Some of you may remember The Great Debates thread from years past. Some thought it was fun, and some thought it was just too heavy.
So I thought I'd bring things back, but with a twist! The basic idea is still the same: two users will debate on a topic. The difference is that you won't get to pick the topic or which side you'll be arguing for.
Oh, and I almost forgot - the topics are going to be somewhat ... silly But that doesn't mean your argument has to be silly. In fact, if you can defend your silly point in a serious way, you might just earn yourself a merit! So it's not about winners or losers, it's about whether you can argue for, well, just about anything!
- Once 6 people (at least for now) have signed up for the current three topics, the signup thread will close and the debates will begin
- Assignments will be given on this thread (who will be debating for which topic and what side).
**NOTE** You are signing up to play. Which topic you get and what side you'll be arguing for will be decided randomly. So be prepared!
- You will only have 1 post in which to give your argument, so make it count! Keep in mind that your argument should stand on its own. So don't quote your opponent and just shoot down their arguments. But you should also anticipate potential objections and try to respond to them.
- Merit-earners will present well-reasoned and genuine arguments in favour of their position - even in the face of some pretty silly topics. What that means is that, if users on opposite sides each give great arguments, they would both earn merits!
- A loosely enforced time limit (which has yet to be officially established) will be in place. Once that time limit is reached, the next round will begin.
Good luck! And let the return of The Great Debates begin!
- 224 Replies
I argue that scientific theories are (essentially) never plain wrong.
The nature of science
To begin, we need to have a clear definition for separates a (generic) theory from a scientific theory. Anyone is capable of making a theory – I could propose that purple unicorns are the cause of our attraction to earth, or that aliens artificially control our every action. A scientific theory is an attempt to explain the basis for phenomena that are observed, and generally makes testable predictions that may lead to confirmation of the theory’s validity. While a theory can be incredibly absurd and/or wrong(as seen above), a scientific theory is subject to the more rigorous criterion listed above. These criterion, along with the scientific method, makes it so that scientific theories are (almost) never plain wrong.
While it may seem counterintuitive that something can be designed in such a way that it is almost never wrong (in violation of Murphy’s Law), this is a result of the rigorous criteria placed by the scientific method. All scientific theories are subject to constant revision and monitoring, and any result must be replicable. In addition, all theories must be consistent with existing data – theories are rarely accepted unless they can adequately explain existing data. Thus, even if a theory fails to explain any new data, the theory will at least be able to explain the original data – hence, a theory can never be completely wrong.
A classic example of a flawed scientific theory is Newton physics. Of course, up until the 1900s, no evidence contradicted Newtonian physics, and a number of erroneous conclusions were believed to be true(note 1). However, as the precision of instruments increased, data gathered from many experiment(note 2) soon suggested that these theories, and their resulting conclusions, were inaccurate. In the following few years, physicists reworked many equations until they were consistent with the gathered data. In turn, these theories were subsequently modified(note 3), until another model that was consistent with all the data was created.
Although Newtonian physics was flawed, it is still an incredibly good theory. After all, if you were to ask Richard Feynman (note 4) about a projectile motion problem, he would use Newtonian physics to solve the problem. For a high-velocity object such as an incredibly fast bullet train traveling at 3000 meters/second, Newtonian physics is 99.9999999999% accurate. As such, it is quite reasonable to say that Newtonian physics is quite valid(note 5) – it just so happens that scientists have created a slightly more nuanced description of nature.
Flat-earthing(an exercise in absurdity)
As we’ve seen, a scientific theory such as Newtonian physics is really quite valid, even if it’s a little bit flawed. But let’s take the worst case scenario, perhaps through some (absurdly) bad conclusion drawing.
Suppose a scientist is measuring the land, and observes that the ground is mostly flat. The scientist then repeats this for many locations, and throughout, observes that the earth is essentially flat across each of these locations. Based on the data, the scientist then (incorrectly) concludes that the earth is flat. Supposing that it does become a theory, one might be tempted to regard this as an example where a scientific theory is just plain wrong. However, this is not entirely true – the scientist’s theory is somewhat valid – the earth is (more or less) flat at small length scales.
If we examine a sphere from far away, it is obviously round and curved. But if we zoom in a little further, it looks a little less round, and a little less curved. If we zoomed in even more, the earth would look shallowly curved(note 6). Now, applying this to real life, we rely on this fact every day. When we park cars in parking lots, we don’t bother considering the earth’s curvature at that point. When construction workers use a leveler, they neglect any curvature of the earth. Even though the scientist’s theory is flawed, it still finds uses in everyday life.
In summary, the data-driven scientific method is powerful, rigorous, and ultimately yields powerful results. Any scientific theory must explain existing phenomena accurately, making it intrinsically correct to some degree – even the most absurd theories that are created with the scientific method contain some degree of correctness.
Snarky notes and other useful things
Note 1: These conclusions include infinite maximum speed(replaced by special relativity), infinitely continuous quantities(replaced by quantum mechanics), and simultaneity(replaced by special relativity).
Note 2: These experiments include the Michelson-Morley experiment, muon half-life observations, and gravitational lensing due to the sun.
