Critique of "The Scientific Worldview": Part 11c The Ten Assumptions of Science: Relativism

The infinite universe produces no identities except in the minds of idealists. Do not worry. This blog has little to do with relativity.

I am ever so grateful to Bill Westmiller, whose comments are marked "BW: ". The quotes marked TSW are from "The Scientific Worldview[1]" and my comments are marked "[GB: ".

TSW: Ninth Assumption of Science, relativism (Part 3 of 3)

“All things have characteristics that make them similar to all other things as well as characteristics that make them dissimilar to all other things.”

TSW:  "Disparity is the result of divergence, analogy the result of convergence."

BW: Odd contrast, since disparity is a fact in reality, whereas analogy is a mental process. There's certainly plenty of divergence in evolution, but very little convergence. Communication facilitates a convergence of knowledge and understanding, but only rarely a new divergence. Dialectics are useful tools for resolving conflicting ideas, but nature doesn't do dialectics.

[GB: Of course, analogy and disparity are both mental processes. So analogy occurs when things are brought together and are considered to be similar and disparity occurs when things are brought apart and are considered to be dissimilar. Sorry, but evolution involves equal amounts of divergence and convergence. You are right that communication is a convergence (how could it be otherwise). As I have said before, it is definitely not true that nature doesn't do dialectics. In the infinite universe, things are always moving together or apart—pretty simple.]

TSW:  "Although the classification process is a result of mental activity, it reflects the actual differentiation and integration of matter, as well."

BW: To the degree that it doesn't reflect reality, it is demonstrably false.

[GB: Of course.]

TSW:  "... The third level is an attempt to compare the measurements themselves in an objective way."

BW: Pleased to see your commentary "evolving" to an appreciation of objectivity. It should be one of the primary "assumptions" of science, which is always seeking objective truths about reality, rather than vague, whimsical, arbitrary, or subjective impressions.

TSW:  "... mathematize the comparison ..."

BW: I don't think math is the Sine Qua Non of objectivity. Yes, quantitative distinctions are important, but not at the expense of qualitative features. Mathematics is fine when it uses numbers, but it frequently adopts symbols to represent Westmiller Things, without defining them. For example, the "v" of velocity doesn't indicate whether the attribute is relative (translational) or objective (rotational). The frame of reference is missing and frequently confused. There are still many physicists who use "pure energy" terminology, as though it were disconnected from mass and velocity.

[GB: Sorry, but most physicists would disagree with you about the objectivity of math. What math and objectivity attempt to do is to force us into agreement about reality. Indeterminists need a “frame of reference” only because they are solipsists who have problems viewing the macrocosm as independent from themselves. You are right, of course, that the term “energy” is commonly disconnected from matter and motion.] 

TSW:  "Pi, for example, can be calculated at least a million more decimal places than it can be measured. The diameter and circumference of a real circle fluctuates over time; only the imagined, 'ideal' circle does not."

BW: I think Pi is a good argument against the existence of "real circles", or even "ideal" ones. I won't elaborate.

Your SIMAN coefficient sounds useful for some applications, but not for comparing Westmiller Things. What is the similarity index between gravity and acceleration? How "equivalent" are they?

[GB: Gravitation and acceleration are not “things”. They are motions. I suppose we could calculate SIMAN coefficients for comparing motions as well as things. We do this all the time when we say, for example, that the velocity of a particle is 99% the velocity of light (SIMAN coefficient = 0.99). The acceleration of Earth’s gravity is 9.8 m/s2, while the acceleration of a rocket must be greater than that to achieve liftoff. The rule for similarity analysis states that all SIMAN coefficients must be less than 1.00, so we would use the rocket acceleration as the divisor when making the comparison.]

TSW:  David Bohm: "Because every kind of thing is defined only through an inexhaustible set of qualities each having a certain degree of relative autonomy, such a thing can and indeed must be unique; i.e. not completely identical with any other thing in the universe, however similar the two things may be."

BW: That defeats the entire purpose of a definition, which requires differentiation and integration. See the Ayn Rand commentary linked above for the "rules of correct definition", with which I agree.

[GB: Now you are starting to catch on. Because everything in the universe has an “inexhaustible set of qualities,” we need to tame the observed microcosmic and macrocosmic infinity through “definition.” In other words, we need to call “finis” to each xyz portion of the universe to be able to speak, think, or write about it. For instance, the categories clay, silt, sand, and gravel can only be defined through the application of arbitrary particle size limits. By convention, scientists and engineers have agreed upon what those limits should be. They have not been defeated by the inexhaustible particle size continuum!

Although, characteristically long-winded and confusing, Rand[1] seems to agree with Bohm:

“…a definition implies all the characteristics of the units, since it identifies their essential, not their exhaustive, characteristics; since it designates existents, not their isolated aspects; and since it is a condensation of, not a substitute for, a wider knowledge of the existents involved.”]     

