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What airports tell us about a police state

Kevin D Williamson doesn’t hesitate to put the boot in:

With apologies to Margaret Atwood and a thousand other dystopian novelists, we do not have to theorize about what an American police state would look like, because we know what it looks like: the airport, that familiar totalitarian environment where Americans are disarmed, stripped of their privacy, divested of their freedom of speech, herded around like livestock, and bullied by bovine agents of “security” in a theatrical process that has an 85 percent failure rate because it isn’t designed as a security-screening protocol at all but as a jobs program for otherwise unemployable morons.

Now, when I hear the words “otherwise unemployable morons,” I think of Robert Francis O’Rourke and his sad little presidential campaign, which suffered a little setback on Tuesday night when the gentleman who advertises himself as “Beto” tried out some tough-guy shtick on Pete Buttigieg, who is, whatever else you can say about him, a veteran of the Afghanistan campaign, one who rightly pointed out that he doesn’t have to prove his “courage” to the idiot son of a well-connected El Paso political family who has done almost nothing with his life other than show himself a reasonably effective fundraiser in the family business.

O’Rourke is a cretin, and an ambitious cretin at that. And what are his ambitions? Turning America into the airport.

31 comments to What airports tell us about a police state

  • MadRocketSci

    I have to commute one week per month to LA/LAX. LAX is a dystopian hell. I and aleph-null other commuters stand in an infinite line to be harrassed and have our bags emptied all over the tile by goons, one of which I saw screaming at a 12 year old for not understanding arbitrary garbled directions to take off his shoes. Yeah, that’s keeping our airport safe.

    Meanwhile, because our companies are run by unbelievably cheap and breathtakingly arrogant MBAs from ivy schools, there was a recent incident with an Iraqi maintenance tech (doing the jobs American’s won’t do (for slave wages under abusive conditions)) sabotaging flight instruments on planes because his brother is in ISIS and giving him tips over the phone. When I heard that, I exclaimed: “What is the point in working in a dystopian police-state if no one cares to background check employees working on safety critical equipment?!” I have to explain why I need two laptops to someone who is barely restrained from violence, but our critical infrastructure is maintained by whoever they can scrape up to work for less than the legal minimum wage, and the less scrutiny the better.

  • Flubber

    Good quote, but Kevin Williamson will be eternally stained by the shitty article he wrote about the rust belt.

    The mans still a fucking shit.

  • MadRocketSci

    I’m sort of off-libertarian these days. The libertarians have a lot of theories about the way society is “supposed” to work, but I’m beginning to think 19th and 20th century America, with a broad distribution of ownership, and very small firms/groups/towns/concerns/political-units, is about the only time in human history that libertarian suppositions fit very well. Libertarians (and I) pine for those days, but wishing doesn’t make it so.

    Can you honestly tell me that the vast hierarchy of middle managers in our large companies are there because of any reason having anything to do with merit, utility to the firm, or market-efficiency? Why are engineers and scientists and skilled tradesmen suddenly (a trend beginning in the 80s and going into overdrive in the middle 21st) treated like shit while certifiable morons are accorded aristocratic status over them? Our workplaces have gotten positively dark-aged (at least the middle ages had the guilds and towns, as bad as they were!)

    Maybe the commies, being continental Europeans, were reacting to social forces which we simply never had to deal with due to our open frontiers: The devolution of a society where the majority of men had ownership and bargaining power into one controlled by vast institutions run by primate status games and ruled by parasites? I think the standard leftist solutions are doubling down on the problem (I want a world where everyone can own things and no one is a serf, not one where no one can own anything and everyone is a serf!) but I’m beginning to see the problem.

  • MadRocketSci

    There is a class war going on. It’s going into overdrive here in America, and probably in the rest of the world too. Deindustrialization and population pressure are what I think has suddenly given our aristocrats leverage. Aristocrats need slaves, and a slave economy, if allowed, destroys an economy that sustains free and independent men.

  • William H. Stoddard

    The last time I reread Robert Heinlein’s Between Planets, two passages struck me: One where the hero is told that his luggage is going to be X-rayed, and if there’s film in his camera it will be fogged; and one where he’s getting ready to travel from Earth to Mars, and he’s required to present his ID, which is then taken into a back office, and he has to wait and hope it will be returned. Of course none of this seems at all extraordinary. But when Heinlein wrote it, in 1951, it was a vision of a dark future in which American freedom had been destroyed, clearly intended to shock his readers into wondering if such a thing might ever really happen.

  • it isn’t designed as a security-screening protocol at all but as a jobs program for otherwise unemployable morons.

