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Is theory development possible in the absence of thought?

  1. May 30, 2004 #1
    Now, I know that no one here has the wherewithal to respond to this but I will post it anyway!

    The correct answer to that question is, "yes and no"! The answer depends very much on your definition of the word "thought". For this reason, we should make a careful analysis of exactly what is meant by that word. I believe there are two very different phenomena buried in the usage of that word.

    I will use the adjective "logical" to classify a specific kind of thought commonly believed, particularly by intellectuals, to be the only kind of rational thought (notice how I have not defined "rational"; we'll just lay that problem aside for the moment). If "logical" thought is indeed the only kind of rational thought, then certainly theory development is possible in the absence of thought; however, I hold that there is a second kind of rational thought.

    I will use the adjective "squirrel" (my own creation) to classify thought which is not "logical". (The word has some applicable connotations.) If one has ever watched squirrels in the tree tops, they will see those squirrels making life and death decisions without pause; and usually the correct decisions. Have you ever seen a squirrel run full tilt down a thin branch (the branch bending under his weight) jumping out into empty air to catch a thin branch on another tree ten or twelve feet away? Very rarely do they miss their mark (actually I have never seen an error, but my wife says she has).

    Squirrels are great in the treetops but they lack a bit skill on the streets. All my life I have heard those smears you see on the street (and I think you know what I mean) humorously referred to as "poor squirrel decisions". Well, they were actually results of real decisions and I think "squirrel" is an excellent adjective to use. I doubt anyone would classify those decisions, whether they are in the tree tops or in the streets, as "logical".

    So all thought is divided into two categories, each with its own strengths and weaknesses. The great strength of logical thought is that the conclusions reached through logical thought are guaranteed to be as valid as the premises upon which they are based. The weakness of logical thought is that it is limited to a very small number of premises: i.e., the specific number of factors which can be included in the statement of the problem to be thought about is quite small.

    A further problem with logical thought is that the number of specific steps in the process cannot be excessive as we must be consciously aware of each step as every step must be consciously validated. Now mathematics and formal logic provide us with a certain respite from that last constraint but, even so, it is still of very limited applicability.

    Squirrel thought has its own strengths and weaknesses. Its strength lies in the astonishing number of factors which may be taken into account. Its weakness is the fact that the process can not be validated: i.e., there is no way to prove a squirrel decision is correct. Nevertheless, most of them will be good decisions. Why is that? The answer should be clear. Whatever the mechanisms are, by which those decisions are reached, they have been honed and polished through millions of years of survival; failure to make good "squirrel" decisions has been cleaned from the gene pool by the consequences of the bad decisions.

    Watch a basketball player dribble down the floor, dodging his opponents, sometimes dribbling behind his back, as he jumps suddenly sideways and snicks the ball through the net thirty feet away! Any athlete knows that very little logical thought goes into such a move. In fact, if you try to consciously think about what you are doing, you won't be able to do it. I think it was Buddha who once said all evil comes from conscious thought.

    What I am getting at is the fact that logical thought is actually a rather worthless endeavor when it comes to life and death decisions. It is often much better to "go with your gut"; let it be a squirrel decision. In fact, in the absence of mathematics, logical decisions are so limited as to be almost entirely inapplicable to any day to day activities. This is why many students can not understand a purpose to learning mathematics. Actually they are quite right, neither math nor logic serve much of a purpose to important problems. I have known very successful people who have never made a logical decision in their entire life.

    However, when a problem can be approached with math and logic, one can be quite sure of the absolute validity of their conclusions. Well, "absolute" to a certain extent: it is possible that an important factor was omitted or that some axiom thought to be true is, in fact, false. Thus it is important that we understand how those factors came to be established. There is but one answer; squirrel decisions! We come to the conclusion that squirrel decisions are the single most important part of thinking; logical thought is not even possible in the absence of squirrel thought.

    This is, in fact, the single biggest problem in trying to understand the universe. Most everyone believes the ideas they have arrived at via their personal squirrel decisions are the only possible conclusions which can be reached. "Belief" of anything is a squirrel decision. The ability to communicate (language itself) was acquired through squirrel thought. Accept your squirrel decisions as your best bet when it comes to any serious question, but don't ever think that those squirrel decisions are infallible. You don't have to believe they are infallible before you can follow them; when it comes to life, "you pays your money and you takes your chances".

    If you want to do science, remember, even your most cherished squirrel decision could be wrong. Even you guys who are not "crackpots" should remember that. A lot of science is done in the absence of logical thought and that has to be so; but scientists should not forget that fact. If they do, science folds over to religion. It may work great, but that does not mean it is valid. Think about that next time you see a "poor squirrel decision".

