Talk:Model-dependent realism

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Initial[edit]

This article is in error.

The article quotes Hawking from the book where he talks about "zebras" as being the (better) definition of what Hawking means by "model-dependent realism" when the zebra quote is actually meant to succinctly define classical "realism", not his "model-dependent realism". Read the two separate quotes from "The Grand Design" posted below and see that this is the case.

"Realism" posits an objective reality independent of the observer but Hawkings' "model-dependent realism" does not. His theory merely says that our brains each independently build up a model of reality based upon interpretation of data rec'd from our sensory organs and since each model is [potentially] different from every other due to differing point of view/data, interpretation, signal loss/error, etc, that there can be no grand unified theory of reality pertinent to all the models that exist.


Quote from "The Grand Design", Chp 1 by Stephen Hawking:

[Model-dependent realism] is based on the idea that our brains interpret the input from our sensory organs by making a model of the world.


Quote from "The Grand Design" , Chp 3 by Stephen Hawking:

In other words, if you see a herd of zebras fighting for a spot in the parking garage, it is because there really is a herd of zebras fighting for a spot in the parking garage. All other observers who look will measure the same properties, and the herd will have those properties whether anyone observes them or not. In philosophy that belief is called realism.


Quote from "The Grand Design" , Chp 3 by Stephen Hawking:

There is no picture or theory-independent concept of reality. Instead we will adopt a view that we will call modeldependent realism: the idea that a physical theory or world picture is a model (generally of a mathematical nature) and a set of rules that connect the elements of the model to observations.


-- Agreed, this article doesn't make any sense. 86.61.25.120 (talk) 16:59, 31 May 2011 (UTC)


Old Theory / New Name[edit]

"Model-dependent Realism" is a catchy new name, perhaps coined by Hawking and Mlodinow, to refer to a concept that's been around for decades. I, myself learned of the connection between Realism and the models we use to understand the world in 1979 when I read Ian G. Barbour's "Myths, Models and Paradigms". I find it intellectually dishonest to claim credit for Hawking & his collaborator and NOT mention the philosophers of science who've been talking about and working with this ideas for decades at the very least.

To support my contention, I point to this article in New Scientist by Craig Callender

Stephen Hawking says there's no theory of everything 15:00 2 September 2010

"Having declared that 'philosophy is dead', the authors unwittingly develop a theory familiar to philosophers since the 1980s, namely 'perspectivalism'."

http://www.newscientist.com/blogs/culturelab/2010/09/stephen-hawking-says-theres-no-theory-of-everything.html

Sorry that I can't get to my copy of the Barbour... But I wanted to register my dismay with this incomplete article. Emyth (talk) 21:42, 22 July 2011 (UTC)

Perhaps the articles should be merged? IRWolfie- (talk) 09:26, 12 October 2011 (UTC)

First sentence[edit]

The first sentence is incomplete: "and focuses on how well our models of phenomena." At minimum a verb is needed after "phenomena", maybe something like: ... and focuses on how well our models of phenomena "are successful at explaining events". [taken from the Introduction section]. OR perhaps more smoothly: ... and focuses on how successful our models of phenomena are at explaining events. I'm not addressing the sentence's denotation, just its coherence. GaroldStone (talk) 03:04, 9 May 2012 (UTC)

Models[edit]

A section on models should be placed separately in this article, which is of course all about using models to define reality. The last paragraph in this section that explains the context for the Hawking/Mlodinow criteria has been removed by Snowded. The section is as follows:

Models[edit]

While not rejecting the idea of "reality-as-it-is-in-itself", model-dependent realism suggests that we cannot know "reality-as-it-is-in-itself", but only an approximation of it provided by the intermediary of models. The view of models in model-dependent realism also is related to the instrumentalist approach to modern science, that a concept or theory should be evaluated by how effectively it explains and predicts phenomena, as opposed to how accurately it describes objective reality (a matter possibly impossible to establish). Hawking and Mlodinow say that a model is a good model if it:[1]

  1. Is elegant
  2. Contains few arbitrary or adjustable elements
  3. Agrees with and explains all existing observations
  4. Makes detailed predictions about future observations that can disprove or falsify the model if they are not borne out.

