Two physicists pile on Chopra

Resident guest writer/biologist Matthew Cobb is friends with physicist Brian Cox, and sometimes appears on his “Infinite Monkey Cage” show. Matthew keeps me filled in on Cox’s continuing Twi**er battle with Deepakity, which I’m very glad about since it means that someone who knows more than I about physics can keep Chopra busy tweeting nonsense. But now another physicist has entered the fray. As Matthew wrote me when he sent this Twi**er exchange:

Now it involves Jon Butterworth, another CERN particle physicist,  based at UCL and a Manchester City fan (hooray), unlike Cox who  supports United (boo).

Anyway, Brian is showing his usual robustness…

Indeed! Have a look at this. Showing his recurrent symptoms of Maru’s Syndrome, Chopra could not resist entering the Butterworth Box:

chopra

“Working hypothesis” is dead right. That’s the proper answer to those who say that science and its methods can’t be justified a priori, though logic alone.

Lord, Cox’s last tw**t is a harsh one! But he’s right!

 

58 Comments

  1. eric
    Posted July 8, 2014 at 9:53 am | Permalink

    Yeah, the “its a working hypothesis” response is pretty perfect. The teapot reference is probably good for philosophers, Brits, and some other physicists, but for the layfolk I think I would’ve preferred a response like “What developments has it generated?” to the “What do you think of Wheeler’s…” question.

  2. alexandersafir
    Posted July 8, 2014 at 10:00 am | Permalink

    There are times when it really seems like Chopra seems to really believe what he is saying. What I can’t figure out is if he really does conflate the virtual reality one creates on the fly with the reality that does stay consistent despite differing frames. My own inability to easily describe this perceptual difference may be the culprit.

    • darrelle
      Posted July 8, 2014 at 10:50 am | Permalink

      I am leaning towards Megalomania. Followed closely by Carny Performing Setup For His Marks.

      • Jesper Both Pedersen
        Posted July 8, 2014 at 11:52 am | Permalink

        Is there a thing called Napoleonism?

        I think that’s what the deepster’s got and the $ bills on his bed confirms his own grandeur.

        If it ain’t money, it sure as hell ain’t intelligence, in this particular case.

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted July 8, 2014 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

          And a whiff of narcissism.

          • Chris
            Posted July 8, 2014 at 5:03 pm | Permalink

            Whiff?

            I can smell it over here and I’m not on the same continent as Derpak.

    • Sastra
      Posted July 8, 2014 at 11:49 am | Permalink

      Religious thinking is fuzzy thinking — and Spiritual thought processes are usually even worse than that. My own guess is that Chopra is sincere, since I personally know several fine people who are intelligent, thoughtful, and following the same scattered lines of thought.

      One common means of self-deception is to confuse external reality with internal “realities.” John likes cats; Mary does not. In John’s world cats are sweet and cute; in Mary’s reality, they are sneaky and scary. Both realities are true and real: therefore, consciousness creates reality and there is no mind independent reality.

      Wait a minute! you cry. Wasn’t there some sudden jump in meaning there, where the deepity started out sounding true but trivial and then sheered sharply into the extraordinary but false? Was that a muddled sort of bait ‘n switch of mental gymnastics? Or, more succinctly — wtf???

      Yes, alexandersafire, you are correct. Wtf indeed.

      But they seem to think 1.) this is deep and nuanced and 2.) Love.

    • eric
      Posted July 8, 2014 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

      I think there’s a middle ground. Call it ‘mercenary sincerity,’ or ‘convenient sincerity,’ but IMO the human mind is pretty capable of convincing its owner(s) that what is personally beneficial for them is true and honest and just. As long as the money rolls in, Chopra will likely sincerely believe what he shovels. If/when the money ever dries up, he may have an easier time of seeing through his own malarky.

      • Posted July 8, 2014 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

        Some of the best conpeople believe their own hype/lies. In an important way, the most difficult ‘stooge’ is you, so doing to others what you already do to yourself seems natural and guileless which further increases the seductive power of the con. It just all seems so reasonable to the duper and the duped.

        What someone like Cox achieves is to reach the fence sitters, taking away from Deepity who is ‘challenge challenged’ some potential saps, setting in motion a hard-to-control anti-hoodwinking effort.

        Oh, Chopra, programming a quantum computer is beyond belief difficult, so of course it makes so much sense that evolved, cobbled-together brains like ours are doing the job so effortlessly.

