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Limmitations of newtonian-cartisian-mechanistic science.

 
 
Edvin
 
Reply Tue 26 Feb, 2008 02:24 am
How do you see the effects of the mechanistic understanding of the universe limmit todays understanding of natural phenomena? It has been pointed out that the mechanistic habbit of taking a given phenomena and studying it's smallest constituents and how these interact will not always give an satisfactory explanation of the phenomena as an whole. The whole is more than the sum of it's parts, some say. Is this the case? If so, how does the problem manifest itself scientificaly? When does the mechanistic understanding render us unable to explain any given phenomena?

Not actually advocating my beliefs here. Just want to see if anyone has any interesting thaughts on the issue, as I am currently trying to figure it out myself :confused:
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Didymos Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Tue 26 Feb, 2008 02:14 pm
@Edvin,
Good topic. A science buff, I'm sure, will be able to help you out with this.

Quote:
When does the mechanistic understanding render us unable to explain any given phenomena?


When we run out of parts to divide.
Aedes
 
  1  
Reply Tue 26 Feb, 2008 04:40 pm
@Edvin,
Newtonian mechanics is largely obsolete, in the age of relativity -- many inaccuracies and unsatisfactory explanations in mechanics were cleaned up / discarded by modern physics.

That aside, there's more to science than looking at ever smaller questions. Things happen at varying levels of resolution. Yes, ultimately, everything from neurobiology to industrial chemistry is beholden to basic physical parameters. But studying neurobiology is meaningless if you break it down to that level. So you pick the level that best corresponds to the unique scientific question you're asking. Remember that science, more than anything else, is the process of asking a specific question and then executing a methodology to answer it. So how a method works depends entirely on the question being asked.
Edvin
 
  1  
Reply Wed 27 Feb, 2008 07:13 am
@Aedes,
"many inaccuracies and unsatisfactory explanations in mechanics were cleaned up / discarded by modern physics."

Yes, that's in physics. Quantum physics is trancending the cartesian division between mind and matter, as well as newtonian mechanics. But mechanistic thougt is still seen in all the sciences. Social, biological and economical, as well as in the public oppninion of how to solve problems. Any exampels out there?
Edvin
 
  1  
Reply Wed 27 Feb, 2008 07:20 am
@Didymos Thomas,
Didymos Thomas wrote:
When we run out of parts to divide.


Interesting take.

Within our frameworks we have found the smallest constituents and its properties. We have come to the core of it all, in a way. We tend to take the interaction of these constituents to sum op the whole phenomena. This has been proven very little effective in describing certain kinds of behavior. This does not implicate that we have overlooked certain properties, and that we have to digg deeper. It implicates that a phenomena is more than the sum of its parts. Influence from other systems, maybe?
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Aedes
 
  1  
Reply Wed 27 Feb, 2008 07:47 am
@Edvin,
Edvin wrote:
mechanistic thougt is still seen in all the sciences. Social, biological and economical, as well as in the public oppninion of how to solve problems. Any exampels out there?
By "mechanistic" thought are you referring to scientific reductionism? Even then, it's a matter of filling in gaps and answering questions. My last two years as a research fellow I spent studying protein interactions between the malaria parasite and the red blood cell membrane. The end point is to have a detailed understanding of how the parasite is mechanistically able to infect the red blood cell. This requires a mechanistic investigation, in which many small questions must be asked and studied in order to understand the totality.
Edvin
 
  1  
Reply Wed 27 Feb, 2008 07:57 am
@Aedes,
By mechanistic thought I mean the belief that everything is fundamentaly separated and linked together, and the habbit of studying all phenomena by finding its smallest parts and see how these parts interact, and taking the findings and atributing them to the phenomena in general, without including f.eks influence beyond/outside the constituents.
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Aedes
 
  1  
Reply Wed 27 Feb, 2008 08:04 am
@Edvin,
Like I mentioned with cell biology, the key is not breaking a phenomenon down to its smallest parts, but rather to its fundamental and essential components. The interaction between the parasite protein EBA-175 and the human protein Glycophorin A is crucial to understanding how malaria infects red blood cells. And yet these proteins are made of amino acids, whose sequence is genetically determined, and all involved molecules and processes contain Carbon, Hydrogen, Oxygen, Sulfur, Phosphorus, and Nitrogen, and these atoms are made up of protons that contain gluons and quarks, etc...

