Thursday, August 27, 2015

Materialism Is Inevitably Nihilistic Its Nihilism Corrodes Even The Science It Is The Product Of Eventually It Even Corrodes The Respect For Science

In this day, as I've pointed out a number of times, scientists are insisting that they be allowed to publish things that have absolutely no foundation in observation in nature and even things that likely will never have any foundation in nature and get to call the results "science" with all of the rights and privileges conferred by long habit and experience of past science, that it be asserted to be reliable and objective.  I'm hardly alone in that observation, it's made from the such brilliant commentators on advanced physics as the mathematician Peter Woit and the rather better than most science journalist John Horgan.  It's made by an increasing number of scientists, even as some of the biggest names in science, Stephen Hawking a prime example, issue such observation free scientific declarations - such as his recent one about information being retained on the "shell" that the "event horizon" of black holes, even as the particle which that information is supposed to inform of is drawn into the hole, itself and who the hell knows what happens in there.  Just where this has been observed in nature is an easy question to answer, the answer is that it has never been observed because even the identification of a black hole is massively problematic and almost everything said about them - presented in the language of science which has been verified, observationally - is, in fact, not confirmed by observation in nature.  Yet people are in the habit of talking as if the verification of past theories of black holes is in hand and that, because of those theories, we can make confident assertions about such things as information accessibility at the "shell" of a black hole.  And, even if that observational confirmation eludes physics forever, I suppose even more of that kind of dissection of black holes will continue as grad students in that field want to make names for themselves and rise in the academic-scientific struggle for tenured professorships and other such things.

Other than the fact that the "Lords of Creation", as one of my biologist relations calls them, are able to talk governments into giving them lots and lots of money for colliders and other things to look for tiny particles and confirmation of a small fraction of their speculations, money that could go towards science that might, just might, be useful in saving our own and very much known to exist shell on which we all, including the most attenuated of theoretical physicist, depend for, you know, things like air to breathe, water to drink, food to eat, in order of which lacking we will die most rapidly.  She can be quite eloquent on the matter of funding of biological research in the face of such glamour projects of advanced physics.

I, on the other hand, am mostly interested in the current state of theoretical physics and, even more so, evolutionary psychology, because they expose the black hole of hypocrisy found in so many individuals who will demand proof of anything they hate, even that which makes no claims of scientific content,  but will become outraged when you point out that scientists frequently exempt themselves from having to even have a remote possibility of producing proof of what they assert has the reliability of science.  No evolutionary psycologist will ever make an observation of a behavior in even one dead hominid, they will never be able to compare reproductive success in animals which exhibited a behavior as opposed to others in their species which didn't.  They will never be able to demonstrate the persistence of a behavior across species in time to link something like human self-sacrifice to the behavior of ants and bees protecting their colony at a cost to themselves.  With the problems of past assumptions about the physical body explained, entirely or even largely by genes that have become apparent, it may well be that the problems of evolutionary psychology a lot of us noticed thirty-five years ago are only part of it.

Clearly, the old assumptions about science were not that it would revert to the habits of late medieval, scholastic natural philosophy, before the advent of modern science based in observation.  As late as the 1930s, it was possible for Arthur Stanley Eddington, in a lecture on "Selective Subjectivism" in science was able to say these things

 .... if we take observation as the basis of physical science, and insist that its assertions must be verifiable by observation, we impose a selective test on the knowledge which is admitted as physical.   The selection is subjective, because it depends on the sensory and intellectual equipment which is our means of acquiring observational knowledge.  It is to such subjectively-selected knowledge and to the universe which it is formulated to describe that the generalizations of physics - the so-called laws of nature - apply.  

...  Clearly an abandonment of the observational method of physical science is out of the question.  Observationally grounded science has been by no means a failure;  though we may have misunderstood the precise nature of its success.  Those who are dissatisfied with anything but a purely objective universe may turn to the metaphysicians, who are not cramped by the self-imposed ordinance that every assertion must be capable of submission to observation as the final Court of Appeal.  But we, as physicists, shall continue to study the universe revealed by observation and to make our generalizations about it; although we now know that the universe so reached cannot be wholly objective. Of course the great mass of physicists, who pay no attention to epistemology, would have gone on doing this in any case. *

A. S. Eddington : Selective Subjectivism, chapter 2, The Philosphy of Physical Science

"Clearly an abandonment of the observational method of physical science is out of the question," were that the case but not anymore, it's not.  It is the insisted on by an increasing number of theoretical physicists like Hawking and it was totally done away with in psychology and other social sciences pretty much from their inception.

