## Laws of science and nature Question

Discussions on the philosophical foundations, assumptions, and implications of science, including the natural sciences.

### Re: Laws of science and nature Question

davidm » November 3rd, 2018, 6:09 pm wrote:I do not think that Swartz, anywhere, questions the predictive utility of science.

What he questions is that there are prescriptive laws underlying predictive utility. For Swartz, the “laws of nature” are better characterized as exceptionless regularities that are amenable to description, both by semantic propositions and by maths.

If there are regularities that occur without exception, then of course we can, and do, make predictions and retrodictions from them.

That's a big "If".

Exceptionless regularities do not by themselves create predictive utility.

Causational relationships yield predictive utility.

Exceptionless regularities are merely coincidental, if you disregard their causational relationships involved.

Exceptionless regularities that are exceptionless just via observation are not governing anything.

Causational links between objects and events make science predictive, not observed exceptionless regularities.

Because causations engender determinism, the causative look at nature empowers predictibility.

Merely exceptionless regularities as observed, do not demand determinism, therefore they can't be predictive.

-1-
Banned User

Posts: 270
Joined: 21 Jul 2018

### Re: Laws of science and nature Question

This debate on causal determinism, and what it actually is, can be traced back to Hume.

David Hume: Causation

Of two events, A and B, we say that A causes B when the two always occur together, that is, are constantly conjoined. Whenever we find A, we also find B, and we have a certainty that this conjunction will continue to happen. Once we realize that “A must bring about B” is tantamount merely to “Due to their constant conjunction, we are psychologically certain that B will follow A”, then we are left with a very weak notion of necessity. This tenuous grasp on causal efficacy helps give rise to the Problem of Induction--that we are not reasonably justified in making any inductive inference about the world. Among Hume scholars it is a matter of debate how seriously Hume means us to take this conclusion and whether causation consists wholly in constant conjunction.

But later:

One way to interpret the reasoning behind assigning Hume the position of causal skepticism is by assigning similar import to the passages emphasized by the reductionists, but interpreting the claims epistemically rather than ontologically. In other words, rather than interpreting Hume’s insights about the tenuousness of our idea of causation as representing an ontological reduction of what causation is, Humean causal skepticism can instead be viewed as his clearly demarcating the limits of our knowledge in this area and then tracing out the ramifications of this limiting. (Below, we will see that the causal realists also take Hume’s account of necessity as epistemic rather than ontological.)  If Hume’s account is intended to be epistemic, then the Problem of induction can be seen as taking Hume’s insights about our impressions of necessity to an extreme but reasonable conclusion. If it is true that constant conjunction (with or without the added component of mental determination) represents the totality of the content we can assign to our concept of causation, then we lose any claim to robust metaphysical necessity. But once this is lost, we also sacrifice our only rational grounding of causal inference. Our experience of constant conjunction only provides a projectivist necessity, but a projectivist necessity does not provide any obvious form of accurate predictive power.

Swartz discusses Hume.

Note: for me, the above anchor link to Swartz's discussion on Hume, is not working properly. Here is the full article:

A neo-Humean perspective: laws as regularities.

You could read the full article, or just click on anchor link in the index entitled: The regularity theory, or, being more Humean than Hume.
davidm
Member

Posts: 743
Joined: 05 Feb 2011

### Re: Laws of science and nature Question

davidm » November 7th, 2018, 12:33 pm wrote:This debate on causal determinism, and what it actually is, can be traced back to Hume.

David Hume: Causation

Of two events, A and B, we say that A causes B when the two always occur together, that is, are constantly conjoined. Whenever we find A, we also find B, and we have a certainty that this conjunction will continue to happen. Once we realize that “A must bring about B” is tantamount merely to “Due to their constant conjunction, we are psychologically certain that B will follow A”, then we are left with a very weak notion of necessity. This tenuous grasp on causal efficacy helps give rise to the Problem of Induction--that we are not reasonably justified in making any inductive inference about the world. Among Hume scholars it is a matter of debate how seriously Hume means us to take this conclusion and whether causation consists wholly in constant conjunction.

But later:

One way to interpret the reasoning behind assigning Hume the position of causal skepticism is by assigning similar import to the passages emphasized by the reductionists, but interpreting the claims epistemically rather than ontologically. In other words, rather than interpreting Hume’s insights about the tenuousness of our idea of causation as representing an ontological reduction of what causation is, Humean causal skepticism can instead be viewed as his clearly demarcating the limits of our knowledge in this area and then tracing out the ramifications of this limiting. (Below, we will see that the causal realists also take Hume’s account of necessity as epistemic rather than ontological.)  If Hume’s account is intended to be epistemic, then the Problem of induction can be seen as taking Hume’s insights about our impressions of necessity to an extreme but reasonable conclusion. If it is true that constant conjunction (with or without the added component of mental determination) represents the totality of the content we can assign to our concept of causation, then we lose any claim to robust metaphysical necessity. But once this is lost, we also sacrifice our only rational grounding of causal inference. Our experience of constant conjunction only provides a projectivist necessity, but a projectivist necessity does not provide any obvious form of accurate predictive power.

