Mar 17 2011

Is Philosophy of Science Dead?

In his latest book, The Grand Design, Stephen Hawking gives his opinion that the philosophy of science has outlived its usefulness – it is “dead”. The reason he gives is that modern philosophers have not kept up with the cutting edge of science, and therefore their musings have become irrelevant.

Not surprisingly, philosophers have not taken kindly to this suggestion. I find myself siding with the philosophers on this one. But Hawking’s observation is not without merit, especially if you give it one critical tweak - some philosophers of science have not kept up and their musings about science are largely irrelevant. I could also says that some scientists are not up on their philosophy and this hampers their efforts as scientists.

Christopher Norris does a good job defending philosophy (in the link above), so I won’t repeat the same points here except to summarize. Norris observes:

By the same token, scientific theories are always ‘underdetermined’ by the best evidence to hand, meaning that the evidence is always open to other, equally rational interpretations given some adjustment of this or that ‘auxiliary hypothesis’ or negotiable element of background belief. All the same, I don’t want to push that line of argument too far, because among some philosophers of science it has now become an article of faith; a dogma maintained just as fixedly as any precept of the old, unreconstructed positivist creed. Moreover it has given rise to a range of relativist or ‘strong’ sociological approaches which use the theory-ladenness and underdetermination theses to cast doubt on any distinction between true and false theories, valid and invalid hypotheses, or science and pseudo-science.

Very likely it is notions of this kind – ideas with their home ground in sociology, or cultural studies, or on the wilder shores of philosophy of science – which provoked Professor Hawking to issue his pronouncement.

I think that is it exactly. Scientists need to understand that there is a philosophy that underpins the methods of science. There is no science without the philosophy of science, even if it is implied and not implicitly understood by scientists. And we need to understand the philosophical  assumptions and limits of science. However, some philosophers have taken the fact that science does rest on certain basic principles that themselves are not empirical (although I would argue have stood the test of time and are practical – which, I know, are criteria that are also based on philosophical premises) to the extreme of post-modernism, that science is no different than culture.

It is no surprise that scientists recoil from the notion that science is hopelessly subjective and that no theory can be said to be objectively better than any other. This is nonsense. Ironically, this view of philosophy of science is also a product of “not keeping up”, because it is passe among philosophers of science. Norris seems to echo this assessment – that this type of post-modernism comes from the “strong” sociological approach, or only among the “wilder shores” of philosophy of science. I have spoken to several philosophers of science who are highly critical of this view, as Norris seems to be.

Hawking’s mistake seems to be to paint contemporary philosophy of science with too broad a brush. It is more accurate, and more effective, to rely upon those philosophers who are also critical of the misapplication of post-modernism to science as allies.

But Hawking’s criticism does raise an interesting question – will the philosophy of science ever be done, or at least reduced to minor tweaks of an essentially correct and fully formed philosophy of science? Philosophy is a system of thought, like mathematics. I don’t think there is one, final and objective “Truth” out there, but at least as far as a system of thought, like math, is concerned – at any point can it be said to be complete and correct? Is algebra still evolving? (Perhaps it is, I profess my own ignorance on this topic not being a mathematician, but it seems to me that the algebra of today is much the same as that of 30 years ago). I know that mathematics is still developing – there is a cutting edge of advanced mathematical techniques and problems yet to be solved, but I don’t think we will be changing the basic concept of geometry much.

It is somewhat similar with science – when we nail down the basic concepts then science advances by addressing finer and finer detail, or deeper and deeper understanding. Some believe that science may end once we come up with a theory of everything, but I disagree because there are endless permutations of how the universe works that can be explored. Perhaps philosophy is the same – there are endless permutations of philosophical questions to be addressed.

And that is my best guess at this time – at some point, and perhaps we are there or very close – we will have a philosophy of science that is internally consistent, thoroughly explored and essentially a whole and complete philosophy. At that point further work will involve the application of the philosophy of science, but fundamental changes or insights will no longer be necessary.

It may further be true that some philosophers (and I emphasize some), looking to make a novel contribution, will propose changes for the sake of changes. They will try to fix what is not broken. I think this is partly what was happening with the post-modernist community. They took some useful insights as to the history, process, and limits of science and then ran with them to an absurd extreme. They tried to fix what was not broken. They then had to be reigned in by their successors.

But it seems to me that the extreme post-modernist application to science still echoes in the popular culture (which did not get the memo that this is not the cutting edge of philosophy of science). Hawking was reacting mainly to that echo, and not the best that current philosophy of science has to offer.

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74 responses so far

74 Responses to “Is Philosophy of Science Dead?”

  1. Michael Meadonon 17 Mar 2011 at 8:51 am

    Steve, have you read Susan Haack’s Defending Science? That is proper philosophy of science.

    And, you know, these days people studying philosophy of science often do mind-bending things like a dual-Ph.D in philosophy and some science. (Philosophy of science and neuroscience, for example).

    Hawking’s view, as you hint, is an echo of the “science wars” of the 1990s.

  2. Xalxuffaschon 17 Mar 2011 at 9:58 am

    There is, or at least from my current training there is, a reason PhD stands for doctor philosophiae. I believe I am being very well trained as a scientist. Part of that training is setting up the boundaries of our field, why we study these things and why these things may be fundamentally unstudyable: the domain of philosophy. To truly have a broad understanding of an an entire field and be an expert in some portion of that field you must understand the philsophical underpinnings.

    I think the best thrashing of post-modernism I have read is from: Marr, J. (2003). Empiricism. In K.A. Lattal & P. Chase (Eds.). Behavior Theory and Philosophy (pp. 63-81). NY: Kluver Academic. If you can ignore that the article is about behaviorism, if you are not interested in it, in a few pages he carefully explains why post-modernism is scientifically bankrupt.

  3. SRFWP1on 17 Mar 2011 at 10:42 am

    Thanks for clearing up a misconception I had. My brother was an undergraduate Philosophy major, so you can imagine my so-very-not factually based opinion of modern philosophy. As a PhD student in Genetics, I recognize that my understanding of the philosophy of science is quite weak; are there any particular books that anyone could recommend to help me catch-up? Picking one for myself, I’d be afraid that I’d choose one of the outdated or fringe books. Thanks!

  4. bjzaon 17 Mar 2011 at 10:50 am

    On the “keeping up with the cutting edge of science” point, I can echo what Meadon’s said about dual-PhD students. It’s been my grounds-eye experience that no small number of students currently receiving PhDs in Philosophy of Science have an advanced degree in a science (or the credits necessary for an advanced degree had they not switched rails). They usually have some specialty within the field, and, though I couldn’t estimate the percent, the specialties frequently seem to be on the edge of “unstudyable,” to use Xalxuffasch’s word. Hence the interest in philosophy. I can’t speak to how well older generations keep up, but if this observation alone proves to be the general case, each new wave will be standing there right alongside the scientists.

    I don’t know if anyone’s collecting data on this, but it would certainly be interesting to see.

  5. strubieon 17 Mar 2011 at 11:03 am

    Science is the best tool we’ve ever invented for understanding how reality works, and philosophy of science is the proper means of honing that tool to our greatest advantage. I think it’s unfortunate that such prominent scientists belittle it.

  6. Danon 17 Mar 2011 at 11:43 am

    Anyone else notice that Hawking and Mlodinow claimed that “philosophy is dead” and follow later with the philosophy of Model-Dependent Realism? I found it quite ironic that they dismiss philosophy and then used philosophy to underpin the entire premise of their book.

  7. cwfongon 17 Mar 2011 at 1:07 pm

    Hawking believes that something can and did rise spontaneously from nothing.
    So much for his philosophical grasp of the remotely possible.

  8. Don Henryon 17 Mar 2011 at 1:52 pm

    I watched this discussion between Craig Callendar and Sean Carroll (http://www.philostv.com/craig-callender-and-sean-carroll) about the theory of the multiverse. Sean came out looking much better because his opinion had been tempered with facts, which require a PhD in this area to absorb.

  9. lurchwurmon 17 Mar 2011 at 2:12 pm

    Steve,

    This was a very refreshing article to read. I have not read your blog in over a year, because I felt that I was not “being scientific enough” for the blog (due to my struggles with reconciling my philosophical research and the scientific skepticism that you have done a great job of promoting). I value scientific knowledge, but my own thoughts regarding abstraction in general caused me to question what inquiries were possible when questions of abstraction were juxtaposed against science per se.

