Re: [asa] Evolution and history compulsory

From: dfsiemensjr <>
Date: Sat Nov 21 2009 - 15:33:42 EST

I'm having a problem with a strict separation of epistemological and
ontological. Part of the problem springs from the fact that objectivity
is a matter of intersubjective agreement. No matter what we measure, it
all comes down to passing through a human being's senses and mind. In
some experiments, the mass of data is so immense that people cannot keep
up with it, so computers sort through the mass and pick out "interesting"
items for the scientists to look at. In others, the computations are so
difficult that simplifications have to be used, sometimes with weird
consequences. But it finally depends on people.

Regarding the speed of light, how do I differentiate what I understand of
the measurement and the way the universe is? With such matters, how well
do our terminologies match "reality"? We consider statements to be either
true or false (that's XOR) even when we don't know which, but qubits take
all values simultaneously. With regard to the formulas that make up the
strict sciences, Poincare a century ago noted that any set of data
fitting the least action principle will match an infinite number of
formulas. From what I can gather without the specialized training in the
multiple disciplines, there are different consequences to the several
possibilities. So what have we nailed down absolutely? It is well that we
talk of confirmation rather than proof. Even in mathematics, one chooses
the axioms with their undefined primitives before starting on proofs
depending on them.

Epistemology and ontology are philosophical terms, which puts them
outside of the testability inherent in the sciences. With no better test
than logical consistency, there are more systems than I like to face. It'
not just the just who live by faith.
Dave (ASA)

On Sat, 21 Nov 2009 13:31:40 -0600 "Jon Tandy" <>
> I don't remember about quantum mechanics, but I believe it is true of
> both QM and relativity that there are mathematical formulas
> involved. Even if only an introductory, qualitative, version is
> taught in lower grades where students aren't prepared for the math,
> that does NOT make it "not science". That's what it sounds like you
> are saying. It only means that they are being taught a less
> rigorous version of the subject. To say that something must be
> empirical, math and formula based, etc., in order to be science is a
> philosophical supposition that the ontology of nature must follow
> the precision of mathematical formulas.
> Whether Einstein "got it right" is the wrong question. The answer
> is, certainly he did get it right, as do every scientist who doesn't
> have the perfect knowledge of God. It is true that the speed of
> light may be about epistemology rather than ontology, but what else
> do you have? I would dare say we don't know much about ontology
> (the way things really are) except through experience and
> measurement. QM and the appearance of "common descent" could both
> be tricks of God, but as scientists we have to look at the data,
> analyze, extrapolate, and ultimately make educated guesses about the
> ontology.
> As to why QM was brought up in this thread, I don't recall, but I
> think it was a rhetorical comment that has since branched off from
> the original point. But I will respond to one comment that was made
> earlier. If the teaching of biological evolution were pushed back
> into the 11th or 12th grade instead of 9th grade biology, it
> wouldn't make any difference whatsoever to the public dispute,
> legality, etc. Those opposed to evolution will oppose it wherever
> it is taught, and those who say that evolution must be taught in
> school because of the scientific strength of the evidence will say it
> regardless of the grade. And those who rule that creationism can't
> be taught as an alternative will say the same whether it's 9th or
> 12th grade, at least in the context of publicly funded schools.
> Jon Tandy
> -----Original Message-----
> From: []
> On Behalf Of wjp
> Sent: Saturday, November 21, 2009 8:41 AM
> To: Schwarzwald
> Cc:
> Subject: Re: [asa] Evolution and history compulsory
> Importance: Low
> I'm not certain why teaching QM in high school has come up.
> QM can be taught in a number of ways.
> I remember by undergraduate and graduate classes in QM as primarily
> a study of mathematics & mathematical approximation, often guided by
> a presumed happy union with semi-classical methods and ways of
> thinking.
> It was taught simply as a physicist's tool, little, if nothing, was
> said of various metaphysical or philosophical interpretations.
> It is only in the last 20 years that I have begun to think of the
> supposed philosophical implications, both for the nature of the
> world and the nature of science.
> What would be said in a high school QM class where none of the
> mathematics would be presented? Wouldn't it be all interpretation,
> all philosophy?
> It sounds like it would be some popular exposition, more like a
> religion class.
> The same can be said of all of physics, including SR and GR.
> Without the mathematics, what are we left with? We are not left
> with tools, but studies of the nature of the world and the nature of
> epistemology. This is interesting stuff, but it is NOT science.
> Witness, for example, that 100 years after Einstein's landmark 1905
> paper on SR, and the relativity of simultaneity it is still be
> debated whether Einstein "got it right." Not that people doubt the
> mathematics and the physics. They doubt whether Einstein's
> arguments are correct. They doubt, as for QM, whether it speaks of
> epistemology or ontology.
> Yet, it seems to me, that from the beginning it was about
> epistemology.
> Even the light postulate says that all observers will *measure* the
> same speed of light regardless of their "inertial" frame relative to
> the source.
> It appears to strictly speaking be saying something about
> measurement and nothing about ontology. It is silent on what is
> behind the empiricism.
> In as much as science relies upon observable results, we are bound
> only to what can be observed. For all we know, it could be a trick
> of God.
> So, tell me, what have I missed. Why teach QM, and what would be
> taught?
> bill
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Received on Sat Nov 21 15:38:03 2009

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