Science disproves atheism?

I came across an interesting argument by a fellow named Robert Koons. He argues that the conjunction of scientific realism (SR), ontological naturalism (ON), and representational naturalism (RN) is inconsistent.

SR is obviously just the belief that scientific theories give us objective truth about reality. That it's theories, models, and laws are independent of our preferences and practices. Also, that they tend in the long run to increase our stock of real knowledge.

ON is the thesis that nothing can have any influence on events and conditions in space and time except other events and conditions in space and time. Either there are no things outside space and time or they have nothing to do with us.

I would say most atheists now-a-days seem to believe in these two things. Most take theories such as evolution as being proof against theistic belief, and scientific practices as being contrary to miracles or other theistic beliefs. They can only say this if they hold SN. Also, ON seems to be the commonly, though not universaly, held ontology that is pervasive today with atheists.

Finally, RN is the proposition that human knowledge and intentionality are parts of nature, to be explained entirely in terms of scientifically understandable causal connections between brain states and the world.

I would also say that most atheists today probably believe this as well, as it seems to fit in with how our brains would of evolved through the process of natural evolution, as souls, or cartisan dualism or whatever would not understandable as to how they could causally affect the world in scientific terms.

Moving along, it seems that many atheists accept ON and RN because of their belief in SR. However, Koons argues somewhat paradoxically that scientific realism entails either ON, or RN, or both, to be false.

The argument makes two assumptions:

PS- A preference for simplicity (elegance, symmetries, invariences) is a pervasive feature of scientific practice.

In his article he argues for this I can attest to it as well. I was reading THE ELEGANT UNIVERSE and the author spoke of the unified theory and how string theory is so simple and beautiful and all that and that's what physicists are looking for.

ER- Reliability is an essential component of knowledge and intentionality, on any naturalistic account of these.

He argues for this as well. As my own note, I am sure that most people will argree with this, it fits its seems to sit nicely in with the whole evolutionary sceme of things. Surely our belief-states must of evolved as being reliable truth indicators, as it would seems that individuals who hold true beliefs would be more likely to survive.

Now on to the arguement.

1) SR, RN, and ER entail that our sceintific methods are reliable sources of truth about the world.

2) From PS, it follows that simplicity is a reliable indicator of the truth about natural laws.

Scientists seem to think this is such.

3) Mere correlation between simplicity and the laws of nature is not good enough: reliability requires that there be some causal mechanism connecting simplicity and the actual laws of nature.

If simplicity is a reliable indicator of truth, then the connection between them cannot be merely coincidental. Something must be causally responsible for the bias towards simplicity exhibited by the theoretically illuminated structure of nature.

4) Since the laws of nature pervade space and time, any such causal mechanism must exist outside space and time.

Koons says that by defintion, the laws and fundamental structure of nature pervade nature. Anything that causes these laws to be simple, anything that imposes a consistent aesthetic, must be supernatural.

5) Therefore, ON is false.

An ontological naturalist by the name of David Papineau writes this:

"For if the constituents of the world are indeed characterized by the relevant kind of physical simplicity, then a methodology which uses observations to decide between alternatives with this kind of simplicity will for that reason be a reliable route to the truth."

In other words, says Koons, as long as we are convinced that the laws of nature just happen to be simple in the appropriate way, we are entitiled to conclude that our simplicity-preferring methods were reliable guides to the truth. However, it seems clear that such a retrospective analysis would instead reveal that we suceeded by sheer dumb luck.

If it is mere coincidence that the laws of nature share a certain form of aesthetic beauty, then our reliance upon aesthetic criteria in theory choice is not in any sense reliable. When we use the fact that we have discovered a form of "physical simplicity" in law A as a reason for preferring theories of law B which have the same kind of simplicity, then our method is reliable only if there is some causal explanation of the repitition of this form of simplicity in nature. And this repitition necessitates a supernatural cause.

Now, admittedly, the defeat of ON does not signal the demise of atheism, as atheism is compatable with ~ON. But, ON is a pervasive belief among atheists today, hence I chose the title because it will speak to atheists and garner more attention.

ttt for later

WoH, you've come a long way.

I don't know what you just said, but it sounded dirty.

I'll try it again tomorrow. After some coffee... some stiff coffee.