    I thought it was designed as security theatre – giving the impression of doing something. 🙂 Perhaps Kevin Williamson’s feelings about the rust belt cause him to prefer his explanation.

    Actually, I thought it was designed by committees of mostly over-promoted people who felt obliged to ‘do something’ and who perhaps felt an actual desire to make life harder for terrorists, though not in ways that would conflict with virtue-signalling and generally being comfortable in their bubble. What we experience is what managed to pass the committee as a plan, as it then actually took effect on the ground, as operated by the people they hired.

    It is said that Israeli airports are not bad at this kind of thing.

  • bobby b

    “I thought it was designed as security theatre – giving the impression of doing something.”

    I agree, but also with Frazer Orr’s point – that it’s a jobs program for otherwise unemployable morons – which leaves it all as very very bad theater.

  • SB

    Kevin Williamson often has his head up his backside, but he ‘s basically right about this. Robert Francis O’Rourke, disaffectionately known as “Bobby Franks,” is a walking human turd: genuinely stupid, lacking self-awareness, and filled with the smugness that only comes from being a politician’s son married to the daughter of a crony, real estate developer billionaire.

    Buttigieg is a slightly smarter, more polished version of Bobby Franks, but equally noxious, smug, and filled with repellant ideas. He’s the failed mayor of a modestly-sized, declining midwestern town, but as an openly gay man and the son of a Communist professor, he’s the darling to a large segment of the American left. Buttigieg’s military service was 4 months in a Kabul office tracing terrorist financial transactions. Honorable work, but hardly leading a combat unit in Kandahar. His service was nothing more than a resume enhancer designed to burnish his credentials for higher office while he took a leave of absence from his mayoral duties. Williamson’s positive mention of Buttigieg is nothing more than the reflexive support of one openly gay man for another on that basis alone, even though Buttigieg wants to turn America into the same airport as Bobby Franks.

  • Ted S, Catskill Mtns, NY, USA

    I thought it was designed to groom children into believing these sorts of assaults on liberty are right and normal, as they’ll never have known anything else.

  • Paul Marks

    Ah Margaret Atwood – at best she is an ignorant person who knows nothing about Christianity or traditional Western society (which as based upon Christianity) – but more likely she is just a lying piece of excrement. Either way she is beloved by the education system and the mainstream media. Which should tell people all we need to know about the education system and mainstream media.

    However, the doctrines of the society M. Atwood writes about do resemble the doctrines of a religion – that religion being Islam.

    As for “Beto” – he is a typical “Woke” type who wants to exterminate all white-male-capitalists – he is (of course) a white-male who married money (and used his political office to benefit his property developer father in law).

  • Julie near Chicago

    SB — Do you know who “the” Bobby Franks was?

  • Julie near Chicago (October 20, 2019 at 7:16 pm), I assume SB actually meant to compare Buttigieg not to Bobby Franks but to his killers, who believed their superior intellects absolved them from having to respect their intellectual inferiors, and/or the revolting Clarence Darrow, the lawyer who got them off the ‘inhumane’ death penalty, to the delight of him and like-minded advocates of intellectual superiority, fashionable freudian theories used to excuse their behaviour, and etc.

    “Chloroform unfit children. Show them the same mercy that is shown beasts that are no longer fit to live.” (Clarence Darrow, 1915).

    I guess Clarence was bound to feel sympathy for Bobby Franks’ killers, who had just been a bit ‘over-zealous’ in following his advice.

    Buttigieg, and indeed Kevin Williamson, seem to value being an intellectual, albeit one hopes not quite to the extent of Darrow or his clients.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Well — I was trying to be tactful and non-snarky, Niall; and I meant it as an honest question, not an accusation or a “Gotcha!” Maybe I failed.

    I really thought SB, who actually used the name “Bobby Franks” first (before he repeated it as applying also to Mayor Pete) in a takedown of R.F. O’Rourke [quote* below] probably hadn’t heard of Leopold & Loeb and their victim; or if he had, the name was floating around in his subconscious without really registering.

    Because after all, “Bobby Franks” would be a good mocking of the name “Robert Francis,” and I thought it rather likely that that’s how SB (or whoever) came up with it.

    SB, in his first paragraph and before he used the same name as equally applicable to Buttigieg — wrote this:

    * “Robert Francis O’Rourke, disaffectionately known as “Bobby Franks,” is a walking human turd:….”

    Of course, he may also have written the name in confusion between the well-known Bobby Franks and his killers. That would be what we shy, retiring, well-bred and delicate young things would call a brain-fart, but of course we’ve never heard the term and wouldn’t be able to puzzle it out if we had — although I for one have had one of these frequently. Far too frequently. :>))

    It still seems most likely to me that the name came to mind for use in mocking R.F.’s name. Mayor Pete would be just lagniappe: “as long as it’s here, we might as well use it again.”

