Critique of TSW Part 12b Interconnection

Bill becomes muddled, misquotes, and leans toward some bad philosophies in his effort to save solid matter, while continuing to review The Tenth Assumption of Science: Interconnection.

I am ever so grateful to Bill Westmiller, whose comments are marked "BW: ". The quotes marked TSW are from "The Scientific Worldview" and my comments are marked "[GB: ".

BW: Finally, determinism requires a cause for every effect. Effects are events. Events can only occur between two or more distinct objects, usually in the form of a collision. Therefore, determinism requires that all Borchardt Things be separated ... by space. Otherwise, no collision can ever occur and there are no effects for which there might be causes. So, it seems that your "discontinuity" assumption is not just indeterministic, but *counter-deterministic*, denying the existence of any effects and all causes.

You seem to recognize this logical contradiction in the very next paragraph, but I don't think you succeed in resolving it.

"... interconnection assumes, along with infinity, that matter is infinitely subdividable to produce two things: 'matter' and 'empty space.'"

[GB: That is why I put quotes around ‘matter’ and ‘empty space.’ Some folks think of matter as taking up space, which is correct, and that space, even though thought to be empty, still would take up space. I guess that implication was not enough for you, and that it would be best to leave out the word ‘empty.’ I need to realize that I am dealing with idealists, such as yourself, who actually believe that solid matter and purely empty space could exist even though I have repeatedly maintained that those are only ideas, ideals, or idealizations. Above all, Infinite Universe Theory teaches us that non-existence (absence of matter) is impossible. Infinite Universe Theory should not be trivialized as the simple claim that matter in the universe goes on forever and becomes infinitely small. It is the generalization of the observation that if matter exists any where at all, then it will exist everywhere.]

BW:   ... which is a direct reversal of your initial statement that there is no such thing as "empty space". It's also a violation of your description of Borchardt Things as strictly material objects: space is not a "thing". Now, you say it is a thing. Not only that, but it is a "discontinuous thing", with more interposed objects, which is what you condemned as a feature of "indeterminism" just a paragraph earlier.

[GB: I realize that interconnection can be very difficult to grasp. Both Steve and I initially struggled with it, so let me try this: Think of the smallest thing you can imagine. Now, look at the night sky and imagine that the structure of that smallest thing looked like the night sky, with its tiny bits of matter surrounded by “empty space” or your preferred “space,” which is, by no means, empty. Each of these tiny microcosms is free to collide with each other, simply because the intervening space or empty space does not contain the kind of matter that provides sufficient resistance to prevent that from happening. There is no scale at which this visualization could break down, without an indeterministic belief in the ideals of solid matter and empty space.]
BW:   The whole section is a muddle, unless you redefine "connection" as the possibility of multiple recurring *events* between *some* distinct objects, which requires a spatial separation between those objects. You could also use the "associated" sense of "connection", if you can demonstrate the existence of sequential events that suggest a cause and effect relationship between the motions of two objects. In that case, you could *hypothesize* some intervening medium or object, yet to be identified. But, that's what science does already.

TSW: "By the [bad philosophies], space is to be regarded helplessly as 'perfectly empty' until evidence to the contrary is demonstrated."

BW:  The alternative being: assuming some Borchardt Thing is there, when there is no evidence of its existence? You seem to be mocking the *realist* view and advocating a mystical view: that there must be invisible Borchardt Things there, because your universal, infinite, "interconnected" philosophy demands it.

[GB: Bill, you are catching on. The “bad philosophies” I was alluding to are known in the philosophy of science as “empiricism,” “positivism,” and “operationalism.” Each is mystical in its own way. Pure empiricism states that data collection need not be guided by thought, that is, by theory of any sort. Pure positivism states that, unless I can see, hear, feel, smell, or taste a phenomenon, it does not exist. Pure operationalism states that unless I can detect and measure a phenomenon, it does not exist. Your complaint is a bit dated. At one time, these now “bad philosophies” were instrumental in the struggle against indeterminism. They were thought to be sure ways to distinguish between the real world of science and the imagined world of religion. Only one problem: they did not work. Without imagination, science cannot advance. At the frontier, we continually face the unknown and can only imagine what the reality may be like.

Based on prior experience, we invent theories and prepare ideal models that we can test through observation and experiment. Pure empiricism is dead. As we reach further and further toward the infinitely small and infinitely large, our analyses become increasingly indirect, with our five senses becoming increasingly removed from direct observation of what does or does not exist. Pure positivism is dead. Rapid technological advances tend to falsify early statements about what can be detected and what cannot be detected. Pure operationalism is dead.

These philosophies, like classical mechanics itself, were suited to a finite universe filled with finite particles. The na├»ve realism they sprang from worked for the easy part, the front end of causality. It did not work for the rest of it. Those unsensed causes continue to bug us, which we acknowledge in our Second Assumption of Science, causality (All effects have an infinite number of material causes). We could treat them “mystically,” as you say, or we could treat them as the result of material entities (microcosms) that we, at least, temporarily cannot detect. With the Eighth Assumption of Science, infinity (The universe is infinite, both in the microcosmic and macrocosmic directions) we assume that they do exist and that eventually some of them will be detected. You can call that belief “mysticism,” as you choose, but it has worked pretty well so far. Unfortunately for positivists and operationalists, Infinity no longer allows us to use detection as the sole criteria for distinguishing between science and religion. Much of regressive physics is just as “mystical” as the worst religion. At PSI we now make that distinction by evaluating how well particular analyses adhere to "The Ten Assumptions of Science."]
TSW: "... disconnection leads to the overemphasizing of the internal and the ignoring of the external."

