# Proposal: Magic vs Science - Illusion without a cause

Discussion in 'Formal debates' started by danshawen, Sep 3, 2014.

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1. ### danshawenValued Senior Member

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An interesting side discussion came up on a similar forum with some help from a member of this one.

If you are a magician, you hope that anyone who witnessed your illusion will be able to describe the miraculous thing they saw, preferably without knowing how the illusion was actually achieved, or even how to accomplish a similar illusion themselves.

If you are a scientist, you hope (or perhaps you should) that anyone who makes use of your theory will not only be able to apply it successfully to other situations, but also gain a better understanding of the underlying principles and if possible, the causes of the behavior your theory explains.

Despite this ideal, it is a fact that quite a bit of basic science and math is descriptive only, and in exactly the same way that a magician's audience would applaud.

For example, Newton's Law of Gravitation: Fg=(GmM)/r^2. A knowledge of this theory allows us to predict most planetary orbits, launch satellites into orbit, etc. However, an assumption of NLG is that objects fall IN THE DIRECTION OF THE CENTER OF THE EARTH. How would a rock or other object "know" where the center of the Earth actually is? A falling rock can find the direction in which to fall even in the dark, and does so without any instruments or senses. How does it do that? For Newton, it was a "divine hand" that gave the falling object its direction. So this is a good example of a theory that is descriptive only. No cause for gravity is either assumed nor predicted, nor, by the way, is it likely that such a cause would reside in the matter of which the rock or the Earth is made of. Do you see now how this is similar to a magician's illusion? A very good one it still is, too.

When a mathematician tells us that objects in free fall follow a path determined by a vector field in curved space-time, it may be true that the predictions of such a theory are much more accurate than Newton's law of gravitation. But that mathematical form, a vector field, likewise obtains its direction at each point in space-time from the mathematician's mind, not because the underlying cause is known. Like the falling stone, this theory is likewise a descriptive one. No cause relating to its direction, other than that given by a theory which requires us to measure forces and ascribe directions to it, is either asserted or assumed.

Similar constructs include most of Maxwell's equations, Schroedinger's Wave Equation, and virtually all of quantum mechanics. Is this really science, or does it share with illusion only a description (observation) without revealing a real cause?

Debate question:

Do scientific theories or mathematical descriptions need to suggest or reveal actual causes of the effects they observe / describe in order to be complete?

Last edited: Sep 3, 2014

3. ### Russ_WattersNot a Trump supporter...Valued Senior Member

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No. "Unexplained" is not the same as "magic". The huge difference between magic and science is that magic lacks any predictive power.
Yes, it is real science. No theory can, much less is required, to explain every unknown and the presence of additional unknowns that aren't part of the theory doesn't in any way reduce the power and validity of the theory. Indeed, one can always ask an infinite number of additional questions regarding anything.

It's turtles all the way down.

In any case, you didn't actually propose a debate topic.

Last edited: Sep 3, 2014

5. ### originHeading towards oblivionValued Senior Member

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So what is your proposal? What is the question you want to debate? Did you happen to read the sticky for this thread?

7. ### danshawenValued Senior Member

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Thank you for that clarification / observation, which was deserved. I have amended the proposal so that the debate question at the bottom is clear. The previous questions in the proposal were intended to be subject explanatory. And to be even more clear: this post does not count as one of my two allowed formal responses.

8. ### DywyddyrPenguinaciously duckalicious.Valued Senior Member

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You don't debate a question.
You make a proposal (take a particular stance) and debate that.

9. ### Russ_WattersNot a Trump supporter...Valued Senior Member

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Well in any case, while it is a poorly formed question, it has a simple answer: no.

10. ### danshawenValued Senior Member

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Let me make it explicit (and this response DOES count). A description without an explanation of causation is an incomplete scientific theory. This applies to descriptive mathematics as much as it does to science.

Convince me that it is otherwise.

11. ### KittamaruAshes to ashes, dust to dust. Adieu, Sciforums.Valued Senior Member

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Gravity, perhaps?

12. ### Russ_WattersNot a Trump supporter...Valued Senior Member

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That's not how debates work. You have to argue in favor of your position and then others judge who did a better job, you or the person you are arguing against. No one really cares if you get convinced or not!

You should start by defining what a "scientific theory" is. Because, really, this is just you misunderstanding the definitions and operation of science.

