Friday, December 13, 2013

Fundamental Force Followup

After commenting on the fundamental forces, commenter Scintimandrion offered the following insight:
I don't think the issue is the number of ghosts and spooks. I think it's whether they have will and purpose. Our ghosts and spooks are mindless entities that just do the same thing over and over again.
The problem I have with this reply is simple: I'd like to know how we know that 'our ghosts and spooks are mindless entities'. I'll grant that these forces are reliable, that they do the same thing over and over again. But mindless? Lacking will and purpose? Where is the test for this? Where is the research? And, if there was no test nor research, then where is this conclusion coming from? I don't think mere regularity is going to suffice to establish the listed claims. Instead I think we have here a very common, oft-repeated, taken-for-granted claim that may well be difficult to defend at the end of the day.

52 comments:

NoshPartitas said...

Right, and even that regularity and repeatability we take for granted doesn't seem to be explicable in terms of empirical scientific methods. Sure we can continually observe the phenomena in question, but are we really to think that the our presupposition of regularity is a scientific one?

Anyway, I'm frequently reminded of Chesterton's "Ethics in Elfland", in which he notes his bemusement at modern folk who observe the seemingly arbitrary quality of nature and proceed to take it as some kind of pure necessity that it is the way it is.

(Nor do I think Chesterton could be read in the Humean sense either, for his position is, I believe, reconcilable with something David Oderberg countenances: instead of "the laws of Nature", we have "the laws of natures", by virtue of an essentialist/realist metaphysics).

But by that point, we're far from what modern science can ably tell us...

Crude said...

I suppose any presupposition wouldn't be scientific, no. I think Feser's Last Superstition got into that.

I agree about the limits of science. I think people uncritically accept a lot of claims as 'scientific' that really are not. What interests me here is that the fundamental forces seem like fascinating candidates for a conversation about minds and mentality - and I think the obvious move (science is agnostic about this) would have far-reaching consequences if realized.

NoshPartitas said...

Yeah, I think that's one of the reasons the early 20th century is so fascinating with respect to the development of certain theorists seeking to harmonize their philosophical biases with discoveries being made in physics and quantum mechanics in particular. I'm mainly thinking of the positivists and the philosophers of a more rationalist bent. The "spookiness" of quantum physics and relativity seemed to shatter the old rationalist "myth" (Descartes etc.) of a purely mechanistic Newtonian world operating according to principles perceptible to any universally inquiring mind; that is, one seeking to understand reality in an entirely objective way. In other words, an element of irreducible subjectivity (much like we find in the philosophy of mind) was introduced into physics, where certain phenomena were now dependent on the observer and so on. My point in this digression is that, like you say, the mechanistic philosophy of the enlightenment appears silly and outmoded, with quantum phenomena being perfectly amenable with notions such as intentionality and final causation. Talk of "dispositions" has become more and more common among philosophers of science since the mid-20th century to wrangle with modern physics.

Just so I understand you correctly, you're saying that the existence and behavior of the fundamental forces could spur more conversation related to mentality in us, or that they would actually introduce into the discussion of physics itself notions of mentality with respect to how these forces behave? Wouldn't this ultimately take us into a panpsychism similar to Russel's? My point being, attributing dispositions (or Aristotelian final causes) to matter is one thing, but attributing intentional mind is a bit more extreme.

Crude said...

Nosh,

I'm actually going for a far weaker point here, and one which I think a lot of people overlook.

I'm not advocating for a Russellian neutral-monism or a panpsychism or much of anything metaphysically. I'm simply asking - okay, we have these fundamental forces. They're called mindless. How is this known? What is the test? What is the experiment? I don't think there are either. It's more an unexamined assumption we take on - all of us, including the Aristotileans and the opponents of the metaphysic.

To me, the proper reply here is, 'We have no idea whether these forces have any mental aspects whatsoever. So as it stands, we're agnostic about this.'

NoshPartitas said...

Ah, okay, duh - I'm just dense. I'm in perfect agreement with you on that score. Analogous to the continually purported "purposelessness" of evolution.

Crude said...

No trouble. And yes, that's another analogy.

The funny thing is, even critics of evolution don't seem to make that point. They never ask, okay - please demonstrate the purposeless of evolution. How do you test for this? What is the experiment? The pitfalls there are tremendous.

Gyan said...

"What is the experiment?"
Fundamental forces are a concept in physics. They are postulated in Physics.
Physics is itself a science of inanimate aspects of nature.
Thus, the fundamental forces in physics are mindless by very definition.

In other words, were they to be mind-like entities, they would not be a part of physics discourse, but would show features more like biological entities and would be studied in biology.

Crude said...

Fundamental forces are a concept in physics.

Yep, granted.

They are postulated in Physics.

Granted again.

Physics is itself a science of inanimate aspects of nature.
Thus, the fundamental forces in physics are mindless by very definition.


This doesn't work. And I don't think you can swing 'mindless by definition' when that's the very thing under question.

You can tell me that physics does not study mental aspects of things. Sure. But you can't jump from that to saying that the fundamental forces are therefore mindless. The best you could say is that minds are irrelevant to the study of physics - but I'm not limiting my question to that.

