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Sometimes, a picture — here, a 465B Cathode Ray Oscilloscope, showing a trace on its screen — is worth a thousand words (on the significance of inference to best current explanation in science)

The Tektronix 465 Cathode Ray Oscilloscope is a classic of analogue oscilloscope design, one based on deflecting electron beams electrostatically to observe and measure electrical oscillations:

A 465B CRO, showing wave forms

But, wait a minute, are we ACTUALLY seeing electron beams?

Nope, we are seeing a TRACE on the screen, where light is emitted by the phosphor as it is hit by the beams.

Wait, again: are we actually seeing the electron beams? And more particularly, the electrons in the beams?

Nope. No-one has ever actually seen that strange wavicle, the electron.

It has never been directly observed.

Never.

CRT in action, showing the electron gun [2], the electron beam [3], the focus coils [4] and the electrostatic deflection plates [1] that write the trace [5] on the screen.

So, why do we so confidently portray how a CRO works, if we cannot actually see the electrons that it is built around?

Because, the invisible electron is the best explanation for what we do see in the behaviour of atoms and in a world of phenomena and technologies that exploit its properties.

Indeed, there is a whole massive discipline and technology out there that is foundational to modern life and technology, Electronics.

Yes, so what?

So, we can see that science and technology — contrary to commonly held views, routinely infers to and uses explanatory constructs that are unobserved or in some cases unobservable.

Not only so, but this is a key part of scientific, inductive thinking.  As in, reasoning based on cases where evidence does not provide demonstrative proof but empirical support for conclusions we accept.  Which, includes reasoned inference on empirically observed traces or signs to their best causal explanation. (As we have discussed in this recent post, with deer tracks as a paradigm case.)

Why are you belabouring so obvious a point?

Because, it is apparently not so obvious to ever so many objectors to design theory.

We have been recently told by Toronto (in a remark that led to his poster child of irresponsible objections to ID status), that inference to best current explanation is in effect circular argument.

Let’s roll the tape from the just linked post, as it seems Toronto was last seen denying that this happened:

Toronto went so far wrong as to make himself a poster child for the errors we are dealing with. Citing his already linked comment at TSZ of Aug 19th, where the clip begins with a comment I made at UD:

Kairosfocus [Cf. original Post, here]: “You are refusing to address the foundational issue of how we can reasonably infer about the past we cannot observe, by working back from what causes the sort of signs that we can observe. “

[Toronto:] Here’s KF with his own version of “A concludes B” THEREFORE “B concludes A”.

Oops.

Going further, as we have seen over the course of several weeks, ID objector Critical Rationalist — flying the flag of Popper — seems to have a thing against “inductivism,”  and also specifically objects to inference to best explanation, as well as the use of terms like “warrant.” Clipping:

Inductivism

- We start out with observations
- We then use those observations to devise a theory
- We then test those observations with additional observations to confirm the theory or make it more probable

However, theories do not follow from evidence. At all. Scientific theories explain the seen using the seen. And the unseen doesn’t “resemble” the seen any more than falling apples and orbiting planets resemble the curvature of space-time . . . .

Justificationism is simply impossible. But, by all means, feel free to present a “principle of induction” that actually works in practice. All I’ve seen so far is claims that “everyone knows induction works” or “everyone uses it, so it must be true”, along with common misconceptions, which doesn’t refute Popper’s criticism.

Show me how you can justify whatever it is you use to justify something, etc.

The trick in that is the strawman caricature: “We then test those observations with additional observations to confirm the theory or make it more probable.”

What happens is that, first, ever since Newton in Opticks, Query 31, in 1704, scientific reasoning has been far more nuanced and complex than that.

Induction — as has been repeatedly pointed out but too often ignored –  is an approach to reasoning where evidence provides support for conclusions, not demonstrative proof beyond doubt. In some cases — cf statistical reasoning — we may be able to provide a numerical probability score. In others — e.g. the inductions that the sun is likely to rise tomorrow, or that we often make errors in reasoning — no probability number is assigned, but the conclusion is morally certain. (That is, one would be irresponsible or foolish to ignore it or act as though it were  false.)

In other cases, we construct hypotheses that seem to explain — make good sense of — patterns of observations. We test them, and find that they are reliable in some cases, i.e. they unify our current base of observations and accurately predict new ones. They may even be potentially true, i.e. they are not self-contradictory and they are not outrageously false like the “transistor man” model used to introduce circuit modelling in electronics. (NB: Without loading issues, the gain of cascaded stages is a product G1 G2 G3, not a sum.)

In science, we routinely are inclined to accept such models as provisional knowledge — warranted, credible albeit subject to correction in light of further evidence and reason.

Why?

Because, we live in a world that is overwhelmingly dominated by uniformities, ranging from the regular rising of the sun to the pattern that even many chance processes follow patterns that lead to distributions such as the binomial distribution, the Gaussian or the Weibull.  So, if we evidently are identifying such a pattern, it makes sense to accept it as such, subject to correction as we may make mistakes or there may be extreme cases where the pattern breaks down. And, because in such inferences, the direction of logical implication, IF (Explanation) THEN (Observations) runs in the opposite direction to the direction of empirical support. If P then Q, Q, so P is a fallacy, rooted in confusing implication with equivalence.

So, is science fallacious and foolish?

I guess, first, it is a sign of where things have reached, when design theorists or thinkers or supporters of such have to be defending basic principles and methods of science and scientific reasoning from anti-design objectors!

No, science is not fallacious, once we recognise the pattern of uniformities, so it is inherently reasonable to look for such and to — having provided reasonable tests — accept that something like Kepler’s laws do summarise empirical observations, and that something like Newtonian dynamics provides a framework that makes sense of those laws of observed motion.  And where we recognise that such a conclusion is provisional and subject to correction. Where also, it is reasonable to look at live option alternatives and hold a competition over factual adequacy, coherence and explanatory power and simplicity. An explanatory model that has stood such tests will at minimum be empirically reliable over a reasonable range, and so it is wise to pay attention to it, without allowing it to become a blinding ideology.