    I don’t know how long you have held the view that you currently have, but I agree with it. Your question regarding “does mathematics evolve?” has a lot of research behind it… mainly the “modernist turn” around the 1880′s (starting with Cantor). Obviously, once a mathematical system (as in any axiomatic formal system) has been well-defined, any theorems resulting from the system will not “cause the system to evolve.” It will be entirely deductive at that point. But if you study the evolution of Non-Euclidean Geometry during the “Modernist Turn,” you will find that a lot of uncertainty arose regarding “which system of mathematics was the right one” and “what knowledge is actually gained from mathematical systems?”

    Unfortunately, my knowledge in philosophy of science is weaker than philosophy of mathematics, so I can’t really add much to the philosophy of science question. But, I would caution against thinking of philosophy as a “system of thought.” It might benefit you to read a little of Nietszche and Hegel and contrast that against analytic philosophy between 1910 and 1950. The notion that philosophy is a “system of thought” was seriously in question during Nietszche’s time after Hegel had supposedly created the “Absolute” system of thought a few decades before him. Furthermore, the analytic philosophers heavily debated that philosophy could be constrained to “systems,” and the leading conclusion that came out (after the 1950′s) was that the “system of thought” theory might not be entirely correct. Unfortunately, I don’t know the current state of research on this question; I am currently focused on questions of abstraction as such.

    Again, thank you for sharing your thoughts regarding philosophy of science. I don’t know you personally, but I would say you have had somewhat of a transformation in your life and thinking thanks to philosophy.

  10. daedalus2uon 17 Mar 2011 at 2:51 pm

    I recently read that piece in the NYT about the “argument by ashtray” by a man who was once Kuhn’s student (and got dismissed by Kuhn). In looking at background, I noticed that not a few people were blaming Kuhn for (or for contributing to) the “science is just another part of culture” meme.

    That is not at all how I read Kuhn or how I understand science or culture. What Kuhn pointed out was that it is very difficult to not have biases that derive from very basic principles that are not subject to examination the way they should be. This is one of the things that is greatly impeding progress in science and especially in medical science.

    I got into an argument last night with someone about homeostasis which I called a wrong myth that should be abandoned. The person was unable to discuss it, and announced she had to leave abruptly before I could finish explaining in terms she could understand why the concept was wrong.

    I recently saw the wikipedia entry on “the central dogma of molecular biology”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Central_dogma_of_molecular_biology

    where apparently Crick used the term “dogma” because he didn’t know what it meant and he didn’t intend the phrase he coined to actually be dogma, just “a grand hypothesis that, however plausible, had little direct experimental support.”

    It is very unfortunate that no one feels the need to correct the term. It is wrong, and should be corrected. That it persists in the scientific literature is pernicious.

  11. Danon 17 Mar 2011 at 3:14 pm

    cwfong,

    So much for your grasp of physics. Saying that philosophy proves you can’t get an universe from nothing is exactly the kind of old-fashioned, scientifically-ignorant philosophy that Hawking would be right to criticize (and is the kind I think he was mostly deriding in his quote).

    You might want to read a few books on the subject. Also Lawrence Krauss has a good lecture available on youtube; it’s called “A Universe from Nothing.”

  12. Heinleineron 17 Mar 2011 at 3:20 pm

    @daedalus2u

    I’m still not sure how I feel about Kuhn. The first time I read him I was all for the big paradigm-shifts, but now I have more doubts.

    Question for you though: what’s the myth part of homeostasis?

  13. cwfongon 17 Mar 2011 at 3:34 pm

    Dan, I’ve likely read more on the subject than you have, and apparently understood what I read better than you as well. And I’ve never said that philosophy “proves” anything, so here again your understanding is limited to your apparent assumption that proof is its purpose.
    And Krauss does not “believe” that the universe literally came from nothing. Look at the youtube video again, but have someone with you who can explain it to you properly.

  14. Logic Treeon 17 Mar 2011 at 4:34 pm

    As the practices of science change, so must the ways in which we explain the reasoning behind those changes to the general public. This is especially important when it comes to education. If we foster an entire generation of young adults who have no grasp of even the more simple scientific principles, the medical and technological progress of our society will ultimately grind to a halt.

    One of the most widespread misconceptions about the methods of science is the notion that “correlation equals causation”. Essentially, a large majority of the general public will judge a claim to be true beyond doubt as long as there is significant statistical data to support said claim.

    A very clear example of this outrageous tendency is the “illegal narcotics” problem the world is facing today.
    More and more people seem to be on drugs, because statistics tell us so.
    Opiates are equal to slow and painful death, because statistics tell us so.
    Stimulants are equal to nosebleed and severe motor dysfunction, because statistics tell us so.
    Cannabis equals paranoia, delusion, schizophrenia and ultimate entropy of the soul, because statistics tell us so.

  15. daedalus2uon 17 Mar 2011 at 5:23 pm

    I have blogged about the myth of homeostasis.

    http://daedalus2u.blogspot.com/2008/01/myth-of-homeostasis-implications-for.html

    Homeostasis posits that physiology keeps certain physiological parameters “the same” and that deviations from this state of homeostasis are pathological. There is actually no evidence for this. The term was coined at a time where measurement techniques were insufficient to measure differences in physiological parameters that we now know are important. We now know that nothing is “static” the way that homeostasis posits and the concept of homeostasis has morphed somewhat.

    There is no “evolutionary driving force” to compel organisms to evolve homeostasis. There is only an evolutionary driving force to compel organisms to evolve pathways that facilitate survival.

    An example where the wrong idea of homeostasis is hurting people (and probably killing them) is in sepsis. During sepsis, blood sugar spontaneously goes up. The idea of homeostasis posits that this increase is pathological and should be controlled externally to bring it back to “normal”. A “normal” blood sugar during sepsis is pathological and makes survival less likely.

    During sepsis, the NO level is made very high by expression of iNOS. This NO shuts down most mitochondria by binding to cytochrome c oxidase and inhibiting reduction of O2. The high NO level also increases the ATP setpoint by binding to sGC. During sepsis, individuals have a higher ATP than individuals not in sepsis. This higher ATP level is supported by glycolysis, which is why higher blood glucose levels are needed during sepsis.

    It is this extreme need for massive amounts of glucose during sepsis that cause cachexia, the conversion of muscle to amino acids which are converted in the liver to glucose which is use to glycolytically generate ATP and lactate and where the lactate is then disposed of by being converted into fat. Individuals in sepsis may convert tens of pounds of muscle into glucose and then into fat in a few days.

    It is the inability to continue to supply sufficient glucose to tissues that cause the multiple organ failure of sepsis. When there is insufficient glucose to maintain a high ATP level, the ATP level falls, the mitochondria turn-on. Mitochondria turn-on by generating superoxide to pull down the local NO level so cytochrome c oxidase is disinhibited and can bind O2 and reduce it to H2O. In the high NO environment of sepsis, the NO reacts with that superoxide and produces peroxynitrite which nitrates a tyrosine on mitochondrial SOD and inhibits it. That greatly increases superoxide levels, greatly increase peroxynitrite levels which nitrate the respiration chain and irreversibly inhibit it and irreversibly turn that mitochondria off. If too many mitochondria are turned off, that cell dies. If too many cells die, that organ dies. If too many organs die, you get multiple organ failure and you die.

    What doctors should do with someone in sepsis is give them lots and lots of glucose, way above “normal” levels. Give them insulin to get the glucose into cells and dialyze them with urea containing dialysis solutions to get rid of the lactate.

    Doctors won’t consider such a treatment because they are hung up on the idea of homeostasis and the perceived need to restore the “at rest” homeostatic conditions.

  16. tmac57on 17 Mar 2011 at 8:06 pm

    cwfong-

    Hawking believes that something can and did rise spontaneously from nothing.
    So much for his philosophical grasp of the remotely possible.

    It does seem absurd coming from an intuitive position.The problem that arises from believing otherwise is that there does seem to be ‘something’,so where,or what did it come from? If it came from something else,then where did the “something else” come from?Neither position fits very well into everyday experience,so it seems like the answer either way will have profound implications.

