From: David Clounch <david.clounch@gmail.com>

Date: Thu Oct 01 2009 - 14:18:31 EDT

Date: Thu Oct 01 2009 - 14:18:31 EDT

Bill,

*>Anything determined empirically or "in practice" must be epistemological.
*

I see.

My prejudice is, being an engineer, is I tend to think in terms of

everything being "in practice". This is why I form my beliefs about what we

know is true based on probability and limits of detectability.

John Wheeler wrote that events that are less likely than 1 in 10^-50 simply

don't exist. But that is an arbitrary limit and it is an argument that "in

practice" such events don't exist. It is not an absolute ontological

statement. So, I feel in good company.

As JP&NB point out, Mr. Dawkins seems to want us to believe arguments that

are akin to how many angels dance on the head of a pin. Rejecting that is

something one does "in practice".

Thanks,

Dave C

On Thu, Oct 1, 2009 at 1:02 PM, wjp <wjp@swcp.com> wrote:

*> David:
*

*>
*

*> Let me briefly comment.
*

*>
*

*> 1) QM is a deterministic model. However, it doesn't claim to be
*

*> deterministic of individual events, but rather of average events. This is
*

*> what I mean by statistical determinism.
*

*>
*

*> 2) My main interest here is being able to distinguish ontological from
*

*> epistemological randomness.
*

*> In one sense, it appears to me that while the distinction can be made
*

*> conceptually, it appears impossible to be able to distinguish the two in
*

*> practice. Anything determined empirically or "in practice" must be
*

*> epistemological. So it would seem that what we would be attempting to do is
*

*> to burn through epistemological limitations to ontological ones using
*

*> epistemology.
*

*>
*

*> In other words, in Kantian speak, since we only have access to the
*

*> phenomena, can we ever say something about the nature of the noumena?
*

*>
*

*> bill
*

*>
*

*> On Thu, 1 Oct 2009 11:49:06 -0500, David Clounch <david.clounch@gmail.com>
*

*> wrote:
*

*> > Bill,
*

*> >
*

*> > Topic 0: (software people always start counting with zero)
*

*> >
*

*> > I am sorry the character for epsilon didn't translate in the cut and
*

*> > paste. I cannot fix that in email other than to use something like an
*

*> > ascii
*

*> > capital E for epsilon rather than a greek character.
*

*> >
*

*> >
*

*> > Topic 1:
*

*> >
*

*> > **Me** .... explain Polkinghorne? :)
*

*> >
*

*> > rofl?
*

*> >
*

*> > Not sure theres much chance of me understanding JP&NB, let alone
*

*> > explaining
*

*> > them. What I can do is bring more of their explanation to the table.
*

*> Would
*

*> > that be sufficient?
*

*> >
*

*> >
*

*> > Topic 2:
*

*> >
*

*> > Elsewhere JP says something about it being the sharpness of a
*

*> > distribution
*

*> > (first derivative) that rebuts Dawkins (as I recall that may have been
*

*> > in
*

*> > the Cosmic Natural Selection section in appendix A?). But he does raise
*

*> > the
*

*> > same issue that you do in your post. They just come to a different
*

*> > conclusion.
*

*> >
*

*> > You say "Ontologically, it must mean something like events occur for no
*

*> > reason whatsoever, and yet they are statistically deterministic."
*

*> >
*

*> > I don't know what that means. Isn't statistically deterministic an
*

*> > oxymoron?
*

*> >
*

*> > Maybe what's needed is a primer?
*

*> >
*

*> >
*

*> > Topic 3:
*

*> >
*

*> >>First, I don't understand the seemingly discontinuous comment about the
*

*> > Planck length.
*

*> >
*

*> > Do you mean the fact they start with the error being at the limit of
*

*> > detectability and then use another example that has an error that is one
*

*> > part in (fill in the blank with some arbitrarily large and fantastically
*

*> > large number)?
*

*> >
*

*> > Is that what you mean by discontinuous comment?
*

*> >
*

*> > Regardless, I think I will include the calcium/synapse example. It is
*

*> > relevant to arrival times and hypercomplex analog systems such as the
*

*> > brain. the importance of JP&NB has to do with the mind.
*

*> >
*

*> >
*

*> > Topic 4: Epistemological versus Ontological aspects.
*

*> >
*

*> > I think it would be best to let JP and NB explain what they mean by
*

*> that.
*

*> > I
*

*> > will attempt to extract their comments. (This is where a wiki is of
*

*> great
*

*> > help organizing related topics).
