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In any event, I was just pointing out that Thaos isn't pro-religious.  Nor did I see the story as atheistic propaganda.  Ultimately one pantheon is all that is dealt with.  The big question "is there still a god or gods"  is left open.  And no, I don't take Thaos' word for it. 

 

Thaos is willing to commit genocide and even worse things just to keep his religion only religion in world, by preventing people questioning 

 

 

Which isn't pro....He wants to use use his Artificial Intelligences to control....

 

 

He believes that those machines are gods, or at least close to god than anything can come and they are only things that keep world running as it is. For him they are center of religion, center of everything that he believes in. So I would argue that he is clearly pro religion.

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Looking through my physics and bio texts, not seeing a list of good things and evil things.  Science and the cold dumb universe doesn't care about race based slavery, pedophilia, etc.  In fact, along with its many wonders it has also delivered us chemical, biological, and atomic weapons.  Science don't care, so to speak.

 

So, for instance, if we were to say the american slave trade was an evil, we're stepping outside of science.  Saying this practice was wrong is superstitious.  You have to have faith in its wrongness (its wrongness) as you can't measure its wrongness with scientific instruments.

 

You could say, well, I subjectively opine that the american slave trade was wrong/evil.  But that's like telling us your favorite color.  I like red, you like blue, neither of us can be right or wrong in reality since this is subjective.  You like the american slave trade, I don't, neither of us can actually be right or wrong since it's all subjective.

 

You should check your psychology, social psychology, behavioral science and philosophy books for example, before you make such claims. 

 

 

While the whole "it's all subjective" line is taking it rather too far in the other direction, he is correct in saying that science does not do morality. Philosophy does, but that's not really a branch of science as such. Even if it was, as (almost) any philosopher would be happy to point out, there is a big divide between the descriptive (which science principally concerns itself with) and the normative (the domain of ethics, aesthetics, etc.) that cannot really be bridged; you can't prove an 'ought' from an 'is'.

 

Which isn't to say that the normative is all just subjective and mere opinion (in the pejorative sense), nor even that it cannot be objective in a more fundamental sense; the latter is not a view I would subscribe to, but it's been argued by plenty of influential philosophers (though not so many now, I'd say). But conversely the objectivity of the descriptive, of 'the truth' is rather problematic as well, so in practice it seems more sensible to put the whole subjective vs objective dichotomy aside anyway, and focus on reasoned argument instead. 

 

 

Philosophy is branch of science, first branch actually, other branches like physics, biology, psychology etc. have branched out from philosophy.

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In any event, I was just pointing out that Thaos isn't pro-religious.  Nor did I see the story as atheistic propaganda.  Ultimately one pantheon is all that is dealt with.  The big question "is there still a god or gods"  is left open.  And no, I don't take Thaos' word for it. 

 

Thaos is willing to commit genocide and even worse things just to keep his religion only religion in world, by preventing people questioning 

 

 

Which isn't pro....He wants to use use his Artificial Intelligences to control....

 

 

He believes that those machines are gods, or at least close to god than anything can come and they are only things that keep world running as it is. For him they are center of religion, center of everything that he believes in. So I would argue that he is clearly pro religion.

 

 

Close to gods isn't believing in gods. Believing they have immense power, isn't believing they're gods. He knows they're simply products of his science.

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Looking through my physics and bio texts, not seeing a list of good things and evil things. Science and the cold dumb universe doesn't care about race based slavery, pedophilia, etc. In fact, along with its many wonders it has also delivered us chemical, biological, and atomic weapons. Science don't care, so to speak.

 

 

 

So, for instance, if we were to say the american slave trade was an evil, we're stepping outside of science. Saying this practice was wrong is superstitious. You have to have faith in its wrongness (its wrongness) as you can't measure its wrongness with scientific instruments.

 

 

 

You could say, well, I subjectively opine that the american slave trade was wrong/evil. But that's like telling us your favorite color. I like red, you like blue, neither of us can be right or wrong in reality since this is subjective. You like the american slave trade, I don't, neither of us can actually be right or wrong since it's all subjective.

Category errors everywhere. Any reasonable and advanced morality is not a list of good and evil things, even some religions realise this, not necessarily the most popular ones.Unless your books are about sociobiology I suggest looking in the relevant fields.