Again it looks like we'd be left with the conclusion of, physics is agnostic about whether or not the fundamental forces (or, for that matter, much of anything else) is or isn't mindless.

Gyan said...

You only know about these fundamental forces as concepts or postulated entities in Physics. You have no extra-physics knowledge of "fundamental forces of physics".

All entities postulated in physics are mindless. Otherwise, they won't be a part of the discipline and discourse of physics.

In other words, only by accepting the terms of physical discourse, that there are mindless forces in the nature, you arrive at the 'fundamental forces' picture or narrative.
Thus, it is illogical and absurd to then deny or question the premises of the entire enterprise.

Physics only begins with the assumption of mindlessness.

Crude said...

You only know about these fundamental forces as concepts or postulated entities in Physics. You have no extra-physics knowledge of "fundamental forces of physics".

Neither do physicists, for that matter.

All entities postulated in physics are mindless. Otherwise, they won't be a part of the discipline and discourse of physics.

I don't see any reason to believe this. I can accept that physics exclusively deals with, as far as they know, non-'mental' derivations of forces and things. But that's not really where my question is focus.

In other words, only by accepting the terms of physical discourse, that there are mindless forces in the nature, you arrive at the 'fundamental forces' picture or narrative.
Thus, it is illogical and absurd to then deny or question the premises of the entire enterprise.


Doesn't seem illogical or absurd at all.

Oddly enough, Ockham's razor seems appropriate here. What is added to the theory by the additional assumption of 'mindless'? Keep in mind the alternative here is not 'these things have minds' or 'these things are related to a mind'. There's simple agnosticism. "We do not know whether these things reflect a mind or have minds or..." Etc.

So I don't see your reply working here at all. I don't need your assumption to do physics. No one does, it seems.

Gyan said...

"What is added to the theory by the additional assumption of 'mindless'?"

Mindlessness is not an additional assumption but the fundamental premise of the entire discipline of natural sciences.

Physics presumes methodological naturalism. Naturalism means that we deny will, consciousness and mind to the entities in physics.
All mindful, willful, conscious entities are outside the domain of physics, or at least their mindful aspects are.

Thus, a man falling under gravity or subject to electric shock can be studied by the methods of physics and these phenomenon fall under the the domain of physics.

But a man composing poetry is not. He is not a subject of physics.

Physics does not say that there are no mindful forces or entities in the universe. But the fundamental forces as defined in physics viz-the eletroweak, the strong and the force of gravity, these forces as defined in physics are not mindful. The very idea is absurd since these forces ae entirely formalized. Their actions are mathematically precisely defined and there is no freedom for a mindful entity here.

Once a mind (perhaps supernatural) makes some interference with a natural process that is being governed with these forces, the problem ceases to be a problem in physics. That is, a miracle then occurs.


Crude said...

Mindlessness is not an additional assumption but the fundamental premise of the entire discipline of natural sciences.

What does it add? That's what I'm asking here. It seems you can just switch to 'agnostic' and lose absolutely nothing from the sciences. And, well, there's Ockham's razor...

Physics presumes methodological naturalism. Naturalism means that we deny will, consciousness and mind to the entities in physics.

Two major, major problems.

1) Methodological naturalism is a ridiculously modern invention. We're talking 1980s modern. I see no reason to believe physics presumes it in any serious way.

2) Naturalism is a nonsense word, which makes claims of methodological naturalism all the more suspect. At best it becomes a 'I knows it whens I sees it' situation.

This is a good time to mention I think methodological naturalism is utter baloney.

All mindful, willful, conscious entities are outside the domain of physics, or at least their mindful aspects are.

I'm fine with that. But that means that in principle there are aspects to the fundamental forces that are outside of the domain of physics. We only measure these strictly mathematical, quantifiable effects. But we have no way to determine these are effects of mindless forces. Or that those effects are wholly mindless.

And note again, the alternative here is not 'assume they have minds'. It's just agnosticism.

So you're going to have to explain to me why it's important to positively assert 'mindlessness' with regards to these things. I think you've already shown there's no evidence for it. At best, it's an assumption. But the assumption seems entirely unnecessary.

Gyan said...

Mind-like entities will not be forces but persons. It would be silly to measure them, to subject them to the procedures employed in physics.
Instead, they must be spoken to and engaged in conversation.

If one believes that the ordinary operations of nature are result of actions of mindful entities, that there are no true secondary causes, then the whole procedure of science becomes unintelligible. The sciences assume the existence of true secondary causes. You are then back in primitive world-view where stars and planets move and rains fall because of actions of purposive entities. But see, the primitives did not try to measure these entities. They were never "forces" but persons.

So, it is not coherent to talk of mindful forces. The concept "force" developed in the context of medieval natural philosophy that assumed "methodological naturalism" (it was not invented in 1980). The idea was already familiar to Greek philosophers of 500 BC --Thales etc, that created models of universe without mind-like elements.

Crude said...

Mind-like entities will not be forces but persons. It would be silly to measure them, to subject them to the procedures employed in physics.
Instead, they must be spoken to and engaged in conversation.


