Nick Matzke posted Entry 2106 on March 10, 2006 03:29 PM.
Trackback URL: http://www.pandasthumb.org/cgi-bin/mt/mt-tb.fcgi/2101

Over on the “ID the Future” blog, they are posting David Berlinski’s interview with himself. Interestingly, Berlinski doesn’t fare well:

… Mr. Berlinski, you have frequently been accused of being a crank, someone more generally participating in what has come to be called crank science. I know that …

DB: So?

… Well, is the accusation one that you accept? …

DB: Sure. It’s obviously true in essence, although I prefer to describe myself as an iconoclast, one whom history will vindicate …

… No doubt …

DB: But the point is the same, whatever the terms. But speaking of terms, maybe I spoke too soon. Look, it’s one thing to say that someone like me is a crank. That’s fine because it’s true. It’s quite another thing to talk about crank science.

… Surely crank science is what cranks do? …

DB: Surely. [snip – read the rest and decide for yourself if there is an actual point to all this somewhere.]

This might be an obscure in-joke or something, and Berlinski is actually being incredibly sophisticated and ironic (or just pretentious – take your pick). But with Berlinski, as with antievolutionists generally, parody is often impossible to distinguish from reality.

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Comment #85810

Posted by steve s on March 10, 2006 3:57 PM (e)

I started to read one Berlinski book one time. After about a page he was mocking the other kids in Gauss’s elementary school who didn’t have Gauss’s insight. I realized I was reading a book by a creep, and stopped.

Comment #85812

Posted by improvius on March 10, 2006 4:11 PM (e)

The idea that there is out there a physical world which just happens to lend itself to mathematical description has always seemed to me to be incoherent. There is only one world – the universe, in fact, and it has the essential properties of a mathematical model. For reasons that we cannot even begin to understand, that model interacts with out senses, and so without measuring devices, allowing us to pretty much confirm conclusions antecedently reached by pure thought.

This is pure solipsism. It seems inconceivable that the “interview” could go downhill from statements like that. And yet, it does.

Comment #85814

Posted by gadfly22 on March 10, 2006 4:24 PM (e)

Not excited by Newark, NJ, eh? I guess Professor Berlinski didn’t enjoy his time teaching philosophy there (where I had him in an Intro to Philosophy course in Fall of ‘72).

The problem with Berlinski is that he’s really really smart but viscerally feels the need for the NY Times to carry a headline, above the fold, that states: “David Berlinski Is Really Really Smart”. At least once a week. Forever.

Unfortunately, it’s hard for a peripatetic mathematician/philosopher to make that kind of name for himself as a populizer of science for the hoi-polloi and unnoticed novelist. Hence his contrarian dabblings as the only ID-affiliated “Jewish agnostic” instead of the heir to Einstein that he seems to wish he was.

Sad in a Terry Malloy, “coulda been a contendah” kind of way.

Comment #85816

Posted by Nick (Matzke) on March 10, 2006 4:34 PM (e)

I moved a comment about “worst human being” to the Bathroom Wall. Let’s not get carried away here, there is plenty of territory to cover just in pretentiousness and crankiness…

Comment #85819

Posted by Dizzy on March 10, 2006 4:43 PM (e)

But Mr. Berlinski, no one would deny these points? GR is an extension of Newtonian mechanics. It goes further and because it does, we see better …
DB: An extension, maybe, but a consistent extension? Never. Consistent? If so, then Newtonian mechanics and GR must be satisfied in the same model by the compactness theorem. But how can a single mathematical model satisfy the postulates of both theories? It just can’t be done. No, no, I’m not appealing to anything like a paradigm shift. It’s perfectly possible to compare Newtonian mechanics and GR. One theory is better than the other. It explains more. It reaches for deeper principles. It is more elegant. I’m talking about Newtonian mechanics, of course. But the intersection of the set of sentences in both theories is inconsistent and so satisfied in no model whatsoever.

What…the f***…

Has this guy actually taken any physics? Or read a book about general relativity?

Or even spent ten minutes looking for decent sources on the web? Maybe minor details like

The EFE (Einstein Field Equations) reduce to Newton’s law of gravity in the limiting cases of a weak gravitational field and slow speed relative to the speed of light.

For gravitation, the relationship between Newton’s theory of gravity and general relativity is governed by the correspondence principle: General relativity must produce the same results as gravity does for the cases where Newtonian physics has been shown to be accurate.

The geodesic and field equations simply are a restatement of Newton’s Law of Gravitation as seen from a local frame of reference co-moving with the mass within the local frame.

…or inconvenient articles with titles like “Newtonian foundation of general relativity.”

Why is it so hard to understand that most of Newton’s ideas are still a valid subset of GR? Certainly there are assumptions and aspects of Newtonian theory that are incongruent with general relativity, but these are discarded because GR makes the more accurate predictions (which was the whole reason for GR in the first place!). To imply that they are somehow mutually exclusive or completely inconsistent with each other is total hogwash. And to say Newtonian theory “explains more” - I can’t think of any context whatsoever in which this would not be a flat-out lie.

It boggles my mind that this could come out of the mouth of a mathematician.

Comment #85822

Posted by KeithB on March 10, 2006 4:48 PM (e)

But in a mathematical sense they are *not* equal.

Sure, in some frames the terms get very very small and get very close to each other, but they are *never* equal.

Ask him if it is OK that sin theta = theta for small theta. 8^)

Comment #85824

Posted by Stranger than fiction on March 10, 2006 4:57 PM (e)

… as with antievolutionists generally, parody is often impossible to distinguish from reality.

You’re telling me. I started to parody Uncommon Descent, but I couldn’t come up with anything more outrageous than the real thing.

Comment #85826

Posted by steve s on March 10, 2006 5:02 PM (e)

Ask him if it is OK that sin theta = theta for small theta. 8^)

Hell yes sin theta = theta. Especially in optics.

;-)

Comment #85828

Posted by steve s on March 10, 2006 5:07 PM (e)

You’re telling me. I started to parody Uncommon Descent, but I couldn’t come up with anything more outrageous than the real thing.

Seriously. No matter what you did, you’d go to Uncommon Descent and see DaveTard ask whether the church arsonists were Panda’s Thumb regulars, and you’d throw up your hands.

(no, I’m not kidding. I would link to it, but at the moment Uncommon Descent is down, so I’ll C&P:

March 9, 2006
Panda’s Thumb Denizens?

These three guys been reading the hate speech at Panda’s Thumb too long?

Filed under: Intelligent Design — DaveScot @ 2:59 am .

It’s thread number 901, and I’ve a saved copy in case it gets deleted)

Comment #85831

Posted by Arden Chatfield on March 10, 2006 5:20 PM (e)

This might be an obscure in-joke or something, and Berlinski is actually being incredibly sophisticated and ironic (or just pretentious — take your pick).

All I can figure is that he really wants to hold forth with his profound opinions really bad, yet none of the people who are sympathetic to him are smart enough to ask the kind of questions he wants to answer. Hence, the business of ‘interviewing’ himself.

But with Berlinski, as with antievolutionists generally, parody is often impossible to distinguish from reality.

Or they literally become one and the same. That always seems to happen when one makes the deliberate choice to sever one’s connection to reality.

Comment #85836

Posted by wamba on March 10, 2006 5:50 PM (e)

Hence his contrarian dabblings as the only ID-affiliated “Jewish agnostic” instead of the heir to Einstein that he seems to wish he was.

Very carefully worded. Berlinski may be ID-affiliated (senior fellow at the DI’s Center for the Renewal of Science & Culture), but he is not ID-endorsing.

David Berlinski, a mathematician and senior fellow of the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture and a sharp critic of neo-Darwinism, also signed the statement of dissent. But in an e-mail message, Berlinski declared, “I have never endorsed intelligent design.”

Comment #85837

Posted by Zeno on March 10, 2006 6:00 PM (e)

Newtonian mechanics and GR must be satisfied in the same model by the compactness theorem

What does Berlinksi think his audience is? Mathematicians? If it’s the ID creationists, then he’s in luck, because they’ll eat up stuff like “the compactness theorem” when it’s unleashed on their behalf (whatever it may actually be!). After all, they like the second law of thermodynamics without understanding it, so why not cheer on their mathematical minion when he uses his math background to blow smoke? It is not particularly mysterious that Newtonian mechanics is a limiting case of GR, but Berlinski prefers to fog it up. It’s his stock in trade, as he amply displayed in the Firing Line debate of 1997. I posted some excerpts and links here.