Note 3: Quantum electrodynamics combines relativity and quantum mechanics. It, in turn, is part of the Standard Model of Physics. For the most part, equations are all math – and I applaud anyone who can truly understand them.
Note 4: Feynman won the Nobel Prize in physics for his work on quantum electrodynamics, and is/was widely regarded as an excellent physicist. He also died a while back, but he did teach undergraduate classes at Caltech(and used Newtonian physics to solve Newtonian problems).
Note 5: A 99% is generally considered to be a very good grade on a test(and indicates that a student is not completely wrong/reasonably knowledgeable), the same logic applies for scientific theories.
Note 6: This may be difficult to visualize, but the link here: http://ned.ipac.caltech.edu/level5/Guth/Figures/figure4.jpeg gives a good idea of local sphere flatness.
I've learnt alot after doing some reading that's relevant to my topic! Still pretty confused on some of the more detailed theories and points, but oh well! My arguments are appalling next to what I found.
We do not have moral obligations to non-human animals.
"Whoever is righteous has regard for the life of his beast." Proverbs 12:10
So it was sagely written in the Bible, as well as numerous religious texts in history; Stances that were and are emphatically trumpeted additionally in lauded philosophical and scientific tracts. In general, to be morally obligated would mean that one's actions are bounded by a set of values that one espouses, in this case, that our actions to animals should be influenced by the values we hold dear. Contentious issues such as animal experimentation, farming, hunting and their ilk continue to be rallying points for animal rights activists. In contemporary times, one is supposedly obligated not to cause unnecessary pain, discomfort and distress to farm animals that are bred for our consumption or lab animals because we largely adhere to the values of compassion and kindness. If we are morally obligated to animals, it would mean that our interaction and treatment of them would be on par with how we interact with our fellow humans. Yet, are humans as a species morally obligated to non-human animals? I feel, and argue that we are most definitely not.
It is often pointed out that humans are not so unique from animals and that we falsely claim our first-amongst-equals spot in the evolutionary limelight. After all, humans are not the only species able to develop family ties, display profound scenes of grief upon a death or use a form of language, etc. Yet beneath the veneer of such common traits, the differences run far deeper and compellingly. To list but a few, humanity is almost certainly the only species to possess self-consciousnesses, a sense of humor, an acute awareness of death, and not least the fact that we are able to conceive, comprehend and observe morality and its standards. Hence, I feel that humans do not have any moral obligations to animals, because we as a species are inherently different and distinct from other animals as we are the only species capable of developing and holding unto moral standards. Our treatment of fellow humans and animals ought then to diverge as our ability to act morally entitles us to a moral status whereas the converse applies to animals.
We adhere to moral standards as humanity possesses a unique set of reflective capacities that allows us to not only differentiate between our mere impulses and a morally right course of action, but to engage in reasoning that would lead us to the latter. In other words, only human beings are rational and capable of standing back from their desires and choosing which course of action to take. Animals on the other hand, as far as we can tell, are hardwired in a wholly different manner, acting largely based on impulses and naturally ingrained instincts. As famed moral philosopher Christine Korsgaard succintly mentioned,
"A lower animal's attention is fixed on the world. Its perceptions are its beliefs and its desires are its will. It is engaged in conscious activities, but it is not conscious of them.".
As an example of the differences between our species, 90% of animals engage or participate in cannibalism for one reason or another, whether to increase mating success (spiders), increasing the chance of passing ones genes via infanticide (lions), or simply as a food source (virtually the rest of the animal kingdom). [It might be an interesting point of note that great apes, the long upheld and fiercely defended example for animal rights due to their genetic closeness to humans, have been observed to engage in cannibalism.] Yet it would be a heinous taboo in most societies for one to consider chomping on human steak, no matter how well done. We are disgusted by non-lethal cannibalism, because in simplistic terms there is a cherished reverence for the dead, a concept that is fundamentally moralistic and sometimes spiritual in nature. Lethal cannibalism is scorned, and criminalized because we morally denounce the idea of intentionally causing harm to a fellow human being. Quite conspicuously and markedly, there are significant disparities between humans and animals stemming from our moral codes.
We are not morally obligated to animals because of a exclusive trait that defines us - morality, as a result of our rationality. Animals, being not possessed of similar moral capabilities need not be treated with the same moral considerations we extend to other humans. After all, animals themselves have an inability to respect another animal's rights or display moral reciprocity within a community of equals.
A second, crude, but hopefully effective argument that humans are not morally obligated to animals is the fact that we are natural speciesists; That being human is a good enough reason for humans to have moral rights than non-human animals. If we hold this to be true, then we cannot in good faith claim to be morally obligated to animals, and it would be far better for us to abandon absolutely, any idea that we are.
To illustrate this point, a common cliched example can be utilised. If a human child and a dog are trapped in a burning building and one can only save one of them, who would one choose? Such a question is glaringly straightforward - everyone will unanimously choose the child. Researchers posing similar scenarios to test participants regularly come up with such results - they concluded that universal moral principles exist, and that among the most powerful of these is “valuing human life over the lives of non-human animals.”
