Comment by philosophyftw on Against Modal Logics · 2011-07-07T05:15:05.974Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

This post demonstrates a deep misunderstanding of modal logics, and of the notions of possibility and necessity. one would expect that misunderstanding given that Eli can't really get himself to read philosophy. For example:

"I have to make an AI out of electrons, in this one actual world. I can't make the AI out of possibility-stuff, because I can't order a possible transistor."

What? What kind of nonsense is this? No contemporary philosophers would ever say that you can make something out of "possibility stuff", whatever the hell that is is supposed to be.

Or this:

"It's going to be because the non-ontologically-fundamental construct of "possibility" turns out to play a useful role in modeling and manipulating the one real world, a world that does not contain any fundamentally possible things."

Eli, everything that is actual is trivially possible, according to every single contemporary analytic philosopher. I have no idea what you mean by "fundamentally possible", but I doubt you mean anything useful by it. If x exists, then it's possible that x exists. If x is an actual object, then x is a possible object. If you want, you can treat those claims as axioms. What's your beef with them? Surely you don't think, absurdly, that if x actually exists then it's not possible that x exists?

One also has to wonder what your beef with meaning is. I mean, surely you mean something and mean to communicate something when you string lots of letters together. Is there nothing you mean by "reductionism"? If you don't mean anything by using that linguistic term, then nobody should pay attention to you.,

Comment by philosophyftw on Identity Isn't In Specific Atoms · 2011-06-10T02:54:34.015Z · score: -2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I'm hardly claiming that if we find some true future unified theory of physics, every physical proposition we current believe is false. To assert that would be absurd. The interesting question is which of the propositions that are part of the current packages (at least one of which is false) are in fact false.

If you want to pick some of those propositions and rely upon them, you'd better have independent evidence for their truth (the accurate predictions made by the package isn't going to count). So rely on that as your evidence, and not on the false package. This is what less wrong people would do.

Barbour is engage more in philosophy than in hard science, and his work is published in either published in poor journals or book form. I could care less whether Eliezer endorse Barbour's views, if he does. And if he does, then maybe he'd do better to rely upon them than upon QM. If Eliezer does advocate for Barbour's views, one must wonder why. On the basis of some nice hard scientific evidence? Or on the basis of lots of wishful thinking?

I'm not very interested in getting into a debate about how to properly taxonomize physical theories. That's irrelevant to any of the points I've made, and the debate would be even more irrelevant. Two paragraphs of your response are on this irrelevant subject matter.

It is perfectly acceptable for me to bundle the whole of QM into one proposition, if Eliezer is baselessly relying upon QM. If Eliezer wants to rely on something OTHER than QM, then he can. Something OTHER than QM would be a part of the theory (but not the whole of the theory), or something else like a theory of quantum gravity. If he wants to rely on those things, fine. Then we'll see what the evidence is for what he relies upon. What, for example, is the evidence for treating Barbour's odd-ball theories to be more likely true than, say, a fixed-foliation quantum gravity? Well, there isn't really much evidence. Bad Eliezer.

Your last comment is well worth remarking on. By "very probably false", I roughly meant that there is a 50% probability that it is false. If there is a 50% epistemic probability that P is false, and your belief that Q is based solely upon your belief that P, then you are irrational if you believe that Q.

Comment by philosophyftw on Identity Isn't In Specific Atoms · 2011-06-10T02:24:22.755Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

What you put in for P and Q is irrelevant, for a simple reason. If you're appealing to Q as your only evidence for P, and Q is probably false, then you don't have good evidence for for P. If Eliezer wants to appeal to some Q as his only evidence for P, and Q is probably false, then he has failed.

Of course, if you have independent evidence for P, then you don't need to appeal to P as your evidence for Q (and you shouldn't, since P is very probably false). Here you can appeal to the independent evidence. For example, there is evidence that the earth orbits the sun that is independent of Newton's theory of gravity. It's for that reason that you find your toy examples plausible.

This doesn't work when we're talking about QM. QM is a package deal that makes predictions. Evidence for the truth of many parts of the package come from the accurate predictions the package makes.