 

Science can't give you oughts, but it can tell you how our morality evolved, and the functions of a society. A society with rampant slavery and paedophilia? Science can't determine that's an unhealthy society like it can determine that someone with fever is sick? Science can't actually determine what should be considered "healthy" either, the parameters come from outside science, like morality.

 

Weapons aren't good or evil, that science can create them is completely irrelevant. Science is the pursuit of knowledge, it's one thing to say that science can't give you goals, but it's fantastically wrong to say it can play no role.

 

Also just because terms are complex and nebulous right now like "a good life" and "well being" doesn't mean they're unattainable to science, just as we have a happiness index, definitions can be produced now or in the future, constantly improved upon. I'd really like to see you argue that similar nations, one recently implementing racial based slavery is going to have no effect on the happiness index. You may say happiness is completely subjective, but that doesn't take it outside the purview of science, it's not more subjective than pain, and that's studied in science, it's just hard.

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When I wrote Thaos was pro-religion it was in the sense that he felt that a society without religion would not function, that people would not behave morally at all, and that there would be utter chaos. That he created and enforced one religion is a separate point, he felt he could improve upon the religions that already existed by creating his own, most important to him was stopping religious conflict, hence only having the one religion.

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Philosophy is branch of science, first branch actually, other branches like physics, biology, psychology etc. have branched out from philosophy.

 

It's hardly that clear-cut, it rather depends on how you define science. Philosophy certainly isn't an empirical enterprise and does not study, or generate knowledge of, the world around us. At the very least that puts it in a very different category than the (other) branches of science. Excepting perhaps the so-called 'formal sciences' like mathematics, but for the same reason I would not consider those branches of science either. They're just very different things, and there is no clear unifying reason to lump them in together.

 

It's also a bit of a stretch to say the (empirical) sciences branched out from philosophy. There didn't used to be a very clear distinction between the two activities, they rather bled together and were generally engaged in by the same people. It seems more accurate to say that they branched off from each other, developing and evolving into the forms they have now. Philosophy has undergone quite an evolution of its own, as an activity it is vastly removed from the likes of Descartes and Kant, let alone the ancient Greeks. The Anglo-Saxon philosophical tradition at any rate, who knows what the Continentals are ever on about (and let us not deign to speak of Eastern "philosophy"). 

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In any event, I was just pointing out that Thaos isn't pro-religious.  Nor did I see the story as atheistic propaganda.  Ultimately one pantheon is all that is dealt with.  The big question "is there still a god or gods"  is left open.  And no, I don't take Thaos' word for it. 

 

Thaos is willing to commit genocide and even worse things just to keep his religion only religion in world, by preventing people questioning 

 

 

Which isn't pro....He wants to use use his Artificial Intelligences to control....

 

 

He believes that those machines are gods, or at least close to god than anything can come and they are only things that keep world running as it is. For him they are center of religion, center of everything that he believes in. So I would argue that he is clearly pro religion.

 

 

Close to gods isn't believing in gods. Believing they have immense power, isn't believing they're gods. He knows they're simply products of his science.

 

 

Well, but he BELIEVES that they are necessary. You also shouldn't forget how they were created: not through thousands of unwilling slaves, but through the souls of willing BELIEVERS. I don't think you would do this as an atheist, since your view of the world is centered on the here and now. But as a religious person giving youself up for creating a good order? That should be the greatest sacrifice, even the greatest sign of fate anybody could show. I know this is very christianlike, but since the pantheon has a very christianlike god of light and redemption (Eothas) this interpretation isn't as farfetched.

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Philosophy is branch of science, first branch actually, other branches like physics, biology, psychology etc. have branched out from philosophy.

 

It's hardly that clear-cut, it rather depends on how you define science. Philosophy certainly isn't an empirical enterprise and does not study, or generate knowledge of, the world around us. At the very least that puts it in a very different category than the (other) branches of science. Excepting perhaps the so-called 'formal sciences' like mathematics, but for the same reason I would not consider those branches of science either. They're just very different things, and there is no clear unifying reason to lump them in together.

 

It's also a bit of a stretch to say the (empirical) sciences branched out from philosophy. There didn't used to be a very clear distinction between the two activities, they rather bled together and were generally engaged in by the same people. It seems more accurate to say that they branched off from each other, developing and evolving into the forms they have now. Philosophy has undergone quite an evolution of its own, as an activity it is vastly removed from the likes of Descartes and Kant, let alone the ancient Greeks. The Anglo-Saxon philosophical tradition at any rate, who knows what the Continentals are ever on about (and let us not deign to speak of Eastern "philosophy"). 