Puzzled

LOL

Hi WOH,

I think you have presented an interesting argument, and I hope you don´t mind if I read and question some parts that I find unclear.

"They can only say this if they hold SN. "

SN, what is that? do you mean SR?

"Either there are no things outside space and time or they have nothing to do with us. "

what do you mean with 'space' and 'time'? These are not easily defined entities.

"Surely our belief-states must of evolved as being reliable truth indicators, as it would seems that individuals who hold true beliefs would be more likely to survive. "

I think it depends on what you mean with true beliefs and what kind of beliefs you are speaking about. Can you perhaps clarify this more, because I can easily imagine that alot  of peoples beliefs is quite irrelevant with respect to survival value.

"Mere correlation between simplicity and the laws of nature is not good enough: reliability requires that there be some causal mechanism connecting simplicity and the actual laws of nature. "

I think this is a strawman of what makes Scientific knowledge, since its reliability can´t be reduced to just simplicity. The reliability comes from other relevant factors aswell, e.g.  ability to make accurate predictions, ability to explain observed phenomena, abilty to repeat the same 'experiment' and get the same or similar results etc.

Also, how do you decide what is 'simple' and what isn´t? and further; not all Scientific theories are simple, I can assure you.

"Something must be causally responsible for the bias towards simplicity exhibited by the theoretically illuminated structure of nature."

why must it be like that? and what do you mean with "bias towards simplicity"? Whose bias?

 

"Since the laws of nature pervade space and time, any such causal mechanism must exist outside space and time. "

do you perhaps, like David Hume, mean that we can´t observe the causation (if it even exists such a causation) in itself?

 

"Koons says that by defintion, the laws and fundamental structure of nature pervade nature. Anything that causes these laws to be simple, anything that imposes a consistent aesthetic, must be supernatural.

5) Therefore, ON is false. "

I can see other possibilities here.

-The aestetics is merely a subjective impression or criteria, with no independent objective existence.

- these laws aren´t "caused" in any way, they just are.

"we are entitiled to conclude that our simplicity-preferring methods were reliable guides to the truth."

Again, simplicity (or parsimony) isn´t the only criteria in Science.

"If it is mere coincidence that the laws of nature share a certain form of aesthetic beauty, then our reliance upon aesthetic criteria in theory choice is not in any sense reliable."

same here, but also I´m not sure everyone thinks that all laws of nature share this aesthetic beauty. This part of your argument also needs to be supported imo.

"then our method is reliable only if there is some causal explanation of the repitition of this form of simplicity in nature. And this repitition necessitates a supernatural cause. "

this conclusion simply doesn´t follow.

 

 

 

way too much philosophy for my head

I didnt know there was such a thing Donna!

Good points (questions) Fudo, as usual.

Prof steps back, sits on bench to watch

(BTW, I find it hard to hold Koons in any esteem, given that he labelled William Dembski the "Isaac Newton" of design theory. Considering how Dembski's thesis, when analyzed by real scientists, is continually shown to be wrong and/or lacking, that doesn't bode well for Koon's view of science).

Josh,

To think philosophy in my own language is boring enough. Imagine thinking in a foreign language. Nah...

Thanks for the reply, Fudo.

"SN, what is that? do you mean SR?"

Whoops, yes, I did mean SR.

"what do you mean with 'space' and 'time'? These are not easily defined entities."

I not all that well versed on the debate between the differing opinions of space and time, but I'll just venture to guess Koons means the 'normal' definition most often used by scientists? The four-dimensional space-time manifold or something like that?

If it makes a difference to the argument, how would the different defintions be pertinate here?

"I think it depends on what you mean with true beliefs and what kind of beliefs you are speaking about. Can you perhaps clarify this more, because I can easily imagine that alot of peoples beliefs is quite irrelevant with respect to survival value."

This little note here came from my own imagination, Koons does not speak of the evolution of belief states in his original argument being good for survival, but he argues that the RN must take reliability to be an essential component of knowledge and intentionality.

If you want to argue that reliability is not an essential component of naturalistic accounts of knowledge and intentionality, or more locally, that reliablity is not an essential component of our scientific knowledge, then the atheist would lose any ground for arguing against theism since our scientific knowledge is not a reliable source of truth.

As you can see in the first premise, it is the conjunction of SR, RN, and ER, that make our scientific models reliable sources of truth.