Point is that when you get below that which makes EBA-175 or glycophorin A unique, you're no longer studying the question that interests you. But it turns out there are other unique parasite and host proteins that are part of the whole physiology of how the parasite infects human cells -- and answering THAT is the goal of this particular scientific project.
Edvin
 
  1  
Reply Wed 27 Feb, 2008 08:26 am
@Aedes,
Yes, you are right. While saying smallest, I should have said smalles essential constituents. But the fact still remains that one digg as deep as one can go, without going beyond what makes the phenomena unique, as you said. Still, once at this level one tends to explain the whole phenomena by these constituents properties. I am not saying that this may not be necessary and even beneficial in certain instances, as it would be within your field of work. The problem is that it is applied to almost all phenomena with the belief that its framework can be adapted to explain it as precise as it did with f.eks you malaria research. Feelin' it?
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Aedes
 
  1  
Reply Wed 27 Feb, 2008 01:48 pm
@Edvin,
Quote:
once at this level one tends to explain the whole phenomena by these constituents properties.
To the extent one can -- some fields are more mature than others.

Quote:
The problem is that it is applied to almost all phenomena with the belief that its framework can be adapted to explain it as precise as it did with f.eks you malaria research
Again, it depends on how important the question is and how effectively you study it. Human anatomy is almost dead as a science, because there's basically nothing important about human anatomy that hasn't been described a million times over. But there are other fields that have plenty of room for new discovery and understanding.
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Edvin
 
  1  
Reply Wed 27 Feb, 2008 03:59 pm
@Edvin,
I posted the thread to find some good examples of the limitations of the cartesian paradigm. Since decartes definite influence towards most of the sciences today there also is limitations. Where do we find those limitations? What do we do then? Abandon the paradigm, or maybe expand it? That is where the discourse should be going. Smile
0 Replies
 
Didymos Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Thu 28 Feb, 2008 01:11 pm
@Edvin,
Quote:
Within our frameworks we have found the smallest constituents and its properties. We have come to the core of it all, in a way. We tend to take the interaction of these constituents to sum op the whole phenomena. This has been proven very little effective in describing certain kinds of behavior. This does not implicate that we have overlooked certain properties, and that we have to digg deeper. It implicates that a phenomena is more than the sum of its parts. Influence from other systems, maybe?


I only gave a point at which mechanistic explainations fail to completely explain a phenomena. You are right that "a phenomena is more than the sum of its parts". But what else is there to the phenomena than "the sum of its parts"? And what constitutes "parts" of the phenomena?

Influence from other systems seems to be on the right track. However, if one system is influenced by another system, is there any reason to consider the systems seperate systems apart from convenience?

This leads to my greater concern: as we break down reality into ever smaller parts, and various systems to explain various phenomena, it certainly seems that each phenomena, each part and each system is closely related. Are the distinctions between systems, parts and phenomena of any value other than convenience? Or, to approach the question another way: would monism be a more appropriate description of the universe?
Quatl
 
  1  
Reply Thu 28 Feb, 2008 03:14 pm
@Didymos Thomas,
Didymos Thomas wrote:
Or, to approach the question another way: would monism be a more appropriate description of the universe?


Not for humans. Comprehension necessitates finding the units and entities of consequence. What exactly that means depends on the question.

I don't think that science needs revision. The fossilization of thought that can happen when we want only one definition to apply to each thing, can be however.

Our conceptualization of a particular object, interaction or system, may not always be the ideal one to apply in every circumstance. There are cases when overlapping truths exist, and understanding becomes a game of choosing between them, not on the basis of "truth" but rather on the basis of their conceptual utility in understanding the problem at hand.

Quantum physics will never tell us what we want to know about the mind for example (despite the claims to the contrary.) It can't even tell us what we want to know about a tennis ball! The wave function for a tennis ball (if anyone had one) would be far less suitable a tool than the good old newton model at predicting how the ball would bounce when you threw it. I doubt you could even fit the damn thing your head all at once. This does not mean that QP is un-true, but it does mean that it is useless for understanding many of the things in the universe.

