RE: virus: maxims and ground rules and suppositions

Richard Brodie (
Fri, 14 May 1999 00:05:20 -0700


I suggest you reread what Dennett has to say about "good tricks" in Darwin's Dangerous Idea. I think that may capture the essence of the distinction you're trying to make without falling into Platonic Idealism.

Richard Brodie
Author, "Virus of the Mind: The New Science of the Meme" Free newsletter!

-----Original Message-----
From: []On Behalf Of TheHermit
Sent: Thursday, May 13, 1999 6:12 PM
Subject: RE: virus: maxims and ground rules and suppositions

> -----Original Message-----
> From:
> []On Behalf
> Of Eric Boyd
> Sent: Thursday, May 13, 1999 2:33 PM
> To:
> Subject: Re: virus: maxims and ground rules and suppositions
> Hi,
> TheHermit <> writes:
> <<
> We expect not just other humans to recognize them, but also
> extra-terrestrials competent at science and engineering - because of
> the way the universe works.
> >>
> True. We expect ET's to be able to figure of the context of the
> truths you have encoded and transmitted to us -- becuase they too have
> encountered the universe. However, that doesn't take away from the
> fundamental aspect of this discussion -- that truth itself is an
> encoding of properties of the universe, and that this encoding ("frame
> of reference") is almost entirely arbitrary. No doubt, those ET's
> will have encoded Pi in a much different way than us -- possibly not
> just a different base, but a radically different "map" entirely. In
> their context, (with their "frame of reference"), I do not expect to
> be able to recgonize "Pi" on sight -- just as the Pioneer 10
> spacecraft message would be completely worthless to the average alien
> not skilled or knowledgable in (whatever counts as their) science and
> space-craft industry.
The "truth" is the way that their map relates to the universe, and the way that our map relates to the universe which provides the contextual background for these truths. Note that context for both "truths" is the way the universe functions. Not the way our interpretations function. Which could be as bad as that proposed by the babble or as good as that we have today (which is effectively infinite). Any space going race will likely have an equal understanding of the nature of the universe as us.
> In short, when you say:
> <<
> Now you can scream about context. This plaque was designed to create a
> context by using a combination of physical constants that an
> engineering space going race would be familiar with and ratios to
> conceptualize itself. Are you saying it doesn't work? Or is your
> argument specifically against my examples?
> >>
> My counter is that you expect the Plaque to work precisely becuase you
> assume that any *intelligent* ET's will be able to reconstruct the
> *absolutely necessary* context from their own science and technology.
> i.e. the message or "truth" is communicated becuase you assume they
> share the same context in which the message was written -- and thus,
> in your example, the maxim about which this whole discussion centers
> *still holds true* -- with your proviso that there is a "universal"
> context (the universe) which all intelligent species are *capable* of
> understanding, with some difficulty (e.g four hundred years of
> science). The fact that the context is (potentially) universal
> doesn't mean that there is no context.
You are saying that they are not in our universe? If not, and I don't think you are saying this, their science and technology has to parallel ours as far as it interacts with space-time. And it is in that context that the universe validates its own "truths". The nature of PI remains the same in any symbol set - because it exists outside of our interpretation. As does the Hubble or Plank constant. As does "e". As does "Blue". The "truth" does not need our symbols to validate it. Which means that no matter how we express our symbol, if it refers to the same "universal quality" that it has to have the same meaning. Because a circle is drawn by extraterrestrial hands does not change the ratios between it's area, its radius and its circumference. So we have an example of something where there exists a truth which is independent of the way in which it is expressed. And altering the expression of the "statement of the truth" is not going to alter the meaning of the truth.
> <<
> Final comment - Godel proved that any ***closed*** system is either
> incorrect or incomplete. Like a creationist playing with entropy, the
> omission of a key part of the specification allows you to use it to
> point out things that would horrify the originator. For every system,
> there is also a metasystem that allows one to prove the system's
> characteristic... i.e. complete or correct or neither. I think I'm
> seeing a lot of the latter.
> >>
> Yes, but that meta-system itself is either incomplete or incorrect.
> (you can't out_Godel Godel -- Hofstadter, Douglas. _Godel, Escher,
> Bach: and eternal golden braid._)
> I'm not sure what you mean by "closed" that I didn't cover with
> "formal". I understand the latter to include the former, and some.

I think I said this too. But it does mean that any system can be proven true or false within the context of a meta-system. And while this takes us down an infinite path (or braid :-), it is a path which very rapidly "tends" to a solution. In other words, given that we can rapidly prove many systems to be false and discard them, for many systems we do not need to explore to infinity. It is only when we find an apparently "true" system that we need to perform multi-layer testing. While we cannot prove "absolutely" that a system is "true", we can rapidly prove it to an "adequate" degree and then use it until something comes along to make us reconsider it. If this sounds familiar, it should. This is exactly the way in which the "scientific method" functions. And I repeat my assertion that I have not seen any other system which approaches it in its ability to winnow the few grains of "truth" from the mountains of chaff. And if some of the CoV wishes to attempt to establish an alternative system, they will have to propose a system that can be proven, via a meta-system yet to be discussed to provide an equivalent "goodness". Which brings us back to "All statements of truth are embedded a particular frame of reference from which they cannot be separated without becoming suppositions."

I think I am going to include the "in" which was proposed earlier, as nobody seems to have objected to that, so we have "All statements of truth are embedded in a particular frame of reference from which they cannot be separated without becoming suppositions."

We seem to have three classes of statements of truth. I see them as:

  1. Statements about reality which are "intrinsic". These "statements of truth", for example the ratios represented by PI, cannot be decontextualised without becomming meaningless. They do not depend on some other framework, the nature of the universe provides the framework in which they are true. Thus they cannot be seperated from their frame of reference - and thus the wannabe-maxim is not applicable.
  2. Statements about things which are models requiring a framework, for example 3.141592653... as an approximation to PI. Or statements like "Symbolic logic is useful." These statements can be decontextualized, whereupon, as we have seen, they become meaningless or false or acquire a new meaning. I am not saying that there is not an instance where a statement of this class changes from "a statement of truth" into a "supposition". I am only saying that I have not seen a "statements of truth" like this, and have been unable to formulate such a statement. I have asked on the list for an example of such a transition, but have not yet seen an instance of one. Does these mean that nobody else on this list can think of one either? In either case, it would seem to me that I have demonstrated that there are "statements of truth" in this class of statement to which this maxim does not apply, and equally that nobody has demonstrated that there are "statements of truth" of this class to which this wannabe maxim does apply.
  3. "Statements of truth" about "statements of truth", a meta-system if you would. This has not been explicitly addressed on this thread as yet, yet I think that these three statements are, in a limited way (still in English), examples of such a class of statement and I would suggest contain a bi-level supposition. Firstly that they are indeed "statements of truth" and secondly that they are a "meta-system". I would need to see these statements transformed into a convincing symbolic form, indicating that they are true before being prepared to deal with them more fully. Given these limitations, and even more so the fact that they are only suppositions, not proven "statements of truth", I presently fail to see how they can be subject to the wannabe-maxim, but I stand to be convinced.

In the meantime, as I see it, the wannabe-maxim seems to be faulty in that the initial "All" is incorrect, and the "without becoming suppositions" is unproven.
> ERiC

TheHermit < Physics isn't a religion. If it were, we'd have a much easier time raising money. ~Leon Lederman >

In a sense, it was Greek philosophy, born of their difficult circumstances, their desire for answers to questions, that started change happening in Western culture. What got it accelerating, though, was something else, and that's the ease with which people communicated, moved ideas around. The easier you cross-talk, the faster change happens. James Burke