On Aug 11, 2007, at 11:39 AM, John F. Sowa wrote:
When we start getting into credential fights, this discussion
has reached a point where the best we can say is "Cool it!"
PH> Do you know anything at all about quantum physics, or indeed
AA> Know something, having PhD in physical and mathematical
sciences from Lebedev's Physical Institute [of the USSR Academy
of Sciences], which was stuffed by the Nobel prizes holders:
Cherenkov, Basov, Prohorov, Ginzburg and Sakharov, they their
responsible for doctorate degrees. Also, i have a book about
Many people on this list have impressive credentials in one or
more fields, but all the learned discussion of the past week
or two suggests the following observations:
1. This many heated email exchanges would not have occurred
if people did not believe that ontology is important.
2. Yet there is a decided lack of consensus on some fundamental
principles, assumptions, goals, and directions for the field.
These fights are reminiscent of the debates about a hundred years
ago on the foundations of mathematics. Very intelligent people
like Hilbert, Frege, Peirce, Poincare, Russell, Whitehead, Brouwer,
Lesniewski, Lukasiewicz, Wittgenstein, Ramsey, and many others
were engaged in fighting about logicism, formalism, intuitionism,
and other -isms as the appropriate foundation for mathematics --
or, on the contrary, whether mathematics was in need of any
foundation at all. And one rather shy person named Kurt Goedel
didn't take part in the fighting. He just proved a little
theorem that showed that many of the fights were irrelevant.
Meanwhile, the working mathematicians -- both pure and applied --
ignored the fighting about foundations and just used mathematics
to solve problems. Eventually, the people who were fighting either
died, retired, or moved on to other issues. And the mathematicians
who worked on solving problems continued to ignore the foundations
without finding any reason to pay attention to the fights.
The work on foundations actually resulted in some useful ideas
that found their way into the methodologies that the working
mathematicians today are actually using. However, the people
who had problems to solve were right in not wasting their time
on fights that had no immediate application to their work.
I think that we should learn from that experience.