On Tue, Apr 19, 2005 at 10:18:13PM -0400, danny mayes wrote:
> Is Laughlin right that so many of these topics we discuss are beyond the 
> reach of "real" science?  Should certain questions be put on hold until 
> science/technology has caught up with our ability to test questions?
> I don't know the answer, but it seems reasonable to ask the question as 
> to whether science can take us only to a certain point, from which we 
> must then apply logic, circumstantial evidence, etc.
> It occurred to me while reading Laughlin's book that in Cosmology 
> reductionism can be roughly compared to a study of the past, while 
> emergence can be roughly considered a study of the future, or at the 
> least of the evolution of states into the more recent past.
> Danny Mayes

I'm not so sure that we discuss is beyond science. Popperian
falsification is very important, but it is not the only part of the
story. The flipside is the generating of hypotheses for testing. This
can often only be done within a paradigm of some sort - an explanatory
framework which makes sense, and can lead to testable propositions.

Many of theories we discuss on this list have the advantage of being
able to explain things which do not have alternative explanation, or
which have more complex explanations that should be doscarded by
Occam's razor. By thinking about these theories and the consequences,
logical flaws may be exposed (obviating the need for testing), and
testable propositions are sometimes generated.

A case in point is the Anthropic Principle, widely assumed to be
non-falsifiable. This has generated a number of testable propositions,
including the famous carbon nucleus energy level predicted by Fred
Hoyle, without which the triple alpha reaction would not proceed at
nearly the rate required for heavy elements, including all those used
by life to exist.

So I feel we are doing real science, but it is worthwhile remebering
that we should be probing for logical weaknesses in our theories, and
to look for testable propositions wherever possible.


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A/Prof Russell Standish                  Phone 8308 3119 (mobile)
Mathematics                                    0425 253119 (")
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