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" What is probable?" Literal and metaphorical if you please.

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Showing 1-25 of 108 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Apr 1, 2012, 7:42:34 AM PDT
....errrrhhhhhhhh....(youknowthat exhalation of doubt and chagrin when you must perform a particularly unpleasant task. Homer Simpson delivers the archetypical one).

I'll start then:

Time; War; Sex;

Yeah that sounds about it.


In reply to an earlier post on Apr 4, 2012, 10:09:11 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Apr 4, 2012, 10:23:48 PM PDT
'probabilist says:
Probability, Statistics and Truth
by Richard Von Mises (1929)

Modern Probability Theory and Its Applications
by Emanuel Parzen
(Wiley-Interscience, 1992)


In reply to an earlier post on Apr 4, 2012, 10:10:25 PM PDT
'probabilist says:
"The fruits of meteorology are Yes, No, and Maybe. The greatest of these is Maybe."

- [the email tag line of a meteorologist I know]

Posted on Apr 4, 2012, 10:12:19 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Apr 4, 2012, 10:13:26 PM PDT
'probabilist says:
Does God Play Dice? The Mathematics of Chaos
by Ian Stewart
(2ed: Wiley-Blackwell, 2002)

Posted on Apr 4, 2012, 10:25:01 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Apr 4, 2012, 11:32:28 PM PDT
'probabilist says:
["The proponents of the doctrine of the objective probability of hypotheses take the position that universal empirical statements can never be true, but only probable. This view is logically untenable: not only from the perspective of Aristotelian "two-valued logic", but also from that of any "probability logic". If one wishes to express the view that a universal empirical statement can be attributed a posteriori a certain probability as a degree of valididty, then this can be objectively established only by a statement about this statement. This statement is of a higher type than the hypothesis. But it is, itself, a universal empirical statement that can thus possess only a probability value as a degree of validity; this is demonstrated by the fact that a falsification of the hypothesis will also falsify the statement that assigns it a positive probabiilty value: its validity is dependent on experience, and it cannot be definitively a true statement. If it is, however, only probable, this can in turn only be expressed by a statement of a higher type, etc., ad infinitum."]

Karl Popper

Posted on Apr 4, 2012, 10:26:03 PM PDT
'probabilist says:
'Truth (truth sans the capitalization) is what we can accept as in all probability true after we have honestly and diligently investigated all obtainable facts and applied the utmost of our rationality.'

- Conley Thorn,
on the thread titled "Do you think America will ever be primarily athiest?"

Posted on Apr 4, 2012, 10:26:52 PM PDT
'probabilist says:
"A misunderstanding of probability may be the greatest of all impediments to scientific literacy."

- Stephen J Gould

Posted on Apr 4, 2012, 10:27:20 PM PDT
'probabilist says:
What do you call a woman who practices "natural family planning"?

Answer: A mother.

(Copied from another thread)

Posted on Apr 4, 2012, 10:28:48 PM PDT
'probabilist says:
'What part of "conjecture without supporting evidence is just conjecture" don't you understand?'

- James Longmire, on the thread titled "Inelligent Design" [sic]

Posted on Apr 4, 2012, 10:29:19 PM PDT
'probabilist says:
'If by "It's as plausible" you mean "We lack the data necessary for reaching meaningful conclusions about either possibility", then "Yes." I like speculating as much as the next person... but there's a difference between speculating and making statements of the probability that this or that possibility is true based on no data.'

- Michael Altarriba, on the "Inelligent Design" [sic] thread

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 4, 2012, 10:30:28 PM PDT
'probabilist says:
In any context, the fewer observations one has that can be used to construct frequency-of-event ratios for estimating it, the more scrappable (i.e., unreliable) an estimate of a probability is.

And that's just as true in Bayesian inference as it is in the world of the classical frequentist.


Posted on Apr 4, 2012, 10:31:05 PM PDT
'probabilist says:
Overheard (mother to daughter) in a shopping mall:

"No Facebooking until you're sixteen, and that's all there is to it."