The point is that you can always reorient your perspective if your current one isn't working.
0 Replies
 
Didymos Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Thu 28 Feb, 2008 03:53 pm
@Edvin,
Quote:
Not for humans. Comprehension necessitates finding the units and entities of consequence. What exactly that means depends on the question.


If monism is true, comprehension would necessitate the understanding of said truth. I'm not attempting to reduce these units and entities to useless jibberish, I'm wondering if these units and entities are anything other than conveniences - even if the convenience is science.

Quote:
Our conceptualization of a particular object, interaction or system, may not always be the ideal one to apply in every circumstance. There are cases when overlapping truths exist, and understanding becomes a game of choosing between them, not on the basis of "truth" but rather on the basis of their conceptual utility in understanding the problem at hand.


Again, my questions concerning monism are not to deny the value of these objects, systems, ect, but instead to refine our perspective on said objects, ect.
Quatl
 
  1  
Reply Thu 28 Feb, 2008 07:51 pm
@Didymos Thomas,
Didymos Thomas wrote:
If monism is true, comprehension would necessitate the understanding of said truth. I'm not attempting to reduce these units and entities to useless jibberish, I'm wondering if these units and entities are anything other than conveniences - even if the convenience is science.

I think they are all conveniences.

I think that The Truth (the kind with a pair of capital Ts) would be a direct apprehension of reality and it wouldn't be all that interesting really. At least not for humans. It may be that that is what god(s) do(es.) Then again from such a perspective, virtually everything that we think of as meaningful is meaningless.

Such a perspective isn't "higher" as people often say, it's a non-perspective. Nothing like our ideas of "existence" would be valid.

Hey maybe that's what those eastern religious types have been trying to tell me? It sounds a bit like Buddhism to me. If so, I really hope they're wrong, I really don't want to end up like that Smile "I" "like it" "around here" "where the texture" "is."
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Didymos Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Thu 28 Feb, 2008 10:10 pm
@Edvin,
Why does a monist perspective reduce everything "we think of as meaningful" to meaninglessness?

I would agree with you if you say that the monist perspective changes the way we look at what we call meaningful, but I do not understand why the meaningful becomes meaninglessness.

Quote:
Nothing like our ideas of "existence" would be valid.


Only if existence demands that whatever exists, exists in of itself - that is, without the rest of reality. At least, this is the only danger I see, and to be honest, I'm not sure what the trouble is.
Quatl
 
  1  
Reply Fri 29 Feb, 2008 07:36 am
@Didymos Thomas,
Didymos Thomas wrote:
Why does a monist perspective reduce everything "we think of as meaningful" to meaninglessness?

I would agree with you if you say that the monist perspective changes the way we look at what we call meaningful, but I do not understand why the meaningful becomes meaninglessness.

I think that part of why my position isn't clear, is that my previous post is in part in reaction to myself. Or rather a years old, ongoing dialog with myself. I apologize. Public masturbation is rude, and the intellectual variety is confusing. I'll try to be more direct, and expansive below.

The scientific method, is essential an attempt to derive truths (little t, plural) of a specific kind. To me an essential aspect that these truths share is that they are "consequential" in nature. Science, because of it's methodology, is only capable of revealing the results of consequence. That is it examines the "outcomes" of "interactions" between "objects", "forces", and "environments." (There is another set of activities that is referred to as science, that is cataloging. I'm ignoring this as the specifics of how this knowledge is categorized derive from the scientific method. These science related catalogs are not in and of themselves science per say.)

All this chattering is an attempt to invoke a specific line of thinking that I've experienced. I'm not particularly good at that though, so I'll just get to my result.

The limits of a method of thought are directly related to it's methodology. What the method of science precludes are those truths that have no consequences. I assert, though I do not know how to logically "prove", that the scope of science (that is which knowledge it can in principle reach) are all things, and processes that have observable consequences.

So what is left beyond science are only those things that are non consequential, in other words things that do not matter, because they have no effects. (I don't think that this is a language game but it may be.)

Now of course there are many areas of knowledge that science has no "good" answers for at the moment. I assert however that all things that affect the universe are within the reach of scientific understanding.