Gotcha, design theory does not pass such tests!

In fact, it does.

We live in a world where functionally specific complex organisation and associated information — FSCO/I –  is a commonplace.  This post is an example, Computer technology, the public library, etc etc etc, too. In all these cases of observed cause, FSCO/I is caused by intelligently directed organising work (IDOW). Design.

A reliable pattern.

And, a sign that points to a material causal factor.

Open to test, and successful on billions of test cases. With no serious counter-examples.

For instance the objector who — some years ago, attempting to turn about Paley’s watch arguments (nb the second one on a self-replicating watch) –  posted a YouTube video on how gears and rods could somehow evolve into clocks, has not understood just what it takes to make a real watch movement using a gear train or backing plates etc that correctly mount such precision machinery to fulfill a task.

A Watch Movement c. 1880

The watch evolution fiasco ends up actually corroborating the point.

(By contrast, the proposed neo-Darwinian mechanisms of body-plan level macro-evolution and its various supplements, has never been seen to happen in our observation. What we have is a massive extrapolation from observed small scale adaptations to the suggested innovation of major body plan features on incremental chance variation and differential reproductive success in ecological niches. Assumed true by massive extrapolation, not based on actual observation. Where also, the empirically well supported FSCO/I source is in IDOW principle says, not so fast. Which is part of why there is such a controversy over what would otherwise be ho-hum.)

So then, when we see Popper talking of how theories that have been tested and are found reliable are corroborated, we have good reason to say, yes. Precisely.

That is, we have good reason to infer that we have a reliable pattern in hand, though one subject to correction in light of further discoveries and/or reasoned analysis.

So, why not simply accept that? As well, as that at least some such corroborated best current explanations are morally certain and others are sufficiently amenable to analysis that we can assign them probabilities on statistical studies. Yeah, that’s not proof beyond reasonable doubt or future correction.

But then, one of the things which are certain, is that to err is human.

So, why not simply accept Newton’s remark on such inferred general patterns, in Opticks, Query 31:

. . . although the arguing from Experiments and Observations by Induction be no Demonstration of general Conclusions; yet it is the best way of arguing which the Nature of Things admits of, and may be looked upon as so much the stronger, by how much the Induction is more general. And if no Exception occur from Phaenomena, the Conclusion may be pronounced generally. But if at any time afterwards any Exception shall occur from Experiments, it may then begin to be pronounced with such Exceptions as occur.

That seems to be how modern science has progressed in recent centuries, and it seems to be a good rule of thumb for general common sense reasoning too. So, all we need to do is to update Newton on the nature of induction, broadening our understanding to explicitly include that it is the logical argument form that infers that certain evidence supports and may warrant (provisionally) a conclusion, sometimes to moral certainty.

This includes inference to best explanation.

And so, it seems we are now at the point where design thinkers are having to defend basic logical principles routinely used in scientific work, from objectors to design theory.

Looks like the tide of the hot and furious debate over design is beginning to turn. END

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47 Responses to Sometimes, a picture — here, a 465B Cathode Ray Oscilloscope, showing a trace on its screen — is worth a thousand words (on the significance of inference to best current explanation in science)

  1. Excellent point kf, moreover the electron, which hyper-skeptical materialists seemingly accept without question, besides no one ever having actually ever seen an electron, gives us firm evidence of the ‘supernatural’ basis of reality:

    What blows most people away, when they first encounter quantum mechanics, is the quantum foundation of our material reality blatantly defies our concepts of time and space. Most people consider defying time and space to be a ‘miraculous & supernatural’ event. I know I certainly do! There is certainly nothing within quantum mechanics that precludes miracles from being possible:

    PhysForum Science
    Excerpt: We have an upper limit on the radius of the electron, set by experiment, but that’s about it. By our current knowledge, it is an elementary particle with no internal structure, and thus no ’size’.”
    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ent-354575

    Double-slit experiment
    Excerpt: (Though normally done with photons) The double slit experiment can also be performed (using different apparatus) with particles of matter such as electrons with the same results, demonstrating that they also show particle-wave duality.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/D.....experiment

    Quantum Mechanics – Quantum Results, Theoretical Implications Of Quantum Mechanics
    Excerpt: Bohr proposed that electrons existed only in certain orbits and that, instead of traveling between orbits, electrons made instantaneous quantum leaps or jumps between allowed orbits.,,, The electron quantum leaps between orbits proposed by the Bohr model accounted for Plank’s observations that atoms emit or absorb electromagnetic radiation in quanta. Bohr’s model also explained many important properties of the photoelectric effect described by Albert Einstein (1879–1955).
    http://science.jrank.org/pages.....anics.html

    Electron entanglement near a superconductor and bell inequalities
    Excerpt: The two electrons of these pairs have entangled spin and orbital degrees of freedom.,,, We formulate Bell-type inequalities in terms of current-current cross-correlations associated with contacts with varying magnetization orientations. We find maximal violation (as in photons) when a superconductor is the particle source.
    http://www.springerlink.com/co.....84h856618/

    How ‘spooky’ quantum mechanical laws may affect everyday objects (Update) – July 2010
    Excerpt: “The difference in size between the two parts of the system is really extreme,” Blencowe explained. “To give a sense of perspective, imagine that the 10,000 electrons correspond to something small but macroscopic, like a flea. To complete the analogy, the crystal would have to be the size of Mt. Everest. If we imagine the flea jumping on Mt. Everest to make it move, then the resulting vibrations would be on the order of meters!”
    http://www.physorg.com/news197120339.html

    The Electron – The Supernatural Basis Of Reality – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/5312315/

    Electron diffraction
    Excerpt: The de Broglie hypothesis, formulated in 1926, predicts that particles should also behave as waves. De Broglie’s formula was confirmed three years later for electrons (which have a rest-mass) with the observation of electron diffraction in two independent experiments. At the University of Aberdeen George Paget Thomson passed a beam of electrons through a thin metal film and observed the predicted interference patterns. At Bell Labs Clinton Joseph Davisson and Lester Halbert Germer guided their beam through a crystalline grid. Thomson and Davisson shared the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1937 for their work.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electron_diffraction

    Uncertainty – The ‘Non-Particle’ Basis Of Material Reality – video and article
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4109172

    “Atoms are not things”
    Werner Heisenberg

  2. Hey, I have a tek 465B and a tek TDS 210…

  3. Note to blog administrators. A number of people have complained of being directed to UD as it appeared on September 6. And I find that if I access UD without being logged in, then the feed takes me to the ‘Other Types Of Entropy’ post by Dr. Sewell on Sept. 6.