Comment #85843

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on March 10, 2006 7:41 PM (e)

Sounds like Larry. (shrug)

Comment #85848

Posted by BWE on March 10, 2006 7:48 PM (e)

But to tell you the truth, I’m not at all sure I understand my own views, remarkable as they are.
… I’m sure that in this you are not alone, Mr. Berlinski …

I guess that about sums it up.

Comment #85855

Posted by Corkscrew on March 10, 2006 8:08 PM (e)

Compactness theorem? What the blazes is a theorem about propositional logic doing in a discussion of metrics, for christ’s sake?

Somebody please shoot me before part III comes out.

Comment #85863

Posted by Ron Okimoto on March 10, 2006 8:38 PM (e)

Maybe this is just another April fools essay like he wrote for the Daily Cal last year. It is just a little early. The fact that you can’t tell makes you wonder why the Discovery Institute still lists Berlinski as a senior fellow. It has to be embarassing to have given this guy something like over a quarter of a million dollars in stipends and then to have him come out and claim that he never bought into the ID junk before the Dover trial.

The only thing that I’ve seen from Berlinski is regurgitation of old failed creationist scam arguments. This junk piece could be about as original as Berlinski has ever gotten. He should probably have kept to regurgitation.

Comment #85864

Posted by Bill Gascoyne on March 10, 2006 8:52 PM (e)

The fact that you can’t tell makes you wonder why the Discovery Institute still lists Berlinski as a senior fellow.

“If you cannot convince them, confuse them.”
Harry S Truman

(Or, as someone else once said, “If you can’t beat ‘em with brains, baffle ‘em with BS.”

Comment #85877

Posted by Kesh on March 10, 2006 10:22 PM (e)

Bill Gascoyne wrote:

(Or, as someone else once said, “If you can’t beat ‘em with brains, baffle ‘em with BS.”

That would be W. C. Fields. :)

Comment #85878

Posted by Jay Ray on March 10, 2006 10:26 PM (e)

While Berlinksi’s ego is at least as large as Dembski’s, he’s a heck of a lot more fun. My guess is the DI keeps him around for kicks. They surely aren’t using him in the research department.

Comment #85884

Posted by k.e. on March 10, 2006 11:08 PM (e)

He obviously has an identity crisis, he calls himself an “Agnostic Jew” a bit like a non-practicing heterosexual or an anti-evolutionist who doesn’t support anti-evolution. Why not just an agnostc?. An enigma wrapped up in paradox or not ….or maybe he’s not sure. A true credit to philosophy smirk.

Comment #85889

Posted by Caledonian on March 10, 2006 11:49 PM (e)

Being “Jewish” can refer either to religious practices or ethnic background (or cultural type, but that’s not relevant here).

It most certainly is possible to be an Agnostic Jew. Whether it’s a good idea to conflate all those meanings is another matter, but as things stand, it’s a valid and meaningful statement.

Comment #85890

Posted by snaxalotl on March 10, 2006 11:49 PM (e)

While Berlinksi’s ego is at least as large as Dembski’s, he’s a heck of a lot more fun. My guess is the DI keeps him around for kicks. They surely aren’t using him in the research department.

Why not? the research department is a large room with a beer fridge and a ping pong table

Comment #85894

Posted by Don on March 11, 2006 12:46 AM (e)

“But in an e-mail message, Berlinski declared, ‘I have never endorsed intelligent design.’”

Here’s the thing. That’s really just like David Irving saying he has never actually denied the holocaust. It’s just semantics.

Comment #85895

Posted by Andrew McClure on March 11, 2006 12:47 AM (e)

What does Berlinksi think his audience is? Mathematicians?

If I may presume to speak on behalf of mathematicians for a moment, then I would like to say:

Noooooooooooooooooo :O

Comment #85899

Posted by k.e. on March 11, 2006 1:09 AM (e)

Conflation was my point Caledonian. Does being an “Agnostic Catholic” or an “Agnostic Chinese” make sense? How about an “Agnostic Atheist”? On the surface an Identity Crisis. And interviewing himself? …how Dante-esque …Dr Pangloss sees his shrink (who is himself) and pronounces himself sane. Neither fish nor foul.Pointless. However note the subtext, consider the context and the intent. He is a religious apologist and a literal objectivst who believes or at least accepts perhaps unknowingly that goddidit. That is what he projects. Tremendously brave.

Comment #85901

Posted by Anton Mates on March 11, 2006 1:24 AM (e)

Zeno wrote:

It is not particularly mysterious that Newtonian mechanics is a limiting case of GR

Yes, but unfortunately Berlinski’s interviewer failed to mention this. He should really arrange to be interviewed by more competent people–they’re clearly far too thick-headed to properly engage his genius.

Comment #85906

Posted by hehe on March 11, 2006 3:35 AM (e)

> It most certainly is possible to be an Agnostic Jew. Whether it’s a good idea to conflate all those meanings is another matter, but as things stand, it’s a valid and meaningful statement.

Yes, it always irks me when ignoramuses whine about supposed contradiction of being Jewish and not belonging to Judaism proper.

Comment #85916

Posted by buddha on March 11, 2006 7:06 AM (e)

Ron Okimoto wrote:

Maybe this is just another April fools essay like he wrote for the Daily Cal last year. It is just a little early.

With these IDiots every day is April fools’ day.

Comment #85924

Posted by Popper's Ghost on March 11, 2006 9:33 AM (e)

Conflation was my point Caledonian. Does being an “Agnostic Catholic” or an “Agnostic Chinese” make sense?

Yes, of course it makes sense to be an “agnostic Chinese”.

PTers are not exactly shining in this thread, babbling ignorantly about Jewish agnostics (many Jews are agnostics or atheists) and GR and Newtonian physics being compatible (they aren’t – they make different predictions). Rather than criticizing Berlinski on what he is right about, how about criticizing him on what he is wrong about, such as that Newtonian physics is “better” than GR, a conclusion that can be reached only by ignoring the most important criterion for the “goodness” of an empirical theory – namely that its predictions correspond to observation. Where GR and Newtonian physics produce measurably different predictions, GR has the better of it. We can also criticize him on his final statement: “No one cathedral is really built on top of the other.” For a “really really smart” guy, this is an incredibly stupid statement. When Newton said he was standing on the shoulders of giants, he didn’t mean it literally (in the correct, not Clouserian, sense). And actual cathedrals are connected by the knowledge relationships of their builders, not by physical contiguity, one balanced on the spire of another. GR is an extension of Newtonian physics, not in the irrelevant mathematico-deductive sense of not contradicting it, but in they relevant sense of being more accurate. Berlinski appears to be the sort of mathematician who actually believes that a stopped clock is better than one that loses a nanosecond per minute because the former is correct (in the exact mathematical model sense) more often than the latter. I suggest that being “really really smart” isn’t just a matter of having intellectual capacities, but that it has something to do with applying them effectively. I can’t think of many mathematicians that I would want to fix my car, or be stranded with on a desert island.

Comment #85931

Posted by Don on March 11, 2006 11:41 AM (e)

“Clouserian”

I didn’t miss that. Brilliant.

Comment #85934

Posted by k.e. on March 11, 2006 12:04 PM (e)

Man it looks like I stepped on a mine

Poppers Ghost picked up the other howler I was going to comment on
“No one cathedral is really built on top of the other.”
In fact the whole last sentence is a howler


… But Mr. Berlinski, no one would deny these points?
GR is an extension of Newtonian mechanics. It goes further and because it does, we see better …

(He asks himself in the third person)

DB: An extension, maybe, but a consistent extension? Never. Consistent? If so, then Newtonian mechanics and GR must be satisfied in the same model by the compactness theorem. But how can a single mathematical model satisfy the postulates of both theories? It just can’t be done. No, no, I’m not appealing to anything like a paradigm shift. It’s perfectly possible to compare Newtonian mechanics and GR. One theory is better than the other. It explains more. It reaches for deeper principles. It is more elegant. I’m talking about Newtonian mechanics, of course. But the intersection of the set of sentences in both theories is inconsistent and so satisfied in no model whatsoever. If this is so, then the whole image of science as a cumulative structure breaks down. What one really has is a collection of cathedrals on a kind of fruited plane. Some are taller and grander than others, others are smaller and more elegant. No one cathedral is really built on top of the other.

