Yet another frustrating conversation: why talking science to “skeptics” is a hopeless endeavor

Candle in the darkSome time ago I related a frustrating conversation I had with one of my relatives, an intelligent and educated person, who however holds onto what I consider hardly rational views not just in politics (where there is usually ample room for disagreement), but also about conspiracy theories, and more broadly the nature of the world. Recently, I’ve done it again. This time spending days on and off having a conversation via social media with a person I’ve never met and will never likely meet. Let me tell you what I learned from it.

First, a disclaimer: I usually do not engage in any one-on-one debates, either via email or on social media, simply because not only they tend to be fruitless, but they are also incredibly time consuming. And the older I get, the more I’m jealous of my time. This story, therefore, is to be considered as a rare exception, and not as an encouragement to send me private messages to try to repeat the experience. That’s why I have two blogs (this one and howtobeastoic.org), so that we can have fruitful public discussions that may benefit a number of people.

The range of topics of this new episode was much narrower than the preceding one, and also far more close to my own areas of expertise: evolutionary biology and philosophy of science. I felt, therefore, like I really knew what I was talking about, providing not just a reasonably intelligent and somewhat informed opinion (as, say, during informal discussions on economics, or politics), but an expert one, based on 35 years (shit!) of studying the subject matter at a professional level.

It didn’t help. Not in the least. My interlocutor — let’s call her Curiosa — is an intelligent woman who has read a lot of stuff on evolution in particular, and science more generally. She has also read several of my blog posts, watched some of my debates, and even bought one of my books on evolution. She discovered me by way of reading Michel Denton’s Evolution: A Theory in Crisis, which cites me several times as a reluctant critic of evolutionary theory, i.e., one of those people who know that there is something seriously wrong with “Darwinism,” and yet somehow can’t let go of the orthodoxy and embrace the revolution.

My actual position is easy to check online, in several places. For instance in these two recent blog posts for the Extended Evolutionary Synthesis initiative. In a nutshell: evolutionary theory has evolved by way of several episodes beginning from 1859 (original Darwinism) to the 1930s and ’40s (the Evolutionary Synthesis) through current times (the Extended Synthesis), and it will likely continue to do so. There is nothing wrong with Darwin’s original twin ideas of natural selection and common descent, but we have added a number of other areas of inquiry, explanatory concepts, and of course empirical results over the intervening century and a half. End of story.

Not according to Curiosa. She explained to me that Darwinism is a “reductionist” theory, apparently meaning something really bad by that term. I explained that reductionism is a successful strategy throughout the sciences, and that when it is well done (i.e., it’s not what Dan Dennett characterized as “greedy” reductionism), it is pretty much the only game in town to advance our knowledge of the world.

But, countered Curiosa, how do you then explain the bacterial flagellum? This was obviously a reference to the infamous Darwin’s Black Box by intelligent design creationist Michael Behe. You know, Behe is a scientist! With a PhD!! Working at a legitimate university!!! How do you explain that, Prof. Pigliucci?

Simple, I said, you will always find legitimate academics who will position themselves outside of the mainstream. It actually is a healthy aspect of the social enterprise we call science. Occasionally, some of these people go way outside of the consensus opinion, into territory that is highly questionable, or even downright pseudoscientific. They may do it for a number of reasons, from the fact that they consider themselves rebels and mavericks to their tendency to put their (usually religious, but sometimes political) ideology ahead of reason and evidence. As in fact is the case for Behe, a fervent Catholic who simply can’t wrap his mind around the conclusion that life originated and differentiated by purely natural means, no gods required.

Ah!, continued Curiosa, if that’s the case, how come there is so much disagreement among scientists about evolution, and even the origin of life? Well, I replied, let’s begin by separating those two:

To begin with, there is no such thing as widespread disagreement about “Darwinism” among evolutionary biologists. Pretty much all professionals I know accept the idea, and the disagreement is over the shape of the current theory, just like physicists disagree on the cutting edge of their discipline, not about Newton, or even Einstein.

Moreover, the reason there are indeed so many theories about the origin of life, and truly no consensus, is because we just don’t have enough information left for us to zero in on one or a small subset of hypotheses. The historical traces of those events are, unfortunately, forever erased. We don’t have, and likely never will have, fossils documenting what happened at the onset of life, which means that our ideas about it will remain speculative. Indeed, even should we one day be able to recreate life from scratch in a laboratory, we will have no guarantee that the path we followed under controlled conditions was the one historically followed by nature on our planet. But so what? Science never promised to answer every question, it only promised to do its best. Sometimes its best is not good enough, and the wise thing is to accept human epistemic limitations and move on.

