I'm in the process of penning a note to my good friend here regarding our discussions of the fallacy of induction and something struck me.

Bruce Salem's hypothesis about engineers - which is more than a tongue in cheek remark - seems to have a root in the inductive fallacy.

Engineers use maths a lot; and in mathematical science, induction is a perfectly logical way to proceed. 1 + 1 = 2 100% of the time.

I'm very, very poor at anything beyond basic maths (seems that I'm very poor at following inductive reasoning) and I wonder if this holds part of the answer to Bruce's observation?

For example, is it possible that our brains may be actually wired to bias us toward inductive or deductive reasoning? If that's the case, then does it follow that we're on a continuum where some people are devoid of the ability to think in one way or the other yet most of us can manage fairly well with both?

If that's the case, does it follow that people like Perry Marshall and those like him cannot see the errors in their arguments because they simply lack the ability to see beyond pure induction?

I'm only floating an idea here - perhaps someone has explained the Salem Hypothesis - but if I'm even partly right, we should be able to devise a test to prove this.

Tags: deductive, fallacy, hypotheis, inductive, marshall, perry, salem

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There's at least one very good psychologist here - I wonder if they would help us design an experiment to prove it? Assuming it hasn't already been done.

It fits with my own observation, Phil and it would be interesting (not to mention way cool) if we can develop Bruce's idea into a proper Theory.
For one, mathematical induction is not the same thing as inductive reasoning. While there's no problem with the former, the latter has caused debates for centuries, and Karl Popper even claimed you couldn't do good science if you relied on induction (in his book, The Logic of Scientific Discovery). Here's a good summary (still a rather long read) on the problem of induction.
Bugger. That was a nice idea while it lasted. ;)

That said, I think it still has legs - perhaps my allusion to mathematics was poor? Salem's hypothesis holds for the most part. I'll have a look at that Jaume and see what poops out of my brain. Wait, what?
I'm with Popper on this and that's what I'm basing my analysis of Salem's hypothesis on. I won't claim to have digested that entire article (yet, it's heavy for my little brain). In fact, the discussion of Grues sent me of to the land of Zork...

Bruce Salem observed that while not all engineers are creationists, many (senior) creationists or proponents of those varied and fallacious ideas are highly qualified engineers: or by extension, from an engineering background.

This lends weight to the idea that whatever makes for a good engineer probably also makes for a bad biologist; yet most of us are somewhere in the middle of the continuum. (We also have exceptions: Prof. Dawkins, for example, was quite a capable programmer in his younger days).

I'm not sure how this fits on the reasoning scale. It's not directly inductive because we're not saying all engineers are creationists or all creationists and engineers. But is it deductive? That's where I need to bone up some more.
EXTREMELY interesting, Marc. I had no idea who Bruce Salem was/is and I just got through Googling and reading about the Salem Hypothesis.

I copied the following text from the Wiki page regarding the Salem hypothesis (emphasis mine):

"In a paper presented to the Iowa Academy of Science, John W. Patterson stated that "engineering educators, senior engineers, and registered professional engineers are perhaps the most prominent leaders of the creationist movement." Patterson offers two possible explanations for phenomenon:[3]

1. Lack of interest among engineering societies in policing themselves with regard to "ethical irresponsibility or scientific incompetence", allowing their membership to "publicly endorse ludicrous forms of pseudoscience without being publicly chastised by their professional societies."

2. Involvement by engineers in "the rather difficult subjects of thermodynamics and fluid mechanics", allowing them to "develop confusing and yet authoritative-sounding arguments which are unintelligible to laymen."

"In a working paper, Diego Gambetta and Steffen Hertog state that:

Whether American, Canadian or Islamic, and whether due to selection or field socialisation, a disproportionate share of engineers seems to have a mindset that inclines them to entertain the quintessential right-wing features of “monism” – ‘why argue when there is one best solution’ – and of "simplism” – ‘if only people were rational, remedies would be simple’."

Two thoughts come to mind. First, I recall heated debates here on Atheist Nexus regarding the accepted mathematical proof(s) of the big bang theory... and others concerning statistical probabilities which support the theory that random mutation can account for all beneficial mutations which result in evolution.

I noticed that a number of members are willing to accept mathematical computations in support of those theories whether or not they personally find the associated mathematical computations comprehensible. Their rationale for accepting arcane mathematical computations is that the mathematicians are scientists whom the believers respect... not so when the mathematicians/scientists are engineers pushing theories of creationism.

Again, I find double standards.

Mathematics which are incomprehensible to laymen are acceptable to athiests in support of their belief in a mechanistic universe and/or material reductionism, but arcane mathematical rationales are unacceptable in support of creationism.