I recognize that paradigm, its Dembski’s

The last sentence …pedestrian rather than poetic Allusion.
Classic Blastifarianism, the whole structure breaks down? What structures?…. imaginary fruited Cathedral’s?
Reality check…. GPS satellites with atomic clocks that need to be corrected for the relativistic effects from flying fast and not by mathematicians who failed at The Glass Bead Game”.

hehe and popper said
Yes, it always irks me when ignoramuses whine about supposed contradiction of being Jewish and not belonging to Judaism proper

I couldn’t agree more. You guys are being a bit over sensitive.
The comments were not pejorative.
The point I was making was perhaps too subtle, its about identity rather than semantics.
Lets look at the context.

Man presents credentials (his religious beliefs, science qualifications , ethnic goup? etc …HIS identity) and rationalization** for supporting an organization that contradicts another statement he made (“But in an e-mail message, Berlinski declared, ‘I have never endorsed intelligent design.’”)

I’ll get to a possible Why in a moment but first something you should understand about Jewish Identity, its not like being Irish, they come from a single geographic region or even an American Fundamentalist who thinks the US is a Christian Nation founded on Judaic Law (note NOT Roman Law this is important) they still consider themselves American.

Being Jewish does not fit one ethnic group or group from one geographic region. The one binding identity factor, that is to say, HOW they identify themselves is through Judaism. If Judaism did not exist there would be no Jews simple. A Jewish person doesn’t have to believe in Judaism, it just IS the “binding agent”. Most people outside that “identity group” are simply unable to conceive their own Identity tied into a strongly theistic culture that stands apart from their own country or ethic/regional group. For someone to reject Judaism is almost the same as rejecting being a Jew and that is why I said he had an identity problem, its my observation and an opinion and thus can be treated as such, thank you.
Note; Berlinski still, I presume, accepts the existence of god…the Jewish god which by coincidence is the Christian god.
If that is still too obscure them I can’t be more help sorry.
A possible why…
Note; Howard Ahmanson the god father of the DI is a Christian Reconstructionist and it would be worth noting some Israelis find the Fundamentalist support from the US, which some would consider crazy, useful.
It all seems to fit the “Identity Politics” basket or he is just naive.

**To devise self-satisfying but incorrect reasons for (ones behavior): “Many shoppers still rationalize luxury purchases as investments” (Janice Castro).

Comment #85936

Posted by Andrew McClure on March 11, 2006 12:38 PM (e)

Being Jewish does not fit one ethnic group or group from one geographic region. The one binding identity factor, that is to say, HOW they identify themselves is through Judaism. If Judaism did not exist there would be no Jews simple.

I think many or most actual Jewish persons would disagree with this, and they are the ones who get to decide, not you.

Comment #85939

Posted by k.e. on March 11, 2006 12:57 PM (e)

Fair enough …I haven’t communicated my point adequately.
But ask yourself this would Berlinski be supporting the DI if it were Buddhist or Hindu ?

Comment #85947

Posted by wamba on March 11, 2006 3:48 PM (e)

Fair enough …I haven’t communicated my point adequately.
But ask yourself this would Berlinski be supporting the DI if it were Buddhist or Hindu ?

Probably, so long as they kept those checks coming.

Comment #85948

Posted by David B. Benson on March 11, 2006 3:49 PM (e)

Crank: Colloq, a crotchety person.

Crotchet: 2a. A perverse fancy; a whimsey b. A fanciful contrivance

Berlinski’s arguments certainly are a fanciful contrivance, so at least he’s honest in his self-assessment.

Comment #85961

Posted by steve s on March 11, 2006 6:28 PM (e)

Comment #85947

Posted by wamba on March 11, 2006 03:48 PM (e)

Fair enough …I haven’t communicated my point adequately.
But ask yourself this would Berlinski be supporting the DI if it were Buddhist or Hindu ?

Probably, so long as they kept those checks coming.

Sh!t, for $200/hr, I’d do PR for NAMBLA.

Comment #85970

Posted by AD on March 11, 2006 8:54 PM (e)

NAMBLA

I don’t see why people have such a problem with the North American Marlon Brando Look-Alikes, myself.

Comment #85971

Posted by carol clouser on March 11, 2006 9:13 PM (e)

To be a Jew is not to be a member of an ethnic group (there are many diverse such groups within the Jewish family), it is not to be a member of a particular race (there are members of different races within the Jewish family), and it is not to subscribe to any particular religion (atheists born to Jewish mothers are considered to be Jewish by all branches of Judaism).

To be a Jew is to belong to that extended family (or “clan”) identified as such. You can join that family by conversion just as you join a family by adoption.

Comment #85985

Posted by George on March 11, 2006 11:57 PM (e)

And you claim not to be atheist dogmatists. Just look at your posts. It’s shameful.

Comment #85987

Posted by Rilke's Granddaughter on March 12, 2006 12:47 AM (e)

Carol the Mistaken wrote:

To be a Jew is to belong to that extended family (or “clan”) identified as such. You can join that family by conversion just as you join a family by adoption.

Absolutely false. One is Jewish by birth only. Only heretical Jews would argue otherwise.

Are you quite sure you know anything about Judaism?

Comment #85990

Posted by Popper's Ghost on March 12, 2006 2:03 AM (e)

Fair enough …I haven’t communicated my point adequately.

You communicated it adequately, but you’re just plain wrong – Jews do not identify primarily through a common belief system. I’m Jewish because my parents were Jewish, not because of what I believe or what they believed – its a heritage, which is a broader but more relevant concept than race, ethnicity, etc. (when people say that anti-Jewish or anti-Muslim sentiment isn’t racism because those aren’t races, they are missing the point – often willfully so, it seems). I grew up in a Jewish neighborhood and went to schools with predominately Jewish student bodies – but this isn’t a comment on what they believed; we almost never spoke of religion, nor did we attend religious services together. For the most part, Jews are those who call themselves Jews (the rabbis have different ideas – if you get a chance see the excellent film “Live and Become” for more on that subject), and most people call themselves Jews if their parents did.

But ask yourself this would Berlinski be supporting the DI if it were Buddhist or Hindu ?

Did you actually read the Berlinski piece, especially his snarky pomo part one? Berlinski apparently views scientists as barbaric philistines, menials who can’t appreciate the beauty that only reveals itself to those with a refined mathematical – or spiritual – sense. His statement “There is no argument against religion that is not also an argument against mathematics. Mathematicians are capable of grasping a world of objects that lies beyond space and time …” says it all. Berkinski sees DI as allies in stopping the onslaught of science, which in his mind denies meaning: “Why should Dawkins, of all people, find the universe wonderful if he also believes it is largely a self-sustaining material object, something bigger than a head of cabbage but not appreciably different in kind? The whole place supposedly has no meaning, no point, no purpose, and no reason for its existence beyond itself. Sounds horrible to me.”

Of course, arguments against religion are not arguments against mathematics – that’s a bizarre notion grounded in the fallacy of mathematical Platonism. And why anyone should feel horror that things can simply exist without having been intended by some other thing with some point, purpose and reason in mind is beyond me, as is how one could avoid the horror in regard to the intender. Isn’t God conceived of as having no reason for its existence beyond itself? In any case, whether we feel horror at some possibility has no bearing on whether it is true, but narcissists like Berlinski have trouble disentangling their desires from reality.

Comment #85992

Posted by Popper's Ghost on March 12, 2006 2:12 AM (e)

Absolutely false. One is Jewish by birth only. Only heretical Jews would argue otherwise.

Um, don’t you mean people who would be heretical Jews if they were really Jews (but aren’t)? By calling them “heretical Jews”, you are acknowledging that they really are Jews, at the same time as you deny it. The fact is that your claim is supported by neither logic nor practice. Perhaps it was meant as a joke, but I have seen people make the claim entirely seriously. For more on this, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jew#Who_is_a_Jew.3F

Comment #86023

Posted by k.e. on March 12, 2006 10:00 AM (e)

Thank you for clearing that up Poppers Ghost
I WAS actually trying to get inside Berlinksi’s own identity and not so much a whole tribal thing.
And the biz about religion and mathematics being the same (in his mind) I believed I addressed (obliquely) by the reference to the “Glass Bead Game”
Carol of course made a similar point about identity… er except the “conversion” part but hey that’s how conversion happens, love trumps religion.
I’m still thinking a non Abrahamic DI would not suit Berlinksi.

