info poll category #4

From Greg Williams (930408)

Gary Cziko 930408.15.37 GMT

The votes are coming in. Send your YES INFORMATION, NO INFORMATION, MAYBE
INFORMATION or WHAT'S IT TO ME? (the last category especially for Greg
Williams) to

Lest "my" category be misinterpreted as cynicism, rather than a plea for
clarification, as I intended it, here is its genesis in a private post to
Gary Cziko earlier today:


From Greg Williams (930408 - direct)

Subject: Re: Information Poll

What a peculiar way to do science....

I agree. It's called the STATISTICAL method, or the METHOD OF RELATIVE
FREQUENCIES. Pretty useless as real science goes (althought the
behavioral sciences seem to like it alot.

The fact that someone is using statistics doesn't necessarily make it
"pretty useless as real science goes," unless your notion of real science
is (overly, in my opinion -- and in the opinion of Phil Runkel!)
restricted to generative-model explanations of individuals'
characteristics (and even then, statistical techniques could be helpful
in collecting (at least preliminary) data). Do you disagree? To all those
who appear SINGLE-minded in their view of science (i.e., population
description isn't "real"), I say: just try to use generative modeling of
individuals to schedule bread flour deliveries to Subway shops across the
country. Statistical mechanics is REAL science, and USEFUL because it is
too inefficient to start with atomic models and build up population
descriptions. Or do you think otherwise?

My problem with your poll, as part of doing science, is not that it
involves polling. My problem is that I don't see any necessary relation
between resolving the PCT-IT controversy and the outcome of such polling.

But who said anything about doing science here? I'm just interested in
what people think about this (to me) radical notion being argued by Bill
and Rick. I'm not even pretending it's a scientific poll.

Oh. I was thinking you were trying to help to resolve the controversy
(which I would count as doing science). Then what do you hope OTHERS on
the net will learn or accomplish by participating in it?

First, tell me what you mean by "USEFUL" (including to whom or what).

I cannot tell you what I mean by "useful" any more than I can tell you
what I mean by "red" or "sour." You must use your own meaning. Sorry.

For generative modeling to be convincing to many scientists, it needs to
reach the stage where it can provide models for such things at the next
lower level. In physics, this has been done for, i.e., "temperature."

More to the point, I think it is fair to require you to be more
forthcoming about narrowing the referents of "useful" because it has been
used nebulously (and perhaps even in contradictory ways) by the parties
to the PCT-IT debate. If it is "useful" as A. Randall appears to use the
word, I would probably answer your poll question differently than if it
is "useful" as R. Marken appears to use it.

So at this point, given your unhelpful shying away from locating "useful"
in semantic space, I'd have to say "IT DEPENDS ON WHAT 'USEFUL' MEANS."
Now, what has that reply (not a statistical one!) bought you?

It hurts to think that I added the "MAYBE INFORMATION" category just
for you, and you still want to give me a hard time!--Gary

"WHAT'S IT TO ME?" would have been the category for me.

As ever,