On Sat, Jun 11, 2011 at 3:55 PM, meekerdb <meeke...@verizon.net> wrote:
> On 6/11/2011 7:51 AM, Rex Allen wrote:
>> Instrumentalism, anyone?
> I'll have a helping.  And I'll also note that instrumentalism with a pinch
> of common sense is as good as it gets.

Common sense?  What is this "common sense" that you speak of?

Let me guess:  "If you have to ask, you ain't ever gonna know."

It seems to me that this view of science, "instrumentalism with a
pinch of common sense", isn't the view that's generally presented to
the general public - or at least hasn't been in the past, though maybe
that's changing now.  It seems like you hear it more now than 15 years
ago, but maybe I wasn't paying enough attention then.

What impact do you think it would have if that were the public face of
science?  Positive?  Negative?  None?

It seems to me that it would be a big change - probably positive, but
who knows.

The mystery of consciousness takes on a bit of a different color when
set against an instrumentalist background though.

>> http://www.americanscientist.org/issues/id.12395,y.2011,no.3,content.true,page.1,css.print/issue.aspx
>> The range of phenomena physics has explained is more than impressive;
>> it underlies the whole of modern civilization. Nevertheless, as a
>> physicist travels along his (in this case) career, the hairline cracks
>> in the edifice become more apparent, as does the dirt swept under the
>> rug, the fudges and the wholesale swindles, with the disconcerting
>> result that the totality occasionally appears more like Bruegel’s
>> Tower of Babel as dreamt by a modern slumlord, a ramshackle structure
>> of compartmentalized models soldered together into a skewed heap of
>> explanations as the whole jury-rigged monstrosity tumbles skyward.
>> [...]
>> Such examples abound throughout physics. Rather than pretending that
>> they don’t exist, physics educators would do well to acknowledge when
>> they invoke the Wizard working the levers from behind the curtain.
>> Even towards the end of the twentieth century, physics was regarded as
>> received Truth, a revelation of the face of God. Some physicists may
>> still believe that, but I prefer to think of physics as a collection
>> of models, models that map the territory, but are never the territory
>> itself. That may smack of defeatism to many, but ultimate answers are
>> not to be grasped by mortals. Physicists have indeed gone further than
>> other scientists in describing the natural world; they should not
>> confuse description with understanding.
> Confusing a good detailed, tested description with understanding is a lot
> better than confusing arm-chair philosophizing with understanding.

In either case, at the end of the story you're still confused.  But at
least in the latter case it ends with you sitting in a comfortable


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