  4. Joe:

    I assume you are aware of this recall on the 210. I suspect this is about the bad practice of floating a scope by disconnecting GND, making the user the new GND if the instrument floats to a high tension.

    KF

  5. BA: That is a problem, I trust the busy beavers behind the scenes are doing somewhat about it. KF

  6. kf @4-5:

    Well, obviously we can conclude the 210 was poorly put together — just cobbled together, we might say — and, therefore, wasn’t designed. :) /sarc

  7. Kairosfocus-

    That GND issue is what allowed me to purchase the TDS 210 for 1 cent. For whatever reason my company didn’t want to send it back and they were just going to throw it away. But they couldn’t just give it to me.

  8. Hi Kairos

    Thanks for an interesting post. I’m mostly in the background reading UD quietly.

    New oscilloscopes with LCD screens don’t have the magic glow of the old ones :)

  9. Joe:

    Did they have a second one?

    KF

  10. That was 8 years ago- I no longer work there

  11. I built an oscilloscope once, from Heathkit.

    Someone stole it =p

    http://hobbykittopic.info/grea.....copes.html

  12. Eugen, there is nothing like a Tek 465 or the like [my fingertips still feel that distinctive clean, crisp, firm click of that multiple-detent rotary switch], and there is the even older Telequipment D52! Glowing tubes — hey anyone got an old Dekatron counter GM tube out there? And of course, still no actual electrons sighted. KF

  13. The first two volumes of a planned six volume series:

    The Emergence of a Scientific Culture: Science and the Shaping of Modernity 1210-1685

    The Collapse of Mechanism and the Rise of Sensibility: Science and the Shaping of Modernity, 1680-1760

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stephen_Gaukroger

    Not to be confused with the “scientific” paupery of certain pretentious poseurs posting at UD as pointed out in the opening post by KF.

  14. Mung, why does my try to link your Heath Kit ‘scope article keep going to a Bing search page (as in The Borg)? I heard about that Heath scope. KF

  15. Folks, notice the chirping crickets?

  16. kf, hmm… weird.

    If you try just the main url?

    http://hobbykittopic.info/

    I also built a Heathkit Multimeter:

    http://www.pestingers.net/IM5225.htm

    Long hours aboard ship :)

  17. I see the multimeter, which is familiar. The CRO page still goes to the Borg, which is clearly absorbing.

  18. It looks like maybe that site pulls in it’s info from ebay.

    It was probably quite similar to this one, maybe even the same model.

    http://www.radiomuseum.org/r/h.....e_i_3.html

  19. Okay, I see. 10 MHz B/W. Quite a learning exercise to build, calibrate and test.

  20. 20
    critical rationalist

    KF: The trick in that is the strawman caricature: “We then test those observations with additional observations to confirm the theory or make it more probable.

    There is no trick.

    First, I explicitly said I was contrasting Critical Rationalism with Inductivism, which is absent from your quote. As such, there may be specific aspects of inductivism that you might not explicitly share, but are parts of it none the less.

    Thanks for your reply. I agree this is a productive discussion, which has been helpful for me to understand your position as well. In that spirit, I’ll attempt to further clarify the difference between these two forms of epistemology.

    The full comment can be found here.

    Second, I explicitly pointed out where you appeared to differ in an attempt to clarify your position, then went on to criticize it.

    We seem to agree observations cannot be used to [confirm] theories. However, you do seem think that observations can make a theory more probable. But this assumption is highly parochial, as it doesn’t take into account the different kinds of unknowability.

    This means the assumption that observations can positively support a particular theory. For example, you wrote…

    Induction — as has been repeatedly pointed out but too often ignored – is an approach to reasoning where evidence provides support for conclusions, not demonstrative proof beyond doubt. In some cases — cf statistical reasoning — we may be able to provide a numerical probability score. In others — e.g. the inductions that the sun is likely to rise tomorrow, or that we often make errors in reasoning — no probability number is assigned, but the conclusion is morally certain. (That is, one would be irresponsible or foolish to ignore it or act as though it were false.)

    Again, no trick here.

    Because, we live in a world that is overwhelmingly dominated by uniformities, ranging from the regular rising of the sun to the pattern that even many chance processes follow patterns that lead to distributions such as the binomial distribution, the Gaussian or the Weibull. So, if we evidently are identifying such a pattern, it makes sense to accept it as such, subject to correction as we may make mistakes or there may be extreme cases where the pattern breaks down.

    Uniformities are conjectured theories, just like any other. For example, the sun is a main sequence star that converts hydrogen to make helium in a giant fusion reaction, etc. We estimate it’s lifespan based on all of the hard to vary explanations for its operation. If our explanation for the sun included the consequence that it would burn out of fuel in 4.57 billion years, and immediately go dark when it did, we wouldn’t think the sun would necessarily rise tomorrow, despite the fact that it has done so according to the pattern we’ve observed.

    IOW, uniformities are not thought to be uniform merely because we’ve observed them being uniform. This would be assuming the future will resemble the past.

    And, because in such inferences, the direction of logical implication, IF (Explanation) THEN (Observations) runs in the opposite direction to the direction of empirical support. If P then Q, Q, so P is a fallacy, rooted in confusing implication with equivalence.