It seems to me that if such an innate response is inherent in humans, then the idea of extending a moral obligation to animals is fraudulent, and ultimately hypocritical. If the same question is posed, with the exception that now the dog is another child, only then would we be faced with a moral impasse - Whom should we save? Such a dilemma would not occur if an animal is a victim.
To put it bluntly, if we have already established that we would unhesitatingly value the lives of men over animals, with the sanctity of life being the most basic and untouchable of human rights, then how can we even begin debating how we must act morally in other ways towards animals? Any moral high ground on animals on extending them moral consideration would fall flat when bringing up other thorny issues. Clearly, the hardest concept for one to stomach, is that the pain and suffering felt by an animal has an equal moral consideration with that of a human. It flies in the face of common moral judgement due to our innate specieism. It would be much simpler to jettison such a notion.
A final example in a further attempt to lend credence to my point is a slightly altered scenario. If a child who is a stranger and a person's beloved dog are trapped in a burning house, with there being enough time to save one, he or she would undoubtedly save the child. Increasingly, pet owners might profess to treating their beloved cats and dogs as family members and extend them such affection and status accorded to human family members, but when push comes to shove, it would be safe to assume that the wails of an infant would be much likelier to stir their hearts than their pet's cries. We might treat such animals as personal companions and psychologically bestow on them the status of full-fledged humans, but in the end, this is only a distracting illusion, when we realise they are not human. Alternatively, it can also be said that the only reason we shower our pets with love is precisely because we view them as humans and not mere animals, which validates my earlier point.
To round off, humans are not morally obligated to animals, because only humans as a species are able to comprehend morality and because our innate specieism would render any attempt to do so hypocritical and ineffectual. However, it must be strongly stressed that this does not mean we should and must treat animals with excessive cruelty for sport. But that is another argument altogether. To quote the eminent philosopher, Peter Carruthers, who argued eloquently against extending moral consideration to animals:
"But it is one thing to love animals for their grace, beauty, and marvelous variety, and quite another to believe that they make any direct moral claims upon us. ".
Thanks Moe, I was hoping to get this one. First things first, fair warning to all I expect this to be long. Since it will be long there's likely to be a few more spelling and grammatical errors than usual. If it's long enough I'll also add a tl:dr section at the bottom. There will also be links throughout, mostly just as references or to entertain so that I can break up some of the monotony of black text on a white background. You don't have to click them, if I feel the need to source something it will be labeled as a source.
I'll start with a scenario in which you are the only immortal or are one of a small number of people with immortality. This is probably the most common scenario people think of. Daydreaming of being like Wolverine, the Highlander, or some other fictional character with a super power that basically makes them immortal. Of course, when they do they tend to forget that these characters are rarely happy with their lives. Being the lone immortal, or one of a small number of immortals, guarantees that you will be alone for all eternity. Any long term relationship with other people will end after only a decade or so when they realize that you're not aging. If someone does find out you're immortal you'll be captured so that you can be studied. Almost everyone wants to live forever and not everyone is bound by the same moral standards. That means that somewhere out there is someone with the resources and scientific knowledge to capture and study an immortal body without any moral restraint on how they do so. This isn't an unprecedented concern either, there have been doctors throughout history who have performed horrific experiments on patients. The field of psychology is infamous for the "treatments" it used only a few decades ago and just about everyone has heard of Dr. Mengele. Those are the types of people you'll have to escape if your desire for human contact exposes your immortality.
Speaking of escape, do you know what the odds are of you being trapped after some sort of disaster? Just about every person has a chance of encountering and surviving various disasters from lightning strikes to major earthquakes to manmade attacks like 9/11. Those chances are calculated based on the average number of people affected by such things each year compared to the average human lifespan. But you're immortal now. No amount of physical damage will kill you. So let's say that an immortal you was in the Twin Towers on 9/11, now you're trapped in the rubble. Sure, rescue workers might dig you out... if they haven't already assumed you're dead from all the rubble on top of you. Or maybe while building the Freedom Tower they clear away enough rubble to uncover you, discovering that an immortal has been trapped underground for the past 14 years (once again, people knowing you're immortal is a bad thing). But most likely they'll just do what mankind has been doing for millenia and bury you deeper by building over the rubble. Even if you avoid all that, you're eventually going to outlive the Earth. Then you're stuck drifting through space for the rest of your existence.
I know what you're thinking, "That all sounds horrible, but it doesn't qualify as boring." Why doesn't it? You're immortal. You have an infinite amount of time to become completely unfazed by pain. Spartan children were taught to ignore pain shortly after they turned 7 years old, how many times will you get hurt before you just stop feeling it? Pain exists solely to warn the body of damage and weakness, but when nothing can kill you neither of those things matter. There are billions of years for you to spend avoiding human contact or trapped in rubble doing nothing or lying on a bed being examined by doctors. What isn't going to lose its novelty in that amount of time? There is no suffering so immense and no joy so great that they can be experienced repeatedly without a person becoming desensitized to them. How long will you be alone or immobile before you stop being miserable and just get bored? At what point does misery become preferable to constant unending boredom?
