David Seimens wrote.
With my e-mail program, I can't simply enter something identifiable as mine
when I get a bar rather than >s. So I hope the italics comes through.
My (WD) reply:
AOL gives me all sorts of fancy gimmicks I can add,
but I still cannot find any option that allows me to
sent plain text. Perhaps I am also hampered here because
it is all written in Japanese and the required configuration
for it uses some expression and key words I'm not familiar
I (WD) wrote:
I agree that science is unlikely to have the capacity to
decide what a sprit is, although, I do consider
anthropology a respectable science, and evidence of
altars and burials with "gifts" or "tools for the afterlife"
certainly count as forms of spiritualness even if science
itself cannot say what a spirit is. So anthropology can at
least produce arguments suggesting that Neanderthals were
Note what is going on here: recognizing cultic activity in a group, not
recognizing any reality behind the activity. If anyone wants to deal with the
supernatural, it cannot take this route,
I do not claim that science can deal with the supernatural.
I said "I agree that science is unlikely to have the capacity
to decide what a sprit is..." I did add, "Although ..."
but I then said what one science can clearly do. I think
that science is informative about what is human and that it
is useful in of itself, but _no_ it cannot say whether
being human or doing human activities is meaningful or
purposeful let alone whether any human activities of
any kind has any connection whatsoever with anything
that could be defined "supernatural".
I (WD) wrote:
Reductionism is used in science because it works _for
the experiments that it applies to_. It would not
apply to entangled spin systems, such systems are
irreducible: or should I say, once you have "reduced"
them, you've lost their information. That, at least,
appears to be our current place on the map of
understanding quantum mechanics. Critical phenomena is
also a bit strange in that way, although perhaps not
quite as bizarre as QM.
In discussions with a physicist, I got the clear impression that reductionism
runs the other direction. All macro phenomena are reduced to quantum physics,
with chemistry and physics in turn explaining the phenomena of life, which in
turn produce psychology and sociology. This is not the traditional
"naturalistic" reductionism. Note that this approach requires emergence,
though in principle the emergent properties are extensions of the deeper
phenomena. Also, this is sophisticated enough to recognize that we are not
reducing matters to generalizations of observations, but are dealing with the
results of theory construction.
Maybe this is some issue of semantics, but,
I would not define your description as "reductionism".
Reductionism seems better reserved for appeals to
such things as hidden forces (that are entirely
local in character) that some physicists have tried
to use to explain quantum mechanics (QM). Such
approaches (if true) would permit the physical problems
associated with QM to be "reduced" mathematically to
tractable deterministic problems (at least given you
also have direct access to an account on the
UltraGargantubrain of Triathius 5).
On the other hand, quantum mechanics (at the level
we presently understand it) suggests a world
that is connected. Even the Ising model in
is rather strange when you think about it. It is
a model in which (theoretically speaking) spins light
years distant from each other have instantaneous influence
on each other and the weight of their influence is the same
as that of their nearest neighbors. Taken collectively
however, it the large numbers of interactions that allow
parts of the system to become independent and yields a
resulting correlation length and properties essentially independent of the
spins that compose the model.
Note that there is no mechanism proposed here to explain
QM itself. It is fundamental. We simply build our model
based upon its presumed existence and its proposed
properties. Even if QM somehow could be shown to explain
all of sociology and psychology, it still wouldn't explain
what QM itself. If QM (a time and spatially independent
phenomena!) produces this much fruit, then surely I don't
see how that can be called "reductionist".
I (WD) wrote:
Look at it this way. If you only look at atoms, you cannot
see that you have a crystal. If you only look at crystals
you cannot see that you have a tile and if all you look at
are tiles, you still cannot see that they are part of a
This assumes that what one observes is the ultimate entity that needs to be
considered, that there is no emergence. Further, what science deals with
"breathtaking mosaic"? This argument does not touch sophisticated
You might start with boundary conditions. I would say that
the study of consciousness is pretty close to a "breathtaking
mosaic" and that _does_ depend on the boundary conditions. If
that fits your definition of "sophisticated reductionism", then
so be it: I have misunderstood your word usage in that case.
You may have the last word on this.
By Grace we do proceed,
This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : Fri Feb 01 2002 - 12:44:06 EST