Why? It's not like humans are obviously the one and only kinds of minds. We've got cats. Who talks to cats? (Crazy old ladies don't count.)

If one believes that the ordinary operations of nature are result of actions of mindful entities, that there are no true secondary causes, then the whole procedure of science becomes unintelligible. The sciences assume the existence of true secondary causes. You are then back in primitive world-view where stars and planets move and rains fall because of actions of purposive entities. But see, the primitives did not try to measure these entities. They were never "forces" but persons.

I know that's a common claim - Stanley Jaki, right? - but I just don't see it. Also, you're making, as near as I can tell, two major errors here. First, conflating the historical claim with an intellectual one. But more than that... I keep saying, I nowhere am advocate treating these fundamental entities as mindful agents.

But I don't need to to advance my line of argument - and I'm advancing agnosticism. Or, better yet, utter scientific silence. This question is not one science deals with, period. No assumptions either way. And you still haven't provided me with a reason to think that 'no mind' is essential to the scientific project. You can argue that 'mind' is inessential, but that won't get you to 'no mind' - it gets you to silence.

So, it is not coherent to talk of mindful forces. The concept "force" developed in the context of medieval natural philosophy that assumed "methodological naturalism" (it was not invented in 1980).

Then try to find a reference to it. You seem to be saying that natural philosophy assumed it but called it another name. Considering we're talking about an era where full-on invocations of God as a force in nature was still kosher, I think you're not going to win the historical conflict.

We don't need assumptions of mindlessness, and they follow from no scientific research or study. There's nothing 'incoherent' here. And there's no positive claim to argue against - there's just agnosticism. Real agnosticism.

Tarun Menon said...

Occam's razor? Positing mind, will or purpose in the fundamental forces adds absolutely no explanatory strength, as far as I can tell.

Crude said...

Occam's razor? Positing mind, will or purpose in the fundamental forces adds absolutely no explanatory strength, as far as I can tell.

Even if we take that claim for the sake of argument, the problem is, neither does positing mindlessness, a lack of purpose or a lack of will. Remember, it's not as if we have to choose here between 'Guided, intelligent or otherwise mind-involving forces' or 'Zero guidance, no intelligence, mindless forces'. The third option is 'No idea. Agnostic. No way to tell either way.'

I'm arguing, first and foremost, for option three here. And the important point is that if someone argues for option 1 or 2, they're going to need to back up their claim with evidence. An argument, an observation, a something. It's not had for free.

Crude said...

And I have to admit, this conversation is starting to seem a little odd. I sometimes get the feeling as if God or religion is literally the only thing anyone even thinks to be agnostic about. Everything else? It's A-OK to take a default claim as truth or believe something one way or the other.

Come to think of it, I can't recall even hearing of, say... a metaphysical agnostic.

Gyan said...

"invocations of God as a force in nature"

They kept distinct the primary and secondary causes.

I think you are may be using the words "force" , "fundamental forces" "mind" without paying sufficient attention to the meanings.

What "fundamental force" you have in mind that may or may not have mind-like aspect? What would it mean to have mind-like aspect to a "fundamental force"?

How do you know which force is "fundamental" and which is not?
On whose authority you believe in the notion of "fundamental force" or any "force"?

Gyan said...

"'no mind' is essential to the scientific project."

Science has divisions, and not arbitrarily so. Physics and chemistry deal with inanimate aspects. Biology deals with animate but not mind-like aspects. Psychology deals with minds.

Chemistry again deals with the substantial transformations i.e. the chemical changes.
Physics deals with motion of inanimate substances. All other phenomena in which matter is animate etc is and can not be studied by physics and is not a proper matter.

The so-called fundamental forces emerge in physics. Not in biology, not in psychology. Thus, it is no mystery that they are mindless. Even believers, even Catholic scientists accept this procedure. There might be mind-like forces involved in miracles, but miracles are not studied in physics.

To say "but I just don't see it. " does not advance conversation. There is a well-established domain of natural sciences and it must be appreciated on its own terms.

Crude said...

What "fundamental force" you have in mind that may or may not have mind-like aspect?

All of 'em.

What would it mean to have mind-like aspect to a "fundamental force"?

The forces somehow being conscious themselves. The forces being employed or directed by another entity X which has a mind and a will. I can probably think of more, but those two are up to bat.

How do you know which force is "fundamental" and which is not?

Good question. The problem is even if we go agnostic about whether the fundamental forces are or are not truly fundamental, that still leaves agnosticism about the aspects I'm speaking of.

On whose authority you believe in the notion of "fundamental force" or any "force"?

No one's, since I'm questioning that. I suppose if you want to go with the typical view you can say 'physicists'.

Gyan said...

Thus, if you don't accept the premises of physics, you lose right to the conclusions of physics.

You should be aware that the concept "force" emerged out of a long 1500 years struggle that culminated in Galileo. You lose the intellectual right to use the very word "force" in the sense you want to as in "fundamental force" for instance.

Crude said...

Science has divisions, and not arbitrarily so. Physics and chemistry deal with inanimate aspects. Biology deals with animate but not mind-like aspects. Psychology deals with minds.