I am skeptical of each one of those belief systems. Neither one of them is falsifiable... yet creationism is considered ludicrous while reductionism is readily accepted. No matter which theory one chooses to believe, it is a matter of bias until one theory is proven in clear contradiction of the other.

I also notice that defenders of reductionism like to rely upon Occam's Razor: "when you have two competing theories that make exactly the same predictions, the simpler one is the better.", yet will readily criticize inductive reasoning for its "simplism" when deployed in support of ID.

There are gaps in both theories. I have yet to find evidence that all beneficial mutations have occurred at random; I have yet to find evidence that a deity is responsible for beneficial mutations. I find the evidence for consciousness affecting the material world to be far more convincing than either of the aforementioned theories. But so far, none of these theories has proven to be falsifiable.

If one is going to poke fun at the likes of Perry Marshall for the use of inductive reasoning and the presentation of theories which are not falsifiable, one had best avoid such practices when advancing ones own theoretical arguments.
Perry's reasoning around DNA is entirely inductive based on the fallacy of equivocation. DNA is a code, all codes are designed. etc.

I won't debate Perry on things I know little or nothing about (although I'm happy to discuss them with those who do so I further my own knowledge). From my own research, Perry has been pushing an entirely inductive "proof" for several years despite being shown the fallacy of that argument on multiple occasions.

He's also mind bogglingly dishonest - or ignorant of - the mechanics of random number generation. A fact PZ Myers was quick to note and one I'm developing an extensive paper one as I'm sure you're aware. Like all his kind, despite being proven wrong, "pwned" if you will, he continues to deceive people who lack the wherewithal to test him.

You're also misrepresenting the razor: parsimony doesn't state that the simple solution is the best one in every case [that would be dogma] just that it tends to be. I'm sure one of the more educated folk here could provide a suitable example. Nevertheless, the razor has proven beneficial - and correct - on many occasion.

Perry's pet theories (actually, hypotheses because they never make it to theory level) surrounding information theory are readily and easily falsifiable; a fact I have taken some time over doing and as a computer programmer with over 30 years experience, that's actually something I'm fairly good at. He uses a fallacious stance to provide the falsification experiment for his "random" number generator: a fact I've detailed in my own paper and I won't repeat here.

There are gaps in both theories. I have yet to find evidence that all beneficial mutations have occurred at random; I have yet to find evidence that a deity is responsible for beneficial mutations. I find the evidence for consciousness affecting the material world to be far more convincing than either of the aforementioned theories. But so far, none of these theories has proven to be falsifiable.

Gracious, that reads like a Marshallism; I'm sure Juame would be able to pick it apart better than I could. Whoever wrote that, their understanding of the scientific definition of theory appears surprisingly weak.

Science does not (cannot) contemplate the inclusion of supernatural; it can only use what is observed either directly or by direct inference. We can't "see" atoms, but we know they are there because we can see their effects. If we can observe an effect then it ceases to be supernatural.

But to the two points raised here:

I have yet to find evidence that a deity is responsible for beneficial mutations.

No one has.

I find the evidence for consciousness affecting the material world to be far more convincing than either of the aforementioned theories.

Indeed there is a conscious mind (as a loose analogy) affecting the world - it's called sentient life. Sexual selection has a direct affect on the development of a species. Put humans at the top of that pile and our own intelligence is screwing with the natural order all the time.

To see what's really going on you have to look outside of humankind's sphere of influence - although I'm not sure that's even possible. The best we can currently do is peer into the cosmos and see if there's any behavior on other planets that can't be explained by natural forces.

I certainly haven't see any but would welcome correction.

Mathematics which are incomprehensible to laymen are acceptable to athiests in support of their belief in a mechanistic universe and/or material reductionism, but arcane mathematical rationales are unacceptable in support of creationism.

Creationism is considered ludicrous because it's dogma: pure and simple. Based on a poorly written set of texts with the aim being to fit a square peg in a round hole. It explains precisely nothing and does not even attempt to.

And how do atheists and laymen differ? Who says laymen, while incapable of following a mathematical proof, are not just as likely as an atheist to accept the argument as presented? This technique is used by both sides, but creationists are much more likely to use it as smokescreen.

With the greatest respect, Heidi, your describe yourself as atheist but your deeds tend to say otherwise.
You're also misrepresenting the razor: parsimony doesn't state that the simple solution is the best one in every case [that would be dogma] just that it tends to be. I'm sure one of the more educated folk here could provide a suitable example.

Imagine you've never seen a bridge, and you find one, which piers are covered with ivy. Your first hypothesis would be "bridges are structures supported by ivy-covered piers". Then you empirically test the bridge, and determine the ivy plays no role in its conception and usefulness. That's where you use Occam's razor: to remove unnecessary hypotheses. "Bridges are structures supported by piers".

