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Re: [ontolog-forum] {Disarmed} Reality and Truth

To: patrick@xxxxxxxxxxx, "[ontolog-forum]" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: "John F. Sowa" <sowa@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Mon, 07 May 2007 10:08:26 -0400
Message-id: <463F32DA.4020600@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Patrick,    (01)

There is no difference between those two claims:    (02)

 > It is one thing to claim that a theory is compelling, etc.
 > but quite another to claim that it correctly describes
 > "the true nature of reality."    (03)

If you have a theory that makes correct predictions in every
case that anyone has ever been able to devise for many centuries,
then it "correctly describes the true nature of reality."  That
does not mean it is a *total* description or that there are no
other equally correct theories.  But it *does* mean that you have
discovered an important part of the truth.    (04)

Newtonian mechanics, in fact, is such a theory.  During the past
century, physicists have discovered phenomena of relativity and
quantum mechanics, for which Newtonian mechanics makes incorrect
predictions.  However, for macroscopic phenomena at nonrelativistic
speeds (i.e., for cars and airplanes) Newtonian mechanics is a true
description of reality.  I trust my life to Newtonian mechanics
whenever I drive a car or fly in a plane.    (05)

> A friend of mine sent me the following example:
> There is an elementary model in electrical engineering, called
> the "4-terminal network".  The thing is a closed ebony container,
> with an input, an input return, an output, and an output return.
> The student is given a set of inputs and outputs, and asked to 
> make the simplest thing that he can which could be substituted for 
> the actual contents of the container.  The problem of what is 
> _actually_ inside the container is dismissed as impossible.    (06)

That is an excellent example.    (07)

If anyone defines a theory (i.e., a set of axioms) that correctly
predict the output for every conceivable input, then I would say
that the theory is a true description of the behavior of that box.    (08)

Whatever else may be inside that box, including any bacteria or
the designer's initials, is unknowable and irrelevant to the
truth of the theory.    (09)

John    (010)

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