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

From: Don Winterstein <>
Date: Wed Dec 03 2008 - 09:46:28 EST

Hmm. Your use of "consistency" comes as such a surprise I need to pursue this just a bit further. As an ex-physicist I've taken lots of math courses and even an upper-level philosophy course or two (albeit in the distant past). I yield to you on usage in philosophy, but I don't recall a mathematician ever using "consistency" as a math term. With powerful words like proof, equality and identity, why would they need, and where would they use, "consistency"?


  ----- Original Message -----
  From: D. F. Siemens, Jr.<>
  Sent: Tuesday, December 02, 2008 7:11 PM
  Subject: Re: Polanyi on science (was Re: [asa] C.S. Lewis on ID)

  You illustrate an interesting point of usage. To a philosopher, logician or mathematician, consistency is the ultimate test. Inconsistency is the immediate source of what the medievals discovered, /consequentia mirabilis/, the fact that an inconsistency proves everything. This is why a /reductio ad absurdum/ has to be held within tight control. It can run only from the assumed item to be proved false to the contradiction and negation of the assumption.

  Now consider two crooks, one of whom has robbed a bank one morning. A reports that he was with B all that morning in B's parents' home, playing cards. B confirms A's story. Confirmation applies equally to true, false and statements whose status is unclear.

  From: "Don Winterstein"<>

  "Consistent with" to me is a looser term than "confirm," whereas for you it seems to be a stricter term. To me, as applied to experimental data, it implies that, while results are not identical, as they almost never are, they are within an acceptable range for the particular kind of measurement. I can understand also your usage of "confirm;" so if we're writing for journals, we need first off to find out how the editors use the words!

  But "consistent with" is definitely more appropriate than "confirm" when talking about whether or not experimental results support theory, because to confirm a theory is to say it's the final word, which we aren't allowed do. I suspect this usage for theory had a decisive influence on my usage for experiments.

  Of course, that's how I see it; but because of the "flexibility of language," you may see the word meanings differently here also.

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Received on Wed Dec 3 09:47:21 2008

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