*

*> >
*

*> > Thanks,
*

*> > -Dave C
*

*> >
*

*> >
*

*> >
*

*> > On Thu, Oct 1, 2009 at 8:14 AM, Bill Powers <wjp@swcp.com> wrote:
*

*> >
*

*> >> Merv & David:
*

*> >>
*

*> >> A few comments.
*

*> >>
*

*> >> First, I don't understand the seemingly discontinuous comment about the
*

*> >> Planck length.
*

*> >>
*

*> >> Second, I don't follow the argument. It seems to me that from beginning
*

*> > to
*

*> >> end they are discussing epistemological uncertainty and not ontological
*

*> >> uncertainty. In fact, it seems to me that the Heisenberg uncertainty
*

*> > can be
*

*> >> similarly interpreted.
*

*> >>
*

*> >> Since I don't consider the Heisenberg uncertainty to really get at the
*

*> >> matter (it can be viewed as merely the result of not attempting to
*

*> > measure
*

*> >> an eigenvalue), consider instead something like the decay of a
*

*> > radioactive
*

*> >> nucleus.
*

*> >>
*

*> >> We are told that if one were to ask why this particular nucleus decayed
*

*> > at
*

*> >> this instance that the "appropriate" answer is that there is no reason.
*

*> >> Yet, we are also told that the statistical decay of a host of such
*

*> > atoms
*

*> >> has such a small variance that we can make extremely accurate atomic
*

*> > clocks
*

*> >> from them.
*

*> >>
*

*> >> The situation is analogous to tossing an honest penny. If one were to
*

*> > try
*

*> >> to predict whether this penny on this toss would be a head or a tail,
*

*> > our
*

*> >> knowledge would be completely uncertain. All we could say is that it
*

*> > will
*

*> >> be either a head or a tail. And this is why we in Bayesian fashion say
*

*> > that
*

*> >> the result is 50-50, a measure of complete ignorance. Yet, were we to
*

*> > toss
*

*> >> 10^23 such coins we could predict with extraordinary accuracy the
*

*> > fraction
*

*> >> of coins that are heads and the fraction that are tails.
*

*> >>
*

*> >> In this analogical story would we say that there was no reason that the
*

*> >> flip of a single coin came up heads? I don't think so. Such a story
*

*> > was
*

*> >> well known long befor QM came along, and no one was led to argue that we
*

*> >> live in a random universe. Well, maybe not no one. It was probably a
*

*> >> common belief prior to the advent of modern science.
*

*> >>
*

*> >> I know that what I'm suggesting seems to lead to hidden variables. I've
*

*> >> just never quite understood the claim that we live in a random universe,
*

*> >> which appears to imply what?
*

*> >>
*

*> >> Is a random universe that is unpredictable? That's epistemological.
*

*> >> Ontologically, it must mean something like events occur for no reason
*

*> >> whatsoever, and yet they are statistically deterministic. This appears
*

*> > to
*

*> >> me, at least, to be a paradox. Does ontological randomness entail that
*

*> >> events occur without any antecedent conditions, not just unobservable,
*

*> > but
*

*> >> none whatsoever. Even with the pennies there are antecedent condtions:
*

*> > the
*

*> >> penny must be tossed.
*

*> >>
*

*> >> In summary, I don't get Polkinghorne's argument. Please, explain.
*

*> >>
*

*> >> thanks,
*

*> >>
*

*> >> bill
*

*> >>
*

*> >> On Thu, 1 Oct 2009, mrb22667@kansas.net wrote:
*

*> >>
*

*> >> My comments injected below...
*

*> >>>
*

*> >>> Quoting David Clounch <david.clounch@gmail.com>:
*

*> >>>
*

*> >>>
*

*> >>>> Polkinghorne and Beale write about determinism and the
*

*> >>>> brain1<#sdfootnote1sym>
*

*> >>>>
*

*> >>>>
*

*> >>>> Consider a single nitrogen molecule in the air you are now breathing.
*

*> > On
*

*> >>>> average it is traveling 450 m/s and bounces off about 7 billion other
*

*> > air
*

*> >>>> molecules every second, thus 7,000 every microsecond. Suppose you knew
*

*> >>>> the
*

*> >>>> exact position and momentum of every one of these particles (even
*

*> > though
*

*> >>>> this is impossible by Heisenberg's uncertainty principle), then
*

*> > perhaps
*

*> >>>> you
*

*> >>>> could, at least in principle, predict exactly where that nitrogen
*

*> >>>> molecule
*

*> >>>> would be one microsecond later. Of course there are all kinds of
*

*> >>>> complications, such as electrostatic forces, angular momentum, and so
*

*> > on,
*

*> >>>> but lets make it simple and pretend that these were all perfect