I have no problem with those divisions whatsoever. But that would just encourage agnosticism about things outside of their fields of expertise, or outside the realm of experiment.

Thus, it is no mystery that they are mindless.

You keep trying this, and I keep saying this doesn't work. Where do you get the justification that they are mindless? And you can't tell me 'by definition!' because it's not as if you can define mindless forces into existence, and the 'mindless' aspect has to be justified - otherwise, in comes the razor.

Even believers, even Catholic scientists accept this procedure.

Yep, I am questioning something that a lot of other people accept uncritically. I am willing to take that risk.

There might be mind-like forces involved in miracles, but miracles are not studied in physics.

Who said anything about 'miracles'? And miracles are really hard to define raptly.

To say "but I just don't see it. " does not advance conversation. There is a well-established domain of natural sciences and it must be appreciated on its own terms.

It does advance the conversation when I'm pointing out that you're not giving me any arguments or evidence for a given claim. You're trying to defend it on purely definitional terms, as if defining the forces in advance to be 'mindless' is somehow evidence that they are what they are. It's entirely possible that they are not mindless.

I can appreciate science on its own terms, but I have no need whatsoever to take claims uncritically just because they come from a scientist. If a scientist tells me 'These forces are unguided! There's no mind in or behind them!', I get to ask why. And if the scientist has no answer, he's done. I don't care if 100% of scientists back him up on that - he needs reason at that point, not consensus of unfounded opinion.

Gyan said...

'These forces are unguided! There's no mind in or behind them!',

This is not in the domain of physics.
As I keep telling you, physics addresses secondary causation. Physics says this is the force that keeps the planets or electrons in their orbits.

ALL considerations of guidance and minds are OUTSIDE the domain of physics.
Thus, physics postulates certain forces. Even the concept "force" took a lot of intellectual struggle to clarify. It was not easy to get rid of purposes and come up with "forces".

Indeed, it was a great achievement of the Christian civilization to demarcate primary and secondary causes and thus give rise to the modern science. No other civilization was able to formulate "nature" as it exists by itself.

Gyan said...

"And you can't tell me 'by definition!"

What is this "force" you are talking of? Define it.

Crude said...

ALL considerations of guidance and minds are OUTSIDE the domain of physics.
Thus, physics postulates certain forces. Even the concept "force" took a lot of intellectual struggle to clarify. It was not easy to get rid of purposes and come up with "forces".


I'm more than fine with that, so long as it means that physical theory is utterly silent on - no positive claims, no negative claims - the presence or lack of mind and the mental in fundamental forces, or in physics generally.

But that's going to be a tremendous deviation from physics as normally discussed. Chalk it up to ignorance and habit, but it's still out there.

What is this "force" you are talking of? Define it.

The wiki definition for fundamental force(s) does fine here.

Mr. Green said...

Gyan, I think you are missing the distinction Crude is making here. If a physicist studies the atoms in my body, he doesn't care about the biology — as a physicist, he is interested in the atomic aspects alone — but it does not follow that my body is not a biological organism. It only follows that physics doesn't care about that aspect. Likewise, physicists care only about the measurable patterns manifested by the four forces, but that doesn't mean they don't have other aspects. And that's Crude's point: physics studies the patterns, but it has nothing to say one way or the other about attributes that may lie beyond that.

Now, I think your point focusses on defining "force" as excluding mental or other attributes. And that's fine, but then your response to Crude should be: "Oh, by 'force' I mean specifically the patterns themselves, so by definition there is no question about whether they are mental, etc. But as to what lies behind those resulting patterns, I therefore agree that science has nothing to say about whether there are conscious minds behind them or not."

Mr. Green said...

Crude: 1) Methodological naturalism is a ridiculously modern invention. We're talking 1980s modern. I see no reason to believe physics presumes it in any serious way.

Actually, I decided to accept methodological naturalism since TOF pointed out that this is exactly what the Mediaevals came up with when they invented science — i.e. a method based on the fact that things have natures, and thus can be reliably investigated. Of course, to do this, I'll have to step up my efforts to rehabilitate the term "naturalism", to rescue it from being a nonsense word (or sneaky synonym for "materialism").
So the next time somebody tells me he believes in [methodological] naturalism, I'm gonna say, "Oh, you believe in natures? So you must be some kind of Aristotelian, fantastic!"

Crude said...

Green,

Actually, I decided to accept methodological naturalism since TOF pointed out that this is exactly what the Mediaevals came up with when they invented science — i.e. a method based on the fact that things have natures, and thus can be reliably investigated.

I think science has a method, and that method naturally excludes certain questions and relies on certain assumptions about nature. But 'methodological naturalism', it ain't, at least in the modern sense of what everyone vaguely but appropriately grasps naturalism to be in common discourse.

So I'd probably agree with TOF's rendition of it, but I don't think that rendition has anything to do with the modern concept that everyone trades in.

Now, I think your point focusses on defining "force" as excluding mental or other attributes. And that's fine, but then your response to Crude should be: "Oh, by 'force' I mean specifically the patterns themselves, so by definition there is no question about whether they are mental, etc. But as to what lies behind those resulting patterns, I therefore agree that science has nothing to say about whether there are conscious minds behind them or not."

