Re: Polanyi on science (was Re: [asa] C.S. Lewis on ID)

From: D. F. Siemens, Jr. <dfsiemensjr@juno.com>
Date: Mon Dec 01 2008 - 17:38:12 EST

There really is no problem here except the overlap of the names of
colors. Different creatures are sensitive to different areas of the
spectrum. Colorblind men cannot distinguish green and red. My Dad could
not see a mass of bright red hibiscus on the green bushes. But there are
also trichromats who have mutant green visual pigments, and may have more
than one, and so must see things differently. But telling a normally
sighted person that Dad could not differentiate the two colors tells us
noting about what the two colors look like to a normal trichromat. Add to
this the problem of broader or narrower sensitivity of many normal
creatures. I recall that honeybees detect UV. Having been exposed to
lower frequency UV, I know that all it does is produce some white light
in the eye so that colors look more pastel. Anyone want to call in some
astronomers about their spectrographic measures?

As for something we label yellow, it is not strictly something with a
wavelength of 590 nm but rather a range. It begins where orange ends and
ends where green begins, unless someone wants to insist that orange,
yellow-orange and yellow are different. I forget how many shades some
trained eyes can distinguish.

To add to complications, no one has mentioned pigments, which are
unlikely to reflect pure spectral colors. However, whether we deal with
pigments or spectra. I understand that different mixtures can produce
indistinguishable color sensations. We are now doing better with
chemistry, so colors tend to math accurately, but I recall making sure I
had a single batch lot so that the room or house would not show the break
between batches.
Dave (ASA)

On Mon, 1 Dec 2008 10:42:28 -0500 "Alexanian, Moorad"
<alexanian@uncw.edu> writes:
> Murray wrote " But in respects of color I'm sorry to say that our
> regular usage of color terms is simply too tightly specified for
> there
> to be much in the way of subjectivity involved. So when a person
> tries
> to tell me that "yellow" is "blue" I don't simply shrug my shoulders
> and
> put it down to subjectivity as I would when they claim a room I
> perceive
> as "hot" is perceived by them to be "cold". Rather I say that they
> are
> in error because we actually have an agreed standard of what
> constitutes
> "yellow" - it may be ambiguous to some degree - but at rock bottom I
> will maintain that there is no significant degree of subjectivity
> involved in the ascription of color to an object. We simply don't
> USE
> color terms in THAT sort of way."
>
> I raised the issue that some aliens may perceive as "blue" what we
> perceive as "yellow." Therefore, the physical description of 590
> nanometers can be associated with the color "yellow" by beings that
> so
> "see" it. There are others that do not. In fact, it is quite
> conceivable
> that just as we cannot "see" the infrared, but feel it as heat in
> our
> skin, there are beings that would see that longer wavelength and may
> associate a color that is not even in our visible spectrum.
>
> Moorad
>
>
> -----Original Message-----
> From: asa-owner@lists.calvin.edu [mailto:asa-owner@lists.calvin.edu]
> On
> Behalf Of Murray Hogg
> Sent: Monday, December 01, 2008 12:48 AM
> To: ASA
> Subject: Re: Polanyi on science (was Re: [asa] C.S. Lewis on ID)
>
> Hi Moorad,
>
> > Your statement, "yellow has an electromagnetic wavelength of 590
> nanometers", is false. The correct statement is that most humans
> perceive the electromagnetic wave of wavelength of 590 nm as a
> color,
> which they call yellow. Notice that according to the Doppler effect,
> such waves will appear shifted to the red if the source is moving
> away
> rom the observer. Therefore, one has to be rather careful in what one
> says.
>
> Correction in linguistic usage noted - apologies for the slip.
>
> On the substantial content of the above, however, I'm not at all
> sure
> why you introduce the Doppler shift into the discussion unless it is
> to
> infer (you don't state it outright) that our description of a light
> source as "yellow" is subjective because, under certain conditions
> brought on by the Doppler shift, we can refer to the same light
> source
> as "red" or "blue" or some other term. But I'll only say is that I
> consider it weakens your case substantially.
>
> Let me explain what I'm thinking;
>
> Lets say I see a yellow light, pull out my specrometer and measure
> its
> wavelength as 590 nm.
>
> I then begin to move toward it at sufficient speed that it now
> appears
> blue. Correct me if I'm wrong, but if at the moment of observing
> this
> "blue" light I pulled out my spectrometer and took a reading of its
> wavelength, would I not get a reading of about 450 nm as is
> appropriate
> for "blue" light?
>
> So, sure, the Doppler effect will alter the perceived color of a
> light
> source - but that's because it alters the wavelength relative to the
> observer. Such light sources don't just APPEAR shifted, they
> actually
> ARE shifted - relative to the moving observer, anyway.
>
> Thus the implication that human perception is subjective because we
> refer to a light source as now "red", now "yellow", now "blue"
> depending
> upon our relative motion in respects of it misses the blatantly
> obvious
> rejoinder: a scientific instrument measuring the same light source
> concurrent with our observations will read now "700 nm", now "590
> nm",
> now "450 nm".
>
> So if we correlate color with EM frequency, it appears that our
> changing
> perceptions accord pretty well with what you're calling objective
> data.
>
> I'm not sure how this correspondence between a group of mental
> concepts
> and the measured data HELPS maintain the distinction between one as
> subjective and the other as objective.
>
> Let me say, at this point, that I don't think you could have picked
> a
> WORSE example upon which to build your case. Rather than arguing
> that
> the concepts "yellow", "blue", "red" are subjective and measurement
> of
> EM frequency using instruments objective, you would have been better
> arguing a parallel case for concept pairs such as "hot - cold",
> "bright
> - dark", "loud - quiet". In such instances you would have stood a
> far
> better chance of making your point as people often disagree whether
> a
> room is "hot" or "cold" even if they agree that it is 25 deg.C.
>
> But in respects of color I'm sorry to say that our regular usage of
> color terms is simply too tightly specified for there to be much in
> the
> way of subjectivity involved. So when a person tries to tell me that
> "yellow" is "blue" I don't simply shrug my shoulders and put it down
> to
> subjectivity as I would when they claim a room I perceive as "hot"
> is
> perceived by them to be "cold". Rather I say that they are in error
> because we actually have an agreed standard of what constitutes
> "yellow"
> - it may be ambiguous to some degree - but at rock bottom I will
> maintain that there is no significant degree of subjectivity
> involved in
> the ascription of color to an object. We simply don't USE color
> terms in
> THAT sort of way.
>
> Finally, I'd suggest this could even be determined by experiment:
> this
> Christmas, as opportunity arises, we ask people to identify the
> colors
> of a string of Christmas lights. If we get a significant variation
> in
> answer with no consistency in the terms people use to describe the
> color
> of the various lights, then the "color identification is subjective"
> thesis wins. If people consistently refer to the light emitting EM
> radiation at about 590nm as "yellow", at about 700nm as "red" and so
> on,
> then the "color identification is objective" thesis wins. I know
> betting
> is naughty, and if I do it Santa won't visit, but if I were a
> betting
> man...
>
> Blessings,
> Murray.
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
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Received on Mon Dec 1 21:26:48 2008

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