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Ch. 2 - The Rule of Law 
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Post Ch. 2 - The Rule of Law
Ch. 2 - The Rule of Law

Please use this thread for discussing Ch. 2 - The Rule of Law.

Sat Oct 09, 2010 11:45 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 2 - The Rule of Law
The Grand Design Chapter Two The Rule of Law

A summary of some main points from this chapter.

1. Ancients noticed that eclipses didn’t just happen at random. Babylonians predicted eclipses governed by laws.

2. At Crater Lake the Klamath Indians of Oregon have a legend that faithfully matches every geographical detail of the event but add a human as the cause.

3. Connection of cause and effect was invisible. Thales of Miletus saw that nature follows consistent principles.

4. Aristotle said Thales first developed the idea that complex happenings around us could be reduced to simpler principles and explained.

5. Ionian science was a tremendous milestone and a grand beginning.

6. Pythagoras is said to have discovered harmonic combination of sounds, a first instance of theoretical physics.

7. Archimedes found the laws of the lever, buoyancy and reflection.

8. Ionian influence led to a view that the universe possesses an internal order, one that could be understood through observation and reason.

9. People, Anaximander reasoned, must have evolved.

10. Democritus thought of atoms and the law of inertia.

11. Aristarchus concluded from data that the sun is much larger than the earth and held that stars are distant suns.

12. Epicurus said it is better to follow the myths than philosophy.

13. Stoics included rules of human conduct in the category of natural laws.

14. Kepler believed planets had sense perception.

15. Intentional obedience to natural law reflects the ancient focus on why rather than how nature behaves. This approach led Aristotle to reject the idea of science based principally on observation.

16. Neither the equals sign nor clocks that could mark a second existed before the sixteenth century.

17. Aristotle suppressed facts he found unappealing

18. Pope John XX1 published a list of 219 heresies including that nature follows laws.

19. Galileo said observation is the basis of science.

20. Descartes first explicitly and rigorously formulated the concept of laws of nature, from the logical argument that with a given set of initial conditions, the laws of nature determine how a system will evolve over time.

21. Descartes held that unalterable natural laws are reflections of God’s own nature, and that once God set the world going, he left it entirely alone.

22. Newton created a handful of equations that are employed for all design and calculation in architecture, engineering and physics.

23. A law of nature is a rule that is based on an observed regularity and provides predictions.

24. There may be no mile wide gold spheres, but a mile wide gold sphere is possible while a mile wide sphere made of uranium would not be physically stable.

25. Deist philosophy defines God as the embodiment of the laws of nature.

26. Plato and Aristotle held that there can be no exceptions to the laws of nature.

27. Christians maintained that God can suspend laws of nature to accomplish miracles.

28. Laplace first postulated scientific determinism, as discussed with Napoleon.

29. Determinism must hold for people, but people believe we have free will.

30. Are microbes free?

31. Biological processes are governed by the laws of physics and chemistry and are therefore as determined as the orbits of the planets.

32. Free will is just an illusion, but with so many variables that outcomes are impossible to predict.

33. Effective theories are adopted in physics, chemistry and psychology. Effective theories are partially adopted in economics because people are irrational or have defective analysis of consequences, which is why the world is in such a mess.

34. Aristotle, Plato and Einstein believed that the principles of nature are necessary in logic.

35. Scientific determinism holds there are no miracles.

36. Are laws of nature the mathematical reflection of an external reality?

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Post Re: Ch. 2 - The Rule of Law
Hawking is certainly not reluctant to make casual, sweeping statements. Roger Penrose has said that Hawking likes to make controversial claims. Hawking dismisses free will in a few lines on p.32. Although I have to admit that this simple argument is powerful. Even though the conclusion is disturbing, the arguments I've heard trying to rescue free will and make it compatible with scientific determinism are not that convincing -- for example, I don't see how quantum indeterminism could rescue free will. Of course we all act as if we have free will, and as Hawking says we couldn't possibly know the initial conditions at any point to make predictions, but that is not inconsistent with the claim. (It also depends on what you mean by free will, and the "dead philosophers" will argue that.)

On the next page, he mentions economics and says that since we don't always act rationally, "that is why the world is in such a mess." Whether he is speaking in general or is addressing the financial crisis/recession, here I think he is quite hasty in making this offhand remark and is outside his expertise -- often the problem is that people act rationally and those actions lead to bad outcomes, the question is getting the institutions and incentives right.

Last edited by Dexter on Thu Nov 04, 2010 9:45 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Post Re: Ch. 2 - The Rule of Law
I'm half-way through Chapter 2 this afternoon and have enjoyed the history lesson of the famous ancient Greeks' "philosophy" of science up through Friedrich Johannes Kepler and René Descartes "laws" of nature.

One can see how the book is progressing against deism and toward atheism in this chapter. The ancients attributed everything to the whim of gods and goddesses but as humans progressed, they found various things that were predictable, like eclipses though they still did not know what eclipses were...

Thu Nov 04, 2010 4:22 pm
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