That seems more on target. If I'd quibble about anything it would be over whether patterns can be said to be mindless in the sense of 'not guided or orchestrated by a mind'. These words on the screen are patterns, and they can be evaluated in a sense that makes no assumption about the presence or lack of a mind behind their arrangement, etc. But 'unguided' or 'mindless' in another sense, they ain't. And it's unfortunately that sense which everyone seems to take as the case.

Gyan said...

Green,
"that doesn't mean they don't have other aspects"

What is "they" here and how do you know anything about these "they"?

Fundamental forces, their existence and properties, are conclusions of inferential chains whose one premise is methodological naturalism (by the way, this MN has nothing to do with naturalism). If you deny the premise, you have no justification for accepting the conclusions.

That is, you must be agnostic about the fundamental forces as well.
You have no rational basis for believing in them.

Crude fails to realize that minds have irreducibly non-formal aspects. That is, what a mind is thinking --can never be computed-even in principle. But fundamental forces, as in physics, are formal entities, they are computable. They can not have non-formal aspects. For if they did have non-formal aspects, they would not be entities that belong to physics in the first place.

Thus, fundamental forces, as considered in physics (and there is nothing to fundamental forces OUTSIDE physics) have no mind-like aspects, in themselves.

However, as I have previously said, they may well be guided by some mind, but this guidance is not the domain of physics either.

The thing is if you throw words like "forces", "mind" etc, you must have precise meanings associated with them. If you deny the very premises behind the definition of "force", you can hardly refer me to wikipedia, since clearly you are using the word "force" in a non-standard way.

Gyan said...

"physicists care only about the measurable patterns manifested by the four forces, but that doesn't mean they don't have other aspects"

What other aspects they might have?
The fundamental forces are known ONLY through physics, they are a concept ONLY in physics. In fact, they have no reality apart from theories of physics.

So you can say that "my body is not a biological organism." and thus my body has aspects apart from its physics but the same can not be said of "fundamental forces".

Crude said...

Fundamental forces, their existence and properties, are conclusions of inferential chains whose one premise is methodological naturalism (by the way, this MN has nothing to do with naturalism). If you deny the premise, you have no justification for accepting the conclusions.

1) 'MN has nothing to do with naturalism' is going to be news to a whole lot of people, particularly a lot of the people who advocate methodological naturalism to begin with.
2) The inferential chains you're talking about do not require a positive statement about the lack of minds or mentality in the fundamental forces, versus agnosticism.

The thing is if you throw words like "forces", "mind" etc, you must have precise meanings associated with them. If you deny the very premises behind the definition of "force", you can hardly refer me to wikipedia, since clearly you are using the word "force" in a non-standard way.

You accept the wikipedia entry as 'standard'? In that case, you're going to run into a problem since there's no talk of mind-having or mind-lacking in that entry.

Gyan said...

Crude,
I suppose you want a statement somewhere explicitly saying electroweak force is not mind-like.
But you are not going to get this statement anywhere.

Do you know about 'inferential chains'
that are used to establish a theory in physics? The very act of measuring something assumes non-mind in the thing measured. The mind-like entities are not measured but spoken with. Even the cat (about whose mind we know nothing), its actions are hardly measurable. The cat has not been formalized.

Have you considered the point about formalized vs non-formalized entities?

Crude said...

Do you know about 'inferential chains'
that are used to establish a theory in physics? The very act of measuring something assumes non-mind in the thing measured.


The very act of measuring something does not require that assumption. You can be agnostic, especially when lacking evidence in either direction. I keep repeating this point, and you keep ignoring it. Why?

Tell me that forces are mindless, that they have no mind, that they are influenced by no mind, and I will point out you are making a claim and ask for your evidence. And you damn well better have some. I don't care how many scientists you march into the room to tell me they agree with you. I do not care about the common usage, I do not care about how popular the assumption is. I need evidence. An argument, an experiment, logic, SOMEthing!

And I don't need an argument or an experiment or evidence in turn because I'm not advancing the claim that these things have a mind ultimately. I'm content for the situation to be one of agnosticism - we do not know how to even begin investigating this question, we do not need to investigate it to make our theories or, etc, etc.

Gyan said...

You have no call, no justification to speak of fundamental forces outside the discourse of physics.

They do not exist as corporal entities-that you could see or touch.

They exist as elements in physical theories.

Thus, to justly speak of them, you must accept the terms of the physics.

Physics does not deal with mind-like entities AT ALL, All that enters into a physical theory is DEAD and mindless. This point does not need to made explicit. Physics is not the science of living bodies. Biology is. Neither physics is to be confused with psychology.

These are all definitional matters,
Thus, your asking for evidence etc makes no sense. It is like asking for experimental evidence for free will or God.

Plenty of arguments I have given. You have not addressed the formalized vs non-formalized aspect argument yet.

You accept the reality of fundamental forces by authority of physicists (there is none else to tell you about these forces). Then, it is illogical to deny the premises of physicists.

It is like being a Protestant. You accept Bible but deny the Church.

