?

    More mysteries.

    Where, acceleration is the second rate of change of displacement in space across time. A highly complex mathematical concept in itself.

    That is one reason why it helps to anchor down to basic empirical observations on paradigm cases and then to deepen and broaden as required.

    In this case, where I started was, F = m*a is a basic, paradigm case of mechanical necessity, indeed Newton’s 2nf law of motion under condition of constant mass. The fuller form being F varies as the rate of change of momentum, dP/dt, where the rocket is a classic on m not constant.

    And the point was that where mechanical necessity acts, there will be low contingency natural regularity, indeed NL2 is the very paradigm of that.

    But here are context s with high contingency of outcomes on very similar initial conditions.

    These, we account for on chance as default, starting with scatter in experimental results where the dominant effect is mechanical necessity.

    Drop a die, watch it fall, tumble and settle. The fall is F = ma, but something more acts as in another aspect the uppermost face shows sharp variability.

    Chance, manifest in stochastically distributed contingency.

    But chance may not be all, a die can be loaded after all. And more generally, with a sufficiently large configuration space and the limited atomic and temporal resources of a solar system or the observed cosmos — 500 – 1,000 bits of possibilities will do — there are clusters of configs that are not plausibly reacable by blind chance and/or mechanical necessity.

    The specific, complex organisation of the string of glyphs in this post illustrates such: FSCO/I.

    The only empirically observed and needle in haystack search plausible cause of FSCO/I is intelligently directed configuration.

    Design.

    I find it highly revealing to see the mental and rhetorical gymnastics that ever so many objectors go into rather than face that simple well grounded point.

    Tells us a lot about the balance on the merits . . . and the power of the ruling ideology of a priori evolutionary materialism and its fellow travellers.

    KF

  33. 33
    Zachriel says:

    Mung: What sort of entities are F, M and A?

    They are material entities. The equals and the multiplication symbols are formal entities.

    Z: Occam’s razor doesn’t directly concern the simplest explanation per se, but the vacuousness of extraneous entities. If you have two formulations: F = M * A and F = M * A + Janus ,the latter has an extraneous and unnecessary entity, so the former is preferred.

    You made a point of quoting this, but didn’t actually make a point about the quote.

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