The Coherence of Road Runner

Strafio
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The Coherence of Road Runner

If you've never seen the Road Runner cartoon then just think of any other cartoon you've seen - they all do the same thing. They all depict 'worlds' that mostly appear to have our laws of physics but then carry on to break them. One classic example is when the Coyote chases Road Runner off a cliff who happily runs through the sky. Coyote follows at first, until he realises that he's in the air, looks down, eye pop out, and then gravity kicks in and he starts falling.

What I'm pointing out here isn't that the imaginary world doesn't have gravity, it's that it doesn't even make up its mind whether or not it has gravity. It seems to have a 'gravity' (where things fall to the ground) depending on whether the writers want it to have 'gravity' at that moment in time. Basically, there's no consistent rule on whether there is or isn't a force of gravity.

What is coherent is the possibility that no such consistent rules exist.
This would suit the theist as it would mean that there's 'room' for miracles that violate our accepted laws of physics. Many theists use this line of argument, that we have no reason to believe that the Laws of Physics that our models of the world follow are absolute and never broken.

I'm curious to how we could answer such an objection.
One possibility is that the consistency demanded by our models has been empirically verified. The theist might argue that this shows that the rules we predict are mostly consistent and that it doesn't give us reason to rule out anomalous claims. Would this be a valid objection.

I think that our reasons for accepting this kind of consistency are more transcendental. It's a grounding principle necessary for a rational picture on the world. One example is our structure of space-time. If space-time holds then the physical laws of conservation follow a priori. That is, if space-time is uniform as physicists treat it then the law of conservation is unbreakable. If someone was sceptical that this was so, then what else would they be sacrificing in the process? Wouldn't a scepticism of this kind require a rejection of nearly all of modern science?
So if I was to defend the absoluteness of space-time and the laws of conservation that follow from it, I'd probably point out that it is transcendentally necessary for any scientific worldview.

Am I right in this?
Is there a better way of going about this?


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Well we all know the young

Well we all know the young earth creationists treat the Flintstones as a documentary, why not road runner too?

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If the laws of physics only

If the laws of physics only hold most of the time, then we would have to ask, why? When do they hold, when don't they hold? What cases the laws to stop working? What causes the laws to start working again?

Only when we rule out all possible natural explanations for these most of the time laws of physics can we say that miracles could be in the gaps.


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Strafio wrote: If you've

Strafio wrote:
If you've never seen the Road Runner cartoon then just think of any other cartoon you've seen - they all do the same thing. They all depict 'worlds' that mostly appear to have our laws of physics but then carry on to break them. One classic example is when the Coyote chases Road Runner off a cliff who happily runs through the sky. Coyote follows at first, until he realises that he's in the air, looks down, eye pop out, and then gravity kicks in and he starts falling.

Road Runner cartoons... love 'em.

Strafio wrote:
What I'm pointing out here isn't that the imaginary world doesn't have gravity, it's that it doesn't even make up its mind whether or not it has gravity. It seems to have a 'gravity' (where things fall to the ground) depending on whether the writers want it to have 'gravity' at that moment in time. Basically, there's no consistent rule on whether there is or isn't a force of gravity.

What is coherent is the possibility that no such consistent rules exist.

I don't know how that could be true. I would think that if the universe, that exists, followed no consistent rules whatsoever, then we would not be able to have physics, maths, lots of things... hell, we wouldn't have meteorology. All of these things are just descriptions of the consistent behaviors of the material universe, right?

Strafio wrote:
This would suit the theist as it would mean that there's 'room' for miracles that violate our accepted laws of physics. Many theists use this line of argument, that we have no reason to believe that the Laws of Physics that our models of the world follow are absolute and never broken.

I'm curious to how we could answer such an objection.

I suppose it can be said that there is an implicit assumption in accepting that the universe works according to a set of specific, perhaps absolute, rules...

But think of it this way... If our world was one in which gravity held us to the ground and ensured that objects fell directly toward the earth, but for what ever reason allowed a real life Wile E. Coyote to remain suspended in air until he realized it... that wouldn't mean that there's no explanation for it; it would just be a different rule or set of rules that govern gravitation than what governs gravitation as we know it.

