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Aubrey de Grey Discussion, 21

I discussed epistemology and cryonics with Aubrey de Grey via email. Click here to find the rest of the discussion. Yellow quotes are from Aubrey de Grey, with permission. Bluegreen is me, red is other.
Hi Elliot - thanks again - I sincerely wish I could allocate more time to this, but I’m just not seeing the value. Yes I know that until only one or two hundred years ago essentially everyone was so bad at the scientific method that progress was much slower than it could have been, but I’m not seeing that that’s the case any more. If you’re saying no, we’re still going a lot slower than we could because we’re reasoning poorly, and if you’re right, then you or others who are following your methods (such as DD, presumably) should be contributing very disproportionately to scientific progress, but I’m not seeing that happening. Cryonics is part of biology, so I’m not getting why you say I approach biology in a better way than I approach cryonics, but in any event I claim I approach all aspects of biology (including cryonics) in the same way.
DD has contributed very disproportionately to scientific progress. But that's a tiny sample size. I'm not a scientist, by choice. I don't agree with your look-at-scientific-contributions method, but in any case you don't have the input data to use it. Yet somehow you think you've gotten a conclusion from it. You're making a mistake which defends other mistakes (they can pile up like that).

Your arguments in your books about topics like mitochondria are much more detailed and rigorous than what you said to me about cryonics.

Scientific progress is much slower than it could be, today. This can be seen by surveying scientific fields. I've already given you some examples like the social sciences and medical retractions. You didn't give alternative interpretations or criticisms. Now you deny it after leaving those points unanswered, without exposing your reasoning to criticism.

Let's look at one field more closely. Quantum physics is screwed up. DD has explained:

http://vimeo.com/5490979 (First 15 minutes.)

DD says progress with Everett's theory was slow over last 50 years. He speaks to the irrational philosophy of Everett-dissenting physicists. Then he proposes philosophical mistakes *by Everett people* as the thing to change to improve the field's progress. It's like, "Most quantum physicists are using irrational philosophies and wasting their careers. But even in that context, the philosophical mistakes of the pro-Everett physicists are big enough to focus on instead."

In 2012, answering in a physics context, "What would it look like that would be different to the way things are at the moment?", DD wrote:

For instance, there'd be:

In theoretical physics: Work on the structure of the multiverse, its implications for the theory of probability, deeper explanations of various quantum algorithms, deeper understanding of the Heisenberg Picture....

In philosophy: Work on things like personal identity, the relationship between multiple universes and multiple copies in a single universe, morality in the multiverse...

In theoretical physics, experimental physics and philosophy: Cessation of work whose only interest is in the context of believing nonsensical 'interpretations'...

In physics teaching: Excision of anti-rational ideologies such as positivism or shut-up-and-calculate from physics classes.
Physicists are spending a great deal of effort on the philosophical equivalent of denying dinosaurs existed (as DD explains in the video and in BoI), rather than doing productive work on issues like those above. That slows progress dramatically.

In BoI, in "A Physicist’s History of Bad Philosophy", DD writes:
READER: But then why is it that only a small minority of quantum physicists agree?

DAVID: Bad philosophy.
DD spends the chapter explaining. No one has refuted his arguments.

Here is an example, specifically, of a bad pro-Everett paper which goes wrong epistemologically (because of justificationism not CR): http://users.ox.ac.uk/~everett/docs/Wallace%20epistemology.pdf

If examples like this would change your mind, more could be provided. Or if detailed criticism of this paper would change your mind, that could be provided.

So when you say science isn't going slow (and philosophy issues lack big consequences), without addressing the problems with any scientific fields, I think you're mistaken. And you're doing it in such a way that, if you are mistaken, you won't find out.

Continue reading the next part of the discussion.

Elliot Temple on December 9, 2014


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