Not at all satisfied, Curiosa shifted topic again: didn’t you hear of Roger Penrose quantum mechanical explanation of consciousness? Doesn’t that imply that consciousness is everywhere, that it is a holistic property of the universe?

Hmm, I said, with all due respect to Sir Roger, I doubt physicists have a clue about consciousness, which so far as I can see is a biological phenomenon, whose explanation is hence best left to biologists. Besides, I told her, beware of any “explanation” that invokes quantum mechanics for anything that is not quantum level phenomena, even when done by an actual credentialed physicist like Penrose. At any rate, I concluded, even if Penrose is right, what does that have to do with Darwinism and its alleged failures?

I think you get the idea, so I won’t bore you with additional examples of the many increasingly frustrating and downright useless exchanges between Curiosa and me, which continued until I politely pointed out that we were going in circles and that perhaps it was time to call it a day.

What did I learn from this exchange? A number of things, none of them boding too well for the advancement of rational discourse and public understanding of science.

First, let me remind you that Curiosa is a smart, well read, and genuinely curious person. She ain’t no country bumpkin, so to speak.

Second, precisely because she reads widely, she can’t help herself putting what I write — or what truly eminent evolutionary biologists, like Stephen Jay Gould, write — on the same level with the sort of fluff that comes out of the Behes and the Dentons of the world. She simply has no way to discriminate, since all these people have PhD’s, and they all have affiliations with reputable universities.

Third, while we always assume that knowledge is an unqualified good, it turns out that a bit of knowledge may do more harm than complete ignorance. When someone as intelligent as Curiosa thinks she understands enough to draw conclusions, she will not hesitate in doing so, rejecting expert opinion outright. When this has to do with the status of evolutionary theory, no much harm is done. But when it has to do with, say, climate change, or the safety of vaccines, that’s an altogether different, and far more dire, story.

Fourth, Curiosa has fallen for the well known technique of spreading doubt on mainstream science, enough that people cannot genuinely make up their minds about what is going on. This was the deliberate strategy of the tobacco industry in its absurd (and lethal, for many people) denial of a link between smoking and cancer, so well encapsulated in the book and documentary Merchants of Doubt. The same approach has then been used to saw doubts about climate change, vaccines, and so forth. And of course it has also been the main strategy behind the so-called intelligent design movement.

Fifth, and rather ironically, Curiosa has absorbed and internalized the vocabulary of skeptical (i.e., pro-science) organizations, accusing me and others of engaging in all sorts of logical fallacies, a convenient shortcut that saves her the trouble to actually engage with my arguments. When I pointed out — reasonably, seemed to me — that Discovery Institute Fellow Jonathan Wells is a member of the Church of Reverend Moon, and that his antipathy toward evolution is entirely ideological in nature, I of course “committed” an ad hominem. When pointed out plenty of reliable sources on evolutionary theory, I was engaging in confirmation bias. And so on.

Lastly, Curiosa’s spirited discussion with me was very clearly fueled by her pride in taking on Big Science and its Orthodoxy, in favor of open mindedness and revolution. She saw herself as David, and I was the Goliath to be slain.

There is nothing I or anyone else can do for the Curiosa of the world. If, and it’s a big if, they will ever manage to get their head clear about what is and is not legitimate science, they will have to do it on their own, painfully and slowly. The resources are out there, easily at their disposal. But they have no psychological incentive to do so.

What can, and ought to, be done instead is act at two levels: i) engage in public outreach aimed at those who are still not as far gone as Curiosa, hoping to retain them and even strengthened their resolve to support sound science; and ii) to do a far better job than we do now with the next generation. It is children that we should target — just like, not at all coincidentally — creationists write lots and lots of books for children. But there is little incentive for scientists and science popularizers to do so, because children literature is seen as somehow inferior to that aimed at adults (even though it is arguably harder to pull off), and because we won’t see the results for decades.

Science, and reason in general, thus remains — in the beautiful metaphor proposed by Carl Sagan — like a candle in the dark. Our urgent job is for it not to be snuffed out by the forces of darkness.

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Categories: Public Philosophy

234 replies

  1. synred:

    You can think of money like that I guess though bit s on a computer is not quite what I think most people would class as a physical token. In modern financial organizations those bit are constantly in flux too, undergoing transformation as they flow along the wires. Also, form a modern perspective even a verbal IOU represents a change in the money supply. Not sure what you would count as a token there. Also, most of the financial capital doesn’t isn’t tied to a physical commodity.