Swartz discusses Hume.

Note: for me, the above anchor link to Swartz's discussion on Hume, is not working properly. Here is the full article:

A neo-Humean perspective: laws as regularities.

You could read the full article, or just click on anchor link in the index entitled: The regularity theory, or, being more Humean than Hume.

What does all this mean, DavidM? Are you putting forth a proposition? If yes, it would be nice to see what you actually claim.

Of course it is up to you, but I don't see the relevance of quoting authorities without linking their findings to the topic. In my view that ought to be the purpose of quotes. Quoting some authorities alone is not conducive to debate, but then again, I am not even sure if we are in a debate here.

-1-
Banned User

Posts: 270
Joined: 21 Jul 2018

### Re: Laws of science and nature Question

"Of two events, A and B, we say that A causes B when the two always occur together, that is, are constantly conjoined."

Conjoination can be also a chance event. Causation is perceived when we are assured by our faculties that A causes B because of some underlying rule that we believe is true.

The very basic assumption or premise of the argument therefore is not true. Argument is invalid.

-1-
Banned User

Posts: 270
Joined: 21 Jul 2018

### Re: Laws of science and nature Question

All causations involve conjoination, but not all conjoinations are effects of causation. Therefore concluding that conjoination is always an indication of causation is false. The quote in the article claimed this false conclusion to be true, and used it as a premise. Therefore the ensuing argument is invalid.

-1-
Banned User

Posts: 270
Joined: 21 Jul 2018

### Re: Laws of science and nature Question

-1- » November 7th, 2018, 10:25 pm wrote:

Of course it is up to you, but I don't see the relevance of quoting authorities without linking their findings to the topic.

The relevance seems obvious to me, especially when tied to the linked Swartz paper for further discussion.
davidm
Member

Posts: 743
Joined: 05 Feb 2011

### Re: Laws of science and nature Question

-1- » November 7th, 2018, 10:30 pm wrote:All causations involve conjoination, but not all conjoinations are effects of causation. Therefore concluding that conjoination is always an indication of causation is false. The quote in the article claimed this false conclusion to be true, and used it as a premise. Therefore the ensuing argument is invalid.

I think you have misunderstood Hume's argument.

Constant conjunction of A and B is what we call causation, but the conjunction of A and B is all we really have. If there are mere constant conjunctions, full stop, then what we have are regularities -- discussed in-depth by Swartz in his articles that I linked. And if all we have are descriptions of constant conjunctions (regularities), then there is no nomic necessity. Among other things, as noted, this gives us a robust notion of free will absent in the necessitarian account of the laws of nature. Whether Hume intended to say that constant conjunction only is ontological, or epistemological (we are limited in our ability to penetrate to how things are) is even disputed among Hume scholars, as noted in the linked articles. The relevance of all this to the topic at hand seems obvious. Swartz's account of causal determinism and of the "laws" of nature is neo-Humean, as he says.
davidm
Member

Posts: 743
Joined: 05 Feb 2011
 TheVat liked this post

### Re: Laws of science and nature Question

DavidM, I have a parable to answer you with. Please pardon me the apparent cruelty of the scientist in the parable, it is actually a mind-experiment, not a recount of a real event.

A scientist cuts off one leg of a frog."Jump!" Says the scientist. The frog jumps.

The scientist cuts of another leg of the frog, then says, "Frog, jump!" And the frog jumps.

The scientist cuts off the remaining legs of the frog, and says, "Frog, jump!" The frog does not jump.

The scientist concludes, "When you cut off all the legs of a frog, the frog becomes deaf."

-1-
Banned User

Posts: 270
Joined: 21 Jul 2018

### Re: Laws of science and nature Question

davidm » November 8th, 2018, 11:07 am wrote:I think you have misunderstood Hume's argument.

Constant conjunction of A and B is what we call causation,

I beg to differ. We call the constant conjunciton of A followed by B causation ONLY if we also find a rule that we believe is true and causes B from A. Without the rule, the event, or conjunction, as constant as it can be, is still a chance event.

Example: every spring there is wind in a lowland adjacent to mountainous region, which is full of snow. Every spring the river on the lowland floods. Then you can say:

A1 causes B.

A2 causes B.

