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Re: [ontolog-forum] Laws: physical and social

To: "[ontolog-forum] " <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>, John F Sowa <sowa@xxxxxxxxxxx>
From: Pat Hayes <phayes@xxxxxxx>
Date: Sun, 9 Jun 2013 20:05:16 -0500
Message-id: <6D155EF6-CCFB-4136-AD4E-DF26E9A2E3F6@xxxxxxx>

On Jun 9, 2013, at 3:01 PM, John F Sowa wrote:    (01)

> Pat and Doug,
> It's obvious that there is difference between a law of Nature, which is
> independent of what anybody thinks, and a social law that is legislated
> by some group of humans.    (02)

Indeed, but it goes deeper than that. A "law of nature" (LoN) is an observed 
regularity in the natural world. A social law is a regulation or constraint 
upon human behavior. They have almost nothing in common, as far as I can see. 
LoNs cannot be obeyed or disobeyed: if a counterexample is found to a proposed 
LoN, we say that the 'law' is false, not that nature is *disobeying* the law.     (03)

Even if we restrict ourselves to human behavior in societies, there is a clear 
difference between an observed regularity and a law in the legal sense. For 
example, it is an observable fact about western culture that most women have a 
much richer and more nuanced color vocabulary than most men. But this is not a 
*law* in the legal sense, and it would not be even if it had no exceptions and 
was considered to be a law of (human) nature. All humans get their bodily 
energy from the Krebs cycle, but that's not a law either.     (04)

Elsewhere in this thread, people have claimed that the real laws of nature are 
unknown or perhaps unknowable, and we all have to make do with 
Popperian-falsifiable best approximations to them. I would suggest a stronger 
thesis, that there are no *actual* laws in nature. The natural world is what it 
is, but it is not at all clear that it works *by virtue* of anything resembling 
a "law" (in any sense of "law".) That is, Nature is not doing what it does 
*because* there are laws constraining what it can do (in any sense of 
"constrain".) Rather, the natural world simply exists, and we formulate things 
we call "laws" as part of our efforts to understand it. The laws of nature are 
part of our understanding, not of nature itself. Nature itself has no laws and 
obeys no injunctions; it does not obey at all. The use of "law" in "law of 
nature" reflects what is basically a theological idea, found also in John 1:1, 
that there is in some sense an *idea* governing the world and all of its 
activities and processes, and the job of science is to discover this hidden 
Word. I think this is just flat wrong; and it is wrong, basically, because the 
universe can't read.     (05)

Pat    (06)

