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TruePath comments on For progress to be by accumulation and not by random walk, read great books - Less Wrong

35 Post author: MichaelVassar 02 March 2010 08:11AM

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Comment author: TruePath 14 April 2010 11:11:24PM *  -2 points [-]

You make decent points about the lack of evidence for 'progress' in methodology. I think it's quite possible that we don't significantly improve the process by which we go from the current best theory to it's successor. Of course to make sense of this notion you would need a more precise notion of what it means to have a better methodology for generating scientific theories. I mean the first natural way to do this might be to somehow try and measure the percent of the physical world we can explain/predict from initial conditions (many complications with random events etc..) but that yields a decreasing rate of methodological progress as a matter of pure mathematics.

If f(t) is a bounded monotonically increasing differentiable function then the limit of f'(t) (f prime) as x goes to infinity is 0. So if f is some measure of the percent of the world physics has explained then it's rate of increase has to eventually go to 0 since there is only so much world to explain.

More generally saying that a particular scientific methodology works or works better than another is equivalent to asserting that induction works and works better with respect to such and such measure of simplicity. All you can do is assume your notion of simplicity gives rise to a good scientific methodology (you can't gain inductive evidence for it) so it doesn't really make sense to measure our progress in scientific methodology.

So if I don't believe in the idea of progress in the scientific method what did I mean by progress in my post? I put that in another comment since I felt it better to divide them up.