Author Topic: Science's Biggest Problem: The Fallacy of Induction  (Read 3989 times)

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Offline Olivianus

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Science's Biggest Problem: The Fallacy of Induction
« on: March 03, 2012, 07:29:36 PM »

            Induction, as it functions in logic and helps develop scientific laws, refers to a process of observing an object or event and drawing a universal conclusion that has yet to be observed.  We believe that all induction is a formal fallacy.  However, we can function as if it is useful in certain situations.  This is not a novel position.  Others have espoused this operational model: John Dewey (The Quest for Certainty, and Knowing and the Known), William James (Pragmatism in Focus), and Bertrand Russell, though not technically a pragmatist (Limitations of Scientific Method).  Clark also suggests Reliable Knowledge by Harold A. Larrabee.
 
               Atomism was used by many scientists like Galileo to invent things but the theory was proven false in the 1930s with the splitting of the atom.  The same could be said of milk fever. This problem was at first cured in cows by an injection of antiseptic into the cow’s udder. Later an injection of distilled water and compressed air alone (which was included in the prior injection) cured the milk fever. These theories later proved false. BUT THEY WORKED. Today, milk fever is treated by a calcium injection and other things. What's the point? Medical theories etc. based on empirical methods thankfully work many times. Unfortunately, they can never be proven true. The probability of these theories being true is answered by Karl Popper: “It can even be shown that all theories, including the best have the same probability, namely zero” (Conjectures and Refutations, p. 192). There are infinite possible reasons why these theories work from time to time. Your probability therefore is represented by the fraction one/infinity which equals zero. Bertrand Russell said,
 
“All inductive arguments in the last resort reduce themselves to the following form: 'If this is true, that is true: now that is true, therefore this is true.” This argument is of course, formally fallacious. Suppose I were to say: “If bread is a stone and stones are nourishing, then this bread will nourish me; now this bread does nourish me; therefore it is a stone, and stones are nourishing.' If I were to advance such an argument, I should certainly be thought foolish, yet it would not be fundamentally different from the argument upon which all scientific laws are based.” The Scientific Outlook By Bertrand Russell (Publisher: Routledge; New edition (July 18, 2001)
 
                The logical fallacy of induction is displayed again in formal form.  Clark said:
 
“The given hypothesis implies certain definite results; the experiment actually gives these results; therefore, the hypothesis is verified and can be called a law.  Obviously, this argument is the fallacy of asserting the consequent; and since all verification must commit this fallacy, it follows that no law or hypothesis can ever be logically demonstrated.”[ Gordon H. Clark, The Philosophy of Science and Belief in God (Jefferson, Maryland.: The Trinity Foundation, 1964, Second  edition 1987), 71]
 
            In common speech the problem goes something like this:  When it is raining outside the streets will be wet; The streets are wet, therefore it is raining outside.  This is a fallacy.  The streets could be wet for an infinite number of reasons.

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Re: Science's Biggest Problem: The Fallacy of Induction
« Reply #1 on: March 03, 2012, 08:17:41 PM »
Why don't you give us a good example in modern science, and how the "fallacy of induction" is its biggest problem?  That would be swell.  And pick something interesting.

Offline HAL

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Re: Science's Biggest Problem: The Fallacy of Induction
« Reply #2 on: March 03, 2012, 08:22:55 PM »
When it is raining outside the streets will be wet; ...

But, how do you know the streets are wet? By what means did you acquire this knowledge of wet streets in the first place?

Offline Olivianus

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Re: Science's Biggest Problem: The Fallacy of Induction
« Reply #3 on: March 03, 2012, 08:24:18 PM »
Why don't you give us a good example in modern science, and how the "fallacy of induction" is its biggest problem?  That would be swell.  And pick something interesting.

If Einstein's theory of general relativity is true, light will bend as it passes very massive objects. Light does bend as it passes massive objects, therefore Einstein's theory is true.

Fallacy, as are all theories that operate off this model. Russell admits, all science does this, therefore it is its biggest problem.


Offline Olivianus

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Re: Science's Biggest Problem: The Fallacy of Induction
« Reply #4 on: March 03, 2012, 08:27:51 PM »
HAL

Quote
But, how do you know the streets are wet? By what means did you acquire this knowledge of wet streets in the first place?

This is a problem, for your system not mine. I believe in knowledge by revelation, the ultimate case of special pleading.

Offline HAL

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Re: Science's Biggest Problem: The Fallacy of Induction
« Reply #5 on: March 03, 2012, 08:29:09 PM »
This is a problem, for your system not mine. I believe in knowledge by revelation, the ultimate case of special pleading.

