Weekend Diversion: Homeschoolers Anonymous – Starts With A Bang

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“Who is more humble? The scientist who looks at the universe with an open mind and accepts whatever the universe has to teach us, or somebody who says everything in this book must be considered the literal truth and never mind the fallibility of all the human beings involved?” -Carl Sagan

It’s a challenging thing, to admit to ourselves how vast and mysterious this Universe is, and how small and ignorant we all truly are. It can feel daunting and isolating to think about it, and solace can be difficult to find, as Mazzy Star can maybe help you related to as you listen to their wonderful song,

But not everyone is given the same opportunity to honestly engage with the realities of existence.

In many ways, I was very, very fortunate to get the education I did from a very young age, through excellent teachers, a wide selection of reading materials, a family environment that valued learning, and exposure to a wide variety of peers.

But there was something else that was an important part of my education that not everybody gets equally, and that some people don’t get at all: a strong emphasis on figuring things out for myself.

Written By: Ethan
continue to source article at scienceblogs.com

16 COMMENTS

  1. Does anyone here have an idea about what logical fallacy is behind the Anthropic principle? I use Douglas Adam’s puddle analogy and the “your existence is nearly impossible because your parents, grandparents, etc. meeting are unlikely events” argument, but would like to be able to name the fallacy.

    • In reply to #1 by Matt G:

      Does anyone here have an idea about what logical fallacy is behind the Anthropic principle? I use Douglas Adam’s puddle analogy and the “your existence is nearly impossible because your parents, grandparents, etc. meeting are unlikely events” argument, but would like to be able to name the fallacy.

      The banana fallacy?

      • Thanks for the laugh, Katy. I’m not sure what’s better, that or the Peanut Butter “argument”.

        In reply to #3 by Katy Cordeth:

        In reply to #1 by Matt G:

        Does anyone here have an idea about what logical fallacy is behind the Anthropic principle? I use Douglas Adam’s puddle analogy and the “your existence is nearly impossible because your parents, grandparents, etc. meeting are unlikely events” argument, but would like to b…

    • In reply to #1 by Matt G:

      Does anyone here have an idea about what logical fallacy is behind the Anthropic principle? I use Douglas Adam’s puddle analogy and the “your existence is nearly impossible because your parents, grandparents, etc. meeting are unlikely events” argument, but would like to be able to name the fallacy.

      I suppose the most appropriate would be calling it the argument from personal incredulity: “I cannot believe that the basic laws of physics in the universe would produce life just by itself, so therefore something else must have intervened to set them up that way”. However, more specifically I think it constitutes a false analogy between a designed object that can be tweaked, and the life-producing universe: since one seems tailored to a purpose (say, a watch is tailored to the purpose of telling the time), therefore the other must be tailored to the purpose of bringing about life. Because it assumes what it sets out to prove (that the universe was made exactly this way because it can’t “function” solo, therefore it was made exactly this way), that makes it a circular argument. You could also argue that it is an example of a hasty generalization combined with an argument from ignorance: we only have a sample size of one universe, but just because the rules are so precise as to create life as we know it (hint: what about life as we don’t know it that depends on other constants?), you can’t assume that the cosmological rules are self-evidently “too” improbable, because where are the probable or “not too” improbable events we’re comparing it to? For all we know, there’s only one way for a universe to exist. You can look up these fallacies on rationalwiki.org and fallacyfiles.org

      Isn’t logic fun? :-P

      • In reply to #5 by Zeuglodon:

        In reply to #1 by Matt G:

        I suppose the most appropriate would be calling it the argument from personal incredulityfalse analogycircular argumenthasty generalizationargument from ignorance.

        No. It’s bananas all the way. Stop overcomplicating things.

        Isn’t logic fun? :-P

        Gives me nosebleeds.