Of course, all of that assumes that with eternal youth your brain continues to function the same no matter how long you live. That is an unlikely conclusion. As young children every month matters. Ask a 4 year old what their age is and they'll answer in exacting detail because they're so young that just a couple weeks is a major portion of their life. Ask a 94 year old the same question and they'll round off to the decade because a few years is meaningless after so many decades of life. The longer you're alive the shorter each day seems because it makes up a smaller portion of your lifespan. Which means that after a certain point entire centuries could pass without an immortal noticing. Not only would this add to the social barrier caused by immortality leaving you far behind on current events and technology, it would also reduce everyday life to a pointless blur further desensitizing you to experiences you've had countless times before (this kind of perception of time is a lot less funny without Yakety Sax).
Alright, so we've covered why being the sole immortal would be awful. But you're still not convinced immortality is boring. You prefer daydreaming about being part of some immortal community like most fantasy elves or some distant future sci-fi. That would eliminate the loneliness and significantly decrease the odds of being trapped forever since everyone would know you're not dead. That doesn't, however, stop the gradual desensitization to stimuli. Even worse, this scenario brings cultural progress to a complete halt. In a society where no one dies overpopulation becomes an instant threat. Even if the lack of food and shelter isn't going to kill anyone, it still drains resources and makes life in general miserable for everyone. That means there can't be anymore children, and without children there's no need to expand or change. When the entire population is used to doing something one way there's no need to find a new one. Without a growing population there's no need to expand you only have to replace what time destroys. The only thing left to do is find new ways of entertaining people so they don't get bored. Eventually that becomes an impossible task but the internet, and Clive Barker, have already shown some of the extremes that can go to before then. Don't worry, I don't have the bad sense to post links to those horrors.
tl:dr Nihil sub sole novum. If you live long enough, that becomes painfully true.
In what follows, I will argue that failed scientific theories are 'just plain wrong'. I'll begin by unpacking the notion of just plain wrong and I'll then argue for this in two ways. The first will hinge on the idea of another notion that needs unpacking - a failed scientific theory. This will, in short, amount to the idea that these theories contain a number of falsehoods. I will then pose a dilemma for those still committed to the idea that failed scientific theories aren't wrong.
Before getting down to it, I want to clarify the debate a bit. It would be a fairly straightforward matter to use, as an example, the phlogiston theory of combustion as an example of a failed scientific theory that is wrong. Here is a straightforward case of a scientific theory that was just so wrong that it seem ridiculous by modern standards. But this was also a scientific theory that came to prominence 300 years ago, so this sort of cherry picking is neither fruitful for discussion nor charitable to my opponent.
Instead, I want to focus on more difficult case - Newton's theory of gravitation - and argue that this is an example of a scientific theory that is just plain wrong. If my argument goes through here, then ex fortiori it will apply to many other failed scientific theories (including phlogiston).
Just plain wrong
A lot is going to hang on how we unpack the notion of something being just plain wrong. The phrase itself carries with it a certain intuitive attitude, but I think these intuitions may be a bit unhelpful here.
There are certainly cases where are intuitions about this notion are right. If I say that oranges grow under the ground and not on trees, that's just plain wrong. Putting this a bit more formally, what we're saying here is that that statement is false. While I do think there's more going on here than just the truth of proposition (a point we will return to later), this notion of falseness or of being non-factive seems to be the central feature of just plain wrongness.
The problem here is that a scientific theory isn't the sort of thing that can be true or false. When we think about ascriptions of truth or falsity, we think of propositions - and scientific theories aren't propositions. In other words, they're not truth-functional. And we we can still make sense of the claim that theory T is wrong. So what's going on here?
The solution, I think is to bring factivity to bear on the propositions or claims within the the theory. If these claims are false, then we have a theory that's wrong. In this way, we can still preserve the idea of factivity coming into play when looking at scientific theories, even though the theories themselves can't be true or false. In other words, a very poor theory would have a number of false propositions, which would lead us to categorise that theory as wrong. One important thing to note here is that I've left out the 'just plain' part of the concept. But this is for several reasons. First, I don't see these carrying any sort of weight or doing any work for out concept. But more importantly, if anything they carry a negative appraisal of the theory. In other words, they attach disvalue to the thing that's wrong. But whether wrong things can have value or not is a separate question entirely, so I'm going to avoid it here.
A failed scientific theory
The idea of a failed scientific theory is another concept I'd like to quickly unpack. All that I have in mind here is the following scenario: Theory T1 attempts to explain some phenomena. Then theory T2 comes along and replaces T1 as that explanation of that phenomena. T1 is, in the sense considered here, a failed scientific theory. This notion of failure (like 'just plain') may carry with some sort of disvalue to the mix. So, phlogiston theory might have that sort of disvalue in the intuitive sense of 'failed'. But in order to avoid any sort of question-begging, it's important to leave the value question aside. So we can think of failed theories simply as ones that have been replaced by another theory, and in this way leave any notion of value at the door.
So the question before us, then, is why would T1 be replaced by T2? Taken in the abstract, this is a question in its own right. But we have a specific theory - Newton's theory of gravitation (NTG) being replaced by Einstein's theory of general relativity (GR) - that we can use to see what's going on. The short answer to this question is that GR could explain everything that NTG could, but with a much higher level of precision and in a greater domain (meaning in could explain a greater variety of phenomena).
