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

From: Don Nield <>
Date: Wed Dec 03 2008 - 14:54:39 EST

Yes, George is correct. But consistency proofs are just work in progress
-- they can be regarded as forming parts of incomplete proofs of
bigger theorems. So Don W. is correct in that mathematicians are not
satisfied with consistency-- that is just a first step towards proof.
Don N.

George Murphy wrote:
> I googled mathematics + "consistency proof" & got 2130 hits. Proof &
> consistency aren't alternatives - in some situations one wants to
> prove that 2 (or >2) propositions can be true together, which of
> course isn't the same as saying that either one _is_ true.
> Shalom
> George
> ----- Original Message -----
> *From:* Don Winterstein <>
> *To:* D. F. Siemens, Jr. <>
> *Cc:* asa <>
> *Sent:* Wednesday, December 03, 2008 9:46 AM
> *Subject:* Re: Polanyi on science (was Re: [asa] C.S. Lewis on ID)
> 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"?
> Don
> ----- Original Message -----
> *From:* D. F. Siemens, Jr. <>
> *To:* <>
> *Cc:* <>
> *Sent:* Tuesday, December 02, 2008 7:11 PM
> *Subject:* Re: Polanyi on science (was Re: [asa] C.S. Lewis on ID)
> Don.
> 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 14:55:59 2008

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