However, I don't think it would be entirely necessary to have ER as and essential component of naturalist epistemology. If you could come up with some other way in which our sceintific theories are reliable sources of truth, then that's all that matters for the first premise. That's all the first premise is trying to establish.

"I think this is a strawman of what makes Scientific knowledge, since its reliability can´t be reduced to just simplicity. The reliability comes from other relevant factors aswell, e.g. ability to make accurate predictions, ability to explain observed phenomena, abilty to repeat the same 'experiment' and get the same or similar results etc."

I don't believe that Koons is trying to say that the reliablility of our scientific theories is wholly reducible to the simplest theories. Surely, all the other qualities that you mentioned are good, but, what if you had two theories that had an equal ability to make accurate predictions, explain observable data, get repeat results, and one was simpler than the other? Which would scientists chose?

Judgeing by the pervasivness of simplicity in science, scientists would most likely chose the simpler theory. But as Koons arues, for simplicity to be a reliable indicator of truth, then the association between them cannot be merely coincidental.

Koons uses this analogy. Imagine that I falsely believe a coin to be two-headed. I therefore guess that all of the first six flips will be heads. In fact, the coin is a fair one, but by mere coincidence the first six come up heads. Would we say that my assumption was a reliable guide to the truth? To the contrary, it was an unreliable guide to the truth but I suceeded by pure, dumb luck.

So, if it is a mere coincidence that the laws of nature share a certain form of aesthetic beauty, then our reliance upon aesthetic criteria is not reliable.

"Also, how do you decide what is 'simple' and what isn´t? and further; not all Scientific theories are simple, I can assure you."

I don't know, ask the scientists who do it all the time. Are scientists not looking for a simple, 'Unified Theory?'

"and what do you mean with "bias towards simplicity"? Whose bias?"

I believe what Koons means here is the universes bias towards simplicity.

"The aestetics is merely a subjective impression or criteria, with no independent objective existence."

If you take this route then you would not have a realist position of science, and thus the atheists would lose their ability to argue against theism. They could not say that such and such miracles in the bible are not possible because science says they are not, or evolution shows the biblical account of life to be wrong, or whatever.

Only a realist account of science can say this, since it says it's theories are true objectively, independent of what we think.

"these laws aren´t "caused" in any way, they just are."

By, 'just are', do you mean they are necessarily so, or that they just are coincidentally simplistic?

First, there is no reason to believe that the laws of nature are necessarily as they are. We can easily imagine them being different than they are and scientists often explore counterfactual models.

Second, if they 'just are' coincidentally simplistic, then as I have arlready argued, coincidence is not good enough for reliabililty of truth.

"but also I´m not sure everyone thinks that all laws of nature share this aesthetic beauty. This part of your argument also needs to be supported imo."

I did support it. I told you about how I was reading The Elegant Universe and he talked about scientists looking for simplicity, and use Occams Razor, and I can also give you more quotes from people talking about how aesthetic considerations pervade scientific practice.

"And this repitition necessitates a supernatural cause."

Well, this is premise (4).

If you agree that simplicity is a reliable indicator of truth, and for something to be a reliable indicator of truth, there must be a causal connection making it so, then you agree with premise (4).

For if there is something causing the laws of nature to be simple, it must supernatural.

If you locate the thing that causes them to be simple in the natural realm, then you don't seem to be fixing anything, just pushing things back one step.

Quick interjection here:

---"So, if it is a mere coincidence that the laws of nature share a certain form of aesthetic beauty, then our reliance upon aesthetic criteria is not reliable.

Scientists do not rely merely on aesthetic criteria. There is a certain "hopeful" quality in that scientists hope for elegant theories - which makes sense when you wish/hope for the world to be understandable. And there is plenty of precedent for understanding portions of how our universe works in terms of simple "laws," so it's not merely whistling in the dark to extrapolate a pattern from that. But science mostly goes where the evidence leads whether it's elegant or not. The logical deductions from Einstein's (and others) theories combined with empirical experiments led to the theories of Quantum mechanics. And Quantum Mechanics is hardly elegant. In fact, it's extremely, terribly inelegant and utterly counter-intuitive. It's been said that probably no one actually truly understands quantum mechanics. Systems like "quantum logic" have been developed to help scientists think in terms that are normally unthinkable.

