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

To: Pat Hayes <phayes@xxxxxxx>
Cc: "[ontolog-forum]" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: John F Sowa <sowa@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Sun, 09 Jun 2013 22:35:10 -0400
Message-id: <51B53B5E.509@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Pat,    (01)

I'll start at the end of your note:    (02)

> 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".)    (03)

That is a legitimate philosophical position.    (04)

> 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.    (05)

I agree.  That is also the theme of the famous paper by Eugene Wigner:    (06)

    The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics in the Natural Sciences    (07)

But I like to quote Wigner's concluding paragraph:    (08)

> Let me end on a more cheerful note. The miracle of the appropriateness of the 
>language of
> mathematics for the formulation of the laws of physics is a wonderful gift 
>which we neither
> understand nor deserve. We should be grateful for it and hope that it will 
>remain valid in
> future research and that it will extend, for better or for worse, to our 
>pleasure, even though
> perhaps also to our bafflement, to wide branches of learning.    (09)

What we state in mathematics (including any version of symbolic logic)
has the nature of what we call "laws" in English.  We can use them to
reason about anything in the natural sciences or the social sciences.    (010)

All the laws anybody has discovered or proposed are fallible, and we
can never be sure whether they will apply to any area for which they
had not been tested.    (011)

> A "law of nature" (LoN) is an observed regularity in the natural world.
> A social law is a regulation or constraint upon human behavior.    (012)

Actually, I consider social laws stated by legislatures as a special
case of the kinds of habits that animals typically exhibit.  I don't
anthropomorphize animals.  Instead, I prefer to zoomorphize humans.    (013)

That's why I like Robert Page's approach of studying social evolution
by starting with bees:    (014)

    Page, Robert E., Jr. (2013) The Spirit of the Hive: The Mechanisms
    of Social Evolution, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.    (015)

See http://ucanr.edu/blogs/blogcore/postdetail.cfm?postnum=10201    (016)

John    (017)

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