 

 

Philosophy is mostly theoretical science, where people study things by theoretical research methods, although there is also empiric research methods (Aristotle, Greek philosopher was big advocate of empiric research and it is seen as his legacy that empiric research focused branches of science were born). But of course we also have theoretical physics and similar branches in empiric research focuses on sciences that focus mostly in theoretical research. 

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In any event, I was just pointing out that Thaos isn't pro-religious.  Nor did I see the story as atheistic propaganda.  Ultimately one pantheon is all that is dealt with.  The big question "is there still a god or gods"  is left open.  And no, I don't take Thaos' word for it. 

 

Thaos is willing to commit genocide and even worse things just to keep his religion only religion in world, by preventing people questioning 

 

 

Which isn't pro....He wants to use use his Artificial Intelligences to control....

 

 

He believes that those machines are gods, or at least close to god than anything can come and they are only things that keep world running as it is. For him they are center of religion, center of everything that he believes in. So I would argue that he is clearly pro religion.

 

 

Close to gods isn't believing in gods. Believing they have immense power, isn't believing they're gods. He knows they're simply products of his science.

 

 

You don't necessary need gods in religion. "Religion is a cultural system of behaviors and practices, world views, sacred texts, holy places, ethics, and societal organisation that relate humanity to what an anthropologist has called "an order of existence"". Religion usually involves belief in supernatural forces, especially gods that control or people and who people are accountable.

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Philosophy is branch of science, first branch actually, other branches like physics, biology, psychology etc. have branched out from philosophy.

 

It's hardly that clear-cut, it rather depends on how you define science. Philosophy certainly isn't an empirical enterprise and does not study, or generate knowledge of, the world around us. At the very least that puts it in a very different category than the (other) branches of science. Excepting perhaps the so-called 'formal sciences' like mathematics, but for the same reason I would not consider those branches of science either. They're just very different things, and there is no clear unifying reason to lump them in together.

 

It's also a bit of a stretch to say the (empirical) sciences branched out from philosophy. There didn't used to be a very clear distinction between the two activities, they rather bled together and were generally engaged in by the same people. It seems more accurate to say that they branched off from each other, developing and evolving into the forms they have now. Philosophy has undergone quite an evolution of its own, as an activity it is vastly removed from the likes of Descartes and Kant, let alone the ancient Greeks. The Anglo-Saxon philosophical tradition at any rate, who knows what the Continentals are ever on about (and let us not deign to speak of Eastern "philosophy"). 

 

 

Philosophy is mostly theoretical science, where people study things by theoretical research methods, although there is also empiric research methods (Aristotle, Greek philosopher was big advocate of empiric research and it is seen as his legacy that empiric research focused branches of science were born). But of course we also have theoretical physics and similar branches in empiric research focuses on sciences that focus mostly in theoretical research. 

 

 

And I would argue that to the extent that his work was empirical, it wasn't philosophy. Just because he is chiefly known as a philosopher, doesn't mean that everything he did constitutes philosophy. And again, there is generally a vast difference between what scientists do and what philosophers (and in the same vein, mathematicians) do. These operate on rather distinct principles, those of science being fundamentally empirical and those of philosophy and mathematics decidedly not. The boundaries between them aren't necessarily always clear-cut, but that in itself is no reason to conflate the different disciplines (the distinctions between different branches of science, or different branches of philosophy, are far murkier, but meaningful nonetheless). Even the more theoretical parts of physics are still aimed at modeling, understanding, predicting the physical world; it may be more distant from the empirical data than other branches of physics, but it is still grounded in it nonetheless. Philosophy and mathematics on the other hand, are not. 

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Philosophy is branch of science, first branch actually, other branches like physics, biology, psychology etc. have branched out from philosophy.

 

It's hardly that clear-cut, it rather depends on how you define science. Philosophy certainly isn't an empirical enterprise and does not study, or generate knowledge of, the world around us. At the very least that puts it in a very different category than the (other) branches of science. Excepting perhaps the so-called 'formal sciences' like mathematics, but for the same reason I would not consider those branches of science either. They're just very different things, and there is no clear unifying reason to lump them in together.