So you, Olivianus, have no means to obtain knowledge of wet streets? Is this correct?

Offline Olivianus

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Re: Science's Biggest Problem: The Fallacy of Induction
« Reply #6 on: March 03, 2012, 08:34:37 PM »
Quote
So you, Olivianus, have no means to obtain knowledge of wet streets? Is this correct?

That does not mean I cannot catch you asserting such things in an ad hominem argument to pin one part of your assertions against others. My problem with induction is not a source of deduction on my positive worldview. It is an ad hominem attack on yours.

Offline HAL

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Re: Science's Biggest Problem: The Fallacy of Induction
« Reply #7 on: March 03, 2012, 08:36:15 PM »
Quote
That does not mean I cannot catch you asserting such things in an ad hominem argument to pin one part of your assertions against others. My problem with induction is not a source of deduction on my positive worldview. It is an ad hominem attack on yours.

So I repeat the question -

So you, Olivianus, have no means to obtain knowledge of wet streets? Is this correct?

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Re: Science's Biggest Problem: The Fallacy of Induction
« Reply #8 on: March 03, 2012, 08:36:24 PM »
Quote
So you, Olivianus, have no means to obtain knowledge of wet streets? Is this correct?

That does not mean I cannot catch you asserting such things in an ad hominem argument to pin one part of your assertions against others. My problem with induction is not a source of deduction on my positive worldview. It is an ad hominem attack on yours.

Unless you can watch every street simultaneously, you must deduce that if it's raining, then it's probably not just raining on top of you, but rather over a very large area, and thus you conclude that every street must be wet.
In short, induction.

Try again.
The truth is absolute. Life forms are specks of specks (...) of specks of dust in the universe.
Why settle for normal, when you can be so much more? Why settle for something, when you can have everything?
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Offline Olivianus

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Re: Science's Biggest Problem: The Fallacy of Induction
« Reply #9 on: March 03, 2012, 08:39:54 PM »
quote[] So you, Olivianus, have no means to obtain knowledge of wet streets? Is this correct?
[/quote]

I have no means to obtain knowledge of wet streets. Yes that is correct. Which is completely irrelevant because your view of the world does assert it can obtain knowledge of wet streets.

Offline HAL

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Re: Science's Biggest Problem: The Fallacy of Induction
« Reply #10 on: March 03, 2012, 08:41:29 PM »
I have no means to obtain knowledge of wet streets. Yes that is correct.

OK  thanks. I'm done for a while.

Enjoy the ride folks.

Side Note:

You remind me of a member we used to have frequent here - Dawiyhd (Daw for short). Your replies are the spitting image of his. Maybe some old timers can remember verify this is the case.

Offline Olivianus

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Re: Science's Biggest Problem: The Fallacy of Induction
« Reply #11 on: March 03, 2012, 08:41:47 PM »
Lucifer,

Quote
Unless you can watch every street simultaneously

Wrong. Not the argument.

Quote
you must deduce that if it's raining, then it's probably not just raining on top of you, but rather over a very large area, and thus you conclude that every street must be wet.
In short, induction.

What r u talking about?

Online One Above All

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Re: Science's Biggest Problem: The Fallacy of Induction
« Reply #12 on: March 03, 2012, 08:44:16 PM »
I have no means to obtain knowledge of wet streets. Yes that is correct.

Since induction is the basis for nearly every type of knowledge, am I also correct in assuming that you believe yourself to be as thick as a brick?

<snip>
What r u talking about?

Never mind my post. I was trying to explain why HAL's was relevant.
« Last Edit: March 03, 2012, 08:53:28 PM by Lucifer »
The truth is absolute. Life forms are specks of specks (...) of specks of dust in the universe.
Why settle for normal, when you can be so much more? Why settle for something, when you can have everything?
We choose our own gods.

A.K.A.: Blaziken_rjcf/Lucifer/All In One.

Offline kin hell

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Re: Science's Biggest Problem: The Fallacy of Induction
« Reply #13 on: March 03, 2012, 08:54:56 PM »

         In common speech the problem goes something like this:  When it is raining outside the streets will be wet; The streets are wet, therefore it is raining outside.  This is a fallacy.  The streets could be wet for an infinite number of reasons.


yes, they are weeping at the paucity of intellectual honesty displayed. They are not concerned with the lack of any real christian morality, because being a product of science, they have correctly induced that god is defined only by its absence.
"...but on a lighter note, demons were driven from a pig today in Gloucester."  Bill Bailey

all edits are for spelling or grammar unless specified otherwise

Offline Cyberia

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Re: Science's Biggest Problem: The Fallacy of Induction
« Reply #14 on: March 03, 2012, 10:19:36 PM »
But induction is the basis for Zeno's Paradox....
Soon we will judge angels.