---"If you agree that simplicity is a reliable indicator of truth,

I don't see this principle operating in science. Parsimony, yes. But parsimony is merely keeping explanatory entities to the necessary minimum (Occam's Razor and the like). It means "use only that which is necessary to explain a system and no more." Which does not automatically equate to keeping things simple.

Prof.

Just want to support Prof on the QM thing. When I took an intro to QM course (and barely got out alive), we were told that if you took the top 5 guys and mashed their brains together you MIGHT get some sense out of QM. If you've taken 3 or 4 intro physics courses, sit down with a book that intros QM and realize that G-d LOVES gambling.

MS

Yes, I see two crux's of the argument.

One, the role of aesthetic judgements in science. More on that tomorrow (it's bedtime).

Two, premise three. I don't know if I'm convinced that premise three is true.

prof, assume for the moment that aesthetic judgements ARE a reliable indicator of truth. What are your comments on premise (3) then?

I DO feel there is something fishy here, perhaps you and Fudo's comments can furhter illuminate this for me.

"Scientists do not rely merely on aesthetic criteria."

Again, I did not say that is the ONLY thing they rely on. But, ceteris parabis, which would you chose? A simpler, or more complex theory?

As far as quantum mechanics goes, isn't there something about the beauty of relativity vs. the weirdness of quantum mechanics? As currently postulated, both cannot be right.

Also, what about string theory? String theory is supposed to be 'elegant and beautiful?' Wouldn't the 'elegantness' of string theory elucidate quantum phenomena, thus showing us the actual simplicity and beauty of quantum theory?

---"prof, assume for the moment that aesthetic judgements ARE a reliable indicator of truth. What are your comments on premise (3) then? "

You mean this?:

"3) Mere correlation between simplicity and the laws of nature is not good enough: reliability requires that there be some causal mechanism connecting simplicity and the actual laws of nature. "

Sorry, but I just can't endorse it. First, we need no recourse to metaphysical causes to understand physics (by definition, actually). A "law of nature" is merely a human description of the pattern we seemed to have recognized in one element of Nature. Newtonian laws of gravity, for instance, were descriptions of how "gravity" works, not what "caused" gravity. We can ask "what caused gravity?" But we don't need to know the answer in order to catalogue how gravity appears to operate.

Laws of nature are, in general, arrived at via the scientific triumvirate of induction/deduction/experiment. Yes, aesthetics do play a part in science, in terms of how people form hypothesis, theories etc. On various levels scientists do express a certain aesthetic "hope" about how the world works. But the system used by science -especially the observational/experimental part - means that aesthetics does not win out. It is not the determinant factor for a theory's acceptance. The results of an experiment may be baffling. But if the result is repeatable and reliable it may force a theory into an unwieldy direction. This is because it is the goal of science to know what is true, as opoposed to merely confirming aesthetically desirable hypotheses. (Which is why the vast majority of scientific hypothesis are laid waste in the lab - it is the rare scientific hypothesis that survives on to becoming accepted theory). See the example of quantum mechanics Which goes part way to an answer to your following question:

----"Again, I did not say that is the ONLY thing they rely on. But, ceteris parabis, which would you chose? A simpler, or more complex theory?

First, you might here be confusing "theory" with "hypothesis." A theory in scientific terms has passed the hypothesis stage into confirmation. Thus, a theory has by definition won out over other hypothesis in terms of it's ability to explain a set of phenomena and the independent confirmation of that theory's predictive power.

Perhaps you mean which hypothesis would I choose? A simpler or more complex one? Well, I have no bias (with one exception I'll get to). I'd choose the hypothesis that best explains the phenomena and which outdistances the other in terms of it's predictive and experimental confirmation. That's how I'd decide, not merely on aesthetic grounds. However, there is one sense in which, ceteris paribus, the simpler theory may be preferred. That is where one theory multiplies explanatory entities unnecessarily. In other words, let's say I had to explain how to get an internal combustion engine to work (say a car engine). Explanation A merely outlines typical combustion engine theory - the engineering steps involved in putting together a car engine and making it work. Explanation B provides all the same instructions, but when we come to the four-stroke combustion cycle we add an additional postulate: " there is an invisible gremlin jumping on each piston, ensuring it goes up and down at the correct time."