    *************

    This is getting boring. The Captcha Bot seems fixated on traffic lights.

  • Julie near Chicago (October 20, 2019 at 10:04 pm), I confess I took it for granted that SB had just mis-recalled the roll played by Bobby Franks. I overlooked the idea that Robert Francis might be cast in the role of victim Bobby Franks, with Buttigieg and Williamson being the arrogant-intellectual killers of his political career (though ‘beto’ could hardly be as innocent in that as Bobby Franks was of his murder).

    I guess if SB revisits, he can explain – possibly of course by inverting not just “beto’s” name but also your ‘both right’ joke, explaining that we’re both wrong. 🙂

    Anyway, readers now have a range of analogies to use – and may feel they now know more about this century-ago progressive-style murder than they particularly wanted (or needed). 🙂

    Whether Darrow’s later disputes with the eugenics movement were motivated by any belated humanity or just by a fastidious intellectual’s reaction to a movement that, becoming popular, adapted to attract too-crude ‘beto’-style intellectuals, I leave to whoever knows more about this subject.

  • Julie near Chicago

    I confess I don’t really know anything about C. Darrow except that he seems to be widely regarded as the Greatest Defense Lawyer of All Time (so, ahead of Louis Nizer and one or two others whose names I forget), and then there’s the Scopes Trial. So I didn’t know about the love affair with eugenics and man’s inhumanity to criminal man.

    (Personally I’m against the death penalty, because man is fallible, juries are fallible, and once the sentence is executed there’s no do-over.)

    And you end with an interesting speculation, Niall.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Niall —

    Y’know, this is pretty interesting. The way people’s minds work, I mean. If R. Penrose was your thesis advisor, that seems like a pretty good hint that your Ph.D. is in some form of physics. And my Master’s is in math — Pure math, she was quick to note; None of this “applied” stuff. ;>)

    And here we are, both English mavens.

    And yet your first reaction to the Bobby Franks usage was that SB had B. Franks confused with one of the young monsters, whereas that came last in my thinking about it. Whereas my initial reaction was that “Bobby Franks” was a mocking way of re-writing Robert (bobby) Francis’s (Franks’) name; then that if SB knew the story, then he made a pretty tacky, not to say confused, use of the B.F. moniker. But I thought it equally likely that he had no idea who B.Franks was. Only after I’d thought about it awhile did it occur to me that it might be a “brain fart,” which is at least in the ballpark of plain confusion, not the result of “translating” the name.

    And for some reason we’re not getting through to each other on the “falsifiable” issue. I’m still pondering it, by the way, but I just keep coming to the same conclusion I had last night and the night before. I’m not even that sure that in fact we disagree — we might be talking past each other. (I agree that you can’t give an absolutely unassailable grade of “true” to a claim unless you experience it directly yourself, and then the proof only works for you, but not for me. Although when the Young Miss pulled the hot chocolate off the counter and onto herself, I was quite persuaded that she had a nasty burn and needed the E.R. stat. –So IF a claim is false [not the same thing as “untrue,” obviously] you MIGHT be able to prove it by arranging a valid and properly constructed test, or bunch of tests. Otherwise, you can only prove it’s true by direct evidence, such as “I see that big light in the daytime sky.” Or Samuel Johnson’s “I refute it thus!” while showing the Bishop why. [Ouch! That smarts!])

    Anyway, two minds, two candles trying to see in the dark, or at least the fog. Cheers, and have a draft (or a cuppa) for me!

  • mikee

    I, for one, believe the long serpentine queues of people formed up immediately inside the entrance doors to most airports can not perpetually fail to attract a hit and run terrorist attack. Imagine the effect on travel of a bad person arriving at, say, Denver International Airport, tossing a hand grenade or six into the middle of the security scrum from the unsecured balcony above, walking back to the waiting car, and casually driving off.

    It would be a bit longer than a three day stand down of all air travel after a few attacks like that, especially if there are several at once.

  • Julie near Chicago

    William, thanks so much for mentioning Heinlein’s Between the Stars. I’ve forgotten the titles of several of his books before the Change, and– —

    Yikes! I’m listening to it now, and this is the sort of Heinlein I love. No preaching. Good plotting. Good entertainment. Political ideas and ideals that don’t make me run for the kidney basin. Getting the point across without immersing us in blood, sex, and the Dark Side generally, including dystopias and messed-up psyches. Good-natured, written with a certain low-key humour that I always enjoyed.

    And not unsuitable for innocent, fragile, tender young things such as I, whose ears should not be assailed by the vulgarities common in the late Weimar period, or a dockside bar, or the “family” habits of Pharaonic Egypt.