Offline Asmoday

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Re: Science's Biggest Problem: The Fallacy of Induction
« Reply #15 on: March 03, 2012, 10:22:25 PM »
Atomism was used by many scientists like Galileo to invent things but the theory was proven false in the 1930s with the splitting of the atom.  The same could be said of milk fever. This problem was at first cured in cows by an injection of antiseptic into the cow’s udder. Later an injection of distilled water and compressed air alone (which was included in the prior injection) cured the milk fever. These theories later proved false. BUT THEY WORKED. Today, milk fever is treated by a calcium injection and other things. What's the point? Medical theories etc. based on empirical methods thankfully work many times.
Atomism is not a scientific theory. Atomism is/was a philosophy.

Scientific theories are not meant to be absolute truth. They can't be and scientist also don't say they are. They are meant to describe and explain reality as best as currently possible. Considering this, the big issue you'd like to make out of theories being shown wrong is non-existent. Besides, it's a common theist mistake to proclaim how we can believe anything science says if theories are shown to be "wrong" all the time.

This is understandable since religious beliefs are sold as absolutes. However the same can not be applied to scientific theories. As Isaac Asimov has said: "Naturally, the theories we now have might be considered wrong in the simplistic sense[...], but in a much truer and subtler sense, they need only be considered incomplete."

Scientific theories describe nature to the best of our abilities  at a certain point in time. Even if a scientific theory is shown to be not correct, it would be wrong to call the theory simply "wrong" because up to that point, the theory explained all scientific evidence that was present. I we look at "new" theories and the "old" theories they replaced, we see that new and old are most of the times not really all that different. In most cases the new theory simply is an addition to the old one.

The mentioned case of the milk fever actually shows this quite well. Despite being objectively wrong, the early treatments for milk fever worked because they they triggered a process that would add more calcium to the cow's bloodstream. As it has been found out later, when more advanced scientific techniques were available, injecting calcium is the cure to milk fever, which the "wrong" cures achieved by injecting air in the udder and so pressing the calcium back in the bloodstream.

Quote
Unfortunately, they can never be proven true. The probability of these theories being true is answered by Karl Popper: “It can even be shown that all theories, including the best have the same probability, namely zero” (Conjectures and Refutations, p. 192). There are infinite possible reasons why these theories work from time to time. Your probability therefore is represented by the fraction one/infinity which equals zero.
Can never be proven true? Just with your milk fever example you showed one case where it has been shown why an approach worked despite being objectively the wrong solution.

Regarding the Karl Popper quote, I find it interesting that, when a search is done for it, you only get exactly this little bit you quoted right there. And strangely all results go to either fundamentalist Christian sites or to posts by Christian fundamentalists. We never see the surrounding text to it or the context of it. Nor do we see it mentioned on a non-christian-fundamentalist site. I dare say it's a well mined quote we see here, equal to the often quoted passage about the development of the eye from Darwin's book.

Quote
Bertrand Russell said,
 
“All inductive arguments in the last resort reduce themselves to the following form: 'If this is true, that is true: now that is true, therefore this is true.” This argument is of course, formally fallacious. Suppose I were to say: “If bread is a stone and stones are nourishing, then this bread will nourish me; now this bread does nourish me; therefore it is a stone, and stones are nourishing.' If I were to advance such an argument, I should certainly be thought foolish, yet it would not be fundamentally different from the argument upon which all scientific laws are based.” The Scientific Outlook By Bertrand Russell (Publisher: Routledge; New edition (July 18, 2001)
Another nice quote that I'd actually love to see the surrounding text thereof.

I don't think I have to go into detail that the scientific method actually takes care of such nonsense arguments as the bread/stone one up there and weeds them out pretty quickly.
 
Quote
The logical fallacy of induction is displayed again in formal form.  Clark said:
 
“The given hypothesis implies certain definite results; the experiment actually gives these results; therefore, the hypothesis is verified and can be called a law.  Obviously, this argument is the fallacy of asserting the consequent; and since all verification must commit this fallacy, it follows that no law or hypothesis can ever be logically demonstrated.”[ Gordon H. Clark, The Philosophy of Science and Belief in God (Jefferson, Maryland.: The Trinity Foundation, 1964, Second  edition 1987), 71]
You know you have a Christian fundamentalist in front of you if they say that a verified hypothesis gets called a law.
 