    Have fun -- Dick
    Last edited: May 30, 2004
  2. jcsd
  3. May 30, 2004 #2


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    Nicely said. Logic often requires perfect knowledge of a number of input variables to perform its wonders. Most day to day decisions must be made without that perfect knowledge. The human brain seems to function - to me anyway - on something of a trial-and-error basis. Akin, I guess, to the squirrel decision process you describe. The weight of experiences tends to pull or push one in a particular direction. Is this food good, or this person bad, etc. Ultimately this is a function of whatever "similar" experiences one has had. Logic may or may not enter into the picture.

    Right now, this subject seems a lot more interesting to me than the discussion on some of the theory development threads...

    I happened across a site which talked a bit about the state of the art in the solar neutrino problem. The results of recent experiments will apparently require some adjustments to the Standard Model, supporting the idea of a small mass for the neutrino. This idea had been proposed decades earlier; but until relevant experimental accuracy was improved, it was not taken seriously. In some ways the Standard Model is only being modified slightly, but I guess "slightly" is in the eye of the beholder.
  4. May 30, 2004 #3
    I don't think so.
  5. May 31, 2004 #4
    The cerebral cortex:


    The cerebellum:


    Einstein's brain:

    http://www.popularmechanics.com/science/medicine/1999/11/einsteins_brain/ [Broken]

    Last edited by a moderator: May 1, 2017
  6. Jun 1, 2004 #5
    A squirrelly request to DoctorDick.

    Nuts, Simultaneity Lost in SR Rediscovered In Squirrel Cage
    I have a short link, one page, two figures, describing an exception to Einstein's example of the loss of simultaneity flowing from SR. I would like your criticism of the problem as it has to do with the title of your thread regarding the sometimes need for squirrel type thinking in various activities regarding motifs of science. The brash claim is, the conequences of the loss of simultaneity derived from special relativity is simply contradicted.

    The experiment:
    Specifically, the example used by Einstein most often is the moving train passing the midpoint of light sources at A and B the instant photons were emitted from both A and B sources directed at the midpoint M simultaneously.

    The photon from B is detected first then the photon from A. This is considered by Einstein as an example of the loss of simultaneity for observers in the moving frame - the moving observer perceives the nonsimultaneous emission of the photons first from B then A.

    http://frontiernet.net/~geistkiesel/index_files/ [Broken] It will not take more than a few moments of your time.

    Last edited by a moderator: May 1, 2017
  7. Jun 1, 2004 #6
    I am sorry sir but your approach is simple minded!

    Have fun -- Dick
  8. Jun 2, 2004 #7
    Ok, so if I develop a theory which goes something like:
    1) assume A,B
    2) deduce C from A,B
    then all I can say is exactly that if A and B are true then so is C. However, I have no idea whether or not this applies to my observable universe. So now I try to devise experiments by making statements like
    1) assume A,B hold for physical universe, hence C is also true.
    2) deduce from C that observation D will occur
    If D does occur in my experiment then I have no evidence that A,B are not true in my observable universe (of course, there might be a discrepancy between my observable universe and the 'actual universe' out there but I don't care about this. I want to explain the things I see, not those which I don't). So, my theory is correct as the theory assumes A,B. The experiments give me evidence for whether or not A and B may be true in my observable universe, but I am naturally very careful about whatever deductions I can make from them.

    Am I using squirrel thought here?

  9. Jun 2, 2004 #8
    Simple minded squirrel review.

    There is a question presented regarding the worth or value of a defined statement, claimed to be of scientific worth and value. The current reviewer, or nonreviewer, depending on ones perspective in the matter, doctordick, responded somewhat ambiguously, but certainly not with any scientifically recognizable and usable tools such as logic, reason and rational thought when presented with a simple paper for his review. This being a claimed scientific forum one may assume the paper was presented with the anticipation that any review actually performed would be scientifically conducted, at least if published.

    Geistkiesel had sought a scientific reviewing mind and received a reply lacking in the identification of any specific or identifiable error, or flaw in the "approach" or physics of the offerred model. Is a published review of a paper confined to the words, that "your approach is simple minded" be considered a reasoned and rational determination of the paper's scientific value?

    Earlier doctordick had stated what appears to be a sensible position regarding the parameters and structure of the analysis of problems:

    I wonder to what subject matter doctordick was referring to in the above quote.
  10. Jun 2, 2004 #9
    It's funny to see this amount of blind arrogance from someone who has also said:

    Am I the only one to spot the hypocrisy? Well, I suppose Dr D must have because he is just so superior to us all.