They note that "If the modifications needed to accommodate new observations become too baroque, it signals the need for a new model."[2] Of course, judgment about what is 'baroque' is somewhat subjective.[3] The reader should be made aware that criteria for a 'good' model have been discussed by many philosophers, notably Karl Popper (who emphasized the last-listed item of falsifiability) and Thomas Kuhn. Kuhn carefully added that such criteria are only representative and not an exhaustive list.[4]

Although the various lists of criteria for a good model are very similar, (those of Hawking/Mlodinow,[1] or Kuhn,[4] or Colyvan,[5] for example) and according to their various authors are widely acknowledged, they are only heuristic. Worrall points out "One reason why these criteria do not supply a choice algorithm is that in live cases of theory choice, and, in particular, during scientific revolutions, these different criteria seldom, if ever, tell in the same direction. Much later, once the revolutionary theory has been developed and improved, it may outscore its older rival on all counts - but this happens as a result of the revolution and therefore can't form its rationale."[6]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b See The Grand Design, p. 51
  2. ^ See The Grand Design, p. 53
  3. ^ For example, see these two extensive discussions of applying the criterion of 'simplicity': Simon Fitzpatrick (April 5, 2013). "Simplicity in the Philosophy of Science". Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.  and Baker, Alan (Feb 25, 2010). "Simplicity". In Edward N. Zalta, ed. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Summer 2011 Edition). 
  4. ^ a b Thomas Kuhn (1977). "Chapter 13: Objectivity, value judgment, and theory choice". The Essential Tension: Selected Studies in Scientific Tradition and Change (7th ed.). University of Chicago Press. pp. 321–322. ISBN 0226458067.  On-line excerpt stating his criteria is found here and they also are discussed by Bird, Alexander (Aug 11, 2011). "Thomas Kuhn". In Edward N. Zalta, ed. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2013 Edition). 
  5. ^ Mark Colyvan (2001). "§4.3 The role of confirmation theory". The Indispensability of Mathematics. Oxford University Press. pp. 78–79. ISBN 0198031440. 
  6. ^ John Worrall (1990). "Scientific revolutions and scientific rationality". In C Wade Savage, ed. Scientific theories; Volume 14 of Minnesota Studies in the Philosophy of Science. University of Minnesota Press. p. 333. ISBN 0816618011. 

Comments[edit]

  • It is silly to present the Hawking/Mlodinow criteria as it is done following Snowded's reversion, with no indication where the criteria come from, and without pointing out (at a minimum) that Popper and Kuhn have discussed the matter of criteria at great length and have established an important place for such discussion in the philosophy of science. Snowded's removal of this material is nothing short of embarrassing, and a huge disservice to WP and also to WP readers. Brews ohare (talk) 22:09, 30 April 2013 (UTC)
Find a reference that makes the link and try and use encyclopaedic language when you do. You have tried to make the link between Hawking and Philosophy on several articles. Its Physics isn't it? ----Snowded TALK 22:52, 30 April 2013 (UTC)
It's hard for me to see a closer link than the two sources that quote Kuhn's criteria:

"What, I ask to begin with, are the characteristics of a good scientific theory? Among a number of quite usual answers I select five, not because they are exhaustive, but because they are individually important and collectively sufficiently varied to indicate what is at stake.

