Darwin, Monsanto and Anti-Realism made easy

Sam Pawlett rsp at uniserve.com
Sat Aug 7 10:21:22 PDT 1999

Lisa & Ian Murray wrote:
> The exponential increase in experimental/explanatory/theoretical power on
> the part of scientists demonstrate that nature is malleable at several
> scales. Invariants are constructs. All organisms on our planet must
> construct invariants; however they all don't construct invariants in the
> same manner nor do they construct the 'same' invariants. Gravity does not
> exist for a microbe any more than the bond market does.

A microbe is not subject to gravitational pulls and pushes? When is an object subject to gravity?

QM and ecology
> really throw a big monkey wrench into the idea that we can know reality
> independent of our theoretical orientation.

Many people have accepted that perception is theory-laden yet this done not throw into question the central realist claim that reality is mind-independant and objects exist independant of the mind.

Alfred Tarski and Karl Popper
> were the last two great defenders of the realist world view;

There are many realists around. Idealists are rare.

Realism being
> the good old notion that if a bear shits in the woods and no one is around
> to smell it, it still stinks. Bells theorem and studies of nutrient cycling
> will shake any realist's faith of observer independent structure/reality to
> the core.

These two claims are not the same thing. Because perception is theory laden does not change the fact that a bear's shit stinks.

So will 200 mics of lsd. Neither paralyzing skepticism nor
> idealism must follow from these 'facts', just an acceptance of Heraclitus.
> Laplace's demon who, just by being given the universal laws (our construct)
> and any set of initial conditions can compute what happens at any point in
> space-time without the computation itself making a difference to the state
> of the universe yielded to Maxwell's demon who generated disorder in the
> very act of creating an archipelago of order to formalize a set of vectors
> and scalars in his black box-- in other words, the act of observation had a
> subsequent effect that would not be there without the observer.

The Copenhagen theorists were not denying the *existence* of electrons only calling in to question the classical account of how electrons came to have position, momentum and other attributes. One of the best researchers on the philosophy of physics, Arthur Fine, argues for agnosticism:

"Quantum theory neither supports that realism of atoms and molecules etc.,to which the old positivism was opposed, nor does it deny it. Thus I will urge the forgotten moral of the new positivism; namel, that realism is a metaphysical doctrine that finds neither support nor refutation in scientific theories or investigations" Arthur Fine, *Is Scientific Realism Compatible With Quantum Physics?*, in The Shaky Game p169.

in other
> mathematicians put it, that are invariant under arbitrary translations in
> space and time, rotations in space and the Galileo - or Lorentz -
> transformation." (Heisenberg, Physics and Philosophy)

In the same book, Heisenberg also said:

"While political ideas may gain a convincing influence among great masses of people just because they correspond or seem to correspond to the precailing interests of the people, scientific ideas will spread only becuas they are true. There are objective and final criteria assuring the correctness of a scientific statement" p194

...which leads me to believe that the philosophical implications of the uncertainty principle are blown out of proportion. Especially by people seeking to infer grandiose ideas about the world from the UP.

Sam Pawlett

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