  11. Jun 2, 2004 #10
    Are you suggesting that you are not? If you think that, you simply didn't follow what I said.
    Ok Matt, you go read his thread and his failure to grasp what others have already said. Then, with all this spare time you seem to have, go explain the errors in his logic to him. Want to put odds on the probability you will reach him?
    Well, you said it, I didn't. But I suppose it must be true! Certainly there are a great number of people on this forum who seem to have a very strong interest in explaining simple ideas to the same people over and over again. I haven't seen any evidence that those particular people have any interest in thinking about anything difficult. Perhaps it is because their understanding of physics is only marginally above those they are talking to. At least at that level they can maintain a feeling of superiority to someone.

    I didn't answer Geistkiesel for a very simple reason; there are plenty of people here willing and able to explain to his difficulty to him over and over again, probably more clearly than I can. If they cannot reach him why should I try?

    I am usually quite patient with people but there are limits.

    Have fun – Dick
  12. Jun 2, 2004 #11
    Sir, I am sure that this communication is a waste of time but I will respond to you anyway. I will take your description of the situation from

    http://frontiernet.net/~geistkiesel/index_files/sim_fix_einstein/index_re_animation.html [Broken]

    because we are at least dealing with a known case of simultaneous creation of the two pulses under discussion and your diagrams are correct.

    Little more than evidence that you have not thought the situation out.
    Wrong! The drawing itself is made from the stationary observers perspective (you explicitly show the moving observer as moving therefore, the drawing is a stationary representation). As the drawing shows, the stationary observer will see the left hand reflection as occurring at t1 and the right hand reflection as occurring at t2=2t1 and detection by the moving observer as occurring at t3=3t1. Please note that the stationary observer could see these same pulses reflected off stationary mirrors at L and R in frame number 1. These reflected pulses would be detected at O by the stationary observer at O after 2.666… t1 a considerably shorter time than was required in the moving experiment.
    Wrong! Since your drawing is from the perspective of the stationary observer, you are assuming the moving observer will use the stationary observer's coordinate system. If you're going to do that you better give a good reason for him to do so.
    That is precisely the original Michelson-Morely argument! I can only presume you don't understand the relativistic solution to the problem because you can't understand the problem.
    The difference between the arrival of pulses??? They arrive at the moving observers nose at exactly the same time; look at your own drawing. You must be talking about arrival times at the mirrors. The problem there appears to just be way over your head. You better explain the technique the moving observer uses to synchronizes his various clocks!
    It's far above your head.
    All that tells you is the relative velocity of emitter at the moment the pulse was emitted.
    All you are doing is coming up with another way of defining simultaneity. There are an infinite number of ways of defining simultaneity (that's the problem).
    it indicates the lack of depth analysis by Geistkiesel.
    You need to learn a little physics then go measure the speed of the earth through the ether!

    I do not intend to answer any of your posts again. My next step will be to put you on my ignore list.

    Have fun and listen, you might learn something -- Dick
    Last edited by a moderator: May 1, 2017
  13. Jun 2, 2004 #12
    I have the wherewithal to respond to this. Here it goes:

    The correct answer to your question is "no". "Theories" are a product of intellectual activity, therefore they cannot be developed in the absence of thought, unless your definitions of "theory" and "thought" are so askew of common usage as to make your statements meaningless.

    What you believe is irrelevant, especially when you boldly claim no one here has the wherewithal to understand you. If the way you use words is not close to common usage, understanding what you say is not a matter of "wherewithal".

    This is a misrepresentation of the position held by "intellectuals". Any "intellectual" understands that the use of logic is restricted to symbols, whereas reason can be applied to observations. That is why we often accept as true things we cannot understand.

    Actually, you have laid the problem aside altogether. Nowhere in your post do you come back to it. That is not intellectually honest.

    Never minding the squirrel thing, your definition above is too ambiguous to have any significance. Does "thought which is not logical" mean "intuitive", "ambiguous", "illogical", "paradoxical", "wrong", "metalinguistic", or something else?

    What do squirrels have to do with theories? I have seen squirrels doing a lot of things, some of them quite astounding, but I have never seen they create theories!

    Why not? How do you know the squirrel's brain is not just a big computer, and its errors of judgement could be attributed to errors of measurement? Do you have any rational basis to lay this claim, or are you just stating your beliefs?