First, a theory should be accurate: within its domain, that is, consequences deducible from a theory should be in demonstrated agreement with the results of existing experiments and observations.
Second, a theory should be consistent, not only internally or with itself, but also with other currently accepted theories applicable to related aspects of nature.
Third, it should have broad scope: in particular, a theory's consequences should extend far beyond the particular observations, laws, or subtheories it was initially designed to explain.
Fourth, and closely related, it should be simple, bringing order to phenomena that in its absence would be individually isolated and, as a set, confused.
Fifth--a somewhat less standard item, but one of special importance to actual scientific decisions--a theory should be fruitful of new research findings: it should, that is, disclose new phenomena or previously unnoted relationships among those already known."
—Thomas Kuhn,  Objectivity, value judgment, and theory choice
No, it's not physics. Yes, it is philosophy of science. I am sure, Snowed, you can see the parallel here with the listing by Hawking/Mlodinow. And I'm sure you are familiar with the influence of Kuhn and of Popper as well. There is an even more similar listing by Mark Colyvan with more sources. Hawking/Mlodinow probably are aware too that such criteria are part of the zeitgeist. Rather than professing blindness to this obvious connection between Kuhn and Hawking/Mlodinow, surely you can see the benefit of working together on matters like this instead? Brews ohare (talk) 00:28, 1 May 2013 (UTC)
I am really not prepared to discuss conclusions you are drawing without sources. Neither am I happy with you trying to make this a philosophy article by proxy. Until you grasp this point you are going to continue to have problems with multiple editors. This is not an article about methods it is about an idea created by Hawkins. ----Snowded TALK 04:25, 1 May 2013 (UTC)
Excuse me, Snowded, but I do not understand a number of things you have said here. You say: (i) "I am really not prepared to discuss conclusions you are drawing without sources." Where does this idea originate? I have cited Kuhn and also Colyvan all of whom identify these criteria as part of the zeitgeist. That is not my conclusion; it is the explicit statement of Kuhn, who says "Among a number of quite usual answers I select five". It is the position of Colyvan who says "I am in agreement with many authors here that among the additional features we require are the following:" leading into his listing. So they are clearly on the same page as Hawking/Mlodinow, but provide a more detailed consideration of such criteria and what they mean. You say (ii) "Neither am I happy with you trying to make this a philosophy article by proxy." The fact that Kuhn's discussion of criteria underlies his entire oeuvre on 'scientific revolutions' that is considered by everyone (possibly with your exception) as 'philosophy of science' puts this subject in that genre; it isn't my doing. You say: (iii) "This is not an article about methods it is about an idea created by Hawkins." It is an article about model-dependent realism and as Hawking has pointed out, that means you cannot avoid the question of what kind of model is acceptable for the purpose of 'model-dependent realism', in other words, you have to pose criteria for what is a 'good' model.
Snowded, none of this is complicated. I am left feeling that you are so set upon looking at this subject through a key-hole that you simply cannot see the whole picture. Brews ohare (talk) 05:36, 1 May 2013 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────I've explained why you can't use primary sources too many times to do other than reference my (and other editors) previous responses to you. None of this is complicated or even complex, its really very simple. Wikipedia works from third party reliable sources and you have to find one to create a connection between Khun and Hawkins. Until you get your head around original research and synthesis we will get no where. I am tired of repeating myself, assume I disagree with what you say here unless I specifically disagree. If you introduce a new argument I will respond, but not to repeats of old ones. ----Snowded TALK 07:46, 1 May 2013 (UTC)

Snowded: Your ideas about how third party reliable sources apply here are not based upon WP policy. If you really think that this or another WP policy would exclude this paragraph, please supply it with your explanation of why it is applicable here. Notice also that you are shifting ground here. Your three points I have replied to above are different, and you have now apparently shifted tactics, and no longer pursue those objections. It begins to look as though your goal is to defeat inclusion of this material under any pretext. That seems an odd goal to select. Brews ohare (talk) 13:21, 1 May 2013 (UTC)
I've added two four new sources and a bit of discussion you might want to look at. Brews ohare (talk) 15:07, 1 May 2013 (UTC)
I gather, Snowded, that you cannot relate any WP policy to your position that a third-party source is necessary here. Without any supporting specifics about how specific WP policies apply to this specific text you are making no attempt to instruct improvement in the presentation, but simply are indulging in rhetorical flag-waving. Brews ohare (talk) 15:03, 7 May 2013 (UTC)
See multiple previous comments from me and other editors in response to your various RfCs where you got no support. This is an encyclopaedia not a place for you to write under graduate essays ----Snowded TALK 20:24, 7 May 2013 (UTC)
Snowded: What's with the unidentified references to your 'multiple previous comments' apparently from other venues? Can't you address specific content here, in this instance, with specific suggestions? Or maybe even pitch in? Brews ohare (talk) 22:01, 7 May 2013 (UTC)
Sorry Brews I am tired of repeating myself. I've let properly referenced edits by you through whenever I can. Oh and this is a physics article, broadly construed I think. ----Snowded TALK 22:03, 7 May 2013 (UTC)
Well, Snowded, you know about as much about what is physics as your do about what is philosophy. Brews ohare (talk) 03:25, 8 May 2013 (UTC)
Sigh ----Snowded TALK 04:42, 8 May 2013 (UTC)