    Just a really enjoyable story. I’m gonna have to revisit the other books that I can find to listen to. Thanks, William!

  • Mr Black

    Williamson was just the kind of “conservative” imbecile who was shouting down the idea of targeting muslims for scrutiny because “it’s not who we are” and who now uses the fruits of his own stupidity and virtue signalling as an example to attack “the government”. No dude, this is the system you wanted, to be “fair”

  • You have a point, Mr Black (October 22, 2019 at 11:07 am). The Israelis handle airport security better (as I mentioned above) for several reasons, but one may be simply that they had to start much earlier, long before modern PC reached the paralysing levels of 2001 when the stuff Williamson complains about was brought in.

    Julie near Chicago October 21, 2019 at 2:04 am), while I did a maths ordinary degree in parallel, my honours degree was mathematical physics, so I guess there is a bit of ‘applied’ in there. However I then got the chance to join Roger’s group in the Oxford maths department and I chose to go there, not do astrophysics with Sciama or go to London to study quantum theory. (I never regretted that choice despite having to pay for it in humility through finding myself in a group with numbers of unusually talented mathematicians – and Roger who went rather beyond that – whereas I was only ever a usually talented mathematician.) If further proof were needed, I could cite the fact that I care if a function drops to zero too fast as it goes to infinity – because it means it will blow up in the complex plane. At Oxford, this was seen as evidence you were ‘really” a mathematician, however hard you tried to hide it and pretend to be a physicist.

    As regards ‘falsifiable’, Popper used that word for the concept, rather than e.g. ‘verifiable’ or ‘provable’ or ‘testable’ because (IIRC) he was arguing that a scientific theory can never be known to be true, but can be known to be false – can be ‘falsified’. In such a context, ‘falsifiable’ arose naturally as the single-word term for the property he was using to distinguish scientific theories, defined as those that had it, from theories that were not scientific theories (whatever else might be said of them), defined as those that lacked this property.

    I value the concept (but noted it’s far older than Popper). Popper taught another idea older than he when he asked a group of students whether, if they had an irrefutable proof that Nazi doctrine was wrong, they would offer it to a Nazi. “Yes,” they all replied, with the confident ignorance of youth. “And when the Nazi yells, ‘I shit on your proof’, pulls out a revolver and shoots you?”, asked Popper. The students were silent – but one hopes some of them later resisted better those temptations to intellectual arrogance that being a student brings.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “If further proof were needed, I could cite the fact that I care if a function drops to zero too fast as it goes to infinity – because it means it will blow up in the complex plane.”

    I guess it’s a sign of a mathematician (especially one trained by Roger Penrose) that he or she automatically assumes any interesting function is going to be analytic! 🙂

    I got the definite impression (from reading his books) that Roger *really* likes analytic functions!

    “As regards ‘falsifiable’, Popper used that word for the concept, rather than e.g. ‘verifiable’ or ‘provable’ or ‘testable’ because (IIRC) he was arguing that a scientific theory can never be known to be true, but can be known to be false – can be ‘falsified’.”

    This may be of interest. Popper says that another word for it is “testability”: “Every genuine test of a theory is an attempt to falsify it, or to refute it. Testability is falsifiability; […] One can sum up all this by saying that the criterion of the scientific status of a theory is its falsifiability, or refutability, or testability.”

    https://staff.washington.edu/lynnhank/Popper-1.pdf

  • Julie near Chicago

    Niall,

    Thanks for filling me in on your background. I made it as far as thermo in the undergraduate physics program at Chicago (at which I was one of 10 who were qualified to continue in physics — out of a starting class of, I think, 167 hopefuls *pats self on back, breaks arm, in cast for next 3 months). I get Newtonian mechanics just fine, had to invent a whole new-to-me mental landscape of things for E&M, which in the end was a source of delight, did astonish my undergrad advisor by getting an A! in one (one) of the classes (otherwise B’s), hit thermo, a predictable Lose for me without 39/7 work on the part of my HOney and me, so no more physics. (In fact only 8 of us chose to go on. And that was about the number who were left standing every year to continue the course. *brag (Alan was one of the 8 in his physics class, some years before mine.)* I haven’t the right kind of intuition for it.

    Math entirely different. Anyhow, congrats to you. 😀 A better man than I!

    .

    Nullius and Niall, my argument all along is that testable is far preferable to falsifiable as the term for what is meant. You can put just about any claim other than a postulate which is foundational to your worldview (this can mean reality itself, or what we call “the universe of discourse, e.g. nuclear physics, or cooking) to some sort of test (without stretching the term “test” so far as to be meaningless), so by definition any claim other than a fundamental postulate is testable, even the true ones; and even though the true ones might be inferred to be or judged as “true” practically speaking, they aren’t provably true at the level of basic logic. But they are still testable.