Where there is independent evidence for the parts of the QM package Eliezer wants to appeal to, he should be appealing to those parts of the package and rely upon the independent evidence for them. Appealing to QM is just not rationally acceptable behavior for any reasonably informed persons.

Comment by philosophyftw on Identity Isn't In Specific Atoms · 2011-06-09T03:57:37.814Z · score: -3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

As I have pointed out, the theory to which he is appealing is very probably false. If he wants to appeal to it in defense of his claims (and even then there are several other reasons why his claims almost certainly don't follow from the theory), he needs to do so with much more humility. You don't get to infer P from Q which is probably false, and then assert P with conviction. This is irrational and more wrong (if you know that Q is probably false, which he should), not less wrong. My inference is "The physical theories to which he is appealing are very probably false. This is fact which is widely known. Therefore, his argument is very probably unsound." And that inference goes through. His argument is very probably a load of garbage since it very probably contains a false premise.

I can truthfully say all of that without even beginning to raise problems for his inferences. Of course, I have done this too. His inferences are deeply problematic for numerous reasons, some of which I have mentioned, some of which are raised in the above-linked SEP article, and others of which can be found by taking a look at some of David Chalmer's and Galen Strawson's work.

The post I am commenting on is radically misleading and wildly wrong. Anybody unfamiliar with these issues will be led into error and falsehood by reading it.

Comment by philosophyftw on Identity Isn't In Specific Atoms · 2011-06-07T03:06:51.828Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Eliezer might well benefit by thinking about the above-linked SEP article in which this claim is broached: "We now appear to have an interesting situation. Quantum mechanics is compatible with two distinct metaphysical ‘packages’, one in which the particles are regarded as individuals and one in which they are not. Thus, we have a form of ‘underdetermination’ of the metaphysics by the physics (see van Fraassen 1985 and 1991; French 1989a; Huggett 1997). This has implications for the broader issue of realism within the philosophy of science. If asked to spell out her beliefs, the realist will point to currently accepted fundamental physics, such as quantum mechanics, and insist that the world is, at least approximately, however the physics says it is. Of course, there are the well-known problems of ontological change (giving rise to the so-called pessimistic meta-induction) and underdetermination of theories by the data. However, the above underdetermination of metaphysical packages seems to pose an even more fundamental problem, as the physics involved is well entrenched and the difference in the metaphysics seemingly as wide as it could be. These packages support dramatically different world-views: one in which quantal particles are individuals and one in which they are not. The realist must then face the question: which package corresponds to the world? The physics itself can offer no help whatsoever and any justification for choosing one package over the other which appeals to metaphysical considerations, for example, runs the risk of drastically watering down the science in scientific realism."

Comment by philosophyftw on Identity Isn't In Specific Atoms · 2011-06-07T02:50:44.355Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I didn't want to come out and talk about haecceitistic properties, since that would have made me sound even weirder (and it is controversial whether there are such), and I was already presenting some arguments in a hostile environment. But I had such properties in mind when responding. Thanks for providing the SEP link.

Comment by philosophyftw on Identity Isn't In Specific Atoms · 2011-06-07T02:37:32.372Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I can't predict what will have to change to get a scientific theory that is correct. Sorry. I'm also not interested in arguing for a theory of identity here. I'm just pointing out that Eliezer's argument against a particular theory of identity fails at being less wrong. I don't have to defend a theory in order to provide a perfectly coherent rebuttal.

Comment by philosophyftw on Identity Isn't In Specific Atoms · 2011-06-05T01:30:58.178Z · score: -5 (13 votes) · LW · GW

In the simplest of terms, theory T is inconsistent with theory T if the conjunction of T and T entails everything in a classical logical system.

Since QM is inconsistent with GR, and since not every proposition is true, either QM or GR is, strictly speaking, false. Perhaps both are false.

The OP, Eliezer, must think that GR is false, since he's gone out and endorsed QM. This is not a good position to be in. More charitably, the OP has tried to endorse everything in QM that he thinks he needs for his argument, and he's asserted that all that requisite material will be retained in any future scientific theory.

The OP is then pleading that whatever physical theory turns out to be true will be sufficiently like QM that he's entitled to rely on QM in the ways he is. Call this quantum mechanical optimism or hopeful thinking. I don't see the argument here. Sorry.