 

It's also a bit of a stretch to say the (empirical) sciences branched out from philosophy. There didn't used to be a very clear distinction between the two activities, they rather bled together and were generally engaged in by the same people. It seems more accurate to say that they branched off from each other, developing and evolving into the forms they have now. Philosophy has undergone quite an evolution of its own, as an activity it is vastly removed from the likes of Descartes and Kant, let alone the ancient Greeks. The Anglo-Saxon philosophical tradition at any rate, who knows what the Continentals are ever on about (and let us not deign to speak of Eastern "philosophy"). 

 

 

Philosophy is mostly theoretical science, where people study things by theoretical research methods, although there is also empiric research methods (Aristotle, Greek philosopher was big advocate of empiric research and it is seen as his legacy that empiric research focused branches of science were born). But of course we also have theoretical physics and similar branches in empiric research focuses on sciences that focus mostly in theoretical research. 

 

 

And I would argue that to the extent that his work was empirical, it wasn't philosophy. Just because he is chiefly known as a philosopher, doesn't mean that everything he did constitutes philosophy. And again, there is generally a vast difference between what scientists do and what philosophers (and in the same vein, mathematicians) do. These operate on rather distinct principles, those of science being fundamentally empirical and those of philosophy and mathematics decidedly not. The boundaries between them aren't necessarily always clear-cut, but that in itself is no reason to conflate the different disciplines (the distinctions between different branches of science, or different branches of philosophy, are far murkier, but meaningful nonetheless). Even the more theoretical parts of physics are still aimed at modeling, understanding, predicting the physical world; it may be more distant from the empirical data than other branches of physics, but it is still grounded in it nonetheless. Philosophy and mathematics on the other hand, are not. 

 

 

He was philosopher, who was behind classical model of scientific method and one of the founders of natural philosophy (way of study which modern natural sciences are based). 

 

But with increase of knowledge about nature, university, etc. there was need for more and more specialized fields of study, which lead to modern divination of sciences, where natural sciences study the material universe, social science study people and societies, formal sciences study non-empirical things and philosophy that ponders meanings behind things. Definitions of science sometimes include formal sciences and philosophy and sometimes they exclude them because they don't use empiric methods, which means that they don't use scientific method. But natural sciences and social sciences rely and use knowledge produced by formal sciences and philosophy, which make them integral part of science even if people exclude them from definition of science (whole debate what is science and what is not is part of philosophy of science for example). 

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He was philosopher, who was behind classical model of scientific method and one of the founders of natural philosophy (way of study which modern natural sciences are based). 

 

But with increase of knowledge about nature, university, etc. there was need for more and more specialized fields of study, which lead to modern divination of sciences, where natural sciences study the material universe, social science study people and societies, formal sciences study non-empirical things and philosophy that ponders meanings behind things. Definitions of science sometimes include formal sciences and philosophy and sometimes they exclude them because they don't use empiric methods, which means that they don't use scientific method. But natural sciences and social sciences rely and use knowledge produced by formal sciences and philosophy, which make them integral part of science even if people exclude them from definition of science (whole debate what is science and what is not is part of philosophy of science for example). 

 

 

Yes, well aware; I'm one of those people, as should be obvious by now. That science depends on mathematics, statistics and philosophy does not make those disciplines themselves a science. And since the demands of empirical study are entirely different from those of studying formal systems, concepts or metaphysics (though metaphysics is bunk, of course), so it makes little sense to put them in the same category. There isn't anything that clearly unifies them. The "scientific method" (insofar as it is well-defined at all) is something particular to (empirical) science; mathematics, statistics or philosophy don't work on the same principle. Though the particulars tend to be rather differ between different branches of science, moving from natural science to social science to the humanities, raising the question of how unified an enterprise science as a whole really is. 

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Morrowind wasn't about Religion? ...since when if I might ask. And even Daggerfall and Oblivion are to a smaller extent(Oblivion is about dangers of extreme religion...Mythic Dawn isn't really that different to the idea of Fundamentalism). Morrowind was equally(maybe even more) about Religion than Pillars. The thing is that Pillars' gameworld is FAR more normal when compared to Vvardenfel and the message is delivered very bluntly and at the wrong time(at the end AFTER the divine intervention vs Morrowind's dynamic message which is told THROUGHOUT the game and has two truths which gets juxtaposed at the most interesting moment).

 

With that said, I feel as if Pillars would be so much better if PC could just choose to side with Thaos.

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With that said, I feel as if Pillars would be so much better if PC could just choose to side with Thaos.