Role of criteria in selecting a model[edit]

In this edit Snowded removed the observation "Also, criteria such as these do not necessarily decide between alternative theories." which is sourced to Bird, Alexander (Aug 11, 2011). "§4.1 Methodological Incommensurability". In Edward N. Zalta, ed. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2013 Edition).  Quoting Bird:

"They [such criteria] cannot determine scientific choice. First, which features of a theory satisfy these criteria may be disputable (e.g. does simplicity concern the ontological commitments of a theory or its mathematical form?). Secondly, these criteria are imprecise, and so there is room for disagreement about the degree to which they hold. Thirdly, there can be disagreement about how they are to be weighted relative to one another, especially when they conflict."

—Alexander Bird, Methodological incommensurability

The quote from Bird details what some of the issues are that do not allow a clear decision. Bird obviously is not proposing criteria of his own, but discussing those of others, i.e. he is a third-party source. Some of the same issues are brought up by John Worrall (1990). "Scientific revolutions and scientific rationality". In C Wade Savage, ed. Scientific theories; Volume 14 of Minnesota Studies in the Philosophy of Science. University of Minnesota Press. p. 333. ISBN 0816618011.  Quoting Worral:

"One reason why these criteria do not supply a choice algorithm is that in live cases of theory choice, and in particular during scientific revolutions, these different criteria seldom, if ever, tell in the same direction."

—John Worral, Scientific revolutions and scientific rationality, p. 333

In a similar fashion Mark Colyvan (2001). "§4.3 The role of confirmation theory". The Indispensability of Mathematics. Oxford University Press. pp. 78–79. ISBN 0198031440.  refers to the 'notorious difficulties' in applying such criteria:

I will not argue in detail for each of these, except to say that despite the notorious difficulties involved in explicating what we mean by such terms as "simplicity" and "elegance", most scientific realists at least do look for such virtues in our best theories...I do not claim that this list is comprehensive nor do I claim that it is minimal"

—The Indispensability of Mathematics, p. 79

Now it is a natural question whether the Hawking/Mlodinow criteria actually are capable of selecting a particular theory as a 'good' theory over competing theories. These sources show that this question of utility of the criteria is linked to consideration of the criteria by three independent third-party sources.

Based upon this reasoning and these sources I have reverted Snowded's removal. Brews ohare (talk) 03:54, 9 May 2013 (UTC)