*

*> > spheres
*

*> >>>> and
*

*> >>>> Newton's laws exactly applied â€“ the kind of eighteenth-century
*

*> >>>> worldview
*

*> >>>> that shaped the Enlightenment and still influences much of our
*

*> > thinking.
*

*> >>>> But
*

*> >>>> suppose a tiny error is introduced in the angle at which this air
*

*> >>>> molecule
*

*> >>>> is traveling, for any reason at all. A little bit of uncertainty about
*

*> >>>> the
*

*> >>>> position of an electron, say. Call this error ï ¥(epsilon). After
*

*> > one
*

*> >>>> collision, the error is 2 ï ¥; after two collisions 4 ï ¥, and so
*

*> > forth.
*

*> >>>> Each
*

*> >>>> microsecond this error will increase by 2^7000, or roughly 10^2100.
*

*> > The
*

*> >>>> situation is clearly hopeless even if the initial error corresponds to
*

*> > a
*

*> >>>> Planck length (1.6 x 10 ^ -35 m â€“ the smallest possible length,
*

*> > at
*

*> >>>> which
*

*> >>>>
*

*> >>>> conventional physics breaks down) per meter, after just 97 collisions
*

*> > the
*

*> >>>> uncertainty will be enough for the position of the molecule to be out
*

*> > by
*

*> >>>> more than the diameter of a nitrogen molecule (6.2 x 10^-10m), which
*

*> >>>> means
*

*> >>>> it will miss the 98th target. This will happen in less than a 70th of
*

*> > a
*

*> >>>> microsecond. And making the error one Planck length in the size of the
*

*> >>>> observable universe (about 3 x 10 ^23 m) just means it will miss the
*

*> >>>> 176thmolecule. So even with the unrealistic assumptions of a perfect
*

*> >>>> Newtonian
*

*> >>>> world elsewhere, exact determinism is dead.
*

*> >>>>
*

*> >>>
*

*> >>> It isn't the error amplification (chaos theory) that kills determinism.
*

*> >>> Because
*

*> >>> the original 18th century thought assumed up front that such knowledge
*

*> > was
*

*> >>> impossible anyway, they had already premised their speculation as being
*

*> > so
*

*> >>> *in
*

*> >>> principle* since they knew nobody could know all this. And that caveat
*

*> >>> allows
*

*> >>> them (and us now even with Chaos theory) to reduce the initial state
*

*> > error
*

*> >>> *in
*

*> >>> principle* to zero (infinitely smaller than a Planck length). So it is
*

*> >>> only the
*

*> >>> Heisenberg uncertainty as mentioned below that actually drives the real
*

*> >>> stake
*

*> >>> into the heart of determinism. Yet for all this, it doesn't prevent
*

*> > some
*

*> >>> from
*

*> >>> still thinking deterministically about the universe as a strictly
*

*> > causal
*

*> >>> domain.
*

*> >>> Since my mind can't fully fathom the nature of our ontological
*

*> >>> uncertainty, I
*

*> >>> find myself in this deterministically minded camp at least every other
*

*> >>> Thursday.
*

*> >>> Maybe the atoms in my brain will happen to bounce that way today.
*

*> >>>
*

*> >>> --Merv
*

*> >>>
*

*> >>> In fact, of course, we use
*

*> >>>> statistical mechanics to describe the behavior of gases and liquids
*

*> > and
*

*> >>>> do
*

*> >>>> not try to predict the behavior of individual small molecules. But
*

*> > many
*

*> >>>> people think of the indeterminacy in statistical mechanics as simply a
*

*> >>>> limitation on our knowledge rather than a reflection of real
*

*> >>>> indeterminacy
*

*> >>>> as in the quantum world. This kind of argument strongly suggests, to
*

*> > our
*

*> >>>> satisfaction at least, that in cases like the movement of molecules in
*

*> >>>> air
*

*> >>>> the indeterminacy is real.
*

*> >>>>
*

*> >>>>
*

*> >>>> They go on to describe calcium ions in te synapses in the brain, and
*

*> > use
*

*> >>>> a
*

*> >>>> similar analysis. They conclude:
*

*> >>>>
*

*> >>>>
*

*> >>>> We will see later that this entirely destroys the idea that the brain
*

*> > is
*

*> >>>> a
*

*> >>>> fully deterministic system.
*

*> >>>>
*

*> >>>>
*

*> >>>>
*

*> >>>> 1 <#sdfootnote1anc>Questions of Truth, pp. 126-127
*

*> >>>>
*

*> >>>>
*

*> >>>
*

*> >>>
*

*> >>> To unsubscribe, send a message to majordomo@calvin.edu with
*

*> >>> "unsubscribe asa" (no quotes) as the body of the message.
*

*> >>>
*

*> >>
*

*>
*

*>
*

To unsubscribe, send a message to majordomo@calvin.edu with

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Received on Thu Oct 1 14:19:11 2009

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