        (Love Chopra whimsically humble ‘?’ at the end of that tweet!!! :-))

        • Posted July 8, 2014 at 7:55 pm | Permalink

          George Costanza agrees.

        • Posted July 8, 2014 at 8:04 pm | Permalink

          As the saying goes, (something like) “It’s hard to convince a person that something is false when his/her financial security requires believing it is true.”

          This is why so many urologists sincerely believe that getting screening PSA tests are useful despite all evidence to the contrary. Radiologists and routine screening mammography (in younger women) is another example.

  3. Richard Bond
    Posted July 8, 2014 at 10:09 am | Permalink

    A mind-independent reality is an axiom, on which physics (at least) is based, and without which physics would not function. The great success of physics suggests that it be taken as fact until falsified. Pace Hume, I doubt if that will ever happen.

    • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
      Posted July 8, 2014 at 11:13 am | Permalink

      It is only an axiom if you have an axiom theory of physics.

      Alas, basing quantum physics quantization on math has proven … well, alike Chopra, spraying words like shit on a wall hoping something sticks. In nicer words, eric’s “What developments has making physics out of math generated [and what would be expected from an empirical standpoint of the difference between math models and physics reality]?”. None, zip, zero.

      • Richard Bond
        Posted July 8, 2014 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

        If you mean that physics is not based on formal axioms in the same way as, say, plane geometry is based on Euclid’s axioms, I would agree. However, given the achievements of physics, I think that MIR has the right to be seen as not far from axiomatic, and stronger than a working hypothesis.

        Perhaps we are at risk of straying into a debate about the meanings of words.

        • darrelle
          Posted July 8, 2014 at 2:08 pm | Permalink

          I guess I will give it a try.

          An axiom is taken as being true without needing proof, and is used as a starting point to base further reasoning on.

          By that meaning I don’t see why MIR must be axiomatic in order to do science. The nature of reality does no need to be assumed in order to do science. You do science and see what happens. What happens informs your models of reality. That our pursuit of science has led to models that show no indication of magic, is a result, not a necessary precondition. If miracles really occurred, if magic were real, if Chopra were correct about consciousness, the process of science would still be able to discover useful information about those realities.

          • Posted July 8, 2014 at 8:03 pm | Permalink

            If magic were real, science would be impossible, it seems to me.

            At least, you’d never be able to draw conclusions from observations.

            I think the fact that science has been so successful is a good argument that magic does not exist.

            • Diane G.
              Posted July 9, 2014 at 12:23 am | Permalink

              “If magic were real, science would be impossible.”

              Excellent point!

            • darrelle
              Posted July 9, 2014 at 6:02 am | Permalink

              I don’t see why science would be impossible if magic were real. I don’t see why it would be impossible to draw conclusions from observations. It seems to me that if you were to posit a reality that was so completely patternless that you could not discern any useful conclusions by testing against it, that nothing that requires organization, from stars to organisms, would be possible at all. In which case the point is moot.

              It seems to me that if any given reality is subject to being understood in any way by minds, then the process of science (broadly construed, testing against that reality) is the only way to develop useful information about it with any probability of success greater than chance. If a given reality is not subject to being understood by minds in any useful way then I don’t see how minds could even exist. Minds seem to by definition require a fairly high level of organization.

              I think the fact that science has been so successful is a good argument that magic does not exist.

              If by that you mean, as you said earlier, that if magic were real then science would be impossible, therefore since science does work then magic is not real, I disagree. I think that what we have discovered about our reality by the practice of science has definitely precluded any reasonably significant possibility that magic is real. We have learned enough to see that it is not. But that is a finding of science, it didn’t have to be that way.

              I have never come across a concept of magic, whether in fiction, theology (did you hear an echo?) or discussions like this that would pose any special problems for science compared to any known phenomena. The closest thing is magic that is so ephemeral that the low incidence of magic events is so few, and the effects so tiny, that it would be very difficult to notice.

              • Posted July 9, 2014 at 6:50 am | Permalink

                I suppose it would hinge on your definition of “magic”, but I’d say that if it allows one to draw reliable conclusions, ie, there is some regular, scrutable mechanism by which it works, it’s not what people mean when they talk about magic.

                “…if you were to posit a reality that was so completely patternless that you could not discern any useful conclusions by testing against it, that nothing that requires organization, from stars to organisms, would be possible at all.”