He can conditionalize his claims. He can say things like, "If QM is true, then..." or "If the true physical theory preserves what there is in QM that I need for my argument, then..." But this isn't what he's doing.

And finally, even if the OP were to conditionalize, he'll still in hot water. Maybe the OP means by "physical nonsense" something like: contradicts claims that follow from QM. But he doesn't mean this. He's trotting in his own favorite little philosophical theory, without defense while pretending to rely upon good science (though he's in fact relying on very probably false science, since QM and GR can't both be true). This is evident when he writes: "The imaginary identity-tags that read "This is electron #234,567..." don't affect particle motions or anything else; they can be swapped without making a difference because they're epiphenomenal." Let's suppose that there are such particle-tags. Call them properties. And let's grant that they don't affect particle motion. Let's even grant that they're epiphenomenal. See how charitable I'm being to the OP?

Now obviously, it doesn't follow from QM that these epiphenomenal particle tags don't exist. The OP can beat his brain against the wall for the rest of his life and never manage to show it does so follow. Eliezer believes these particle tags don't exist, which is why he calls them imaginary, but he has not managed to produce one wit of evidence for that claim. I take it the OP would probably rely upon the following assumption: Nothing epiphenomenal exists. That's an interesting philosophical claim, and the OP can't pretend to defend it by giving us more very probably false physical theories. Nor does it follow from any physical theory the OP has mentioned so far.

When reading the OP, I am reminded of William Lane Craig's attempts to use The Big Bang to defend a central claim he needs for his Cosmological Argument: the universe had a beginning. Craig is in hot water here, for it does not follow from any of our best scientific theories, including all Big Bang Theories, that the universe had a beginning. Craig is using scientific dressing to peddle shoddy arguments that those unfamiliar with the science will be rhetorically overwhelmed by, and I don't see the difference between what he does and what the OP is doing.

Comment by philosophyftw on Identity Isn't In Specific Atoms · 2011-05-29T07:05:09.293Z · score: -1 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Relying upon Wikipedia is not advised here. QM and GR, if you stick them together, entail everything. (On the assumption that from a contradiction one can derive anything. Paraconsistent logical systems deny this assumption.) For some proposition, sentence, statement or utterance that P, QM entails P. GR entails not-P. Absent abandoning classical logic (and moving to something like paraconsistent logic), GR and QM are inconsistent.

Let's assume that a theory is false if the theory entails P and not-P (that is, let's ignore paraconsistent logical sytstems). Then sticking GR and QM together entails P and not-P. Any theory that entails both P and not-P is false. So sticking them together fails.

Almost all physicists are happy with the above claims, and so there is an ongoing search for theories that preserve what's supposedly right about QM with what's supposedly right about GR. Enter theories of quantum gravity. These theories might be in some respects "quantum mechanical". That is, they preserve some aspects of QM. These theories aren't QM or GR, however. They're attempts to preserve what's right (let's suppose) about QM and make that compatible with what's right (let's suppose) about GR.

We're utterly in the dark about which such theories might be true. Sadly, that's the state of the game. If you appeal to QM in defense of some interesting claim, you are failing to appeal to a theory you ought, as an intelligent and well-educated person, place a high degree of credence in. Here our favorite blogger is is screwing up.

Comment by philosophyftw on Identity Isn't In Specific Atoms · 2011-05-29T06:40:51.861Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks for the points. Yes, ArXiv frequently sucks. And people who argue that the set of real numbers has the same cardinality as the set of natural numbers are morons.. =)

Comment by philosophyftw on Identity Isn't In Specific Atoms · 2011-05-29T06:29:24.743Z · score: -2 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Quantum mechanics is the theory that reality is described by the Schrodinger equation

You are insane.

95% probability less than 10% of the physics you read is from journals/arXiv.

Feel free to make further claims you have no evidence for. Here's an article from arXiv you might find interesting:

I'm surprised that you put arXiv in the same class you put whatever it is you mean by journals. Maybe I should take the above article seriously? After all, arXiv makes it available. Get out of town.

