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Clarke’s Three Laws of Prediction

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Clarke’s Three Laws

Arthur C. Clarke formulated the following three “laws” of prediction:

1. When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.

2. The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.

3. Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

I think I’ve read almost everything written by Arthur C. Clarke. For the last 35 years usually shortly after he wrote it. I often quote the third law but I’d forgotten about the other two. All three laws color my perspective on ID and a lot of other things.

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[...] now   Email   Print The famous author and scientist Arthur C. Clarke once wrote, "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." Developments in technology [...]How Technology Changed Manned Guarding Forever - Jonathan Levine | IFSEC Global
April 18, 2013
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"When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that ... something is impossible, he is very probably wrong." This happened at the start of the research that led to my Ph.D. Fortunately my advisor wasn't unduly swayed by the opinion of his friend, the elderly scientist.mathemos
May 15, 2008
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dreamtCharlie
April 15, 2008
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After gatecrashing Expelled, the Movie, Richard Dawkins stated:
My point here was that design can never be an ULTIMATE explanation for organized complexity. Even if life on Earth was seeded by intelligent designers on another planet, and even if the alien life form was itself seeded four billion years earlier, the regress must ultimately be terminated (and we have only some 13 billion years to play with because of the finite age of the universe). Organized complexity cannot just spontaneously happen. That, for goodness sake, is the creationists' whole point, when they bang on about eyes and bacterial flagella! Evolution by natural selection is the only known process whereby organized complexity can ultimately come into being. Organized complexity -- and that includes everything capable of designing anything intelligently -- comes LATE into the universe. It cannot exist at the beginning, as I have explained again and again in my writings.
Recall Clark's first law:
1. When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.
By the second part of Clark's first law, this "elderly scientist", Richard Dawkin's statement: "My point here was that design can never be an ULTIMATE explanation for organized complexity" is very probably wrong.DLH
April 15, 2008
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austin What do you think about it, Dave? I think there are more things in heaven and earth, Austin, than are dreampt of in your philosophy.DaveScot
April 15, 2008
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DaveScot, There's a cosmological theory that says our universe is most likely virtual reality on a computer. The argument is that the technology is something we might come up with ourselves. It seems likely there are many civilizations and that some already run advanced virtual reality programs. So it is more likely our reality is virtual than physical. But how would we know the difference? I don't see how we could test this theory. There's also the idea of the Great Programmer. Here our universe could be physical or virtual. Some people make hypotheses about the universe assuming that it's the result of a running program. The basic idea is to reason about how an intelligent programmer would program the universe. It may lead to some predictions we can test. Clarke was open to the ideas of advanced computers and advanced nonhuman civilizations. I'm thinking of 2001: A Space Odyssey. I don't think he would have trashed the idea that a Great Programmer wrote our reality. What do you think about it, Dave?austin_english
April 15, 2008
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bFast, Todd; I think for OOL we can fall back on the "almost" in "almost certainly", and the "very probably" in "very probably wrong". OOL falls into the wiggle room, I'd say.SCheesman
April 15, 2008
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So by his first law, if someone tells me OOL by natural causes is impossible I should assume they are wrong. Meanwhile this suggests that all those distinguished old biologist should be listened to?Todd Berkebile
April 15, 2008
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When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right.
Hmmm, I think ID is doomed. How many distinguished but elderly scientists are convinced that the OOL question is about to be solved?bFast
April 15, 2008
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Gerry wrote: I’m not sure this should be as glibly quoted as it is. Even small children, when faced with the inexplicable — like a magic trick — ask, “How did he do that?” rather than jump to the conclusion that mysterious forces are at work. Normal humans assume that even “sufficiently advanced technology” can be explained within their existing framework. Superstitious savages may label a guy with a cell phone a demon, but only because they think they understand demons. I think there are three approaches to the experience of magic, and I think you see them in people of all cultures and ages. 1) Skeptics see magic and think, "That can't be -- it's outside of my explanatory framework -- the real answer must be within my explanatory framework." 2) Mystics see magic and credit it to "fate" or "magic" -- without any causation. 3) Scientific people see magic and think, "Hey, the evidence seems to indicate that my framework needs expanding." This is the attitude that Clarke is tapping into. The first two are simply failures to submit our minds to reality -- the first saying that amazing things cannot be true, and the second says that amazing things cannot be explained. The children you're talking about are still rational and healthy. They haven't been spoiled yet. They have the native belief of a child that amazing things do happen, and that the explanation for them may be out of their reach, but definitely exists. That's ID.ungtss
April 15, 2008
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"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." I'm not sure this should be as glibly quoted as it is. Even small children, when faced with the inexplicable -- like a magic trick -- ask, "How did he do that?" rather than jump to the conclusion that mysterious forces are at work. Normal humans assume that even "sufficiently advanced technology" can be explained within their existing framework. Superstitious savages may label a guy with a cell phone a demon, but only because they think they understand demons.Gerry Rzeppa
April 15, 2008
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