Now, all this really shows is that GR is superior to NTG as a theory of gravitation. This is not enough to show that NTG is wrong. What's needed for that is for NTG to contain falsehoods that would qualify it as being wrong. And the fact that NTG contains falsehoods is already well-established. We might consider looking at the propositions or claims contained in NTG and seeing how many of them are false. But this route is both very tedious and is going to lead to what's called a threshold problem. The basic idea behind this problem is simple: how many falsehoods do there need to be in a theory for it to be considered wrong?
Instead, what I have in mind is some of the central claims to NTG. And there are only 2 I want to focus on. The first is that NTG is committed to the idea that gravitational attraction is a force that is applied instantaneously. We now know this claim is false, and the fact that it's false explains how certain star clusters and planetary objects form. So this is a pretty big deal as far as getting things wrong goes.
But an even bigger deal is Newton's very idea of the gravitational force itself, which is now standardly accepted as a fictitious force. Now, this has a precise definition within the scientific community. So instead, we could back up to the claim behind what's going on. Everything that goes on within NTG assumes a non-intertial reference frame. But changing this frame of reference was one of the greatest insights Einstein had. So not only are there key central claims within NTG that are false, but they are based on an assumption about the nature of matter and the universe that is also false. And it is in this sense that Newton's theory of gravity is wrong. And it is precisely why it was replaced by general relativity.
The approximation response
In closing, I want to look at one possible objection to what's been said so far. The though here is that Newton's theory does a great job at the macroscopic scale - at least for the most part - and so serves as an important approximation for most of the things we experience in our daily lives. This brings back in my earlier point about the value of these scientific theories. I have no qualms whatsoever with granting that there is a tremendous amount of value in what Newton was able to accomplish - and even with his theory of gravitation, flaws and all. But remember, this is a question about wrongness (vis a vis factivity) and I have left the value question at the door.
Now, there may be a tension is suggestion that a wrong theory still has value. But that's ignoring the variety of value that's out there. There is, of course, value in having an approximation of a more complicated theory that works most of the time. But this kind of value is more pragmatic than anything else.
As a closing thought, it's important to remember what an approximation is - it's something that's close to the truth but isn't quite there. So, to be blunt, it's something that is false, though it may still be useful. But keep in my my earlier about the falseness of some of the central claims and commitments involved in NTG. It's much safer to say that NTG works as an approximation within a restricted domain. But the long and short still remains - approximations aren't, strictly speaking true. And given our earlier discussion, that makes NTG, as a scientific theory, wrong.
This is already a really, really long post, so I'm not going to pursue the dilemma that I suggested in the intro, though it may play a part in my second post. I guess we'll see.
At any rate, @randomblah - it's your move, my friend
As @Moegreche as mentioned, the definition of "just plain wrong" is critical to arriving at a reasonable conclusion. However, the method used by Moegreche is flawed, as it takes a very black and white view of ‘just plain wrong’.
Wrong or just plain wrong
It’s very easy to tell whether a statement is wrong: if any part is false, then it is wrong. However, the criterion ‘just plain wrong’ is much more rigorous: a statement has to be of little or no factual value. Theoretically, this is a subjective value judgment, but as we will soon see, most flawed scientific theories fall in the ‘wrong’ category rather than the ‘just plain wrong’ category. Showing that a statement is wrong is generally trivial, something Moe has done very adequately with gravity, showing something is ‘just plain wrong’ is not.
For example, if I said that ‘cats are bipedal mammals that are cute, fluffy, and are often kept as household pets’, I have certainly made a wrong statement. However, this statement is NOT ‘just plain wrong’ – every other piece of information presented is quite accurate, and this sentence would be quite informative if not for this single false fact. Flawed scientific theories are, in general, very much like the sentence above – they accurately give numerous details, but occasionally, they give inaccurate information, which is a source of scientific improvement.
(Correctly) measuring correctness
How do we (correctly) go about measuring the correctness of scientific theories? While Moegreche suggests that we examine the accuracy of the underlying principles, this has all sorts of problems – scientific theories don’t always explain the ultimate cause of everything (note 1), but can be absolutely correct in their predictions. In physics in particular, theories often entail a set of equations that accurately describe phenomena, while the explanation is often derived from the equations(note 2). As such, the only feasible way is to analyze the accuracy of predictions, which a scientific theory must make by its very nature. Examining the predictions made by a scientific theory is, in fact, the most logical and meaningful method to assess correctness.
Because this discussion can quickly become very abstract and difficult to understand, a concrete analogy is extremely useful - a clock. Consider a clock - it tells us the time, much as a theory tells us what we expect when an event occurs. Of course, no clock is perfectly accurate/precise, much like any theory, as advances are constantly being made. However, some clocks are objectively more correct than others - a cesium clock is certainly better than a quartz wristwatch, which is in turn better than a sundial, which is better than a broken clock. In the same way, some theories are better than others- general relativity(GR) is superior to Newtonian Gravity(NTG), which is in turn (far) superior to Aristotelian gravity. Practically, we would consider the broken clock to be ‘just plain wrong’, and perhaps the sundial, but any (sane) individual would consider the quartz wristwatch to be quite correct (note 3), even though it is technically ‘wrong’.