    Except, we can reformulate this as…

    If P then Q
    Not Q
    Therefore, not P.

    This reasoning *is* deductively valid. To illustrate this, suppose the premises are true and the conclusion is false. If the conclusion actually were false, then “P” would be true. And, given this and the truth of the first premise, “Q” would follow. But “Q” contradicts “not Q” which is asserted by the second premise. So it is not possible for the premises to be true and the conclusion to be false.

    This is a deductively valid, yet makes no use of inductive confirmation.

    So, is science fallacious and foolish?

    No, science is not foolish. But this does not mean it’s based on induction. The is the fallacy you keep committing.

    I guess, first, it is a sign of where things have reached, when design theorists or thinkers or supporters of such have to be defending basic principles and methods of science and scientific reasoning from anti-design objectors!

    I’m merely pointing out that Popper’s method (and universal explanation) can provide us with knowledge of the world while avoiding the problem of induction.

    KF: Gotcha, design theory does not pass such tests!

    I’m also explaining why Popper concluded that our actual use of induction in science is a myth.

    So, it’s not that Popper (or I) object to the use of inductive reassigning, and that there is no knowledge. It’s that inductive reasoning is impossible, in practice. As such, Popper’s goal was to explain what method we *did* use. That includes you as well.

    For example, unless you can explain how it’s possible to extrapolate observations *without* first putting them into an explanatory framework then we’re left with determining which framework you did use to reach conclusions based on any particular evidence. The mere framework of an abstract designer with no defined limitations does not provide a sufficient means to extrapolate the conclusions you’ve reached from observations. Is the designer itself a complex entity that is well adapted to serve a purpose? How was the knowledge the designer used created, if at all? Etc.

    IOW, the conclusion you’ve reached is based on a specific explanatory framework, even if you do not realize it. It’s these assumptions in your framework that make your argument parochial.

  21. 21
    critical rationalist

    I wrote:

    The mere framework of an abstract designer with no defined limitations does not provide a sufficient means to extrapolate the conclusions you’ve reached from observations. Is the designer itself a complex entity that is well adapted to serve a purpose? How was the knowledge the designer used created, if at all? Etc.

    What do I mean by this?

    The issue Darwin addressed had been around since Socrates: the appearance of design was something that needed to be explained. However, Socrates never got around to defining what constitutes an appearance of design, and why.

    It wasn’t until William Paley make his argument for design that “the appearance of design” was clarified. Specifically, he argued the sort of account that could explain a rock, or the raw materials a watch was assembled from, was not the same sort of account that could explain the watch itself. A watch couldn’t have spontaneously appeared. Nor could it have been laying there forever or be a raw material itself.

    Paley asked, “Why should not this answer serve for the watch as well as the stone; why is it not admissible in the second case as in the first?” Paley knew why. The watch not only serves a purpose, but is adapted to that purpose.

    To quote Paley himself…

    If the different parts had been differently shaped from what they are, or if a different size from what they are, or placed after any other manner, or in any other order, than that in which they are placed, either no motion at all would have been carried on in the machine, or none which would have answered the use that is now served.

    Specifically, the aspect that needs explaining is that if a watch (or eye) was slightly altered it would serve that purpose less well, or not even at all. That is, good designs are hard to vary.

    Again, to quote Paley…

    For this reason, and for no other, viz., that, when we come to inspect the watch, we perceive (what we could not discover in the stone) that its several parts are framed and put together for a purpose, e.g., that they are so formed and adjusted as to produce motion, and that motion so regulated as to pout out the hour of the day

    So, merely being useful for a purpose, without being hard to vary, is not a sign of adaptation or design.

    For example, the sun can be used to tell time. However, it could be varied significantly without impacting how well it serves that purpose. The knowledge of how to use the sun to tell time is within us, and our sundials, rather than in the sun itself. But the knowledge of how to tell time is embodied in the watch, just as the knowledge of how to build an organism’s features are embedded into an organism’s genome.

    So how did Paley “solve” this problem? He could think of only one explanation: the watch had to have a maker.

    … the inference we think is inevitable, that the watch must have had a maker….There cannot be design without a designer; contrivance without a contriver; order without choice; arrangement without anything capable of arranging; subserviency and relation to a purpose without that which could intend a purpose; means suitable to an end, and executing their office in accomplishing that end…without the end ever having been contemplated or the means accommodated to it. Arrangement, disposition of parts, subserviency of means to an end, relation of instruments to a use imply the presence of intelligence and mind.

    While Paley can be credited for defining what constitutes the appearance of design, he failed to realize his supposed solution does not actually provide that solution. In fact, his solution is actually ruled out by his own argument. Paley’s ultimate designer, whose existence he argues for, would also be a purposeful entry itself. And it would be no less complex than a watch or a biological organism. IOW, when we substitute Paley’s “ultimate designer” with “watch” in his own argument, he is forced to “the [inevitable] inference that the ultimate designer must have had a maker.”

    Given this contradiction, Paley rules out the existence of his ultimate designer.

    Yet, I’m guessing you think that the designer is simple (rather than complex), aways had the knowledge of how to build biological adaptations, etc. These are implicit parts of your explanatory framework, which makes your conclusion parochial. It ignores our current, best explanation, such as our universal explanation for the growth of knowledge.

    Again, this is what I mean when I say we do not derive theories from observations.

    That the designer is simple is not based on observations. It is a conjectured idea that would be subject to criticism. That some designer “just was”, complete with the knowledge of how to build biological adaptations, already present, and therefore needs no explanation, is an idea that would be subject to criticism.

  22. CR: Start from the problem that ever since Newton in Opticks, Query 31, 1704, your “inductivist” is a made up strawman, not the real opponent. Then you can go on to address say the way the Milikan oil drop experiment and similar work led the overwhelming consensus of physicists — on empirical evidence and analysis — to accept the electron as morally certain. There is a challenge for you to address in the subsequent thread on that topic. KF

  23. CR,

    Why do you refuse to acknowledge that the Darwinian mechanism has material requirements which are coherently understood?