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  2. synred,
    “a system of money” – the operative noun is system. That system does not exist in paper, coin, or computers. It’s us, it’s in our heads. Thus the tokens merely sign value within our thinking and collective communications. We grant those tokens any signification other than the paper, the metal, the electric pulses running through the computer. None of these are the system, and cannot be interpreted as relating to the system beyond our agreement.

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  3. Ok.

    Not that non-philosophers are likely to worry about the difference.

    “Hey, Joe, got any currency on you…” would not confuse anybody.

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  4. a system of money in general use in a particular country.
    “the dollar was a strong currency”
    synonyms:
    money, legal tender, cash, banknotes, bills, notes, coins, coinage, specie
    “foreign currency”

    Actually the definition includes money, cash, coins, etc. as synonyms. consistent with common usage. I don’t think the definition in practice is the precise. Though the synomyms are not too good. Nobody would say 20 currency,, you’d have to say something more like 20 units of (whatever) currency.

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  5. Synred: The point is that it complicates the simplistic “ontological and epistemic unity” Coel likes to talk about. Unless what he really means by this is something so weak that it’s completely uninteresting.

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  6. Well since I spent most of my career studying a ‘ontological unity’ I guess I disagree that it’s uninteresting and that how ‘higher levels’ emerge from ‘simple’ things like particles and fields is uninteresting.

    But of course ‘interesting’ is a matter of taste. I don’t see how you can declare something ‘completely uninteresting’ accept ‘uninteresting too you.’

    E.g., I find the subject of the book I’m reading about how life energy from chemistry very interesting (though I’m skeptical that this book accomplishes this goal as it claims). I find statistical mechanics (I was a grader for this class at UofIll.) which does this or participles->thermodynamics fascinating. I prefer to think of this as ‘construction’ rather than ‘deconstruction’ or ‘reduction’. E.g., if you tear apart of house and find it’s made of bricks and mortar, you still don’t understand a house or how it’s made. Knocking it apart to find what is’t made of can however be a good start — that’s pretty much what we do with accelerators — in the case of atoms Rutherford and Bohr where able to deduce how atoms where made this way and we’ve been repeating the Rutherford experiment ever since.

    But lots of interesting chemistry was done before the structure was understood; when the structure was understood it explained much of chemistry. Boring ontological unity?

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  7. EJ, exactly … that’s why I mentioned semiotics earlier.

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  8. Synred: There is no account of how currency — a feature of social reality — “emerges” from particles and fields. That’s the point. The relevant explanations of social entities like currencies occur at the social and maybe the psychological level of description. Get much lower down and you are simply invoking minimal “token physicalism” which is uninteresting.

    That’s the whole point of the disunity of the sciences thesis that Fodor advances in “Special Sciences.”

    http://fitelson.org/woodward/fodor.pdf

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  9. There is no account of how currency — a feature of social reality — “emerges” from particles and fields.

    I don’t think even Coel claims there is. That doesn’t mean there couldn’t be one, though clearly very difficult.

    We have quarks,electrons,etc->protons,neutrons(and still electrons)->atoms->chemistry->life->mind->culture

    Some of these links are well understood, some not. Some may be near impossible.Just simulating them does not give you an understanding of them. Some may be practically impossible to understand. I don’t believe any are magic. Something physical happens though doubtless God will be inserted in the gaps.

    I think these links interesting; that doesn’t imply that higher levels are uninteresting and they are for the foreseeable future more tractable (though plenty difficult in their own right).

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  10. Synred: I don’t think anything “happens.” I think that at higher levels of description, certain interpretive properties become possible that had not been possible before.

    Anscombe’s distinction between “brute” and “institutional” facts is useful here.

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  11. I don’t think anything “happens.” I think that at higher levels of description, certain interpretive properties become possible that had not been possible before.

    I wouldn’t disagree with that. life->brain->mind->culture opens up ‘possibilities’ and cultural interactions like trade lead to currency. Opening up possibilities is something “happening.” Describing this in terms of quarks would be no more useful than trying to understand pressure, temperture or heat by merely tracking particle. To understand pressure you have to understand the collective effect of many particles.

    But the effect of the particular particle involved is not total irrelvant. The heat capacity of a substance depends on how many degrees of freedom (such as spin) the atoms have. The heat capacity of water is much higher than Helium. Details of water molecule cause ice to be light than liquid water which makes life possible. The lower level is NOT irrelevant.