  17. Danon 17 Mar 2011 at 8:17 pm

    cwfong,

    You certainly did say that if Hawking understood philosophy he wouldn’t even think it was remotely possible to get something from nothing (sorry if you see a huge grammatical difference between the statements “using philosophy to prove something impossible” and “using philosophy to show something isn’t remotely possible”, in common parlance they are the same thing, so your ad hominem is misplaced).

    I’m not sure how you can say that you’ve read that much on the subject, unless you are claiming that you understand the subject better than professional physicists. You are arguing with experts in the field, not me. What philosophy books have you read that disprove modern physics?

    I also like that you just tell me how much you have read on the subject, as if just that would show me Hawking is wrong. Just claiming in effect “I’m smart” and “you don’t even know” doesn’t win a debate. And I suggest you actually read what physicists say on this subject, because many disagree with you (you might want to watch Krauss’ talk again, you seem to have missed that he was talking about a universe from nothing, even though the title was “A Universe from Nothing”). You sound like the Catholic bloggers who tried to disprove Hawking’s book by citing Thomas Aquinas!

    It seems most logical to me that in a scientific debate evidence and science trumps science-free and evidence-free philosophy. Feel free to disagree, but that is the kind of philosophy that Hawking was demeaning.

  18. cwfongon 17 Mar 2011 at 8:40 pm

    tmac57,
    It seems the only rational inference we can draw (and philosophy is about the art of drawing inference) is that there has always been a cosmological “something” that exists, if only as what we can loosely refer to as information.
    If I’m not mistaken, Krauss and others see this as possibly a form of energy without mathematically measurable dimensions, and therefor mathematically equivalent to nothing, but still a so-far unknown form of something. Note for example Krauss’ remarks about the conceptual conundrum of infinity.
    We cannot come up with a rational conception, philosophically, that allows for either something to eventually turn to absolutely nothing, or allows for absolutely nothing to have at any time turned into something.
    Even, for example, the emptiness of space that nothing needed for productive purposes is conceptually something.

  19. cwfongon 17 Mar 2011 at 9:06 pm

    Dan,
    Neither interpretation of my comment in support of the proposition put forward on this blog is correct at all. You clearly haven’t the remotest idea of what either I or Krauss or Hawking were talking about, either or any of us reading from the same page or not.

    You’d need to prove that you actually understand the subject at hand before complaining that others somehow don’t.

  20. cwfongon 17 Mar 2011 at 9:26 pm

    Of course we will soon see that proof, or even the slightest evidence of understanding, is not a prerequisite for commentary here, so for the court’s indulgence I’ll withdraw that last objection (but not for the jury).

  21. Davdoodleson 17 Mar 2011 at 10:19 pm

    @cfwong

    I’m not being critical here, I don’t know even remotely enough to understand the science, (or the philosophy for that matter), but as a forst step, could you clairfy what you mean by these two statements:

    1. “Hawking believes that something can and did rise spontaneously from nothing.”

    2. “It seems the only rational inference we can draw (and philosophy is about the art of drawing inference) is that there has always been a cosmological “something” that exists, if only as what we can loosely refer to as information.”

    Please correct me if I’m wrong, but are you suggesting that notwithstandin that Hawking (presumably based on science) believes that there was once “nothing”, philosopy says that there must have always been “something”, so the science needs to be re-considered? ie that philosophy trumps science?
    .

  22. nybgruson 17 Mar 2011 at 10:21 pm

    I have Hawking’s book on my shelf, waiting to be read. It is next up.

    However, from what I have understood about the topic, and in particularly Krauss’s lecture is precisely the inference that the universe came from nothing. Put quite simply, Krauss posits that the shape of the universe is flat (based on empirical data) and thus the net energy of the universe is zero. Then look at CP asymmetry which posits that even a .0001% skew of CP symmetry in the spontaneous generation of quantum particles would have a cumulative effect of driving either matter or anti-matter production to a net effect of having “something” in the universe over “nothing” – while still maintaining the average energy density of zero that the flat universe accommodates. Next, see empirical evidence of CP symmetry violation and viola – we have a universe from nothing without violating any laws of thermodynamics.

    At least, very, very simplified – that is my understanding of Krauss’s stance and what I envision Hawking’s latest to further expound upon. I’d love to hear any refinements or arguments.

  23. cwfongon 17 Mar 2011 at 11:12 pm

    Philosophy can’t trump science, since without it’s philosophical foundation science would and could not be effective. Science and philosophy are one. And I’ll repeat that whatever you’d like to think Krauss is arguing, it’s not that the universe came at us out of nowhere.

  24. cwfongon 17 Mar 2011 at 11:53 pm

    I should add that I’m not the one who threw Krauss into the mix here, and if I thought he actually meant to use “nothing” as other than a metaphor for a mathematical abstraction, I’d simply say that he was in my opinion wrong, and if any of you want to do the research, you’ll see that other physicists would agree. I think it was Krauss himself who pointed out elsewhere that his mathematics can’t account for the fact that the universe came fully equipped with laws of probability – which of course if it brought those laws with it from nowhere then there were none from whence they came to violate.

    And then there was the renowned physicist John A. Wheeler, who had also wrestled with the question that, in his own words, “How does something arise from nothing?” He died without a satisfactory answer, but again, it was mine and others feeling that he was asking the wrong question.

  25. cwfongon 18 Mar 2011 at 1:01 am

    As to whether Hawking now sees “nothing” as a metaphor, I can’t be sure. He doesn’t or didn’t seem to think the philosophical objections are persuasive, but again I just don’t know, and frankly don’t feel its all that necessary that I care.

  26. sonicon 18 Mar 2011 at 1:25 am

    Is ‘String Theory’ science?
    Is ‘The Landscape’ science?
    Is ‘irreducible complexity’ a meaningful challenge to unguided evolution?
    It seems the philosophy of science is still needed as someone somewhat removed from the fray would best be able to consider these questions objectively.

  27. sonicon 18 Mar 2011 at 1:25 am

    cwfong-
    A review of Hawking’s book you might like–
    http://www.math.columbia.edu/~woit/wordpress/?p=3141

    daedalus2u-
    Fascinating stuff re: homeostasis.

  28. canadiaon 18 Mar 2011 at 1:25 am

    I passionately hate the overly intellectual, utterly impractical hand-waving of philosophy. The discussion in comments is a good example of why. Rarely, if ever, have I seen a useful contribution to anything come from philosophy.

    Chances are, if you are thinking about philosophy enough to know the lexicon, you are thinking too much. Go solve a real problem.

  29. cwfongon 18 Mar 2011 at 2:05 am

    sonic, it does seem from that and other reviews that Hawking sees nothingness as more than a metaphor. He seems to have asked at some point, why is there something rather than nothing, and then answered his own question intuitively that there’s no dichotomous contradiction there, because in his new vision of a multiple universe, there both a nothing and a something happily existing in the present.
    Ours seems to have come from the nothing portion if we believe what he intuited earlier, but he hasn’t told us yet where all the other universes that could possibly be with us originated, except that they’d apparently rather be here than nowhere.

  30. Mlemaon 18 Mar 2011 at 2:29 am

    It does seem to me that Stephen Hawking, at least in his philosophies, does “reinvent the wheel” somewhat. (as the response article argues)

    Maybe the advancement for both science and philosophy lies in there being more people like the students some commentators above have described – students who are advancing their knowledge in both realms, instead of relying as much on any polarity of the two disciplines to keep each other “honest”

  31. Mlemaon 18 Mar 2011 at 2:33 am

    of course, the interplay is important. I think maybe Stephen Hawking doesn’t realize that he IS doing what he says is “dead”! He could save a lot of brain time by communicating with some philosophers!

  32. Mlemaon 18 Mar 2011 at 2:40 am

    @ daedalus2u

    Like Sonic, i was fascinated by your post re: homeostasis. How does the average person support a transformation in medical treatment like the one you describe? Support of research trials?