    Is part of being a critical rationalist giving oneself the personal latitude to ignore foundational knowledge? What exactly is critical or rational about that?

  24. 24
    critical rationalist

    UB: Why do you refuse to acknowledge that the Darwinian mechanism has material requirements which are coherently understood?

    Which requirements are you referring to and what you mean by “understood”?

    For example, is it “coherently understood” that knowledge is ultimately justified by an authoritative source?

  25. CR,

    Darwinian evolution requires heritable recorded information (and the ability to process that information) in order to exist as a mechanism. Heritable recorded information requires an irreducibly complex core of two arrangements of matter that observably demonstrate properties which are not contingent upon physical law. Moreover, these two physical objects never directly interact, yet must be coordinated in order to function. Finally, the Darinian mechanism cannot be the source of this system, unless you believe that something that does not yet exist can cause something to happen.

  26. Upright BiPed,

    Excellent summation!

    Someone should turn it into an OP so that onlookers can spend innumerable posts debating the meaning of the terms.

  27. Upright BiPed,

    You forget that the Darwinian explanatory toolkit contains any explanatory tool needed at the time even if it contradicts other explanatory tools in the toolkit.

  28. 28
    critical rationalist

    UB: Finally, the Darinian mechanism cannot be the source of this system, unless you believe that something that does not yet exist can cause something to happen.

    Is this a serious question? Have I not clarified this elsewhere?

    knowledge is actually created rather than being already present in experience or mechanically derived from it. Any theory of an organism’s improvement raises the following question: how is the knowledge of how to make that improvement created? Was it already present in some form at the beginning? A theory that it was represents creationism. Did it just happen? If so, the theory represents spontaneous generation – such an example is found in Lamarckism, which assumed we still see simple creatures (such as mice) today because a continuous stream of simple creatures is being spontaneously generated.

    But both of these represent fundamental errors. Knowledge must first be conjectured and then tested. This is what Darwin’s theory presented from the start. Genetic variation, in the form of conjecture, occurs independent of the problem to be solved. Then natural selection discards the variations that are less capable of causing themselves to be present in future generations.

    So, yes. Knowledge is genuinely created in that it did not exist previously.

    Your conclusion is precisely why I keep asking you to clarify your conception of human knowledge.

    Specifically, the fundamental flaw in creationism (and its variants) is the same fundamental flaw in pre-enlightenment, authoritative conceptions of human knowledge: its account of how the knowledge in adaptations could be created is either missing, supernatural or illogical.

    In some cases, it’s the very same theory, in that specific types of knowledge, such as cosmology or moral knowledge, was dictated to early humans by supernatural beings. In other cases, parochial aspects of society, such as the rule of monarchs in governments or the existence of God, are protected by taboos or taken so uncritically for granted that they are not recognized as ideas.

    Is there something in the second paragraph you disagree with? If so, please point out what, along with how your view differs, in detail.

    Furthermore, wouldn’t such a conception explain objections to Darwinism? And not just any objections, but specific objections that we see here and elsewhere?

    If someone thought the knowledge of how to build the biosphere could only come from some ultimate authoritative source, would it come as a surprise they would conclude the biosphere cannot be explained without a designer? And if Darwinism were true, would, they not then conclude there could be no knowledge? Everything would simply be meaningless and random and astronomically unlikely, which is a commonly argued strawman of evolutionary theory. Finally, since everything is not random and meaningless, would they not conclude Darwinism must be false?

    Does’t this sounds familiar?

  29. CR:

    Knowledge must first be conjectured and then tested.

    But in order to form a conjecture, knowledge is required. And in order to test the conjecture, knowledge is required. And then knowledge has to be retained. And transmitted. Which requires a system capable of doing so. A system that is required for Darwinism to even be possible.

    This is what Darwin’s theory presented from the start.

    Darwinism cannot explain the system that is required for Darwinism to be possible. Or are you one of those people who think that an effect can be it’s own cause?

  30. CR:

    Remember, Milikan is not under test here, you are.

    In some Nobel Prize winning experimental work, he identified the convincing reality, charge and mass of the electron, based on studies of charges acquired by oil drops.

    That is, he inferred an invisible explanation as not only best but to moral certainty, real. The issue was not that it was hard to “vary” the explanation, but that it was well warranted. Inductively, indeed inferring to a global uniformity on the inductive generalisation of his result.

    And, I assume you expect that you have a weight, that unsupported heavy objects fall — indeed that regularity is a part of walking — and that water is a necessity of life etc etc. In short, you cannot live consistent with your attempt to dismiss our general understanding that we live in a world full of uniformities that can be investigated, tested and generalised if found reliable.

    The rhetorical pretzels you are forcing yourself into would be amusing, if they were not in the end so sadly revealing.

    And, BTW, what is the status of the empirically testable truth: 3 + 2 = 5?

    KF

  31. PS: Scroll up, look at the 465 in the Op and look at the waveform on the screen.

    The deflection of the electron beams involved, the ability to use a CRO to measure voltages and periods of electrical oscillations, are all premised on the inductively established reality and properties of the electron.

  32. CR,

    You are literally frozen in the idea that this is all about some defeat of the Darwinian mechanism. In contrast, I have no problem with the Darwinian mechanism.

    Yet you simply refuse to integrate the uncontroversial fact that the Darwinian mechanism has specific material requirements in order to exist.

    If you ever gave up your refusal, you’d be left in the ideologically terrifying position of having to answer the same questions you ask now.

    You are neither critical nor rational.