Quote
In common speech the problem goes something like this:  When it is raining outside the streets will be wet; The streets are wet, therefore it is raining outside.  This is a fallacy.  The streets could be wet for an infinite number of reasons.
Which is why in science nobody would make this kind of narrow and obviously fallacious argument.

Streets get wet from rain but rain is not the only reason for wet streets. In the same way when testing a scientific hypothesis, it is common to always check what could interfere with the experiment and if there could be other reasons the for that particular result.

You're attacking a hyperbole straw man here.
« Last Edit: March 03, 2012, 11:04:59 PM by Asmoday »
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Offline jaimehlers

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Re: Science's Biggest Problem: The Fallacy of Induction
« Reply #16 on: March 04, 2012, 12:05:51 AM »
This is a problem, for your system not mine. I believe in knowledge by revelation, the ultimate case of special pleading.
You criticize induction as a fallacy, yet you specifically acknowledge that you are relying on special pleading, a fallacy of its own.  I'm pretty sure criticizing other people for a fault that you have is hypocrisy.

As for induction, it is only a fallacy if used in a situation where you can verify that a contradiction exists.  For example, if I went to some place, and only ever saw black squirrels, it would be reasonable to deduce by induction that there were only black squirrels there (although, like all inductive conclusions, an unstated "as far as we know" prefaces it).  If I subsequently saw a brown squirrel or a white squirrel or some other color of squirrel, then I could no longer make that deduction.  Similarly, nobody has ever seen a blue squirrel or a green squirrel, therefore it is reasonable to deduce by induction that no blue or green squirrels exist.  If someone were to find blue or green squirrels at some point, then the induction would be falsified.  That is why inductive conclusions have validity, because they can be falsified if someone finds countervailing evidence.

Online jetson

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Re: Science's Biggest Problem: The Fallacy of Induction
« Reply #17 on: March 04, 2012, 12:27:50 AM »
This is a problem, for your system not mine. I believe in knowledge by revelation, the ultimate case of special pleading.
You criticize induction as a fallacy, yet you specifically acknowledge that you are relying on special pleading, a fallacy of its own.  I'm pretty sure criticizing other people for a fault that you have is hypocrisy.

As for induction, it is only a fallacy if used in a situation where you can verify that a contradiction exists.  For example, if I went to some place, and only ever saw black squirrels, it would be reasonable to deduce by induction that there were only black squirrels there (although, like all inductive conclusions, an unstated "as far as we know" prefaces it).  If I subsequently saw a brown squirrel or a white squirrel or some other color of squirrel, then I could no longer make that deduction.  Similarly, nobody has ever seen a blue squirrel or a green squirrel, therefore it is reasonable to deduce by induction that no blue or green squirrels exist.  If someone were to find blue or green squirrels at some point, then the induction would be falsified.  That is why inductive conclusions have validity, because they can be falsified if someone finds countervailing evidence.

Now, now jaimehlers, let's not bother the nice poster with what really happens in science, we don't want to blow the delusion that the entire scientific method is flawed, and cannot possibly be reliable!


Offline Olivianus

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Re: Science's Biggest Problem: The Fallacy of Induction
« Reply #18 on: March 04, 2012, 12:54:14 AM »
Yawn.

Online jetson

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Re: Science's Biggest Problem: The Fallacy of Induction
« Reply #19 on: March 04, 2012, 12:56:57 AM »
Yawn.

Well, if that's how you feel, then why not take your victory and spoils to the masses?  And by the way, is there any chance you can add a link to WWGHA on your main page?  That would be swell, and the right thing to do.  Or, are those atheist links just for ones that don't make you yawn?

Offline jaimehlers

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Re: Science's Biggest Problem: The Fallacy of Induction
« Reply #20 on: March 04, 2012, 01:04:26 AM »
Now, now jaimehlers, let's not bother the nice poster with what really happens in science, we don't want to blow the delusion that the entire scientific method is flawed, and cannot possibly be reliable!
Oh, it won't bother me one bit.  I mean, as you just saw, he's quite capable of blowing off anything that might threaten his idea that special pleading is the way to go.

Or maybe he's just tired.  I mean, it must really be hard work for him to continue rationalizing his beliefs in the face of logical rebuttals that he apparently can't answer.

Offline HAL

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Re: Science's Biggest Problem: The Fallacy of Induction
« Reply #21 on: March 04, 2012, 08:31:27 AM »
One wonders how he makes it through a normal day. He can't determine if the streets are wet, or if he heard his alarm clock, or if it's daytime or nighttime, or even what he is looking at from moment to moment. Tough way to get through life I would imagine.

