Tuesday, November 29, 2022

On Pascalian Wagers

On Pascalian Wagers



I think that Pascal’s Wager is logically flawed; but I also think that some Pascalian wagers are valid. The trouble is that different cultures believe in different Gods; so which God exists? Such relativity diffuses the force of the Wager. But cross-cultural human universals do exist; and for some of those things Pascalian wagers do work.


For instance, does language exist? Can we actually share thoughts by speech? Any proof or disproof of language must be stated in language. A proof of language, in language, assumes what it proves; and a disproof of language, in language, refutes itself. Therefore you cannot prove or disprove the existence of language.


If you cannot prove, but you must decide, then you must wager. You must bet that language exists, or not; and it does exist, or not. If language does not exist - if all communication is illusion - then it doesn’t matter what we say, and our bets are useless too; but if language does exist, then it is good to bet that it exists. So there’s no downside to betting that we can in fact share thoughts by speech.


Similarly there is no downside to betting that some human reasoning is valid. Or that life can have meaning. And so on.


Note that I phrase these tentatively (life can have meaning) the better to make their negations absolute catastrophes, hence paradoxically powerless. Absolute catastrophe would erase all distinctions; and with that, all responsibility. Freedom is another word for nothing left to lose! Therefore absolute catastrophe can have no valid say in our decisions. We might as well consider only its negation.


But this means that Pascalian wagers aren’t proofs; really they’re excuses. They prove not the truth of our beliefs (in language, in mind, in life) but that those beliefs are inevitable. They’re less about what we wager, than about we who wager.




Monday, November 28, 2022

Impiety of Theism

Impiety of Theism

          A  metamathematical critique of miracles.

          It is notorious that miracles tend to evaporate upon close inspection. This is taken to mean that no miracles exist; but it could also mean that God has decreed that God’s miracles not seem miraculous upon close inspection. Of course that would be an even greater miracle.

          Why would God decree God’s own unprovability? Because a provable God, doing provable miracles, would be a defined, limited and constrained God doing defined, limited and constrained miracles; for proof is definition, limitation and constraint. Any such miracles would eventually be replicable, then mechanizable, then industrializable; and any such a God would then be at man’s command.

But if God exists, then God is free; so if God exists, then God’s existence and miracles cannot be proven. If God exists, then God decrees the unbelievability of miracles; itself the greatest and least believable miracle of all.

If it is God’s will that God’s existence is unprovable, then agnostics, who do not believe, are in obedience to God’s will; whereas theists, who do believe, are in defiance of that will. If God is a mystery, then agnostics are pious and theists are impious!

             A God who exists, but does not seem to exist, would be practicing a curious miracle. Some say that would be a test of faith; shall the believer believe without evidence? I retort that the real test of faith is; will you play along?

            Of course it would be a miracle if this speculation were true!


Friday, November 25, 2022

Towards Metascience

          Towards Metascience

          On a Proposed Science of Science


          I propose “metascience” as the science of science. Its job is the scientific investigation of the phenomenon of science. Therefore metascience is necessarily self-referential. It is partly philosophy, and partly a branch of social psychology; that’s its soft end; but on the hard end it has a lot of numerical data to analyze. Its main job; determine what social, cultural, psychological, institutional and other factors can improve the quantity and quality of scientific discovery.

          There are methodological paradoxes; for how do you measure the process without also measuring the content? And the content of science changes dramatically; 21st century ‘matter’ is very different stuff from 19th century ‘matter’. And how do you determine quality? Change is a fact but progress is an opinion.

          Postmodernism attempted an ironic deconstruction of science, but had to take its own relativism as an absolute metanarrative. You cannot prove the existence of the objective, but neither can you refute it. Science must exist at the boundary between the objective and subjective.

          Topics in metascience:

          Loosening of the Method. The classic metascience theory was the Scientific Method. This changed to Kuhn’s Paradigm Paradigm. Also, determinism yielded to quantum uncertainty and dynamical chaos.

          The Half-Life of Facts. What varies this? Is it controllable? Is a long half-life a sign of failure or success?

          Stigler’s Law: no scientific discovery is named after its discoverer (including this law).

          Far-Sightedness: the closer to home the blurrier the vision! Accurate astrophysics, bad psychology. Ergo Useful vs. Accurate.

          Path-Dependent Comprehension: The order in which science discovers facts affects how it interprets them; usually it is the first impressions that set the tone, even though the later impressions are more accurate and comprehensive. Buildup of this mismatch between paradigm and evidence eventually (according to Kuhn) results in scientific revolution. But when is that point reached?

          Cosmos Projection: people tend to see the universe in terms of their own society’s assumptions; therefore there will be correspondences between culture and cosmos. The coolest tech, or biggest headache, of the time somehow also describes the cosmos. (Easier to think that way.) For instance, the Great Chain of Being in stratified medieval society; then a Clockwork Universe just when real mechanical clocks are being invented. The same generation of physicists (and some of the same individuals!) were responsible for both the Bomb and for the Big Bang theory. Now computers are the highest tech, and the world looks like a computation. I predict that eventually the Big Bang theory will be abandoned for a more ‘green’ theory. Cosmic recycling, perhaps.

          An example of cosmos projection is Fashions in Madness.  Medieval madmen suffered from demons; early industrial madmen suffered from the presence of dynamos; later they feared airplanes overhead, and they hear the voices via radio on their fillings.

          Counter to cosmos projection is Seldonian Unpredictability of direction and pace of scientific and technological progress. To predict which way to go, and how fast to go, sets into motion social forces that tend to invalidate the prediction. Also, the real universe is unknown; genuine surprises await.