  33. PPS: Cr needs as well to reflect on the evident fine tuning of the cosmos that suits it for C-chemistry, cell based aqueous medium life. Cosmological design points to cosmological designer. And BTW, the FSCO/I in a time-keeping watch is only plausibly explained on a watchmaker, and in Paley’s second chapter he is further manifestly right that such a watch with additional capacity of self replication would point even more strongly to design. How much more the functional nanotech of the living cell and its additional facility of code based self replication.

  34. 34
    critical rationalist

    UB: You are literally frozen in the idea that this is all about some defeat of the Darwinian mechanism. In contrast, I have no problem with the Darwinian mechanism.

    No, this is all about you being a justificationist and myself being a critical rationalist. For example I have a “problem” with the idea that observations can be extrapolated without first putting them into an explanatory theory. So, even if your “observations” were correct (assuming could make sense of out them) they wouldn’t tell us anything in the absence of a conjectured theory.

    Furthermore, I accept that you have no problem presenting a misrepresentation of Darwinism, despite ignoring clarifications presented to you, over and over again. Again, knowledge is conjectured, then tested. This has been part of Darwinism from the start.

    UB: Yet you simply refuse to integrate the uncontroversial fact that the Darwinian mechanism has specific material requirements in order to exist.

    No, you simply refuse to see that your authoritative, justificationist conception of human knowledge is ideas that is subject to criticism. I’d also note that you’ve had ample chance to answer my direct, simple question to deny this. Yet this has not occurred.

    What other explanation do you expect us to reach other than you actually hold this view, but do not want to disclose it? Are you posting from your mobile phone and do not have enough data left this month? Is there some limit on the number of characters in a single comment? Why the continued evasion, when you could so easily clear this up?

    If you asked me if a favorite baseball team, would you expect me to ignore the question, rather than name a team or simply say “no”?

    UB: If you ever gave up your refusal, you’d be left in the ideologically terrifying position of having to answer the same questions you ask now.

    Huh? That knowledge is genuinely created is the best explanation for our relatively recent, rapid increase in the growth of knowledge. Do you have a better explanation?

    Furtherer, the idea of an open-ended stream of knowledge undermines the idea that everything possibly knowable is already known by some cosmic protector, who will return us to a time where human beings had no problems. But if knowledge is genuinely created, then we cannot predict how that knowledge will effect the future, let alone how to create a way to prevent it. So, if anything could be more “terrifying” it would be the position I’m presenting here, not yours. This is because we must create a stance of problem fixing, not problem preventing, because we cannot predict what problems we’ll encounter.

    If we do not, then we’ll go extinct like the majority of all species and civilizations that have come before us because they assumed knowledge was static.

    Romney’s stance on global warming is just one such example. He concedes that global warming is man made, but says it would be “wrong” to do anything about it due to the cost. However, to quote from the article…

    Remember acid rain? That’s caused by sulfur dioxide emissions, produced largely by burning coal. We drastically reduced those emissions (making our air cleaner, people healthier, and ecosystems safer) through a cap and trade system that went into effect in 1995. At the time, according to management consulting firm McKinsey and Company, analysts thought it would cost between $3 and $25 billion to clean up America’s skies. Instead, it cost about $1.4 billion.

    That’s because things like cap and trade aren’t really about the government choosing winners and losers. Instead, it’s about letting government do what it does best—i.e., setting national priorities that allow us to take long-term action on issues that affect all Americans—and then letting industry do what it does best. When government sets the priorities, industries will find ways to meet those priorities cheaply.

    Problems are inevitable. Problems are soluble. This is part of the scientific world view.

  35. CR: You need to stop setting up and knocking over a naive justificationist strawman. KF

  36. 36
    critical rationalist

    KF:PPS: Cr needs as well to reflect on the evident fine tuning of the cosmos that suits it for C-chemistry, cell based aqueous medium life. Cosmological design points to cosmological designer.

    Given this is tangental to the topic at hand, the simple response to this is that we have no good explanation implying that planets are essential for formation of life, or that chemistry is as either. They might be for the life we observer, but you’re assuming that the life we observe was pre-selected, which is yet another theory you’re using to extrapolate observations. As an example, are you suggesting planets and chemistry are required for your supposed designer of the biosphere?

    KF: And BTW, the FSCO/I in a time-keeping watch is only plausibly explained on a watchmaker, and in Paley’s second chapter he is further manifestly right that such a watch with additional capacity of self replication would point even more strongly to design. How much more the functional nanotech of the living cell and its additional facility of code based self replication.

    Did you read #21? Do you have any criticism of it?

    Specifically, more adapted the object, the more purposeful this designer would be and the more difficult it would be to vary it as pointed out by Paley himself. So Paley’s second chapter only reinforces this, rather than alleviate it.

    Paley’s ultimate designer, whose existence he argues for, would also be a purposeful entry itself. And it would be no less complex than a watch or a biological organism. IOW, when we substitute Paley’s “ultimate designer” with “watch” in his own argument, he is forced to “the [inevitable] inference that the ultimate designer must have had a maker.”

    Given this contradiction, Paley rules out the existence of his ultimate designer.

    Do you have any criticism of this either?

  37. 37
    critical rationalist

    Mung: But in order to form a conjecture, knowledge is required. And in order to test the conjecture, knowledge is required. And then knowledge has to be retained. And transmitted. Which requires a system capable of doing so. A system that is required for Darwinism to even be possible.

    If Darwinism was creating explanatory knowledge, then yes. But Darwinism creates non-explanatory knowledge, which I’ve differentiated from explanatory knowledge at length on other threads.

    Mung: Darwinism cannot explain the system that is required for Darwinism to be possible. Or are you one of those people who think that an effect can be it’s own cause?

    Which I’ve also addressed elsewhere. Is there some reason why objections keep being presented that ignore clarifications on other threads? It’s as if objectors keep conveniently experiencing problems with short term memories. I point out one misrepresentation in an argument, to only find another in some other argument, to then find yet some other misrepresentation, and then the cycle repeats itself, as if my clarifications were never made.