Transcendental though? Maybe I'm not sure what you mean.

If we set ourselves to a repetetive rock dropping experiment, it would certainly be noteworthy, not to mention radically change our conception of gravity, if the rock--on just one try--remained suspended in the air for even just a second. As it is, though, I'm not sure I see anything transcendental about observing the rock drop directly to the nearest solid surface a thousand times and concluding that it will do so the next thousand times.

But this is good...

Strafio wrote:
It's a grounding principle necessary for a rational picture on the world. One example is our structure of space-time. If space-time holds then the physical laws of conservation follow a priori. That is, if space-time is uniform as physicists treat it then the law of conservation is unbreakable. If someone was sceptical that this was so, then what else would they be sacrificing in the process? Wouldn't a scepticism of this kind require a rejection of nearly all of modern science?

Yes.


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Laker-taker

Laker-taker wrote:
Transcendental though? Maybe I'm not sure what you mean.

Transcendental truths are conditions necessary for things we take for granted. e.g. if you're reading this then we can transcendentally deduce that you understand the English language.
Creationism is an attempt at transcendental reasoning, except is is fallicious.

I think you had similar thoughts here:
Quote:
I would think that if the universe, that exists, followed no consistent rules whatsoever, then we would not be able to have physics, maths, lots of things... hell, we wouldn't have meteorology. All of these things are just descriptions of the consistent behaviors of the material universe, right?

That we have any rational knowledge at all is dependent on the uniformity/consistency of natural laws. It seems right but it's always good to put our own theories to the test and look for potential flaws. Smile


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Interesting questions.

Interesting questions. Though it's not just theists that argue in this fashion. David Hume offered a very similar critique, now commonly called "The Problem of Induction".

How, from our limited observation, can we validly extend our conceptions of physical "laws" to encompass that which we have we have yet to observe?

It's a form of skepticism that's been examined from many different angles. My personal take is that like all inductions, we could well be wrong about our assumption on the uniformity of nature. But it does not follow from mere possibility that a mistake is indeed being made on this question. Until we find an electron that does NOT have a negative charge (or in the absence of any mitigating reasons for continuing this assumption), for example, we are free to accept--brutely, on the basis of statistical regularity-- that the next one will also have a negative charge. In fact, if we don't make such assumptions, and we succumb to this rather radical form of skepticism, we could hardly do science or reason, for that matter.


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Archangel__7

Archangel__7 wrote:
Interesting questions. Though it's not just theists that argue in this fashion.

Ofcourse. I just brought it up as it was an application that affected us. Smiling

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Until we find an electron that does NOT have a negative charge (or in the absence of any mitigating reasons for continuing this assumption), for example, we are free to accept--brutely, on the basis of statistical regularity-- that the next one will also have a negative charge.

Having said that, if we were to detect an electron with a positive charge then we would disregard the results until the discovery and been repeated. i.e. We disregard anomalies until we get a uniform pattern to back them up. So I think that uniformity is a justification for our empirical methods rather than our empiricism justifying the principle.

Quote:
In fact, if we don't make such assumptions, and we succumb to this rather radical form of skepticism, we could hardly do science or reason, for that matter.

I think that this is the justification for uniformity, that without it all our knowledge falls apart. I think that some theists try and allow for a weaker form of uniformity, that nature it mostly uniform but there is room for anomalies i.e. the workings of God.


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Strafio wrote:If you've

Strafio wrote:
If you've never seen the Road Runner cartoon then just think of any other cartoon you've seen - they all do the same thing. They all depict 'worlds' that mostly appear to have our laws of physics but then carry on to break them. One classic example is when the Coyote chases Road Runner off a cliff who happily runs through the sky. Coyote follows at first, until he realises that he's in the air, looks down, eye pop out, and then gravity kicks in and he starts falling.