                Yes. I think that’s the point. If magic were real, reality would have to be patternless, unless you’re using an idiosyncratic definition of magic. If magic were real, how would we ever decide whether natural, physical forces were acting on an object or if it was the work of a sorcerer?

                I don’t think it works to say that reality could be organized and scrutable most of the time, but that sometimes a sorcerer can break those patterns. If those patterns can be broken in non-understandable ways, we’d be crippled from an explanation-generating viewpoint.

              • darrelle
                Posted July 9, 2014 at 7:31 am | Permalink

                Yeah, I think it comes down to what you and I mean by magic.

                “I don’t think it works to say that reality could be organized and scrutable most of the time, but that sometimes a sorcerer can break those patterns.”

                But, I’ve never come across a concept of magic that isn’t like that. All I’ve every come across are pretty much just like our reality, with some new category of phenomenon, magic, added on top, like a cherry.

                “If those patterns can be broken in non-understandable ways, we’d be crippled from an explanation-generating viewpoint.”

                I am not sure I understand exactly what you mean here. I think you are including “non-understandble” as an a priori characteristic in your working definition of magic. I am not, and I suppose that is where we are really differing. I think that if the phenomenon has perceptible affects on reality that science can yield useful information about it.

              • Posted July 9, 2014 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

                Yes, I suppose I am using “non- understandable” as an a priori, or at least necessary, qualification for magic.

                If magic worked by some reliable, predictable, understandable mechanism, I don’t think it would be magic as people traditionally understand the term. It would be no different from any other physical force, like gravity.

                I think the whole point of the term “magic” is to describe entirely imaginary phenomena that necessarily contradict established physics. At root it’s a synonym for “the impossible”; just like the term “supernatural”. At any given point in history we may have mistakenly described possible or natural phenomena with those terms, but my conception of the terms stands as long as the users of the terms thought the phenomena were not natural.

    • darrelle
      Posted July 8, 2014 at 11:16 am | Permalink

      Science does not need to assume this axiom in order to generate useful information. Though I personally think that, as you said, given the useful information that has been generated from the practice of science, MIR seems like a good bet.

      But there are physicists, and others, who think that assuming an MIR is not only not warranted, but is no better than assuming a god. I was accused, repeatedly, of religious thinking by such a physicist on a mind numbingly long thread on the CosmoQuest Forums a while back after I made one brief, unconfrontational, comment.

      The argument goes like this. A Mind Dependent Reality (MDR) is all we can assume because everything, our perceptions, our thinking, are always mediated by our minds. Therefore it is not possible for us to test for the existence of a MIR because any such test will be mediated by, necessarily, minds. Therefore there can never be any evidence for MIR.

      Most everyone on the thread thought that was really deep and complex and anytime someone disagreed thousands of words were added re-explaining, because obviously you aren’t getting it. The endless refrain was, “show me some evidence for MIR, there is none because it is impossible for there to be any.”

      I was too disgusted by the initial response to bother trying to discuss the nature of evidence, i.e. from good to bad, from direct to indirect. Or the non sequitur or fallacious conclusions that were drawn by positing MDR, and reasons why it was better to assume MDR for practical purposes.

      • Richard Bond
        Posted July 8, 2014 at 11:30 am | Permalink

        Science does not need to assume this axiom in order to generate useful information.

        I do not really agree with this. Scientific information is seen as reliable only after replication by different sets of minds in different situations. Without MIR, I do not see how attempts at replication are even rational.

        • darrelle
          Posted July 8, 2014 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

          I’ll leave that discussion to Torbjörn, if he wants to engage it any further. He is actually a physicist and can discuss this topic much better than I.

      • Sastra
        Posted July 8, 2014 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

        The frustrating thing about this sort of defiantly unfalsifiable “insight” is that the proponents usually have no trouble taking the Mind INdependent Reality into the land of the discardable theories. Naturalism is dead because ESP and NDE and PK and all the evidence that the Mind does not depend on or even particularly need the brain have destroyed atheistic materialistic physicalism skepticism!!!

        But the failure of the paranormal would not, could not, say anything about Mind Dependent Reality and its status as a metaphysical absolute.

        Heads I win; tails can never be proven one way or another.

        • Bea
          Posted July 8, 2014 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

          Why expect an equivalence between… trying to prove a negative… and disproving a negative?