So, logically, you could either talk in terms in which the concept "fundamental force" has been defined and employed or remain silent about them.

Gyan said...

"forces are mindless,"

Elucidate what it would mean to say that "a force can be mind-like".

If you ask for evidence from physics, you must translate your statement in the form that physics can grasp.

As it is, it is not possible. Since physics excludes all considerations of mind. Physics is not psychology.

Secondly, "force". You must define "force" in terms of physics.

Once you do it patiently, you will yourself find that the question of mind drops out.

The experimental arrangement (as used in physics) itself leads to exclusion of any reference to minds.

Crude said...

Thus, to justly speak of them, you must accept the terms of the physics.

Nah, I can question the terms of physics. If their foundational assumption is 'We only deal with things that have no mind', I can ask why this assumption is necessary versus agnosticism. And they damn well better have evidence of some kind in reply to me, otherwise I'll be winning that little exchange.

Thus, your asking for evidence etc makes no sense. It is like asking for experimental evidence for free will or God.

Oh, because people, including scientists, don't ask for THAT on a regular basis?

You accept the reality of fundamental forces by authority of physicists (there is none else to tell you about these forces). Then, it is illogical to deny the premises of physicists.

What authority? The only authority they have could ever come from their arguments and evidence. And if that is flawed, I'm within my rights to point it out - lowly serf though I am.

So, logically, you could either talk in terms in which the concept "fundamental force" has been defined and employed or remain silent about them.

No, Gyan, I'm pretty sure I can question the logic and the reasoning presented to me, including the initial assumptions. Which is exactly what I'm doing. Stop trying to bypass this by force of authority - I don't accept it, and I gave up my subconscious and conscious quasi-deification of scientists a long time ago.

Crude said...

If you ask for evidence from physics, you must translate your statement in the form that physics can grasp.

As it is, it is not possible. Since physics excludes all considerations of mind. Physics is not psychology.


If physics is incapable of even dealing with or evaluating the presence or lack of a mind from the outset, then that's one more argument for agnosticism about the presence or lack of minds in any relevant sense in the theories or phenomena they deal with.

Secondly, "force". You must define "force" in terms of physics.

Once you do it patiently, you will yourself find that the question of mind drops out.

The experimental arrangement (as used in physics) itself leads to exclusion of any reference to minds.


Once again - if you argue that physics is utterly unconcerned with and incapable of analyzing the presence or lack of minds in what it studies, then agnosticism falls out straight away. Not positive assertions about minds or the lack thereof in what physicists study.

I am not arguing against the exclusion of any reference to minds. In fact, I'm in favor of it. But claims of negative presence are just another reference we'll have to eliminate.

Gyan said...

It is not agnosticism but a more basic thing.

The entities that appear in the theories of physics are abstracted from corporeal objects. The abstraction formalizes the corporeal objects. Thus a thing like a stone is formalized as a network of atoms, with atoms having specified properties.

The process of abstraction and formalization removes any mind-like aspects of the thing.

You are thinking of "fundamental forces" as something corporeal that may or may not be having mind-like aspect. But "fundamental forces" are nothing like this. They exist purely as entities within the physical theory and thus, by construction, not having any mind-like aspect.

You could look up Thomist writers such as those Feser refers, esp on the distinction between corporeal and physical object. It is not only the physicists. You are going against the entire intellectual tradition.

Crude said...

The process of abstraction and formalization removes any mind-like aspects of the thing.

At best, only in terms of what it actually deals with. It can't do that in terms of what it's proposing exists.

That's part of the problem here. You're making it sound as if modern scientists are all a collection of conscious and willing Aristotileans who investigate nature with premises and assumptions Aquinas himself wouldn't disagree with. More than that, you're also making it sound as if they regard, say... fundamental forces, only as intellectual models that have no reality outside of their discipline, rather than as descriptions of real and actual 'things' in the real world. I see no reason to believe this is anything close to the typical understanding of science either among laymen or scientists themselves.

You could look up Thomist writers such as those Feser refers, esp on the distinction between corporeal and physical object.

I wouldn't be surprised if Feser disagreed with me about this. However, as I recall Feser's also on record as having a variety of criticisms about how science is perceived in the modern world, including by scientists.

It is not only the physicists. You are going against the entire intellectual tradition.

Putting aside for a moment, again, that the intellectual tradition you apparently have in mind isn't one even many scientists subscribe to... I'm more than willing to take on the tradition if I think it's wrong. And so far, I think it's wrong.

As near as I can tell, there's not a single change that would necessarily take place, not a single well-tested theory (or any properly scientific theory whatsoever) that would have to be discarded, by stripping our scientific understanding of this evidence-lacking, intellectually extraneous claim. It would, if people accepted it, mark a radical shift in how we regard the world and science, maybe - but the theories and predictive powers and the utility would survive and be as coherent as it ever was.

I have no doubt it would irritate many, many people to concede this. That doesn't concern me. Truth be told, I kind of enjoy the idea.

Gyan said...

Consider light and electromagnetic (EM) wave.

Light is a corporeal object. You may ascribe mind to it, if you like. Such as primitives did with Fire God, Wind God etc.