Back to gravity
Returning to the issue of gravity, we can examine the accuracy of Newtonian gravity. Newtonian gravity makes pretty good predictions – the difference for a satellite orbiting an earth is 45.9 microseconds in a day. Incidentally, this time translates into 16 milliseconds per year. This is quite good compared to a quartz wristwatch (which we generally consider to be correct), which loses about 3 minutes every year . In order to argue that Newtonian gravity is ‘just plain wrong’, one would have to argue that every single time piece, and most measurement devices are ‘just plain wrong’, something that is purely absurd.
Bringing things back together, and eliminating silly examples
To show that a scientific theory is ‘just plain wrong’, the following must happen
1. It must be scientific – that is, it must be based on evidence(phlogiston fails here)
2. It must be ‘just plain wrong’ – that is, it must have enough errors, or be largely incorrect, so that a credible case can be made that it is worth little in terms of accuracy. To most individuals, theories that are 99% accurate are not ‘just plain wrong’.
However, because of #1, a scientific theory must be correct for a substantial amount of evidence. And yet, to properly qualify for #2, a theory must be largely incorrect. These statements are almost contradictory – to qualify, a theory must be based on very little evidence, and be largely incorrect, in which case it will rarely be accepted by science. Hence, scientific theories are very resistant to becoming ‘just plain wrong’
Note 1: For a hilarious example, consider the law of Dulong and Petit. It literally says that specific heat is equal to 3R(gas constant) and atomic mass, with absolutely no explanation as to why this is true, but is empirically valid.
Note 2: This gets extraordinarily relevant in quantum mechanics and beyond. A common saying is “shut up and calculate”. For the most part, meaning has to be derived from the equations – the meaning can often be wrong or varied(e.g. quantum mechanics), but the equations are rarely wrong.
Note 3: If you think quartz wristwatches are ‘just plain wrong’, then you probably should never use one, since they’ll always be guaranteed to be wrong. While I suppose a watch connoisseur might make this argument, we can simply move up to the next best clock, and so on so forth.
Remarks: Scientific Fact-checking
While top-level physics doesn't model gravity as a force, it's generally modeled as a field. The propagation is actually quite tricky and only really appears for purely theoretical scenarios where things suddenly appear/disappear(not possible in real life). If we look at a fairly technical article, we find that gravity does have a finite speed, but oddly enough, tends not to propagate (and only propagates in a frame-dependent system). I also have found no evidence verifying the formation of ‘certain star clusters and planetary objects’; the latter is almost certainly false due to the very small length/mass scales of planetary systems. In any event, this is far from a ‘pretty big deal’, as Moe mentions. See also note 2 for caution about imposing meaning onto equations.
Moe’s claim that gravity is standardly accepted as fictitious is quite false – this is only used as a teaching tool. GR shows that in a singular frame, gravity acts in a comparable manner to fictitious forces, but this mathematically breaks down for circular objects. While tidal forces can be used to try and correct for this, the clean solution is to use curvature, which is really what GR models relativity as.
Newtonian mechanics strongly prefers inertial (non-accelerating) reference frames . Einstein’s insight was about equating gravity with non-inertial reference frames, mostly to generalize special relativity to accelerating and gravitational situations.
For the most part, I haven’t engaged in physics discussion during the main argument, because it would be very difficult to understand and mostly unsporting to Moe(high-level physics is hard to understand, especially without math). It’s also worth pointing out that despite all the theoretically wrong assumptions made, Newtonian mechanics does incredibly well, especially at low velocity/gravity/etc limits. There’s also some mistaken causality – experimental data is the main reason that NTG was rejected, not Einstein’s incredible insights or the assumptions that it was based on. Lastly, most of the claims stated are fundamental assumptions, rather than assertions; most equations would simply be reworked to incorporate more general assumptions in physics.
If you are being placed within the simulation from birth you wouldn't be able to recognize the difference between the two worlds, unless someone told you that there was another world that they are actually living in, a Truman Show effect if you so please. If this were the case and you were told of the real world, where people staved to death while massive amounts of food go to waste, where wars break out over greed and innocents are murdered, where slavery still exists in it's many different forms, would you want to go to that place full of barbarians, zealots and poverty? A place where they fight for peace by killing hundreds of thousands of people? I think not.
If you were to come from the "real" world and then enter the virtual one would you not see that as a step up? Would you not see this would of unlimited happiness as one of a better quality then the one where there is so much despair? You have a job with no opportunities in the future, no where to grow to, a home that is average, a family of average means, a life of no expectation one where you are just a cog in the massive machine just doing nothing. Just following the system. Or, would you like to live in the most beautiful surroundings? With any job that your heart desires, with a body that can fly if you wish it, with a family full of happiness and joy. Think of travel. Imagine living 4/5/6 hours from your other half, it's not that far away at all, but when work encroaches and you don't get two days in a row off the trip becomes unfeasible, even with two free days that's a very limited amount of time together. Then you must factor in the cost of travel, be it via public transport or private transport either will cost you some of your hard earned cash for such a limited amount of time together, placing strain on the relationship. However in a simulated world you can be beside your other half in a moments notice, no matter the situation.