          • Sastra
            Posted July 8, 2014 at 2:53 pm | Permalink

            Both MIR and MDR can be formulated as negatives or positives.

            • Bea
              Posted July 9, 2014 at 5:47 am | Permalink

              I s’pose. But that doesn’t address my point.

              Whether you say…
              reality is not interdependent with mind(s),
              vs. reality is interdependent with mind(s)
              or…
              reality is independent of mind(s)
              vs. reality is not independent of mind(s)…

              the first option of each formulation is readily negated. Effects of our mental activity on the apparent physical world are all around us, from our brains outward. Our minds experience the world, and express themselves creatively within it… feedback and control loop. While alive, this interactive process can only be as perfect as the brain is healthy and intact (for obvious reasons).

              Regarding the “paranormal,” the question becomes, what are the actual boundaries of seemingly individuated mental “awareness” and “influence”? The cranium? Why not consider the entire nervous system? Why not the body as a whole? Why not everything we can possibly sense or can be sensed by?

              Even physical “boundaries” have no absolute meaning (there are no perfectly closed systems, except in our imaginations). Still less so when considering the boundaries or range of mind(s) (past/present/future, near to far, abstractions, imagination and creativity, etc.).

              Again, I’m not impressed by Chopra’s manner or manners, but that doesn’t mean physicists have any authoritative insight on matters of mentality/spirituality.

              • Posted July 9, 2014 at 5:53 am | Permalink

                Regarding the paranormal, the question is not what you said, but simply, “Is there any evidence for it?” And there isn’t. Until there is, we needn’t discuss it as if it is a real possibility.

                And what insights does Chopra have into mentality and spirituality? I mean truths, not speculations. If you don’t have any, then don’t praise him.

                I am not a fan of this kind of wooly discussion. Unless you can say something tangible about evidence for paranormal phenomena, it’s best to drop it.

              • Sastra
                Posted July 9, 2014 at 7:18 am | Permalink

                Bea wrote:

                Whether you say…
                reality is not interdependent with mind(s),
                vs. reality is interdependent with mind(s)
                or…
                reality is independent of mind(s)
                vs. reality is not independent of mind(s)…

                the first option of each formulation is readily negated.

                I think you are failing to make a critical distinction between “our understanding of reality” and “reality in general.” Obviously it’s simply tautological to point out that we can only know what we can know, It’s impossible to assume an actual “view from nowhere.” Our experiences will always be filtered through the lens of our experience.

                But the assumption that this entails that the only thing which exists is our conscious experience itself — and there literally is no moon if there is nobody to think about it — is only unfalsifiable in the flabby way radical solipsism is. When treated as a genuine hypothesis such a view would be supported if changing our thoughts changed our experiences of reality the way an author changes the plot of a book. Claims of the paranormal are small examples of this.

                Regarding the “paranormal,” the question becomes, what are the actual boundaries of seemingly individuated mental “awareness” and “influence”? The cranium? Why not consider the entire nervous system? Why not the body as a whole? Why not everything we can possibly sense or can be sensed by?

                If you make yourself small enough you can externalize anything. By the same token, making yourself enormous turns every event into a paranormal event. This isn’t a challenging realization: as Jerry implies, it’s only avoiding clarity and thus changing the discussion. The Sorites Fallacy advanced in order to deliberate conflate the internal world of thoughts and feelings with the external world of object and event. No, we cannot be digitally precise — but we damn sure can be good enough when marking a distinction for practical purposes.

                Chopra is right about one thing: the world he thinks exists — the one where you can keep yourself young by just deciding that you won’t get old or cure your cancer just by thinking the cancer away — is a world where reality is not independent of Mind in a crucial and very different way than the one in which scientists (including neurologists) currently believe. IF he was right about the data, then we would be wrong about our theory.

                It’s both inconsistent and unfair then to insist that IF he is wrong about the data, then his theory is completely unaffected because Radical Solipsism. The minute people can bring up testable claims in their favor is the moment when we’ve left the land of so-called “metaphysics” and armchair philosophy. And even the very spiritual can’t resist doing that, given that they both think their insights really matter AND live in an intersubjectively discoverable world.

              • Bea
                Posted July 10, 2014 at 9:41 am | Permalink

                Hi J,
                I didn’t praise Chopra, and I don’t follow him. I simply point out that mentality is an evident aspect of reality… and that physics does not study or describe (or delimit) the nature and range of mind. A physicist’s opinion on the subject of mind is of no special value.