EM wave is a construct, by abstracting metrical properties of Light. Thus, all non-formal aspects of Light are excluded from the construct EM wave.
So, it is illogical to speak of mind-like aspects of EM wave.

Whether the actual scientists keep these distinctions in mind is not important. They are not the ones doing philosophy of science but actual science.

The EM wave is a formal entity in physics, meaning thereby that it is fully specifiable and procedures exist to specify it.
Minds have irreducible non-formal aspects. Thus, EM wave can not, even in principle, have mind-like aspects.

Gyan said...

"Stop trying to bypass this by force of authority"

But why do you talk of "fundamental forces" then?. How do you know that there are four fundamental forces?
Why don't you question that?

The inferential chain is rendered doubtful if even one premise is questioned.

You are entirely free to question their premises. I only ask you not to quote their conclusions then.

Crude said...

Light is a corporeal object. You may ascribe mind to it, if you like. Such as primitives did with Fire God, Wind God etc.

Or, perhaps panentheism is true. Or hindu pantheism is true. Or idealism is true. Or panpsychism is true.

Now, I may or may not reject those things because of philosophical and theological and metaphysical arguments. But as far as science in and of itself goes? I have no idea how to even begin asking those questions one way or the other. So science, taken on its own - as much as it can be taken on its own, anyway - has no say in the matter. Agnostic.

Do you think I'm going to be ashamed of refusing to unjustly rule out a possibility just because 'primitives' embraced it? Think again.

EM wave is a construct, by abstracting metrical properties of Light. Thus, all non-formal aspects of Light are excluded from the construct EM wave.

If by construct you're referring to the theories themselves, and not those things which the theories describe, then you're taking aim at the wrong target. You really think that scientists believe, as a matter of course, that electromagnetism is a 'construct' and not a description of a real and actual thing? That they aren't describing a real and existing nature, but merely convenient models with no real relation to nature?

C'mon.

Whether the actual scientists keep these distinctions in mind is not important. They are not the ones doing philosophy of science but actual science.

You really think the philosophers of science are in your corner on this one as well? Or that they'd accept that 'minds have irreducible non-formal aspects', for that matter? Even if they did, it wouldn't be of use here - because the problem isn't with who has what authorities on their side, but the arguments and justifications.

Whether the EM wave is fully described by physics is an open question. Insofar as it's taken to be a 'real thing' that exists in nature, the possibility of it having a mind or being influenced by a mind is a live possibility. To argue against this claim, real evidence is needed. A test, an experiment, an argument. Trying to get by here on 'Well this is how I defined it' is meaningless, because the assertion of mindlessness adds nothing to the theory. Not a thing. And if it can be removed without incident, then removed it should be, scientifically speaking.

Repeating what you've said again won't move me on this matter, Gyan. I don't care if you march in a thousand physicists who tell me "We axiomatically assume that the fundamental forces of nature have no minds nor are they orchestrated by minds.", and I'll just reply that their axioms are unnecessary for science, and advance a superior default assumption in its place. At that point they can either produce scientific evidence for their claim (or at least show a logical contradiction that doesn't depending on assuming they're right to begin with), or go pound sand.

Crude said...

But why do you talk of "fundamental forces" then?. How do you know that there are four fundamental forces?
Why don't you question that?


I'm entirely open to questioning whether the fundamental forces are, in fact, really 'fundamental.' My understanding of Aquinas and classical theism is that these things ultimately trace back to God. But that's a philosophical question that scientists (contra, of course, some scientists) can't be expected to answer.

Otherwise, why should I question it? They actually provide *evidence* for their claims on that front, including experiments. I'm merely asking them to do so for another claim. And if they can't, why should I accept it?

The inferential chain is rendered doubtful if even one premise is questioned.

Not at all. Show me which scientific experiment or interpretation of it (that isn't question begging to begin with) has to be thrown out by shifting the assumption from 'mindless' to 'agnostic about the present or lack of a mind in the relevant sense.' Walk me through the reasoning. I say you're bluffing, and there is no such concern here.

You are entirely free to question their premises. I only ask you not to quote their conclusions then.

I'll quote their conclusions as much as I please if the premises I question are not necessary to reach their conclusions. Once again, Ockham's razor: I am eliminating extraneous and unwarranted assumptions that have no bearing on the theories. You keep insisting that by shifting from 'mindless' to 'agnostic about mind' that I am doing something that WILL have bearing on the theories.

Alright: support your claim. If you can't, I have no reason to accept it.

Crude said...

Let me add: you're making a common mistake here. You are conflating 'science' with 'scientists'.

I care about scientific evidence. I couldn't care less about scientists' feelings or beliefs in and of themselves. If a scientist gives an argument with a useless, unwarranted metaphysical addon, I can just slice the addon and go about my business. Sure, it's no longer the explanation or theory they originally proposed - but who cares?

Mr. Green said...

Crude: But 'methodological naturalism', it ain't, at least in the modern sense of what everyone vaguely but appropriately grasps naturalism to be in common discourse.