  33. Danon 18 Mar 2011 at 2:56 am

    cwfong,

    I’m sorry, but just claiming “I know more than you, I know more than you” ad nasium does NOT demonstrate that you have the foggiest understanding of the issue. You might be a philosophy genius, but it isn’t obvious, and you are certainly demonstrating that you don’t understand how to debate (hint: simply using ad hominems, calling everyone who disagrees with you uninformed, and telling everyone how smart you are does not make a compelling argument). Facts or logic would be nice. I do like how you keep implying that anyone who disagrees with your philosophical speculations doesn’t understand physics like you do (evidently you think you understand physics better than Hawking, Greene, Krauss, etc because you read a philosophical argument). Again, you sound exactly like the Catholic bloggers who “disproved” Hawking’s book by referring to Thomas Aquinas!

    Yes, Krauss and Hawking both claim that the universe can come from nothing, watch Krauss’ lecture again and read Hawking’s book (saying nothing is just a “metaphor” to them is just a lame way to avoid the fact that you were caught making unsubstantiated claims). If you think your armchair philosophy can trump science than we are probably at an impasse; I hope you’ll come to see that armchair philosophy (which I do enjoy) is not sufficient to disprove scientific theories.

    Please answer this question instead of just praising your own intelligence and denigrating everyone who disagrees, what philosophy have you read that shows that getting a universe from nothing isn’t even “remotely possible”? I’m sure that a lot of theoretical physicists would be glad to be shown by you that their research spent actively pursuing this question are absolutely in vain. Please, enlighten them with your philosophy so they can move on to better things!

  34. cwfongon 18 Mar 2011 at 3:37 am

    Dan, I’m not smarter than they are, just a lot less ignorant than you are. Why would I want to debate with someone who starts out by saying I espouse “the kind of old-fashioned, scientifically-ignorant philosophy that Hawking would be right to criticize.” Talk about ad hominem.

    Who else but you here did I call uninformed? If it’s either you or me here that’s the most scientifically ignorant, I easily choose you.

    Also as somewhat of a liar in the way you purposely continue to misquote me. Since I clearly said “nothing” is a mathematical metaphor to Krauss and I haven’t disagreed with him on that at all. And I said “nothing” is not a metaphor to Hawking and yet his evidence for this comes from a philosophical thought experiment. Philosophy that he found subsequently dead.

    What philosophy have I read about the “nothingness” dilemma? Well first I wrote it, then I read it back.

  35. nybgruson 18 Mar 2011 at 3:55 am

    @cfwong: regardless of who you may have called stupid or not, Dan is still spot on with his assessment that you are not actually engaging in any debate. If your claim is that you find it beneath you to debate with him because he is that ignorant, then why do you continue to respond to each of his comments? Just don’t engage. Instead, you do continue to comment and each comment is just as uninformative as the last. I even attempted to join in, by giving a brief summary of some concrete points as I understood them and how that lead to my interpretation as being in concordance with Dan’s. I asked for refinement or refutation of what I’d said. I was completely ignored.

    Regardless of who may be right or wrong, smarter or dumber, ignorant or not, it still stands that every comment you have made is to sneer and proclaim your deeper understanding without actually saying anything.

    Perhaps you would actually like to enlighten us and engage us in some concrete discussion. Otherwise, stop wasting time posting useless comments.

  36. cwfongon 18 Mar 2011 at 4:37 am

    nybgrus, it was Dan that out of the blue called me stupid and asked me to prove otherwise. Now apparently you’re doing the same because somehow in my state of ignorance I ignored you?
    I don’t see where you specifically addressed a question to me – did you? But then why would you have if I’ve come off as uninformative?
    Are you perhaps upset because no-one else here addressed your general comments either? Why don’t you try to have a conversation with the blog owner? After all, it’s his post that he was looking for feedback on, not mine. Couldn’t you think of anything informative to say?

  37. SimonWon 18 Mar 2011 at 4:46 am

    Discovered I was a Materialist Monist the other day, this sounds like some sort of deep philosophical position, but it is pretty much an underlying assumption of nearly all interpretations of Quantum mechanics. If you aren’t a materialist monist, you are so pre-1930′s.

    But I think the criticism may have some basis. If you don’t have a firm grasp of say “spooky action at a distance” (and I don’t despite a degree in theoretical physics), your ability to say anything about the nature of space, time and material is pretty limited. One needs a good grasp of what has been empirically demonstrated to show that other interpretations could fit, and when it comes to the natures of space and time and material these are pretty basic building blocks for a philosophy of science.

    The mistake I think is to assume the philosophy of science is something beyond the thoughts of people like Hawkings, and we pay too much attentions to people who don’t really grapple with the hard details of experimental results that inform those thoughts.

  38. nybgruson 18 Mar 2011 at 6:21 am

    @cfwong: You once again reinforce my assertion. Fine, I’ll even be generous and rephrase: it doesn’t matter. Any of it. At all.

    The critique still stands. Whilst I may not have directly asked you a question Dan has been. And you have not addressed those questions. You may indeed by 100% correct in every assertion you have made. But you have not shown that to be the case in any way shape or form. And no, I am not miffed that you ignored me – even though it should have been clear from my commentary that it was salient to the conversation betwixt you and Dan. What it does show is that you are indeed more keen on playing the defensive victim here.

    “Dan that out of the blue called me stupid and asked me to prove otherwise. Now apparently you’re doing the same because somehow in my state of ignorance I ignored you?
    I don’t see where you specifically addressed a question to me – did you? But then why would you have if I’ve come off as uninformative? Are you perhaps upset because no-one else here addressed your general comments either? Why don’t you try to have a conversation with the blog owner? After all, it’s his post that he was looking for feedback on, not mine. Couldn’t you think of anything informative to say?

    You may not intend it, but you sound like a schoolgirl defending her new hairdo.

    I did not call you stupid. I said “Dan is still spot on with his assessment that you are not actually engaging in any debate.” How does that even remotely imply you are stupid? It implies… well.. lets see here… that you are not actually engaging in any debate!

    Seems pretty straighforward to me.

    I also said “every comment you have made is to sneer and proclaim your deeper understanding without actually saying anything.” Once again – that doesn’t imply you are stupid. You could very well actually have a depper understanding and be smarter than us all. The point is all that we see is you claiming that and saying nothing else.

    When someone gets as instantly defensive as you and proclaims “I’ve likely read more on the subject than you have, and apparently understood what I read better than you as well…. And Krauss does not “believe” that the universe literally came from nothing. Look at the youtube video again, but have someone with you who can explain it to you properly” sounds like they have some high and mighty attitude. Shame you haven’t actually given us anything to back that attitude up.

    And yes, I did think of something informative to say. I summarized my understanding of the hypothesis – the one that you say Krauss actually doesn’t believe – and offered that as a starting point to offer concrete points to illustrate what you claim to understand in so much depth and clarity that we apparently lack. The fact that you didn’t bother to see that or use that just adds a bit of evidence that you are just looking to post empty comments talking about how much you know without actually telling us what you know.

    So, care to actually comment on some of the physics in question? Because I would actually be interested to hear your take on it. Not your childish rants against Dan. Suck up the ego and spout out the science. It’s tough, but that is part of maturity.

  39. BillyJoe7on 18 Mar 2011 at 7:11 am

    “Otherwise, stop wasting time posting useless comments.”

    He’s right, fongie, I always get the impression maybe, just maybe, you have something useful to say but, if you have, you absolutely do not know how to communicate it.

  40. tortorificon 18 Mar 2011 at 7:34 am

    I thought he was only saying that pure philosophy struggles to answer empirical questions about the universe. That said I wouldn’t be surprised if he was deriding the whole of philosophy. It is commonplace at the end of a talk on physics (particularly but not exclusively theoretical physics) to have a non physicist stand up and explain why we physicists are wrong about something (relativity and quantum mechanics are the favourites, @cwfong’s one I haven’t heard before). I understand papers of that nature are still published in some philosophical journals because they are occasionally forwarded as a joke. Before I took an interest in philosophy (thanks to AC Grayling) that is literally all I knew of the field, and that is true of many of the people I know in physics.

  41. daedalus2uon 18 Mar 2011 at 8:08 am

    Mlema, The only way to get it accepted is through clinical trials. The treatment can’t be patented and doesn’t use anything high tech, so there isn’t a financial incentive for big pharma or anyone else (in a capitalist economy) to front the money to do the trials.