    (Per Gödel, you could in some systems come up with a statement that is true but not provable and not a foundational postulate. That doesn’t mean the statement isn’t testable by some criterion or other; it would just mean that the test is useless or meaningless and the statement is therefore not falsifiable. Now, we never covered Gödel’s theorems in any of my classes and I’ve never studied them on my own, so this statement is possibly horsefeathers. But if you say “There exists in Domain D a set of propositions that are true but not provable,” I don’t see what other conclusion you can reach. And I’m not sure whether to exempt foundational postulates from the ones Gödel means or not.)

    But to say a claim is falsifiable means,by a proper extension of the verb “to falsify,” that it can be “falsified,” i.e. contradicted or shown to be untrue, which a logically-true claim obviously cannot be.

    My argument isn’t with the point itself. It’s with using the word “falsifiable” in a way that that is not a reasonable expansion of the verb “to falsify”: It implies something more. It’s overbroad. It’s a misnomer, the way the science- and tech-geeks have gotten to using it.

    Nullius, thanks for your final sentence, the one in quotes. I feel much less Alone now! :>))

  • Julie near Chicago

    Hm. Niall, what your example about the Popper-and-the-Nazis proposition proves is that any statement that is proven false thereby must NOT be “falsifiable,” because no proof of its falsifiability can be shown to be true by the definition of “falsifiability” that he uses. In other words, if the proof were true, you could not prove its truth as a “scientific theory.”

    And down the rabbit-hole we go. We come to the conclusion that no “scientific” claim or theory can be shown to false, and we start with the assumption that a true conclusion must be either false (if “scientific”), or else not scientific; so in the end the very concepts of truth and falsity are meaningless in science={all genuinely scientific theories}.

    Of course in the example as you tell it, one might also argue that the point is that practically speaking, it sometimes doesn’t matter whether a statement is true or false: What matters is whether making it will get you dead.

    Or so it seems to me.

    (Also, I wrote:

    But to say a claim is falsifiable means,by a proper extension of the verb “to falsify,” that it can be “falsified,” i.e. contradicted or shown to be untrue, which a logically-true claim obviously cannot be.

    which, if it is true, is not “falsiable”, which makes it not a valid conclusion, i.e. not true, per Popperian [here] “falsifiabiity.”)

    Aside: Miss R. had no use for Popper, on epistomological grounds IIRC. I’d forgotten just what her reasoning was, but if mine above is correct, that might also have been hers.

    . . .

    Nullius, thanks so much for the Gould paper. In some circles of anthropology or evolution (I think), Gould is held in low esteem. Do you have any opinions on that? (Part of the issue of the Gell-Mann effect, in fact.)

  • Nullius in Verba

    “Nullius and Niall, my argument all along is that testable is far preferable to falsifiable as the term for what is meant.”

    It possibly requires a combination of the two. The distinction Popper was trying to make was that between confirming the consequent and modus tollens.

    Confirming the consequent is when you start with “A implies B”, observe that “B is true”, and conclude that “therefore A is true”. This is commonly done when “confirming a theory”. My scientific theory (A) predicts a certain observation (B). We do the experiment and find that B does in fact happen. We therefore declare that my scientific theory (A) has been experimentally confirmed.

    This is nonsense. If this coin is double-headed, then the next coin toss will come up heads. We toss the coin, and it is indeed heads. Has my theory that the coin is double-headed been confirmed? Of course not. But an amazing number of “scientific” statements are of precisely this form.

    Modus tollens, on the other hand, is valid reasoning. This is where we start with “A implies B”, we observe that “B is false“, and we conclude therefore that “therefore A is false”. We create an exhaustive list of hypotheses of all the things we want to disprove, test their predictions, and show that all their predictions fail. We eliminate every conceivable alternative to the proposed theory, and falsify them.

    This was what Popper meant. We don’t proceed by proposing a hypothesis, checking it’s predictions, and confirming that it works. We proceed by proposing a hypothesis, checking the predictions of all possible alternatives to the hypothesis, and eliminating them. We can only proceed by trying to falsify all the alternatives, by trying to disprove our favoured hypothesis and failing, not by confirming the predictions of our theory.

    In the case where there are no alternative hypotheses, where the theory is the only one consistent with already known facts, then there is nothing for the scientific method to do. The statement is true, but it isn’t science that tells us so.

    “Now, we never covered Gödel’s theorems in any of my classes and I’ve never studied them on my own, so this statement is possibly horsefeathers.”

