forum 8: week of 5 March: tests and evidence

Fragment of a discussion from Course talk:Phil440A
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Parallel Submission on Staley and Cobb paper titled Internalist and Externalist Aspects of Justification in Scientific Inquiry.

The purpose of this submission is to confirm that any Internalist belief based on authority, can be tested on the basis of the notion of epistemic possibility, as the Internalist component of the Staley and Cobb Internalist and Externalist aspects of justification in scientific inquiry.

Assumption: The *method* of believing things because they come from wise old men and holy books has been discredited (and might be undiscredited); and, the method of believing things because they come from wise old men and holy books has only been discredited in that we now need other reasons if we are to believe them. [assumtion source, Dr. Adam Morton].

Question 1

Can the internalist *method* of believing things because they come from wise old men and holy books be included in the Internalist method of Kent Staley and Aaron Cobb, in their paper titled Internalist and Externalist Aspects of Justification in Scientific Inquiry. The basis of this question is Staley and Cobbs’ use, page 22, of the notion of epistemic possibility, …“Hintikka, whose (1962) provides the origins for contemporary discussions, there takes expressions of the form ‘It is possible, for all that S knows, that P’ to have the same meaning as ‘It does not follow from what S knows that not-P.’12.” If the internalist *method* of believing things because they come from wise old men and holy books cannot be included in the form of Hintikka’s construct, why not?

Question 2

Can physicist Freeman Dyson’s personal theology be included in the Internalist method of Kent Staley and Aaron Cobbs’ paper.

Freeman Dyson’s personal theology is expressed in the following excepts from:


[1] Dyson’s acceptance speech for the Templeton Foundation 2000 Prize for Progress in Religion. Retrieved from: http://www.edge.org/documents/archive/edge68.html

[2] Dyson’s The New York Review of Books, book review of physicist Sir John Polkinghorne’s book titled The God of Hope and the End of the World.

Retrieved from : http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2002/mar/28/science-religion-no-ends-in-sight/?pagination=false

Sir John Polkinghorne was awarded the Templeton Foundation 2002 Prize for Progress in Religion.

Dysan excerpts:

[1] My personal theology is described in the Gifford lectures that I gave at Aberdeen in Scotland in 1985, published under the title, Infinite in All Directions. Here is a brief summary of my thinking. The universe shows evidence of the operations of mind on three levels. The first level is elementary physical processes, as we see them when we study atoms in the laboratory. The second level is our direct human experience of our own consciousness. The third level is the universe as a whole. Atoms in the laboratory are weird stuff, behaving like active agents rather than inert substances. They make unpredictable choices between alternative possibilities according to the laws of quantum mechanics. It appears that mind, as manifested by the capacity to make choices, is to some extent inherent in every atom. The universe as a whole is also weird, with laws of nature that make it hospitable to the growth of mind. I do not make any clear distinction between mind and God. God is what mind becomes when it has passed beyond the scale of our comprehension. God may be either a world-soul or a collection of world-souls. So I am thinking that atoms and humans and God may have minds that differ in degree but not in kind. We stand, in a manner of speaking, midway between the unpredictability of atoms and the unpredictability of God. Atoms are small pieces of our mental apparatus, and we are small pieces of God's mental apparatus. Our minds may receive inputs equally from atoms and from God. This view of our place in the cosmos may not be true, but it is compatible with the active nature of atoms as revealed in the experiments of modern physics. I don't say that this personal theology is supported or proved by scientific evidence. I only say that it is consistent with scientific evidence.

[2] I am myself a Christian, a member of a community that preserves an ancient heritage of great literature and great music, provides help and counsel to young and old when they are in trouble, educates children in moral responsibility, and worships God in its own fashion. But I find Polkinghorne’s theology altogether too narrow for my taste. I have no use for a theology that claims to know the answers to deep questions but bases its arguments on the beliefs of a single tribe. I am a practicing Christian but not a believing Christian. To me, to worship God means to recognize that mind and intelligence are woven into the fabric of our universe in a way that altogether surpasses our comprehension. When I listen to Polkinghorne describing the afterlife, I think of God answering Job out of the whirlwind, “Who is this that darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge?… Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? Declare, if thou hast understanding…. Have the gates of death been opened unto thee? Or hast thou seen the doors of the shadow of death?” God’s answer to Job is all the theology I need. As a scientist, I live in a universe of overwhelming size and mystery. The mysteries of life and language, good and evil, chance and necessity, and of our own existence as conscious beings in an impersonal cosmos are even greater than the mysteries of physics and astronomy. Behind the mysteries that we can name, there are deeper mysteries that we have not even begun to explore.