Compare that statement with the present day state of cutting edge cosmology which sells string theory, M-theory, and everything up to and including different and competing multiverse ensembles consisting of numbers of entire universes so numerous that they achieve an effective if not actual infinity.  All without observational verification, much, if not all of it, beyond any possible means of verification.

You don't have to take my word for that -

One subject that was not mentioned at all in Ellis’s talk, and, as far as I could tell, not in any of the other ones either, was the multiverse. The organizers and speakers seem to all realize that there’s no scientific content to this idea worth discussing, so best to ignore it. I’m completely mystified though by the decision to have as public outreach a promotional talk about the multiverse by Alan Guth. Why anybody in HEP thinks it’s a good idea to make pseudo-science the public face of the subject just baffles me. If you want to see one reason why this kind of thing is really a bad idea and doing great damage to the public perception and understanding of the subject, take a look at this.

In Woit's post "this" is a link to a book review in the Spectator making fun of the claims of big names in physics and cosmology, comparing their claims, unfavorably, with "the most preposterous Old Testament preacher".  Leaving aside the condescension of both Alexander Masters and Peter Woit, the "Old Testament preachers" weren't primarily interested in multiverses and what happens at the event horizon of black holes, they were interested in the welfare of people living their lives in their contemporary world.  I don't think their ignorance of modern physics and astronomy is as serious a defect in their intended purpose as the modern scientists who don't even seem to understand what they need to achieve reliable knowledge and, as I have pointed out many times, don't even understand the vicissitudes of their own, insisted on materialist faith for the value of even their best ideas.

It is tragic that the time it takes to rise high in mathematics and physics, the other sciences and other such academic specialties take so much time that so many of these people have anything but a liberal education. It is even worse that so many of them are quite content with their ignorance of other things, brushing them aside as entirely unimportant as compared with their lofty subject matter.  Their education should, at least, give them enough knowledge of their own subject that they understand its requirements and limits and why other things matter.  What their studies can and can't do but other studies can. Philosophy, for example. History for another.   It's too bad more of them aren't required to read Eddington, especially his Philosophy of Physical Science, because he really did understand those things.  He, being a Quaker, didn't have to try to make his science squeeze into the corset of materialist ideology and wasn't tempted by the idiotic faith of scientism.  That left him free to see many obvious truths about science that so many can't fathom because their founding assumptions are entirely unrealistic.  The success of science was made or broken on the issue of observed verification in the natural universe.  It reputation was gained on the reliability that past generations of scientists had demonstrated through their rigorous insistence on that verification.  I think the time in which scientists will be able to bypass that verification and get by on the balance built up by those who earned the habit of accepting what scientists tell us because it is scientists who are saying it is limited.  Habits can be unlearned on the basis of failure to deliver and the past century of things which got called "science" the disasters of science that cuts corners, often for the profit of science done for corporations and governments, matched with scientists demanding the right to bypass any confirmation that their strange, even "preposterous" and, not least of all, entirely conflicting claims are as much a danger to science as the creationism industry.

I think scientists who insist on using theories unverified by observation or removed from the possibility of verification through observation have not only brought science into a decadent period but, through the repute of science, has helped bring about a more general period of decadent nihilism. Having looked long and hard at what materialists have said, what the inevitable consequencs of believing the claims of materialism, those all inevitably lead to nihilism, I have never found a statement by a materialist to the contrary stands up to the framing of materialism.

*  Consider the outrage among the college educated, those with degrees in science and those whose science education primarily consists of watching Nova or the Discover channel, if you brought up that the work of scientists is not purely objective but is, inevitably, the product of either subjective experience - which none of us can escape because all observation is limited to what we can observe - or subjective because all human expression is bound within the experience of the person expressing something.   The slogan that science produces objective knowlege is so drilled into people that they can't even think of what's really going on and the inevitable qualities imposed by how people do things is a violation of everything they've been taught to believe.

1 comment:

  1. I've read comments from scientists who can't accept the implications of Kuhn's paradigms.

    Some of them really are like the worst caricatures of the medieval theologian.