BW: I would think it would be the exact opposite. Disconnection (in the sense of distinct and separate objects) focuses on the *external* relationship of one object to a separate object, which produce events. That is, the *internal* components of each of the objects is ignored, for the sake of establishing the cause for the effect.

[GB: That indeed is one way of looking at it. With that statement, I was thinking more of today’s systems philosophy, which has that particular disconnect in abundance. As you point out, classical mechanics had it the other way around. The correct view, of course, is univironmental determinism, in which there is equal emphasis on both the internal and the external, with no “disconnect” between them.]

TSW: "But in general, systems philosophy. tends to assume disconnection, always failing to the degree that it refuses to recognize that the surroundings of the system are as important as the system itself."

BW: Yes, it attempts to isolate unique, discrete causes for distinct events. That doesn't *deny* the existence of incidental external influences that might cause slightly different effects. It accepts their existence and tries to reduce them to inconsequential aspects of the actual relationship under consideration. To the degree that their efforts are successful, none of the chaotic external influences are "important" to the primary event under study. That's how science is always done.

[GB: Well stated. As systems philosophers we draw a sphere around the portion of the universe that we are focusing on, ignoring almost everything outside that system. That is how science was “always done”—until 1970 when the “environment” became more than “inconsequential.” Unfortunately, it is still how it is “always done” with regard to cosmology. Fortunately, the best scientists do not do it that way any more. Instead, they divide the universe into two parts. For example, in pedochronopaleoseimology I study the properties of a particular soil profile in relation to all that surrounds it. I do not ignore the surrounding rocks, topography, seismic, geologic, and cultural history, etc. It is true that many of the properties of the microcosm (soil) and its macrocosm (environment) are not significant, but I will not admit to having left anything out of consideration.]    

TSW: "Barry Commoner, one of the first to emphasize the importance of the environment, declared that in ecology, the most important law is: 'Everything is connected to everything else.'"

BW: You're taking Commoner out of context, since he's referring to the Earth "ecosphere" shared by all living organisms.  They are all "connected" because the earth environment is a *closed system*. He doesn't even share the "Butterfly Effect" perspective of Edward Lorenz, which seems more consistent with your proposition.

[GB: Sorry Bill, but the earth environment is not a closed system, a fact noticeable every time the climate changes or an asteroid swerves toward us. There are no closed systems. That mindset was supposed to have gone out with Copernicus.

On the so-called “Butterfly Effect”: It is true that, because Earth’s atmosphere covers the globe, the motion of a butterfly’s wings in Japan might be noticeable at quite some distance from that butterfly. Some of the nitrogen molecules involved in that event might even end up in the USA someday even though that occasion might have nothing to do with that particular butterfly. As you know, the significance of a particular motion generally follows the inverse square law. It is a long way to Japan, and the effect of a butterfly’s motion is unlikely to be noticed as a contributor to tornado production in the USA.

The effect stems from work in “chaos theory,” which was one of the first realizations by the mainstream that the finite universal causality of classical mechanics was not exactly correct. The “chaos” in the theory reflects the uncertainty that is characteristic of the infinite universe, in which there are an infinite number of causes for any effect. The upshot is that no relationship is perfectly linear because there are always an infinite number of factors involved. All but a half dozen or so of these are significant most of the time, but occasionally a tiny impact can have tremendous consequences. Here is an example:

Once, when we were camping on a small alluvial fan in Colorado, we looked for the nearest water supply, which was over 100 m away. This was in spite of the presence of a dry creek within meters of our camp. Going up the creek toward the apex of the fan, I noticed what was “wrong.” The stream coming down from the mountain side was now traversing the south side of the fan by taking an oblique left turn. All I had to do was move one small rock to cause the stream to make a right turn past our camp.]

TSW: "... interconnection. may be a useful generalization, but it remains for us to show, in each specific instance, what the connections are. If we fail to do that, we must assume that the connections do not exist."

BW: ... in which case, "interconnection" does not qualify as a fundamental supposition. Until you show that the connection exists, the only valid assumption is that no connection exists. You've just demolished your own assumption.

[GB: Sorry Bill, but you seem to have gotten that quote wrong. The last sentence should read: “Whenever we fail to do that, indeterminists tend to assume that the connections do not exist.” You incorrectly restated it from the opposite point of view. Naughty naughty!]

TSW: "if we are to reject the positivistic view altogether, then we need to show that things do not simply exist in the same universe, but that their motions invariably influence the motions of other things."

BW: If you show that, then the positivists would agree with you, since they believe that "information derived from sensory experience, logical and mathematical treatments and reports of such data, are together the exclusive source of all authoritative knowledge." However, to support your universal, infinite connectedness of ALL Borchardt Things to each other, you'll have to produce an awful lot of evidence.

[GB: That is why interconnection is an assumption. Assumptions do not just pop up out of nowhere. Both the deterministic and indeterministic assumptions are grounded on “an awful lot of evidence,” as pointed out in your Wikipedia quote. As I have maintained all along, each side points toward its evidence as support for its viewpoint. The determinist assumes that connections will be discovered; the indeterminist assumes that connections will not be discovered. The choice between these two assumptions is dependent on one’s experience. It is by no means a random, willy nilly choice, as you have implied previously. For instance, my scientific specialty involves quite a lot of detective work in the field. Whenever I look for connections, I usually find them, while a person, particularly a believer in disconnection, untrained in fieldwork might find nothing at all. Your previously stated belief that there are “material causes for all effects” follows the same tack. Like interconnection, that belief in causality underpins all of science. A scientist or detective who did not believe both of them would be worthless. Unless you believed there might be a connection or a cause, you would cease to look for one.]

Continued as 12c…

cotsw 025

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