    This is nonsense. What does "valid" mean? It certainly can't mean "true", as many perfectly logical propositions have been proved false by observation. It probably doesn't mean "accepted by everyone" as the world is full of people who disagree with logical statements. As far as I can tell, "valid" is meaningless in this context.

    This is, again, nonsense. Logical thought can be applied to as many premises and factors as you are able to. What you are describing as a limitation may apply to thinkers themselves, not to the process of thinking.

    What do you mean by "excessive"? Some computer programs have millions of lines of code, all of them involving quite a bit of logic. "Millions" is certainly not excessive, so perhaps you have "billions" in mind? Nonsense, I say.

    Exactly how many factors are involved in jumping between trees? I can think of a few - body mass, muscle sensitivy, gravity, air resistance perhaps - but nothing "astonishing".

    If there is no way to prove a squirrel decision is correct, how can you know most of them are "good"?

    So there is a gene for "making good squirrel decisions" which evolution favoured over the gene for "making bad squirrel decisions"? This is absurd.

    Was the Buddha conscious when he thought that?

    Wait... wasn't this about theory development? So far all you have talked about is a bunch of simple-minded concepts of biology.

    "It is raining. If it is raining and I go outside, then I will get wet. I don't want to get wet, therefore I must either stay indoors or take an umbrella"

    Yeah, right... logic is useless in day-to-day activities...

    Apparently you don't consider trivial "if... then..." decisions "logical". Because if you did, you would not say such nonsense.

    Nonsense. When a computer tells you the result of a long chain of logic, what exactly is doing the "squirrel thinking" for the computer?

    Who says there is a problem understanding the universe? What is there to be understood?

    "Understanding" is related to language; one can only "understand" linguistic statements. "Understanding" certainly doesn't apply to sensory perception.

    That is a strong claim. Do you have any facts to back it up, or is that just a belief?

    If "squirrel thinking" is the only thing required to acquire language, how come squirrels don't talk?

    This is like saying, "if you want to play golf, remember, even the best players make mistakes". Is that what you call wisdom? To me that's chidish to the point of being laughable.

    Actually, I think only crackpots don't consider the possibility that they are wrong and everyone else is right. Which is what makes them crackpots anyway...

    They never do. That's why they keep revising their theories.

    I never heard of a respectable scientist who claims that what they discovered is absolutely true. Doing that is a sure way to lose respect, since any good scientist knows that science is not about truth, at least not in an absolute sense.

    The next time I see a dead squirrel I'll think of how much nonsense dead squirrels inspire in some people.
  14. Jun 2, 2004 #13
    An excellent retort!

    Now we wait for the inevitable:

  15. Jun 2, 2004 #14
    "Science sans conscience n'est que ruine de l'âme" French philosophe (Descartes ?)
    "Science without conscience will produce the ruine of your soul" (approximate translation).
    Besides this I think it is always extremly difficult to compare the words of a spoken language with the axioms of a mathematical theory because some words either belong several meanings or implicitly contain a degree of liberty in the interpretation that could be done because of the context in which they were said or writen.

    And "à propos", sorry for my bad English; hope you can understand me
    Blackforest. ​
  16. Jun 3, 2004 #15
    An example: The simple minded having fun.

    You have misread the sequence of events. I shall be very careful here in describing what is occurring.

    The numbers in the figure can apply to moving or stationary fames with ‘dilation corrections’ appropriately inferred.

    Midpoint coordinates of emitted photons are invariant as photons speed is not source or frame dependent. Midpoint coordinates of expanding light spheres are invariant from the instance of emission of the photons. Therefore, any statements, derivations or conclusions drawn from experimental results, and/or theoretical constructs or postulates, denying the reality or concept of absolute space, meaning invariance in the spatial coordinates of events, must be discarded.

    Photons and mirrors converge to predictable coordinates. In the moving frame the left photon and mirror converge before the right photon and mirror converge. Photons and observer converge simultaneously in all frames. The Δt of emission-to-convergence is greater in moving frames due to the greater photon distance traveled.

    The observers’ perceptions cannot be determined until the convergence of the photons, hence all determine that the reflections were not simultaneous in the moving frame, but the emissions were simultaneous. The dilations of moving clocks can be explained, partially at least, due to the extended distance traveled during emission and convergence times.

    Michelson-Morley experimental results were not null. An aether drift induced wave shift of 1/20 of that predicted was subsequently confirmed by Dayton Miller. The histroy of science that robotically and repeatedly assert the "null" result of MM experiments is a grossly and incompetent reflection of physical law.

    I trust this is not too simple minded for an egotistically biased mind to comprehend.
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