 

Why, if I may ask? Especially since Thaos seems to have lost some steam ( I mean, he is a master-manipulator but his schemes in Dyrwood seem to be so small, compared to the **** he did in the past).

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Well damn, if the Witcher is from an Atheistic point-of-view then that completely destroys my "Atheists are intellectually lazy" argument ;(

 

 

Then 'maybe' being intellectually lazy about theism doesn't automatically mean being intellectually lazy overall. ;)

 

'Maybe' people disregard theism as unworthy of speding their intellectual resourses on, and concider that world would be better if everybody stopped thinking too much about 'gods' and started thinking about things they can actually analyse, study and change.

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Well damn, if the Witcher is from an Atheistic point-of-view then that completely destroys my "Atheists are intellectually lazy" argument ;(

 

 

Then 'maybe' being intellectually lazy about theism doesn't automatically mean being intellectually lazy overall. ;)

 

'Maybe' people disregard theism as unworthy of speding their intellectual resourses on, and concider that world would be better if everybody stopped thinking too much about 'gods' and started thinking about things they can actually analyse, study and change.

 

 

His statement does have some merit though, I think... I mean, can you imagine the effort it takes to make yourself believe the antiquated nonsense spoon-fed to you by your local pope/rabbi/imam/charismatic cult leader/musty old tome? Must be exhausting! 

 

Though I prefer ignosticism to atheism, myself.

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Morrowind wasn't about Religion? ...since when if I might ask. And even Daggerfall and Oblivion are to a smaller extent(Oblivion is about dangers of extreme religion...Mythic Dawn isn't really that different to the idea of Fundamentalism). Morrowind was equally(maybe even more) about Religion than Pillars. The thing is that Pillars' gameworld is FAR more normal when compared to Vvardenfel and the message is delivered very bluntly and at the wrong time(at the end AFTER the divine intervention vs Morrowind's dynamic message which is told THROUGHOUT the game and has two truths which gets juxtaposed at the most interesting moment).

 

With that said, I feel as if Pillars would be so much better if PC could just choose to side with Thaos.

 

Yeah, hmm.  Maybe they couldn't make it work with a second PoE coming.  I suppose you'd have to write two very different stories for one game.  

 

Well, I saw my Character as remaining a priest, but one who no longer viewed the pantheon of Thao's Artificial Intelligences as gods.  I'm hoping the story will have room for a theistic priest who believes there's still a creator or creators out there. An outsider.  As I see it the world would be ripe for an organic religious revival (old gods and new) if the truth were known and my Character would be part of that.

 

I read Gene Wolfe's Long Sun novels twice, and there's a similar theme there.

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He was philosopher, who was behind classical model of scientific method and one of the founders of natural philosophy (way of study which modern natural sciences are based). 

 

But with increase of knowledge about nature, university, etc. there was need for more and more specialized fields of study, which lead to modern divination of sciences, where natural sciences study the material universe, social science study people and societies, formal sciences study non-empirical things and philosophy that ponders meanings behind things. Definitions of science sometimes include formal sciences and philosophy and sometimes they exclude them because they don't use empiric methods, which means that they don't use scientific method. But natural sciences and social sciences rely and use knowledge produced by formal sciences and philosophy, which make them integral part of science even if people exclude them from definition of science (whole debate what is science and what is not is part of philosophy of science for example). 

 

 

Yes, well aware; I'm one of those people, as should be obvious by now. That science depends on mathematics, statistics and philosophy does not make those disciplines themselves a science. And since the demands of empirical study are entirely different from those of studying formal systems, concepts or metaphysics (though metaphysics is bunk, of course), so it makes little sense to put them in the same category. There isn't anything that clearly unifies them. The "scientific method" (insofar as it is well-defined at all) is something particular to (empirical) science; mathematics, statistics or philosophy don't work on the same principle. Though the particulars tend to be rather differ between different branches of science, moving from natural science to social science to the humanities, raising the question of how unified an enterprise science as a whole really is. 

 

 

I think one has to differentiate between philosophy of science and the practice of science. Natural philosophy building on Descartes made some assumptions, principally that the world follows a set of laws which can be expressed in mathematics and that knowledge of those laws can be gained from observations of the world. The practice of science, i.e. doing the observations and deriving the laws, is based on those assumptions. Philosophy of science has since tweaked the assumptions and the logical steps between observation and knowledge to ensure it is all internally consistent. Today the practice of science can largely go on without paying attention to philosophy of science but there remain some fields where the question of how to gain scientific knowledge remains unclear, e.g. string theory.