The internal combustion engine can be explained by and operated from the combined postulates of theory A, which do not include the extra step of "gremlins." Therefore the gremlins postulated in theory B are gratuitous. And there is no good reason, and plenty of bad reasons, to add inconsequential entities into our explanations (which I'll outline, if you wish). That is parsimony - occam's razor - at work.

---"Also, what about string theory? String theory is supposed to be 'elegant and beautiful?' Wouldn't the 'elegantness' of string theory elucidate quantum phenomena, thus showing us the actual simplicity and beauty of quantum theory?

No. In fact, String Theory is an absolute monster. It is grotesquely complex - probably even more so than quantum mechanics. There is nothing "elegant" about string theory except that the hope that it will in the end provide the elusive "unified theory" - a theory that draws together and explains all the various puzzling phenomena in physics/cosmology. But in general terms String Theory is anything but elegant.

Prof.

To start off with my next post, I will give some quotes by authors on the subject:

In Stephan Weinberg's book 'Dreams of a Final Theory':

"The physicists sense of beauty is... supposed to help the physicist select ideas that help us explain nature.... we demand a simplicity and rigidity in our principles before we are willing to take them seriously."

"Weirdly, although the beauty of physcial theories is embodied in rigid, mathmatical structures based on simple underlying principles, the structures that have this sort of beauty tend to survive even when the underlying priciples are found to be wrong... We are led to beautiful structures by physical principles, but the beauty sometimes survives when the principles themselves do not."

"There is no logical formula that establishes a sharp dividing line between a beautiful explanatory theory and a mere list of data, but we know it when we see it."

"Through countless false starts, we have gotten it beaten into us that nature is a certain way, and we have grown to look at that way that nature is beautiful... Evidently we have been changed by the universe acting as a teaching machine and imposing on us a sense of beauty with which our species was not born. Even mathmeticians live in the real universe, and respond to its lessons."

"It is when we study truly fundamental problems that we expect to find beautiful answers. We believe that, if we ask why the world is the way it is and then ask why that answer is the way it is, at the end of this chain of explanations we shall find a few simple principles of compelling beauty. We think this in part because our historical experience teaches us that as we look beneath the surface of things, we find more and more beauty.

Plato and the neo-Platonists taught that the beauty we see in nature is a reflection of the beauty of the ultimate, the mous. For us, too, the beauty of present theories is an anticipation, a premonition, of the beauty of the final theory. And, in any case, we could not accept any theory as final unless it were beautiful."

I did a search on Stephen Weinberg, and he is the chair of some theory reasearch group, a professor at the University of Texas at Austin, and a nobel prize winnner in physics in 1979.

Moving along though, I have more quotes by naturalists on this subject:

From David Papineau and Ruth Millikan:

"... it is plausable that at this level the inductive strategy used by physicists is to ignore any theories that lack a certain kind of physical simplicity. If this is right, then this inductive strategy, when applied to the question of the general constitution of the universe, will inevitably lead to the conclusion that the universe is composed of constituents which display the relevant kind of physical simplicity. And then, once we have reached this conclusion, we can use it to explain why this inductive strategy is reliable. For if the constituents of the world are indeed characterized by the relevant kind of phycical simplicity, then a methodology whuch uses observations to decide between alternatives with this kind of simplicity will for that reason be a reliable route to the truth."

So, it seems that there are indeed some respectable naturalist scientsts that take aesthetic judgements in science to be major contributors to theory choice.

Now on to your comments:

"A "law of nature" is merely a human description of the pattern we seemed to have recognized in one element of Nature."

What do you mean 'merely?' That doesn't sound like a very realist thing to say. By saying 'merely' you make it sound like our human descriptions are 'merely' instamentalist. That is, our descriptions do not purport to say how the world really is independent of what we think of it. But you later go on to say that the goal of science is to know what is true.

"First, you might here be confusing "theory" with "hypothesis.""

Yes, thank you for the correction.

"No. In fact, String Theory is an absolute monster. It is grotesquely complex - probably even more so than quantum mechanics. There is nothing "elegant" about string theory except that the hope that it will in the end provide the elusive "unified theory" - a theory that draws together and explains all the various puzzling phenomena in physics/cosmology. But in general terms String Theory is anything but elegant."