                Then again, I rather liked Max Planck’s view on the subject. More comprehensive than most.
                B

              • Bea
                Posted July 10, 2014 at 10:05 am | Permalink

                Hi Sastra,
                Thank you for your thoughtful response. First I’ll make my original point again by analogy.

                Your 7/8/2014/12:00pm post sounds like “frustration” that we cannot demonstrate the impossibility of white crows, while other people are annoyingly free to tell stories of seeing/experiencing white crows. What would be our reason for summarily dismissing every such story/experience?

                Also, I’m not sure what “failure of the paranormal” would mean… that some particular test or observation did not show evidence of nonlocal mental awareness or influence? What if another particular test or observation did? Which test/observation would demonstrate whether or not nonlocal mental awareness or influence is possible?

                Now, if you happen to believe that such tests/observations could never “actually” demonstrate nonlocal mental awareness/influence, would that belief be based upon some kind of actual evidence? … or upon a chosen assumption? More importantly, might such a belief possibly influence your interpretation of accounts of [supposed] nonlocal mental awareness/influence?

                It’s methodologically useful but not philosophically necessary to assume that mentality is just something certain configurations of matter somehow “do” in certain isolated locales. Such an assumption fails to explain many recurring features of human experience… not to mention posing unsolved and perhaps unsolvable “hard problems.”
                ______________________________

                You write well, and have nicely illustrated some common misinterpretations of a nonphysicalist perspective. I know of no one who posits a reality entirely dependent upon human minds (much less a single solipsistic human mind). And I know of no one who thinks reality disappears when no one is looking.

                But I also know of no one who would deny that minds and mental abstractions affect physical stuff/processes. It appears evident that the shared reality we experience is not totally “independent” of mind(s)… aware and purposeful minds are evidently busy interacting with the physical world in many creative and meaningful ways (type type type) (and sometimes intentionally destructive ways, as in “bombing” people with different opinions).

                And it actually makes no sense to try to evade this fact by saying minds must then somehow BE physical stuff/processes. Again, in physics we/minds currently describe physical stuff in terms of mass/charge/spin/space/time. No matter how complex the system, those are our descriptors. Awareness does not qualify. Intentions do not qualify. Logic does not qualify. Creativity does not qualify. And so on.

                Reality includes [at least] interactive minds to which reality seems “real” (and minds include any and all mental conceptions of physical stuff, “objects and events,” set in spacetime). If you like Occam’s razor, that’s the basic unembellished fact… and whether or not this truth is “trivial” is exactly the question up for debate.

                Humans note that apparent “physical” aspects of reality are very persistent and very shared among minds (compared to the experience of imagining or dreaming). Thus, we sum them up as “objective reality.” Some people like to take an additional step and think of Reality as somehow completely physical and completely independent of all minds … but I don’t see that as necessary or even feasible. There is nothing to fear… reality remains just as persistent, obedient, and shared without taking that additional philosophical step.

                The fact that mentality exists at all is barely less remarkable than the suggestion that mind (not unlike matter, for that matter) is ultimately nonlocal (however “practically” local it seems). Sure, we mark a distinct association between mind and “brain”… for “practical” purposes. But we are discussing larger, more comprehensive questions that are no less important for being more difficult to answer.

                I’d like to also point out that changing our thoughts DOES affect our path through this world, and thus our “experiences of reality.” No, not like writing a book of fiction, but subject to all kinds of constraints due to the typically “lawful” behavior of basic physical stuff, and to the activity of other minds. But there is no need to choose between All or Nothing when it comes to recognizing mental awareness and influence in this world. It sounds like Chopra might be pegged to one side on this issue (I’m not very familiar)… but that’s no reason to peg overhard to the opposite side.

                Best wishes

              • Diane G.
                Posted July 10, 2014 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

                White Crow:

              • Bea
                Posted July 14, 2014 at 9:36 am | Permalink

                Diane G.,
                I was never one who said “white crows” do not or cannot exist. ;)

      • eric
        Posted July 8, 2014 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

        But there are physicists, and others, who think that assuming an MIR is not only not warranted, but is no better than assuming a god.

        Note that Butterworth did not defend it as an assumption. He called it a working hypothesis. IOW a tentative explanation that fits the current data, subject to revision should a better hypothesis comes along.