Comment #86025

Posted by William E Emba on March 12, 2006 10:04 AM (e)

carol clouser wrote:

(atheists born to Jewish mothers are considered to be Jewish by all branches of Judaism).

“Reform Judaism” is commonly considered to be a branch of Judaism. Since 1983, they do not recognize the children of Jewish mothers and non-Jewish fathers as Jewish unless the child is raised “Jewish”.

Rilke's Granddaughter wrote:

Carol wrote:

To be a Jew is to belong to that extended family (or “clan”) identified as such. You can join that family by conversion just as you join a family by adoption.

Absolutely false. One is Jewish by birth only. Only heretical Jews would argue otherwise.

Hello? Judaism recognizes conversion, Ruth being the most famous in the Bible.

I assume you’re just yanking Carol’s chain, but it’s best to do so on something a little more obvious.

Comment #86033

Posted by k.e. on March 12, 2006 10:29 AM (e)

Ruth being the most famous in the Bible
From where the word “ruthless” (might) come from.

http://bloghd.blogspot.com/2005/06/etymology-cor…

Comment #86034

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on March 12, 2006 10:33 AM (e)

And you claim not to be atheist dogmatists. Just look at your posts. It’s shameful.

I’m not an atheist. (shrug)

But now you’ve made me curious. IDers have been telling us loudly for YEARS now (and testified in court, under oath) that ID is SCIENCE and has NOTHING TO DO WITH RELIGION. Nothing at all whatsoever. No religious aims, goals or motives. None. Not a shred. Zip. Zero. Zilch. Nada. Not a one.

And now here you come barging in here shooting your mouth off about everyone being “atheists”…. .

I’m curious — if ID isn’t about religion, then what difference does it make in this argument whether or not someone is or isn’t an atheist, or a baptist, or a buddhist, or a zoroastrian? The speed of light doesn’t change according to one’s religious views. So why does ID?

(sigh)

Thanks for once again demonstrating so clearly that (1) ID is nothing but religious apologetics, (2) IDers are simply lying to us when they claim it’s not, and (3) Judge Jones was perfectly correct when he concluded that it is.

And, thanks for once again demonstrating so clearly why ID will never win in court. In order to survive court challenges, ID *must*, absolutely *must*, deny that it has any religious aims, motives or goals. And as you are so kind as to demonstrate for everyone, IDers simply can’t do it. They don’t WANT to do it. All they want to do is preach — and every time they preach, they undermine their own side. They KNOW, absolutely KNOW, that if they preach, they lose in court. So what do they do … ? They preach anyway. Indeed, none of them can go ten minutes without shouting “Jesus saves!!!” and thus giving the whole game away.

They are by far their own worst enemies.

DabveScot was ranting on about the wrong target – it isn’t their rejection of “common descent” that demonstrates the religious aims and goals of ID “theory”. It’s the utter complete total inability and unwillingness of IDers to shut their mouths about their religious opinions. And since ID is all ABOUT getting their religious opinions into other people’s heads, there’s not a thing they can do about it. ID is all about preaching, and there is simply no way for them to preach without letting the whole world KNOW they are preaching.

It’s why ID will never win in court.

Comment #86057

Posted by Arden Chatfield on March 12, 2006 2:44 PM (e)

Absolutely false. One is Jewish by birth only. Only heretical Jews would argue otherwise.

So Sammy Davis Junior’s conversion meant nothing? :-)

Comment #86132

Posted by DaveS on March 12, 2006 7:06 PM (e)

Hey, where did my last comment go?

Comment #86133

Posted by Glen Davidson on March 12, 2006 7:18 PM (e)

I know that Berlinski doesn’t claim to promote ID, but of course that’s exactly what he does for the DI. The only difference between DB and the others is that he doesn’t affirm ID.

That’s as positive a status as ID can achieve, a sort of faith-statement that ID is responsible for life. And it is as meaningless as my praise for Odin. Everything aside from the assertion that ID is responsible for life amounts to an attack on evolution and the methods of science that have given us the evolutionary theory. Berlinski does engage in that, so effectively, though not in name, he is an IDist.

Of course his latest bit of tripe is nothing other than a flagrant attack on science in general, which suggests that it is ID in effect. The DI has to be happy with any and all attacks on “materialism”, which is just the word they use for science.

The beauty of it for us is that their token “Jewish agnostic” sounds less and less plausible to just about everyone, probably even to DaveScot. He seems to have hooked up with the DI so that he wouldn’t be talking only to himself, but it appears as if he’s headed down that lonely road even with the pseudoscientists backing him.

Will they continue to send the checks no matter what? I am not sure that the DI is such a fun-loving bunch that they’ll keep him around just for laughs even as his contributions become increasingly less convincing. The people who stupidly keep hoping that ID will become science, like Sal, can hardly gain great courage from pieces like these.

Glen D
http://tinyurl.com/b8ykm

Comment #86136

Posted by carol clouser on March 12, 2006 8:32 PM (e)

Adin Steinsaltz, widely recognized as the formost Jewish scholar of today by all Jews, referred to by Time Magazine as “the scholar of the mellennium” and considered by many as the prime candidate for re-instituting the Sanhedrin after two thousand years, thoroughly analyzes the issue of “who is a Jew” in his book titled “We Jews”, and concludes after careful analysis that Jews constitute neither an ethnic group, not a race, nor a nationality, nor a religion, but a family or clan.

To be “raised Jewish” by Reform Jewish standards means almost nothing, since they neither practice nor observe nor believe much of anything that is distinctly Jewish. And the vast majority of Jews, rabbis and the government of Israel recognize as Jews those born of Jewish mothers.

Comment #86138

Posted by iforgetwho on March 12, 2006 8:41 PM (e)

ah so…carol crouser…you mean…rike a tribe

Comment #86139

Posted by carol clouser on March 12, 2006 8:44 PM (e)

That should be millennium. Please excuse.

Comment #86147

Posted by Rilke's Granddaughter on March 12, 2006 11:39 PM (e)

William wrote:

I assume you’re just yanking Carol’s chain, but it’s best to do so on something a little more obvious.

%;-> If one were to actually yank Carol’s chain, most likely her head would fall off. I’ve got several orthodox friends who claim conversion is not possible. Of course, I’ve also got friends who claim you can’t convert to Catholicism. Odd world, this.

Comment #86148

Posted by k.e. on March 12, 2006 11:51 PM (e)

RG if you think THAT is odd check this out

COMPARE SCIENTISTS (USING LIONS, ELEPHANTS ETC.).

or this one which alludes to usefulness vs dogma

A psychologist makes an experiment with a mathematician and a physicist. He puts a good-looking, naked woman in a bed in one corner of the room and the mathematician on a chair in another one, and tells him: “I’ll half the distance between you and the woman every five minutes, and you’re not allowed to stand up.” the mathematician runs away, yelling: “in that case, I’ll never get to this woman!”. After that, the psychologist takes the physicist and tells him the plan. The physicist starts grinning. the psychologist asks him: “but you’ll never get to this woman?”, the physicists tells him: “sure, but for all practical things this is a good approximation.”

Comment #86150

Posted by markh on March 13, 2006 12:02 AM (e)

carol wrote:

To be a Jew is to belong to that extended family (or “clan”) identified as such. You can join that family by conversion just as you join a family by adoption.

And the vast majority of Jews, rabbis and the government of Israel recognize as Jews those born of Jewish mothers.

Condradictory. But so what, who cares? You are what you are.

Comment #86153

Posted by Corkscrew on March 13, 2006 2:30 AM (e)

k.e.: you missed the bit about “six inches”.

A physicist, an engineer and a mathematician are taken prisoner by evil terrorists and locked in separate cells, with nothing but a can of food and - critically - no way to open it. After realising that their captors appear to have forgotten about them, they each come to the conclusion that their only hope of survival is to get the damn can open.

A month later, the police finally discover the terrorist lair. Sadly, it’s too late for our heroes. In the first cell, the physicist’s corpse is lying with a frustrated snarl on its face, and numerous dents in the walls attest to his failed can-busting efforts - he’d been throwing it around in the hope that it’d crack open.

In the second cell, the engineer’s corpse is lying with an infuriated grimace on its face, and numerous dents in the floor attest to the method he’d attempted - he’d been jumping up and down on the can in the hope that it’d burst.