  38. UB: You are literally frozen in the idea that this is all about some defeat of the Darwinian mechanism. In contrast, I have no problem with the Darwinian mechanism.

    CR: No, this is all about you being a justificationist and myself being a critical rationalist.

    Actually, this is about you being a garden variety anti-intellectual ideologue, limping along in a profound delusion about the value of the conclusions you assume. This is why you repeatedly bring up Darwin in an OoL conversation, even after it’s being made stupefyingly clear (i.e. to any rational, clear-minded person) that it is not about disproving the Darwinian mechanism.

    Furthermore, I accept that you have no problem presenting a misrepresentation of Darwinism, despite ignoring clarifications presented to you

    You are entirely incapable of cutting and pasting a misrepresentation made by me in the workings of the Darwinian mechanism. You simply cannot do it.

    UB: Yet you simply refuse to integrate the uncontroversial fact that the Darwinian mechanism has specific material requirements in order to exist.

    CR:No, you simply refuse to see that your authoritative, justificationist conception of human knowledge is ideas that is subject to criticism.

    Again, you cannot produce actual substance; so you spew disconnected babble in its place. Prove me wrong. My comments to you have been about the physical requirements for the Darwinian mechanism to operate. Cut and paste a misrepresentation I have made about the workings of the Darwinian mechanism.

    You simply cannot do it.

  39. CR, back up your claim.

    Cut and paste a misrepresentation by me on the workings of the Darwinian mechanism.

  40. Don’t be nasty, UB. They don’t believe in nailing things down.

  41. Or are you one of those people who think that an effect can be it’s own cause?

    timothya’s besetting folly, alas. Facts of nature… you know. Light needs no agency, either to create it or propel it; no intelligence required to identify an Observer, in order to adjust its speed to strike him at its own proper, absolute speed; or the mismatch of space-time and its own proper reference-frame, in order to achieve that purpose.

  42. critical rationalist @37:

    If Darwinism was creating explanatory knowledge, then yes. But Darwinism creates non-explanatory knowledge, which I’ve differentiated from explanatory knowledge at length on other threads.

    I try to avoid cross-thread contamination, so if you’ve already addressed this I apologize.

    Is “non-explanatory knowledge” a synonym for useless knowledge?

    This was your first mention of “explanatory knowledge” (by that exact term) in this thread.

    It was also your first mention of “non-explanatory knowledge” (by that exact term) in this thread.

    Your failure to disambiguate then, in this thread, is entirely your own fault.

    If Darwinism creates only non-explanatory knowledge (if that’s your actual claim), what accounts for explanatory knowledge? Presumably, it arises via the darwinian mechanism.

    Going back to the points raised in my @29, can you explain why explanatory knowledge needs to be retained and transmitted and why non-explanatory knowledge does not?

    How is non-explanatory knowledge transferred from one generation to the next?

    Could you kindly revisit your prior posts in this thread and review your usage of the term ‘knowledge’ and let us know when to refers to non-explanatory knowledge and when if refers to explanatory knowledge?

    And in the future, please be clear about which one you’re using.

    Frankly, my advise is to drop the usage of the word ‘knowledge’ altogether, since you seem to be the only one who knows what you mean by the term in any given context.

  43. 43
    critical rationalist

    I outlined the difference between explanatory knowledge and non-explanatory knowledge in the UB lays it out” thread, which you participated in.

    Here’s just one example…

    Not all conjectures are intentional.

    For example, imagine I’ve been shipwrecked on a deserted island and I have partial amnesia due to the wreck. I remember that coconuts are edible so climb a tree to pick them. While attempting to pick a coconut, one falls, lands of a rock and splits open. Note that I did not intend for the coconut to fall, let alone plan for it to fall because I guessed coconuts that fall on rocks might crack open. The coconut falling was random in respect to the problem I hadn’t yet even tried to solve. Furthermore, due to my amnesia, I’ve hypothetically forgotten what I know about physics, including mass, inertia, etc. Specifically, I lack an explanation as to why the coconut landing on the rock causes it to open. As such, my knowledge of how to open coconuts is merely a useful rule of thumb, which is limited in reach. For example, in the absence of an explanation, I might collect coconuts picked from other trees, carry them to this same tree, climb it, then drop them on the rocks to open them.

    However, explanatory knowledge has significant reach. Specifically, if my explanatory knowledge of physics, including inertia, mass, etc. returned, I could use that explanation to strike coconut with any similar sized rock, rather than vice versa. Furthermore, I could exchange the rock with another object with significant mass, such as an anchor and open objects other than coconuts, such as shells, use this knowledge to protect myself from attacking wildlife, etc.

    So, explanatory knowledge comes from intentional conjectures made by people and have significant reach. Non-explanatory knowledge (useful rules of thumb) represent unintentional conjectures and have limited reach. Knowledge can be created without intent in the form of useful rules of thumb. The knowledge of how to build biological adaptations isn’t explanatory in nature but a useful rule of thumb.

  44. 44
    critical rationalist

    Mung: Going back to the points raised in my @29, can you explain why explanatory knowledge needs to be retained and transmitted and why non-explanatory knowledge does not?

    Where did I say that?

    Mung: How is non-explanatory knowledge transferred from one generation to the next?

    Genes are replications with finite variation. They contain non-explanatory knowledge.

    Mung: If Darwinism creates only non-explanatory knowledge (if that’s your actual claim), what accounts for explanatory knowledge? Presumably, it arises via the darwinian mechanism.

    People are universal explainers. Our ability to create explanatory knowledge represents a leap to universality, just as the arabic number system represented a leap from all past number systems to represent express any number, or pictograph systems eventually made the leap to universal writing systems that can represent any word. We can create explanations that can universally explain phenomena.

    All knowledge creation is an emergent phenomena.

    Again, from the same thread..

    For example, in terms of fundamental physics, we encounter events of extreme complexity on a daily basis. If you place a pot of water on a stove, every computer working on the planet could not solve the equations to predict exactly what all those water molecules will do. Even if they could, we’d need to determine their initial state, the state of all external influences, etc., which is also an intractable task.