Its original research Brews. This is an article on Model Dependent Realism as expressed in a specific book. It's not a place for general commentary on models or criterial for valid models unless there are sources that expand on the work of Hawkings that make those references. You are making the connection to this material and its not good enough. You need a third party source that makes the link. Your attempt to use the Hawking;s stuff in Philosophy articles was rejected. You now seem to be trying to create an article to get around that ----Snowded TALK 04:03, 9 May 2013 (UTC)
Let's look at this matter more carefully. Your claim is that it is original research to say "Also, criteria such as these do not necessarily decide between alternative theories." My guess is that your argument runs like this:
Yes, Brews, you have established beyond any doubt that there are lists of criteria found in third-party sources. That is not original research. You have also established beyond all doubt that these authors agree that such criteria are not decisive in choosing between theories.
However, Brews, what is original research is your saying that these authors' discussion of limitations is applicable to the Hawking/Mlodinow criteria. That claim is original research because these authors don't say their criteria are the Hawkling/Mlodinow criteria.
Comparison does show the various criteria overlap and in Colyvan's case are identical with the Hawking/Mlodinow criteria. For instance, they all refer to testability, simplicity, elegance and so on. However, no WP editor is entitled to make such a line-by-line comparison and conclude that the limitations of these other lists are also limitations of the Hawking/Mlodinow list.
Without explicit mention of Hawking/Mlodinow by the other authors, their comments about limitations applicable to all such criteria cannot be applied to the Hawking/Mlodinow criteria, and cannot be included in model-dependent realism because that is OR.
Have I got your position clear, Snowded? Would you like to add to or amend this statement of your claims for OR? Brews ohare (talk) 04:34, 9 May 2013 (UTC)
Well you are getting closer, but I would not agree with all the statements as stated. Basically I think you are missing the key point that this is not an article about methods and criterial. So (as elsewhere) we have "A talks about B, C talks about B, so I (Brews) will write a small essay about C and add it to A" . You need a THIRD party source that links them. Also I think what is going on here is that you have gone from creating a useful article about a published concept, to using that article as a vehicle to connect Hawkings to Philosophy articles, a move that was rejected elsewhere. ----Snowded TALK 10:45, 9 May 2013 (UTC)
Snowded: So besides the above position applying WP:OR, your argument includes these additional points:
Brews, there are two more things to consider besides my claim of original research explained above. First, an article about model-dependent realism must avoid a general discussion of 'criteria' for a good model and limit itself to what Hawking/Mlodinow say themselves about these criteria, for example that they are subjective. The statement "Also, criteria such as these do not necessarily decide between alternative theories." is an untoward excursion away from the topic of model-dependent realism, regardless of the fact that Hawking/Mlodinow bring up the topic of criteria. Second, although Hawking/Mlodinow compare model-dependent realism to the positions on reality due to Aristotle, Plato, Bishop Berkeley and David Hume among others, their proposal of model-dependent realism is not itself philosophy. After all, they have declared 'philosophy is dead' and thereby severed themselves from that description. Inclusion of the statement "Also, criteria such as these do not necessarily decide between alternative theories." not only goes beyond the topic of model-dependent realism, this statement borders upon philosophy and conveys the misconception that model-dependent realism is part of philosophy.
Snowded, would that complete your position regarding inadvisability of inclusion of the statement "Also, criteria such as these do not necessarily decide between alternative theories."? Would you care to encapsulate the above in your own words to get things exactly right? Brews ohare (talk) 11:25, 9 May 2013 (UTC)
I'll look at it this evening east coast time Brews. FOr the moment I have to get out to SFO for an early morning flight----Snowded TALK 11:34, 9 May 2013 (UTC)
That will be great. The formulation of your position that I have provided, IMO, does not hold water. Brews ohare (talk) 11:59, 9 May 2013 (UTC)
Here is my reasoning, which might be helpful in your response.
Regarding WP:OR; Hawking/Mlodinow have raised the question of criteria for a good model. That seems to me to open the door to the criticism that these criteria are not definitive in choosing between theories. Hawking/Mlodnow themselves say that application of the criteria is subjective, which means different people will apply them differently and weight them differently. It strikes me as pure nit-picking to suggest, for instance, that Worrall's observation that different criteria can 'tend in opposite directions' is inapplicable to the Hawking/Mlodinow crteria. In fact, Hawking/Mlodinow are not the originators of their criteria, as the various sources above indicate. They are simply repeating from memory criteria that have been bandied about for decades, which is why Colyvan, Kuhn, Bird et alia have the same criteria.
Regarding a full-blown discussion of criteria as going off-topic, I'd agree with you. But simply adding a sentence "Also, criteria such as these do not necessarily decide between alternative theories." is not a long-winded digression.
Regarding making model-dependent realism a philosophy article. I sense that this is the mainspring of your resistance here. The sentence "Also, criteria such as these do not necessarily decide between alternative theories." doesn't itself make this connection. However, that these criteria are discussed by philosophers does make the connection.
My take is that you regard Hawking/Mlodinow as philosophically naive upstarts who have jumped in where angels fear to tread. I'm inclined to agree with that viewpoint, and their rash statements that they have somehow 'short-circuited' the realism-antirealism debate doesn't ingratiate them with anybody. But what they are talking about is, I'd say, philosophy whether they are good at it or not, and whether or not they recognize that many of these issues have been discussed with more sophistication than they bring to the table. Placing model-dependent realism in a philosophical context is not pinning a medal on them, but instead allows appraisal they have not supplied themselves. Maybe there is more to your reaction than this - please elaborate.
I hope that these remarks will help put our discussion into a useful dialog. Brews ohare (talk) 16:46, 9 May 2013 (UTC)
The way you re-formulate other people's positions rarely holds water Brews which might be at the heart of the problem. I've read what you have written on a long layover in Dallas when I should really have been doing other things. So let me be clear. Adding this article was a valuable contribution to WIkipedia. Extending the article to a general discussion of models is not. If Hawking/Mlodnow had been criticised by Worrall or others then we could incorporate it. We cannot incorporate your opinion that it does. ----Snowded TALK 18:39, 9 May 2013 (UTC)
Well, Snowded, I wasn't trying to reformulate your position, but to provide some articulation because you would not do it yourself. There is no reason why the simple, single statement "Also, criteria such as these do not necessarily decide between alternative theories." cannot be added to this discussion of criteria. It is neither controversial nor digressive. If sources are needed, Bird, or Kuhn, or Worrall could be cited. Your view that these authors are discussing some foreign 'other' list of criteria and aren't discussing the Hawking/Mlodinow criteria is based upon the unfounded belief that Hawking/Mlodinow originated their criteria. But as Kuhn says explicitly, "Among a number of quite usual answers I select five, not because they are exhaustive, but because they are individually important and collectively sufficiently varied to indicate what is at stake." (emphasis mine). These criteria have been around for decades, and have originated from a variety of sources ranging from William of Ockham to Karl Popper to Albert Einstein. Hawking/Mlodinow simply are dredging up these criteria already in the zeitgeist that are familiar to all. Accordingly, they are exactly the same criteria that are being discussed by Kuhn, by Bird, by Colyvan, by Worrall and who knows how many others. Brews ohare (talk) 23:45, 9 May 2013 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────Brews the whole of your argument above is a classic example of OR. None of the people you reference criticise or reference Hawking/Mlodinow. You are making the connection and there may well be one. If you were writing an under graduate essay you might well get a good mark for your comments, but this is an encyclopaedia and we only include material if it is independently sourced. Now here, and elsewhere assume that unless I explicitly agree I disagree, explaining this again and again and again is tedious and you are being tendentious. ----Snowded TALK 00:54, 10 May 2013 (UTC)