    Of course the brain->mind->culture transition is not so simple as thermodynamics. We don’t know what additional concepts needed are and there’s no guarantee we ever will.

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  12. This video could not be more relevant to this discussion:

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  13. Hi Dan,

    The point is that it complicates the simplistic “ontological and epistemic unity” Coel likes to talk about. Unless what he really means by this is something so weak that it’s completely uninteresting.

    Perhaps we’re now only disagreeing on whether the doctrine is interesting!

    Yes, ontological supervenience on physical matter is all that I’m claiming (and yes, it can be regarded as a fairly weak thesis). From there, to quote the arch-bogeyman Weinberg: “It is not so much that the reductionist world view helps us to understand George himself as that it rules out other sorts of understanding” (e.g. it rules out dualistic souls).

    Regarding money, I agree entirely with ejwinner, who says:

    That system does not exist in paper, coin, or computers. It’s us, it’s in our heads. Thus the tokens merely sign value within our thinking and collective communications.

    From there, I’ll re-propose something that I previously claimed. (Sorry, this is going to be a Star-Trek-style thought experiment!) Take a room full of poker players. The room contains the property “money”. Now make an exact atom-by-atom replica of that entire room, using a device that “knows” only about low-level atoms, recording their position and type, and using a “3-D printer” device to build up the replica room, atom by atom.

    Does the replicated room contain the property “money” (and for that matter consciousness, intention, and every other relevant high-level property)? As I see it it obviously does, and this follows directly from the thesis of ontological supervenience, however weak that is.

    If you do agree, then we’re actually in agreement on a very great deal. If, however, you refuse to assent to that claim (and I recall that previously you did), then surely that implies that the thesis of ontological supervenience physicalism is at least “interesting” in the sense of being disputable?

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  14. Coel:

    I’d like to join in providing detailed arguments, unfortunately i haven’t got the time for that right now, living in the other side of the world and all that. So, just summaries.

    You have this irritating habit of quoting arguments at half-points, giving the impression you just read the conclusion and not the substantiation part, as if you decide to criticize for argument’s sake without first reading to the end. Perhaps you can read through the entire arguments first, then do the criticism, without giving the impression you just read the conclusion and forgo the argument?
    About the seamless whole, there is no seamless transition from plate tectonics to relativity for example. Apart from emergentist ideas (which are not “seamless wholes” since two conflicting ideas maybe predicated to an underlying theory), i don’t see how you propose to make the jigsaw fit across different orders of theories. Cite instances of how this happens, if it has happened. Horizontal unifications (unifications within the same domain, like electricity and magnetism) aside, there is no empirical evidence whatsoever of deriving chemical theories from physical ones, or biological theories from chemical ones, or psychological from biological theories, or any in-betweens (in case you conjure this idea) – and by this i mean that higher-order theories have never been reduced to lower-order theories.

    If you say, “no no, i’m not asking for complete reductionism, only for their consistency!”, again, consistency is very easy to get; indeed, most higher order theories conflicting with each other will be equally consistent with the immediately lower-order theory underlying both, so where is the “seamless, adjacent translation”?
    There is not even an “approximation” (whatever that means) of this in existing sciences. So if your claim is that we “should” head towards it, all I can say is that another may simply say, nope, we should not.

    Regarding your comments on uniformitarianism, surrendering the invariant speed of light is very different from moving from steady state to big bang cosmology. Both steady state and big bang assume light’s invariant speed, so these changes are within the system, not of the system itself. By “rewriting cosmology” i mean rather rewriting our entire knowledge of the history of the cosmos, including the age of the universe, its expansion and accelerated expansion, its hubble volume, the size, everything everything. why? because these ‘facts’ are deduced from the assumption that light is invariant across all space and time.

    now you may probably say again, “well, why not do just that if the evidence demands it?” now in saying this you misunderstand.

    first, of course we can do that, there’s nobody stopping us. But if we do that, everything we think we know about the universe will be wrong. “so?” so what i have been saying all along – this will stand as solid proof that future scientific theories always end up refuting past scientific theories, when the future ones challenge the past paradigms. unlike the change from steady to big bang, changing the speed of light is to completely change the paradigm of modern cosmology, because the invariant speed of light is one of the few constants we use to know everything else.