In the third cell, the mathematician’s corpse is sitting propped up against the wall. The can is still sealed tight, and yet the mathematician has a calm, happy smile on his face. On the wall is written “First, assume a can opener…”

Comment #86160

Posted by k.e. on March 13, 2006 6:11 AM (e)

Of course Corkscrew …er I was thinking it could be fun up to the last millimeter :)
Ok ok ok …I know don’t say it.

Comment #86168

Posted by Popper's Ghost on March 13, 2006 7:36 AM (e)

To be a Jew is to belong to that extended family (or “clan”) identified as such. You can join that family by conversion just as you join a family by adoption.

And the vast majority of Jews, rabbis and the government of Israel recognize as Jews those born of Jewish mothers.

Condradictory.

I suggest a course in remedial logic. That those born of Jewish mothers are recognized as Jews does not imply that only those born of Jewish mothers are recognized as Jews.

But so what, who cares? You are what you are.

Well, yes, but what “you” are is the question at hand.

Comment #86169

Posted by Popper's Ghost on March 13, 2006 7:43 AM (e)

A psychologist makes an experiment with a mathematician and a physicist. He puts a good-looking, naked woman in a bed in one corner of the room and the mathematician on a chair in another one, and tells him: “I’ll half the distance between you and the woman every five minutes, and you’re not allowed to stand up.” the mathematician runs away, yelling: “in that case, I’ll never get to this woman!”.

Um, a mathematician is the least likely sort of person to yell that, since mathematicians can prove that Zeno’s paradox is fallacious.

Comment #86173

Posted by William E Emba on March 13, 2006 7:59 AM (e)

Rilke's Granddaughter wrote:

I’ve got several orthodox friends who claim conversion is not possible.

Either your friends are flat out ignorant about the basics of Judaism–even worse than some posters we’ve seen here–or you have seriously misunderstood or misremembered what they actually said.

Anyway, a quick Google for “orthodox judaism conversion” will reveal who is correct.

Comment #86175

Posted by William E Emba on March 13, 2006 8:11 AM (e)

Popper's Ghost wrote:

A psychologist makes an experiment with a mathematician and a physicist. He puts a good-looking, naked woman in a bed in one corner of the room and the mathematician on a chair in another one, and tells him: “I’ll half the distance between you and the woman every five minutes, and you’re not allowed to stand up.” the mathematician runs away, yelling: “in that case, I’ll never get to this woman!”.

Um, a mathematician is the least likely sort of person to yell that, since mathematicians can prove that Zeno’s paradox is fallacious.

Since Zeno’s paradoxes are claims about the real world, mathematicians qua mathematicians can neither prove nor disprove them. In this example, the usual Zeno paradox resolution models are useless, since the temporal interval between distance halvings remains constant. You are confusing s=s0k-t with s=s0−vt.

Comment #86176

Posted by k.e. on March 13, 2006 8:22 AM (e)

I think I know where Berlinski is coming from now.
He’s had a gutful of all this religion free science and wants a revolution.
A good jihad needs a weapon.
Weapons of Math Instruction.

Comment #86180

Posted by Popper's Ghost on March 13, 2006 8:53 AM (e)

Since Zeno’s paradoxes are claims about the real world, mathematicians qua mathematicians can neither prove nor disprove them.

Hardly, since there wasn’t really a race between Achilles and a tortoise. Zeno offered an argument that motion is impossible in principle, but his argument is fallacious, seen by showing that the sum of the infinite series of distances that Achilles must overcome is finite.

One can argue that that doesn’t really resolve the paradox, because Achilles must perform an infinity of actions in a finite amount of time in order to overcome the tortoise, but that’s an argument for philosophers, not mathematicians. Even if the mathematicians are wrong about having resolved Zeno, they think they have, and so my point about mathematicians not giving up on reaching naked ladies still stands.

Comment #86182

Posted by k.e. on March 13, 2006 9:00 AM (e)

Popper just interested…. are you a mathematician?

Comment #86183

Posted by Popper's Ghost on March 13, 2006 9:02 AM (e)

In this example, the usual Zeno paradox resolution models are useless, since the temporal interval between distance halvings remains constant.

Ah, you’re right about that – I didn’t pay attention, even after you pointed it out. But the mathematician only has a problem if he considers himself absolutely bound by the conditions imposed by the psychologist – but he obviously doesn’t, since he stands up and runs. He could, of course, have run the other way. This fallacy of taking a claim by a character in a scenario as an actual condition on another actor can be seen in the paradox of the Unexpected Hanging.

Comment #86185

Posted by Popper's Ghost on March 13, 2006 9:03 AM (e)

Popper just interested…. are you a mathematician?

No, I’m a ghost.

Comment #86186

Posted by k.e. on March 13, 2006 9:07 AM (e)

I’m a ghost
Oh that’s good …so you don’t have issues with professional/academic sex drive :)

Comment #86188

Posted by William E Emba on March 13, 2006 10:05 AM (e)

Popper's Ghost wrote:

Since Zeno’s paradoxes are claims about the real world, mathematicians qua mathematicians can neither prove nor disprove them.

Hardly, since there wasn’t really a race between Achilles and a tortoise. Zeno offered an argument that motion is impossible in principle, but his argument is fallacious, seen by showing that the sum of the infinite series of distances that Achilles must overcome is finite.

His argument is obviously fallacious, and everyone from Zeno onwards knew it, because motion is observed. The challenge was to find the flaw. One precalculus response was to dispute the physical model of continuity and infinite subdivision used.

But the mathematician only has a problem if he considers himself absolutely bound by the conditions imposed by the psychologist — but he obviously doesn’t, since he stands up and runs. He could, of course, have run the other way.

The point is the situation is a joke. Obviously the mathematician can do whatever he wants. The humor comes from accepting the artificial condition that he treats a non-mathematical problem as if it were mathematical, and thereby misses out on the obvious.

Comment #86198

Posted by Torbjorn Larsson on March 13, 2006 12:33 PM (e)

“ID is all about preaching, and there is simply no way for them to preach without letting the whole world KNOW they are preaching.

It’s why ID will never win in court.”

And that’s only the first obstacle. Then they have to show that it’s science to teach in science class.

First, they have to actually do science. That seems almost as possible, since they want to forget that and do the preaching instead.

Second, they must base their theory on something else than nonfalsifiable hypotheses. Since they don’t seem able to base it on anything else than preaching, they will probably never succeed.

Third, we know that if they come up with a new and falsifiable hypotheses that we all can actually do science with, it wont involve a creator, and if it’s verified it will be compatible with, and support, evolution. Why they would like to do that instead of concentrating on preaching is paradoxical.

That’s the other reasons ID will never win, in court, in science, or in informed religion.

Of course, in politics and uninformed religion they can win easily on their own terms, and all these other areas can be damned.

Comment #86217

Posted by Popper's Ghost on March 13, 2006 4:57 PM (e)

His argument is obviously fallacious, and everyone from Zeno onwards knew it, because motion is observed.

I didn’t say that it wasn’t obvious. But the argument is fallacious even if no motion were ever observed – something that isn’t so obvious. And it’s provably fallacious, even though it’s “about the real world”. Whether it’s about the real world is irrelevant since, to prove a fallacy, one shows that the conclusion doesn’t follow from the premises; it isn’t necessary to disprove the premises. People employ provably fallacious reasoning about the real world all the time, such as mistaken calculations of probability because people don’t take conditional probability into account, and they mistake a priori for a posteriori probabilities. A notable case is creationists arguing that it’s incredibly unlikely for this world, or life, to have occurred by chance. A more frivolous but quite instructive case is the Monty and the Three Doors problem, a game that can be played in real life. In fact, there are many people who, until they play it themselves, are unable to let go of their fiercely held but provably erroneous intuitions about probability.

The point is the situation is a joke.

Gee, really?

The humor comes from accepting the artificial condition that he treats a non-mathematical problem as if it were mathematical, and thereby misses out on the obvious.

I’m sorry that you failed to appreciate the subtle humor of my treating a joke as if it were a serious comment. Although I think that your indignation is disingenuous, as it comes several posts too late.

But I think you’re wrong about the source of the humor – the physicist takes the conditions seriously as well, but doesn’t consider them an impediment. The point of the joke – obvious given the context in which it was offered – is a stereotype of mathematicians as detached from the real world, and thus misapplying mathematical reasoning to it. But the misapplication occurs more in the stereotype than in the behavior of real mathematicians – Berlinski notwithstanding.

