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Re: [ontolog-forum] Event Ontology

To: "[ontolog-forum]" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: "John F. Sowa" <sowa@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Sun, 06 Sep 2009 13:32:35 -0400
Message-id: <4AA3F233.4080709@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Ravi,    (01)

That's a good example:    (02)

RS> For astronomers in India to work, two invisible planets called
 > RAHU and KETU were hypothesized and then only they could predict
 > eclipses or meridian crossings of stars.    (03)

That is an example of the kind of unobservable entities that have
been postulated for untold millennia.  Another example is evil
spirits or invisible microbes that cause disease.  Examples from
the early 20th century were electrons, protons, neutrons, positrons,
and warped space-time.  More recent examples include neutrinos and
black holes.  Postulated but undetected examples are strings,
dark matter, dark energy, and multiple universes.    (04)

Although evil spirits have not been detected and verified by
subsequent studies, you could consider microbes to be a variant
of the invisible spirits, benign and/or evil.  You could even say
that the toxins generated by the microbes are variants of evil
potions, and the drugs used to control them are good potions
that counter the evil.    (05)

In the play Le Médecin malgré lui, Molière satirized the claim
that opium puts people to sleep because it has "dormitive virtue."    (06)

But Peirce made the point that postulating some yet unknown
substance, such as dormitive virtue, is a useful first step.
It focuses attention on the search for some component of opium
that has that effect.  That component was found and identified
as morphine.  The next step was to determine why morphine has
the effects, and scientists later discovered that it chemically
similar to internal chemicals, which they named "endorphins",
which is short for "endogenous morphine".    (07)

The practice of naming and postulating some as yet undetected
substance or principle has been one of the most effective
techniques of science for many centuries.  The traditional
medicines that were developed to counter "evil spirits" have
often been shown to contain valuable chemicals that have been
converted into modern drugs.  And the centuries of experiments
by the alchemists led to a long list of important chemicals and
experimental techniques that are the foundation for chemsitry.    (08)

The attempts by the positivists and logical positivists to
eliminate unobservable entities and variables were decidedly
wrong headed.  But their ideas did have the useful effect of
forcing scientists to demonstrate that the heuristic value
of assuming and searching for as yet unobserved entities.    (09)

In summary, the nominalist methodology of avoiding unobserved
entities had a disastrous effect on psychology, but Einstein
saved physics by his famous papers of 1905.  In fact, Einstein
criticized Bertrand Russell's "fear of metaphysics" (Angst vor
der Metaphysik) as a disease (Krankheit).    (010)

John    (011)

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