        So I think at that point the only operative questions are things like: does the mind-dependent reality idea yield any better predictions? Is it more fruitful? Does it do anything? Answer: no, no, no. In deist form it is pretty much identical to the MIR, and in any sort of interventionist form is it worse than the MIR, because those forms would predict some inconsistencies (as the mind intervenes) – breaks from what we perceive as natural laws – yet we don’t see any breaks.

        So…it’s either the same as the MIR but with one extra entity included that doesn’t seem to do anything noticeable, or its worse. Occams razor is pretty clear on what to do here.

        • darrelle
          Posted July 8, 2014 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

          The interesting thing, to me, is that the people from the discussion I mentioned were not religious or spiritual, or at least were not arguing in favor of anything like that. Quite the opposite in fact. I was accused multiple times, from my one brief comment, of religious thinking. Specifically that believing in an MIR is belief without evidence and that that is irrational and unwarranted.

          From their perspective Occam’s razor favors MDR. Since there is no evidence possible for MIR, they would argue, it would be an additional complication to make that assumption. Simpler to not make it. Their whole line of argument is based on the fact that things with minds cannot be aware of anything that has not been mediated by their own mind. There is no way to tell if we are perceiving reality accurately. Even the concepts involved with that statement are mediated by minds. Every perception, every thought occurs in minds.

          The lead proponent of this line of argument in that discussion, an apparently competent physicist, was concerned about hubris in science, and misuse of science. He argued that assuming MDR would be more likely to prevent those things than if MIR were assumed. His reasoning for that argument was non sequitur.

          • Sastra
            Posted July 8, 2014 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

            Although the people in that discussion may have disavowed being ‘religious,’ I find it difficult to believe that they could or would legitimately insist that they weren’t spiritual. My guess is that they would have been happy to claim that term as long as it wasn’t associated with too much woo. And as long as it distanced themselves from materialist atheists.

            And according to my definition of “supernatural” — which would include a Mind-Depearndent Reality of Idealistic Monism — they are defending the supernatural, whether they like the term or not. The scorn directed towards your “religious” view that things exist even if people aren’t aware of them is similar to the contempt directed at the “religious” views of Dawkins et al.

            I’ve run across people like this, too, btw. Philosophical wanking as Self-Evident Truths denied by the small-minded.

            • darrelle
              Posted July 9, 2014 at 6:32 am | Permalink

              My thoughts on this ran very similar to yours.

              Whenever a counter argument was presented the reply was, but that is MDR, how silly of you to assume my, or our shared, MDR would not include that.

              For example, of course things exist if people are not aware of them, but that is MDR because those very concepts require a mind and any evidence indicating that has been mediated by minds.

              Which is true, but it is akin to a Deepity in my opinion. Their MDR also reminded me of extreme deism in that there is no practical distinction whatsoever to be made between their MDR and MIR. And no way to ever, even in principal, tell which is more accurate. Because anything that gives you reason to assume MIR is MDR, because minds, therefore you shouldn’t make that assumption and there is no reason to.

          • eric
            Posted July 8, 2014 at 7:15 pm | Permalink

            Baffling. How can someone think that “no God” is an hypothesis with one more entity than “one God?” At it’s most liberal definition, if we take ‘entity’ to mean any idea or concept at all, then they are equal. But it’s pretty much logically impossible for the deist/theist hypothesis to be seen as simpler in terms of hypothesized entities.

      • Chris
        Posted July 8, 2014 at 5:07 pm | Permalink

        It’s the difference between the map and the terrain, which seems to be the problem that a good number of religious apologists have too.

        The model is *always* going to depend on a mind for it to exist in, but this isn’t the same as reality which just, erm, is*.

        *Taking into consideration hard solipsism, blah blah blah!

  4. Myron
    Posted July 8, 2014 at 10:52 am | Permalink

    Berkeley would argue that physical realism isn’t even needed as a working hypothesis, because natural science works equally well without it.

    “You will say there have been a great many things explained by matter and motion: take away these, and you destroy the whole corpuscular philosophy, and undermine those mechanical principles which have been applied with so much success to account for the phenomena. In short, whatever advances have been made, either by ancient or modern philosophers, in the study of Nature, do all proceed on the supposition that corporeal substance or matter doth really exist. To this I answer, that there is not any one phenomenon explained on that supposition, which may not as well be explained without it[.]“

    (Berkeley, George. Principles of Human Knowledge. 1710. Part 1:50.)