Posted on Apr 4, 2012, 10:32:16 PM PDT
'probabilist says:
RR wrote [on the thread titled
"Scientists Confront Creationism: Intelligent Design and Beyond"]:

The burden of proof is on Dembski to show how a Designer did it.

The dishonesty of Dembski's Explanatory Filter is that it claims that there are two "boxes", but in truth there are three.
1. Design.
2. "natural" processes
3. Insufficient information to determine.

Dembski takes box three and puts it into box one. Dembski's shell game, which fools those who don't understand probabilities, is that probability measures uncertainty or inadequate information.

For example, it is extremely low probability that you will guess the Dow Jones average 10 years from now with precision. However, you have a very high probability of getting tomorrow's Dow Jones average right. The only difference between the two answers is information. The difference in probabilities is not a statement that the processes involved in what drives the DJ average will be any different between tomorrow and 10 years from now.

In addition, one cannot actually calculate probabilities for first life, because we don't know the initial conditions nor contributing probabilities (once again the information problem). If life is a winning ticket, we don't know how many ways life could have been created, therefore, we don't know how many winning tickets are possible. If you don't know the number of winners, you can't know the probabilities.

Posted on Apr 4, 2012, 10:32:47 PM PDT
'probabilist says:
'If there's one philosopher (other than Plato) I would force down the throats of every modern person, it would be Spinoza.'

- Ludeteros Ludos, on the "Spinoza" thread

Posted on Apr 4, 2012, 10:34:22 PM PDT
'probabilist says:

'You likely have to travel half of 25 million light years to find an Earth-like planet. We're very alone.'

- J. black, on the science-forum thread titled "Happy Birthday Earth!"


Pedro replied:

'Amazing. Sources please. Never heard such nonsense.'

Posted on Apr 4, 2012, 10:35:44 PM PDT
'probabilist says:
'Yet another characteristic of science deniers is their dependence on ancient and medieval philosophers.'

- DonJennings, on the thread titled
"Evolution and the blind faith of Atheists"

Posted on Apr 4, 2012, 10:37:54 PM PDT
'probabilist says:
emac wrote [on the thread titled
"Tangible evidence for anything supernatural is nil"]:

Take this experience to actually learn about your religion, and in particular about your Bible. It does not take much critical study to understand that your Bible is not the pristine collection of manuscripts that tradition has long supposed. Once you see that this point is true, it will only make you a better Christian (for you will no longer be able to consume the concept proffered by conservative Christianity), or perhaps a better person.

Posted on Apr 4, 2012, 10:39:12 PM PDT
'probabilist says:
Quantum probability does not mean effects can occur without causes; it refers to our ability to predict.

- Jack Vix,
on the thread titled "Are Most Atheists Here Also Materialists?"


Michael Altarriba replied:

What is the cause of the decay of a particular atomic nucleus at a particular time, or the appearance of a particular particle / anti-particle pair? My understanding is that these are both examples of uncaused events.


'probabilist replied:

None that I know of. But there could be some cause, completely outside our ken, that we are unable to observe or infer using the tools we have available to us.

Posted on Apr 4, 2012, 10:40:04 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Apr 4, 2012, 11:21:29 PM PDT
'probabilist says:
Brains are in the business of gathering information and steering behavior appropriately. It doesn't matter whether consciousness is involved in the decision making. And most of the time, it's not. Whether we're talking about dilated eyes, jealousy, attraction, the love of fatty foods, or the great idea you had last week, consciousness is the smallest player in the operations of the brain. Our brains run mostly on autopilot, and the conscious mind has little access to the giant and mysterious factory that runs below it.

- Jack Vix (quoting an author),
on the thread titled "Are Most Atheists Here Also Materialists?"

Posted on Apr 4, 2012, 10:40:35 PM PDT
'probabilist says:
'The questions endure.'

- 'probabilist,
on the thread titled "Can you tell your Life story in 6 words or less ?"