13. ### danshawenValued Senior Member

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Alright. I'm going to define how a COMPLETE scientific theory works by giving an example of one.

Darwin's Theory of Evolution (Origin of Species)

1) Individuals of a sufficiently large population of a particular species of animal vary (genetically, physically, chemically)
2) Individuals will compete with each other for resources including for mating purposes, and natural selection will occur by some process
3) Individuals with selective traits or advantages over predation and other environmental factors will survive and pass their genes to the next generation (survival of the fittest).

Notice that like the first example (gravitation), neither a general nor a specific direction to evolution is provided by the theory. Intelligence may select for intelligence, but in truth no one knows in which direction nature will find an advantage that will be selected for.

But Darwin's theory is a good example of a complete scientific theory. Causes and effects are all there, right out in the open for everyone to witness and agree upon. Yet this is also one of the most hotly contested scientific theories ever proposed. People will argue incessantly that it doesn't explain anything, while antibiotic resistant bacteria demonstrate the validity of Darwin's theory before our eyes on a daily basis. We can and do read genetic code that demonstrate sufficient genetic and chemical detail to support the theory to the satisfaction of any scientist, or even someone like Gregor Mendel.

Mentioning Darwin in relation to the evolution we see in the radiologically dated fossil record in some places is sufficient cause to start a small riot about how this resplendently complete scientific theory must somehow be wrong because it conflicts with thrice translated scripture that was penned by a human hand (originally on sheepskin scrolls, no less).

It is that "divine hand" at work again in science. If a scientific theory is incomplete, perhaps that too is by design.

14. ### Russ_WattersNot a Trump supporter...Valued Senior Member

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Sounds like you made a very good argument for Darwin's theory being incomplete and then just stated that it is complete. In any case, arguing it one way or another still isn't actually defining the term "complete theory". But I think you may be leading yourself in the right direction here: by the definition you are operating on, there is no such thing as a "complete theory".
No it isn't -- at least not among actual scientists.

15. ### danshawenValued Senior Member

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Darwin''s Origin of Species by means of Natural Selection is both complete and self-contained. It has no need to explain the influence of a "divine hand" in evolution, because no such nonsense is mentioned. That would be akin to a belief in magic, you see?

The actual miracle, by the way, that sets the animal called man apart from other mammals and other primates, is the generalization of the function of the mammalian neocortex.

"Intelligence" has remained stubbornly undefined by science, so I will define if for you here. The original function of that wonderful mammalian neocortex was to allow for the modeling of the behaviors of other members of human society. When one human started looking out for the interests of other humans, and doing it better than than those with the cranial equivalent of a reptilian amygdala, somehow it made others more amenable to assuring the survival of individuals who could pull that off.

What happened then was something of a miracle, and it wasn't an illusion. Human beings were able not only to bond with each other, but also with nature, and with things like science. Just as one can become infatuated and obsessed when they fall in love with another human being, they are just as capable of falling in love, becoming infatuated with science, religion, origami, or, well, whatever. It works even better if the individual has some measure of control over what they go OCD about.

Nature could not have known in advance what would happen when this particular adaptation was in place, but the results are all around you, and they are the closest thing to miraculous our jaded scientific minds will likely understand.

If you do not understand, it is your loss, not mine. I do not obsess over such trivia. I declare this debate to be over for me, but you are welcome to finish with any concluding remarks.

Do not trouble me with learning more science or mathematics needing a 'divine hand' in order to be complete, or to propose that a simple observation converted into a mathematical model should make me believe that you, or the supercomputers that are your tools understand the basic physics any better than the rest of humanity does. Language is just a tool, and mathematics is just a language. Write all the fiction you want. Illusions do not impress. Educated or no, none of you are yet evolved enough to trouble me with such trivial concerns.

It was a singular pleasure debating with all of you.

16. ### Russ_WattersNot a Trump supporter...Valued Senior Member

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So it sounds like your definition of a "complete theory" is one that fully explains all of the effects it claims to explain. If that is what you mean, then I agree that you it is/was a "complete theory" -- and indeed, every theory is "complete" otherwise it could not be called a "theory"!
Um....OK. Hopefully you learned something about how formal debates work, so next time you can actually do it!

17. ### KittamaruAshes to ashes, dust to dust. Adieu, Sciforums.Valued Senior Member

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Right, well, this farce went on long enough... I do believe it's time for some