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I think one has to differentiate between philosophy of science and the practice of science. Natural philosophy building on Descartes made some assumptions, principally that the world follows a set of laws which can be expressed in mathematics and that knowledge of those laws can be gained from observations of the world. The practice of science, i.e. doing the observations and deriving the laws, is based on those assumptions. Philosophy of science has since tweaked the assumptions and the logical steps between observation and knowledge to ensure it is all internally consistent. Today the practice of science can largely go on without paying attention to philosophy of science but there remain some fields where the question of how to gain scientific knowledge remains unclear, e.g. string theory.

 

I don't quite see how one could fail to differentiate them. Philosophy of science has (the practice of) science as it's subject (not to be confused with the sociology of science, which actually studies science as a human activity; though the lines admittedly get blurry sometimes), they're inherently not the same. 

 

A very large majority of modern science doesn't really aim to discover or describe laws, actually. To begin with, not all science is quantitative, not much in the way of scientific laws to be had there. But more generally, the kind of rigid (causal) regularity that you could capture in a mathematical formula and can call a law of science... most branches of science simply don't have those and never will. Most (quantitative) science is just varying degrees of statistical regularity buried under piles of noise, and if you're been a real good boy/girl you get to draw some tentative causal inferences from those too (but usually with, like, fifty caveats attached and the predictive accuracy of a blind mongoose). Physics (in a broad sense) is probably one of the few sciences that really gets into the whole business of scientific laws, though even there I rather doubt it's really the core business anymore (but frankly physics is too boring a science to pay much attention to, so who knows what they're up to these days; developing new cat memes, probably). 

 

Conversely, philosophy of science is rather broader than you're suggesting, and quite relevant to any branch of science (pretty much by definition, since philosophy purports to cover all the sciences as it's subject, not just the extra-mathy ones). The lines between it and more applied subjects like statistics and scientific methodology are again vague at best (probably not helped by the fact that eg. the philosophy of statistics is part of the philosophy of science; not sure where they're putting the philosophy of philosophy these days). And while it is certainly true that most scientists *don't* pay any attention to philosophy of science, and not overwhelmingly much to methodology and statistics, that doesn't mean they shouldn't. Quite the opposite, scientists could very much stand to pay a lot more attention to either (and while they're philosophizing, maybe throw in a bit of ethics too). They won't though, I have no illusions (but astounding job security) where that's concerned. 

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I think one has to differentiate between philosophy of science and the practice of science. Natural philosophy building on Descartes made some assumptions, principally that the world follows a set of laws which can be expressed in mathematics and that knowledge of those laws can be gained from observations of the world. The practice of science, i.e. doing the observations and deriving the laws, is based on those assumptions. Philosophy of science has since tweaked the assumptions and the logical steps between observation and knowledge to ensure it is all internally consistent. Today the practice of science can largely go on without paying attention to philosophy of science but there remain some fields where the question of how to gain scientific knowledge remains unclear, e.g. string theory.

 

IA very large majority of modern science doesn't really aim to discover or describe laws, actually. To begin with, not all science is quantitative, not much in the way of scientific laws to be had there. But more generally, the kind of rigid (causal) regularity that you could capture in a mathematical formula and can call a law of science... most branches of science simply don't have those and never will. Most (quantitative) science is just varying degrees of statistical regularity buried under piles of noise, and if you're been a real good boy/girl you get to draw some tentative causal inferences from those too (but usually with, like, fifty caveats attached and the predictive accuracy of a blind mongoose). Physics (in a broad sense) is probably one of the few sciences that really gets into the whole business of scientific laws, though even there I rather doubt it's really the core business anymore (but frankly physics is too boring a science to pay much attention to, so who knows what they're up to these days; developing new cat memes, probably).

 

It could be that I'm being a narrow minded physicist, but I would interpret what you say of other disciplines as just the consequence of them having noisy multivariate datasets (and there are some areas within physics with similar complications). I would imagine in such disciplines there is a hypothetical idealised scenario, however impractical, of a large enough dataset and control over all the variables that would facilitate inferrence of laws. If not then I agree there is a different philosophy underpinning them which doesn't include the existence/truth of 'laws'. Laws can of course be expressed statistically rather than deterministically and quantum mechanics does exactly that.