    The implications of Godel’s theorem are somewhat overblown – it’s profound, but not in the way many commentators (Roger Penrose being among the most guilty!) have claimed. It’s built around statements of the form: “This statement is not provable by proof system X.” for some particular kind of prover. We can argue that either it must be true, or that proof system X is inconsistent, because if the statement was false, then it would imply that system X could prove it, and thus prove a false statement. It’s a simple verbal paradox, a variant on the liar paradox, that was known long before Godel. Godel’s achievement was to encode the statement, and the proof system, in the language of the arithmetic of natural numbers. Thus, any proof system flexible enough to implement arithmetic must mean there are arithmetical statements that are true but not provable by it. You can certainly find proof systems that are limited so as to exclude Godel-type statements, but they must also thereby exclude basic arithmetic, too.

    For another fun example, the paradox of the unexpected hanging is another case of the same sort of construction. A judge tells a prisoner that he will be hung at dawn before the end of the week, but he will not be able to deduce before the event on which day. “This date is not calculable by calculator X.”

    However, the logical world that Godel’s theorem inhabits is a broader and stranger one than Popper was thinking about. Logic considers version of logic with different axioms, that might or might not include the law of the excluded middle, and so might or might not allow proof by contradiction. There are systems of logic where it is not true, and can be disproved.

    “so in the end the very concepts of truth and falsity are meaningless in science”

    Science doesn’t claim to be the only possible path to truth. (Or should I say ‘road to reality’?)

    But in the world of mathematics logic, which includes Tarski’s undefinability theorem, truth itself has some major issues!

    “practically speaking, it sometimes doesn’t matter whether a statement is true or false: What matters is whether making it will get you dead”

    That one is also well-known to classical logic!

    “Nullius, thanks so much for the Gould paper. In some circles of anthropology or evolution (I think), Gould is held in low esteem. Do you have any opinions on that?”

    Well, first, Gould is simply quoting from Karl Popper’s “Conjectures and Refutations”, as stated in the header to the paper, and secondly, the genetic fallacy is where an argument is claimed to be true or false purely on the basis of the person or organisation making it. If you look up the meaning of my Nom de Plume, you should be able to figure out what I think of that!

  • Nullius in Verba

    Perhaps I should add, I’ve read some of Gould’s books, and they seem perfectly OK and sensible and intelligent to me. I don’t necessarily agree with everything he says, but I don’t consider that a reason to hold anyone in low esteem.

  • I guess it’s a sign of a mathematician (especially one trained by Roger Penrose) that he or she automatically assumes any interesting function is going to be analytic! 🙂 I got the definite impression (from reading his books) that Roger *really* likes analytic functions! (Nullius in Verba, October 22, 2019 at 4:50 pm

    Your second sentence is correct but not your first. Roger excels at, for example, representing a very non-analytic function as the difference of two analytic functions. I’m not talking here of the kind of function that you’d relegate to the lower classes of mathematicland, deny the vote to, etc.. I’m talking about the kind you’d jail for life or sentence to death. We know well that not every needful function is analytic but it can be powerful to make such functions out of combinations of analytic functions.

    Speaking of sending to jail or sentencing to (thread) death, is there perhaps just the slightest danger that I am guilty of going off-topic? 🙂 (This reflection usefully guards me against writing much on Gödel’s theorem. Nullius will likely be unsurprised to learn I dispute its being a mere verbal paradox – but I’ll postpone a long discussion for another time.)

    Anyhow, congrats to you (Julie near Chicago (October 22, 2019 at 7:03 pm)

    Thanks, but please be assured it was no false modesty that made me say that being in Roger’s group taught me humility as well as much maths – and not because Roger was proud (quite the reverse) or the group generally. When I was at school, I won all the prizes, when I was an undergraduate I sometimes won the class medal, and when I joined the Oxford relativity and gravitation maths research group – well, let’s just say I learned the truth of Merlin’s line in the King Arthur film: “There’s always someone cleverer than yourself” – indeed, quite a few someones and some a lot cleverer at maths. (I think it was good for me.)

  • Julie near Chicago

    Niall, unless Perry asks us to desist, or you have better things to do, I’d ask you not to leave the discussion on O/T grounds. Roger’s really right out of my ken, except for the most basic of basics, and should you care to expound on Roger or Gödel or both, with Nullius chiming in as it suits him, I for one would be downright grateful.

    But there’s another thing, and I think it’s extremely important, that discussions about the meanings of words and epistomology in general (which includes logic) are very important to the libertarian enterprise. This is because communications between humans can be very difficult, and because GIGO is so common. “Try to get it right!” is my rallying cry, mostly yelled to myself in my own head, which is pretty headache-inducing.