    The next incentive is prestige. But since the MD who needs to be in charge of the trial didn’t come up with the idea, the amount of prestige that can be obtained from doing the trial is somewhat less, and requires acknowledging that the current practice is flawed, and that an engineer figured out something that MDs didn’t. ;)

    If the idea is wrong, then patients might be harmed with no benefit. The MD in charge is responsible for that harm.

    People in sepsis are at death’s door. They are often not in a mental state where they can give informed consent for something that is a deviation from the current “standard of care”. Things can change so rapidly that there isn’t a lot of time to think things out.

    The idea of a lactate overload is also not well appreciated. Lactate is not a usual blood chemistry test. Usually it is found after there is an ion gap, where what us usually measured doesn’t add up.

    The understanding of how mitochondria behave in sepsis is not widely shared and is counter to the intuition of many MDs. The idea that O2 is always needed by mitochondria only holds in low NO environments. The idea of homeostasis is the basis for most medical intuition, even though the idea is wrong. In some cases that intuition provides a path to proper treatment, in some cases (such as this one) it does not.

    A problem with trying to understand physiology is that it is very complicated with lots of feedback and hysteresis. A few bad ideas (like homeostasis) and the normal coupling between pathways becomes counterintuitive. When people such as myself propose and idea like this, the question is always “how do you know without doing the experiment”? On some level I don’t know, but I do know the basis for current treatment (restoring homeostatic levels of stuff) has no physiological basis and is very likely wrong. This idea is consistent with the data in the literature in ways that current treatments are not. Without an understanding of the underlying physiology, what I am proposing would sound like doing random stuff.

    What “data” was used to develop the idea of homeostasis? It was only the data that could be obtained 80 years ago. Data of low precision on very large samples and of only a few parameters. The idea of homeostasis became one of the paradigms that people work under, even though it is wrong. Until it is understood to be wrong, it is very difficult to think outside that paradigm. The wrong idea of “prior plausibility” that people have comes into play. There is no datum that is inconsistent with the idea of homeostasis being wrong. But that isn’t how most people think of “prior plausibility”. They feel it is conformity to old ideas that is important, not old data. That is not correct. It is the ideas that must match the data, not the data matching the ideas.

    The term “homeostasis” was coined by the same person who coined the term “fight or flight”. Ironically those two concepts are completely incompatible. What stays constant in “fight or flight”?

    In short, to answer your question, I don’t know.

  42. johnmatthewsonon 18 Mar 2011 at 8:15 am

    We have all heard how Galileo suffered at the hands of the Pope but scientists are very quiet about the way that there were numerous people who regarded themselves as scientists who provided the Pope with ammunition. Galileo’s enemies could have a clear conscience because they were arguing from the conventional philosophical norms of their day.

    We have also all heard how Einstein had to escape the conventional scientific views of his time but what Hawking and others miss out in their physics books is that Lorentz, Poincare and the other scientists who supported the idea of an aether did so for philosophical reasons involving the problem of spatial and temporal extension. They just assumed that the philosophical environment of their time was correct and hence Special Relativity was wrong.

    This hidden embedding in contemporary philosophy has not ended. Now we have Zurek developing an excellent theory of quantum decoherence but being so embedded in the contemporary philosophical prejudice that observers are computers that his theory is left with many dangling questions about how the ‘preferred basis’ arises. Here is a quote from Zurek(2003): “The ‘higher functions’ of observers – e.g., consciousness, etc. – may be at present poorly understood, but it is safe to assume that they reflect physical processes in the information processing hardware of the brain.” Heck, he knows this is all ‘poorly understood’ but just accepts the conventional wisdom of his cultural environment.

    Hawking has made a similar use of contemporary philosophy of mind with his use of the Anthropic Principle yet has just assumed that this conventional philosophical wisdom of early 21st century, that observers are simple machines, is valid.

    Now, it could indeed be that Zurek and Hawking are correct about the nature of the observer but I can see no evidence that they have done anything other than accept the prevailing ideas on this subject. Daniel Dennett would be proud of his philosophical disciples although as a philosopher he might be disconcerted by their failure to understand or question the origins of this ‘conventional wisdom’.

    We live in a culture that has philosophical ideas embedded in it. It is when scientists do not realise that they are embedded in this philosophical norm that they fail to make progress and it is when they question these norms that they make progress. Hawking should take note.

    Ironically it is Hawking’s own discipline of physics and cosmology that should make us doubt the late twentieth century, early 21st century idea of the observer – see Materialists should read this first.

    Zurek, W.H. (2003). Decoherence, einselection and the quantum origins of the classical. Rev. Mod. Phys. 75, 715 (2003)

  43. nybgruson 18 Mar 2011 at 8:42 am

    @daedalus: Those are some very interesting ideas. And not at all inconsistent with how I understand biological processes to work. In fact, much of what you discuss is exactly how I teach my first year compadres to understand physiology and biochemistry. I think these will be things I think about as my knowledge and understanding grows. And if one day I should be that MD that runs the trials in his hospital and gets the paradigm shifted, you will be the first to know. In fact, I may hit you up for a consultation along the way.

    As for lactate – at the hospital where I worked prior to starting med school it was considered standard protocol to run a lactate on anyone suspected of sepsis. Confirmation of SIRS in a proper clinical setting initiated a house-wide alert of “code sepsis” and a specific protocol sheet was enacted immediately, which included a serum lactate level. In cases of severe sepsis, serial lactates were drawn to see if the trend was up or down. In most cases, rapid hydration was ordered since that would restore blood pressure and serve to dilute the lactate levels. I want to say that I recall some of our critical care docs ordering D5 and insulin as well, but that may be an artifact memory due to reading what you have written. I will email my stepfather and ask him as he is a critical care doc where I used to work.

  44. nybgruson 18 Mar 2011 at 8:46 am

    wow. some serious issues on with SA/Amy. I’m actually a bit concered for her.

  45. Steven Novellaon 18 Mar 2011 at 9:36 am

    Please do not respond to any of SA’s sockpuppets. I will delete them as soon as I notice them.

  46. daedalus2uon 18 Mar 2011 at 10:15 am

    One of the problems many people have in understanding blood glucose levels comes from the wrong idea of what diabetes is. Diabetes is defined as elevated blood sugar. But that is a symptom, not a cause.

    The “problem” is thought to be a dysregulation of blood sugar due to insufficient insulin. This idea is not correct. There is no dysregulation of blood sugar in diabetes, either type 1 or type 2. What is happening is that there are insufficient energy substrates (primarily glucose) inside cells. Physiology raises blood sugar to try and get more glucose inside of cells that don’t have enough.

    Diabetes type 1 is “caused” by insufficient insulin caused by a loss of the pancreatic islets. Insufficient insulin doesn’t cause blood sugar to go high, insufficient insulin prevents cells from expressing enough GLUT transporters to take in glucose so they don’t have enough glucose inside, so they send signals that cause physiology to increase blood sugar (the only control parameter that physiology has left to try and manage insufficient glucose inside cells) to try and get more glucose inside of cells. Exogenous insulin does that, cells get enough glucose inside, physiology then down regulates glucose levels in blood.

    Diabetes type 2 is more complicated. Cells don’t take up glucose from blood. Blood is confined to the vasculature. Cells take up O2 from blood because O2 can diffuse through the intervening cells. Glucose can’t diffuse through intervening cells. The glucose levels that matter are not the levels in bulk blood, but the levels in the plasma in the extravascular space adjacent to the specific cell that is taking the glucose up. Plasma perfuses the extravascular space and it is through plasma that cells get everything except O2. As plasma percolates past cells, those cells take up stuff from the plasma and the plasma becomes depleted. Depleted in glucose, depleted in insulin, depleted in what ever it is that cells are taking up.

    If the first cells the plasma encounters take up too much glucose, they don’t leave enough for the cells the plasma encounters later. Physiology deals with this by limiting how much glucose the first cells can take up. Those cells become “glucose resistant”, that is their glucose take-up saturates when their GLUT transporters can’t take up any more. That leaves more glucose for the cells down stream. When the cells are still not getting enough, physiology send insulin to cause the number of GLUT transporters to increase. The first cells the plasma encounter take up insulin, and then they saturate and become “insulin resistant” to allow insulin to be left in the plasma for cells that are farther downstream.