That simulated world would be an idyllic place, everyone happy and content with the world that they live in. A perfect world. There would be wars for those who want them, riches for those seeking wealth, company for the lonely, love for those with no-one, peace in all places but the battle ground, which being in a simulated would could be on another "server", completely separate from the rest of the world so as not to effect those who do not wish to participate. Everything you could ever want is now available to you and if it has massive world changing effects? Change into another server where nobody is active if you so please.
Yes everything you have is in essence not real, but would that matter? After a while would you just sink into this new world of wonder and excitement, where there is no sadness because you can do whatever you want without ill effects to others of the world itself. From here you could ask the simple question; is our reality real? I quote from Silas Beane, "In the future, humans will be able to simulate, entire universes quite easily. And given the vastness of time ahead, the number of these simulations is likely to be huge. So if you ask the question 'do we live in the one true reality or in one of the many simulations?', the answer, statistically speaking, is that we're more likely living in a simulation." Everything that you perceive as "real" could be completely fake, making any argument for simulated things being fake in comparison to "reality", slightly shaky. Another quote showing "real" life as just being another simulation is of simple observation, "The telephone is virtual reality in that you can meet with someone as if you are together, at least for the auditory sense." - Ray Kurzweil.
This being a virtual reality then why limit people to human limitations at all? Why not have wings to soar into the sky, why not dive to the depths of the ocean to explore, why not shoot across the stars searching worlds for new life? If it is virtual reality then anything is possible. If you want to be wealthy then you are, if you want to be king you can be by going to another server and ruling NPC's, you want to be a privateer of the stars then all aboard. In a simulated world anything is possible. So why settle for limits when unlimited possibilities await you. Would you rather live an average life, or one of extraordinary possibilities?
You seem to assume that just because a person does not have everything they want, makes their "average life" bad. How could it be bad? You have everything you need, you have your simple family, and you have your simple workload. Why should we trade this world we live in, for another world where nothing matters except what you want. Instead of using your time in this life to simulate a great life, why not use it to make other lives better? Why not help other people to create a world in our reality that wouldn't need any simulating? So that our world wouldn't be the kind of place you describe it to be. Why waste our time on something that wouldn't help anyone.
Let's also be honest, do you think everyone could truly afford to be in a simulation? With our technology, it would be a very, long time before we could people into simulations that feel real. Let alone, free. What is the point of having these simulations, if no one could afford it. Truthfully, it's going to be incredibly expensive for a long time after it's released to the public. So why should all the blessed and the rich waste their time in a simulation when instead they could be using their time and resources for other people. Wouldn't you think this would make reality worse than what you would describe it now?
Sure, most of the things we do today simulate social interaction through technology, but that doesn't mean these kinds of social interaction aren't real. They happen, and they are simulated in reality. The goal of a simulated life is to simulate reality itself. Which is not the purpose of, texts, calls, and social interaction that doesn't occur in person.
Another thing is, the moral cruelty of never knowing of the world you truly are from. Your body would still need to be alive to be conscious in the simulation world, so you would have to consume something for nutrients to keep the body alive. That would mean someone would have to plugged into something that feeds them nutrients, chemicals, and everything that is natural, just to feel natural in a simulated world. Who's going to pay for all that by the way?
Also, who's going to be running these simulations if everyone is born and plugged into a this simulation. Are we going to finally be controlled by AI? Are we succumbing to that? Should we give up all control for a life we think is real? Don't you think someone should maintain these AI, these systems, or these computers. Should these computers fail, don't you think that would cause everyone to wake from their simulations? It would be impossible for all of us to be in a simulation at once, and those controlling the simulations would be the ones serving us, still a form of slavery. Especially if we want to keep people from knowing that they are in a simulation.
Time for a brainstorm! Forgive the lateness of my reply. The topic was tough and I wanted to make this post as good as I could.
So, it is definitely better to be skilled than lucky.
I'll start off by defining the term "skilled" to the best of my abilities, then I'll proceed to post a generally weak argument, which I will follow with a stronger one afterwards:
Defining the term "skilled"
Being skilled means possessing more physical and mental capabilities than the average human being. You may be gifted with them (what we call talents), or acquire them.
So let's move on to the first argument:
Being skilled allows you to complete tasks that are hard for other people to accomplish, as does being lucky. One could say that you are able to accomplish feats in a sense. The two attributes discussed are literally providing an individual with more freedom, giving him more capabilities.
However, if the individual is skilled, it is obvious that he is more capable of completing the tasks at hand when the said tasks require physical, or mental prowess.
For example, being lucky will not help you find the right answer in a math question like this:
F(x,y) = ln[(16 - x^2 - y^2)*(x^2 + y^2 - 4)], what is the function's Domain?
Also, being lucky will never help YOU as an individual move a heavy boulder out of a path. You have to had developed your physical strength for a long time to be able to do this.
So the tasks a lucky individual can accomplish are different than those a skilled person can do.
Of course, one could argue that luck can help you even in the examples above like being lucky enough to see right the answer to the math question.
