Steve Bougerolle steveb at
Mon Jun 17 17:30:27 PDT 2002

On Mon, 2002-06-17 at 18:30, Albert Wagner wrote:
> This is all perfectly rational.  However, for the sake of argument, is it fair 
> to ask that all of the sciences (loosely defined) be as mathematically 
> rigorous as physics?

I don't think so.  Physics clearly involves many things more easy to
measure than some other sciences.  Despite that, I do think areas of
biology could use more math and be more rigorous than they have been.

> What I am leading up to are concepts like self awareness and free will.  
> If both are simply deterministic phenomena, albeit greatly more complex 
> than anything we have ever studied before, then mathematical tools are appropriate.  

I think there's an extra element of perspective here.  Our existence may
very well be deterministic but we still can't analyze it as a whole
because we are part of it.  A similar sort of scientific reasoning is
that behind the uncertainty principle, where any attempt to measure must
disturb.  A similar sort of religious reasoning is the answer to the
"problem of evil".  If god is good how can evil exist?  The answer is
that "evil existing" is a flawed assumption because it assumes we are
capable of seeing the end results of all things and therefore can decide
what is ultimately harmful or not.

> However, if life, especially higher order life, introduces a new
> thing, something immanent/transcendent, then mathematical tools won't
> take us all the way.

Now that's a nice point and there is a solid answer in there as to why
some stages of evolution are hard to model.

> I once saw a graph of systems with randomness on one axis and complexity on 
> the other.  At one extreme were systems that had sufficient randomness that 
> statistics were a useful tool of prediction.  At the other extreme were 
> systems with low randomness, like simple mechines,  and statistics were of 
> little utility.  Man has discovered tools for use in both of these extremes.  
> However,  in the middle are systems that have not enough randomness for 
> statistics and are too complex for systems analysis.  We have, as yet, no 
> good tools for dealing with such problems.  It seems to me that the study of 
> any system that contains immanence, in the form of a non-deterministic 
> quality like awareness or free-will, must be cut some slack while the tools 
> are invented.

Another good point.

Steve Bougerolle
Creek & Cowley Consulting

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