    Hyperglycemia, glucose resistance and insulin resistance are all “features” that regulate the delivery of energy producing substrates to the inside of cells remote from the capillaries. It is when those cells remote from the capillaries get enough energy substrates inside that physiology lowers blood glucose levels.

    This is why the trials where they tried to have very tight control over blood glucose produced worse health outcomes. Yes, high glucose levels in bulk blood are not good. Plasma glucose levels below what is necessary to sustain cells far from a capillary are much worse and can be fatal even when levels in bulk blood are in the hyperglycemic range.

    Some of the treatments for diabetes type 2 may not be helping. Metformin lowers blood sugar by inhibiting glucose synthesis in the liver. If you think that the problem of diabetes type 2 is too much glucose in the blood, a treatment that inhibits glucose synthesis makes sense. If you think that the problem is not enough energy substrates inside of cells, limiting glucose synthesis makes no sense at all. Metformin also increases lipid oxidation in peripheral cells. The major side effect of metformin is hypoglycemia. There is probably compensation via unknown mechanisms to reduced glucose synthesis capacity of the liver. Depending on what those compensatory pathways are, they may be worse than hyperglycemia. For example if physiology ablates cells that don’t get enough glucose, the need for glucose by those cells goes away, but then so does what every function those cells were providing. I suspect that is what is going on in dilative cardiomyopathy. The cells that are “too far” from a capillary don’t get enough glucose, they die and are cleared but can’t grow back because there isn’t enough glucose delivery capacity for them. The heart needs more muscle cells to continue pumping, so the heart tries to get bigger, but because cells with robust metabolism can’t be supported you end up with weak cells and a lot of metabolically inert fibrotic tissue.

  47. cwfongon 18 Mar 2011 at 1:34 pm

    nybgrus, you write:

    “I summarized my understanding of the hypothesis – the one that you say Krauss actually doesn’t believe – and offered that as a starting point to offer concrete points to illustrate what you claim to understand in so much depth and clarity that we apparently lack.”

    First off, I didn’t say he doesn’t believe what he was saying. He’s presenting a conundrum, where the universe appears by our most sophisticated means of measurement, to have come from empty space. Yet as he also has pointed out, by the nature of it’s own sense of lawful order, this can’t have been the case, as the space we supposedly came into was already there, the information that we’ve been formed from immeasurably and unmeasurably there as well.

    Your summary was both incomplete and inaccurate, but there was no reason to point out why because for me it was also irrelevant.
    Krauss doesn’t express a belief that there was nothing out there at all before our universe appeared. He doesn’t make a claim we came from nowhere.
    Your arguments have been essentially that he’s confirmed we came from nothing. But again, he hasn’t and he hasn’t tried to. Does he think nothingness is theoretically possible? I don’t know, but from his comments on the video and elsewhere about the nature of infinity I doubt it.
    Hawking on the other hand does believe nothingness is not only possible but probable, and to a virtual certainty it seems. Most of the reviewers, physicists among them, think he’s lost it there. Such a review was what this post was all about in case you’ve forgotten. Why shouldn’t I agree with it?

  48. Mlemaon 18 Mar 2011 at 5:14 pm

    daedalus2u -

    again, thanks for the physiology instruction. Not only in sepsis, but in diabetes (a modern “scourge”), expanding our understanding of glucose metabolism looks to be critical. (I’m probably just saying something all too obvious to people in medicine) But I do think that lots of times MDs don’t have time to reflect upon the paradigm under which they function, where a shift in perspective would be a part of achieving that expanded understanding. It’s unfortunate that, as you allude, the money doesn’t necessarily support exploration of some new way of looking at these things – regardless of how many well-intentioned physicians would like to improve outcomes

  49. daedalus2uon 18 Mar 2011 at 5:33 pm

    Mlema, it isn’t just clinicians, it is researchers too. Funding is so hard to get that anything that is perceived to be “risky” can’t get funded. Anything that is counter to the mainstream view is by definition “risky”. Researchers can’t afford to even consider stuff that might be “off the wall” because they will lose credibility and then funding will be more difficult.

    Even when very large “gold standard” trials show results that are completely unexpected (that tighter control of blood glucose leads to worse health), those doing the trials can’t interpret them except within their paradigms. It is exactly like the CAM trials of acupuncture where “toothpicks work too!” Better control of blood glucose in diabetes doesn’t lead to better health, so something else must be happening because the “problem” in diabetes is blood glucose that is “too high”. The researchers can’t examine their fundamental assumptions about diabetes causation or about the effectiveness of acupuncture.

    This is why scientists and researchers need a touch of philosophy to be able to examine their most fundamental premises, even the ones they “know for sure” are right.

  50. Mlemaon 18 Mar 2011 at 5:50 pm

    yes, thank you

  51. nybgruson 18 Mar 2011 at 7:17 pm

    daedalus: indeed some very interesting assertions you are making. However, I am not entirely convinced. I agree with you in regards to much of what you say, but I would in fact say that my understanding of diabetes and the dynamics that you speak of are exactly what I have learned. The simplfying assumption is that controlling blood glucose levels is a surrogate biomarker for addressing the disease itself. There simply is no better metric to use in the management of diabetics. It is clearly understood that having excessively high blood glucose levels is in and of itself deleterious. Type I vs Type II diabetics illustrate this point – TII will not enter ketoacidosis since they are still receiving enough cellular levels of glucose to meet the needs of the cells. TI will enter ketosis because of the lack of glucose in the cells. The fact that we do not see ketone body formation in TII DM is a clear biomarker that the energy needs of the cells are met by glucose. However there is still an elevated blood glucose. We also know that proteins will irreversibly glycosylate at increasing rates at higher [glucose]. This is the basis for the HgA1c test and also the mechanism for the development or peripheral vascular disease in diabetics. This is also part of what puts diabetics in a much higher risk stratification for CAD and IHD.

    Since the lack of ketone bodies would indicate that cells are having sufficient inrtacellular energy substrates in TII DM then metformin acting to decrease blood [glucose] would decrease the pathology from protein glycosylation and thus be an overall beneficial treatment. Other treatments include PPAR inducers to increase insulin sensitivity and further decrease blood [glucose] by getting more inside the cell. My understanding is that both methods work well but that the PPAR inducers actually had worse outcomes and a higher side effect profile. So it would seem that there are other unknown mechanisms in play that are actually countercurrent to your hypothesis.

    Also, I was told by my stepfather that indeed they do give insulin and glucose to patients in severe sepsis and in the past used to give potassium as well. Now they eschew the potassium since most patients in severe sepsis tend to have renal dysfunction and would thus be hyperkalemic anyways.

  52. nybgruson 18 Mar 2011 at 7:20 pm

    @cfwong: you are truly a fount of information. You mean my 4 sentence summary of theoretical physics wasn’t perfectly accurate and all inclusive? Really? Damn. And I thought I had solved the world’s problems in a paragraph.

    Thanks for the highly useful critique followed by absolutely no further information. You are either a complete poseur or a total asshole. Either way I have no interest in reading your posts ever again.

  53. nybgruson 18 Mar 2011 at 7:23 pm

    oh and daedalus, I apologize in case it wasn’t clear, but I do want to be clear that I do respectfully disagree with you. I am trying to be more brief in my posts since it tends to eat up a lot of my time. I did not want you to think I lump you in with the people whose posts I don’t respect.

  54. cwfongon 18 Mar 2011 at 10:25 pm

    nyrsbug, sure you’ll read them, just so you can catch me out, or cry trying.

  55. daedalus2uon 18 Mar 2011 at 11:09 pm

    nybgrus, a very important paper to look at is this one.

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12133657

    I think the amount of glucose and insulin they give is not enough. I will post a longer response later. They need to give enough that there is so much lactate the lactate needs to be removed by dialysis.

    The mitochondria are necessarily shut down due to the high NO from sepsis. The mitochondria cannot be allowed to turn on by falling ATP levels (observed in the paper cited) due to insufficient glycolysis. When low ATP causes mitochondria to turn on, they generate as much superoxide as they need to so as to pull the NO level down enough for O2 reduction at cytochrome c oxidase. In the high NO environment of sepsis this can be fatal.