TSW:  "In regard to electrons, Bohm claimed that it is 'always possible to suppose that distinctions between electrons can arise at deeper levels.'"

BW: It is always possible that there are pigs that fly. If so, the definition of "pig" (or "electron") will remain the same, but we will have a new identity for a different animal, maybe called a "pyg", for flying pigs. See my prior notes about your claim that there are "three kinds of electron" (I couldn't find the Ernest Nagel citation anywhere on the net).

BTW: In UT [Bill’s Unimid Theory], electrons do have a slightly different shape, depending on their reference orbital shell or transmission context. But, they're all the same mass and configuration (of Unimids).

[GB: The three types of electrons quote was from Weisskopf (1979)[2]. BTW: In one of my speculations, I once calculated that an electron might contain 1020 aether-1  particles. Good luck trying to get two of those puppies to have the exact same number of aether-1 particles. The Nagel quotes were from the 1961 edition of his book.[3] ]

TSW:  "In brief, parity implied that atomic nuclei oriented in a particular direction would emit beta particles with the same intensity as they would when oriented in the opposite direction. Experiments finally showed that emission was not identical in both directions."

BW: Actually, it wasn't "intensity", but frequency. It didn't indicate that beta particles violated parity, but rather that neutrinos had two distinct spin configurations, prompting one to be labeled an "anti-neutrino". I hate the prefix, which implies that the object is the opposite of a neutrino, when it is just a "left-neutrino", which could be called a "leutrino", as distinct from a "reutrino".

TSW:  "As a result, the comparisons that we make in science and in everyday life have a single criterion for validity: usefulness."

BW: Material efficacy is just a consequence of truth. It may be "useful" to imagine a Loving God, or even believe in one, but that doesn't make the conception valid.

[GB: There are various definitions of the word “valid.” Here, a valid comparison merely has to be convincing, it does not have to be true. People make valid comparisons between their various gods all the time. They must find that useful, or else they would not do it.]

BW: Finally, it's very strange that you would not discuss Einstein's Theories of Relativity in a chapter titled "Relativism". It certainly seems "relevant" to "relativism". Maybe I'll find something later in the book.

[GB: Those are different subjects. In any case, Einstein was more an absolutist than he was a relativist. How else could one imagine that the velocity of light was absolutely constant?]

Next: Interconnection

cotsw 023

[2] Weisskopf, V.F., 1979, Contemporary frontiers in physics: Science, v. 203, p. 240-244.

[3] Nagel, Ernest, 1961, The structure of science: New York, Harcourt Brace and World, 618 p.


Westmiller said...

GB: "The three types of electrons quote was from Weisskopf (1979)."

Can you provide an extended quote or a link (couldn't find one) that describes different "types" of electrons?

GB: In one of my speculations, I once calculated that an electron might contain 1020 aether-1 particles."

I don't recall you making any assertions about the mass, or even the characteristics, of aether-1 or -2 particles. I'd be interested in your method, unless the calculation is straightforward. Of course, it it were always exactly 1020, then there would be only one type of electron.

Do you subscribe to the various characteristics of the aether media from the 19th century? If so, how do they relate to the characteristics of a single aether-1 particle?

Glenn Borchardt said...

[GB: Sorry, I posted this answer to Bill's question in the wrong thread:]

Here it is: "The existence of at least three electrons differing only in their mass is a tantalizing problem." (Weisskopf, 1979, p. 243)

Bill, sorry for the confusion. I believe that speculation was in a comment to one of my blogs. I have not figured out yet how to do superscripts in the comments section (help anyone?). That 1020 should have been 10^20 aether-1 particles (i.e., a billion times a hundred billion). That speculative analysis assumed that Planck’s constant, which is well established, could be used to calculate the “smallest quantity of motion,” which I assumed would be the collision provided by an aether-1 particle. Wikipedia has the associated Planck mass and length, which I used with the known average electron mass to calculate the aether-1 mass, minimum density, and number per electron.

In the 19th century, hypothetical aether characteristics varied considerably. For instance, absolutists liked to think of the aether as being fixed, which was what the experiment by Michelson and Morley (1887) was supposed to test. This appears to have been a throwback to Newton’s “absolute space.” Even today, dissident physicists are still proposing that aether forms a kind of interconnected framework. Steven and I subscribe to neither of these speculations. We assume that all microcosms move with respect to all other microcosms (e.g., Fourth Assumption of Science, inseparability [Just as there is no motion without matter, so there is no matter without motion]).


Michelson, A.A., and Morley, E.W., 1887, On the relative motion of the earth and the luminiferous ether: American Journal of Science, v. 39, p. 333-345.

Weisskopf, V.F., 1979, Contemporary frontiers in physics: Science, v. 203, p. 240-244.