What I'm pointing out here isn't that the imaginary world doesn't have gravity, it's that it doesn't even make up its mind whether or not it has gravity. It seems to have a 'gravity' (where things fall to the ground) depending on whether the writers want it to have 'gravity' at that moment in time. Basically, there's no consistent rule on whether there is or isn't a force of gravity.

 

There is a consistency of a sort, as long as you consider what is really working here: a form of solipsism combined with divine guidance.

1) Gravity only harms beings with bad intentions.

2) Gravity does not take effect if you are currently unaware that you should be falling. Falling does not occur until a 'maximum comic effect' is achieved. (MCE). MCE must involve the following:

The being looking down.

The being then turning to the audience, and

The being then reacting in some fashion, towards this audience.

The world of cartoons implies a divine guidance - and I feel that it it the audience who is, in a fashion, this guide.

We want the good guy to be saved, even if our divine intervention is necessary, and we want the bad guy to be punished, albeit comically, lest we feel some sort of guilt.

Oddly enough, this is the sort of universe we'd need to see if theism were true.... it is the sort of world theists claim does exist, when they make miracle claims.

Quote:

What is coherent is the possibility that no such consistent rules exist.

There is no consistent set of laws, yes, but there is a divine magic that seeks to use and warp the universal laws in order to mete out punishment and reward.

So it's a magical, acausal world, that is predictable based solely on judging (accurately) the moral fiber of the beings punished and rewarded.

Quote:


This would suit the theist as it would mean that there's 'room' for miracles that violate our accepted laws of physics. Many theists use this line of argument, that we have no reason to believe that the Laws of Physics that our models of the world follow are absolute and never broken.


I'm curious to how we could answer such an objection.

I'd say that there simply is no good evidence that physical laws are broken, and certainly no reason to hold that they are broken along a consistent line that demonstrates a divine rewarder. The painful death of one good person refutes the existence of an omnipotent, omnibenevolent 'law bender'.

 

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Strafio wrote:David Hume

Strafio wrote:

David Hume offered a very similar critique, now commonly called "The Problem of Induction". How, from our limited observation, can we validly extend our conceptions of physical "laws" to encompass that which we have we have yet to observe? It's a form of skepticism that's been examined from many different angles. My personal take is that like all inductions, we could well be wrong about our assumption on the uniformity of nature. But it does not follow from mere possibility that a mistake is indeed being made on this question.

It is no longer necessary or even desirable to base induction on the assumption of a uniformity of nature. As Howson & Urbach point out, assuming a uniformity of nature is a nonsolution, since it's a fairly empty assumption. For how is nature uniform? And what, really, are we talking about. What would really be needed are millions upon millions of uniformity assumptions for each item under discussion. We'd need one for the melting temperature of water, of iron, of nickel, etc, etc. For example "block of ice x will melt at 0 Celsius;" for these types of assumptions actually say something. Furthermore, the uniformity of nature assumptions fall prey to meta-uniformity issues - for how are we to know that nature will always be uniform? Well, we have to assume that too. And how do we know that the uniformity of nature is uniform? Ad infinitum. So, to "solve" induction by uniformity of nature solutions doesn't really work.

By the way, presuppers attempt to solve the problem by assumning a uniformity of supernature (although they aren't able to grasp that!) Talk about making things worse! Prof from the old infidelguy site shows how ironic and idiotic this theist argument is:

http://www.infidelguy.com/forumarchives/modules.php?name=Boards&file=viewtopic&t=21132&highlight= 

 

Fortunately, we do have solutions to the problem of induction, I have a brief review here: http://candleinthedark.com/induction.html

 

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It's quite fascinating what

It's quite fascinating what fiction can reveal about our psychology.
btw, I should note that the last quote wasn't actually my writing. Having quoted Archangel's post I'd forgotten to delete or quote box that paragraph. Not that it matters really, I just tend to feel quite particular over what is and isn't my writing, and I'm sure that Archangel doesn't want me taking credit for his work either! Eye-wink


So modern 'uniformity' is justified by Bayesian Probability?
Is it a case of "natural law A has been justified by X observations so the probability of it being coincidence is practically nil."?