Indeed. TOF is of course making a historical point (from his typically excellent "Summa origines scientiarum"). Given that the Scholastics had a definition of "nature" that actually meant something, the phrase would make sense. But as you've pointed out yourself plenty of times, it has now been reduced to more or less meaning "whatever non-God thing I need to fit into this sentence at this time", a sort of hand-waving substitute when it's a bit too evident that flat-out "materialism" won't work. It's one of my pet peeves, because the proper meaning of "nature" is useful and much needed.

These words on the screen are patterns, and they can be evaluated in a sense that makes no assumption about the presence or lack of a mind behind their arrangement, etc. But 'unguided' or 'mindless' in another sense, they ain't.

Yup, good point.

[P.S. Apparently the RSS feeds for posts/comments only send the first few lines... since you aren't driving people to the webpage to get rich off all the ads, I assume there's probably a setting somewhere that can send the full text?]

Mr. Green said...

Gyan: Fundamental forces, their existence and properties, are conclusions of inferential chains whose one premise is methodological naturalism (by the way, this MN has nothing to do with naturalism). If you deny the premise, you have no justification for accepting the conclusions.

I think what you're saying is that physics as we have it today was built on MN, and thus if I reject MN, I'm by default rejecting all that scientific knowledge and would have to start over again by myself. But Crude's whole point is that that isn't true. I can accept the "method" and throw out the "naturalism" — and every single fact discovered about science still works! Everybody says the "naturalism" is an essential part of the scientific method, but if you actually try to point to where it is in some equation or some experiment, you find that "naturalism" isn't actually doing any of the work.

Once you do it patiently, you will yourself find that the question of mind drops out.

Exactly. And if the question drops out, so does the answer. And if science doesn't — can't — have that answer, then that means it's agnostic about the issue. I think when you say things like, "They exist purely as entities within the physical theory", you are not thinking of the actual entities outside that the theory is supposed to be representing. So again, I think that actually amount to agreeing with Crude: any claim that lies outside the "theory" itself means the theory is agnostic about whether that claim applies or not to the actual things.

Crude said...

[P.S. Apparently the RSS feeds for posts/comments only send the first few lines... since you aren't driving people to the webpage to get rich off all the ads, I assume there's probably a setting somewhere that can send the full text?]

Maybe. I have no idea how to do that. I shall look into it.

Mr. Green said...

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Gyan said...

" I can accept the "method" and throw out the "naturalism" — and every single fact discovered about science still works!"

No, it does not. If you discard naturalism, you have no reason to formalize phenomena. The scientific enterprise does not even begin to start.

You don't have a notion of "force" to begin with. What you have are deities of Wind and Fire that move by their will and purpose. And wills and purposes can not be formalized.

Gyan said...

Crude,
EM wave is fully described by physics.
The open question is whether light is fully described as EM wave.

Unless you appreciate the distinction, it is pointless to argue.

Could you read the epilogue of The Discarded Image --CS Lewis-for a distinction between reality and models.

Otherwise, your objections are like whether a classical theist God is fully described by classical theism
vs whether God is fully described by classical theism.
You would rightly correct Gnu atheists here.

Crude said...

No, it does not. If you discard naturalism, you have no reason to formalize phenomena. The scientific enterprise does not even begin to start.

That's absurd, and the history of science indicates otherwise. You don't need naturalism, not even in a methodological sense, to attempt to describe and investigate phenomena. You can proceed with an agnostic view about fundamental natures, etc.

You don't have a notion of "force" to begin with. What you have are deities of Wind and Fire that move by their will and purpose.

No, you don't, because agnosticism about those fundamentals is available. And even if they are, in fact, deities that move by will and purpose, it's entirely possible - particularly if one believes in a rational God - that, even if there is a will and purpose involved, that there are nevertheless identifiable patterns and reliable behaviors.

EM wave is fully described by physics.

Even this isn't true, because there's multiple ways within physics to consider the EM wave.

The open question is whether light is fully described as EM wave.

No matter how many times you insist that, say... fundamental forces are 'fully described' by physics and are mindless, the assertion is not going to come any closer to providing a single scrap of evidence for the position you're taking. None. Nada. Nyet.

Could you read the epilogue of The Discarded Image --CS Lewis-for a distinction between reality and models.

I am interested in reality, not models, and people - including scientists - take models to describe reality. I am pointing out what the limitations are regarding what our models show, and can show, about reality - and what is necessarily left out by them.

Otherwise, your objections are like whether a classical theist God is fully described by classical theism
vs whether God is fully described by classical theism.


Classical theists believe they are talking about reality, not mere models.

Crude said...

Via the wikipedia entry for electromagnetism:

Electromagnetism, or the electromagnetic force is one of the four fundamental interactions in nature, the other three being the strong interaction, the weak interaction, and gravitation. This force is described by electromagnetic fields, and has innumerable physical instances including the interaction of electrically charged particles and the interaction of uncharged magnetic force fields with electrical conductors.

Let me emphasize this:

This force is described by electromagnetic fields

This force is treated as a real thing that exists, a thing we've discovered by observation, research and experiment. It's not just a heuristic, or something taken as a model that doesn't necessarily have any correspondence with reality.