Comment by philosophyftw on Identity Isn't In Specific Atoms · 2011-05-29T02:06:24.593Z · score: -5 (9 votes) · LW · GW

Quantum mechanics is not inconsistent with general relativity, the standard ways of quantizing a theory fail for general relativity. This is not a surprise; physicists knew that these standard methods were not complete, they just produced theories that worked well enough when applied in other areas. Based on your post, it is somewhat likely that you read popular material about loop quantum gravity. If that theory is consistent, has the right long distance limits, etc., then it is both a quantum mechanical and general relativistic theory.

GR and QM are generally agreed to indeed be inconsistent. There are various attempts to come up with theories of quantum gravity. One of these attempts follows particle based physics: string theory and extensions of string theory. The other attempt is GR based, and includes loop quantum gravity and canonical quantum gravity (along with extensions, such as fixed-foliation quantum gravity).

I'll give you that loop-quantum gravity is "quantum mechnical" and "general realtivistic". But it isn't QM or GR. This isn't a reasonable way of defending your claim that QM and GR are consistent.

And no, I don't read any popular literature. I hope the above helped explain my previous post a bit.

Comment by philosophyftw on Identity Isn't In Specific Atoms · 2011-05-28T02:45:48.092Z · score: -4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

The short answer is that while we know QM is incomplete, we equally know that it all has to add up to normality -- meaning among other things that QM results, including the weird ones, have to be explainable by the underlying mechanics.

This is not an answer. We need explanations for observed events, to be sure, but it's far from clear that we need QM explanations. After all, buying the QM explanations of the observed events means giving up all the GR explanations of the observed events.

We're not going to discover some result in the future that'll make quantum mechanics -- or general relativity, or any other well-established physical theory -- throw up its hands and disappear.

If we discover that QM is true, we will give up GR. You can't have both. Sorry mate. You could have something like GR, perhaps, but it wouldn't be GR.

We very likely will discover results that'll explain reality better than they do, but that reality includes everything they predict within the domains where they've been shown to work well. Science is not a race, nor a battle.

If you want to make QM-domain specific, fine. QM is true in whatever domains saying QM is true doesn't result in a contradiction with GR. That's nice and ad-hoc, but you can have fun with that. And it'll render all the arguments from the truth of QM to broader claims about reality utterly moot. So again, fail.

Comment by philosophyftw on Identity Isn't In Specific Atoms · 2011-05-28T02:11:29.704Z · score: -5 (7 votes) · LW · GW


In another post you write: "Quantum mechanics has been around for billions of years before the Sun coalesced from interstellar hydrogen. Quantum mechanics was here before you were, and if you have a problem with that, you are the one who needs to change. QM sure won’t."

Where did you get this notion from? QM is inconsistent with GR. I could just as easily (and just as unreasonably) assert that GR has been around for billions of years... The problem with that assertion would be the same problem with your assertion. There is no evidence for it.

What makes you a QM-pusher instead of a GR-pusher? It's not evidence, and you can't push both. Is this your favorite flavor of the times? As another poster in this thread has noted, the degree of confidence you have in some of the statements you make is way, way off base.

Here's one more example of your radically misplaced confidence. You write: "But since this final conclusion happens to be counterintuitive to a human parietal cortex, it helps to have the brute fact of quantum mechanics to crush all opposition. Damn, have I waited a long time to be able to say that."

I'm glad it made you happy to say it. But you have no good argument for it. Nor do I think that on your views you could possibly have a reason to believe it.

You also write: "We live in a quantum universe where the notion of "same hydrogen atom vs. different hydrogen atom" is physical nonsense."

Let's suppose your misplaced faith in QM is rational (it isn't, but let's suppose it is). And let's suppose that the notion you describe is "physical nonsense". (Maybe it is. Maybe it isn't.) It doesn't follow that the notion you describe is nonsense unless you assume that something is nonsense if it is physical nonsense. And here, of course, you are hardly entitled to that assumption. It sounds just like the indefensible verificationist swill spewed by the rabid and wholly irrational logical positivists.

You're worshipping at the altar of science and you're picking and choosing the science you think will help you best defend your funny views, and then you're baldly asserting that this science constitutes a true description of reality EVEN WHEN IT CONTRADICTS other scientific theories (such as GR) that have just as good scientific credentials.

Unless you have some sexy response to this post, I will assume that you would get laughed out of a philosophy of science department.