Occasionally Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal captures an important insight, in this case, people's attitudes toward the social sciences. My attitude toward the social sciences is that they are quite capable of being scientific. They're not always, but then even the "hard" sciences have their lapses. On the one hand, what social scientists are studying exists … Continue reading SMBC: Social Science
I've often noted here the importance of predictions, both in terms of our primal understanding of reality, such as how to get to the refrigerator in your house, or in terms of scientific theories. In truth, every understanding of reality involves predictions. Arguably a fundamental aspect of consciousness is prediction. Of course, not every notion … Continue reading Predictions and retrodictions
In the post on Copernicus earlier this week, I noted that his heliocentric theory, right from its initial publication, was hailed as far more mathematically elegant than the Aristotelian / Ptolemaic system, which was taken as the canonical model of the universe at the time. But while everyone hailed Copernican mathematics, virtually no one accepted … Continue reading The role of beauty and simplicity in scientific theories
For most of human history, the Earth was seen as the stationary center of the universe, with the sun, planets, and starry firmament circling around it at various speeds. The ancient Greeks quickly managed to work out that the Earth was spherical but struggled to explain the motions of the heavens. Eventually Eudoxus, a student … Continue reading A theory more pleasing to the mind
Jim Baggott has a pretty good piece at Aeon on the problems with post-empirical science. I've highlighted Baggott's views before. Along with others like Sabine Hossenfelder and Peter Woit, he calls attention to a serious issue in physics, the rising acceptance of theories that show little promise of being testable in the foreseeable future. In … Continue reading The problems with post-empirical science
Philosopher Wilfrid Sellars had a term for the world as it appears, the "manifest image." This is the world as we perceive it. In it, an apple is an apple, something red or green with a certain shape, a range of sizes, a thing that we can eat, or throw. The manifest image can be … Continue reading Is the ultimate nature of reality mental?
The other day, when discussing a paper that criticized IIT (the Integrated Information Theory of consciousness) as unscientific, I noted that IIT, while questionable as the ultimate answer for consciousness, could be useful in the more limited capacity of distinguishing degrees of consciousness in a brain. Apparently I'm not the only one who thinks that, … Continue reading Empirical vs Fundamental IIT and the benefits of instrumentalism
There's an article by Matthew R. Francis in Symmetry magazine garnering a lot of attention asking whether falsifiability is a useful criteria for scientific theories. Popper wrote in his classic book The Logic of Scientific Discovery that a theory that cannot be proven false—that is, a theory flexible enough to encompass every possible experimental outcome—is scientifically useless. … Continue reading The relationship between usefulness and falsifiability
Ethan Siegel at Starts With a Bang has a post up arguing that the multiverse must exist. His reasoning has to do with cosmic inflation. Inflation is the theory that the universe expanded at an exponential rate in the first billionth of a trillionth of a trillionth of a second of the big bang timeline. … Continue reading Is cosmic inflation settled science?
At Aeon, Nevin Climenhaga makes some interesting points about probability. After describing different interpretations of probability, one involving the frequency with which an event will occur, another involving its propensity to occur, and a third involving our confidence it will occur, he describes how, given a set of identical facts, each of these interpretations can … Continue reading Probability is relative