  56. nybgruson 18 Mar 2011 at 11:58 pm

    daedalus – that is indeed an interesting paper. As I said, your mechanisms make sense to me. I will certainly keep these thoughts in my head as I progress through my career. I am not certain what I would like to specialize in, but critical care is certainly a distinct possibility.

    Let me just make sure I am understanding your postulate correctly. You are essentially saying that high NO shuts down mitochondria but cell death is not caused by a depletion of ATP is is caused by mitochondria turning back in in response to depleted ATP and thus overwhelming the cell with ROS, which in its high NO state cannot compensate via standard pathways (SOD, glutathione, etc). The solution would be to then keep ATP levels high enough to keep the mitochondria turned off by anaerobic respiration and dialyse off the lactate produced as a result. The question then is how do you ultimately take the patient off this regimen? At some point the sepsis should be abated (ABX treatment presumably) – will the NO levels return to baseline at this point? Will that then lead to mitochondrial reactivation and subsequent usage of OxPhos? Then we could presumably use lactate decrease as a surrogate measure of the NO levels since that would indicate mitochondrial reactivation….

    Am I following this correctly?

  57. BillyJoe7on 19 Mar 2011 at 3:43 am

    nybgrus,

    “Thanks for the highly useful critique followed by absolutely no further information. You are either a complete poseur or a total asshole. Either way I have no interest in reading your posts ever again.”

    I think you have this poster down to a tee.

    Some of us have been trying to get something useful out of him for longer than we care to remember. He is always completely certain that his own views are correct and completely dismissive of the views of others but, at the same time, totally unwilling or unable to communicate what his actual views are.

    A total waste of time and effort.

    I understand where you (and daedalus, and most other posters here) are coming from with every post you make. You know how to communicate. Six months later and I still can’t understand who cwfong is – a failed attempt at a turing machine is about as close as I can get.

    SA gets banned because it is obvious to everyone what she is doing even though she doesn’t understand it herself (at least that’s how it seems to me). Cwfong gets to stay because he creates enough confusion about his motives and (in my opinion at least) he understands exactly what he’s doing.

    (I’m not calling for him to be banned, though, just as I didn’t support SA being banned.)

  58. nybgruson 19 Mar 2011 at 3:52 am

    billyjoe7,

    Thank you for the compliment. One of my goal in being active in such posts (and really in general on the intertubes) is to try and increase my skills in communication. And that was exactly my criticism – I cannot speculate if cfwong is correct or not – merely that (s)he cannot or will not communicate whatever points are locked up in his/her brain.

    As for the banning of SA – I did agree with that. It is one thing to be a troll and constantly hammer the same inane points over and over again (need I mention Th1Th2, Augie, Sid?) but at least be slightly on topic. SA was, clearly and intentionally, spouting the same odd nonsense that had absolutely nothing to do with the posts and derailed the comments thread consistently while adding nothing (honestly, I learn from my dealings with the anti-vax trolls). There is a difference between trollery and prosyletyzing. But hey, I can certainly understand your stance on it and I am not about to claim it was a slam-dunk easy decision to make. But 3 warnings and a claim of understanding later and I was certainly happy to no longer hear from SA.

  59. BillyJoe7on 19 Mar 2011 at 9:25 am

    nybgrus,

    Well, if you’re going to ban posters, I guess SA was a reasonable proposition, but then I don’t understand why cfong isn’t banned. It seems that if you’re a below average, naive IQ troll you get banned, but if you show some signs of being above average, you get a free run to keep regurgitating your nonsense. Cwfong derails every thread he responds to. He has an agenda that is definitely beyond the fringe of mainstream science which he attempts to promote at every opportunity.

    As I say, I’m not one for banning posters, but what’s fair for the goose is fair for the gander.

    It is beyond me why a harmless person such as SA gets banned within a week and cwfong gets to disrupt the blogg for months under various aliases with impunity.

  60. daedalus2uon 19 Mar 2011 at 10:48 am

    Nybgrus, yes, that is essentially it. It isn’t so much that the high NO turns off mitochondria, it is the high ATP concentrations caused by high NO (when there is enough glucose to maintain that high ATP level via glycolysis). The ATP level is high because it is regulated to be high by the high NO levels. NO and ATP go up and down “in sync”. Low NO triggers ischemic preconditioning which is a low ATP state.

    What kills cells is low ATP. What causes cell death in sepsis is low ATP due to either not enough glucose to do glycolysis, or mitochondrial destruction. When mitochondria try to turn on in a high NO environment, they irreversibly shut down. This is the normal safety feature of mitochondria, to keep damaged or rogue mitochondria from consuming too much substrate and producing too much superoxide. There has to be a fail-safe off mechanism for mitochondria, I am pretty sure this is it, nitration of MnSOD (which only takes nitration of 1 tyrosine, homologous bacterial FeSOD retains complete activity when 8 of 9 tyrosines are nitrated) causes complete and irreversible inhibition. MnSOD is coded for in nuclear DNA, so mitochondria can’t replace the MnSOD that is destroyed. When it is all gone, the mitochondrion becomes an ex mitochondrion.

    There are 3 ATP parameters that are important, production rate, consumption rate and concentration. Cells use ATP concentration as a control parameter to regulate what pathways are consuming ATP and how much. Low ATP triggers ischemic preconditioning which lowers ATP consumption, but that can only be a transient state. In high VO2 aerobic work production by muscle, the ATP level is lower than at rest, but the production rate is many times higher. The lower ATP level turns off ATP pathways that are not needed and so frees up that ATP for doing other things (like running from a bear).

    I think the main function of the pro-inflammatory cytokines is to produce superoxide local to structures in the CNS to keep the NO level adjacent to those structures low enough that mitochondria can handle it. Even in very high NO environments, mitochondria can make a little bit of ATP. Cytochrome c oxidase can also reduce peroxynitrite, so there can be a trickle of electrons through the respiration chain. In sepsis the NO goes down after the iNOS is degraded. iNOS only hangs around for a day or so. Once that is gone, the NO level would drop.

    What causes damage in reperfusion injury is all the ROS that is produced when O2 hits all those reduced hemes. Those hemes can be blocked by NO (which is mostly what is going on in sepsis). To produce reperfusion without injury, what I think is needed is to first block all the hemes with high NO levels, then provide enough glucose to raise the ATP levels above where mitochondria need to turn on, restore O2, and then remove the NO gradually. I think this is the mechanism that physiology is trying to do in every kind of shock, one of the major symptoms is profuse sweating. I think that is to release ammonia to the biofilm of the bacteria I am working with so that they produce NO and nitrite. NO and nitrite are well absorbed, and nitrite is reduced by many enzymes in the body, which pretty much are all regulated by the O2 level. Low O2 turns many proteins into nitrite reductases, hemoglobin, myoglobin, cytochrome c, etc.

    This is why nitrite has beneficial effects on reducing infarct size in heart attacks and strokes.

    There is an upcoming conference on nitrite

    http://www.strategicresults.com/nitrite2011/

    I won’t be going to this one, but have gone to previous ones.

    I am still thinking about why no ketoacidosis in diabetes type 2. I think I know but want to check the literature to be sure.

  61. cwfongon 19 Mar 2011 at 5:58 pm

    What is to be investigated is Being only – Being alone – solely Being – and beyond Being – Nothing. So what about this Nothing? … Does the Nothing exist only because the Not, i.e. the Negation, exists? Or is it the other way around? Does Negation and the Not exist only because the Nothing exists?
    Of we assert that Nothing is prior to the Not and the Negation, where do we seek the Nothing? How do we find the Nothing and know the Nothing? The Anxiety of our curiosity reveals the Nothing. When That for which and because of which we were anxious, was ‘really’ nothing? Indeed: the Nothing itself—as such—was present. What about this Nothing? Is not The Nothing itself nothingness?

    Heidegger?

  62. nybgruson 19 Mar 2011 at 7:20 pm

    billyjoe7: I see your point. I guess I just had not noticed (personally) that cfwong was such a nuisance. I guess it is just below the nuisance threshold whilst SA was not. Seems capricious, but such is life, I suppose.

