Dear All,

Terry's phrase deserves at least the attention, if not the agreement of all of 
us. In my view, qualitative terms belong in science if they follow some sort of 
logic. There are risks, of fraud and pseudo-science, but these risks cannot be 
avoided in reality by relying on mathematics alone.

Two comments, one negative and one positive:
How is it that despite the risk most of us are able to recognize pseudo-science 
when we see it?
In the sciences indicated by Terry, are not abductions  to the best 
explanations and implications to process dynamics doing some of the necessary 

There seems to be no alternative to living partly with uncertainty, then, at 
all levels, and this is not congenial to some people. The existence of this 
non-congeniality is an example of the science I am talking about.

Best wishes,

  ----- Original Message ----- 
  From: Terrence W. DEACON 
  To: fis 
  Sent: Saturday, November 18, 2017 5:38 AM
  Subject: Re: [Fis] some notes

  If the definition of science requires quantification and mathematical 
representation then most of biology won't qualify, including molecular and 
cellular biology, physiology, psychology, and neuroscience. Physics envy has 
long ago been abandoned by most working scientists in these fields. This is not 
to say that just any sort of theorizing qualifies, nor can we be sure that 
today's non-quantifiable science won't someday be susceptible to precise 
empirically testable mathematical modeling—even semiotic analyses may someday 
be made mathematically precise—but being empirically testable, even if just in 
precise qualitative terms, is pretty close to being a core defining attribute.

  On Fri, Nov 17, 2017 at 9:34 AM, Terrence W. DEACON <> 

    On communication:

    "Communication" needs to be more carefully distinguished from mere
    transfer of physical differences from location to location and time to
    time. Indeed, any physical transfer of physical differences in this
    respect can be utilized to communicate, and all communication requires
    this physical foundation. But there is an important hierarchic
    distinction that we need to consider. Simply collapsing our concept of
    'communication' to its physical substrate (and ignoring the process of
    interpretation) has the consequence of treating nearly all physical
    processes as communication and failing to distinguish those that
    additionally convey something we might call representational content.

    Thus while internet communication and signals transferred between
    computers do indeed play an essential role in human communication, we
    only have to imagine a science fiction story in which all human
    interpreters suddenly disappear but our computers nevertheless
    continue to exchange signals, to realize that those signals are not
    "communicating" anything. At that point they would only be physically
    modifying one another, not communicating, except in a sort of
    metaphoric sense. This sort of process would not be fundamentally
    different from solar radiation modifying atoms in the upper atmosphere
    or any other similar causal process. It would be odd to say that the
    sun is thereby communicating anything to the atmosphere.

    So, while I recognize that there are many methodological contexts in
    which it makes little difference whether or not we ignore this
    semiotic aspect, as many others have also hinted, this is merely to
    bracket from consideration what really distinguishes physical transfer
    of causal influence from communication. Remember that this was a
    methodological strategy that even Shannon was quick to acknowledge in
    the first lines of his classic paper. We should endeavor to always be
    as careful.

    — Terry


  Professor Terrence W. Deacon
  University of California, Berkeley


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