    I will yet again mention the wonderful video, 8 min I think, that Bill Whittle did years ago illustrating how one teeny-tiny distortion of a word, followed by another, followed by another, and pretty soon you end proving that elephants have a right to sweaters or some dam thing. Never been able to find it.

    (I’m currently writing a reply to Nullius, but so far I’ve only made the point that I’m quite aware that the inverse of a proposition is not its converse, and that A => B does not imply the converse, which is that B => A.)

  • Nullius in Verba

    “Your second sentence is correct but not your first.”

    Ah, well, no doubt I read too much into your comment. I was thinking of much simpler beasties like f(z) = exp(-exp(abs(z)^2)), which appears to me to be perfectly well-behaved at infinity, and indeed everywhere else. This function is innocent!

    But perhaps you meant something else by “blow up”? Some sort of ‘suicide bomber’ function?

    “Speaking of sending to jail or sentencing to (thread) death, is there perhaps just the slightest danger that I am guilty of going off-topic?”

    I think if others present are trying to have an on-topic conversation, it’s possibly rude to interupt/distract them with off-topic noise and diversions. But if everyone present is coming with you, then I think of a ‘topic’ as more of a starting point for a random walk.

    “Nullius will likely be unsurprised to learn I dispute its being a mere verbal paradox – but I’ll postpone a long discussion for another time.”

    Godel’s theorem is of course much more than a simple verbal paradox, I’m just saying it’s based on one. The theorem “This theorem is unprovable” is much more easily understood by the logical layman. (And much more obviously is not just restricted to mechanical provers.)

    “but please be assured it was no false modesty that made me say that being in Roger’s group taught me humility as well as much maths”

    Likewise! The deeper I go, the more I realise how little I know!

    “I’m currently writing a reply to Nullius, but so far I’ve only made the point that I’m quite aware that the inverse of a proposition is not its converse”

    Of course! I assumed you would be. But was you aware that this was why Popper chose the word “falsifiability”?

  • Julie near Chicago

    Nullius, quoting from Popper himself (and thanks again for linking to his paper):

    “…[T]he criterion of the scientific status of a theory is its falsifiability, or refutability, or testability.”

    So he may have ended up with a personal preference for the word falsifiability, but he himself offered “testability” (and also “refutability,” but that’s almost as bad a choice as “falsifiability” to use for what he was trying to get at).

    Do you see the problem? If a theory or hypothesis or claim of any fact has “refutability,” that implies that it is refutable. But any claim can be refuted, in the sense that it can be argued against; the question is whether it can be successfully refuted.

    As a matter of fact and meaning no disrespect, I found the paper less than razor-sharp. It’s a short paper and besides may have been written under the pressure of time, but I thought some of the content was a little hazy, or poorly put, or maybe a bit sloppy. Anyhow, I didn’t find it overall terribly convincing — even though I agreed with what I thought he thought he meant by “falsifiable,” even though I thought the word didn’t express his conclusion properly. And I still don’t think so. :>((

    . . .

    Another thought about this way of looking at things.

    First: By “Is it testable?” I mean, “Is there a way to show that under some conditions (at least), the proposition or statement — the “claim” — is false?” Key point:

    I really do believe that read properly, “falsifiable” in this context implies that the claim can be shown to be false, not merely that it can be tested for falsity.

    Now. Suppose we have a proposition P. We have, or think we have, a test or tests which will bring to light at least one set* of conditions and circumstances which according to P will not or cannot bring about a result that is evidence for the correctness of P.

    We apply the test — call it T. Indeed, the test shows that in this case the claim of P differs from the result of the test, so P is false.

    But there is a problem. I say that the result of T disagrees with what P predicts, so P is false. But this statement is based on the assumption that T does return a correct result (regardless of what the test shows with respect to P). But how do I validate my claim that T gives a correct result? Is this claim about T — also a proposition; call it P1 — testable? (And, I’m also claiming that I’ve interpreted the result correctly. Is that claim testable?)

    Note that I mean all this to be considered as a matter of observed reality, no nonsense about whether we can ever “know” the world (Reality) as it really is. I am supposing that for all practical and also logical purposes, we do not question wholesale the proposition that things “are” what they “seem” in the profound, the metaphysical, sense.

    So — even the claim that Prop. P tested “false” is to be questioned and tested.

    Of course, just as P’s giving a predicted result under the test doesn’t prove that P is true, so its giving a result contrary to prediction or expectation does not prove it’s false. But there comes a time when there have been so many confirmatory tests, or so many disconfirmatory test, that we make the working judgment that P is true, or not true, respectively.