    Daedalus: I will need some time to absorb what you have written. Plus, I currently have a hangover. However, quick question – we have been taught (and it makes sense to me) that the sweating response from shock is due to sympathetic overstimulation. I.e. sypmathetic tone increases to increase HR, CO, TPR, etc and keep vital organs perfused and in cases of sufficient shock this leads to widespread sympathetic activation which “spills over” to the sweat glands and thus sweat. Are you asserting that the sweat actually has a specific function evolutionarily derived in the management of shock or that it is a happy coincidence? Or am I missing something?

    And I take it as a compliment that you must think on my ketosis question. Part of me feels like we should take this conversation elsewhere though since we have essentially hijacked the thread and are no longer on topic. But it is interesting stuff. I’m not sure what the etiquette is.

  63. cwfongon 19 Mar 2011 at 8:22 pm

    snyburg wasn’t supposed to read that. He promised that he wouldn’t in any case. He has to watch his temper, since he has all those med students to tutor – or so he’d have us all believe. He’s getting a lot of good material from Daedulus that they don’t teach in med school, and he wonders why. Not why it’s correct of course, because he can recognize and repeat the terminology, just wonders why it wasn’t taught in the “flat universe” symposium.

  64. cwfongon 19 Mar 2011 at 8:26 pm

    But I’m sure his new best friend can explain all this in one dimensional flat earth language.

  65. cwfongon 19 Mar 2011 at 8:54 pm

    Oh and here;s a comment about Krauss that I really liked from another forum:

    >Re: ‘A Universe From Nothing’ by Lawrence Krauss, AAI 2009
    I saw that talk several days ago.
    It is delightful. Some very funny remarks, great quotes—-sly pokes at this and that.
    I would urge everybody to watch the video, just for entertainment!

    However it is scientifically so sloppy as to be almost useless to us in Cosmo forum.

    Krauss is a worldclass cosmologist, but he is talking at a total layman level and, as he explicitly says, nothing is to be taken seriously—he calls his statements lies because they are purely verbal—no rigorous definitions, just impressionistic approximate language.
    He uses the word “lies” in reference to his own statements, explaining that what he is saying is not mathematical, not quantitative, imprecise.

    So it is a wonderful talk but don’t try to translate anything into hard empirical fact.

    There is no evidence that the U. is spatially flat. Only that it is NEARLY so. The current 95% confidence interval on the curvature allows for finite volume spacetime with circumference lower bound of 600 billion lightyears.
    Krauss does not indicate he has anything different from the most recent WMAP report, that you or I can get from NASA or from arxiv.org.
    When talking to a complete nonscientist, nonmathy audience we can understand saying that that the U is spatially flat and spatially infinite. But you cannot as a scientist talking to other scientists maintain this. It is possible. It is one consistent interpretation. But another equally good interpretation of the data is that space is finite volume and if you could freeze expansion so that you could make the round trip, it would take 600 billion years traveling at the speed of light.

    His scholarly papers on arxiv.org are different from his stand-up entertainer pop-talk to general audience. I’m a fan of Krauss. He is first class in either category—pop-sci or real-sci. More power to him.<

    Thought I'd share that before I get banned for, as the most persistent troll here has requested, being too far "above average."

  66. daedalus2uon 19 Mar 2011 at 9:34 pm

    Yes, I am asserting that the sweating has a function.

    It seems preposterous to me that something so common and so universal as “sweating during shock” would be an artifact of insufficient control and a side effect with no function. I think that the people who came up with that hypothesis couldn’t think of any function and so they assumed there was none.

    I have a write-up that discusses some of the evolutionary connections behind this.

    http://books.google.com/books?id=a3mwmXzpsjkC&lpg=PP1&pg=PA103#v=onepage&q&f=false

    A physiological role for a biofilm of these bacteria explains a lot of stuff about physiology. Why humans have hair where they do, why androgens stimulate hair growth, why mammals that don’t use sweat for cooling still have sweat glands on their feet (to protect them from bacterial infection).

  67. daedalus2uon 19 Mar 2011 at 9:51 pm

    I think there is a difference. I hesitate to mention it because it does amount to feeding the trolls and it does detract from what I do want to talk about.

    SA was wrong. cwfong is not even wrong.

  68. cwfongon 19 Mar 2011 at 10:29 pm

    daedalus2u, you’re a scientist in your own legendary mind but nowhere else. SA was apparently a real scientist, even if one of many who are also religious nutcases. You’re just simply a nutcase.
    Your NO pontifications are a laughing stock in the profession, but because of your physiological deficiencies you get a pass. You get all motivating and evolutionary factors backwards because you can’t think inductively. You and the squidiot are the biggest trolls here, although that may soon change for the worse as your forms of trollery are inviting others of your ilk to gather round as we speak.

    You and the other real trolls want me banned? Hell, I should ban myself for being fool enough to try to teach you something.

    Let’s see now, in addition to being too far “above average,” you could also have me banned, as the squid would have it, because I think Lamarck and Baldwin were on the right track after all, because Darwin was right to begin with about the finches, because Shapiro is an excellent biologist, because 2 plus 2 = 4 is the extent to which his logic reaches, because neo-Darwinists don’t think evolution is in service of the organisms’ purposes, because bacteria don’t make choices, because the laws of the universe are fixed but somehow accidental, that all movement, causative or effective, physical or motivational, was ordained but not foreordained, and the list goes on.
    So have at it, since you’ve both chosen this place as home, where you and especially the squidiot can safely be told what’s right and comfortable to think, and to be made against your abilities and will to try to think on your own is hurtful and a danger to your mental health.

  69. BillyJoe7on 20 Mar 2011 at 2:58 am

    I wish I had the alternative view to consider, but I’ve given up pleading to be enlightened as to what that alternative view actually is. And, with the mention of its heroes, I think I can confidentally say that it IS alternative – as in not even fringe science.

  70. cwfongon 20 Mar 2011 at 4:51 am

    This is a category of scientific, non-religious critics of Darwinism. Here we find scientists who do accept evolution, but aren’t happy with parts of the neo-Darwinist explanation of evolution (mainly the mechanism of evolution).

    D’Arcy Thomson
    Motoo Kimura
    A & A Zahavi
    Gabriel Dover
    Henry Gee.
    Fred Hoyle
    Edward J. Steele
    Brian Goodwin
    Niles Eldredge
    Hubert Yockey
    Stephen Jay Gould
    Syvanen and Kado
    Frederic Bushman
    D. Williamson
    Michael L. Arnold
    Lynn Margulis
    Joan Roughgarden
    Bruce Bagemihl
    Elliott Sober
    David Sloan Wilson
    F. John Odling-Smee
    James Lovelock’s Gaia
    David Beerling’s
    Schlichting & Pigliucci
    Jablonka and Lamb
    Marc Kirschner
    John Gerhart
    Robert G. B. Reid
    Stuart Kauffman
    Mark S. Blumberg
    John Maynard Smith
    Wallace Arthur
    Sean Carroll
    Enrico Coen
    Walter Gehring
    Alessandro Minelli
    Mark S. Blumberg
    Lewis I. Held (2009).

  71. cwfongon 20 Mar 2011 at 5:31 am

    http://philpapers.org/rec/AGUFOB
    http://star.tau.ac.il/~eshel/bacterial_linguistic.html
    http://shapiro.bsd.uchicago.edu/21st_Cent_View_Evol.html

  72. BillyJoe7on 21 Mar 2011 at 5:49 am

    I won’t bother with my next question, because past experience tells me that, instead of an explanation, I will be subjected to a paragraph of incomprehensible jibberish, interpersed with pejoritives about my level of intelligence for not understanding it.

    So pass.

  73. nybgruson 21 Mar 2011 at 7:01 am

    billyjoe7: word

  74. Ninaon 21 Mar 2011 at 11:33 pm

    I kept reading cwfong’s posts in case he made any statement which directly addressed the scientific points. Words having created a facade that crumbled at the slightest touch, now Darwinism has been brought up. I prefer to assume this is an elaborate caricature of the idiocy that some people use instead of oxygen. Bravo, cwfong. Your satire certainly paints a vicious portrait, though you should be a little less caustic next time, some creationists are not as intellectually and emotionally frail as you have portrayed here.

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