Comment #86223

Posted by Popper's Ghost on March 13, 2006 5:28 PM (e)

to prove a fallacy, one shows that the conclusion doesn’t follow from the premises; it isn’t necessary to disprove the premises

I should have said that it isn’t necessary to disprove the conclusion independent of the premises. Specifically, it isn’t necessary to prove that motion really does occur, or that Achilles really did, or really could, beat a tortoise in a race, in order to prove that Zeno’s paradox is fallacious.

Of course, this is universally true of mathematics, not just when applied to “the real world”. All mathematical truths are only true relative to an axiomatic system. Which is why Berlinski’s mathematical Platonism is nonsense. He writes “Mathematical intuition is utterly mysterious. So for that matter is the fact that mathematical objects such as a Lie Group or a differentiable manifold have the power to interact with elementary particles or accelerating forces.” But Lie Groups and differentiable manifolds are not “objects”, they don’t have “power”, and they don’t “interact” with elementary particles or accelerating forces. When the model of physical particles and forces includes certain axioms, there is nothing mysterious about the fact that theorems proven of those axioms are applicable to the modeled particles and forces. Whether they apply to real particles and forces depends on whether the model is accurate.

Comment #86249

Posted by The Ghost of Paley on March 13, 2006 9:26 PM (e)

It’s always good to hear the Master hold forth, even when it leads to commentary like this. Let’s unweave the philosophical tapestry:

The Master wrote:

I take it you mean to exclude biology altogether. Is that your view? …
DB: To a certain extent. My real view is that there is only one science, and that is mathematics, and that the physical sciences are really forms of experimental mathematics.

Yes. Bereft of mathematics (which both codifies and grounds logical statements), macroevolution must rely on heuristic methods to settle disputes, which lead in turn to hunches, circular reasoning, and incoherent formulation (what constitutes a homologous structure? A selective landscape? etc.). The evolutionist cannot couple image to word, logic to meaning, and drifts ever further from Truth. Behold the power of babble.

No doubt. But it is odd, isn’t it, that we really have no good views about science itself. Its existence is as much of a mystery as the phenomena that it explains. I know of nothing like an imagined overall theory that even begins to explain the role of science in the universe. No theory explains itself, after all, even if it could explain everything else.

Without a mathematical Virgil, there is nothing to explain. One simply draws maps and collects stamps.

He means something quite specific by the term crank science, and that is a willingness to deny the cumulative structure of modern physics, the fact that each great physical theory represents an enlargement of its predecessors. This is terrifically important as a rhetorical strategy because it means that the burden of skepticism becomes impossibly high with each new theory. This is just another way of protecting the sciences from criticism.

And frees the scientist from connecting ideas. As the idea widens, the grasp shrinks. The theory survives to blot out the landscape.

Now take Newtonian mechanics and compare it to general relativity. Is it true that GR is a consistent extension of Newtonian mechanics?
… Surely many physicists would say so …
DB: Yes, and they would be wrong. Newtonian mechanics is committed to the view that the spatial structure of the universe is classically Euclidean. Not so GR. Newtonian mechanics holds that if you accelerate a rigid rod, neither its length nor certain temporal intervals will change. GR holds the opposite. But why am I telling you all this. It’s obvious…. But Mr. Berlinski, no one would deny these points? GR is an extension of Newtonian mechanics. It goes further and because it does, we see better …
DB: An extension, maybe, but a consistent extension? Never.

What model? It’s all about the math, stupid, unless it’s about something else….

But the intersection of the set of sentences in both theories is inconsistent and so satisfied in no model whatsoever. If this is so, then the whole image of science as a cumulative structure breaks down. What one really has is a collection of cathedrals on a kind of fruited plane. Some are taller and grander than others, others are smaller and more elegant. No one cathedral is really built on top of the other.

Which is not so bad, perhaps, considering the alternative.

Comment #86251

Posted by Torbjorn Larsson on March 13, 2006 10:34 PM (e)

“Bereft of mathematics (which both codifies and grounds logical statements), macroevolution must rely on heuristic methods to settle disputes, which lead in turn to hunches”

Let’s make a quick diagnosis:
1. Formal statements without empirical connection good.
2. Empirical statements bad.
3. Macroevolution bad.

Ie, the scientific method backwards and a distaste for evolution. Ghost must be an IDiot.

So it’s no surprise he sits at Berlinski’s feet and laps the dreg up from where it hit the floor. Pity he didn’t look at the objections first.

Comment #86253

Posted by Wesley R. Elsberry on March 14, 2006 1:15 AM (e)

Speaking of math, why is it that folks who bash evolutionary biology never seem to deal with the math in Fisher, Wright, Kimura, Crow, Brooks and Wiley, or even any issue of the journal, Evolution?

It’s led to some howlers, like William Demsbki’s casual statement, “Here I examine evolutionary algorithms, which constitute the mathematical underpinnings of Darwinism.” This one is especially ironic, since Dembski goes on at length in TDI about Fisherian hypothesis testing, but seems to be completely oblivious to such sources as Fisher’s The Genetical Theory of Natural Selection.

Comment #86441

Posted by Tice with a J on March 14, 2006 10:13 PM (e)

You mean the tortoise lied to me when it said I could never beat it?

Comment #86548

Posted by William E Emba on March 15, 2006 11:21 AM (e)

Popper's Ghost wrote:

His argument is obviously fallacious, and everyone from Zeno onwards knew it, because motion is observed.

I didn’t say that it wasn’t obvious. But the argument is fallacious even if no motion were ever observed — something that isn’t so obvious. And it’s provably fallacious, even though it’s “about the real world”.

In the context of the original joke, though, it was not fallacious, since the time intervals were constant.

Whether it’s about the real world is irrelevant since, to prove a fallacy, one shows that the conclusion doesn’t follow from the premises; it isn’t necessary to disprove the premises.

Simplifying, there are two kinds of mathematicians: pure and applied. The pure will take a model and comically ignore the question of its relevance, the applied is as concerned with errors in the model as he is in the deductions within the model.

I’m sorry that you failed to appreciate the subtle humor of my treating a joke as if it were a serious comment. Although I think that your indignation is disingenuous, as it comes several posts too late.

Gee, really?

But I think you’re wrong about the source of the humor — the physicist takes the conditions seriously as well, but doesn’t consider them an impediment. The point of the joke — obvious given the context in which it was offered — is a stereotype of mathematicians as detached from the real world, and thus misapplying mathematical reasoning to it.

Yes, which is what I said. He believes in the model absolutely, never thinking to doubt the model itself. The side bit you raised about Zeno’s paradox, even if it were relevant (as in, change the joke first) wouldn’t change the humor, although it would annoy the purists who are working with a model wherein the joke itself is to be understood as an isomorphism between the situation in the joke and a real-world applied mathematical situation. As I mentioned, certain pure mathematicians have difficulty with realizing that the model itself is vulnerable to questioning, but instead point out that the isomorphism leads to inaccurate predictions of the joke’s mathematician’s behavior. My response has been applied, which under the circumstances, is the only correct response possible.

Comment #86552

Posted by William E Emba on March 15, 2006 11:42 AM (e)

improvius wrote:

Berlinski wrote:

The idea that there is out there a physical world which just happens to lend itself to mathematical description has always seemed to me to be incoherent.There is only one world – the universe, in fact, and it has the essential properties of a mathematical model. For reasons that we cannot even begin to understand, that model interacts with out senses, and so without measuring devices, allowing us to pretty much confirm conclusions antecedently reached by pure thought.

This is pure solipsism.

I wouldn’t be so generous.

Berlinksi is addressing the question of why our world is so amenable to mathematical reasoning. This question has been raised numerous times by respectable physicists and mathematicians, and no generally acceptable answer is known.

One popular line of argument is a kind of anthropological principle. Only in universes where there is sufficient mathematical structure can stable objects interact and change over time, thereby leading to the very possibility of intelligences existing, and having something to reason over in the first place. A modern day Descartes would say “I think, therefore I am in a mathematically modelable universe.”

A variant of the above is that we are overstating our modeling capabilities, and in fact, have missed important aspects of reality simply because we are stuck in a mathematical rut.

Another point of view is inspired by statistical mechanics, ergodic theory, and Ramsey theory. These subjects involve the discernment of order and pattern out of generic formlessness, and philosophical reasoning along these lines suggests that on any grand enough scale, any universe will have no choice but to exhibit mathematical regularities.