      • In reply to #5 by Zeuglodon:

        In reply to #1 by Matt G:

        Does anyone here have an idea about what logical fallacy is behind the Anthropic principle? I use Douglas Adam’s puddle analogy and the “your existence is nearly impossible because your parents, grandparents, etc. meeting are unlikely events” argument, but would like to b…

        Hold on a minute guys. I don’t think it’s fair to dismiss the Anthropic Principle as nothing but a fallacy. I always thought there was some real science there. To put it simply (and probably wrongly but at least this is a start) it’s the principle that any theory we have that explains the natural universe must explain how the universe evolved so that life could exist. The reason for that seems blindingly obvious: us!

        But where it doesn’t become so obvious (again this is physics so I’m probably stating this poorly) is in the details. My understanding is that during the very early microseconds of Inflation there were various events that if they hadn’t worked out just the way they did things like complex molecules wouldn’t be possible and so life wouldn’t be possible.

        Now you could just look at that and say “good for us they turned out that way” but that’s not a very satisfying answer. We are left with four possibilities:

        1) Humanity is really lucky because things could have gone differently with minor random fluctuations so lucky for us it didn’t

        2) God Did It!

        3) Our universe is one in a multiverse and in most of those other universes there can’t even theoretically be life because the laws of that universe don’t make it feasible

        4) There are other laws of nature we aren’t aware of yet that really required things turn out the way they did

        I think the fallacy comes in when people embrace 2. It’s actually just another God of the Gaps argument and I think it shows why we probably can never completely do away with the God of the Gaps. The nature of science is when you answer one question you often raise two more so even as we keep realizing how things that people used to require God for (e.g. human life) don’t really there will always be unanswered questions that are mysterious and that theists will latch on to.

        • In reply to #7 by Red Dog:

          In reply to #5 by Zeuglodon:

          In reply to #1 by Matt G:

          Does anyone here have an idea about what logical fallacy is behind the Anthropic principle? I use Douglas Adam’s puddle analogy and the “your existence is nearly impossible because your parents, grandparents, etc. meeting are unlikely events”…

          Hold on a minute guys. I don’t think it’s fair to dismiss the Anthropic Principle as nothing but a fallacy.

          That’s right, not a fallacy in itself, it depends on how it is used. On one side is it trivial, that we don’t find ourselves on a world where it is impossible for us to live, but the other side is about observation of relative probabilities. It is closely related to pareidolia and the difficulty of probability estimation for what “could have been.”

          4) There are other laws of nature we aren’t aware of yet that really required things turn out the way they did.

          I don’t think this option is sufficiently appreciated by most people.
          .

        • In reply to #7 by Red Dog:

          In reply to #5 by Zeuglodon:

          In reply to #1 by Matt G:

          Does anyone here have an idea about what logical fallacy is behind the Anthropic principle? I use Douglas Adam’s puddle analogy and the “your existence is nearly impossible because your parents, grandparents, etc. meeting are unlikely events”…

          Since it was juxtaposed with the Douglas Adams puddle analogy, I thought he meant the Anthropic principle as used by religionists to argue that a designer was involved (“This puddle fits me so brilliantly, it was probably meant to have me in it!”). I noted in The God Delusion that Dawkins explains how it actually refutes the designer argument, and then he expresses puzzlement as to why religionists treat it as the exact opposite. Sorry for not making that distinction prior to explaining. In hindsight, I should have anticipated the confusion.

          I would agree, but I think the question is too loaded with “argument from improbability” connotations, and I’ll explain why. The very notion of arguing about the probability of something – such that you can determine whether or not it was designed or occurred on its own – rests upon there being some alternative state of affairs to compare it with. When judging the presence of life on this planet, the alternative is the inanimate matter coexisting with it. By contrast, there is no confirmable alternative state of affairs we can compare our universe to. Or, if we do happen to exist in a multiverse, we then have only one existing cosmos, and no alternative cosmos to compare ours with. Reality literally gives only one option, whether we like it or not. In fact, this seems to be the only non-arbitrary endgame possible, because even if a multiverse existed, one could still ask about the totality of laws governing them all.