> But I recommend the following book about bees:
>    Page, Robert E., Jr. (2013) The Spirit of the Hive: The Mechanisms
>    of Social Evolution, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
> From http://ucanr.edu/blogs/blogcore/postdetail.cfm?postnum=10201
>> In his book, Page talks about  the coordinated activity of the bees and
>> how worker bees respond to stimuli in their environment. The actions they
>> take in turn alter the environment, Page says, and "so change the stimuli
>> for their nestmates. For example, a bee detecting ample stores of pollen
>> in the hive is inhibited from foraging for more, whereas detecting the
>> presence of hungry young larvae will stimulate pollen gathering."
>> Division of labor, Page says, is an inevitable product of group living
>> because "individual bees vary genetically and physiologically in their
>> sensitivities to stimuli and have different probabilities of encountering
>> and responding to them."
> Page and his colleagues tested their hypotheses by capturing individual
> bees and comparing any differences in behavior to differences in their
> genes. They also kept multiple hives of bees, whose genetic differences
> were carefully controlled.  They carried out painstaking analyses of
> the way differences in genes *predict* the differences in behavior.
> And they varied the conditions to ensure that they could reliably make
> *repeatable predictions* in various circumstances.
> You might claim that there is a difference between laws encoded in
> genes, encoded in neurons, or encoded on paper.  But note:
>  1. Page shows how the information encoded in genes is only a partial
>     determinant of behavior.  Information from genes can only affect
>     behavior by interacting with information transferred to neurons
>     from various sources:  (a) immediate stimuli from the environment,
>     (b) communication with other bees in several different ways, and
>     (c) learning by "trial and error" from earlier experiences.
>  2. Differences in encoding between neurons and paper ranges from
>     minimal to irrelevant, because no information on paper can affect
>     human behavior until it is transferred to neurons.
>  3. Differences in the source of the encoded information can be useful
>     for classifying the kinds of laws.  But any hypothesis about the
>     way God, Nature, evolution, some legislature, or some geneticist
>     transferred information into the genes or neurons is irrelevant.
> There is a gap between bees and humans, but Peirce maintained that there
> is a continuum among all life forms.  (See the quotation below.)  Among
> the various examples he discussed were dogs, parrots, and *bees* .
> PC
>> I find it *convenient* (with no discernible utility other than compactness
>> of representation) to include both physical and social rules under a single
>> category of "Rule", which is a "Proposition" created by an 
> I'm glad that you find it convenient.  But whenever a classification
> makes a representation more compact, it's important to ask *Why?*
> Is it the result of "data mining" -- an accidental result of the
> choice of data?  Or is it the result of something "real" that can be
> discovered by scientific methodology.
> Page and his colleagues have demonstrated connections between social
> regularities and the encodings in genes and neurons, at least in bees.
> Those encodings are physical and suitable for scientific study.  Humans
> are more complex than bees, but I'm sure that similar principles apply.
> PC
>> The relation between humans and Laws of Nature is that humans try to
>> *discover* the Laws of Nature, and may form theories about what those Laws
>> of Nature are.  But the theory is not itself a Law of Nature, just a more
>> or less well-informed guess about the actual Law of Nature.
> I certainly agree.  Laws of science, as stated by humans, are fallible
> approximations to the laws of nature.  That is one of the many reasons
> why the predictions aren't certain.  But whenever the humanly stated
> laws make reliable prediction above the level of chance, they are
> approximations to something *real* -- i.e., the laws of Nature.
> PC
>> I haven't found any reason to include the notion that a human law makes a
>> "prediction".  The only "prediction" I can imagine is that someone *may* be
>> punished for infraction.  But as we know, even innocent people are punished
>> by error, so I prefer merely to assert that infraction creates a *liability*
>> for punishment, or more accurately, *increases* one's liability for
>> punishment.
> Please note Page's book.  The *meaning* of a law is in the predictions.
> It's irrelevant whether the predictions are conscious (for scientists
> and lawyers) or unconscious (for most animals, including humans).
> I have no objection to introducing intermediate signs (such as
> liabilities or dispositions).  But those signs are *predictable*
> from the laws and the contexts in which the laws are applied.
> PC
>> One may for some purposes consider the "laws of nature" in possible
>> worlds, such as virtual reality programs, to be of the same category
>> as the "Laws of Nature" of our real world, but in that case, it will
>> be some human that created those laws.
> The source of the laws is useful for putting them in various categories
> of the ontology.  But that is independent of the use of laws to make
> predictions -- consciously or unconsciously.
> DF
>> Since the legislators didn't believe that, they didn't intend it.
>> Since those who created the law did not intend it, it is not
>> the "intent" of the law.
> The "intent" of the legislature is a metalevel consideration.
> It might be used by the courts to decide whether a law is
> constitutional or to clarify some ambiguities in its statement.
> But this point does not change the fundamental principle:  the
> *meaning* of a law for those who obey it, disobey it, or enforce it
> is the predictable consequences.  For bees, it's the pollen and
> nectar.  For people, it's what they think the police and the courts
> will do.
> DF
>> OWH was referring to how the law works for a "bad man".  He did
>> not discusss how it worked for a "good person".  A person deemed
>> to be "good" (or maybe "goody-goody") will accept the instruction
>> of a normal law.  To such a person, in the normal case, the size
>> of the penalty or the odds of being caught do not enter into the
>> decision to obey the law.
> On the contrary, the meaning of a law for everybody -- good or bad --
> is the consequences.  People with different backgrounds may think
> about the laws and evaluate the consequences in different ways.
> DF
>> For such people, the meaning of the law is a lot more than
>> prediction.  Different people (less "goody-goody") will weigh
>> different categories of laws differently -- obeying some types
>> when there is no possibility of being detected, while treating
>> others as OWH describes.
> You are confirming my point:  The meaning of a law for everybody
> is based on predictions about the future.  An upstanding citizen
> may want to preserve the social order.  But a protester may violate
> a law with the hope gaining publicity for changing the social order.
>>> A directive without any prediction that a violation would be met
>>> with undesirable consequences is totally meaningless.
> DF
>> It is not meaningless for those who have a bent to obey laws.
>> It will affect their behavior even without a prediction of externally
>> imposed "undesirable consequences".
> No, but it may have *internally imposed* undesirable consequences,
> such as a disruption of the social order or a feeling of anxiety.
> DF
>> I suggest that mice react to danger, not having the concept
>> of "getting away with something".
> I'm sure that's true.   But people follow many "social laws" without
> any more thought than mice or bees.
>>> The continuity I was emphasizing in the previous notes was the range
>>> of social phenomena from preferences to habits to laws.
>> Here, what you appear to be referring to is "tendencies".  Grouping all
>> of these under the phrase "social law" seems stretching that term.  I
>> suggest that habits and preferences have a closer relation to rules and
>> enacted laws than any of them do to "natural laws" of science.
> Fine. I'll follow Peirce by using the more general category Thirdness.
> But the *meaning* of any statement about a tendency or habit is the
> same as the meaning of any law:  a prediction about the future.
> John
> __________________________________________________________________
>> If the laws of nature are results of evolution, this evolution must proceed 
>according to
>> some principle; and this principle will itself be of the nature of a law. 
>But it must be
>> such a law that it can evolve or develop itself... Evidently it must be a 
>tendency toward
>> generalization, -- a generalizing tendency. But any fundamental universal 
>tendency ought
>> to manifest itself in nature. Where shall we look for it? We could not 
>expect to find it in
>> such phenomena as gravitation where the evolution has so nearly approached 
>its ultimate
>> limit, that nothing even simulating irregularity can be found in it. But we 
>must search for
>> this generalizing tendency rather in such departments of nature where we 
>find plasticity
>> and evolution still at work.
>> The most plastic of all things is the human mind, and next after that comes 
>the organic
>> world, the world of protoplasm. Now the generalizing tendency is the great 
>law of mind,
>> the law of association, the law of habit taking. We also find in all active 
>> a tendency to take habits. Hence I was led to the hypothesis that the laws 
>of the
>> universe have been formed under a universal tendency of all things toward 
>> and habit-taking.  (CP 4.642)
> Source:  The chapter on Habit in the following book, which is one of
> the best for a general overview of Peirce's philosophy:
> Peirce, Charles Sanders (1898) _Reasoning and the Logic of Things_,
> The Cambridge Conferences Lectures of 1898, ed. by K. L. Ketner,
> Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA, 1992.
> This quotation is also discussed by Fernando Zalamea in
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