    second, because the invariant speed of light (this is just an example) is an assumption we use to infer the past. let me try to make it simpler. our definition of a “meter” is derived from the speed of light – the length light travels within 1/299 792 458 of a second, right? now you can of course always change this and say, “i don’t like this definition of a meter! let’s define it instead as the length sound travels within x of a second!” of course you can do this – but when you do this, the relevant point is that you are not doing it on the basis of any evidence, but due to change in your intellectual taste. i’m saying that the invariant speed of light works in much the same way, albeit with far greater consequences than changing the definition of the meter.

    ok (before you jump to comment in here), let me make it even simpler. how do we know what happens 5 billion years ago – or even that there was a time 5 billion years back? its because we use, among other things, the invariant speed of light (and decay rates) to come to these conclusions, assuming also that some of the fundamental laws of physics we have today (including the gravitational constant) behaves in a certain way 5 billion years back. but how can you know this at all? surely you can’t go back in time to 5 billion yeas and check it, can you now? no you cannot. so then, what evidence do you have that light behaves this way 5 billion years back, or the laws of physics still applied the same? none.

    yes, you may appeal to fossil records, to the rate of decay of elements and all that. but strictly, how do you know these are the results of things that happened 5 billion years back? you “know” so by looking at the decay rates of elements in the present, and then use this information to extrapolate wayyy back into the distant past, and conclude from there that if the elements decay at this rate, then these things must have first originated 5 billion years back. now, do not be lost in this by the irrelevant point of “we can always adopt other decay rates, other laws and constants”, so on and so forth. well, of course you can do that; no one’s stopping you. but you do so without any evidence whatsoever, in that you can’t travel back in time and check if the decay rates at 3bya is x, at 2bya is still y or something else, etc. this is why the assumption of the invariant speed of light across all time and space, and the assumption that the laws of physics apply everywhere, are not just assumptions; without these, you can’t have physics as we know it, and the alternate physics we have, will simply disprove all scientific “facts” we now have. the reason we don’t use an alternate physics is not because there is evidence for the current physics across all space and time, but there is no evidence for the alternate physics (though there is none against).

    to illustrate, let’s take the 2 assumptions of special relativity again: constancy of the speed of light, and the homogenous nature of laws across all space and time. now these assumptions are, strictly speaking, entirely unnecessary to account for the data we do have. all the evidences that we can collect here on earth is consistent with these conflicting assumptions: one, that the speed of light is constant everywhere on Earth and all the laboratories on it, and up to the Oort cloud; two, the speed of light is greater than 300,000kms/sec beyond the oort cloud, but sinks to this once entering the cloud; three, the speed of light is slower than 300,000kms/sec beyond the oort cloud, but increases once entering the cloud; so on and so forth. the only reason we assume the constancy of light’s speed across all space and time is because of Occam’s razor, because, while the other assumptions are observationally equivalent to the assumption of the speed of light’s invariance, they introduce new hypothesis, thus making the picture more complex.

    and herein comes the catch: one can simply reject the universal applicability of Occam’s razor if he wishes to, and refuse to make any “unwarranted” use beyond what the evidence offers!

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  15. Hi Haulianlal,

    You have this irritating habit of quoting arguments at half-points, …

    Good netiquette is to quote sufficiently for context but no more than that. I do read all of your comments.

    About the seamless whole, there is no seamless transition from plate tectonics to relativity for example.

    I assert that there is. There is indeed a lot of landscape between those two, but at every point in-between there is a jigsaw piece that is consistent with its adjacent pieces. That’s what I mean by a “seamless transition”. There are no gaps or edges or discontinuities.

    [Again, this is a statement of the ideal that science aims for, current science will of course be an imperfect approximation to it.]

    … there is no empirical evidence whatsoever of deriving chemical theories from physical ones, or biological theories from chemical ones, or psychological from biological theories,…

    Once again, my thesis is not that one can derive one theory from the other, the thesis is that they are all consistent with each other in the sense of no inconsistencies, and that the consistency requirement, when applied to adjacent pieces, is actually quite powerful.

    I have said that multiple times on this thread and on previous ones, yet every time I get interpreted as advancing some strong thesis about deriving a higher level theory from a lower-level one. Please could philosophers forget about that whle concept? It does not work, and never has, and no-one argues for it!

    again, consistency is very easy to get;

    No it is not! Not when considering adjacent pieces of the puzzle. A lot of science is about trying to iron out those inconsistencies.

    So if your claim is that we “should” head towards it, all I can say is that another may simply say, nope, we should not.

    Really? You’re now suggesting that we should not care about whether scientific theories are consistent with each other??