Comment #86568

Posted by Torbjorn Larsson on March 15, 2006 12:55 PM (e)

“Berlinksi is addressing the question of why our world is so amenable to mathematical reasoning. This question has been raised numerous times by respectable physicists and mathematicians, and no generally acceptable answer is known.”

I believe the more general question, when you involve physicists as well, is put as why we can model the world at all.

I must confess I have never really understood this part of the awe that one feels when a model checks out correctly. Perhaps I have been taking it as granted, and when I have thought of it I have been satisfied with the anthropic observation.

Your two explanations makes sense (and now I have to check what Ramsey theory is :-). But I would like to complement them with two ideas I have had, for all it’s worth.

The awe, or the question raised, follows probably partly from an anthropic observer bias, which I guess is a tautological form of the anthropic principle.

And I think, but may be wrong, that mathematics isn’t totally disconnected from science and observations.

The axioms of the formal parts, and perhaps some of the methods, are informed at their conception, in logic, quantum logic, mathematics, probability theory (and parts of philosophy), by abstractions from models of reality.

And now and then these models are applied and indirectly checked. There is also an influx of math from applied sciences, there these processes are again used at the construction.

Ie string theory was concieved around Lagrangians for gravity and whatnot, and produces some pure math results. I believe there has been periods when for example analysis and quantisation formalisms have been more or less corrected, since the initial formulations weren’t good enough. Perhaps these corrections or rather deeper formalisations (I think) were driven by pure math, but I still believe it illustrates the idea that part of math originates from applications closer to reality than the foundations.

Then I’m writing this it occurs to me that this last idea doesn’t work well unless the world is partly organised, which would rely on any of your two explanations.

Comment #86582

Posted by Corkscrew on March 15, 2006 1:37 PM (e)

Ghost of Paley wrote:

Yes. Bereft of mathematics (which both codifies and grounds logical statements), macroevolution must rely on heuristic methods to settle disputes, which lead in turn to hunches, circular reasoning, and incoherent formulation (what constitutes a homologous structure? A selective landscape? etc.). The evolutionist cannot couple image to word, logic to meaning, and drifts ever further from Truth. Behold the power of babble.

Next year I’m hoping (grades allowing) to take an MPhil in Computational Biology. Even a tiny amount of reading up provides numerous examples of mathematics being applied to macroevolution. If you’re interested, start with coalescent methods and work your way out from there.

Comment #86586

Posted by Steviepinhead on March 15, 2006 1:56 PM (e)

Heh, heh (as GoP turns a whiter shade of pale).

Comment #86597

Posted by k.e. on March 15, 2006 2:33 PM (e)

GoP …a night in white satin smirk….projects the vacuousness of his (Arthurian) vacuum said:

Yes. Bereft of mathematics (which both codifies and grounds logical statements), macroevolution Creationism must rely on heuristic methods to settle disputes, which lead in turn to hunches, circular reasoning, and incoherent formulation (what constitutes a homologous structure? A selective landscape? etc.). The evolutionist (whatever that is)Creationist Biblical Idolaters cannot couple image to word, logic to meaning, and drifts ever further from truth/reality The one true word of **insert favorite deity**TM. Behold the power of babble.

…The devoid void…
ghostly hows your love life? You should de-materialize once in a while and …er do some dancing…that’s not aghast (‘0’) your religion is it?.

Are you going to give us the definitive biblical mathematical Truth pi=3

Really why don’t you THINK for 5 seconds before posting.

Are you the guy behind “The Men who stare at goats”? The military project run by a new age pseudoscience guru to develop super soldiers who could walk through walls.

Comment #86615

Posted by Tancrède Plasma on March 15, 2006 3:54 PM (e)

I agree with Popper’s Ghost: It’s important not to attack Berlinsky on where he is right. Berlinsky is right about Relativity Theory and right about Compactness theorem (which is not a theorem of propositional logic but of model theory for first order predicate calculus). He is simply wrong in the conclusions that he reachs from there.

No present philosopher would still use the very old positivist conception of intertheoretic reduction; it is well known that this conception (proposed by Nagel) is full of problems (it does do justice to the Newton-GR case, for instance, but neither to the reduction of Mendelianism to molecular genetics). Alternative to Nagel’s conception have been proposed (e.g., Bickle’s) which preserve the idea that science grew from a kind of reduction of old theories to new, more precises ones.

No need to appeal to the opposition of “practical” common sense vs “too abstract” pure logic or philosophy. Berlinsky seems just to be doing bad philosophy with good logic, as far as I know.

Comment #86642

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on March 15, 2006 7:16 PM (e)

“Philosophy and the study of the actual world have the same relationship to one another as masturbation and sexual intercourse”. – K Marx

Comment #86698

Posted by Torbjorn Larsson on March 15, 2006 11:12 PM (e)

Tancrède,

“Berlinsky is right about Relativity Theory and right about Compactness theorem (which is not a theorem of propositional logic but of model theory for first order predicate calculus).”

I don’t see how the compactness theorem applies here. (But I have never heard of it before, and haven’t seen the context or a proof, so I might misunderstand my speedreading of it.)

But newton mechanics, special relativity and general relativity are consistent in the sense that you can find areas where the simpler theories approximate each other. For example, newton mechanics and his gravity models masses under low speeds in a gravity field, otherwise it would never have been accepted. So they are consistent in the physical way, and that is what matters here, however much Berlinski tries to muddy the waters.

Perhaps the last part of your comments says that isn’t how a philosopher thinks about science (“intertheoretic reduction” ?), but I find it hard to believe we can find complete and allencapsulating descriptions of what science do and how scientists thinks. Already the method of science is hard to describe generally, and since it’s a method and not a recipe, it will do things we don’t expect, on stuff we haven’t figured out yet.

Since you seem to like philosophy, it seems to me what I saying is like the consequences of Goedels first incompletness theorem, that we will forever add to our formal theories. Maybe you can show that trying to describe how science works is as science itself, ie it will never be complete. It wouldn’t surprise me.

Comment #86746

Posted by Popper's Ghost on March 16, 2006 1:31 AM (e)

“Philosophy and the study of the actual world have the same relationship to one another as masturbation and sexual intercourse”. — K Marx

As I’ve noted before, this quip from the world’s most influential political philosopher doesn’t carry much weight.

Comment #86841

Posted by William E Emba on March 16, 2006 11:28 AM (e)

Tancrède Plasma wrote:

Berlinksi, interviewing himself, wrote:

But Mr. Berlinski, no one would deny these points? GR is an extension of Newtonian mechanics. It goes further and because it does, we see better …

An extension, maybe, but a consistent extension? Never. Consistent? If so, then Newtonian mechanics and GR must be satisfied in the same model by the compactness theorem. But how can a single mathematical model satisfy the postulates of both theories? It just can’t be done. No, no, I’m not appealing to anything like a paradigm shift. It’s perfectly possible to compare Newtonian mechanics and GR.

One theory is better than the other. It explains more. It reaches for deeper principles. It is more elegant. I’m talking about Newtonian mechanics, of course.

But the intersection of the set of sentences in both theories is inconsistent and so satisfied in no model whatsoever.

I agree with Popper’s Ghost: It’s important not to attack Berlinsky on where he is right. Berlinsky is right about Relativity Theory and right about Compactness theorem (which is not a theorem of propositional logic but of model theory for first order predicate calculus). He is simply wrong in the conclusions that he reachs from there.

Actually, in the Berlinksi quotation above, he is spouting rank gibberish.

For starters, neither CM (Classical Mechanics) or GR (General Relativity) is a first order theory in the sense of mathematical logic. In fact, neither is a second order theory. Both are game plans, so to speak, except in both cases the rules are only partly defined. For an excellent description of the near impossibility of treating GR, even in theory, as merely a branch of mathematics, see Sachs and Wu General Relativity for Mathematicians.

The authors do a fantastic job of translating large parts of GR into Definition/Theorem/Proof style, and also of explaining why this fails as physics. As they point out, even something as presumably simple as rigorously defining a “particle” leads to unphysical decisions and contortions.

Berlinski is ignorantly treating CM and GR as amenable to first order logic, and then bluffing his way from there. In fact, it’s very easy to give a “model” that satisfies CM and GR, properly defined. One doesn’t treat CM as merely a certain set of differential equations, but as a certain set of differential equations with accuracy limitations. This is actually more realistic, and easily “consistent” with a GR model, as known since Einstein.