Posted on Apr 4, 2012, 10:41:25 PM PDT
'probabilist says:
"It doesn't really matter what first principles you start with, as long as they're organized and non-random, and as long as they're adjusted to new information."

- Ludeteros Ludos, on the old "stone soup" thread

Posted on Apr 4, 2012, 10:46:12 PM PDT
'probabilist says:
"The 1857-58 Revival...marked a transformation in Protestant attitudes toward the role of revivals in American public life, a transformation toward conversionist piety and away from specific moral reforms. Evangelicals never completely rejected social activism at midcentury; rather, the Revival of 1857-58 provided little or no ethical impetus for such activism apart from the imperatives of prayer and evangelism. It was, in that sense, revivalism without social reform."

- Kathryn Teresa Long,
The Revival of 1857-58 : Interpreting an American Religious Awakening
(Oxford University Press, 1998), p. 126

Posted on Apr 4, 2012, 10:47:25 PM PDT
'probabilist says:
The bigger problem brought up by this question is: What does it mean to "exist"?

Which things do this, and which don't? For instance, does a 'center of gravity' actually exist, or is it just a mathematical tool to aid in our calculations? Is it an "object", possessed of its own independent existence, or is it the consequence of relations between existing particles?

So, to really answer this question definitively, it seems to me that we are going to have to get a handle on some deep issues about existence itself. Here are a few:

1. Can something "exist" for a duration of zero seconds?
1a. Is time a necessary condition (logically prior) to existence?
2. Do things without substance "exist"? (e.g., pi? love? concepts? processes?)
3. Do relations "exist" apart from the things being related?

Another question that might be at issue is, how does the order of events relate to time, and our experience of it? This might be brought out by an analogy with a deck of cards:

Suppose we have a deck of cards that is well shuffled, and strewn about on the table. We can still assign various "orderings" to the cards in our mind's eye; We could imagine reassembling the deck in 'factory order', or alternating black & red cards, or any number of possible configurations. Some seem "orderly" and logical to us; some, not so much. That is, particular arrangements stick out as being coherent and sensible, whereas most arrangements are just random. Our brains don't deal well with true randomness, so our mind's eye is most likely to arrange the cards according to some plan that has a logical progression to it.

Assume that the universe is like a reel of film, cut up into individual frames, and randomly strewn about like the cards on the table. Would our minds automatically assemble the frames into a "time order", in our memory? If so, would not this ordering of events follow certain rules, such as frames that depicted very similar scenes would naturally be grouped together, in a way that "made sense"? Would we have any way to tell what the actual order was, given that our memories were 'automatically' arranging the frames in a particular way? That is, is our perception of time anything more that a particular ordering of memories? (i.e., The one that "makes the most sense"/ "Factory order"?)

- Randall R Young, on the thread titled
"Does time exist?"

Posted on Apr 4, 2012, 10:48:14 PM PDT
'probabilist says:
Physicist and Nobel laureate Richard Feynman on the straitjacket of discovery:

"The game I play is a very interesting one. It's imagination, in a tight straitjacket, which is this: that it has to agree with the known laws of physics. I'm not going to assume that maybe the laws of physics have changed, so that I can design something or other. I operate as if everything that we know is true. If we're wrong, of course, we can redesign something with new laws later. But the game is to try to figure things out, with what we know is possible. It requires imagination to think of what's possible, and then it requires an analysis back, checking to see whether it's allowed, according to what is known, okay?"

[from No Ordinary Genius: The Illustrated Richard Feynman (Norton, 1994), p. 98]

Posted on Apr 4, 2012, 10:48:48 PM PDT
'probabilist says:
"For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for nature cannot be fooled."

- Richard Feynman, in the conclusion to his Appendix F to the NASA report on the Challenger accident
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Discussion in:  Religion forum
Participants:  12
Total posts:  108
Initial post:  Apr 1, 2012
Latest post:  May 4, 2015

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