November 6, 2017

Popper upside down

by Neil Rickert

The idea for the title comes from a blog post by Sabine Hossenfelder:

Hossenfelder is herself a physicist.  She makes a good argument on the problems with the way that scientists use (or misuse) Popper’s idea of falsification.  It is well worth reading.

For myself, I slightly disagree.  I don’t think she should blame the problem on Popper alone.  The problem is bad philosophy of science.  And, unfortunately, there is a lot of bad philosophy of science.  Some of that bad philosophy comes from professional philosophers.  And some of it comes from scientists themselves.

[Yes, this was a very short post intended to reference Hossenfelder’s post.]

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October 1, 2017

Color blindness

by Neil Rickert

I am color blind.

Well, not really.  My color vision is fine, thank you.  However, my color vision is abnormal.  That doesn’t mean that it is bad.  It just means that it is different from what is typical.

I should note that I am posting this because I intend referring to it in a future post about human cognition and perception.

Growing up

As a child, I had no idea that there was anything unusual about my color vision.  The world looked the way that people described it, as best I could tell.  I developed an interest in electronics, and I never had any difficulty with the color coding of resistors and other components (giving the resistance as a series of color bands).  As far as I could tell, my vision was normal. Continue reading

September 25, 2017

On the EAAN

by Neil Rickert

The EAAN, or Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism, is an argument by Plantinga.  The Wikipedia entry provides a reasonable summary.

In a recent post at the Uncommon Descent blog, Barry Arrington gives an argument based on the EAAN.  This will mostly be a response to Arrington.

What is the EAAN?

Here’s a short quote from the Wikipedia article.

The EAAN argues that the combined belief in both evolutionary theory and naturalism is epistemically self-defeating. The reason for this is that if both evolution and naturalism are true, then the probability of having reliable cognitive faculties are low.

Personally, I’m inclined to see the EAAN as a reductio ad absurdum of a traditional account of epistemology.  Traditionally, it is said that knowledge is justified true belief.  I’ve disagreed with that in the past, and I continue to disagree.

That Wikipedia quote talks of both evolution and naturalism as being true.  I have never subscribed to naturalism (nor to materialism), because I don’t know what it would mean to say that naturalism is true.  And evolution, as used in that quote, refers to the theory of evolution.  I tend to think of scientific theories as neither true nor false.  Rather, I see a theory as a set of pragmatic conventions that provide a guide to how we should talk about the world.  As such a framework, the theory sets standards, in this case for biology and related fields.  Those standards give as ways of coming up with factual (true) statements about reality.  But whether or not we see the theory as true does not seem important. Continue reading

September 11, 2017

John Wilkins and heretical philosophy

by Neil Rickert

Wow!  Just Wow!

To be clear, I am not accusing Wilkins of heresy.  I’m the heretic.  However, John has new post where much of what he says is where I see philosophy as going wrong.

I’ll note that I haven’t posted much over the last few months.  That’s largely because I am frustrated at my difficulty in communicating my non-standard viewpoint.  Perhaps this will help me make a fresh start.

I’ll quote parts of John’s post where I disagree, then say a little about why I disagree.  I will probably say too little.  Filling in the details can come in future posts.

John uses “conceptual confusion” in the title.  I agree.  But I expect that where I see conceptual confusion is not where John sees it.

Sapir (a student of Boas’) and Whorf (Sapir’s student) proposed a thesis, known obviously as the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, that our categories determine how we experience the world.

Hmm, that’s not how I understand Sapir-Whorf.

Continue reading

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September 3, 2017

National Day of Prayer

by Neil Rickert

President Trump has declared that today (Sep 3, 2017) shall be a national day of prayer.

I pray that Donald J. Trump resign from office, or be removed from office by impeachment.

August 16, 2017

Trump must go

by Neil Rickert

This brief post is quoting a portion of an article in The Washington Post: President Trump must go.  I recommend reading the full article.

There is only one conclusion that any American patriot of either party can draw. Trump must go.

It has been perfectly natural during the first few months of this presidency for commentators and political leaders to treat Trump, his statements and actions like those of his predecessors. But in the past week, the dangers of his reflexive behavior have become even more crystal clear. In a matter of days, the president’s reckless remarks have triggered fears of nuclear war with North Korea, he threatened military action against Venezuela, he continued his quiet war against the environment and the U.S. public health system and then, in response to Charlottesville, he revealed his true colors and that he is not preserving, protecting and defending the Constitution as his oath requires. Rather, he is at war with it and its values — from a free press, to an independent judiciary, to equal protection for all under the law.

I fully agree with that assessment.

August 3, 2017

Fundamental Ontology

by Neil Rickert

Coel has a post over at his blog:

I thought of posting a comment there.  But I then decided that it might be worth a full post.

Coel’s view

Coel quotes Feynman, as suggesting the atomic theory of matter as particularly important.  But Coel seems to disagree with this.  The trouble with atoms, is that they are made of subatomic particles.  In turn, quantum mechanics has something to say about those subatomic particles that makes them look less particle-like.

Coel delves down to a number of possibilities.  He even mentions Tegmark’s idea that everything is made of mathematics.  But Coel himself is not so certain that we can give a good answer at this, or perhaps ever.

I do recommend reading his post. Continue reading

April 27, 2017

Platonism, fictionalism and all that

by Neil Rickert

There was recently an interesting discussion of platonism and fictionalism as philosophies of mathematics.  This was at “The Electric Agora” blog.  I added a couple of comments myself.

Yesterday, I went back to take another look.  That was mostly to see if there were any additional comments.  And there were two, both by Robin Herbert.  But comments are now closed for that post.  So I’ll say something here.

First some links:

Both comments add to the discussion and are worth reading.

Is fictionalism true?

In his first comment, Robin says:

So the argument that fictionalism must be true because the axioms are only conventions appears to make the same mistake as saying the truth or falsity of “if A then B” depends on the truth or falsity of A.

To me, this seems weird.  I have said that I am a fictionalist.  I have never said that fictionalism is true.  I’m not at all sure that I know what it would even mean to say that fictionalism is true.

Continue reading

April 27, 2017

Closing comments after 30 days

by Neil Rickert

I’ve changed the settings on this blog, so that comments are automatically closed on a post after 30 days.

I’m making this change for two reasons:

  1. There are too many spam comments, mostly on older posts.
  2. I rarely get comments on old posts anyway.

For the present, I’ll leave all comments open on my other blog (on computer), because I do sometimes get comments on older posts there.

April 18, 2017

Review of “Why I left, Why I stayed”

by Neil Rickert

It’s about a month since I listened to a podcast, featuring a discussion with Bart Campolo.  I found that interesting, so I bought the book that was co-authored by Bart Campolo and his father Tony Campolo.  This post is mainly a review of the book.  However, you might want to start by listening to that podcast.

Background

Tony Campolo is well known as part of Evangelical Christianity, specifically the Evangelical left.  Bart, his son, started off in Evangelical Christianity, but reached a point in his life where he could no longer believe.  How he reached that point is discussed in the podcast and in the book.  Although he rejected Christianity, Bart continued with a humanist mission.  Tony, Bart’s father, regretted Bart’s decision but accepted it nontheless.

The book is mostly a sequence of chapters, alternately written by Tony and by Bart, with a final chapter that was jointly written.

My review

I found the book a bit uneven.  But this is to be expected when it consists of an alternation of chapters with two different authors.

Continue reading

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