A1 is the wind blowing;
A2 is the warming of the region and the melting of the snow in the mountains from where the waters drain into the river that flows into the lowland.
---------------------------------------------------------

In both cases A is followed by B.

There is a way of telling which is a causational event, and which is not. You deny this, by saying that ANY A followed by B, if it shows the properties of constant conjunction, is a cause. Here, I showed you an example in which it is not.

----------------------------------------------------------

A ship sinks at the Chalibdes. The people on the ship are crying and shrieking. They die by drowning.

Crying and shrieking causes death.
The sinking of the ship causes death.

Again, both the crying and shrieking, AND the sinking of the ship, at the Chalibdes, precede the death. Which is a causational event?

Thus, you can see that I was right when I declared and claimed that a constant conjunction (or an invariant repetition) of A that is followed by B is NOT necessarily causational; but it can be either causational or else a chance event. Reason can separate the two apart.

-1-
Banned User

Posts: 270
Joined: 21 Jul 2018

### Re: Laws of science and nature Question

davidm » November 8th, 2018, 11:07 am wrote:
I think you have misunderstood Hume's argument.

The argument is so simple that you and I can decide the proper outcome without the need to refer to Hume. We can apply our own brains and our own powers of thinking.

If you constantly refer to authorities, and not employing your own reasoning power, you run the risk of actually convoluting the issue beyond recognition.

This is a simple enough exercise. You claim A followed by B without exception is a causational event. I say it is not. I showed you two examples in which it was not, and these examples are undisputable.

I think this is sort of where we reached a conclusion.

-1-
Banned User

Posts: 270
Joined: 21 Jul 2018

### Re: Laws of science and nature Question

Before going on, I must remark that it is a quite puzzling and disappointing that at this forum, the same ol’, same ol’ occurs — the imputations that one is arguing dishonesty (I’m not), that one is making an appeal to authority (I’m not), that one is not thinking for oneself (I am), and so on. And, of course, the implied ad homs. This is typical message board behavior, which is one of the reasons, I think, that message board participation has declined so precipitously since its heyday in the mid-2000s.

Anyone who has read my posts at this board knows that I always make my own arguments, and have done so in this very thread. The links are for supplemental, supporting discussion, but I have explicated those materials in my own words. The claim that I have done otherwise is defamatory. I’ll reiterate something that I said earlier, that Swartz has personally characterized my explication of his ideas, in my own words, as “superb.” Swartz is a professor emeritus of philosophy at Simon Fraser University, a prestigious institution, and the author of three books of philosophy as well as numerous articles. I hope I don’t have to list David Hume’s credentials, though perhaps -1- is unaware of those, too. (I shall state preemptively that listing these credentials does not constitute any kind of “appeal to authority.” If someone provides links to authors on the Internet, I should hope the authors have some relevant credentials, and would like to know what they are. An appeal to authority is fallacious when one contends that some author x is correct because of his credentials, or because of who he is. Needless to say, I have never argued in this way. As anyone with the slightest integrity will notice, I am defending these ideas on their merits, and not because of who Hume or Swartz are.)

At all events, I find it quite amusing that -1- seems to feel that he has discredited Hume, and Swartz, and hundreds of years of Hume scholarship, with a couple of ill-informed and poorly thought-out message board posts. This puts him on par with ralfcis, who seems to thinks he has overturned relativity.

I’ll continue with the discussion later, but my distaste for -1-’s posting style, and the lack of substance in his posts, will probably preclude me from further interacting directly with him.
Last edited by davidm on November 9th, 2018, 12:01 pm, edited 1 time in total.
davidm
Member

Posts: 743
Joined: 05 Feb 2011

### Re: Laws of science and nature Question

In the Twentieth Century virtually all scientists and philosophers have abandoned theistic elements in their accounts of the Laws of Nature. But to a very great extent – so say the Regularists – the Necessitarians have merely replaced God with Physical Necessity. The Necessitarians' nontheistic view of Laws of Nature surreptitiously preserves the older prescriptivist view of Laws of Nature, namely, as dictates or edicts to the natural universe, edicts which – unlike moral laws or legislated ones – no one, and no thing, has the ability to violate.

Regularists reject this view of the world. Regularists eschew a view of Laws of Nature which would make of them inviolable edicts imposed on the universe. Such a view, Regularists claim, is simply a holdover from a theistic view. It is time, they insist, to adopt a thoroughly naturalistic philosophy of science, one which is not only purged of the hand of God, but is also purged of its unempirical latter-day surrogate, namely, nomological necessity. The difference is, perhaps, highlighted most strongly in Necessitarians saying that the Laws of Nature govern the world; while Regularists insist that Laws of Nature do no more or less than correctly describe the world.