Question 3

Can Dyson’s personal theology of the operations of mind, at the quantum level, be included in Staley and Cobbs’ method of Externalist aspects of justification in scientific enquiry. Staley and Cobb, page 10, define Externalist aspects of justification in scientific enquiry as:

“Externalism*: the assertion of an experimental conclusion (h) is justified if and only if that which justifies h is truth-conducive.”

Can Freeman Dyson’s personal theology of mind concept, at the quantum level, qualify as Externalist justification in scientific enquiry as truth-conducive, by Staley and Cobbs’ method, if confirmed by quantum mechanics research. As a theory, quantum mechanics is claimed to be the most tested theory, and to never have failed a test.


Six selected quotations, on the claim that quantum mechanics is the most tested theory, and has never failed a test, are as follows:


[1] “Yes, the Theory of Relativity (just like the Theory of Quantum Mechanics too) can be physically tested: you can demonstrate its truth, by means of the apparent impossibility of ever proving it untrue. This is to say that science has indeed put relativity to many, many tests: those trying to prove it incorrect (when appropriately applied). Irrefutably, the Theory of Relativity (again, just like the Theory of Quantum Mechanics) has NEVER once failed ANY test that science has EVER subjected it to – NOT A Single One – making it as true as anything in the universe can ever be, because no one has ever successfully demonstrated, or better stated, no one has ever even come close to demonstrating, its incorrectness - not even once.”


Chongo in collaboration with Jose. January, 2010. Conceptual Reality. Page, preface. Retrieved from: http://chongonation.com/nutshell.htm, March 10, 2012.


[2] “Quantum Mechanics has been around since the thirties and is the basis of essentially all modern physics. It is a clean theory and has been tested, retested, and verified more than any other physical theory in history.”


The Mathematician. April 18, 2010. Ask a Mathematician / Ask a Physicist. Retrieved from http://www.askamathematician.com/?p=2310


[3] “Quantum mechanics has never been shown to be incorrect and has never failed experimentally.”

Hooper, Dan. Fermilab. Quantum Physics. Slide 72. Retrieved from:

https://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&q=cache:so_g035GLTUJ:smp.fnal.gov/slides/hidden/DanHooperQuantumMechanics.ppt+Hooper,+Dan+Quantum+Mechanics+slide+presentation&hl=en&gl=ca&pid=bl&srcid=ADGEESih4RlVUe7Prhgj5m8YUofB_8H1yjiCGvFvch03UDifQ59FA4j4PnkVsgWN59gb2stPJb81xZdGihnw8Zng6eBL_llmGM6yLCgTmJ-fm7eQNWuVLfi8ueWTW7yT0roiZExlgqbb&sig=AHIEtbTDeo5ArkdDfUSWmALLWWzJJEc4AQ March 10, 2012.

[4] ”Quantum theory works. It never fails.”

Bjorken, James. The Future of the Quantum Theory. Beam Line. Summer/Fall 2000. Page 2.


Retrieved from: http://www.slac.stanford.edu/pubs/beamline/30/2/30-2-bjorken.pdf March 10, 2012.


[5] “Since its final formulation in terms of Schrodinger wave mechanics, quantum mechanics has claimed to have never failed any conceivable experimental test [1]” Reference [1] = A. Peres, Quantum Theory: Concepts and Methods (Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht. 1995).”


Budiyono, July 24, 2009. The most probable wave function of a single free moving particle. Institue for the Physical and Chemical research, RIKEN, 2-1 Hirosawa, Wako-shi, Saitama 351-0198, Japan.


Peres, Asher, Quantum Theory: Concepts and Methods. Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht / Boston / London, 1993.


[6] “In fact, Feynman once wrote, ‘I think I can safely say that nobody understands quantum mechanics.’ But quantum physics agrees with observation. It has never failed a test, and it has been tested more than any other theory in science.”


Hawking, Stephen; Mlodinow, Leonard, 2010. The Grand Design. Bantam Books. New York. Page 74.

03:07, 12 March 2012

Jim, I appreciate you contributing to the forum. However, what you're asking and writing about does not relate very much to Fisher's reading. Hence, I suggest you focus on Fisher's book, as that is the topic for this week. Focusing on Fisher and the design of experiments will make this week go much smoother because I will be able to accommodate more requests from the audience, if they are willing to tell me what they have trouble understanding.

04:36, 12 March 2012