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It could be that I'm being a narrow minded physicist, but I would interpret what you say of other disciplines as just the consequence of them having noisy multivariate datasets (and there are some areas within physics with similar complications). I would imagine in such disciplines there is a hypothetical idealised scenario, however impractical, of a large enough dataset and control over all the variables that would facilitate inferrence of laws. If not then I agree there is a different philosophy underpinning them which doesn't include the existence/truth of 'laws'. Laws can of course be expressed statistically rather than deterministically and quantum mechanics does exactly that.

 

It's not a problem of (just) the data being complex and noisy, it's that the underlying reality is. There are generally far too many interacting variables at play to in practice be captured in a single mathematical model to any degree of accuracy. Moreover, the variables and constructs (and whatever they are intended to represent) themselves are generally (and often necessarily) more loosely defined, making it very difficult to define laws even in theory. Frankly, in most fields of science there probably aren't any laws to discover at all; beyond parts physics and maybe chemistry (ie. disciplines studying the more basic aspects of physical reality), I can't imagine there really are any.

 

In any event, for most of science even in an idealised scenario it would be impossible to determine the underlying causal structure (if any) to anything like law-like precision, so it is not relevant to the scientific practice. And while many scientific studies in these branches of science do aim to uncover causal relations (though this is probably still a minority), there isn't a whiff of scientific law to them. 

 

Whether scientific laws can be probabilistic (they certainly can't be statistical, I'd say) is presumably a subject of much debate among (some) philosophers of science, though intuitively I'd be inclined to say no. I would say that for something to be a scientific law it would need to capture a causal relation, which becomes problematic if it is non-deterministic (though this quickly veers into the philosophical discussion on causality, of course). Whether quantum mechanics describes anything that is both probabilistic and recognised as a scientific law I don't know, it's hardly my field. Either way though, the point remains that scientific laws are very much the province of a select few branches science and of little direct relevance to the rest. 

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Thermodynamics (the physics of heat, temperature, entropy etc) is formulated entirely statistically. As you say there are far too many interacting variables at play to describe a few molecules but a large body (with billions of molecules) as a whole can be described in terms of the statistics of the molecules (temperature is a statistical function). We call these descriptions laws because they can be used to predict the 'average' behaviour of another body of molecules. Not sure if that is comparible to what you are saying about other fields but 'law' in physics no longer necessarily means a clockwork type relationship between tangible objects. What makes them laws is that they make predictions that have withstood empirical testing, even if what they predict are probability distributions. I would argue that predictions that can withstand empirical testing are something that concerns the majority of disciplines that would be undesputedly called science.

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I'd still call that probabilistic rather than statistical (the core business of statistics being, as I'd summarize it, the inference from observed data to unobserved parameters), but that's mostly a semantical nuance for the present purposes. Either way, regardless of large uncertainty at the level of individual molecules, if I'm not mistaken the relations described by the laws of thermodynamics concern the expected values of (interactions of) bodies of large numbers of molecules and are exceedingly robust. As in, a predictive accuracy percentage that starts with a whole lot of 9's. Though one can can quibble over how deterministic that is exactly, there are few relations more clockwork-y than that (all of which presumably physical in nature as well).

 

This is not typical of (most) other sciences. Prediction from models doesn't play a very large role, because there's way to much noise for that to be very useful and a lot of science isn't experimental anyway. It's more "come up with hypothesis, gather data, do statistical test" (not necessarily in that order). And sure, if you formulate generally enough you can perhaps come up with general principles that cover all (or most) of science. But that's going to get generic in a hurry (good luck getting things as divergent as physics and history under the same umbrella otherwise), there is just no getting away from the fact that 'science' covers a very wide array of activity (of which physics is not actually a very good representative, its historical antecedents notwithstanding). Whether it meaningfully fits a single definition is an open question; like 'game', to go for a philosophical classic. 

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It's statistical in that the population of molecules is treated analogously to a statistical sample with various measures of its characteristics.

 

Doctors care about whether their models of dose-response will predict an effect on a patient, economists care about whether their models predict the response of markets to fiscal stimuli and I could go on. In most sciences I can think of prediction from models plays a significant role.

 

I do more or less accept Popper's definition of science and I am aware of the debate within philosophy of science between that position and what I think yours is. It's a mature debate and this thread probably isn't the best place for it. I think it's clear now where we disagree and it's not about the difference between science and philosophy so I'm going to leave it at that.

 

I did like the Wittgenstein reference though :).

Edited by alsey
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