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Re: Science's Biggest Problem: The Fallacy of Induction
« Reply #22 on: March 04, 2012, 09:08:40 AM »
One wonders how he makes it through a normal day. He can't determine if the streets are wet, or if he heard his alarm clock, or if it's daytime or nighttime, or even what he is looking at from moment to moment. Tough way to get through life I would imagine.

He smited me man...I'm hurt.   :(

But how did he actually smite me, wouldn't the smite button itself fall under the fallacy of induction?

Offline HAL

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Re: Science's Biggest Problem: The Fallacy of Induction
« Reply #23 on: March 04, 2012, 09:12:27 AM »
But how did he actually smite me, wouldn't the smite button itself fall under the fallacy of induction?

Jetson - how do you like my new sig?

Yes, how did he manage to use the button? How did he determine it existed? Or the keyboard? Or the mouse?

Inquiring minds want to know.

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Re: Science's Biggest Problem: The Fallacy of Induction
« Reply #24 on: March 04, 2012, 09:34:55 AM »
In common speech the problem goes something like this:  When it is raining outside the streets will be wet; The streets are wet, therefore it is raining outside.  This is a fallacy.  The streets could be wet for an infinite number of reasons.

That's not really a problem; it's simply logic applied without a significant number of relevant facts. 

If the only information you had to go on was that the streets were wet, then one possibility is certainly that it is raining outside.  In order to safely (beyond reasonable doubt) conclude that, however, you need more facts.  That's how scientific theories work, Olivianus.  They explain how ALL the facts fit together.  So if we had more and more information regarding the current situation (I.E. I'm outside and water is hitting me, there is heavy cloud cover, I just heard a thunderclap, etc) we are more freely able to form a conclusion that it is raining outside, and that is the cause for the streets being wet.  This is how things work.  You use that process every single day of your life.  From a functional standpoint, it's a very good system.  Sure, it can get things wrong once in a while, but for 99% of the situations we face, it's very useful for keeping us alive. 

It is interesting to look back in time, however, and see how this fallacy ran rampant for centuries before modern science came on the scene.  How often was "God" invoked when relevant facts were missing?  "I don't understand how rain works... it must be God."  "I don't understand why the sun comes up, it must be God."  Is not all religion, then, one giant fallacious argument?

In terms of the explanatory benefit, God belief is nothing more than the application of a one-size-fits-all, man made 'pseudo-fact' that is used to help ignorant man avoid the unpleasant state of having to admit they don't know something.  But we don't need that anymore.  We know more now.  We don't have to be scared of the unknown.

If we have enough relevant information, we CAN safely conclude that the streets are wet because it's raining, and NOT because baby Jesus is crying. 



Whenever events that are purported to occur in our best interest are as numerous as the events that will just as soon kill us, then intent is hard, if not impossible to assert. NDT

Offline ungod

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Re: Science's Biggest Problem: The Fallacy of Induction
« Reply #25 on: March 04, 2012, 10:02:53 AM »
I bought an induction range, and it works! Am I being deceived by science - i.e. am I really eating raw food?

Just wondering.   &)
Reason is a whore, the greatest enemy that faith has.
Faith must trample under foot all reason, sense, and understanding. - Martin Luther

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Offline Asmoday

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Re: Science's Biggest Problem: The Fallacy of Induction
« Reply #26 on: March 04, 2012, 10:53:41 AM »
I bought an induction range, and it works! Am I being deceived by science - i.e. am I really eating raw food?

Just wondering.   &)
That's just how science rolls.

Besides, even if your induction range would work, Zeno's paradox clearly shows us that the food would never ever get from raw to done (in fact, it wouldn't even get mildly warm) since the temperature can never be approached due to an unlimited amount of half-steps.

See? You really have been eating raw food all this time without even noticing.
Absilio Mundus!

I can do no wrong. For I do not know what it is.

Offline joebbowers

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Re: Science's Biggest Problem: The Fallacy of Induction
« Reply #27 on: March 04, 2012, 11:08:46 AM »
Olivianus, you have been warned repeatedly against copy-pasting a wall of text. I know you Christians find it hard to come up with an original thought, but you're not even trying.
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Offline Olivianus

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Re: Science's Biggest Problem: The Fallacy of Induction
« Reply #28 on: March 04, 2012, 11:24:30 PM »
One wonders how he makes it through a normal day. He can't determine if the streets are wet, or if he heard his alarm clock, or if it's daytime or nighttime, or even what he is looking at from moment to moment. Tough way to get through life I would imagine.

Hal, not true. I just have a different and much more strict view of knowledge than you do.