That isn't how Brian Greene, author of the 'Elegant Universe' makes it seem. From his book:

"From one principle - that everyhting at its most miroscopic level - consists of combinations of vibrating strings - string theory provides a single explanatory framework..."

Is this conveying the simplity?

"The harmonious union of general relativity and quantum mechanics... Of equal importance, although somewhat hardet to convey, is the remarkable elegance of both the answers and the framework for answers that string theory proposses."

Notice the use of the words, 'harmonious,' and 'elegance.'

Greene notes that:

"... the mathmatics of string theory is so complicated..."

Perhaps this is what you mean by string theory being a 'monster.'

But as Weinberg noted in his book, the simplicity of physical theories are "not the mechanical sort that can be measured by counting equations or symbols."

Obviously if you do that they are not 'simple,' but that is not the kind of simplicity that physicists mean. As I alrady quoted from Weinberg, "we know the difference when we see it."

man, it´s too late for this now. I´ll have to get back to this.

----So, it seems that there are indeed some respectable naturalist scientists that take aesthetic judgements in science to be major contributors to theory choice.

But WOH, that's what I already said when I wrote:

"Yes, aesthetics do play a part in science, in terms of how people form hypothesis, theories etc. On various levels scientists do express a certain aesthetic "hope" about how the world works."

However, I followed that with what is the important point:

...."But the system used by science -especially the observational/experimental part - means that aesthetics does not win out. ..."

My point was in addressing these comments of yours:

---"So, if it is a mere coincidence that the laws of nature share a certain form of aesthetic beauty, then our reliance upon aesthetic criteria is not reliable.
---"If you agree that simplicity is a reliable indicator of truth,

Which I disagree with. Simplicity is not a reliable indicator of truth, nor does science rely solely on aesthetic criteria. Go back and read my post please, as this is the crux of the conversation.

And further, remember that aesthetics are subjective, and one man's aesthetically beautiful hypothesis may be to another scientist aesthetically undesirable.

Remember too that Einstein had aesthetic hopes for the universe - he rejected some of the logical derivatives of his theory..the ones that led to quantum uncertainty. "God doesn't play dice with the universe" and all that. However, the primacy of observation and experiment in science will over-rule aesthetic hopes. Experiments showed that Einstein's aesthetic hopes were wrong and that quantum indeterminism was an observable, replicable phenomenon.

Prof wrote: "A "law of nature" is merely a human description of the pattern we seemed to have recognized in one element of Nature."

----"What do you mean 'merely?' That doesn't sound like a very realist thing to say.

Scientific knowledge is provisional. It is our current best explanation. History teaches scientists that current theories may have to be revised should future information warrant change. This goes for "laws of nature" too, which are OUR description of natural patterns we believe we have picked up on. For instance, the well known of example of Newtons "Laws of motion," which outlined the "pattern" he observed in gravity had to be revised when Einstein came along and showed the inadequacy of those laws.

---"By saying 'merely' you make it sound like our human descriptions are 'merely' instamentalist. That is, our descriptions do not purport to say how the world really is independent of what we think of it. But you later go on to say that the goal of science is to know what is true.

In general, scientists hope that we are discovering "true," "real" "objective" features of reality. Scientists DO want to know what is true about our universe and they work within a paradigm that this is what they are uncovering. But history teaches truth can be a slippery thing...and you can't always be %100 sure you have it. So most good, careful scientists understand the ultimately tentative nature of our knowledge about the world.

Regarding String Theory:

---"Obviously if you do that they are not 'simple,' but that is not the kind of simplicity that physicists mean. As I already quoted from Weinberg, "we know the difference when we see it."

The problem here is the non-specificity of the use of "simplicity;" a word that can be liberally applied to almost ANYTHING. In other words, almost anything can be described in generalized simple terms. I may say, in terms of thermodynamics, that life on earth is simply a localized decrease in entropy. There...simple, elegant.
But of course life on earth discussed in terms of finer levels shows it to be mind-numbingly complex. Likewise, it seems to me, with things like string theory. The more generalized and less specific your characterization, the more elegantly simple you can make the concept appear. But get into the nitty gritty and your head will spin.

