Bharath Hariharan

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Bharath Hariharan
Posted over 1 year ago
Rupert Sheldrake's TEDx talk: Detailing the issues
Okay, I am sorry I didn't get that point; I get it now. To be frank, there is no way I could have got this from Sheldrake's talk. My answer to your comment will have to be that I don't know. I don't know where these laws come from. And it is an assumption that such laws exist, and such constants exist. But here's the thing. That assumption has helped us a long way. That assumption works. The things we predict about astrophysics come true to a large extent. The things we predict about physics and chemistry and biology come true to a large extent, enough for us to build machines and spaceships, treat diseases, understand a vast number of natural phenomena. These assumptions are not dogma. It is certainly possible that these assumptions are wrong. Maybe a truer alternative exists. But given the success of what my current assumptions are, for me to think about a particular alternative, someone will have to 1) define the alternative precisely, and 2) show that the alternative not just explains all, or most, of what I have managed to explain till now, but more. Sheldrake on the other hand simply handwaves at vague words that make no sense to me, to state it simply.
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Bharath Hariharan
Posted over 1 year ago
Rupert Sheldrake's TEDx talk: Detailing the issues
Not really. You are looking at these things in isolation, which they are not. The speed of light is not the same as the current temperature in Berkeley. The speed of light for instance is one part of a large coherent scientific theory: the theory of relativity. The theory of relativity has made many predictions, and has been tested numerous times, and so, provisionally, we accept it as largely correct. Since this theory is accepted as largely correct, and this theory accords a special place to the speed of light as a constant, we accept, provisionally that the speed of light is a constant. Now, given this, we see that measurements of speed of light vary. Which is more likely, that the theory is wrong, and so all of its myriad accurate predictions are completely wrong and all of astrophysics which relies on this must go out the window? Or that grad students tend to press stopwatch buttons a bit too soon? There are two parts to science: experiment and theory, each with uncertainties, each with noise. Weighing all these uncertainties together is not easy. To say that something is possible is trivial, and everything is possible; the question is, which explanation is more likely? Caveat: the last time I read about the speed of light was in high school. I literally am at best a high school student in physics.
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Bharath Hariharan
Posted over 1 year ago
Rupert Sheldrake's TEDx talk: Detailing the issues
Two things here, before we do that: 1) Logic is not what we want, or rather not the only thing we want. Logic is sufficient for math; for science we need something more: notions of evidence, and notions of uncertainty. 2) And before we do any arguing or debating, we need to convert any terms which we might loosely throw, into well defined, testable, hypothesis. By that I mean that I should take a statement like "The universe is mechanical" and decide what predictions such a statement makes that *can be subjected to an experiment, and so falsified*. Which is why we need to be careful about statements like "The Universe is purely mechanical", or "Consciousness has no relationship to material things". What exactly does material mean here? Is the electromagnetic field material? Is a computer program material? What does mechanical here mean? What exactly does consciousness mean?etc. Now, I personally would be happy to talk about the validity of tens or hundreds of theories, but only *once they are fully specified*. Notwithstanding Sheldrake's many factually incorrect statements, he is also woefully vague, using ill-defined terms that can have any number of meanings in lay usage. That, to me, is not scientific, and is particularly out of place in a talk about science, of all things. Present alternative views all you want, but at least do so in terms of words and terms that can be unambiguously understood by all scientists who come to the table. In other words, people who disagree must not be silenced, but this does not automatically make every person who has not even made the effort of defining his views properly worthy of being listened to. Given the limited number of talks that TED has, I would much rather listen to someone I can learn something from, rather than just a flurry of senseless English words embedded in laughable inaccuracies and misunderstandings.
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Bharath Hariharan
Posted over 1 year ago
Rupert Sheldrake's TEDx talk: Detailing the issues
As a graduate student in computer science and artificial intelligence and as someone who frequently reads stuff in biological vision, Sheldrake seems to be inhabiting some scientific world I have never ever seen. Most of what he claims about the process of science is just decidedly untrue. A lot of what he calls "dogma" is just a working hypothesis in science that has served us well, and for which no real plausible alternatives exist. Consider for instance the "dogma" that "memories are stored in the brain". Contrary to what Sheldrake implies, we have several decades of computational models of how memories can in fact be stored in neurons (see perceptrons, multilayer perceptrons, Kohonen maps, associative memory, and a whole plethora of very recent and exciting works on artificial neural networks). Contrary to this, I have never seen a plausible alternative, except vague, undefined words in insubstantial talks (eg. "morphic resonance" or whatever). Simply coming up with a term that sounds good is not the same as coming up with a well-defined, testable hypothesis. The part about natural constants is hilarious and should embarrass even high school science students. In his whole rant about how the constants might change, he never even considers the possibility that measurements have noise, and uncertainty improves as better techniques are discovered. He says the value of c decreased: by how much? Was it within the error bars? In addition, the reason why these are constants is not because someone decreed them to be constants, but because there are theories that predict that these are constants. G is the proportionality constant in Newton's law of gravitation. To say that G is not constant is to question the validity of the law, a law which actually *predicted* the existence of Neptune before it was discovered. Not many laws can predict the existence of whole undiscovered planets. I would like Sheldrake to come up with an alternative that has similar predictive power.