And none of this has anything to do with the compactness theorem. Berlinksi, in essense, is cheating. Physicists use “consistency” in one sense, logicians in another, and Berlinksi is just conflating the two in an incoherent and incompetent manner. Whether this is defective intelligence on his part, or defective morality, is hard to tell. But it’s the same style nonsense that typifies his Commentary articles, only this time he’s selecting a smaller audience of people who know what he’s talking about.

Comment #86967

Posted by Tancrède Plasma on March 16, 2006 7:37 PM (e)

From wikipedia:

The compactness theorem is a basic fact in symbolic logic and model theory and asserts that a set (possibly infinite) of first-order sentences is satisfiable, i.e., has a model, if and only if every finite subset of it is satisfiable.

So if GR is a satisfiable set of first-order sentences, and CM is another, then their union is satisfiable too.

I’m not a physician, but it’s certain that you can find a consequence of GR that is in contradiction to a consequence in CM (even if the two sentences are very similar). So the conjunction of the two theories doesn’t have a model if they are first order theories. (A model is an interpretation of a theory in a mathematical or physical structure under which the theory is true.)

Now, William E Emba, you say that they aren’t first order theories. Then his argument may fail (but it seems hard to believe because they have contradictory consequences). But even if they were first order theories, that would not mean that Berlinsky is right.

To explain why science is cumulative, Nagel (a logical positivist) proposed that earlier theories “reduce” to newer ones, in that they are deductible. For that their conjunction should have a model. That is the idea that Berlinsky is using: an old positivist doctrine that is known to have many problems.

Anyway, as Torbjorn Larsson pointed, what is important is that the old theory is a good approximation of the new one. Consistency in the logical sense is not required. There are alternative understandings of the notion of “reduction” than Nagel’s one.

So Berlinsky use an old positivist doctrine that not many philosophers would still endorse together with (if W E Emba is right) false premises.

Comment #86976

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on March 16, 2006 7:53 PM (e)

“Philosophy and the study of the actual world have the same relationship to one another as masturbation and sexual intercourse”. — K Marx

As I’ve noted before, this quip from the world’s most influential political philosopher doesn’t carry much weight.

OK. How about a quip from the world’s most influential comic film writer:

Dole Office Clerk: Occupation?
Comicus: Stand-up philosopher.
Dole Office Clerk: What?
Comicus: Stand-up philosopher. I coalesce the vapors of human existence into a viable and meaningful comprehension.
Dole Office Clerk: Oh, a bullshit artist!

Comment #87019

Posted by Torbjorn Larsson on March 16, 2006 10:28 PM (e)

William, thank you for your explanation. It seems you, I and Tancrède have come to compatible (but not necessarily consistent :-) views.

“So if GR is a satisfiable set of first-order sentences, and CM is another, then their union is satisfiable too.”

I think this is incorrect, and can be the source of some trouble. Since CM and GR overlap, are nearly the same in some regimes of overlap, but have different predictions in some other regimes of overlap, their union can’t be satisfiable.

If you insist to see them as two sets of sentences, you will have to get rid of some CM sentences when you merge it into GR, assuming GR is the correct theory. It seems to be belief revision you are discussing.

Comment #87086

Posted by Tancrède Plasma on March 17, 2006 4:50 AM (e)

“So if GR is a satisfiable set of first-order sentences, and CM is another, then their union is satisfiable too.”

I think this is incorrect, and can be the source of some trouble. Since CM and GR overlap, are nearly the same in some regimes of overlap, but have different predictions in some other regimes of overlap, their union can’t be satisfiable.

Ahrgh! The Reverent Lenny is right after all ! I didn’t think enough before writing (or my logical skills have been fading lately…) Sorry T. Larson, and thank you for pointing the problem. I tried to clean the logical mess but did another.

Berlinsky’s argument is that to be compatible, the conjunction of the two theories should have a model. Then, by Compactness theorem every subset (not just CM and GR as I said before) of the new theory (CM+GR) is satisfiable (i.e. has a model). Then take two sentences, which are contradictory, one which is a consequence of CM and the other which is it’s negation and is a consequence of GR - for instance the formula for kinetic energy in CM, and its negation in GR (disclaimer: I am not a physicist). This set should have a model; but this set couldn’t have a model, because it contains a proposition and its negation. Then (CM+GR) doesn’t have a model either (by the Compactness Theorem).

It’s a very long detour to say that the conjunction of the two theory is not consistent. But maybe it’s necessary, I don’t know.

Anyway, my goal was to be fair to Berlinsky’s use of Comptactness Theorem without agreeing in any case with is argument about science being noncumulative.

Comment #87200

Posted by William E Emba on March 17, 2006 11:29 AM (e)

Tancrède Plasma wrote:

wikipedia wrote:

The compactness theorem is a basic fact in symbolic logic and model theory and asserts that a set (possibly infinite) of first-order sentences is satisfiable, i.e., has a model, if and only if every finite subset of it is satisfiable.

So if GR is a satisfiable set of first-order sentences, and CM is another, then their union is satisfiable too.

A union of satisfiable sets needs need be satisfiable. For example, Euclidean geometry, with an axiom that says space is two-dimensional, is satisfiable. So is Euclidean geometry, with an axiom that says space is three-dimensional. Their union is not satisfiable.

I’m not sure if this is your misreading of the compactness theorem or Berlinksi’s, but nothing in the statement refers to the union of two theories. It refers to the union of all possible finite subtheories of a given theory.

I’m not a physicist, but it’s certain that you can find a consequence of GR that is in contradiction to a consequence in CM (even if the two sentences are very similar). So the conjunction of the two theories doesn’t have a model if they are first order theories. (A model is an interpretation of a theory in a mathematical or physical structure under which the theory is true.)

The compactness theorem is for theories within a given first-order language. There is no a priori expectation that CM and GR as theories, even if somehow expressed in first-order terms, would use the same first-order language. This is the issue of reducibility which you bring up, and which Berlinski just barges through blindly.

So Berlinsky use an old positivist doctrine that not many philosophers would still endorse together with (if W E Emba is right) false premises.

The philosophical aspect of the IDiots’ arguments are all “written in jello”, unfortunately. I certainly agree that there are important and difficult problems in the philosophy of science, and about the only thing I’ll put my foot down and insist is correct is that the philosopher’s job is to explain how science works and that it cannot dictate to scientists how to do their job. Unfortunately, this leaves a lot of wiggle room for amateurish and discredited philosophy for the Idiots to wallow around in. I prefer the irrefutable takedown of showing their mathematics is provably incompetent.

Comment #87295

Posted by Tancrède Plasma on March 17, 2006 3:30 PM (e)

I said:

So if GR is a satisfiable set of first-order sentences, and CM is another, then their union is satisfiable too.

W E Emba wrote:

A union of satisfiable sets needs need be satisfiable. For example, Euclidean geometry, with an axiom that says space is two-dimensional, is satisfiable. So is Euclidean geometry, with an axiom that says space is three-dimensional. Their union is not satisfiable.

I agree. Torbjorn Larsson’s remark made me realize that I made an error (and a big one, to put it slightly). I corrected this error in the post preceeding yours (it’s here).

There is no a priori expectation that CM and GR as theories… would use the same first-order language.

Maybe you’re right about this. I was trying to see what happen to Berlinsky’s argument if they do, but as I said I am not a physicist nor a philosopher of physics.

about the only thing I’ll put my foot down and insist is correct is that the philosopher’s job is to explain how science works and that it cannot dictate to scientists how to do their job.

I am half in agreement with you. There is work to be done in methodological questions, but there are no heaven in which the philosophers can read the Rules in a way that is totally independant of actual scientific practice. In fact good philosophy often is in continuity with science, when it is not done by scientists or in collaboration with scientists. Look at the work of Elliott Sober or Patricia Churchland for instance.

Comment #87403

Posted by Torbjorn Larsson on March 17, 2006 9:55 PM (e)

William and Tancrède,

I would like to thank you both about teaching me more about theory basics, and how to think about them. It seems one must have a deeper view on theories and their different formal languages. This was especially helpful for me which has very little knowledge in this field. (Disclaimer: I’m not a philosopher.)

Comment #87682

Posted by John Marley on March 19, 2006 10:11 AM (e)

TPlasma said:

I’m not a physician

**snort, chuckle**

I hope that was a typo.