Prof.

seems Prof has covered most of what I would have said. Thanks, spared me alot of typing.

just some comments.. :)

"If you could come up with some other way in which our sceintific theories are reliable sources of truth, then that's all that matters for the first premise. That's all the first premise is trying to establish. "

Ok, now I see you point. But as Prof points out, Science doesn´t need metaphysical realism. It can be instrumental and Scientific "truths" are usually viewed as provisional.

And I would also like to ad that you can still be a realist i.e. believe that an objective reality exists independently out there and at the same time understand that our scientific models can´t describe this reality 100% accurate.

 

"But, ceteris parabis, which would you chose? A simpler, or more complex theory? "

I think that this is such a hypothetical situation that it doesn´t even exist. with regard to what a theory explains and/or predicts, ALL things can´t really be equal in two different theories. Atleast I haven´t heard of such a case in the history of Science. But it would be interesting to hear  an example if you have one.

"First, there is no reason to believe that the laws of nature are necessarily as they are. We can easily imagine them being different than they are and scientists often explore counterfactual models."

Have you heard about the Anthropic Principle? eventhough it seems like both Atheists and Theists both think it supports their view, the weak version of the argument states that the only reason we humans exist and can ask these questions is because the laws of nature and the Universe unfolded exactly the way it did. If it had unfolded differently, we wouldn´t exist and wouldn´t ask these questions. Any small small difference in the relations between the natural forces, for example, the Universe as we know it wouldn´t be able to exist.

"I believe what Koons means here is the universes bias towards simplicity."'

maybe then that is another "law" or principle of nature? But still it doesn´t imply a supernatural cause, in the sense of "first mover".

"I told you about how I was reading The Elegant Universe and he talked about scientists looking for simplicity, and use Occams Razor"

That is a nice book, I have also read it. if you want to read a good article on some philosophical points on Occams Razor that shed some light on your arguments, try this:

http://www.galilean-library.org/academy/viewtopic.php?p=80#80

"For if there is something causing the laws of nature to be simple, it must supernatural."

I don´t see how it must be any more "supernatural" then any causality.

"If you locate the thing that causes them to be simple in the natural realm, then you don't seem to be fixing anything, just pushing things back one step."

aren´t you just repeating Humes old argument here, or am I  missing something?

 

prof--

"Which I disagree with. Simplicity is not a reliable indicator of truth, nor does science rely solely on aesthetic criteria. Go back and read my post please, as this is the crux of the conversation."

Yes, I know that aesthetic criteria is not the only criteria for truth, but what I am getting from the quotes that I gave you is that scientists EXPECT the theories to turn out to be simple, elegant, ect. and therefore when they see these aesthetic qualities they take it as an indicator of the truth.

As nobel prize winning physicist Stephan Weinberg said, "we would NOT ACCEPT any theory as final unless it were beautiful."

This, too me, seems a stronger statement than that they just "hope" it to be beautiful, but if it's not they will go with it anyway. He flat out says they just will not accept it!

Furthermore, Papineau and Millican say, "...it is plausable... to ignore any theories that lack a certain kind of physical simplicity."

And also from Weinberg, "we have gotten it beaten into us that the universe is a certain way."

So, it seems, that he is saying they don't merely "hope" that it is, but that it is.

"And further, remember that aesthetics are subjective, and one man's aesthetically beautiful hypothesis may be to another scientist aesthetically undesirable."

Yes, very true. So what do the authors of the quotes mean exaclty?

"Experiments showed that Einstein's aesthetic hopes were wrong and that quantum indeterminism was an observable, replicable phenomenon."

Sometimes it works in the opposite direction.

AS Koons writes:

"For instance, Diracs 1928 theory of the electron involved an elegant formalism. Dirac's theoty led to the discovery of the positron, and the mathmatics of Dirac's theory has survived as an essential part of quantum field theory, despite the fact that Dirac's approach to reconciling quantum mechanics and relativity was wrong. Similarly, mathematicians' pursuit of elegant mathematical theories has regularly anticipated the needs of theroretical physicists. The theory of curved space was developed by Guass and Reimann before it was needed by Einstein, and group theory antedated it use in the theory of internal symmetry priciples in particle physics."

"The problem here is the non-specificity of the use of "simplicity;" a word that can be liberally applied to almost ANYTHING."

Then what do the authors mean by their quotes?

prof, thank you for not writing me off and giving me your time. I appreciate it!