The above is a portion of Norman Swartz.

I think this was effectively communicated earlier in the thread. (I added the green emphasis myself).

I am unambiguously NOT claiming that Laws of Physics are "edicts" and therefore must have been handed down by a supernatural "Edict Writer". Lets cut that whole conversation off at the bud.

Nevertheless, the origin of the Laws of Physics is a valid question by all accounts. I'm not convinced that nomological necessity is a "latter-day surrogate" of theistic creationism. (Frankly, Nomic Necessity smells like Laplacian Determinism to me).

The origin of the Laws of Physics is an excruciating mystery. The origin could be (and likely is) very exotic. The answers may not even be accessible to the human mind or human capacity. Answers may not be obtainable by human civilization, since we reside inside the universe. At this point, I would like to bring in the wise words of Stephen Weinberg.

We will never know why things are the way they are.

What Weinberg meant by "we" there is working physicists. (To the vindication of several people in this thread) Weinberg is there admitting that the Laws of Physics are descriptions after-the-fact. This dovetails with Hume and Swartz's "Regularists". Scientists working in a discipline are not tapping into the Godhead, rather they are more akin to stamp collectors describing the regularities.

Nevertheless there is a mystery. Where we go from there is an idle game of semantics. We can place the Grand Mystery into a bottle, and place a sticky label on it. Perhaps write "G" on the label, for "God" if you like. What did we gain? Well we gained a short word of a single syllable to name the mystery quickly during conversations.

Have we made progress on the Answer to why things are they way they are? No. We have simply shuffled words and made some substitutions. That can be considered a type of mild progress, but not the real progress we want.

Therein lies a pitfall to theistic thinking. "God did it" is less an attempt to address a question, and more an attempt to outsource it, or avoid responsibility.

hyksos
Active Member

Posts: 1792
Joined: 28 Nov 2014

### Re: Laws of science and nature Question

davidm » November 9th, 2018, 11:52 am wrote:At all events, I find it quite amusing that -1- seems to feel that he has discredited Hume, and Swartz, and hundreds of years of Hume scholarship, with a couple of ill-informed and poorly thought-out message board posts. This puts him on par with ralfcis, who seems to thinks he has overturned relativity.

???

I gave you two examples of how Hume was wrong. You did not refute my examples by showing how they were wrong. You simply came back with an appeal to authority, as above in the quote.

That is the nature of philosophy. All kinds of old philosophers made logical errors. The very famous ones, too. Pointing the mistakes out ought not to count as a sort of blasphemy or disrespect; if it stands, it stands, and your job here would be to point out the logical faults in my argument, not simply cry blue murder because I dared to discredit Hume.

To me philosophy is not poring through tomes of dusty old texts; to me philosophy is showing in a logical manner what the truth is. This seems to be a pivotal difference between me and some other members here, but it's just a different approach. I resent the opinion that DavidM seems to be advocating, namely, that I ought to be ostracized for the process of inventing creative arguments that prove a point. In fact, I see my way a much more palatable and more approachable form of discussing ideas and proving points, than throwing in a bunch of buzzwords and quoting or linking to esoteric quotations. But hey, this is just my view. I am not proselytizing my method, I am SIMPLY VOICING MY RESENTMENT FOR GETTING FLAK FOR IT, AND GETTING A CALL AGAINST THIS METHOD OF ARGUMENTING.

It is not the person you argue with, but his or her ideas. I felt what I keep feeling in North American society among those who left their religions: they want to leave the thinking, the culture, parts of it behind, that are nevertheless integral parts of Western thought, and they also stand, even without a belief in a deity or in the supernatural. North American apostate atheists tend to want to throw out the baby with the bath water.

Same with the entire notion of "who made these laws". I never ever felt they had to have been made, in order to accept their presence, and accept their validity. A supertnatural creator has never been part of my weltanschauung. But I do appreciate that this is part of a backlash against the huge ocean of theism that washes North American thinking from within. I simply wanted to show that there ARE laws; natural and physical laws; the idea in my opinion, which I tried to defend, is not to do away with the notion of laws, but to do away with the notion that they had been created.

These were the two areas of the debate. I stand firmly that causation happens, and laws are there. I stand firmly that it is wrong to discount the existence of laws. I believe I gave a convincing argument why I was right on both accounts.

It is normal (alas) on philosophy boards to deplore the opponent and voice dismay with the opponent's characteristics (real or imagined) that are absolutely nothing to do with the topic, when the opponent has defeated the argument of the one by logical means. I think this is what has also happened here.

-1-
Banned User

Posts: 270
Joined: 21 Jul 2018

Previous