    • John Scanlon, FCD
      Posted July 8, 2014 at 7:18 pm | Permalink

      Berkeley was doing a bait-and-switch with the words ‘really exist’. Real existence is that which underlies actually observed phenomena, whether it’s done with clockwork or pure software.

    • Posted July 9, 2014 at 9:24 am | Permalink

      The conservation laws, only beginning to be understood in Berkeley’s time, are a refutation.

  5. Posted July 8, 2014 at 11:46 am | Permalink

    I wonder if, instead of the large hadron collider, Deepakity thinks something like this will destroy the universe.

  6. Reginald Selkirk
    Posted July 8, 2014 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

    “Working hypothesis” is dead right. That’s the proper answer to those who say that science and its methods can’t be justified a priori, though logic alone.

    Which opens up the possibility of bootstrapping your way up. The difference between empircal bootstrapping and making stuff up (i.e. theology) is that you are constantly checking yourself against reality.

    • Richard Bond
      Posted July 8, 2014 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

      Excellent point. A Bayesian model for how science proceeds invokes bootstrapping. The posterior probability at one level becomes the prior for the next. After the concatenation of a long series of successes, the probability of something being fact asymptotically approaches one, and it becomes vastly more reasonable to accept it as true, though always accepting that falsification is possible. I contend that MIR reached that stage a long time ago.

    • eric
      Posted July 8, 2014 at 7:23 pm | Permalink

      Just my layman’s opinion, but I think theologians and philosophers tend to actively dislike complicated logics or heuristics because they have never been trained to use them. A scientist or engineer who has used iterative techniques to get to an answer (guess; apply heuristic to improve guess; apply heuristic on improved guess to get even better guess; rinse and repeat) or used feedforward or feedback systems understand that there can be justifications that involve some amount of bootstrapping, and the bootstrapping doesn’t invalidate it. But I’ve never encountered any philosopher who tried or even suggested such systems for use in philosophy. Maybe they have and I’m just ignorant, but AFAIK the term bootstrapping has very negative associations in philosophy.

  7. Posted July 8, 2014 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

    Well done Brian Cox — invective is called for in some situations. Sometimes there’s no other option but a bit of aversion therapy to make it at least a little painful for Chopra to spout this kind of talk in public. Especially for such a thin-skinned ignoramus like Chopra.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted July 8, 2014 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

      I like it when Brian Cox tells people off. I think he does it with panache.

      • Posted July 8, 2014 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

        Yeh, you know that someone genuinely cares about science, if they’re prepared to getting into a slanging match with Chopra. Respect!

      • Posted July 8, 2014 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

        Makes me think of ganache. Brown stuff.
        Heh heh.

  8. MR
    Posted July 8, 2014 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

    Cox’s last comment is so spot on!!! I wish he’d get smacked on twitter more often, I know it won’t change his behavior, but at least it might temporarily shut him up for a while.

    His Deepity BS actually bothers me less than the fact that he’s made a killing being a charlatan for decades, indistinguishable from your garden variety megachurch televangelist. But of course they go together.

  9. Filippo
    Posted July 8, 2014 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

    Lord, Cox’s last tw**t is a harsh one! But he’s right!

    Perhaps he should have used the archaic, more aesthetically-pleasing “shuboshuate” (sp.?) ;)

    • lkr
      Posted July 8, 2014 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

      “fecogunnite”, perhaps. Though perfected by termites long ago.

  10. Posted July 8, 2014 at 3:29 pm | Permalink

    I saw Chopra by accident some years back in the late nineties…(long story)

    All I’ll say is “Philosophy Oprah Winfrey Style”

    I remember his “pitch” being exactly that…a sale. Dodgy stuff imo. Quite cultish at times.

    Darren.

    LAX RHETORICA
    faranastus.wordpress.com

  11. Chris
    Posted July 8, 2014 at 4:59 pm | Permalink

    I missed this exchange (I don’t go near tw*tter on weekends). Damn. Chopra up to his old tricks and Brian Cox up to his!

  12. Les
    Posted July 8, 2014 at 6:55 pm | Permalink

    After reading the article about physics two years after Higgs and seeing Mr Chopra’s spammy, non sequitur comments of self-promotion, Brian Cox is precisely right.

    He needs to stop embarrassing himself.

  13. Posted July 8, 2014 at 10:21 pm | Permalink

    Go Coxy!


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