Gracious, that reads like a Marshallism; I'm sure Juame would be able to pick it apart better than I could.

Picking it apart:

There are gaps in both theories. I have yet to find evidence that all beneficial mutations have occurred at random; I have yet to find evidence that a deity is responsible for beneficial mutations.

Nothing really wrong so far. Essentially, it's philosophical agnosticism.

I find the evidence for consciousness affecting the material world to be far more convincing than either of the aforementioned theories.

Unfortunately, such evidence is not acknowledged by the people whose task is to study these questions (the scientific community), and who'd thus dismiss this as wishful thinking (belief without evidence).

But so far, none of these theories has proven to be falsifiable.

Meaningless statement due to a misconception of what (at least one of) these terms mean in science: theory, proof, falsifiability.

Creationism is considered ludicrous because it's dogma: pure and simple.

From a scientific POV, the main reason it's considered ludicrous is because it's unfalsifiable (its hypotheses can't be tested)
Imagine you've never seen a bridge, and you find one, which piers are covered with ivy. Your first hypothesis would be "bridges are structures supported by ivy-covered piers". Then you empirically test the bridge, and determine the ivy plays no role in its conception and usefulness. That's where you use Occam's razor: to remove unnecessary hypotheses. "Bridges are structures supported by piers".

Beautifully put. I hadn't previously considered that we can actually use the razor to pare down a hypothesis. My black/white mind always considered the more obvious example where there are two competing alternatives. Goddidit is often thought (in my experience) to be simple, yet in reality, the supernatural infinitely complex by its very definition.

So we if have two competing theories if you allow me use the fallacy:

a) I observe a bridge and theorise that it was built by men.
b) I observe a bridge and theorise that it was summoned into being.

So by parsimony, (a) must be true. Probably not a great example. OK, it's a crap example, but I'm fatigued and harassed. :-)

Juame, can you recall out an genuine example where the razor has failed - perhaps outside of the quantum word, because things are really odd there? I'm sure there must be at least one or two.
I hadn't previously considered that we can actually use the razor to pare down a hypothesis.

Hypotheses or assumptions (I should probably have used the latter, but its common French translation, hypothèse, stuck in my mind). Quoting Wikipedia:

Occam's razor states that the explanation of any phenomenon should make as few assumptions as possible, eliminating those that make no difference in the observable predictions of the explanatory hypothesis or theory. [...] When competing hypotheses are equal in other respects, the principle recommends selection of the hypothesis that introduces the fewest assumptions and postulates the fewest entities while still sufficiently answering the question.

-

a) I observe a bridge and theorise that it was built by men.
b) I observe a bridge and theorise that it was summoned into being.

So by parsimony, (a) must be true.


That's not really a good example. Occam's razor general use is to pick the best of two theories which make a different number of assumptions, often sharing some of them. If both theories (T1 vs T2) explain the same facts, and T1 makes assumptions A and B, while T2 makes assumptions A, B, and C, parsimony will have you to pick T1 as the best theory with good reason (C could be the ivy in my bridge example, for instance).

Occam's razor may fail when the competing theories both rely on non-shared assumptions. Like, say, T1 makes A , B, and C; while T2 makes A, B, D, E, and F. Here parsimony will have you choose T1 other T2, because of fewer assumptions. But it might be that C is an invalid assumption after all.

Juame, can you recall out an genuine example where the razor has failed

There are many. The most obvious one I can think of is the compositions of collinear velocities. It's fairly simple in Galilean mechanics: Vt = Va + Vb; it's more complex in STR: Vt = (Va + Vb)/(1 - VaVb/c²), because of additional and/or different assumptions on simultaneity and frames of references. Here complexity wins.

Another example - I chose the nickname Jaume because it's shorter and simpler to write than my real first name, and thus I 'theorized' that everyone would spell it correctly. And you just proved me wrong ;^)
It's the first time I see reductionism described as a "belief system", a "theory", or that it has to be "falsifiable". It can be a lot of things (a philosophical position, a point of view, a mindset, an approach to understand and explain natural phenomena, etc.), but certainly none of these things.

Besides, I can't make any sense of statements like "none of these theories has proven to be falsifiable", since theories are falsifiable (or not) by design.

Your final advice looks like a sound one, though.
My point was I could only make sense of the last sentence. Taken in isolation, it looks sound.

Quoting my previous post:

...but certainly none of these things.

I meant "belief system", "theory", "unfalsifiable" here, of course. Otherwise what I wrote wouldn't make sense either :-/

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