Whatever this is, it isn't WP:OR. You just refuse to face the fact that these criteria have been around for ages, and aren't original with Hawking/Mlodinow. Reading Occam, Popper, Kuhn, Colyvan isn't enough to persuade you that simplicity, elegance, testability, comprehensiveness have been around forever. You persist in the belief that Hawking/Mlodinow came up with these same criteria on their own; that somehow, someway, somewhere there is some buried difference between theirs and those of everybody else. There isn't. So the discussion of everybody else's criteria is a discussion of theirs too. Believe it or, as you choose, not. Brews ohare (talk) 02:39, 10 May 2013 (UTC)
Of course they have been around for ever Brews, that is not the point ----Snowded TALK 08:20, 10 May 2013 (UTC)
With agreement on the point that these desiderata are part of the zeitgiest, and have been recognized for ages, no argument for WP:OR or requiring a 'third-party' source is justified. The sentence: "Also, criteria such as these do not necessarily decide between alternative theories." that applies to these criteria still applies when they are listed by Hawking/Mlodinow. Brews ohare (talk) 13:39, 10 May 2013 (UTC)
No Brews, its OR you have to (i) jt expanding this article to one on methods generally and (ii) even if that is agreed (which it isn't) you have to provide third party sources to support the subjects discussed. I'm done with explaining this to you. THere is no agreement to such material, it will be reverted ----Snowded TALK 20:53, 10 May 2013 (UTC)
Snowded: You invent your own personal provisions for allowance of material into articles, and you 'explain' nothing. My arguments are never addressed, you repeat your claims of explanation that has never happened and never is pointed out with a link or other reference. You do not conduct serious Talk page contributions. Brews ohare (talk) 23:52, 10 May 2013 (UTC)