          We could certainly “imagine” tweaking the numbers in our imaginations, but this is basically an exercise in ignorance, not a real counterargument, since merely imagining an alternative state of affairs does not translate into a real-world counterpart of that mental image. And if it turns out, say, that we can’t penetrate any lower than the quark level of physics, or whatever the smallest physical entity is, then provisionally, if nothing else, the simple answer is that reality “just is”, because through the data and the experimental findings, this or that is what it says. I won’t go too far into the philosophy of, say, the findings of quantum mechanics, but even there, you can see problems with trying to decide whether quantum phenomena, say, are really hypercomplex deterministic phenomena containing factors we don’t know about, or if the universe is genuinely partially uncertain in some respect.

          Unsatisfying as this answer would be if it were anything but an argument of last resort, I would argue that just because it’s dissatisfying, doesn’t mean it’s wrong. Reality’s supposed to be the one calling the shots in the first place, not our imaginations.

          • In reply to #9 by Zeuglodon:

            We could certainly “imagine” tweaking the numbers in our imaginations, but this is basically an exercise in ignorance, not a real counterargument, since merely imagining an alternative state of affairs does not translate into a real-world counterpart of that mental image.

            This, I contend, is the hart of the “fine-tuning” canard.

      • In reply to #14 by ShadowMind:

        In reply to #1 by Matt G:

        Once again;

        Probabilities are for attempting to predict the future, not explaining the past.

        The probability of your parents meeting is 100%, because they have met.

        Succinctly put! I should have said that instead of overcomplicating the banana fallacy… :-(

  2. Are you asking in relation to the Anthropic principle in relation to possible multi-verse?

    If so then I’m not sure it is fallacious just unproven. It seems a bit lame if you are only prepared to use it to wave a wand to solve the problem of complexity. However some cosmologists have begun to devise tests to look to echoes or ripples from other universes all very speculative but I wouldn’t count it out. As far as looking at your own specific existence I don’t see the problem with acknowledging that our existence is contingent on principles that had to be right for our existence to occur, look at any other planet in our solar system for example life (as we know it could only have occurred here). Therefore we are the ones asking the question not Martians. I have more of a problem with us thinking that our universe could be the only one. What because what we haven’t seen any others or there is no way any other way of organising the universe is possible, because we can’t imagine one? I find people being definite about either possibility in the absence of evidence problematic.

    Perhaps I am reading this wrong or don’t fully understand the theory but unless making a definitive statement about the existence of say multi-verses I’m not sure I see the problem. Can you tell what your issue is with it as potential field of investigation?

  3. Zeuglodon 9 ;

    I won’t go too far into the philosophy of, say, the findings of quantum mechanics, but even there, you can see problems with trying to decide whether quantum phenomena, say, are really hypercomplex deterministic phenomena containing factors we don’t know about, or if the universe is genuinely partially uncertain in some respect.

    I thought that had been settled with Bell and his hidden variables in the 1960s ? Maybe I’m wrong ?

    • In reply to #11 by Mr DArcy:

      Zeuglodon 9 ;

      I won’t go too far into the philosophy of, say, the findings of quantum mechanics, but even there, you can see problems with trying to decide whether quantum phenomena, say, are really hypercomplex deterministic phenomena containing factors we don’t know about, or if the universe is…

      Bell did decisively show through his experiments that the local hidden variable theory was unsound, but so long as quantum mechanics can be considered incomplete, there are alternative interpretations that include a non-local set of hidden variables, the most well known being the De Broglie–Bohm theory. Unfortunately, I’m not an expert on the subject, and even the Wikipedia article seems to be unreliable as a source of information, since it seems to need attention. As far as I know, the consensus seems to be that determinism is obsolete; quantum mechanics demands some probabilistic elements incompatible with classical physics.

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