    … because the invariant speed of light is one of the few constants we use to know everything else.

    Sorry, Haulianlal, you’re just completely wrong on this. Science does not have to assume an invariant speed of light. Indeed, prior to the Michelson–Morley experiment in 1887, physicists assumed that the speed of light was variable. Science didn’t fail to work because of that! Again, the adoption of an invariant speed of light, superseding the classical physics, was because it worked better! It was not because of any metaphysical dogma about uniformity.

    Yes, changing that now to a variable speed of light would indeed have knock-on consequences for a wide swathe of the Quinean “web” of science models. But there is nothing to stop us considering that. We simply ask, will that make the overall model a better fit or a worse fit to empirical experience?

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  16. Coel:

    Maybe an analogy could be helpful. You are working on a computer which has a hardware level (say the CPU) and a software level such as the web browser you are using. Now it’s true that the software level supervenes the hardware but quite unhelpful. The browser can have multiple different instantiations (firefox vs chrome say) across different hardware architectures (x86 vs amd64 say), and talk about CPUs gives you no insight into the properties of browsers.

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  17. Hi Bunsen,

    The browser can have multiple different instantiations (firefox vs chrome say) across different hardware architectures (x86 vs amd64 say), and talk about CPUs gives you no insight into the properties of browsers.

    Agreed. Nothing about that contradicts anything I’ve argued for.

    Note, by the way, that the hardware architectures are not the same as the hardware configurations, where once the software is implemented that hardware configuration does need to be consistent with the description at the level of software.

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  18. Coel:

    I have no idea what you mean by the hardware config needs to be consistent with the description of the software. The description of the software is a computer program that can be printed out and stored as text on paper independent of any hardware config.

    The analogy is not there to contradict anything, its put out as a way of showing why no one considers your view of supervenience as interesting or useful.

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  19. Understanding currencies as economic circulation system, rather than abstract commodities, might help to explain our current financial predicament. Sometimes we lose sight of those lower order processes running through our very complex lives. Money doesn’t easily function as an infinite store of value, simply because as an abstraction, it can be separated from its underlaying context. Abstraction is not foundational, but only maps the underlaying processes. This could apply to certain physical theories, as well.

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  20. Hi Bunsen,

    I have no idea what you mean by the hardware config needs to be consistent with the description of the software.

    If some software is actually running on the hardware, then the hardware needs to be in a particular configuration (which refers not just to the architecture of the hardware, but to the specific state of the hardware — after all, the software must have physical implementation as a particular configuration of the computer hardware). That hardware configuration needs to be consistent with your printed-out description of the software.

    … its put out as a way of showing why no one considers your view of supervenience as interesting or useful.

    If they think that then I suggest that they are not thinking it through (e.g. not considering that software does need physical implementation to run).

    And, as up-thread, Dan has previously rejected my claim that the “replicated poker room” would manifest money and consciousness etc (at least I think he did, I’m open to correction), and if he does that then my supervenience view is interesting and contended.

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  21. The current financial bubble is an example of the software of financial abstraction getting far ahed of the underlaying economic hardware.

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  22. Coel:

    There are many hardware configurations that can be consistent with a particular program, and many programs that can be consistent with a particular hardware config. The mapping between the layers is many-to-many.

    No one on this thread has argued against supervenience, just the conclusions you draw from it, which are far stronger than warranted.

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  23. Hi Bunsen,

    There are many hardware configurations that can be consistent with a particular program, and many programs that can be consistent with a particular hardware config. The mapping between the layers is many-to-many.

    I entirely agree.

    No one on this thread has argued against supervenience, …

    People, on past threads, have rejected my “replicated poker room” claim, which is essentially a rejection of the supervenience thesis. You’re right that no-one has (yet) done so on this thread,

    … just the conclusions you draw from it, which are far stronger than warranted.

    Specifically which conclusions of mine are far stronger than warranted?

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  24. http://www.academia.edu/download/68664/1z1xsurhi3z8mzb0elff.pdf

    When I click on this, I find it missing. I’m interested in if the Penrose claim about equivalence of Goedel to stop/not stop issue is correct or not.

    I’m not sure how far I’ll get with Nagel et al., as I get stuck before I even get to Nagel. I get the imaginary number example (in fact wrote a little essay (“Are imaginary numbers real?”), but don’t understand the definition given for irrationals in terms of rational which as it seems it should be relatively simple makes me despair of understanding Goedel. My current understanding is on the popular level that I think leads to a lot of the confusion when the subject comes up.

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