But luck is something uncontrollable. Surely it is a positive attribute of an individual, but it can never be relied on to produce the desired effects. Skills on the other hand function exactly like you want them to. You can use your skills anytime you want and in any way you want (depending on the skills). On the contrary, luck is something you have to rely on (in case you are in trouble) without knowing exactly how, when, or even if it will save you.
In conclusion I believe it is obviously better to be skilled than lucky because of the different feats a skilled person is able to accomplish and the control he has over his "abilities"
At any rate @WHDH , it is your turn now
Sorry, I’m late, but, you know what they say, it’s better late than never! I’m warning you though, I won’t write much. I just can’t.
I believe it’s better to be knowledgable because it can help you with various tasks, job opportunities, being better at school and other things like that. It can even help you with practical things, such as taking care of wounds and knowing species of animals, what they like and dislike or what kind of foods they like. One example I want to mention are game shows where people are asked various questions. Let’s say that this person is a very good guesser. Even he/she guesses the answer right, he/she will then learn it, remember it and then know it if someone asks him/her. Furthermore, he/she will become knowledgable. Also, being knowledgable can help your friends. If they know something wrongly, you can help them learn it rightfully. Also, if you correct the other person nicely and kindly, you won’t hurt him! These are some reasons why I believe it is better to be knowledgable.
So it looks like things have slowed down (except for me - I'm still really busy :P). So I'll be awarding merits and quests where appropriate. Remember, if you already have a quest, you can't get a second one. And if you feel like you should have received an award you didn't get, feel free to ask me why on my profile.
Also, if you'd like feedback on your argument - again, just let me know on my profile. I'm worried that it comes off as pretentious or something if I just start spouting out feedback without anyone asking. Just trying to help!
Looking forward to next round. Oh, and if you have any feedback for me (how the Debates are going, what you like/don't like, etc.) please let me know. I want to make this fun and challenging for everyone, so suggestions are most welcome. See you guys next round!
Sorry I haven't posted earllyer but I had exanes, so now I finally have some time. So again sorry.
What is luck?
Well I divided luck into two categories
1) By human
This is when something "lucky" happens but it has happened because of human beings
Example: A man is walking down the streat sudenlly on corner he saw a dollar. He stops and picks it up. Then suddenly a cars crashed into a wall just a meter ahead of him. He think he is lucky because he stoped to picked a dollar and he survived. True is that he himself afected this because he stoped to pick up some matteriall wealth. This happened because our brain wants matterial wealth.
Situattion that we our other humans couldn't afect
Example: Tombola (game that stereotipiclly old people like). The bools with numbers are mechanically spined. So if you won that was random.
Why is it better then skill?
Well in some cases it clearlly isn't better but overall it is very much useful. Here are also few reasons.
First it is usefull in some cases where you can be the most skillful person but it nust isn't useble. This is in some cases of "Human luck" and in all of "Random luck"
Example: Like I said things like Loto, Jackpot machine like ones in LA ,surviving an Aweoplane crash... And many little examples
Second it is usefull if you don't have skill that is needed
Exqmple: Like me in socer. I don't know to shot but few days ago I missed all they and then I nailed it in the right upper corner of the goal.
Third if you have the skill but this is over your league
Example: Great archer (with bow and arow) can hit his mark in the middle from distance of 30m but skill won't help him shot in midfle from 130m.
Example 2: The great debateist like Doombreed can win every debate but he can't win the one where there is allmost no arguments on his side and many many arguments on the other side.
So over all it is better to be lucky then skillful
Again sorry for waiting and sorry for my wrong spelling. It shell continue...
Hi everyone and welcome to Round 6!
I'm still trying out different things (remember, feedback is always welcome) so here are the rules this time around.
First, make sure you sign up on the signup thread located here.
You can also list up to 3 questions (in order of preference) that you'd like to debate on. I've posted the questions below. I can't guarantee that you'll get the question you want, and I use a random method to determine which side you're arguing for.
Second, this round won't have a limit to the number of posts/responses. Instead, we're going to have a time limit. It'll be around 2 weeks from the start of the debate. So it's really important that, if you sign up, you actually participate. I'll get a firm end date once the sign up is over.
So here are the questions you can choose from. Please only pick up to 3.
Also, I like to send a heartfelt 'thank you' to @akshobhya for their help in developing a number of these questions.
1) Developed nations should make a shift to only use nuclear power.
2) Chairs are more valuable than tables.
3) Are humans superior to all other organisms?
4) Should humans put more resources into space exploration?
5) Suppose the field of robotics reaches the point that we develop androids - robots that are designed to act and look like humans. Should these androids have rights like humans?
6) It would be better to be a bird than a dog.
If you have any questions, feel free to ask me on my profile.
Yay a new round! As expected, I am picking all the funny topics, hoping to debate one of them
So questions 2 and 6 for me! Also a question: Do I have to pick another question? Or can I just go with these two?
You can pick from 0-3 topics. But make sure to post your question preferences in the signup thread so I can have everything in one place. Thanks!
Edit: Those of you who posted your question choices here - I deleted the post and copied the choices over to the signup thread. So no need to repost there. Just want to keep this thread cleanish.
Thank You @Moegreche for appreciating my efforts and giving me credit in your post.
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