This truth though is constructed, in the sense that none of it is meaningful to the universe. All of science is a "convenience" for us; as you put it. We, as humans create meanings in our heads that reflect how the universe effects us! It is impure, though not untrue, that the resulting ideas reflect reality.

That's pretty much the relevant part of what I was getting at.
-------------------
My comments about what The Truth looks like are personal opinion. I believe that the universe is a collection of "stuff" that is "happening" and that's all there is. The the fun stuff is in the consequential truths that lurk about us, from which we create the texture of our world.

Didymos Thomas wrote:
Only if existence demands that whatever exists, exists in of itself - that is, without the rest of reality. At least, this is the only danger I see, and to be honest, I'm not sure what the trouble is.

True.

It very much depends on what kind of monism you're going for. Much of modern physics is monistic philosophically. The pursuit of so called grand unified theories are certainly monistic pursuits.

The thing is that even if this sort of monism is real, we still need to have multiple realms of rules in order to gain truths of consequence which we can actually act upon.

-------------------------------
My question would be, what is/are an/some example(s) of areas where science is unsatisfactory?

That is what is the specific weakness that you'd like to correct?
Aedes
 
  1  
Reply Fri 29 Feb, 2008 08:28 am
@Quatl,
Quatl wrote:
The scientific method, is essential an attempt to derive truths (little t, plural) of a specific kind.
There isn't really one scientific method that one can speak of -- it's a heterogeneous collection of methods. Science in general tries to make inferences based on observation, and the methodology is what increases confidence in the inferences we make. I don't think science is necessarily consequential, because a lot (most, perhaps) of science has a cross-sectional methodology, and much of science has a retrospective methodology, and no real determination of consequence (i.e. causality) is possible using these methods.
Quatl
 
  1  
Reply Fri 29 Feb, 2008 08:47 am
@Aedes,
Aedes wrote:
There isn't really one scientific method that one can speak of -- it's a heterogeneous collection of methods. Science in general tries to make inferences based on observation, and the methodology is what increases confidence in the inferences we make. I don't think science is necessarily consequential, because a lot (most, perhaps) of science has a cross-sectional methodology, and much of science has a retrospective methodology, and no real determination of consequence (i.e. causality) is possible using these methods.


I'd agree that there are some things that scientists do, in pursuit of understanding that are not of this nature. However I'm not sure that these things are "science."

I'm not sure what you mean by cross-sectional and retrospective that would cause the results to be non-consequential. Could you offer an example of what you mean, or perhaps elaborate a bit. (I'm genuinely interested, Like I mentioned, my statement may just be a language game, and if it is I'd like to see that.)
Aedes
 
  1  
Reply Fri 29 Feb, 2008 02:01 pm
@Quatl,
Quatl wrote:
I'm not sure what you mean by cross-sectional and retrospective that would cause the results to be non-consequential. Could you offer an example of what you mean, or perhaps elaborate a bit.
A cross-sectional study is one that looks at a lot of phenomena as a snapshot at one moment in time and makes associations. I could, for example, study a million people, ask whether they have a cat in their house, and then check their IQ. Maybe I'll find a statistically significant association between cat ownership and IQ. But there is NO way to prove causality -- all you've really demonstrated is a statistically significant distribution of phenomena. It's inference that suggests causality in this case. So, for instance, if I do a cross-sectional study that shows that the average age of flu patients in the hospital is higher than the average age of the healthy general population, I can infer pretty reliably that elderly people are more vulnerable to the effects of the flu even though I haven't tested this question.

A retrospective study might look at phenomena over time. A good example in medicine is doing a chart review. A good example in science in general is paleontology -- i.e. digging up fossils and dating them. But because you're looking backwards from this moment, you can also only infer the significance of any association.

In other words, causality (what I think you mean by "consequential") can only really be proved by prospective hypothesis testing, i.e. creating the experimental conditions and subjecting all studied subjects to the conditions -- and most importantly having a control.

Remember that a LOT of science is NOT hypothesis-driven. A great example is the human genome project. It certainly allows many hypotheses to be tested, but it in and of itself was NOT a hypothesis-driven project; and with our high throughput genetic and molecular tools, a lot of science is like this -- i.e. generating data via some accepted methodology, and simply having those data available for further study.
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