    So mathematicians still argue over whether Cantor was full of pea soup, or Gödel for that matter, as well other notable claims made by geniuses. And there is still a minority contingent who are presumably quite intelligent and capable in physics, who do not endorse QM wholesale.

    *In your long comment above, you write

    “….checking the predictions of all possible alternatives to the hypothesis….”

    I suppose this isn’t what you meant, since strictly speaking and in strict logic, one disconfirming result of a valid result would disprove the hyposthesis/proposition/claim.

    .

    Second: Now I come to Russell. You know, the guy who wondered about barbers.

    I were told as a kitten that Russell’s initial answer to the issue exemplified by the barber is that there are some questions that are neither true nor false, but meaningless. This I think is a very good judgment to make. Another good example is the saw about whether “the King of France has no hair” is true or false, and the textbook answer seems to be False, as there is no King of France.

    Horsefeathers. “The King of France has a full head of hair” is also false by that criterion. Yet here we have a flat contradiction, which according to the Laws of Thought (i.e. the axioms of logical reasoning, if you are a purist about the proper distinction between Axioms and Postulates, as I happen to be and as very very few others apparently are) cannot occur in logic.

    So “False” is the wrong answer. The answer is “Meaningless.” Because neither of the claims is testable in the present real world: because neither claim refers to an existent in the real world. So you could also classify the claims as “Fictional.”

    Getting back to the main point, note that none of these three claims is, properly speaking, “falsifiable” — that is, can be proven false. They are false only in the sense that the whole example is “false to the Real World.”

    They could be testable if you could find a King of France around here, or maybe on the Moon, and persuade him to show you his head. But I do not think you’ll have any luck.

    Of course at least one of the claims will have been true of some former King of France, since every human either is or was bald, or has or had a furry pate. And it’s possible that in the future there will be another King of France, and if so the claim could then be resurrected for retesting.

    But as it stands right now, both claims are meaningless. They just don’t apply to anything in the Real World.

    (Also: There are Orcs. Testable? In our world: No, because meaningless: the subject does not exist (except metaphorically). In Middle-Earth: Yes, certainly. The best proof is that they are attested to in the work on Middle-Earth published by the Supreme Author of that world and therefore the Supreme Authority on it, Professor J.R.R. Tolkien. And note that this is a demonstration of proof of validity, not of invalidity.)

    So: In our own real world, the choices (in basic logic) are Yes, No, Meaningless, Unknowable at Present.

    I think that’s all I really have to say on the subject, Nullius. I hope I don’t look at this next Sunday night and find it’s full of smoke and mirrors and obvious fallacies. So embarrassing when that happens! she said, speaking from experience. 😀

  • Nullius in Verba

    Well, if you’re bored Sunday afternoon, you might pass the time investigating what logicians and philosophers have had to say on such topics as paraconsistent logic, many-valued logic, dialetheism, modal logics, counterfactuals, logical independence, and omega-inconsistency. It’s a fun topic!

    If you start with a set of independent and consistent axioms, you can follow the rules of proof to generate a long list of theorems. If you flip any axiom to its negation, then you get a different list of theorems, but this must also be consistent. (Or you would have been able to use proof by contradiction to prove the axiom, and it wouldn’t be independent.) So suppose you simply remove one of the axioms? Is the former axiom now “true” in the system left? Well, it’s certainly not provable, but that’s not the same as being false. Since you could extend the axiom system by either adding the axiom or its negation, it could be either.

    So suppose we take our starting set of axioms and construct a Godel sentence that is true but not provable. Now let’s add the negation of this Godel sentence to the set of axioms. Now since the Godel sentence is true but not provable, its negation is false. We’ve just added a false statement to our axioms. But the new system must still be consistent! If it wasn’t, we could have used proof by contradiction to prove the Godel sentence.

    Try something else. We start off with our normal rules of arithmetic, which we believe to be consistent. But Godel says we can’t prove them to be consistent using the system itself, unless they’re actually inconsistent. So since consistency is unprovable, we can add its negation to our axioms and do no harm. The extended system must still be consistent, or Godel would have been wrong and we could have proved consistency by contradiction. Thus, we have the bizarre situation where one of our axioms states that the remaining axioms are inconsistent, but the system as a whole is still logically consistent! No contradiction can arise from following its rules.

    People have devoted a lot of time to thinking about this stuff. I’m no expert on the subject, but I do think it’s a lot of fun. I just wanted to assure you that you’re not alone in thinking there should be some common sense way of dealing with the problems of paradoxes and indeterminates and other logical exotica.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Fair enough, Nullius. Go forth, my son, along with Euclid and a couple of others who altered one of his postulates, and have a fun Hallowe’en. 🙂

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