    However, if what we really care about is making tea, enough of this complexly resolves itself into hight-level simplify that allows us to do just that. We can predict how long water will take to boil with reasonable accuracy by knowing it’s overall mass, the power of the heating element, etc. If we want more accuracy, we may need additional information. However this too exists in the form of relatively high-level phenomena which is also intractable.

    So, some kinds of phenomena can be explained in terms of themselves alone – without direct reference to anything at the atomic level. In other words, they are quasi-autonomous (nearly self-contained). Resolution into explicably at a higher level is emergence.

    Mung: And in the future, please be clear about which one you’re using.

    See above. Our ability to build a car is explanatory because it has significant and reach. It can also be used to build trucks, children’s wagons, etc. Non-explanatory knowledge has very limited reach. It can only be useful in a limited situation.

    Species go extinct because the knowledge in their genome is non-explanatory. It’s only useful in limited environments and scenarios. Sometimes newly conjectured knowledge limited reach is more useful in some other environment, which allows it to have an advantage there instead.

    So you can tell what kind of knowledge I’m referring to by whether it has significant or limited reach and whither it was the result of a conjecture designed to solve a specific problem, rather than a conjecture (variation) that was random to a specific problem to solve.

  45. 45
    critical rationalist

    UB: Actually, this is about you being a garden variety anti-intellectual ideologue, limping along in a profound delusion about the value of the conclusions you assume. This is why you repeatedly bring up Darwin in an OoL conversation, even after it’s being made stupefyingly clear (i.e. to any rational, clear-minded person) that it is not about disproving the Darwinian mechanism.

    You are assuming that Darwinism is only relevant in the case of biology. However, darwinism is a form of conjecture and refutation, which is part of our current, best explanation about how knowledge is created. So, it’s independent of any particular mechanism; just as digital systems are independent of transistors or cogs.

    I’ve mentioned this on several occasions in other threads, yet you keep ignoring it. How do you explain this?

    You are entirely incapable of cutting and pasting a misrepresentation made by me in the workings of the Darwinian mechanism. You simply cannot do it.

    Why would you expect me to cut and paste an assumption you cannot recognize as an idea and therefore do not explicitly include in your argument?

    Darwinism is an error correcting system that is not limited to biology. All that is necessary is for the imperfect replication of information with some finite probability, along with a way to evaluate variants of replication. In the case of biology, these replicators are genes and their variants are evaluated by natural selection.

    Note the phrase “with some finite probability”

    All digital computers, including Babbage’s Analytical engine that used cogs, represent information as discrete physical values. This is in contrast to analogy computers which represents information as variable physical values. Computational systems require error correction because, without it, errors would build up in lengthly computations due to variances of component imprecations, temperature changes, random outside influences, etc. Analog computers would diverge so far off the intended path that the results would cease to be remotely useful.

    So, while it’s true that replicators in the first primitive cells would not replicate with the same fidelity as those in current day cells, they they did not need to, as they would only be competing with other primitive replicators. To use an analogy, while it could not compete with a gear with well defined cogs, even a cylinder with slight groves wore into it would have an advantage over a cylinder that was perfectly smooth. And we can say the same regarding modern day transistors vs. physical cogs, which could become misaligned, effected by external obstructions, etc.

    IOW, there are incremental degrees of fidelity in replication which can can be advantageous.

  46. 46
    critical rationalist

    UB: Actually, this is about you being a garden variety anti-intellectual ideologue, limping along in a profound delusion about the value of the conclusions you assume. This is why you repeatedly bring up Darwin in an OoL conversation, even after it’s being made stupefyingly clear (i.e. to any rational, clear-minded person) that it is not about disproving the Darwinian mechanism.

    You are assuming that Darwinism is only relevant in the case of biology. However, darwinism is a form of conjecture and refutation, which is part of our current, best explanation about how knowledge is created. So, it’s independent of any particular mechanism; just as digital systems are independent of transistors or cogs.

    I’ve mentioned this on several occasions in other threads, yet you keep ignoring it. How do you explain this?

    You are entirely incapable of cutting and pasting a misrepresentation made by me in the workings of the Darwinian mechanism. You simply cannot do it.

    Again, one of my criticisms of induction is the assumption that we can extrapolate observations with out first putting them into an explanatory framework. Until this occurs observations are neutral, so they tell us nothing either way.

    Why would you expect me to cut and paste an explanatory framework you cannot or refuse recognize as an idea and therefore do not explicitly include in your argument?

    Darwinism is an error correcting system that is not limited to biology. All that is necessary is for the imperfect replication of information with some finite probability, along with a way to evaluate variants of replication. In the case of biology, these replicators are genes and their variants are evaluated by natural selection.

    Note the phrase “with some finite probability”

    All digital computers, including Babbage’s Analytical engine that used cogs, represent information as discrete physical values. This is in contrast to analogy computers which represents information as variable physical values. Computational systems require error correction because, without it, errors would build up in lengthly computations due to variances of component imprecations, temperature changes, random outside influences, etc. Analog computers would diverge so far off the intended path that the results would cease to be remotely useful.

    So, while it’s true that replicators in the first primitive cells would not replicate with the same fidelity as those in current day cells, they they did not need to, as they would only be competing with other primitive replicators. To use an analogy, while it could not compete with a gear with well defined cogs, even a cylinder with slight groves wore into it would have an advantage over a cylinder that was perfectly smooth. And we can say the same regarding modern day transistors vs. physical cogs, which could become misaligned, effected by external obstructions, etc.

    IOW, there are incremental degrees of fidelity in replication which can can be advantageous.

  47. 47
    critical rationalist

    correction: Again, one of my criticisms of induction is the assumption that we can extrapolate observations with out first putting them into an explanatory framework. [However, until some explanatory framework is employed] observations are neutral, so they tell us nothing either way.

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