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Strafio wrote: It's quite

Strafio wrote:
It's quite fascinating what fiction can reveal about our psychology.

We want our cartoon world to be safe, and we realize that the only way of guarenteeing this would be if the very laws of nature conformed to our sense of morality.

Oddly enough, we all know what the world ought to look like if there is a god. And we all know our world does not look like this  at all. So once again, the theist recognizes his error, unconsciously, but refuses to deal with it.

Quote:
 

So modern 'uniformity' is justified by Bayesian Probability?

Not exactly. Baysean probabilty justifies induction.

I want to make sure to delineate the uniformity of nature assumption from induction. The assumption of a uniformity of nature is a necesary condition of induction, but it is not a sufficient condition for justifying induction.

So we need something other than the assumption of a uniformity of nature to justify induction... and we do have such things...   and my essay that I reference above provides these answers...

Philosophically, 'the problem of induction' is still and open question, but it is a gross error to take from this that there is actually a real problem with relying on induction, all that 'the problem' really ever meant was that we didn't have a philosophical justification for induction, at the time of Hume.

And today, we have several good methods of justifying induction.... does this satify everyone? No. But it would be ridiculosu to hold that anyone outside of a philosopy building really wrings their hands over this 'problem' today. 

 

Quote:

 Is it a case of "natural law A has been justified by X observations so the probability of it being coincidence is practically nil."?

 

No, that would be begging the question.

 

I deal with the problems of assuming a uniformity of nature in order to justify induction here: 

http://www.rationalresponders.com/an_easy_refutation_of_van_tillian_calvinist_presuppositionalism 

 

In short, Bayesain theory provides a deductive basis for probability.... so that is how induction is presently justified, philosophically... but induction has always been justified by other means: by habit, by reward, i.e. pragmatic means.... and the problem of induction NEVER led to induction being irrational... merely,  unjustified, as a habit....

 

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This brings me to the law

This brings me to the law of probibility. "If it sounds too good to be true" how much of a gamble are you taking in rejecting it?

Bottem line, people are capable of making up fiction. The road runner is a cartoon. Do not imply that anything contained within is possible unless you are limiting it to emagination. 

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I see.So the Uniformity

I see.
So the Uniformity Principle is still a necessary assumption, just not a sufficient one. And our justification for it is still that if we were to deny it then that would make knowledge of the world impossible.

(btw, some of the replies make it sound like induction needs defending in some way. That was never in question, it was an investigation into what our grounding assumptions are and what consequences would follow if we dropped them, giving us reasons for a pragmatic defense of them.)


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Strafio wrote: I see.So the

Strafio wrote:
I see.
So the Uniformity Principle is still a necessary assumption, just not a sufficient one.

Yes, I can't fathom how induction could work if we were unable to reliably make causal connections.

But it is begging the question to assume that 'uniformity of nature' is a foundation for induction. And we actually don't do that: we have other reasons to justify induction... so the entire theistic argument is a strawman.

 

Quote:

And our justification for it is still that if we were to deny it then that would make knowledge of the world impossible.

Well, I'd say not say that. We assume that there is a uniformity of nature, but we don't use that assumption as the grounds for relying on induction.  There are plenty of grounds for relying on induction, pragmatism is one, bayesian theory is another.

 


Quote:

(btw, some of the replies make it sound like induction needs defending in some way. That was never in question, it was an investigation into what our grounding assumptions are and what consequences would follow if we dropped them, giving us reasons for a pragmatic defense of them.)

 

Yes, understood. This is, and always has been, a philosophical exercise. No real scientist, anywhere, is holding back from performing an experiment because of ... gasp... the 'problem of induction".

By the way, while this point might seem rather non controversial,  I made that point on another site years ago, and an asshole named "Laz" read it, and claimed that I was denying that 'the problem of induction' even existed.  So I will repeat: no scientist is holding back from experimenting because of any 'problem of induction" the 'problem" is, as you identify, a philosohpical one...

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